October Reading Wrap-up

It is the second of November, and I should be writing words that actually count towards the 50k I need to write in order to hit my National Novel Writing Month goal, but I’m here, procrastinating, instead. That, plus the fact that I only wrote 1150 words yesterday doesn’t bode well for me “winning” NaNoWriMo this year. But there’s still plenty of time to make up for a slow start.

This week has been kind of a mess for multiple life reasons. Sometimes you just have to do all the adulting stuff. But I did manage to finish seven books in October AND complete my revised draft of Heir of Gods! Plus, my October reading journal spread is possibly my favorite of the year…

I added some Halloween stickers from Procrastiplanner… Did you notice?

Here’s what I read in October:

  • Boss Witch by Ann Aguirre — This book kicked off my small town witchy romance reading binge. It’s an enemies to lovers trope (witch and witch-hunter), except only one half of the couple is aware of the fact that the other person is an enemy. She (the witch) starts a “no-strings-attached” hook-up with him (the witch-hunter who doesn’t know she’s a witch) in order to distract him from finding her coven and eliminating them. Since the timeline of this book overlaps a good deal with the timeline of the first book in the series, I’d recommend reading both pretty close together. That is NOT what I did, and I kept feeling like I was missing something because I couldn’t remember how some of the things happening in this book fit with the first book.
  • Midwinter Magic & Mayhem — This is an anthology of winter-themed fantasy stories. I have a Modern Fae story in there along with eight others that are all excellent little tales that will put you in a wintery mood, especially if you enjoy them by the fire with a warm beverage.
  • Witchful Thinking by Celestine Martin — This is a really cute and cozy small town witchy romance that is really not for folks who like magic systems to be well defined and plots to be complicated. This is sort of like the Halloween equivalent of a Hallmark Christmas movie, except the hook-ups don’t fade-to-black. In other words, an excellent addition to this sub-genre.
  • The Ex-Hex by Erin Sterling — This was the last of the small town witchy romance books I read in October. I loved the magic and the small town and the characters. The plot was good, too. My only (teeny tiny) gripe was that it was a second chance romance, which is a REALLY difficult trope to write (in my opinion), and I just didn’t feel like there was enough reason for them to not be together. That said, I still really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading more in this series.
  • Dare to Be a Duchess by Sapna Bhog — I don’t read much historical romance because I’m not really into the whole “must find a husband before the season ends” thing. This one didn’t have that trope as a driver for the romance. The primary trope was more of a best-friend’s brother thing, which I enjoyed. There’s a lot of pining, which I also liked. But, it was sort of lacking a B-plot, so the pining got a little too drawn out and repetitive in places. Still, the characters were so vivid and well crafted that they stuck with me for days afterward and made me want to read the next book in this series.
  • A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby by Vanessa Riley — This was a fun, fast-paced historical romance about a recently widowed Lady from a British colony (Demerara) who has to pretend to be a nanny in order to be close to her infant son after his wounded war veteran uncle comes to take over as guardian of the estate. And of course, the Lady and the Duke fall in love. I really liked the particular lens this story was told through. I especially enjoyed the hero and his band of wounded vets that take over the estate to protect it from someone who is trying to get their hands on all of it (including the baby).
I dabbled with adding notes to my “Outbox” reading spread…

I also updated my bookshelf spread. I think it’s looking pretty cute. Lots of sci-fi and fantasy (the purple/blue spines) this year. And a whole lot more writing craft and publishing business (yellow spines) books than I’d planned on reading this year. Hard to believe that we only have two months to go!

And, because it’s NaNoWriMo, I’m keeping things simple for November. I did a set-up flip through video, but I’m not sure when/if I’ll get around to posting it because it’s mostly focused on the bullet journal trackers I made for NaNoWriMo. There’s only this one cover page that I made in my reading journal where I used up a bunch of stickers instead of drawing something. I didn’t even do a TBR for this month!

I have been noodling on an end of the year TBR, though. I keep adding books to the list and then taking others off. There are so many books I want to read before the end of December. I’ll probably make it official at some point in the next couple of weeks and do a post. In the meantime, if you want to spy on what’s there, have a peek at this shelf of mine on Goodreads. And feel free to make suggestions in the comments if there’s something you see on there that I DEFINITELY need to read, or if the thing you think I definitely need to read is NOT on that shelf.

Okay. I really better get some official NaNoWriMo writing done. Happy reading!

August Orilium Readathon Reading Wrap-up

I’m a little sad that the Orilium Autumn Equinox Readathon is over. But, the readathon really got me reading more than I might otherwise have in August! I finished all my required reading for my calling, and I even finished a couple of quests!

My month started off strong. I finished three novellas in the first week. Then I caught the evil plague and really wasn’t feeling up to reading for a few days. When I was finally feeling like I had enough focus to read again, I decided to jump back in with the childhood favorite re-read prompt. It turned out to be an excellent way to ease back into my TBR. After that, I just kept on reading, and finished almost everything on my TBR!

Here’s a recap of my course prompts:

Inscription

O Level: Read a childhood favorite –> An Acceptable Time by Madeline L’Engle — Oof. Well, I remember what I loved about this book (basically the grandparents’ indoor pool is still #goals), but there was also quite a bit of cringe. Just going to shelve this under “did not age well” and moving on….

Lore

O Level: Book with colors similar to my country’s flag –> A Spindle Splintered by Alix Harrow — A nice twist on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. I liked it.

Q Level: Story featuring betrayal –> Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire — Another solid addition to the series. I liked this, but I the ending felt off to me based on the themes in the rest of the book. Or maybe it just ended too abruptly?

D Level: Book with a desert setting –> Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri — Both main characters suffer a lot of really awful abuse throughout most of this book, which was hard to read. But the magic and the world-building was really cool, and once the plot got moving, the second half was great.

Psionics & Divination

O Level: Story featuring time travel –> Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield — This had a lot of similarities to This is How You Lose the Time War, which I didn’t expect. I think TiHYLtTW did it better, but this was good, and if you liked one you might also like the other.

Q Level: Book with the same word in title as your last read –> The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente — I liked this more than I thought I would. It’s an interesting take on the post-apocalyptic genre, and I liked what it had to say (the grass is not always greener and returning to “normal” should not be the obvious and automatic goal) and how it said it (the POV character voice).

I also finished my buddy read quest (She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan, which was excellent). And I finished the morally grey characters quest (Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard, cool story that felt more like a snippet than a complete novella).

I started The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen, but only got about halfway through it before bed last night. I finished it today, so I can report that I loved this book. But, I can’t count it for the “Amphibian Wranglers” quest (author name starts with B or F) because I technically didn’t finish it before the end of the Readathon. So, I guess it counts toward September, but I’m including it here anyway because you should definitely read it if you like fantasy romance. Especially if you like T. Kingfisher’s fantasy romance books.

Speaking of September… I am putting a few finishing touches on my reading journal set-up and planning to participate in another readathon. More on that tomorrow (probably).

How was your readathon adventure in August? Did you finish your prompts and achieve your calling? Or did you prioritize questing instead?

July reading wrap-up

July was a great reading month for me. I read eight books and one short story! EIGHT books!

Here’s what I read in July:

  • It Takes a Villa by Kilby Blades — This was a fun travel romance with a mystery subplot. I enjoy contemporary romance when there’s more going on in the story than just the romance, and that’s always the case in Kilby’s books. Made me want to go back to Italy and spend a lot more time there.
  • How to Find a Princess by Alyssa Cole — So glad I finally got around to reading this book. I really enjoy this series (and her other series that is connected to this one). The characters and the unique setting were what made this book extra enjoyable for me.
  • In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire — It’s been a while since I read the first three novellas in this series. Prior to reading this, Jack and Jill were my favorites, but I think Lundy’s story may be my new favorite in this series.
  • Juice Like Wounds” by Seanan McGuire — This is a short story that tells what happens on a side quest that takes place during In An Absent Dream. Definitely worth reading if you liked that book.
  • Ice Planet Barbarians by Ruby Dixon — Finally got around to reading this book. It was mostly what I expected it would be. What I didn’t expect was that there was going to be an attempt at sci-fi world building. Most alien romances like this don’t spend much time trying to make the world make sense, so that was cool. At it’s core though, this is basically a Beauty and the Beast trope, which is why I think it really appeals to a lot of people. Unfortunately, it’s just not really my jam.
  • Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir — I finally finished reading this. I almost definitely wouldn’t have if I hadn’t decided to do the Hugo nominee reading project. I’d started it once and bailed because I didn’t like the main character or the amnesia plot device. I still don’t like the main character, and the more I read it, the more I got frustrated with the story because I never once believed that this mission was actually at any risk of failure. Every obstacle was pretty easily and quickly overcome, which made it just seem like the whole thing was an elaborate excuse to watch someone do science. Which, if you like that, awesome! You’ll probably love this book. It just wasn’t for me.
  • A Master of Djinn by P. Djรจlรญ Clark — I really enjoyed this mystery. The world and the characters were great. My only complaint was that I feel like the detectives should have figured out the mystery sooner than they did. The “whodunit” should have been obvious to the detectives given the experiences of those characters. That said, it was really cool to read something that was like the inverse of all the John Bellairs mystery novels that I enjoyed when I was younger.
  • Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire — I was really looking forward to returning to the Moors with two of my favorite Wayward Children characters, and this novella didn’t disappoint. I think this was a solid ending to that arc of the story that is unfolding in these novellas.
  • The Galaxy and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers — I described this novel to someone as “cozy alien anthropology with a side of infrastructure collapse,” and I think that’s a pretty solid summary. I enjoyed it more because I’ve read enough of this author’s books to expect that it’s just going to be a bunch of different alien types talking about the similarities and differences in their cultures and getting over their preconceived notions about others and dealing with interpersonal conflict. But she does that really well, and this is a really good cozy, slice of life, fantasy novel.

Now, it’s time to get back to my Orilium Readathon TBR! I have another eight books I want to finish this month. So, we’ll see if I am lucky enough to have two really great reading months back to back!

If you’re also reading the Hugo nominees for best novel and/or best novella, which have been your favorites so far? Let me know in the comments.

June reading wrap-up

Yes, I know. We’re over a week into July, and I’m just now getting a chance to post my June reading wrap-up.

I meant to get this out earlier, but after my book release in June and all the series promo stuff I was doing, I just really needed a break. I ended up taking the first week of July as a pseudo-vacation. Or maybe it was more like a “stay-cation?”

After a very active (for me) month of social media in June, I just had that moment where I was like, “Hey, I just want to do stuff without telling the world about what I’m doing.” Shocking, right?

So, I played tourist in my own town (with my mom, who was visiting) for the week, and I read a LOT. I mean, no spoilers for my July wrap-up post, but I’ve already finished two books this month! And they were books that I started *and* finished in July! This clarification is important because I started a lot of books in June, but I only finished reading three. Which brings me to…

Not pictured: the non-fiction book I read.

What I read in June:

  • Engaging the Enemy by Elizabeth Moon — This is book three in the Vatta’s War series. I’m still really enjoying this series, but I felt like this book was a little slower paced than the first two books. The narrative is split between several perspectives. One is Ky’s badass fly-fishing great-aunt who is still back on their home world and going all Arya Stark on the Vatta family’s enemies. The other is the continued story of Ky and her cousin Stella (mostly told from Ky’s perspective) who are out in the universe trying to rebuild the Vatta empire. Because of that, the story felt a little scattered at times, and it took me way longer to finish this one than either of the first two books in the series. I’ll definitely be reading book four, but I decided not to start it right away after finishing this one.
  • The Elf Tangent by Lindsay Buroker — This is the first book I’ve read by this author, and I really liked it! The characters and the world were great, but I did struggle with the pacing a little bit. I think that’s because the “promise of the premise” for me (based on the blurb) was that the math-geek, puzzle-solving heroine was going to spend more time using her brains to help save the elves. But the road trip section of the book (getting to the elf kingdom) seemed to drag on way too long compared to the puzzle solving / kingdom saving part, which felt really rushed. But the slow burn romance was really good (even if I did figure out the hero’s big secret WAY before the official reveal). I definitely want to read more in this series, and I may even check out the other stuff she’s written (but probably not until after I finish my Hugo nominee reading project).
  • Writing and Marketing Systems by Elana M Johnson — This was the non-fiction craft book I read in June. In case you didn’t know, I’m a process geek. This is the first book I’ve found on setting up writing and marketing systems for authors, and I had to check it out. There’s a lot of info here. It’s kind of like the productivity classic, Getting Things Done, but specifically for authors. I definitely picked up some things that I wanted to try right away. But there’s so much that I think I’ll have to continue to revisit this one as I work set up my own systems based on what I learned.

Not mentioned above (because I didn’t finish reading them, yet), are the other three or four books that I started in June and got about halfway through before the end of the month. I will probably finish most, if not all, of them this month, if I can keep my non-work time focused on reading. After a week of just chilling with a good book, I’m definitely feeling my urge to devour books returning.

I have more to say about my July reading plans, but I’ll do that when I finally post my July reading journal set-up. I already filmed the set-up video (back a the end of June). Now I just need to edit it and post it to YouTube. I’m going to try to get that blog post up this weekend. In the meantime, let me know in the comments what you’re reading this weekend!

May Reading Wrap-Up

May turned out to be an excellent reading month for me. I read four fiction and three non-fiction books. Plus, since it was my birthday month, I got a whole bunch of books that have been on my wish list! Some I received as gifts and others I bought with gift card money. Combined, I have so many stories to read that I should probably do a book haul post!

What I read in May… Starting with the fiction books:

  • Legendborn by Tracy Deonn — I think this was my favorite book I read in May. It’s the first YA fantasy I’ve read in a while, and it reminded me of all the stuff I love about YA fantasy. The feelings. The magic. The adventure. The friendships. The love triangles…. I especially love this new take on the Arthurian legends. I can not wait for the next book in the series!
  • The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake — Okay. I definitely get what all the hype is about. I think if someone had said this is a “one of us must die” secret society book, I might have picked it up faster. I was absolutely loving this book up until the last few chapters. Then some stuff happens that kind of felt like it came out of nowhere. I don’t know. I need someone to talk to about this book, and none of my bookish friends have read it yet. Overall, I really liked it, though, and I’ll definitely be checking out the next book.
  • Never Saw You Coming by Erin Hahn — I love this series of loosely connected stand-alone YA contemporary romances. Erin Hahn has become an auto-buy author for me, and I am incredibly picky about contemporary romances! Maybe it’s that Midwest vibe I get from her books (I grew up in the Chicago suburbs). More likely it’s the characters. I also really love the complexity she packs into these books. Even though they are definitely written for a young adult audience, they don’t shy away from the difficult topics. Her characters are going through stuff, but you know (because it’s romance) that they’re going to be okay in the end, and I’m here for it.
  • Supernova by Kass Morgan — I really wanted to read this so that I could complete the duology. I mean, it’s a young adult space academy adventure! This type of story is my jam. Usually. I wanted to love this book, but I just didn’t. I liked it. I just didn’t love it. I don’t think it was necessarily the book’s fault. I just wasn’t vibing with any of the characters. But it was still a fun read.

I also read a handful on non-fiction books related to the business of writing. Those were (in order of most to least helpful): The Book Marketing Audit: Get Better Results with a Better Plan by Kilby Blades, Secrets to Selling Books on Social Media: Social Media Marketing for Writers – How to Get Readers to Buy Your Book by Bethany Atazadeh and Mandi Lynn, and A Book A Week: How I Outline and Draft a Full Novel in Just A Week by Kate Hall.

Here’s what my “Outbox” spread ended up looking like:

Notes covered up to avoid sharing spoilers.

I started trying to put notes next to each of the books I read. As you can see, that lasted for only the first two. Then I got lazy. So lazy that I didn’t even bother printing out the covers for the non-fiction books I read. I tried to use a star stencil for the ratings, but they are not lined up or spaced very well at all. Probably not going to try that again.

Your turn! What was your favorite book that you read in May? Have you read Atlas Six? If you did, what did you think of the ending? Let me know in the comments.

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!