August 2019: Reading Wrap Up

So, there are four months left in the year, and I’ve already met my Goodreads Reading Challenge Goal!

I have the N.E.W.T.s Magical Readathon to thank for that. I read TEN books in August. That’s just nuts as far as my usual number of books consumed in a month goes. It would be more understandable if reading was all I did in August, but it wasn’t. I also wrote over 30k words to finish the first draft of book three in my Modern Fae series! Talk about a productive month. Wow.

Are you ready for an epic reading summary? Buckle up, because here we go…

Outbox

What I read in August:

Before I could get started on my Readathon goals, I had to finish up reading all the Hugo best novel finalists. Rather than rehash that all in this post, if you want my thoughts on Raven Stratagem, Revenant Gun, and Spinning Silver, check out my previous post where I stack rank the best novel finalists, forecast the winner, and stubbornly choose one of the least popular of the bunch as a favorite.

I also finished reading through Draw Your Day, which I bought hoping it would spark some inspiration for me to add doodling to my journaling. I definitely found it inspiring, but also a little overwhelming. I put it down feeling pretty convinced that I was so not ready for that level of doodling. But then I took Fran Wilde’s Journaling for Creativity class and was reminded that “it’s okay to be messy” in your journal. I’m a perfectionist. This is a hard lesson for me to learn, but I’m working on letting go a bit. It’s a process. Maybe in the future I’ll get brave and post some of my own drawings from the day…

With all my unfinished business out of the way, I moved onto my N.E.W.T.s reading. If you read my N.E.W.T.s TBR blog, then you’ll notice that I made a few switches and substitutions in order to accomplish my tasks. But, I did it! Not only did I achieve the grades I needed to become an official (magical) writer/journalist, I ended up getting higher grades in Muggle Studies and Charms than I needed. So, maybe I can try for a second (side-gig) wizarding career next time the O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s readathons come around.

I started off with the History of Magic prompts.

I’d meant to read Our Dark Duet for the “read a fantasy” prompt, but it’s really long, and I wasn’t feeling like reading it. Plus, when it came time to get started, I realized that I really needed to read The Last Unicorn to check off one of my Read Harder Challenge tasks. I also wanted to pass it on to my brother-in-law and niece. So, I switched things up. I can see why this book is a classic. It wasn’t my favorite, but I enjoyed it, and I feel like it’s probably aged better than some other fantasy books of its era. You never know what you’re going to get when you dive into a beloved classic of the genre.

Next up, I finally started The Queen of Blood. I’ve had this book on my Kindle since March 2017. No joke. I just checked Amazon to be sure. The series is now complete, and I own all three of the books. I liked this first one enough that I’ll definitely be continuing with the rest. So, I suppose it’s a good thing I bought them when they were on sale, huh? I thought this was a great twist on the “magical wood” trope and a great twist on fairies and sprites. If I’d known that this book included a section set in a magical academy, I may have picked it up a lot sooner. Plus the main character wasn’t the standard fantasy assassin character so popular in that era of YA fantasy books. She’s nowhere near the best in the school, but she’s determined, has a strong sense of ethics, and works hard. Definitely my sort of heroine. So, if you’re looking for a YA fantasy with great world-building and actual consequences for going up against the dangerous elements in the world, definitely check out this series.

As much as I wanted to complete the final task in History of Magic (“reread a favorite”), I decided I needed to move on to Muggle Studies if I wanted to finish all the tasks needed for my career.

This is where I made another substitution to my plan. My hold on the audiobook version of Burnout became available, so I needed to figure out if I could use it for any of my tasks. I decided to use it for the “book set in our real world” task. It’s nonfiction, so I think it qualifies. This book was great. If you struggle with managing stress, I definitely recommend checking out this book. I learned so much, and it debunked some harmful myths and conventional thinking about stress that I really needed to hear. So, yeah. Great book. I highly recommend it.

At the same time as I was listening to Burnout on audio, I was reading You’d Be Mine on Kindle. This is a YA contemporary romance set in the country music scene, and it’s just so much fun. It definitely deals with some heavy themes, so check out the content warnings if that might be an issue for you. Otherwise, if you liked the movie Walk the Line and/or A Star is Born, but would have enjoyed a “happily ever after” ending, you should definitely check out this book.

Since I only needed to finish You’d Be Mine in order to get the grade I needed for my wizarding career, I decided to stop there and move on to my last subject, Charms, before time ran out.

  • Charms –> O
    • Read a book that you think has a gorgeous cover <– The Gilded Wolves
    • Read a comic, graphic novel, manga, or book under 150 pages <– Sailor Moon
    • Spongify: softening charm – read a paperback <– Revenant Gun

I basically read these tasks in reverse order because I decided I could use Revenant Gun to fulfill the Spongify task after I moved The Last Unicorn over to “read a fantasy” under History of Magic. I needed Revenant Gun for my Hugos reading, but I knew it wouldn’t count unless I got the other two done as well. Luckily, the manga I chose was a fast read.

I used to watch the Sailor Moon cartoon as a teen. While I really liked the show, I wasn’t a major fan and don’t really consider myself part of that fandom. There’s a lot about the world and characters that I don’t understand or remember. So, when I needed to find a manga for the Read Harder Challenge, I decided to try to get my hands on some Sailor Moon. I could have picked any one of a number of comics I have in my TBR stack to complete this task for the N.E.W.T.s Readathon, but when you’re trying to complete two reading challenges at the same time, you look for options that will help you cross off a task in each with one book. That’s why I decided to read Sailor Moon Vol. 1 for this task. It was fun, but a little confusing. I’m considering passing this on to one of my “niblings” (new word for “nieces and nephews” that I picked up from listening to Galactic Suburbia) to see if I can get them past the concept of reading a book “backwards” to get them hooked on the awesome Sailor Guardians.

Finally, more or less at the same time as I was wrapping up reading Sailor Moon, I finished The Gilded Wolves. This the fourth book I’ve read by Roshani Chokshi, and probably my favorite of bunch. Even thought this is a slightly different sub-genre of fantasy than her other stuff, there are still plenty of what I consider to be her trademark descriptions. While I love how creative she is in the way that she describes things (she makes associations that are unexpected but really work), my brain has a tendency to skim long descriptive paragraphs, especially when it’s been trained by an author that there won’t be any relevant plot details embedded in there. I’d thought there might be more of those embedded plot details in this book because this is a treasure hunt heist mystery story like Indiana Jones or National Treasure, but nope. I feel like it was missing a lot of the double-crosses and fakes and “that was my plan all along” sorts of things I expected to see in this sort of story. But I loved the characters. It definitely has that “found family” crew of misfits feel.

I just want to say, the Magical Readathons are excellent readathons. If you missed this one, you should definitely check out the next one. I really hope she does the “Christmas at Hogwarts” one again in December. I’m definitely in if she does.

Before I get to my “Inbox” summary for the month, here’s an update on my other 2019 reading challenge…

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completed this month:

  • Task #12: A book in which an animal or inanimate object is a point-of-view character (The Last Unicorn)
  • Task #11: A book of manga (Sailor Moon)

Total tasks completed: 17

Total tasks remaining: 7

I have four months left, so that means I’m ahead of schedule on this challenge! Hooray! And, I managed to find a book that I think I might enjoy reading for the “written in prison” task, and it’s available on Kindle from my library. So, I may actually finish all 24 tasks this year. Shocking.

I should also mention one other thing that I’ve been reading. It’s serial fiction that an author friend of mine is writing and illustrating. The story is contemporary fantasy that starts in the “real world” with glimpses into what’s going on in the fantasy world, and hints at a lot more magic and adventure to come. You can check it out here and sign up to read episodes for free. There’s a new one every Friday. Here’s a little behind the scenes scoop for you… My husband and I were actually models for the image from episode ten. He definitely improved our hair, though.

And that’s it! That’s what I read in August. Phew.

Inbox

What I bought & borrowed:

Heart on Fire went on sale, and (sucker that I am) I bought it. This is the third book in Amanda Bouchet’s adult fantasy romance Kingmaker Chronicles series. I’ve only read the first book, and I didn’t love it. The way the hero pursued the heroine felt straight out of an old-school fantasy romance and maybe wouldn’t be good if you aren’t a fan of aggressive alpha males and not entirely explicit consent (I’m not). That said, I bought book two when it was on sale, and I’m willing to give the series another shot because lots of people love it. I figured, if I’m going to read book two, I might as well have book three on hand and ready to go. Could I have got this from the library? Yes. Should I have probably not spent the money on this? Also, yes. I’m a series completest, and I’m a sucker for the cheap ebooks. What can I say?

I’m also in the process of harvesting another batch of books from my library. Since technically those are going to be downloaded in September (and this post is too long already), you’ll have to wait for next month’s edition of “Inbox” to see what I got. I will hint that there’s at least one literary fiction book in there that was recommended by my friend “L,” plus a sci-fi romance novel that looks very promising, and a handful of new releases by authors who’ve written other books I’ve loved.

For possibly the first time this year, I don’t have any books that I feel like I have to read in September. I’d like to read at least one of my Read Harder Challenge books, but that’s it. I’m really looking forward to just picking up whatever sounds good at the moment. I made a “TBR Bingo” tracker for my BuJo just to remind me that there are still books on my TBR that I want to read before the end of the year. So, I may try to knock off a few of those squares. But I’m looking forward to a “wild card reading” month for once!

On that note, I will sign off for now. Until next time, happy reading!

Reading List for the N. E. W. T.s Magical Readathon (#NEWTsReadathon2019)

I love these Harry Potter themed Readathons! You may remember that I did the O.W.L.s Magical Readathon back in April and the Christmas at Hogwarts one back in December. Well, now in August it’s time for N.E.W.T.s!

These are all hosted by Book Roast. You can check out her YouTube channel here, and the video that describes what the heck I’m talking about with this N.E.W.T.s thing is here.

I only managed to complete three O.W.L.s back in April, and I chose not to focus on a particular career. But, I finally checked the career manual and discovered to my delight that the three O.W.L.s I completed will qualify me for a career as a journalist or writer so long as I pass my required N.E.W.T.s. Seriously, this is so perfect, I can’t believe I didn’t plan it!

The O.W.L.s I completed in April were:

  • Charms
  • Muggle Studies
  • History of Magic

I need to complete the following N. E. W. T.s with at the specified achievement level in August in order to be qualified for my career as a writer or journalist:

  • “E” in History of Magic
  • “A” in Muggle Studies
  • “A” in subject of my choice (I’m sticking with Charms)

Using the prompts sheet, that means I need to complete (at least) the following tasks in August:

  • Read a fantasy (to get my “A” in History of Magic) <– Our Dark Duet
  • Read a book that includes a map (to get my “E” in History of Magic) <– The Queen of Blood
  • Cover that includes an actual photo element (to receive my “A” in Muggle Studies) <– You’d Be Mine
  • Read a book that you think has a gorgeous cover (to receive my “A” in Charms) <– The Gilded Wolves

Since I’m an over-achiever (or maybe just an over-committer), I might as well shoot for the “O” level in my three subjects. Right? Right. If I do that, it will add the following tasks to my readathon goal:

  • Tom Riddle’s Diary: fond memory – reread a favorite or read a classic (to get my “O” in History of Magic) <– The Rowan
  • Book set in our real world (to get my “E” in Muggle Studies) <– A Prince on Paper
  • Book written by a person of color (to get my “O” in Muggle Studies) <– Radio Silence
  • Read a comic, graphic novel, manga, or book under 150 pages (to get my “E” in Charms) <– Sailor Moon
  • Spongify: softening charm – read a paperback (to get my “O” in Charms) <– The Last Unicorn

Instead of a progress report blog post (like I did for the O. W. L.s), this time I think I’ll probably start a thread on Twitter to update progress along the way. So, make sure you’re following me over there if you want progress updates, or if you’re also participating in this challenge.

If you are participating in this Magical Readathon, let me know in the comments. And, if you are, what career are you working toward? Send me a link to your TBR.

Progress Report: O. W. L.s Magical Readathon (#OWLsReadathon2019)

I’m use this blog post to keep track of progress on my O. W. L.s for the Magical Readathon.

For each of the prompts below, I’ll add a thumbnail of the book I’m reading (that links to Goodreads) and update my reading status throughout the month. I’ll also color code the prompts to correspond with the prompt status. Green will mean done. Orange is in-progress. Normal text color (I think this is grey?) means that I haven’t started yet.

Completed:

Charms (age-line: read an adult book) –>

 

History of Magic (published at least 10 years ago) –>

 

Muggle Studies (contemporary) –>

 

Not Started:

Ancient Runes (retelling) –>

 

Arithmancy (work written by more than one author) –>

 

Astronomy (“star” in the title) –>

 

Care of Magical Creatures (land animal on the cover) –>

 

Defense Against the Dark Arts (Reducto: starts with an “R”) –>

 

Divination (set in the future) –>

 

Herbology (plant on the cover) –>

 

Potions (next ingredient: sequel) –>

 

Transfiguration (sprayed edges or red cover) –>

 

Reading list for the O. W. L.s Magical Readathon (#OWLsReadathon2019)

There’s an awesome Harry Potter themed readathon coming up in April! You can check out the original video and get all the details here. It’s modeled off the twelve main subjects tested on during the Hogwarts O. W. L. exams in the Harry Potter books. Oh man, this is so geeky and so cool. I love it! I’m so excited that I dropped everything to make a TBR. (Good thing I’m up extra early this morning…)

Readathons are a super fun way to bust through unread ebooks I’ve been collecting on my Kindle. So, I tried to limit myself to create my TBR from just those books and the books on my first half of 2019 TBR. I also found out that the next round of Tome Topple is coming up in April as well. So, I tried to pick a mix of short books that I can read quickly and books over 500 pages that qualify for Tome Topple.

Here’s what I came up with for my TBR:

The link in the photo above goes to my Magical Readathon Goodreads shelf so you can get more details on these books and/or add them to your own TBR.

Here’s the detail on the prompts, what they translate to, and what book I picked for each:

Of these, Leviathan Wakes, Our Dark Duet, and The Queen of the Tearling all qualify for Tome Topple. So, I’ll be saving those to read during the Tome Topple dates, which should be announced soon.

I probably won’t do all these tasks, and I don’t plan to attack them in any particular order. I’m not going after a specific wizarding career, yet. Instead, I’m going to keep it casual and use this as a general TBR for April.

Let me know in the comments if you plan on participating in this readathon (or in the April Tome Topple), and let me know what’s on your TBR, especially if you’re also planning to read any of these books next month!

Magical Readathon: Christmas at Hogwarts

What’s this? Two posts in one day? It must be holiday craziness. 🙂

I’m a little late to the party on this one, but I’m thinking about jumping into the “Christmas at Hogwarts” Magical Readathon, going on now. It started on the 17th and goes through the 26th.

I’ve decided that, since we’ll have family in town for the holidays, and since I deserve a bit of a break after yesterday’s book launch, I’m going to take some time off from writing to enjoy the holidays and some good books!

The task sheet for this readathon is part of what hooked me. It’s super creative and modeled after the Marauder’s Map. Honestly, how can I resist? She’s even made versions in different colors (check out the video linked above for those), but I like the parchment style best.

The readathon tasks are decoded as follows:

  • Finish your coursework = finish your current read
  • Help Hagrid decorate the trees = book with a golden detail
  • Have a snowball fight with the Weasley twins = a book you think will be humorous
  • Visit 3 Broomsticks for muller pixie wine = a read that should only take you a day/evening
  • Exchange presents at your Common Room = read featuring/about friendship
  • Sneak into the kitchen to gift Dobby odd socks = read that has an item of clothing on the cover
  • Attend a Yule Ball = book you’ve been preparing yourself for
  • Fly around snowy Hogwarts grounds = building on the cover
  • Put on your knitted sweater from Molly Weasley = read with present parents or a focus on family
  • Use your Invisibility Cloak to get to the Restricted Section of the Hogwarts Library = read a banned book
  • Bring a festive treat to Hedwig at the Owlery = animal on the cover/title/series name
  • Attend the Christmas Feast = watch a Harry Potter movie (optional)

I am currently (and have been since the 17th) working on finishing Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse. So, that’s going to be my “finish your coursework” book. 37864158

Then, I think I’m going to “help Hagrid decorate the trees” by reading a book with gold on the cover. I think there’s enough golden hair on the cover of this one to make it count, right?

Jane Doe

Can we agree that Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone counts? Please? Because I really want to read this next… I have more planned, but I’ll keep those to myself for the moment and post when/if I manage to finish these two.

Are any of you participating in this Magical Readathon? If you need a “help Hagrid decorate the trees” book, might I recommend my novella, Vivian’s Promise? It’s a short, fast read and has a lot of gold on the cover…

Definitely let me know if you’re participating, and tell me what you’re reading in the comments. Happy holidays and happy reading!