other people’s words #1

I see so many amazing posts by friends on this website and I just really want to link to some of them. This will be a mashup of badass discussion posts and just plain fun posts.

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There’s this lovely post on abusive relationships in books by @ ReaderInTheAttic. I’ve talked about this a lot, I know, but it’s really important to acknowledge how toxic certain relationships in young adult lit are to this day.

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There’s this lovely post from a series by Marija @ InsideMyLibraryMind. She’s been doing character reading lists for weeks and weeks, and I am loving them. This most recent one is for Kaz Brekker. Also, this awesome Book Mashup tag in which she suggests a Six of Crows and How To Get Away With Murder Mashup. I love you, but why can’t I steal that idea??

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Tasha’s discussion posts are awesome and underrated, and so of course she needs a spot here!! I’m going with my fave of all her posts – on YA hating f/f romance. This post is really important and necessary, and yeah, YA does hate f/f romance.

Which is (casual segway) one of the many reasons a few of us are hosting a wlw readathon come December!! Check back here and on the twitter sapphicathon page 🙂 I’ll be posting recs here and trying to mention it on the blog every month or so.

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This super super important video on how we talk about diversity in queer lit. Listen, I love Adriana. They’ve been one of my fav booktubers ever since I found their channel.

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Here’s a recent one by Jamieson, who ALSO does a ton of amazing discussion posts you should definitely check out: Intergenerational Friendships. I’m such a huge fan of this trope, and I love her for writing this. (GO FOLLOW.)

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And another good post: Queer and Trans Stories I Need. This is about tragedy in lit vs. emotional catharsis, and it’s super important.

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And as the final post: Destiny @ HowlingLibraries’ discussion on Different Criteria For Different Genres. This is really interesting and important!! I loved the quote “Just because I 5-starred a book does not mean that I agree with all of its content” because yes.

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That’s it for today, guys! Have a great week 🙂

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top five authors i want to read every book by

I’m not counting middle-grade books for most of these authors – I only want to read all of their YA / Adult books.

Anna Marie McLemore

Anna Marie has three books pubbed. I’ve only read one – The Weight of Feathers, a four star – but I own both of her other books and am excited to read them. I’ll definitely keep up with her.

V.E. Schwab

I have actually read every one of her adult releases, but not a single one of her YA books. I’m disappointed in myself. And considering how much I love her writing, I’ll definitely be reading all the rest. She has four pubbed YA releases so far and I’m definitely planning to read all of them.

Laini Taylor

I’ve read Strange the Dreamer – a four – and the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy – all fives. There’s only one book to go: Lips Touch Three Times, which doesn’t sound like my type of thing but I’ll definitely read for her. I have it out from the library now, actually.

Leigh Bardugo

I’ve now read Six of Crows – both five stars and some of my favorite books ever – and all of her short stories that stand alone from the Grisha trilogy. So it’s time to read the Grisha. It’ll be a lot but it’ll definitely be worth it.

E.K. Johnston

Johnston has five releases, and I’ve read four of them – two five stars fave-books-of-all-time, one four, one three. The only one I haven’t read is Ahsoka, which I’m hugely excited for. Hopefully it’ll be good.

So that is it for this slightly lazy post!! Tell me any authors you want to complete the works of.

books vs. blurbs

Okay, you all know at this point that I like discussions, and today I’d like to talk about a situation I’ve noticed lately where books get called out by people who have not read them. I’ve written about this before.

BASIC RUNDOWN OF THE LENS I’M COMING AT THIS WITH. It’s comforting to think that most book callouts, or even a lot of them, are bullshit. Unfortunately, it’s also untrue. Almost all callouts, whether you agree with them or not, come from the reviewer’s place of genuine hurt. Even if you personally disagree with a callout, almost all callouts will be based in fact, containing evidence from the book itself. I personally am not a fan of deciding which books are trash and which books aren’t trash because I feel it’s used as a weapon against ownvoices readers, and I think it’s more productive to talk within communities about book issues rather than write callouts, but I also think most callouts are made with the intention of starting discussion.

There is… one exception. And it’s books that get called out without being negatively reviewed.

WHY WE SHOULD WAIT UNTIL PUB DATES

So, look, I am… definitely willing to discuss this. But I feel like we shouldn’t critique until we have read the book and critiqued it.

Why? Credibility.

It does not matter whether someone, personally, skips the book for its terrible blurb. God knows we all do that. Anyone who says you can’t skip a book because you just aren’t interested – and yes, those people exist – is hypocritical.

Here’s the part where this gets weird – when news about unconfirmed problematic elements gets spread, often before the book has been released. This will happen with books that everyone suddenly seems to know is problematic trash before it even has a single review on the page. And then the tag on twitter doesn’t have a single tweet about it that explains the drama.

Here’s the thing: there’s a difference between skipping a book for your own health and spreading false info about a book before release. It’s one thing to skip a book yourself. It’s something totally different to trash a book over social media because it’s “common knowledge” that the book is trash. Link reviews. Link. Reviews. Or write them well enough that they reach the top of the goodreads page. We need to use our influences, not spread rumors.

EXAMPLE TIME!!

  • How about Ramona Blue, which got called out for being a lesbian conversion story because of a terribly written blurb? I’ve now seen multiple positive reviews by both lesbian and bi reviewers. Yes, the idea of “turning straight” by kissing a guy has lesbophobic connotations, but having a bi crisis after initially IDing as a lesbian isn’t inherently lesbophobic.
    EDIT: Have seen reviews that seem to mention at least one incredibly homophobic thing that isn’t really discussed – a straight man kissing a self-identified lesbian without her consent and her immediately gaining attraction to him. I’m a little iffy on this one now, but I still think it’s important that our community gave it a chance.
  • How about All the Crooked Saints. There are issues with the Spanish used, apparently – here’s a good thread on possible issues by a really great blogger.
    The issue is that it took a really long time to find that thread because it’s basically just become common knowledge that the book is trash.
  • How about Before She Ignites, which got called out for being racist because it had a black girl on the cover. The author is white and Dhonielle Clayton’s The Belles deserved that honor. Do not disagree and yeah, the publishing industry is terrible. We know this. Jodi Meadows can’t change that – here are the author’s tweets on the subject.
    The real issue here is that no one seems to know what the actual problem is, and every one of the callouts in the tag have been deleted. Again, this author did have sensitivity readers, and again, it’s possible the book is gross. Yet we have absolutely no evidence to that end. There’s something about “calling out a book because it has a black person on the cover” that rubs me the wrong way.

There are books that can show problematic elements of the book their blurbs before anything else occurs. But it’s not productive if we’re just expecting everyone to believe a book is a problem without evidence.

And yeah, obviously no one is going to read a book they expect to hate, and that shouldn’t be a burden put on marginalized groups. But if you know nothing about a book, and no one else does either, don’t do it,

What’s the solution? I don’t have one and I don’t know if there is one. I only wanted to write about it so that people understand.

HERE’S THE THING: It’s fine if you want to skip a book because of gross content, and anyone who says otherwise possibly doesn’t know what they’re talking about. And of course, if someone does read a book and find problematic content, it’s absolutely important to talk about it. But calling it out before the book was in arc form because of a weird blurb or speculation… I don’t think it’s productive. My point is that the book may be trash, but we get a lot more credibility if we wait for hard evidence.

We can absolutely say “I’m worried about this” but if no one has read it, shouldn’t it be okay if other people who were already excited for it want to give it a chance?

mediocre but entertaining— There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins – 3 stars – already released

Somewhat entertaining, a few great ideas that go underdeveloped, not much dramatic tension. Or like, any. It’s, uh, basically a contemporary where people die and every fifteen percent it gets really messed up.

// GOOD THINGS

♔ Perkins has stepped up her game on avoiding tropes, surprisingly? Makani is definitely not the stereotypical virginal blonde protagonist – she’s biracial, for one, she sort of hates herself, and she’s definitely not a virgin. There’s a balanced tone towards sex and it doesn’t become either a huge thing or a non-entity. Surprisingly rare balance, damn it.

♚ Makani’s character arc around no longer hating herself is kind of a brilliant idea. Execution was mixed, but man, good concept and perfect for the tone of the book. I wish her character arc had gotten more pagetime.

♔ This seems to be an unpopular opinion, but the kill scenes were viscerally terrifying in a really good way. A couple didn’t end in a very terrifying way, but they usually succeeded at giving me a good scare.

♚ The love interest, Ollie, is definitely sufficiently cute. And the romance between him and Makani was super cute. I love 3rd person pov romances.

♔ Everyone’s saying the killer’s motive sucked, and okay, it wasn’t amazing, but it fit with the theme of the book. It’s fine. Wouldn’t kill the book if not for the other bads.

// BAD THINGS

♔ You know what makes thrillers unsettling? A really terrifying killer reveal. You know what this did not have? A really terrifying killer reveal.

It really lacks suspense. The first half being more romancey could actually work in the book’s favor, with a fabulous buildup where you come to care for every character with the knowledge that things are about to get crazy in the back of your mind. But the second half? No, you can’t focus on romance anymore.

Makani’s character arc feels messy. Okay, there are two directions you could’ve gone with here. Direction one could’ve been making it something really terrible and having Makani as an antihero, the far creepier and more entertaining option. Unfortunately, Makani’s secret is really not that bad. This could still work with Perkins’ route; direction two would be focusing on her hatred for herself and writing a good character arc. But that’s not the focus either. It just ends up as quite a drab and uninteresting arc.

The writing. Okay, you cannot write like this:

“Memories aren’t reliable, anyway.” Makani wished that she could forget. In the darkest hours of the night, her own memory was keen and cruel.

This is just… so overdramatic?? And it was isolated, but it came across.

Tone problem. Huuuuuuuuuge tone problem. This reads like a contemporary but then people are also DYING. And it feels as if it could work but it really does not.

VERDICT: A decent book that could’ve been a lot better if it weren’t trying to play it safe like this. Make it darker, make it creepier, make life more unfair.

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September Wrap-Up

This… was not the best month. School starting has really thrown me off. I read 15 things this month, including two graphic novels, one mixed media, and a novella. And not only was I fairly low on reading counts, I also read basically nothing I loved.

I’m stealing a fantastic idea from Romie @RomieWeDeserveLove – the 🏳️‍🌈 means lgbtq rep, ☀️ means major characters of color. Reviews are linked in each, as usual.

MIXED FEELINGS

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz | ★★★ ☀️

  • Oh god, what to say. My review for this is really long and really analytical. I think the issue here is that all the symbolism and meaning of the story is buried really, really deep, which works in a novella – but not in a 300-page book. I also have a ton of issues with the way it played with gender. And yet there was one section that made me tear up, so who knows.

Waiting on a Bright Moon by J.Y. Yang | ★★★ 🏳️‍🌈☀️

  • Due to my enjoyment of J.Y. Yang’s novella Tiger Baby in The New Voices of Fantasy last month, I decided to try this novella. And, well, I thought it was kinda pointless. It’s more speculative fiction than fantasy, and I just didn’t connect with any of the characters. Yang’s writing was still nice, but I essentially felt nothing else for this story of theirs.

We Won’t Feel a Thing by J.C. Lillis | ★★★

  • It’s not really a fault of the book in this case – it’s just that this was far less funny to me than her other romcom-ish books. Sense of humor is a very subjective thing, and the truth is, Lillis has always got mine with her funny dialogue. Her reliance on secondhand embarrassment? Not as much a fan. I still absolutely recommend this author’s other stuff, but this wasn’t quite as magical for me.

There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins | ★★★ ☀️

  • Perkins has definitely stepped up her game on avoiding / subverting tropes, and I loved the concept of Makani’s character arc, but I felt the execution of the killer reveal was super mediocre, some of the writing was kind of terrible, etc. It was interesting, though, and I enjoyed the read.

Lips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor | ★★★

  • I liked all three of the stories a decent amount, actually, but the not-like-other-girls trope of story one and the weird exoticism of story two made it so I ultimately don’t feel comfortable rating this higher.

GOOD, INTERESTING, RECOMMENDED

Blood Red Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick | ★★★.5

  • I haven’t reviewed this yet and I’m sad! Just as compelling as the rest of Sedgwick’s work, but the story from page 100 on was far less creative than some of his other stuff.

Warcross by Marie Lu | ★★★.5 ☀️

  • This was actually somewhat just-okay until the ending. The ending was FLAWLESS.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie | ★★★★

  • This book is so specifically mindblowing how can you make me suspect everyone and then end with me confused and suspecting no one?

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough | ★★★★

  • This is a hard book to decently review. It’s a prose novel, first of all. I think it’s nigh-impossible to review a prose novel well. And this is not just a prose novel; it is a book that gets its chief power out of emotionality and importance. This follows 17th-century painter Artemisia Gentileschi and analyzes rape culture in a gorgeous way.

NEW FAVES YOU NEED TO READ

Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta | ★★★★ 🏳️‍🌈☀️

  • The thing I keep coming back to about Echo after Echo is the sheer power of the writing. Almost everything about this book is awesome, but the writing is stunning. It is “I will remember this for the rest of my life” stunning. I genuinely do not remember the last time I read a book written so beautifully. But that’s not the only strength; I loved the characters, adored the romance, and lived for all the themes about theater. It’s a bit slow-burn, but I really enjoyed it.

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson | ★★★★

  • This book is a quiet masterpiece. I haven’t come out with a review yet, but rest assured it will gush.

Saga, volumes six and seven by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples |★★★★.5 🏳️‍🌈☀️

  • Continuations from last month. I really adore this series; I’m so glad I finally got  into it.

One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg | ★★★★.5 🏳️‍🌈

  • This graphic novel is deeply beautiful, and I don’t just mean the art. It’s about the power of writing and stories and agency and it is so. good.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare | ★★★★★

  • Listen, you all should know by now I’m Shakespeare trash, and I adore this show. I have a lot of complex thoughts detailed in my review, but they basically boil down to 1) this show is about agency and conflict between inner and outer selves and 2) you should genuinely root for Hamlet and deeply feel for him. Also, do not read this before you see it. Watch it first. I’d recommend against Branagh because I think he does terribly with this role, but Tennant is great.

My monthly average star rating is hovering around a 3.46, which is higher than my typical average. And yet I’m disapotined nonetheless. A lot of my threes might be closer to 2.5s in reality, and I read more mediocre books than anything else. An entire third

books i got in September

Hey guys, it’s time for another books-I-got-this-month post!!

Arcs I Received and Read

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough
releases Mar. 6, received Aug. 25

I picked this up because of Mackenzi Lee’s blurb and the concept, and I liked this a lot!! It’s a novel in verse about painter Artemisia Gentileschi and her struggle with being raped and manipulated.

There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins
releases Sep. 26, received Sep. 2

This is marketed as a YA version of Scream, but it’s seriously not. It’s a contemporary with death in it. I enjoyed this a fair amount; it just could’ve been better.

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart
releases Sep. 2, received Sep. 8th

I returned this to my bookstore and it promptly disappeared, which I assumed meant I would have to buy a copy. But guess what? They still had that arc.

This is a bit of polarizing one, but I adored this reverse order retelling of Mr. Ripley. The eerie tone, themes, and character development… it was all awesome.

Warcross by Marie Lu
releases Sep. 9, received Sep. 13

Okay, the cover IS a lot prettier in person. This is Marie Lu’s new book, obviously, and god do I adore her. I’m reading it as I write this post, will almost certainly finish by end of September.

Arcs I Got and Haven’t Read

Where I Live by Brenda Rufener
releases Feb. 25, received Aug. 25

This follows a girl who’s living in the walls of her high school, and I don’t know, that just sounds really interesting?? And there also seems to be an emphasis on abuse. So, yeah, I’m here for this.

The Tombs by Deborah Schaumberg
releases Feb. 20, received Aug. 25

I know practically nothing about this; it just seems suspenseful and interesting.

Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh
releases Jan. 23, received Aug. 29

This is fantasy about murder and girls kissing. Does that sound amazing?? Well, so does the first line, which is genuinely one of the best book opening lines ever. I ALMOST DROPPED THE BOOK. I am genuinely so excited to read this one, I can’t even wait.

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake
releases May 15, received Aug. 30

This follows a girl whose twin brother is accused of raping her best friend. It’s a really interesting premise and I’ve heard fabulous things about this author.

Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke
releases Sep 26, received Sep. 12

This is essentially a mlm soulmate au?? Idk, a few of my friends reviewed and loved it, so it got a request on Netgalley. And then mediocre reviews promptly started coming in. Booooooooo.

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
releases Jan. 30, received Sep. 13

I’ve just seen a ton of hype for this recently. It’s a creepy retelling of Alice and Wonderland, I believe, and the cover is GORGEOUS.

The Last to Let Go by Amber Smith
releases Feb. 6, received Sep. 13

This is about a woman who murders her abusive husband and honestly?? sounds amazing and iconic

Annie On My Mind by Nancy Gardner
released years ago, received Sep. 14

This is an iconic lesbian classic, apparently, and I know it’s one of the lovely Tasha’s favorite books. So when it showed up on Netgalley I requested it!!

The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook
releases Oct. 3, received Sep. 25

I tried to start this from netgalley, but for some reason they only sent me a computer copy and I hate the computer-only copies. I always read on kindle because my computer screen is just too small. I love my itty-bitty laptop because I’m proud that I bought it myself at age fourteen – an achievement!! – but I’m also annoyed by the lack of size occasionally.

So, anyway, I ended up getting it through edelweiss. Please be good. Please.

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
releases Oct. 3, received Sep. 25

This is a family drama which I wasn’t planning to read. But I have five goodreads friends, many of them trusted, who have read this. Every single one has given it a full five. Yeah, that’s worth sending a random request. I’m really excited to read this now.

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson
releases Oct. 3, received Sep. 25

I get all my good arcs through Keplers, as usual. This is going to be like We Are the Ants but with f/f. I think. I hope. Please.

Books I Bought and Read

Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor
bought Sep. 31

I wasn’t sure whether to read this after finding book one sort of disappointing, but I was interested to see how Okorafor would expand her world. I… didn’t like it any more. It wasn’t bad, just kind of mediocre.

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo
new release, bought Sep. 31

Of course I had to buy this. Do it for Leigh. I actually read one of the stories back in March, so I’m cheating, but I actually ended up rereading it!

Books I Bought and Haven’t Read

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
new release, bought Sep. 7

I love Adam Silvera. But I also feel like this book is going to rip my heart out of my chest. I’ll probably have started it by the end of the month.

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
backlist, bought Sep. 8

This is two of my friends’ favorite book. And I got to meet the author, so here we are with a signed copy!!

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexander Bracken
new release, bought Sep. 8

I got a copy of this because I saw some fantastic reviews, adored the spine, and got to meet Alex Bracken at the same event as I met Stone. Hopefully I’ll enjoy it!!

author meeting experiences!!

Hey guys! Today I’m bringing a post about all the authors I’ve met and how it was to meet them :’)

Leigh Bardugo – oh my god I was so awkward?? I was trying to make a joke about how non-tropey Leigh’s characters were but I’m pretty sure I accidentally called Kaz Brekker a stereotypical bad boy. I WAS TRYING TO SAY HE WAS A SUBVERSION OF THAT TROPE. I FAILED. This was also the signing where I read all of Crooked Kingdom in a single day. YUP.

M.G. Hennessy, author of The Other Boy, Brie Spangler, author of Beast, Kristin Elizabeth Clarke, author of Freakboy, and Tim Floreen, author of Tattoo Atlas – uhhhhh. Idk, I think I should mention that this was an lgbtq+ panel where 3/4 of the authors were straight. I don’t think that was appropriate. I especially think there were a few comments made by certain members of the panel that seemed really… uh… privileged?? Like, there’s just something about going to an lgbtq+ panel and hearing that the author’s life difficult because you’re being “stereotyped as a trans fiction author.” That’s just… tone deaf. I did like all the authors as people a fair amount – Brie Spangler was sort of quiet but funny and Tim Floreen talked really frankly about growing up without gay fiction, which was nice. But uh… as a panel, this should not have been all cisgender and heterosexual people.

Stephanie Garber – I don’t actually remember exactly what I said!! But she was there with Stacey Lee and she was. ugh. hilarious. Very into romance, which… unrelatable, but super funny. I’d love to have a drink with her. I’m aware that isn’t legal, thanks.

Parker Peevyhouse – She actually came to give a talk at my school about scifi, totally separate from her book, but I ADORE her debut Where Futures End. So yeah, I got it signed and talked to her. She’s awesome and a total sci-fi nerd.

Laini Taylor – I believe she was visiting with Jandy Nelson? Anyway, I read around 25% of an old free eBook of DoSaB before she came to see if I wanted to get it signed. And the answer was a firm yes. I actually got a copy of every one of her books except for Lips Touch, which was not carried by the store. And loved all of them. Of course.

Mackenzi Lee – She was so funny. I loved everything she said about diversity and about her love for Dan Stevens. I can’t remember what I said to her!! I think something about loving Monty and Percy and her book breaking my reading slump. I do remember there was a “we hate Richard” button which had famously run out at the previous signing, and my friend Candela managed to find the LAST. ONE.

Anna Marie McLemore – She was wearing a pink mermaid tale Mackenzi Lee had given her the whole time!! I loved her comments about being queer and latinx and how that influenced her experience. Also, she follows me on twitter now. And I love her. Ugh.

Adam Silvera – Ugh, so good. I told him how much I related to his first book, More Happy Than Not. He was really sweet about it and said he hoped I love They Both Die as well. I said I was sure I’d love the characters, if nothing else, because his character writing is so consistently perfect. He said he’s not quite feeling the character work on his next book yet and I said I was sure he’d get there because his character work was so consistently good and at that point I think he teared up a little bit?? I love him.

Sabaa Tahir – I actually don’t love Ember in the Ashes but I still got to tell her that I loved her twitter thread about the new covers and I loved the new covers way more than the original ones. Come on, fight me – the new covers are way better. She agreed, by the way 🙂 She’s also just hilarious in person.

Evelyn Skye – I’ve actually never read any of her books, and I didn’t realize she was another author for a few minutes – I thought we were both bloggers. But then I kept hearing the name Evelyn and made the connection in my head!! She was really nice.

Tamara Ireland Stone – I went to her signing to get two copies of Every Last Word signed for my friends, since it’s their favorite book. AND SHE WROTE REALLY LONG MESSAGES FOR THEM. In mine she wrote “I hope you cry” which was lovely.

Alexandra Bracken – I got to tell her that I loved the diversity in Passenger!! I haven’t gotten very far into it yet, but I think it might actually turn out an underrated fave.

Other Authors I’ve Gotten To Meet But Don’t Really Remember

  • I actually got all my books signed by V.E. Schwab!! But I was on vacation and didn’t get to meet her. Want to make this worse? She came to the place where I was vacationing THE. NEXT. DAY. But I’d just flown home. THAT. DAY.
  • Roxane Gay – didn’t get to meet her, but did get to hear her talk, and she was HILARIOUS.
  • Simon Curtis, author of Boy Robot, and Elizabeth Fama, author of Monstrous Beauty, both of whom came to Keplers to sign books.

This was a super random post, but idk, I get so excited about all the authors I’ve met sometimes.