My TBR for the #TomeTopple Readathon

Round ten of Tome Topple starts on 7 February (officially begins at 00:00 in your timezone), and it’s time for me to decide which tomes I want to topple this time around. As I mentioned in my post on series I want to finish this year, I have several books I’ve been saving just for this event. Unfortunately, I doubt I’m going to get through all of them before 11:59pm on 20 February.

I started by narrowing my list of eligible books and coming up with the following options.

I’d originally planned to finish the Throne of Glass series during the first Tome Topple of 2020. That would mean reading Empire of Storms (704 pages), Tower of Dawn (668 pages), and Kingdom of Ash (984 pages!). I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, but… I have a lot of writing and editing to do in February, and, in addition to these being fantasy novels, there’s a Fae aspect to this series. Since the projects I’m currently working on are in my Modern Fae series, I think I’m going to have to save the remaining Throne of Glass books for a future Tome Topple.

That leaves me with option two: reading Poseidon’s Wake (609 pages) and Our Dark Duet (533 pages). I like this option because and neither of these books are likely to interfere with what I’m writing (one is sci-fi, the other is fantasy but with monsters). Also, I can get Our Dark Duet on audiobook from my library (even though I already have the ebook on my Kindle). Listening to it on audiobook, and/or being able to switch back and forth between ebook and audio, will help me to maximize my reading time. Being able to listen to one of my books on audiobook will also help me check off more squares on this round’s bingo card.

The bingo card is new this round, and I love it. Each book you read can only be used to check off two squares (max) on the bingo card. The yellow circles around “read 1 tome” and “tome from a series” can be checked off by reading either book on my TBR. I get to check off the box with the pinkish circle around “adult tome” if I read Poseidon’s Wake. And, I can check off the box with the blue circle around “tome audiobook” if I listen to Our Dark Duet, on audiobook. If I read both books, that will mean I get to check off 4 categories in total, which will just barely qualify me for “Scholar” status.

I’m not sure if I should also be trying for an actual bingo, or not. If I wanted to try for a bingo, I’d need to also read one of the following: the “tome that has been on my TBR longest” (that’s The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss), or “the tome on my TBR with the most pages” (that’s Reamde by Neal Stephenson), or a “tome for Black History Month” (the only one on my TBR that’s over 500 pages is Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi). If I finish Poseidon’s Wake and Our Dark Duet, maybe I’ll do a Twitter poll asking folks to vote on which one of these three I should read. If you have thoughts on which one I should prioritize, let me know in the comments.

Are you participating in Tome Topple this round? What’s on your Tome Topple TBR?

January 2020: Reading Wrap Up

Wow! The first month of the year flew by so fast, I can hardly believe it’s already February! Ready for a recap of what I read (“Outbox”), what I bought/borrowed (“Inbox”), and what I’m currently reading? Cool. Let’s talk about books!

Outbox

First accomplishment of the New Year: I finished all the books I needed to read to complete all my prompts for the Winter Magical Readathon! Hooray!

I started the year with The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst. This is the second book in a trilogy, and I loved the first book. This one started off so good. I mean, I was LOVING this book… until the end. Because of the brutality of the first book’s ending, I was expecting an equally brutal end to this book. I mean, the story was building to it from the opening chapter. It had to happen. And then… something else happened. I don’t know how to discuss this without being spoilery, so if you want to know more, hit me up in the comments, and I’ll answer any spoiler questions there. I’m now very curious how this is going to get resolved in the final book. Luckily, I already have it on my Kindle.

Rather than diving right into book three in the Queens of Renthia series, I decided to continue with my Winter Magical Readathon prompts. I was more than ready to dive into The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas, and I plowed through it in a couple of days. Seriously, people. If you like Sherlock Holmes and you’re not reading this series, you are missing out. It’s so good! I will say that I highly recommend you have some pastries or delicious cookies and tea on hand while you read this.

And, the last book I read for the Winter Magical Readathon was The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai. This turned out to be exactly what I’d expected in the very best way. The heroine is the CEO of a dating app startup. The hero is an ex-football player with a passion for getting assistance for players with medical issues caused by concussions. They’re brought together by his very eccentric aunt. It’s sexy and heartwarming and romantic. Chapter eighteen is a playbook to my heart. If you are looking to dip your toe into contemporary romance (or if you already know you like it), definitely check out this book.

After that, I read Aurora Blazing by Jessie Mihalik so that I could talk about it with my “Camp Book Club” friends in our virtual book club this weekend. I liked this second book better than the first, mostly because both the hero and the heroine were extremely competent spies who have a history of pining for each other and a decent enough reason to be kept apart. Although, I will say that I called the secret that the hero is keeping back when he made his first appearance at the end of book one. Still, I’m really enjoying this sci-fi romance series and looking forward to the next book.

Inbox

Aside from borrowing The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai from the library, I bought two books this month. Well, technically, I bought the subscription box that they came in, but I bought the boxes because they come with books, so…

Two more boxes from Fairy Loot arrived this month! First up, in my December box (which arrived at the start of January due to holiday shipping delays), I got Eight Will Fall by Sarah Harian. I hadn’t heard of this book, but after reading the blurb and the letter and the interview with the author, I’m pretty excited to read it.

In my January Fairy Loot box, I got Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez. I know the author of this one from the Pitch Wars community on Twitter, but I’d completely forgotten that her debut novel was coming out this year. I was very pleasantly surprised and excited that this turned out to be the Fairy Loot pick for January! I can’t wait to check it out.

Currently Reading

I am currently reading Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. The thing is, necromancers aren’t really something I’m super into, and I am really loving this book. I think it’s because the world-building is just weird enough, and completely unexplained enough, that I’m turning pages just trying to figure out what’s going on. Plus the characters are excellent, and the plot is basically a locked room mystery (which is a trope I love). If you have this on your TBR but you haven’t read it yet, pick it up. Believe the hype. It’s really good.

Beyond that, I’m working on my TBR for round ten of Tome Topple (starting on 7 February at 00:00 in your timezone). So, stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on that, once I’ve decided on what I plan to read.

Until then, have an excellent and extra special Groundhog’s Day! (It’s 02.02.2020!) Cheers to an early spring!

Happy Book Birthday to Will of the Fae!

Book three in my Modern Fae series is out today!

Wondering if this is a book you might like? Well, it’s a snowed-in, contemporary fantasy, with a f/f romance, set in Alaska, with humans learning magic, three factions of supernatural creatures vying for control of magic, and a complete “happily ever after” even though the plot of the series continues for at least two more books.

Want to know more? Awesome! Here’s the full cover copy:

Families are complicated. Magic can’t fix everything. And sometimes love has the worst timing.

Arabella, commander of the Faerie Queen’s Guard, Sworn to protect the Fae against all threats, would do anything for her cousins. Anything, including agreeing to give birth to a Faeling who might someday inherit the throne, even though there’s a war brewing against the demon clans and it’s her responsibility to protect the Fae.

After months of isolation, wintering over as caretaker for her family’s lodge in the Alaskan wilderness, Willow is ready to return to civilization. Just as the snows start to melt and the new caretaker is due to arrive, a string of strange occurrences and a best friend in trouble might cause her to change her plans.

When Arabella ends up on the wrong end of some Elemental blood magic and finds herself powerless and knee deep in snow, Willow discovers the Fae commander lurking in the shed at River Pines Lodge. To get home, Arabella must hide her magic, swallow her pride and ask a human for help. A human who reeks of magic but who appears completely unaware of her powers. Snowed-in and depending on each other for survival, it’s only a matter of time before secrets are revealed and hearts start to melt.

If you’re interested in checking out book three but worried about starting in the middle of the series, the first two novels and two novellas are all available for half price through the end of January. You can also request them on ebook through your local library! My recommended reading order for the series is as follows:

Eve of the Fae (Book 1)
Vivian’s Promise (Prequel Novella)
Eve the Immortal
(Book 1.5)
Dawn of the Fae
(Book 2)
Will of the Fae (Book 3)

Still need more convincing? You can read the first chapter for free over on my website. Or, you can check out this cool LGBTQ book fair and read the first three chapters when you sign up for my monthly newsletter.

Happy reading!

Series to Finish in 2020

It’s been snowing here on Orcas Island for the past few days, and I’ve been enjoying some excellent quality reading time. Now that I’m almost done with the books I wanted to finish reading for the Winter Magical Readathon, I’ve started thinking about the series I’d like to finish this year.

I mentioned in my 2020 reading goals post that I want to finish at least 5 series that I’ve started but not yet finished. I’m focusing on series that are now complete. So, most of these are older series. Some were hugely popular. Some I initially loved and then bailed on for whatever reason. Now I want to revisit them and see how the rest of the stories play out.

I started to make a Goodreads shelf to track them, but I’m not even sure I’ve got everything, yet. It turns out that there were more than I’d thought. So many that I had trouble narrowing it down to just 10 that I want to finish, but I did it. Below are the top 10 series that I’d most like to finish reading in 2020.

  • Fire and Thorns Series by Rae Carson — I read the first book in this series shortly after it came out and enjoyed it. Then I never read the rest of the series. I think there are more books in this series coming out now, so I’d like to at least finish the original trilogy and see if I want to keep going.
  • Poseidon’s Children Series by Alastair Reynolds — I read the first two books in this trilogy, and loved them. Then I never read the final book. I bought this last one on ebook when it came out, but I still haven’t read it. So, this is one I definitely want to finish this year. I think this will be a good one for a Tome Topple readathon.
  • Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples — I really love this comic series. I own the bind-ups through volume 7, but I’ve only read the first 2. It’s possible that this series isn’t done yet, but I’m going to at least catch up to wherever the most recent volume released is by the end of 2020.
  • The Amberlough Dossier Series by Lara Elena Donnelly — I read the first book in this series, and I own the other two books. The problem is that I have them all in paperback, and I keep forgetting about them. I’d really like to remember to finish this series this year.
  • Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas — This used to be my favorite series. I devoured the first four books. Then I started souring on SJM’s writing style. At this point, I’ve pretty much completely forgotten what’s happened, and the series is done. So, I’m going to have to go back and refresh my memory with some recaps. Then I think it’s time for me to finally finish this series, for better or worse.
  • Brothers Sinister Series by Courtney Milan — I’ve been taking my time reading these because I love them so much. I have the rest of the series on ebook now, so I could read through them all. The only problem with finishing them is that I’ll need to find a new series for pulling me out of reading slumps.
  • Monsters of Verity by Victoria Schwab — I’ve been dragging my feet about reading book two in this duology because I’ve heard it’s not as good as the first book. The problem is that I bought this on ebook when it first came out, so I’m determined to read it. My plan is to save it for a Tome Topple and then read it and see how I like it.
  • Kingmaker Chronicles by Amanda Bouchet — I didn’t love the first book in this series, but I wanted to give book two a try, so I bought it when it was on sale. Then I bought book three when it was on sale. Now I’m committed to finishing this series. I liked the world-building and was curious to see what happens with the plot. I just didn’t like the characters or the relationship between them. Here’s hoping they grow on me as the series progresses.
  • The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante — It’s been a while since I read the first two books in this series. I have two more to read, and I really want to finish them. They just keep getting bumped off my TBR. Not this year. This year they’re getting read.
  • The Folk of the Air by Holly Black — Out of all the series on this list, the last two books in this series are possibly the two books I’m most looking forward to reading. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the first series I end up finishing this year.

Given the fact that there are several series in that list that I’m not super excited to read, you may be asking yourself why in the world I’m bothering to put these on my TBR and make a goal out of finishing them. To that I say: I don’t have to read all of them. I only said I’d finish five. As for the rest, well… I like to finish things. I find it really hard to DNF books, and almost as hard to DNF a series once I’ve started it.

If I pick up reading the Kingmaker Chronicles, or the Throne of Glass Series, or even the Fire and Thorns series and just do not like the next book, I may bail on reading the rest. But, I only have one book left to read in Poseidon’s Children and Monsters of Verity. So, I’m going to finish those, even if I’m not loving the book.

Let me know what you think in the comments. Do you feel compelled to finish every series you start? What series have you given up on? Or which one do you really want to finish reading this year?

2020 Reading Goals

Now that I’ve pretty much reviewed all aspects of my 2019 reading life, it’s time to focus on the year ahead. I decided a couple of things while reflecting on 2019. The first was that I am tracking my reading in way too many places. I know. I say this every year. Or at least, I definitely said it last year, and then went and did pretty much the exact same thing I’d been doing. I am making a few changes this year, and I’ll talk about that at the end of this post.

The other thing I decided was that I’m taking a year off from reading challenges. I’m not saying I’ll never do one again, but I am saying that I realized I like readathons with reading prompts WAY better than reading challenges. It’s a lot easier for me to put personal constraints on readathon prompts (ex: it has to be a book that’s already on my Kindle or bookshelf). This is probably because the entire point of reading challenges is to get you reading things that you probably don’t already have on your TBR.

What I will miss from not doing reading challenges is that extra push to read outside my comfort zone. Instead, I’m just going to have to push myself. To that end, one of my goals includes some reading metrics that I want to keep an eye on throughout the year (plan is to check in quarterly) to make sure I’m continuing to read books written by people with different perspectives than mine.

Given all that, these are the reading goals I decided on for 2020:

  1. Read at least 52 books (or book-like things). — This is my staple “Goodreads Challenge” goal. If it counts as a book on Goodreads, it counts as a book for this goal. Even after reading more than 80 books in 2019, I’m still keeping my goal at a book a week on average.
  2. Finish at least 5 series that I’ve already started. — A lot of the series that I’ve started over the past several years are now complete, but I haven’t had a chance to sit down and finish reading them, even though I own the books. So, this is where I’m going to focus my “bust my TBR” energy in 2020. I’ll do a post soon on which series I am considering completing for this goal.
  3. Read all purchased books within six months of purchase. — I’m changing my focus from trying to control the number of books on my Kindle (impossible) to reading what I buy instead of hoarding books. So, every time I buy a book (starting with my 2019 purchases), it goes on a list in my Google sheet (and I make a note of it in my bullet journal). I decided on six months as a time horizon because if I’m going to wait that long to read a book, I may as well have just reserved it from the library.
  4. Read at least one owned book for every book I purchase. — I’m probably going to regret this goal because it’s going to be really hard to track. I made space for a list in my 2020 Reading spread in my bullet journal, but I think I’m going to move this to a column in my reading spreadsheet, instead. Anything purchased prior to 2019 counts for this goal, because if I bought it in 2019 it should already be covered by goal #3.
  5. Read more books by marginalized authors (measured by % of total books read). — This is always a goal for me, but this year I’m quantifying it. In the past I’ve relied on reading challenges as a crutch to help with this, but even with nearly completing the 2019 Read Harder challenge, my stats for % of books read by marginalized authors were down last year. This year, I’m just going to focus on the numbers instead. My targets are as follows:
    • At least 33% books by “non-white” authors with a stretch goal of 50%.
    • At least 15% books by queer authors with a stretch goal of 33%.
    • At least 10% books by indie authors with a stretch goal of 25%.
    • At least 50% of books written by female-identifying authors.

So let’s talk about tracking. I’m going to make a few subtle changes this year and see if that helps. For starters, I’m not going to use my bullet journal to keep lists of what I read. My BuJo is my planner and my journal all wrapped up into one neat package. It’s not a spreadsheet, so I’m not going to use it like one.

I have this one spread to track new books I want to read, remind me of my reading goals, and list books I’ve purchased so that I can have to reference this info or make notes when I’m not at my computer. In my daily logs, I plan to note when I start or finish a book and maybe journal a bit about what I loved or write down a quote I particularly liked. But that’s it. This way, I can reference my daily logs for start/end dates when I update my spreadsheet.

My Google spreadsheet is going to be how I keep track of what I’ve read, and Goodreads is going to be primarily used to keep track of what I want to read. I’ve already invested a lot of time making Goodreads shelves for books I have on my Kindle, books that are on hold at the library, books I’ve borrowed from the library, and books I own in paperback or hardcover. In the past I’ve tried to keep track of my TBR in my Google sheet as well as on Goodreads, but it always ends in frustration. So, the only TBR I’m going to track in my Google sheet is my list of book purchases with purchase date and (calculated) read by date.

In case you can’t tell, I’m trying to keep things as simple and low maintenance as possible this year. If I thought I could accomplish what I want to accomplish without keeping track of what I read, I might try it. But even though reading fuels me and makes me happy, I’m aware that it’s also food for the creative compost heap in my brain. If I’m not reading, it makes it so much harder for me to write. Similarly, if I’m not reaching for things outside my comfort zone, I’m just consuming empty calories. So, I like to put a little structure around what I’m reading.

Maybe one of these years I’ll do a “no reading goals” reading goal. The idea of that completely freaks me out, so I probably should try it at some point.

Do you make reading goals? If so, are you doing anything new and different this year? Have you mastered the art of tracking what you’re reading and what you want to read? Let me know in the comments. (Really. I’m not kidding. You can talk to me. I read the comments.)

Top Five Surprise Favorite Reads of 2019

I was going to make this my top five favorite reads of 2019, but as I looked through my five star reads from 2019, trying to narrow them down to a top five, I noticed a few things. One is that I need a new rating system. The generic star rating system sucks at helping me decide on which were actually favorites.

So, I started thinking about which books stuck with me the most. Which were the ones I was still thinking about and recommending to others? That’s when I started to realize that the books I’d given five stars to fell almost neatly into two stacks: five star books that I expected to be five stars, and five star books that I had not expected to love as much as I did.

Since the previous post was about disappointing reads, I thought it made sense to make this one about the opposite. These are the books that I didn’t think I was going to love, but ended up raving about to anyone who will listen.

  1. Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews — By far the most surprising hit of 2019. I was expecting a book about magic, witches, vampires, and werewolves with a romance. What I got was that with a sci-fi twist and some staggeringly creative world-building. I can’t wait to catch up on the rest of this series.
  2. The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst — A common complaint about YA fantasy is that authors pull punches so there are wars and somehow no one dies or even gets badly injured. The world in this book is dangerous. The heroine isn’t the best, she’s merely the most determined, and there’s a real reason for that title. Beloved characters die. More than just a few. It’s brutal, and I loved it. That may be why I’m starting this year by reading book two in this series.
  3. Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente — I’ve talked about this book a lot. I did not expect to like it because it was being compared to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which I didn’t like. I know. But where the Hitchhiker’s humor didn’t really work for me, the humor in this book was calibrated perfectly to my taste. The audiobook narration made it even better. Surprise hit!
  4. Dryland by Sara Jaffe — Books that feature swimmers or swimming as a sport are very hit or miss for me. I was not expecting this one to be a hit, but it was. It may have been the added bonus of being “historical fiction” that takes place in Portland in the 1990s. It could also be the unique structure and narrative voice. I liked this way more than I thought I would.
  5. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern — I kept my expectations really low for this one, which may contribute to the “surprise hit” factor. But, I wasn’t expecting the story within a story structure of this book, and it really worked for me.

So, what are the books you read in 2019 and raved about? Let me know in the comments if you have one that you think I should check out based on this list.

Most disappointing reads of 2019

All right. Let’s get this post out of the way. I hate talking about things I didn’t like because writing books is hard work. Publishing books is hard work. Truly bad books are just not that common. Problematic books are much more common, but that’s a different topic. Every year I argue with myself over whether or not to do this post. But, after looking through the books that received the lowest ratings on my spreadsheet, I decided to put this out there because the books that made my list really had very little to do with the quality of the writing and everything to do with my expectations going in.

Before I get into my list, I wanted to mention (in light of the ongoing drama with RWA which is in itself a hugely disappointing read after all the progress I thought we were making and further erodes my faith in humanity), my most disappointing reads of 2019 were all books I read as a judge for the RITA awards. They were all traditionally published books, and at least five of the seven contained at least one, if not more than one, problematic element that had me cringe reading and made me have to rethink how far the romance genre has actually come in recent years. Then again, I may have way too optimistic a view on how far we’ve come due to the fact that almost all the romance books I read are written by authors of color and/or queer authors.

With that said, let’s focus on books that were objectively fine books, just ones that I found disappointing. This is a truer representation of “disappointing reads” for me because I chose to read these books, they weren’t assigned to me.

  1. Vengeful by V. E. Schwab — My most disappointing read of 2019 because of how much I loved Vicious (still my favorite book by V. E. Schwab) and how much I was looking forward to reading this sequel. I didn’t even rate it that low. It was good. It just wasn’t the book I wanted. As I wrote in my recap, I would have preferred it if the book focused on the newly introduced (mostly female) E.O.s and if Victor and Eli were just side characters.
  2. Mercenary Instinct by Ruby Lionsdrake — I really wanted to like this one, but… nope. I’ve been searching for a sci-fi romance to love and a sci-fi romance author to follow to the ends of time, but this was not it. As I wrote in my recap post, all the men were constantly threatening to rape the women (because mercenaries, I guess?), and the plot was a convoluted mess. Still looking for a great sci-fi romance if you want to recommend one.
  3. Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole — My second most disappointing read because I LOVE her Reluctant Royals series which is contemporary fiction and this is sci-fi, which is much more in line with what I usually read. But I think this would have been better if it had been written as a YA book. Instead, we’re supposed to believe the main characters are adults when they keep behaving like teens. That disconnect really took me out of the story. If they’d all been aged down to high school students, this book probably wouldn’t have made it onto this list.
  4. I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells — I’m a huge fan of the podcast Writing Excuses and have grown to really like the author of this book through his work on that podcast. This was the first book I’d read by him, and I anticipated great things. While I enjoyed the paranormal and thriller aspects of this book, this one had the opposite problem from Radio Silence. The main character in this book is supposed to be a teen but read like an adult. Some of that might have to do with the fact he is supposed to be a sociopath, but still, his narrative voice (it’s written in first person) made it hard for me to get immersed in the story.
  5. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander, J.K. Rowling — All right, so this one had less to do with my expectations and more to do with the content. We’ve cancelled JKR, right? I mean, I have a warm place in my heart for the original Harry Potter series, and I always will, while still acknowledging it as a problematic fave. But the stuff that’s been published outside of the original series seems to just double down on all the issues, if not create new ones. Many of the descriptions of creatures and even the clarification of what made one a “beast” just didn’t sit right with me. I cringed while listening to this on audiobook, repeatedly. Ugh.

I always feel dirty after writing posts where I talk about things I didn’t like. Do people even enjoy reading this sort of thing? Is it worth doing it? I just don’t know. If you have thoughts on this, let me know in the comments. Meanwhile, I’m going to go write my “favorite books read in 2019” post so I can enjoy raving about things I loved.

January 2020 Bullet Journal Set-Up

And now a break from the reading summaries, stats, and updates to share my bullet journal spreads for 2020. Unlike most, I don’t bother starting a new notebook at the start of a new year. If I still have pages left in my current notebook, I just keep going.

Before diving into my 2020 spreads, I used almost ten pages planning my 2020 writing schedule and goals which I’m not showing here. In general, I laid out a future log for the entire year, four months to a page, divided horizontally so I had space for mini calendars on the left and notes on the right in each box. Then I used pencil (not normal for me) to start putting in rough plans for what writing project(s) I wanted to be working on each month.

In addition to that, I came up with two major writing goals for the year. One is a revenue goal and the other is to “build my backlist.” After that, I made sure my Q1 goals and projects tied to my 2020, and that’s it. All that’s left is to set up some sort of Kanban board to track my tasks associated with those project and make sure it all gets done. With that more or less set up, I moved on to my reading goals for 2020.

I’m keeping it pretty simple with this two page spread. On the left side, I can keep track of new books that I want to put on hold at the library (or add to my wishlist). There’s an 8×8 box for each month, and I’m writing the release date and title in each box for the books I’m excited about. On the right side, I’ve listed my reading goals for the year (which I’m going to talk about more in a separate post). Then I’m using the bottom half of the page as a tracker for the books I’ve purchased to make sure I’m buying and reading books rather than buying and hoarding them.

Next up is my month at a glance. I like the traditional line-a-day view for this. I’m putting my regular life events on the left side and my writing business stuff on the right side. I also have a little habit tracker on the left side for the four habits I’m tracking in January (vitamin, meditation, cardio, and stretching).

The right hand side also has a mini habit tracker because I have a goal of writing 1000 words every day in January. They can be in any of the three Modern Fae projects I’m currently working on, but blog posts and outlining and brainstorming don’t count. It has to be part of a story scene, even if I eventually end up cutting it from the finished product. Ultimately, I want to see if I can keep this up all year, but I’m going to take it one month at a time so I don’t get overwhelmed by my ambition.

On the next page, I have a big blank page for capturing what I read that month and any favorites from my “culture consumed” (like podcasts, music, movies, tv shows, etc.). I’m not sure exactly what this will end up looking like, but I’m intending to try to make it a bit of a collage. I’m thinking of printing out mini book covers to paste in, or maybe doodling the covers of the books I’ve read. I’ll probably add ticket stubs from movies, if I go to any. I’m leaving plenty of space to be creative and have a bit of fun.

I’m also trying something new this month. I’ve never done a mood tracker before. I thought it might be helpful to be able to visually compare my mood to my movement, so I came up with the idea for this chart.

The days of the month are across the bottom. Number of steps are on the vertical axis alongside a very basic mood scale from “no good very bad day” to “everything is awesome” with “meh” in the middle. I’m using some symbols to track what kind of movement I’m doing for my daily cardio (for me this means at least 30 minutes of continuous movement). I’m really curious to see how this turns out.

One of the reasons I wanted to try a mood tracker this month is because I’m not great at being mindful about how I’m feeling. I’m hoping this will force me to stop and think about it at least once a day. I suspect I’ll feel better on days I move more, but who knows. Maybe I won’t. It will be interesting to find out.

The final new thing I’m trying this month is this reference page just before I start my daily pages where I can do some meal planning and write down admin tasks that need to get done but that I don’t want to add to my daily log for whatever reason.

I have these little post it flags that happen to be almost exactly 3×10 squares. So, I made a week and then started writing some of our regular meals on the flags. This way I can move them around and re-use them throughout the month. The lime colored ones will be crockpot recipes and the blue ones will be for everything else. That way if I know I need a crockpot recipe on a certain day (because I won’t be home until late, for example), I can see at a glance that I’ve got myself covered. I’m hoping this will also help me stay on top of groceries for the week.

And that’s it. That’s my set up for January. I don’t like using weekly spreads. I keep trying them and then hating them for a variety of reasons. I like the flexibility and the focus of daily logs. So, that’s what I’m sticking with for January. I definitely lean more towards the traditional bullet journal method rather than the “instagram friendly” bullet journaling that gets featured a lot on YouTube and elsewhere. But, if you like this sort of thing, let me know in the comments, and maybe I’ll do more posts like this.

Reading List: Powell's Books staff's best books of 2019

It’s up! Powell’s just posted their Staff Top 5 Picks of 2019! Since it has become an annual tradition of mine to crunch the numbers* on the staff picks, I couldn’t resist doing it again this year. (Click any of these to see previous years’ posts: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015.)

The results are in. Below is the consensus top ten list of the books most mentioned in individual lists. Presented in order of most to least total points, the top ten highest rated books of 2019 according to the staff at Powell’s Books (in Portland, Oregon) are:

(Links below take you to Powell’s, because that seemed appropriate.)

  1. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (memoir)
  2. Lanny by Max Porter (lit fic)
  3. Cosmoknights by Hannah Templer (sci-fi graphic novel)
  4. Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson (fantasy)
  5. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (lit fic)
  6. Mother Winter by Sophia Shalmiyev (memoir)
  7. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki (contemporary fiction graphic novel)
  8. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo (non-fiction)
  9. The Topeka School by Ben Lerner (lit fic)
  10. Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden (memoir)

The thing that surprised me most about this year’s list is that Sorcery of Thorns landed on it, and ended up in the #4 spot. I’ve been hearing a lot of mixed reviews about this one from BookTubers and elsewhere online. Now I’m even more curious to read this for myself. It is the only one on this list that was already on my TBR.

Least surprising were the number of memoirs on the list. I’ve come to expect interesting memoirs to be top picks from the staff at Powell’s. But, after last year, I’ve really started trusting their taste in memoirs. Some of my favorite non-fiction books I read in 2019 were memoirs recommended by Powell’s staff.

If you want to add these books to your TBR, I’ve added them to a Goodreads shelf called PowellsBestof2019. If you do add any to your TBR, let me know in the comments which you plan to read. Alternatively, if you have already read any of these, let me know what you think/recommend in the comments.

* In case you’re interested, here’s how I came up with the total points… I did some good old “copying and pasting” of all the lists into a spreadsheet. Then I assigned points to each mention of each book based on where it appeared in each list (5 points for first place, 4 points for second place, etc.). Then I made a pivot table and sorted the results by total number of points in descending order. There was an obvious cut-off after the first ten books. So I capped the list at ten books.

Disclaimer: I don’t work at Powell’s Bookstore. I have no financial affiliation to Powell’s Bookstore. I get no money from doing this post. I only do this because I have a tendency to like the books their staff recommends and because I like top five lists and crunching numbers. Enjoy! 🙂

December 2019: Reading Wrap Up

Happy New Year, everyone! It’s time for me to do all of those fun end of year wrap up blog posts, starting with what I read in December, what books I hauled in to read, and what I plan to read first in January. Ready? Let’s do this!

Outbox

Let’s start with what I finished for the Winter Magical Readathon. If you’ve been following along with my blog posts, you are probably already familiar with the books I selected for the various reading prompts. I’m all read up through Chapter 4. The ones that have stuck with me the most are The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern and Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh.

I was really worried that I was going to be disappointed by The Starless Sea, but I think I liked it even more than I liked The Night Circus. It seems to be getting mixed reviews from folks, but I loved the story within a story structure of the book. I love her descriptions. A lot of times descriptions can bore me or take me out of a story, but hers always have a way of making me feel even more immersed in the story. The world-building was unique, and I loved the characters.

Saga vol. 2 reminded me how much I love that series and need to finish it. There There ended up being a page turner while still being a very literary novel and a great read (of course it was, given where it ranked on the Powell’s staff top five lists last year). The only two I was disappointed with were Fantastic Beasts and Jean Grey vol 1. I’m curious to watch the Fantastic Beasts movies now that I’ve read the book and realized that it’s basically an encyclopedia of creatures and there isn’t much of a story. I probably won’t be continuing with the Jean Grey series.

Besides my reading for the Winter Magical Readathon prompts, I did finish two other books: The Barefoot Bandit by Bob Friel and A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole. The later is the last book in her Reluctant Royals series, and it’s just as good as all the others in the series. I think book two (A Duke by Default) is still my favorite, but this one is a close second.

I read The Barefoot Bandit for the “read a book of nonviolent true crime” task in the Read Harder Challenge. I chose that book for this task because a good portion of the story takes place on the island where I live, and the author also lives on this island. It was a very entertaining read, and I definitely recommend checking it out if the description sounds interesting to you.

In the end, I didn’t finish all the Read Harder Challenge tasks before the end of the year. But… I think I got closer than I ever have before. I finished 21 of the 24 tasks. This challenge (like the readathons I participated in) definitely helped me read through some of the books I’ve been meaning to read for a while. Still, I don’t think I’m going to attempt it again in 2020.

Inbox

Most of my book haul this month are ebooks that I got off hold from the library, but I did buy one book, A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine. I really like political space operas, and it sounds like this is going to be a good one.

I’ve been comparing bookish subscription boxes for months, mostly via unboxing videos on YouTube. I’ve been trying to decide on one that will have just the right mix of usable bookish swag with a book that I’m actually interested in reading. Based on the videos I’ve watched of previous boxes, I decided to go with Fairy Loot. My first month’s box came with a mix of really cool stuff and stuff I’m not likely to use. But, I had a pretty good idea what the book was going to be, and I was right. It was A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy, and it’s one that I wanted to read anyway, so I’m glad I got it. Depending on what this month’s box contains, I may not continue with this experiment, but I wanted to give it a try as a holiday present to my self.

As for actual presents, my mom bought me a bunch of books off my wishlist. I got Spaceside by Michael Mammay, The Alehouse at the End of the World by Stevan Allred, The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas, and The Warrior Moon by K. Arsenault Rivera.

Currently Reading

Since I’m still not done with the Winter Magical Readathon prompts, the first order of business for January is to read the last three books I planned to read for that readathon: The Reluctant Queen, The Art of Theft, and The Right Swipe. Luckily, they all fit really well with my reading goals for 2020. More on that in a future blog post.

While I work on that post, tell me what is going to be the first book you’re reading in 2020? Let me know in the comments.