My 1st DNF and 1 Star Book of The Year

Well, it finally happened. I read a book I could not finish, as well as another that received a 1 star rating. A quick perusal of my Goodreads page will lead anyone towards the correct conclusion that I generally rate books between 4-5 stars, because I rarely subject myself to a book I think I might never enjoy. However, I went in blind, reading both of the aforementioned books without researching, and this was the result.

One of the books, The Art of Being Normal, has been on my TBR for ages, so it’s a miracle I never did seek out any non-spoiler reviews where I might have gleaned even a hint of whether I’d enjoy it or not. If I had though, I would have realized it wasn’t a book for me, because it was a non- OwnVoices hot mess, to put it frankly. However, I was fooled by the beautiful rainbow cover, and so here we are. As for the other, The Keeper of The Mist, I picked it up at random from the library, and the synopsis immediately grabbed my attention, so my hopes were high. However, xenophobia was rife in it, and therefore no longer something I wished to consume.

This is not to say, however, that I am not pleased with the outcome. Despite the terrible ratings I gave, I am thankful to have read these books, because one – they were both published roughly 3-4 years ago, and after knowing the majority of their contents, it is easy to see that publishing in YA is transitioning to something somewhat better, even if it’s at a snail’s pace in certain aspects, and two – I will now advocate even more strongly for OwnVoice novels of all sorts, including my own future ones. There are moments in life that shape us, and I believe reading these books was another one for me.

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Some Rather Than None

In a surprising turn of events, I wrote words.

No, really, I did. My spreadsheet even says so. I promise.

By the time this posts, I’ll be working towards my overall monthly goal of finishing with at least 40K under my belt, which will be relatively easy considering I’m closer to 36K at this point than not. This is a non NaNo month, in which I spread myself out over a variety of projects, so I am quite pleased with my work, even if my drive fizzled out towards the end due to life and its inconsistencies, coupled with my inability to focus after these unexpected events transpired. Still, I wrote words that mattered and which helped me grow. That is progress I can get behind.

Now that May is all but over, as I look forward to next month, believe it or not, I am aiming for the whole 50K, if not more. With a new spreadsheet in tow, I will be tracking my progress once again, because it seemed that method helped me to best stay on track, even if I did deviate for a bit. In preparation for the July NaNo, and each one after, I want to keep the work load steady, so that writing that much becomes as easy as breathing. Otherwise, finishing all that I want to may never happen.

On a semi related note, I actually read 5 books this month, as well as one graphic novel. April was the worst reading month I’ve had in years, so to read that much after the previous month, was a breath of relief. In terms of overall enjoyment – I loved each book that I chose. Two thirds of them were new releases, with the other two being books I’ve had on my TBR pile for a while. Not a single one disappointed, thankfully.

While I do not plan to set a definitive TBR for next month, I will say that I’d like to read at least 5 queer books, if not more. Massive monthly TBR piles, like I tried to set for each month at the beginning of the year, will not do it for me. At least, not while I’m juggling all that I am. Even so, I’m sure I will enjoy the next month, and whatever reads it brings.

So that’s my May in a nutshell, with writing and reading – two actions which are intrinsically linked. If you do either, do you have any goals for next month? Are you setting a definitive TBR for Pride Month, or winging it?

Either way, I hope that if you’re reading this, that you’re having a great day!

T.J.

Tag: The Real Neat Blog Award

Thank you so much to Sara at The Bibliophagist for nominating me for the Real Neat Blog Award!

The guidelines for accepting the Real Neat Blog Award are simple:

  • Answer the seven questions posed to you
  • Gift 3 bloggers
  • Pose a further seven questions

Sara’s questions:

  1. What’s your favorite city to visit? New York City, hands down. I went there for the first time last year for Pride, and besides attending the parade, my family and I also went sightseeing. Though we didn’t get to every corner of the city, by foot in less than two days, we were able to see a lot that we would not have gotten to otherwise, if we had rented a car. We are planning to return for more sight seeing within the next few years.
  2. If someone gave you $50 and dropped you in a bookstore right now, what would you buy? I would either buy as many children’s books for my daughter as possible, or a collector’s edition of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas in both English and Spanish.
  3. What’s the best book you’ve read so far this year? If we’re talking about best book overall, as in well-executed prose, characters, plot, relationships, setting, etc. Then that would have to be The Diviners by Libba Bray, which I reviewed here. However, if we’re talking about what book elicited the most raw emotions, as well as included strong prose, then I would say Little Birds by Hannah Lee Kidder, which I reviewed here.
  4. What are some of your favorite book blogs? I actually do not frequent many book blogs, despite having one. I gravitate towards BookTube infinitely more, only because I can play it while doing other stuff. However, I do have a few still. — Almost, Almost , The Critiquing Chemist, Cheers to the Bookends, The Library Looter, and The Bibliophagist.
  5. What’s your favorite thing to order at a coffee shop? If I’m at Starbucks, then I’m prone to ordering the Mango Dragonfruit Refresher or a Mocha Frappuccino. However, if I go to a standalone café, then I will try whatever sounds good. I love Starbucks, but I also am a huge proponent for supporting small businesses.
  6. Which book do you recommend most often? That depends on whether I know what genre the person I am giving the recommendation to likes. If I know they’ll read YA, then The Hate U Give, Six of Crows, or The Diviners. If not, then I would say any of Jodi Picoult’s books. She is one of my all time favorite authors.
  7. Which fictional character do you wish you could hang out with for a day? I’ve never given any thought to this, but probably a character from Avatar: The Last Airbender, like Toph or Aang. Either that, or Ryder Wolfe from Port Lewis Witches by Brooklyn Ray.

My nominations: Alex Logan at Almost, Almost, Cheers to the Bookends, and The Critiquing Chemist.

My 7 Questions:

  1. If you could rewrite any book, what would you change, and why?
  2. If you could bring one element out of any story into our world, what would it be, and why?
  3. Is there any book that has changed your worldview dramatically? If so, what was it, and how did it impact you and your future actions?
  4. Would you rather visit the land of your favorite book, or have a chat with your favorite character?
  5. What inspired you to begin blogging about books?
  6. Do you have any favorite book bloggers?
  7. If you had to read one genre, and/or category (Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, or Adult) for the rest of your life, which of these would you pick, and why?

Why Harry Potter Is No Longer Relevant To Me

There was a time period during my earlier youth when I was obsessed with Harry Potter, as were a large majority of children around my age at that point. It began around seven or eight, and lasted up until about 19 or so, for me. I fancied myself an aficionado on all things Harry Potter related, and indeed I was knowledgeable about it in a certain factual sense. However, until The Cursed Child came into existence, as well as the subsequent casting of an actress of color for Hermione, I did not realize how ignorant I had been up until then. After much thought and research, I will explain why this series does not stand the test of time for me.

At the time of inception of this seven book series, matters regarding the LGBTQIA+ community had only really became mainstream in recent years. The Stonewall Inn riots had been a turning point, but there was much ground to be made still in regard to national and international media in the U.S., and worldwide respectively. The Philosopher’s Stone, after all, was published by Bloomsbury in London just a scant three months after Ellen had announced that she was indeed gay, back in 1997. Harry Potter, at its core, is a children’s series that can be enjoyed by all ages. It is, however, a product of its time. One where those who were not what mainstream media expected them to be, would more than likely flop. Ellen’s show, after all, was cancelled shortly after her admission. While that seems a world away, as well as not that long ago, times have changed much since that pivotal year.

In recent years though, J.K. Rowling has been criticized for her lack of diversity in the books, which as an adult well into their 20s, is not lost on me. However, had it been brought up years beforehand, I would not have understood the condemnations properly for what they were, because as has been pointed out, it is not simply about lack of LGBTQIA+ diversity, but of all sorts of missing representation for a series that supposedly has people in it from all over the world.

Moving back to The Cursed Child – it opened in the same month, ironically, 19 years after the first book in the original series had been released. To long time fans, given the casting news it had been a shock to the system, as we all digested the newest lore and content that had been released, albeit knowing that it had not been Rowling who singlehandedly had penned it. While the actors and others who created the play, I have no qualms with, I do however, reserve a certain frustration with the original series author, Mrs. J.K. Rowling herself.

Why, you might ask? Well, it’s plain and simple. Her excuse of the political climate as a reason she did not create a single drop of LGBTQIA+ diversity in the series might have flown back then, but in this day, it is a lack luster one, bordering on insulting. The Cursed Child, which was released in 2016, easily could have been imbued with some of our community’s flair. Was it? Of course it wasn’t, because her ally ship only goes so far as her tweets.

Talk is cheap, they say, and she has done a hefty amount of that in recent years. Back when the series concluded, collectively, the fandom was heartbroken, as it had been a part of our lives for years. That, was understandable. However, if we had known then what we do now, I wish that we had bit the bullet, and thanked her, then moved on our merry way to other books that actually represent a larger portion of her reader base, rather than continuing to harp on the point of wanting more. I owe that time period in large part to what my favorite childhood author has done thus far publicly.

Bear in mind, that I do not believe an author must include LGBTQIA+ people or people of color, various religions, etc. in any work. However, I find it disturbing that given the diversity of the world, that one could wish to sideline or exclude these narratives all together, or add them in after the fact as an aside, rather than have canon text to back the claim up. In that same vein, professing that the only characters who are queer, happen to be a Nazi, and a deeply flawed man? It’s ludicrous, as well as a dangerous message to send to future questioning children, or those who are straight and viewing queer people through media, as well as their own lens. That is a topic for another day though.

So, where does that leave me, a parent, who wishes to pass on only the best of literature to my daughter, who is learning about the world around her, including history of those who came before us? While I have two choices, I can only condone one – shedding the attachments of my earlier years, in hope that I am able to find and boost works that show people of all kinds, rather than exclude them as so many other media forms have done before.

J.K. Rowling and the series of Harry Potter is not inherently bad, and I do still find value in it. Likewise, I did indeed learn from it, both what to do and what not to. However, given the lack of diversity across the board, it is one that I no longer care to uplift.

Part of a Day in “Little Norway”: A Travel Blog

Part of a Day in “Little Norway”: A Travel Blog

Poulsbo, Washington, or “Little Norway”, as it has been dubbed due to its past, is a destination sought out by various sorts of people. Whether that be for the Scandinavian history or the shopping offered down town with picturesque views, there seems to be something for everyone in this quaint town. A few weeks ago, on a brilliant Saturday morning filled with sunshine and a light breeze, my family and I took a stroll down Finn Hill Rd. where the majority of locally owned businesses in Poulsbo reside.

A sign at the back of the shop.

Our first stop was Sluys’ Poulsbo Bakery, which was packed with people and pastries the duration of our stay, which made picture taking a bit hard to do. Still, I managed a few. Spoiler alert: The donuts are fantastic. However, besides donuts, I must note that there is much more to be found in this beautiful bakery, including Scandinavian specific items, bread, and various other sorts of treats. In short, you do not want to miss this.

The top of the building above Sluys’.
My glazed donut, which I split between myself and my 5 year old.

From there, I broke away for a bit to make my rounds of the book stores, while my spouse and daughter ventured elsewhere.

My first stop was Away With Words. This store, if you have not heard of it, is a gem. Not only does it offer novels, but hand mixed tea and various bath works that correspond to a certain book or genre as well, which are sprinkled throughout the store amongst the literary stock. Here I purchased a book, and awkwardly spoke with the store associate. Overall, I would definitely recommend stopping in if you have a moment or two to browse. It has been open less than a year, but definitely has the means to go far!

Next up, I stopped into Liberty Bay Books, which is a must if you’re searching for any sort of book whilst in Poulsbo. This indie book store has not only books, but also toys and a coffee café in the back. The arrangement of the store, coupled with the sitting area provided to peruse possible purchases or drink caffeine, gave it a cozy vibrancy that was hard to ignore.

Can I just say that finding these two side by side made me laugh, and love this book store even more? That’s a story for another day though.

After time well spent amongst the stacks, we strolled around, and enjoyed the beautiful day that was before us.


While I didn’t get a tattoo, I thought this building was an ideal location to mention, as it is the oldest building in Poulsbo, as stated above.
Sadly, that bakery advertised in this picture is no longer in business, but there are various others just a hop skip and a jump away. Plus, beautiful mural, right?
Another gorgeous painting on the outside of a building.
History is ripe in this town. If one chooses to look, it would not be hard to find it.

Our next stop was Poulsbohemian Coffeeshop, where we tried a few lemonades, which were both delicious until the very last drop. Mine was lavender and honey flavored. If you enjoy strong flavors of both, then check it out! Also, the shop has ample work space and enough room to accommodate a sizable amount of people, if need be. The best part of it all though, besides the beverages, have to be the views that can be found while glancing out of the windows in the back of the shop. Overall, it is definitely worth the trip, if any of what was mentioned before appeals to you!

A bit further down from the shop spoken of above, an entrance to the board walk can be found.

Our last stop, before we called it a day, was to the Sea Discovery Center. This little building held a small aquarium complete with educational classrooms, a theatre, and much more. If you have little ones of your own, this is an excellent place to visit.

If you’ve ever thought about stopping in Poulsbo, and you’re in the area, then rest assured there is much to see and do.

Until next time, Little Norway.

Blackathon Recap

I suppose I’ve learned my lesson regarding overzealous TBRs. To be honest, I set myself up for failure, because there were multiple books I had begun before the inception of that list. To say that I fell short of my expectations for this month is accurate. However, I did manage to pick up new titles that I genuinely enjoyed and still completed each of the challenges.

What I Did Read:

  1. Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert – You can find my review for this novel here. It’s safe to say though, I will be sure to read more of her work in the future.
  2. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #1 – I thoroughly adored this comic. When I reached the end of the first issue, I wanted more. I will definitely be purchasing more of this series in the future.
  3. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo – I had been anticipating this book since it was published. Despite the fact that the style is different from what I usually read, I still could not put it down until I completed it.
  4. On The Come Up by Angie Thomas – I tore through this book so quickly. As with The Hate U Give, I could not think or breathe properly until I read this book to the very last page. Another amazing novel by Angie Thomas! I’m eager to read her 3rd!
  5. Solo by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess – This book was a last minute addition to my TBR for the month, but I really liked it. The story touches on some tough subject matter, but it is still unlike most I’ve read before. It was a surprise read, for sure!

What I Listened To:

  1.  “Cuz He’s Black” by Javon Johnson
  2. “Waiting” by Jasmine Mans, Alysia Harris, Jennah Bell
  3. What I’ve Learned by Aja Monet
  4. “Balaenoptera” by Joshua Bennett

Each poem was poignant and beautiful. I enjoyed my listening experience with each piece. I highly recommend picking up the aforementioned titles, as well as listening to all of these poems.

As for the novels which I did not get to, they are all books I have wanted to read, and I do plan to finish them all at some point this year, possibly even in March.

Thank you to our hosts for putting this together! It was a really enjoyable month, and I hope to do it again next year!

Interview With The Editor Of The Upcoming Nonbinary Anthology ‘X Marks The Spot’

‘X Marks The Spot’ is an anthology being put together by fellow enby, India Kiely. The collection will include various works, such as art, personal essays, and poetry, all from Nonbinary content creators. Each creation will be focused on what the individual creator’s experience with gender means to them. The deadline to monetarily support this project is March 3rd.

Though they are busy with this project and more, India was gracious enough to give me the time of day, as well as the interview below.

Question #1. What sparked the initial idea that led to the creation of this upcoming anthology?

I’ve always been very passionate about representation in the media, and through my own coming out as nonbinary it became very apparent that there is almost none for us. I started my YouTube in part because that was the only place I had ever seen anyone like me – but in the mainstream media, it’s almost nonexistent. So I knew I wanted to do something to change that. And then one night at about 3 am I had the sudden realisation that ‘X Marks The Spot’ would make an excellent pun title for a nonbinary anthology. Everything that’s happened since has come from that one random brainwave.

Question #2. So far, what has the process been like for you as you’ve worked to put this title together?

It’s been an incredible process. At times a little overwhelming – like when my tweet asking for essay submissions went semi-viral and I ended up with over 400 pitches in 48 hours. But overwhelming in the best way possible. When I first started, the submission deadline was a month earlier and I only ended up getting two responses. At that point, I thought maybe the project wouldn’t happen after all and I was prepared for disappointment. That tweet was kind of a last-ditch attempt to save it – I could only dream of getting this kind of response and yet it happened. The best part by far is the number of people who have told me how needed this anthology is, how much it means to them. That alone makes all the work going into it more than worth it.

Question #3. As you looked through the submissions, how did you end up narrowing it down to the ones that will be incorporated into ‘X Marks The Spot’?

Narrowing down the submissions was by far the hardest thing. Every story sent to me was so incredibly personal and moving and I would have included so many more if I could have. Ultimately though, it was so important to me that I be able to pay everyone fairly for their work so I knew I had to get it down to around 30. I cut them down in rounds and in the final round, I made a rough plan of the topics I want to include in the anthology and how each of the essays I had left covered those topics. When some of them covered very similar things, I was left with the really tough choice of trying to pick one of them. At times preference was given to more diverse voices – if we had five coming out stories and only one of them was about coming out in a non-Western cultural background, then I would make sure to include that one and one of the other five, rather than two Western narratives for example.

Question #4. For those Nonbinary content creators who did miss the cutoff, given the overwhelmingly positive reaction you’ve received so far, would you consider creating a Volume 2 in the future so that more may be involved?

I would love to be able to do something like that. I think I’ve made a few mistakes along the way, particularly with managing the Kickstarter and it would be great to have the chance to try again and to be able to learn from those mistakes. Or perhaps when I’ve finished my Creative Writing degree, I could pursue traditional publishing and see if I could put together another anthology with the backing of a publisher to get us an even wider audience. That would be the dream!

Question #5. Is there anything you’d like to say for those considering picking up this title?

If you’ve ever been curious about nonbinary people but don’t want to Google it in case you get the wrong info and don’t want to ask in case you say something rude – this is the book for you. You can get all the information right from us, in a way that we are happy to share it. And if you think maybe you or someone you love is somewhere outside the binary – I hope this will help. There’s an amazing community of us and you’re more than welcome to be a part of it.

Question #6. At this point in time, the goal has been exceeded with the help of 326 donors on Kickstarter, as well as the countless number of those who reblogged on social media. For those who already have, or for those still wishing to help this project gain traction and renown, is there anything you’d like to say to them?

I honestly cannot thank everyone enough for helping us to hit that goal. It means so much to me and to all the voices included in the anthology and to all the nonbinary people who have been sitting watching this happen. To have our stories respected and wanted in this way is incredible. I cannot put into words how much it means and I hope it lives up to the expectation.

Question #7. What do you hope readers across the board, no matter who they are, take away from this book?

That it’s okay to be different. That we don’t have to be frightened of something just because we haven’t heard of it before. And that it’s best to listen, to learn and to love with an open heart. Because I promise you we’re not so different. We just have a different experience of gender than you. We still laugh at the same jokes, enjoy the same foods, say aww at a cute dog. We’re your friends and your family and your colleagues. I think this book will show our differences and our similarities, both inside and outside the community. There’s no one way to be human.