Sunday, January 3, 2016

This Is Going To Be THAT Post...

Hey everyone...I wanted to take the time to wish everyone a happy new year! I started this blog on this date in 2007. So I'm turning 9 today and starting my 10th year of blogging which is a bit mind boggling and overwhelming when I think of all that blogging has given me over the past 9 years and all of the ways that it's changed my life and continues to do so. I've made the absolute most amazing friends that I will forever cherish. That's certainly the number one way blogging has affected me and it's something that I NEVER expected when I started book blogging. It's also allowed me to read differently, become even more passionate about books than I already was (which I didn't think was possible :p), read outside of my comfort zone, and discover things I would've never discovered.

This goes beyond books though. Books have evolved into relationships with people where I've gotten music recommendations that have changed my life. TV recommendations that have changed my life. And then going back to those friends I've made....without them, there are personal accomplishments I've made and hurdles that I've jumped over that I don't know that I would have had it not been for the people that I've met. It's been amazing.

Somewhere along the way, something changed here. This is the classic "it's not you, it's me" :p That's so cliche, but sadly, the truth here and something that I thought it was only fair to write about here. For right now, I most likely won't be around on this blog for awhile. That's no surprise to anyone, I'm sure. I haven't posted here in months! I keep in touch with a lot of people from this blog on instagram, twitter or email (though I've sucked even at email lately!), though I know there are others who have read this blog that I don't talk to as often, and I just wanted to say A. I'm ok and B. I'll probably be back here eventually, I'm just not sure how long that eventually will be.

What it boils down to is that this blog started to get associated with commitments and responsibility to me and though that was completely SELF IMPOSED, it was still there. And for some reason or another, I couldn't separate the two. Reading, talking with my friends...that should never feel like a commitment or a responsibility. I knew I needed some time away and it's made a big difference. This past year has been a rough one and it looks like that will continue through this coming year. Without going into detail, my dad was diagnosed with cancer this year and I've become one of his main caretakers. It's opened my eyes quite a bit to focusing on the things that are most important to you and I've had to redefine my online presence a little bit.

I am still writing's at a different place and in a different way. It's VERY sporadic. I may write multiple days in a row and then not at all for a month or so. And it's much more personal, intentionally. I created it as a place mainly for myself. But if you want to know where it is if you haven't found it already, you're more than welcome to email me at chrisa511(at)gmail(dot)com and I'll send you the link.

So I guess this is not a goodbye from this blog, it's just a temporary resting place for a little while until it feels right to come back to it again. Right now, I'm sort of happy with how things have been lately. I'm not disappearing completely! I'm actually hoping to start making the rounds again on blogs this year, though I'm not setting myself up to disappoint myself...I'm always on instagram and occasionally on twitter. I don't think I could ever leave the internet :p Could any of us? I'll leave this here for now. It's been a fantastic 9 years and we'll see where things pick up again :)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What I've Been Up To 6/3

The blog has been calling my name, so I'm finally answering it. I wanted to thank everyone for the wonderful responses to my last post. It wasn't just the comments and the emails of support that I got that made me happy, but just knowing that there are amazing people like all of you out there makes the world a much better place to be in. A world of acceptance is a wonderful thing and I think the more we're verbal about our acceptance of others for who they are, that can only be a good thing. It lets others know that it's ok to be you, brush those insecurities aside. The few negative people and the negative media out there casts enough judgement...I like that we counteract that by accepting and creating an environment of acceptance to balance the internalizing fear of the negativity.

Ok....catch up time! Here's what I've been up to:

What I've been reading: I don't have enough room here to tell you ALL of what I've been reading, but I'll tell you about a few things that I've especially loved. This has been the year of comics for me. I don't know what's come over me but I've been a comics reading machine lately! And thanks to Marvel Unlimited I've been reading a lot of Marvel Stuff! My two latest Marvel obsessions are Nova and Young Avengers. Young Avengers you can read in one sitting...and you'll want to because it's SO GOOD!! The whole series run (by Gillen) consists of 15 issues and it's AMAZING. Not only does it have one of the best teenage gay couples I've read in ages, but it also features a bisexual character which sadly is so rarely represented in literature, much less, comics. Also KATE BISHOP for the Hawkeye lovers. I went into this series expecting to really enjoy it, but didn't know how head over heels in love I'd fall for it. Thanks Debs, Memory and Ana for recommending this one!

Nova is SO GOOD!!! I've really come to love Marvel's cosmic universe...I've never read any Nova prior to this, but after reading Guardians of the Galaxy, Legendary Star Lord and Rocket Raccoon, I was all caught up with Marvel's current stuff and going through cosmic withdrawals...which left me with Nova. I'm so glad I read it because it's my favorite now of all of the cosmic stuff. Once again, it comes down to the characters and the story. It's more than just a superhero story, it's a story with heart and I love Sam Alexander so much. I love how this series ties into so many other Marvel series as well without you having to know much about other Marvel series, yet still makes those tie ins that much more enjoyable if you do follow them.

Right now I'm reading Bone Gap by Laura Ruby and I instantly fell for this book from page 1. I knew I'd love this one just from Ana's review of it and from the cover :p Yes, I do judge books by the cover. The fact that it's magical realism is something that doesn't hurt either. I've had a special place in my heart for all things magical realism ever since reading The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender years ago, which made me fall in love with the style. Ruby's writing is beautiful and wistful and she paints scenes that just etch themselves into your mind and momentarily take your breath away. I love it when an author is able to do that and too few authors do it. I'm looking forward to where this book goes, though I'm fearful of where it's going as well.

I'm also listening to the audio of Dreamland by Sam Quinones. This book is about the opiate epidemic in the US and it's something that I see entirely too much of at the hospital I work at. We have a detox unit and I do admissions for the hospital. We probably admit about 6-7 heroin addicts a day and get at least 40 calls/day for people looking for heroin detox. Heroin has become such a rampant drug. People use it like I remember people using pot when I was a teenager. It's cheap, it's easily accessible apparently, and highly addictive. This book so far is an excellent expose on how the epidemic became what it is and I'm learning a lot from it.

What I'm listening to - The new Sufjan Stevens album!! Carrie and Lowell. Wow it's amazing. I think I say this with every new Sufjan album, but I truly think it's the best thing he's put out so far. I love the quietness of this album, the way it has these little swells in the instrumentation, the intimacy of the lyrics that had to be brutal to write and share. It's impossible to listen to this album and not have an emotional reaction to it. You can feel that he poured his entirety into it and it's beautiful. I'm not listening to it yet, but I'm REALLY excited to get the new Jamie XX album! I have the vinyl on it's way to me. I've always loved the XX and I've loved the solo stuff he's put out so far. It's very house-y and reminds me of late 90's house music. Looking forward to that one!

What I'm growing - Sadly not too much :/ I don't know what's going on with my garden this year. There's lots of green but not many flowers and vegetables. Maybe I need to fertilize. I think my vegetables have gotten too much rain this year and not enough sun. It's been raining like crazy. So I think they've just been waterlogged and the plants just drop their flowers. My eggplant is putting out beautiful little purple flowers but no eggplants. Same with the tomatoes. My coneflowers however are coming up gorgeously!! And my roses are growing well too! And I have pomegranates on my pomegranate tree :)

What I'm watching - So you think you can dance just started! I'm a total sucker for that show!!! My brother's girlfriend auditioned this season but didn't make it onto the show. I hope she auditions again because she's a beautiful dancer. I've been watching Wayward Pines and I'm still on the fence about it. I think I was just SO excited about that show that there was bound to be a little let down. I think I expected it to be M. Knight Shyamalan presents Twin Peaks which it kind of is but I don't's missing something for me. I just discovered Agents of Shield on Netflix so I'm binge watching that right now!! And we'll have new Orange is the New Black soon YAY! Oh and Halt and Catch Fire started again! Does anyone else watch that? I haven't heard anyone talk about that show but I think it's a pretty decent AMC show!

What I'm cooking - I haven't had ANY time to cook lately :( I've been wanting to cook. I did discover a renewed love of french toast though! Easy and quick and SO GOOD! I hadn't had french toast in literally like 10 years and wanted something sweet the other night....egg, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, bread, pan...AMAZINGNESS. I could eat that with some bacon every night.

So that's what I've been up to! Hopefully it won't be another month until I talk to you again ;)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

On Living Your Truth

I just watched Bruce Jenner's interview with Diane Sawyer in which he came out to the world as a transgendered woman and wow, was it ever powerful and inspiring to see someone accepting their truth and to watch the transformation in him in those two hours as he started the interview in tears and in a bundle of nerves and ended it with hope in his eyes and weight lifted off of his shoulders. It made me want to keep the conversation going. This is what the lgbt community needs. Encouragement. Interviews like this. Campaigns like the It Gets Better Campaign. Acceptance.

I saw so much of my own past in what Jenner talked about during the interview that it felt uncanny at times. I'm not transgendered. I've always been very comfortable in my born gender as a male, and have felt very lucky for that. I'm gay and struggled with that for years before coming out and I can imagine that coming out in today's society as transgendered is so much harder than coming out as gay. They're two completely different things, yet both deal with identity to an extent, gender much more so than one's sexual orientation. One thing is certain, you can't choose either. I'll put that myth to rest for anyone who thinks otherwise, you can NOT choose your sexual orientation. I have never had a choice in the matter when it comes to that.

I'm quite comfortable with who I am now, but were I given the option growing up I would've chosen to be straight in a heartbeat. If I could snap my fingers and make the gay go away, I would've given anything to make that happen. This is why I'm writing this post. Because it shouldn't have been that miserable for me growing up. Bruce Jenner shouldn't be 65 years old and just coming out now as transgendered because he can't stand to be in the closet for one more day. He said in the interview that at one point he contemplated suicide. The suicide rates among the lgbt community, the murder rates towards the lgbt community are disgusting, sad and tragic.

Though I'm not transgendered I related quite a bit to what Jenner spoke about when he talked about waiting so long to come out. When he talked about living his whole life with a constant battle and struggle within his own mind, never fully being happy or living his life. I remember many sleepless nights going over and over in my head how I would plan my life to just pretend to be straight for my whole life and justify how I could be ok with that and furthermore try to convince myself that it could somehow become the truth.

Here's where this post stops becoming depressing (it does, I promise :p). I finally came out when I was 29. Really came out. I had come out to a very VERY tiny handful of people in my life before that, mostly as bisexual, but there was nothing bisexual about me...I was gay. At 29, I told myself I wasn't going to turn 30 and still be in the closet. That's a decision everyone has to make for themselves as far as when it's right...for me it was then. I wish it were earlier. When I say that my life changed instantly for the better and it felt like a million pounds was lifted off of my shoulders, I'm not exaggerating in the least bit. My only regret is that I didn't do that earlier. I feel like I started living my most authentic life at 30.

My fear was that the world that had been judgmental for so long would attack me. I'm privileged and I know that and I'm thankful for that. I have an amazing mom and sister and brother that are the most accepting and loving people in the world that embraced me for the person I am from the moment I came out and would've done so no matter when I did. I have the absolute MOST amazing friends in the world who do the exact same and one friend in particular who has been the recipient of countless emails that allowed me to get to the place where I could face myself. I can't ever repay her for that. But there's still the world we live in. There's the bullying that I grew up with because I wasn't very masculine. There's the expectations of traditional straight male roles that *I* felt I wasn't living up to even if that social construct wasn't set up specifically by my parents. It's still something I grew up seeing in the community, on tv, in the media, in the neighborhood.

I hope and I see that we're moving to a place where those barriers are slowly being broken down. Break down those barriers whenever you can. Let the children and teens (and adults) in your life know, even in an indirect way, that the "norms" are self defined. We each make our own normal. That uniqueness is what makes each of us beautiful. Know that there is NOTHING WRONG with you if you feel different than the people around you and that those people around you? They may feel the same way as you too for all you know. Try to live a life that lets the people around you know that they're welcomed in this world just as they are. Every time I was bullied, every time something was pointed out about me that was "girly" or "faggy"...that pushed me back into the closet for a couple more years. Every time I was called "gay" in a derogatory way or a "fag", it did the same. Don't rob someone of their freedom to be themselves with harsh words. Think of how much you can change someones life...think of the life you can give someone by doing the opposite...just by letting them know in little ways that you fully love and embrace and accept them just for who they are. What a gift that is. It broke my heart to see clips they played in the interview with Bruce Jenner tonight of stand up comedians and paparazzi making jokes about him switching gender and hounding him with these horrendously cruel questions just for the sake of a cruel laugh while he was struggling with something very real.

Lastly, and my most important point in writing this post and the reason to keep the conversation going, LIVE YOUR TRUTH. I know it is NOT easy to come out. It's the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life, quickly followed by the most relieving and fulfilling feeling I've ever had in my life. Like I said, I know I'm privileged to have that experience. Not everyone gets a positive response when they come out. Some people are more privileged than me and don't even have to come out. They're just embraced and accepted for who they are and I am SO thankful that there are families and communities out there that embrace children and teens that way. Taking all of those scenarios into account, live your truth. You will be a happier person for it. That's why I'm writing maybe someone will see it and know my experience. Come out to one person that you know will accept you for who you are and then work from there if you're unsure how things will play out. That's what I did. It doesn't get better in the closet. I promise you that. It gets worse the longer you're in there. But it gets so much better outside of it because you get to live completely as yourself for the first time.

There are supports out there if you need them. It's not safe for everyone to come out TO everyone all the time, I know that. Unfortunately we still live in a world where there is prejudice and hate, though we've come leaps and bounds from where we were even 10 years ago.

There's the GLBT National Help Center with talk lines, youth support and online chat support
PFLAG is an amazing organization with chapters all over the country.
The Human Rights Campaign is one of the biggest LGBT advocacy groups with tons of information.
The It Gets Better Project is one of the best projects I've ever seen and will give you tons of examples of life after coming out and stories of coming out from all aspects of the lgbt community.
The Trevor Project is one of my favorite organizations. They're dedicated to lgbt youth, provide a suicide hotline and a "safe and judgement-free place to talk" 24-7

You can also look for local counselors to talk to who specialize in treating people in the lgbt community. Just remember, there's hope out there when things feel hopeless. There are people who will and already do accept you and love you for who you are. Take a deep breath, trust yourself, trust in those people and know that they exist and go live your life. Live it authentically and happily and proudly and how you deserve to live it and be loved.

Friday, April 17, 2015

What's Growing On

Things are coming alive in the garden right now! Though nothing is too exciting at the moment. W'ere at that phase right now where there's plenty of green but no flowers or fruit really yet. But I thought I'd track the garden progress so I could have a record of what's working and what's not this year. Here's what's going on right now on my little patio.

The star of the garden right now is my rose bush! It has 5 blossoms on it right now and the first opened today. This is my third year with it and it still takes my breath away like it did when I first got it. I absolutely love the color of the roses and the smell is so intoxicating! I've been surprised by how easy it's been to grow too! I have it planted in a fairly big and deep pot and I prune it often and dead head the roses once they die, but aside from that, I don't do much!

My blueberries on the other hand have been less than stellar. This is my second year with the bush and I was hoping to have a big harvest this year, but alas, I only have about 30 berries on the whole bush :( It may be my own fault. I pruned it back really heavily last year and I don't know if I should've done that. Does anyone know if you're supposed to prune blueberry bushes? I think maybe it focused on regrowing it's branches rather than putting out berries this year? Oh well, that just means I'll get to go berry picking this year :)

Next up are my sunflowers! I love these. They're actually some type of sunflower bulb. They come back every year! And they put out these little mini sunflowers :) It'll be a couple of months before they start putting out flowers. I'll train them up that trellis once they start reaching up there. I got them from Gurneys three years ago. They have some really cool plants!

My little succulent garden is doing really good except for the centerpiece which you can barely make out in the picture :( It used to be a cactus with a big red top but it got killed during a freeze when I forgot to bring it in. Apparently the bottom of it is still alive though so I'm leaving it in there in the hopes that maybe it will put out a new top? Who knows. The rest of it is beautiful as ever though and continuing to grow well!!

The mums and the echinacea or coneflowers continue to just keep coming back every year on their own!! I love plants that reseed themselves :) I can't wait until the two of these plants flower because they're both some of my favorite flowers! Especially the coneflowers!!! I absolutely adore coneflowers. In fact, I may go get myself some more this year in some different colors. I really like the white/pale yellow ones too. The ones in the picture above will be the classic purple coneflowers once they come up.

On the right is my vegetable garden which I swear has doubled it's size in just two days with all of the rain we've had down here!!! I know I just posted this the other day, but I have a japanese eggplant, which is the long skinny eggplant; a mammoth jalapeño (hooray giant jalapeños!); a big bertha bell pepper because bell peppers should be giant :p; and a better boy tomato because my pawpaw always swore that better boys were the best tomatoes :p So that's the kind that I always buy.

My citrus trees.....*sigh* I have a love hate relationship with them. Last year I just wanted to cry. They were ALL attacked by grasshoppers and I thought they were dead. The grasshoppers literally ate ALL of the leaves off of all of my citrus trees T_T I'd pick them off whenever I'd find them but they'd always come back. And I don't like using pesticides on my plants, so I was at a loss aside from just battling them by hand. My orange tree which is the one in the big pot closest to the camera was the tree that was attacked the worst and it actually looks beautiful this year!! Lots of new foliage but of course, it didn't put out any fruit blossoms :( It had to put all it's energy into just regrowing. I'm just thankful it came back!! It would've put out so much fruit this year too!! It's about 5 years old now. The other trees look pretty bad. There's four of them in the back all in pots. The leaves look really really pale. Two are from seed that I've grown myself and two I bought from Gurney's. I think they all need to be repotted with better soil and probably fertilized as well. Anyone have any advice on growing citrus?

The only herb I've planted so far this year is mint! But I need to remedy that. I had to have some mint though :) I use it for so much....iced tea, hot tea, salads, just to smell! If you want a plant that you can be guaranteed to NOT kill and that you can use the hell out of, get yourself some mint! It grows like a weed and it's so useful! Just don't plant it in the ground or you will have a lawn full of mint. Unless you want that of course which wouldn't be so bad :p

After my roses, the other stars of my garden are the tiger lilies I think!! That's them on the left! I also got these from Gurney's. These are so damn beautiful and they take my breath away when they bloom. They only last about a week once they bloom and they grow for about 5-6 months before they bloom, but the wait and the energy is so worth it!! And they are literally care free. I do nothing with these two pots. I don't water them, I don't feed them, and they're planted under a tree so they don't get much sun...just rain water and partial sun! You need these in your garden :p

And finally, some surprise volunteer marigolds!! I pulled up my marigolds last year when they died and these just started coming they must have reseeded themselves as well :) I love marigolds. The color makes me smile. I know a lot of people hate them, but they've always been happy plants to me!!

What's going on in your garden right now?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Checking In 4/15

Part of what keeps me from blogging sometimes is just not knowing what to blog about...I feel like blogging, but my brain has been on burn out mode lately. I read, but don't really feel like putting together an actual review and I'm learning that that's ok. So I'm going back to the basics. Blogging how I started blogging even before book blogging. A personal journal and if you want to join me for the ride, please do! I've always liked doing these type of "checking in" posts, where you write about what you're feeling, reading, watching, cooking, etc. So I think I might do these more regularly and make up my own format. Anyways, here's my first "Checking in".

What I'm feeling - This is something I've avoided writing about for the last couple of weeks because it's the hardest thing I've been through in awhile. But lately I've been feeling a big mix of emotions. I had to give up Burch, my puppy. It's a long story, but in the end, having him here at my apartment by myself wasn't fair to him. I work about 45 minutes from my apartment and have a private practice too outside of work so he was home by himself for a minimum of 10 hours a day and when I'd get home, I'd only get to spend 2 or 3 hours with him before I had to go to bed. That was no kind of life for him and it was causing huge amounts of anxiety for me worrying about him. My sister has a friend that he went to who lives right down the street from my mom so we'll still get to see him whenever we want. She's home all day with him and she has another dog that he's already made friends with AND he has a yard now. So he ended up in the best place possible. But damn it was hard :( I had grown so attached to that little guy so quickly, and the apartment has felt really lonely without him now that he's gone. I had so much guilt moving his home again but in the end I know that he's happy now and that that guilt had more to do with my own sadness of not having him in my life that I was putting on him. I'm getting to see him again this Sunday though!! I know it's going to be hard to say goodbye again but I need my Burch fix.

What I'm reading - My reading was nonexistent for awhile. During the weeks that I had Burch I literally read nothing and then for a few days after he left I didn't read either just from being down. But my reading has finally picked up! I listened to the audio of I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson and holy shit that's one AMAZING book! I can so see why it won the Printz. Has anyone else read this book? It's about twins who have a bond that creates a world of it's own and the hardships they face navigating that world as it's shook to it's core when tragedy strikes their family. I don't want to say much more about the plot. But damn I loved Jude and Noah and the humanity and uniqueness of this book. Definitely a favorite of the year! Right now I'm reading We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves which has been incredible from page one and I just read Volume 8 of Morning Glories last night which continues to be as fucked up as possible. I bought the next two issues of it on Comixology and I'm all caught up with the series now and there's still no sign of figuring anything out 44 issues in :p On audio, I'm listening to Something Like Spring by Jay Bell, his fourth book in the Seasons of Love series which has become a favorite.

What I'm listening to - Music...I could write a whole post about music and I've actually been thinking about blogging more about music. It's something that I've thought never fits into this blog, but that's sort of what I was talking about in that first paragraph. I want to stop worrying about what fits into this blog and just write about whatever I want. Purity Ring's new album! It's called Another Eternity and damn it's good. Here's their website and it has a link where you can stream the album on a platform of your choosing! Their first album was one that grew on me with time and eventually became a favorite. This one, I just instantly loved. If you like electro-synth pop (that's not as specific as it sounds...) you will love this. Great beats, catchy as hell and Megan James' vocals are sweet as candy yet haunting at times. You can't help but feel good when you're listening to their music. My most anticipated album of the year right now is Grimes' new one. I REALLY hope she can put out new music this year. I've loved the song she put out with Bleachers for HBO's Girls, Entropy. If it's a sign of things to come, we're in for a treat! In other music news, I got tickets to see Smashing Pumpkins and Marilyn Manson together in July! Hello 1996 :p I've seen them both multiple times and cannot wait for that show. I may pull my old zero shirt out of storage for it that I got from my first Pumpkins show in 95 :p

What I'm growing - I FINALLY planted my vegetables for the year today!! In an old whiskey barrel! I think they'll do ok in there. It's deep and pretty wide so they should have enough room I hope. I'm going pretty small this year because my patio is getting pretty crowded. Just four plants, but it's just me, so that should be plenty...a tomato, a bell pepper, a jalapeño and an eggplant :) And I planted some mint because you can never have enough mint! My blueberries are already starting to ripen on the bush! I LOVE fresh blueberries right off the bush. And my roses are starting to bloom too! Should have plenty of pictures of the garden coming up  in the next few weeks :) I apologize in advance :p

What I'm watching - I've been binging on House of Cards season 3 and should be finished that today and then I'm going to start Daredevil on Netflix! Memory seemed to like it so I have high hopes on that one ;) As for regular's sort of a lull right now, huh? I think I'm one of the few people who still watches Revenge, though that's about to end and lets face it, it's time that show comes to a close. Still watching Grey's Anatomy though that show has been less than stellar this season too. I just want The Walking Dead back!!! At least we have the spinoff starting this summer!!! What should I be watching guys?? My DVR is lonely right now!

What I'm cooking - I haven't been cooking much either lately! But I'm fixing that today!! I'm making a batch of my favorite scones in the world...Debi's recipe! That I don't know if it's ok to share or not. I'll ask her and if it is, I'll update the post! I'm making them with cranberries and white chocolate though you can substitute that with anything. Seriously guys these are AMAZING. know what...I think I have to hit publish and go make those now :p

Saturday, March 28, 2015

What I've Been Up To

What's that sound? Oh that's the sound of crickets chirping....I'm surprised the crickets haven't died since this space has been dead for so long :p I didn't want the whole month of March to pass without a single post on the blog, so I thought I'd write up a post mostly for myself just documenting life. I have a feeling that's what this blog is going to start evolving into. I think the reason I've shied away from blogging recently is that I just feel overwhelmed lately when it comes to writing about books. I've read almost nothing but comics this year with a few other books mixed in, but my reading has taken a turn more towards "I just want to READ and not write about it." But then there are the books that I do want to share with the world too. I just need to start giving myself permission to do just that and find the right balance of doing it.

My reading has really been awful lately because I have a new baby!! Those of you who follow me on instagram surely know about this already due to the flood of pictures :p My sister got the most adorable and sweet little puppy (though he can be a little shit at times) about a month ago, but he wasn't working out for her. After I met him I could NOT let him go anywhere outside of our family and I've been wanting a little fur baby for awhile now, so I'm now the oh so proud and oh so tired owner of little Burch. He was named by my sister after her favorite designer, Tory Burch *rolls eyes* but I think his name is adorable and fits his personality, so I'm keeping it. Here, look at his cuteness!

He's a little Shorkie! A mix between a Shih Tzu and a Yorkie. He's extremely playful and affectionate, thinks he's about 10 times the size that he is and oh so smart! He plays fetch like a pro already, has learned how to sit and give me his paw, is almost completely house trained and sleeps all through the night at 10 weeks old. I really couldn't have asked for a better puppy! We're still working on biting, which I remember all too well from the last puppy I had in my life....I can't wait until I have that under control and he's still learning the places in the house that he can't go and there are still a few potty issues. And today I had a wonderful surprise...I keep him in my kitchen during the day with gates up on the entrances. Well I normally wait outside to see how long he barks once I leave and he normally calms down after about a minute. Well today after about 30 seconds I hear him scratching at the front door! I have no clue how he got out...the gate was still in place. The only thing I can think of is he got so excited he was able to jump up and pull himself over the gate....he IS a high jumper. So I'm dreading what I'm going to come home to if he got over the gate again :/

Needless to say, Cesar Millan has become my best friend lately :p Aside from life with a dog, I've been putting my energy into starting to look for another job and another place to live. Both are things that are long overdue. I live about 45 minutes away from my family and job right now and I want to move back to the city I think and somewhere where I can have a yard for Burch too. I think I'm going to focus on moving first and then start the job hunt. I'm LONG overdue for a new job. I could talk about that for days.

As for reading, like I said, it's been pretty awful since getting Burch. He gets all of my spare time these days. But I've been listening to Jandy Nelson's I'll Give You the Sun on audio, which won the Printz and OMG it's such an amazing book!! And the audio is really great. Such a special and unique book and so deserving of the Printz it won. And I'm reading Cesar Millan's How to Raise the Perfect Dog :p Which isn't just practical, but actually quite good!

So that's it for me! What's going on with everyone else?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Mostly #ComicsFebruary Reviews

It's one of my absolute favorite months of the year right now and it's all thanks to my very dear friend, Debi!! It's a favorite month for two reasons...1. It celebrates the month in which said friend was brought into this world and 2. It's the month that she has dubbed #comicsfebrurary :D A few years back, me and Debi started doing themed reading months which has always been fun and February just sort of became the month that we indulged in comics all month. This year, neither one of us really wanted to stick with themed reading months, but neither of us could pass up a whole month devoted to comics :p After the way this month has started, I'm tempted to just make this a year of graphic novels :p I thought I'd talk to you about what I've read since my last update which is almost all graphic novels aside from one regular old novel. Here we go!

  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Graphic Novel) by Eric Shanower, illustrated by Skottie Young - I'm ashamed to admit this, but I've never read the Oz books!!! I've wanted to for years though and when Marvel released these incredibly beautiful graphic novel versions, I knew I wanted to get my hands on them. Shanower writes in the introduction about his love for all things Oz and you know right away that you're in good hands here. I loved this story SO much, I loved Young's take on the characters and it's one that I just got completely lost in. Great for all ages. Can't wait to read the next which is sitting right next to me!
  • Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna - Holy Shit this book was so good. I don't know if I'm going to be able to wait for volume 2 to be published...I may just end up buying all of the individual issues on Comixology (which I'll talk about in a second). This story takes place in the near future and immediately draws you in with it's beautiful artwork and advances in technology that seem not so science-fiction-y with the technology overload of a world that we live in. Alex is given an android for his birthday by his grandmother that looks just like a human woman and is quickly disturbed that she can't make choices for herself...or is it that he craves more from the technology around him as we become more and more attached to our devices. There are a LOT of undertones to this story and dammit I'm in love with it!
  • Something Like Autumn by Jay Bell - This is the only non graphic novel that I've read this month so far. It's the third book in Jay Bell's Seasons series and I knew going into this story that it would leave me a mess and *sigh* it did :( But damn was it good. I know I've pushed this series on people like crazy with my last two reviews, but seriously...READ IT!!! Such an amazing lgbt coming of age series...I haven't been so invested in fictional characters in ages.
  • The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 1 by Kieron Gillen - Well this one sounded good in theory and I loved the cover art. It's the story of 12 gods that manifest themselves on Earth every 90 years as popular culture icons for 2 years and then disappear again. They cause general mayhem during those years...I was all about this story...until I read it. It just didn't work for me sadly :( It was too disorganized and too all over the place. HOWEVER, I did get something good out of it! It was my first time reading a comic digitally through the Comixology app and I am now TOTALLY sold on digital comics!! I've never been a big ereader until now but I just love the way comics look on an ereader screen!! The colors are amazing and crisp, Comixology has a guided display where you can read panel by panel if you want and you can even subscribe to series which reminds me of the old days of having a folder in the comic book shops where my subscriptions would be waiting for me :) Love it!
  • The Sculptor by Scott McCloud - WOW. This book was so damn good. I haven't loved a graphic novel this much since Blankets by Craig Thompson. It's about a young sculptor who's first and only love is his art and quite literally gives his life for it. He makes a deal with death to be able to create art from anything he touches but in doing so, he has only months to live. Through a cruel twist of fate, he falls in love during those last few days that he has and this is the story of those last few days. Heart breaking, inspiring, beautiful. I just never wanted it to end. So so good. Everyone should read this!!!
  • Captain Marvel Vol. 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick - I am really loving what Marvel is doing for women in comics these days and I'm loving that they have so many women writers in comics right now too!! This is the reboot of the Avenger, Captain Marvel's story as she teams up in volume 1 with The Guardians of the Galaxy to help save an alien planet from defeat. It was also my first time reading anything with The Guardians of the Galaxy! Once again, I love that Marvel created a strong female character that isn't overly sexualized, is intelligent and doesn't rely on a million other people to handle a situation. I read this one on Comixology too and just downloaded the rest of the series and subscribed to it so I can keep up :)
So how's #comicsfebruary going for everyone else?? Haven't read any comics yet this month? It's not to late to start! This isn't a challenge, there are no sign ups, none of's just reading for fun :) And Debi is doing round ups and recaps on her blog if you're looking for some suggestions of things to read! You can follow the hashtag on social media sites too. Ok...back to the books! Have a good week everyone!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Really Short Reviews

I've read 5 books since my last post and I REALLY want to write about them all but it's getting to the point now where if I don't just do really short reviews, I'm not going to write about them at that's exactly what you're gonna get....really short reviews. Here's why you should read all of these books!

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed - I fell head over heels in love with Cheryl Strayed after reading Wild and now, after reading Tiny Beautiful Things, I'll just call her my own personal life coach. This book collects some of her columns from her advice column, Dear Sugar, and it's heart-achingly beautiful and wise. You could have never experienced anything that she writes about in this book and come away with a new set of eyes to see the world, but chances are some of this will hit home. To say that nearly every page is quotable feels a little cliche, but that's how beautiful her writing is. This is a book I'll carry with me for a long, long time.

Something Like Winter by Jay Bell - I am so obsessed with this series!!! It really took me by surprise how much I'm loving it. Something Like Winter tells the events of Something Like Summer from the viewpoint of Tim, while also giving us Tim's story outside of the first book. What I love most about Bell's writing is the authenticity of navigating the world as a gay teen, trying to figure out your place in it and transitioning into the world of adulthood becoming comfortable in your skin...or trying to at least. These books are a gift to teens and adults alike.
The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-mi Hwang - Oh this little story. So sweet, so gentle, so heartwarming and heartbreaking. The tale of a laying hen who dreams of hatching her own eggs and becoming a mother and getting that wish under very unusual circumstances. I've never been a parent, but I've been on the opposite side of that equation and this story just pulled at my heartstrings. I love stories that use the lives of other animals as a metaphor for something greater and this one does it beautifully with gorgeous illustrations throughout.

Honoring Grief by Alexandra Kennedy - I wanted a good book on grief for
work. I work as a counselor and I'm always looking to learn more myself. I took quite a bit for myself in this little book. This book isn't written just for those who have experienced death, but those grieving any sort of loss...a relationship, a job ending, a major life change...anything that leaves you suddenly having to redefine your world. She gives wonderful, quiet advice on how to truly honor the grief we feel when we have to redefine our worlds instead of rushing through it and leaving business undealt with. It's a book I'll use and recommend quite often!

Ms. Marvel Vol. 1 by G. Willow Wilson - OMG thank you Marvel for publishing this!!!!! What a refreshing comic this was coming from one of the big comic publishing houses. So often our heroines are white, tall, scantily clad, big breasted, long haired women whose looks precede their intelligence and abilities...the latter half of that sentence being the troublesome part. There's nothing inherently wrong with being white, tall, big breasted, long haired or scantily clad....but it's when writers choose to combine those things and make that the feature story of a character that it truly becomes a problem. I am so proud of Marvel, first of all for giving this story to G. Willow Wilson, a Muslim woman, to write; and secondly, for making Ms. Marvel a young Muslim woman herself who ultimately rejects those stereotypes and chooses to embrace herself as Ms. Marvel. And no, it's not just gimmicky...the story itself is fantastic and I cannot WAIT for volume 2 in March!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

What I've Been Reading

Hey folkses! January has been a much better month reading-wise than December so far, in that I've read more than zero books. Two down so far and I'm in the middle of five others. One day I'll learn not to read five books at a time, but at least the five books I'm reading are all different types of books. I have an audiobook going, some poetry, nonfiction, short stories, and a novel. I should throw in a graphic novel for good measure and maybe a screenplay for the hell of it :p

My first read of the year was Haruki Murakami's The Strange Library and "strange" was indeed an excellent word choice for the title. This was seriously one of the most bizarre books I've read in awhile. It's a very short novella about a young boy who visits a library to return a book and asks for books on tax collecting. He's pointed to a part of the library that he didn't know existed and then down the rabbit hole we go. He gets the book he wants but he cannot leave the library with this book. In fact, he can't leave the library at all as the strange librarian takes him through a maze within the library and locks him in a cell with a man dressed in a sheep suit where he is forced to memorize the book if he wishes to live...I won't go further into the book because I don't want to give away what's a very short but twisted and bizarre story. As strange as it was, I still enjoyed it as I have with every Murakami I've read. This book was made especially neat by it's packaging and design with illustrations and collage throughout. A neat one to have in the collection.

The other book I've read this month is Something Like Summer by Jay Bell. I. Loved. This. Book. I was not expecting to love this book as much as I did. It's one that's been on my radar for quite some time now but I finally decided to listen to the audio of it. It follows Benjamin Bentley, a 16 year old boy through his high school years as he navigates his first love as an openly gay adolescent. The book takes us through high school, into college and beyond. At first, I found the book to be extremely cliche and thought it was going to be another predictable slash novel with token erotic scenes thrown in but god now this novel grew and grew and grew until I was so invested in the characters that they felt like they were a part of my own life. It's almost like Bell went in to this novel saying "I'm going to take the cliches and address the human touches that they come from." I immediately downloaded the second book in the series, Something Like Winter and started listening to that one today and I don't EVER want this series to end.

Right now I'm reading:

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: This is my current novel and I'm very meh about it. Everyone who's read this book seems to have loved it and it's nominated for all sorts of awards but I cannot for the life of me fall in love with it. I don't hate it but nothing is calling me to pick it back up either. I'm about 100 pages into it right now. Has anyone else had this experience with this book? Do I need to give it more time?

One More Thing by B.J. Novak: Short story collection and a good one at that so far!! I forgot where I first heard about this collection but they're very short short stories that run the gambit from entertaining and funny to extremely thought provoking.

Rope by Alison Hawthorne Deming: Poetry collection and such a beautiful one. I read the first half of it last night and I'll likely finish it tonight. This collection focuses on living life as far as I can tell...the human experience. There was a poem in here about Hurricane Katrina that I was not expecting and while I generally hate all things Katrina after living through it, this poem was beautiful and poignant and much appreciated.

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed: I've been dipping into this book for months and I'm almost finished it now and I don't want it to end. This is some of the most beautiful and poignant writing I've ever read and between this and Wild, I've fallen hard for Strayed. I want to give this book to everyone.

Something Like Winter by Jay Bell: The sequel (companion book) to Something Like Summer, told from the point of view of Tim Wyman, one of the main characters of Something Like far so good! This is my current audiobook!

What are you reading right now? I've been looking for new poetry collections in particular if anyone has any favorites that they'd like to share ;)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Closing Out 2014 - The Year in Books

I'm a few days late, but it's time to close the door on 2014 and start 2015 fresh! Last year was the worst reading year I've had since I've started blogging, clocking in at just 53 books. Let's never have that happen again. What lacked in quantity was made up for by some really quality books, though sadly it wasn't all that great of a year personally either and I really didn't blog much about the books I read. Let's never have that happen again either. Right now I have a LOVELY stack of books on my end table that I'm super excited to read and tell you all about for January, so let's hope the passion stays! January 1st is quite the arbitrary day I've always thought...just another day...but there is something refreshing about a new start symbolically, isn't there? It really can energize you if you let it. So back to are some of the books I really loved this past year, in no particular order:

Finding My Voice by Diane Rehm: I love Diane Rehm. I don't know how long I've been listening to her on NPR now, but her show has been one of my favorites for years now because of what she brings to it...compassion, understanding, a desire to educate, a desire to advocate, and a voice that just makes you feel at home. I remember hearing Diane's voice for the first time (a voice I've come to love) and thinking she was much older than she is. I've since learned that she has spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological condition that affects her voice. Her journey through this, her marriage, her childhood, and so much more are the topic of this captivating book that made me love her even more than I already do. She's such a wonderful writer and her story was fascinating, saddening at times and empowering to me.

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi: Oh I struggled so so much with putting
this book on my best of list for the year. The book is 80% amazing and then fails completely at the end. But it's going on the list because it fails with promise which sounds horrible, but I swear the ending feels like an editor said "hurry up and end it". I was so damn captivated with Oyeyemi's writing throughout the book. More so perhaps than any other book I read this year...and fascinated with the amazing things she did with her characters. This book was pure magic in the most real way. And the ending had so much potential too had she only given it about 100 more pages and done it justice. Sadly, the way it ended felt like a slap in the face. I won't say more for fear of spoilers because I DO still think this is a book that should be read. And I'm so looking forward to reading more of her work. And THAT COVER. Gorgeous!

Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer: I said these books are in no particular order but this is EASILY my favorite book of the year and may just be one of the best books I've ever read. I don't have words for how amazing this book is. I knew nothing about it going into it. I had no clue that it was a book about 9/11 (though it's only partially about that) and I'm glad I didn't know that as I tend to avoid books about manmade violent disasters like 9/11 and the Columbine shootings. I don't like that side of humanity and tend to avoid reading about it. But OMG this book. I don't think I've ever cried so much while reading a book. Yes, it's horribly sad at times, but also so hopeful, so loving, so full of innocence, so full of the loss of that innocence. This whole book is one beautiful quote. This one was really a gift.

Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan - I adore Shaun Tan's work!! His books are works of art. I could look
at his artwork for days, but with his books he gives us amazing stories to go with those works of art. Rules of Summer is one of my favorite books of his to date. It's dark, it's quirky, it's endlessly explorable. I think I stayed on each page for about 5 minutes at least just soaking it all in. Every page turn was like a present. Get this one!

Once by Morris Gleitzman - Oh Morris Gleitzman, you sure do know how to crush my heart. I knew this already from reading books like Two Weeks With The Queen. So I should've known damn well what I was getting into when I picked up a Gleitzman book about the Holocaust :/ I fell so hard for the characters in this book, a group of children so innocent that they literally cannot fathom what's before their eyes. It was a view of the Holocaust that I hadn't experienced before and an expertly written tale that left me angry and sad and wanting to pick up the next book in the series verrrrry hesitantly.

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer - This might be the first time an
author's ever had two books on my end of the year list! I'm not a vegetarian, but when I do eat meat, I try to eat it consciously. Even more so after reading this book. This is not a book just for vegetarians, it's a book that everyone should read. It's important to know where your food comes from, not just for sanitary reasons (and trust me, you will do your research as to where your meat comes from after reading this book), but also out of respect for the living beings that die to sustain us. I'm thankful to Foer for the time and effort he put in to giving us this manifesto on the lives of animals and how they become our food. He's become a favorite author after this year.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart - SO good! The less you know about this one going into it, the better and I kind of want to read this one all over again now that I'm thinking back on it. A group of well to do teens meet together every summer and share a secret....elements of mystery, thriller, love story...One that you just can't put down. Loved it.

Morning Glories (Vols. 1-7) by Nick Spencer - THANK YOU DEBI!!! This
is a graphic novel series that I never would've picked up had it not been for Debi telling me to! But damn am I ever happy that I did. It's my favorite series that I'm reading right now. This series will fuck with your mind. There's no other way of putting it. I still have no clue what the hell is going on in this series but I'm having a really fun time waiting to find out. A group of kids are picked to go to a boarding school and right off the bat you know that things are a little bit off....and then they're a lot off...and then it just keeps getting worse. I cannot wait for volume 8 to come out in February.

Stuck in the Middle With You by Jennifer Finney Boylan - I really did not expect to love this one as much as I did but damn was it ever good. It's Jennifer's story of transitioning as a parent from a father to a mother as she came out as a trans woman. This is not the story of her transition itself physically, but rather her transition as a parent. And it was so beautiful. I cried, I laughed, I sighed. And it made me so happy for her.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham - Oh this one has gotten some I mostly agree with what Roxanne Gay had to say about #Lenagate. I really liked this book. I thought it was an important book and I think that Dunham can be blunt to a fault at times, but it's part of what makes the book what it is...she's not perfect and doesn't pretend to be. She says "I fuck up and that's ok". She explores the gray areas with this book which is perhaps the MOST important thing about this book. There are plenty of books that talk about the black and the white, but not many that dare go into the gray. Thank you Lena for doing that.
flack...and I could write a lot about that flack. I'll just say that

The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero - Holy CRAP this book!!! Thank you Kristen for making me read this one! I haven't read anything else like this. It's part journal, part video transcript, part tape transcript, and 100% horror and it just steamrolls with the storyline getting better and better and better with each page turn until your heart is beating out of your chest at the end. And then you say "holy shit" and it's over. Who doesn't want to read THAT?

Constable & Toop by Gareth Jones - Another thank you to Kristen for
making me read this one too! I hunted EVERYWHERE to find this book and finally found a copy at a branch of my library. This has to be one of the most charming ghost stories that I've ever read. And I mean charming in that it feels timeless and Victorian and wonderful and I want to read 100 more books set in this universe. Oh I really would be so happy if there were more Constable & Toop books though I don't know how likely that is >_>

The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel Vols. 1&2 by Neil Gaiman - This is getting really long so I'll just say that I may have enjoyed these even more than the novel itself, the art was amazing, and I cried my eyes out. Nuff said.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler - I love Amy Poehler. And I am going to be so
sad when Parks and Recreation ends this year :( :( :( Do yourself a favor and get the audiobook version of this book. It is so damn good and Poehler deserves a grammy for it.

And now if you're still reading, CONGRATULATIONS! You've made it this far :p How about some stats?

Total books read this year: 53
Total pages read this year: 11,285
Comics/Graphic Novels Read: 24
Nonfiction: 9 (this needs to go up! Surprised by this number)
Short Story Collections/Essays/Anthologies: 1 :(
Poetry: 1 :( :(
LGBT Themed books: 5 really???
Written by Women: 14 :( (Though interesting to note, 6 of the 14 books by women I read are in my top 14 of the year of the year listed above...READ MORE BOOKS BY WOMEN CHRIS!!)
Written by Men: 39
Chunksters (450+ pgs): 2
Average pages per book: 213 pgs.

Plans for this year, read more books by women...a LOT more books by women....definitely more poetry and short story/essay collections...and more nonfiction. This really was just an awful year for me. The worst I've had overall as far as quantity and I'm just really unhappy with my stats too. I think I'm going to stray from holding myself to themed reading and challenges this year, but I may go on some poetry/nonfic/essay binges here and there. Hope everyone has a wonderful 2015 in between the pages!!