January 2019: Reading Wrap Up

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

What I read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what I bought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Net impact on my Kindle Backlog:

Books purchased on Kindle this month: 6

Kindle books read from my backlog list: 1

New Kindle backlog total: 129 (+5)

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

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

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completed this month were:

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

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

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

First half 2019 TBR Status:

Total TBR: 33 books

Books read: 5

Books remaining: 28

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

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

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

TBRs and reading lists for the first half of 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated TBR count, including RITA submissions: 17 books.

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

The tasks covered by these books are:

Total TBR count after all that: 29 books.

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

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

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

< cue nervous laughter >

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

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

Goodreads: not so good anymore

Here’s a hot take for you…2017 is apparently going down as the year where everything you once loved revealed itself as trash. Somewhat related: I’ve been kind of “Marie Kondo-ing” my social media applications. Goodreads may be the next to go because it’s no longer bringing me joy.

There was a time, not very long ago, when I couldn’t even imagine my reading life without Goodreads. Now I’m basically like: “Meh.” Or, worse, sometimes I think: “Ugh. I have to go update Goodreads.”

I think Goodreads sort of lost the plot. I don’t go there for book reviews anymore because their book reviews are, for the most part, easily-gamed trash. Their website design feels clunky and badly in need of an overhaul. And their Android app is even worse. I finally just deleted it off my phone in frustration. The emails they send (with the one exception being their daily deals) are annoying (“You just finished a book. What are you going to read next?”). Plus most of their integrations with Kindle annoying, not helpful (ex: I really don’t want you to automatically add that book to my currently-reading shelf just because I opened it on my Kindle, thanks).

So what have I found myself doing this year instead of using Goodreads? I’m so glad you asked.

For book recommendations, I’ve been heavily leaning on a few podcasts I love (Reading the End, Smart Bitches Trashy Books, Galactic Suburbia), the Tor.com mailing list, the BookRiot SFF Yeah mailing list, and a handful of “BookTubers” who appear to have similar book tastes to me (Little Book Owl, Thoughts on Tomes).

I’ve found other ways, better and easier ways, to track my reading. In parallel to tracking my reading on Goodreads, I started using a spreadsheet. I started with the one provided in this Book Riot post, then personalized it a little. It’s mostly been working well. It can be a little more time consuming to fill out because I have to look up all the book data, but it makes summarizing my reading stats very easy. I’m kind of a nut for spreadsheets, so I actually find this way more satisfying that updating Goodreads.

The only problem that I haven’t completely solved is where to keep track of all the books I want to read. This one is a little more complicated. On the one hand, I really like that Goodreads emails me when ebooks on my TBR shelf go on sale. But, they also email when all sorts of other books that I’m way less interested in go on sale. And I don’t really need to know when books go on sale because I’m trying to use my library and not to buy more ebooks.

So, if I can get by without the ebook sale emails (narrator: she can), then I really just need a parking lot for the various books I see and want to remember to someday put on hold and borrow from the library. I think this problem is relatively easy to solve by just adding a tab in my spreadsheet to keep track of books I want to read. The great thing about adding this to my spreadsheet is that I can then also keep track of where I heard about the book, or who recommended it to me. This is supposedly something you can do in Goodreads, but has always been such a hassle that I’ve never bothered to figure it out.

Can I get by without Goodreads? Yes, I think I can. Am I ready to give it up completely? Who knows. Place your bets and tune in to find out what I decide…

Thoughts on book buying

For the past few years I’ve been trying to eat through my backlog of ebooks that I’ve purchased on sale but haven’t read yet. I’ve also been trying, and failing, to stop buying new ebooks, especially when I don’t plan to read them right away.

The good news is, even though the year isn’t over yet, I may have *finally* put the brakes on my book buying. And buy “put the brakes on” I basically mean I purchased half the number of books I normally purchase. For the past few years, I’ve purchased between 60 and 70 ebooks each year. But, this year, I only purchased about 35. That’s progress.

For the most part, I succeeded in only buying new releases that I really wanted to read immediately. But, there were definitely more than a few on sale ebooks that I couldn’t resist, the most recent of which was Jade City which sounds amazing and is on sale for $2.99 as of this posting.

Because more of my book purchases were pre-orders this year vs. on sale ebooks, my average cost per book increased from less than $4 per book, to about $4.5o per book. Not a huge increase, but noticeable. Still, overall I spent about $100 less on ebooks than I have in previous years. Again, a notable improvement.

Now comes the big question, why bother tracking my book buying habits, and why bother trying to spend less on books? Well…buying on sale ebooks (usually backlist) makes almost zero sense when my library ebook selection has improved so much in the past few years.

If I want to avoid long hold lists, fine. But, if I just want to read the ebook sometime in the future, it’s way more sensible to let my library inventory that book for me, especially if it’s a backlist title that they already have. Plus, they now allow me to recommend purchases. They don’t always purchase what I want, but they’ve definitely listened to a lot of my recommendations this year.

The other part of why I decided to keep track my book buying was my desire to keep track of books I purchased at full price but never read. Which makes very little sense unless I truly love making myself feel terrible.

At this point, the portion of my purchases bought at full price but not read yet represents 13 books at a total of just over $100. That’s not a small amount of money. But, as of the New Year, I’m officially absolving myself of all guilt over these unread books.

Guilt is a terrible motivator. No. Scratch that, it’s actually a pretty reliable motivator for me, but it sucks all the joy out of reading. And, since reading is a thing I do for fun, a hobby, I’m done with guilt. I know I’ll read these eventually. But, next year I’m officially retiring my “guilt list” TBR. In fact, I’m seriously considering killing the entire concept of a TBR for my 2018 reading. Stay tuned for more on that in a future post…

Until then, happy (guilt free) reading!

Recommendations needed for what to read from books on my ebook TBR

One of my reading goals for 2017 was to stop buying more books (especially ebooks on sale) and put a dent in the backlist of books already on my Kindle.

So far, I’m doing pretty well with the book buying ban. Of the 16 ebooks I’ve purchased this year, only 5 are unread. One is a new release that I’ll probably read in June. The other four I bought on sale, but will almost definitely read this year.

But, because I’ve been reading (and buying) a lot of new releases, I haven’t put much of a dent in my backlist of ebooks. I’ve been pulling from my backlist wherever possible to meet my 2017 Read Harder Challenge tasks. A few of the books below are ones I plan to read for to-be-completed tasks, but there are still almost 100 fiction books on my Kindle TBR.

So, I’m putting the question to you, dear readers. What do you see below that is jumping out at you? What’s on here that, knowing what you know about me from my blog (or IRL), you can’t believe I haven’t read yet and absolutely need to read next? What am I going to love?

Comment below (or respond on Twitter) and tell me your thoughts on what I should read next and/or what I should put onto my upcoming vacation TBR. Alternatively… tell me which ones I can skip without feeling bad. 😉

Year in Review: Reading stats on genre and format

I just finished my analysis of what I read this year (yay! more book-related data!), and I thought I’d share some fun facts about my reading habits this year…

Total “books” read: 53 <– projected total… I still have a couple I plan to finish before tomorrow night…

Total Fiction vs. Non-Fiction: 77% fiction (41 books) and 23% non-fiction (12 books)

Total YA vs. Adult: 19% YA (10 books) and 81% adult (43 books) <– bet you didn’t anticipate that, huh? I certainly didn’t.

Total books read by diverse authors (non-white and/or non-American): 12 (23%)

Total books from library: 14 (26%)

Total books by format:

  • Kindle: 66% (35 books)
  • Audiobook: 13% (7 books)
  • Paperback: 13% (7 books)
  • Hardcover: 8% (4 books)

Of the 41 fiction books I read, here’s how they broke down by genre:

  • Sci-fi and fantasy: 25% (13 books)
  • Romance: 17% (9 books)
  • Comic trade volumes: 13% (7 books)
  • Novellas and other short fiction: 13% (7 books)
  • Literary fiction: 8% (4 books)
  • Mystery: 2% (1 book, which I nearly could have almost classified as romance…)

Beside the fact that I read a lot more “adult” books than “YA” books, which was the first stat to jump out at me, it seemed like my percentage of short fiction and comics was higher than in years past. These data points seemed unusual, so I went back and checked last year’s stats. Turns out, last year I read 75 books total and 26% of those were YA (vs. 19% this year). So, this year was definitely a lighter YA year for me, but my percentage of short fiction and comics was about the same (24% vs. this year’s 26%).

Overall, I’m pleased with the diversity of what I’m reading. I have a pretty wide range of taste in books, and it’s nice to see that verified by the numbers.

Does anyone else track stats like this for what they’re reading? Is there anything else I should add? A different slice you’d like to know? Just let me know in the comments (or on Twitter).

Year in Review: Book buying stats for 2016

I keep track of the ebooks I purchase in a spreadsheet, because of course I do. My spreadsheet doesn’t account for ebooks I receive as gifts, only ones that I purchase for myself. However, just to make things slightly more confusing, the books I buy for myself are usually purchased with gift cards. Technically that makes them gifts. So, I really don’t have any idea why I even bother with this exercise except that at some point I realized that I buy a lot of ebooks and wanted to know how much money I was spending.

For the past three years, I’ve averaged about $235 spent on ebooks per year and purchased about 60 books on average. This puts my average cost per book at just under $4.

Actual stats:

BookBuyingStats_2014-2016

As you can see from the table above, my book buying has been steadily increasing over the past few years, but I am doing a decent job of keeping my average cost per book under $4. So, basically, my ebook buying habit roughly equates to just over one Starbucks cappuccino a week.

I feel pretty good about that. I mean, ebooks last a lot longer than a cappuccino, right?

The part about all this that makes me a little uncomfortable is another metric I keep track of… How many of these books that I’ve purchased have I read? And what’s the average cost of those books that remain unread?

The answer to that question is that I have 85 unread books of the 181 that I’ve purchased (~46% unread). That’s not terrible, but it’s not great either. I feel a bit better when I consider that the average cost of those unread books is only $2.90. But, assuming I read about 50 books per year, that’s still nearly 2 years worth of reading without me buying any more books at all.

This is why I’m going to put a temporary hold on purchasing any more sale ebooks, unless it’s something I really want to read and can’t get on ebook from my library. When I started buying ebooks, I don’t think you could even get books for Kindle from the library, or at least, if you could the options were very limited. These days, almost anything I’d want to read is available. The only catch is that I might have to wait a bit if it’s an extremely popular book, but that’s something I can plan around.

Next year (2017), my only reading goal is to put a dent in this backlog of ebooks and maybe also lower my average cost per unread book. There’s really nothing on that list that I don’t want to read. So, I should be able to find something on my tbr-Kindle shelf to fit whatever reading mood I’m in. If not, there’s always the library.

So, what I want to know is, am I the only one buying this many ebooks? Does anyone else keep stats like this? I’m curious to see where I fall in the book buying continuum.

May Photo Challenge #MayIGAuthors

Since it’s May, and I love May, and since the photo challenge I did in December was so much fun, I decided I’m going to give this May Instagram photo challenge a try.

MayIGAuthors

Like I did in December, I’m going to post my photos here, to the blog. I will probably also post them on Instagram. I don’t usually post anything to my Instagram account, but if you want to follow it, I’m @emmenozzi (extra “m” required because I was apparently a late adopter).

Today’s post is supposed to be “May TBR” but we already went over that in my previous post. But here it is again:

May2016TBR

Who else is planning on joining in this photo challenge? If you’re playing along on Instagram, let me know what your account name is there so I can follow you!

Book buying stats for 2014

I buy a lot of books for my Kindle. I mostly use gift card money and wait until the books I want go on sale. But it always seems like I’m buying more books than I can read and my TBR pile just keeps growing and growing.

I decided to run the numbers for 2014 to see exactly how many books I bought, how many I read, and how much I spent. Here’s what I found…

I bought 56 books for Kindle in 2014, and spent an average of $4.66 per book. Note: This doesn’t count books I bought as gifts… only books I bought for me and/or my husband on my account.

I read 27 of the 56 books I bought this year. Of the remaining 29 books: 4 were purchased for my husband to read (so they don’t really count), and 3 were purchased for future reading (a pre-order, a re-read, and a book for my book project).

That leaves only 22 unread books. And the average price of just those 22 unread books is only $3.58 — less than the overall average purchase price. Not bad.

Feeling relatively confident about my book buying habits, but still confused about why I have all these unread books on my Kindle, I decided to peek back to 2013. From there I dug up another 19 books I’d purchased but hadn’t read yet. Luckily, only 6 of those were purchased at full price.

I don’t mind leaving sale-purchased books unread, but it is pretty annoying to have full price books sitting around unread. So, I’m adjusting my reading list for 2015 to fix that problem. I’ve made a list of books I’ve purchased at full price for my Kindle, but haven’t read yet. My plan is that I am going to make an effort to read through most, if not all, of this list before I buy any more books. I will make exceptions to this rule for buying books for my 2015 reading project.

Here’s the resulting TBR list of combined 2013 and 2014 unread books:

  1. Wolf Hall: A Novel by Hilary Mantel
  2. On the Steel Breeze (Poseidon’s Children Book 2) by Alastair Reynolds
  3. Landline by Rainbow Rowell
  4. Fortune’s Pawn (Paradox Book 1) by Rachel Bach
  5. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  6. The Feminine Mystique (50th Anniversary Edition) by Betty Friedan, Gail Collins, Anna Quindlen
  7. Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy Book 3) by Laini Taylor
  8. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  9. The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman
  10. Hild: A Novel by Nicola Griffith

Overall, running the numbers made me feel a bit better about my book buying habits. I’m okay with paying an average of $5 per book, and I’m relieved that I’ve read at least half of the books I’ve been buying. I may have a long TBR list, but they’re all still books I still really want to read.