Starting a Reading Journal for 2021

A little while back I asked for advice on what I should do to streamline my reading tracking for 2021. After posting that, I spent some time thinking about why I track reading metrics, and what metrics, if any, were most important to me. My hope was that, if I could reduce the amount of data I want to keep track of, maybe I could eliminate the spreadsheet, at least.

Then, because I knew that journaling about what I was reading was important to me and something I definitely wanted to add, I watched a bunch of YouTube videos where folks showed off how they set up their reading journals. Turns out that there are a LOT of really inspiring reading journals out there.

Many of these reading journals have extensive artistic collage layouts with lots of washi and stickers, and most include some sort of tracker for “days read.” I’m not sure how artsy I’m going to get with my reading journal, but I did decide to incorporate a few of the more popular spreads, with my own personal twist, of course.

My plan is to use Goodreads as my book database since I’ve already got all my shelves set up so I know what I own and haven’t read yet and if it’s on my Kindle or on my bookshelf. I also use it to keep track of what books I have on hold at the library, and what’s on my TBR. Plus, it’s easy to sort things by number of pages or title or author or whatever. But… I don’t review stuff there.

That’s where the reading journal is going to come in.

Step one: I took a plain (not dotted) Leuchtturm that I had in my stash of blank notebooks, and started covering it with bookish stickers.

Next I took my list of ideas from the YouTube videos I watched and started laying them out in pencil. Once I was happy with what I had, I started inking things in and adding color.

I started with a title page that also serves as a key for my “year in review” bookshelf on the next pages.

I divided the two pages into three “shelves.” My plan is to draw books on these shelves in clumps that correspond to the months of the year, starting in the upper left where you can see that I wrote “January” on the black strip that serves as the top of the shelf. If you look closely, you can see that I’ve penciled in some books on the shelf as placeholders.

Once January is over, I’ll go draw in the appropriate number of book spines in some combination of horizontal and vertical, leaving space for February on the same half of the page. Depending on how many books I read in January, I may just hold off on drawing these in until after February. I’ll add the titles to the spines and then color them in according to genre, adding a little red heart on the spine if the book is also a romance.

Once that was set up, I spent some time drawing a grid to track my reading stats, and making a page for my 2021 reading goals.

My plan is to capture my reading stats each month and then enter the data here. In general, I decided that I wanted to track the following things:

  • Total books read (goal is at least 52, or one per week on average)
  • How many books I read that were published in 2021
  • How many Indie published books I read
  • How many books I read in each format (audio, ebook, and paper)
  • How many books I read that I own vs. that are from the library
  • How many books I read that are written by Black authors and/or other non-white (goal is 12 by Black authors and 12 by other non-white authors)
  • How many books I read with LGBTQ+ main character(s) and/or written by an LGBTQ+ author (goal is 12 books) — Note: I decided not to just make this about the author demographics because, while I strive to prioritize Own Voices books, an author’s sexuality is none of my business.
  • And finally… how many books I read that are YA vs. Adult

I know, it’s still a lot to keep track of and maybe in 2022 I’ll decide to streamline it more. I tried to only keep the metrics I wanted to set goals for, but a couple more (like YA vs. Adult and Indie pub books) snuck in there. I couldn’t help it. I like data.

Underneath my very short list of goals, I added a “21 in 2021” book cover collage. These are the books that I’ve been meaning to get to for way too long. They either get buried on my Kindle, or I’ve walked past them on my bookshelf so many times that I’ve forgotten they’re there. I tried to pick only the ones that I am most excited to read and not focus on stuff that I feel guilty for not reading.

You may also notice that there are only twenty covers pasted in right now. I’m still debating on what book gets that final slot. It somewhat depends on what book(s) I manage to finish before the end of 2020. If you have a book you want to make a strong case for, let me know in the comments.

Finally, I added one more spread for the year before diving into my monthly pages.

I couldn’t resist adding the 2021 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge tasks. I am not going to be actively participating in that challenge this year, but I wanted to add the prompts just for fun. If I do happen to read a book or two that check any of those boxes, I’m planning to write in the page number that corresponds to my notes on that book.

I left the opposite page blank to be filled in with books that I buy in 2021. I’m not sure if I’ll do another cover collage or if I’ll just make a list of titles and authors. I may start off by writing a list in pencil and then going back and adding covers in batches, once I have enough that it makes sense to print them out.

After that, I started a spread for January.

This one is still in-progress. I got a little crafty and used bits of a cute wrapping paper to dress it up a bit. I’m still working on my TBR. Again, it kind of depends on what book(s) I manage to finish before the New Year. I’m thinking of this like a bullet journal, but for reading. So that would make this my month cover page and goals page.

The two pages after this will include a list of what I read in January, plus my January book stats (kind of like a “month at a glance” spread if this were a bullet journal). That will be followed by entries for each book I read with at least a page of notes (and favorite quotes, etc.) from each (sort of like “daily pages” in a bullet journal).

Is this a lot more work than keeping track of my reading in a spreadsheet? Maybe…. But it’s also more fun. Plus, I am attempting to move to using a “regular planner” in 2021, so this will fill the bullet journalling hole in my life.

What do you think? Do you keep a reading journal? If you do, is it artsy? Or do you keep it pretty minimalist? Let me know if you have any suggestions or ideas for me in the comments.

Happy reading!

Pandemic Pastimes of 2020

Since I just finished up a massive cross-stitch project that I’ve been working on most of this year, I thought maybe I’d mention a few of the new hobbies and projects that I’ve taken on to occupy myself during this stay-at-home year. These are the things I’ve been up to in 2020, besides my normal writing and reading of books.

Baking

Early on in the pandemic, I jumped on the sourdough bread craze. I had been really into baking bread about ten years ago, and that was the last time I’d had a sourdough starter. Since then I’ve moved around a LOT and lived in what feels like a million different houses and cities. But, all the talk about bread baking and the yeast shortage got me back into sourdough again.

Since March, I’ve made a few decent loaves and plenty of bad ones. My loaves are still spreading out too much (vs. rising up). I finally sort of figured it out, then we moved. Now I have a new house and a new oven, plus this house is a lot colder than the place we were living in before. I’m think I’m going to have to figure it out all over again.

One thing I’ve learned this time around that I didn’t know back when I was first messing around with sourdough is all the awesome things you can make with sourdough discard. Now none of it is ever wasted. My favorites are sourdough pancakes and sourdough biscuits. For both I use the recipes on the King Arthur Flour website.

Stretching

In general, the pandemic has given me some additional motivation to focus on my fitness. I know that the virus doesn’t seem to care how healthy you are, and it seems to be effecting even really fit people in a very negative way. But, I figured it couldn’t hurt to step up my running and walking game.

One thing I quickly realized was that there was no way I was going to be able to remain injury free while running and walking at least 10k steps per day if I didn’t also stretch. So, stretching for at least 10-15 minutes every day is one of the habits I’ve been trying to develop this year.

I don’t think I’ve had a month where I actually achieved that goal, but I’ve been pretty close several times, and I’m definitely more flexible now than I was at the start of the pandemic. I am extremely grateful to the wealth of stretching and yoga videos on YouTube. I have a whole playlist of my favorites now.

Language Learning

When my friends’ kids started doing Duolingo over the summer to earn screen time for fun stuff like video games, I was reminded of how much I love learning languages. I studied French in high school and college, then I did a Spanish language immersion program in Ecuador a little over ten years ago. But I’m very much out of practice on both of those languages.

I considered doing a refresher of one of those, but decided to learn something totally new and started Hindi lessons instead. I’ve always wanted to travel to India. I’ve worked with a lot of folks from India during my corporate years, and I got introduced to Bollywood films. I love the mix of Hindi and English that they speak in those movies and have always been fascinated by languages that use a different alphabet from English.

The snapshot below is from the “year in review” that the Duolingo app sent me a couple of weeks ago. Since then I’ve improved on these stats, and my streak is up to 140 days (as of today)! I plan to see how long I can keep this going. Ideally, I’d like to get through at least the first level of every lesson in Hindi before I switch to something else, or add on Spanish and/or French practice.

Cross-Stitch

I have a bunch of friends who knit, but I don’t really like knitting that much. I tried it, and I made a scarf. That was fun, but it didn’t really stick as a hobby. So, when I decided I needed something to do with my hands during all these video conference calls, I went back to something I remembered enjoying as a kid. Cross-stitch.

I completed a few easy projects last year, before the pandemic, when I was hanging out with knitters and needed a project of my own to work on. Then I picked something that was way over my head and decided to take a bit of a break from it. Then the pandemic hit, and I picked it up again, determined to finish it.

And, that, my friends is really want prompted this post. I finally finished it today! Just in time for my niece’s birthday this weekend. Here it is, my completed Purple Galaxy Unicorn cross-stitch from Leia Patterns on Etsy…

I know this seems like a lot, but it’s been a long and stressful year, and I’ve needed a lot of distraction. It hasn’t always been super easy to escape into books the way I usually do, even though I’ve managed to surpass my annual 52 book reading goal on Goodreads.

I’ll have a post about all my 2020 reading stats after the year is officially over. I mean, I still have a few books I’d like to finish before the end of this month. In the meantime, stay tuned for that post I promised about how I plan to track my reading (and plan my life) in 2021.

Until then, happy reading!

November Reading Wrap-Up and End of the Year Book Tag

This is it. Last month of 2020. Last chance for me to finish all my in-progress reads, read all the books read that I meant to read this year, and figure out my reading goals and tracking system for next year. But first, let’s do a brief wrap up of what I read and what I bought this month.

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I read three books in November. They were:

  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid — This novel was so good. REALLY good. Like, possibly best book I read in 2020, good. Bump it up to the top of your TBR right now. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia — Oh boy did this author nail the Gothic novel vibes. Wow. That said, the setting is a lot more English than Mexican, even though it’s set in Mexico, which wasn’t quite what I was expecting. But, if Gothic novels are your thing, definitely check this one out.
  • Mating the Huntress by Talia Hibbert — This was a really cute novella that gave me Buffy and Spike vibes, except with consent. I really liked it.

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I bought books this month! I’m not even going to feel bad about it. Here’s what I got:

  • Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco — My October Fairy Loot box finally arrived towards the end of November (there were COVID-related shipping delays), and this was the book of the month. The stenciled edges on this special edition are so pretty, and the story sounds great. I have it in my reading nook because I want to start reading it very soon.
  • The Under a Winter Sky anthology — There are so many amazing authors with stories in this Anthology. I almost always neglect the short story collections on my Kindle, but I am determined to read this one soon. Hopefully while it’s still winter.
  • Warrior Wench by Marie Andreas — So, I’m basically a sucker for a mercenary space captain. I saw this on sale, read the description, realized that it sounded like fun and campy sci-fi romp, which was exactly what I was in the mood for, and I had to grab a copy.
  • Rescue Her Heart by K. C. Luck — Another sci-fi adventure involving a space captain, but this time a lesbian sci-fi adventure!
  • House of Scepters by Anne Zoelle — Anne is one of the writers in my Tuesday writing group, and the organizer of that group has been gushing about this book ever since she got to beta read it. This is the first book in a three book series that Anne rapid-released. Based on what I’ve heard, I probably should have gone ahead and bought all three because I suspect I’m going to want to keep reading once I start.

End of the Year Book Tag

Rather than talk about what I’m currently reading, or what’s on my TBR for December, I thought I’d do the End of the Year Book Tag that has been going around over on Booktube. I did this last year and thought I might try it again, even though the year is nearly over. The questions pretty nicely cover what I have planned for the rest of this year…

Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish? YES! I like to finish all my in-progress reads before midnight on New Year’s. It’s kind of a weird quirk of mine. Right now I have three books in progress. They are:

  • Poseidon’s Wake by Alastair Reynolds — I abandoned this one earlier in the year and have yet to get back to it. It’s been so long that I may need to start over…
  • Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott — This is non-fiction and interesting, but a pretty slow read. I am going to need to pick up the pace a bit if I want to finish before the end of December.
  • Eight Will Fall by Sarah Harian — This one I should be done with in a couple of days. I had to put it down for a bit to read The Return of the Thief (so good! more on that in my December wrap up…), but this one is pretty fast paced, and I am finding myself excited to pick it up again.

Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year? The short answer is yes. See last year’s post for which book(s) and why. I never did re-read either last year, and I still probably won’t re-read them this year, though I really want to re-read them at some point.

Is there a new release you’re still waiting for? YES! The third (and last) book in Michael Mammay’s Planetside series is scheduled to be released at the very end of December. It’s called Colonyside, and I’ve pre-ordered it so that I can read it right away. I plan to start book two in the series any minute now so that I am ready to go when book three drops onto my Kindle.

I’ve said this before, but if you like military sci-fi, OR if you like the idea of a something like the movie A Few Good Men, but set in space with a retired “one last job” protagonist, then you need to get your hands on this series. Do it.

What are three books you want to read before the end of the year? Okay, aside from all the ones I already mentioned in this post, here are the three that are calling to me the most right now:

  • Aurora Burning by by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff — This one is kind of a cheat because my friends and I just decided this was going to be our buddy read book this month. I didn’t love the twist at the end of the first book, but I did like the characters, especially my favorite space fae.
  • Stormsong by C. L. Polk — I promised myself that I would get to read this as my reward for finishing (and publishing) Hunter of the Fae. I am so excited to read this one.
  • Strange Love by Ann Aguirre — I’ve been super curious about this author for a while. She has a ton of books that seem like they would really appeal to me. This one is giving me Anne McCaffrey vibes for some reason, and I really want to see if it lives up to that.

Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favorite book of the year? Possibly Strange Love, or maybe Stormsong, or Spaceside… Huh. Apparently books that have a title that starts with an “S” are most likely to be my new favorites at the moment.

Have you already started making reading plans for 2021? YES! But, this post is already very long, so I’m going to save that for my next blog post, which should be very soon. Here’s a hint, though, it has to do with the solution I came up with for the problem I mentioned in a previous blog post

Talk with you more soon. Until then, happy reading!

Happy Book Birthday to Hunter of the Fae!

Book four in my Modern Fae series is out today!

This one is set in Seattle and features two humans who used to be (and honestly, still are) in love, but are no longer together for…reasons. One is a powerful wizard, and that’s not the only secret he’s keeping. The other has no magic, but she does have an adorable faerie guard dog with a nose for trouble. Fate (and the Queen of the Fae) has forced them back together again. If they can figure out how to trust each other, they may be able to help save the Fae from extinction.

In a war between Demons and Fae, the enemy of her enemy is…her ex-boyfriend?

If you’re interested in reading this book but worried about starting in the middle of the series, my recommended reading order is as follows:

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

You can read the first chapter of Hunter of the Fae for free over on my website. And you can get a free copy of Vivian’s Promise when you sign up for my monthly newsletter.

Happy reading!

Tracking My Reading in 2021 (advice needed)

It’s the end of the year, and I’m reconsidering how I track my reading… again. I’ve decided to move away from bullet journaling in 2021. I know. I’m shocked as well. But, I need something with a little more structure that can help me stay on track with several different goals and projects next year. So, I bought a Passion Planner Weekly.

My idea is that I’ll use my weekly planner to keep track of what needs to get done each month / week. Then I’m going to have a separate journal for daily (or semi-daily) journaling, doodling, and general brain dumping. I could use that journal for keeping track of my reading, or I could keep doing something more like what I’m doing now.

Right now I keep track of “book logistics” in Goodreads. Things like: what I’ve read, what I want to read, what’s on my Kindle, what’s unread on my bookshelf, what’s on hold at the library, what’s on my must-read TBR, etc. But I don’t review books on Goodreads. I give books I read a star rating, which is almost always four or five stars, and that’s it.

I also have a reading spreadsheet kind of like this one, where I keep track of my book stats. Things like: how many books did I read by authors of color, or by queer authors, or how many books were fiction vs. non-fiction, and how did my reading break down by genre, etc. I like data. I like having quantitative information about what (and whose) stories I put into my brain each year.

I recently added a few columns to the end of my reading spreadsheet where I can rate the book I’ve read on a few different factors (characters, world-building, plot, enjoyment, etc.). The ratings on each element compile into a total score for a book. This allows me to have a more definitive ranking of which were my favorite books that I read, and why. But, I don’t write down my thoughts about a book there, either. It’s just a bunch of numbers.

So here I am, thinking about why I keep track of what I read and what I want to change (if anything for next year). I feel like I need a place where I can write down my thoughts about a book, uncensored and not to be published for public consumption. Something like a book journal. But, I’m hesitant to add yet another method for tracking my reading. It already seems like way too much.

Tell me, what do you think? How do you track your reading? Do you have a book journal or do you just post reviews on a blog/vlog? Do you even differentiate between public and private thoughts about a book? Are you still using Goodreads or do you use a spreadsheet? Or are you using both?

Post a comment and let me know what you think. And if you have good resources that you would recommend for this sort of thing, let me know.

October Reading Wrap-Up

Yikes. We’re already a week into November, and I am only now posting my October reading wrap-up. The past few weeks have been a busy and stressful blur. I’m still feeling a little overwhelmed, honestly. All I really want to be doing is reading, but my to-do list is keeping me too busy. At least I had a good reading month in October…

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I started the month with Murder on Black Swan Lane by Andrea Penrose. I picked this up because it looked like it might have a similar vibe to the Lady Sherlock series by Sherry Thomas and the Veronica Speedwell series by Deanna Raybourn. I am happy to report that it did, and I enjoyed it. I’ll definitely be checking out the rest of the series.

After that, I read Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst. You may remember that I read her Queens of Renthia series earlier this year and really enjoyed it. Well, I liked this book even better than that series, and that’s saying a lot. This may be my favorite fantasy release of 2020. It may even make my top five books I read this year. We shall see…

I listened to the audio book of The Unexpected Spy by Tracy Walder. This one was a memoir about her life in the CIA and FBI. It was really interesting, but also infuriating, at times. Her experience with the FBI was extremely frustrating to listen to, but it has a really heartwarming “girl power” ending that made me very happy.

Then, inspired by all the Halloween horror and thriller TBRs, I decided to read When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole. It was a very disturbing yet entertaining contemporary thriller. I mean, the story is based on historic and current events, and (as has been said before) truth is sometimes stranger and way more scary than fiction. If you like her other books (the revolution-era ones especially) don’t miss this one.

Finally, it took me all month to finish A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy. This is no fault of the book, which I really enjoyed. I was reading a hardcover edition of this book, and I do most of my reading these days on my Kindle just before bed. So I had to change my routine a bit in order to squeeze in more early morning and late evening reading time. This got a lot easier to do once we moved into the new house. I have an excellent reading nook now that is very cozy and perfect for curling up with a good book. I may finally be able to put a dent in my paper TBR.

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I didn’t buy or borrow any new books in October! Wow!

Currently Reading

I started the non-fiction book Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott in October. I’m enjoying it, but I’m only about a quarter of the way into it. I haven’t been reading much (at all?) in this first week of November. There have been too many other distractions (the elections, moving in to a new house, finishing copy edits on Hunter of the Fae, and getting started on NaNoWriMo, just to name a few…). But, I’m hoping to get back into my reading groove next week.

I’m also planning to start reading either Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid or Mexican Gothic by Silvia Morena Garcia next. I’ve already read two books by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and liked both of them, so I’m pretty sure I’ll also like Mexican Gothic. But, I’m buddy reading Such a Fun Age with my friends L. and S. So, I think I’ll start that one, first.

In general, I am really hoping that this year chills out a bit and lets us all get a little rest and relaxation before it’s time to ring in the New Year. Since it’s winter where I live, and the pandemic is getting worse again, I think it’s a great time to hide out with a good book.

Happy reading, everyone!

September Reading Wrap-Up

September was a lot. Not a lot of reading, but a lot of other stuff, like finishing writing book four in my Modern Fae series, plus some life stuff, not to mention all the other things going on in the world right now. I am really, REALLY looking forward to taking a bit of a break in October. But first, let’s talk about what I read and what I hauled in September.

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I caught up on Murderbot in September. I finished the third and fourth novellas (Rogue Protocol and Exit Strategy), plus read the short story that is set between the fourth novella and the first novel (Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory), and the first novel (Network Effect). I really love Murderbot. In a month where I regularly found myself overwhelmed by emotions (ugh, emotions), I found I could totally relate to just wanting to bury myself in consuming stories to make myself feel better. Especially old favorites. I’ve been really craving returning to some of my favorite movies and books.

The only non-Murderbot book that I read in September was You Should See Me In a Crown by Leah Johnson. This is a contemporary YA novel with a big prom theme, set at a high school in Indiana, featuring a bisexual main character who is also Black. It was really good. I really enjoyed it, even though it is definitely written for Real Teens (aka not adults, like me). I wish I had more teens in my life to share this with.

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I did another epic library haul and filled my Kindle up with ebooks. What do you see here that you think I should read first? The one I’m probably most excited for is Erin Hahn’s More Than Maybe, which sounds like a book that teen me would have LOVED. I’m also hoping that I’ll get sucked into some of these series now that I have more time for reading. It’s always when you get to read books in a series back to back.

Currently Reading

I am currently in the middle of A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy and Murder on Black Swan Lane by Andrea Penrose. The first is a YA fantasy novel with cool magic and world building. The second is a cozy mystery set in Regency London. It is similar in style to the Lady Sherlock series and the Veronica Speedwell series that I like. Lucky for me, this is also the first in an ongoing series.

What are you reading? What do you recommend from my book haul?

August Reading Wrap Up

I didn’t read much in August, but I did do a lot of writing, and I made an effort to get outside and enjoy the last few weeks of summer. Most of that outside time was pretty active, though. I haven’t spent nearly enough time just sitting outside and reading. I’m going to work on getting in a little more of that in September.

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I finished the audiobook of F*ck No!: How to Stop Saying Yes When You Can’t, You Shouldn’t, or You Just Don’t Want To by Sarah Knight at the start of the month. I think that the first half of this book was much better and more useful (to me, anyway) than the second half of this book. What I realized from reading this is why I have such trouble saying no to things / people and also how to short circuit that thought process in my head. I didn’t really need the “how to say no” part in the second half, but some of the examples that she used were illuminating and made me think of more times that I probably should have said no and didn’t. Overall, I’m really glad I read it and recommend it to others who find themselves saying “yes” when they really should or want to say “no.”

After that, I (finally) picked up A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn. I wanted to read something like the Lady Sherlock series that I love while I wait for book five, and this seemed like a good option. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t like the main character as much as I enjoy Charlotte Holmes. I am hoping that she evolves as the series progresses, and I plan to read at least the next book in the series to find out. I sort of forgot how much I like cozy mysteries with plucky heroines, and it’s nice to know I have at least one other series I can go to when I am in the mood for that.

The last book I read this month was Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase. I wanted to check this one out because it had been spoken of in glowing terms by several romance authors I admire. Unfortunately, I was not impressed. It’s fine, but nothing special. The main conflict keeping the pair apart essentially boils down to their inability to be honest with each other about their feelings, which is a romance pet peeve of mine. I also really didn’t like the fact that the hero is considered ugly (big nose, large body, and dark skin) and a scoundrel because of his half-Italian ancestry. The term “blackamoor” (which I was unfamiliar with until I Googled it) was used repeatedly in connection to his appearance and his lustfulness and brutish behavior. Not okay. Especially not considering the 2009 pub date. I am really not sure that I understand the appeal of this one, or why everyone seems to love it so much.

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I bought two ebooks this month. One is a book that I’ve had on my wishlist forever that finally went on sale. Milady by Laura L. Sullivan is supposed to be a Three Musketeers retelling, but from the perspective of the villainess of that story, Milady de Winter. I’ve never read The Three Musketeers. I’m not even sure I’m familiar with the general plot of the story, but this sounded really good.

The other book I bought is one I’ve been anticipating since I first heard about it months ago. Seven Devils by by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May. First off, the title is a nod to a song by Florence and the Machine, which I love. Then there’s the team of women and the sci-fi setting. I have very high hopes for this book and really, really want it to be a five star read.

Currently Reading

I’m just over halfway through You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson. YA Contemporary isn’t my favorite age-group / genre combination, but I’m enjoying it. So far, I think the hype is justified.

Next up I’m planning to (finally) finish the Murderbot novellas. I’ve been saving the third and fourth, but now that there’s a novel to read (and more coming), I feel like I can safely read these. Plus, S. and L. want to buddy read the novel with me, and I can’t read that until I read these.

Now I need to get back to writing so I can finish this novel and send it to my beta readers. Then I can reward myself by relaxing on the deck with a book. Happy reading!

July Reading Wrap-Up

July was a pretty good reading month for me. I managed to finish ten books. A couple were pretty short, but there were some definite keepers in this batch.

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Here’s what I read in July:

I started the month with It’s Not All Downhill From Here by Terry McMillan. The only other book I’ve read by her is How Stella Got Her Groove Back, which I read before I saw the movie. I liked this one. It was a little meandering and repetitive at times, but I think it did a great job portraying a woman dealing with grief over losing her husband suddenly, and I really appreciate the way the author portrays female friendships.

After that, I read Intercepted by Alexa Martin. I wasn’t sure I was going to like this one because I’m not a fan of professional sports (other than swimming). I picked it up because the author was an NFL wife, and I listened to a podcast interview with her that I really enjoyed. I’m glad I finally read this because it was another solid win for female friendships, and I really liked the story and the romance. Definitely recommend this one for anyone who enjoys contemporary romance.

Then I read three more that I really liked. The first was Catfishing on Catnet by Naomi Kritzer, which was really cute and fun and light. Highly recommend. Then Chaos Reigning by Jesse Mihalik, which was book three in a space opera romance series that I’ve been enjoying. I think I liked this book the best of the three. If you like space opera you should definitely check out this series. And then I read another last book in a trilogy, Hurts to Love You by Alisha Rai. I like all the books in the Forbidden Hearts series, each for different reasons, but I think this might have been my favorite.

My virtual book club decided to read Beach Read by Emily Henry and The Deep by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes. Both were really good with some superficial similarities, but they were otherwise very different books. Beach Read is (mostly) light romance about two writers who meet again after having secret crushes on each other in college. I really connected with the book-writing subplot and thought the romance was sufficiently swoony. The main characters in both Beach Read and The Deep are dealing with painful memories, but The Deep really dives into that and has only a small romantic subplot (which I wasn’t expecting, but was a welcome, hopeful touch). The other thing the two books have in common are incredibly interesting authors’ notes at the end. I love learning more about the story behind the story. I liked and recommend both of these books.

But wait, there’s more! I don’t know about you, but one of the biggest struggles I’ve had to deal with over the past few months of the “quarantimes” is all the FOMO from my decision to stay home and continue to do my socializing over the internet, or from a distance, outside. I’m kind of a people pleaser. It’s way easier for me to rock the boat on behalf of someone else than to speak up for myself. So, I’ve been working on setting and communicating boundaries. As such, I’ve found the Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight to be really helpful. I’m currently listening to her book F*ck No on Libby. When I saw she had a brief Christmas themed novella (How to Not Give a F*ck at Christmas), I thought I’d check it out. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that helpful. While I recommend the other two books, I don’t recommend buying the novella.

Last, but not least, I listened to two non-fiction books on Libby, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio. Both were really good. I’d been putting off reading White Fragility because I was pretty sure it was all going to be review for me, and mostly it was review, but it was an excellent review and an even better resource for talking with friends and family about this stuff. I highly recommend bumping this to the top of your TBR if you’ve been putting off reading it, like I was. And, if you want to expand beyond how Black people are treated in America, definitely check out The Undocumented Americans. My husband and I traveled to Ecuador just over ten years ago and heard some stories like this first-hand from the folks we met there, but this book goes way beyond what I already knew. I love getting new perspectives!

Inbox

I got to load up my Kindle with more books from my library in July. There are so many gems in this haul, but there are a few that I’m particularly excited to read. Those are: A Song of Wraith and Ruin, The Sound of Stars, You Should See Me in Crown, and Race the Sands. We shall see which one(s) I read first…

Currently Reading

Speaking of what I’m reading right now… There are two readathons going on this month, but I’m not participating in either of them. The first is The other option is Tome Topple, which starts today. The other is the NEWTs Magical Readathon. I’m planning on skipping both because I don’t think I’m going to have a lot of time for reading this month.

This round of NEWTs is going to be the last of the Magical Readathons associated with Harry Potter. Since I completed all but one of the OWLs back in April. I was looking forward to getting my Animagus certificate, and I was all set to try for a number of different magical career options. I may still try to see what I can manage, but if it doesn’t work out, I’m excited to see what G comes up with for next year.

Okay, it’s past my bedtime, and this post is already very long (and several days late). So, I’m going to cut myself off and get to sleep. Until next time, stay home and read, and if you have to go out, please wear a mask! ❤

Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag

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

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

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