As promised, it’s time for a mid-January reading update!
I’ve made some progress on the books I mentioned in my last post, and I’ve even managed to finish a few! Here’s the inbox / outbox update…
Since my last post, I finished reading:
The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal — I enjoyed this, but didn’t love it. It’s been positioned as “The Thin Man in space.” I’d never seen that old movie, or read the book the movie was based on, so I waited to watch the movie until after I read this reimagining of the story. Now that I’ve read this book and seen the movie, I think I’m a little disappointed that the detective couple in The Spare Man isn’t quite as charming and charismatic as the detective couple in the movie. Without the movie, I wouldn’t have known what I was missing, but if you’re familiar with the movie, I guess that’s just something to be aware of going in. You’re not really getting Nick and Nora. Then again, maybe The Spare Man is meant to be riffing off the original source material (the book by Dashiell Hammett)? I’m really curious to hear more about this when the Writing Excuses podcast does their deep dive on this book in February.
Finding Me by Viola Davis — This audiobook was riveting! If you like Viola Davis’s work (and seriously, who doesn’t?), I highly recommend checking this out. I also recommend it to anyone pursuing any sort of artistic endeavor. It’s so good. And, if you like audiobooks, definitely listen to this one because she reads it herself.
I picked this because it’s short, and I’d heard a lot of glowing reviews for this book. Plus, it is technically the first book in a new series, so I can use it for the January prompt in the Choose Your Own Adventure: Year in Aeldia Magical Readathon 2023 Challenge. And yes, I started a Magical Readathon spread in my Passion Planner. More on that when I do my February set-up post. 🙂
Until then, happy reading! Talk with you more soon.
What are you reading? Should be a simple question, right?
You know that moment when you realize that you’ve bitten off way more than you can chew? I think I’m having whatever the reading equivalent of that is right now.
I started reading six books at the start of the year. Not all at the same time. It just sort of happened over the course of about a week. I think I was up to about four in progress before I managed to finish one of them (the only novel). But then I immediately started another one (also a novel) and then a couple more.
So at the moment, I’m reading six books.
What are they?
The Fantasy Fiction Formula — Okay, this writing craft book is kind of a cheat because I actually started reading it in 2022, but I put it down during the last couple months of the year with only a few chapters left to read. I picked it up again in January, determined to finish it. But, I read non-fiction slowly, and I read craft books especially slowly, because I either get annoyed by them and set them aside, or all my highlighting and note taking slows me down. This one started with the latter problem. It gave me a ton to chew on, which is why I set it aside. But the final third is more of a review, so it’s taking a little longer to get through.
The Anatomy of Genres — As long as we’re on the topic of craft books, I purchased this beast in December, really excited to read it, but put off starting it until the New Year. I dove in on day one, and it is definitely blowing my mind, but I think it’s possibly going to take all of 2023 for me to get through it because it is DENSE. There’s a lot to think about here, and I’m taking a lot of notes.
Italian Folk Magic — I picked this up because I write fantasy, and I was curious about what sort of magical traditions might come from my own ancestors. I think a lot of this tradition in my family got lost a couple of generations back when everyone was trying to assimilate to acceptable white middle class culture in the US. My grandparents all died when I was really young (one long before I was even born), and I grew up far from our extended family, so I feel really disconnected from this sort of thing. I think I may need to buy a copy for my mom so we can discuss.
The Spare Man — This is the novel I started after finishing the only book I’ve finished reading so far this month. I bumped it to the top of my TBR because Writing Excuses (podcast) is going to do a deep dive case study on this novel with the author in February, and I wanted to be able to follow along.
Finding Me — Memoir is one of those genres that I always forget that I enjoy. When I was going over my stats, I remembered to go check what’s new in memoir (since it doesn’t usually organically pop up in places where I look for books to read). I started with the Goodreads Choice nominees and saw that a friend of mine HIGHLY recommended this memoir, so I picked it up. The audiobook is fantastic.
Spare — Of course this came up in my search for what’s new in memoir. At least half of my author friend group is reading it right now (we are all team Harry and Meghan). So, I decided to request it from my library on audiobook. I was shocked that I got it almost immediately after release. Now I’m alternating between this and Finding Me while doing stuff around the house.
Those of you who are paying close attention might realize that none of these are Fairy Loot special edition hardcovers. I thought I was going to read Babel this month. I read the first 10ish pages at the very start of the month, and I was excited about continuing. Then I lost track of it and didn’t pick it up again. Now I don’t think there’s any way I’ll finish it before the end of the month. So… I think I may pick up one that I suspect (based on others’ reviews) will be a fast read. Then I can get a quick win. Let’s hope by this time next week, I’ve finished some of these and at least started a Fairy Loot book.
I’ll check back in at the end of the weekend and let you know how it’s going. In the meantime, I’m curious, how many books are you currently reading?
In my last post I said I was getting rid of my reading journal, and I am. But that’s only because I’m moving the reading journal stuff to a new home. See, I’ve nearly filled up the notebook. It’s getting super chonky, and I don’t think there are enough pages left to last me through 2023.
So, I had to decide. New notebook? Or something different?
I opted for something different, because I wasn’t really using that journal for more than a fun monthly art project. I haven’t been writing deep thoughts about the books I’m reading like I’d planned to do. While having a dedicated notebook just so I can do monthly reading spreads is a totally valid choice, I also wanted to consolidate the number of journals I’m using at any given point in time.
My solution? Do the same thing I’ve been doing, but do it in the blank pages at the end of the Passion Planner I bought to use as my 2023 writing and publishing planner.
Now I have two journals instead of three.
I’m still using a bullet journal (A5 Dotted Leuchtturm 1917) to do all the usual bullet journaling things (Ryder Carroll style). But, I realized in 2021 that trying to use “collections” to track my writing and publishing projects just wasn’t working. So I spun all that off into a dedicated project planner at the start of last year. Unfortunately, the notebook I picked (monthly overviews with a bunch of blank pages at the end) was a little too unstructured. After much consideration, I decided I need both monthly and weekly spreads for the full year in order to stay on top of my project plans.
Result: the return of the Passion Planner for 2023.
I say “return” because in 2021 I tried abandoning bullet journaling and moving entirely to a Passion Planner. It didn’t work because I need my daily logs, and the Passion Planner weekly doesn’t have a good place to do that. But I don’t need daily logs for my project planning and tracking. I just needed a place to do future planning and a way to break bigger goals into smaller tasks and assign them to specific weeks. And I’m using the days in the weekly layout to track how I’m using my time.
So far, this combo of notebooks is working really well for me. And, since I know I’m going to have it for the full year, I decided it’s also a great place to plan and track my reading.
I made a bookcase where I can draw in and color code the books I read this year.
And I made a cover page with a key for the bookshelf color code. Opposite my cover page is the page I made to track the one goal I have for my reading this year. Can you guess what that goal is?
If you guessed “read or DNF/donate my backlog of Fairy Loot special edition hardcovers,” then you are correct!
As I mentioned in my 2022 wrap-up post, I did a terrible job reading physical books last year, even though I didn’t really travel anywhere, and I don’t have a commute. I seriously have no excuse. Well…except that I hate reading hardcovers in bed. Mostly because I don’t have (or want) a bedside reading lamp.
Since I don’t expect this year to be any different, I’m making some changes. My plan is to add one of these books to my TBR each month. I know there are only nine on that page, but I have ten, total. These are just the nine oldest, so they are the ones that I MUST get through this year. But I don’t necessarily have to finish all of them. DNFing is an option. If I read at least 25% of the book and am not sucked in, I will count that book as “done” and DNF/donate.
If I don’t complete (or DNF/donate) at least one of these each month, then I am going to suspend my subscription for a month. If I miss two months in a row, I’m going to cancel my subscription. I REALLY don’t want to do that because, even though it makes no sense whatsoever, I love special edition hardcovers. And the books that Fairy Loot picks are usually really good ones. So, I think the threat of cancelation is going to be enough to make this plan work.
It may also help that I just purchased a clip-on, rechargeable LED book light that I can use to read in bed. It’s not here yet (ordered online), but I’m hoping that helps as well.
So, is that really my only goal for this year?
I have a stack of writing craft books I want to read for a project I’m working on. Plus I still want to read more books about social justice issues so I can expand my knowledge and awareness (target = 4 total). I’ve already identified several and added them to my TBR, but I’m on the lookout for a few more options in very specific areas.
I also want to continue to read books by diverse authors and with diverse main characters and from diverse publishing paths. I have some targets in mind that I’d like to hit, but I’ve been doing pretty well on that stuff organically. So I’m not going to focus on stats for those until mid-year. If I check in July, and I don’t like the look of my stats, then I may have to focus on that a bit more.
But the current priority is determining if there’s a place for special edition hardcovers in my life or not. So that’s my primary reading goal for 2023. Read in print. Specifically, the books I’ve already purchased.
I’m curious, do you also have a backlog of hardcovers from subscription boxes that you haven’t read but want to? Do you track how much you read in print vs. e-reader vs. audiobook? Does it matter to you? Are you trying to change any reading habits this year? Let me know in the comments.
Okay. That’s it. Data tables and spreadsheets have been officially banned from my reading life in 2022.
Then, later that month, I posted my 2022 goals and said I’d decided to go back to using a spreadsheet. So that “resolution” lasted almost three weeks. Because seriously? Who was I kidding?
Of course I went back to tracking my reading in a spreadsheet! I’ve been tracking my reading stats since 2017. You can pry my spreadsheets from my cold dead hands. I’m a data geek for better or worse. What can I say?
Upside? Hey! I have some reading stats to share! Woo hoo!
I read 66 books in 2022 with no DNFs (though I did have a few books I started and then put aside to come back to at a different time). In total, I read 20,525 pages, which averages out to about 311 pages per book.
The fiction to non-fiction split was almost exactly the same as it is every year: 83% fiction and 17% non-fiction.
92% of the books I read were on my Kindle. That’s the largest percent of digital reads since I started tracking stats. By far. Print books made up only 5% of my reading (despite my love of special edition hardcovers) and audiobooks accounted for only 3%.
Coincidentally, 92% of the books I read were categorized as adult. This stat was also a big surprise to me. For what it’s worth, I may keep a spreadsheet of the books I read, but I don’t monitor my reading stats throughout the year. That stuff is all on a separate tab, and I mostly ignore it until it comes time to do a year-end wrap-up like this.
Anyway… In 2021 the split between adult and YA books was 76% / 24%. So this is a big change, year over year. This is by far the largest percent of adult books read since I started tracking stats. I can’t say I really missed the YA books this year… BUT… I do have a stack of Fairy Loot hardcovers I want to either get through or officially DNF this year. More on that when I get to my post on goals, though.
38% of the books I read in 2022 were romances (this includes all subgenres of romance). That’s just a bit more than 2021 at 34%. but 2021 was almost double what it had been in previous years, so romances continue to trend upward as a percent of total books read for me.
Here’s how my reading breaks down by genre:
Fantasy — 28 books (42%)
Sci-Fi — 14 books (21%)
Contemporary — 7 books (11%)
Mystery — 2 books (3%)
Self help / writing / business — 8 books (12%)
General non-fiction — 2 books (3%)
Memoir — 1 books (2%)
Historical — 4 books (6%)
As for my 2022 reading goals, here’s how I did:
Read at least 52 books — Done. I read 66.
Read at least 12 books by Black authors — Done. I read 12. (but in 2021 I read 13, so…)
Read at least 12 books by other authors of color — Not quite… I read 8. (same as in 2021)
Read at least 12 books with LGBTQ+ representation (main character) — Done. I read 16. (increased from the 13 I read in 2021)
Read at least 5 indie published books — Done. I read 17! And they weren’t all by the same author!
Read at least 6 non-fiction books about anti-racism and/or social justice — Nope. I read 2. Better than zero, but not great.
Read or donate at least 3 of my unread physical TBR — Hahahahaha. No. I only read 2 books in print and both were brand new books purchased in 2022. Sigh.
So, there you go. Overall, not a bad reading year. A couple of misses, but I read a lot of books I loved. I achieved most of my goals. And my spreadsheet is back.
That said… I am planning on making a few changes in 2023. Including, ditching my reading journal.
I know. Sorry. More on that in my upcoming 2023 goals post! Until then, happy reading!
We’re a few days into the new year, and it’s time to talk about which of the books I read in 2022 were my favorites. In my last post, I narrowed my list down to twelve. After much consideration and one late addition, I’ve narrowed that list down to my top five.
Here are my top five reads of 2022:
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn — This one took me a bit by surprise, but I really love this modern twist on the Arthurian legend. I just got Bloodmarked on my Kindle, and I am very excited to continue with this series.
Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa — I was expecting to like this one because I know the author, and I got to read an early version of the first chapter in a workshop we were in together. But this really blew me away. Seriously, adult epic fantasy at its best. I am SO excited to get Warrior of the Wind when it comes out next year.
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan — I hadn’t even heard of this until I pulled the list of Hugo nominees for that reading project I did in the first half of 2022. I don’t think I ever did a follow-up post on that, but this was my favorite of all the novels I read.
The Misfit Soldier by Michael Mammay — I feel like this is the book I most frequently recommended in 2022. Mammay has become an auto-buy author for me. I love his military sci-fi, and in addition to featuring a really fun and funny main character, this one had the added bonus of having a romantic sub-plot which was really well done. I need more books set in this world with these characters.
Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell — This was the last book I read in 2022, and I LOVED it. I loved it even more than Winter’s Orbit, which made it into my top five books read last year. It features a chaos muppet and an order muppet who are forced to work together (twist on forced proximity trope). This is a main character and trope combo that I forgot is one of my absolute favorites.
I think the common theme with these was that I went into reading them with neutral to high expectations, and they all exceeded those expectations and left me wanting more. So yeah. Good thing there will be more to read from almost all of these authors in 2023! I am ready for it.
It’s the end of the year, and everyone seems to be doing their “best of” and favorites lists. But I’m over here still reading and getting FOMO. So, I looked at the books I’ve read so far this year and narrowed the list down from 60+ books to my top twelve favorites.
I still have a stack of books I plan to read before the end of the year, and a couple of those have “five star” expectations from me. So, I may have to modify this list a bit before I start stack ranking to determine my final “top five favorites” of the books I’ve read in 2022. But, I thought I’d post a preview of my short list in case you have one of these on your TBR and have been waffling about reading it before the end of the year.
The past month has gone by in a flash, and now we’re somehow at the end of 2022. I’m nowhere near ready for this year to be over, but only because I have a lot I want to do before midnight on the 31st. In addition to all my usual end-of-year reflection and goal planning for the New Year, I am also trying to release a new book! The first book in a new series!
I’m keeping the book release pretty low-key because I’m still working on a firm date for when I’ll have the second book in the series ready to release. At the moment, it’s looking like this time next year. But, if the past few months have taught me nothing else, it’s that I’d really like to avoid another end-of-year book release, if at all possible.
But, while working on ebook layout today, thinking about the book I’m currently reading, I realized that I’ve missed blogging. So, here I am writing a whole procrasti-post just to tell you which two books I would be buying for everyone on my holiday shopping list this year, if I were buying books for other people this year. Which I’m not. Mostly because I am way too maxed out at the moment to put my usual loving care into matching one of my favorites from this year’s reading with the particular reading tastes of each family member.
I saved all that energy for picking out books for my niblings. They’re all getting books this year. And since I am fairly certain that they don’t read my blog (yet), it’s probably safe to tell you what I got them.
For my Stranger Things loving niece, I got a signed copy of Lucas On the Line by Suyi Davies. And for her little sister who has been getting interested in programming and video games, I got a signed copy of his Minecraft tie-in novel, Minecraft: the Haven Trials. Mostly, I want to introduce them to Suyi’s writing, because I think he’s great.
For my nephew, who loves sci-fi, slightly inappropriate jokes, and graphic novels, I got the first book in the Schlock Mercenary series, The Tub of Happiness. And his sibling got a paperback box set of the first three novels in Kirstin Cashore’s Graceling series. I can’t even tell you how delighted I am to FINALLY be able to have a nibling who is old enough to maybe be interested in what is possibly my favorite (if not favorite, definitely in the top five) YA fantasy series.
My other niece has a holiday-adjacent birthday, and she has been devouring fantasy novels recently. But she’s (maybe) still a bit young for Graceling. So, I’m gifting her the first novel in three different (lengthy) series so she can try them and see which one(s) she wants to continue with. She’s getting Artemis Fowl, Keeper of the Lost Cities, and The School for Good and Evil.
I really hope there’s something in there that they enjoy.
Now… as for the adults on my list, there are two books that I really want to be gifting this year. As it happens, one is the book I just finished, and the other is the book I am currently reading.
The book I just finished is Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn, who writes excellent mysteries. This one puts the focus on a quartet of retired assassin heroines, all in their sixties and still kicking butt, which I found refreshing and delightful. The way I described it to my newsletter subscribers was basically, if you liked the movie RED, but thought it needed a lot more Helen Mirren, then you should definitely put this book at the top of your TBR!
The book I am currently reading is A Merry Little Meet Cute, and it is (so far) the best holiday romance I’ve either read or watched. Possibly ever. Assuming these authors can stick the landing, and who am I kidding? This is Sierra Simone and Julie Murphy, folks. I have no doubt in their skills. I want to shove this into the hands of all my contemporary romance reading friends. I mean, just read the blurb and then tell me you don’t want to read this book. I dare you.
Okay. Your turn. What book(s) are you gifting this season? Let me know in the comments.
There are a lot of books I could put onto an end of the year TBR. But the truth is, what is time? I mean, I don’t HAVE to finish anything by some arbitrary date on the calendar. It’s not like the books are going to expire or turn into a pumpkin at midnight on New Year’s Eve. So why bother making an end of the year TBR?
These are the thoughts that have been going through my head when I look at the many MANY books on my carefully organized Goodreads shelves and shake my head at myself for adding even MORE books to read. I don’t really need more stress or obligation in my life. I’ve been actively trying to do away with both of those things for the better part of this year. So, again I say, why bother?
Well, the short answer is, I like to plan and organize things.
The longer answer is… *gestures to the rest of this blog post*…
You know how sometimes there are books that you keep saying you want to read but then never get around to actually reading? There are a few of those on my TBR that have been needling me lately because I remember being really excited when I first heard about them. I bought (or was gifted) them and added them to my (virtual) shelf. And then, for some unknown reason, I just kept passing them over for something else.
So, I decided that part one of my end of the year TBR is just going to be reading the first chapter of three of these books and making a decision. Do they stay at the top of my TBR? Or do they get shuffled back into the murky middle with the other hundreds of books I mean to read one day but realistically will probably never get to in this lifetime?
Part three (the final part) is where the guilt kicks in. I’ve been hording Fairy Loot hardcovers. I signed up for their adult fantasy subscription box, and I read the first book I received. Then the next few months (August, September, and October) started to stack up. I’ve decided that if I don’t read at least two of them before the end of the year, then I am going to have to admit that subscription boxes aren’t actually for me and suspend or cancel my subscription. Here are my options:
There are a couple of other books I want to read, but those aren’t ones that I feel any real sense of urgency around. If I don’t get to them until January, it will be fine. There are also a lot of new releases from October and November that I am REALLY excited about. Hopefully, I’ll also get to those before they end up like the first set of books on this list… lost in the TBR shuffle.
This isn’t really that much of a commitment. Three first chapters (with the possibility of more), two holiday books, and two hardcovers. Let’s see how I do, shall we?
Are any of these on your TBR? Let me know in the comments. And if you’ve read any of the above, tell me if you have thoughts or predictions on which I’m going to like and/or which I should prioritize.
It is the second of November, and I should be writing words that actually count towards the 50k I need to write in order to hit my National Novel Writing Month goal, but I’m here, procrastinating, instead. That, plus the fact that I only wrote 1150 words yesterday doesn’t bode well for me “winning” NaNoWriMo this year. But there’s still plenty of time to make up for a slow start.
This week has been kind of a mess for multiple life reasons. Sometimes you just have to do all the adulting stuff. But I did manage to finish seven books in October AND complete my revised draft of Heir of Gods! Plus, my October reading journal spread is possibly my favorite of the year…
Here’s what I read in October:
Boss Witch by Ann Aguirre — This book kicked off my small town witchy romance reading binge. It’s an enemies to lovers trope (witch and witch-hunter), except only one half of the couple is aware of the fact that the other person is an enemy. She (the witch) starts a “no-strings-attached” hook-up with him (the witch-hunter who doesn’t know she’s a witch) in order to distract him from finding her coven and eliminating them. Since the timeline of this book overlaps a good deal with the timeline of the first book in the series, I’d recommend reading both pretty close together. That is NOT what I did, and I kept feeling like I was missing something because I couldn’t remember how some of the things happening in this book fit with the first book.
Midwinter Magic & Mayhem — This is an anthology of winter-themed fantasy stories. I have a Modern Fae story in there along with eight others that are all excellent little tales that will put you in a wintery mood, especially if you enjoy them by the fire with a warm beverage.
Witchful Thinking by Celestine Martin — This is a really cute and cozy small town witchy romance that is really not for folks who like magic systems to be well defined and plots to be complicated. This is sort of like the Halloween equivalent of a Hallmark Christmas movie, except the hook-ups don’t fade-to-black. In other words, an excellent addition to this sub-genre.
The Ex-Hex by Erin Sterling — This was the last of the small town witchy romance books I read in October. I loved the magic and the small town and the characters. The plot was good, too. My only (teeny tiny) gripe was that it was a second chance romance, which is a REALLY difficult trope to write (in my opinion), and I just didn’t feel like there was enough reason for them to not be together. That said, I still really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading more in this series.
Dare to Be a Duchess by Sapna Bhog — I don’t read much historical romance because I’m not really into the whole “must find a husband before the season ends” thing. This one didn’t have that trope as a driver for the romance. The primary trope was more of a best-friend’s brother thing, which I enjoyed. There’s a lot of pining, which I also liked. But, it was sort of lacking a B-plot, so the pining got a little too drawn out and repetitive in places. Still, the characters were so vivid and well crafted that they stuck with me for days afterward and made me want to read the next book in this series.
A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby by Vanessa Riley — This was a fun, fast-paced historical romance about a recently widowed Lady from a British colony (Demerara) who has to pretend to be a nanny in order to be close to her infant son after his wounded war veteran uncle comes to take over as guardian of the estate. And of course, the Lady and the Duke fall in love. I really liked the particular lens this story was told through. I especially enjoyed the hero and his band of wounded vets that take over the estate to protect it from someone who is trying to get their hands on all of it (including the baby).
I also updated my bookshelf spread. I think it’s looking pretty cute. Lots of sci-fi and fantasy (the purple/blue spines) this year. And a whole lot more writing craft and publishing business (yellow spines) books than I’d planned on reading this year. Hard to believe that we only have two months to go!
And, because it’s NaNoWriMo, I’m keeping things simple for November. I did a set-up flip through video, but I’m not sure when/if I’ll get around to posting it because it’s mostly focused on the bullet journal trackers I made for NaNoWriMo. There’s only this one cover page that I made in my reading journal where I used up a bunch of stickers instead of drawing something. I didn’t even do a TBR for this month!
I have been noodling on an end of the year TBR, though. I keep adding books to the list and then taking others off. There are so many books I want to read before the end of December. I’ll probably make it official at some point in the next couple of weeks and do a post. In the meantime, if you want to spy on what’s there, have a peek at this shelf of mine on Goodreads. And feel free to make suggestions in the comments if there’s something you see on there that I DEFINITELY need to read, or if the thing you think I definitely need to read is NOT on that shelf.
Okay. I really better get some official NaNoWriMo writing done. Happy reading!
I’ve also added one non-romance book with bone magic to my TBR (The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst). Plus one dark academia book (Babel by R. F. Kuang). I may also add The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik, but it depends on whether or not I get it from the library in time to read this month.
There are a few other (non-spooky) books I’m hoping to read this month as well. I mentioned the others in my reading journal set-up video, if you’re curious. But I have a feeling I won’t be able to get to them all.
If you have more witchy small town romance books that you think I should check out, definitely let me know in the comments. Those are my favorite fall reads.