Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Book Reviews - All the (Future) Graphic Novels!

A few weeks back FOUR(!) advanced copies showed up. These are from a new Random House imprint of graphic novels (RH Graphic) for kids, and y'all this quartet is a solid way to start off a new brand. 

The Runaway Princess by Johan Tro├»anowski is a delight in so many ways. First of all, it is beautifully illustrated. The colors are so bright and fun and amplify the story. This is about a princess who both intentionally and accidentally finds adventures. What's really great is that there are opportunities built in for the readers to complete activities as part of the story. For a kid, this adds a layer of cool to the story. Y'all, this was such a fun blend of humor with a wonderful heroine. Robin is a princess with heart and attitude. She finds friends and quite the cast of characters along the way as she travels to all the places. Visually and with the story, this one was a spin on fairy tales and fantasy that just made me smile. Thanks to RH Graphic for the early look at this January 2020 release!

Bug Boys by Laura Knetzger was the story of two friends who are bugs and the adventures they find together. What's great about this is that those adventures involve how the interface with the human world, other bugs and various science things. The learning of this novel is seamlessly infused into the stories of Rhino-B and Stag-B which is again a perk of having kids check this one out. In addition the learning about science-y things, this also focuses on how to navigate friendship. The two bugs also have some struggles in their friendship, and this also shows how they navigate these challenges. This is two simply drawn bugs in stories that are full of so much fun and intrigue! Thanks to RH Graphic for the early look at this February 2020 release!

Aster and the Accidental Magic by Thom Pico is the story of a girl who finds a unique fantasy world. After moving to a new town, Aster is trying to find connection and fit in. What she finds is quite some interesting magical folks. One of these is a trickster who is a wish-granter with a spin. The way this plays out was so intriguing and fun. I hadn't even thought of how wishes could be twisted in this way and that really added to this tale. Also, I loved the illustrations! They do a wonderful job of centering Aster as the heroine, while also infusing the magic she is trying to figure out.  Along the way, she Thanks to RH Graphic for the early look at this March 2020 release!

Witchlight by Jesse Zabarsky is shoujo manga - Honestly, I just learned this term (and obvs this is my first time reading it), but given this is a graphic novel specifically for female teens, this exemplifies the genre! Lelek is a witch, and she meets Sanja in her magic journey. Their relationship goes from there, and there are emotional twists and turns as they go through things together. The illustrations in this one are simple while also conveying all the feels which is quite the feat! Thanks to RH Graphic for the early look at this April 2020 release!

Let It Go (P.S. This is not a blog about Frozen)

Y'all, November is a weird month for me.

Professionally, November is a month of transition. It's a month where I've started two of my previous jobs, and it's also a month where I've left two previous jobs. After I thought through that, it helped me realize why I felt so damn nostalgic and up in my feels lately.

November is also when my wedding anniversary happens. It's a natural bookend to a year, so with that, it also brings up all the reflection.

And then, AND THEN, it's the start of the holiday season. As if all that wasn't enough, everyone feels the need to reflect on the last decade of life rn. Can a girl get a break?!?

After sitting with my feels for the past few weeks, I decided to write it out and see where it takes me. So, hold on for this y'all.

First off, we don't talk enough about the process of leaving and letting go, specifically when it comes to work. Think about how much time we spend asking people what they do, connecting people to their title, and just narrowing our conversations to our professional identity. 

Then, one day we leave that job. One day it's part of our identity, and then it's not. And y'all, there's no process for that. There's no guidance for that. It's just. . . why don't we talk about that more?!?

One of the reasons transition has been weighing so heavily on me is that I realize I have developed some really unhealthy habits. The stuff that I leave with me following a job? It's the worst - literally. I pack up all the criticism, all the stuff I didn't do well, and all the bad days, and I keep a hold on it. And when I say I keep a hold on it, I mean it's this intense death grip.

I didn't fully realize it until we went back to a place I worked and went to school a few weeks back. It's a place that has shaped me in so many ways. However, I also realize I was letting pieces of my time there overpower all the good it has brought to me. When I went back, I realized I had to let it go. This was not the story I wanted to keep, and I had to stop.

So, I did. In that space I know and love, I moved forward. It was lifting a huge weight on my shoulder. I hate that I let it be like that for so long, but y'all, anxiety is a beast, and we continue to fight one epic battle. I know I'm capable of winning, but damn, it's hard.

Reflecting even more, I have realized my tendency to carry the negative stuff is this awful default factory setting. For example, I can recall in vivid detail times I got in trouble in elementary school. One of the most salient moments of this is in fifth grade when I was trying to give helpful information to another teacher. She reported back to my teacher something about how she didn't appreciate how I'd delivered the information. It's been over 25 years, and I still don't understand why she was upset. However, what I do remember is my teacher ordered me to apologize to her. I went to her classroom, knocked on the door, and I immediately started crying. It was mostly confusion and embarrassment. However, why do I continue to carry that with me?!? I'm quite sure those teachers forgot that moment soon after, so why do I continue to let that moment have so much power. I could tell you very little else about my fifth grade year, and there were 179ish other days to remember. 

Typing it, I know this doesn't make sense, and that's what I'm working on.

I let the moments that don't matter overpower the ones that do. I give too much space to the words and actions people say and do that I shouldn't. I care too much about people that don't care about me. 

One of the things I'm actively working (and really actively working because again y'all that anxiety puts up a fight) is embracing compliments. I have realized how easily I love in a space of feeling I need to do more and be more and even questioning the positive feedback I receive. However, when I receive negative feedback I'm wiling to take it and believe it and live with it in my head and heart for an indeterminate amount of time?!? What if I did that with the positive? How amazing would that space be?!?

I'm certainly not saying there's not space for criticism and negative feedback. What I am saying is that I'm done giving it a disproportionate space I'm giving it in my mind. I'm releasing that death grip on negativity, and I'm transferring it to the good stuff. It's been there all along, and I'm diving into it headfirst and as deep as I can possibly go.

I wanted to give space to this today because it's been weighing on me. It's been hard to articulate. I've been talking it through with my husband lately, and it's been hard to get it out of my head. What's even harder is the shift, but damn, it is so very much worth it.

So, stay tuned. I'm letting go of some heavy stuff, but I've also now got some openings for some pretty amazing stuff.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Book Reviews - Just Like A Circus and Stuff

So, these reviews are much more than what the title indicates, but y'all, when there's a chance to use a Britney lyric, you always have to take it.

Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Psychological Injuries by Guy Winch was an interesting reflective piece. The book focuses on giving techniques for addressing common emotional concerns. To do that, the author first names that these emotions are going to happen and normalizes that experience. With that, he believes we should build techniques to address these similar to those we have for basic first aid needs. The book is divided into seven chapters/emotions - rejection, loneliness, loss and trauma, guilt, rumination, failure, and low self-esteem. Each section is then a deep dive into what this emotion is and how it shows up. He then offers exercises to self-assess and address the concern. These are simple and easy to execute which is ideal for someone experiencing one of these emotions. I read this book not going through any of this stuff at present (but will undoubtedly down the road), and I could definitely see this as a resource I would consult when I needed some help navigating. I really appreciated the perspective and reflective opportunities offered up in this one.

Read this book if - You want something to help you through "stuff" and/or want to build your emotional coping toolkit.

All the Little Lights by Jamie McGuire was just like WHOA - in a good way. I knew nothing about this book prior to reading other than a friend reached out to tell me I had to check it out and that it had a wild ending. So, I dove right in! What's great about this is that you don't know what genre you're reading, and that's what makes the deception so good! When you begin reading it has YA romance vibes, and those vibes do continue throughout, but really you've got one heckuva twisted thriller on your hands. The story focuses on Elliot and Catherine who find a connection as kids, but then Elliot has to leave town. He returns years later, and they have lots of unresolved aspects of their relationship. In addition to navigating what they are, Elliot is the star of the football team while Catherine is busy helping her mom with a bed and breakfast - and it needs a lot of help, in addition to having quite an array of guests. This book is about Elliot and Catherine, but more than that, there are secrets bubbling below the surface. You know something isn't right, and you wonder how this connects to the main characters. That's what makes this such a pageturner y'all! Again, this was one of those twists you just don't see coming on so many levels. If you need an unexpected thriller in your life, this is absolutely going to be your jam.

Read this book if - You want a book with the kind of twists that will make your jaw literally drop. You want a book overflowing with all the thrills and secrets.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave was a heavy read. I have to offer that up first because that influences how I felt about it. The book takes place during World War II in London. The story centers on Mary who wants to help with the war efforts. She's a little shocked that role is being a teacher, but she goes into the role at full force. With this, she connects with Tom, another administrator. Then, there's Tom's best friend Alastair who enlists in the war. Mary, Tom and Alastair find their way into a love triangle, and the story goes from there. What I liked about this was that it covered dimensions of the war that aren't often focused on. Much of Mary's teaching is for students who are disregarded due to their identities and not given the same type of safety or quality of care. This is something that isn't often named, and I appreciated this new dimension. In general, the emotions covered and angles were just different. That said, this was also a sad book. I won't spoil what went down, but this is one that weighed on me as I read. That's bound to happen given the topic, but worth noting this one has a mood about it.

Read this book if - You want historical fiction that will get up in your feels. You want a story built around a familiar happening with new dimensions.

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley is a book that's been on my to read list forever. I was excited when I showed up on NetGalley, so that I could finally check it out. The circus is something that always mesmerizes me, and I was thrilled to check out this take on it. Micah's dying grandpa tells him about an amazing circus he attended as a kid. Now he wants Micah to have this experience to reconnect with the Man Who Bends Light. Micah sets out on a quest not knowing how he's ever going to find the circus and perhaps a cure for his grandpa with this man. The story is wonderfully told, and it tapped right into my imagination as I visualized the circus in my head! This is a story built on believing in magic and how that is something that can leave us and/or stay with us. I really liked how it was a quest grounded in commentary of how we choose to see the world.

Read this book if - You want a book that's full of magic. You want something that makes you think about believing.

Until next time!

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Book Reviews - Technology, Truth and a Track Star

Why, hello there. I almost, but definitely didn't read on a theme this time. There were two books about technology, one about a track star, and then a rom-com. That said, the two advanced copies I read were fan-freaking-tastic. They are definitely worth checking on. Read on, people I know (and people I don't). . . 

The Lie: A Memoir of Two Marriages, Catfishing and Coming Out by William Dameron was an intriguing memoir. I haven't read many memoirs where the author wasn't "famous," so this was definitely a different foray into the genre. The book starts with the author detailing how he was unknowingly catfishing people. His picture was being used by multiple people, and he had no idea until those who had thought they were communicating with him learned they weren't. This is quite the intense story, but the author's story is so much more. Much of his memoir is focused on his coming out process. After being married to a woman for twenty years and having two daughters, the author realizes he can no longer live the lie he has been. He has always been a gay men, and while he's tried to hide this and ignore these feelings, he can no longer. From here, the book is some recalling of how he's lived this secret, but also where he goes from the revelations of his truth. This one is a deep dive into the emotions of one man's journey. He tells this with such raw honesty, and he gives you an in-depth look into each twist and turn of his journey to (re)discover himself. 

Read this book if - You want a memoir where a guy goes into all the feels. You want a memoir that is grounded in all the honesty (and not about a celebrity).

Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters is the rom-com of a book that I just devoured! Y'all, I did not realize how much I needed an absolutely wonderful love story in my life. This review may just be me gushing, but that's because it's just a book that made me smile. Evie is an assistant looking for a promotion. She is assigned to work with Ezra, a well-respected screenwriter, who has signed on to write a romantic comedy. Problem is, he has a case of writer's block. Ezra looks to Evie for inspiration. She agrees to a deal with him where she will recreate meet-cutes from movies in hopes of finding love. Evie needs Ezra to come through on this script for her promotion, so while she thinks this is kind of a ridiculous endeavor, she goes for it. I'll say this with this premise I was sure I figured out how this one was going to end, and I'd read along as a formality. However, I was so wrong. So while this had all the best elements of a rom-com, the plot development was unexpected in a very good way. Evie was a character I loved as a rom-com heroine, and I flew through this one because I was enjoying the twists and turns of Evie's meet-cute quest, and I needed to know where this one was going to go. Thanks to Putnam Books/Penguin Random House for the advanced copy of this December read that y'all are just going to love.

Read this book if - You love a good rom-com. You have spent your days/nights watching Hallmark movies.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds is a book I found my way to via The Great American Read. Ghost loves running - for both the joy and the escape. He's been through a lot with his mom, and he's just trying to navigate life on many levels. Along the way, Ghost finds his way to a track team. The coach is impressed by his talent, and he wants to do what he can to support him. What I appreciated most about this one was that Ghost's struggles were so honestly told. There was so much want to fit in, and that influenced many of his choices. I can see the appeal of this book for kids as Ghost is a relatable character. He's flawed, but he also shows resilience and perseverance.

Read this book if - You want a middle grade book focused on fitting in and standing out told in an honest, authentic way.

Followers by Megan Angelo is a fascinating exploration of technology - both what is and what could be. In the present (2055), the government runs the internet. Way back in 2015, the internet was very similar to now because, well, it is now! The present focuses on Marlow trying to find out the truth about her life. This happens after a bombshell secret is revealed, so she must trek back through the past to get answers. In 2015, the story focuses on Orla and Floss. Floss is a social media darling. Orla dreams of being a famous writer, but to get there, she writes articles to cover celebrities. Floss and Orla form an unlikely friendship, but there are also a lot of dynamics and layers to their friendship. The story goes between the past and present focusing on the social media that was and the social media that is. Throughout, it starts to build a connection between the characters in each time, and you start to wonder how this might all come together. This was the realest of real commentaries on social media. While you could say this is dystopian, you could also say this is legit where we are right now, and the future it paints isn't so far from where we could go. This one captivated me as the author did a fantastic job at using technology as well as characters to tell her story. My only critique is that I wanted to know more! I was so drawn into the world she built that I craved more detail. I had all the questions. Really that critique speaks to the realness of the story that was told! Also, this is an wonderful commentary on the role social media has come to play in our lives, and it's a good piece to turn a mirror on how its used and the dystopia that could very, very well be our reality. Thanks to NetGalley for the early look at this January 2020 release!

Read this book if - You want a look at social media in both an honest and dystopian way. You like stories where there are intersections you have to figure out.

Until the next round!