Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag

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

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

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

June Wrap-Up and Reading Goals Update

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

Outbox

Here’s what I read in June:

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

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

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

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

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

Inbox

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

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

Mid-Year Goals Update

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

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

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

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

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

May 2020: Reading Wrap Up

It’s a new day, and Black Lives Still Matter. All of them. And, as you’re about to find out, I didn’t read any books by Black authors in May. One third of the books I read in May had own voices queer representation, but none were written by authors of color.

So far only 16% of the books I’ve read this year have been written by authors of color. My goal for 2020 was to hit at least 33% with a stretch goal of 50%. I’d love to hit 40%, because that would be more or less in line with the percent of non-white people in the United States according to current census estimates. So, it’s time to focus a little harder on improving that stat. But more on that in my TBR post.

Let’s talk about what I read in May, shall we?

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First up was The Queen of Sorrow by Sarah Beth Durst. This was the last book in the Queens of Renthia series (but she’s writing other books set in this world). I wish this series got more attention. It’s really good fantasy with great characters and world-building. One of the main characters in the series (she gets introduced in book two) is a mom with two kids who are pretty well fleshed out characters (not plot moppets), and the conflict between her role as a mother and as a queen is really well explored. In fact, there are at least five different female characters of different ages and with different values and strengths who are all wielding different types of power throughout this series. Sometimes they are on the same side, sometimes they are in conflict. But this series is definitely about the women, and it does not shy away from showing the brutal parts of living in a world where the elemental spirits are trying to kill you. I highly recommend checking out this series. I think it’s an excellent YA/adult cross-over fantasy series.

After finishing that, I did a little Innkeeper Chronicles binge and read books three (One Fell Sweep) and four (Sweep of the Blade), plus the recently published novella (Sweep With Me) over the course of one weekend. I still love this series. I really REALLY hope that there is more. I love the concept. I love the characters. I love the sci-fantasy world-building. I love the light touch with the romance elements (it’s more romantic fantasy than fantasy romance). I think book four (Sweep of the Blade) is my favorite so far because I really like the vampire culture, and I love Maud and her daughter. I want more books set in that vampire world. It’s such a good and unique take on vampires. I can not say enough good stuff about these books. Just go read them already!

Next up, I read A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine. I really liked this book a lot, too. It reminds me of the Hainish Cycle books by Ursula K. LeGuin crossed with something like Planetside by Michael Mammay. The pop culture elements built into the world building is so good. I love it when world building is so well thought out that it includes things like how a poetry slam might be used for political maneuvering. Or considers which novels and other stories might spread and disperse throughout a far-reaching empire, and which would be of interest to people who have recently been assimilated and are maybe not huge fans of the empire, but maybe appreciate the pop culture. I also think the author did a great job describing what it feels like to have studied a culture and a language to the point where you are passably fluent, but how you still can feel like an outsider who will never be a true part of that culture once you finally get a chance to visit and spend time there. I seriously though this was going to win the Nebula. Now I need to go read the novel that did win (A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker), because if it beat this book and Gideon the Ninth, it has to be good.

Then I took a short break from reading novels to read the first of the five books that make up the novel Wool by Hugh Howey. The first book was originally published as a stand-alone novella. The novella made me slightly more interested in reading the full book, but I found out that the main character shifts after this first book to follow someone else’s story. That makes sense given how the novella ends, but it also makes me slightly less inclined to bump Wool to the top of my TBR. I feel like, if I’m going to be switching perspectives anyway, there’s no big rush.

And finally, I read Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. I know everyone loves this book, so this is going to probably be an unpopular opinion, and I hesitate to even write this, but this was my least favorite of all the books I read this month. It was good. I liked it. I just didn’t love it as much as everyone else I know did. I blame this on the current political environment and not on the book. I really struggled with immersing myself in this world with its female president. It kept reminding me what we should have had and making me sad. Overall, this book just wasn’t a good fit for me right now, but I’m really glad everyone else seems to have loved it. Maybe if I’d read it before the trash fire that is 2020, I would have liked it more.

And on that super positive note… Ugh. Seems like a bummer to leave it there. I should really be jumping in to talk about what I’m currently reading, or my TBR for June, or something. But this post is super long already, and I need to go write some Modern Fae words so that I can get book four in that series out sometime this year. You’ll have to wait until this weekend to hear about my Hogsmeade Mini Magical Readathon TBR. Until then, stay safe and wash your hands. ❤

May 2020: Book Haul

Hello, friends! Before I get into this post, I’d like to be clear about something that should be obvious to anyone who has been reading my blog for a while. For the record, I believe Black Lives Matter. Make an effort to read books by Black authors. Listen to what Black authors say about the books meant to represent them and to what they say about the publishing industry.

If you haven’t been reading any books by Black authors, or you’ve only read books by Black authors that were about characters dealing with racism (The Hate You Give is considered required reading around these parts, but please don’t stop there), check my Twitter for some recommendations and stay tuned for an upcoming post with my all Black author Hogsmeade Magical Readathon TBR.

That said, let’s move on to our second bit of housekeeping. I’ve decided to split my usual monthly reading wrap-up into two (maybe three?) posts this month. My May book haul was just too much, and it was making my May reading wrap up post too long. So today you’re getting the “inbox” portion of the post and tomorrow you’ll get the “outbox” portion. Then the “currently reading” and TBR stuff will follow.

Are you ready for an epic book haul? Good. Let’s dive in.

Library Haul

This was a particularly large library haul month. I stocked up on some middle and end of series books that I’ve been meaning to read: Hurts to Love You (Forbidden Hearts), Sweep With Me (Innkeeper Chronicles), In a Badger Way (Honey Badger Chronicles), My Lord and Spymaster (Spymasters), Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover (The Rules of Scoundrels), Eclipse the Skies (Ignite the Stars), Engaging the Enemy and Victory Conditions and Command Decision (Vatta’s War), Come Tumbling Down (Wayward Children).

Then there are a few new-to-me series that I’ve been meaning to check out: the Poison Study series by (Poison Study, Magic Study, and Fire Study are the first three books) and the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. I was only able to get Mistborn this time, but I’ve got the other books in the series reserved to get in my next book haul.

I got Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase after reading this Twitter thread by a romance author I follow. It’s technically book two in the series, and I’ve never read anything by this author, but that thread really sold this book for me.

Catfishing on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer, Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin, The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White, and Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi are all new(er) releases that have been getting a lot of buzz. I’ve had these on hold for a while, and I’m excited to check them out.

Then I grabbed a copy of It’s Not All Downhill From Here by Terry McMillan after listening to an interview with her on the Code Switch podcast. And when I saw that Susanna Clarke has a new book coming out, I also noticed that she had a short story anthology that I’d missed. So, I grabbed a copy of The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories as well.

I think that’s it from the library. Hopefully I didn’t miss any from the cover snapshot above. If you think that’s a lot of ebooks for one haul when I only have twenty one days to read them, don’t worry. My Kindle is on airplane mode while I work through this batch. That also means, there probably won’t be another big book haul for a few months.

Birthday Haul

May was my birthday month. It was a pretty mellow “stay-at-home” birthday, but it was made extra special by Zoom chats with friends and family and a delicious dinner made by my husband. Plus a steady diet of homemade pie and cake and cookies consumed throughout the month. Yum! 🙂

In addition to good eats, I got three ebooks I’ve been looking forward to reading and can’t get from my library. Thanks, Mom! ❤

The first is Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim, which is a gender swapped retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo. You may remember that I listened to the audiobook of The Count of Monte Cristo (~50 hours of audiobook!) and unexpectedly loved it. When I saw this retelling, I knew I had to check it out.

I also got Strange Love by Ann Aguirre. I first heard about this on the Smart Bitches Trashy Books blog. I’m always on the lookout for sci-fi romance with great world-building, and I like that the aliens in this one are actually alien and not humans with green skin or something. If you also like sci-fi romance, I recommend checking out the SBTB review for more detail on this book (hint: they gave it an A!).

And finally, I got Dangerous Alliance by Jennieke Cohen. This one is billed as The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue meets Jane Austen in the Goodreads blurb. I first heard about it on Alexa Donne’s YouTube channel. She raved about it (and blurbed it), so I added it to my wishlist, but I haven’t heard any buzz about it since then. If you’ve read it or heard anything about it, let me know in the comments.

Other Stuff

Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton was the Tor.com free book in May. I’ve been meaning to read something by Jo Walton, and I’ve heard this is a really good dragon book. So, I grabbed a copy for my Kindle.

I also grabbed a free copy of book one of Wool by Hugh Howey to read for Short Story Club (organized by my critique partners and friends Amit, Scott, and James). The discussion with Hugh was great, and I’m really looking forward to this month’s discussion of “The Bookstore at the End of America” with Charlie Jane Anders. If you want to join, you can get tickets here (cost is an optional donation to Dog Eared Books in SF).

Then, I used some birthday money to buy a copy of my friend Karysa Faire’s first book, Take Two. It looks awesome, and I can’t wait to read it.

And, finally, I received my pandemic-delayed Fairy Loot box with a beautiful copy of Bone Crier’s Moon. This book wasn’t on my radar, but now that it’s in my hands, I’m very excited to read it.

Phew. I warned you. So many new (to me) books! I’m excited to get reading. What from this haul is really jumping out at you? Is there one of these books that you really want me to read and review? Let me know in the comments and maybe I’ll bump it up to the top of my TBR list.

Stay tuned to hear about what I read in May. Until then, be safe and wash your hands. ❤

April 2020: Reading (and #OWLsReadathon2020) Wrap Up

Turns out that “shelter-in-place” has been great for reading through my stash of hardcovers and paperbacks. I made a huge dent in my physical TBR stack this month. But don’t worry. There’s still a tower of books on my dresser. I’ll need a few more months of this to get through them all.

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April was the OWLs Magical Readathon, and I completed ten of the twelve subjects! I’m so excited because this gives me so many career options for NEWTs, later this year!

In the interest of keeping this post relatively short, I’ll just list what I read with a few brief comments on each book.

  • Ancient Runes – Wrong to Need You (Forbidden Hearts #2) by Alisha Rai – Solid middle book in this series. I loved the new characters and the bond between the sisters.
  • Arithmancy – Sourdough by Robin Sloan – I liked this more than I thought I would, mostly because it’s set in the San Francisco tech community, and I really bonded with the main character. The plot is a little weak, but I was so into the character and setting that I didn’t mind.
  • Astronomy – The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite – This one was a cozy story featuring embroidery as art, women in astronomy, and ladies in love.
  • Divination – Bitch Planet, Vol. 2: President Bitch by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Taki Soma, and Valentine De Landro – This volume offered some more insight into the world and the various tensions. The ending left me thinking there might be more? But I can’t seem to find anything about that on the internet.
  • History of Magic – The Witches of Echo Park by Amber Benson – Solid characters and world-building, but the plot meandered a bit. If you like modern-day witches, you’ll probably dig this series.
  • Muggle Studies – Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy – This is such a heartwarming story, and that Dolly Parton quote about figuring out who you are and doing it on purpose has been really resonating with me lately.
  • Potions – Saga Vol. 3 by by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples – Volume three continues to entertain, though this one seemed to be a little more “exposition” focused than the first two.
  • Transfiguration – Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston – If you’re looking for heat, you’re probably going to be disappointed. The hero and heroine don’t really get together until about 75% of the way through the book. But, if you love shifters and sister bonds, you probably won’t mind. The characters are great and the plot is fast paced and bonkers (in a good way).
  • Herbology – Marque and Reprisal by Elizabeth Moon – I really like this series. It’s written in a very traditional sci-fi / space opera style, which may turn some people off, but the plot and world-building is so good. I love the addition of Stella and Rafe in this book. Ky’s crew is really coming together, and she’s finding her footing as captain.
  • Charms – Other Minds by by Peter Godfrey-Smith – There is some really cool science in this book mixed in with a lot of anecdotal tales of swimming with octopus and cuttlefish. Enjoyed the exploration of a different evolution of consciousness.

In addition to all that, I also had the good luck to get my hands on a copy of The Last Emperox, the final book in John Scalzi’s Interdependency Series. This was a very action-packed and emotionally satisfying ending to the series, and that’s all I’m going to say about that because I don’t want to spoil anything.

And, just before falling asleep on the final day of the month, I decided to dig into a flash fiction anthology, Nevertheless She Persisted. The stories were written by some of the top names in SFF right now (Charlie Jane Anders, Brooke Bolander, Amal El-Mohtar, Maria Dahvana Headley, Kameron Hurley, Seanan McGuire, Nisi Shawl, Catherynne M. Valente, Carrie Vaughn, Jo Walton, Alyssa Wong). I picked this up because of the authors and because it’s being offered for free from Tor right now.

I also read a bunch of flash fiction written by my writing group because decided to publish a pandemic themed flash fiction anthology called Fever Dreams. The piece I wrote for that is called “The Howlers.” There are six stories in total. They’re all super short and explore what a hopeful post-COVID-19 world might look like. It’s available for free. You can even download an ebook version, if you don’t like reading in a browser.

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I did not buy or borrow any books this month. But, I think May will probably be a big haul month because I have a lot of ebooks coming off hold at the library, and it’s also my birthday month.

Currently Reading

Once the OWLs Readathon ended, I started The Queen of Sorrow by Sarah Beth Durst so that I can discuss it with my reading buddies L. and S. who are reading the series along with me.

There is going to be another round of Tome Topple in May. I don’t think I’m going to participate this time, though. All of my TBR Tomes are on my Kindle, and I’m really enjoying reading paper books right now. We’ll see. I may just start over with Poseidon’s Wake by Alastair Reynolds, which I abandoned at about 10% during the last Tome Topple.

How did your April reading go? Did you participate in the OWLs Readathon? Are you going to participate in Tome Topple? What are you reading? Let me know in the comments.

March 2020: Reading Wrap Up

Well, March was an interesting month. I spent almost the whole month sheltering in place, even though we didn’t get the official order to do so until mid-month. I live near Seattle, which is where the outbreak started in the U.S. So, we started voluntarily social distancing around the 3rd of March. Even though I’ve been home, I didn’t get much reading done. I was way too distracted by the news. But, the second half of the month was better than the first half. It’s too soon to say, but maybe I’m getting the hang of balancing connection with isolation. Maybe.

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I finished three books in March. The first was the audiobook of Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Petersen. The audiobook was read by the author, which was cool. I really enjoyed these essays, even though they are a bit dated at this point (pub date was in 2017). Since I don’t watch reality TV, or any TV that’s not available on Netflix, I’m wasn’t really aware of some of these women, even though I’m very aware of the topics and societal norms discussed. There aren’t a lot of answers here, but there is good analysis. So, if that’s something you’re looking for, I would recommend this essay collection.

I also read two very similar YA sci-fi books. Both featured heroines in a space military academy. Both were outsiders with a bit of a chip on their shoulder. Both of them love to fly. I connected with the main character in Skyward by Brandon Sanderson a little more than the main character in Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan, but Ignite the Stars had better supporting characters (more fully developed) and had a much better plot and deeper, more developed world-building. That said, I’m a sucker for the space military academy trope. So, it’s no surprise that I enjoyed both of these books.

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This was my month to grab a new batch of ebooks from the library. So I stocked up on all sorts of good ones before flipping my Kindle to airplane mode. Some are backlist books I’ve been meaning to read for a long time (Blood Rose Rebellion, Frost Like Night, Ice Like Fire, Grimspace, Shades of Milk and Honey, Fablehaven, Blanca & Roja, and The Bitter Kingdom). Others are new(ish) books that I’m super excited to read (The Stars We Steal, The Bride Test, The Deepest Blue, War Girls, The Blacksmith Queen, Steel Tide, A Madness of Sunshine, and Starsight).

I did buy one book this month. That was The Shadows Between Us, which came in my Fairy Loot subscription box. I hadn’t heard of it before seeing it in the box, but it sounds like one I will enjoy.

I also downloaded a free flash fiction anthology called Nevertheless She Persisted with stories by a bunch of sci-fi and fantasy authors whose work I enjoy. It’s currently being offered from Tor for free on Amazon, if you want to grab a copy.

Currently Reading

It’s O.W.L.s time! If you missed it, you can check out my O.W.L.s TBR here. The first two books I’m reading for the O.W.L.s are Sourdough by Robin Sloan (for Aritmancy) and The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite (for Astronomy). So far, I’m loving Sourdough. Lady’s Guide… is off to a slow start, but I’m reading it before bed (per the “read mostly at night” Astronomy prompt), which may be effecting my attention span a bit.

How did your reading go in March? Were you able to finish the usual number of books? Did you get distracted by everything going on in the world? Or did being stuck at home mean that you read even more than you usually do? No matter how your March went, I hope you and your family are healthy and safe, and I wish you all the best for April. ❤

February 2020: Reading Wrap Up

February went by in a flash, even with the extra day. Since I’m already a little late with this post, let’s dive in and talk about what I read in February.

Outbox

You may remember from my January wrap-up post, that my in-progress book at the start of February was Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. This was such a fun book, and totally different than anything else I’ve been reading recently. While I really enjoyed the characters and the mystery aspect of the plot, I did have a lot of questions about the world-building. For the most part, those questions didn’t interfere with my overall enjoyment of the book because I was too absorbed in Gideon. I really loved her character and voice. Gideon was my hook into this series, but book two appears to pivoting to Harrow’s perspective. So, I’m not as interested in reading it right away.

Since it took me most of the first week of February to finish Gideon the Ninth, I only had a small window to read something short before Tome Topple started. In other words, the perfect opportunity to dip back into the Innkeeper series by Ilona Andrews with book two, Sweep in Peace. I pretty much devoured this book in two days. Even though I have the next two books in the series already on my Kindle, I resisted the urge to jump right into book three. I’m trying to pace myself on this series because I really love the characters and the world, and I’m worried that it will all be over too soon.

If you read my Tome Topple TBR post, you’ll already be familiar with my rather realistic plans for Tome Topple. Everything kicked off according to plan. I started reading Poseidon’s Wake by Alastair Reynolds on Kindle and Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab on audiobook. I made steady progress on both, but neither were sucking me in or making me eager to return to them. By the time Tome Topple officially ended, I hadn’t finished either of them. In the days after, I completely lost motivation and just didn’t really feel like reading anything. So, I decided I needed the reading equivalent of a “palate cleanser.”

I scrolled through my Kindle TBR and landed on Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins. It’s a short contemporary YA romance about a girl who does a study abroad in Scotland for her senior year of high school and ends up falling for a princess. It’s a cute, fast read with great queer representation, a f/f love story with the familiar and beloved “oops, I fell for a Royal” tropes (one of my favorite tropes). I read it in two days and enjoyed it. It refreshed me and pushed me out of my reading slump enough to at least go finish Our Dark Duet.

I’m sad to report that I didn’t like Our Dark Duet nearly as much as I loved This Savage Song. For some reason, this book seemed to be much more gore-filled and violent than the first book. Possibly because all the graphic descriptions seemed to just be there for atmosphere building purposes and not really necessary to drive the plot or character arcs. And it was repetitive. There were so many scenes where nothing important happened to move to plot or characters forward. I thought the new monster was cool, but completely unexplained and almost entirely unnecessary to the plot (except as a device to bring Kate back to Verity). I’m glad I read it, but I almost think This Savage Song would have been better as a stand alone. Overall, this one was kind of a disappointment and left me in a bit of a slump.

Inbox

I didn’t buy or borrow any books this month, and my Fairy Loot box is delayed. So, I guess I’ll have to wait until next month to share what I got…

Currently Reading

I still want to finish reading Poseidon’s Wake. I’m really happy to be returning to the world of Poseidon’s Children, but the story starts slowly, and I’ve forgotten a lot of what happened in the first two books because it’s been so long. Plus, I’m finding it difficult to stay engaged in a long, meaty sci-fi story right now because I have a lot of other things going on in my life at the moment that are causing no end of distractions. So, I may set it aside and read some more short, fun books that don’t require as much of a time investment. I definitely need something to get me back into the reading groove.

I’ve been thinking about switching things up and putting down my Kindle to read a hardcover book. I’ve got A River of Royal Blood and Eight Will Fall in hardcover, and both of those sound like they’ll be good. Or maybe I need some sci-fi in my life (Spaceside or Ignite the Stars)? Or maybe I should finish the Queens of Renthia series and read The Queen of Sorrow?

If you have thoughts or recommendations, leave them in the comments. I’d love to know which of these you think might drag me out of my reading slump.

January 2020: Reading Wrap Up

Wow! The first month of the year flew by so fast, I can hardly believe it’s already February! Ready for a recap of what I read (“Outbox”), what I bought/borrowed (“Inbox”), and what I’m currently reading? Cool. Let’s talk about books!

Outbox

First accomplishment of the New Year: I finished all the books I needed to read to complete all my prompts for the Winter Magical Readathon! Hooray!

I started the year with The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst. This is the second book in a trilogy, and I loved the first book. This one started off so good. I mean, I was LOVING this book… until the end. Because of the brutality of the first book’s ending, I was expecting an equally brutal end to this book. I mean, the story was building to it from the opening chapter. It had to happen. And then… something else happened. I don’t know how to discuss this without being spoilery, so if you want to know more, hit me up in the comments, and I’ll answer any spoiler questions there. I’m now very curious how this is going to get resolved in the final book. Luckily, I already have it on my Kindle.

Rather than diving right into book three in the Queens of Renthia series, I decided to continue with my Winter Magical Readathon prompts. I was more than ready to dive into The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas, and I plowed through it in a couple of days. Seriously, people. If you like Sherlock Holmes and you’re not reading this series, you are missing out. It’s so good! I will say that I highly recommend you have some pastries or delicious cookies and tea on hand while you read this.

And, the last book I read for the Winter Magical Readathon was The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai. This turned out to be exactly what I’d expected in the very best way. The heroine is the CEO of a dating app startup. The hero is an ex-football player with a passion for getting assistance for players with medical issues caused by concussions. They’re brought together by his very eccentric aunt. It’s sexy and heartwarming and romantic. Chapter eighteen is a playbook to my heart. If you are looking to dip your toe into contemporary romance (or if you already know you like it), definitely check out this book.

After that, I read Aurora Blazing by Jessie Mihalik so that I could talk about it with my “Camp Book Club” friends in our virtual book club this weekend. I liked this second book better than the first, mostly because both the hero and the heroine were extremely competent spies who have a history of pining for each other and a decent enough reason to be kept apart. Although, I will say that I called the secret that the hero is keeping back when he made his first appearance at the end of book one. Still, I’m really enjoying this sci-fi romance series and looking forward to the next book.

Inbox

Aside from borrowing The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai from the library, I bought two books this month. Well, technically, I bought the subscription box that they came in, but I bought the boxes because they come with books, so…

Two more boxes from Fairy Loot arrived this month! First up, in my December box (which arrived at the start of January due to holiday shipping delays), I got Eight Will Fall by Sarah Harian. I hadn’t heard of this book, but after reading the blurb and the letter and the interview with the author, I’m pretty excited to read it.

In my January Fairy Loot box, I got Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez. I know the author of this one from the Pitch Wars community on Twitter, but I’d completely forgotten that her debut novel was coming out this year. I was very pleasantly surprised and excited that this turned out to be the Fairy Loot pick for January! I can’t wait to check it out.

Currently Reading

I am currently reading Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. The thing is, necromancers aren’t really something I’m super into, and I am really loving this book. I think it’s because the world-building is just weird enough, and completely unexplained enough, that I’m turning pages just trying to figure out what’s going on. Plus the characters are excellent, and the plot is basically a locked room mystery (which is a trope I love). If you have this on your TBR but you haven’t read it yet, pick it up. Believe the hype. It’s really good.

Beyond that, I’m working on my TBR for round ten of Tome Topple (starting on 7 February at 00:00 in your timezone). So, stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on that, once I’ve decided on what I plan to read.

Until then, have an excellent and extra special Groundhog’s Day! (It’s 02.02.2020!) Cheers to an early spring!

2020 Reading Goals

Now that I’ve pretty much reviewed all aspects of my 2019 reading life, it’s time to focus on the year ahead. I decided a couple of things while reflecting on 2019. The first was that I am tracking my reading in way too many places. I know. I say this every year. Or at least, I definitely said it last year, and then went and did pretty much the exact same thing I’d been doing. I am making a few changes this year, and I’ll talk about that at the end of this post.

The other thing I decided was that I’m taking a year off from reading challenges. I’m not saying I’ll never do one again, but I am saying that I realized I like readathons with reading prompts WAY better than reading challenges. It’s a lot easier for me to put personal constraints on readathon prompts (ex: it has to be a book that’s already on my Kindle or bookshelf). This is probably because the entire point of reading challenges is to get you reading things that you probably don’t already have on your TBR.

What I will miss from not doing reading challenges is that extra push to read outside my comfort zone. Instead, I’m just going to have to push myself. To that end, one of my goals includes some reading metrics that I want to keep an eye on throughout the year (plan is to check in quarterly) to make sure I’m continuing to read books written by people with different perspectives than mine.

Given all that, these are the reading goals I decided on for 2020:

  1. Read at least 52 books (or book-like things). — This is my staple “Goodreads Challenge” goal. If it counts as a book on Goodreads, it counts as a book for this goal. Even after reading more than 80 books in 2019, I’m still keeping my goal at a book a week on average.
  2. Finish at least 5 series that I’ve already started. — A lot of the series that I’ve started over the past several years are now complete, but I haven’t had a chance to sit down and finish reading them, even though I own the books. So, this is where I’m going to focus my “bust my TBR” energy in 2020. I’ll do a post soon on which series I am considering completing for this goal.
  3. Read all purchased books within six months of purchase. — I’m changing my focus from trying to control the number of books on my Kindle (impossible) to reading what I buy instead of hoarding books. So, every time I buy a book (starting with my 2019 purchases), it goes on a list in my Google sheet (and I make a note of it in my bullet journal). I decided on six months as a time horizon because if I’m going to wait that long to read a book, I may as well have just reserved it from the library.
  4. Read at least one owned book for every book I purchase. — I’m probably going to regret this goal because it’s going to be really hard to track. I made space for a list in my 2020 Reading spread in my bullet journal, but I think I’m going to move this to a column in my reading spreadsheet, instead. Anything purchased prior to 2019 counts for this goal, because if I bought it in 2019 it should already be covered by goal #3.
  5. Read more books by marginalized authors (measured by % of total books read). — This is always a goal for me, but this year I’m quantifying it. In the past I’ve relied on reading challenges as a crutch to help with this, but even with nearly completing the 2019 Read Harder challenge, my stats for % of books read by marginalized authors were down last year. This year, I’m just going to focus on the numbers instead. My targets are as follows:
    • At least 33% books by “non-white” authors with a stretch goal of 50%.
    • At least 15% books by queer authors with a stretch goal of 33%.
    • At least 10% books by indie authors with a stretch goal of 25%.
    • At least 50% of books written by female-identifying authors.

So let’s talk about tracking. I’m going to make a few subtle changes this year and see if that helps. For starters, I’m not going to use my bullet journal to keep lists of what I read. My BuJo is my planner and my journal all wrapped up into one neat package. It’s not a spreadsheet, so I’m not going to use it like one.

I have this one spread to track new books I want to read, remind me of my reading goals, and list books I’ve purchased so that I can have to reference this info or make notes when I’m not at my computer. In my daily logs, I plan to note when I start or finish a book and maybe journal a bit about what I loved or write down a quote I particularly liked. But that’s it. This way, I can reference my daily logs for start/end dates when I update my spreadsheet.

My Google spreadsheet is going to be how I keep track of what I’ve read, and Goodreads is going to be primarily used to keep track of what I want to read. I’ve already invested a lot of time making Goodreads shelves for books I have on my Kindle, books that are on hold at the library, books I’ve borrowed from the library, and books I own in paperback or hardcover. In the past I’ve tried to keep track of my TBR in my Google sheet as well as on Goodreads, but it always ends in frustration. So, the only TBR I’m going to track in my Google sheet is my list of book purchases with purchase date and (calculated) read by date.

In case you can’t tell, I’m trying to keep things as simple and low maintenance as possible this year. If I thought I could accomplish what I want to accomplish without keeping track of what I read, I might try it. But even though reading fuels me and makes me happy, I’m aware that it’s also food for the creative compost heap in my brain. If I’m not reading, it makes it so much harder for me to write. Similarly, if I’m not reaching for things outside my comfort zone, I’m just consuming empty calories. So, I like to put a little structure around what I’m reading.

Maybe one of these years I’ll do a “no reading goals” reading goal. The idea of that completely freaks me out, so I probably should try it at some point.

Do you make reading goals? If so, are you doing anything new and different this year? Have you mastered the art of tracking what you’re reading and what you want to read? Let me know in the comments. (Really. I’m not kidding. You can talk to me. I read the comments.)

January 2020 Bullet Journal Set-Up

And now a break from the reading summaries, stats, and updates to share my bullet journal spreads for 2020. Unlike most, I don’t bother starting a new notebook at the start of a new year. If I still have pages left in my current notebook, I just keep going.

Before diving into my 2020 spreads, I used almost ten pages planning my 2020 writing schedule and goals which I’m not showing here. In general, I laid out a future log for the entire year, four months to a page, divided horizontally so I had space for mini calendars on the left and notes on the right in each box. Then I used pencil (not normal for me) to start putting in rough plans for what writing project(s) I wanted to be working on each month.

In addition to that, I came up with two major writing goals for the year. One is a revenue goal and the other is to “build my backlist.” After that, I made sure my Q1 goals and projects tied to my 2020, and that’s it. All that’s left is to set up some sort of Kanban board to track my tasks associated with those project and make sure it all gets done. With that more or less set up, I moved on to my reading goals for 2020.

I’m keeping it pretty simple with this two page spread. On the left side, I can keep track of new books that I want to put on hold at the library (or add to my wishlist). There’s an 8×8 box for each month, and I’m writing the release date and title in each box for the books I’m excited about. On the right side, I’ve listed my reading goals for the year (which I’m going to talk about more in a separate post). Then I’m using the bottom half of the page as a tracker for the books I’ve purchased to make sure I’m buying and reading books rather than buying and hoarding them.

Next up is my month at a glance. I like the traditional line-a-day view for this. I’m putting my regular life events on the left side and my writing business stuff on the right side. I also have a little habit tracker on the left side for the four habits I’m tracking in January (vitamin, meditation, cardio, and stretching).

The right hand side also has a mini habit tracker because I have a goal of writing 1000 words every day in January. They can be in any of the three Modern Fae projects I’m currently working on, but blog posts and outlining and brainstorming don’t count. It has to be part of a story scene, even if I eventually end up cutting it from the finished product. Ultimately, I want to see if I can keep this up all year, but I’m going to take it one month at a time so I don’t get overwhelmed by my ambition.

On the next page, I have a big blank page for capturing what I read that month and any favorites from my “culture consumed” (like podcasts, music, movies, tv shows, etc.). I’m not sure exactly what this will end up looking like, but I’m intending to try to make it a bit of a collage. I’m thinking of printing out mini book covers to paste in, or maybe doodling the covers of the books I’ve read. I’ll probably add ticket stubs from movies, if I go to any. I’m leaving plenty of space to be creative and have a bit of fun.

I’m also trying something new this month. I’ve never done a mood tracker before. I thought it might be helpful to be able to visually compare my mood to my movement, so I came up with the idea for this chart.

The days of the month are across the bottom. Number of steps are on the vertical axis alongside a very basic mood scale from “no good very bad day” to “everything is awesome” with “meh” in the middle. I’m using some symbols to track what kind of movement I’m doing for my daily cardio (for me this means at least 30 minutes of continuous movement). I’m really curious to see how this turns out.

One of the reasons I wanted to try a mood tracker this month is because I’m not great at being mindful about how I’m feeling. I’m hoping this will force me to stop and think about it at least once a day. I suspect I’ll feel better on days I move more, but who knows. Maybe I won’t. It will be interesting to find out.

The final new thing I’m trying this month is this reference page just before I start my daily pages where I can do some meal planning and write down admin tasks that need to get done but that I don’t want to add to my daily log for whatever reason.

I have these little post it flags that happen to be almost exactly 3×10 squares. So, I made a week and then started writing some of our regular meals on the flags. This way I can move them around and re-use them throughout the month. The lime colored ones will be crockpot recipes and the blue ones will be for everything else. That way if I know I need a crockpot recipe on a certain day (because I won’t be home until late, for example), I can see at a glance that I’ve got myself covered. I’m hoping this will also help me stay on top of groceries for the week.

And that’s it. That’s my set up for January. I don’t like using weekly spreads. I keep trying them and then hating them for a variety of reasons. I like the flexibility and the focus of daily logs. So, that’s what I’m sticking with for January. I definitely lean more towards the traditional bullet journal method rather than the “instagram friendly” bullet journaling that gets featured a lot on YouTube and elsewhere. But, if you like this sort of thing, let me know in the comments, and maybe I’ll do more posts like this.