Stack ranking Hugo best novel finalists

I’ve finished* reading the Hugo finalists for Best Novel. Now it’s time to decide how they compare with each other and figure out which one I liked best.

These novels were so very hard to stack rank. They’re all so different and so good. It’s like trying to pick a favorite type of berry. All berries are awesome. Don’t make me pick a favorite. I want all of them.

But, alas, one of these novels will be selected to win the Hugo later today. So, before the awards are announced, I’m going to think it through and figure out which one I’d pick.

My current ranking:

  1. Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
  2. The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
  3. Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee
  4. Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
  5. Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
  6. Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

Here’s my rational for why I ranked these the way I did:

First off, let’s talk about Space Opera vs. Record of a Spaceborn Few. One I ranked at the top of the list, and one I ranked at the bottom. Both of these novels introduce a lot of alien culture world building. From that angle, these are two of the most similar of the bunch, and therefore maybe the easiest to compare. The first main difference between them was that Space Opera focused more on the weird aliens while Spaceborn Few focused more on the evolution of humanity after humans killed their planet and fled to space. In both cases, humanity is somewhere near the bottom of the ranks of the multitude of galactic sentient species. Both books also definitely have a message to convey (more so than the other books on this list), about living in harmony with each other and with those not like us. While I enjoyed both of these, I devoured Space Opera  while I merely slogged my way through Record of a Spaceborn Few. I think this is because Space Opera had a unifying plot while Spaceborn Few did not. Also, I liked the humor/voice in Space Opera better. So, I ranked Space Opera above Spaceborn Few, but why did it get ranked first on this list?

Let me first say that I’ll be shocked if The Calculating Stars doesn’t win the Hugo this year. That said, why did I rank Space Opera above The Calculating Stars? This may come down to me being a bit ornery. See, The Calculating Stars is a crowd pleaser of a book (which is why I think it will win). The main character is delightful. She has a loving relationship with her husband. She’s fighting the good fight to get women (of all races) into space. It’s a pretty straight-forward, science based, research heavy, hard sci-fi story where you can root for the underdog. It’s great. I loved it.

Now, when you look at that compared to Space Opera, you realize that Space Opera is downright weird. Just look at the Goodreads reviews. They’re incredibly polarizing. People love it or they DNFed it out of frustration. But somehow, comparing this to The Calculating Stars, this is the book that I’m still thinking about weeks and weeks after reading it. This is the one I want to own so I can re-read it. Meanwhile, despite having the second book in the Lady Astronaut series on my Kindle, I haven’t been super motivated to start reading it. So, as much as I enjoyed The Calculating Stars, I have to rank Space Opera higher on my list.

That leaves me with three more (also great) novels that I need to decide where to place: Trail of Lightning, Spinning Silver, and Revenant Gun. These are all set in really unique worlds with excellent world-building and compelling characters. They’re also all very different novels. But, because they all had plots in addition to well crafted characters and worlds, I immediately liked them all more than I liked Record of a Spaceborn Few. Sorry. Please don’t think I’m dragging Record of a Spaceborn Few. I really liked it. I just also really like plot and, as good as it was, that book didn’t have one. Does that make it “literary sci-fi?” Maybe? But that’s not what the Hugos are about, so I’ll leave that discussion to the literary experts. I’m just here to explore which ones I liked best and why.

I also didn’t love any of these three books more than I enjoyed Space Opera and The Calculating Stars. That’s how they all ended up in the middle of my list. But, trying to decide how to stack rank them against each other was a much more difficult task. To determine a final ranking, I decided to rate them on how much I liked them based on the three pillars of storytelling: character, world-building, and plot. Plus a bonus (tie-breaker?) fourth component: structure.

Trail of Lightning shines in the world-building department. It’s a very unique take on dystopian that relies on a lot of Native American legends. Plus, it’s #ownvoices. So, that’s awesome. The plot and characters were good enough to make this a page turner, but I didn’t love it enough to want to continue with the series. The main reason this one is getting bumped higher than the other two is because there was nothing annoying about the structure. (See, I warned you that structure was going to be a tie breaker).

The world-building in Spinning Silver is equally as good, and rooted in the Jewish culture of (I think) Eastern Europe. I really enjoyed the three female lead characters in this book. The males were well-written but universally awful until a couple of them managed to (satisfyingly) redeem themselves at the end of the book. There were a lot of characters to manage in this story, but they were all unique, well-rounded, and ended up with solid character arcs, which is saying something given the number of point of view characters.

Even though I liked the characters in Spinning Silver more than in Trail of Lightning, I had to take some points off for plot and structure. I loved the first third and the last third of Spinning Silver. The middle third is where this book fell down a bit for me. That had a little bit to do with the plot (sagging middle syndrome) and a little bit to do with the structure (too many point of view characters). It’s almost as though the first third had one plot (turn silver into gold) and two primary point of view characters (Miryem and Wanda), while the last third had an entirely different plot (destroy the demon and the Staryk King), that’s not really even hinted at in the first half of the book, and traded one primary point of view character for several others. Once the first plot was resolved, the book sort of floundered for me (around the part where two of the characters are hiding in a creepy “witches” cottage) until the next part of the story kicked in.

* So, that leaves Revenant Gun. In the spirit of transparency, I’m going to note that I’m just over halfway through this book. I’ll update this post when I’ve finished reading, if my opinions have changed.

Revenant Gun is the third book in the Machineries of Empire series, which makes it even more difficult to rate it against the others which are either first in their series or stand-alone books. If you picked up this book without reading Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem first, you’d probably be completely lost. Hell, when most people (myself included) pick up Ninefox Gambit (the first book in the series), they are completely lost. I LOVED Ninefox Gambit after I finally gave up trying to understand all the new world-building terminology and just let myself enjoy the story and figure it out as it went along. This is one of those series where you have to really suspend your need for info-dumps (since I hate info-dumps, I love this style of writing). Some stuff just doesn’t get explained and that’s totally fine.

I really love the world-building in this series. It believably incorporates food and fashion and politics and pastimes and prejudices and pop culture into a far-future, space-faring world. It’s not at all “realistic” in the hard-sci-fi sense of the term. Not like Spaceborn Few or Calculating Stars. And yet, the world is rule-based and logical, birthed from the mind of a mathematician. Plus the characters are great. I love all of them. They all feel very unique and have colorful personalities. They may not have traditional character arcs, necessarily, but that’s in line with this sort of military/adventure sci-fi sub-genre. The plot has plenty of satisfying twists and turns and shocking (but inevitable) reveals. Even though this final book in the series did a little weird “nine years ago” interspersed with “present day” thing with the structure, it was necessary to the story and only slightly confusing. Less confusing than Spinning Silver got, at times with all that POV switching.

As much as I enjoyed this series, how do you rank the last book in the series against a field of books that are first books or stand-alones? I was sorely tempted to just not rank it at all (especially because I’m not 100% done reading it, yet). But it’s a good series, and (so far, at least), I like this last book more than I liked Spinning Silver or Trail of Lightning. So, I decided to rank this book third, behind my two faves. It’s highly unlikely that Revenant Gun will take home the Hugo, but I have my fingers crossed that maybe Machineries of Empire will win the completed series award.

Now I’m going to get myself a bowl of popcorn and tune into the Hugo livestream. I am really excited to see if I’m right about which novel will win this category and to see who else will take home a Hugo this year. Best of luck to all the finalists. They are all amazing authors, and I really enjoyed reading all these books.

Let me know in the comments if you read any of these books and which one you think will win.

July 2019: Reading Wrap Up

Summer is officially winding down. I’ve been reading like crazy and also getting lots of writing done, but I still didn’t hit all my reading (or writing) goals in July. I’m not that bothered about it, because I’ve been really enjoying my summer.

Before I jump into my July reading recap, I wanted to mention that I decided to change up the format a bit. I’m going back to an “Inbox/Outbox” style summary. I’m also going to continue to provide status on my Read Harder challenge, but I’ve dropped all my Kindle backlog reading tracking. I’ve decided that it’s just not that important to me anymore.

Part of the reason for dropping my backlog tracking is that I’ve accomplished what I set out to accomplish in terms of changing my book buying habits (and shifting more to library usage). I am still keeping a list of the new books I’ve purchased this year, and I still intend to make every effort to read all of them before the year is over. But, I’m letting myself off the hook on reading through my virtual TBR, at least for the rest of this year. Maybe I’ll take another stab at it next year, but (as I’ve said before) I want to read based on interest rather guilt. If I never read all the cheap ebooks I’ve been hoarding on my Kindle, it won’t be the end of the world.

Now that you’re up to speed, let’s get into the recap, shall we?

Outbox: What I read in July

I met my goal of reading all the Hugo finalists for best novella. You can read more about my thoughts on those in my previous blog post. I’m not going to rehash them again here. The ones I read this month were (in order of read/finished) The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard, Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson, Artificial Condition by Martha Wells, and The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark.

Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to finish reading all the finalists for best novel. I came close, though. Rather than including my thoughts on Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers, which I read in July, I’m going to hold off until I’m done with the rest. When I finish, I’ll post my stack ranking and recap of the Hugo finalists for best novel. The awards are on the 18th of August, so it would be nice if I manage to get that wrapped up and posted before the then, but I’m not making any promises.

That leaves Thick As Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner. This was the first book I finished in July, and the timing would have been perfect if the release date for book six in this series hadn’t been moved out to 2020. Luckily, this book didn’t really end on a cliff hanger. I enjoyed getting the perspective of a character who is from the enemy empire, and I enjoyed the return of a previous point of view character. My only gripe was that I wish the author would have made the relationship between those two characters clear. Every time I thought there might be romantic tension, it was diffused in a way that felt a little like “queer baiting.” I’m really hoping that’s not the case, but I guess I’ll have to wait and see what happens in book six.

 

Inbox: What I bought/borrowed

I only bought one book this month, Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells. Technically, I pre-ordered this book. So I “bought” it months ago, but the release date was 7/30. That’s why I’m counting it as a book purchased in this month. I made an exception to my book buying rule because I know the author (we were at Madcap together), and I was a beta reader of an early version of this book. So, I’m really excited for her, and I can’t wait to see how the story has changed since I last read it. I think this is the only traditionally published book that I’ve beta read and where I knew the author before she had a book deal. Obviously, I wanted to support her, even though I probably won’t get around to reading it for a few months.

 

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completed this month:

  • Task #3: A book by a woman and/or AOC that won a literary award in 2018 (Artificial Condition)
  • Task #6: A book by an AOC set in or about space (The Tea Master and the Detective)

Total tasks completed: 14

Total tasks remaining: 10

And that’s a wrap on July! Now it’s time to get started on my N.E.W.T.s reading. I’ve started a post over on Twitter where you can follow along with what I’m reading. If you want to help me decide what to read first, let me know in the comments which of the four books below you think I should start with (The Queen of Blood, The Gilded Wolves, You’d Be Mine, or Our Dark Duet).

Book covers for The Queen of Blood, The Gilded Wolves, You'd Be Mine, and Our Dark Duet

Until next time, happy reading!

Reading List for the N. E. W. T.s Magical Readathon (#NEWTsReadathon2019)

I love these Harry Potter themed Readathons! You may remember that I did the O.W.L.s Magical Readathon back in April and the Christmas at Hogwarts one back in December. Well, now in August it’s time for N.E.W.T.s!

These are all hosted by Book Roast. You can check out her YouTube channel here, and the video that describes what the heck I’m talking about with this N.E.W.T.s thing is here.

I only managed to complete three O.W.L.s back in April, and I chose not to focus on a particular career. But, I finally checked the career manual and discovered to my delight that the three O.W.L.s I completed will qualify me for a career as a journalist or writer so long as I pass my required N.E.W.T.s. Seriously, this is so perfect, I can’t believe I didn’t plan it!

The O.W.L.s I completed in April were:

  • Charms
  • Muggle Studies
  • History of Magic

I need to complete the following N. E. W. T.s with at the specified achievement level in August in order to be qualified for my career as a writer or journalist:

  • “E” in History of Magic
  • “A” in Muggle Studies
  • “A” in subject of my choice (I’m sticking with Charms)

Using the prompts sheet, that means I need to complete (at least) the following tasks in August:

  • Read a fantasy (to get my “A” in History of Magic) <– Our Dark Duet
  • Read a book that includes a map (to get my “E” in History of Magic) <– The Queen of Blood
  • Cover that includes an actual photo element (to receive my “A” in Muggle Studies) <– You’d Be Mine
  • Read a book that you think has a gorgeous cover (to receive my “A” in Charms) <– The Gilded Wolves

Since I’m an over-achiever (or maybe just an over-committer), I might as well shoot for the “O” level in my three subjects. Right? Right. If I do that, it will add the following tasks to my readathon goal:

  • Tom Riddle’s Diary: fond memory – reread a favorite or read a classic (to get my “O” in History of Magic) <– The Rowan
  • Book set in our real world (to get my “E” in Muggle Studies) <– A Prince on Paper
  • Book written by a person of color (to get my “O” in Muggle Studies) <– Radio Silence
  • Read a comic, graphic novel, manga, or book under 150 pages (to get my “E” in Charms) <– Sailor Moon
  • Spongify: softening charm – read a paperback (to get my “O” in Charms) <– The Last Unicorn

Instead of a progress report blog post (like I did for the O. W. L.s), this time I think I’ll probably start a thread on Twitter to update progress along the way. So, make sure you’re following me over there if you want progress updates, or if you’re also participating in this challenge.

If you are participating in this Magical Readathon, let me know in the comments. And, if you are, what career are you working toward? Send me a link to your TBR.

Stack ranking Hugo best novella finalists

Last night I finished reading the Hugo finalists for Best Novella. Now it’s time to stack rank them. I figured I’d blog my thoughts and see where that gets me.

My current ranking:

  1. The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark
  2. The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard
  3. Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
  4. Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson
  5. Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor
  6. Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

Let me start by saying this is all me trying to rate these books relative to each other. I really enjoyed them all. There’s not a “bad” book in the bunch, as you might expect from a batch of Hugo finalists.

That said, I definitely enjoyed some more than others. For example, I really enjoyed the Binti series. The Night Masquerade was the final novella in the trilogy, but it was the one that I liked the least, unfortunately. I also think the Every Heart a Doorway series by Seanan McGuire is awesome. But, Beneath the Sugar Sky was my least favorite of the three that have been released so far. So, that’s how those two novellas ended up in the bottom two slots. They’re both still really good. I just liked the others better.

Along the lines of follow-up novellas in a series, Artificial Condition is the second novella in the Murderbot series. I loved All Systems Red, the first book in that series, but didn’t really feel the need to continue with the series after it was over. The first novella ends with a satisfying conclusion, even if it leaves things open for more adventures. But, I wasn’t convinced that I needed more. So, I didn’t expect much from Artificial Condition.  I expected more of the same — a character I loved going on a new adventure. That’s pretty much what I got, but it was still a joy returning to that world and the “voice” of Murderbot. So, I stuck this one in the middle slot. It edged out the next novella on a technicality which I will discuss next.

For the first two thirds or three quarters of Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, I was fairly certain that this one was going to be in the top three. I liked the structure of the novella and the characters. There was a clear story arc and character development along the way. The author did a great job of depicting a complicated new world in a relatively short story. But, the ending didn’t work for me. I don’t think it stuck the landing. So freaking close, though. If I thought about this more and applied the “Writing Excuses” concept of how elements of the MICE quotient were introduced and then closed out, I’d probably be able to pinpoint the exact bit that didn’t work for me, but I haven’t taken the time to do that yet. I have too many more books to read. I suspect if I did that I’d find that the closing of the parenthesis got out of order at some point. That, and something about the antagonist character (Fabian) that didn’t work for me. Now that I’ve said all that, I think I may have to flip this with #5 on my list above and boost The Night Masquerade up to #4.

That leaves the two novellas I put at the top of my list. I read The Tea Master and the Detective before I read The Black God’s Drums, so there may be a little bit of recency bias in my ranking. While I thought The Tea Master and the Detective was a solid novella and a creative re-telling of the classic Sherlock Holmes detective stories, The Black God’s Drums was an equally solid novella in terms of storytelling mechanics, but took me to a completely new world I’d never seen before. I’m always going to give extra points to imagination and world-building. Ultimately, the thing that made The Tea Master and the Detective endearing and enjoyable (the fact that it was a Sherlock Holmes re-telling, and I love Sherlock Holmes and have since I was a kid), was the thing that held it back from taking the top slot.

I’m going to sit with this for a while and think about it some more, but those are my initial thoughts. As of right now, The Black God’s Drums wins in this category for me.

What do you think? Have you read any of these? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

What’s on my July TBR

I started to create a second half of 2019 TBR, but as I worked on the post, I realized that it is insane and way too ambitious. So, I’m throwing out that plan, and I’m going to take it month by month instead.

This is what I’m planning to read in July:

This month, most of what I plan to read are Hugo finalist novels and novellas.

I still have four of the novellas to read. Two of them (The Tea Master and the Detective and Artificial Condition) were already on my TBR. The other two (The Black God’s Drums and Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach) also sound great, and I’m excited to read them as well. Novellas are fun and usually fast reads. So I think I can get through these pretty quickly. Then, it’s on to the novels…

All three of the remaining finalists for best adult novel (Revenant Gun, Record of a Spaceborn Few, and Spinning Silver) were already on my TBR. The only reason I hadn’t read them yet was because I was waiting for library holds (or the Hugo packet, whichever arrived first). Of course, I also need to read book two in the Machineries of Empire series (Raven Stratagem) before I can read Revenant Gun. But, now I have my holds and my Hugo packet, and I own both Raven Stratagem and Revenant Gun in paperback. So, I have no more excuses. Time to get reading. 🙂

Besides all this Hugo reading, I’m still trying to stay on track with the 2019 Read Harder Challenge this month. Luckily, there’s some overlap between my Hugo reading and a few of the challenge tasks. Both Raven Stratagem and Revenant Gun will satisfy Task #6 (Read a book by an author of color set in or about space) and/or Task #18 (Read a novel by a trans or nonbinary author). Plus, Dread Nation, which is a finalist for best young adult novel, will satisfy Task #2 (Read an alternate history novel). So, I may get to check off three tasks this month.

Finally, if I have time, I’d like to read book one in Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy (Assassin’s Apprentice). I was planning to read this with my friend and her son this month, but I think he’s already way ahead of us. I also moved book one in Alyssa Cole’s near-future dystopian romance series (Radio Silence) up in the “to-read” stack. Plus, the cover of You’d Be Mine is calling to me. I think it might make for a fun book to read while enjoying the sunshine this month.

This is still a very ambitious TBR for July. We’ll see how I do, and how much rolls over into August. Did I mention that I’m also working on writing the first draft of book three in my Modern Fae series this month, too? Yikes.

What’s on your TBR for July? Are you planning on reading any of these books? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

June 2019: Reading Wrap Up

The first half of 2019 is over, and it’s time to change up these monthly reading wrap-up posts. I’m rethinking my format for my recap, so if you have thoughts on what you’d like to see here, let me know in the comments.

What I read in June:

I started the month off hot and steamy with Sinner by Sierra Simone. This is the second book (I think) in her Priest series. If you don’t like to mix religion and erotica, this probably isn’t for you. The heroine is planning on becoming a nun but wants to see what she’s missing first to see if she can be tempted away from what feels is her calling. What I love about this series are the contradictions. This is erotica where one of the subplots involves a character’s mother dying of cancer (decidedly NOT sexy). Plus, even though it might seem from the blurb like the author is using religion as a plot device and the “message” will be either anti-faith or that sex is dirty, it’s actually quite the opposite. I’ll warn that if you’re hard-core atheist, this may not be the book for you. It might also not be the book for you if just the idea of mixing faith and sex gives you hives. Because, don’t be fooled, this book is very sex-positive and hot. Oh, and the hero is the best friend of the heroine’s older brother, just in case you’re into that trope.

Did I scare off all my readers by talking about erotica in the first paragraph of my summary? If so, too bad, because they’ll be missing out on what might be my favorite book of 2019, so far. I had some travel planned for the first part of June. So, I got Space Opera by Catherynne Valente on audiobook to keep me entertained on my travels. I’d started reading this book on my Kindle shortly after its release, but couldn’t get into it. So, I didn’t have high hopes for this book, but I’d met the editor (Navah Wolfe) at Futurescapes, and she was contagiously enthusiastic about this book. I already knew the origin story for this book (a back and forth conversation on Twitter during Eurovision viewing), but hearing her tell it again reminded me of all the reasons I thought I’d like this book. Plus, it’s a finalist for the Hugo for best novel of 2018. So, I thought I’d give it another try. Wow, am I glad that I did. First off, audiobook is the way to go with this one. The narrator is awesome. Second, this may have edged out The Calculating Stars for my pick for best novel. The world-building and the dry humor in this book are fantastic. I’ve never read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but I imagine this is like that, but more queer and diverse and thoughtful. So good. Highly recommend checking this out.

Next up, I finally got around to reading Vengeful. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know how much I love Vicious. It’s my favorite book by Victoria Schwab. You probably also know how much I’ve been looking forward to reading this sequel. Unfortunately, Vengeful disappointed me. It bums me out to say that, but sometimes that happens. It took me a very long time to finish this book. I got bogged down in the time hopping. I didn’t feel like it served a purpose or enhanced the story. Plus, I feel like the potential of the two new female EOs (June and Marcella) was wasted. I think I’d almost have preferred if this entire book was just the June and Marcella story with nothing about Eli and Victor in it at all. There could still be the link to Sydney that ties the two stories together, but I was not at all engaged in the Eli and Victor aspects of the plot. Will I be back for more if there’s more in the series? Probably. Is VES still an author hero of mine? Of course. Liking books is subjective.

I knew I needed to squeeze in a couple of books to keep up with my Read Harder challenge. So, I went with some easy and short options for June. One was a children’s book (La Princesa and the Pea) and the other was a middle grade comic (The Backstagers). Both were cute and fun and I would definitely give them to the kids in my life to read, if they haven’t read them already.

That leaves the other surprise hit of the month, No Walls and the Recurring Dream by Ani Difranco. I listened to this one on audiobook because it was read by Ani Difranco. I highly recommend that medium for this book. I enjoyed it enough that I’m considering buying myself a copy of the book when it comes out in paperback. There’s a lot to think about here, and I think I might want something to refer back to and re-read from time to time. We’ll see if I’m still thinking about this book when they eventually release the paperback version. I suppose I should mention that I’m not really an Ani Difranco fan, so that’s not really why I read this book. I never really listened to her music for two reasons. One, I’m not a huge fan of folk music. I like it, but not for general purpose listening. The second reason is because at the height of her popularity, I was still going through my boy-crazy college years. It was the tail end of the 90s when calling yourself a feminist meant that you were seen as a man-hating bitch. I suppose some people still think it means that, but I feel like the majority viewpoint on this has shifted. Honestly, I cringe to think of younger me and how feminist I actually was while completely denying it lest it make me unattractive to guys. Oh, silly younger me who didn’t realize that the guys it made me unattractive to were exactly the ones I shouldn’t be dating anyway… sigh. Anyway. There’s a lot to enjoy in this book, but the thing I liked the most was her thoughts and reflections on her art and creative process, as well as why she decided to go indie and stay indie. I tend toward pragmatism but am filled to the brim with passion, so I really value hearing from people who confidently and unapologetically follow their dreams at all costs. I feel I have a lot to learn from them.

 

What I bought:

This was a close call. I was very tempted by several books. But ultimately, I didn’t buy any new books this month! Again! That’s three months in a row. Go me.

 

Net impact on my Kindle Backlog:

Total Kindle backlog books read in 2019: 5

Total new *unread* Kindle books in 2019: 7

Getting closer to net zero, but still need to read some more backlog in order to catch up to what I’ve already purchased (and haven’t read yet) this year. Assuming that I catch up by the end of next month (as I plan to do), I’m definitely dropping this section of my recap in July.

 

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completed this month:

Total tasks completed: 12

Total tasks remaining: 12

Looks like I’m still on track with this goal. I’m seriously shocked that I actually might finish the challenge this year. Did I purposely choose two of the easiest (and shortest) tasks to complete this month? Yes. Yes, I did. Will that make completing the twelve tasks that remain more difficult? Maybe. But, I’m not going to worry about that. I’m just going to keep chipping away at this challenge and see what happens.

Of course, I still need to find a book I want to read for Task #20 (read a book written in prison). So, if you have a recommendation for that one, let me know in the comments, please!

 

First half 2019 TBR Status:

Total TBR: 33 books

Books read to date: 30

Books remaining: 3

I am absolutely stunned that I managed to get so close to completing this TBR. I’m rounding up a bit here because I’m in the middle of Thick As Thieves and wasn’t able to finish it before the end of the month. Still, I’m counting that one as “read” for the purposes of this list.

Of the books that remain (Our Dark Duet, The Queen of Blood, and Stories of Your Life and Others), I’m rolling two onto my second half of 2019 TBR (to be announced soon). But, I’m dropping the book of short stories (Stories of Your Life and Others) off my TBR. I’d planned to read that one for Futurescapes and didn’t read it in time. I plan to get back to it at some point, but not in the next few months.

And that’s it for June. What was your favorite book you read in the first half of 2019? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time, happy reading!

Summer ebook and audiobook library haul!

I’ve just done another massive ebook download from the library. Yes, it’s true that I haven’t finished reading the ones I’ve already borrowed, but I’m not about to let that stop me.

What’s here and why…

It started with the holds I’d placed on some new books (The Disasters, The Fated Sky) and one that I need for Read Harder (Certain Dark Things). But, once I started, I decided to take a look at what books on my library “wish list” happened to be available. That’s how I ended up adding the remaining books in two series that I want to finish (The Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan and the Winner’s Curse series by Marie Rutkoski), a miscellaneous novella from a series that have mixed feelings about (A Court of Frost and Starlight), two fantasy romance books that were recommended to me (Empire of Sand and Slave to Sensation), a couple more books by the amazing Tessa Gratton (Strange Grace and The Lost Sun), and a few more that have been on my TBR for a while and happened to be available (Children of Blood and Bone, Genuine Fraud, Dryland, Across A Star Swept Sea, and My So-Called Bollywood Life).

Now it’s time to flip my Kindle back to airplane mode until fall and enjoy my summer reading… 🙂 If you have any recommendations about where I should start with this new book haul, let me know in the comments.

Happy Book Birthday to Dawn of the Fae!

Book two in my Modern Fae series is out today!

Check it out over on my website where you can read the first chapter, add it to Goodreads, and buy an ebook or paperback copy if you are so inclined.

Also, if you’re interested in watching me talk about this book, my writing process, my Camp NaNoWriMo adventures, and other writing vlog-able dispatches, I’m starting an “AuthorTube” channel over on YouTube.

If watching YouTube videos isn’t your thing, you can also sign up for my Newsletter or follow me on BookBub and/or Amazon to get book release updates.

If you’re only interested in my reading updates, stay tuned to this channel. I’ll have my June recap post up early next week. Brace yourself for some surprise new favorites.

Birthday Book Haul

My mom sent me some excellent books for my birthday this year!


First up, two “book threes” in two different series: Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee and Amnesty by Lara Elena Donnelly. I’m not sure if these are the last books in their respective series or not, but now that I have them, I need to read their “book twos” so I can catch up!

Jean Grey was never my favorite of the X-Men, but volume one of the new Jean Grey X-Men comic (Nightmare Fuel) follows the teenage, alternate timeline Jean Grey, and it also features Psylocke in at least one of the issues. The covers I saw at a comic shop in Portland looked awesome. So, I thought I’d give it a try. If it also features Storm, I’m going to be very happy.

I recently added Art Starts With A Line by Erin McManness and Draw Your Day by Samantha Dion Baker to my wish list because I’ve been getting the itch to draw more, but feeling like I’m out of practice and attempting a doodle will just “mess up” my notebook. I used to love sketching. Then I found pen and ink drawing and started experimenting more with that medium. But I let my drawing practice slide over the past ten years. I’m hoping these two books give me the inspiration I need to start including more doodles in my journals, especially my BuJo. So, if you have any Instagram accounts you follow for sketching or doodling inspiration, let me know in the comments.

May 2019: Reading Wrap Up

And just like that, my birthday month is over. I had a lot of fun with friends and family this month, and I got some excellent new books to read! I’ll have to do a birthday book haul post soon. I’m just waiting for a couple that I ordered with my gift card to arrive in the mail.

Meanwhile, my stack of physical books is growing and threatening to topple off my nightstand. But, we’re not planning on traveling much this summer, so I think I may be able to work through a few if I start sitting outside in the sunshine each day for a little reading break. The spring weather here in the upper left corner of the US has been perfect for that kind of thing, and if it gets too hot, there’s always our nice shady deck to hide out on and read.

Before I get too far ahead of myself making future reading plans, let me jump into my May reading recap.

What I read in May:

I started the month with Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne. This was exactly as fluffy and fun as I’d anticipated. I love it when that happens. You can tell that Alexa used to write fan fic because she does a great job with tension and angsty romance. The world-building was a little more “hand-wavy” than I like in my sci-fi, and I the ending didn’t feel quite right to me, but other than that, I really liked this book and am looking forward to reading her next one.

After that, I switched gears pretty dramatically. I’d forgotten that I’d put a hold on the audiobook for The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight. This was a book that I’d planned to read for the Read Harder Challenge. It’s short and funny, a parody on The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (which I haven’t read). The audiobook turned out to be the perfect thing to listen to it on my walks. The author reads her own book, and I enjoyed hearing her words in her voice. I know this is meant to be funny, but there’s some good messages in here for people like me who still haven’t mastered the art of not caring what other people think about them. I’m half-tempted to go buy a copy so I can refer to it for reminders when needed.

Somewhere in there, I decided to dive into The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton. I’d been meaning to read this forever, and I’m so glad that I finally did. The world-building is really interesting, and I’m curious where the story is going to go from here. But, I don’t think I’m going to continue with the series. I’m just not that into fashion and beauty. Since the entire theme of this series has to do with beauty, there are lengthy descriptions of in-world fashion from clothing to make-up to hair and everything in between. This is critical to the story because it’s all about how the Belles have the power to create whatever image is requested by the regular people in this world and what that means for their world. It’s really well done, but my eyes start to glaze over after too many descriptions of fancy dresses. I much preferred the political maneuvering.

I needed a quick read after finishing The Belles. Something that I knew would be a page turner, either from romantic tension or from plot. So, I decided to check off another Read Harder Challenge task and picked up The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan. I loved the first book and the two novellas I’ve read enough to guess that this is a series I could pretty much devour in a week. . Because of that, I’ve been rationing the remaining books because I don’t want to be done with the series. As expected, I really, really liked this book. Something about the internal conflict for both the heroine and the hero really struck a cord with me. I highly, HIGHLY recommend this series, even if you think you don’t like historical romance. It’s not the genre I usually turn to for a variety of reasons, but Courtney Milan is an excellent author. Conveniently enough, the ebook box set of the series happens to be on sale for $2.99 on Kindle right now. So, if you’re reading this shortly after I posted it, you should go buy the set.

And, last but not least, I got caught up on my Queen’s Thief re-read and finished A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner. Of the first four books, this was the book I liked the least when I first read this series ten-ish years ago. I think that’s because there’s just a lot of political maneuvering in this book. There’s some action and some romance, but Sophos isn’t as naturally charismatic of a character as Gen. This story is all about him learning to become a leader. It’s a lot like story of The Lion King in that way. In fact, come to think of it, there are a lot of similarities between A Conspiracy of Kings and The Lion King. Huh. I definitely liked this book more on the re-read. Now I’m really excited to get to the first “new” book in this series (released last year).

 

What I bought:

I didn’t buy any new books this month! Again! Amazing! But I did pre-order my friend Rebecca’s book that’s coming out in July, Shatter the Sky. Because she’s awesome, and I read an early version of the book and can’t wait to read it again and see how the story has changed. If you like dragons, you should go pre-order this book, or request it from you library.

 

Net impact on my Kindle Backlog:

Total Kindle backlog books read in 2019: 4

Total new *unread* Kindle books in 2019: 8

Getting closer to net zero, but still need to read some more backlog in order to catch up to what I’ve already purchased (and haven’t read yet) this year. Assuming that I catch up by the end of next month (as I plan to do), I’m going to drop this goal in July and just add any remaining unread new books to my second half of 2019 reading list.

 

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completed this month:

  • Task #4: Read a humor book. (Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck)
  • Task #16: An historical romance by an AOC (The Heiress Effect)

Total tasks completed: 10

Total tasks remaining: 14

Looks like I’m still on track with this goal. Go me!

 

First half 2019 TBR Status:

Total TBR: 33 books

Books read to date: 26

Books remaining: 7

Turns out that I miscounted last month. I forgot that I had swapped out two of my Read Harder Challenge books for two different books than what were on my original list. So, I actually wasn’t as far off as I thought. It appears that I have four more “backlog” books to read, plus two more Read Harder books, and one book of short stories that I meant to read before Futurescapes. I might be able to finish all those in June. We’ll see…

I’m also starting to think about my TBR for the second half of 2019. Right now, I’m planning to include the following:

  • Six more “backlog” Kindle books…
  • The final twelve books I need for the Read Harder challenge…
  • Any new books that I bought in the first half of this year and haven’t read yet (as of 1 July)…
  • Three books I’m planning to read for a buddy read…
  • Plus any books I haven’t read yet (as of 1 July) in the Hugo award categories for best novel, best novella, and best YA novel…

It’s looking like that list will end up somewhere between 30-36 books, just like my first half of 2019 TBR. That’s another five or six books per month, on average. Hahahaha. Yeah. Not leaving myself much room for spontaneous reading in the second half of the year. Plus I have a whole lot of writing planned for this fall, which means less time for reading.

Someday maybe I’ll be slightly less ambitious with my reading goals. Maybe. There are just too many books I want to read. And I keep finding more that I want to buy or borrow. This year, the TBR list seems to be working for me. It’s keeping me focused on the books I have wanted to read for a while, but that keep getting shuffled to the bottom of my stack as I bring in bright new shiny books to read.

Having a TBR is also helping me stay on track with the Read Harder challenge. For the first time, I think I may actually be able to finish all the tasks by the end of the year. So long as I can manage to find books I want to read for the following three challenges:

  • Task #20: A book written in prison
  • Task #21: A comic by an LGBTQIA creator
  • Task #22: A children’s or middle grade book (not YA) that has won a diversity award since 2009

So, if you have suggestions and recommendations for me that would help me check these tasks off my list, please leave them in the comments.

Until next time, happy reading!