Juno Dawson: This Book is Gay

Lesbian. Bisexual. Queer. Transgender. Straight. Curious. This book is for everyone, regardless of gender or sexual preference. This book is for anyone who’s ever dared to wonder. This book is for YOU.

There’s a long-running joke that, after “coming out,” a lesbian, gay guy, bisexual, or trans person should receive a membership card and instruction manual. THIS IS THAT INSTRUCTION MANUAL. You’re welcome.

Inside you’ll find the answers to all the questions you ever wanted to ask: from sex to politics, hooking up to stereotypes, coming out and more. This candid, funny, and uncensored exploration of sexuality and what it’s like to grow up LGBT also includes real stories from people across the gender and sexual spectrums, not to mention hilarious illustrations.

You will be entertained. You will be informed. But most importantly, you will know that however you identify (or don’t) and whomever you love, you are exceptional. You matter. And so does this book.

WHY THIS BOOK WAS BANNED:

WHILE I COULD NOT FIND ANY SPECIFIC RESOURCES (BESIDES APPEARING ON MULTIPLE CHALLENGE LISTS), I FOUND NEWS ARTICLES LISTING TWO TOWNS TRYING TO REMOVE THIS BOOK FROM THEIR LIBRARY BECAUSE OF THE GAY CONTENT. IT IS NOT SURPRISING THAT THIS BOOK WOULD MAKE IT ON TO CHALLENGE LISTS DUE TO THE NATURE OF ITS CONTENT.

Juno Dawson’s book can’t be missed. It’s bright rainbow cover beckons to everyone. And that really is the message she wants to display– “Hello, welcome to our community. We see you, and we are waving the flag for you. Come on in, we have a place at our table. Join us.”

Her book covers every topic in the LGBT* space. (She uses that abbreviation throughout the book, according to him, not to exclude anyone, but for brevity’s sake.) There’s SO much information here from identifying your sexuality, to coming out, to actual gay sex, to activism. She also covers transgender issues in almost every subject.

I think she could have done a better job explaining asexuality and nonbinary topics. She mentions them at the beginning, and talks about asexuality a few other times by definition, but never really goes into details. This book is VERY MUCH about sex. I won’t go so far to say she erased asexuals, but the snub is there. And this book is pretty binary in its discussions.

It isn’t perfect, that is for sure. But Dawson tries really hard to open the doors to the community for young LGBT* people who need guidance. She provides a good deal of information, and then some testimony from people who have lived that situation.

It’s a start. We definitely still need to fill some gaps in other places, but I do think this book is going to help a lot of kids who are desperately needing information that they aren’t getting in school (at least not from their teachers). It’s not perfect. But it does have a lot of really great information that none of us had in book form when we were growing up. And I wonder how many of my classmates’ lives would have been helped by a book like this?

 

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#TuesdayBookBlog: Big Magic

Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work,  embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.

Elizabeth Gilbert is an author that resonates with so many of us. Eat Pray Love will forever be one of those books that I will reread every few years until the day I die–and every time I read it, it changes. Committed came to me at exactly the right time, just before I married my second husband. She is one of our great philosophers.

So while I am not a writer, or really any kind of artist, I didn’t hesitate to buy Big Magic when it came out. Surely there would be some nugget of EG wisdom in there for me.

Big Magic is different than Gilbert’s two other major books–rather than being a memoir, it is a self-help book, meant to inspire writers to let go of those things blocking them and just get started. The “magic” can apply to other forms of art as well, but she mostly speaks about her own path, with a lot of name dropping along the way. (Did you know she was besties with ANN PATCHETT?!?!?!?!?!?!)

Sometimes this book is super encouraging–YOU CAN DO IT! PUT YOUR BACK INTO IT! Others, it is very much less so. Don’t give up your day job, it’s going to take forever for you to get published, or you might not ever. The book is very up and down and it all seems to hinge more on chance than the work you put in. Sure, you need to work hard, but unless that Big Magic is there…it doesn’t count for anything.

I dunno. I certainly didn’t agree with all of it. But then, I don’t have to. It’s Elizabeth Gilbert, so of course it’s brilliant and captivating. Not my favorite of her books, but based on the other reviews, it looks like it’s a mixed bag. Some are on my side of the fence, some loved it. I would say if you are a creative person, pick it up and go into it with an open mind. It’s at least worth the read.

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Tiny Beautiful Things

Last week was full of goodbye parties and last visits to beloved Dallas places. This week is more of the same. We’re emptying closets and preparing for the movers on Friday. For as long as it took me to get used to Dallas, I sure am sad to leave it.

Just in time, I pulled Tiny Beautiful Things from the library’s recently returned ebook shelf. I was looking for something that fit the Mental Health Month umbrella, and nothing was really jumping out at me. This one, though, felt like a way to bring some light back to a very dark few weeks. Hopefully it would be what I needed to prepare me for what is coming this weekend.

Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills—and it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar—the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild—is the person thousands turn to for advice.

Cheryl Strayed’s column from The Rumpus is like Dear Abby for the modern age. It’s much less conservative–she talks about sex, drugs, and more with the word ‘motherfucker’ liberally sprinkled throughout. At times she seems like a mother hen, other times the most straight-shooting best friend ever. I want to sip coffee with her in the morning, and grab a beer with her every Saturday night.

I’ve had this book on my list for awhile–probably since I read Wild. But sometimes books come up on a TBR just at the right time. And I needed this one right now. Not every letter applied to me perfectly–in fact most of them had nothing to do with me. But after a month of reading nothing but dark books about dark, scary illness, I desperately needed to reconnect with everyday human emotion. Romance and marriage and siblings and children and friendship and work and school and moving and all those things.

I very much want this one on my shelf. Much like Eat Pray Love, it’s one I could pull off every few years, at different crossroads, and reread the wisdom Strayed gives her Honey Buns. Different columns will relate to me in different ways at different times. I will connect to different people. I will need different advice. Life is full of Tiny Beautiful Things.

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Year of Yes

The first book I read after I decided to go on hiatus ended up being the most encouraging book I could possibly have picked up. I have a hard time giving myself breaks. I just pile on and pile on, and sometimes I don’t stop until I crash.

This is especially true with my reading. While I love reading, sometimes I treat it a little too much like a job. And that is what happened after I got back from vacation. I was forcing myself to get through books for review, and I was behind on ARCs. It was just too much pressure and it became one of the few times I no longer enjoyed reading. When that happens, it is time for me to step back.

But when I do that, I have that nagging sense of failure in the back of my head. That’s what keeps me going on too long. I decided to take a break, give up on The Passenger for now and come back to it when I was in a better mindset, and I took up with Shonda Rhimes next few days. I didn’t rush–I read some Drarry, started brainstorming a vacation, worked on a project–I just read when I felt like it. It was wonderful. Shonda was there when I needed her.

And she really, really was. This book is HILARIOUS. Shonda does not hold back on her emotions, SHE TALKS IN CAPITAL LETTERS. You can just tell, she writes like she talks, like I do. I love people who do that. It makes me feel like I am sitting next to her on the couch with a big glass of red wine, putting in some veal practice, commiserating about all of the awful things in our lives–and celebrating all the wonderful things too! It’s the kind of book that makes you understand where those girls’ nights came from in Greys–with Mer and Callie and Bailey…and sometimes Alex. THIS IS THE WOMAN WHO CAME UP WITH OUR FAVORITE WOMEN.

Shonda Rhimes gets my anxiety. She gets ALLLLL of my anxieties. She’s an introvert. She hates public speaking. She has THROWN A CHICKEN BONE ACROSS THE ROOM AT A PARTY. And she worries about pooping in front of graduation crowds. But she gets her badass self out of the house and does her badass life anyway.

For me, it was pertinent that I say YES to giving myself a break. But I know that I can say YES to restarting the blog now that I have my ducks in order. I’m going in a great direction–I’m stronger than ever, doing things that make ME happy. And that’s what is important. Thanks for sticking with me!

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Better Than Before

A year and a half into writing this blog, sometimes it’s still hard to believe that I’m still doing it. I’ve never been this consistent with any project I’ve undertaken. And really, I owe it all to Gretchen Rubin. A lightbulb flashed on in April 2014 when I read The Happiness Project.

I knew I needed to make some changes in the fulfillment of my everyday life–my brain was craving MORE, and I needed a way to fill it. And so I Lay Reading was born.

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Needless to say, I happily snatched up Rubin’s next book, Better Than Before. Appropriately, the author who got me into the habit of writing a regular book blog has written a book about habits.

While I can’t say this book is actually better than the one before (because THP was so strong), I did really like it. Just like the first, Rubin has several in depth theories about how to set up habits and even goes into four different personality types and how each deals with habit forming. I will say that sometimes it almost seems as if she is convincing herself on her own theory. She talks about how some people have personalities that do not lend themselves toward habits, but then says she has to make habits to be happy…then worries about how those habits are taking over her life. It goes back and forth a bit. I think though that she’s a bit like me–just trying to strike a balance between everything and everyone–but sometimes it gets a little confusing.

Overall, though, I’m so glad I picked this up right at the end of the year. What a great way to start 2016 than with a fresh look at some of the bad habits I have, and some good ones I want to start! I’m sure that will be a Mindful Monday post in the next few weeks as I work through how I want the next year to go.

Definitely recommend this one. 4 book dragons.

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Blogging for Books provided a copy of this book for an unbiased review. Releases December 15.

BUY HERE:

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Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls

I am fat.

At only 5 foot zero inches, even a few extra pounds shows easily on my tiny frame. After a divorce, two bouts with depression, and my passion for great food and craft beer–I am fat.

We are eating healthier these days, and I am doing yoga three times a week–but I am focusing more on strength of mind than losing weight. I would much rather focus on Body Positivity and Self-Love, than stress myself over yo-yo diets.

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I am so glad I pulled Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls from Netgalley’s request queue. Jes Baker is a ROCKSTAR, ya’ll. She is the epitome of fabulousness and I want her for my best friend.

  1. She uses ALL OF THE CAPITAL LETTERS. And she says ya’ll like every other sentence. We emphasize things in our writings exactly the same way, so reading this was hilariously amazing, and I felt like I was talking to a more confident, badass, amazing in every day, me. Ok, let’s be honest, she’s the me I wish I could be in every single way.
  2. She gets things DONE. I didn’t realize when I picked this up that the author was the girl who went after the Abercrombie guy, and she’s set up so many amazing body positive photo shoots and campaigns.
  3. JUST SO MUCH LOVE in this book. Seriously. SO MUCH LOVE. It doesn’t matter who you are–fat, skinny, genderqueer, male, female, gay, straight, bi. This book is for everyone, not just fat girls, even though that is the title. The main focus is body positivity, but the whole underlying theme is LOVE YOURSELF, LOVE EVERYONE AROUND YOU, and LET’S JUST STOP JUDGING PEOPLE, YA’LL!

Obviously, this one is going on my MUST READS list. I can’t stop using capital letters because I need to emphasize how AMAZING this book is. Book stores and libraries, put this on your front displays. Teachers and counselors, get this into the hands of your teens. Girls, put this on your TBRs IMMEDIATELY. Boys, genderqueer, and nonbinary too!

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Netgalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases October 27.

BUY HERE:

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Brain Rules

After reading two YA fictions for #ReadForMentalHealthWeek, I decided that I really wanted to dive further into the brain and find something nonfiction. As much as I love reading about characters with the similar difficulties as myself, I love learning more about how the brain works and why I feel the way I do.

Of course, nonfiction always takes me longer to read, so that meant I didn’t get to share as many #ReadForMentalHealthWeek posts as I wanted last week, but sometimes sacrifices must be made for good books, right?

Brain Rules doesn’t specifically talk about mental illness, but Dr. John Medina does share 12 principles of the workings of the brain. He breaks down each rule carefully with facts and stories to make this complicated structure easier to comprehend.

Medina has a rule of his own–students cannot focus for more than 10 minutes at a time unless you draw them back in. To do this, he weaves lots of anecdotes into his book, and breaks everything down into well organized sections. I would have no hardship taking a class by this professor–in fact, I wish I COULD take a class by this professor! I have always been fascinated by how the brain works, and now, even more so after reading Brain Rules. There’s so much amazing information here, and my copious note-taking is part of why it took me three days to get through it. His chapter on how the brain handles stress was extremely enlightening, as was his push for everyone to exercise more. It definitely made me want to get moving!

If you’re looking for a nonfiction read, pick this one up, especially if you’re at all interested in brain or body science. Brain Rules covers a lot of ground without being out of reach for those of us without medical degrees. I’m giving this 4 Book Dragons, and it’s going on my TO BUY list!

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The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Geeks

HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY!

JUMPS UP AND WAVES ERRATICALLY AT ALL MY FELLOW GIRL GEEKS, NERDS, OBSESSIVE LOVERS OF EVERYTHING.

I HAVE FOUND THE FANGIRL FEMINIST BIBLE.

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*phew* Ok. I’m tired now. Sometimes being that enthusiastic can be exhausting, but this book gave me ALL THE FEELS. Because ladies, it is all about us! And it’s amaaaaazing. I’m not kidding, I was internally screaming the whole time I was reading, like FINALLY someone stood up and said HEY! We need this. We deserve this. This is ours.

I basically want to post myself at the doorway of every high school and just hand out copies of this book. Because girls need to read it. It would change so many young girls’ attitudes about so many things.

I should probably tell you about it, huh? *deep breath* Ok. Calming down. Just a little bit though.

Sam Maggs is a fan girl. And like many of us, she’s gotten all of the resistance from the patriarchy about being a “fake geek girl.” What even is that anyway? Ugh. So, she’s written a book about how to fly our fan girl flag so high that the guys can have absolutely nothing to say about us being fake. Because we are pretty freaking awesome, ladies, and we should show it.

This book covers all the bases of geek–from cosplay to Tumblr, cons to YA lit. But the real underlying theme is confidence and feminism. It’s time to believe in ourselves and stop letting the world outside tear us down and stop us from being who we really want to be. The most wonderful thing about being a geek is that we love something with everything we have, which makes us different than anybody else. Why not show everyone what that one thing is?

If you couldn’t tell, I really loved this book. It’s coming out on May 12, and you bet I’m going to have this one on my shelf. Are you a fan girl? FLY THAT FLAG!

 

Fulfills PopSugar #24:  A book based entirely on its cover

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review.

An Introvert in an Extrovert's World

Today’s post is supposed to be titled “Favorite Nonfiction.” And it started out that way. But, I couldn’t leave that as the title, because, while this post is about my favorite nonfiction book, it is also about much more than that.

Susan Cain published Quiet in January 2012. Where was I in January 2012? Dating. Online dating to be specific. Meeting complete strangers for drinks at bars. It was absolutely terrifying. I was terrible at it.

And then I heard about this book. Or maybe it caught my eye at a book store, I can’t remember. But Susan Cain came into my life hard. Quite frankly, she saved me.

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For those of you who don’t know Quiet, this is a book about being an Introvert in an Extrovert’s world. Cain not only describes the differences, but also goes to great lengths to help us understand ways to be ourselves and still feel comfortable and confident in today’s society.

Not too long ago, my sister had my whole family take personality tests. I was not surprised to hear that everyone, except me, was some variation of extrovert. I had known that for years. They call laughed, though, when I told them mine:  INFJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging). The rarest type in society. Only 1% of people have this personality. Where this comes from in my family, I don’t know, but I’m definitely the odd man out.

Growing up in an extroverted family was not easy. I very much wanted to keep up with all of the social activities, sporting events, and oh please god just let me get a word into this conversation! But mostly, my brain kept telling me that my books were waiting upstairs in my room.

School, especially college, was hard. For many people, college means parties! New friends! Clubs! For me, college meant feeling extremely out of place in a very big environment. People seemed to cling together quickly and easily, and I didn’t understand why that didn’t happen to me. Classes required group projects, and because I was in the business school, my groups were filled with aspiring sales people and entrepreneurs. Extreme Extroverts! All of my ideas were overspoken and thrown out…if I even tried to speak them at all. It has always been a very big frustration to me when I try to add something to a conversation and I get interrupted. I’ll try again once, maybe twice. After that I usually give up trying to participate.

But let me get back to January 2012. Remember that very dark place I talked about the other day? I was desperately trying to pull myself out of it. I needed something positive, fun, anything. So…online dating. Fun right? I was going to meet people. Yeahhhhhhhh….mmmk. Introvert’s Nightmare.

But then I read Susan Cain’s book. And she taught me that introverts need to recharge after social stimulation. I also learned how to prepare myself when I knew that I was going to be out in a big public place or bombarded with social stimuli.

So, I’d pick a bar or a restaurant that I could easily control. I’d show up 15 minutes early, and make sure I already have a beer before my date arrived–through the door that I could easily see. It made me much more relaxed and able to enjoy myself.

And hey…I found my husband that way, so it must have worked right? (Except he came in the wrong door on that first date. And I spilled beer all over myself.)

Applying these methods have also worked in other areas of my life too. R knows very well my “Haley Limits,” as he calls them, and helps make sure I’m recharging when I need to. My work is busy, but I am careful to watch and make sure I’m not multitasking to the point of overstimulation (and that is a problem for me sometimes, as a bit of a control-freak). I’m blessed to be able to work out of my home, so that helps too–and I’ve made my office a very calm place to focus.

My relationship with my family has grown up quite a bit as well. Maturity has a lot to do with it, but also, I know now that I will never be able to keep up with all of their activities. When I’m home though, there is nothing we like to do more than open a bottle of wine and play card games. And that, I can most certainly enjoy.

I would encourage you, at the very least, to watch Susan Cain’s Ted Talk. She discusses themes from her book–specifically our society’s obsession with GroupThink. (Confession time, I’ve probably watched this 10 times.) And I really do believe that everyone, Introvert or Extrovert, should read Cain’s book. It is that important. Especially for managers, teachers, religious leaders, parents–anyone who has any type of coaching or teaching role, especially with children. It is crucial that everyone is included in this world, that no one’s ideas are left unheard just because they are not as bold or loud as others.

Because some of us sit here, behind computers, behind books. We have ideas too. Some of the most brilliant minds in this world have been introverts. And they only become leaders because they have to. Susan Cain mentions this in her Ted Talk. They come across more genuine because they aren’t trying to steal the spotlight. They are up on that life stage because there is something out there that needs doing, and who else is going to do it but that introvert who is going to make it happen? So they stand up, even though every part of them is resisting. And at the end of it, they are beaten and exhausted and drained and small. Sometimes, it kills them. But it must be done.

Who are you listening to?

The Happiness Project

It’s been six days since I started this blog. And so far, I have enjoyed writing this more, and it has been more successful, than any other blog I have tried. I am not sure why it has taken me so long to do a book blog, but I should have started writing about my reading a long time ago.

It is no coincidence that I started the blog the day after beginning The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. You guys should see my journal. I have four pages of notes. This will be a book that I will buy to add to my collection, and one I will read again. While I’m not one to read Self-Help books, this was extremely inspirational and motivating. I wasn’t so sure about it at first, but the more I read, the more charged I felt. I didn’t always agree with everything she said, but she definitely challenged me to change my way of thinking.

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Gretchen has a very organized structure to her book. She set a monthly calendar of goals–each month she would have something in her life she would try to change:  marriage, parenting, spirituality, etc. She built upon each month, and then by December, her goal was to have a perfect month where she would live all of her changes.

These breakdowns are what got to me. Some of them were fantastic. Ironically, the parenting chapter I found incredibly educational. Even though my husband and I do not plan on having children, I found some of what she said extremely helpful in how I interact with my niece and nephews.

However, I hated the marriage chapter. I felt the goals were completely unrealistic and cheesy. I felt it cut out too much healthy communication, and instead made her a doormat. I kept picturing those really dumb Marriage Guru couples from the movies. You know the ones I’m talking about. Big hair, mega-watt smiles. And then they always turn out to have a horrible relationship, but in the end are found to be together for the money scam. Maybe it was just the way the chapter was written…but it was just a really bad vibe. Seemed like a horrible formula to me.

Rubin is extremely well read, that’s for sure. She talks about her love for books, constantly. I was able to relate to her on that level quite a bit. And she includes a lot of quotes in her book, from Aristotle and psychology experts alike. I liked that she used a lot of different sources to make her point, without it sounding like a textbook.

This book definitely made me think, which is why I have so many notes. The first thing it did was make me ask myself, “What makes me happy?” Answer:  Reading. “What can I improve upon?” Answer:  Retention and Education.

Solution:  Start taking notes and journal more about what I’m reading, and then blog about it. Do more than just reviews. Interact with people. Maybe join or start a book club.

I am not going to go quite as in depth in my Happiness Project as Rubin did and do the month to month breakdown. However, I am going to be a bit more serious about where my brain is at. Since college, I keep telling myself that I can’t let myself get stagnant. But I do, and then I get bored and depressed. So I’m going to challenge myself to read better and write more. I hope you enjoy reading the blog as much as I do writing it.

 

I am going to leave you all with a question from the May chapter from THP. This question got to me, and I sat down and journaled for quite awhile about it, and I think it’s a good question to ask ourselves.

Q:  “Are you more likely to think about happiness–and to take action to try to build happiness–when everything in your life is going well, or when you’re facing catastrophe? If you’re facing a catastrophe, does it help to think about taking little ordinary steps to build happiness (having lunch with a friend, making your bed in the morning, going outside for a quick walk)? Or are modest efforts like that dwarfed by the magnitude of what you’re facing?”