in recent years

201820172016
201520142013
201220112010

totally top three: july 2018

July was kind of a weird month for me with lots of going and doing and very little time to chill and take in new things. I barely even made time to read, which is the easiest thing to make time for in my life! But I still liked some stuff!

Pray for the Wicked is so, so, so good and I wasn’t really expecting it, even though I was excited to hear it. (I’m a firm believer that life is best lived with low expectations! Disappointment is worse than surprise! Don’t be cynical, be chill!) It’s a nice follow-up to Death of a Bachelor and the songs were amazing live. I won’t say too much since I’m pretty sure this one will end up on my year-end list, but what an album of jamz, man. Tracks to Check: “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” & “Roaring 20s” & “Dying in LA”



🖤

It took me a while to read Rebecca Stead’s First Light but thankfully that isn’t the book’s fault, I’ve just been terrible at follow-through this year. This was a conceptually great story with characters it was easy to care about and follow, even in the more high-concept side of the story. As I said in my review, I’m not a scifi/fantasy person generally, but I would definitely read more of this universe, which I think is a great sign.



🖤

Crystal and I have dedicated our summer (and our October…) to live music because we have missed it so, so much since we moved to the middle of nowhere. We saw The Used in May which was an excellent show in an incredible venue and in July we saw Panic! at the Disco and Coheed and Cambria, both in Minneapolis in wildly different venues. Coheed and Cambria were spectacular even 11 years after I saw them the last time, with an incredible stage setup and lighting package, and Claudio Sanchez’s absolutely mesmerizing… everything. It was a big, awesome show put on by really talented musicians for fans who were so extremely into it and I’m so glad we went.

We bought the Panic tickets on a whim and it was ABSOLUTELY the best thing we’ve done so far this year. (We actually ended up not going to Warped Tour because we’re old, which I do not regret at all which I was worried about, so that’s good.) It was SUCH an unbelievably good show with great sound and some of the most spectacular showmanship I’ve ever seen. Fire and sparkles and lasers and smoke and a flying piano and Brendon Urie’s golden voice, which he likes to show off as much as possible to the audience’s very vocal delight. We danced and sang along for TWO ENTIRE HOURS, twenty-eight songs, which is just absolutely insane to imagine doing night after night. What a damn show. We’ve got more live music to come before winter sets in (KNOCK ON WOOD FINGERS CROSSED) and I can’t wait!


And three to look forward to…


      


Panic! at the Disco photo is by Jake Chamseddine & technically Crystal and I are both in it!

totally top three: june 2018

Everything is so, so awful, so I escaped into gay love stories this month! Coping methods are what they are, man. (Also, queer joy is radical.)

Netflix’s Alex Strangelove was very charming and very sweet and pretty funny with likable characters that I super enjoyed spending time with. I was a little bored with the root of Alex’s repression (and repression in general, some people don’t figure it out ’til later on and that’s FINE, it doesn’t always have to be about trauma) but overall this was a really fun, really joyful gay romcom. Daniel Doheny was very good and I loved seeing Jesse James Keitel’s character Sidney be really unapologetically visible in the face of Dell’s dumb straight boy ranting. Fun and sweet!



🖤

I had been very eagerly awaiting Love, Simon since I read the book way back when and had loved it pretty thoroughly and I think it translated really well to screen and was a fun, sweet watch. It was lovely to see so many characters of color and teenagers just being teenagers and also to see dumb, shitty bullies get told off and punished by an adult in a really satisfying way. Everyone was really great in this — I particularly loved the parents and teachers — and I was particularly impressed with Clark Moore’s Ethan who, in a movie made even five years ago, would have been a one-note joke.



🖤

Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World was a gift from the Amazon algorithm, recommended to me based on the probably pretty high volume of queer books I both peruse and buy. I really liked the writing in this one and Stephen’s inner monologue and the secondary characters we get to spend time with. I also especially liked seeing it take place in an semi-unfamiliar place and time, the 80s in Nova Scotia, and the fact that it is a real coming-of-age story, following Stephen for a good long while. This one is less happy than the the stories I tend to love (and beware if you’re particularly sensitive to violence) but it is really hopeful and kinder than a lot of books set in similar times and places. It reminded me some of Marie Sexton’s Trailer Trash, which I loved a LOT, so now I’ll probably think of them as a little gay small town 80s American-Canadian set.


And three to look forward to…


      

totally top five 2k17: reading

2017 was an awful year for me in terms of reading, so much so that I actually decided to halve my Goodreads challenge for this year so that I wouldn’t feel quite so disappointed in myself over something, uh, fairly trivial. (I haven’t completed a challenge since 2015! I’m a disgrace!) But I did like a lot of what I read and here are my Totally Top Five for 2017!

5. Finding Audrey, Sophie Kinsella – This was my only audiobook of the year and it was a joy. A sweet story with a great reader and a nice rendering of the struggles of teenagerdom, but a version where there are institutions and people in a place to provide care for your mental health with little stigma. I had some issues with the story (there’s some med-shaming and too much emphasis placed on a romantic partner in the recovery process) but I enjoyed my time with these characters.

4. Trouble Makes a Comeback, Stephanie Tromly – This is the sequel to Trouble Is a Friend of Mine which was my favorite book of 2016 and though it wasn’t quite as good as the first, it was just as much fun. I love these characters and the way that they talk to each other and the dubious capers in which they get embroiled and I cannot wait to read the next one.

3. Say What You Will, Cammie McGovern – I absolutely loved the characters in this book and was so grateful to see disabled teenagers with full narrative voices living their lives and having a romance! I also really appreciated that the depiction of mental health and disability were more complex and uglier than the sort of soundbite version you often see in media, especially because it was largely devoid of pity AND inspiration porn. I also just really love a story where two people are kind of tossed together and you get to see how they fit into each other’s lives and this is an awesome version of that.

2. The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy, Kate Hattemer – This was an absolute joy to read, funny and charming with engaging, vibrant characters who I wanted to spend lots and lots of time with. I loved the friendship in this and the dialogue and the way that characters interacted with each other. Also, I think this book genuinely has one of the weirdest, goofiest, and most unexpected Chekhov’s Gun situations in the history of, like, human language and I am better for having read it.

1. All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders – I have a habit of buying books based on the absolute shortest blurbs or, in this case, pretty much just based on their covers and then forgetting everything I know about them before I read them. Sometimes that’s a bad thing, sometimes good, but in the case of All the Birds in the Sky it was a complete windfall because I absolutely never would have bought or read it if I’d know what it was about and I would have missed out on my absolute favorite book of 2017.

It’s weird and funny and charming and unexpected and the characters are engaging and well-developed and they grow and evolve and I am not going to tell you a single thing about it because I can’t do it justice. If you haven’t read it yet, do.


Honorable Mentions

Courtney Milan, Trade Me | Kasie West, By Your Side | Diane Adams & Claire Keane, Love Is


Previously

2K12 | 2K13 | 2K14 | 2K15 | 2K16

totally top five 2k16: reading

OKAY, now that I’ve finally finished ALL MY REVIEWS of books I read in 2016, I can finally tell you which ones are in my top five! I’m sure you’ve been on TOTAL TENTERHOOKS. I mean, like everyone, I feel partially conflicted about writing about silly, joyful things when it feels like the world is being set freshly aflame every single day, but without joy, what are we fighting for, right? So let’s do this in spite of it all!


5. Julie Murphy, Dumplin’Dumplin’ is only the second audiobook I’ve ever listened to (It is exxxxxtremely hard for me to absorb information aurally.) and I loved both the narration (TBH, the way that Eileen Stevens has Bo say “Willowdean” has irreversibly changed my life.) and the story. It’s fun and sweet and smart and funny. Willowdean grows, the secondary and tertiary characters are awesome, and most importantly, WILLOWDEAN IS FAT AND DOESN’T LOSE WEIGHT. There is a secondary character named Millie who is also fat and DOESN’T LOSE WEIGHT. I have read a lot of books about fat characters and even the ones who decide being fat is “okay” usually lose some weight as, like, a magical side effect of being allowed to feel human? I guess. But Willowdean is fat and thinks that’s okay and pushes back against the idea that it isn’t okay and she stays fat! She never even obsesses over food! What a gift.


4. Andrea Portes, Anatomy of a MisfitAnatomy of a Misfit is a book that frustrated me as I read it because it struck me as so true to the misery of high school, but in a really satisfying way. The writing is very strong and Anika is a really well-rendered teenager with complex feelings about genuinely difficult situations. She’s not particularly likable, which is always unbelievably hard for me to engage with, but she was so fully-fleshed and felt so human. Her narrative voice always felt age-appropriate without ever pandering or falling into that non-young-adults-trying-to-sound-like-young-adults thing that I seemed to encounter a lot in 2016. This is not an easy book and I don’t think it always pulls it’s weight, but it was definitely some of the best reading I did this year.


3. Marie Sexton, Trailer Trash – I think I screamed about Trailer Trash for like, five days straight on twitter after I read it because I was so, so impressed with it. It’s a gay, teenage love story set in the 80s that manages to be sweet, emotional, devastating, and hopeful. The narrative voices feel SO of their time, while also feeling really current. It doesn’t ignore its time period at all — including the AIDS crisis — but manages to stay hopeful in spite of pain, loss, and tragedy. This book is a romance through and through, but it’s cut with real, weighty problems and real, painful experiences and full of real, complicated conversations and relationships. I read it in May and not a week has gone by where I haven’t at least thought about how much I enjoyed it.


2. Sonia Belasco, Speak of Me As I Am – I’ve known Sonia for… more than ten years now, I think, and I have spent nearly all of those years waiting to have one of her books in my hands and man, it was so worth the anticipation. Speak of Me As I Am is beautiful and moving and lyrical and lovely. Melanie and Damon feel like real teenagers, but they’re also smart and sensitive and thoughtful. I love the weight of place in this and the way that characters who are not physically present in the story are so incredibly central and alive. There are also awesome parents in this and good teachers and secondary characters who are lively and fully-formed and worth caring about. I feel like a cheater sharing this one, since you can’t actually read it until April, but I promise it’ll be worth the wait.


1. Stephanie Tromly, Trouble is a Friend of Mine – I LOVED THIS BOOK. I loved it so much. I love-love-loved it. I also listened to the audiobook of this one (the last one I listened to, I think) and Kathleen McInerney is GREAT and kind of sounds like Kristen Bell, which made it all feel very Veronica Mars-y. It was a fun, fast story with great characters. Nobody really sounds like a teenager, but they somehow feel like teenagers anyway. It’s a great caper-y book and it made me laugh a lot. And the end made me squeal in delight with such vigor that I traumatized Crystal while she was driving. It does have some… questionable moments with racial stereotypes and slut-shame-y-I’m-not-like-other-girls type stuff, but I have the luxury of being able to enjoy the story anyway. Such a fun read!


Honorable Mentions: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda | Bone Gap | The Haters | More Happy Than Not | Vivian Apple at the End of the World | Dietland | Winger | My Heart and Other Black Holes


2K12 | 2K13 | 2K14 | 2K15 | WATCHING | LISTENING

16 for 16

When I set my reading goal last year, I made an Excel spreadsheet of all 50 of the books I wanted to read and the order I was going to read them in and it was super orderly and it made me really amped to meet my goal! But it also went to hell in like… March? If not sooner, tbh. So this year I’m just ~going with the flow~ and reading what I want to read when I want to read it. But! I’ve still got ideas about what I want to read, so here are 16 of the 55 books I’m planning to read this year, in no particular order!

What are you planning to read this year?