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: 0

New Kindle backlog total: 135 (+6)

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 on Kindle this month: 6

Kindle books read from my backlog list: 1

New Kindle backlog total: 129 (+5)

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!