Stack ranking Hugo best novella finalists

Last night I finished reading the Hugo finalists for Best Novella. Now it’s time to stack rank them. I figured I’d blog my thoughts and see where that gets me.

My current ranking:

  1. The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark
  2. The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard
  3. Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
  4. Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson
  5. Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor
  6. Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

Let me start by saying this is all me trying to rate these books relative to each other. I really enjoyed them all. There’s not a “bad” book in the bunch, as you might expect from a batch of Hugo finalists.

That said, I definitely enjoyed some more than others. For example, I really enjoyed the Binti series. The Night Masquerade was the final novella in the trilogy, but it was the one that I liked the least, unfortunately. I also think the Every Heart a Doorway series by Seanan McGuire is awesome. But, Beneath the Sugar Sky was my least favorite of the three that have been released so far. So, that’s how those two novellas ended up in the bottom two slots. They’re both still really good. I just liked the others better.

Along the lines of follow-up novellas in a series, Artificial Condition is the second novella in the Murderbot series. I loved All Systems Red, the first book in that series, but didn’t really feel the need to continue with the series after it was over. The first novella ends with a satisfying conclusion, even if it leaves things open for more adventures. But, I wasn’t convinced that I needed more. So, I didn’t expect much from Artificial Condition.  I expected more of the same — a character I loved going on a new adventure. That’s pretty much what I got, but it was still a joy returning to that world and the “voice” of Murderbot. So, I stuck this one in the middle slot. It edged out the next novella on a technicality which I will discuss next.

For the first two thirds or three quarters of Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, I was fairly certain that this one was going to be in the top three. I liked the structure of the novella and the characters. There was a clear story arc and character development along the way. The author did a great job of depicting a complicated new world in a relatively short story. But, the ending didn’t work for me. I don’t think it stuck the landing. So freaking close, though. If I thought about this more and applied the “Writing Excuses” concept of how elements of the MICE quotient were introduced and then closed out, I’d probably be able to pinpoint the exact bit that didn’t work for me, but I haven’t taken the time to do that yet. I have too many more books to read. I suspect if I did that I’d find that the closing of the parenthesis got out of order at some point. That, and something about the antagonist character (Fabian) that didn’t work for me. Now that I’ve said all that, I think I may have to flip this with #5 on my list above and boost The Night Masquerade up to #4.

That leaves the two novellas I put at the top of my list. I read The Tea Master and the Detective before I read The Black God’s Drums, so there may be a little bit of recency bias in my ranking. While I thought The Tea Master and the Detective was a solid novella and a creative re-telling of the classic Sherlock Holmes detective stories, The Black God’s Drums was an equally solid novella in terms of storytelling mechanics, but took me to a completely new world I’d never seen before. I’m always going to give extra points to imagination and world-building. Ultimately, the thing that made The Tea Master and the Detective endearing and enjoyable (the fact that it was a Sherlock Holmes re-telling, and I love Sherlock Holmes and have since I was a kid), was the thing that held it back from taking the top slot.

I’m going to sit with this for a while and think about it some more, but those are my initial thoughts. As of right now, The Black God’s Drums wins in this category for me.

What do you think? Have you read any of these? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

What’s on my July TBR

I started to create a second half of 2019 TBR, but as I worked on the post, I realized that it is insane and way too ambitious. So, I’m throwing out that plan, and I’m going to take it month by month instead.

This is what I’m planning to read in July:

This month, most of what I plan to read are Hugo finalist novels and novellas.

I still have four of the novellas to read. Two of them (The Tea Master and the Detective and Artificial Condition) were already on my TBR. The other two (The Black God’s Drums and Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach) also sound great, and I’m excited to read them as well. Novellas are fun and usually fast reads. So I think I can get through these pretty quickly. Then, it’s on to the novels…

All three of the remaining finalists for best adult novel (Revenant Gun, Record of a Spaceborn Few, and Spinning Silver) were already on my TBR. The only reason I hadn’t read them yet was because I was waiting for library holds (or the Hugo packet, whichever arrived first). Of course, I also need to read book two in the Machineries of Empire series (Raven Stratagem) before I can read Revenant Gun. But, now I have my holds and my Hugo packet, and I own both Raven Stratagem and Revenant Gun in paperback. So, I have no more excuses. Time to get reading. 🙂

Besides all this Hugo reading, I’m still trying to stay on track with the 2019 Read Harder Challenge this month. Luckily, there’s some overlap between my Hugo reading and a few of the challenge tasks. Both Raven Stratagem and Revenant Gun will satisfy Task #6 (Read a book by an author of color set in or about space) and/or Task #18 (Read a novel by a trans or nonbinary author). Plus, Dread Nation, which is a finalist for best young adult novel, will satisfy Task #2 (Read an alternate history novel). So, I may get to check off three tasks this month.

Finally, if I have time, I’d like to read book one in Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy (Assassin’s Apprentice). I was planning to read this with my friend and her son this month, but I think he’s already way ahead of us. I also moved book one in Alyssa Cole’s near-future dystopian romance series (Radio Silence) up in the “to-read” stack. Plus, the cover of You’d Be Mine is calling to me. I think it might make for a fun book to read while enjoying the sunshine this month.

This is still a very ambitious TBR for July. We’ll see how I do, and how much rolls over into August. Did I mention that I’m also working on writing the first draft of book three in my Modern Fae series this month, too? Yikes.

What’s on your TBR for July? Are you planning on reading any of these books? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

June 2019: Reading Wrap Up

The first half of 2019 is over, and it’s time to change up these monthly reading wrap-up posts. I’m rethinking my format for my recap, so if you have thoughts on what you’d like to see here, let me know in the comments.

What I read in June:

I started the month off hot and steamy with Sinner by Sierra Simone. This is the second book (I think) in her Priest series. If you don’t like to mix religion and erotica, this probably isn’t for you. The heroine is planning on becoming a nun but wants to see what she’s missing first to see if she can be tempted away from what feels is her calling. What I love about this series are the contradictions. This is erotica where one of the subplots involves a character’s mother dying of cancer (decidedly NOT sexy). Plus, even though it might seem from the blurb like the author is using religion as a plot device and the “message” will be either anti-faith or that sex is dirty, it’s actually quite the opposite. I’ll warn that if you’re hard-core atheist, this may not be the book for you. It might also not be the book for you if just the idea of mixing faith and sex gives you hives. Because, don’t be fooled, this book is very sex-positive and hot. Oh, and the hero is the best friend of the heroine’s older brother, just in case you’re into that trope.

Did I scare off all my readers by talking about erotica in the first paragraph of my summary? If so, too bad, because they’ll be missing out on what might be my favorite book of 2019, so far. I had some travel planned for the first part of June. So, I got Space Opera by Catherynne Valente on audiobook to keep me entertained on my travels. I’d started reading this book on my Kindle shortly after its release, but couldn’t get into it. So, I didn’t have high hopes for this book, but I’d met the editor (Navah Wolfe) at Futurescapes, and she was contagiously enthusiastic about this book. I already knew the origin story for this book (a back and forth conversation on Twitter during Eurovision viewing), but hearing her tell it again reminded me of all the reasons I thought I’d like this book. Plus, it’s a finalist for the Hugo for best novel of 2018. So, I thought I’d give it another try. Wow, am I glad that I did. First off, audiobook is the way to go with this one. The narrator is awesome. Second, this may have edged out The Calculating Stars for my pick for best novel. The world-building and the dry humor in this book are fantastic. I’ve never read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but I imagine this is like that, but more queer and diverse and thoughtful. So good. Highly recommend checking this out.

Next up, I finally got around to reading Vengeful. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know how much I love Vicious. It’s my favorite book by Victoria Schwab. You probably also know how much I’ve been looking forward to reading this sequel. Unfortunately, Vengeful disappointed me. It bums me out to say that, but sometimes that happens. It took me a very long time to finish this book. I got bogged down in the time hopping. I didn’t feel like it served a purpose or enhanced the story. Plus, I feel like the potential of the two new female EOs (June and Marcella) was wasted. I think I’d almost have preferred if this entire book was just the June and Marcella story with nothing about Eli and Victor in it at all. There could still be the link to Sydney that ties the two stories together, but I was not at all engaged in the Eli and Victor aspects of the plot. Will I be back for more if there’s more in the series? Probably. Is VES still an author hero of mine? Of course. Liking books is subjective.

I knew I needed to squeeze in a couple of books to keep up with my Read Harder challenge. So, I went with some easy and short options for June. One was a children’s book (La Princesa and the Pea) and the other was a middle grade comic (The Backstagers). Both were cute and fun and I would definitely give them to the kids in my life to read, if they haven’t read them already.

That leaves the other surprise hit of the month, No Walls and the Recurring Dream by Ani Difranco. I listened to this one on audiobook because it was read by Ani Difranco. I highly recommend that medium for this book. I enjoyed it enough that I’m considering buying myself a copy of the book when it comes out in paperback. There’s a lot to think about here, and I think I might want something to refer back to and re-read from time to time. We’ll see if I’m still thinking about this book when they eventually release the paperback version. I suppose I should mention that I’m not really an Ani Difranco fan, so that’s not really why I read this book. I never really listened to her music for two reasons. One, I’m not a huge fan of folk music. I like it, but not for general purpose listening. The second reason is because at the height of her popularity, I was still going through my boy-crazy college years. It was the tail end of the 90s when calling yourself a feminist meant that you were seen as a man-hating bitch. I suppose some people still think it means that, but I feel like the majority viewpoint on this has shifted. Honestly, I cringe to think of younger me and how feminist I actually was while completely denying it lest it make me unattractive to guys. Oh, silly younger me who didn’t realize that the guys it made me unattractive to were exactly the ones I shouldn’t be dating anyway… sigh. Anyway. There’s a lot to enjoy in this book, but the thing I liked the most was her thoughts and reflections on her art and creative process, as well as why she decided to go indie and stay indie. I tend toward pragmatism but am filled to the brim with passion, so I really value hearing from people who confidently and unapologetically follow their dreams at all costs. I feel I have a lot to learn from them.

 

What I bought:

This was a close call. I was very tempted by several books. But ultimately, I didn’t buy any new books this month! Again! That’s three months in a row. Go me.

 

Net impact on my Kindle Backlog:

Total Kindle backlog books read in 2019: 5

Total new *unread* Kindle books in 2019: 7

Getting closer to net zero, but still need to read some more backlog in order to catch up to what I’ve already purchased (and haven’t read yet) this year. Assuming that I catch up by the end of next month (as I plan to do), I’m definitely dropping this section of my recap in July.

 

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completed this month:

Total tasks completed: 12

Total tasks remaining: 12

Looks like I’m still on track with this goal. I’m seriously shocked that I actually might finish the challenge this year. Did I purposely choose two of the easiest (and shortest) tasks to complete this month? Yes. Yes, I did. Will that make completing the twelve tasks that remain more difficult? Maybe. But, I’m not going to worry about that. I’m just going to keep chipping away at this challenge and see what happens.

Of course, I still need to find a book I want to read for Task #20 (read a book written in prison). So, if you have a recommendation for that one, let me know in the comments, please!

 

First half 2019 TBR Status:

Total TBR: 33 books

Books read to date: 30

Books remaining: 3

I am absolutely stunned that I managed to get so close to completing this TBR. I’m rounding up a bit here because I’m in the middle of Thick As Thieves and wasn’t able to finish it before the end of the month. Still, I’m counting that one as “read” for the purposes of this list.

Of the books that remain (Our Dark Duet, The Queen of Blood, and Stories of Your Life and Others), I’m rolling two onto my second half of 2019 TBR (to be announced soon). But, I’m dropping the book of short stories (Stories of Your Life and Others) off my TBR. I’d planned to read that one for Futurescapes and didn’t read it in time. I plan to get back to it at some point, but not in the next few months.

And that’s it for June. What was your favorite book you read in the first half of 2019? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time, happy reading!

Summer ebook and audiobook library haul!

I’ve just done another massive ebook download from the library. Yes, it’s true that I haven’t finished reading the ones I’ve already borrowed, but I’m not about to let that stop me.

What’s here and why…

It started with the holds I’d placed on some new books (The Disasters, The Fated Sky) and one that I need for Read Harder (Certain Dark Things). But, once I started, I decided to take a look at what books on my library “wish list” happened to be available. That’s how I ended up adding the remaining books in two series that I want to finish (The Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan and the Winner’s Curse series by Marie Rutkoski), a miscellaneous novella from a series that have mixed feelings about (A Court of Frost and Starlight), two fantasy romance books that were recommended to me (Empire of Sand and Slave to Sensation), a couple more books by the amazing Tessa Gratton (Strange Grace and The Lost Sun), and a few more that have been on my TBR for a while and happened to be available (Children of Blood and Bone, Genuine Fraud, Dryland, Across A Star Swept Sea, and My So-Called Bollywood Life).

Now it’s time to flip my Kindle back to airplane mode until fall and enjoy my summer reading… 🙂 If you have any recommendations about where I should start with this new book haul, let me know in the comments.

Happy Book Birthday to Dawn of the Fae!

Book two in my Modern Fae series is out today!

Check it out over on my website where you can read the first chapter, add it to Goodreads, and buy an ebook or paperback copy if you are so inclined.

Also, if you’re interested in watching me talk about this book, my writing process, my Camp NaNoWriMo adventures, and other writing vlog-able dispatches, I’m starting an “AuthorTube” channel over on YouTube.

If watching YouTube videos isn’t your thing, you can also sign up for my Newsletter or follow me on BookBub and/or Amazon to get book release updates.

If you’re only interested in my reading updates, stay tuned to this channel. I’ll have my June recap post up early next week. Brace yourself for some surprise new favorites.

Birthday Book Haul

My mom sent me some excellent books for my birthday this year!


First up, two “book threes” in two different series: Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee and Amnesty by Lara Elena Donnelly. I’m not sure if these are the last books in their respective series or not, but now that I have them, I need to read their “book twos” so I can catch up!

Jean Grey was never my favorite of the X-Men, but volume one of the new Jean Grey X-Men comic (Nightmare Fuel) follows the teenage, alternate timeline Jean Grey, and it also features Psylocke in at least one of the issues. The covers I saw at a comic shop in Portland looked awesome. So, I thought I’d give it a try. If it also features Storm, I’m going to be very happy.

I recently added Art Starts With A Line by Erin McManness and Draw Your Day by Samantha Dion Baker to my wish list because I’ve been getting the itch to draw more, but feeling like I’m out of practice and attempting a doodle will just “mess up” my notebook. I used to love sketching. Then I found pen and ink drawing and started experimenting more with that medium. But I let my drawing practice slide over the past ten years. I’m hoping these two books give me the inspiration I need to start including more doodles in my journals, especially my BuJo. So, if you have any Instagram accounts you follow for sketching or doodling inspiration, let me know in the comments.

May 2019: Reading Wrap Up

And just like that, my birthday month is over. I had a lot of fun with friends and family this month, and I got some excellent new books to read! I’ll have to do a birthday book haul post soon. I’m just waiting for a couple that I ordered with my gift card to arrive in the mail.

Meanwhile, my stack of physical books is growing and threatening to topple off my nightstand. But, we’re not planning on traveling much this summer, so I think I may be able to work through a few if I start sitting outside in the sunshine each day for a little reading break. The spring weather here in the upper left corner of the US has been perfect for that kind of thing, and if it gets too hot, there’s always our nice shady deck to hide out on and read.

Before I get too far ahead of myself making future reading plans, let me jump into my May reading recap.

What I read in May:

I started the month with Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne. This was exactly as fluffy and fun as I’d anticipated. I love it when that happens. You can tell that Alexa used to write fan fic because she does a great job with tension and angsty romance. The world-building was a little more “hand-wavy” than I like in my sci-fi, and I the ending didn’t feel quite right to me, but other than that, I really liked this book and am looking forward to reading her next one.

After that, I switched gears pretty dramatically. I’d forgotten that I’d put a hold on the audiobook for The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight. This was a book that I’d planned to read for the Read Harder Challenge. It’s short and funny, a parody on The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (which I haven’t read). The audiobook turned out to be the perfect thing to listen to it on my walks. The author reads her own book, and I enjoyed hearing her words in her voice. I know this is meant to be funny, but there’s some good messages in here for people like me who still haven’t mastered the art of not caring what other people think about them. I’m half-tempted to go buy a copy so I can refer to it for reminders when needed.

Somewhere in there, I decided to dive into The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton. I’d been meaning to read this forever, and I’m so glad that I finally did. The world-building is really interesting, and I’m curious where the story is going to go from here. But, I don’t think I’m going to continue with the series. I’m just not that into fashion and beauty. Since the entire theme of this series has to do with beauty, there are lengthy descriptions of in-world fashion from clothing to make-up to hair and everything in between. This is critical to the story because it’s all about how the Belles have the power to create whatever image is requested by the regular people in this world and what that means for their world. It’s really well done, but my eyes start to glaze over after too many descriptions of fancy dresses. I much preferred the political maneuvering.

I needed a quick read after finishing The Belles. Something that I knew would be a page turner, either from romantic tension or from plot. So, I decided to check off another Read Harder Challenge task and picked up The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan. I loved the first book and the two novellas I’ve read enough to guess that this is a series I could pretty much devour in a week. . Because of that, I’ve been rationing the remaining books because I don’t want to be done with the series. As expected, I really, really liked this book. Something about the internal conflict for both the heroine and the hero really struck a cord with me. I highly, HIGHLY recommend this series, even if you think you don’t like historical romance. It’s not the genre I usually turn to for a variety of reasons, but Courtney Milan is an excellent author. Conveniently enough, the ebook box set of the series happens to be on sale for $2.99 on Kindle right now. So, if you’re reading this shortly after I posted it, you should go buy the set.

And, last but not least, I got caught up on my Queen’s Thief re-read and finished A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner. Of the first four books, this was the book I liked the least when I first read this series ten-ish years ago. I think that’s because there’s just a lot of political maneuvering in this book. There’s some action and some romance, but Sophos isn’t as naturally charismatic of a character as Gen. This story is all about him learning to become a leader. It’s a lot like story of The Lion King in that way. In fact, come to think of it, there are a lot of similarities between A Conspiracy of Kings and The Lion King. Huh. I definitely liked this book more on the re-read. Now I’m really excited to get to the first “new” book in this series (released last year).

 

What I bought:

I didn’t buy any new books this month! Again! Amazing! But I did pre-order my friend Rebecca’s book that’s coming out in July, Shatter the Sky. Because she’s awesome, and I read an early version of the book and can’t wait to read it again and see how the story has changed. If you like dragons, you should go pre-order this book, or request it from you library.

 

Net impact on my Kindle Backlog:

Total Kindle backlog books read in 2019: 4

Total new *unread* Kindle books in 2019: 8

Getting closer to net zero, but still need to read some more backlog in order to catch up to what I’ve already purchased (and haven’t read yet) this year. Assuming that I catch up by the end of next month (as I plan to do), I’m going to drop this goal in July and just add any remaining unread new books to my second half of 2019 reading list.

 

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completed this month:

  • Task #4: Read a humor book. (Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck)
  • Task #16: An historical romance by an AOC (The Heiress Effect)

Total tasks completed: 10

Total tasks remaining: 14

Looks like I’m still on track with this goal. Go me!

 

First half 2019 TBR Status:

Total TBR: 33 books

Books read to date: 26

Books remaining: 7

Turns out that I miscounted last month. I forgot that I had swapped out two of my Read Harder Challenge books for two different books than what were on my original list. So, I actually wasn’t as far off as I thought. It appears that I have four more “backlog” books to read, plus two more Read Harder books, and one book of short stories that I meant to read before Futurescapes. I might be able to finish all those in June. We’ll see…

I’m also starting to think about my TBR for the second half of 2019. Right now, I’m planning to include the following:

  • Six more “backlog” Kindle books…
  • The final twelve books I need for the Read Harder challenge…
  • Any new books that I bought in the first half of this year and haven’t read yet (as of 1 July)…
  • Three books I’m planning to read for a buddy read…
  • Plus any books I haven’t read yet (as of 1 July) in the Hugo award categories for best novel, best novella, and best YA novel…

It’s looking like that list will end up somewhere between 30-36 books, just like my first half of 2019 TBR. That’s another five or six books per month, on average. Hahahaha. Yeah. Not leaving myself much room for spontaneous reading in the second half of the year. Plus I have a whole lot of writing planned for this fall, which means less time for reading.

Someday maybe I’ll be slightly less ambitious with my reading goals. Maybe. There are just too many books I want to read. And I keep finding more that I want to buy or borrow. This year, the TBR list seems to be working for me. It’s keeping me focused on the books I have wanted to read for a while, but that keep getting shuffled to the bottom of my stack as I bring in bright new shiny books to read.

Having a TBR is also helping me stay on track with the Read Harder challenge. For the first time, I think I may actually be able to finish all the tasks by the end of the year. So long as I can manage to find books I want to read for the following three challenges:

  • Task #20: A book written in prison
  • Task #21: A comic by an LGBTQIA creator
  • Task #22: A children’s or middle grade book (not YA) that has won a diversity award since 2009

So, if you have suggestions and recommendations for me that would help me check these tasks off my list, please leave them in the comments.

Until next time, happy reading!

April 2019: Reading Wrap Up

April was not a good reading month for me. I didn’t have as much time to read as I thought that I would, and I found myself in a bit of a slump towards the end of the month. I think I’m going to have to change some things up for May, but first… let’s talk about what I read in April.

What I read in April:

The month started off really well. I tore through Alyssa Cole’s Can’t Escape Love. It’s a novella in her Reluctant Royals series, which we’ve already established that I’m very much enjoying. This one was another fast and fun read. I loved the characters. The plot was perfect for a novella and well paced. The romance was fun and believable. Overall, loved it. Ready for the next book in the series.

After that though, things slowed down a bit. I started Updraft by Fran Wilde and I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells because I was going to be meeting both of those authors at Futurescapes. Turns out that Updraft was the perfect book to be reading for me at a pivotal moment as I’m working on revisions of one of my older WIP novels. Fran does a great job with using language to enhance world-building (which was also the topic of her workshop that I attended at Futurescapes). The world in this book also has these “laws” that are roughly equivalent to what I’ve been trying to do with the legends and folklore in my WIP novel. So it was nice to see how she handled that, from a craft perspective. The characters and plot were good, too, but what really stood out for me in this book was the world.

I didn’t have as good of luck with I Am Not A Serial Killer. Unfortunately, I started this one on audiobook and the narrator was just not working it for me. I finally ended up ditching the audiobook about half-way through. I wasn’t sure I’d finish it, but I had the book on my Kindle as well. So, when I got back from my trip, I tried picking up where I left off. I’m glad I tried again in a different format because it’s a compelling thriller. I ended up speeding through the last half because I wanted to know how it ends.

Somewhere in the middle of all this I started reading Mercenary Instinct. This ended up being the book that gets the credit for putting me into a reading slump. I had issues with the world-building that kept me from getting into the story. Most of that had to do with unrealistic space travel science stuff that maybe wouldn’t have bothered me years ago, as I discussed in yesterday’s post. I also had a really hard time getting on board with the plot and the romance aspects of this book. My biggest issues were that there was way too much use of the threat of rape as a plot device, and the entire premise was built on a huge plot hole. The bad guy placed a bounty on the heroine and her crew, sending a bunch of mercenaries after them and putting their lives, and work, at risk, when he clearly had more than enough money and resources to just buy their company and/or research and no good reason to take this convoluted path to get it. Under normal circumstances, I would have just DNFed the book, but it was the Smart Podcast Trashy Books first book club pick, and I really wanted to read it before listening to the episode where they discuss it. If you’ve listened to their recap episode, I’m pretty well aligned with Carrie’s and Elyse’s opinions.

More than being frustrated by the time I spent reading this book when I have other books I’d rather be reading, I’m actually disappointed because I wanted to enjoy this book. I still haven’t found the sci-fi and/or fantasy romance author that does for that genre what Courtney Milan does for historical romance and Alyssa Cole does for contemporary romance. If you have recommendations, please let me know in the comments (and don’t say Rachel Bach/Aaron or Amanda Bouchet because I’ve tried both of them already).

So, yeah… after that disappointment, I’m determined to change things up in May. I think it’s time to get into some of those books that I think I’m going to love but have been putting off reading because I’m scared they won’t live up to the hype. And I’m going to get aggressive with the DNF, if it comes to that. There are just too many books I want to read and never enough time to read them all.

 

What I bought:

I didn’t buy any new books this month! Crazy, right? But I did do a *major* library book haul. More on that below…

 

Net impact on my Kindle Backlog:

I realized I’ve been doing the math wrong on this section for months now because I forgot that since I’m adding new books I bought to my original list of 124 books, I should also be subtracting them after I’ve read them. I’ve gone back and fixed it in previous posts, but going forward I’m changing how I tally this “score.” Here’s my new breakdown.

Total Kindle backlog books read in 2019: 1

Total new *unread* Kindle books in 2019: 8

If you remember, the goal was to only buy if I’m going to read them right away and to read more backlog books than I buy and leave unread. So, right now, I’m failing at this goal because 8 > 1.

 

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completed this month:

  • Task #23: Read a self-published book. (Mercenary Instinct)

Total tasks completed: 8

Total tasks remaining: 16

Looks like I’m still on track with this goal. Go me!

 

First half 2019 TBR Status:

Total TBR: 33 books

Books read to date: 20

Books remaining: 13

Uh oh. I have two months left to read 13 books. Yikes. I am decidedly behind schedule on this goal. Better get reading.

 

My massive library book haul:

This has been brewing for a while, and it’s finally time. I took my Kindle off airplane mode and loaded it full of books I’ve had on hold at the library. Here’s a look at my (virtual) book haul:

I have no intention of reading all these before they’re due, but that’s okay. My Kindle’s back on airplane mode. Mostly, I just wanted to clean out my library holds so I could make room for new books that are coming out later this year.

May is my birthday month, so I’m going to make it a point to only read books that I’m loving. If I’m not loving it, I’m going to set it aside for later. And I think I’m going to start with one of the six “backlog bust” books that I put on my first half of 2019 TBR. If you don’t remember, that’s these books:

And since Mercenary Instinct left such a disappointed taste in my mouth, I think it’s time to bust out Brightly Burning next. Let’s see if that sci-fi romance can snap me out of my reading slump. If not, I’m reaching for Vengeful and/or The Belles. Those are the three that are really calling to me right now.

What are you reading this month? Let me know in the comments, especially if you’re reading (or have read) any of the books I mention in this post.

Bookish Things I’ve Changed My Mind About (#Top5Wednesday)

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Top 5 Wednesday post, and the topic this week works pretty well with something I’ve got on my mind. So, let’s do this!

This week’s topic is: “Bookish Things I’ve Changed My Mind About.” I’m going to get pretty specific here because I just finished reading a sci-fi romance book that disappointed me and got me thinking about how I’ve changed as a reader over the last 10+ years, specifically since I started writing books.

I like romance in my sci-fi and fantasy stories. It doesn’t have to be a major plot point, it could be a sub-plot. But I’ve struggled to find a sci-fi / fantasy romance book or series or author that I love. That got me thinking about why. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there are just some things that didn’t really matter much to me as a younger reader that will completely turn me off on a book now.

Here are the top five things that I’ve changed my mind about when it comes to reading sci-fi and fantasy romance:

  1. Diversity — I never used to notice when a future / fantasy world was homogeneously straight and white, but this has become one of those things that immediately pulls me out of a story. Once you recognize that the real-world population isn’t homogeneous, you realize that if a future and/or fantasy world is homogeneous, there better be a damn good reason for it. Ideally, I want to see positive representation on every axis, but at the very least with regards to race and sexual orientation.
  2. Consent — Sci-fi and fantasy romance can be pretty negligent when it comes to showing consensual romance. Again, this is not something I noticed as a teen, or even in my twenties. This was never okay, but my tolerance for it has definitely changed. If a modern hero is “taking” a heroine (or another hero), there better be a verbal “yes” in there before things get steamy. And power dynamics complicate things. If one character is another’s prisoner or subordinate, you better put them on an even playing field if you want me to get on board with the romance.
  3. Plausible Science — I don’t think I ever considered this until I started writing novels. Sci-fi and fantasy are full of crazy creative ideas that are not possible in our contemporary reality, and I love it. Give me all the magic and FTL space travel. Space ships and colonies on planets in distant galaxies are cool. Aliens and magical creatures are awesome. But these days I lose my ability to suspend disbelief when there aren’t consistent rules and limits to a magic system, or when the science fiction elements demonstrate no understanding of basic science and technology and don’t even offer a hand-wavey explanation as to how/why it works.
  4. The Smurfette Principle and/or the Strong Female Character Trope — This is a big one that I used to take for granted because I was a boy-crazy teen / young-adult and was just happy there were *any* point-of-view female characters in my SFF books. But now these tropes make me so angry I want to scream. If the leading lady is the only female character in the book, or if she spends the whole book trashing other women and has no female friends, I’m probably going to DNF the book. If she’s determined to show how “different” she is from “other girls” by being super tough and never wearing dresses, I’m done. And, if the heroine does have a female crew and immediately drops them to get with the hero, I may throw the book across the room.
  5. Plot is Linked to the Speculative Elements — I’m sure that I never even considered this before I started taking my writing seriously. I love plot, I always have, and it’s really hard for me to get into a book without a solid one, regardless of how much I like the characters or the world. But, if I can take the plot of a book, change the setting, and have the story still work, then I’m probably not going to want to finish reading the book. Plot and world and characters all need to be linked. This is the most frequent thing that fails to win me over when I’m reading a sci-fi and/or fantasy romance book. It’s a bummer, but I can’t turn off my writing brain when I’m reading.

If you have book recommendations for me that avoid these pitfalls, please PLEASE let me know in the comments. And if you’re curious what book set me off on this topic, stay tuned for my April reading recap post tomorrow.

Progress Report: O. W. L.s Magical Readathon (#OWLsReadathon2019)

I’m use this blog post to keep track of progress on my O. W. L.s for the Magical Readathon.

For each of the prompts below, I’ll add a thumbnail of the book I’m reading (that links to Goodreads) and update my reading status throughout the month. I’ll also color code the prompts to correspond with the prompt status. Green will mean done. Orange is in-progress. Normal text color (I think this is grey?) means that I haven’t started yet.

Completed:

Charms (age-line: read an adult book) –>

 

History of Magic (published at least 10 years ago) –>

 

Muggle Studies (contemporary) –>

 

Not Started:

Ancient Runes (retelling) –>

 

Arithmancy (work written by more than one author) –>

 

Astronomy (“star” in the title) –>

 

Care of Magical Creatures (land animal on the cover) –>

 

Defense Against the Dark Arts (Reducto: starts with an “R”) –>

 

Divination (set in the future) –>

 

Herbology (plant on the cover) –>

 

Potions (next ingredient: sequel) –>

 

Transfiguration (sprayed edges or red cover) –>