October Reading Journal Set-up

Spooky season is here and my reading journal is ready!

I tried to add all the witchy small-town romance books that I could find to my TBR this month. Here’s what I ‘ve got so far:

  • Boss Witch by Ann Aguirre — I read the first book in this series last year. I don’t remember much about it, but this book was available at the library, so I decided to give it a try.
  • The Ex-Hex by Erin Sterling — I’ve had this on my Kindle for a while now, so I’m bumping it to the top of my spooky season TBR.
  • Witchful Thinking by Celestine Martin — This is a new release that I managed to get from the library!
  • The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna — Another new release, but this one is still on hold at the library. We’ll see if I get it in time to read this month, or if I have to wait…

I’ve also added one non-romance book with bone magic to my TBR (The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst). Plus one dark academia book (Babel by R. F. Kuang). I may also add The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik, but it depends on whether or not I get it from the library in time to read this month.

There are a few other (non-spooky) books I’m hoping to read this month as well. I mentioned the others in my reading journal set-up video, if you’re curious. But I have a feeling I won’t be able to get to them all.

If you have more witchy small town romance books that you think I should check out, definitely let me know in the comments. Those are my favorite fall reads.

September Reading Journal (#Bookoplathon) Set-Up

As you may have guessed from the title of this post, I found another readathon to participate in during the month of September! This one was created by Becca and the Books, and it’s based on the game Monopoly. Be sure to check out her video for the full description of the game board and rules and whatnot. It looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun.

It sounds like there are two ways to play the game. Either you can pre-roll your entire TBR to select however many books you think you will read in September. Or you can roll as you go.

I’m going with the roll as you go option. If you want to see my board set-up and find out what my first book is going to be, check out my reading journal set-up video.

I mostly chose the “roll as you go” option because I am not sure how much reading I’ll be able to get done this month. I have had two really excellent reading months in a row, so I feel like I may be overdue for a slump. I really hope that doesn’t happen, but it’s possible.

Also, I am trying to finish up edits on my new writing project so that I can send it to beta readers before the end of September. So I’m not going to have as much time for reading, and I’m probably going to focus on reading outside the genre I’m writing in while I finish edits. That means digging into the fast-paced contemporary, historical, and mystery options on my TBR.

Now that I’ve mentioned my writing project, I suppose I should also mention that, if you want to be a beta reader (aka someone who reads an early draft of the book and provides feedback on character, plot, and world-building), please sign up for my monthly newsletter, because that’s where I’m going to be giving folks all the info about beta reading and ARC opportunities for Heir of Gods (the first book in my new series).

Because I’m “rolling as I go” for this readathon, I am planning on doing more frequent reading updates this month. Kind of like back when I used to do the weekly “Inbox / Outbox” posts. Whenever I finish reading a book, I’m planning to do a quick video of my next roll and book selection. I’ll probably post them as reels on Instagram, but I’ll also post a quick “Just finished… / Now reading…” post here on the blog as well. So that should be fun!

Are you playing Bookopoly this month and participating in Bookoplathon? Let me know in the comments if you pre-picked your TBR or if you’re rolling as you go.

August Reading Journal Set-Up and Orilium Readathon TBR

It’s time! The Orilium Readathon is back in August for the Autumn Equinox session, which means my August reading journal set-up got done early this month!

If you want the full flip through and discussion of which books ended up on my TBR and why, check out the video linked below.

If you don’t want to watch the video, here’s a sample of what one of my TBR pages looks like:

Originally, I’d planned to finish the rest of the Hugo finalists for best novel and best novella in July and August. Last month, I mentioned that I was going to try to get through some of the novellas in July. However, once I remembered that the Autumn Equinox edition of the Orilium Readathon was coming, I thought it might be better to focus on the best novel finalists and save the novellas for the readathon. I just hoped that I could make them match up with the prompts I needed to complete in order to achieve my Story Weaver calling.

I have six levels across three courses that I need to complete in order to achieve Story Weaver, and I have five novellas and one novel I need to read to complete my Hugo finalist project. I managed to do a pretty good job getting the two aligned, but I did have to add a few non-finalist books to make it work. I think I’ll be able to fit the other two in under one of the readathon quests.

Here’s what I have planned:

  • Inscription
    • O Level: Read a childhood favorite –> An Acceptable Time by Madeline L’Engle — This was the first book that came to mind when I read this prompt. I debated using this one for the time travel prompt, but I don’t want to do two re-reads in a month when I have a lot of other new-to-me books I want to get through.
  • Lore
    • O Level: Book with colors similar to my country’s flag –> A Spindle Splintered by Alix Harrow — This is one of the books I need to read for my Hugo finalist project, and it happened to have red, white, and blue on the cover. So I’m using it for this prompt.
    • Q Level: Story featuring betrayal –> Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire — This is another Hugo finalist that I wanted to get onto my TBR this month. I am going off the synopsis for this one, which made it sound like there was a friend betrayal as part of the setup for this story. If I’m wrong, oh well, I need to read it anyway, and I’ll pick something else that better fits this prompt.
    • D Level: Book with a desert setting –> Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri — I have been meaning to read this book for a while. So, when none of the Hugo finalists looked like they’d work for this prompt, I decided to go with this option. I’m pretty confident that I will enjoy it. The only risk is that it will make me want to immediately read the second book, and I don’t have that one on my Kindle (yet).
  • Psionics & Divination
    • O Level: Story featuring time travel –> Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield — None of the Hugo finalists fit this prompt, and I really REALLY struggled to find something I wanted to read that did fit. I am really picky about time travel books. In general, I don’t like them. The ones I can think of that I like are all more multiverse than time travel (except for An Acceptable Time, oh the irony). I did some browsing and found a few books that I might like to read, but this was the only one that was both short and available at my library. It was not my top choice (that was Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel), but I’m putting my trust in the magic of the Tor.com novella. They haven’t failed me yet. Let’s hope that trend continues.
    • D Level: Book with the same word in title as your last read –> The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente — This one is going to be mostly about timing. In order for this book to work (which I need to read for my Hugo finalist project), I need to read it directly after Across the Green Grass Fields. Yes, I’m using “the” as my same word.

There are also quests that you can get points for in this readathon. I talk about my plans for those more in my set-up video. Based on the first set of open-to-everyone quest prompts, I think I should be able to get points for most, if not all, of the other Hugo finalist books I want to read this month, AND earn some extra points for the Mind Walker guild.

Let me know in the comments if you’re participating in the Orilium Readathon in August and what’s on your TBR.

July reading journal set-up

My July reading journal set up video is posted on YouTube! If you want the flip through, the video is linked below.

Because this is going up so late in the month, and I neglected to film the final July cover page and outbox spreads until today (!), I end up revealing the first two books I read this month at the end of the video. Just skip that part if you don’t want spoilers for my end of month wrap-up. But really, does anyone care about spoilers for a reading wrap up? I can’t imagine that’s an actual thing.

If you don’t want to watch the video or if you just want the non-spoiler version of my July cover page and don’t care about my Hugo nominee spread or the weird little TBR pockets I made, here’s a photo for you.

While I didn’t really mention any specific reading plans in the video, I did mention my plan to read the Hugo nominees for best novel and best novella. I also showed how I’m going to track and rank them. I just never said when I planned to read them.

I don’t plan to fill my entire TBR with Hugo nominees this month, but I do want to make a large dent in that reading list before August.

Roughly, these are my reading goals for July:

  • Don’t waste time on books that are bogging me down! If I feel like I *have* to finish them for some reason (like the Hugo nominees), then set a daily page count target and alternate with something fun and fast paced at the same time.
  • Finish reading Project Hail Mary and A Master of Djinn since I’ve already started reading both.
  • Read In An Absent Dream and Come Tumbling Down so I can get caught up on the Wayward Children novellas. (The one that comes after these is on my Hugo nominee for best novella reading list.)
  • Start working through the nominees for best novella, starting with the shortest one (Fireheart Tiger) and moving through them in order of shortest to longest (Across the Green Grass Fields).

It’s an ambitious reading plan, but I think I can work through the novellas pretty quickly, and I like quick wins.

If I can manage to check off all my goals this month, then I’ll only have two best novel nominees left to read in August. One of those is kind of intimidating, but it is the novel I think I will end up liking best of the bunch. The other is one I definitely expect is going to drag for me (given how I’ve felt about other books I’ve read by that author). So the more I can read this month, the better.

That said, the priority for the month is that first goal. I want to be immersed and enjoying what I’m reading as much as possible. The theme for the month is beach vibes after all!

What are your reading goals for July and/or the second half of this year?

Reading the 2022 Hugo Nominees

It’s that time of year again!

I missed my opportunity to read the Nebula nominees before the Nebula award ceremony because I was busy writing and editing, but I’m planning on taking a bit of a summer break before diving into writing and editing my next series. So, I’m setting myself a little summer reading project.

It’s time to read the 2022 Hugo Award nominees!

I’ve done this for the last couple of years because I was signed up to participate in the conference and vote. However, this year I’m just going to do it for fun. I’m also motivated by the fact that all the books look fantastic, and most were on my TBR anyway.

The Hugo Award nominees for best novel and best novella

The books nominated for best novel are:

The books nominated for best novella are:

I guess this means I’m going to have to make a Hugo TBR spread for my reading journal, huh? I’ll be sure to add that to my July reading journal set-up.

Predictions

Just for fun, I’m going to make a couple of predictions about which book in each category will be my favorite before I’ve read them all. Then I’m going to make an initial guess at which one will win each category. Once I’m done reading them all (or at the very least, before the ceremony on 4 September), I’ll post an update.

I’ve already read two of the nominees for best novel (Light From Uncommon Stars and A Desolation Called Peace). Both were really good, and I liked them a lot! I started Project Hail Mary and abandoned it because I just wasn’t in the mood for that particular narrative voice at the time. And I’m currently reading A Master of Djinn and enjoying it. So there are only two here that I don’t really have a sense for (She Who Became the Sun and The Galaxy and the Ground Within).

My prediction is that my favorite of the best novel nominees is going to be She Who Became the Sun. Even though it’s one of the two I haven’t read/started, I just have a feeling based on the synopsis and the little bit of buzz I’ve heard that this one has strong potential to be my favorite of the bunch. Plus the blurb reminded me a lot of The Tiger’s Daughter, which was a book I really liked.

The novella category is a bit more of an open field for me because I’ve only read A Psalm for the Wild-Built. The two I’m most excited about reading based on the blurbs are A Spindle Splintered and Fireheart Tiger. If I have to pick one, I’d guess that I’m going to like Fireheart Tiger the best of the bunch, but we shall see…

Regardless of what I like best, as of right now I think Project Hail Mary will win best novel and A Psalm for the Wild-Built will win best novella. I’m basing this mostly on their current Goodreads ratings (4.52 and 4.28 averages respectively). We’ll see if I change my mind on this after I’m done reading.

I’m curious, which of these do you think I’m going to like best? Which were your favorites and/or which ones do you think will win?

Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag

We’re (almost) halfway through 2022, and that means it’s time for a book freakout!

Wait. No. It’s time for the mid-year book freakout tag, which is a thing that a lot of booktubers do over on YouTube and that I sometimes do here on my blog. If you’re curious, here are the links for 2021, 2020, and 2018.

Now let’s get to the questions…

Best book you’ve read so far.

I just made a “First Half Faves” spread for my reading journal with my favorite book I’ve read from each month so far this year. June isn’t over, yet. So, for the purposes of this post, I’m picking between my faves from January through May. They were all really good books, and it was really hard to pick just one, but I think I’m going with Legendborn by Tracy Deonn, because I feel like I’m constantly referencing it.

Work in-progress reading journal spread

Best sequel you’ve read so far.

No surprise here. Definitely Miss Moriarty, I Presume? by Sherry Thomas. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know I love this Charlotte Holmes series.

New release you haven’t read yet, but want to.

Hahahahaha sob. Yeah. So many. BUT! I am very proud to report that I HAVE read my answer to this question from last year’s post (Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa), and that turned out to be one of my “First Half Faves.” So no pressure to this year’s selection, which is… Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree. I keep seeing this book everywhere, so I really want to see what all the hype is about. Plus, it sounds like a cute cozy fantasy novel.

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.

There are so many good books coming out in the second half of 2022! How am I supposed to pick just one? I’m really excited about Bloodmarked (book two in the Legendborn series) and Seasparrow (another new book set in the Graceling world). But really, the one that I’m probably going to drop everything and read is Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell. Winter’s Orbit (set in the same world but with different characters) was one of my favorite books I read last year, and Ocean’s Echo has mind readers working for a space military that have to fake a relationship and end a war. I mean… I don’t think it’s possible to engineer a more perfect premise for me.

Biggest disappointment.

I think I have to go with Aurora’s End by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff for this one. I didn’t have super high expectations going in. The first two books in the series were fun reads, and I mostly just wanted to see how the story ended. But this book, which should have been a fast-paced read, just dragged for me.

Biggest surprise.

Paladin’s Grace! I had no idea this was going to be such a delightful fantasy romance mystery novel! And featuring older protagonists, too! If you want to know more of my thoughts on this one, I gushed about it in this post.

Favorite new author. (Debut or new to you)

My favorite debut author is the author of my favorite book I’ve read so far this year, Tracy Deonn. I’m still blown away by the fact that Legendborn was her debut novel! Wow. Just, wow.

Newest fictional crush.

Look. I know I’m basically a broken record at this point, but it has to be said. Sel from Legendborn. Also, have you seen the cover of Bloodmarked? So excited.

Newest favorite character.

I had to think about this one for a while. Then it dawned on me. The crew from The Atlas Six. I think Nico and Parisa are my favorites.

Book that made you cry.

Probably Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki. I went into this book expecting a space opera for some reason, but it turned out to be a contemporary sci-fantasy novel with heartbreaking characters and a whole lot of violin geekery. I loved it.

Book that made you happy.

Definitely The Bounce Back by Addie Woolridge (who also earned this spot last year with her first book, The Checklist). There’s just something about reading a contemporary romance written by a friend that feels like getting to hang out with them while they tell you a story. It makes me happy.

Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

I don’t know if this book is as pretty in print, but I love the cover of The Elf Tangent by Lindsey Buroker. (Which also happens to be what I’m currently reading.)

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

All of them? But, seriously? At the very least, I want to finish the ones I’ve already started reading. It’s a low bar. I’ll admit it. But right now I have like seven books in-progress…

I also want to read all the Hugo Award nominees for best novel and best novella that I haven’t read yet. I’m working on a TBR post about that. And a TBR spread for my reading journal. I’ll post more about that soon.

Until then, here’s a sum up of my mid-year book freakout tag books:

2022 Midyear Book Freakout Booklist

If you did this tag, let me know in the comments. Or tell me your favorite book you read in the first half of 2022 so I can add it to my TBR if I haven’t read it already!

Top five favorite movies

Years ago, I used to have this list of top five favorite comfort food movies on the about page of my blog. I took it down at some point, but I save the list. Well… there are actually two lists. I’ll get to that in a minute.

First, here are the lists:

Tonight I re-watched 10 Things I Hate About You. It wasn’t until after the movie was over that I realized my favorite scene in that movie… this one:

Was probably partly to blame for one of the scenes I wrote into Ash of the Fae. Maybe at some point I’ll talk about that whole “compost heap” of culture that feeds your story brain, but it’s getting late, and I can’t really use that scene as an example without giving spoilers for the book. So, put a pin in that topic for later.

Watching 10 Things reminded me of the top five movies list I made. Only, when I dug it up off my hard drive, I realized it was actually two lists, not one. And I remembered why I took it off my bio.

While I stand by the choices on these lists, I no longer call things I love “guilty pleasures.” I don’t buy into the concept of feeling guilty about stuff that brings me joy. And there was no way I was going to be able to condense this list down to a real top five list.

Even now, I’m realizing that there are a lot more movies that have left a lasting impression on me and that I re-watch whenever they become available to stream. (Unless they never are available to stream. Those I have on DVD.) There are two movies in particular that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately that I was kind of surprised to find don’t appear on either of these lists.

The first is a romantic comedy. But not just any romantic comedy. A Meg Ryan romantic comedy that, in my opinion, is the BEST romantic comedy: French Kiss. I just found and bought a copy of on DVD because it’s never available to stream, and I really wanted to re-watch it. The only copy I had was on VHS, which I got rid of a loooooonnng time ago.

So, I re-watched it last week, and damn that movie is good. It really should be on that “comfort food” movie list, but I don’t know what I would bump off in order to add it.

The other one I am reminded of every time I walk into my office because I have the (full size, massive) movie poster hanging on my office wall. I inherited this poster from someone we met here on the island shortly after we moved here. I mentioned that there was this one obscure favorite of mine that he’d probably never heard of… The Big Blue (aka Le Grande Bleu). Well, it turned out that he’d not only heard of it, he had the movie poster, and he gave it to me!

The Big Blue was a movie we watched in my French class in high school, and I don’t know what it was (the dolphins, I mean, of course it was the dolphins), but I just fell in love with this movie. It was only later that I figured out that the director of this movie is the same guy who did The Fifth Element and The Professional (aka Léon), both favorites of mine, as well as La Femme Nikita (the French version that was eventually remade into another of my all-time favorite movies, Point of No Return).

So, yeah. What are we up to now? Fourteen movies? All those movies should be on this list. There is no way I can narrow it down to five. Unless maybe I just re-watch all of them over the course of the next few weeks so they are all fresh in my mind?

Honestly, if I did that, I’d probably just come up with even MORE comfort food movies that I love to re-watch. But it sounds like a fun project… I should probably do it anyway. For science. Right? Not because I’m procrastinating on my editing. Definitely not that. 😉

What about you? What’s the last movie you re-watched? What’s your go-to comfort food movie?

That’s what she said…

Since it’s “Teaser Tuesday” today, how about a snippet from chapter four of Ash of the Fae, book five in my Modern Fae series?

This is one of my favorite bits! Here’s the quote from the image:

I sighed. “That’s never going to work. Fun always gets complicated. You were right the first time. Best to lay down the ground rules now and then stick to them.”

“Okay, but I’m still voting for fun. It’s not like I am going to get to find out what it’s like to make out with a ripped Fae who can turn into a dragon. I need to live vicariously.” Angie tugged on the handle of my suitcase as she resumed walking.

I laughed. “You suck.”

“That’s what she said,” Angie called back to me in a low voice.

Ash of the Fae by E. Menozzi

If you’ve read book four (Hunter of the Fae), then you are already familiar with Angie and her love of “that’s what she said” jokes. And if you haven’t met Angie, yet, there’s still time to catch up before Ash of the Fae‘s release, later this month!

Angie is Eve’s best friend. She’s the main character in book four in the series, but she also appears briefly in book one, and again in Eve the Immortal, the Eve of the Fae epilogue novella. Hannah and Ved (aka, Ash) are the main characters in book five.

In this snippet, Angie is talking to Hannah about the Dragon Fae who has just been assigned as Hannah’s bodyguard. Hannah is determined not to hook up with him, regardless of how hot he is, and despite the fact that there’s only one bed at the weekend party he’s attending as her fake boyfriend. (Good luck with that, Hannah. Bwahahaha…)

This was seriously one of my favorite books to write. I can’t wait for you all to read it! And it will be on shelves in just TWO WEEKS! Eeeeek! I am so excited!

In the meantime, if you want to check out the first chapter, you can do that here.

Okay. Now I need to get back to editing Petals and Runes. While I’m working, let me know which June new releases your excited about picking up this month!

Planning for a productive week

It’s the first Monday of June!

Did you know I love the start of a new month? I’m all about that monthly goal reset, and I’m always making tweaks to my productivity systems whenever I feel like I’ve stopped making forward progress.

I love my bullet journal for making lists and taking notes, but sometimes the bigger projects (like writing and editing a novel) get lost in the day to day grind. It’s way too easy for me to get distracted by crossing admin tasks off my list and forget about the big stuff. Especially when it’s just one bullet point among many.

So I came up with the idea to use a little dry erase board on my desk to keep my project tasks top of mind.

Each week, I load it up with all the bite-size tasks that make up whatever project I’m trying to complete that week. Each task is meant to be something I think I can do in thirty minutes (aka, a “sprint”). Then, each morning, I pick four tasks to move to the “Today” section of the board. Once I start a task, I move it down to the “Started” section. And once it’s done, I move it to the “Done” section. At the end of the week I toss the “Done” tasks and reset the board for the new week. It’s very satisfying.

This week, I’ve set up my board with one task sticky for each chapter of Petals and Runes. The project goal for this week is to complete my read through and collect all my revision notes. Ideally, I’m going to focus on reading and making notes, not on actually revising.

I’m not really sure if it’s going to take me a full week to get through this, or not. Every book is different. Sometimes this process goes really fast. I suspect that, since I haven’t been back in this world for a while, this is going to be pretty slow. I think I’m going to have to stop frequently to make notes as I read.

Also, this isn’t the only thing I’m doing this week. In addition to this writing project, I have a lot of other publishing admin tasks to do related to the Ash of the Fae release on the 21st, plus my usual household stuff to do. I’m keeping track of all that stuff in the weekly spread in my bullet journal. So, I think allocating a whole week for this part of the revision process is a realistic estimate.

How about you? How are you keeping track of your to-do list this week?

For the love of YA fantasy tropes

It’s been years and years since I wrote what became the second novel I ever finished writing. It felt really promising at the time. The first pages won contests. They got me full requests from agents. But nothing ever panned out.

Eventually, I gave up and shelved it. I moved on to what would eventually become the Modern Fae series. And I didn’t think I’d ever go back to that novel.

But I never really forgot about it. While I don’t really remember the moment I started writing Eve of the Fae (or really any of the Modern Fae novels), I have a very vivid memory of the book that started out as “The Lost Empire” and eventually became Petals and Runes.

It all started with that scene at the masked ball where she figures out that she’s dancing with the Ruhl. Except, at the time, I hadn’t invented that bit of world-building. He was a king, and his name was Oliver not Elan.

I only know this because I still have the notebook I wrote that first scene in.

My Petals and Runes notebook is making friends with my editing tools…

Perhaps you remember me mentioning this novel before? If you do, it’s because I chopped up my old draft and posted it serial-style on Kindle Vella earlier this year. The last episode posted in April. I took it down in May, and now I’m working on revising it, as well as outlining the rest of the trilogy.

Back before Modern Fae, I didn’t know how to fix my not-quite-there broken novel. You know how they say you should put your finished draft away before you go back and try to edit it? Well, it’s been over five years! And I’ve learned a LOT since then. I think it’s time to put all that to work.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be breaking this story down and putting it back together again. At first I was dreading this process. It’s both a demoralizing and invigorating thing, the thought of ripping apart a “finished” draft so you can fix it.

But I’m also getting to go back and explore some of my favorite young adult tropes. Like that good old masked ball scene. And the YA fantasy arranged marriage. Not to mention… The Love Triangle!

I know. That last one was huge in YA for a while, and you either loved it or you hated it. The love triangle for me is one of those tropes that, when it’s done well, can hook me into a young adult fantasy romance like nothing else.

There was a love triangle in the original version of this story, but it got kind of lost (or at least muddled) by the time I reached “the end” of that finished / polished draft. That’s one of the things I’m working on bringing back and strengthening during this revision.

The decision to do that might have been a little inspired by my current favorite YA love triangle: Bree / Nick / Sel from Legendborn by Tracy Deonn. In case you were wondering, I am team Sel all the way. The cover of book two (Bloodmarked) alone is making that one of my most anticipated new releases for the second half of 2022.

So tell me. What are some of your favorite young adult fantasy romance tropes? Are you team love triangle? Or do you hate it? What are some of your favorite young adult love triangles?