May Reading Wrap-up and Birthday Book Haul

May was not a great reading month for me, but I did get a lot of awesome new books for my birthday! Read on to find out more…

Sad little monthly spread for May.

The first book I read in May was The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein. This is another novel in her Code Name Verity world, but it features different characters. I really liked Code Name Verity but never got around to reading any of her other books. So when my book club buddies suggested that we read this, I read the blurb and agreed. Turns out that it was good, but I didn’t love it. The pilot scenes and the scenes between Louisa and the old German lady she’s in charge of caring for were some of my favorites. The rest required a bit too much suspension of disbelief for me.

I also read Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui. I started on the first of the month, and it took me almost the next thirty days to finish it, which is a little embarrassing because the book is only 277 pages long. And I love swimming! I really enjoyed all the information about why swimming is awesome. Some of it I knew before, but there was a lot of new stuff as well. I definitely recommend this for folks who love swimming or who are curious about the benefits of open water swimming (especially in cold water). It motivated me to get into our local lake a lot sooner than I might otherwise have. The author did a lot of research for this and sites a lot of science, so it’s not just a series of essays with a some personal anecdotes thrown in.

Birthday book haul!

Here are the books I received (thanks, Mom!) and/or purchased for myself for my birthday:

  • Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa — I met Suyi at Futurescapes a couple of years ago. We were in a critique group together, and I got to read the first chapter of this book and totally wanted to read more. When I found out that it was getting published, I was so excited! I can’t wait to read the rest of the story.
  • Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton — The blurb for this book gives me big “Brienne of Tarth” vibes, and I already know that I love Tessa’s writing and world-building. This is going to be epic.
  • The Dreamblood Duology by N. K. Jemisin — I have been wanting to read this since I finished the Broken Earth trilogy, and now I can! Hooray!
  • Drowned Country by Emily Tesh — I really enjoyed Silver in the Wood. (Seriously, if you haven’t read it and you like magical woods fantasy stories, go get your hands on a copy.) This is the second book in that duology. I am really looking forward to seeing what’s next for Henry and Tobias.
  • How to Find a Princess by Alyssa Cole — If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you already know that Alyssa Cole is pretty much an auto-buy for me. After getting a glimpse at one of the heroines of this book in the first book in How to Catch a Queen, I knew I had to read her story. Beznaria just leapt off the page and into my heart. I needed to read her love story.
  • The Checklist by Addie Woolridge — Addie is funny and smart, and I am just so excited to read her first published book! This rom com is already starting to get all the summer book buzz, so you better grab a copy and check it out for yourself.

What do you think? See anything in my book haul that is also at the top of your TBR? Let me know in the comments.

Next, it’s time to set up my reading journal for June…

April Reading Wrap-Up and May Reading Plans

April was an unexpectedly busy month. I was supposed to be focused on editing the Modern Fae novella that I’m publishing in June, but all I wanted to do was read. My creative brain was hungry, and it devoured seven books this month! Yikes!

Seven books!

Here’s what I read in April:

  • Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells — Murderbot helps solve a murder mystery? What could possibly be better than that? I love Murderbot, and this novella did not disappoint.
  • Hollywood Ending by Kellye Garrett — The murder mystery part of the Murderbot novella had me wanting to read more cozy mysteries. This book definitely scratched that itch. I really like this series, and I really need to know when / how to get my hands on the third book!
  • More Than Maybe by Erin Hahn — I’ve been trying to get to this one for a while, and I’m so glad I finally did. It’s such a cute YA contemporary romance. If you were/are someone who attempts to communicate your feelings to your crushes via music (other people’s or your own), you are going to really like this book. I was/am one of those people and did/do love this book.
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo — I read Six of Crows (and liked it a lot), but I never read this series. So I figured that I better at least read the first book before watching the Netflix show. It has all the elements of a 2000s YA fantasy. Feisty heroine who discovers she has special powers, love triangle that pits sweet boy from her youth with dark and brooding mysterious hot guy, plus a training montage. There is a point in my life when I would have eaten this up with a spoon. That point is not now, and that’s too bad because I liked it, I just don’t really feel the need to read the rest of the series. I’ll just watch the show.
  • Dragon Called by by Kara Lockharte and Cassie Alexander — This was a fun, fast paranormal “romance.” I am putting romance in quotes because I feel compelled to warn you that the two main characters do not reach an HEA or even an HFN by the end of this book. I’ll admit, I was more than a little disappointed when I got to the end. But it has some great action and some steamy scenes. So, if you’re into alpha dragon shifters, you should definitely check this one out. Just grab the whole series when you do.
  • Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold — This is my first Bujold read. It’s a super cute and warm-hearted novella set in the usual secondary medievalesque fantasy world. However, what’s interesting and unusual about this is the demon possession. I’m not going to spoil it, but it’s charming, creative, and well crafted. There’s a little bit of plot that’s somewhat predictable and resolved quickly, but it’s a novella, and it’s mostly about Penric. And his demon. And it’s a heartwarming read.
  • David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa — This book is different in such a refreshing way. The main character directly interrogates his role as the “chosen one” and the idiocentric behavior of the gods he’s dealing with in a way that is usually glossed over or shrugged off in other novels. I loved it. The world-building and the action were also really, really good. I am looking forward to my pre-order of Son of the Storm (new series, different characters) landing on my Kindle next week!

Since April is over, I’ve updated my 2021 “What I Read” bookshelf overview. Remember, this bookshelf overview is color coded by genre. The small heart on the spine indicate books that would be also categorized as romance (has an HEA or HFN).

So much purple (fantasy)…

And since we’re already a few days into May, I might as well show you what my month overview for May looks like. Don’t be fooled. Those flowers are bleed through from the “April Outbox” page. I haven’t bothered to decorate my May spread (yet). I also haven’t made a TBR. Again.

It’s not that I’m not excited about May. My birthday is in May. I am getting my second COVID vaccine shot in a few days. I will be able to hug vaccinated friends and family before the end of this month! I love May. It’s just that I can feel myself losing steam on this whole reading journal thing…

As you can see in the photo below, I’m still trying to catch up on writing down my thoughts on several of the books I read in April. I’ve written more in this blog post about these two books than I have in my actual reading journal.

I’m still finding the exercise to be valuable. I just don’t seem to be finding much time to actually sit down and DO IT. So, I need to think about this a bit and figure out if there’s something I can change to make this more interesting or at the very least, to make me more compelled to actually write down my thoughts while I’m reading or within a day after I’m done reading. If I don’t do that, I forget all the stuff I wanted to write down (like the execution of tropes that I particularly liked or didn’t like, world-building details that I thought were particularly good or that frustrated me, etc.).

Take, for example, the “but Kazi…” reminder I have up there under the More Than Maybe entry. I remembered to scribble that down real fast one day while I was reading as a reminder to complete my thought later. It’s a good thing I did, because I wouldn’t have remembered that character’s name if I hadn’t written it down. I do remember what I was going to say about him because it chafed me while I was reading, but I almost never remember side characters’ names, let alone main character names, once I’m a few weeks out from finishing a book.

Maybe the answer is to find a way to keep my reading journal (and a pen) WITH my Kindle so that it’s there and ready to go when I have a thought and want to make a note.

If you have ideas or suggestions to keep me engaged with this reading journal exercise, let me know in the comments. Or, if you’re similarly finding yourself losing interest in your reading tracking system, let me know if you’ve decided to stick with it, or how you’re changing your approach.

March Reading Wrap-up and Q1 Goal Check-in

I read four books in March. Two were tomes (> 500 pages), but only one of those was actually during Tome Topple. I read a super hyped new release. I finished reading a writing craft book that I have been reading on and off since January, and I did a whole lot of critique / beta reading for fellow writers. Not bad for one month.

Here’s what I read (that I can tell you about) in March:

  • Story Genius by Lisa Cron — I have been recommending this book to all my writer friends. It’s exactly the craft book I needed in my life right now. I read it on Kindle, but I think I need to get a paperback copy for easier reference. If you’re a writer who wants practical advice on how to really connect your plot to your character, get your hands on this book.
  • Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore — I was expecting to love this long awaited addition to the Graceling series, and I did. No surprise. This book is full of whimsical world-building which is a bit of a departure from the other books in the series. That my turn some folks off, but I enjoyed it. As an example, my favorite character in this book might have been the telepathic fox, who is one of the main POV characters.
  • Lore by Alexandra Bracken — This one was all over BookTube because it was in pretty much all the book subscription boxes in January, I think. Also, I think that the author writes other books that are very popular, even though I hadn’t heard of her before. This is the first book I’ve read by her. I was really impressed with the pacing. It’s definitely a page turner. Lots of action. That’s good because you don’t want to stop too long to look at the plot. Or dig too deep on the characters. I enjoyed it, but now I’m sending it to some young reader friends because that is who this is meant for, and I think they might really love it.
  • Master of One by by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett — Why isn’t all of BookTube talking about this book? Seriously. I wasn’t sure what to expect going in except for what it says on the cover. A heist story with fae and sorcerers. Turns out this is sort of like Six of Crows crossed with Throne of Glass, but gay. Is that over-selling it? I don’t know. There’s a slow burn grumpy/sunshine romance arc between a master thief from the city slums and the beautiful fae prince he wakes from a long magical sleep. There are magical creatures created by the fae who are telepathically bonded with their humans. There’s an evil sorcerer and an evil queen. And… it’s great. If any of this sounds good to you, please go read this book. I want more in this world and publishing will only give it to me if you all go read this one.

See what I mean? Not a bad reading month. Right?

Since March is also the end of the first quarter of the year, it’s time to check in on my reading stats and see how I’m doing vs. the goals I set for myself at the start of this year.

Goal #1 was to read a total of 52 books this year. So far I have read 13 books, which is exactly 25% of my goal. Looks like I nailed this one.

Goal #2 was all about author demographics. I wanted to read 12 books by Black authors, 12 books by other authors of color, and 12 books by queer authors this year. To be on track for this one I need to have read at least 3 of each. So far I’ve read 5 books by Black authors, but only 1 book by a non-Black author of color. And I’ve read 7 books by queer authors (or that featured queer main characters). NOTE: This is all calculated with the usual caveat that this is based on how the author identifies online, if that information is available.

Overall, not bad, but I need to step it up my reading of books by non-Black authors of color.

Oh! And I started drawing in (and color-coding) the books on my “Books Read in 2021” spread. So far it’s mostly sci-fi and fantasy with a couple of contemporaries and one mystery novel in there. The hearts on the spines are for books that are also romances. I’ve decided to do two months at a time so that I can get the books spaced properly on the shelves. That means I’m going to wait until April is over before I draw in the books I read in March.

Isn’t this all so delightfully overcomplicating my reading hobby? Yes. Yes, it is.

Is it worth it? Hmmm. I don’t know? Maybe? It’s mostly still fun. I’m not hating it, yet. I do like having a (relatively) private place to gather my thoughts about what I’m reading before sharing them with the rest of the world.

I’ve been thinking about whether or not I want to make any changes to my journal. So far the answer is no, but we’ll see. As I think I said in my post about setting up April, I am losing some of the spontaneity in my reading. That’s not entirely a bad thing, but I’m feeling like rebelling against it at the moment. I’m also currently in a bit of a slump, so that may have something to do with why I’m questioning all my reading life choices this week.

Don’t worry, though. I think I may have found the cure for my slump on my Kindle, and I plan to go test that theory as soon as I’m done with this post.

Are you using a reading journal to track your reading? How’s it going? Are you still enjoying it? What would you change about your process, if anything?

February reading wrap-up

The shortest month of the year is over. I wish I had something more interesting to say about the past month, but…meh. We’ve been living with this pandemic and staying at home for a year now. I’m getting a little sick of it, and I’m not going to qualify for a vaccine anytime soon. So, I mostly have more staying at home to look forward to. At least I have good books to read and plenty of ideas for stories I want to write.

I may have gone a bit overboard with the hearts…

Here’s what I read in February:

  • Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots — I expected to like this book, and I did! I love a data geek heroine and a fresh take on the superhero trope. If you’ve ever thought that maybe superheroes were more trouble than they’re worth, you should definitely check out this book
  • Fumbled by Alexa Martin — I didn’t feel like watching the Super Bowl, so I picked up this NFL romance novel instead. I read the first book in the series (Intercepted) last year and really enjoyed it. I think I liked this one even more. It’s a second chance romance featuring a pretty awesome single mom. Her son’s dad is her high school ex-boyfriend who now plays for the NFL. I love how he is 100% into her from the start (and his son, too, once he finds out the kid exists). I read the whole thing in almost one sitting.
  • How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole — Another data geek heroine! Two in one month! What luck! I love Shanti, but her man was just okay. It takes him a long time to pull his head out of his butt. Possibly a bit too long. But, I devoured this in a couple of days, so I think that means I liked it.
  • The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow — I read this one for the Tade Thompson prompt in the Blackathon readathon. Once again I really liked the heroine, but wasn’t a big fan of the hero. This time it wasn’t because he kept messing up. Morris (or M0Rr1S) is an alien, but one of the good ones. He’s 100% into the heroine from the start of the story. The fact that he’s so into her is kind of why there is a story in the first place. And it’s a fun story. There’s a road trip across a post-alien invasion (read: dystopian) United States. Both characters are completely crazy for music and books. Teenage me would have really liked this book. Adult me was kind of annoyed by how gushy Morris is about his insta-love. And I didn’t like the aliens’ “leetspeak” names. But that’s just me being old.
  • The Lesson by Cadwell Turnbull — This was the SFF group read for the Blackathon readathon. This is a sort of “first contact” story that is set in the Virgin Islands. I had never heard of the book before, and I probably wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for this readathon. I’m really glad I read it, though. The alien civilization is unique. The struggle with aliens living among humans on a populated island where everyone pretty much already knows everyone else is definitely believable. I definitely recommend checking this out. Especially if you like first contact stories, or if you’re a sci-fi fan who lives or has lived in the Virgin Islands. I’ve never been there, but the setting is definitely an important aspect of the story, and it made me want to go visit. You know, when we can travel again. Sigh.

I also started reading David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa, but didn’t have enough time to finish it before the end of this very short month. It’s set in Lagos, Nigeria (where the author is from), and I am really enjoying it so far. More on that in next month’s recap, after I finish reading it. 🙂

That’s it for February. Have you read any of these books? Did you like them? Are there any you’d recommend to me based on what I read and liked? Let me know in the comments.

Oh, and the next round of Tome Topple was just announced. It’s starting on the 15th of March, so there may have to be some adjustments to my March TBR. Stay tuned for more on that, coming soon…

March Reading Journal Set-up and TBR

The reading journal experiment continues! This month I couldn’t find anything I wanted to use to decorate my cover page. I was going to go with a shamrock and/or rainbow and pot of gold theme in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, but my rainbow turned into a shooting star after I remembered that I had this Pacific green stars and moon washi tape in my stash. I decided to go with a green and purple star-studded theme instead. Here’s how it turned out…

My niblings could probably draw a better shooting star than that, but whatever.

As usual, I featured the covers of the books that are currently at the top of my TBR pile on my March cover page. As with the past two months, I may or may not end up reading all of these books this month. These are the ones that I am most inclined to pick up next.

  • Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore — Given how much I loved the first three books in the Graceling Realm series, I think it’s probably not surprising that this one is at the top of my TBR. Luckily, it’s also my little book club’s selection for this month. So I get to read it and then talk about it with friends.
  • Spaceside by Michael Mammay — I’ve been trying to get to this book for months but other things keep getting stacked on top of it for one reason or another. But I have the third (and last?) book in this series, now. So no excuses. This is happening. I really want to read this book this month.
  • More Than Maybe by Erin Hahn — This is another one that I’ve had for a while and really want to read, but haven’t been able to prioritize. If it’s anything like her first book, I will probably devour it in a couple of days then kick myself for waiting so long to read it.
  • Lore by Alexandra Bracken — I got this in last month’s Fairy Loot subscription box. I’ve read a few reviews, and I think I’m probably not going to enjoy this book. However, I want to give it a try so I can send it on its way quickly if I’m not into it. This is my vote for “most likely to DNF” of the bunch…
  • Master of One by by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett — This is another book I received in my Fairy Loot box. However, I am intrigued by the description on this one and looking forward to reading it. Then again, I haven’t read any reviews of this one, or seen anyone talking about it online, so who knows.
  • These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong — This is another Fairy Loot special edition hardcover. I have seen a lot of people talking about this book, but haven’t heard anything from anyone who has actually read it, yet. I listened to an interview with the author on a podcast, recently, and the book sounds interesting. So, I’ve bumped this one up on my TBR.

I should have my “what I read in February” post up very soon. In the meantime, tell me in the comments if you have read any of these and what you thought. I’ll probably start with Winterkeep, but let me know which one you think I should read first.

Setting up for February in my Reading Journal

Well the reading journal is still alive and kicking at the end of January. So I made my cover page for February and pasted in my TBR for this month.

It’s very colorful.

The books I’m planning to read this month are:

  • Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots — This is our “Camp Book Club” pick for this month because we all liked the premise which is supposed to be a different take on the standard superhero story.
  • The Lesson by Cadwell Turnbull — This is the group read for the sci-fi and fantasy section of the Blackathon readathon organized by Bowties & Books.
  • The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow — I’m also reading this one for Blackathon. This one is for the Tade Thompson prompt.
  • David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa — I’m not entirely sure if this one works for the Rita Woods prompt in Blackathon, but it’s also on my 21 for 2021 list, and I really want to read it.
  • The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera — I am not sure if there’s going to be another round of Tome Topple this month or not, but if there is, I’m planning on starting with this book, which is also on my 21 for 2021 list.
I still need to pick a book for the Octavia Butler prompt…

What’s on your TBR for February? Are you participating in Blackathon or any other readathons this month?

Starting a Reading Journal for 2021

A little while back I asked for advice on what I should do to streamline my reading tracking for 2021. After posting that, I spent some time thinking about why I track reading metrics, and what metrics, if any, were most important to me. My hope was that, if I could reduce the amount of data I want to keep track of, maybe I could eliminate the spreadsheet, at least.

Then, because I knew that journaling about what I was reading was important to me and something I definitely wanted to add, I watched a bunch of YouTube videos where folks showed off how they set up their reading journals. Turns out that there are a LOT of really inspiring reading journals out there.

Many of these reading journals have extensive artistic collage layouts with lots of washi and stickers, and most include some sort of tracker for “days read.” I’m not sure how artsy I’m going to get with my reading journal, but I did decide to incorporate a few of the more popular spreads, with my own personal twist, of course.

My plan is to use Goodreads as my book database since I’ve already got all my shelves set up so I know what I own and haven’t read yet and if it’s on my Kindle or on my bookshelf. I also use it to keep track of what books I have on hold at the library, and what’s on my TBR. Plus, it’s easy to sort things by number of pages or title or author or whatever. But… I don’t review stuff there.

That’s where the reading journal is going to come in.

Step one: I took a plain (not dotted) Leuchtturm that I had in my stash of blank notebooks, and started covering it with bookish stickers.

Next I took my list of ideas from the YouTube videos I watched and started laying them out in pencil. Once I was happy with what I had, I started inking things in and adding color.

I started with a title page that also serves as a key for my “year in review” bookshelf on the next pages.

I divided the two pages into three “shelves.” My plan is to draw books on these shelves in clumps that correspond to the months of the year, starting in the upper left where you can see that I wrote “January” on the black strip that serves as the top of the shelf. If you look closely, you can see that I’ve penciled in some books on the shelf as placeholders.

Once January is over, I’ll go draw in the appropriate number of book spines in some combination of horizontal and vertical, leaving space for February on the same half of the page. Depending on how many books I read in January, I may just hold off on drawing these in until after February. I’ll add the titles to the spines and then color them in according to genre, adding a little red heart on the spine if the book is also a romance.

Once that was set up, I spent some time drawing a grid to track my reading stats, and making a page for my 2021 reading goals.

My plan is to capture my reading stats each month and then enter the data here. In general, I decided that I wanted to track the following things:

  • Total books read (goal is at least 52, or one per week on average)
  • How many books I read that were published in 2021
  • How many Indie published books I read
  • How many books I read in each format (audio, ebook, and paper)
  • How many books I read that I own vs. that are from the library
  • How many books I read that are written by Black authors and/or other non-white (goal is 12 by Black authors and 12 by other non-white authors)
  • How many books I read with LGBTQ+ main character(s) and/or written by an LGBTQ+ author (goal is 12 books) — Note: I decided not to just make this about the author demographics because, while I strive to prioritize Own Voices books, an author’s sexuality is none of my business.
  • And finally… how many books I read that are YA vs. Adult

I know, it’s still a lot to keep track of and maybe in 2022 I’ll decide to streamline it more. I tried to only keep the metrics I wanted to set goals for, but a couple more (like YA vs. Adult and Indie pub books) snuck in there. I couldn’t help it. I like data.

Underneath my very short list of goals, I added a “21 in 2021” book cover collage. These are the books that I’ve been meaning to get to for way too long. They either get buried on my Kindle, or I’ve walked past them on my bookshelf so many times that I’ve forgotten they’re there. I tried to pick only the ones that I am most excited to read and not focus on stuff that I feel guilty for not reading.

You may also notice that there are only twenty covers pasted in right now. I’m still debating on what book gets that final slot. It somewhat depends on what book(s) I manage to finish before the end of 2020. If you have a book you want to make a strong case for, let me know in the comments.

Finally, I added one more spread for the year before diving into my monthly pages.

I couldn’t resist adding the 2021 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge tasks. I am not going to be actively participating in that challenge this year, but I wanted to add the prompts just for fun. If I do happen to read a book or two that check any of those boxes, I’m planning to write in the page number that corresponds to my notes on that book.

I left the opposite page blank to be filled in with books that I buy in 2021. I’m not sure if I’ll do another cover collage or if I’ll just make a list of titles and authors. I may start off by writing a list in pencil and then going back and adding covers in batches, once I have enough that it makes sense to print them out.

After that, I started a spread for January.

This one is still in-progress. I got a little crafty and used bits of a cute wrapping paper to dress it up a bit. I’m still working on my TBR. Again, it kind of depends on what book(s) I manage to finish before the New Year. I’m thinking of this like a bullet journal, but for reading. So that would make this my month cover page and goals page.

The two pages after this will include a list of what I read in January, plus my January book stats (kind of like a “month at a glance” spread if this were a bullet journal). That will be followed by entries for each book I read with at least a page of notes (and favorite quotes, etc.) from each (sort of like “daily pages” in a bullet journal).

Is this a lot more work than keeping track of my reading in a spreadsheet? Maybe…. But it’s also more fun. Plus, I am attempting to move to using a “regular planner” in 2021, so this will fill the bullet journalling hole in my life.

What do you think? Do you keep a reading journal? If you do, is it artsy? Or do you keep it pretty minimalist? Let me know if you have any suggestions or ideas for me in the comments.

Happy reading!