Hello!

Here is that massive book post I promised you ages ago. (It’s been a crazy few weeks. My ebook should be available soon and I’m busy writing a second YA novel. I just finished the first part – about 80K words – and will start on Part 2 tomorrow. I’m very much in love with this book and working on it is really fulfilling, albeit emotionally taxing.)

And now, here are the books I’ve read…

Very Far Away from Anywhere Else – by Ursula K. LeGuin – God, by now I read this book about 3 months ago. I remember that the cover did not accurately represent the main characters and that I really loved the book, though I cannot for the life of me specifically remember why. The two leads were friends (as I recall) and I think there was some pressure to be more, but that wasn’t important to them. What was important was moving forward and finding something to be passionate about in life. She had her music. He had… well, shit… I don’t remember. But it was a good book, I swear!

The Shape of Things to Come – by Maud Casey – I’ve been reading a lot of YA books (since I’m writing YA books) but decided to deviate and read something about a 30something (because I’m 30). Wrong move, Kate. I was hoping this book would help me on my path to figuring out what to do with my life, but instead it just made me feel more confused and sad and depressed. I liked how it was written, but content-wise, this wasn’t the best thing for me to be reading at this odd juncture in my life.

The Geography of You and Me – by Jennifer E. Smith – I love Jennifer E. Smith’s writing style. Her stories are really very simple, but her characters are so layered and relatable and you just really want to see their journey through because you can’t help but care. And you want to know what happens, even though it’s pretty easy to figure it out on your own. This book was about two teens who meet one night during an epic blackout in NYC, only to be separated soon thereafter because of families moving and other unforeseeable circumstances. They keep in touch via postcards until they don’t. These are characters you root for because you want good things for them. And I will gladly read anything by Jennifer E. Smith. Always.

Dreams of Significant Girls – by Cristina Garcia – I thought this was a really interesting book. I loved how it followed the same three characters for three summers and showed how so much can really change over that period of time, especially when said characters came from such different backgrounds. It’s always fascinating to read about people who are stuck living with people they would rather not, but seeing how their relationships grow and shift was very fulfilling. Plus, the book was just super well written.

#16thingsithoughtweretrue – by Janet Gurtler – I had it in my head that I wasn’t going to like this book because I wasn’t too impressed by the plot summary. But then I found myself really caring about the roadtrip and the characters who weren’t the protagonist. This book seriously plot-twisted at the end and I remember audibly yelling, “NOOOOOOO.”

Adorkable – by Sarra Manning – I do fancy a good British book every now and again and was glad I pulled this one off the shelf at the library. Quirky girl snogs popular boy even though they kind of hate each other. But then they don’t. And it becomes a big to-do about independence and self-respect and identity and relationships and vulnerability whatnot. It was an entertaining read.

Franny and Zooey – by J.D. Salinger – I tried, you guys. I tried and I failed. I get that reading Salinger is supposed to rock my world, but I was not into this book at all. Perhaps I’m so far removed from the way of life depicted in this book that I just didn’t care. Or perhaps it was because I was having an off day when I read it. Either way, I sped through this just to be done with it. Go ahead and judge.

Divergent – by Veronica Roth – I had to see what everyone was talking about. I’m a little over dystopian books/franchises at this point but powered through. It’s not that I didn’t like Tris, she just is not among my favorite literary heroines as of late. Four, despite his obvious (read: purposeful) character flaws is a little too perfect. Too chaste. And, I could not wrap my head around how people thought it was weird or wrong to identify with more than one group. I did like the book better than the movie, though. For what it’s worth.

Eleanor & Park – by Raindow Rowell – My heart is gone. This book ripped it out of my chest, tore it in two and threw it in the Hudson River. (I read a lot of this book while sitting at the pier in between work.) I had heard really good things about this book and found they were all true. This was wonderfully written, devastatingly gut-wrenching and altogether feelings mangling. Eleanor reminded me so much of someone I once knew well and I wanted to reach through the pages and tell her that she deserves so much more out of life than what she was being handed by her shitty stepfather and terrible kids at school. Reading the ever-growing friendship/relationship between Eleanor and Park made my heart hurt. They ways they showed they cared for each other were precious gifts to the reader. Reading this book was so intimate because of how guarded Eleanor kept herself. And rightly so – holy shit that poor girl was not having an easy time out of existing in her circumstances. I loved this book. I loved Eleanor and Park. I hated how this book made me feel when I was done reading it. If I had my heart, it would still be hurting.

Insurgent – by Veronica Roth – Here we go. Round 2. Tris and Four and those other people are doing stuff because of the government and whatnot. Honestly, I don’t really remember the plot that much. (I’m writing this about 2 months after I finished reading the book. You can tell it obviously didn’t leave that big of an impression on me.) I read this because I had just finished Divergent and the library had it. I still didn’t see what the big deal about being Divergent was… like, of course people are going to identify with more than one character trait. (I could not suspend the disbelief needed to enjoy this series.)

Better off Friends – by Elizabeth Eulberg – I very much enjoyed this book. Set in Wisconsin, it’s about a girl who befriends the new boy from California and is set from 7th grade through most of high school. They are best friends and everyone just assumes they are together or will get together. They date other people and ultimately come to terms with what kind of relationship works best between them. Friendships between teenage boys and girls are a tricky thing and I thought this book captured the ebb and flow of that time in a person’s life rather well. So many emotions. So much angst. So many changes. Sometimes just being friends is the best option. Sometimes it’s not.

The Distance Between Us – by Kasie West – West’s covers are awful, but her books are easy to get through and somewhat enjoyable. This time around, the girl is kinda poor, the guy is super rich, and class-based struggles ensue. There’s more to it than that, obviously, but that’s the general gist of it. I’ve read another one of West’s books and do keep an eye out for her name on my library shelves. I know her books won’t challenge me, but they are entertaining.

One Man Guy – by Michael Barakiva – A teenage boy comes to terms with his sexuality amid a very religious and culturally-focused family. Set in NYC, he befriends another gay kid and they have adventures throughout the city. This was an easy read and though it didn’t leave a lasting impression on me I was glad I read it, if only to get another author’s perspective on the subject matter.

Boy Meets Boy – by David Levithan – The story of a gay boy who meets and falls for another gay boy with minimal drama. That’s really it – their town is accepting of LGBTQ people for the most part. Miscommunications are worked through. I mean, there are some characters who are not all for all-things LGBTQ, but on a whole this is pretty much a paint-by-numbers with regards to plot progression. It was still a good read. Not my favorite Levithan book, but I did like it.

Then Again, Maybe I Won’t – by Judy Blume – I thought I had read every Judy Blume book when I was younger, but I never read this one. Maybe because its protagonist was a young man and when I was younger I kind of flocked to female characters. (Or biographies of people from various wars.) This was about a kid whose family becomes a little more well off than they used to be and how the new money affects them. It was basically a morality tale saying how you shouldn’t be a dick even though you’ve come into some money. I love Judy Blume, though. Forever and always.

The Beginning of Everything – by Robyn Schneider – I fell a little bit in love with this book and then it kind of threw me for a nasty loop when all the pieces came together. That being said, I would still totally recommend this because sometimes getting emotionally destroyed by a book is entirely satisfying (albeit rough on the feels). The main character was a tennis star at his school until his leg got smashed in a car accident. He quickly falls from the very top of the social food chain and goes through school limping to the beat of a new drummer, if you will. Plus there’s a mysterious new girl in town. That never ends well, does it? I’m keeping an eye out for other titles by Schneider in hopes of getting my heart ripped out again.

Boys Like You – by Juliana Stone – This book is about an NYC girl named Monroe who spends the summer down in Louisiana with her grandma after an unfortunate accident back home. She unwillingly befriends a local boy with a bad reputation and a super guilty conscious. Their relationship gets closer as they deal with their shit together and individually. I didn’t feel like this book covered much new ground with regard to the genre, but I get the appeal for a teenage audience (angst and a hot guy who plays guitar).

Winger – by Andrew Smith – This is a book about a 14-year-old junior who is in love with his 16-year-old junior best friend. Winger plays rugby, dorms with delinquints and has a hella intense year at school that involves drinking, injuries, love, death, cartoons and all sorts of coming-of-age plot that kind of just hits you in the feels. I very much enjoyed this book even though parts of it really made me sad. Smith’s writing style, though… I want to be able to absorb it just by clutching onto his books.

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist – by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan – I’ve seen this movie several times but never read the book even though this is one of my friend’s favorite books of all time. I saw it on the shelf at the library and grabbed it. I love David Levithan and will read anything with his name on it. I was glad I read this book and enjoyed it enough, but I think since I’m so in love with the movie and I saw that first, I’m going to favor the film adaptation. Sorry, but not really. Still read the book, though. For reals.

Bossypants – by Tina Fey – This was one of those books that made me laugh out loud when I was reading it in the park. To the point where I had to cover my mouth and try to disguise my laughter as a coughing fit lest I be judged. I love Tina Fey. She is one of my lady heroes and I will forever be indebted to her for her work on SNL, 30 Rock and Mean Girls. (And since I love her so much, I’m going to, from now on, pretend that I didn’t see Date Night or This is Where I Leave You.) Fey is a smart, strong woman who knows comedy well. She’s a great writer and she knows what works. I admire her candidness and appreciate her comedy and writing pointers. This was a great read. Between this and Mindy Kaling’s book, I feel like there are people out there who might just understand my weirdness.

Fangirl – by Rainbow Rowell – Okay. So this is all about fandom obsession. I’m on Tumblr. I’ve read stuff on fanfiction websites. (Hell, I even wrote a paper for my grad school internet ethics class about the legality of fanfiction.) But I’ve never been as far into fandom as Cath so I could not really sympathize with how far she dug herself into the fandom lifestyle. I get being a fan of someone/something to the point of decorating your room, wearing shirts, etc… But when you submit fanfiction for a college assignment – sorry, but that’s not acceptable. Fandom is great for fitting in with people online (or even in person), but that can’t be your only thing you have going for you. And I guess that’s what frustrated me most about this book. I wanted to reach through the pages and shake Cath a bit and tell her she needs to find a hobby. I’m a hermit who spends a bulk of her time reading and writing too, so there was definitely stuff I could relate to too. But on a whole, the book mostly frustrated me despite how much I liked how it was written.

Allegiant – by Veronica Roth – Finally. The last one. I breezed through the first two books and this one as well. I kind of felt obligated to finish out the trilogy even though I wasn’t entirely on board with it. But, I’m glad I read them all so now I get what the hype is about with regard to the movies. (I don’t agree with it, but I get it… there’s a difference.) I wasn’t that surprised by the ending, though I can see why so many people flipped out over it. Props to Roth for not shying away from doing something hard as opposed to appeasing the fans.

Happy Accidents – by Jane Lynch – I love memoirs that don’t just paint a rosy picture of what it’s like to be rich and famous these days. It turns out Lynch wasn’t the nicest person ever, nor did she ever have it super easy as she tried to launch her acting career. I liked reading about her struggles with coming out, trying to get featured more in her early days in comedy, and how hard work and a lot of luck played a major part in getting her where she is today. I did find it awkward to read all about how she met her wife because they are now divorced and that’s sad. I’ve seen a lot of her films. A Mighty Wind will always be my favorite. Those New Main Street Singers are awesome.

100 Sideways Miles – by Andrew Smith – I will read anything Andrew Smith writes. So when I saw this title on the shelf, I grabbed it and debated between flying through it or taking my time to savor Smith’s writing style (which I envy like whoa). Smith is such a great storyteller and I love the relationships he forms between his characters. He writes teenage male friendships so well. And I loved how this book measured passing time using distance the Earth travels around the son. (The title refers to five seconds – or the amount of time it took for a dead horse to fall off a truck on a bridge and onto him and his mom below.) Even the most far-fetched aspects of this book are still believable because the narrator is just so damn convincing and likable. Thank you, Andrew Smith.

If You Find Me – by Emily Murdoch – Wow. I was not expecting to like this book as much as I did, but then again you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, are you? (BUT I DO! I TOTALLY DO! ALL THE TIME!) This book was about two girls (15 and 8, I believe) who live in the woods with their mother ever since they were little. Their mom leaves them and the older girl’s biological father and a social worker come find them. The girls have to acclimate back into society in their new living situation (which includes a stepmom and stepsister) and going to school. Of course some serious shit went down in the woods, but the girls persevered because survival was all they’d ever known. Good book. And now I’m on the lookout for other titles by Murdoch.

The Book Thief – by Markus Zusak – I not so secretly am fascinated by stories (fictional or not) set during the World Wars, especially WWII. I was unaware that this book was written from Death’s perspective (that’s not a spoiler – it’s easy to get that right off the bat when Death speaks about taking people’s souls…), but found that to be a really intriguing POV. I knew the title character was a little girl (I saw the movie trailer, though have yet to see the movie) and figured this book would break my heart. That’s a bit of an understatement. Death gives you some of the bigger, more gut-wrenching plot points ahead of time but the blows are still just as big and painful. This was a long book (500+ pages) with very, very tiny font. I was still able to get through it in a few days because it was such a good read even though it made me sad. I very much recommend this book.

Hope Was Here – by Joan Bauer – This was a super quick read about a girl named Hope (nee Tulip) who lived with her aunt. They moved around working at various diners in various states. This book was about their latest move to middle of nowhere Wisconsin (which I could relate to, as I used to live in Minnesota). Though I never worked at a diner, I caught on quick to the lingo and could empathize with the customer service woes (I worked at Macy’s. I get it.) Hope was a straight-laced girl with a crush on a good guy and the gumption to fight for what was right even though she got the short end of the stick in big ways throughout her life. I liked this enough that if I come across any more of Bauer’s books at the library, I’d give them a whirl.

King Dork – by Frank Portman – This book had a bunch of blurbs on the covers and inside boasting how hilarious it was. I realized halfway through the book that almost all of said blurbs were written by dudes. The book had its charming moments and I did laugh out loud a couple times, but I’m sure it would have had a bigger impact on me if I were a 15-year-old boy. Thomas (aka Chi-Mo, aka Moe) was likable enough and I did feel bad that he was at the bottom of the social food chain. There was a lot of plot (a LOT of plot) and at times I felt like there was too much going on, but it wasn’t impossible to keep straight and if you thought about it, you could see how most of the plot twists came to be/kind of made sense.

So, yeah! If you’ve got any book recommendations, please let me know!

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There seriously needs to be more hours to the day… or at least one more day included in the weekend. Right?

It’s been a busy few weeks… read a lot of books, saw a few movies and a couple shows on Broadway. I’m also 25+ chapters into the book I’m writing, have submitted query letters for the book I finished writing a few months ago, and have been having all sorts of terrible interactions with guys. (Ranging from seeing a guy jerk off in public to getting dumped by a guy via text even though we weren’t dating. Good riddance to that, though. The text guy was really rude and called me all sorts of names – “weird,” “crazy,” “complicated” – all because I wouldn’t tell him where I lived or agree to go with him to go see a movie right when he asked. Mind you for that last one, I was already in bed with a migraine. But this self-proclaimed “nice guy” told me he was done with me and wished me good luck finding someone as nice as him. Because, you know, “Just keep in mind I never asked for any obscene pics or anything like it.” Gross, right?)

But enough about my oh so entertaining personal life. This post will be about the three movies I’ve seen in the last two weeks.

The Maze Runner

I’ve read all four books in Dashner’s Maze Runner series and The Maze Runner is by far my favorite. I was really scared heading into the movie that it was going to be dumb… but it wasn’t. The Maze Runner movie was actually really well done for the most part. The cast (led by Teen Wolf’s Dylan O’Brien) was a capable group of young actors and they brought a real sense of urgency to the story. The guys in the Glade have been there for years, but the audience is introduced to them at the end of their respective ropes – Thomas (O’Brien) and the lone girl Teresa are the last two Gladers to arrive and then everything basically goes to shit. The large walls surrounding their Glade suddenly don’t provide the protection from the Grievers that they once did and they either need to find a way out of the maze or everyone will die.

There were some huge variances from the books that bothered me (the shape of the maze and Thomas and Teresa’s lack of telepathy, among others), but I bet if you haven’t read the books it wouldn’t affect your enjoyment of the film because you didn’t know what you were missing out on. I was looking forward to the cliff, but was okay with it not being there. I was not a fan of the big exposition-filled monologue at the end of the film. The movie was hugely entertaining leading up until that, and then it just felt like someone was sitting you down and explaining all this stuff you had absolutely no idea about if you haven’t read the books. But for the people who have read the books, it’s adding insult to injury by not using better plot devices to foreshadow what’s going on outside of the Maze.

Although I wasn’t a fan of The Scorch Trials or The Death Cure, I will see the latter films in this series. (I know The Scorch Trials is already in production…) I don’t watch Teen Wolf, but some of my friends do and have told me repeatedly of their infatuation with O’Brien.

I get it now.

This is Where I Leave You

A cast that strong deserved an infinitely better script than what they had to work with. I haven’t read the book from which this film was based on, but I think I probably would have liked it better just because it felt like the movie was missing something meaningful.

Four siblings and their mother gather to sit Shiva after the father/husband die (even though they don’t actively practice Judaism). Everyone’s got some sort of problem or secret going on in their personal lives – all stemming from relationship issues. It seems that just about everyone is unhappy, so they cheat on their SO or get cheated on by their SO or want to get pregnant or blah blah blah.

I am so sick of movies and shows that use cheating on people as a main plot point. Like, seriously? Maybe this is just me being naïve, but is that really a plot point that a majority of people can relate to? I know that I rarely side with a character that cheats. To me, that’s a cowardly way out of one’s problems and often causes even more problems later on. WHY CAN’T PEOPLE JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER? Hash out your problems instead of just screwing someone who isn’t your SO. You’re unhappy in your relationship? THEN TALK TO YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER AND DEAL WITH IT LIKE A FRIGGIN ADULT.

To top it all off, on top of all the cheating and whatnot, the movie wasn’t even that funny. It’s mostly a drama, but there were obvious attempts at moments of comedy and a lot of them fell flat. And as much as I love Tina Fey (I LOVE her. So much. She’s my lady hero and I’m actually in the middle of reading Bossypants right now…), she was not the right person to play the sister. Or maybe she would have been the right person if that character was written better. (The female characters were horribly underwritten and there were clichés everywhere. EVERYWHERE.)

You could tell that these characters were supposed to be complex, layered people… but they all just read as flat, douchey privileged people whose lives were falling apart because they were making dumb choices left and right.

I wanted to love this movie. But I couldn’t.

The one thing I did love… Will Swenson was the dad! He kept popping up in photographs and then he had a 30 second flashback. That 30 seconds was the most I was engaged the entire film.

I was so disappointed. On paper, that was one of the best ensembles of the year. On screen, it was just a bunch of talented people being underused as they told a story about irresponsible people making irresponsible choices.

Pride

A friend had free passes to see an advanced screening of Pride and I’m so grateful she asked me to join her.

Pride is based on the true story of how a small group of lesbians and gays in London helped raise money for a Welsh mining community in the mid-1980s. This film reminded me a lot of Billy Elliot, The Full Monty and Brassed Off… basically Margaret Thatcher, unhappy coal miners and how hope and a sense of community can go a long way.

The epically sad thing is, is that I had never heard about this story before seeing the movie – and I took a film class in college that dealt exclusively with the Thatcher Era and what was going on in GB during that time. Obviously this movie wasn’t out while I was in college, but we did study what was going on in the news at that time and this story wasn’t part of that.

Pride was one of the most inspiring films I have seen in awhile. It was really powerful to see the members of the LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) raising money for a mining community simply because of solidarity. The lesbians and gays had dealt with adversity from the government and members of their community and thought that the miners shouldn’t have to deal with similar situations.

Of course there was a culture clash. The small mining community the LGSM was raising money for was not entirely receptive of the charity because some of the people in said community were homophobic. The LGSM and Welsh community came together through little events and meetings and eventually more and more people realized that the LGSM was just trying to help when seemingly no one else was.

Juxtaposed with the striking miners was the rising awareness of HIV and AIDS within the gay community. This plot line was not at the forefront of the film, but its weight could be felt throughout.

Though Pride was dealing with a low point in recent history, its overall message was incredibly powerful. It was a nice reminder that kindness to others really can go a long way and change peoples lives for the better.

What was really cool about the screening was that some of the actors and creative members from the crew (the director and screenwriter) were in attendance, but even more awesome was that some of the people whose real lives were portrayed on screen were there too! The LGSM member who was the second person in London to be diagnosed as HIV positive was there (according to the “where are they now” bit at the end of the film, he just celebrated his 65th birthday), as was a woman from the Welsh community who later went on to be a member of the government. I didn’t get a chance to talk to them, but I did see them in the lobby as I was exiting the theater and they were chatting with people about the film and their experiences when the strike was actually happening.

I did have a super brief moment in the lobby with Andrew Scott. Most people know his as Jim Moriarty from the BBC series Sherlock, but in Pride he played a member of the LGSM. He was taking pictures with people and talking to press and I was able to tell him how much I admire his work and did get a picture with him.

Pride opens in LA and NYC on September 26th, but I hope it goes wider because more people need to see this wonderfully uplifting film.

Okay. So here is my long-overdue theater update from the past few months. I realized I hadn’t posted about any shows I’ve seen since Beautiful: The Carole King Musical… and that was back in December! I’ve seen nine plays and musicals since then, and though some of them have already closed, I thought I would still share my opinions about them (especially since Tony nominations come out soon!!). I’m typing these out in the order I saw them, starting with the earliest (from back in February).

Twelfth Night, Or What You Will – Belasco Theatre – Broadway Play – Closed

I was super bummed that Stephen Fry’s understudy was in (as Fry was in England to host the BAFTAs), but still very much enjoyed this production. I had seen Twelfth Night once before in college and read the play in my Shakespeare’s Comedies class, so I was already very familiar with the story. (For those of you who might not fancy Shakespeare, the crappy film She’s the Man is based off of this play.) While Olivia is not the main character, Mark Rylance’s performance of her was side-splittingly delightful and was the definite highlight of the show. This production was extra special because all of the parts were played by men and the audience got to see all of the performers get ready on stage before the show. There was live music and period garb… it was all very old-timey and wonderful. Seeing Shakespeare’s work performed live is (for me) preferable to reading it because even if you don’t know what all the words and phrases mean, the physicality of the actors and their relationships to each other on stage helps fill in the gaps. This was a very funny show and I expect Rylance to be among the Tony nominees.

The Bridges of Madison County – Schoenfeld Theatre – Broadway Musical – Open Run

I don’t normally cry at things, but this show had me silently weeping twice (end of Act One and the middle of Act Two). I’ve read the book, but have never seen the movie (even though I own it), and have driven past signs for the actual Bridges of Madison County when I used to travel through Iowa on my way to Kansas, so I knew what was going to happen and where the story was set. I knew I needed to see the show because its music and lyrics were done by Jason Robert Brown (of The Last 5 Years fame) and because of its stars (Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale). I was fortunate enough to get a third row seat (bless you, rush tickets), so I was up close and personal to the visually stunning production. The lighting design was beautiful, the ensemble was solid, the leads oozed chemistry and the music was gorgeous. Some of the songs were similar in theme and melody to songs from The Last 5 Years, which is why I completely lost it during “Falling Into You” and “Before and After You/One Second & a Million Miles.” Those two songs were very reminiscent of “The Next Ten Minutes” and tears just started dripping slowly out of the corner of my eyes. I wasn’t the only one in tears, as I could hear people all around me weeping (or sobbing, like the guy in front of me) as the musical pressed on. It’s a happy show because it celebrates love (okay… it celebrates adultery, which is terrible, but you totally want Francesca and Robert to be together), but it’s a sad show because it exposes the realities of just how fragile love and relationships can be. Even a forever kind of love can’t last forever because eventually time pulls people apart. (The time aspect of it all killed me – I have a thing for schedules and planning and whatnot.) This was a beautiful, beautiful show and I highly recommend this. I expected O’Hara to be amazing and she was, but I was wholly impressed with Pasquale. I only knew him from Rescue Me and his couple episodes of Six Feet Under, but the man is a serious musical theater star.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder – Walter Kerr Theatre – Broadway Musical – Open Run

I had absolutely no idea what this show was about before I saw it; all I knew was it was getting great reviews and was supposed to be really funny. Holy hell, this was delightful. It’s about this guy named Monty Navarro who finds out he’s ninth in line to be the head of the D’Ysquith family (a noble family) and decides to off everyone ahead of him. Monty is a fairly harmless guy until he starts murdering everyone, and yet you still are cheering for him because the members of the D’Ysquith family are all ridiculous. And every member of the D’Ysquith family (even the ladies) is played by Jefferson Mays. If Mays is not nominated for a Tony, I will eat my Playbill because the man was all over that musical and played such a wide variety of characters with such ease. (Although it was hard work… I had a front row seat and the amount of sweat that poured off that man was crazy.) The songs weren’t super catchy (though “Better With a Man” is in rotation on my Playlist I listen to every day), but they were enjoyable. This was just a really fun show and the cast was really enjoyable to watch.

Violet – American Airlines Theatre – Broadway Musical – Closes August 10, 2014

When Sutton Foster is in a musical on Broadway, you go and see the musical. I was sad I missed a staged version of this last year at NYCC’s Encores, so I was super happy that it came to Broadway. The plot is that a woman with a badly scarred face (Foster as the title character) takes a bus from North Caroline to some evangelical church in Oklahoma so that the preacher and God can help her face become healed. Set in the 60s, Violet befriends two soldiers (one black, one white) and they convince her to hang with them on the journey. Racial issues are prevalent throughout the show, as is the commercial factor of mega churches. The show is performed without intermission and is paced fairly well. There are some really great songs interspersed throughout the score and I am very much looking forward to the cast album. This was the second time I’ve seen Foster on stage and I think she is the bee’s knees.

Of Mice and Men – Longacre Theatre – Broadway Play – Closes July 27, 2014

I had really high hopes for this show. Most of said hopes were dashed. Unlike everyone and their mom, I had actually never read Of Mice and Men, so all I knew headed into this was there was two guys and one of them was a bit slow in the head. I admit to seeing the show because of James Franco and Chris O’Dowd. I was very, very impressed with O’Dowd. He played Lennie, the slow guy, and easily stood out in every scene he was in because of his body language and all-around stage presence. Franco kinda just shouted most of his lines. While that worked in some scenes, it didn’t work in all of them. (I should point out that I saw the show just a couple days after his Instagram scandal and it obviously colored his performance. He vaguely referred to the incident after the show when the cast was raising money for BCEFA.) The biggest let down of the play, with regards to the cast, was Leighton Meester as Curley’s Wife. She was so one-dimensional and the opposite of charismatic. I was grateful any time she wasn’t on stage and was actually really happy when what happened to her character happened to her character. I know that’s mean, but I’m not going to apologize. She was not the right person for that part. The play itself was terribly paced and definitely dragged in spots. I was glad that I saw this because it was fun to see Franco and O’Dowd on stage, and O’Dowd’s performance was really great. But, on a whole, I was disappointed.

The Most Happy Fella – New York City Center – Encores! Musical – Closed

I’m a Frank Loesser fan but had honestly never heard any songs from this show before in my entire life. I wanted to see this because of the cast – Laura Benanti, Shuler Hensley and Cheyenne Jackson were the three leads and good god, are they talented people. Though the songs weren’t really all that memorable and the plot was cheesetastic and predictable, I still very much enjoyed this production. The whole cast was great and it was fun to see Clay Thomson in the Ensemble. (I follow him on his social media platforms and he always seems to like a bunch of my theater pictures on Instagram. Plus, he wore glasses and suspenders and is adorable as all get-out when he dances.) If you’ve never seen an Encores! Production, I highly recommend it. This was the second show I’ve seen there – it’s a great venue and the productions are wonderfully staged and orchestrated even though they only usually play from 1-7 times. I saw The Cradle Will Rock here last year and will see tick… tick… BOOM there in June. Tickets are usually very reasonable and it’s just a lot of fun to see a show there.

Jasper in Deadland – West End Theater – Prospect Theater Company – Closed

Oh, Matt Doyle. Swoon. So, my favorite theater buddy and I had front row tickets to this really charming musical about a high school boy who forces his way into the underworld to bring back his best friend, Agnes (who is dead). For such a tiny venue, this show packed in a lot of punch and had great visuals to go along with the plot. The whole cast was really strong, led by Matt Doyle and Allison Scagliotti. Since we were in the front row, we had a really great view of everything (like, down the front of Matt Doyle’s pants when his character was splayed out on the stage in front of us… we could only see the V and the band of his underwear so maybe we didn’t see everything, okay?). I really loved the music, especially “Hello, Jasper!,” “Jasper in Deadland,” and “Stroke by Stroke.” I wish there was a cast album because I need more Matt Doyle vocals in my life. (Side note – favorite theater buddy and I are seeing Matt Doyle’s show at 54 Below next month!) I am very grateful I got to see this before it closed. I love seeing shows in tiny venues because it really heightens the theater-going experience.

The Cripple of Inishmaan – Cort Theatre – Broadway Play – Closes July 20, 2014.

Go see this play. Just, go see it. Written by one of my favorite playwrights (Martin McDonagh), The Cripple of Inishmaan is about this crippled boy named Billy who gets picked on by everyone in his little Irish town because of his cripple-ness, and he decides he wants to get out of there (and the way he does that is convinces a friend to take him to a film set that is shooting nearby, because the casting people are looking for people from the area to be in their movie). Billy is played by Daniel Radcliffe whose physicality is so amazing that it is painful to watch him because of how contorted his leg and arm are during the show. (He’s not in every scene, but the scenes he is in definitely prove that Radcliffe has legit acting chops and is wholly capable of a career post-Potter. People who only think he is Harry Potter are sorely mistaken. The man is an actor, and a bloody good one at that. Jesus.) The play is rife with curse words and heavy Irish accents by all. It’s wickedly funny and downright sad/moving at the same time. This is the second McDonagh play I’ve seen on Broadway and I would see anything and everything he’s written because I love his writing so much. He always manages to weave twisted humor into often harrowing stories – he’s a genius. I saw this play the first day of previews and was lucky enough to get my Playbill signed by Radcliffe. (Stage door was a fucking nightmare, just so you know.) See this play. Trust me.

The Realistic Joneses – Lyceum Theatre – Broadway Play – Open Run

Skip this play. In fact, I bet this is going to close sooner than later because it just really wasn’t that great. While it stars four very, very talented actors (Michael C. Hall, Toni Collette, Marisa Tomei and Tracy Letts), the play itself is choppy and lacks flow. There were some very funny lines of dialogue interspersed throughout the show, but even those one-liners could not help the overall quality of the play. I found myself wishing it would end soon after it started even though some of my favorite actors were right there on stage in front of me. The play was about two sets of neighbors and how they shared (or didn’t share) aspects of their lives with each other. Four characters meant scenes with any number of combinations of actors on stage at once. I found myself paying more attention when Hall and Collette were on stage, but only because I favored them to begin with. I am glad I saw the show because I like the cast and have no idea when I’ll ever get a chance to see them on stage again, but I have zero will to ever see this play or read it. I was wholly unimpressed and walked out of that theater hugely disappointed. I don’t understand how such a lackluster production gets an open-ended Broadway run. I didn’t learn anything. I didn’t feel anything. I wasn’t moved. I wasn’t challenged. I laughed at cheap jokes and silly observations. I guess I should just be happy that at least I did laugh at some parts of the play.

So, yeah… that’s what I’ve seen on stage the past few months. I have tickets to see The Cradle Will Rock and Hedwig and the Angry Inch in May, as well as the aforementioned tick… tick… BOOM in June. I’m sure I’ll see some other stuff along the way!

Have a good one 🙂

So, I haven’t posted on here in forever. But I have finished reading a few books over the past few weeks and have a few recommendations among them.

 

I think the last time I made a post about books I was reading Stick, so I’ll start with that…

 

Stick – by Andrew Smith – This book about Stick (real name “Stark”) and his older, gay brother Bosten was an enjoyable read. It wasn’t a super happy read (their home life was terrible), but it was enjoyable nonetheless. I wanted to give most of the characters hugs. I liked that it was mostly about a sibling relationship, and brothers at that. I am drawn to stories about boys/men dealing with emotional stuff and having to talk about it with other boys/men. Man feelings. Can you dig it?

 

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares – by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn – I very much enjoyed the premise of this book. Lily and Dash communicate via a shared notebook and they make each other go on little adventures. It was a friendship story where people were friends through the written word before meeting in person. (Of course it develops into a story about teens liking each other, because that’s how these things take shape…) I loved this book until I really didn’t. It took a really strange (re: wholly silly/unbelievable) plot turn toward the end and took me out of the magical cuteness that the story had been up until that point. I don’t like when things get silly. I don’t feel it advances the plot and it actually is quite insulting. As a reader, I don’t like it when the author (or authors, in this case) takes the story on a route that pulls you completely out of the book. I honestly stopped reading at one point, shut the book and heaved a heavy sigh of disgust. I still liked this book (for the most part), I just wish it would have taken a better route to get to the ending.

 

Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List – by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn – This is the first thing (co-)written by David Levithan that I hated. I couldn’t wait to finish the book because I needed to return it to the library as soon as humanly possible. I could not stand the female protagonist and her immaturity. Naomi (straight high school girl) was basically madly in love with her gay guy BFF Ely and she kept getting mad at him for not returning the feelings (and for kissing her boyfriend, who turned out to be gay). It’s frustrating to read about characters who are best friends even though one of them is a kind of terrible/selfish/ignorant person. I liked Ely for the most part, but even he got on my nerves. I do not recommend this book. I just… ugh.

 

Maurice – by E.M. Forster – I’ve seen just about every E.M. Forster film adaptation except for Maurice, so I was very keen to track down this book and read that before I ultimately track down the film. It was interesting to read about the relationship between two guys set in the early 1900s, but heartbreaking at the same time. I admit that I skimmed the last half of the book (it was due at the library the following day and couldn’t be renewed), but I got the general gist of it. It was a good read and I really do want to see the movie.

 

Gone, Gone, Gone – by Hannah Moskowitz – This book is about a gay teen named Craig who is living near DC post-9/11 (when all the sniper stuff was going on). Someone broke into his house and all his pets ran away. Also, his ex-boyfriend’s father died in 9/11 and was now at some mental institution. Craig falls hard for a new kid, Lio (he was a cancer kid and his twin brother died when they were younger). So, basically a lot of drama on top of even more drama. Oh, and these boys love each other after a few weeks/months. Do 15-year-olds really fall in love like this? Every time I read a YA book and the 13-16 year old characters go on and on and on about falling in love, I’m like, “Really?” I think back to when I was in middle school and early high school. I wasn’t in love with anyone. I had massive crushes on people, yes, but even then I knew I wasn’t mature enough to be in love. So when I read all these books about kids falling in love, I wonder if I just missed out on something early on, or if I’m supposed to suspend disbelief because everyone just loves reading about people being in love. (For the record, the book I’m writing is about high school juniors and though they like each other an awful lot, they are not going to profess their love for each other because they’ve known each other for, like, two months.) I thought this book was a little too heavy on the drama, but I liked Moskowitz’s writing style and decided if I came across any more of her books, I’d give them a whirl.

 

When Love Comes to Town – by Tom Lennon – I pulled this book off the shelf at the library because the spine was the hands of two guys clasped. I was pleased to see that once I got the book off the shelf, the book front and back had the two guys – just two dudes wearing plaid shirts and jeans holding hands. Adorable. The book itself was a little less adorable, but really interesting. It was about this gay high school senior named Neil who knew he was gay since he was about 10 or 11, but was scared to come out because it was Ireland in the early 90s. Throughout the book he told some people and tried to embrace his identity. He went to a gay bar, he chatted up and befriended some other gay guys, and he finally told his parents he was gay. His story had obvious ups and downs and I just kept asking “But what about Ian?” as Neil found himself falling for a guy named Shane even though Ian from school was the better choice of who he should be with. I liked this book a lot and it was really cool to read an Irish book about LGBT youth.

 

Marco Impossible – by Hannah Moskowitz – See, told you I’d read more of her books if I found them. The premise of this book was kind of cheeseball – 13-year-old Marco and his sidekick/BFF Stephen were going to break into the high school prom so Marco could confess his love to Benji, who was on his way back to England for the summer. (Again – 13-year-olds in love?)  Though I balked at the premise, I actually enjoyed the book. It was cool to read about Marco and Stephen’s friendship and how Marco being gay was not a big deal but a very big deal at the same time. Straight Stephen was mad that Marco was going to a different high school than him come the fall, but during their night of shenanigans in order to get Marco into that prom, Stephen finally pieces together that Marco has a target on his back at all times because he’s gay and he’s not safe because some of the other kids are out to get him. Reading about hate crimes makes me sad. I mean, I got picked on in school for being a bit of a nerd, but little Marco gets his locker bashed in and death threats because he likes boys. You legitimately worry that Marco’s plan to publicly proclaim his love for Benji is a fatal trainwreck just waiting to happen, but you still want to watch it happen because maybe, just maybe, it won’t turn out as bad as you think it probably will. I liked this better than Gone, Gone, Gone because there was a healthy dose of comedy surrounding the more serious moments.

 

The Death Cure – by James Dashner – This is the prequel to the Maze Runner trilogy and I haven’t finished reading it yet. I actually started reading this after Gone, Gone, Gone but I find it so boring that I put it down and read the other books instead. It’s due at the library this week and I don’t feel like renewing it, but I will try to finish reading it even though I am really not liking it. I thought it was going to be about Thomas and Theresa pre-Maze, but it’s not. It’s about characters I don’t really care about thirteen years before The Maze Runner takes place. I’m maybe 11 or 12 chapters in so far and I’m very underwhelmed by the writing and the plot. I honestly wish I hadn’t started reading this, but I feel obligated to finish it. Once I finish it, I have two newer David Levithan books waiting for me.

 

So, yeah… this is what I’ve been reading the past few weeks.

 

If you have any good recommendations, let me know!

The weekend before Christmas, my favorite theater buddy and I were trying to decide what Broadway show to go see. She had just seen a couple plays that week, so it was decided we should go see a musical. We opted to see Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

We chose wisely.

Beautiful chronicles the beginning of Carole King’s songwriting career through her performance at Carnegie Hall after her hugely successful album “Tapestry” won several Grammys. We watched Carole blossom from a beyond talented 16-yr-old to a mid-30s mother of two who somehow managed to write and co-write some of the most popular pop songs in our nation’s history.

Even if you didn’t grow up during the early years of Carole King’s career, you know her songs. Beautiful uses them as a musical timeline to show how King went from “It Might As Well Rain Until September” to “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” to “It’s Too Late” to “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” King wrote a number of songs with her ex-husband, Gerry Goffin, and it was an emotional rollercoaster seeing their romantic and working relationships rise and then tumble down.

During their time at the record label, King and Goffin befriended another songwriting team, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. Though they had a little bit of rivalry to see whose songs stayed at the top of the charts the longest, it was fun to see the pairs supporting each other at work and outside the office.

My parents listened to a lot of Carole King music when I was growing up and I knew she had (co-)written a lot of songs for other artists, but it is nothing short of amazing when you look at the track list for the show. Every song is a toe-tapper. My friend and I had standing room tickets and for the first half of the show, it felt like our own little dance party up in the mezzanine. (For the second act, the ushers seated us in the orchestra… so that was awesome.) I would watch other people in the audience every time the intro to a song played. All the songs are so recognizable and it was fun to see people gasp at the familiar tune and nod their head, as if they were remembering a significant moment in their life where that song played a part. I don’t really remember the first time I heard any of these songs, but the older people in the crowd probably do. It was neat to get to share that with them, even from afar.

The only person in the cast who I had seen on stage before was the man who played Barry Mann – Jarrod Spector. (I saw him in Jersey Boys when it opened in Chicago.) He was awesome, of course. But, the person who really holds the show on her shoulders is Jessie Mueller. Mueller plays Carole King and she plays her to perfection. Her singing voice is not an exact replica of King’s, but it’s pretty damn close and exquisitely captures the tangible emotions of all the songs. King’s music career started off happy and upbeat, (co-)writing love songs and catchy tunes you can never get out of your head. But, as her relationship with her husband grew apart and she branched out on her own, King’s music became more than soulful – it became soul-bearing. Her lyrics punch you in the feels in the best way possible and are still anthems for women everywhere.

There aren’t any huge dance numbers. (Well, Little Eva and the ensemble do do “The Locomotion…”) And some of the performances are simply people singing into a microphone either at a stand or a piano. These songs don’t need huge production value like other musicals. They do help drive the story, but the music and lyrics provide the substance rather than lavish costumes and intricate choreography. It’s not a boring show by any means, but it is one where you need to be ready to appreciate the understatedness of it all. Carole King was not a flashy woman (at least that’s what I gathered from the show…), but her music definitely lit up the charts and that stage.

I really enjoyed this show. Jukebox musicals, when done properly, are a lot of fun. I knew Carole’s music, but now I feel like I know her. And she’s Beautiful.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is currently in previews and opens on January 12, 2014. It’s playing at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on 43rd St in New York, NY.

I went and saw Her yesterday and I didn’t know it when I purchased my ticket, but it was exactly the movie I needed to see in that moment.

I remember watching the trailer a few months ago and thinking that I would probably love the movie. I was right. I loved it. How could you not? Written and directed by Spike Jonze… starring Joaquin Phoenix. Already a recipe for cinematic success in my eyes.

What a heartbreaking and hopeful film that has moments of pure joy and soul-crushing sadness. It’s nominated in the Comedy/Musical film categories for the Golden Globes and I guess I see why it was pigeonholed as such. There weren’t many quality laugh riot comedies out this year, so shoving art films like Her into the Comedy category because it has more of a chance there than in the Drama category up against 12 Years a Slave. Because let’s be real, even if you consider Her a drama, it’s not the kind of DRAMA that 12 Years a Slave is.

But I digress.

Her. (some slight plot spoilers, but nothing super specific)

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the plot, Her takes place in the future where people are even more connected to their phones/computers/operating systems than we are in the present. Joaquin’s character, Theodore Twombly, is in the middle of a lengthy divorce and he’s a bit anti-social and a little glum. He’s very good at his job (“writing” handwritten letters for people via a program that types up what he says in a font that looks like people’s handwriting) and is friendly with his workplace’s receptionist (Chris Pratt!) and his neighbor/college friend Amy (Amy Adams!!!), but he’s still a little lost. Theodore downloads the latest operating system (OS1) to help organize his life a bit, but he ends up having a more personal relationship with his OS. His OS’s name is Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson… and her voice acting was PERFECT for this film, holy hell) and little by little, he falls for her. Samantha is a constant companion that provides support and enriches Theodore’s life. With her friendship (and then some…), Theodore becomes a much happier guy. He smiles. He laughs. He lives life. The cool thing is, is that being in a relationship with an OS system is not unheard of or frowned upon by the whole of society. Yes, there are some people who look down on Theodore for dating his OS, but human/OS interaction is commonplace and mostly accepted.

The movie takes a sharper turn toward the dramatic when Theodore and Samantha talk about the extent of their relationship and how he is not the only person Samantha is in contact with. There are scenes that deal with the physical limitations of being in a relationship with a bodiless entity. I know this film is obviously a work of fiction, but it does raise some awesome questions about whether something along these lines could actually happen sometime in the future. People already walk around with their heads down and cellphone in hand all day, everyday. The movie shows the same thing, but the characters also wear these ear buds so that they may communicate directly with their OS. It’s completely okay to look like you’re talking to yourself.

But that’s the thing – even though all these people are with their OSs, they still are alone. So much communication was going on, but with whom? A computer program. And while that was working for awhile, human/human interaction was still a necessary entity.

Joaquin Phoenix has been one of my favorite actors for a long while and I have seen almost all of his films. I am continually impressed by his acting skills and how he really is able to wear all of his characters’ emotions right there on his wholly expressive face. His eyes are mesmerizing and it is damn near impossible to not react to whatever it is his character is feeling (or trying to hide). The vulnerability Phoenix is able to bring to his characters, especially those like Theodore, is so real. He’s so talented at allowing us to see his characters very private moments/feelings. You feel like you’re intruding one something you shouldn’t see, but at the same time I always feel really grateful for being allowed to see everything he’s feeling. If we can’t be in his head in the moment, it’s a real pleasure to understand those feelings (even if they aren’t the most pleasant ones) because of how Phoenix is able to just have/be the proper emotion. Watching Theodore be happy made me happy. Watching Theodore fall apart made my heart hurt. I wanted to hug Theodore a lot. He looked like he could use a good hug.

Amy Adams is also a delight. Though her character was not in the film for very long, her presence was always welcome and she was the one who voiced the importance of being happy and living life because life is short and we only get one of them. Her character is a documentary filmmaker and dressed in a manner that most people would call “frumpy,” but that I refer to as “hella comfortable.” She wasn’t dolled up. In fact, no one was.

The costumes and makeup for this film were GENIUS. Though the film takes place in the future, it was shot in a very muted way and everyone’s wardrobe looked really retro. All the guys wore high-waisted pants and (mostly) tucked-in shirts. Some of the women had mod dresses on, while others wore pants. No one teetered around in towering heels or slinky skin-tight anything. The lack of shine and perfection really allowed the characters’ interactions and the words of the script to stand out.

This muted reality was also very much reflected in the production design and cinematography. Instead of bold colors and harsh lighting, the movie had a softer feel to it. (Almost as if we were watching something that looked like someone got a little too filter-happy while using Instagram.) The muted earth and jewel tones that were used instead of primary colors (coupled with un-jarring camera movements and editing) gave the film a pleasant, near dream-like quality. Nothing was really in your face. It was lovely.

What a great, thought-provoking film. It really made me wonder where technology is headed and how it will (or won’t) affect communication among people. How happy can an OS really make you? Is being in a relationship with an OS a viable option for people who might lack interpersonal skills but still want the benefits of being loved by someone/something?

I mean, think about it… nowadays there are so many ways to meet people online without ever having to meet them in person. (Or, you can meet someone online and then meet him/her in person. Or you can just meet someone in person… that is a thing that still happens. So I’m told.) I honestly think the kind of OS/person relationship played out in the movie is something that will actually happen in the (near) future. I get the appeal, but I also see the downsides to it, because this film told that story so beautifully.

Thank you, Spike Jonze. Thank you Joaquin Phoenix. Thank you, Scarlett Johansson.

God, I love well-made movies.

Okay, so I know I’m for reals behind on posting on here about books I’ve read and life in general. I’m now going to hit you with a few paragraphs about what I’ve been reading and how it’s impacted me and my quest to write the next great American (YA) novel.

The last book I wrote about here was “The Spectacular Now”, which was a bunch of books ago… so here’s what I’ve read in the past few weeks:

“Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan – I flew through this book because I seriously could not put it down. (I posted a summary/recommendation of it on the Fandom For Equality blog – I urge you to check it out here.) There were no chapter breaks, yet the story bounced around between several storylines that mostly revolved around two boys (high school ex-boyfriends) trying to set a world record for longest kiss. The story was beautifully told via omniscient narrators (gay men who lived/died during the AIDS epidemic) who punctuated the plot with wisdom and a constant reminder that there is so much potential for positive change. This was the second thing I read from Levithan (he wrote the half of “Will Grayson, Will Grayson” that John Green did not…) and I fell more in love with his writing style. This book was heartbreaking and hopeful in the best ways possible and definitely made a lasting impact on me.

“Love is the Higher Law” – by David Levithan – See, I told you I was in love with Levithan’s writing style. So much so that I immediately sought out anything else he wrote. The library only had this book, so I grabbed it as fast as I could and plowed through this in a couple days. This book takes place during and after 9/11 and is told from the points of view of three teenagers whose lives all intersect because of school or mutual friends. It was an interesting read because the characters were about the age I was when 9/11 happened and the story took place in the neighborhood in NYC where I presently work. (I lived in Ohio in 2001. After moving around the Midwest a bunch, I ended up in NYC in 2012.) The book had a lot to do with relationships forged in the time of tragedy. That’s not to say that those relationships don’t mean anything, but people bonding over a shared experience of pure terror is definitely a unique way to meet, for better or worse.

“The Order of the Poison Oak” – by Brent Hartinger – I was unaware that this was a sequel to “The Geography Club” (which I haven’t read), but I was able to glean all the relevant information I needed from the exposition. I would like to go back and read the first book to get a more in-depth feel for the protagonist’s experience about coming out at his high school (as that’s something I’m writing in my own book), but I liked this book just fine. The main character decided to go work at a summer camp with his friends so that they could get out of town and he wouldn’t have to deal with being a novelty in his own community. Though he planned to stay in the closet at camp, he developed a crush on another camp counselor (who may/may not be bi). Despite the predictable story line (I guessed the plot twist well before it happened), I thought this was a decent read. Hartinger’s writing style, like Levithan’s, hooked me right away. Even if I wasn’t completely blown away by plot, I definitely wanted to keep reading because of the phrases he used and his ability to write awesome description. I’ll be on the lookout for other books by this guy.

“David Inside Out” – by Lee Bantle – This book was a great example of how not to write. While its subject matter was relevant to what I’m writing (gay/questioning high school boys on a sports team), I thought this book was pretty awful. And it pains me to write that because I would be heartbroken if someone told me what I wrote was pretty awful, but I was not a fan of a majority of the characters (including the protagonist) and I thought the writing itself was not engaging. I didn’t care about what was going to happen and I didn’t think the book really went anywhere. Instead of feeling any sort of merit having finished the book, I just felt disappointed. I post what I read on Instagram, so I clicked on the hashtag of the book’s title and one other person posted about it. He (baritoneblogger) wrote, “Worst YA book I’ve read in a while. Definitely not gay literature.” The book’s jacket was praising it as something special, but it was mostly just cringe-inducing. The one thing I did find interesting was that it was set near where I used to live in Minnesota. So, every time the author name dropped some lake or landmark, I knew what he was referring to.

“How to Say Goodbye in Robot” – by Natalie Standiford – This book just about broke my heart. It’s the story of a girl named Beatrice (Bea) whose family moves to a new city for her senior year in high school. She befriends the boy she sits next to at morning assembly (Jonah) and they form a friendship that everyone around them seems determined to define for them. Bea and Jonah love each other, but it’s purely platonic. (Other people question if they are dating or if Jonah is gay, etc…) Their love for each other is strong and substantial – they are outsiders, but since they have each other, they aren’t really alone. Both are going through some serious shit with their immediate families, so their friendship is really a lifeline. As much as they love each other, though, that’s not enough. They fight, among other conflicts that arise, and it’s painful to read about them drifting apart and finding each other again only to have your heart hurt as the book drew to its conclusion. I picked up the book because of the title and didn’t really realize what kind of nostalgic horror I was getting myself into. But, I’m so glad I read this book. It was great to read about a strong relationship between a girl and a boy who have complete (unromantic) love for each other. I found it refreshing, even though it was ultimately quite heartbreaking.

“Paper Covers Rock” – by Jenny Hubbard – This was about boys at a boarding school who had to deal with the unexpected death of one of their classmates. The protagonist, Alex, and one of his friends was there for the other boy’s death and Alex spends the bulk of the book writing/talking about what happened and his part in the whole thing. Alex has a huge crush on his young English teacher, who also happened to be there during the aftermath of the accident that caused Thomas’s death. As the book progresses, she tries to get Alex to expand on his knowledge of the situation through his writing and by talking to her. I wasn’t expecting to get much out of this book, but it turned out to be a great learning experience because the book itself was filled with passages about how to write better. That is what I will take away from reading this story – that I can be a better writer if I make the best choices I can with the words/phrases that I choose to use.

“Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns)” – by Mindy Kaling – I took a break from reading YA for awhile to cleanse my palette, but it turned out that this was just another great, inspiring read. I really look up to Mindy Kaling and reading about her path from childhood to college to where she is now was really educational. I found myself relating to her a lot (she didn’t have a crazy childhood or college experience either, among other similarities) and enjoyed reading her stories about the people she knows and how stuff relating to the entertainment industry is definitely not as glamorous as we perceive it to be. She’s a great writer and I’ve been a fan of her work for awhile (I used to like The Office and I definitely love The Mindy Project) and she’s just all sorts of inspiring. She points out on numerous occasions that she is not stick-thin and that she maybe gets one hour of productive writing done in an eight-hour window. See – those are things that I can relate to! What it really boiled down to, for me, was that I just need to keep at it. I don’t want to have my own television show like she does, but I do want to finish my book and I do want other people to love it as much as I am thus far.

And that’s all the books I’ve finished in the last 3 weeks. I just started reading the latest Bridget Jones book, but I’m only about five pages in, so I can’t tell if it’s v.g. or not (see what I did there?).

I’ve been working on my own book when I can (though I will admit to being a little lazy with writing this past week – I’ve been so exhausted from work). I did get a few more pages done (I’m up to 55 thus far), and I plan on writing some more tonight and tomorrow in between other stuff I have to do (a blog post for FFE, trying to sign up for healthcare, cleaning my room a bit, etc…). During a phone call with one of my most favorite people in the whole wide world the other night, she said she wanted to read what I wrote. She was one of the few people who read the script I wrote last year, so of course I’ll let her read this and I said she could read the start of the second script I’m working on (I have 80 pages of that completed, but it still has a ways to go). Last night I texted her, though, and explained that I’m afraid to show her what I wrote because I’m afraid she’s going to think it’s bad.

I’ve read and reread what I wrote so far. I know it needs help (my ability to write description and add colorful phrases and whatnot is nowhere near on par with Levithan or John Green, or any of the writes who I wholly admire), and I know it’s nowhere near being done… but what if she thinks it’s bad? What if I just spent months writing something that is just awful?

I’m probably my own worst critic, and to be honest, I don’t think what I wrote is terrible. I’m proud of my outline and I think what I’m writing has potential to be something. (Note that I didn’t say “something great” or “something earth-shattering”… just “something.”) And I have read some less than stellar books over the years in the genre I’m writing, so my theory is that if those people can get published, then there is a chance I could too… but there is always that legitimate worry of showing someone your literary baby and them just scrunching their nose and handing it back to you like said baby just soiled itself.

So, yeah. I’m going to keep writing. And I’m going to finish my book.

But I’m also going to keep reading. I’m so, so grateful that I actually have time to read. (Yes, I’m crazy busy with work, but ten free minutes here and there can turn into chapters read, you know?)

After the holidays, I’m definitely tracking down “The Death Cure” (I loooooved “The Maze Runner” and “The Scorch Trials” and need to finish that series!) and then try and get a hold of more stuff written by Levithan and Hartinger.

If you have any book recommendations, please send them my way!