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 childrenā€™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!

April 2019: Reading Wrap Up

April was not a good reading month for me. I didn’t have as much time to read as I thought that I would, and I found myself in a bit of a slump towards the end of the month. I think I’m going to have to change some things up for May, but first… let’s talk about what I read in April.

What I read in April:

The month started off really well. I tore through Alyssa Cole’s Can’t Escape Love. It’s a novella in her Reluctant Royals series, which we’ve already established that I’m very much enjoying. This one was another fast and fun read. I loved the characters. The plot was perfect for a novella and well paced. The romance was fun and believable. Overall, loved it. Ready for the next book in the series.

After that though, things slowed down a bit. I started Updraft by Fran Wilde and I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells because I was going to be meeting both of those authors at Futurescapes. Turns out that Updraft was the perfect book to be reading for me at a pivotal moment as I’m working on revisions of one of my older WIP novels. Fran does a great job with using language to enhance world-building (which was also the topic of her workshop that I attended at Futurescapes). The world in this book also has these “laws” that are roughly equivalent to what I’ve been trying to do with the legends and folklore in my WIP novel. So it was nice to see how she handled that, from a craft perspective. The characters and plot were good, too, but what really stood out for me in this book was the world.

I didn’t have as good of luck with I Am Not A Serial Killer. Unfortunately, I started this one on audiobook and the narrator was just not working it for me. I finally ended up ditching the audiobook about half-way through. I wasn’t sure I’d finish it, but I had the book on my Kindle as well. So, when I got back from my trip, I tried picking up where I left off. I’m glad I tried again in a different format because it’s a compelling thriller. I ended up speeding through the last half because I wanted to know how it ends.

Somewhere in the middle of all this I started reading Mercenary Instinct. This ended up being the book that gets the credit for putting me into a reading slump. I had issues with the world-building that kept me from getting into the story. Most of that had to do with unrealistic space travel science stuff that maybe wouldn’t have bothered me years ago, as I discussed in yesterday’s post. I also had a really hard time getting on board with the plot and the romance aspects of this book. My biggest issues were that there was way too much use of the threat of rape as a plot device, and the entire premise was built on a huge plot hole. The bad guy placed a bounty on the heroine and her crew, sending a bunch of mercenaries after them and putting their lives, and work, at risk, when he clearly had more than enough money and resources to just buy their company and/or research and no good reason to take this convoluted path to get it. Under normal circumstances, I would have just DNFed the book, but it was the Smart Podcast Trashy Books first book club pick, and I really wanted to read it before listening to the episode where they discuss it. If you’ve listened to their recap episode, I’m pretty well aligned with Carrie’s and Elyse’s opinions.

More than being frustrated by the time I spent reading this book when I have other books I’d rather be reading, I’m actually disappointed because I wanted to enjoy this book. I still haven’t found the sci-fi and/or fantasy romance author that does for that genre what Courtney Milan does for historical romance and Alyssa Cole does for contemporary romance. If you have recommendations, please let me know in the comments (and don’t say Rachel Bach/Aaron or Amanda Bouchet because I’ve tried both of them already).

So, yeah… after that disappointment, I’m determined to change things up in May. I think it’s time to get into some of those books that I think I’m going to love but have been putting off reading because I’m scared they won’t live up to the hype. And I’m going to get aggressive with the DNF, if it comes to that. There are just too many books I want to read and never enough time to read them all.

 

What I bought:

I didn’t buy any new books this month! Crazy, right? But I did do a *major* library book haul. More on that below…

 

Net impact on my Kindle Backlog:

I realized I’ve been doing the math wrong on this section for months now because I forgot that since I’m adding new books I bought to my original list of 124 books, I should also be subtracting them after I’ve read them. I’ve gone back and fixed it in previous posts, but going forward I’m changing how I tally this “score.” Here’s my new breakdown.

Total Kindle backlog books read in 2019: 1

Total new *unread* Kindle books in 2019: 8

If you remember, the goal was to only buy if I’m going to read them right away and to read more backlog books than I buy and leave unread. So, right now, I’m failing at this goal because 8 > 1.

 

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completed this month:

  • Task #23: Read a self-published book. (Mercenary Instinct)

Total tasks completed: 8

Total tasks remaining: 16

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: 20

Books remaining: 13

Uh oh. I have two months left to read 13 books. Yikes. I am decidedly behind schedule on this goal. Better get reading.

 

My massive library book haul:

This has been brewing for a while, and it’s finally time. I took my Kindle off airplane mode and loaded it full of books I’ve had on hold at the library. Here’s a look at my (virtual) book haul:

I have no intention of reading all these before they’re due, but that’s okay. My Kindle’s back on airplane mode. Mostly, I just wanted to clean out my library holds so I could make room for new books that are coming out later this year.

May is my birthday month, so I’m going to make it a point to only read books that I’m loving. If I’m not loving it, I’m going to set it aside for later. And I think I’m going to start with one of the six “backlog bust” books that I put on my first half of 2019 TBR. If you don’t remember, that’s these books:

And since Mercenary Instinct left such a disappointed taste in my mouth, I think it’s time to bust out Brightly Burning next. Let’s see if that sci-fi romance can snap me out of my reading slump. If not, I’m reaching for Vengeful and/or The Belles. Those are the three that are really calling to me right now.

What are you reading this month? Let me know in the comments, especially if you’re reading (or have read) any of the books I mention in this post.

Bookish Things I’ve Changed My Mind About (#Top5Wednesday)

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Top 5 Wednesday post, and the topic this week works pretty well with something I’ve got on my mind. So, let’s do this!

This week’s topic is: “Bookish Things I’ve Changed My Mind About.” I’m going to get pretty specific here because I just finished reading a sci-fi romance book that disappointed me and got me thinking about how I’ve changed as a reader over the last 10+ years, specifically since I started writing books.

I like romance in my sci-fi and fantasy stories. It doesn’t have to be a major plot point, it could be a sub-plot. But I’ve struggled to find a sci-fi / fantasy romance book or series or author that I love. That got me thinking about why. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there are just some things that didn’t really matter much to me as a younger reader that will completely turn me off on a book now.

Here are the top five things that I’ve changed my mind about when it comes to reading sci-fi and fantasy romance:

  1. Diversity — I never used to notice when a future / fantasy world was homogeneously straight and white, but this has become one of those things that immediately pulls me out of a story. Once you recognize that the real-world population isn’t homogeneous, you realize that if a future and/or fantasy world is homogeneous, there better be a damn good reason for it. Ideally, I want to see positive representation on every axis, but at the very least with regards to race and sexual orientation.
  2. Consent — Sci-fi and fantasy romance can be pretty negligent when it comes to showing consensual romance. Again, this is not something I noticed as a teen, or even in my twenties. This was never okay, but my tolerance for it has definitely changed. If a modern hero is “taking” a heroine (or another hero), there better be a verbal “yes” in there before things get steamy. And power dynamics complicate things. If one character is another’s prisoner or subordinate, you better put them on an even playing field if you want me to get on board with the romance.
  3. Plausible Science — I don’t think I ever considered this until I started writing novels. Sci-fi and fantasy are full of crazy creative ideas that are not possible in our contemporary reality, and I love it. Give me all the magic and FTL space travel. Space ships and colonies on planets in distant galaxies are cool. Aliens and magical creatures are awesome. But these days I lose my ability to suspend disbelief when there aren’t consistent rules and limits to a magic system, or when the science fiction elements demonstrate no understanding of basic science and technology and don’t even offer a hand-wavey explanation as to how/why it works.
  4. The Smurfette Principle and/or the Strong Female Character Trope — This is a big one that I used to take for granted because I was a boy-crazy teen / young-adult and was just happy there were *any* point-of-view female characters in my SFF books. But now these tropes make me so angry I want to scream. If the leading lady is the only female character in the book, or if she spends the whole book trashing other women and has no female friends, I’m probably going to DNF the book. If she’s determined to show how “different” she is from “other girls” by being super tough and never wearing dresses, I’m done. And, if the heroine does have a female crew and immediately drops them to get with the hero, I may throw the book across the room.
  5. Plot is Linked to the Speculative Elements — I’m sure that I never even considered this before I started taking my writing seriously. I love plot, I always have, and it’s really hard for me to get into a book without a solid one, regardless of how much I like the characters or the world. But, if I can take the plot of a book, change the setting, and have the story still work, then I’m probably not going to want to finish reading the book. Plot and world and characters all need to be linked. This is the most frequent thing that fails to win me over when I’m reading a sci-fi and/or fantasy romance book. It’s a bummer, but I can’t turn off my writing brain when I’m reading.

If you have book recommendations for me that avoid these pitfalls, please PLEASE let me know in the comments. And if you’re curious what book set me off on this topic, stay tuned for my April reading recap post tomorrow.

Progress Report: O. W. L.s Magical Readathon (#OWLsReadathon2019)

I’m use this blog post to keep track of progress on my O. W. L.s for the Magical Readathon.

For each of the prompts below, I’ll add a thumbnail of the book I’m reading (that links to Goodreads) and update my reading status throughout the month. I’ll also color code the prompts to correspond with the prompt status. Green will mean done. Orange is in-progress. Normal text color (I think this is grey?) means that I haven’t started yet.

Completed:

Charms (age-line: read an adult book) –>

 

History of Magic (published at least 10 years ago) –>

 

Muggle Studies (contemporary) –>

 

Not Started:

Ancient Runes (retelling) –>

 

Arithmancy (work written by more than one author) –>

 

Astronomy (“star” in the title) –>

 

Care of Magical Creatures (land animal on the cover) –>

 

Defense Against the Dark Arts (Reducto: starts with an “R”) –>

 

Divination (set in the future) –>

 

Herbology (plant on the cover) –>

 

Potions (next ingredient: sequel) –>

 

Transfiguration (sprayed edges or red cover) –>

 

March 2019: Reading Wrap Up

It’s been another big reading month for me! I’m just plowing through the books this year. But, I’m also getting a ton of writing and editing done. So, don’t worry. Book two in the Modern Fae series is on schedule to be released in June, and I have some other fun stuff in the works as well. But this isn’t a writing blog, it’s a reading blog. Let’s talk about books.

What I read in March:

In addition to the books pictured above, I also read 1 book for the RITA contest preliminary round of judging. So, I finished seven books, total in March. That brings me to 25 books total for the first quarter of 2019. That’s half my Goodreads goal for the year, and we haven’t even hit the summer vacation months! I have a feeling this is going to be a big reading year for me.

Most of what I read was off H1 2019 TBR reading list. I started and ended the month with books two and three in Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series (The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia). I really love these books. I’d forgotten how much, but I’m having a great time enjoying these stories for a second time.

I also finished a couple of writing / publishing craft books. The specifics about various marketing techniques in Discoverability were a little dated, but the general advice (ex: the best thing you can do for discoverability is write the next book) was solid. I think this is still a valuable read for authors who are writing for the love of the books. It’s more about building a sustainable career than becoming a best seller. Since that’s my goal, I found it to be a very valuable read.

The other writing craft book I finished was The Artist’s Way. I’d been reading this a chapter a week for the twelve weeks of this self-directed course on reconnecting with your creativity. I enjoyed it, and I didn’t think that I would. I assumed this would be way to “woo woo” for me to take it seriously. But, there’s a lot of good content in here for people who are reconnecting with their “inner creative” after stuffing it in a closet or burying it for most of their life to pursue “practical” things. I didn’t do every exercise and follow the whole thing to the letter, but I think it’s a good resource and recommend it if this sounds like something you might be interested in but may have been scared off (like me) by the spiritual aspect to it.

I also spent an afternoon reading Get Jiro! by Anthony Bourdain because it’s a favorite of my chef brother-in-law, and I borrowed it from him on his recommendation. It’s a weird little comic with lots of gore where chefs are sort of the top of the food chain (so to speak) in a new near-future society. If you like Kitchen Confidential, you might also like this comic. I enjoyed it.

But, the book I enjoyed the most this month (of the new-to-me books, not counting the re-reads), was The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. This one reminded me a lot of Hidden Figures because it’s an alternate history of that same time period (the 1950s) and the main character is a computer (the human kind, who did all the math before modern computers were invented, and even for a while after). She’s also a pilot and was one of the WASPs during WW2. Now she’s trying to become an astronaut. There’s a lot of real-world history and science worked into this novel, and the author’s note at the end is fascinating and gives a ton more resources. I’m really looking forward to continuing on with this series. I’ve already got the second book on hold at the library. I highly recommend checking this one out.

 

What I bought:

I nearly got through March without buying any books… Then Alyssa Cole’s Radio Silence went on sale, and I decided to grab it. If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I’ve been loving her “Reluctant Royals” contemporary romance series. I knew she also wrote this sort of post-apocalyptic series in addition to her historical romances, and I’ve been meaning to try it for a while now. Unfortunately, my library doesn’t have it on ebook and hasn’t purchased it (yet), despite my requesting it. Oh well. Now I “own” it (as much as you own any of your Kindle books…).

The other book I bought is one I’ve already read (in an early draft form). Bless Her Dead Heart by my friend Meg Collett launched in February! It’s set in “Righteous, Tennessee” and is the first book in her new southern paranormal series. It’s really good. Check it out. I just love her voice in this series. And book two is already out, so you don’t have to wait to see what happens next. Since I’ve already read this one, I’m not counting it toward my total books bought this month.

Net impact on my Kindle Backlog:

Books purchased on Kindle this month: 1

Kindle books read from my backlog list: 0

New Kindle backlog total: 134 (+1)

Ugh. Good thing I have the O. W. L. readathon coming up in April. Maybe I can get this back under 130 by the end of the month…

 

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completed this month:

  • Task #9: A book published prior to Jan. 1, 2019 with fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads (Discoverability)

Despite a publish date in 2014, at the time of this blog post, this book only has 94 ratings and 27 reviews on Goodreads. I don’t review stuff on Goodreads anymore. So, I didn’t add to the review count, only the ratings number.

Total tasks completed: 7

Total tasks remaining: 17

Yay! I am one book ahead of schedule on my Read Harder challenge for this year!

 

First half 2019 TBR Status:

Total TBR: 33 books

Books read to date: 16

Books remaining: 17

I’m close enough to half-way on this goal that I’m going to count it as on-track. And a lot of this list is going to get read during the Magical Readathon in April. I’m very much looking forward to that.

Here’s what’s queued up next on my TBR:

My stretch goal is to finish all these by the end of the upcoming weekend. Five books in seven days. We’ll see how it goes. I also have novel revisions I’m working on this week. I’m trying to get them done so I can get the story out to my critique partners before I leave for the writing workshop I’m going to in April. But, I think I’ll have time to do both the edits and the reading because these are all pretty short books. The average is only 250 pages per book.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of these books (the ones I finished in March, or the ones I’ve got queued up for April), and tell me what you thought.

Reading list for the O. W. L.s Magical Readathon (#OWLsReadathon2019)

There’s an awesome Harry Potter themed readathon coming up in April! You can check out the original video and get all the details here. It’s modeled off the twelve main subjects tested on during the Hogwarts O. W. L. exams in the Harry Potter books. Oh man, this is so geeky and so cool. I love it! I’m so excited that I dropped everything to make a TBR. (Good thing I’m up extra early this morning…)

Readathons are a super fun way to bust through unread ebooks I’ve been collecting on my Kindle. So, I tried to limit myself to create my TBR from just those books and the books on my first half of 2019 TBR. I also found out that the next round of Tome Topple is coming up in April as well. So, I tried to pick a mix of short books that I can read quickly and books over 500 pages that qualify for Tome Topple.

Here’s what I came up with for my TBR:

The link in the photo above goes to my Magical Readathon Goodreads shelf so you can get more details on these books and/or add them to your own TBR.

Here’s the detail on the prompts, what they translate to, and what book I picked for each:

Of these, Leviathan Wakes, Our Dark Duet, and The Queen of the Tearling all qualify for Tome Topple. So, I’ll be saving those to read during the Tome Topple dates, which should be announced soon.

I probably won’t do all these tasks, and I don’t plan to attack them in any particular order. I’m not going after a specific wizarding career, yet. Instead, I’m going to keep it casual and use this as a general TBR for April.

Let me know in the comments if you plan on participating in this readathon (or in the April Tome Topple), and let me know what’s on your TBR, especially if you’re also planning to read any of these books next month!

Top Five Wednesday: Favorite SFF Creatures (#T5W)

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday blog post prompt is: favorite creatures from science fiction and fantasy books!

Here are my top five:

  1. Dragons I really like dragons. Dragon shifters are okay, but they’re not my favorite. I prefer stories where dragons are sentient creatures who bond with humans. I don’t really think dragons should talk, but I’m cool with them communicating telepathically. I don’t have any favorite dragon books, at the moment. Lately, I’ve been really digging the idea of tiny dragons, like the adorable dragons in The Tea Dragon Society (which I got for my niece for Christmas).
  2. Elves / Fae–I suppose I should clarify that I mean elves like Lord of the Rings elves, not like Santa’s little helpers. I’m lumping elves and fae together here because I’d be hard pressed to draw a line defining the difference between elves and fae. The way that most authors handle them, the two types of creatures usually end up seeming very similar. As for favorite books featuring fae or elves, I really like some of the stories in Robots vs. Fairies, and I liked the world-building in An Enchantment of Ravens and The Cruel Prince. And, I also really like my own books. šŸ˜‰
  3. Robots (like Murderbot) The other half of Robots vs. Fairies also make my top five list. That’s another reason I like that collection of short stories. I especially like robots when they’re done like Murderbot in All Systems Red. I suppose the droids from the Star Wars movies would also fall into this category. I love it when an author can manage to pull off cool autonomous, sentient robots who have personalities, but still have some real-world, logical science behind them.
  4. Mutants (like X-Men)–I love humans with superpowers. I love all the freaky and cool ways that mutant superpowers manifest in the X-Men comics.I also like stories that include humans with mutant-like super powers, like in Anne McCaffrey’s Talents series. (Side note: I’m planning to do a re-read of that series at some point because I want to see if it lives up to my memories of how much I loved those books, starting with To Ride Pegasus and going all the way through the spin-off series featuring The Rowan and her children and their children.) I’d also lump the Bene Gesserit (from the Dune series) and the Jedi (from Star Wars) into this category as well. Basically any time you have a human who is able to do super-human stuff, but not including alien superheroes like Superman and (some of) the Avengers. They have to be (essentially) Earth-humans that have mutated or evolved to do things “normal” humans can’t do. I also like this because these stories can play with that whole “what is normal and who gets to decide what’s ‘normal’ anyway” theme that I love.
  5. The Stone Eaters This one is pretty specific because it’s only been done in one series (that I know of), but N. K. Jemisin’s creatures who look like humans but are made of stone are super cool. I love how they can move through the earth’s crust and communicate with the obelisks. The back-story that you get about these creatures in book three makes them even more interesting. They’re so unique that I think they’re probably my favorite, at the moment.

What do you think? Which creatures are your favorites? Let me know in the comments what I missed, or if you also like any of the ones I listed!

February 2019: Reading Wrap Up

February went by super fast, I accomplished a ton of stuff, and I still managed to finish two books a week, on average. I think all those snow days may have helped. We got hit by a winter storm and ended up with over ten inches of snow, which is very unusual for the little island we live on in the Pacific Northwest. So I had a great excuse to stay inside and snuggle up with a book. I loved it. I’m also really glad the snow is mostly gone, and that it’s finally starting to feel like spring!

What I read in February:

In addition to the books pictured above, I also read 4 books for the RITA contest. So, I finished 8 books, total in February. That’s pretty great considering it was a short month, and I had some pretty ambitious writing goals for the month, like finishing the first draft of book two in my Modern Fae seriesĀ and releasing a novella. Both of which got done. Yay!

I started the month with a book of poetry (Felicity by Mary Oliver), then I pushed out of my comfort zone with some violent, unsolved true-crime written by an author who died while writing the book (I’ll Be Gone in the Dark). IĀ counter-acted any potential nightmare fuel by reading a short and entertaining Reluctant Royals novella (Once Ghosted, Twice Shy), and then I devoured book three in a series of books that may be my new favorite Sherlock Holmes retelling (The Hollow of Fear). Overall, it was a pretty good reading month.

What I bought:

So…I’m beginning to regret that whole “no buying books” reading goal already, and it’s only the beginning of March. Sigh. I do this every year. Technically, I only purchased two of these books in February. Another is one I just bought today, and the other three are all pre-orders.

I bought Mercenary Instinct because it’s the Smart Podcast Trashy Books book club selection for this quarter, and it was already on my wish list of “someday / maybe” Kindle books to buy on Amazon. Unfortunately, it wasn’t available on ebook from my library. The good news is that I think I can use this for the “read a self-published book” task in the Read Harder Challenge.

I bought The Queen of Sorrow because I own the other two books in the series, and this one went on sale for $1.99. I think I also had digital credits for choosing “no-rush shipping” that covered the purchase price. I plan to binge this series this year, now that it’s complete. Another totally justified purchase.

Then I had some more digital credits, so I bought The Phoenix Empress. The credits weren’t going to expire until the end of the month (I think these were for some non-shipping-related reason), but apparently they were burning a hole in my pocket. I decided to splurge on this book because I own the first book in the series, and it was one of my favorite books I read last year. Plus, I haven’t been able to get this on ebook from my library because of Tor’s new library ebook policy (which I hate). Maybe my library will buy it when it becomes available, but it’s less likely they’ll pick this up than book two in Scalzi’s Collapsing Empire series (which I’m also waiting for). We’ll see.

Two of the three pre-orders are from Alyssa Cole’s “Reluctant Royals” series. I like that she seems to be offering these for lower prices during pre-order, so I keep buying them that way rather than waiting and getting them from the library like a responsible owner of way too many ebooks.

Finally, I decided to go ahead and pre-orderYou’d Be Mine because it’s a debut book by an author I’ve been following for a long time on Twitter. I really like her and want to support her book launch. Plus, I think her book sounds great (even though it’s contemporary, which is not usually my jam).

Net impact on my Kindle Backlog:

Books purchased on Kindle this month: 6

Kindle books read from my backlog list: 1

New Kindle backlog total: 133 (+5)

Hahaha…I should just give up. But I’m not going to. I’m determined to make a dent in this now that I’m (almost) done with my RITA reading (only one left), and I have a few months off of actively drafting a novel.

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completedĀ this month were:

Poet Mary Oliver died. I had no idea who she was until authors I like started talking about her death and the influence her work had on them. She sounded like a cool lady. So, I grabbed her most recent book of poetry from my library and read it. I’m just as shocked as you are that I actually completed the poetry task for Read Harder, and that I did it in February. I thought this would be the last task I completed for the year and that I would hate it. I guess it’s just a matter of finding the right poetry for you.

The other two were books I already wanted to read and found a home for on the task list. So, win-win. I can’t believe I’m actually ahead of schedule to finish the Read Harder challenge this year! And I’m enjoying it!

First half 2019 TBR Status:

Total TBR: 33 books

Books read to date: 11

Books remaining: 22

Let’s see…33 books in 6 months means I have to finish 5.5 books on average per month. I guess that means I’m exactly on track. Fantastic! For March, nearly everything on my TBR is from this list, and my Kindle is on mandatory airplane mode until at least mid-April. Time to cross some books off the backlog.

Here’s a look at what’s currently at the top of my TBR:

I’m almost done with my re-read of The Queen of Attolia. Oh, man! I love this book. I’m thinking I may want to continue and just roll right into The King of Attolia as soon as I’m done. But these other books are also calling to me, especially Skyward and The Calculating Stars.

I’m taking a month off from writing new words (but there will still be editing happening). So, I expect I’m going to make a huge dent in my reading lists this month. Now if I can just keep my finger off the “buy it now” button…

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read or bought any of these books and what you think. Until next time (like maybe Wednesday…), it’s time for me to get off the internet and go read!

Top Five Wednesday: Independent Ladies (#T5W)

This week’sĀ Top Five WednesdayĀ is all about our favorite leading ladies — specifically the ones who aren’t distracted from getting shit done by their love interest. This doesn’t mean there can’t be a romantic plot or sub-plot. It just means that for these characters, priority number one is kicking ass, saving the world, and getting shit done. Oh yeah. Let’s do this!

  1. First on my list is Sassinak, the title character from Anne McCaffery and Elizabeth Moon’s book of the same name. (And if you didn’t guess this already, you probably haven’t been reading my blog for very long… Welcome!) This book opens with Sassinak and her childhood best friend having a blast at a festival just before planet pirates descend on their colony and kill all the adults and enslave all the children of a manageable age (old enough to fend for themselves, but young enough not to fight back — basically pre-teens like Sassinak). Through the rest of the book we get to see her grow up and fight for her dream of becoming a Fleet Captain and getting her own ship to hunt down planet pirates. Along the way she has several liaisons with various side characters, but she never loses focus on her goal. Sassinak was my first favorite “strong female character,” and she maintains a special place in my heart to this day.
  2. Next up is Charlotte Holmes from Sherry Thomas’s Lady Sherlock series (first book is A Study in Scarlett Women). This series is set in the original Sherlock Holmes time period (Victorian England?), but in this series Sherlock is actually a woman named Charlotte, and she’s delightful. Of course, because this is the “bad old days” of the patriarchy, she has to hide her genius behind a pseudonym (Sherlock). Some people may think she’s cold and calculating or just plain “odd,” but she is in love with someone. Regardless of her feelings, nothing gets in the way of her desire to solve all the mysteries (and eat all the cake). I LOVE this series. Charlotte is my favorite version of Sherlock (yes, even better than BBC Sherlock). At some point, if we ever do a T5W of characters we’d like to be friends with, she’d definitely make my list.
  3. Now, let’s talk about two independent ladies who I love that appear in a book I did not like: Alice and Julia from The Magicians series by Lev Grossman. There are many reasons I didn’t like these books (and yet I LOVE the TV show), but the biggest reason is the awful way these two characters are treated in the books. For starters, Alice is smarter than everyone and completely focused on achieving her goal, even with the distraction of being the love interest of the main character, Quentin. (Oh how I hate Quentin as a main character in the books. The TV show did a much better job with his character.) But then, at the end of book one, (*spoiler alert*) Alice dies for sort-of no other reason than to enhance Quentin’s plot. The author “fridged” her. I could have accepted what happens to Alice, but then, just as we begin to realize how bad ass Julia is, and start to love her at least as much, if not more than Alice (*spoiler* Julia didn’t get in to Brakebills, but that did not stop her from learning magic and becoming at least as good, if not better at it than the others), the author doubles down on his awful treatment of female characters with an ending to book two that is completely unforgivable. It nearly made me DNF the series. I’m still not over it. Guys (and I do mean guys because it’s mostly male-identifying authors who keep doing this), please quit it with the rape as a plot device. I’m not even going to apologize for spoilers here because you should be warned about this ending. It’s not just rape, it’s rape that is supposed to somehow “inject” (literally) our female main character with god-like powers. Nope. No thank you. Alice and Julia are awesome. I’ll keep enjoying them (and Margo) in the TV show, and pretend the books never happened.”
  4. My next top five favorite independent lady is a classic, and possibly the original independent lady, Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. In a time period where the only realistic goal for young ladies was pretty much “find a rich and tolerable man and marry him,” Elizabeth Bennet was determined to marry for love. She turned down an “advantageous” proposal from a cousin who was set to inherit her father’s property when he died. She even declined Darcy’s initial proposal because he was behaving like an ass. Hers is a “quieter” independence. She’s not out killing monsters, learning how to wield magic to save the world, or having any other dramatic adventures. But she’s still a risk taker who stuck to her principles and went after what she wanted, and for that she’s earned a spot on my list.
  5. Last, but most definitely not least, on my list of favorite independent ladies is definitely Kiva from John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire. Kiva was hands-down my favorite character in this book. She’s smart and crafty, and she’s out there, making stuff happen. One of the coolest aspects of this character is that she gets to have casual hook-ups with any willing partner the way that a male main character would. No shame. No moralistic repercussions. She’s just out there doing her thing. I love it and can’t wait to see what happens next for her, and the other characters in this series.

That was fun. Now I better get back to the writing cave and work on writing the adventures of my current independent leading lady in my Modern Fae series. Let me know in the comments if you agree / disagree with my selections, above, and tell me who’s on your list.