Winter Magical Readathon — Chapter 4

I finally completed the first two chapters of the Winter Magical Readathon! I finished reading The Starless Sea for my chapter one prompt (and I loved it). I also finished reading There There (another really good book) for the first of my two chapter two prompts (“book with an orange cover”) and Jean Grey, Vol. 1: Nightmare Fuel for the second (“read a comic, manga, or graphic novel”).

Lucky for me, I just found and borrowed the audiobook of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them from my library, so I can get to work on my chapter three reading prompt (“read a book published in 2001”). Fantastic Beasts is pretty short, so I should be able to finish that in a couple of long walks. Which means I’m almost caught up! Hooray!

Winter Magical Readathon reading for chapters one through three…

That (plus the fact that it’s Sunday) also means it’s time to find out what chapter four has in store for me… The short answer is spiders plus two more reading prompts. Yep. #IFollowedThe Spiders.

First up, since I didn’t join Hermione’s book club (what a bummer, I totally would have joined if I’d chosen that path), I ended up with a prompt to “read a book that starts with the letter S, for Slytherin.” My mom just sent me Spaceside by Michael Mammay for Christmas, so that was the first book that came to mind. But, then I remembered that Saga also starts with an “S” and volume two (which was one of my options for my chapter two prompt) would be a fast read. Alternatively, I have Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh on my Kindle. That one is a novella and would also be a fast read.

Some options for my chapter four reading prompts…

I’m thinking I might go with Saga, Vol. 2 for the Slytherin prompt because the other two books will also work for the second prompt I got for chapter four. See, I decided not to go with the Pollyjuice potion, and I didn’t already have the diary, so I had to go fish it out of the toilet (yuck!). That landed me with the prompt to “read a book that has been written by an author who’s last name starts with either T, M or R.” So, Silver in the Wood (Tesh) and Spaceside (Mammay) will both also work for this prompt.

Right now, I think I’m going to go for a walk and listen to some Fantastic Beasts. Then I’ll probably do a little non-Magical Readathon reading. I’d like to make some progress on The Barefoot Bandit because I hate ending the year with partially finished books. I was really hoping that it would qualify for one of these prompts, but so far it hasn’t been an option. Maybe next week…

Once I finish with Fantastic Beasts, I’ll probably start reading volume two of Saga and see what I feel like after that. I think it will depend on how close we are to next Sunday by the time I finish. Until then, happy holidays and happy reading! Wishing you all a warm beverage and an excellent book!

Winter Magical Readathon — Chapter 3

I’m still not done with my Chapter 1 & 2 prompts. I figured out that I messed up reading Chapter 2 and the comic book prompt was actually part of Chapter 2, not Chapter 3. So, I went back and read Chapter 3 for real this time (and fixed my previous post).

First choice in Chapter 3? Breakfast. Even though I love toast, I don’t really like eggs all that much. So, I went with the corn flakes. Of course, just the mere thought of toast got me craving some. There may have been a pause to go make myself second breakfast before returning to the readathon text.

My decision to go with corn flakes and toast with jam (both IRL and in the text) landed me in Herbology class. After planting Mandragoras, I had three options for my evening activity: dueling club, Nearly Headless Nick’s party, or Quidditch practice. If this were really me, I’d definitely go with Quidditch. I agree with Wood. We should totally be practicing daily.

And that, my friends, is how I ended up with the Chapter 3 prompt of reading a book published in 2001. There are two books published in 2001 that I’ve shelved on Goodreads, but haven’t read yet. I’ve been meaning to read both of them forever, but one (Kushiel’s Dart) is over 900 pages long. The other, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, I had in paperback and just unhauled it.

So, now I’m stuck. I tried searching the Googles and tried to find another option, but I couldn’t find anything appealing other than Quidditch Through The Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It turns out that both were published in 2001, and I’ve never read them. I may go with one of them since they are both Harry Potter books, and it’s a good excuse to watch the Fantastic Beasts movie after I’ve read the book, right? The only problem is, I don’t own either of those books and my local library doesn’t have them, either. See? Stuck.

I suppose I don’t need to worry about this at the moment because, as I said at the beginning, I’m still working on my Chapter 1 & 2 prompts. As of right now, my Winter Magical Readathon TBR looks like this:

Winter Magical Readathon TBR for chapters one through three…

If you have any thoughts on other (short) books published in 2001, let me know in the comments. Did anyone else get that prompt? What book did you choose? And who else is excited for the feast next week?

Winter Magical Readathon — Chapter 2

One downside of starting Book Roast’s Winter Magical Readathon with a 500 page book is that I’m not done with it yet! I am currently not quite halfway through reading The Starless Sea to complete my chapter one prompt.

But… I really wanted to see what happens next in the Magical Readathon choose your own adventure version of Chamber of Secrets. So I decided to peek ahead. That’s not cheating, right? I hope it’s not.

For chapter 2, I woke up at the Burrow and stuck with Ron. That landed me with a somewhat challenging reading prompt: “Read a book with an orange cover (or the word “orange” in the title).” I didn’t think I had a lot of books on my TBR with an orange cover, but, it turned out I had three to choose from. I went with There There by Tommy Orange because, in addition to the cover being orange, it’s less than 300 pages long and the author’s name is Orange.

Then, for the next choice in that chapter, I decided to deviate from the book a bit. When I couldn’t get through to platform 9 and 3/4, I probably would have tried to convince Ron to wait for his parents. Luckily, my good behavior landed me with an excellent reading prompt: “Read a comic book, manga, picture book or a graphic novel.”

I haven’t decide yet which of three comics I’m going to read for this prompt. I have 3 that I’ve been meaning to read all year. Jean Grey, Vol. 1: Nightmare Fuel, Bitch Planet, Vol. 2: President Bitch, and Saga, Vol. 2 (so I can finally get started on finishing Saga). If you have thoughts on which I should go with for this prompt, let me know in the comments.

Comics on my TBR…

Hopefully, I will finish The Starless Sea this week and then read There There and the comic relatively quickly. Then it’s on to Chapter 3. I’m pretty sure there’s no chance that I’ll be all caught up by next weekend.

Are you participating in this year’s Winter Magical Readathon? How are you doing? Which prompts have you been getting? Let me know in the comments!

UPDATE (12/17): Apparently I messed up. This is just Chapter 2 and not Chapter 3. I’ve corrected this post to reflect that.

November 2019: Reading Wrap Up

I managed to finish six books while also writing over 50k words for NaNoWriMo in November. Before you get too excited, I should point out that three of those books were already in-progress before November started and one of the remaining three was actually a novella. Still, that’s a lot of reading during a very busy month.

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I started off the month by (finally) finishing Dread Nation by Justina Ireland. So, here’s the thing… I don’t like zombies, and I don’t like alternate history. I read this for the Read Harder Challenge. I also read it because a lot of people whose bookish opinions I trust really liked this book and said specifically that it wasn’t really a “zombie” book. So I made this my pick for the alternate history task. I’m glad I did. It’s objectively a good book, it’s just not my jam. If you like Westworld (the TV show) and alternate history, you might really love this book. I just realized that I also burned out early on Westworld. So yeah. Reading Harder accomplished. Moving on.

Next up, or possibly while I was still trying to finish Dread Nation, I started listening to Educated by Tara Westover on audiobook. This book has had no end of hype, and I feel like I’m arriving pretty late to the party when I say, Wow. This was a page-turner of a memoir, folks. I keep saying I don’t like memoir, but some of the stand-out books I’ve read this year (topic for a future post) have all been memoir like this one with lots of meaty chewy bits to stew on. (Mixed food metaphor much?) I’ll also say that the audiobook was a good choice for this one.

I picked up Witchmark by C. L. Polk immediately after (finally) finishing Dread Nation. It sucked me right in with the atmosphere and the world-building and the hints of mystery, not to mention the slow-burn romance. I’d been wanting to read this for a while and finally picked it up because my “Camp Book Club” crew decided to read it as our book club pick for November. Unfortunately, due to life drama combined with NaNoWriMo, I didn’t finish it in time for our meeting. I did finish it about a week later. I think the plot got a little convoluted and rushed at the end, but I still really enjoyed the characters and world. I think the problem was that this book is part secondary world fantasy, part romance, and part mystery. The problem is, that’s a lot for one novel (especially a first novel) and I don’t think the mystery part was as well done as the other bits.

After that, I read This is How You Lose the Time War by by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. I hadn’t realized this was a novella until I looked at the page count. I had a different book picked out for the “Read an Epistolary Novel” task in the Read Harder Challenge, but I decided to read this instead because I’ve been hearing a lot about it. I’m glad I did. The writing in this book is so good. At one point I was listening to it on audiobook and then going back to re-read sections in the hardcover I bought because there’s just so much going on with the language and the plot and the way the story is interwoven. I think I was most impressed by the fact that the language and the structure reinforce the time travel premise and this story about messages that forge a relationship between two individuals on opposite sides of a time war. I don’t want to give too much away, but I haven’t been this impressed by form matching substance in a story since Cloud Atlas.

I mentioned in a previous post about how I wanted to try to finish this book of short stories that I started earlier in the year but keep forgetting to read. Meet Cute is a YA short story anthology with contributions from a lot of really popular YA authors. Every story is the origin story for a couple. Many of the characters are LGBTQ and/or not white. Almost all of the stories are contemporary. There’s one (the one by Dhonielle Clayton) that has a speculative bent to it involving magical true love tattoos and a bit of seeing into potential futures. The one by Kass Morgan could probably be categorized as near-future sci-fi, but it takes place on Earth. The stories are all good. I’m still trying to decide which one was my favorite. I really liked “Print Shop” by Nina LaCour, “Oomph” by Emery Lourd, “The Unlikely Likelihood of Falling in Love” by Jocelyn Davies, and “Somewhere That’s Green” by Meredith Russo. That’s nearly half of them, so I’m not doing a great job narrowing this down, am I? Bottom line, if you want warm and fuzzy YA contemp (plus a little Spec Fic thrown in for funzies) by diverse authors with good representation, get your hands on this anthology.

Finally (and really, it feels like I’ve been listening to this book forever), I finished The Future of Humanity by Michio Kaku. I started listening to this audiobook back in April on a road trip to Utah. I think I gave up because the narrator kept putting me to sleep. Eventually, I came back to it (in October? or earlier? I can’t remember…). Turns out this is much better listened to on walks or while doing the dishes. Still, it took me forever to get through it. I’ve had to renew it from the library way too many times to count. Luckily, no one else seems to want to listen to this audiobook. I get it. I think the audience must be almost exclusively sci-fi writers. It’s not going to make you a scientist or an expert on colonizing Mars or living forever, but I do think it’s a pretty great overview. I bought the paperback so I can use it as reference, but I don’t think I would have ever finished it if I’d tried to read it instead of listening. As dry as the narration is, it’s still better than reading the material, I think.

Before I get to my “Inbox” summary for the month, here’s an update on where I’m at with that Read Harder Challenge…

Read Harder Challenge Status: 20 finished and 4 to go…

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My most expensive book purchase this month…

I purchased a hardcover edition of This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. Not only did I purchase it in hardcover, but I bought it new from my local independent bookstore. That was a lot to spend on a book that’s only about 200 pages long. But, I didn’t want to wait for my library hold, and I wanted to support my local bookstore. I was going to give it as a gift when I finished it, but I like it enough that I think I may just keep it.

My most eagerly awaited book of 2019…

I’d intended to order a signed hardcover of The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, but I waited too long and they sold out. Then I couldn’t decide if I wanted a copy in hardcover or on Kindle. I have The Night Circus in hardcover because it’s one of my favorite books, but I bought it after I’d read it on Kindle. So, I decide to read this one first and see how much I like it before I buy a copy for my shelf. Luckily, I’d already put the ebook and the hardcover on hold at my library, so I don’t have to wait to read it. I had just started my borrowed copy last night, then the hardcover arrived today as an early Christmas present from my mom! Thanks, Mom!

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What’s on my TBR for December…

My December TBR is a little daunting. I have four books I need to read in order to complete the Read Harder Challenge, but three of those are non-fiction (The Barefoot Bandit, Guantánamo Diary, and The Middle Kingdom). The fourth one is the third book in a series I’ve been meaning to finish for several years now (Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante). I am pretty sure that I’ll finish at least two of these four. I really want to finish the challenge this year because I’m so close, but I’m not sure if I’m going to have time for all these books.

Other than that, I’m planning to read The Starless Sea for book club this month. I also want to read it now before I start hearing more about it and get psyched out by the hype (and/or spoiled). I’ve already started reading this, but it’s really long. Choosing to prioritize this may mean having to give up on finishing my Read Harder Challenge.

And finally, because I had that goal about reading the books I purchase this year within at least six months of buying them, I really should read A Prince on Paper before the end of the month. This one is going to be a fast and fun book that I’m very much looking forward to reading. I think I’m going to use it to keep me from going crazy with all those dry non-fiction books.

Somewhere in here, I’m planning on trying to keep up with the Winter Magical Readathon. I’m really hoping that I can use some of these books to meet those reading prompts. We shall see…

Stay tuned to find out how I finish the year and get all my 2019 reading stats. The most books I’ve read in one year up to this point was in 2015, when I read a total of 76 books (<– link goes to my Goodreads shelf that shows what I read that year). So far, I’ve read a total of 73 books this year. 2019 may be my biggest reading year since I started tracking this stuff. Wow.

Winter Magical Readathon!

It’s the first day of December and time to start Book Roast’s Winter Magical Readathon! I’m so excited! I just read “Chapter One” and got my reading prompt. I was going to share it here, but I don’t want to spoil the story if you haven’t started it, yet.

While I won’t say which path I chose through Chapter One, I will say that my prompt was to read a book on my TBR that’s over 500 pages! Yikes! What a way to start a readathon!

Luckily, I was just about to start reading The Starless Sea which is 498 pages long in hardcover. That’s close enough, right?

Are you participating in this year’s Winter Magical Readathon? Let me know in the comments, and tell me which prompt you got!

October 2019: Reading Wrap Up

I read some really good sci-fi and some great sci-fantasy in October. Plus I grabbed another great batch of books from the library. Not that I’m going to be doing much reading in November due to NaNoWriMo. Which is a bummer because (as I mentioned in my previous post) I have way too many books on my end of year TBR.

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What I read in October.

I started the month with my re-read of The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey. Whenever I mention her as one of my early favorite sci-fi / fantasy authors, most people chime in “oh yeah, the Dragonriders books!” But, I never read those until much MUCH later, and then I stopped after the first three because I just didn’t like them as much as her other stuff. This series (really starting with the Pegasus prequels) were what got me initially hooked on her stories. Because of that, I’ve been a bit nervous to re-read The Rowan in case it didn’t hold up, but I enjoyed it as much on this re-read as I did when I first read it as a young teen. The writing and story-telling style (language, narrative structure, etc.) is definitely dated compared to modern sci. But the story and the characters and the world-building are all still just as awesome as I remembered.

Somewhere in there I also read Polaris Rising. It ended up being an interesting contrast to The Rowan because they’re both sci-fi romance with talented and tough heroines near the top of an established power structure. They are both dealing with political plots and ultimately fall in love with Alpha male heroes. The difference is they’re two totally different styles of story-telling. The Rowan starts when the main character is a baby and advances in about two major time leaps until she’s probably about the same age as the main character in Polaris Rising. These days, that kind of character development would happen in backstory reflections scattered throughout the story when and where they become relevant to the plot. The Rowan is also “quieter” in that (aside from the inciting incident) the main character is never in any real physical danger throughout the story. On the other hand, Polaris Rising takes place over a handful of days or maybe weeks and is much more action-packed with lots of escapes and combat and danger. While I liked Polaris Rising, and I cringed a bit at the old-school writing style of The Rowan, I still like The Rowan more. Even now, as I type this, I can’t quite put my finger on why.

Continuing with the sci-fi trend, I listened to Emergency Skin while on a walk. It’s a quick read (or listen). Normally, I don’t like polemics dressed as sci-fi, and could definitely be considered as one since it’s pretty heavy on the “message.” But, it’s short, and I really enjoyed the story structure and the humor. I highly recommend checking it out, especially if you have Amazon Prime, because both the audio and the ebook are free with Prime.

Another short audio “read” that I really enjoyed was Wolfpack by Abby Wambach. I heard about this book on Smart Podcast Trashy Books where Sarah recommended it as an inspiring read about owning your ambition and your strength and surrounding yourself with other ambitious, strong women. So, yeah. I was in. Especially when I heard that the audiobook was about the same length as a podcast and figured out that it was available to borrow at my library. As expected, it’s great. Very inspiring. I highly recommend you check it out.

As much as I enjoyed those short reads, the book that really took me by surprise this month, the one that gave me a new favorite author (or author pair), was Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews (a husband and wife writing team). I was expecting this to be a cute paranormal romance with a witch heroine and werewolf hero. Since I like but don’t love what I think of as “standard paranormal characters,” I was expecting to enjoy this but not love it. Holy wow was I wrong. The world-building in this book! Oh my. This isn’t fantasy, people. This is sci-fantasy and it’s amazing. The reimagined backstory for what I consider to be standard paranormal creatures got a solid boost from sci-fi that made this a whole new world that I instantly fell in love with. So, yeah. New favorite. Immediately reserved the rest of the series at the library. Though, I found out that this was initially released as a serial novel, and I think it’s maybe their only indie-published series. I’m not sure what that means for their other series, but I’m excited to check them out and see if I like them as much as I like this book.

Finally, I read book two in Scalzi’s Interdependency series, The Consuming Fire. I had a really hard time getting into this book. There’s so much “telling” at the beginning. Chapters and chapters of telling. The story doesn’t really get started until almost half-way through. Then it starts to build up to an ending takes a very Godfather-esque turn that I really enjoyed. The end is great. The middle is pretty good. The beginning was super meh. Kiva is still my favorite character. I’m looking forward to seeing how the trilogy (this is a trilogy, right?) ends, but I’m not running out to pre-order book three. I’ll get it from the library. Even with Tor’s stupid library ebook delay policy.

Before I get to my “Inbox” summary for the month, here’s an update on where I’m at with that Read Harder Challenge…

Read Harder Challenge Status: I started two books (Dread Nation and The Barefoot Bandit) but didn’t manage to finish either of them before the end of the month for a variety of reasons. So… I’m now behind schedule. I need to finish six books in two months, and one of those months is NaNoWriMo. It’s cool. I can do this. Everything’s fine. I am still determined to finish the challenge this year. It’s going to happen. If you’re curious about my reading list, you can check out my Goodreads Shelf here.

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What I bought and borrowed.

A large chunk of the books in this haul were ones that I’d reserved at the start of the year because of their position on the Powell’s Staff Top Five books of 2018 lists (Educated, There There, Red Clocks, Heavy, and The Third Hotel). Check out my post on that, if you missed it and want the details on those books.

Another chunk are next books in a series I’ve already started (Five Dark Fates, The Art of Theft, Wrong to Need You).

The last few are books that I’ve heard good to great things about and want to check out (Heart of Iron, The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, Wanderers, and Phoenix Unbound).

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In-progress and TBR books for November.

I have no reading plan or TBR for November aside from trying to finish the books I already have in-progress (Dread Nation, The Barefoot Bandit, and The Future of Humanity), plus try to finish some more books for the Read Harder Challenge (maybe The Middle Kingdom and Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay…). Oh, and I am reading Witchmark for “Camp Book Club” with my friends L. and S. But other than that, no TBR. (Who am I kidding? That’s totally a TBR.)

And that’s it for October. Now I better get back to my NaNoWriMo writing. Wishing you all a great month and lots of excellent reading!

Final books to read in 2019

The end of 2019 sort of snuck up on me. I had all these reading goals for 2019 and a massive TBR of books I wanted to read this year. I’ve done all right with most of them (final recap and tally to be posted at year’s end). Now, with only two months left in the year and one of them being NaNoWriMo, it’s time for a 2019 TBR reality check and some hard decisions.

This “final books to read in 2019” is a tag that was going around Booktube. I hadn’t even thought much about my end of year TBR until I saw this tag. I got this from Books And Lala, who I think got this from a BookTuber named Ariel. Since my YouTube channel is more “AuthorTube” than “BookTube,” I thought I’d have a go at the questions on my blog, instead.

So let’s get started, shall we?

Cover of Meet Cute, an anthology of short stories.

Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish? Yes. I don’t like finishing the year with books still in-progress. It’s a weird quirk of mine. Right now, I anticipate that Meet Cute is going to be one that I’m scrambling to finish. It’s an anthology of short stories that I started reading earlier this year, but haven’t been super motivated to finish. This is more because I struggle with short story anthologies, in general. The particular short stories in this particular anthology have been pretty great, so far. I just always seem to forget that I have this on my Kindle and should probably be reading the next story instead of scrolling Instagram or Twitter.

Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year? The book that I associate strongly with fall is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. But, I don’t have time for a re-read this year. Instead, I might try to find time to re-read a short novella that I associate with fall and winter, Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor. It’s so cute and so sweet and so lovely. The story combined with the short length, make it the perfect book to read by the fire with a hot beverage on a blustery cold evening.

Book cover for The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern.

Is there a new release you’re still waiting for? Yes! I’m eagerly awaiting The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. I really want a signed hardcover, and I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to get my hands on one. If I get one, I’ll probably drop everything to read it right away. This is one that I know I’m going to need to read before the hype gets going too strong, otherwise it will be ruined for me.

What are three books you want to read before the end of the year? Three? Just three? I have at least twelve that I really want to finish before the end of the year. And yes, I do realize that’s more than one book per week. And yes, I’ll be spending the vast majority of my time in November writing and not reading. So I know that math does not work. At the very, very least, I’d like to actually complete the Read Harder challenge this year. That’s five more books. I tried to pick relatively short ones for the remaining tasks, but there are a few non-fiction titles in there that might not be the page turners I need to meet my end of year reading goals.

Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favourite book of the year? Yes. I have high hopes for The Starless Sea because The Night Circus is one of my all-time favorite books. I also think This is How You Lose the Time War might slide into my top five based on the buzz I’ve been hearing. I also have plans to read Witchmark with my friends S. and L. That one looks great and has been getting a lot of praise.

Have you already started making reading plans for 2020? Not really… I’ve been thinking about it a little, but mostly just to vow not to make such grueling TBR lists next year. Even as I type those words, I know that vow will be broken before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve. I’m a sucker for the TBRs.

September 2019: Reading Wrap Up

It’s officially fall here in the Pacific Northwest. I’m bundled up and burning a delicious smelling “Pumpkin Spice” candle as I write this. Even though it’s perfect reading weather, I didn’t finish as many books as I’d hoped to in September, but that’s okay because I’ve already hit my Goodreads goal for the year, and we’re just getting started with the cozy reading season.

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What I read in September:

I started off the month with Dryland by Sara Jaffe, which has been on my “to read” list forever because it features swimming as a sport and takes place in Portland in the 90s. It was available on ebook from my library, so I grabbed it in one of my recent library hauls. I was pleasantly surprised by the accuracy of the swim team stuff. The unique structure of the novel also really worked for me. It’s told in a sort of stream of consciousness journal entry first person account. The big mystery of what happened to the main character’s brother is mostly what kept me turning pages long after I should have gone to sleep. Otherwise this is a kind of quiet and literary YA story about finding your way and exploring your sexual identity.

After that, I did a couple of buddy reads with two of my friends, L. and S. The first of those was Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole. As you may remember from previous posts, I’ve been reading through her Reluctant Royals series (contemporary romance) and loving them. So, I thought it was time for me to finally read the first novel in her dystopian romance series. After all, I’m normally more of a SFF fan. I fully expected the book to be not as good as her other stuff because I’m pretty sure it was her first published book, and authors usually get better with each book. And, I can say this book met my expectations. I liked the book, but didn’t love it. I probably won’t continue with the series. My main complaint is just that it read like YA even though it was supposed to be an adult romance. I kept having to remind myself that the main characters had jobs and were adults, not kids.

Next up, my friends and I read Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. This one was actually YA (sci-fi) and also by authors whose books I’ve read and loved. It also had the added bonus of checking several of my “reader catnip” boxes. Specifically: military academy in space, officers in a space fleet on a mission, forming a squad / found family, and telepathy / telekinesis superpowers. Plus there was the added bonus of space Fae (or space Elves if you’re more of a Lord of the Rings fan). The book was fast paced and super campy. It definitely had a “Breakfast Club in space” vibe. I really enjoyed reading it, I’ll probably pick up the next one when it comes out, but I can’t think too hard about it, or I’ll start to nit-pick world-building and character stuff that annoyed me. Like the “new weird” twist at the end.

The last book I finished this month was actually the first book I started, Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I read this one for the Read Harder Challenge and picked it because I’d read her book Signal to Noise and really enjoyed it. This was a new take on a vampire novel. The world-building is top notch. I love all the types of vampires and how she’s integrated them into this alternate universe version of modern day. It definitely has that “urban fantasy” feel. There’s a romance, but I don’t think I would shelve this under romance because it doesn’t really end with the paired characters together. It’s an optimistic ending, but not exactly an HEA. Anyway, if vampires and/or urban fantasy are your jam, or if you’re looking for something like Trail of Lightning, I highly recommend this book.

Before I get to my “Inbox” summary for the month, here’s an update on where I’m at with that Read Harder Challenge…

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completed this month:

Total tasks completed: 18

Total tasks remaining: 6

I’m still on track to finish, but no longer ahead of schedule. The next three months are going to be packed, and I have a ton of books I want to read before the end of the year. But, I am determined to finish this challenge for once. I think this is the closest I’ve ever come to achieving that goal. So, I’m going to keep going and try to get at least 2 more tasks checked off in October.

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What I bought & borrowed:

The only one of these that I purchased was David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa. I was in a critique group with him at Futurescapes and got to hang out with him a bit. He’s super nice, and I love his writing, and I’m really excited to read this book. It’s been labeled as “Nigerian God-punk,” and he’s from Nigeria. So, if that sounds cool to you, grab a copy.

Some of the rest are new books by authors I like (There’s Something About Sweetie, Sorcery of Thorns, and Aurora Rising). A couple are for research (The Great Alone and Her Royal Highness). One is for a Read Harder Challenge Task (Guantánamo Diary). And the remaining two are based off of recommendations from the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books reviewers (A Curious Beginning and Polaris Rising).

I made another “TBR Bingo” tracker for my BuJo to create some additional incentive to finish my Read Harder Challenge and Kindle backlog books. But, as you can see from the list under the “Wild Card” section, I have quite a few sci-fi books that are calling to me at the moment…

We’ll see what happens in October. I think it’s going to be another chill (and chilly) month, but it is also officially “Preptober” and time to get started working on plotting and planning and outlining my NaNoWriMo project for November! So, I have some work to get done in addition to enjoying my “between novels” downtime.

What’s on your reading list for October? Have you read any of the books in my book haul? Let me know what you think in the comments.

August 2019: Reading Wrap Up

So, there are four months left in the year, and I’ve already met my Goodreads Reading Challenge Goal!

I have the N.E.W.T.s Magical Readathon to thank for that. I read TEN books in August. That’s just nuts as far as my usual number of books consumed in a month goes. It would be more understandable if reading was all I did in August, but it wasn’t. I also wrote over 30k words to finish the first draft of book three in my Modern Fae series! Talk about a productive month. Wow.

Are you ready for an epic reading summary? Buckle up, because here we go…

Outbox

What I read in August:

Before I could get started on my Readathon goals, I had to finish up reading all the Hugo best novel finalists. Rather than rehash that all in this post, if you want my thoughts on Raven Stratagem, Revenant Gun, and Spinning Silver, check out my previous post where I stack rank the best novel finalists, forecast the winner, and stubbornly choose one of the least popular of the bunch as a favorite.

I also finished reading through Draw Your Day, which I bought hoping it would spark some inspiration for me to add doodling to my journaling. I definitely found it inspiring, but also a little overwhelming. I put it down feeling pretty convinced that I was so not ready for that level of doodling. But then I took Fran Wilde’s Journaling for Creativity class and was reminded that “it’s okay to be messy” in your journal. I’m a perfectionist. This is a hard lesson for me to learn, but I’m working on letting go a bit. It’s a process. Maybe in the future I’ll get brave and post some of my own drawings from the day…

With all my unfinished business out of the way, I moved onto my N.E.W.T.s reading. If you read my N.E.W.T.s TBR blog, then you’ll notice that I made a few switches and substitutions in order to accomplish my tasks. But, I did it! Not only did I achieve the grades I needed to become an official (magical) writer/journalist, I ended up getting higher grades in Muggle Studies and Charms than I needed. So, maybe I can try for a second (side-gig) wizarding career next time the O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s readathons come around.

I started off with the History of Magic prompts.

I’d meant to read Our Dark Duet for the “read a fantasy” prompt, but it’s really long, and I wasn’t feeling like reading it. Plus, when it came time to get started, I realized that I really needed to read The Last Unicorn to check off one of my Read Harder Challenge tasks. I also wanted to pass it on to my brother-in-law and niece. So, I switched things up. I can see why this book is a classic. It wasn’t my favorite, but I enjoyed it, and I feel like it’s probably aged better than some other fantasy books of its era. You never know what you’re going to get when you dive into a beloved classic of the genre.

Next up, I finally started The Queen of Blood. I’ve had this book on my Kindle since March 2017. No joke. I just checked Amazon to be sure. The series is now complete, and I own all three of the books. I liked this first one enough that I’ll definitely be continuing with the rest. So, I suppose it’s a good thing I bought them when they were on sale, huh? I thought this was a great twist on the “magical wood” trope and a great twist on fairies and sprites. If I’d known that this book included a section set in a magical academy, I may have picked it up a lot sooner. Plus the main character wasn’t the standard fantasy assassin character so popular in that era of YA fantasy books. She’s nowhere near the best in the school, but she’s determined, has a strong sense of ethics, and works hard. Definitely my sort of heroine. So, if you’re looking for a YA fantasy with great world-building and actual consequences for going up against the dangerous elements in the world, definitely check out this series.

As much as I wanted to complete the final task in History of Magic (“reread a favorite”), I decided I needed to move on to Muggle Studies if I wanted to finish all the tasks needed for my career.

This is where I made another substitution to my plan. My hold on the audiobook version of Burnout became available, so I needed to figure out if I could use it for any of my tasks. I decided to use it for the “book set in our real world” task. It’s nonfiction, so I think it qualifies. This book was great. If you struggle with managing stress, I definitely recommend checking out this book. I learned so much, and it debunked some harmful myths and conventional thinking about stress that I really needed to hear. So, yeah. Great book. I highly recommend it.

At the same time as I was listening to Burnout on audio, I was reading You’d Be Mine on Kindle. This is a YA contemporary romance set in the country music scene, and it’s just so much fun. It definitely deals with some heavy themes, so check out the content warnings if that might be an issue for you. Otherwise, if you liked the movie Walk the Line and/or A Star is Born, but would have enjoyed a “happily ever after” ending, you should definitely check out this book.

Since I only needed to finish You’d Be Mine in order to get the grade I needed for my wizarding career, I decided to stop there and move on to my last subject, Charms, before time ran out.

  • Charms –> O
    • Read a book that you think has a gorgeous cover <– The Gilded Wolves
    • Read a comic, graphic novel, manga, or book under 150 pages <– Sailor Moon
    • Spongify: softening charm – read a paperback <– Revenant Gun

I basically read these tasks in reverse order because I decided I could use Revenant Gun to fulfill the Spongify task after I moved The Last Unicorn over to “read a fantasy” under History of Magic. I needed Revenant Gun for my Hugos reading, but I knew it wouldn’t count unless I got the other two done as well. Luckily, the manga I chose was a fast read.

I used to watch the Sailor Moon cartoon as a teen. While I really liked the show, I wasn’t a major fan and don’t really consider myself part of that fandom. There’s a lot about the world and characters that I don’t understand or remember. So, when I needed to find a manga for the Read Harder Challenge, I decided to try to get my hands on some Sailor Moon. I could have picked any one of a number of comics I have in my TBR stack to complete this task for the N.E.W.T.s Readathon, but when you’re trying to complete two reading challenges at the same time, you look for options that will help you cross off a task in each with one book. That’s why I decided to read Sailor Moon Vol. 1 for this task. It was fun, but a little confusing. I’m considering passing this on to one of my “niblings” (new word for “nieces and nephews” that I picked up from listening to Galactic Suburbia) to see if I can get them past the concept of reading a book “backwards” to get them hooked on the awesome Sailor Guardians.

Finally, more or less at the same time as I was wrapping up reading Sailor Moon, I finished The Gilded Wolves. This the fourth book I’ve read by Roshani Chokshi, and probably my favorite of bunch. Even thought this is a slightly different sub-genre of fantasy than her other stuff, there are still plenty of what I consider to be her trademark descriptions. While I love how creative she is in the way that she describes things (she makes associations that are unexpected but really work), my brain has a tendency to skim long descriptive paragraphs, especially when it’s been trained by an author that there won’t be any relevant plot details embedded in there. I’d thought there might be more of those embedded plot details in this book because this is a treasure hunt heist mystery story like Indiana Jones or National Treasure, but nope. I feel like it was missing a lot of the double-crosses and fakes and “that was my plan all along” sorts of things I expected to see in this sort of story. But I loved the characters. It definitely has that “found family” crew of misfits feel.

I just want to say, the Magical Readathons are excellent readathons. If you missed this one, you should definitely check out the next one. I really hope she does the “Christmas at Hogwarts” one again in December. I’m definitely in if she does.

Before I get to my “Inbox” summary for the month, here’s an update on my other 2019 reading challenge…

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completed this month:

  • Task #12: A book in which an animal or inanimate object is a point-of-view character (The Last Unicorn)
  • Task #11: A book of manga (Sailor Moon)

Total tasks completed: 17

Total tasks remaining: 7

I have four months left, so that means I’m ahead of schedule on this challenge! Hooray! And, I managed to find a book that I think I might enjoy reading for the “written in prison” task, and it’s available on Kindle from my library. So, I may actually finish all 24 tasks this year. Shocking.

I should also mention one other thing that I’ve been reading. It’s serial fiction that an author friend of mine is writing and illustrating. The story is contemporary fantasy that starts in the “real world” with glimpses into what’s going on in the fantasy world, and hints at a lot more magic and adventure to come. You can check it out here and sign up to read episodes for free. There’s a new one every Friday. Here’s a little behind the scenes scoop for you… My husband and I were actually models for the image from episode ten. He definitely improved our hair, though.

And that’s it! That’s what I read in August. Phew.

Inbox

What I bought & borrowed:

Heart on Fire went on sale, and (sucker that I am) I bought it. This is the third book in Amanda Bouchet’s adult fantasy romance Kingmaker Chronicles series. I’ve only read the first book, and I didn’t love it. The way the hero pursued the heroine felt straight out of an old-school fantasy romance and maybe wouldn’t be good if you aren’t a fan of aggressive alpha males and not entirely explicit consent (I’m not). That said, I bought book two when it was on sale, and I’m willing to give the series another shot because lots of people love it. I figured, if I’m going to read book two, I might as well have book three on hand and ready to go. Could I have got this from the library? Yes. Should I have probably not spent the money on this? Also, yes. I’m a series completest, and I’m a sucker for the cheap ebooks. What can I say?

I’m also in the process of harvesting another batch of books from my library. Since technically those are going to be downloaded in September (and this post is too long already), you’ll have to wait for next month’s edition of “Inbox” to see what I got. I will hint that there’s at least one literary fiction book in there that was recommended by my friend “L,” plus a sci-fi romance novel that looks very promising, and a handful of new releases by authors who’ve written other books I’ve loved.

For possibly the first time this year, I don’t have any books that I feel like I have to read in September. I’d like to read at least one of my Read Harder Challenge books, but that’s it. I’m really looking forward to just picking up whatever sounds good at the moment. I made a “TBR Bingo” tracker for my BuJo just to remind me that there are still books on my TBR that I want to read before the end of the year. So, I may try to knock off a few of those squares. But I’m looking forward to a “wild card reading” month for once!

On that note, I will sign off for now. Until next time, happy reading!