Friday, July 19, 2019

When your reading tastes change: or Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1)The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking #2)Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking #3)


Guys I just don't know why I do this to myself.

First let me start off by saying: Patrick Ness is an AMAZING author, and you should absolutely read this series! It's incredibly well crafted in every possible way.  The world that Ness has built is so entirely different than any other book I've ever read. (Sidenote: I am curious how the audiobook versions of these work, because font plays such a big role in reading these and helping to create the world building).  You also fall in love with characters that you never thought you could possibly forgive, and the characters you love TO PIECES make some truly awful choices - and through all of it, your heart is just breaking for every character as you see these horrible decisions they make that are being informed partially by circumstance and partially through trauma.  It is really hard to balance all of this and maintain the heart of each character while keeping an incredibly intense plot going all set in a very foreign type of world building.  To say that Patrick Ness is a master at his craft is an understatement.

But.

I don't think I can read soul destroying books the way I used to. I just don't have it in me. I'm going to have to seriously consider whether I am going to read any of Ness's other books, because I just really don't know if I can put myself through that. And again - he is an INCREDIBLE author! I've just changed a lot as a reader, and for whatever reasons am only capable of small amounts of emotional pain here and needs lots of fluff.  AND I JUST READ A SHUSTERMAN NOVEL AND TWO NESS NOVELS BACK TO BACK BECAUSE I AM CLEARLY A SADIST. Or an idiot. (I'm an idiot). So perhaps my mistake was just lumping in 3 incredibly emotionally fraught stories together back to back, and maybe I'll be able to read the tough books again.

I feel I used to seek these stories out more frequently though back when I first started blogging. I used to THRIVE on the soul crushing brutality and felt like stories didn't ring true unless someone had something utterly awful happen to them/die.  (I crowned Sarah Rees Brennan the True Queen of heart stompery.  I still stand by absolutely LOVING her writing).  I do think that I was a lot more dismissive of "fluffy stories", (I have admitted more than once that I keep finding hidden pockets of snobbery left in me on reading tastes) and while I have always loved historical romances, I thought paranormal romances were AWFUL.  Here we are years later, and for the past year, paranormal romance has ended up being my MOST read genre, and I've been finding many contemporary (of the fluffy sort) stories that I am actually excited to get my hands on.

So....what changed?

I'm not entirely sure, to be honest.  Some of it is that is completely normal (and expected) for reading tastes to change. That's just part of human and tastes are always evolving. I guess I just always thought I would actually start liking adult contemporary (of the unhappy marriages and middle age crises) or go back to reading more classics. I didn't see myself as going towards lighter fare.  (It does look as if I will never find adult contemporary literature any less baffling, but then who knows?).  I have a few theories:

1. My only prior experience to paranormal romance had basically been Twilight.  While I appreciate what it did for YA literature in the marketing sense, and how many readers it got back into reading at all, it's definitely not what I'm looking for.  As I've read more in the genre it is clear how much diversity and positive sexuality you find readily available. So it's a combination of finding writing that I find engaging and not necessarily enjoying paranormal romance aimed at young adults (and to be fair, I'm hardly in the correct demographic for that anymore).

2. Most of my experience with contemporary has been with "issue" books, which clearly with my not being able to handle traumatic experiences is probably still not a good choice for me at the moment.  Again, I think it's been a combination of me overcoming some stigmas that I have undeservedly set up, and a matter of discovering writing styles that suit me well.  Even in the books that rip my heart out, I very much enjoy snark and humour (I reiterate, Sarah Rees Brennan is QUEEN.)

3. Maybe being younger makes you more resilient to tragic reading experiences, from the sheer standpoint that statistically the longer you live the more likely you are to have them (not always true, of course).  While I'd like to think this is the case, I was definitely reading brutal books at a time when I was dealing with multiple loved ones having died or dealing with terminal illness, so I'm not sure this one rings true for me.  That being said, there has been some of that going on in the past year, so maybe there is something to be said for it.  Maybe I'm just dealing with grief a little differently?  Regardless, I've definitely reached my threshold of being able to cope with books that hurt.  Fluffy books can still challenge how I think about the world, but make me feel good about the world at the end of it.


So where does that leave me?  I do think books like this series are important.  I do think that I would be missing out if I stopped reading books like these.  And maybe this is just a phase, like not reading paranormal romance was and I'll be able to come back.  After all, it took me THREE YEARS to recover from the first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy, so maybe it's just a matter of time.  (And I'll have to be VERY choosy about what sad books I read since it is clear I am not going to get to many of them). 

Needless to say, I am going to be reading the equivalent of cotton candy for a while I think.  Send me all your fluffiest recommendations in any genre!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Top Ten Autobuy Authors

Hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl


A few disclaimers and notes about my choices:

1. The author photo is either from their Goodreads account or website, and the book chosen was the most popular on their list.

2. I either don't own every book they have written, or they are still alive and being published




Tamora Pierce  Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, #1)

This is OBVIOUSLY going to be my number one choice. I have been buying (or have books being bought for me) her books since I was seven years old. She is one of three authors on this list I automatically pre-order books from (see the next two authors on the list for that) without question or hesitation.  I know I'm not the only one in saying that Tammy's writings have been hugely influential on my life, and in some ways have shaped who I am both as a read and a person.  

As an added note, like most bloggers I know, I grew up on her Tortall novels and am most familiar with those.  I know a lot of people who have read her Tortall novels, but not her Circle of Magic novels and I think that is such a shame!  While they are geared, for more of a middle grade audience, rather than a young adult one, there is SO much she puts in there that you don't necessarily get in her Tortall books until much later. (Racial diversity? Check. LGBTQ representation? Check. Different body sizes, including fat? Check.  All of the above found in at least one main character?  Check.)




Robin McKinley   Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast
*I am....kind of surprised? I would not have pegged this as her most popular book by a LONG shot, but according to Goodreads I am Extremely Wrong about this. It is in fact my least favourite of all her books, although still a pretty good book regardless.  I would have thought The Blue Sword was more popular *shrugs*

Robin McKinley is another author I've been reading and buying since I was about seven years old.  She writes fantasy, many of which are classic retellings (my favourites being Deerskin and Spindle's End).  I will say she's an author I don't think is for everyone - I absolutely ADORE her long tangential descriptions, but I'm not sure everyone has the patience for that.  For me they add the perfect about of humour, as well as help deepen understanding of characters and world building.  She has a blog she used to regularly update, but she's been MIA for the past year and hasn't published a new book in quite a few years now (she lost her husband a few years back and it's been very heartbreaking) and it's made me worry about her a bit. So here's hoping I DON'T actually own all of her books and that she is doing ok!




Intisar Khanani   Thorn

I met Intisar at a con I go to see Tamora Pierce actually!  She is the only author I can think of who I met and then read.  So I'm telling you now, if you're on the fence about it at all, you SHOULD go read her books.  (Especially since in my list of three auto-no-hesitation-buy books she's the youngest of the lot and I would like her to keep publishing books FOREVER).  Also, if she is at a con near you, you should definitely go hear her speak and then say hi.  I own every single one of her books (some in multiple formats, which is something I only do for authors who I need to be able to read their books AT ANY MOMENT and still hold a special place for the hard copies.)  In fact, my last post was about her rerelease of Thorn! While you'll have to wait until 2020 for that one, her Sunbolt Chronicles are available now. If you like non-Western based fantasy, magic, resourceful heroines,  and racial diversity in your characters - this is for you!




Tanith Lee     Wolf Tower (Claidi Journals, #1)
*While Wolf Tower was my own introduction to Tanith Lee's work, and I do highly recommend the series, I don't think it is very representative of her writing as a whole. For something a little more in line with the rest of her writing, but still as a good starting point for her I'd probably recommend The Silver Metal Lover.

I've mentioned on the blog before that I have a weird relationship with Tanith Lee's writing.  Her writing is just so....weird.  Sometimes delightfully so, sometimes confusingly so, but always unapologetically so.  That's really what the key is in her writing - no matter how she frames her characters (almost entirely unlikeable the lot of them) they are always extremely unapologetic in their power, or their apathy, vulnerability, or sometimes even in their choice to be powerless.  No matter their choices - good, bad, or just plain stupid - they are fierce.  At the end of the day, even if I find problematic things, Tanith Lee was writing all different types of women back in the 70s - and she was writing it in genre fiction at that!  I have often lamented that it is a shame she is not nearly as well known as she deserved given the sheer magnitude of her catalogue, influence on other writers, and many awards, but I try to make up for it for finding as many copies of her work as I can (which, while easier than when I spoke of it in my earlier post, is still somewhat of a challenge at times).




Madeleine L'Engle   A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet, #1)

There's a theme here that the authors I automatically buy are from my formative years, but I suppose you grow up with an author and you know you'll love them.  I've just now started reading some of L'Engle's journals and adult works, and unsurprisingly they contain in them many of the things that I find joyful and inspiring in her fictional books and work for children.   I have always loved that L'Engle finds ways that science and Christianity (or perhaps religion in general, but from what I remember it was Christianity specifically) not only coexist, but make MORE sense together and enhance the understanding of the other.  In doing this she always makes both seem magical and wondrous.  As a nonreligious person, particularly one who grew up in an area where during the evolutionary unit of science parents could choose to have their students take a bus to bible study instead, I have always appreciated this.  Her writing always has this sense of wonder to it, and is interspersed with science, philosophy, as wells as a quiet contemplative style.




Jessie L. Star   So Much to Learn
*Her most popular book is actually one I haven't read yet, which bodes well for me!  

I actually originally read Jessie L. Star when she was publishing on fictionpress.net!  I was delighted when she decided to publish her works and if I haven't bought all of them quite yet, I'm pretty close.  (And for you Aussies out there, here's another Aussie author for you!)  I am extremely picky about contemporary and contemporary romance, so the fact that I have anyone writing in that genre on this list should tell you boatloads about the quality of her work.  There's plenty of banter and snark, but her stories still have real substance in them to offset any fluffiness, and all of her characters feel like real, wonderfully flawed people.  Private Lives, Public Property is my personal favourite (I've reread it SO MANY TIMES), but really you can't go wrong with any of her works.  Pick your favourite trope (hate to love? wallflowers? friends to lovers? secret romance? second chance? fake romance?  SHE HAS THEM ALL).




Anne McCaffrey   Dragonflight (Dragonriders of Pern, #1)

Anne McCaffrey is arguably one of the most influential science fiction writers of her time (don't be fooled by the dragons - it IS science fiction).  She was the first woman to win the Hugo Award as well as the first woman to win the Nebula Award, and she was publishing science fiction all the way back in the 60s!  So...needless to say she's an author I've always admired.  While I am most familiar with her books set in Pern, The Ship Who Sang (the first in her Brainship series) made my best of 2018 books for being so ahead of its time (let alone books we see now).  Her different series are really very different from each other, and I really think there's something for anyone who like science fiction (and fantasy - because while the dragon books are science fiction, fantasy lovers will definitely enjoy them).




Author Jacqueline Carey   Kushiel's Dart (Phèdre's Trilogy, #1)

The Kushiel series is one of my all time favourite fantasy series.  For me (and many others), it is the sexier, more feminist version of Game of Thrones - just as intricate and filled with political intrigue, but with more female power and lots more sexy good times instead of rape.  The whole world-building is around sex, but not in a titillating sort of way, and again very empowering.  While her Kushiel's series isn't for everyone, Jacqueline Carey also writes plenty of very fun paranormal romance! Her work features a lot of diversity both racial and romantic (and maybe trans? I can't remember). An extra big bonus in my book - lots of bi representation!!




Sarah MacLean   Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (Love By Numbers, #1)

No matter what book it is Sarah MacLean is one of the most reliably excellent romance authors I read. I don't think I've ever rated one of her books poorly.  While she isn't as quippy as Julia Quinn (who I also recommend), there's plenty of humour and she has all my favourite romance tropes, while still managing to stand separate from many other romances with the same tropes.  I am particularly forgetful, and when I read romance it tends to be a large binge, so the fact that I remember any of her characters, let alone most (all?) of them is a testament to them feeling fully realized.




   Soulless (Parasol Protectorate, #1)

Gail Carriger is just pure steampunk-paranormal romance FUN. There's simply no other way to put it.  It's fluffy and hilarious and ridiculous and just all the best things.  I always know that I'm safe to buy something I will reread when I get one of her books. (Added bonus, she has a very cool blog dedicated to fashion  that I definitely recommend).


Honorable Mentions

Both of the following authors get a special category because it's not so much that I'll autobuy their books (although I would, but I'm usually broke so I don't.  Almost all of the above authors I autobuy and used bookstores or thrift stores (minus the first three), so I can afford to autobuy them!). It's more that they have a book that every time I find a copy I will buy it - I will buy ALL the copies just so I can give them to people so that they can read it because they MUST.




Neal ShustermanUnwind (Unwind, #1)         

Unwind was a book that SHOOK ME.  I mean...I mentioned it on the blog oh, I don't know only a billion times, and devoted a rare post solely to the necessity of reading this book.  I don't want to say too much about it because it's been so long I won't be able to remember what is spoilers or not, but the general premise is that abortion is no longer legal. If you don't want to keep the baby you can "stork" them (leave them on a family's doorstep) and they have to raise them.  But as a compromise, between the ages of 13-17, if you have a troublesome teen you can't manage (or if they are orphans), they can be sent to the government to be "unwound"...or in other words, their body parts can be used to save other people's lives.  Yeah. And the crazy thing is that so much of the technology discussed in the series EXISTS.  I don't think many books should be required reading (in fact it is a list of two and it is this book and the one below) BUT EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS.




 Libba Bray   Beauty Queens

Ok, I'm betting that any of you who are regular readers thought I was going to out Going Bovine since that book absolutely WRECKED ME and I went on about it forever.  PYSCH!  (It is an excellent book, but very weird and not for everyone I admit).  Beauty Queens is the book we are here to discuss today, and if you have not read it, you should!  It's cynical, and hilarious, and feminist, and I'm not kidding - it should be required reading. For everyone.  



Monday, July 8, 2019

Thorn - In which a favourite book gets a cover reveal and giveaway!


Many of you have heard me mention Intisar Khanani's books in the past.  She's an author I've been a huge fan of for years now, and Thorn was the very first book of hers I read.  In a very exciting turn of events, she got picked up by HarperTeen and they are republishing this - so even if you read the original Thorn there have been a lot of changes so it is worthwhile to check out a copy of the new version!

I love Intisar's works for a few reasons.  If you know me at all, you know that fairy tale retellings, and non-Western based fantasy settings are my JAM.  Intisar's works are chock full of this!  Beyond that, she is really interesting as an author. She's spoken at Chessiecon on panels multiple times, and has been one of the highlights on every panel I've seen her on.  Every time she spoke it was well thought out, to the point, and thought provoking.  She brings all of these qualities to her writing, which again is why she has remained a favourite author of mine since I first picked up her books.  If that isn't enough to convince you to pick this book up, read on for excerpts as well as a giveaway!




Title: Thorn
Series: A standalone in the “Dauntless Path” world
Author: Intisar Khanani (http://booksbyintisar.com)
Cover Designer: Jenny Zemanek (http://www.seedlingsonline.com)
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Release Date: March 24, 2020
Publisher: HarperTeen
Price: US $18.99 (Hardcover), US $9.99 (e-book)
Buy it: Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo, Google Play



Synopsis:

A princess with two futures. A destiny all her own.

Between her cruel family and the contempt she faces at court, Princess Alyrra has always longed to escape the confines of her royal life. But when she’s betrothed to the powerful prince Kestrin, Alyrra embarks on a journey to his land with little hope for a better future.

When a mysterious and terrifying sorceress robs Alyrra of both her identity and her role as princess, Alyrra seizes the opportunity to start a new life for herself as a goose girl.

But Alyrra soon finds that Kestrin is not what she expected. The more Alyrra learns of this new kingdom, the pain and suffering its people endure, as well as the danger facing Kestrin from the sorceress herself, the more she knows she can’t remain the goose girl forever.

With the fate of the kingdom at stake, Alyrra is caught between two worlds and ultimately must decide who she is, and what she stands for.



About the author:



Website: http://booksbyintisar.com







Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. She has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. She is the author of The Sunbolt Chronicles and Thorn (HarperTeen 2020). 



Excerpt:


I lead the king down to the back entrance to the gardens, and we walk along between plots of dill, thyme, and chives. I wait, knowing he will speak when he is ready.

“How much does your mother confide in you?” he asks as we near the middle of the gardens.

I slide a look at him from the corner of my eye. “Enough. My lord.”

His lips quirk, the first true smile I have seen from him. “Is that honest?”

I pause beside a bed of borage. “How much do I need to know, my lord? You are here seeking a wife for your son.”

“I am,” he agrees. “How often do you participate in the discussions between your mother and the council?”

“I don’t, my lord. You should know I am not . . .” I hesitate, aware that I have no place telling this king what he should or should not know. Or jeopardizing such an alliance for my land.

“Not what?”

I struggle to find an appropriate way to finish. “Not—it is not thought my place to attend such meetings.”

“You would never inherit the throne?”

I could inherit, it is true, but I doubt the council would allow it given my history—and certainly not now that I might marry into another royal family, one that would be happy to add our lands to their own. Either way, should my brother die, the council would certainly pass over me in favor of our nearest cousin. “It is unlikely,” I say finally.

“I doubt that,” the king says. “It has been my experience that even young men die. What you mean to say is your council would not accept you should your brother die without issue and you were yet unwed. Why?”

If he knows all the answers, why is he asking? I look him in the eye and quip, “Perhaps I am too honest, my lord.”

He laughs. “And too straightforward. You will have to learn to play with your words more.” He reaches out, his fingertips brushing my arm where my brother held me. I flinch back reflexively, as if the bruises have already darkened—as if he could see them through my sleeve. He watches me, his eyes glinting in the sunlight. “Once you are Menaiya’s,” he says, “your brother will never hurt you again.”



Giveaway


Monday, June 24, 2019

2019 Best Books So Far


I feel like since I've stopped blogging/reviewing and kind of stepped out of the YA book sphere, my reading tastes have gone back to being a little more eclectic and I'm a little more widely read than I had been while blogging.  (Flip side being, I know there are a TON of amazing books I know nothing about).  There's a real sense of relief in being able to read books just for enjoyment again - and it means that I've gotten to a lot of older books that you guys have recommended to me over the years! 2013 was apparently like an amazing year for publishing, just saying.


The Summer Prince - Alaya Dawson Johnson

The Summer Prince

It's like a kind of grown up Hunger Games - not that The Hunger Games didn't deal with BIG topics (and did it well) - meets War Cross or Uglies.  While it is labeled as a young adult novel, sex is definitely freer (but not graphic!) than what you typically find in a young adult novel. (Which I actually liked. It's very sex positive and not heteronormative...but I'm also reading this as an adult, so I'm putting that in as a disclaimer for those of you I know this would bother.)  It's set in a futuristic Brasil and I LOVE the mashing of culturesand the way she seamlessly integrates things that would seem magical with art and technology. The language and imagery are beautiful, and it's emotional and complex and...I just LOVED it.




This Song Will Save Your Life

It's no secret that contemporary fiction is generally speaking...not my jam.  This book is one of my exceptions.  I picked it up because over the years it has gotten such positive reviews from bloggers I trust, and because it's made a TON of top ten lists as well.  And what can I say? It's well deserved!  Of course I'm a sucker for music changing lives, but this book felt so....real.  I'm really picky when music shows up in my books, and although this was not a classical music book I can always tell when an author really doesn't get what it means to be a performer/musician/actually really loves music.  This author? She gets it.  There's a lot to unpack in this one - social misfit, bad relationships, suicide attempts, but it never feels like it's TOO heavy (I run away from heavy books generally speaking. I read like...one a year). I would recommend this one even to people like me who don't read a lot of contemporary fiction!



A Duke by Default - Alyssa Cole

A Duke by Default (Reluctant Royals, #2)

This has been the year of Alyssa Cole for me.  She is best known for her Loyal League series (beginning with An Extraordinary Union) which I also highly recommend, but this one has become my favourite of everything I've read so far.  Most important in my romances, this one has a great ship. The chemistry is hot, it's biracial (always something I LOVE since it's rare), and it's hate to love in a lot of aspects which is always a weak point of mine.  All the while Alyssa Cole manages to thoughtfully handle mental illness, create fully fleshed characters, and it just feels so researched in all the best ways (which is true of all of her books).  It doesn't feel preachy or in your face, but there are just so many small details that make the world feel so real.



The Trespasser - Tana French

The Trespasser (Dublin Murder Squad #6)

Tana French's novels are always a big hit or big miss for me. Despite that, I make a point to read all of them because whenever I don't like it, it's usually because of a personal reaction to the main character, not a lack of crafting on Tana French's part.  And I actually think it is a strength of French's that almost all of her protagonists are unlikable.  This one definitely ranks as one of my favourites of the whole series. The main character is this bad-tempered, foul mouthed, female cop who is only softened by her partner's easy going attitude (also the protagonist of one of my favourite books earlier in the series).  Tana French always manages to create these weird atmospheric settings - many of her others are almost magic realismish (yes this a word that I just created). Instead of magic realism, this one turns into more of a mental thriller. It's a balancing act between the murder mystery and Antoinette's paranoia that is absolutely gripping.  (Pro tip: the audiobook is fantastic)




The Poppy War - R.F. Kuang

The Poppy War (The Poppy War, #1)

I have said time and time again that I am HERE for non-Western based fantasies, and The Poppy War certainly brings it.  Based on Chinese history (specifically the Second Sino-Japanese War which I definitely read up on after finishing the book).  There's some badass magic, absolutely GORGEOUS world-building, and some serious issues the characters have to deal with.  If you like darker fantasies (or like me are there for any non-Western fantasy) you should definitely add this to your list.




One and Only - Jenny Holiday

One and Only (Bridesmaids Behaving Badly #1)

I am SUPER picky about my contemporary romances, so it's amazing that two of my favourite books this year are contemporary romances.  Jenny Holiday has become a staple author I regularly buy, and books like this one are why.  It's a classic wallflower/bad boy/love-to-hate story and it is SO well done!  For one, there's a good slow burn while we get their backgrounds. For two, frequently it feels like romance novels are too easy on men who screw up and this book constantly calls the male lead out on it if pulls that.  Both the characters, but particularly the male lead feel fully fleshed out. I don't always like dual povs, but this one really works out well.  Bonus? Strong female friendships featured!




Guardian - Emmy Chandler

Guardian (Prison Planet, #1)

I picked this one up because Sarah MacLean recommended it...so obviously it was going to be good.  But DAMN I had no idea how good.  One, I had no idea prison planets where a genre and man this officially something I am into.  It's like...sexy Hunger Games, which means plot heavy with plenty of character development which is how I like it!  That being said, it's hard to spin a romance out of situations that are set up to be nonconsensual.  Chandler sidesteps that by making consent at the forefront of the romance, and this book definitely succeeds in being HOT.  That being said, nonconsensual set-ups are there, so trigger warnings for this one.




The Suffragette Scandal - Courtney Milan

The Suffragette Scandal (Brothers Sinister, #4)

I honestly think this may be my favourite Courtney Milan novel.  It's another plot heavy one, but features a character from a previous novel who I had really loved.  Free is unapologetically outspoken, and Edward Clark is a misunderstood scoundrel.  What I love about this relationship (and this is a theme here in all of the romance novels listed) is that the male lead is patient, regularly checks in for consent without the scenes becoming less steamy, and does not try to change the female lead, even when she makes things less convenient for him.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

A Day in the Life #54 In which many things have changed

Also linking up for the Sunday Post at the Caffeinated Reviewer!

I knew I hadn't posted a farewell post or deleted the blog for a reason!  Hello friends and readers who are still around!  It's been a year since my last confession, I have sinned. (Just kidding).  In that year I have lurked on many of your blogs without commenting (deepest apologies), but I've kept adding posts to my weekly round up on the off chance I ever posted one of these again.  But before we get to that...

Last time I posted, I was deeply unhappy with my teaching position (read: being at three different schools, teaching 8 year olds, and having a hugely unsupportive administration and one of the three schools, and a neglectful one at another) and had gone through a major break up.  Since then, I've started dating a really wonderful guy and am teaching in a different school, so all things are looking up!  

I'm teaching orchestra full time at a middle school (which I never would have seen coming in a million years).  They have a very strong music program, a principal who actually majored in music, and middle school is just a MUCH better fit for me age group wise.  (The last part I've always known. I'm too snarky and impatient for elementary school).  I can't tell you how many times my administration has helped support my needs and backed me up in situations my principal at my least favourite elementary school would have blamed me for.  (For one, I had a parent accuse me of losing her child's cello and stealing his bow.  The cello was not lost. Nor was the bow. It's a ridiculous story.)  

The start of the year was CRAZY - my entire cello and half of my bass inventory molded over the summer, which meant I had no instruments for my students.  Which is...kind of a struggle when you teach an instrumental music program. I spent the first month and a half of school driving all over the county during my planning period (instead of planning for any classes/grading) borrowing instruments so that we could start playing.  It was chaotic to say the least.  

It's also a little stressful because I teach 6th and 7th grade world music which is the general music option for students not in band, orchestra, or chorus.  Realistically, it's most frequently the kids with behavioral issues...just in a high concentration.  Most classes have one or two kids who need a little extra support behaviorally, and a few kids who need support because of learning disabilities.  World music classes are more frequently like 4 or 5 kids who will absolutely wreck your class, with about 10 more who need a little extra support behaviorally or for learning disabilities, and then maybe 10 kids who can figure stuff out on their own.  Classroom management in classroom settings is not my strong suit and something I've been working on a lot this year (ie not orchestra - I have no issues with my orchestra classes on that front. But as I've mentioned, classroom style teaching is very different).  Combining a strong need for classroom management with subject matter I've NEVER taught makes things really time consuming on that front, but if there's one thing the previous two years taught me, it's that I can do anything.  If I taught grades 4-12, steel drums, American music, computer music, and exploratory music all within a year with zero background knowledge of how to do so, I can handle a couple world music classes.

So this year has been very work focused since I'm re-learning a whole set of procedures/curriculum/new to the community, etc.  We also put on 2 concerts, take the kids to assessment (where the judges score us and it's a HUGE deal), take the kids to perform at a theme park, and put on a musical.  So to say that the work load has grown is an understatement.  But you know what?  I love it.  I would gladly do this much work because I'm now full time, with full benefits, in a school that supports the arts, with an administration that has an understanding of music.  My coworkers are AMAZING and have helped me so much throughout the year.  I really missed the sense of community you get last year because I was never at a school long enough to get to know anyone really other than the music teachers.  Which....is still somewhat true at my school, but it's different.  We do everything together, because we do so much work together before and after school.  I am so much happier than I was a year ago. No more finding out about concerts an hour before they happen, or being told you should get a 5th grader to conduct the concert because they moved the date of the concert last minute and it conflicts with one of your other school's concerts.  Life is good, people.


Books
In old news now, Margaret Atwood announced a sequel to The Handmaid's Tale.
Vera and Clare recommend unique books.
James McAvoy and Ruth Wilson Join BBC’s His Dark Materials Drama Series.
Clare lists Movie Adaptations Better Than Their Books.


Bloggers
Veronika wants to know can a ship ruin a book?
Greg discusses monarchy in fantasy.
La La always has good round ups/news/general interesting life/useful reminders (she always reminds me about Sync which you should check out!)


Non-bookish
Rachel says Michael Schur (Parks and Rec, Brooklyn 99, The Good Place, The Office) has the most relatable characters.
Halsey Speaks on the Feeling of Having to Validate Your Bisexuality.