November + December Book Haul and Life Update!

Hello, friends! It’s been a little while since I’ve posted a personal entry, so here’s a book haul on the non-queer YA fiction I’ve read and recommend over the past two months. Luckily, I have a technical writing job that makes listening to audiobooks during work easy so I’ve got a good variety of recommendations this time around. Hopefully a few of these catch your interest!

YA:

  • Romancing the Dark in the City of Light by Ann Jacobus (3/5 stars): This novel follows troubled Summer Barnes after she’s caught in a deadly pull between her best friend and self-harm. I actually found this book at the Dollar Store, which often has books from the clearance pile at Barnes and Noble, and decided to take a chance on it. It was a powerful read with a unique take on mental illness in that it personifies suicidal ideation. Though a little darker than most YA fiction, I felt like it made for a quick and compelling read.
  • (Don’t) Call Me Crazy (4.5/5), edited by Kelly Jensen: This anthology features personal essays from a variety of YA authors, artists, and other creative personalities on mental illness. If you’re looking to feel less alone about your own struggles or understand others with mental health issues, this is a vulnerable and uplifting read. I especially appreciated Libba Bray’s essay on obsessive-compulsive disorder. As someone with OCD, it meant a lot to read one of my favorite authors as a teen speak openly about her diagnosis. Probably one of the best YA releases I’ve read this year.
  • Meet Cute (4/5), edited by Jennifer L. Armentrout: Another compelling YA anthology but this time, short stories about first meetings between couples who are “meant to be.” This book really does have something for everyone. It’s genres range from contemporary to sci-fi and the stories feature plenty of LGBT and POC protagonists. It’s a quick read for sure but also full of fun, wholesome love stories.
  • Get Well Soon by Julie Halpern (3/5): After Anna’s sent to a teen psych ward for depression, she opens up with her fellow patients in a way that moves her towards healing. This was an ultimately optimistic take on dark issues like body image, suicidal ideation, and sexual assault. The book balanced these topics with equal amounts of heart and humor to keep the story hopeful. Although I wasn’t a big fan of the writing style, the plot overall seemed like it could be powerful for teens in similar situations.

Non-YA:

  • Lose Well by Chris Gethard (5/5): Comedian Chris Gethard shares his strategy to overcoming a fear of failure and making the most of what you’ve been given. By far the best self-help book I’ve read, especially for creative types who are trying to figure themselves and their career out. I mostly bought this book because his podcast Beautiful/Anonymous is one of my favorites but this book was really well-done. The balance between advice and personal stories especially made it enjoyable and hilarious in a purposeful way.
  • Zealot by Reza Aslan (3.5/5): This book offers a unique analysis on the historical Jesus and his connection to political turmoil in ancient Jerusalem. From a historical and a theological perspective, this book felt incredibly well-researched. I found it fascinating as someone who’s interested in both spirituality and ancient history, and it offered a more complex portrait of Jesus than what’s seen in mainstream Christianity. Equally intriguing for Christians and non-Christians alike.
  • Night by Elie Wiesel (4.5/5): The author narrates his experience as a concentration camp prisoner during World War II and it was harrowing. Stories like Elie Wiesel’s are especially important to keep in mind as World War II drifts further and further into the past to make sure humanity never commits such atrocities again.
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (5/5): This book tells the story of Abraham Lincoln’s grief following the death of his young son, who’s stuck in-between the land of the living and the dead in his tomb. Experimental and strange but oh man, I loved this one. It reminded me of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman but a little darker and more philosophical. If you’re looking for a weird and heartbreaking story, this one’s worth checking out.
  • The Crucible by Arthur Miller (3.5/5): Fun fact: I was assigned this play for a college class but never actually read it. But hey, now I have so that counts for something, right? This one I listened to in one sitting at work and it was a chilling story. Though most people know that Miller wrote about the Salem Witch Trials as a comparison to the Communist Red Scare, I think it’s just as relevant today as it was then. Made me want to read a nonfiction book on the history of the Salem Witch Trials that I’ve been meaning to check out, so maybe there will be a review on that in January!

And, in bulleted form, a few life updates:

  • Got to see a live show of Aaron Mahnke’s Lore and it was equal parts spooky and fascinating.
  • Sent out my first batch of beta reader chapters for my YA novel! Hoping to edit it through the winter and start querying in the spring so fingers crossed!
  • Hit the two month mark at my new job. It’s been challenging at times to transition from freelance work to an office job but I love my coworkers, the work, and the company’s mission. Ultimately, I’m happier than I’ve been in a while and grateful to have a fulfilling job.
  • Got back on testosterone after a two month hiatus while switching insurance. Getting back on it was very much a relief. I’m thankful to live in a time and place where healthcare for trans people has improved so much. Sometimes I forget how lucky that is, but it’s been one of the greatest blessings in my life to feel comfortable with my body and with who I am over the past two years on T.
  • Just watched Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse with my partner’s family and was blown away! The art style, the characters, the emotions… if you haven’t seen it yet, I could not recommend it more. Such a satisfying and well-done film. Ugh, guys, it was so good!

What book that you read in 2018 made a strong impact on you?

6 thoughts on “November + December Book Haul and Life Update!

      1. I definitely read some great books this year (a lot of them were from my backlist), but there’s still so many more on my TBR! Highlights for me were They Both Die at the End, The Cruel Prince, The Darkest Part of the Forest, The Scorpio Races, Gemina and The Price Guide to the Occult.

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  1. Congrats on the book! To answer the 2018 book question, I would have to say My Year of Rest and Relaxation was a nonemotional journey that challenged my perception of life and death. To say the least, I was shook.

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      1. Mostly a privileged white woman goes through an existential crisis and takes sleeping pills in a gamble of life or death with the hopes that when she wakes up she will be born anew. I generally like the writing more than the plot and there’s serious character development.

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