Category Archives: Misc.

Bloggy Lies We Tell Ourselves?

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Bloggy Lies We Tell Ourselves?

After three years at Grab the Lapels, the trend I’m noticing is that book blogs that publish more posts tend to have a lot of likes. Those posts aren’t always reviews; I see memes, tags, updates, book hauls, and reviews of what was on the blog. But are readers actually, you know, reading what you’re posting? Do they want to? Do they have the time?

I recently shared a poll on Twitter asking how many posts per week people wish bloggers would post. The options were 1, 2, 3, and every day.

  • 47% of responders felt that book blogs should only post twice per week.
  • 29% said 3 posts per week
  • 20% said 1 time.
  • Only 4% felt that book bloggers should post every single day.

What conclusions do I draw from this poll?

Well, based only on experiential learning, I would argue that many readers are “liking” our blog posts, but not fully reading them. Have you ever “liked” a post without reading it? How about only after skimming it? Do you feel obligated to “like” someone’s post because you’re worried they won’t do the same for you and your blog?

Now, some book bloggers are very good at posting almost every day and reading everyone else’s blog posts. I am impressed and jealous.

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But I get behind on my reading because I refuse to like any post that I haven’t fully and carefully read. I want to keep blogging honest. Thus, I might skip posts, or I might get behind my reading 1-2 weeks at a time.

That being said, I wonder: should we review better, or more? Is it possible to do both? Or, should we produce at a rate our readers can manage and schedule ahead if we’re speedy readers/bloggers?

These are simply my observations. I’d love to have a conversation with you in the comment section below! ❤

Welcome!

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and scroll down for the newest post!

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Maya Angelou dancing with poet/playwright Amiri Baraka. Read the rather amusing story of this image HERE.

“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels.”–Maya Angelou

On this site, you can find Book Reviews written by people who identify as women of books written by people who identify as women. You’ll also find interviews under Meet the Writer with people who identify as women who do any kind of writing: fiction, memoir, poetry, blogging, journalism, you name it! Not all of these authors are published, so you’ll get a variety of insight. My name is Melanie, and I’m happy you’re here! Please see the About GTL section to learn more about my reviewing process and FAQ for answers about review requests and why there are no people here who identify as men.

Writers Without a Massive Platform

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Writers Without a Massive Platform

At the end of 2015, I wrote a post about my goals at Grab the Lapels. In it, I described why I started GTL, what I read that year, and what I wanted to change. My 3rd goal was “Provide a space for women to feel confident that they can get their book some attention when they may not in other venues.” That means I want to look at small presses and books that may lack “market appeal.”

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Apparently, going with pink helps.

Surprisingly, about half of the authors I read in 2015 were women who didn’t really need my help: Jenny Lawson, Kate Beaton, and Roxane Gay, for example. My goal in 2016 was to clean up the pile of books sent by publishers and authors, though the #20BooksofSummer challenge influenced my goal.

Overall, I read 21 books by authors by authors with a solid platform, including L.M. Montgomery, Barbara Ehrenreich, Lindy West, and Ruth Ware.

Sadly, my stats on writers without a solid platform are just over 50%. I read authors like Kelly Chripczuk, Monica Nolan, Tsipi Keller, and Elaine Richardson, and those authors tended to have diverse social, economic, racial, and national backgrounds.

What I’m learning on my quest to find fat fiction in 2017 is that most authors who write fat women are self-published or with small presses. Fat fiction doesn’t have the kind of “market appeal” publishers know is safe because no one’s really doing it — not successfully, anyway. Maybe it’s all the blue covers:

A lot of fat fiction hinges on weight loss and romance, and readers have tired of that already. I have, however, expanded my list since my end-of-the-year post, a task that has taken a considerable amount of time to complete. There’s variety: self-published, big publisher, small press, fiction, and nonfiction:

  1. I Do It With the Lights On by Whitney Way Thore
  2. Dietland by Sarai Walker
  3. Skinny by Diana Spechler
  4. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
  5. Fat Girl Dances with Rocks by Susan Stinson
  6. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
  7. Fat Girl: A True Story by Judith Moore
  8. Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
  9. Certain Girls (sequal) by Jennifer Weiner
  10. Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell
  11. Outside the Bones by Lyn Di Iorio <<thanks for the rec, Rosalie Morales Kearns!
  12. Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes by Sue Watson
  13. Losing It by Lindsay Faith Rech
  14. Misadventures of Fatwoman by Elizabeth Julie Powell
  15. Giving Up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel
  16. If the Dress Fits by Carla de Guzman << thanks for the rec, Rachel!
  17. Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean
  18. Two Girls, Fat and Thin by Mary Gaitskill <<thanks for the rec, Paula Bomer!
  19. Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie
  20. This is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabby Sidibe
  21. Fat Girls and Lawn Chairs by Cheryl Peck
  22. Faith, Vol. 1: Holywood and Vine by Jody Houser << thanks for the rec, Bina!
  23. Push by Sapphire
  24. The Corset Diaries by Katie MacAlister
  25. The Fat Friend: A Novel by Julie Edelson
  26. Venus of Chalk by Susan Stinson << thanks for the rec, Casey!
  27. Morning Song by Susan Simone
  28. Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy
  29. Invisible by Jeanne Bannon
  30. Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp by Stephanie Klein
  31. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen <<thanks for the rec, TJ!

2016: One for the Books!

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2016: One for the Books!

In 2016, I took on some new, bookish challenges in the hopes of connecting with people. First, I tackled the 20 Books of Summer challenge with Cathy over at 746 Books. I got a bunch of reviewer copies sent to me out of the way and plowed through the entire Anne of Green Gables series.

I also found a book club in my area and made several new, amazing friends! We’ve since made crafts, played board games, supported an LGBTQ choir concert, rocked at trivia, and, of course, read books! For the sake of Grab the Lapels, I always push the book club to choose books written by women. So sneaky of me!

How did I do overall in 2016?

I’ve read 71 books. I’m proud of this number, given a full-time composition professor has a lot to read (textbook, rough drafts, final drafts), and 71 books is more than one per week.

This was a big year for nonfiction reads: 11 by women and 8 by men.

Some stand-out books were:

  1. Shrill by Lindy West: a book of essays about being fat, when comedy bullies people into laughing, and abortion rights.
  2. Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-five Years Among the Poorest Children in America by Jonathan Kozol: a masterful work by a man who listens to homeless families in New York City beginning in the 1980s, when people were happy to watch Les Miserables on Broadway but demanded actual poor children begging be removed from sight.

In this turbulent year, I needed some nonfiction to help me learn and understand what’s going on, or to help me feel situated in this world as the person I am. For instance, Carli Lloyd‘s memoir showed me the strength of women. Jon Krakauer’s Missoula reminded me of the unpunished crimes against women.

I read very little poetry and few short story collections or graphic novels.

  • 3 books of poems, 2 by women.
  • 4 short story collections, 3 by women.
  • 8 graphic novels, 6 by women. Some I hesitate to call “graphic novels,” such as Lynda Barry’s memoir/notebook Syllabus and Ji-Hye Song’s The Time Garden, which is more akin to a coloring book.

Poetry has never been my go-to genre, but that’s because I find myself steeped in academia where nonsensical poems are praised, and I just can’t connect. I prefer traditional (smartly) rhyming works or poems that create strong imagery. Yet, it’s my job to go find those works, and I’ll endeavor to do better in 2017.

I truly enjoyed re-reading The Rabbi’s Cat and discovering the joy of The Rabbi’s Cat 2. I highly recommend both graphic novels. They’re set in Africa, discuss Judaism and Islam, and are incredibly funny.

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I don’t feel bad about the short story collection count. As an MFA grad, I can reassure you that I’ve read enough short stories to last me a while. Truly, it’s novels that I can’t seem to keep up on. However…

2016 was a huge year for novels, which is uncommon for me!

23 novels by women, 8 by men.

Some stand-outs were:

  1. Reading the entire Anne of Green Gables series was a moment of pride to me for family reasons.
  2. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier was a haunting, visual joyride that I’m so thrilled to have read (and eagerly want to read it again).
  3. 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell: I never read these in high school, so my husband suggested them for our “bedtime picks” (we read to each other every night). I felt horrible, distraught, and had to put the kibosh on such books, as I was so miserable I couldn’t fall asleep. I wrote this about Animal Farm after reading it:

Every time I think about Boxer’s face looking out the window of that cart, I burst into tears. My husband says its because the book is an allegory and I care about people. I say its because Boxer was a good horse, a real horse. I am utterly ridiculous.

My husband and I have been talking about this book for hours. I’m mad; he’s hopeful.

Aaaaaand, now I feel like crying all over again.

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There was some diversity in my reading.

But mostly not. I devoted myself to cleaning up the books sent by publishers and authors and reading the entire Anne series. That took up a lot of time. Also, some of the authors I read who are not white don’t write diverse characters (or, if they do it’s not clear). Here are some #OwnVoices books:

  1. I got through three books in the Lesbian Career Girl series by Monica Nolan:
    1. Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary
    2. Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher
    3. Maxie Mainwaring, Lesbian Dilettante
  2. Julie Maroh’s Blue is the Warmest Color

And then there are the books with LGBTQ characters written by authors who are not, and books with straight white characters whose authors are not. Puzzling.

Goals for 2017:

Now that I’ve got almost the entire pile of reviewer copies completed, my goals are:

One: Read more books by women of color. I have a lot of them in my personal library.

Two: to read books by or about fat women. I’ve pointed this out a few times on Twitter, using the #diversebookbloggers tag, and everyone seems like “like” my Tweets, but it’s not taking off. Not once have I read a book about a fat character portrayed in a positive way (or any way at all). On my immediate list are:

  1. I Do It With the Lights On by Whitney Way Thore
  2. Dietland by Sarai Walker
  3. 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad
  4. Skinny by Diana Spechler
  5. Stick Figure by Lori Gottlieb
  6. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
  7. Possibly some Hilary Mantel, whose writing can be difficult to follow.

Recommendations to #diversebookbloggers

  1. Fat Girl, Terrestrial by Kellie Wells
  2. What are You Looking At? edited by Ira Sukrungruang and Donna Jarrell
  3. Scoot Over, Skinny edited by Ira Sukrungruang and Donna Jarrell

I know It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell was on a list for best Goodreads books, but I started reading this memoir and found the voice leans toward “I was fat and now I’m not, which makes me happy, and you can be happy too.” This is an adopted tone that “encourages” fat people to “get their lives together,” one that I do not support.

Best wishes for completing your reading goals in the new year!

Giveaway! 5 copies of Jen Michalski’s newest novel available! @QFPress

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Giveaway! 5 copies of Jen Michalski’s newest novel available! @QFPress

Hi, everyone! I am pleased to announce that Jen Michalski has agreed to give away five copies of her newest novel, The Summer She Was Under Water. Each novel will be autographed to the winner by Jen! Before you enter, be sure to read my review of this August 2016 release from Queen’s Ferry Press.

Here are some observations from my review:

“I thought I knew exactly what happened in the past based on contextual clues, but I was wrong. It’s much more complicated.”

“Michalski easily works in fluidity: lesbian, bi, straight, male, female, both.”

The Summer She Was Under Water is an emotional giant.”

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Before entering the give away, make sure you qualify:

  1. Winners must live in the United States.
    1. UPDATE: international folks can now enter to win a PDF copy!
  2. Winners must have a book blog or write reviews for a book blog.
  3. In the comments section, write the name of your book blog.
  4. Share this post on Twitter and tag Jen Michalski and me. Here is our info:
    1. @grabthelapels
    2. @MichalskiJen

Winners will be drawn at random on Friday, November 4th at noon. Good luck, everyone!


GOODREADS SYNOPSIS: It has been twenty years since Sam Pinski, a young novelist, has spent the Fourth of July weekend with her family at their cabin on the Susquehanna River. There, she must confront a chaotic history of mental illness, alcoholism, and physical violence and struggle to find perspective in the pulse of things familiar and respite from the shame of the taboo relationship that courses through her. As she does, a subplot emerges: Excerpts are included from Sam’s metaphoric novel in which a pregnant man tries to solve the mystery of his fertility and absolve himself of his past. Then tragedy strikes the Pinskis and they must draw together, tentatively realizing that they will continue to spin off in their own orbits unless they begin the hard work of forgiveness themselves.

Summer She Was Under Water front only for screen

#20BooksofSummer DONE! Congrats on a solid season of reading and reviewing, everyone!

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#20BooksofSummer DONE! Congrats on a solid season of reading and reviewing, everyone!

To my fellow Americans, Happy Labor Day!

To my fellow book bloggers who know Cathy at 746, Happy End of #20BooksofSummer!

It’s been a wild summer, that’s for sure. For me, 2016 was the first year participating in the 20 Books of Summer Challenge, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I know I’ve read a lot in summer’s past, as my job in the sweaty months provides a lot of down time — in fact, it’s almost all down time.

But in these last several weeks, I’ve been preparing, designing, and teaching four college courses! One is brand new; the course was so popular that we had to open a new section in the middle of the first week, which was unprecedented and absolutely hectic.

But what are a professor’s office hours for if not reading? And that’s how I managed to finish Fluke by Christopher Moore and Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery. Whew! Seat of my pants and all.

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Here are some things I learned about Cathy’s summer challenge that perhaps you can use to get you through next summer!

The Page Count Matters

When I chose my original pile of books way back in late May, I looked through my shelves for two things: the reviewer copies sent by authors/publishers that I wanted done and out of the way, and time-consuming books. This is not a good way to go (and should have been obvious).

By time-consuming stories, I really meant The Brothers Karamzov. I wanted this chunker in my hands, and isn’t summer a long, leisurely time to do that? Well, no, not if you’re doing the 20 Books of Summer Challenge! There’s no time for leisure, nor is there time for a 720 page Russian classic. Big books are out, unless you take the 10 Books of Summer Challenge and maybe do all fat books. I might do that next summer!

Math Matters for Pacing Yourself

Had I not gotten the idea from Cathy to count up all the pages I wanted to read over summer and divide them by the number of days in the challenge, I would have horribly failed. ( This summer, I read over 5,500 pages). I found that on average (I had to adjust a few times over the summer) I needed to read 50 pages per day. Not so bad, right?

But that meant that on days I wrote a review or went away for a weekend, those 50 pages were piled on to the next day. At times, I had a goal of 150 pages per day just to catch up, which can be intimidating! It might be better to not divide the total page count by all the days in the challenge; subtract some days for vacation and blog writing.

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Your Readers Still Need to Care About What You’re Reading

I felt like this challenge was for me and figured my audience would be on board no matter what. Before I started the 20 Books of Summer, I was under the impression that everyone had read and loved both the Green Gables series and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. My Rebecca review was full of spoilers, which is not normal for me, causing some readers to comment that they would not read my review. I definitely lost some readers who hadn’t read Anne and either didn’t care about her story or didn’t want 8 books worth of spoilers. I don’t typically read series on Grab the Lapels, and in the future I don’t think I will again. Choosing the Green Gables series was a selfish choice. I’m glad I read them, but it was weeks of Anne, Anne, Anne!

Blog Posts Still Need to Be Up to Standard

If you’re reading so many books that you can’t keep up with your reviewing, the point is a bit lost on the audience, who man not care about or appreciate your challenge. Or, perhaps you could alter the challenge: read 20 books, but do 10 thorough reviews. I’m proud that I spent a lot of time writing substantial reviews and didn’t change the quality of my posts. Don’t sacrifice quality for quantity, or your reviews will be more like the 20 count chicken McNugget meal.

Reading Challenges Can Cure the “I don’t wannas”

Even though my summer reading job has a lot of down time, that didn’t mean that in past summers I was sitting there soaking up the books. I would often get depressed that my job didn’t require me to use my brain. (Going to a job is better than sitting at home. For one, it requires a shower and dressing). Actually, I wouldn’t read nearly as much as you would think — instead, I wasted my time on social media, which can get very, very depressing. The challenge really helped my self-esteem all summer. I felt like I had a purpose, though I am purpose-driven while others are not. To fail the 20 Books of Summer challenge felt awful in my heart, even though no one probably cares. I cared.

Well, that’s it! I hope you had a great summer!

Here’s the roster:

  1. Harley and Me by Bernadette Murphy
  2. On Air by Robin Stratton
  3. Single Stroke Seven by Lavinia Ludlow
  4. Girls of Usually by Lori Horvitz
  5. Retelling by Tsipi Keller
  6. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
  7. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  8. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
  9. Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America by Jonathan Kozol
  10. Terror in Taffeta by Marla Cooper
  11. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  12. Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  13. Anne of the Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  14. Anne of Windy Poplars by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  15. Anne’s House of Dreams by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  16. Anne of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  17. Rainbow Valley by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  18. Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  19. Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher by Monica Nolan
  20. Fluke, or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore

 

When a Book Hits Close to Home: My Own Miss Stacy #AnneofGreenGables

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When a Book Hits Close to Home: My Own Miss Stacy #AnneofGreenGables

Why did I choose the Anne of Green Gables series as part of my #20BooksofSummer challenge? It was to satisfy a guilt I’ve felt since the mid-90s. My great-grandma Mabel bought me the entire Anne set when I was a girl, but I truly struggled to read the books. Honestly, the vocabulary and grammar can be difficult, but I’d always felt awful, as if I’d let Grandma down. Thus, after starting Anne of Green Gables about a dozen times, I gave up and stuck the box set away. In college, I sold those books for $40 because I was broke. But this past winter, I brought up Anne many times for some reason. It was as if she, and great-grandma Mabel, had resurfaced for some reason. My husband got online and bought the box set (though not the same one).

I am now on Book #6 of the Anne of Green Gables series; however, my mind had been going crazy with curiosity long before I got here. Miss Stacy in Book #1 has stuck with me. You see, my great-grandma Mabel was a teacher, too, and loved to write. She taught in one-room school houses in small farming communities around central Michigan. Though she passed away when I was 13, I still remember her. I recently asked her daughter (my grandma) more about great-grandma’s experiences in the one-room school houses, but she wasn’t sure there were any diaries from that time period.

This past weekend my husband and I traveled to central Michigan for a family reunion. We stayed at my parents. Just as I was about to get in bed in my old room, I saw a binder on the bookshelf that looked odd. You see, inside was a diary my great-grandma had written, and I am surprised at how Anne-like it sounds! I wanted to share a bit with you.

Firstly, my great-grandma was born in 1910 in Ohio. She was Mabel Winters. However, her father suddenly passed away, and her mother could not care for 5 children. Mabel was a new baby, so she was given up for adoption (babies are always more desired than older children, as we learn with how little folks trust Anne Shirley). She became Mabel Dlamater (a misspelling of De’Lamater; her new father had a 2nd grade education and wouldn’t admit he’d spelled his own name wrong). They moved to Michigan.

When she was a girl, she would recite poems publicly (like Anne Shirley), calling herself an “egoist” because she loved the attention. Mabel got engaged as a junior in high school, but unlike Anne, she didn’t stay home to have babies. She wanted to teach. First, she spent $300 to go to school for one year and a summer, which earned her a State Certificate to teach for three years. Here’s the part I wanted to share; it’s about the first few years of my great-grandma teaching in a one-room school house in 1938:

I proceeded to involve the parents in everything. I gave afternoon tea to the mothers. We put on a play with the parents as actors and actresses, and established a hot lunch program with parents taking turns acting as cooks.

Some children had never been out of the community, so we went on field trips. We rode a train and went up and down an elevator; plus, we roamed the countryside on nature walks, collected weeds for winter bouquets, and learned firsthand about our surroundings. As a special treat one winter, we had an afternoon sledding party, complete with wieners and buns, and were accompanied by several parents. . . . [I cut out a long passage about Mabel writing to welfare offices to get her students and their families food and winter clothes. It is The Depression at this time].

I was invited to dinner at children’s homes, and I always accepted. I had never seen or imagined such poverty, but I also felt like a queen. At one home I was given the only solid chair; the rest of the family stood or sat on blocks of wood. I was fed chicken, fried to perfection, and served a beautiful cake that so impressed the children they could hardly wait for me to taste it. It was delicious. There was a hole in the floor, and I remember the mother laughing and saying her children learned to walk late because she was afraid to put the babies on the floor, because they might fall through. . . .[I cut out a long passage in which Mabel describes things people did to survive during The Depression. Also, the welfare office is giving her a hard time when she tries to help her students’ families, as they believe those families are just “lazy” …during The Depression].

The wind of change came into my teaching. Gone was the rigid program. I grouped and combined classes. Gone was dead silence; a busy, happy hum was heard most of the time as the children worked and helped one another. We painted fairy tale characters on the walls, and the children created wonderful stories and poems of their own. We still said “the Lord’s Prayer” every morning, saluted the Flag, and sang “America.” Then, I usually read aloud for 15 minutes. Always there was a poem or story written on the board to copy and memorize if it appealed to them. I remember I read aloud Laddie by Jean Stratton Porter and Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, along with several others that I have long forgotten.

Great-grandma Mabel is so involved in the children’s lives. She teaches them about nature by being outside, fosters creativity, and still has a sense of adventure when she conducts field trips. People thought she was memorable but strange, then, just as parents felt Miss Stacy, who also visited students homes where children wanted to impress her with their desserts, was something unusual. Anne Shirley learned her love learning and teaching from Miss Stacy, on whom she modeled her own teaching career.

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One-room school in Michigan. Photo taken from the Central Michigan University website. The Clarke Historical Library at CMU works to preserve the memory of one-room schools because generations of Michigan children were taught in them.

#20BooksofSummer Update! How’s Your Reading Game?

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#20BooksofSummer Update! How’s Your Reading Game?

This is my first summer jumping on the #20BooksofSummer challenge with Cathy over at 746 Books. I even unknowingly got another blogger friend to join in (welcome, An Anthology of Clouds!). I’ve tried following other bloggers who are doing the challenge, and it’s been a great way to meet new book friends, like BookTalker, Fictionophile, Drunk Off Rhetoric, LouLouReads, and Liz Dexter! I planned my reading very carefully. Cathy suggested we count all the pages in our 20 books and add them together, then divide by the 96 days of the challenge. I ended up with 60 pages per day. That’s about 60-90 minutes per day, right? I even made little markers to show where I should start on each day (I was born to be a secretary, folks).

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I’ve also realized that some people are petering out a bit. I didn’t realize how difficult this challenge is until African Book Addict asked her readers: “7 books on my Summer TBR (to-be-read list) – too many books, or nah?” I nearly spit out my whatever I was drinking and wrote:

“Totally ‘nah!’ A bunch of us are doing the #20BooksofSummer challenge! We might be insaaaaane.”

African Book Addict wrote back:

“Thats a LOT of books. Are y’all just going to read the Summer away? No other activities lined up? Sheesh!”

And I paused.

Holy crap, I thought, I haven’t been watching movies or working on writing more of my spoofy romance novel or anything! African Book Addict had a point — and a good one.

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Does that mean I’m going to slack off, which, by the way, means exist like a normal human being? No way. Because I am a weirdo who won’t give up (because if I do I will fixate on my failure all year until next summer). I’ll be up all night and day reading these damn 20 books just to finish them and be able to cry out something celebratory.

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Probably something inappropriate like this.

However, as this is my first #20BooksofSummer challenge, I didn’t realize how carefully I would need to plan my list. I had two goals that I created around Christmas time: read all 8 Anne of Green Gables and The Brothers Karamazov in the summer of 2016. Cathy’s challenge fit right in with those goals! I decided I wanted to get rid of my ARC pile (I haven’t taken review requests in ages and only occasionally request one. The pile is small, but alive). And I joined a book club, so I had to stay in pace with them. Therefore, 8 Anne books + one Dostoyevsky + 2 book club books + 8 ARCs = #20BooksofSummer.

But I forgot a few things: 1) I’m teaching a new comp class in the fall and will have to read books in the process of deciding which ones to teach. 2) Four of my ARCs are by the same author. 3) Dostoyevsky is huge. 4) My husband and I have “bed time” stories. If I keep my original list of 20, I’m going to have to read more than 20 books to accomplish all of my required reading. 5) I forgot August would have a book club book. I was only thinking June/July.

So, the list has changed a bit. Although I read an ARC of Robin Stratton’s book On Air and really enjoyed it, I don’t want to cram three more of her books into one summer, so they were cut from the list. I did add Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher by Monica Nolan. It’s the second in the Lesbian Career Girl Series, and also one of my and my husband’s “bed time stories” this summer. You may remember Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary, a spring “bed time” story my husband and I enjoyed.

We got our August book club pick, Christopher Moore’s Fluke, or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings, so that book was added. I chose two likely candidates for my new ENGL 100 course, Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America (which I recommended to Valerie and she reviewed. I haven’t read the book, but have read sections in composition anthologies) and Jonathan Kozol’s Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America (also one I haven’t read except in excerpts from comp anthologies). Neither of these are textbooks; they’re both investigative journalism and appropriate for the #20BooksofSummer. One interesting aspect of these books is that I will include my thoughts as a teacher about the usefulness of these books in the classroom. As a result, Dostoyevsky was axed. Sorry, sir. You will be a winter break book.

Anne of Green Gables stayed. As I mentioned in a comment to Building Diverse Book Shelves in regards to her post about the feminist protagonists from her childhood:

This post made me sad because when I was a girl I tried reading some of the books you mentioned: Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, and also A Little Princess. I think I was around 8 or 9, but I just couldn’t follow the long sentence structures of such well-written books. Whenever people get into the debate about whether or not adults should read YA, I think about some of these older books and how complex the sentences are. YA today is nothing like that, but it adds to the conversation. This summer, for the #20BooksofSummer challenge, I am reading the entire Anne of Green Gables series. I’m kind of scared. What if I hate them? What if I really learn that 8- or 9-year-old me was a dumb kid and I should have read the books back then?

There’s some ridiculous part of me that feels like the Anne series is my own personal mountain. I must climb to the top and find the proverbial monk sitting there drinking tea, telling me it’s all gravy. Perhaps in my heart I will do my dead great-granny, who originally gave me the box set of Anne of Green Gables back in the 90s, a solid.

Here’s the final list for #20BooksofSummer, and I’d be surprised if it changed again:

  1. Harley and Me by Bernadette Murphy
  2. On Air by Robin Stratton
  3. Single Stroke Seven by Lavinia Ludlow
  4. Girls of Usually by Lori Horvitz
  5. Retelling by Tsipi Keller
  6. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
    1. Wondering if you missed this review in your reader feed? You didn’t. There are no reviews of works written by men on Grab the Lapels. Zero. You will find the link takes you to my review on my Goodreads account! Jonathan Kozol and Christopher Moore will get the same treatment.
  7. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  8. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich (*I am here).
  9. Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America by Jonathan Kozol
  10. Terror in Taffetaby Marla Cooper
  11. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  12. Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  13. Anne of the Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  14. Anne of Windy Poplars by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  15. Anne’s House of Dreams by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  16. Anne of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  17. Rainbow Valley by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  18. Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  19. Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher by Monica Nolan
  20. Fluke, or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore

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The Diverse Books Tag #diversebookbloggers

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The Diverse Books Tag #diversebookbloggers

Naz over at Read Diverse Books has challenged everyone to read more diversely. If you have read a book that fits into the category, share it! If you haven’t, go find a book that fits into the category with the goal of reading it. Here we go:

The-DiverseBooks-Tag

Find a Book Starring a Lesbian Character:

I’ve got this one in spades. Books with lesbians come to me easily — or perhaps I seek them out? — but mostly, I look for excellent stories, and I never shy away from those stories if the protagonist is a lesbian. In fact, in some instances, the leading lady being a lesbian is what drew me in!

Checking out the following:

Find a Book with a Muslim Protagonist:

Okay, my reading is not as great in this area. There is one book that I have read probably half a dozen times and taught each semester for several years now: The Autobiography of Malcolm X with Alex Haley. This book surprises my students because Malcolm is a Muslim minister for the Nation of Islam, which is a different branch of Islam than what you would encounter in the Middle East. After Malcolm did his pilgrimage to Mecca, he disavowed the N.O.I. and went Orthodox.

Looking at Goodreads, I would like to check out Ms. Marvel, a new comic book series. I also want to read Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah, which I saw in Barnes & Noble.

Find a Book Set in Latin America:

This is another category with which I have more experience. I’ve also seen Junot Diaz twice; the dude has stood two feet away from me (he likes to wander auditoriums when he talks). And my god, does he swear a lot (I love it). The last time I saw him, he asked where the Latino/as in the audience were. Then he asked where his Africans were. Very few people raised their hands, and he said that wasn’t his fault, but the college’s (we were at the University of Notre Dame). Here is my list:

  • Ayiti by Roxane Gay (Haiti)
  • Unaccompanied Minors by Alden Jones (Costa Rica)
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (Dominican Republic)
  • Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War by Deb Olin Unferth (Nicaragua)
  • Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros (Mexico)
  • Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work by Edwidge Danticat (Haiti)

I have a number of books I’ve read by Latino/a authors who live in the U.S., such as Lolita Hernandez, Salvador Plascencia, and Desiree Zamorano. I’d like to read The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Che Guevara (Mexico).

Find a Book About a Person with a Disability:

This is a tough one because I feel awkward reading a book about a person with a disability written by someone without a disability. I’ve noticed that most of the books with people who have disabilities I encounter are on the mental health spectrum as opposed to a physical disability, so I’ll keep my eyes open for more books with people who have disabilities.

  • Half Life by Shelly Jackson (conjoined twins)
  • American Genius by Lynn Tillman (mental illness)
  • Bogeywoman by Jaimy Gordon (self-harm, anxiety)
  • Sweethearts by Melanie Rae Thon (deaf)
  • Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulemia by Marya Hornbacher (mental illness)
  • Madness: A Bipolar Life by Marya Hornbacher (mental illness)
  • Annie’s Ghost by Steven Luxenberg (disabled legs and mental illness)
  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (mentally disabled)
  • Lily of the Valley: Chateau of Flowers by Margaret Rome (blind)

Find a Science Fiction or Fantasy Book with a POC Protagonist:

I don’t read a ton of sci-fi or fantasy, but when I do, it tends to have POC in it. Perhaps because I find that when an author who is a POC writes sci-fi or fantasy, he or she includes deeper messages of race and gender than a white writer may.

  • Soul Resin by Charles W. Cannon
  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
  • Bald New World by Peter Tieryas
  • The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez

I have Kindred by Octavia Butler on my list. She wrote so many sci-fi/fantasy novels with POC; she is ultra prolific.

Find a Book Set In or About An African Country:

Find a Book Written by an Indigenous/Native Author:

  • Ledfeather by Stephen Graham Jones (Blackfeet)
  • Demon Theory by Stephen Graham Jones
  • It Came From Del Rio by Stephen Graham Jones
  • The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones
  • After the People Lights Have Gone Off by Stephen Graham Jones
  • The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie (grew up on Spokane reservation, but has heritage with several tribes)

Okay, so I’ve read a lot of Stephen Graham Jones. Technically, he would fit really well into sci-fi and fantasy starring a POC because he writes lots of mind-bending horror with time warps and craziness. I’ve read essays by Leslie Marmon Silko and Joy Harjo, and I would like to read Louise Erdrich soon. I’d also like to read Ojibwe authors, as I grew up on the Saginaw Chippewa reservation.

Find a Book Set in South Asia:

  • Palestine by Joe Sacco (Israel-ish, depending on your viewpoint regarding what to call this territory)
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Iran)
  • Love in a Dead Language by Lee A. Siegel (India)
  • The Question of Bruno by Aleksander Hemon (Sarajevo)
  • Currency by Zoe Zolbrod (Thailand)
  • The Girl on the Fridge by Etgar Keret (Isreal)
  • Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (India) I incorrectly remembered which book this was! It is mostly set in the United States and focuses on Indian-American families. My mistake 🙂
  • Of Marriageable Age by Sharon Maas (India, British Guyana)
  • Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (India)
  • Dragonfish by Vu Tran (Vietnam) This book is half set in Vietnam and half in Las Vegas.

Find a Book with a Biracial Protagonist:

  • Sweethearts by Melanie Rae Thon (Crow/white)
  • The Family Nobody Wanted by Helen Doss (almost every person in the book is biracial)
  • Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evens (black/white)
  • Quicksand and Passing by Nella Larsen (black/white)

Find a Book About a Transgender Character or that is about Transgender Issues:

  • Cloud 9 by Carol Churchill
  • Woman’s World by Graham Rawle
  • Drawing Blood by Poppy Z. Brite

I also have Janet Mock’s memoir on my to-read list, of course!

The-DiverseBooks-Tag

I’m in! Cathy 746’s #20booksofsummer

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I’m in! Cathy 746’s #20booksofsummer

Okay, I’ve been hemming and hawing over Cathy’s post over at 746 Books, “20 Books of Summer.” I’ve never done a challenge or read-a-long or anything like that at Grab the Lapels because I wanted my site to be strictly business. But I’ve discovered over the last year that one way to share business is by partaking in group reading activities. Based on what I see, many bloggers are devoted to one another because they did a challenge or read-a-long together.

“But 20 books?” I thought. That’s so many. And how will I keep on track with reviewing? There were two big reads I knew way back during winter that I wanted to get through this summer: the entire Anne of Green Gables (that’s 8 books) and The Brothers Karamazov (a Russian doorstop). Okay, so that’s 9 books total. What would the other 11 be?

It turns out I have 9 books left that have been sent to me from publishers/authors. Just 9. It feels like relief is just around the corner, if only I can finish these 9 books! There was a time when my ARC list was backlogged by a year — when GTL opened its doors, a lot of people wanted in. But when I’m done with these 9 books, I can get to some of the books I’ve been wanting to read that I purchased for myself (yes, I keep it to a minimum, and all the books are located on one small shelf). Most of the books I purchase are from used shops and by authors that will help me keep up in my field. When I teach literature, it’s usually Black Lit of America or Contemporary Domestic Fiction, so having books about or by authors in the field is useful to teaching. The other time I tend to buy books is at author readings — and I want to hurry up and read more of them.

Recently, I joined a book club to make friends. We read one novel per month, so there are the other 2 books, totalling 20 novels for the summer of 2016. So, Cathy, here I come*!

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These are my 20 books of summer:

  1. Harley and Me by Bernadette Murphy
  2. On Air by Robin Stratton
  3. Girls of Usually by Lori Horvitz
  4. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (*might change ranking due to when book club meets)
  5. Single Stroke Seven by Lavinia Ludlow
  6. Of Zen and Men by Robin Stratton
  7. Retelling by Tsipi Keller
  8. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  9. The Thirteenth Earl by Evelyn Pryce
  10. Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody
  11. Terror in Taffeta by Marla Cooper (*might change ranking due to when book club meets)
  12. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  13. Anne of Avonlea
  14. Anne of the Island
  15. Anne of Windy Poplars
  16. Anne’s House of Dreams
  17. Anne of Ingleside
  18. Rainbow Valley
  19. Rilla of Ingleside
  20. The Brothers Karamzov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

*Not all of these books will be reviewed on Grab the Lapels, as I have a strict “no dudes allowed” book review policy. For books by men, I will write the review on Goodreads and share on Twitter with Cathy’s #20booksofsummer hashtag.

*Update: I changed #9 and #11 because I realized I had four Robin Stratton ARCs on this list. I’m going to spread out my reviews of Robin’s books a little more and save In His Genes and Blue or Blue Skies for fall.