The Year In Review! Books – 2014 edition

Continuing the tradition from last year, I recount the books I’ve read over the course of 2014. While last year I read a ridiculous 141 books, this year I did not come that far. I did read quite a lot, though, and many of them due to graduate school. I mean seriously. The two courses I took this year were filled with books, and many of them I completely enjoyed. So let’s review, shall we?

Total books read: 128

Not bad considering my original goal was 110, but I fell behind so I dropped it back to 100!

First book of the year: Souvenir Boys by David-Matthew Barnes

I had forgotten about this one! This is why I love this process. This is a book of poetry by fellow Bold Strokes Books author David-Matthew Barnes who has some amazing YA novels that I’ve reviewed here before. I enjoyed this book of poetry as well. My favorite poem was “Dear Mr. Sanchez” from this collection. It even inspired me to write some of my own poems, one of which I submitted for publication but which was rejected. Sad face. You can read my review right here on this site!

Last book of the year: In His Arena #1: Slave Eternal by Nasia Maksima

What a great end to the year! I reviewed this book for The Novel Approach Reviews, which I was recently accepted to as a reviewer. This book was fantastic. As a fan of Spartacus I enjoy stories with gladiators, and since I love Agron and Nasir, I thought this would be perfect. While totally different because it has fantasy elements, I adored this book. At this moment the review isn’t posted for The Novel Approach Reviews, however you can read my review on Goodreads here.

Adult books read: 47 (I think. Mature graphic novels and classic fiction not included.)

Favorite: This is a tough call. I really enjoyed Valerie Bronwen’s Slash and Burn, but I ended the year on such a strong note with Slave Eternal. I guess I’ll stick with both of those!

Teen books read: 6 (not including manga, of which there was a lot).

Favorite: I feel like this number should be higher. Oh well. But my favorite was definitely I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora. It’s the book I wish I had written. Not only is it about students who are obsessed with To Kill a Mockingbird, but it takes place in Connecticut! And the author is also a Bristol native, like me!

Children’s books read: 6 (More were read to my younger students, however many of them are not listed online so I didn’t include them.)

Favorite: Definitely One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia. Having gotten into recycling plastic bags and turning them into useful products, this book was awesome. I did an environmental project for my school based on plastic bags, so this was fantastic.

Manga read: 42

Favorite: Attack on Titan series by Hajime Isayama

I completely blame my students on this one. They kept talking about this series and begging me to get it for them so I reluctantly agreed to buy the first one to preview for myself as I knew it was a violent series.

FOURTEEN VOLUMES LATER I’m all caught up. WHAT AN EMOTIONAL RIDE! Characters die left and write, it’s incredibly gruesome, but I love the characters! Jean and Levi have grown to be my favorites. Volume fourteen left on such a cliffhanger I freaked out because the next volume doesn’t come out until APRIL. My student who is reading it keeps bothering me about the book, even though there’s nothing I can do to make it come faster.

Graphic Novels read: 2

Favorite: I only read two and while both were good, they weren’t favorites I suppose. Sisters by Raina Telgemeier was cute and a graphic novel memoir. Soppy by Philippa Rice was cute and simple in it’s drawings, but enjoyable.

LGBT books read (adult and teen, not including manga): 48

Favorites: Why do I do this to myself? So many of the books I read over the year were great. I ended strong with Slave Eternal, and Sweetwater by Lisa Henry was pretty phenomenal as well. And really interesting and different was Pet to the Tentacle Monsters! by Lilia Ford. Really great year for LGBT books!

Nonfiction books read: 14

Favorite: More tough decisions as each of the books had something great to offer. I think maybe my favorite would be Why Is Sex Fun? The Evolution of Human Sexuality by Jared Diamond. I read it for my Spring semester course and it was a fascinating look at how human sexuality has evolved since our earliest ancestors and what drives humans today. It really was fascinating.

Books read for Graduate school: 16

Favorite: Hard to choose as both of my courses offered fantastic books. I loved Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Not only was the edition amazing, but I was so obsessed with the book I read every single annotation and then watched the miniseries. I also adored Maurice by EM Forster which I had read and enjoyed before. For my Fall course I really enjoyed The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, and I renewed my love for The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I cannot wait for my next course!


Winter Olympics 2014

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the Olympics in Sochi this year, and I know I’m not the first to talk about them. I probably won’t do so as eloquently, but I figured I’d put my own thoughts down now for my own record, even if no one else reads it.

My friends are pretty divided right now. Some are boycotting the Olympics completely. Others, only the sponsors. Some not at all. I’m on the fence with a lot of things. I absolutely hate what’s happening in Russia to LGBT citizens. I hate what’s happening to the stray animals. But I can’t help but feel pride and admiration for all the athletes – especially those who are out as LGBT – who are going anyway to compete in the games.

I understand why some people are avoiding the Olympics completely. And I respect that. Part of me wants to. But the other part of me thinks of the LGBT athletes who have worked so hard to compete, and I want to support them. Even though the conditions there seem to be pretty terrible now, what with the unfinished hotels and lack of running water, part of me would want to be there in person supporting these athletes regardless of what country they came from.

And I’d probably be one of the people arrested and deported for saying something about LGBT rights and speaking up if I saw something negative.

During the Summer and Winter Olympics, I typically support the USA with a few random favorites scattered in other countries. For the Summer Olympics, my favorite sport is Tennis and I cheer for Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer all the way. Neither are American.

This year I’ve got my eyes on all of the openly LGBT athletes. I don’t care what country you come from. I don’t care what sport you’re competing in. I want them to know I’m here cheering for them, hoping for the best and hoping they take home a medal, because they have worked just as hard as anyone else to be there. And they DESERVE to be there. There may not be many who are out (in fact, from what I’ve seen online, only six are openly gay), but you can be sure there are many more who are, even if they aren’t out.

I am disappointed that New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup didn’t qualify, because I would have loved to have supported him as an openly gay athlete. But he didn’t, so instead I’ll focus on those who are:

Canadian speed skater Anastasia Bucsis

Dutch snowboarder Cheryl Maas

Australian snowboarder Belle Brockhoff

Dutch speed skater Irene Wüst

Dutch short track speed skater Sanne van Kerkhof

and Slovenian cross country skier Barbara Jezeršek.

Seems like it’s only the ladies who are out right now. Hopefully some men will join them as well. You can read more about them here. And if you know of any more, please, let me know. I’d love to support them.

And while we wait for the Olympics to begin, please, enjoy this lovely ad from the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion.