August Reading Wrap Up

I didn’t read much in August, but I did do a lot of writing, and I made an effort to get outside and enjoy the last few weeks of summer. Most of that outside time was pretty active, though. I haven’t spent nearly enough time just sitting outside and reading. I’m going to work on getting in a little more of that in September.

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I finished the audiobook of F*ck No!: How to Stop Saying Yes When You Can’t, You Shouldn’t, or You Just Don’t Want To by Sarah Knight at the start of the month. I think that the first half of this book was much better and more useful (to me, anyway) than the second half of this book. What I realized from reading this is why I have such trouble saying no to things / people and also how to short circuit that thought process in my head. I didn’t really need the “how to say no” part in the second half, but some of the examples that she used were illuminating and made me think of more times that I probably should have said no and didn’t. Overall, I’m really glad I read it and recommend it to others who find themselves saying “yes” when they really should or want to say “no.”

After that, I (finally) picked up A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn. I wanted to read something like the Lady Sherlock series that I love while I wait for book five, and this seemed like a good option. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t like the main character as much as I enjoy Charlotte Holmes. I am hoping that she evolves as the series progresses, and I plan to read at least the next book in the series to find out. I sort of forgot how much I like cozy mysteries with plucky heroines, and it’s nice to know I have at least one other series I can go to when I am in the mood for that.

The last book I read this month was Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase. I wanted to check this one out because it had been spoken of in glowing terms by several romance authors I admire. Unfortunately, I was not impressed. It’s fine, but nothing special. The main conflict keeping the pair apart essentially boils down to their inability to be honest with each other about their feelings, which is a romance pet peeve of mine. I also really didn’t like the fact that the hero is considered ugly (big nose, large body, and dark skin) and a scoundrel because of his half-Italian ancestry. The term “blackamoor” (which I was unfamiliar with until I Googled it) was used repeatedly in connection to his appearance and his lustfulness and brutish behavior. Not okay. Especially not considering the 2009 pub date. I am really not sure that I understand the appeal of this one, or why everyone seems to love it so much.

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I bought two ebooks this month. One is a book that I’ve had on my wishlist forever that finally went on sale. Milady by Laura L. Sullivan is supposed to be a Three Musketeers retelling, but from the perspective of the villainess of that story, Milady de Winter. I’ve never read The Three Musketeers. I’m not even sure I’m familiar with the general plot of the story, but this sounded really good.

The other book I bought is one I’ve been anticipating since I first heard about it months ago. Seven Devils by by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May. First off, the title is a nod to a song by Florence and the Machine, which I love. Then there’s the team of women and the sci-fi setting. I have very high hopes for this book and really, really want it to be a five star read.

Currently Reading

I’m just over halfway through You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson. YA Contemporary isn’t my favorite age-group / genre combination, but I’m enjoying it. So far, I think the hype is justified.

Next up I’m planning to (finally) finish the Murderbot novellas. I’ve been saving the third and fourth, but now that there’s a novel to read (and more coming), I feel like I can safely read these. Plus, S. and L. want to buddy read the novel with me, and I can’t read that until I read these.

Now I need to get back to writing so I can finish this novel and send it to my beta readers. Then I can reward myself by relaxing on the deck with a book. Happy reading!

July Reading Wrap-Up

July was a pretty good reading month for me. I managed to finish ten books. A couple were pretty short, but there were some definite keepers in this batch.

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Here’s what I read in July:

I started the month with It’s Not All Downhill From Here by Terry McMillan. The only other book I’ve read by her is How Stella Got Her Groove Back, which I read before I saw the movie. I liked this one. It was a little meandering and repetitive at times, but I think it did a great job portraying a woman dealing with grief over losing her husband suddenly, and I really appreciate the way the author portrays female friendships.

After that, I read Intercepted by Alexa Martin. I wasn’t sure I was going to like this one because I’m not a fan of professional sports (other than swimming). I picked it up because the author was an NFL wife, and I listened to a podcast interview with her that I really enjoyed. I’m glad I finally read this because it was another solid win for female friendships, and I really liked the story and the romance. Definitely recommend this one for anyone who enjoys contemporary romance.

Then I read three more that I really liked. The first was Catfishing on Catnet by Naomi Kritzer, which was really cute and fun and light. Highly recommend. Then Chaos Reigning by Jesse Mihalik, which was book three in a space opera romance series that I’ve been enjoying. I think I liked this book the best of the three. If you like space opera you should definitely check out this series. And then I read another last book in a trilogy, Hurts to Love You by Alisha Rai. I like all the books in the Forbidden Hearts series, each for different reasons, but I think this might have been my favorite.

My virtual book club decided to read Beach Read by Emily Henry and The Deep by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes. Both were really good with some superficial similarities, but they were otherwise very different books. Beach Read is (mostly) light romance about two writers who meet again after having secret crushes on each other in college. I really connected with the book-writing subplot and thought the romance was sufficiently swoony. The main characters in both Beach Read and The Deep are dealing with painful memories, but The Deep really dives into that and has only a small romantic subplot (which I wasn’t expecting, but was a welcome, hopeful touch). The other thing the two books have in common are incredibly interesting authors’ notes at the end. I love learning more about the story behind the story. I liked and recommend both of these books.

But wait, there’s more! I don’t know about you, but one of the biggest struggles I’ve had to deal with over the past few months of the “quarantimes” is all the FOMO from my decision to stay home and continue to do my socializing over the internet, or from a distance, outside. I’m kind of a people pleaser. It’s way easier for me to rock the boat on behalf of someone else than to speak up for myself. So, I’ve been working on setting and communicating boundaries. As such, I’ve found the Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight to be really helpful. I’m currently listening to her book F*ck No on Libby. When I saw she had a brief Christmas themed novella (How to Not Give a F*ck at Christmas), I thought I’d check it out. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that helpful. While I recommend the other two books, I don’t recommend buying the novella.

Last, but not least, I listened to two non-fiction books on Libby, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio. Both were really good. I’d been putting off reading White Fragility because I was pretty sure it was all going to be review for me, and mostly it was review, but it was an excellent review and an even better resource for talking with friends and family about this stuff. I highly recommend bumping this to the top of your TBR if you’ve been putting off reading it, like I was. And, if you want to expand beyond how Black people are treated in America, definitely check out The Undocumented Americans. My husband and I traveled to Ecuador just over ten years ago and heard some stories like this first-hand from the folks we met there, but this book goes way beyond what I already knew. I love getting new perspectives!

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I got to load up my Kindle with more books from my library in July. There are so many gems in this haul, but there are a few that I’m particularly excited to read. Those are: A Song of Wraith and Ruin, The Sound of Stars, You Should See Me in Crown, and Race the Sands. We shall see which one(s) I read first…

Currently Reading

Speaking of what I’m reading right now… There are two readathons going on this month, but I’m not participating in either of them. The first is The other option is Tome Topple, which starts today. The other is the NEWTs Magical Readathon. I’m planning on skipping both because I don’t think I’m going to have a lot of time for reading this month.

This round of NEWTs is going to be the last of the Magical Readathons associated with Harry Potter. Since I completed all but one of the OWLs back in April. I was looking forward to getting my Animagus certificate, and I was all set to try for a number of different magical career options. I may still try to see what I can manage, but if it doesn’t work out, I’m excited to see what G comes up with for next year.

Okay, it’s past my bedtime, and this post is already very long (and several days late). So, I’m going to cut myself off and get to sleep. Until next time, stay home and read, and if you have to go out, please wear a mask! ❤

Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag

Taking a quick break from writing to do the Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag. This is a thing that happens over on BookTube, but I’m going to add my contribution over here on my blog.

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2020: A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine — I’ve talked about this already, but this book is really well written, I really enjoyed the characters and the plot and the world. I highly recommend it for anyone who loves Ursula K. LeGuin, especially Left Hand of Darkness.
2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2020: The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst — I love the new character(s) introduced in this sequel. I was a little skeptical of the ending until I read book three. Now I can safely say this was the best sequel I’ve read so far this year.
3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to: Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim — This is a Count of Monte Cristo retelling, and that book was a surprise favorite when I read it a couple years ago, so I’m excited to see how I like this retelling.
4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year: Seven Devils by Laura Lam — This book sounds so awesome. I’ve never read anything by this author, but I am very excited for this book.
5. Biggest disappointment: Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston — I’d heard so many gushes and squees about this book before reading it. I liked it but didn’t love it. I think I was expecting too much.
6. Biggest surprise: The Last Emperox by John Scalzi — Not a surprise that I liked it, but tons of surprises in the story itself. There were definitely some bold twists in this book that I did not see coming.
7. Favorite new (or new to you) author: Ilona Andrews — I’m now caught up on their Innkeeper series, and I definitely want to try reading some other books by them.
8. Newest fictional crush: Jackson from Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai
9. Newest favorite character: Maud from the Sweep of the Blade by Ilona Andrews
10. Book that made you cry: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy — I cried when I watched the movie, and I cried again when I read the book, even though I knew what was coming.
11. Book that made you happy: Sweep of the Blade by Ilona Andrews — I love Maud and Arland!
12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received): Bone Crier’s Moon by Kathryn Purdie
13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year? Everything I’ve bought but haven’t read yet, specifically:

Let me know in the comments if any of these books are on your TBR, or what was your favorite of the books you’ve read so far in 2020?

June Wrap-Up and Reading Goals Update

Since the year is half over (what? how? and also… only half? seriously?), I thought it might be a good time to catch up on how I’m doing with my reading goals in addition to bringing you the usual Inbox / Outbox summary. This is going to be a long one. Ready? Here we go…

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Here’s what I read in June:

I managed to finish four books in June, even though I spent the first fifteen days of the month trying to get into a book that I was buddy reading with friends. After realizing I was staring at social media instead of reading, I gave up and decided to read something else. I may come back to it eventually, but I just wasn’t enjoying it.

To get my reading groove back, I picked up Never Judge a Lady By Her Cover, the last book in Sarah MacLean’s Rules of Scoundrels series. It’s been a while since I read book three, and even longer since I started reading this series. I thought this would be a sure thing to get me out of my reading funk. I have been really looking forward to this book ever since I began to suspect Chase’s secret back in book two or three. But, when a character has a secret that big, it’s hard to make a believable romantic arc work. As much as I loved the characters in this book, I did start to get annoyed that there didn’t seem to be a strong reason for the secret keeping. It was a small quibble. I still devoured this book, and I think it was a solid (if a bit “old-school romance”) ending to this series.

After that, I read The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole. I’ve been wanting to listen to this on audiobook since I first heard it announced, but I wasn’t about to go and get an Audible subscription just to listen. So, I waited patiently until it came out on ebook. Folks, I am here to say, it was worth the wait. This book had the perfect mix of plot and romance for me. In the SFF genre, this would be considered “hard” sci-fi (meaning plausibly science-based sci-fi). I just do not see very many (any?) romance books with a hard sci-fi setting and plot. So good. If you’re a sci-fi fan who wants to dip a toe into romance, start here.

Then I read Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett. I’ve never read any of the Stephanie Plum books, but I imagine that if you like books in that genre, you would also enjoy this book/series. I loved it and immediately downloaded book two in the series. This was such a fun read! If you like cozy mysteries that don’t feature cops as the main characters, definitely check out this book.

I also read The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark. This is one of the novellas that has been nominated for a Hugo award this year. I read his other Hugo nominated novella (The Black God’s Drums) last year, and it was my favorite of the bunch. I also really enjoyed this novella, which is set in an alternate history version of Cairo that is populated with magical creatures and futuristic technology. So cool. The world-building and characters are fantastic. Another one I highly recommend reading.

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I already mentioned three of these books in my June TBR update (Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden, Stormsong by C. L. Polk, and The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole). The other three were books I bought after reading Hollywood Homicide and remembering that there were a bunch more “light and fluffy” ebooks by Black authors on my wishlist that I’ve been meaning to buy.

I had some gift card money left over from my birthday, so I grabbed Mating the Huntress by Talia Hibbert (I haven’t read anything by her, but I’ve been following her on Twitter for a while, and I think she’s great, so I thought this would be as good a place as any to start), Rafe: A Buff Male Nanny by Rebekah Weatherspoon (the subtitle says it all, plus I’ve heard so many folks have raving about this book, unfortunately my library hasn’t bought a copy yet, so I decided to just buy it already), and In Tune by J.N. Welsh (I added this to my wishlist after an interview with her on Smart Podcast Trashy Books because one of the main characters is an EDM artist and the author was talking about all this research on EDM for the book, and I listen to quite a bit of EDM, especially while writing, so I really want to read this).

Mid-Year Goals Update

I had to go look up my reading goals for 2020. I had a vague recollection that there were four of them? But I didn’t remember what they were. Turns out that there were five. I’d conveniently forgotten about goal #4. Probably because I hate goal #4.

Here’s my brief update on how I’m doing toward achieving my reading goals this year:

  1. Read at least 52 books. (or book-like things). — So far this year I have read 35 books, which is 67% of this goal. I’m ahead of schedule, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to increase my goal. I have a LOT of writing that I’ve been procrastinating on that needs to get done in the next few months, and that is going to cut into my reading time. So the goal is staying at 52 books total.
  2. Finish at least 5 series that I’ve already started. — I have finished 4 series so far this year (Queens of Renthia, The Interdependency, Monsters of Verity, and Rules of Scoundrels). Only one of these was on my list of series I’d planned on finishing this year, but I’m very close to checking this one off, so I’m not going to worry about that small detail. 🙂
  3. Read all purchased books within six months of purchase. — Hahahaha. I currently have 5 books that are “overdue” for reading according to this goal. One of them is the third book in a series where I still need to read book two, but I have no excuse for the rest. This goal needs a little more focus in the second half of 2020. But I still think it’s totally manageable. Unlike the next goal…
  4. Read at least one owned book for every book I purchase. — Why do I create goals that are annoyingly difficult to track? This took me way too long to figure out, but I’ve purchased 6 books this year (I’m not counting gifts or books purchased with gift card money), and I’ve read 2 books that I purchased prior to 2019 (the ones I bought in 2019 are covered under goal #3). So, I am 4 books behind on this goal. But the thing is, if I prioritize goal #3 (which I think is a better goal for me than this one), then the likelihood that I’ll achieve this goal is slim. There are just too many new books I want to read, and I’m able to get almost all of them from the library. So, I don’t have much incentive to read pre-2019 backlist stuff, and I’m not sure I care. Ugh. I’m going to keep tracking this, but someone please stop me from making this goal next year.
  5. Read more books by marginalized authors (measured by % of total books read). — My targets and actuals are as follows:
    • At least 33% books by “non-white” authors. Currently: 23% (8 books)
    • At least 15% books by queer authors. Currently: 17% (6 books)
    • At least 10% books by indie authors. Currently: 17% (6 books)
    • At least 50% of books written by female-identifying authors. Currently: 73% (29 books)

So that’s where things stand for me going into the second half of 2020. I plan to continue to focus on reading more books by authors of color (especially Black authors), and I plan to catch up on the books I bought this year and last year.

How are you doing on your reading goals for 2020 (if you have reading goals)? Let me know in the comments. I’m curious. 🙂 And, until next time, have a great 4th of July weekend! Stay safe and wear a mask! ❤

TBR Update for June

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump this month, and I was really looking forward to the Hogsmeade Magical Readathon next week. But, JRK has been out there spouting hateful stuff on the internet (again), so we’re not going to Hogsmeade. Which is a bummer, but basic human rights are more important than Hogwarts. Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Gender is not binary, and Black Lives Matter.

I may not be participating in the readathon, but I am still planning to read as many of the books by Black authors that I put on that TBR as possible. I also decided to go ahead and start a few days ahead of schedule. And, I expanded my list. In addition to what I had already, I added every unread book written by a Black author that is currently on my shelf or on my Kindle. Plus, I got a few new books.

There’s been a push this week to buy books by Black authors. So, I decided it was time to break my “no buying new books” rule. I purchased a few that have been on my wishlist for a while: Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden (after Prey of Gods, I’m here for the weirdness, and this promises to deliver with a spacer society that travels in ships that are giant space beasts), Stormsong by C. L. Polk (after enjoying Witchmark, I am looking forward to reading the second book in the Kingston Cycle series), and The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole (it’s the new Alyssa Cole, need I say more?).

I also got my Hugo Award packet, so I added The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark and The Deep by by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes. And, I got an ARC of The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna! I don’t usually like reading ARCs because I prefer to read the finished book, but I think I am going to make an exception in this case.

Are you ready for the full list of all the beautiful books by Black authors on my Kindle or my bookshelf? Feast your eyes on these covers:

Oh, and I also have the ebook box set Seed to Harvest by Octavia E. Butler and the ebook box set of the Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin on my Kindle. That’s two full series from two powerhouses of SFF! My reading slump going to be crushed.

Let me know in the comments what book by a Black author you are reading this week. Or if you need a recommendation, feel free to comment with what genre / age category of book you’re interested in, and I’ll reply with a suggestion.

Happy reading!

Reading books by Black authors for the Hogsmeade Mini Magical Readathon (#HogsmeadeReads2020)

Book Roast has organized another mini Magical Readathon, and it’s happening in June! This is a one week (22-28 June) readathon with reading prompts based on the shops in Hogsmeade (the town near Hogwarts in Harry Potter). You can find a link to the map of Hogsmeade that G made with all the reading prompts and everything else you need to know in this video on Book Roast.

I know this is Pride month, but Pride wouldn’t have happened without Black women. So, for this readathon, I decided to create a TBR of books written only by Black authors. The point of this is to normalize Black stories by Black authors. There are books written by Black authors that fit every single one of these prompts. Multiple books. Reading a book by a Black author doesn’t have to be the one book you read to fill the “read a book by a POC author” prompt in a readathon. If you don’t believe me, check out this Twitter thread list of almost 200 (or more?) books by Black authors for more inspiration. I guarantee you’ll find something amazing to read.

Because there are so many options, I decided to try to stick with books that were already on my TBR. I started there because I’m trying not to buy more books right now. But there were two prompts where I didn’t have books that fit: horror/thriller and steampunk. I don’t usually read those genres. So, I did a bit of searching and reminded myself of two books I’d seen before but never officially added to my TBR. Luckily, both were available to borrow at the library, and my readathon TBR was complete.

Below, I’ve listed each of the reading prompts from G’s Hogsmeade map along with a book from my TBR that is written by a Black author and fits the prompt.

Ten books in one week is a LOT of reading for me. I tried to pick books that were shorter, or that I think might be faster reads, but still think it’s going to be a challenge to read all these in one week.

Total page count for this TBR is 2866 pages. That means I’d have to read about 410 pages per day on average to read all these books in one week. I highly doubt that’s going to happen. But, as I said, (almost) all these books were already on my TBR. So, I plan to keep reading until I finish this stack of books, even if it takes me longer than this one week readathon.

Are you participating in the Hogsmeade Magical Readathon? If so, did you make a TBR? What are you reading? Let me know in the comments, or link me to your blog post or video so I can check it out.