June Reading Wrap-up

June turned out to be a HUGE reading month for me. I read nine books!

What I read in June

I started off the month on a mystery kick. I got my mom into Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell series because she (and I) liked Sherry Thomas’s Lady Sherlock series so much. She’s been devouring all the Veronica books while I’d only read the first one, and she’s coming for a visit soon, so I thought it was time to catch up. I read books two, three, and four in June. Of those, I liked book two (A Perilous Undertaking) the best (such good tension between Veronica and Stoker!) and book three (A Treacherous Curse) the least (too much unexamined colonialism). Book four (A Dangerous Collaboration) had a very exciting ending that made me want to immediately dive into book five, but I had to pause while I waited to get the next two books from my library.

I also borrowed two YouTube celebrity memoirs on audiobook from my library as a source of character research for my next Modern Fae book. I started with Lilly Singh’s How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life, which was a Goodreads Choice Award winner in 2017. In addition to getting a lot of good info about what it’s like to be a YouTube superstar, I found myself really appreciating her advice about life and the self-employed career hustle.

I considered stopping after that one, but I had already downloaded Jenn McAllister’s Really Professional Internet Person, so I decided to listen to the first few chapters and see what I thought. Her book was a little repetitive in places, but focused more on what it’s like to be growing your YouTube audience when you’re in middle school and high school, which was really interesting. Neither of these women is exactly like I imagine my character, but their experiences gave me a lot to think about.

Somewhere in between devouring mystery novels and listening to audiobooks while washing the dishes, I read C. L. Polk’s romantic fantasy The Midnight Bargain and Addie Woolridge’s contemporary romantic comedy The Checklist. Both of these were really good, as I expected they would be. I really love the worldbuilding in The Midnight Bargain. And the characters in The Checklist were so full of life, I loved every minute that I got to spend with them…even when everything started to go sideways and made me super anxious. Addie did a great job crafting an ending that tied everything up perfectly.

As much as I liked those two books, my favorite of the month was The Space Between Worlds. This book blew me away. It is just so good. I mean, I’d heard it was good, but it was even better than I expected it would be. The plot is twisty, the characters are superbly crafted, and the worldbuilding is just off the charts excellent. I loved it so much that I searched out a special edition signed hardcover to buy so that I can add it to my “favorites” shelf and reread it in physical form. Seriously, if you like sci-fi and have not read this book, go get a copy immediately and start reading. I can not recommend it highly enough.

Just before the end of the month I managed to squeeze in one last book. Technically, I didn’t finish Spaceside by Michael Mammay until the second of July, but I read most of it in June, so I’m counting it. Here’s the thing about this series, it’s marketed as “military sci-fi” which is a genre that I enjoy (depending on the author), but the series is so much more than that. At their core, each book is really a mystery novel. The “detective” is a veteran soldier, and the mysteries he ends up getting pulled into solving involve the military, but the novels aren’t really all about guns and fighting and stuff like that. And the author is a veteran who writes about the military in what feels like a very authentic (and respectful) way. So, if you like sci-fi and mystery novels, you should really check out this series.

As for July, I am looking forward to reading Colonyside (which I already started) and book five in the Veronica Speedwell series (A Murderous Relation). I also plan to read A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine and Wild Seed by Octavia Butler for my Camp Book Club buddy reads. Even though I have a sort-of TBR this month, I decided to stick to the same simple monthly layout that I’ve been using in my reading journal.

I went with a red and blue color scheme for July in honor of Independence Day. I added some gold star washi tape and some silver dots (using my metallic Kuretake Clean Color Dot marker) to give a sort of fireworks effect. It’s not my best work, but it’s not bad.

I also got some new sparkly bookshelf washi tape that I couldn’t resist using on the “books read” page. And I printed out a couple of the covers for the books that I plan to read this month. I didn’t glue them down, though. I’m using that star paperclip to attach them to the page as a visual reminder of the books I want to read this month. That “books read” page will be a list, and I’ll glue the covers of the books I actually did read to an “outbox” page at the end of the month.

I’m still not doing a great job of writing down my thoughts on each book while I’m reading them, or even right after I finish, even though I added a pen loop to my reading journal. I’m going to keep working on getting better at that because I’m finding it really useful to look back on. My brain nearly instantly forgets the details of a book after I’ve read it. I remember the feelings I had while reading the book, but not the plot. That’s probably one of the reasons why I can happily re-read my favorite books. Writing down my thoughts helps me to remember the bits of a story that I don’t want to forget.

What are you reading in July? Are any of these books on your TBR? Let me know in the comments.

June Reading Journal Set-Up

I think this month is going to be a rest and recharge month for me, which means I hope to read a LOT of books. Even though I have a mental list of books that I really want to get to this month, I am sticking with my no TBR policy and simple reading journal spread for now. Here’s my initial layout…

I got some new washi tape for my birthday. It’s the one on the left-hand page. You can’t really tell from the photo, but it’s a galaxy print with gold and silver foil stars on a black background. I like it so much that I couldn’t resist using it in this month’s spread, and it ended up inspiring my whole layout for the month.

After attaching that strip of washi tape, I added a coordinating foil star one over on the right-hand page as a sort of dividing line between my headers and my list of books read. Then I dug around in my sticker collection and came up with some little silver foil dots. I placed a few around the word “June” and doodled around them with my metallic silver dot pen to make them look a little more like stars. I added more stars using two of the stencils on my new Midori clip ruler (another birthday present). Finally, I filled in with a scattering of freehand star doodles to give it a Milky Way effect.

Here is a close up of the result:

So much sparkle!

This was a fun little creative art project, and it made me happy. Now I just have to figure out what I want to read next. I already finished my first book for the month, and I’m listening to another one on audiobook. So I’ve been scrolling through the books on my Kindle, trying to decide which one is calling to me the most right now. But I may pick something off my bookshelf instead because I’m kind of wanting to read an actual paper book. We’ll see where the reading mood takes me.

What are you reading this month?

May Reading Wrap-up and Birthday Book Haul

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

Sad little monthly spread for May.

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

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

Birthday book haul!

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

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

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

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

April Reading Wrap-Up and May Reading Plans

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

Seven books!

Here’s what I read in April:

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

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

So much purple (fantasy)…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March Reading Wrap-up and Q1 Goal Check-in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting up April in my Reading Journal

Over the weekend, I got out my markers and my washi to make a new spread in my reading journal for the upcoming month. I decided to go with a “spring” theme for April. As you can see from the photo below, things got a little busy and chaotic on the page. It’s not my favorite of the spreads I’ve done so far, but I like it well enough.

Just a cover page and a list to fill in with books read in April.

The biggest change for this month is that I’m not making a TBR for April. I’ve been feeling like I want a little more spontaneity in my reading life. I need the flexibility of being able to just pick up whatever book I happen to feel like reading in that moment, regardless of what’s currently at the tippy top of my TBR.

April is going to be a heavy writing and editing month for me. I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo and using that focus to help me finish and polish a Modern Fae novella that I started writing just before the pandemic began, then set aside so I could focus on Rogue Assassins and Hunter of the Fae. Now it’s time to finish that novella and get it out there so that folks who’ve been enjoying my series can start speculating on what this new information and these new characters might mean for book five. (Bwahahaha…)

I expect that this more intense focus on writing is going to mean that I gravitate towards shorter and lighter reads in April. Probably, if I had to guess, more contemporary romance and sci-fi, because I find it’s a nice break from having my brain immersed in my fantasy worlds. But I’m resisting the urge to make a plan.

The six books nominated for the 2021 Nebula Award for best novel.

Even though I’m not making a TBR for April, I did want to do a spread for the 2021 Nebula nominees for best novel. I’ve read two of these so far (Network Effect by Martha Wells, and Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia). I have all the rest on my Kindle, and I intend to read them all (or as many as I can) by the award ceremony in June. So, I added this spread to remind me to get to these sooner, rather than later. In fact, if you look closely at the photo, you’ll notice that I wrote “April TBR” under Midnight Bargain by C. L. Polk. So, maybe I not so great at this whole not having a TBR thing.

Do you prefer to set yourself a TBR each month? Or do you read based on whatever you feel like in that moment? Are you planning on reading the Nebula best novel nominees? Or have you already read them? If so, which was your favorite? Let me know in the comments.

March Reading Journal Set-up and TBR

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

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

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

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

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

Setting up for February in my Reading Journal

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

It’s very colorful.

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

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

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

Starting a Reading Journal for 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After that, I started a spread for January.

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

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

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

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

Happy reading!