I managed to finish six books while also writing over 50k words for NaNoWriMo in November. Before you get too excited, I should point out that three of those books were already in-progress before November started and one of the remaining three was actually a novella. Still, that’s a lot of reading during a very busy month.
I started off the month by (finally) finishing Dread Nation by Justina Ireland. So, here’s the thing… I don’t like zombies, and I don’t like alternate history. I read this for the Read Harder Challenge. I also read it because a lot of people whose bookish opinions I trust really liked this book and said specifically that it wasn’t really a “zombie” book. So I made this my pick for the alternate history task. I’m glad I did. It’s objectively a good book, it’s just not my jam. If you like Westworld (the TV show) and alternate history, you might really love this book. I just realized that I also burned out early on Westworld. So yeah. Reading Harder accomplished. Moving on.
Next up, or possibly while I was still trying to finish Dread Nation, I started listening to Educated by Tara Westover on audiobook. This book has had no end of hype, and I feel like I’m arriving pretty late to the party when I say, Wow. This was a page-turner of a memoir, folks. I keep saying I don’t like memoir, but some of the stand-out books I’ve read this year (topic for a future post) have all been memoir like this one with lots of meaty chewy bits to stew on. (Mixed food metaphor much?) I’ll also say that the audiobook was a good choice for this one.
I picked up Witchmark by C. L. Polk immediately after (finally) finishing Dread Nation. It sucked me right in with the atmosphere and the world-building and the hints of mystery, not to mention the slow-burn romance. I’d been wanting to read this for a while and finally picked it up because my “Camp Book Club” crew decided to read it as our book club pick for November. Unfortunately, due to life drama combined with NaNoWriMo, I didn’t finish it in time for our meeting. I did finish it about a week later. I think the plot got a little convoluted and rushed at the end, but I still really enjoyed the characters and world. I think the problem was that this book is part secondary world fantasy, part romance, and part mystery. The problem is, that’s a lot for one novel (especially a first novel) and I don’t think the mystery part was as well done as the other bits.
After that, I read This is How You Lose the Time War by by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. I hadn’t realized this was a novella until I looked at the page count. I had a different book picked out for the “Read an Epistolary Novel” task in the Read Harder Challenge, but I decided to read this instead because I’ve been hearing a lot about it. I’m glad I did. The writing in this book is so good. At one point I was listening to it on audiobook and then going back to re-read sections in the hardcover I bought because there’s just so much going on with the language and the plot and the way the story is interwoven. I think I was most impressed by the fact that the language and the structure reinforce the time travel premise and this story about messages that forge a relationship between two individuals on opposite sides of a time war. I don’t want to give too much away, but I haven’t been this impressed by form matching substance in a story since Cloud Atlas.
I mentioned in a previous post about how I wanted to try to finish this book of short stories that I started earlier in the year but keep forgetting to read. Meet Cute is a YA short story anthology with contributions from a lot of really popular YA authors. Every story is the origin story for a couple. Many of the characters are LGBTQ and/or not white. Almost all of the stories are contemporary. There’s one (the one by Dhonielle Clayton) that has a speculative bent to it involving magical true love tattoos and a bit of seeing into potential futures. The one by Kass Morgan could probably be categorized as near-future sci-fi, but it takes place on Earth. The stories are all good. I’m still trying to decide which one was my favorite. I really liked “Print Shop” by Nina LaCour, “Oomph” by Emery Lourd, “The Unlikely Likelihood of Falling in Love” by Jocelyn Davies, and “Somewhere That’s Green” by Meredith Russo. That’s nearly half of them, so I’m not doing a great job narrowing this down, am I? Bottom line, if you want warm and fuzzy YA contemp (plus a little Spec Fic thrown in for funzies) by diverse authors with good representation, get your hands on this anthology.
Finally (and really, it feels like I’ve been listening to this book forever), I finished The Future of Humanity by Michio Kaku. I started listening to this audiobook back in April on a road trip to Utah. I think I gave up because the narrator kept putting me to sleep. Eventually, I came back to it (in October? or earlier? I can’t remember…). Turns out this is much better listened to on walks or while doing the dishes. Still, it took me forever to get through it. I’ve had to renew it from the library way too many times to count. Luckily, no one else seems to want to listen to this audiobook. I get it. I think the audience must be almost exclusively sci-fi writers. It’s not going to make you a scientist or an expert on colonizing Mars or living forever, but I do think it’s a pretty great overview. I bought the paperback so I can use it as reference, but I don’t think I would have ever finished it if I’d tried to read it instead of listening. As dry as the narration is, it’s still better than reading the material, I think.
Before I get to my “Inbox” summary for the month, here’s an update on where I’m at with that Read Harder Challenge…
Read Harder Challenge Status: 20 finished and 4 to go…
I purchased a hardcover edition of This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. Not only did I purchase it in hardcover, but I bought it new from my local independent bookstore. That was a lot to spend on a book that’s only about 200 pages long. But, I didn’t want to wait for my library hold, and I wanted to support my local bookstore. I was going to give it as a gift when I finished it, but I like it enough that I think I may just keep it.
I’d intended to order a signed hardcover of The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, but I waited too long and they sold out. Then I couldn’t decide if I wanted a copy in hardcover or on Kindle. I have The Night Circus in hardcover because it’s one of my favorite books, but I bought it after I’d read it on Kindle. So, I decide to read this one first and see how much I like it before I buy a copy for my shelf. Luckily, I’d already put the ebook and the hardcover on hold at my library, so I don’t have to wait to read it. I had just started my borrowed copy last night, then the hardcover arrived today as an early Christmas present from my mom! Thanks, Mom!
My December TBR is a little daunting. I have four books I need to read in order to complete the Read Harder Challenge, but three of those are non-fiction (The Barefoot Bandit, Guantánamo Diary, and The Middle Kingdom). The fourth one is the third book in a series I’ve been meaning to finish for several years now (Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante). I am pretty sure that I’ll finish at least two of these four. I really want to finish the challenge this year because I’m so close, but I’m not sure if I’m going to have time for all these books.
Other than that, I’m planning to read The Starless Sea for book club this month. I also want to read it now before I start hearing more about it and get psyched out by the hype (and/or spoiled). I’ve already started reading this, but it’s really long. Choosing to prioritize this may mean having to give up on finishing my Read Harder Challenge.
And finally, because I had that goal about reading the books I purchase this year within at least six months of buying them, I really should read A Prince on Paper before the end of the month. This one is going to be a fast and fun book that I’m very much looking forward to reading. I think I’m going to use it to keep me from going crazy with all those dry non-fiction books.
Somewhere in here, I’m planning on trying to keep up with the Winter Magical Readathon. I’m really hoping that I can use some of these books to meet those reading prompts. We shall see…
Stay tuned to find out how I finish the year and get all my 2019 reading stats. The most books I’ve read in one year up to this point was in 2015, when I read a total of 76 books (<– link goes to my Goodreads shelf that shows what I read that year). So far, I’ve read a total of 73 books this year. 2019 may be my biggest reading year since I started tracking this stuff. Wow.