Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag

Taking a quick break from writing to do the Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag. This is a thing that happens over on BookTube, but I’m going to add my contribution over here on my blog.

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2020: A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine — I’ve talked about this already, but this book is really well written, I really enjoyed the characters and the plot and the world. I highly recommend it for anyone who loves Ursula K. LeGuin, especially Left Hand of Darkness.
2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2020: The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst — I love the new character(s) introduced in this sequel. I was a little skeptical of the ending until I read book three. Now I can safely say this was the best sequel I’ve read so far this year.
3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to: Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim — This is a Count of Monte Cristo retelling, and that book was a surprise favorite when I read it a couple years ago, so I’m excited to see how I like this retelling.
4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year: Seven Devils by Laura Lam — This book sounds so awesome. I’ve never read anything by this author, but I am very excited for this book.
5. Biggest disappointment: Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston — I’d heard so many gushes and squees about this book before reading it. I liked it but didn’t love it. I think I was expecting too much.
6. Biggest surprise: The Last Emperox by John Scalzi — Not a surprise that I liked it, but tons of surprises in the story itself. There were definitely some bold twists in this book that I did not see coming.
7. Favorite new (or new to you) author: Ilona Andrews — I’m now caught up on their Innkeeper series, and I definitely want to try reading some other books by them.
8. Newest fictional crush: Jackson from Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai
9. Newest favorite character: Maud from the Sweep of the Blade by Ilona Andrews
10. Book that made you cry: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy — I cried when I watched the movie, and I cried again when I read the book, even though I knew what was coming.
11. Book that made you happy: Sweep of the Blade by Ilona Andrews — I love Maud and Arland!
12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received): Bone Crier’s Moon by Kathryn Purdie
13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year? Everything I’ve bought but haven’t read yet, specifically:

Let me know in the comments if any of these books are on your TBR, or what was your favorite of the books you’ve read so far in 2020?

June Wrap-Up and Reading Goals Update

Since the year is half over (what? how? and also… only half? seriously?), I thought it might be a good time to catch up on how I’m doing with my reading goals in addition to bringing you the usual Inbox / Outbox summary. This is going to be a long one. Ready? Here we go…

Outbox

Here’s what I read in June:

I managed to finish four books in June, even though I spent the first fifteen days of the month trying to get into a book that I was buddy reading with friends. After realizing I was staring at social media instead of reading, I gave up and decided to read something else. I may come back to it eventually, but I just wasn’t enjoying it.

To get my reading groove back, I picked up Never Judge a Lady By Her Cover, the last book in Sarah MacLean’s Rules of Scoundrels series. It’s been a while since I read book three, and even longer since I started reading this series. I thought this would be a sure thing to get me out of my reading funk. I have been really looking forward to this book ever since I began to suspect Chase’s secret back in book two or three. But, when a character has a secret that big, it’s hard to make a believable romantic arc work. As much as I loved the characters in this book, I did start to get annoyed that there didn’t seem to be a strong reason for the secret keeping. It was a small quibble. I still devoured this book, and I think it was a solid (if a bit “old-school romance”) ending to this series.

After that, I read The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole. I’ve been wanting to listen to this on audiobook since I first heard it announced, but I wasn’t about to go and get an Audible subscription just to listen. So, I waited patiently until it came out on ebook. Folks, I am here to say, it was worth the wait. This book had the perfect mix of plot and romance for me. In the SFF genre, this would be considered “hard” sci-fi (meaning plausibly science-based sci-fi). I just do not see very many (any?) romance books with a hard sci-fi setting and plot. So good. If you’re a sci-fi fan who wants to dip a toe into romance, start here.

Then I read Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett. I’ve never read any of the Stephanie Plum books, but I imagine that if you like books in that genre, you would also enjoy this book/series. I loved it and immediately downloaded book two in the series. This was such a fun read! If you like cozy mysteries that don’t feature cops as the main characters, definitely check out this book.

I also read The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark. This is one of the novellas that has been nominated for a Hugo award this year. I read his other Hugo nominated novella (The Black God’s Drums) last year, and it was my favorite of the bunch. I also really enjoyed this novella, which is set in an alternate history version of Cairo that is populated with magical creatures and futuristic technology. So cool. The world-building and characters are fantastic. Another one I highly recommend reading.

Inbox

I already mentioned three of these books in my June TBR update (Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden, Stormsong by C. L. Polk, and The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole). The other three were books I bought after reading Hollywood Homicide and remembering that there were a bunch more “light and fluffy” ebooks by Black authors on my wishlist that I’ve been meaning to buy.

I had some gift card money left over from my birthday, so I grabbed Mating the Huntress by Talia Hibbert (I haven’t read anything by her, but I’ve been following her on Twitter for a while, and I think she’s great, so I thought this would be as good a place as any to start), Rafe: A Buff Male Nanny by Rebekah Weatherspoon (the subtitle says it all, plus I’ve heard so many folks have raving about this book, unfortunately my library hasn’t bought a copy yet, so I decided to just buy it already), and In Tune by J.N. Welsh (I added this to my wishlist after an interview with her on Smart Podcast Trashy Books because one of the main characters is an EDM artist and the author was talking about all this research on EDM for the book, and I listen to quite a bit of EDM, especially while writing, so I really want to read this).

Mid-Year Goals Update

I had to go look up my reading goals for 2020. I had a vague recollection that there were four of them? But I didn’t remember what they were. Turns out that there were five. I’d conveniently forgotten about goal #4. Probably because I hate goal #4.

Here’s my brief update on how I’m doing toward achieving my reading goals this year:

  1. Read at least 52 books. (or book-like things). — So far this year I have read 35 books, which is 67% of this goal. I’m ahead of schedule, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to increase my goal. I have a LOT of writing that I’ve been procrastinating on that needs to get done in the next few months, and that is going to cut into my reading time. So the goal is staying at 52 books total.
  2. Finish at least 5 series that I’ve already started. — I have finished 4 series so far this year (Queens of Renthia, The Interdependency, Monsters of Verity, and Rules of Scoundrels). Only one of these was on my list of series I’d planned on finishing this year, but I’m very close to checking this one off, so I’m not going to worry about that small detail. 🙂
  3. Read all purchased books within six months of purchase. — Hahahaha. I currently have 5 books that are “overdue” for reading according to this goal. One of them is the third book in a series where I still need to read book two, but I have no excuse for the rest. This goal needs a little more focus in the second half of 2020. But I still think it’s totally manageable. Unlike the next goal…
  4. Read at least one owned book for every book I purchase. — Why do I create goals that are annoyingly difficult to track? This took me way too long to figure out, but I’ve purchased 6 books this year (I’m not counting gifts or books purchased with gift card money), and I’ve read 2 books that I purchased prior to 2019 (the ones I bought in 2019 are covered under goal #3). So, I am 4 books behind on this goal. But the thing is, if I prioritize goal #3 (which I think is a better goal for me than this one), then the likelihood that I’ll achieve this goal is slim. There are just too many new books I want to read, and I’m able to get almost all of them from the library. So, I don’t have much incentive to read pre-2019 backlist stuff, and I’m not sure I care. Ugh. I’m going to keep tracking this, but someone please stop me from making this goal next year.
  5. Read more books by marginalized authors (measured by % of total books read). — My targets and actuals are as follows:
    • At least 33% books by “non-white” authors. Currently: 23% (8 books)
    • At least 15% books by queer authors. Currently: 17% (6 books)
    • At least 10% books by indie authors. Currently: 17% (6 books)
    • At least 50% of books written by female-identifying authors. Currently: 73% (29 books)

So that’s where things stand for me going into the second half of 2020. I plan to continue to focus on reading more books by authors of color (especially Black authors), and I plan to catch up on the books I bought this year and last year.

How are you doing on your reading goals for 2020 (if you have reading goals)? Let me know in the comments. I’m curious. 🙂 And, until next time, have a great 4th of July weekend! Stay safe and wear a mask! ❤

TBR Update for June

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump this month, and I was really looking forward to the Hogsmeade Magical Readathon next week. But, JRK has been out there spouting hateful stuff on the internet (again), so we’re not going to Hogsmeade. Which is a bummer, but basic human rights are more important than Hogwarts. Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Gender is not binary, and Black Lives Matter.

I may not be participating in the readathon, but I am still planning to read as many of the books by Black authors that I put on that TBR as possible. I also decided to go ahead and start a few days ahead of schedule. And, I expanded my list. In addition to what I had already, I added every unread book written by a Black author that is currently on my shelf or on my Kindle. Plus, I got a few new books.

There’s been a push this week to buy books by Black authors. So, I decided it was time to break my “no buying new books” rule. I purchased a few that have been on my wishlist for a while: Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden (after Prey of Gods, I’m here for the weirdness, and this promises to deliver with a spacer society that travels in ships that are giant space beasts), Stormsong by C. L. Polk (after enjoying Witchmark, I am looking forward to reading the second book in the Kingston Cycle series), and The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole (it’s the new Alyssa Cole, need I say more?).

I also got my Hugo Award packet, so I added The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark and The Deep by by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes. And, I got an ARC of The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna! I don’t usually like reading ARCs because I prefer to read the finished book, but I think I am going to make an exception in this case.

Are you ready for the full list of all the beautiful books by Black authors on my Kindle or my bookshelf? Feast your eyes on these covers:

Oh, and I also have the ebook box set Seed to Harvest by Octavia E. Butler and the ebook box set of the Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin on my Kindle. That’s two full series from two powerhouses of SFF! My reading slump going to be crushed.

Let me know in the comments what book by a Black author you are reading this week. Or if you need a recommendation, feel free to comment with what genre / age category of book you’re interested in, and I’ll reply with a suggestion.

Happy reading!

Reading books by Black authors for the Hogsmeade Mini Magical Readathon (#HogsmeadeReads2020)

Book Roast has organized another mini Magical Readathon, and it’s happening in June! This is a one week (22-28 June) readathon with reading prompts based on the shops in Hogsmeade (the town near Hogwarts in Harry Potter). You can find a link to the map of Hogsmeade that G made with all the reading prompts and everything else you need to know in this video on Book Roast.

I know this is Pride month, but Pride wouldn’t have happened without Black women. So, for this readathon, I decided to create a TBR of books written only by Black authors. The point of this is to normalize Black stories by Black authors. There are books written by Black authors that fit every single one of these prompts. Multiple books. Reading a book by a Black author doesn’t have to be the one book you read to fill the “read a book by a POC author” prompt in a readathon. If you don’t believe me, check out this Twitter thread list of almost 200 (or more?) books by Black authors for more inspiration. I guarantee you’ll find something amazing to read.

Because there are so many options, I decided to try to stick with books that were already on my TBR. I started there because I’m trying not to buy more books right now. But there were two prompts where I didn’t have books that fit: horror/thriller and steampunk. I don’t usually read those genres. So, I did a bit of searching and reminded myself of two books I’d seen before but never officially added to my TBR. Luckily, both were available to borrow at the library, and my readathon TBR was complete.

Below, I’ve listed each of the reading prompts from G’s Hogsmeade map along with a book from my TBR that is written by a Black author and fits the prompt.

Ten books in one week is a LOT of reading for me. I tried to pick books that were shorter, or that I think might be faster reads, but still think it’s going to be a challenge to read all these in one week.

Total page count for this TBR is 2866 pages. That means I’d have to read about 410 pages per day on average to read all these books in one week. I highly doubt that’s going to happen. But, as I said, (almost) all these books were already on my TBR. So, I plan to keep reading until I finish this stack of books, even if it takes me longer than this one week readathon.

Are you participating in the Hogsmeade Magical Readathon? If so, did you make a TBR? What are you reading? Let me know in the comments, or link me to your blog post or video so I can check it out.

May 2020: Reading Wrap Up

It’s a new day, and Black Lives Still Matter. All of them. And, as you’re about to find out, I didn’t read any books by Black authors in May. One third of the books I read in May had own voices queer representation, but none were written by authors of color.

So far only 16% of the books I’ve read this year have been written by authors of color. My goal for 2020 was to hit at least 33% with a stretch goal of 50%. I’d love to hit 40%, because that would be more or less in line with the percent of non-white people in the United States according to current census estimates. So, it’s time to focus a little harder on improving that stat. But more on that in my TBR post.

Let’s talk about what I read in May, shall we?

Outbox

First up was The Queen of Sorrow by Sarah Beth Durst. This was the last book in the Queens of Renthia series (but she’s writing other books set in this world). I wish this series got more attention. It’s really good fantasy with great characters and world-building. One of the main characters in the series (she gets introduced in book two) is a mom with two kids who are pretty well fleshed out characters (not plot moppets), and the conflict between her role as a mother and as a queen is really well explored. In fact, there are at least five different female characters of different ages and with different values and strengths who are all wielding different types of power throughout this series. Sometimes they are on the same side, sometimes they are in conflict. But this series is definitely about the women, and it does not shy away from showing the brutal parts of living in a world where the elemental spirits are trying to kill you. I highly recommend checking out this series. I think it’s an excellent YA/adult cross-over fantasy series.

After finishing that, I did a little Innkeeper Chronicles binge and read books three (One Fell Sweep) and four (Sweep of the Blade), plus the recently published novella (Sweep With Me) over the course of one weekend. I still love this series. I really REALLY hope that there is more. I love the concept. I love the characters. I love the sci-fantasy world-building. I love the light touch with the romance elements (it’s more romantic fantasy than fantasy romance). I think book four (Sweep of the Blade) is my favorite so far because I really like the vampire culture, and I love Maud and her daughter. I want more books set in that vampire world. It’s such a good and unique take on vampires. I can not say enough good stuff about these books. Just go read them already!

Next up, I read A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine. I really liked this book a lot, too. It reminds me of the Hainish Cycle books by Ursula K. LeGuin crossed with something like Planetside by Michael Mammay. The pop culture elements built into the world building is so good. I love it when world building is so well thought out that it includes things like how a poetry slam might be used for political maneuvering. Or considers which novels and other stories might spread and disperse throughout a far-reaching empire, and which would be of interest to people who have recently been assimilated and are maybe not huge fans of the empire, but maybe appreciate the pop culture. I also think the author did a great job describing what it feels like to have studied a culture and a language to the point where you are passably fluent, but how you still can feel like an outsider who will never be a true part of that culture once you finally get a chance to visit and spend time there. I seriously though this was going to win the Nebula. Now I need to go read the novel that did win (A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker), because if it beat this book and Gideon the Ninth, it has to be good.

Then I took a short break from reading novels to read the first of the five books that make up the novel Wool by Hugh Howey. The first book was originally published as a stand-alone novella. The novella made me slightly more interested in reading the full book, but I found out that the main character shifts after this first book to follow someone else’s story. That makes sense given how the novella ends, but it also makes me slightly less inclined to bump Wool to the top of my TBR. I feel like, if I’m going to be switching perspectives anyway, there’s no big rush.

And finally, I read Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. I know everyone loves this book, so this is going to probably be an unpopular opinion, and I hesitate to even write this, but this was my least favorite of all the books I read this month. It was good. I liked it. I just didn’t love it as much as everyone else I know did. I blame this on the current political environment and not on the book. I really struggled with immersing myself in this world with its female president. It kept reminding me what we should have had and making me sad. Overall, this book just wasn’t a good fit for me right now, but I’m really glad everyone else seems to have loved it. Maybe if I’d read it before the trash fire that is 2020, I would have liked it more.

And on that super positive note… Ugh. Seems like a bummer to leave it there. I should really be jumping in to talk about what I’m currently reading, or my TBR for June, or something. But this post is super long already, and I need to go write some Modern Fae words so that I can get book four in that series out sometime this year. You’ll have to wait until this weekend to hear about my Hogsmeade Mini Magical Readathon TBR. Until then, stay safe and wash your hands. ❤

May 2020: Book Haul

Hello, friends! Before I get into this post, I’d like to be clear about something that should be obvious to anyone who has been reading my blog for a while. For the record, I believe Black Lives Matter. Make an effort to read books by Black authors. Listen to what Black authors say about the books meant to represent them and to what they say about the publishing industry.

If you haven’t been reading any books by Black authors, or you’ve only read books by Black authors that were about characters dealing with racism (The Hate You Give is considered required reading around these parts, but please don’t stop there), check my Twitter for some recommendations and stay tuned for an upcoming post with my all Black author Hogsmeade Magical Readathon TBR.

That said, let’s move on to our second bit of housekeeping. I’ve decided to split my usual monthly reading wrap-up into two (maybe three?) posts this month. My May book haul was just too much, and it was making my May reading wrap up post too long. So today you’re getting the “inbox” portion of the post and tomorrow you’ll get the “outbox” portion. Then the “currently reading” and TBR stuff will follow.

Are you ready for an epic book haul? Good. Let’s dive in.

Library Haul

This was a particularly large library haul month. I stocked up on some middle and end of series books that I’ve been meaning to read: Hurts to Love You (Forbidden Hearts), Sweep With Me (Innkeeper Chronicles), In a Badger Way (Honey Badger Chronicles), My Lord and Spymaster (Spymasters), Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover (The Rules of Scoundrels), Eclipse the Skies (Ignite the Stars), Engaging the Enemy and Victory Conditions and Command Decision (Vatta’s War), Come Tumbling Down (Wayward Children).

Then there are a few new-to-me series that I’ve been meaning to check out: the Poison Study series by (Poison Study, Magic Study, and Fire Study are the first three books) and the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. I was only able to get Mistborn this time, but I’ve got the other books in the series reserved to get in my next book haul.

I got Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase after reading this Twitter thread by a romance author I follow. It’s technically book two in the series, and I’ve never read anything by this author, but that thread really sold this book for me.

Catfishing on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer, Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin, The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White, and Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi are all new(er) releases that have been getting a lot of buzz. I’ve had these on hold for a while, and I’m excited to check them out.

Then I grabbed a copy of It’s Not All Downhill From Here by Terry McMillan after listening to an interview with her on the Code Switch podcast. And when I saw that Susanna Clarke has a new book coming out, I also noticed that she had a short story anthology that I’d missed. So, I grabbed a copy of The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories as well.

I think that’s it from the library. Hopefully I didn’t miss any from the cover snapshot above. If you think that’s a lot of ebooks for one haul when I only have twenty one days to read them, don’t worry. My Kindle is on airplane mode while I work through this batch. That also means, there probably won’t be another big book haul for a few months.

Birthday Haul

May was my birthday month. It was a pretty mellow “stay-at-home” birthday, but it was made extra special by Zoom chats with friends and family and a delicious dinner made by my husband. Plus a steady diet of homemade pie and cake and cookies consumed throughout the month. Yum! 🙂

In addition to good eats, I got three ebooks I’ve been looking forward to reading and can’t get from my library. Thanks, Mom! ❤

The first is Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim, which is a gender swapped retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo. You may remember that I listened to the audiobook of The Count of Monte Cristo (~50 hours of audiobook!) and unexpectedly loved it. When I saw this retelling, I knew I had to check it out.

I also got Strange Love by Ann Aguirre. I first heard about this on the Smart Bitches Trashy Books blog. I’m always on the lookout for sci-fi romance with great world-building, and I like that the aliens in this one are actually alien and not humans with green skin or something. If you also like sci-fi romance, I recommend checking out the SBTB review for more detail on this book (hint: they gave it an A!).

And finally, I got Dangerous Alliance by Jennieke Cohen. This one is billed as The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue meets Jane Austen in the Goodreads blurb. I first heard about it on Alexa Donne’s YouTube channel. She raved about it (and blurbed it), so I added it to my wishlist, but I haven’t heard any buzz about it since then. If you’ve read it or heard anything about it, let me know in the comments.

Other Stuff

Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton was the Tor.com free book in May. I’ve been meaning to read something by Jo Walton, and I’ve heard this is a really good dragon book. So, I grabbed a copy for my Kindle.

I also grabbed a free copy of book one of Wool by Hugh Howey to read for Short Story Club (organized by my critique partners and friends Amit, Scott, and James). The discussion with Hugh was great, and I’m really looking forward to this month’s discussion of “The Bookstore at the End of America” with Charlie Jane Anders. If you want to join, you can get tickets here (cost is an optional donation to Dog Eared Books in SF).

Then, I used some birthday money to buy a copy of my friend Karysa Faire’s first book, Take Two. It looks awesome, and I can’t wait to read it.

And, finally, I received my pandemic-delayed Fairy Loot box with a beautiful copy of Bone Crier’s Moon. This book wasn’t on my radar, but now that it’s in my hands, I’m very excited to read it.

Phew. I warned you. So many new (to me) books! I’m excited to get reading. What from this haul is really jumping out at you? Is there one of these books that you really want me to read and review? Let me know in the comments and maybe I’ll bump it up to the top of my TBR list.

Stay tuned to hear about what I read in May. Until then, be safe and wash your hands. ❤