April Reading Wrap-Up

It’s time for another reading wrap-up post! I participated in both the Magical Readathon and the Tome Topple Readathon in April. I managed to complete all my “coursework” for the Magical Readathon’s Orilium Academy spring session, and I finished one tome for Tome Topple! So, I’ll call that a successful reading month.

Here’s what I ended up reading in April:

  • Paladin’s Strength by T. Kingfisher (for the Orilium’s “Art of Illusion”) — I started the month with this fantasy romance. I really loved the first book in this series (Paladin’s Grace). This book is the second in the series and shifted focus to follow a new pair of characters, which I expected from the blurb. I really liked this new couple. One is another paladin from the first book, and the other is a new character we meet in chapter one. Part of the plot expands on the mystery plot from the first book, but the majority of this story pushed things in a different direction and ended up being more of a rescue mission. I really enjoyed it (though I think I liked the first one a tiny bit more than this one), and I’m looking forward to reading book three.
  • Deal With The Devil by Kit Rocha (for the Orilium’s “Psionics and Divination”) — This was a near-future sci-fi romance featuring the leaders of two bands of mercenaries who end up having to work together for plot reasons. Mercenaries are kind of hit and miss for me. These were super-soldiers with biological enhancements in a post-apocalyptic world. Neither of those things (super-soldiers or post-apocalypse) are my favorite. Still, I ended up liking this book. Not enough to jump immediately into the next one in the series, but enough that I might read book two at some point.
  • Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (for the Orilium’s “Inscription” and also for Tome Topple) — This book was so good! Epic fantasy at its absolute best! I ended up listening to this on audiobook even though I own the ebook and the hardcover. I had a bunch of spring cleaning projects to do in the second half of April, and the audiobook was available from my library, so I switched formats. I have to say, I’m really glad that I did because the audiobook narration is fantastic. Sometimes I find it hard to stay engaged in fiction when it’s being read to me, especially when the book has a lot of complex world-building like this one does, but the narrator (Korey Jackson) did a great job. I can’t wait for the next book in this series!
  • Drowned Country by Emily Tesh (for the Orilium’s “Lore) — This is a novella and a companion story to Silver in the Wood. I love the folklore and atmospheric, lyrical prose of these books. I also love the sort-of grumpy / sunshine pairing of the two main characters. This was a fast and very enjoyable read, and I highly recommend these two books.

Originally, I’d planned on reading Legendborn for the “Lore” prompt in the Magical Readathon because it was also a tome, and I thought I might be able to finish two tomes in one month. But I ran out of time. I might have been able to finish it before the end of the month, but I didn’t have enough days left in the Tome Topple Readathon by the time I finished Son of the Storm. So I decided to switch to Drowned Country (which also fit for the prompt and was only 160 pages long). Then, I started reading Legendborn as soon as I finished Drowned Country. I am LOVING it, so far. If you haven’t read it, yet, go find a copy and check it out. This is possibly some of the best YA fantasy that I’ve read in a while. But I’ll save the rest of my gushing until my next reading wrap-up post…

Now that we are officially in May, I’m working on setting up my reading journal for the new month. I’ll have that update posted soon (probably with a video). Until then, let me know in the comments what you’re reading this month!

March Reading Wrap-Up

I did not read as many books as I thought I was going to read in March. I had wanted to read one for every line in my rainbow, but alas that did not happen. On the bright side, I really liked everything I read.

Here is what I read in March:

  • Hunt the Stars by Jessie Mihalik — This book gave me serious Firefly vibes. There’s a crew of mercenaries. The Captain falls for the alien who hires them for a job. I enjoyed it, and I think I liked it better than I liked her Consortium Rebellion series. If you’re looking for some sci-fi romance that’s not of the blue aliens kidnapping Earth women variety, you should give this one a try.
  • The Misfit Soldier by Michael Mammay — This book was great. The author has become one of my auto-buy authors, and I think I liked this book even better than his first series. Currently, this is a stand-alone. I could totally see this becoming book one in a series (and I hope that it does). The voice of the main character had me laughing out loud. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I was practically giddy when I realized that this wasn’t just a military sci-fi mystery novel. Another, somewhat unexpected genre has been sandwiched in here, and it’s done very well. This one is definitely my favorite that I read this month.
  • The Bounce Back by Addie Woolridge — Another REALLY good novel. Again, I think I liked this one even better than I liked her first novel. This book is funny and heartwarming, and there is so many wise nuggets about day jobs and sibling relationships and female friendships. I highly recommend checking out this book, even if you haven’t read The Checklist (but you should totally read that one, too).

If you want to watch the flip-thru video, you can check that out here:

I am still working on adding some background music to my April set-up video. Once I get that figured out, I’ll get that posted, too! Until then, happy reading!

February Reading Wrap-Up — #FaRoFeb and More

Fantasy Romance February is over, which is a little sad, but it was a good reading month for me. I ended up reading a total of seven books! Not bad for the shortest month of the year, right?

Since (like last month) I read both fiction and non-fiction books, but (unlike last month) I read more than one of each, I’ll start with my favorite fiction and favorite non-fiction that I read this month.

Fave fiction of the month goes to Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher, which I already gushed about here.

Fave non-fiction of the month goes to Black Love Matters: Real Talk on Romance, Being Seen, and Happily Ever Afters by multiple authors, edited by Jessica P. Pryde. I highly recommend checking this out, especially if you are a writer or a romance reader. But really anyone who consumes stories in any format or genre could benefit from the light that these authors shine on the myriad issues around how Black relationships are portrayed in books, shows, and movies. It really was some of the best non-fiction reading I could have selected for any month, let alone the month that is dedicated to both Black History and all things love (due to the mid-month Gal/Pal/Val/entine’s Day holiday).

Aside from those two excellent reads, my buddy read book for the month was the series finale, Aurora’s End by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. It was a solid culmination of this epic space adventure, but it wasn’t my favorite. I just wasn’t that into, and it nearly sent me into a reading slump. But then I jumped back into one of my favorite series and saved myself with Miss Moriarty, I Presume by Sherry Thomas. I cannot gush about her Lady Sherlock series enough. It’s so good, and it was exactly what I needed to pull me out of the looming reading funk.

I also read Newsletter Ninja 2 by Tammi Labrecque, which overwhelmed me with lots of excellent ideas (in a good way). Mentioning that book reminds me that I should probably say, if you like my blog posts, you might also like my monthly newsletter. Yes, shameless self-promo, but also, I’m not kidding. My newsletter is a lot like my blog posts, it just has different (newsletter exclusive) content, including updates on my writing projects and free stories. Like this one that you get in exchange for signing up.

Finally, I jumped back into fantasy romance because it was FaRoFeb, after all. I read Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper, which was cute and fun. I was really into the magic competition (because I love competition stories), though I was a little disappointed that the main character wasn’t participating as one of the witches in the contest. The world-building is very “our world, but with magic” (which I like), and I loved the little town of Thistle Grove (not least of which because it sounds like the kind of town that wouldn’t have been that far from where I grew up).

Then I picked up a newsletter freebie (The Duchess: Tales of Kelnore) from a fellow FaRoFeb author (Hannah E. Carey) who also writes Celtic-inspired fantasy romance, except I don’t think her books have magic in them. At least this prequel story didn’t. When I looked it up on Goodreads, there was only one review and it was 2-stars, but the low rating was because that reviewer was disappointed that the heroine has sex before marriage. After I stopped laughing, I signed up for Hannah’s newsletter and hit download. I’m glad I did because I enjoyed this little prequel novella, even though it would not be considered a romance (because the pair of characters who are in love don’t live happily ever after). But the story did it’s job in introducing me to this world of Pern Coen and making me curious about what happens in the first full book in this series (The Hunter: Tales of Pern Coen).

Possibly the most fun I had this past week was adding these books, plus last month’s books, to my 2022 virtual shelf in my reading journal, which is looking pretty sweet, if I do say so myself.

How was your FaRoFeb? Did you read any good fantasy romance that you recommend? I would love to hear your faves and recommendations in the comments.

January 2022 Wrap-Up — Reading or Not

I mentioned in my last post that I started the year in a major reading slump that lasted for the whole first half of January. So what happened? And why didn’t I picked up a book?

In retrospect, I think the problem was that I set myself this goal of re-reading all my Modern Fae books in January so that I would be ready to start developmental edits of book five in February. Whenever I had time to read, I felt like I should be reading those. But that wasn’t what I was in the mood for, so I just didn’t read. It’s the classic problem I have with TBRs and why I gave up on making them.

I picked up a couple of other books during the first half of the month, read the first chapter or two, and then set them down again, feeling guilty that I was cheating on what I was supposed to be reading, even though I was actually really enjoying them. Eventually, I picked up my buddy read book for the month, Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki, because I could rationalize that I had to finish it before my next virtual meet-up with my two bookish friends.

That book sucked me in. I think I was expecting more sci-fi and/or space opera based on the cover. I don’t think I ever read the blurb. I picked it because it had been highly recommended by other readers I listen to on podcasts and YouTube. So, when the first chapters were very real-world contemporary with a splash of paranormal, I was a little surprised. In a good way. I love that there were elements of both sci-fi and fantasy in this story! The donut shop scenes were great, and I loved the competitive violin world. The story pulled me in because I really needed to know what was going to happen to these very interesting people next. This book deserves the hype. I definitely recommend it. But be warned that all the delicious food descriptions are going to make you hungry.

Then, because one of the main characters in Light from Uncommon Stars is trans, and I wanted to learn more and educate myself about her experience, I picked up Redefining Realness by Janet Mock. I devoured that, too. I learned enough to remind myself how much more I have to learn, which is basically what happens every time I read non-fiction. So then I pulled a bunch more non-fiction books to the top of my TBR.

Overall, January wasn’t a big (quantity) reading month for me, but it was a good (quality) reading month. I didn’t finish (or even get very far into) my Modern Fae re-read, and I only read two books, but the books I read were both really good.

Even though I am starting edits on book five, I’m hoping to spend more of my spare time reading in February. We’re only a day and a half in, but the month is already off to a great start. I’ve got some big (ambitious) reading plans for February, and I’ll tell you more about them later this week when I post my February reading journal set-up.

Until then, I hope you are enjoying whatever it is that you’re reading!

December Reading Wrap-up

Happy New Year! I meant to get this post up sooner, but the first few days of 2022 have been busy! I haven’t even had a chance to officially pick out my first read of the New Year! I’ve read the first chapter of a couple of books, but I’m still undecided about which one I want to dive into next. Maybe if I get December wrapped up, I can move on to January reading. Let’s talk about what I read in the last month of 2021…

I did read a couple of those holiday books that I put on my book buffet for December. The first of those was Under A Winter Sky, an anthology featuring stories by Kelley Armstrong, Jeffe Kennedy, Melissa Marr, L. Penelope, and Grace Draven. These were all more solstice themed, except for the first one by Kelley Armstrong. That one was kind of Outlander-esque Scottish time travel where the two main characters were celebrating Christmas in both modern day and the Victorian era. It was cute, but definitely one of those that felt like a bonus written for people who are already fans of that series. I’ve never read her other books, so the fan service love scenes fell a little flat for me. The second story by Jeffe Kennedy also felt like I was missing something having not read anything else by the author. There was a TON of world-building in that one for such a short story. My favorite was probably the Grace Draven story at the end, but it was also the shortest and the one with the most ambiguous ending (not quite a HEA… more like a promise for pinning?). I did really enjoy the world-building in both Melissa Marr’s story and L. Penelope’s story. Since I’ve already read a full length novel by Grace Draven and know that I enjoy her writing, those are the two new-to-me authors who I think I want to try reading more from after reading this anthology.

I also read Christmas With Holly by Lisa Kleypas. It was cute. I can see why they made it into a Hallmark movie. The author’s local knowledge was good. I believed that she had spent time on San Juan Island, or had at least done her homework and/or had a local gut check her book for her. If the book didn’t have that local setting, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up, and I’m not drawn enough to the author’s writing that I’m going to run out and read more books by her (mostly because she writes in genres that aren’t my favorite), but if I came across one with a premise that sounded like something I’d be really into, I’d pick it up for sure.

Then I decided to check out The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon to see how she did with the section of the book that I’d heard was set on Orcas Island (where I live). Unfortunately, they spend most of their time on the island in an AirBnB, in a thunder storm. Which is weird because thunder storms are really rare here. Also, they go antiquing. I don’t think I could name one antique store on this island. Art galleries, sure, but not antiques. So, I was a little disappointed with that because the author’s bio says she lives in Seattle. I guess I kind of expected more. Also, the main character is dealing with grief over the sudden loss of her father from a heart attack. The death happened long before the books starts, so it’s not fresh grief, but still. I wasn’t really expecting that part going in, and that bit of backstory hit a little close to home for me, especially reading it around the holidays. But the rest of the book was good. So don’t let the weird portrayal of Orcas Island stop you from checking out what is otherwise a really cute rom-com.

Probably my two favorites of the month were (unsurprisingly) Forrest for the Trees by Kilby Blades and Fated Blades by Ilona Andrews. Two very different books, but both page-turning romances. Forrest for the Trees is a contemporary romance between a fire marshal and a park ranger who have to work together to figure out who is setting fires in the section of National Park where they work. I loved the characters and thought the mystery plot was really well done. I am finally realizing that, if a contemporary romance doesn’t have an external plot bringing the love interests together, I am probably not going to like it. This one did, and it was awesome.

Fated Blades also had an external plot that brought the love interests together, except it was a sci-fi (or maybe sci-fantasy) romance instead of a contemporary romance. And there were some unfortunate plot holes in that external plot which reduced my enjoyment of the story. There was a sort of “only one bed” scenario and a training montage that somewhat made up for it. But, in the end, Forrest for the Trees nudged out Fated Blades to take the win as my favorite book read in December. Which is a bit shocking. Me, putting a contemporary romance above a sci-fantasy, “ballgowns in space,” romance? Who even am I? I was not expecting that.

The last book I read in 2021 was the graphic novel version of one of my all-time favorite YA novels, Graceling by Kirstin Cashore and Gareth Hinds. Because the story itself is a re-read, just in a different format (graphic novel), I excluded it when trying to decide on which book I read in December was my favorite. If I’m re-reading a book it’s because it already is a favorite, so it’s not fair to include it. I really enjoyed revisiting this story. I’d forgotten most of the details, and the drawings were a nice addition. Two of my nieces are almost old enough to give them copies of this one (I’d forgotten how violent in is), and I cannot wait to share this story with them. I love that there is now a graphic novel option because I think that has the potential to open up this story to new audiences.

Now that December is done, I can calculate my reading stats for 2021 and figure out which books I read last year were my top five favorites. I probably won’t get to that until the weekend, though. So, stay tuned for my 2021 reading wrap up and 2022 reading goals.

Until then, happy reading!

November Reading Wrap-up

Even though November was National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I managed to read three books! Well, two books plus a bind up of two novellas, and a short story. But whatever. I read some stuff! Read on to find out more.

Because this month was focused on writing, when I had spare time I mostly opted for stories in the form of movies, shows, and games. I think of those as quick-fix doses that feed my creative brain. Books take a lot longer to read, and sometimes you need the full story arc of something that feels like it could be a novel, but condensed down into an hour or two instead of the six to ten it might take to read a book.

I still made time to read. Mostly before bed, and mostly light and fluffy romance. The first book I finished was Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto. That one was contemporary romance.

Everything else I read fell into a sub-genre of sci-fi romance that I have started to think of as “ballgowns in space” because the world-building feels more like science-based fantasy than hard sci-fi. The primary example of this being people on presumably far-future space ships (or alternative Earth-like planets) who go to parties wearing current Earth fashions. The first of the “ballgowns in space” books was a YA sci-fi romance called The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne. After that, I read two novellas and a short story that had been re-published as a box set called The Kinsmen Universe by Ilona Andrews.

I didn’t realize this until after I read them, but Dial A For Aunties, The Stars We Steal, and the first of the Kinsmen novellas (Silent Blade) were all second chance romances. I realized this as I was making notes about the tropes in each book after I read them. At about the same time, I realized that I don’t really like the second chance romance trope. Or, maybe I do? But only in very specific cases? I don’t know. Let’s just say, it’s not an auto-buy trope for me.

Of the three of these stories with second chance romance arcs, I think Silent Blade worked best for me. After much reflection, I’ve realized that there are two things I need from a second chance romance. One is a believable but redeemable reason why the relationship didn’t work the first time (no cheaters, no liars). The second is character growth from the previous attempt at romance. I mean, it didn’t work the first time for a reason. Whatever that reason was has to get fixed, and if one of the two characters was a jerk, then there better be a really good grovel.

I don’t want to spoil the previous relationship between the two main characters in Silent Blade, but their break up satisfied my first second chance criteria. The hero was the jerk in this relationship, and at the start of the story, he hasn’t changed. When they meet again, the heroine is out for revenge, not reunion, and she is not a pushover. Things aren’t resolved with a simple apology. This required some serious grovel and character growth. All of which made the ending very satisfying.

Dial A For Aunties was really fun and funny, but I didn’t like how Meddy treated Nathan. Honesty is sort of a thing for me, and when the main character is lying to a love interest as sweet and pure of a character as Nathan, it’s going to be a hard sell for me, no matter how good their reasons are.

Similarly, The Stars We Steal was a really fun sci-fi romance with a catchy premise (The Bachelor in space). But when the previously perfect hero returns, he’s suddenly lying and hiding stuff from his “one true love.” Even though there is still obvious chemistry between the hero and the heroine (whose names I have sadly already forgotten), I could not root for the romance because he keeps acting like such a jerk, and she can’t make up her mind about what she wants. The romance I was rooting for was when she eventually “settles” for a political match with an ace guy she gets along with really well. And for reasons that would spoil the story, but that are probably obvious if you know how romance novels work, I was not a fan of the ending.

That said, these were all really fun, well written, and enjoyable reads. Anything I didn’t like just came down to personal tastes. They definitely left me craving more murder mysteries and more ballgowns in space. Which may have led me to create a TBR for December… But more on that in my next post, along with my December reading journal set-up.

Until then, happy reading!

October Reading Wrap-up

This wasn’t an amazing reading month for me. I suffered from a big reading slump at the start of the month, then eventually read some stuff that I enjoyed, but nothing really knocked my socks off. But, hey! Look! I completed my Goodreads challenge goal!

So that’s cool! Now let’s talk about what I read in October…

Rather than make my usual “outbox” spread this month, I just put the book covers below my book list. I didn’t think three books necessitated a full two-page spread. Plus it’s all super color-coordinated! That’s a cool coincidence, right? And, for the second month in a row, everything I read happened to be published this year! Who even am I reading all these new releases?

Here’s what I read in October:

  • The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik — This was the book that pulled me out of my reading slump. I tried reading the first chapter of a selection of books, and when I got to this one, the grumpy voice of the main character hooked me. El reminds me of Murderbot in that way, and it was just a good fit for the mood I was in at the start of this month. I enjoyed the story, but I’m still annoyed about the ending. I didn’t realize there were going to be more books in this series, and was not prepared for that massive cliff-hanger ending.
  • First Comes Like by Alisha Rai — After the evil cliff-hanger, I picked this up for a quick, fun read at the recommendation of a friend, and it was exactly that. I trust this author to write a heartwarming romance, and she always delivers. Of course, I also forgot that I never read book two in this series, so oops! It was fine, though. The books in this series all feature different couples in a friend group, and the heroine of this book is one of the sisters from the author’s Forbidden Hearts series. Even though the timelines of each book are consecutive, I had no issue reading this one out of order.
  • A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers — This is a novella in what looks like a new series from this author. I went into this expecting that it was going to be a character-driven story with no plot, and that’s what I got. So, expectations met. I did enjoy it, and if you like other books by this author, you’ll probably love this one. I appreciate her writing, but her books are really just not for me. I realized this when I finally noticed that it was taking me weeks to finish a 160 page novella. As much as I enjoy her worlds, I need plot.

I also updated my 2021 bookshelf in my reading journal. Only one shelf left to fill in…

That reading slump at the start of the month caused me to reflect a bit on my reading life. I think I’m moving in the direction of becoming more of a mood reader. Because of that, I’m also getting better at DNFing books. Or at least putting them aside and admitting that they’re just not a good fit for me right now rather than wasting weeks of my life avoiding reading anything because I feel like I have to finish the book I already started before I read anything else.

I’m also figuring out how to use my reading journal. For most of this year, I had this idea in my head that I needed to write these deep thoughts about the books I was reading and rate them according to this system where I gave each book a score for character, plot, world, intrigue, and enjoyment. Then I averaged those scores to come up with a final rating for each book. But that’s all way too much work and is turning out to be not helpful in achieving what I ultimately wanted this reading journal to achieve. So I changed things up this month, and it worked SO MUCH BETTER!

Now I’m using my notes pages to identify the universal fantasy elements in the book, any tropes, and what MICE elements are included in the story, in addition to the very basic idea of “did I like it and why/why not?” This is WAY more helpful in identifying story elements that I gravitate towards and love vs. the ones that are just not for me. SO MUCH BETTER! Why didn’t I think of this before?

Anyway, that’s my October reading wrapped up. Overall, no new favorite books, but a lot of good new ideas. I’m pretty satisfied with that.

September Reading Wrap-up

The first part of the best Magical Readathon ever is over, and now it’s time for spooky season and writing lots of words. But first, let’s recap what I read in September.

I participated in G’s Magical Readathon and completed three of the six prompts along The Novice Path. I can not even begin to tell you how creative and fun this readathon was. I loved every minute of it, right down to the wrap-up video where we found out what the choices we’d made during The Novice Path narrative (which was released in the Discord group in parts throughout the month) meant. The work that went into this… I am in awe. So good.

I adapted my notes pages for the books I read for this readathon to include the challenge prompt at the top.

The books I read / prompts I completed are:

  • Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell for The Mist of Solitude (Read a standalone) — I really loved this book. It’s a m/m arranged marriage in space, and there’s also a murder mystery. Just beware of the content warnings. One of the pair was in an abusive relationship and is still working through the trauma from that.
  • Witch, Please by Ann Aguirre for Ruin of the Skye (Read a book featuring supernatural elements) — This was a light and fluffy read. I liked it, but didn’t love it as much as I thought I would given the premise and the fact that I really enjoyed a previous book by this author. I feel like the pacing was off (which, if you’ve been reading my NaNoWriMo Prep posts hints at plot issues, but I’m not going to be more specific because spoilers). That sort of ruined things for me.
  • Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah Price for Obsidian Falls (Read a thriller or mystery) — Since I have been on a murder mystery kick lately, I was super excited to see this cozy mystery retelling of the beloved Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice. It’s set in the Victorian era, but it’s not an exact retelling. I mean, Bingley is accused of murder, and both Darcy and Mr. Bennett are lawyers in competing law firms. I liked the choices the author made and how she twisted this tale to adapt it to a different genre while still keeping a lot of everyone’s favorite beats (and in some cases, lines) from the original.
I ended up not putting the book cover print outs next to the appropriate prompts because they were too big.

I also read two non-fiction business books. The first was We Should All Be Millionaires by Rachel Rodgers. The second was 7 Figure Fiction by T. Taylor. They were both really good reads.

I never did make a cover page for September. I just started with the Magical Readathon stuff. And I pasted the book covers for my Magical Readathon books onto the map, so I decided not to do an “Outbox” page for September. Instead, I just added my usual summary page to the end so I could easily collect my book stats from the month, and pasted the two non-readathon book covers onto the bottom of that page.

Fun fact about my September reads, they were all published in 2021!

I will be doing a cover page for October, though. I’ve been checking out Draw So Cute‘s “How to Draw Fall / Autumn Art” playlist on YouTube for inspiration. I’m planning on having a little Sunday Funday art session later today and will post photos once I get it all set up. Until then, happy reading!

August Reading Wrap-up

August turned out to be another big reading month. I ended up reading six books, evenly divided between fiction and non-fiction. I also managed to actually write down my thoughts in my reading journal for nearly all of the books I read this month! Big wins all around! (Except for the writing. Don’t ask about how the writing went.)

What I read in August:

  • Dangerous Alliance by Jennieke Cohen — This was a cute historical romance that also has a mystery sub-plot. I enjoyed it while reading it, but have pretty much forgotten almost everything about it since then. The heroine is a fan of Jane Austen (who is alive and publishing in the year this story takes place), and when she is confused about what to do she often considers what her favorite Jane Austen heroines would do in her place. If you like historical romance in general and Jane Austen in particular, I recommend checking this out.
  • Write Novels Fast: Writing Faster With Art Journaling by Shéa MacLeod — At only 36 pages, this barely qualifies as a book, but it’s listed in Goodreads, so I’m counting it. I was in a bit of a creative slump when I picked up this book and needed some inspiration. There were just enough ideas in here to motivate me to dust off the notebook I’ve been using as my brainstorming / character building / plotting notebook for my Modern Fae series and get back to work. I’m not convinced the tips in this book are going to help me write any faster, but they did help me move past a creative block.
  • What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami — I can’t remember if I bought this for my husband several years ago, or if my mom bought it for him because I said I thought he might like it. Either way, it’s been sitting on our bookshelf for a while. I decided to pick it up to see if it had any words of wisdom that might help motivate me to step up my running game. It turned out that it did. Plus the author made really insightful parallels between running and writing. So, that was great! My only complaint is that something about the narrative voice makes it sound like the author thinks that the audience for this book is exclusively men. That was super annoying.
  • A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine — I really enjoyed this follow-up to A Memory Called Empire. The story picks up shortly after the events at the end of the previous book. Even though that book could have been read as a stand-alone, it was nice to see what happened next. If the first book was, at it’s heart, a “whodunnit” murder mystery, this is mostly an alien-first-contact story. But, like the first book, there is a LOT of other stuff going on, including all the politics and struggles of those who find themselves trying to “do the right thing” within or in the face of a large and aggressive empire. Meaty sci-fi! Yum!
  • Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur — This was a pretty light and fluffy contemporary romance that was a very loose f/f retelling of Pride & Prejudice. I think I expected the plot to be a little more of an actual retelling than it turned out to be, so that was a little bit of a disappointment. Also, there wasn’t really any other plot besides the romance plot, which I wasn’t expecting. The romance plot was good, and I enjoyed the characters. I’ve just come to expect an external conflict in addition to the internal conflict in the contemporary romance books I read. It’s nice to see two characters falling in love, but I also want them struggling to accomplish something else, too.
  • Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch — This book was fantastic. My husband and I listened to it on our recent road trip. It kept us both engaged and sparked a ton of discussion. The audiobook narration was really easy to follow, even in places where the author/narrator is trying to describe specific uses of repeated letters and unusual punctuation. Though, it did help that I happened to also have a copy of this on ebook. That way I could look up anything that I wasn’t sure I fully understood from the audiobook. If you are at all interested in language and looking for insights into how informal communication has evolved through the decades, I highly recommend checking this out.

In case you are curious, I also updated the bookshelf overview page in my reading journal. I really like how it’s turning out. As a reminder, the colors on the spines represent genre, and the little hearts signify which of the books are romances.

It always feels like I’m reading a lot of romance, but if you count the hearts on the spines in the photo, I’ve only read nine so far this year. And that’s out of forty-three books read, total.

Also, wow! I’ve already read forty-three books so far this year! Only nine more books until I reach my annual goal of fifty-two total books read. I’m not going to change my Goodreads goal, though. I have two first drafts of two different novels that I want to finish before the end of the year (and I did not get much writing done in August). Plus the holidays are coming up. So I need to step up the writing and cool it with the reading, at least until after I get my work done each day.

What are you reading? Are you also doing the Magical Readathon in September? Let me know in the comments.

July Reading Wrap-up

It just occurred to me that I never posted my reading wrap-up for July. I finished the “outbox” page in my reading journal days ago, then I just sort of forgot to post it. So, let’s talk about what I read in July.

If you remember from my June wrap-up post, I finished reading Spaceside by Michael Mammay in the first few days of July, but I counted it toward my June reading because I’d read most of it in June. Well, after I finished reading that, I went on to read the final (?) book in that series, Colonyside. I enjoyed it, but not as much as the first two books. I just didn’t feel like the ending of the last book was as strong as the other two. But at this point, a month later, I can’t remember why. I really wish I’d written my thoughts down in my reading journal instead of just telling my mom about them because she happened to be visiting at the time.

As a related aside, this reading journal is definitely turning into more of an art project than memory capture tool. I’m not very happy about that, but I’m also not doing anything to fix that problem, either.

After finishing Colonyside, I decided to read A Murderous Relation, book five in Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell series, because my mom was visiting and I thought it would be fun to read it while she was here. It was definitely a fun read. The first paragraph of the first chapter had me laughing out loud. I don’t think this is my favorite of the series (I think that honor still goes to book two, A Perilous Undertaking), but enjoyed it and am excited to read book six.

Keeping up the murder mystery theme, I read The Ivies by Alexa Donne, next. This is a very solid thriller set in an elite boarding school, and I’m a bit of a sucker for that particular trope. There is a group of “mean girls” and one of them dies. The suspicion that it had something to do with who go early decision admission to which Ivy League college causes one of her friends to decide to play amateur detective. It was definitely a page turner and a very good first thriller novel from this author.

Then I started feeling the Olympic vibes (probably because I haven’t been able to watch any of it because we don’t have NBC). So, I picked up Coming Up for Air by Miranda Kenneally. This is book eight in the author’s Hundred Oaks series, but I have read none of the other books. They are all contemporary YA romance, which isn’t really my jam. But this book featured competitive swimming, and I’m a sucker for a book featuring competitive swimmers, especially if they have their sights set on the Olympics. So, yeah. I grabbed this from my library. I enjoyed it and only had a few annoyed moments when the heroine did something that did not feel like something an actual competitive swimmer would do (diving in to race without warming up and putting sneakers on wet feet to walk around the pool deck after a race were the two biggest offenders). You could tell the author was not writing from personal experience (confirmed in her authors note in the end). But, overall, she did a pretty good job crafting mostly believable swimmers.

The second Olympic-related book I read was Every Reason We Shouldn’t by Sara Fujimura. This one was another YA contemporary romance, this time about a figure skater and a speed skater. It was cute, and I enjoyed it, but I went into it thinking that the author was Japanese. She’s not, but her husband is, and her kids are bi-racial (like the teens in this book). Some of the Asian reviewers on Goodreads have expressed frustration with some of the representation. Also there’s a lockdown scene that takes place at the school. So if either of those two things are issues for you, maybe skip this book.

Finally, I finished a book I’ve been slowly working my way through since the start of the year. I read Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad and did the journaling exercises. Instead of doing them one per day for twenty-eight days like it suggests in the book, I averaged about one per week since the beginning of January. I found this to be really useful, and as a result, one of the things that I’m committing to going forward is to continue to educate myself on anti-racism topics. Specifically, in addition to other methods of learning, I want to read at least four non-fiction books about racism and/or topics related to racism each year (which is about one per quarter, on average). It takes me longer to read non-fiction than it does to read fiction, which is why I’m going for one book every three months instead of something more ambitious.

And that’s what I read in July. If you have any suggestions on how I can be better about actually writing down my thoughts about the books I’m reading in my reading journal before I forget them, please let me know in the comments. Or, if you think I should just give in to the art project side of things and stop trying to force myself to do something that is just not happening, tell me that instead. Or just tell me what you’re reading and enjoying. I’d love to hear from you.