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.

June Reading Wrap-up

June turned out to be a HUGE reading month for me. I read nine books!

What I read in June

I started off the month on a mystery kick. I got my mom into Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell series because she (and I) liked Sherry Thomas’s Lady Sherlock series so much. She’s been devouring all the Veronica books while I’d only read the first one, and she’s coming for a visit soon, so I thought it was time to catch up. I read books two, three, and four in June. Of those, I liked book two (A Perilous Undertaking) the best (such good tension between Veronica and Stoker!) and book three (A Treacherous Curse) the least (too much unexamined colonialism). Book four (A Dangerous Collaboration) had a very exciting ending that made me want to immediately dive into book five, but I had to pause while I waited to get the next two books from my library.

I also borrowed two YouTube celebrity memoirs on audiobook from my library as a source of character research for my next Modern Fae book. I started with Lilly Singh’s How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life, which was a Goodreads Choice Award winner in 2017. In addition to getting a lot of good info about what it’s like to be a YouTube superstar, I found myself really appreciating her advice about life and the self-employed career hustle.

I considered stopping after that one, but I had already downloaded Jenn McAllister’s Really Professional Internet Person, so I decided to listen to the first few chapters and see what I thought. Her book was a little repetitive in places, but focused more on what it’s like to be growing your YouTube audience when you’re in middle school and high school, which was really interesting. Neither of these women is exactly like I imagine my character, but their experiences gave me a lot to think about.

Somewhere in between devouring mystery novels and listening to audiobooks while washing the dishes, I read C. L. Polk’s romantic fantasy The Midnight Bargain and Addie Woolridge’s contemporary romantic comedy The Checklist. Both of these were really good, as I expected they would be. I really love the worldbuilding in The Midnight Bargain. And the characters in The Checklist were so full of life, I loved every minute that I got to spend with them…even when everything started to go sideways and made me super anxious. Addie did a great job crafting an ending that tied everything up perfectly.

As much as I liked those two books, my favorite of the month was The Space Between Worlds. This book blew me away. It is just so good. I mean, I’d heard it was good, but it was even better than I expected it would be. The plot is twisty, the characters are superbly crafted, and the worldbuilding is just off the charts excellent. I loved it so much that I searched out a special edition signed hardcover to buy so that I can add it to my “favorites” shelf and reread it in physical form. Seriously, if you like sci-fi and have not read this book, go get a copy immediately and start reading. I can not recommend it highly enough.

Just before the end of the month I managed to squeeze in one last book. Technically, I didn’t finish Spaceside by Michael Mammay until the second of July, but I read most of it in June, so I’m counting it. Here’s the thing about this series, it’s marketed as “military sci-fi” which is a genre that I enjoy (depending on the author), but the series is so much more than that. At their core, each book is really a mystery novel. The “detective” is a veteran soldier, and the mysteries he ends up getting pulled into solving involve the military, but the novels aren’t really all about guns and fighting and stuff like that. And the author is a veteran who writes about the military in what feels like a very authentic (and respectful) way. So, if you like sci-fi and mystery novels, you should really check out this series.

As for July, I am looking forward to reading Colonyside (which I already started) and book five in the Veronica Speedwell series (A Murderous Relation). I also plan to read A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine and Wild Seed by Octavia Butler for my Camp Book Club buddy reads. Even though I have a sort-of TBR this month, I decided to stick to the same simple monthly layout that I’ve been using in my reading journal.

I went with a red and blue color scheme for July in honor of Independence Day. I added some gold star washi tape and some silver dots (using my metallic Kuretake Clean Color Dot marker) to give a sort of fireworks effect. It’s not my best work, but it’s not bad.

I also got some new sparkly bookshelf washi tape that I couldn’t resist using on the “books read” page. And I printed out a couple of the covers for the books that I plan to read this month. I didn’t glue them down, though. I’m using that star paperclip to attach them to the page as a visual reminder of the books I want to read this month. That “books read” page will be a list, and I’ll glue the covers of the books I actually did read to an “outbox” page at the end of the month.

I’m still not doing a great job of writing down my thoughts on each book while I’m reading them, or even right after I finish, even though I added a pen loop to my reading journal. I’m going to keep working on getting better at that because I’m finding it really useful to look back on. My brain nearly instantly forgets the details of a book after I’ve read it. I remember the feelings I had while reading the book, but not the plot. That’s probably one of the reasons why I can happily re-read my favorite books. Writing down my thoughts helps me to remember the bits of a story that I don’t want to forget.

What are you reading in July? Are any of these books on your TBR? Let me know in the comments.

May Reading Wrap-up and Birthday Book Haul

May was not a great reading month for me, but I did get a lot of awesome new books for my birthday! Read on to find out more…

Sad little monthly spread for May.

The first book I read in May was The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein. This is another novel in her Code Name Verity world, but it features different characters. I really liked Code Name Verity but never got around to reading any of her other books. So when my book club buddies suggested that we read this, I read the blurb and agreed. Turns out that it was good, but I didn’t love it. The pilot scenes and the scenes between Louisa and the old German lady she’s in charge of caring for were some of my favorites. The rest required a bit too much suspension of disbelief for me.

I also read Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui. I started on the first of the month, and it took me almost the next thirty days to finish it, which is a little embarrassing because the book is only 277 pages long. And I love swimming! I really enjoyed all the information about why swimming is awesome. Some of it I knew before, but there was a lot of new stuff as well. I definitely recommend this for folks who love swimming or who are curious about the benefits of open water swimming (especially in cold water). It motivated me to get into our local lake a lot sooner than I might otherwise have. The author did a lot of research for this and sites a lot of science, so it’s not just a series of essays with a some personal anecdotes thrown in.

Birthday book haul!

Here are the books I received (thanks, Mom!) and/or purchased for myself for my birthday:

  • Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa — I met Suyi at Futurescapes a couple of years ago. We were in a critique group together, and I got to read the first chapter of this book and totally wanted to read more. When I found out that it was getting published, I was so excited! I can’t wait to read the rest of the story.
  • Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton — The blurb for this book gives me big “Brienne of Tarth” vibes, and I already know that I love Tessa’s writing and world-building. This is going to be epic.
  • The Dreamblood Duology by N. K. Jemisin — I have been wanting to read this since I finished the Broken Earth trilogy, and now I can! Hooray!
  • Drowned Country by Emily Tesh — I really enjoyed Silver in the Wood. (Seriously, if you haven’t read it and you like magical woods fantasy stories, go get your hands on a copy.) This is the second book in that duology. I am really looking forward to seeing what’s next for Henry and Tobias.
  • How to Find a Princess by Alyssa Cole — If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you already know that Alyssa Cole is pretty much an auto-buy for me. After getting a glimpse at one of the heroines of this book in the first book in How to Catch a Queen, I knew I had to read her story. Beznaria just leapt off the page and into my heart. I needed to read her love story.
  • The Checklist by Addie Woolridge — Addie is funny and smart, and I am just so excited to read her first published book! This rom com is already starting to get all the summer book buzz, so you better grab a copy and check it out for yourself.

What do you think? See anything in my book haul that is also at the top of your TBR? Let me know in the comments.

Next, it’s time to set up my reading journal for June…

April Reading Wrap-Up and May Reading Plans

April was an unexpectedly busy month. I was supposed to be focused on editing the Modern Fae novella that I’m publishing in June, but all I wanted to do was read. My creative brain was hungry, and it devoured seven books this month! Yikes!

Seven books!

Here’s what I read in April:

  • Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells — Murderbot helps solve a murder mystery? What could possibly be better than that? I love Murderbot, and this novella did not disappoint.
  • Hollywood Ending by Kellye Garrett — The murder mystery part of the Murderbot novella had me wanting to read more cozy mysteries. This book definitely scratched that itch. I really like this series, and I really need to know when / how to get my hands on the third book!
  • More Than Maybe by Erin Hahn — I’ve been trying to get to this one for a while, and I’m so glad I finally did. It’s such a cute YA contemporary romance. If you were/are someone who attempts to communicate your feelings to your crushes via music (other people’s or your own), you are going to really like this book. I was/am one of those people and did/do love this book.
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo — I read Six of Crows (and liked it a lot), but I never read this series. So I figured that I better at least read the first book before watching the Netflix show. It has all the elements of a 2000s YA fantasy. Feisty heroine who discovers she has special powers, love triangle that pits sweet boy from her youth with dark and brooding mysterious hot guy, plus a training montage. There is a point in my life when I would have eaten this up with a spoon. That point is not now, and that’s too bad because I liked it, I just don’t really feel the need to read the rest of the series. I’ll just watch the show.
  • Dragon Called by by Kara Lockharte and Cassie Alexander — This was a fun, fast paranormal “romance.” I am putting romance in quotes because I feel compelled to warn you that the two main characters do not reach an HEA or even an HFN by the end of this book. I’ll admit, I was more than a little disappointed when I got to the end. But it has some great action and some steamy scenes. So, if you’re into alpha dragon shifters, you should definitely check this one out. Just grab the whole series when you do.
  • Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold — This is my first Bujold read. It’s a super cute and warm-hearted novella set in the usual secondary medievalesque fantasy world. However, what’s interesting and unusual about this is the demon possession. I’m not going to spoil it, but it’s charming, creative, and well crafted. There’s a little bit of plot that’s somewhat predictable and resolved quickly, but it’s a novella, and it’s mostly about Penric. And his demon. And it’s a heartwarming read.
  • David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa — This book is different in such a refreshing way. The main character directly interrogates his role as the “chosen one” and the idiocentric behavior of the gods he’s dealing with in a way that is usually glossed over or shrugged off in other novels. I loved it. The world-building and the action were also really, really good. I am looking forward to my pre-order of Son of the Storm (new series, different characters) landing on my Kindle next week!

Since April is over, I’ve updated my 2021 “What I Read” bookshelf overview. Remember, this bookshelf overview is color coded by genre. The small heart on the spine indicate books that would be also categorized as romance (has an HEA or HFN).

So much purple (fantasy)…

And since we’re already a few days into May, I might as well show you what my month overview for May looks like. Don’t be fooled. Those flowers are bleed through from the “April Outbox” page. I haven’t bothered to decorate my May spread (yet). I also haven’t made a TBR. Again.

It’s not that I’m not excited about May. My birthday is in May. I am getting my second COVID vaccine shot in a few days. I will be able to hug vaccinated friends and family before the end of this month! I love May. It’s just that I can feel myself losing steam on this whole reading journal thing…

As you can see in the photo below, I’m still trying to catch up on writing down my thoughts on several of the books I read in April. I’ve written more in this blog post about these two books than I have in my actual reading journal.

I’m still finding the exercise to be valuable. I just don’t seem to be finding much time to actually sit down and DO IT. So, I need to think about this a bit and figure out if there’s something I can change to make this more interesting or at the very least, to make me more compelled to actually write down my thoughts while I’m reading or within a day after I’m done reading. If I don’t do that, I forget all the stuff I wanted to write down (like the execution of tropes that I particularly liked or didn’t like, world-building details that I thought were particularly good or that frustrated me, etc.).

Take, for example, the “but Kazi…” reminder I have up there under the More Than Maybe entry. I remembered to scribble that down real fast one day while I was reading as a reminder to complete my thought later. It’s a good thing I did, because I wouldn’t have remembered that character’s name if I hadn’t written it down. I do remember what I was going to say about him because it chafed me while I was reading, but I almost never remember side characters’ names, let alone main character names, once I’m a few weeks out from finishing a book.

Maybe the answer is to find a way to keep my reading journal (and a pen) WITH my Kindle so that it’s there and ready to go when I have a thought and want to make a note.

If you have ideas or suggestions to keep me engaged with this reading journal exercise, let me know in the comments. Or, if you’re similarly finding yourself losing interest in your reading tracking system, let me know if you’ve decided to stick with it, or how you’re changing your approach.

March Reading Wrap-up and Q1 Goal Check-in

I read four books in March. Two were tomes (> 500 pages), but only one of those was actually during Tome Topple. I read a super hyped new release. I finished reading a writing craft book that I have been reading on and off since January, and I did a whole lot of critique / beta reading for fellow writers. Not bad for one month.

Here’s what I read (that I can tell you about) in March:

  • Story Genius by Lisa Cron — I have been recommending this book to all my writer friends. It’s exactly the craft book I needed in my life right now. I read it on Kindle, but I think I need to get a paperback copy for easier reference. If you’re a writer who wants practical advice on how to really connect your plot to your character, get your hands on this book.
  • Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore — I was expecting to love this long awaited addition to the Graceling series, and I did. No surprise. This book is full of whimsical world-building which is a bit of a departure from the other books in the series. That my turn some folks off, but I enjoyed it. As an example, my favorite character in this book might have been the telepathic fox, who is one of the main POV characters.
  • Lore by Alexandra Bracken — This one was all over BookTube because it was in pretty much all the book subscription boxes in January, I think. Also, I think that the author writes other books that are very popular, even though I hadn’t heard of her before. This is the first book I’ve read by her. I was really impressed with the pacing. It’s definitely a page turner. Lots of action. That’s good because you don’t want to stop too long to look at the plot. Or dig too deep on the characters. I enjoyed it, but now I’m sending it to some young reader friends because that is who this is meant for, and I think they might really love it.
  • Master of One by by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett — Why isn’t all of BookTube talking about this book? Seriously. I wasn’t sure what to expect going in except for what it says on the cover. A heist story with fae and sorcerers. Turns out this is sort of like Six of Crows crossed with Throne of Glass, but gay. Is that over-selling it? I don’t know. There’s a slow burn grumpy/sunshine romance arc between a master thief from the city slums and the beautiful fae prince he wakes from a long magical sleep. There are magical creatures created by the fae who are telepathically bonded with their humans. There’s an evil sorcerer and an evil queen. And… it’s great. If any of this sounds good to you, please go read this book. I want more in this world and publishing will only give it to me if you all go read this one.

See what I mean? Not a bad reading month. Right?

Since March is also the end of the first quarter of the year, it’s time to check in on my reading stats and see how I’m doing vs. the goals I set for myself at the start of this year.

Goal #1 was to read a total of 52 books this year. So far I have read 13 books, which is exactly 25% of my goal. Looks like I nailed this one.

Goal #2 was all about author demographics. I wanted to read 12 books by Black authors, 12 books by other authors of color, and 12 books by queer authors this year. To be on track for this one I need to have read at least 3 of each. So far I’ve read 5 books by Black authors, but only 1 book by a non-Black author of color. And I’ve read 7 books by queer authors (or that featured queer main characters). NOTE: This is all calculated with the usual caveat that this is based on how the author identifies online, if that information is available.

Overall, not bad, but I need to step it up my reading of books by non-Black authors of color.

Oh! And I started drawing in (and color-coding) the books on my “Books Read in 2021” spread. So far it’s mostly sci-fi and fantasy with a couple of contemporaries and one mystery novel in there. The hearts on the spines are for books that are also romances. I’ve decided to do two months at a time so that I can get the books spaced properly on the shelves. That means I’m going to wait until April is over before I draw in the books I read in March.

Isn’t this all so delightfully overcomplicating my reading hobby? Yes. Yes, it is.

Is it worth it? Hmmm. I don’t know? Maybe? It’s mostly still fun. I’m not hating it, yet. I do like having a (relatively) private place to gather my thoughts about what I’m reading before sharing them with the rest of the world.

I’ve been thinking about whether or not I want to make any changes to my journal. So far the answer is no, but we’ll see. As I think I said in my post about setting up April, I am losing some of the spontaneity in my reading. That’s not entirely a bad thing, but I’m feeling like rebelling against it at the moment. I’m also currently in a bit of a slump, so that may have something to do with why I’m questioning all my reading life choices this week.

Don’t worry, though. I think I may have found the cure for my slump on my Kindle, and I plan to go test that theory as soon as I’m done with this post.

Are you using a reading journal to track your reading? How’s it going? Are you still enjoying it? What would you change about your process, if anything?

February reading wrap-up

The shortest month of the year is over. I wish I had something more interesting to say about the past month, but…meh. We’ve been living with this pandemic and staying at home for a year now. I’m getting a little sick of it, and I’m not going to qualify for a vaccine anytime soon. So, I mostly have more staying at home to look forward to. At least I have good books to read and plenty of ideas for stories I want to write.

I may have gone a bit overboard with the hearts…

Here’s what I read in February:

  • Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots — I expected to like this book, and I did! I love a data geek heroine and a fresh take on the superhero trope. If you’ve ever thought that maybe superheroes were more trouble than they’re worth, you should definitely check out this book
  • Fumbled by Alexa Martin — I didn’t feel like watching the Super Bowl, so I picked up this NFL romance novel instead. I read the first book in the series (Intercepted) last year and really enjoyed it. I think I liked this one even more. It’s a second chance romance featuring a pretty awesome single mom. Her son’s dad is her high school ex-boyfriend who now plays for the NFL. I love how he is 100% into her from the start (and his son, too, once he finds out the kid exists). I read the whole thing in almost one sitting.
  • How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole — Another data geek heroine! Two in one month! What luck! I love Shanti, but her man was just okay. It takes him a long time to pull his head out of his butt. Possibly a bit too long. But, I devoured this in a couple of days, so I think that means I liked it.
  • The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow — I read this one for the Tade Thompson prompt in the Blackathon readathon. Once again I really liked the heroine, but wasn’t a big fan of the hero. This time it wasn’t because he kept messing up. Morris (or M0Rr1S) is an alien, but one of the good ones. He’s 100% into the heroine from the start of the story. The fact that he’s so into her is kind of why there is a story in the first place. And it’s a fun story. There’s a road trip across a post-alien invasion (read: dystopian) United States. Both characters are completely crazy for music and books. Teenage me would have really liked this book. Adult me was kind of annoyed by how gushy Morris is about his insta-love. And I didn’t like the aliens’ “leetspeak” names. But that’s just me being old.
  • The Lesson by Cadwell Turnbull — This was the SFF group read for the Blackathon readathon. This is a sort of “first contact” story that is set in the Virgin Islands. I had never heard of the book before, and I probably wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for this readathon. I’m really glad I read it, though. The alien civilization is unique. The struggle with aliens living among humans on a populated island where everyone pretty much already knows everyone else is definitely believable. I definitely recommend checking this out. Especially if you like first contact stories, or if you’re a sci-fi fan who lives or has lived in the Virgin Islands. I’ve never been there, but the setting is definitely an important aspect of the story, and it made me want to go visit. You know, when we can travel again. Sigh.

I also started reading David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa, but didn’t have enough time to finish it before the end of this very short month. It’s set in Lagos, Nigeria (where the author is from), and I am really enjoying it so far. More on that in next month’s recap, after I finish reading it. 🙂

That’s it for February. Have you read any of these books? Did you like them? Are there any you’d recommend to me based on what I read and liked? Let me know in the comments.

Oh, and the next round of Tome Topple was just announced. It’s starting on the 15th of March, so there may have to be some adjustments to my March TBR. Stay tuned for more on that, coming soon…

January Reading Wrap-Up

I read four books in January, two that I really enjoyed and two that were good but not as good as I’d hoped they’d be. Can you guess which are which?

The January Outbox page in my reading journal…

Here’s what I read in January:

  • Murder on Cold Street by Sherry Thomas — I love these characters and this story world so much. This was easily my favorite book I read in January. There’s not much I can say here without spoiling earlier books in the series, so I’m probably going to leave it at that. But there better be more coming soon because I need more Charlotte Holmes and friends in my life.
  • Poseidon’s Wake by Alastair Reynolds — I FINALLY finished this book. It was a bit of a slog, but I was determined to complete the series because I liked the first two books. This one moved really slowly, though. The story didn’t feel like it really got started until (small spoiler) Eunice returns near the middle of the book. My biggest frustration was that the relationships between the characters felt really wooden (I didn’t care as much as I probably should have when bad or good stuff happened to them, except one part at the very end) and the pacing seemed off. The story was good, but not my favorite of his books.
  • Deadly Education by Naomi Novik — I wasn’t expecting to like this one as much as I did, especially after the first chapter was basically one big world-building info dump. There is a lot of info-dumping throughout, but I think it all works because it’s always discussed and revealed in a way that directly connects it to the main (POV) character’s goals, worries, and other feelings. There has been some (a lot) of discussion in the reviews about cultural inaccuracies and problematic racial depictions in the book. While I appreciate that the author was trying to create a diverse world, I think too much of that came at the expense of leaning on (potentially harmful) stereotypes, and that’s especially frustrating in a book where the main theme is about reckoning with privilege within the school, and in the wider magical world. The author has responded to the criticism with an apology, and I believe that the paragraph that was most often cited as being harmful has been removed from later copies of the book (mine still had it). So I think she’s listening. I’m curious to see what changes in the next book.
  • Stormsong by C. L. Polk — I liked this book, but I didn’t like it as much as the first one in the series. That said, I am definitely planning on reading the last book in the series, which comes out this month. The world and atmosphere is still so good, the plot is well paced to keep you turning pages, but I just wasn’t a fan of the main (POV) character in this story. She’s going through a journey in this book where she’s discovering her privilege and learning that she has a responsibility to help others, and that’s great, but I’m always more partial to following the story of the underdog. The first book was from Miles’s POV (her brother, who ditched all the problematic stuff that she embraced), and that may be why I liked that one better. Oddly, Grace’s love interest in this book is someone from their class who (like Miles) ditched everything to go her own way. I probably would have liked this book better if she was the main character instead of Grace, but that probably wouldn’t have worked for the plot. Anyway, book three looks like it’s Robin’s story, so we’re back to an underdog again. I’m excited for that.

In other news, my reading journal is still going strong. I’m enjoying having a place to dump all my disorganized thoughts about what I’m reading. The month title pages and TBRs as well as the month summary pages have also become fun craft projects. I never did much collage in my actual bullet journal. So it’s fun to try that in my reading journal.

I’ve already finished reading my first book of February (Hench). So today I get to pick something new to read. Out of nowhere I got this urge to re-read These Broken Stars, but I think I’m going to hold off on that and pick up one of the books on my Blackathon TBR instead.

What are you reading and enjoying this month?