May 2019: How I Read Too Much Because of Boredom, Anxiety, and Unemployment

What I Read:

  • The rest of Do What You Want edited by Ruby Tandoh
  • Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto
  • Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol
  • The Bad Beginning (re-read) by Lemony Snicket
  • The Reptile Room (re-read) by Lemony Snicket
  • Parts of Let Fury Have the Hour by Antonino D’Ambrosio
  • American Radiance by Luisa Muradyan
  • Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
  • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
  • Part of Good Omens (DNF) by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
  • I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver
  • The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: The Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá
  • Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju
  • Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
  • Mick Jagger: The Unauthorised Biography by Alan Clayson
  • P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
  • The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

What I Got:

  • Anya’s Ghost
  • The Bad Beginning
  • The Reptile Room
  • Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, 1991
  • The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1
  • I Wish You All the Best
  • Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens
  • The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket
  • The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket
  • E = mc2 by David Bodanis

IMG_9800If you can’t already tell by those daunting lists up there, I was suuuuuper bored in May. The semester ended, I wasn’t having much luck finding a job, and all of my friends had moved back home for the summer while I stayed in Nebraska. The bad part about this boredom was that my anxiety and loneliness skyrocketed. The good part: I had lots and lots and lots of reading time.

So grab a snack, snuggle up under a blanket, and get ready for this marathon of a blog post.

I don’t have much new to say about I Do What I Want than I did before. It was helpful and offered a platform for diverse voices and helped me learn about myself and others.

I got Crown of Feathers when I ordered the February OwlCrate box as a birthday present to myself. The premise of this book is so interesting—sisters who hate each other, img_9841.jpegsweeping matriarchal world, people riding phoenixes—so I’m not sure why it took me so long to pick up. It wasn’t the best book ever, but it’s not a book I regret finishing. In fact, I’m mad at the book, because even though it was mediocre, I want to know what happens in the next installment. Will my curiosity be enough for me to pick up another book in the series? I’m not sure. We will have to wait and see. Maybe someone will post an amazing summary online so I can keep up with the characters without the mediocre writing. The author had a tendency to info-dump, then have some scenes, then info-dump, then have some scenes. This made it harder for me to remember things about the history and geography of the world, so I needed to refer to the Index quite often, which disrupted the reading process.

While I was reading the Phoenix Riders book, I took some breaks in between to read quick stories. One of these was Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol. Enthused by my successful img_9844.jpegforay into graphic novels last month, I found this one at my favorite used bookstore for pretty cheap and picked it up. This was another mediocre read. It was cute, but it was predictable. I also found it hard to tell what age group this book was meant for. The art style was childish and cute, but the storyline involved double homicide and an evil ghost. Maybe I would’ve enjoyed this book better if I’d read it at a younger age.

The other quick books I read while in the throes of Crown of Feathers were the first two books of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. Ever since the Netflix series adaptation came out, I’ve wanted to re-read these books. I read about half of them when I was younger, and I was always mad at myself for never finishing them. Well, it’s not too late to read middle grade, so I picked them up and thoroughly enjoyed them. They were easy to read in one sitting, and the tone of the books was definitely not lost in the TV show. One of the book tropes I loved when I was at the middle-grade reading level was the “author has their own story that intertwines with the story they are telling and offers asides about their own involvement” trope. (Another example that comes to mind is The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch. I learned a lot about chocolate and homunculi while reading the Secret Series, and if that doesn’t intrigue you, I don’t know what will!) It was a delight and a nice brain break to get back into these books. Hopefully this time I will make it to the end of the series, to see if it is unfortunate to the very end.IMG_9782.jpeg

I’m still trucking along with Let Fury Have the Hour, which consists of a bunch of articles about Joe Strummer of the Clash. It’s nice to have a book to just pick up and read every once in a while without needing to sustain a narrative, so I’m enjoying taking my time with this.

The other book I didn’t finish, Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and terry Pratchett, I’m not sure I’ll pick up again. It sounded absolutely hilarious. A demon and angel mess up the Apocalypse and someone misplaces the Antichrist. Hilarious, right? Right. It actually was funny. I just wasn’t in the mood for this type of book. My mind was too preoccupied to keep up with all of the characters and storylines, so if I do pick this up again, it’ll have to be at a time when I can devote my full mind to enjoying the intricacies of the story. It was well-written and made me laugh, but it was too slow of a read at a time when I needed something fast-paced. Who knows? Maybe I’ll want to read a book about the Apocalypse next time a presidential election rolls around…

Just so you don’t think I forgot it, I do remember that American Radiance is on this list. It is a collection of poems that I got for free from my university’s press.. The poems weren’t memorable enough to have anything to say, and I’ve already given the book away, so I can’t even flip back through it.

Okay, for the sake of time, I’m going to lump Radio Silence and Eliza and Her Monsters together. Both are about anonymous creators of Internet phenomena becoming friends (or something more!) with someone who doesn’t know their identity, or doesn’t know that the other person knows their identity.

IMG_9634There is a booktuber that I watch named Kat (paperbackdreams) who absolutely loves Radio Silence and always recommends it. I figured it was about time I listened to her. And, oh boy, am I glad I did. This book absolutely captured the importance and beauty of friendship and platonic love. Aaaannnnddd…. there is a demisexual character with pink hair—amazing, right? I cried several times while reading this book, even at parts that weren’t sad, because I connected so deeply with these characters. The main character, Frances, draws fan art for her favorite podcast, which she figures out her new friend Aled creates. But Frances feels guilty about her art. At school, she is the Smart Kid, the girl who always studies and gets good grades. A huge theme of this book is about being proud of and enjoying your passions outside of schoolwork. It discusses different options for life after high school and made me wish I had been nicer to myself in high school. Frances is hard on herself to a fault, like I was, and this would have been a pivotal book for me to read as a teenager.

The reason I lumped these two books together is because they share similar themes. Eliza and Her Monsters is also about exploring and being proud of the passions you have outside of schoolwork, as well as taking a different path after high school. Eliza only feels like herself when she is drawing her webcomic, but when she makes friends with fans of the comic, she decides not to tell them she is the creator. This, of course, causes problems later, as, just like Aled in Radio Silence, she is outed as the creator. Even with these similarities, both books hold up so well on their own, with unique characters and perspectives on high school. They felt so real. And even though I liked Radio Silence slightly more, both of these books are must-reads for anyone in high school who feels like schoolwork may not be their true passion. Eliza and Her Monsters even lets the reader experience Eliza’s artwork and creative storytelling—something I usually get annoyed with—which added so much depth to the story. Before this turns into a Radio Silence and Eliza and Her Monsters rant, I’ll just stop now and say: READ THESE BOOKS!

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver, while not the most revolutionary in plot, was revolutionary in a different way. This is a mainstream novel with a nonbinary main character written by a nonbinary author that I have been anticipating for months. I’m usually super oblivious when it comes to new books, but I was so pumped to see a nonbinary author in a mainstream store that I drove out to Barnes & Noble on the dayIMG_9838 it came out. The cover is beautiful, the story is heartwarming, and I think that Ben (the main character) really does deserve the best. Ben comes out as enby to his parents and gets kicked out, so he lives with his estranged sister and goes to a new school, where he meets Nathan, a new friend and love interest. My heart was so happy while reading this book. I loved the reality of the story, even if it was extremely sad and triggering at times. Ben deals with abusive/manipulative parents and panic attacks, which can be difficult to read about, but it was such an important story that offered a hopeful, but not too perfect, ending.

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens is, as the title suggests, a book about the drag scene. Unfortunately, this book was only okay. The romantic relationship wasn’t my favorite because the main character makes stupid, insensitive decisions, and the book took too long getting to the point when Nima finally does drag on her own. I also didn’t like the backstory about Nima’s mother ditching them (too predictable and obvious). But there were fun parts and cute moments throughout. I loved Nima’s relationship with a IMG_9839motherly drag queen and the complicated story of Gordon, who is questioning his gender. It was refreshing to see a potentially trans character who isn’t all sunshine and roses—he has anger issues because of his home life, which became a mask to hide questions about his identity. Gordon deserved more time in the spotlight. I also thought it was great that Nima was mixed race and queer, because a many queer books end up being whitewashed. The book was enjoyable, but not a masterpiece.

I’m going to hold off on giving too many thoughts on To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You until I read the third book in the series. All I can say for now is that I enjoyed the first book a lot—probably because I had already fallen in love with the characters by watching the Netflix movie—and that, though the characters were better in the movie, the plot was better in the books. The second book I didn’t enjoy as much, but I’m still curious enough to eventually follow through with the third one even if romance usually isn’t my genre.

The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1 was another book I read because of a Netflix adaptation, which seems to be a mini theme for this month. I really loved the quirkiness of the TV show, plus Robert Sheehan (a beautiful man) acts in the show, and Gerard Way of MCR created this comic series in the first place, so my emo soul needed to read it. Quite frankly, I liked the show better. I still enjoyed the comic and will read the others, but the plot was harder to follow and the characters weren’t as diverse. Vanya’s story was a bit one-dimensional as were the relationships between the Hargreeves siblings. Perhaps they get fleshed out in the following volumes, but if I hadn’t watched the TV show, I’m not sure I would have liked it as much.

The Prince and the Dressmaker, however, is an amazing graphic novel. It is a middle IMG_9834grade graphic novel about a prince who hires a budding seamstress/designer to sew his dresses as he moonlights as “Lady Crystallia” in Paris. This is such a heartwarming and precious story—another queer story with a hopeful ending. Not to mention the art style: colorful and soft, just like the characters.

Lastly, at the end of this marathon, let’s talk about Mick Jagger. Now, I’m not a big fan of 1960s music nor the Rolling Stones, but the ’60s and ’70s still fascinate me. Also, Mick Jagger is a weird dude, so I figured his biography would be entertaining. Unfortunately, this biography mostly just stated facts one after the other rather than really telling a story. I would have rather read a book that focused closely on Jagger’s life rather than the wider scope of the Stones and the ’60s music scene. I almost gave up on this book, but I ended up finishing in case I learned anything super interesting. There were some fun facts and interesting phrases, but overall, it wasn’t a reading experience I particularly enjoyed. (I did rediscover the David Bowie and Mick img_9843.jpegJagger duet of “Dancing in the Street,” though, which is a complete gem.)

On my last trip to the library a few days ago, I checked out six books to supplement the two I already had. Maybe June will be a slower reading month with a busier schedule, but clearly, I have a library problem. As I told my friends when they saw the gigantic stack I carried up to my apartment, I ball too hard when I go to the library. But, hey, it’s free. Why not?

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