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! ❤

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.

Year in Review: 2016 Goals Recap

I didn’t accomplish all my goals this year. But, in Googley thinking (external perspective on what I mean by that here), that’s actually a good thing. It means I’m pushing myself. I feel pretty good about everything I accomplished this year. Not great. But pretty good. This sort of felt like one of those years where you work your butt off and don’t really see very much progress, but it’s all really important work that will pay off later. At least, that’s how I hope this turns out…

These were my 2016 (non-work-related) goals:

  • Swimming <– Total Score: 67%
    • swim at least 215 days out of the year (compared to 207 days in 2015) <– Score: 86%… I only swam 184 days out of the year
    • swim at least 400 miles (660k yards) total (compared to ~386 miles in 2015) <–Score: 94%… I ended the year with 374 miles total
    • drop time in my top five events, ideally trying for the following SCY goal times: <– Score: 20%…  I didn’t really race SCY this year, but I did race LCM Nationals and placed 9th in the Nation in 200m breast
      • 2:47.59 in 200 breast (current best = 2:51.65)
      • 1:17.89 in 100 breast (current best = 1:18.62)
      • 36.9 in 50 breast (current best = 37.75)
      • 2:55.36 in 200 fly (current best = 3:03.87)
      • 5:43.8 in 400 IM (current best = 5:59.11)
  • Writing <– Total Score: 83%
    • Finish my 2013 and 2014 NaNoWriMo drafts (both currently just over 50k words and about 60% done) <– Score: 50%… I should have revised this because plans changed when I got in to P2P and spent the first 4 months of this year working on “TLE” instead
    • Polish my 2015 NaNoWriMo first draft <– Score: 100%
    • Participate in NaNoWriMo 2016 as Marin County Municipal Liaison and write 50k new words in Nov <– Score: 100%
  • Reading <– Total Score: 70%
    • 50 books total (~1 per week) <– Score: 100%
    • Keep track of how many books I’m reading against the 2016 “Read Harder” challenge list <– Score: 100%… note how this does not say I needed to finish the challenge… 🙂
    • Read mostly books I already own and try to get my  to-read shelf (books I own but haven’t read yet) on Goodreads to less than 60 books (this list currently contains more than 100 books… ) <–Score: 0… Massive fail. I added at least as many books as I read this year… 
    • Write at least one blog post per week about what I’m reading and why (with photos) <– Score: 80%… I posted nearly 60 posts this year, which is more than one per week, on average. Not all of them were about what I was reading, but the vast majority of them were, and I did at least do a monthly review post through September.

Overall Score = 73%

I’m still working on goals for 2017. I am trying to make sure that I’m making them flexible, but specific enough that they keep me focused on what’s most important. For example, it’s unlikely you’ll see another “swim 400 miles” or specific goal times for races in 2017. I already know that competing isn’t going to be my priority next year, and not just because I’m now at the top of my age bracket. But more on that in a future post… For now, I’m just going to celebrate all I managed to accomplish this year, on top of working a pretty intense and demanding job with a ridiculous commute.

2015 recap: Goals

Every year I end up making some crazy personal goals for myself. Looking back on 2015’s goals, I’m a little surprised at how well I did. Taken all together, this is some pretty challenging stuff I signed myself up for this year, and I accomplished almost all of it.

  • Swimming
    • swim 20 days per month –> partial credit… averaged 17 days per month, but swam more days (and yards) in 2015 than I have since I joined USMS in Dec 2012
    • get SCY times on the books for 400 IM and 1650 free –> done
    • qualify for SCY Nationals in the 3 breaststroke events plus 2 more (200 fly and 400 IM) –> partial credit… qualified in the 3 breaststroke events and dropped time in my 200 fly and 400 IM, but I am still a few seconds off qualifying times in those two events
  • Writing
    • Finish at least one novel (“Empire”) and be ready to query by end of 2015 –> partial credit… finished first draft, but not ready to query… 
    • Participate in NaNoWriMo as Marin County Municipal Liaison –> done
    • Plot NaNoWriMo novel in October and write complete first draft by end of 2015, at least 50k in November with goal to finish complete plot arc, but must continue and finish in December if not done yet. –> still working on this one… 
    • Pick the next incomplete novel to finish first draft of (“Falling” or “Augmented”) and prep outline / notes in December so I’m ready to write in January –> done
  • Reading
    • 50 books total (~1 per week) –> done
    • Read at least 12 “diverse” books in 2015 (~1 per month) –> almost… I finished 10
    • Write blurb book reviews for books read on Goodreads –> done
    • Continue weekly inbox/outbox post on the blog –> done
    • Participate in Book Riot’s “Read Harder” challenge –> done

In a way, I want to go a bit easier on myself next year. This year was pretty intense and I pushed myself pretty hard trying to get all this done. But, on the other hand, I’m pretty proud of my accomplishments.