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. ūüôā

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!

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‚Äôs 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.

March 2019: Reading Wrap Up

It’s been another big reading month for me! I’m just plowing through the books this year. But, I’m also getting a ton of writing and editing done. So, don’t worry. Book two in the Modern Fae series is on schedule to be released in June, and I have some other fun stuff in the works as well. But this isn’t a writing blog, it’s a reading blog. Let’s talk about books.

What I read in March:

In addition to the books pictured above, I also read 1 book for the RITA contest preliminary round of judging. So, I finished seven books, total in March. That brings me to 25 books total for the first quarter of 2019. That’s half my Goodreads goal for the year, and we haven’t even hit the summer vacation months! I have a feeling this is going to be a big reading year for me.

Most of what I read was off H1 2019 TBR reading list. I started and ended the month with books two and three in Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series (The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia). I really love these books. I’d forgotten how much, but I’m having a great time enjoying these stories for a second time.

I also finished a couple of writing / publishing craft books. The specifics about various marketing techniques in Discoverability were a little dated, but the general advice (ex: the best thing you can do for discoverability is write the next book) was solid. I think this is still a valuable read for authors who are writing for the love of the books. It’s more about building a sustainable career than becoming a best seller. Since that’s my goal, I found it to be a very valuable read.

The other writing craft book I finished was The Artist’s Way. I’d been reading this a chapter a week for the twelve weeks of this self-directed course on reconnecting with your creativity. I enjoyed it, and I didn’t think that I would. I assumed this would be way to “woo woo” for me to take it seriously. But, there’s a lot of good content in here for people who are reconnecting with their “inner creative” after stuffing it in a closet or burying it for most of their life to pursue “practical” things. I didn’t do every exercise and follow the whole thing to the letter, but I think it’s a good resource and recommend it if this sounds like something you might be interested in but may have been scared off (like me) by the spiritual aspect to it.

I also spent an afternoon reading Get Jiro! by Anthony Bourdain because it’s a favorite of my chef brother-in-law, and I borrowed it from him on his recommendation. It’s a weird little comic with lots of gore where chefs are sort of the top of the food chain (so to speak) in a new near-future society. If you like Kitchen Confidential, you might also like this comic. I enjoyed it.

But, the book I enjoyed the most this month (of the new-to-me books, not counting the re-reads), was The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. This one reminded me a lot of Hidden Figures because it’s an alternate history of that same time period (the 1950s) and the main character is a computer (the human kind, who did all the math before modern computers were invented, and even for a while after). She’s also a pilot and was one of the WASPs during WW2. Now she’s trying to become an astronaut. There’s a lot of real-world history and science worked into this novel, and the author’s note at the end is fascinating and gives a ton more resources. I’m really looking forward to continuing on with this series. I’ve already got the second book on hold at the library. I highly recommend checking this one out.

 

What I bought:

I nearly got through March without buying any books… Then Alyssa Cole’s Radio Silence went on sale, and I decided to grab it. If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I’ve been loving her “Reluctant Royals” contemporary romance series. I knew she also wrote this sort of post-apocalyptic series in addition to her historical romances, and I’ve been meaning to try it for a while now. Unfortunately, my library doesn’t have it on ebook and hasn’t purchased it (yet), despite my requesting it. Oh well. Now I “own” it (as much as you own any of your Kindle books…).

The other book I bought is one I’ve already read (in an early draft form). Bless Her Dead Heart by my friend Meg Collett launched in February! It’s set in “Righteous, Tennessee” and is the first book in her new southern paranormal series. It’s really good. Check it out. I just love her voice in this series. And book two is already out, so you don’t have to wait to see what happens next. Since I’ve already read this one, I’m not counting it toward my total books bought this month.

Net impact on my Kindle Backlog:

Books purchased on Kindle this month: 1

Kindle books read from my backlog list: 0

New Kindle backlog total: 134 (+1)

Ugh. Good thing I have the O. W. L. readathon coming up in April. Maybe I can get this back under 130 by the end of the month…

 

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completed this month:

  • Task #9: A book published prior to Jan. 1, 2019 with fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads (Discoverability)

Despite a publish date in 2014, at the time of this blog post, this book only has 94 ratings and 27 reviews on Goodreads. I don’t review stuff on Goodreads anymore. So, I didn’t add to the review count, only the ratings number.

Total tasks completed: 7

Total tasks remaining: 17

Yay! I am one book ahead of schedule on my Read Harder challenge for this year!

 

First half 2019 TBR Status:

Total TBR: 33 books

Books read to date: 16

Books remaining: 17

I’m close enough to half-way on this goal that I’m going to count it as on-track. And a lot of this list is going to get read during the Magical Readathon in April. I’m very much looking forward to that.

Here’s what’s queued up next on my TBR:

My stretch goal is to finish all these by the end of the upcoming weekend. Five books in seven days. We’ll see how it goes. I also have novel revisions I’m working on this week. I’m trying to get them done so I can get the story out to my critique partners before I leave for the writing workshop I’m going to in April. But, I think I’ll have time to do both the edits and the reading because these are all pretty short books. The average is only 250 pages per book.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of these books (the ones I finished in March, or the ones I’ve got queued up for April), and tell me what you thought.

February 2019: Reading Wrap Up

February went by super fast, I accomplished a ton of stuff, and I still managed to finish two books a week, on average. I think all those snow days may have helped. We got hit by a winter storm and ended up with over ten inches of snow, which is very unusual for the little island we live on in the Pacific Northwest. So I had a great excuse to stay inside and snuggle up with a book. I loved it. I’m also really glad the snow is mostly gone, and that it’s finally starting to feel like spring!

What I read in February:

In addition to the books pictured above, I also read 4 books for the RITA contest. So, I finished 8 books, total in February. That’s pretty great considering it was a short month, and I had some pretty ambitious writing goals for the month, like finishing the first draft of book two in my Modern Fae series¬†and releasing a novella. Both of which got done. Yay!

I started the month with a book of poetry (Felicity by Mary Oliver), then I pushed out of my comfort zone with some violent, unsolved true-crime written by an author who died while writing the book (I’ll Be Gone in the Dark). I¬†counter-acted any potential nightmare fuel by reading a short and entertaining Reluctant Royals novella (Once Ghosted, Twice Shy), and then I devoured book three in a series of books that may be my new favorite Sherlock Holmes retelling (The Hollow of Fear). Overall, it was a pretty good reading month.

What I bought:

So…I’m beginning to regret that whole “no buying books” reading goal already, and it’s only the beginning of March. Sigh. I do this every year. Technically, I only purchased two of these books in February. Another is one I just bought today, and the other three are all pre-orders.

I bought Mercenary Instinct because it’s the Smart Podcast Trashy Books book club selection for this quarter, and it was already on my wish list of “someday / maybe” Kindle books to buy on Amazon. Unfortunately, it wasn’t available on ebook from my library. The good news is that I think I can use this for the “read a self-published book” task in the Read Harder Challenge.

I bought The Queen of Sorrow because I own the other two books in the series, and this one went on sale for $1.99. I think I also had digital credits for choosing “no-rush shipping” that covered the purchase price. I plan to binge this series this year, now that it’s complete. Another totally justified purchase.

Then I had some more digital credits, so I bought The Phoenix Empress. The credits weren’t going to expire until the end of the month (I think these were for some non-shipping-related reason), but apparently they were burning a hole in my pocket. I decided to splurge on this book because I own the first book in the series, and it was one of my favorite books I read last year. Plus, I haven’t been able to get this on ebook from my library because of Tor’s new library ebook policy (which I hate). Maybe my library will buy it when it becomes available, but it’s less likely they’ll pick this up than book two in Scalzi’s Collapsing Empire series (which I’m also waiting for). We’ll see.

Two of the three pre-orders are from Alyssa Cole’s “Reluctant Royals” series. I like that she seems to be offering these for lower prices during pre-order, so I keep buying them that way rather than waiting and getting them from the library like a responsible owner of way too many ebooks.

Finally, I decided to go ahead and pre-orderYou’d Be Mine because it’s a debut book by an author I’ve been following for a long time on Twitter. I really like her and want to support her book launch. Plus, I think her book sounds great (even though it’s contemporary, which is not usually my jam).

Net impact on my Kindle Backlog:

Books purchased on Kindle this month: 6

Kindle books read from my backlog list: 1

New Kindle backlog total: 133 (+5)

Hahaha…I should just give up. But I’m not going to. I’m determined to make a dent in this now that I’m (almost) done with my RITA reading (only one left), and I have a few months off of actively drafting a novel.

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completed this month were:

Poet Mary Oliver died. I had no idea who she was until authors I like started talking about her death and the influence her work had on them. She sounded like a cool lady. So, I grabbed her most recent book of poetry from my library and read it. I’m just as shocked as you are that I actually completed the poetry task for Read Harder, and that I did it in February. I thought this would be the last task I completed for the year and that I would hate it. I guess it’s just a matter of finding the right poetry for you.

The other two were books I already wanted to read and found a home for on the task list. So, win-win. I can’t believe I’m actually ahead of schedule to finish the Read Harder challenge this year! And I’m enjoying it!

First half 2019 TBR Status:

Total TBR: 33 books

Books read to date: 11

Books remaining: 22

Let’s see…33 books in 6 months means I have to finish 5.5 books on average per month. I guess that means I’m exactly on track. Fantastic! For March, nearly everything on my TBR is from this list, and my Kindle is on mandatory airplane mode until at least mid-April. Time to cross some books off the backlog.

Here’s a look at what’s currently at the top of my TBR:

I’m almost done with my re-read of The Queen of Attolia. Oh, man! I love this book. I’m thinking I may want to continue and just roll right into The King of Attolia as soon as I’m done. But these other books are also calling to me, especially Skyward and The Calculating Stars.

I’m taking a month off from writing new words (but there will still be editing happening). So, I expect I’m going to make a huge dent in my reading lists this month. Now if I can just keep my finger off the “buy it now” button…

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read or bought any of these books and what you think. Until next time (like maybe Wednesday…), it’s time for me to get off the internet and go read!

January 2019: Reading Wrap Up

I read a LOT in January. A ridiculous amount. And, I even took a week off from reading. But, I also may have flunked one of my reading goals for the year, before the month was even half over… Before I get to that, let’s talk about the good stuff. Check out all the awesome books I read!

What I read:

The first book I finished in the New Year was Planetside by Michael Mammay. I love it when I find a new sci-fi author and their book lives up to the hype! This was a great military sci-fi book. I highly recommend it, especially if you like a little bit of a “who-done-it” alongside your military sci-fi. I think anyone who enjoyed Lock In by John Scalzi and/or Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty would enjoy this book, too.

I also started my re-read of The Queen’s Thief series and finished the first book, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. I’ve talked about this series a bit already in recent posts, but this was a formative YA fantasy series for me as a writer. It’s definitely the sort of series that I would love to be able to claim as a comp for my writing, but this first book was written over twenty years ago, so it’s definitely not eligible for comp title status on query letters any more. It’s still a great book, though.

January always brings with it an urge to read “self-improvement” books for some reason. To that end, I read The Bullet Journal Method¬†by Ryder Carroll (the guy who invented the craze) and The Power of Habit by¬†Charles Duhigg. Both were really useful books. It was helpful to hear the whole story of how the Bullet Journal system was created and how it was intended to work. I came at it through other people’s interpretations of the planning method, and Ryder’s website didn’t have much on it to explain the intricacies of how to use his method. I like to know how things are supposed to work before I start adapting them to fit my own needs. So, this gave me a lot of good ideas about how to improve my own Bullet Journaling.

The Power of Habit was an excellent companion to the Bullet Journal book. It had a ton of great information about how habits are formed, how to make them stick, and how to change habits you already have. It’s full of really fascinating science and interesting example stories. I also managed to find Read Harder tasks that applied to each of these books. So, they were useful in hitting one of my reading goals as well!

I also managed to finish Heart Berries by¬†Terese Marie Mailhot. This is a memoir that I found because of the Powells Staff Top Five Picks from¬† 2018. I don’t usually read memoir (as I mentioned in that post), but I really enjoyed this book, especially after reading Jane Doe. I know that may seem like an odd connection to make, but parts of this book read like they could have been written by the best friend being avenged by the main character (Jane) in that thriller. And that’s not even the most interesting thing about this book. There’s a lot going on in this short memoir. I think it would make a great book club pick. And, it turns out that the author is currently a fellow at Purdue (where I went to college) and she’s going to be one of the authors at our 2nd annual Orcas Island Lit Fest happening in April. Pretty cool coincidences.

In addition to novels and non-fiction, I read a couple of novellas, Girl Reporter by Tansy Rayner Roberts and Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Snyder, and a trade paper volume of comics, Paper Girls Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang.

That would already be a HUGE reading month for me, but I managed to squeeze in two of the books I needed to read for the contest I’m participating in as a first-round judge. And that’s all I can say about that.

So I read TEN books in January. That’s crazy. The only problem with all this reading is that it somehow also resulted in a lot of ebook buying. I’m not sure if there were just a lot of ebook sales post-Christmas, or what, but the Amazon gift card I received got depleted pretty quickly. And, I added six more books to my Kindle backlog…

Here’s what I bought:

The first book I purchased in 2019 was Tikka Chance on Me by¬†Suleikha Snyder. I turned around and read it almost immediately. But still, I didn’t even last three days without buying an ebook, folks. In my defense, this was only $.99 and I had a dollar free credit on Amazon for choosing the “I can wait” shipping option. I can’t exactly remember what prompted this purchase. It might have been a Smart Bitches post.

The book I’d thought was going to be my first purchase of 2019 was the novella I had on pre-order,¬†Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole. This is set in the same series as A Princess in Theory and A Duke by Default, which were two of my favorite romances that I read last year. I’d intended to read this one right away, but I’d forgotten about my contest reading commitment. So, this is going to have to wait a bit.

I’d also pre-ordered The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi. This sounds like it is going to possibly be my favorite book by her so far, and I’ve read all her books so far. I can’t get to it right away because of the contest stuff, but I’m definitely going to read this in the next couple months.

In line with the “self-improvement” theme for January, I’d borrowed The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron from my library. Only, I didn’t realize it was a thing you’re supposed to do over twelve weeks. I was interested enough in the first half of the book that I decided to just buy a copy so I could return my copy to the library. The reviews all said it was very “woo woo,” but I’m actually finding it to be pretty traditional as far as the spirituality stuff goes. I’m not as interested in that aspect of the book, but it’s not as off-putting as the reviews made it out to be.

Then I saw that one of the YA space opera books I had my eye on went on sale. So, I snagged Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan. Could I have got this book from the library? Probably. If not now, eventually. Was I planning on reading it immediately? Uh…nope. Reading goal fail. Oh well.

After I bought that book, I swore that was going to be it, but then one last ebook on sale caught my eye, Sinner by Sierra Simone. It was $0.99, and it’s not the sort of book that my library is inclined to purchase (self-published, erotica where the heroine is getting her sexy times on before planning to become a nun). I’ve read Priest by this same author, and I like that her books are hot but also have a story. I could justify this purchase by using this book for the self-published Read Harder challenge task, come to think of it.

I suppose we should have a look at the math on how I’m doing against my Kindle backlog reading goal, huh?

Net impact on my Kindle Backlog:

Books purchased and left unread on Kindle this month: 5

Kindle books read from my backlog list: 1

New Kindle backlog total: 128 (+4)

Yep. I’m not off to a great start on this reading goal. But, it’s only the first month of the year. Plenty of time to develop new book buying habits and improve this stat.

Speaking of reading goal stats, let’s also have a look at how I’m doing against my Read Harder Challenge goal.

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completed this month were:

  • Task #8:¬†An #ownvoices book set in Oceania (Girl Reporter)
  • Task #13:¬†A book by or about someone that identifies as neurodiverse (The Bullet Journal Method)
  • Task #17:¬†A business book (The Power of Habit)

Three down and twenty one to go, which means I’m ahead of schedule on this one. Go me!

That leaves that massive first half of 2019 TBR to check in against. Let’s see how I’m doing on that one.

First half 2019 TBR Status:

Total TBR: 33 books

Books read: 5

Books remaining: 28

Not bad. Looks like I’m on track on this goal as well. Phew.

Huge reading months make for really long recap posts. I guess some might say that this is a lot to keep track of, but I’m enjoying what I’m reading and how I’m tracking and tackling my reading goals so far this year. It’s actually a little bit of a relief to know that I’ve got a checklist for all this stuff so that I don’t have to stress about forgetting to read something that I really wanted to get to. Maybe this year of reading is going to be a little much, but I’m determined to plow through that Kindle backlog so that I don’t have to do this again next year.

As for what’s next, I’ve already finished reading my first book in February. I have a feeling it’s going to be another good reading month. How about you? How are you doing toward your reading goals for this year? Did you also go on a book buying binge in January, or was it just me?

TBRs and reading lists for the first half of 2019

I’ve been doing a LOT of reading and not a lot of blogging this month. I just opened Goodreads and my Google Sheets spreadsheet to log the seventh book I’ve finished this month, and I realized that I haven’t done a post on my 2019 TBRs. So, I thought I’d take a minute and write a post about my reading plans for the first half of 2019.

You may remember that one of my top five reading goals for 2019 is to put a dent in my backlog of purchased Kindle books. I don’t want to spoil my end of the month wrap up, but I will hint that I may be starting the year in the red on that goal…More on that after the month is over. For now, I’ll say that I decided that in order to get serious about this goal, I needed to pick six books and make a TBR for books I plan to read in the first half of this year. So I did. The lucky winners are the following books:

For anyone who has been reading my blog for a while, these covers probably look pretty familiar. When I scrolled through the 124 books on my Kindle backlog list, these were the ones that jumped out at me as ones I wanted to read first.

All but one of these are new releases that I purchased and then didn’t read right away (Vengeful, The Belles, Thick as Thieves, Brightly Burning, and Our Dark Duet). The last book on the list (The Queen of Blood) is book one in a now complete fantasy series. I’ve been meaning to read this book for at least two years, but keep putting it off. One benefit of waiting is that if I get into it I can binge the rest of the series. I already own book two.

The only problem with this list is that, in order to get to Thick As Thieves, I’m going to have to complete my re-read of the first four books in The Queen’s Thief series. I just finished my re-read the first one. Now I’m waiting for my reading buddies to be ready to get started on book two (and maybe do a brief chat about book one, first). But, that means I’ve essentially just added another four books to my first half of 2019 TBR.

Total TBR count so far for those keeping score: 10 books.

I also remembered that I signed up to judge the Romance Writers of America RITA awards this year. That means I have a panel of books assigned to me that I need to read and score by the 7th of March. Seven books in seven weeks. Unfortunately for you, this list is top secret. I’m not even going to add them to Goodreads. But I still have to read them, and that’s going to take some time.

Updated TBR count, including RITA submissions: 17 books.

I’ve also decided to attempt to complete the 2019 Read Harder Challenge. To stay on track, I’ll need to read twelve books in the first six months of this year. I’ve already finished three, and I have the rest picked out from books that I already own (or have out from the library) that meet one of the challenge tasks. Here’s a sneak peek at that TBR…

The tasks covered by these books are:

Total TBR count after all that: 29 books.

But that’s not all… As if that wasn’t enough “required reading” for the first half of the year, I’m going to a writing workshop in April, taught by a bunch of authors, agents, and editors who I admire. Unfortunately, I haven’t read books by some of the authors, and I want to make sure I do before the workshop. So, I’ve added the following books to my TBR:

I’ll probably shoot for reading one book by each author (Dan Wells, Ted Chiang, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Fran Wilde). So, four of the six pictured here. Which ones I read will likely depend on what’s available first at the library. And, there may be more I need to add depending on who else is announced as participating.

That puts the total TBR count for the first half of 2019 at 33 books. Or almost six books per month, on average. It will probably be almost exactly six books per month once you take into account the rule I’m putting in place about reading books I buy this year (more on that in my January wrap-up).

< cue nervous laughter >

Ambitious much? Yeah. This is maybe a bit crazy. But… Is it weird that I’m actually really excited to read all of them? And I don’t even mind that I’ve completely booked (so to speak) all my available reading time for the first half of this year. Right now, I’m pretty excited about this TBR. I guess we’ll see how I feel in a few months.

Now I should probably go make a tracker in my “BuJo” to keep track of all this reading…

Top Five Wednesday: reading goals for 2019 (#T5W)

Happy New Year, everyone! I took a little time off over the holiday to rest and recharge. I read a bunch of good books and had fun times with family and friends. Now I’m ready to start 2019! I hope you all had a happy New Year and a fun and relaxing holiday, too!

Today’s Top 5 Wednesday theme is “2019 reading resolutions.” I was planning to post my 2018 reading summary before I did my reading resolutions, but I didn’t get that done yesterday. So, we’re going to do this a bit out of order. Today you’ll get my 2019 reading goals, and later this week I’ll post my December reading summary and 2018 reading stats.

Oh! And Powell’s posted their staff Top 5 lists! So, my summary post is in progress. I’ve already crunched the numbers and reserved the entire list at my library. Spoiler: there are a LOT of good books that weren’t on my radar. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out last year’s post.

As for my “2019 reading resolutions,” I’m not really a fan of making “resolutions,” but I’ve definitely have some reading goals for 2019 (as I do every year). I never thought this was an odd thing to do until last week when I was talking with friends and they all looked at me funny when I asked about their reading goals for 2019. Apparently, not all avid readers make reading goals. Who knew?

My reading goals are pretty much the same every year: read at least 50 books (about a book a week, on average) and try to read diversely (books by AOC, different genres and age ranges, books by or about folks with different experiences than me, etc.). This year I’m adding a few other goals to that list, and not just because I wanted to round it up to make a “top five” list, I swear. I actually had a few more goals than the ones listed here, but I trimmed things back to keep focused, reduce overlap, and limit myself to only five.

Here are my reading goals for 2019:

  1. Read an average of a book a week for a total of¬†52 books read in 2019. — I’m increasing my usual goal by two books to make it an actual average of a book a week. I almost always exceed this goal, so adding two more books shouldn’t be an issue.
  2. Create one page in my bullet journal for every book I read, once I start reading it, to write down thoughts and notes about that book. — I’ve stopped writing reviews on Goodreads and only leave star ratings these days. On my blog, I only mention high-level thoughts in my monthly reading recap posts. Mostly, this is because I know how much work goes into writing a book, and I’m not interested in dissecting that work in public. I do think it’s useful to read critically and make notes about what I enjoyed, what I didn’t, and why, as well as what I learned (from a craft perspective, if I’m reading fiction). So, at the end of last year, I started capturing these thoughts in my notebook. The added benefit is that it’s much easier to reference these notes.
  3. Attempt to complete all the 2019 Read Harder tasks and try to do it using books that are already in my TBR (physical or virtual) wherever possible. — This one is sort of two goals wrapped in one. I don’t have any specific reading diversity goals I’m trying to hit this year, and I liked the ones on the Read Harder challenge because there were plenty that represent new areas of reading for me. But, I also have over 100 books unread on my Kindle, plus an entire shelf of unread print books on my bookcase. So, before I go running out to reserve a book at the library to cover one of these tasks, I’m going to see if I have any purchased and unread books that I could read to check off a task, instead.
  4. Read more indie published books. — When I decided to self-publish my Modern Fae series, I hadn’t read a lot of indie-published books, but I had talked with a lot of indie-published authors and watched a lot of indie-authors talk about publishing on YouTube and at RWA events and conferences. This year, I’d like to try to expand my reading beyond the mainstream popular traditional published stuff and read more books by indie-authors. Coincidentally, this is also a task on the 2019 Read Harder challenge.
  5. Read more books that I own than the amount that I buy for myself. — This is one I’ve been working on for the past few years. You’ll see when I post my 2018 reading stats that I did a great job of buying fewer books this year. The problem is, I read a LOT from the library this year. So, net effect is that I added books to my “purchased and unread” books. This year, I want to try to keep the number of books on that list at neutral, or hopefully reduce it. My plan is to only buy books if I can’t get them from the library *and* I plan to read them immediately.

All this requires tracking, so I’ve added some new spreads in my bullet journal. This first one I’ve already added to a previous post. I’m using this to track new releases and the Read Harder tasks.

I added another to remind me of all the awesome books on my shelf and my Kindle that I keep forgetting to read in place of the new shiny stuff. That list on the far right are the books I currently have on digital hold at the library. There’s no way I’m getting to all these this year. Too many books, not enough time…

I also mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been frustrated with how many places I’m tracking what I’m reading. This year, I’ve decided to narrow things down as much as possible. I’m going to use Goodreads to keep track of what books I have in progress and/or checked out from the library. I’ll update Goodreads when I start a new book or when I finish a book. All day to day tracking and book notes are going in my bullet journal. And, I’ve decided to keep using a spreadsheet (I like this one from Book Riot) to keep a list of books and related details about those books because it makes it easier for me to run my reading stats at the end of the year. But, I’m probably only going to update it once a month or so because I only check my stats every six months. That should take some of the pressure off.

That’s the plan, and I’m pretty excited about it. So, how about you? Do you have reading goals or resolutions? Do you track your reading stats in a spreadsheet like the one from Book Riot? Tell me about it in the comments.

Happy New Year! Wishing you all the best for 2019!