Reading Wrap-up for 2021

Now that I’ve had a week or so to reflect on my 2021 reading and collect my reading stats, it’s time for another recap. I almost didn’t post this one. It was a total pain to put together. I couldn’t figure out why I was struggling so hard to compare this year’s reading to previous years. Then I remembered that because I didn’t use a spreadsheet to track my reading this year, I must have accidentially or on purpose? changed all the data I was collecting. Oops. Oh well.

If you stick with me through my painstakingly gathered stats, I’ll reward you with my top five favorite books at the end of the post. Or just skim the stats and skip to the bottom. Either way is fine with me.

We will start this journey by paging through the reading summary pages I made back at the end of 2020 when I was setting up my reading journal for 2021.

Remember the bookshelf spread I made? Here’s how that turned out.

Surprise! I actually really like this spread.

If you remember, I had a color code I used to mark the books spines with the appropriate genre, and I added a little heart to the spine if it was also a romance. I did it this way because I wanted to track romances separately from genre because romance novels come in all genres, and I didn’t want to lose track of the genre breakdown just because I marked something as a romance. The only problem is, because of this completely logical and brilliant change, it turns out that I completely busted my ability to track my year over year genre stats. Whee!

Oh well.

I counted up the spines (another sad side effect of not using a spreadsheet) and twenty of the fifty-nine books I read in 2021 were romances (meaning they had a primary romance plot that ends “happily ever after” or “happily for now”). That’s about one third of the books I read last year.

I don’t really have any sort of goal or target or limit or whatever associated with how many romances I read each year. It’s just a meaningless data point. The first of many in this post.

I suppose what is interesting is the distribution of where those romances fall on my tracker, which is something you can’t see easily when you’re tracking things in a spreadsheet. Score one for the reading journal approach, I guess? Anyway, as I was saying, if you look for the hearts on the spines in the image above, you may notice that my romance reading was heavily weighted toward the end of the year, just as things in my life (and in the world) were starting to get stressful again. Coincidence? Probably not.

Oh, yeah. One more side note. For any detail-oriented folks reading this, yes, there are sixty books on the shelves in that photo, and I keep saying I only read 59. I ended up abandoning one of these books at about the halfway point, but I’d already drawn it in. I do plan to finish it later, so I included it on my shelves. I just decided not to include it in my total stats. I suppose this is one downside of drawing in pen. Not really a problem if you use a spreadsheet. I guess that’s minus one for the reading journal approach.

After more spine counting (and re-counting, just to make sure I didn’t mess it up), here’s how many books I read in each genre and what percent of my reading that turns out to be, in descending order (most to least read).

  • Fantasy — 15 books (25%)
  • Sci-Fi — 13 books (22%)
  • Contemporary — 12 books (20%)
  • Mystery — 8 books (13%)
  • Self help / writing / business — 6 books (10%)
  • General non-fiction — 2 books (3%)
  • Memoir — 2 books (3%)
  • Historical — 2 books (3%)

If you’re thinking, “Aren’t these just more meaningless data points?”, the answer is yes!

What do I even do with this information I’ve gathered? Nothing.

I mean, I don’t have any goals pertaining to which genres I read, and I don’t plan to create any for 2022. And, because of the genre tracking changes I made, I can’t even compare these percentages to last year in any meaningful way.

Are you beginning to see why this was a very frustrating post to try to write?

Oh hey! Check it out! When you turn the page, there are even more book stats and goals to review. This should be fun.

Whatever possessed me to create a table with numbers that I was going to have to eventually tally up in a notebook?

This right here is why god invented spreadsheets. I really want to kick past me in the shins right now. Once for the data table and then a second time for thinking that creating a “21 in 2021” TBR was a good idea.

Here are some fun stats that I collected in that sweet data table that I didn’t have any goals associated with:

  • 86% of the books I read were ebooks with 7% paper and 7% audiobook.
  • 76% of the books I read were adult vs. 24% YA.
  • I got 58% of the books I read from the library.
  • 29% of the books I read were new releases (published in 2021).
  • 93% of the books I read were traditionally published.

Dear future self: Stop compiling meaningless reading stats. Just stop.

Also buried in that table on the left page are the numbers I needed to add up to help me determine if I accomplished my actual reading goals or not. Here’s how I did on my 2021 Reading Goals.

  • Read at least 52 books — Accomplished! I read a total of 59.
  • Read at least 12 books by Black authors — Yep. I read 13.
  • Read at least 12 books by other authors of color — Not quite… I read 8.
  • Read at least 12 books by queer authors (and/or with strong positive queer rep) — Done. I read 13.
  • Read my “21 in 2021” TBR — Hahahahaha. No. I read 1 of the 21 books on this list.

Not terrible considering that I think we can all agree that the “21 in 2021” TBR was a very bad idea. So I’m not going to feel bad about that epic fail.

I feel a lot worse about the four books I fell short of my goal on reading books by non-Black authors of color. At least I did better on those metrics than I did last year (36% total books written by BIPOC authors vs. 28% last year, and 22% written by queer authors and/or with queer POV characters vs. 12% last year). These are possibly the only data points I’m tracking that I care about.

But hang on! We’re not quite done, yet. (Even though we probably should be.) On the next two pages I also decided to track a couple more things that weren’t part of my goals.

Why do I do this?

On the bright side, it looks like I did complete a handful of the 2021 Read Harder Challenge tasks without really trying (5 out of 24, or 21%).

However, it appears that I abandoned the book haul list I’d intended to keep. I know I bought more than three books in 2021. I suppose I could go back, figure out what I purchased, and then fill this page in, but who am I kidding? That seems like a lot of work, and it’s just more meaningless data.

I honestly wish I could say that I learned something from this exercise, but I think I just can’t help myself from collecting data, even if I’m doing nothing with it. It’s like I’ve become the evil boss guy from Office Space with the TPS reports. Gross.

Okay. That’s it. Data tables and spreadsheets have been officially banned from my reading life in 2022.

But I’ll keep my color-coded book spines with the little hearts on the ones that are romances. That’s fun.

All right. We’re done with the data. Phew. And I promised you a top five list. So let’s move on from the numbers and get to the unquantifiable part of my 2021 wrap-up, shall we?

Back when I was trying to decide if I wanted to make a reading journal, I watched a bunch of reading journal set-ups on YouTube. Come to think of it, that may be where I got the terrible idea for the “21 in 2021” TBR in the first place. But there was good stuff in there, too. I think.

Anyway, I remember seeing some people do a sort of “battle of the books” bracket tournament thing. I liked the idea. The only catch was, I didn’t think it was fair to pit two books against each other just because I happened to read them in consecutive months. So I did my favorites a little differently.

I meant to put something in the middle of this spread, but then I couldn’t figure out what to do, so I ended up leaving it sad and blank.

As you can see in the photo, I picked a favorite book read from each month. Then I eliminated the two non-fiction contenders, because I didn’t think it was fair to mix fiction and non-fiction. That left me with ten favorite fiction books, and I wanted to narrow that down to a top five. Because I like top five lists.

Because Internet and Why We Swim were the two non-fiction books that get honorary “favorite non-fiction from 2021” awards.

And here are the top five (fiction) books I read in 2021 (listed in the order I read them):

Unsurprisingly, they are all sci-fi / fantasy novels. Possibly more surprising is that only one of them could also be considered to be a romance (Winter’s Orbit). They are all really good reads, though. So, if you haven’t checked them out, go read the blurbs and grab one that sounds appealing to you.

Now, that this post is done, it’s time for me to have a long think about what data associated with my reading that I actually care about tracking in 2022. While I do that, let me know in comments, what was your favorite book that you read in 2021?

I’ll be back soon with some “looking ahead to 2022” posts (aka “2022 Goals”). Until then, happy reading!

December Reading Wrap-up

Happy New Year! I meant to get this post up sooner, but the first few days of 2022 have been busy! I haven’t even had a chance to officially pick out my first read of the New Year! I’ve read the first chapter of a couple of books, but I’m still undecided about which one I want to dive into next. Maybe if I get December wrapped up, I can move on to January reading. Let’s talk about what I read in the last month of 2021…

I did read a couple of those holiday books that I put on my book buffet for December. The first of those was Under A Winter Sky, an anthology featuring stories by Kelley Armstrong, Jeffe Kennedy, Melissa Marr, L. Penelope, and Grace Draven. These were all more solstice themed, except for the first one by Kelley Armstrong. That one was kind of Outlander-esque Scottish time travel where the two main characters were celebrating Christmas in both modern day and the Victorian era. It was cute, but definitely one of those that felt like a bonus written for people who are already fans of that series. I’ve never read her other books, so the fan service love scenes fell a little flat for me. The second story by Jeffe Kennedy also felt like I was missing something having not read anything else by the author. There was a TON of world-building in that one for such a short story. My favorite was probably the Grace Draven story at the end, but it was also the shortest and the one with the most ambiguous ending (not quite a HEA… more like a promise for pinning?). I did really enjoy the world-building in both Melissa Marr’s story and L. Penelope’s story. Since I’ve already read a full length novel by Grace Draven and know that I enjoy her writing, those are the two new-to-me authors who I think I want to try reading more from after reading this anthology.

I also read Christmas With Holly by Lisa Kleypas. It was cute. I can see why they made it into a Hallmark movie. The author’s local knowledge was good. I believed that she had spent time on San Juan Island, or had at least done her homework and/or had a local gut check her book for her. If the book didn’t have that local setting, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up, and I’m not drawn enough to the author’s writing that I’m going to run out and read more books by her (mostly because she writes in genres that aren’t my favorite), but if I came across one with a premise that sounded like something I’d be really into, I’d pick it up for sure.

Then I decided to check out The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon to see how she did with the section of the book that I’d heard was set on Orcas Island (where I live). Unfortunately, they spend most of their time on the island in an AirBnB, in a thunder storm. Which is weird because thunder storms are really rare here. Also, they go antiquing. I don’t think I could name one antique store on this island. Art galleries, sure, but not antiques. So, I was a little disappointed with that because the author’s bio says she lives in Seattle. I guess I kind of expected more. Also, the main character is dealing with grief over the sudden loss of her father from a heart attack. The death happened long before the books starts, so it’s not fresh grief, but still. I wasn’t really expecting that part going in, and that bit of backstory hit a little close to home for me, especially reading it around the holidays. But the rest of the book was good. So don’t let the weird portrayal of Orcas Island stop you from checking out what is otherwise a really cute rom-com.

Probably my two favorites of the month were (unsurprisingly) Forrest for the Trees by Kilby Blades and Fated Blades by Ilona Andrews. Two very different books, but both page-turning romances. Forrest for the Trees is a contemporary romance between a fire marshal and a park ranger who have to work together to figure out who is setting fires in the section of National Park where they work. I loved the characters and thought the mystery plot was really well done. I am finally realizing that, if a contemporary romance doesn’t have an external plot bringing the love interests together, I am probably not going to like it. This one did, and it was awesome.

Fated Blades also had an external plot that brought the love interests together, except it was a sci-fi (or maybe sci-fantasy) romance instead of a contemporary romance. And there were some unfortunate plot holes in that external plot which reduced my enjoyment of the story. There was a sort of “only one bed” scenario and a training montage that somewhat made up for it. But, in the end, Forrest for the Trees nudged out Fated Blades to take the win as my favorite book read in December. Which is a bit shocking. Me, putting a contemporary romance above a sci-fantasy, “ballgowns in space,” romance? Who even am I? I was not expecting that.

The last book I read in 2021 was the graphic novel version of one of my all-time favorite YA novels, Graceling by Kirstin Cashore and Gareth Hinds. Because the story itself is a re-read, just in a different format (graphic novel), I excluded it when trying to decide on which book I read in December was my favorite. If I’m re-reading a book it’s because it already is a favorite, so it’s not fair to include it. I really enjoyed revisiting this story. I’d forgotten most of the details, and the drawings were a nice addition. Two of my nieces are almost old enough to give them copies of this one (I’d forgotten how violent in is), and I cannot wait to share this story with them. I love that there is now a graphic novel option because I think that has the potential to open up this story to new audiences.

Now that December is done, I can calculate my reading stats for 2021 and figure out which books I read last year were my top five favorites. I probably won’t get to that until the weekend, though. So, stay tuned for my 2021 reading wrap up and 2022 reading goals.

Until then, happy reading!

Setting up January 2022 in my Reading Journal

Would you believe me if I told you that this spread was shaping up to be a hot mess before it ultimately ended up becoming something I don’t hate?

There is a lesson for the New Year somewhere in here, I think… But somehow I managed to take some leftover wrapping paper scraps and a bunch of miscellaneous stickers and create a nature inspired cover page for the first month of the New Year. #FeelingCrafty

Wondering what’s in the reading pocket for this month? Placeholders, mostly. I’m still finishing my last read of 2021. Tomorrow I’ll decide what I feel like reading next.

Happy New Year! Hope your first read of 2022 is a five star favorite! 💖

Setting up my reading journal for the New Year

We’ve been having a week of cold and stormy weather where I live. So I’ve been home, hanging out by the fire, and working on setting up my reading journal for 2022.

Despite my ongoing love/hate relationship with my reading journal, I’ve decided to continue using it next year. Some of that decision has to do with the fact that I’ve only filled half the pages in this notebook. But also, I am starting to prefer tracking my reading in my journal to tracking it on Goodreads. Plus, I think I’ve finally figured out how I want to use it to track notes about the books I’ve read.

So, keep scrolling if you want to see how I’ve set things up for 2022 and what I’ve kept and changed from last year’s set up.

2022 Reading cover page with a stack of books

I don’t like the placement of that quill and ink bottle sticker on my cover page, but other than that I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. Like this year, the Tombow marker color I used for the genre is marked on the book spine, and I’ll be using this color coding when I draw in books on the book case in the following spread.

Books Read in 2022 with three empty bookshelves

I liked the year overview bookshelf that I did this year, so I decided to do it again. I only made a few changes. The stripes of black that serve as the base of the shelves are a bit wider this time, and I wrote the month under where I’m going to draw in the books instead of above. Also, I figured out that one of the rectangles on the ruler / stencil combo that I have is the perfect size to use as a book spine. I doodled some in on the May / June shelf just to test it out, and then I added a sticker for decoration.

2022 Reading Stats table with one line per month to fill in total books read and other relevant stats about my reading, and list of 2022 Reading Goals.

I haven’t quite finished this spread, yet. I’m still working on what data I actually want to keep track of (aside from number of books read). This year I kept track of things like book format, age category, and books written by BIPOC and/or LGBTQIA+ authors. I will probably do something similar in 2022, but I’m going to wait until I have my reading goals sorted out before I draw in any more columns. For example, what’s the point of tracking what format I read in (ebook vs. print vs. audio) or where the book comes from (owned vs. library vs. gift) if I don’t have a reading goal associated with that data? I mean, it’s interesting information. But maybe I can just make a note of that on the page of book notes and not track it here? I don’t know.

2022 Read Harder Challenge from Book Riot printed out and pasted into my journal

I’ve always enjoyed Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. I’ve participated on and off every year since the first one. But in 2021 I pretty much ignored the challenge completely. I put the prompts into my reading journal at the start of the year, just in case I changed my mind part way through and decided I wanted to participate. But I’m pretty sure I didn’t do any of them, even accidentally.

I’m putting the prompts in again for 2022, but this time, after looking over the prompts, I think I may end up participating at least a little bit. And maybe on purpose? We’ll see. I do think it’s a great list of prompts if you’re looking to diversify your reading (which is always one of my reading goals).

I love all the read a genre book by a BIPOC and/or LQBTQIA+ prompts, especially the “read a book in any genre by a POC that’s about joy and not trauma” prompt. Possibly my favorite of the prompts for 2022 is “read a romance where at least one of the protagonists is over 40.” My least favorite of the prompts is definitely “read an award-winning book from the year you were born,” because I think it’s going to be very hard for me to find a book I’m excited about reading that fits that prompt.

Aside from casual participation in the Read Harder Challenge, I don’t plan on doing any other official reading challenges, and I am not making a “22 books to read in 2022” list because that was an utter fail this year. I think I read maybe three of the books I put on that list?

I do have a couple of reading projects that I’ve set for myself. The first is a re-read of all the novels and novellas that I’ve published to date in my Modern Fae series. I want to complete this in January, if possible, before I dive into developmental edits on book five. So I made this spread to track my reading progress.

The Great Modern Fae Re-Read with cover images of the four novels and four novellas published to date and a check box next to each.

I also have a selection of writing books and a short list of non-fiction books on anti-racist and social justice topics that I want to read in 2022. Those are going to be incorporated into my goals, I think. I may also make a spread to track them. Other than that, I’m going to continue to resist the urge to make TBRs in 2022. Instead, I’m going to try to follow my reading whims where they lead.

I have one more book (maybe two?) that I want to try to finish before the end of 2021. Then I can do my December wrap-up and my 2021 reading stats posts. I also need to set up my cover page for January, once I decide what sort of cover image I want. And finish my 2022 reading goals. So stay tuned for more reading journal posts, coming soon.

And if you want to join in my Modern Fae re-read, I’m starting with Eve of the Fae on the first of January, and I’ll be posting progress over on Instagram.

In the meantime, do you have a reading journal or are you starting one for 2022? Are you setting any reading goals for 2022? Are you participating in any challenges or setting any reading projects for yourself? Let me know in the comments.

December Reading Journal Set-Up

This post took me forever to write because I kept putting off drawing my cover page I had everything else done, but I just wasn’t in the mood to draw. Luckily, I found some time and inspiration yesterday, so I can share this with you today!

I scrolled through the Draw So Cute winter holiday art tutorials and decided on the snow globe. I think all this rain we’ve been having is kind of making me hope that it eventually turns to snow, at least for a little bit. The weather has recently turned a bit colder, and there’s been a little bit of snow up in our mountains, but nothing down where we live, yet.

I added some sparkle to the cover page, but it’s really hard to see in the photo. Also, now that I’m looking at it, I’m realizing that the right hand page doesn’t really coordinate well with the left hand page. Probably because I did one of them weeks ago and one of them yesterday. Oh well. I still like it.

So, did you notice those little book covers sticking out of the pocket on the right hand page of the spread? Well, I might have made a TBR for this month… But it’s not really a TBR. It’s more like a book buffet. I’m thinking of it like an extremely delicious selection of all the yummy books I might want to devour this month. None of these are “have to read” books.

I’ve divided them into different categories in the photo and in my summary below. Or, if you want to continue with the buffet metaphor, you could think of them like different food groups. No group is more important than any of the others, and you could nearly make a meal on any one of them.

I grouped them because I want to read according to what I’m in the mood for at any given time. So, if I just want to eat dessert, maybe I’ll just eat dessert. I’m a grown-up. I can do what I want.

This way, if I (for example) get really excited about holiday stories and just want to keep reading more of those, I’ve already picked out a bunch and don’t have to go looking for more. Or alternatively, if I read one holiday story and decide that’s plenty, I can move on to another group based on what I’m craving.

My first grouping is the new (sort-of) releases. Here’s why these, specifically, are at the top of my list:

  • Fated Blades by Ilona Andrews — I just finished The Kinsmen Universe anthology specifically so that I could read this new release which I’m very excited about because I’m into the “ballgowns in space” right now.
  • Graceling (graphic novel) by Kristin Cashore and Gareth Hinds — Graceling was maybe my first favorite YA fantasy book. I love the whole series. So, of course I have to read the graphic novel version that just came out.
  • The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon — I knew this was set in Seattle, but I just found out from a friend that that there’s a section set on the island where I live (which is NW of Seattle), so this got bumped up to the top of my TBR.

Next are books by friends that I’m really excited to read:

  • Forrest for the Trees by Kilby Blades — It’s been a while since I’ve read one of Kilby’s books, and the premise for this one is really calling to me. The hero is a fire marshal and the heroine is a park ranger, and there’s a mystery! Plus, I think it’s a grumpy / sunshine pairing, which I love.
  • The Bounce Back by Addie Woolridge — This is Addie’s follow up to The Checklist which came out earlier this year. I really enjoyed it. I will be looking for any signs that my secret ship (the socially awkward tech exec and the best friend from The Checklist) might get together in an upcoming book. (Addie, if you’re reading this, I’ll settle for a novella.)
  • House of Scepters by Anne Zoelle — I’ve been trying to get to this one all year! Anne is one of the few in my writing group who also writes fantasy romance, and I can’t believe it is taking me so long to read her latest series. Especially when all our friends can’t stop saying how good it is!

Then we have our selection of holiday romances:

  • Under A Winter Sky by Kelley Armstrong, Jeffe Kennedy, Melissa Marr, L. Penelope, and Grace Draven — I’ve already started reading this one. The only author in this group that I’ve read anything by is Grace Draven, and I think her story is the shortest of the bunch. But I bought this last year because what better way to sample the writing of a group of fantasy romance authors I’ve been interested in checking out than to read an anthology of their winter holiday themed novellas? I’m only about half-way through, but I’m already loving it, and I know I will be adding more books by these authors to my TBR.
  • The Heart of Christmas by Mary Balogh, Nicola Cornick, Courtney Milan — I can’t remember where I heard about this anthology. I think it was a podcast, maybe? All I remember is that I added it to my TBR earlier this year with the plan that I would read it during the holiday season. I’ve heard great things about Mary Balogh and will read pretty much anything by Courtney Milan.
  • Christmas With Holly by Lisa Kleypas — I’m pretty sure this got made into a Hallmark movie, but that’s not why I picked it up. I picked it up because it’s set on one of the islands where I live! I borrowed it from my library last year, then never got around to reading it. So I’m trying again this year.

And the next up in my two current favorite cozy mystery romance series:

  • Miss Moriarty, I Presume? by Sherry Thomas — I don’t think this one needs any explanation. If you’ve been reading my blog, then you know how much I love Lady Sherlock and know how excited I am to read this new release.
  • An Unexpected Peril by Deanna Raybourn — I’ve been dragging my feet on this one because it’s the last before I have to wait for a new one to be released (in spring 2022, I think). But, I’m still on my cozy mystery kick, so I may finally get to it this month.

And finally, one last book off my 21 for 2021 list (which I am definitely not carrying over or recreating for 2022, but I’ll talk about that more when I do my 2022 reading goals):

  • Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake — This is the last book in this series, and I keep forgetting about it, then seeing it on my TBR and kicking myself for forgetting. I think maybe I got frustrated with the last book I read in this series (book three?), but I was really liking it for the first two books, and I do want to see how it ends, but the reviews have me thinking that I will be disappointed, so I don’t know. It may be now or never.

And that’s my set up for the last month of 2021! What are you reading this month? Have you read any of the books on my book buffet for this month? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time, I hope you are having a happy holiday season and that you have lots of good reading to cozy up with!

November Reading Wrap-up

Even though November was National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I managed to read three books! Well, two books plus a bind up of two novellas, and a short story. But whatever. I read some stuff! Read on to find out more.

Because this month was focused on writing, when I had spare time I mostly opted for stories in the form of movies, shows, and games. I think of those as quick-fix doses that feed my creative brain. Books take a lot longer to read, and sometimes you need the full story arc of something that feels like it could be a novel, but condensed down into an hour or two instead of the six to ten it might take to read a book.

I still made time to read. Mostly before bed, and mostly light and fluffy romance. The first book I finished was Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto. That one was contemporary romance.

Everything else I read fell into a sub-genre of sci-fi romance that I have started to think of as “ballgowns in space” because the world-building feels more like science-based fantasy than hard sci-fi. The primary example of this being people on presumably far-future space ships (or alternative Earth-like planets) who go to parties wearing current Earth fashions. The first of the “ballgowns in space” books was a YA sci-fi romance called The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne. After that, I read two novellas and a short story that had been re-published as a box set called The Kinsmen Universe by Ilona Andrews.

I didn’t realize this until after I read them, but Dial A For Aunties, The Stars We Steal, and the first of the Kinsmen novellas (Silent Blade) were all second chance romances. I realized this as I was making notes about the tropes in each book after I read them. At about the same time, I realized that I don’t really like the second chance romance trope. Or, maybe I do? But only in very specific cases? I don’t know. Let’s just say, it’s not an auto-buy trope for me.

Of the three of these stories with second chance romance arcs, I think Silent Blade worked best for me. After much reflection, I’ve realized that there are two things I need from a second chance romance. One is a believable but redeemable reason why the relationship didn’t work the first time (no cheaters, no liars). The second is character growth from the previous attempt at romance. I mean, it didn’t work the first time for a reason. Whatever that reason was has to get fixed, and if one of the two characters was a jerk, then there better be a really good grovel.

I don’t want to spoil the previous relationship between the two main characters in Silent Blade, but their break up satisfied my first second chance criteria. The hero was the jerk in this relationship, and at the start of the story, he hasn’t changed. When they meet again, the heroine is out for revenge, not reunion, and she is not a pushover. Things aren’t resolved with a simple apology. This required some serious grovel and character growth. All of which made the ending very satisfying.

Dial A For Aunties was really fun and funny, but I didn’t like how Meddy treated Nathan. Honesty is sort of a thing for me, and when the main character is lying to a love interest as sweet and pure of a character as Nathan, it’s going to be a hard sell for me, no matter how good their reasons are.

Similarly, The Stars We Steal was a really fun sci-fi romance with a catchy premise (The Bachelor in space). But when the previously perfect hero returns, he’s suddenly lying and hiding stuff from his “one true love.” Even though there is still obvious chemistry between the hero and the heroine (whose names I have sadly already forgotten), I could not root for the romance because he keeps acting like such a jerk, and she can’t make up her mind about what she wants. The romance I was rooting for was when she eventually “settles” for a political match with an ace guy she gets along with really well. And for reasons that would spoil the story, but that are probably obvious if you know how romance novels work, I was not a fan of the ending.

That said, these were all really fun, well written, and enjoyable reads. Anything I didn’t like just came down to personal tastes. They definitely left me craving more murder mysteries and more ballgowns in space. Which may have led me to create a TBR for December… But more on that in my next post, along with my December reading journal set-up.

Until then, happy reading!

October Reading Wrap-up

This wasn’t an amazing reading month for me. I suffered from a big reading slump at the start of the month, then eventually read some stuff that I enjoyed, but nothing really knocked my socks off. But, hey! Look! I completed my Goodreads challenge goal!

So that’s cool! Now let’s talk about what I read in October…

Rather than make my usual “outbox” spread this month, I just put the book covers below my book list. I didn’t think three books necessitated a full two-page spread. Plus it’s all super color-coordinated! That’s a cool coincidence, right? And, for the second month in a row, everything I read happened to be published this year! Who even am I reading all these new releases?

Here’s what I read in October:

  • The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik — This was the book that pulled me out of my reading slump. I tried reading the first chapter of a selection of books, and when I got to this one, the grumpy voice of the main character hooked me. El reminds me of Murderbot in that way, and it was just a good fit for the mood I was in at the start of this month. I enjoyed the story, but I’m still annoyed about the ending. I didn’t realize there were going to be more books in this series, and was not prepared for that massive cliff-hanger ending.
  • First Comes Like by Alisha Rai — After the evil cliff-hanger, I picked this up for a quick, fun read at the recommendation of a friend, and it was exactly that. I trust this author to write a heartwarming romance, and she always delivers. Of course, I also forgot that I never read book two in this series, so oops! It was fine, though. The books in this series all feature different couples in a friend group, and the heroine of this book is one of the sisters from the author’s Forbidden Hearts series. Even though the timelines of each book are consecutive, I had no issue reading this one out of order.
  • A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers — This is a novella in what looks like a new series from this author. I went into this expecting that it was going to be a character-driven story with no plot, and that’s what I got. So, expectations met. I did enjoy it, and if you like other books by this author, you’ll probably love this one. I appreciate her writing, but her books are really just not for me. I realized this when I finally noticed that it was taking me weeks to finish a 160 page novella. As much as I enjoy her worlds, I need plot.

I also updated my 2021 bookshelf in my reading journal. Only one shelf left to fill in…

That reading slump at the start of the month caused me to reflect a bit on my reading life. I think I’m moving in the direction of becoming more of a mood reader. Because of that, I’m also getting better at DNFing books. Or at least putting them aside and admitting that they’re just not a good fit for me right now rather than wasting weeks of my life avoiding reading anything because I feel like I have to finish the book I already started before I read anything else.

I’m also figuring out how to use my reading journal. For most of this year, I had this idea in my head that I needed to write these deep thoughts about the books I was reading and rate them according to this system where I gave each book a score for character, plot, world, intrigue, and enjoyment. Then I averaged those scores to come up with a final rating for each book. But that’s all way too much work and is turning out to be not helpful in achieving what I ultimately wanted this reading journal to achieve. So I changed things up this month, and it worked SO MUCH BETTER!

Now I’m using my notes pages to identify the universal fantasy elements in the book, any tropes, and what MICE elements are included in the story, in addition to the very basic idea of “did I like it and why/why not?” This is WAY more helpful in identifying story elements that I gravitate towards and love vs. the ones that are just not for me. SO MUCH BETTER! Why didn’t I think of this before?

Anyway, that’s my October reading wrapped up. Overall, no new favorite books, but a lot of good new ideas. I’m pretty satisfied with that.

November Reading Journal Set-Up

Tomorrow is a new month, and that means it’s time to make a new cover page and book list in my reading journal. This week, I was feeling the fall vibes, so I went with a cozy winter owl theme.

Once again, the drawing is from a Draw So Cute tutorial. Except she went with a brown owl and added some wind and leaves falling. I decided I preferred a grey owl and color scheme that reminds me of my dad since November was his birthday month, and I always miss him the most at this time of year.

As for my November reading plans, I just downloaded a bunch of books from the library. Possibly the one I’m most excited to read is Dial A For Aunties. I’m also crossing my fingers and hoping that I’ll get the new Lady Sherlock book that comes out on the 2nd of November. I have it on hold, but I’m not first in line.

What are you planning to read this month?

October Reading Journal Set-Up

I really leaned into the spooky season vibes with my reading journal set-up for October.

I love the way this turned out. I ended up using this video from Draw So Cute to make the haunted house and this video from Amanda Rach Lee to do the font for “October.” Then I added my usual book list summary to the facing page, and that’s it. Reading journal set-up done.

I’m not expecting this to be a big reading month for me. I know I say that almost every month, but it’s going to be hard to find time for reading this month and next month, because of NaNoWriMo. However, I’ve already committed to a buddy read of Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir and there is going to be another round of Tome Topple at the end of the month. So, I’ve been thinking about maybe trying to squeeze in time to read one tome during the final two weeks of October.

If I do decide to participate in Tome Topple, I’ve picked out a few tomes that are calling to me. Then I split them into two options. I’ll pick one or the other (or neither) depending on how I’m feeling when the readathon starts.

The first option for this round will be to read one (or more) of these books:

  • The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera — This is the sequel to The Tiger’s Daughter, which I really liked. I put this book (and the third/final book in the trilogy) on my “21 for 2021” reading list at the start of this year. I haven’t made a ton of progress on that list, and there are only three months left in the year, so I think I better get moving on that.
  • The Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa — This is a much anticipated read for me. Also, I have it on ebook and in print, so if I’m craving a paper book, I can read this, and still be able to switch to Kindle if I’m reading before bed.
  • Legendborn by Tracy Deonn — This book has been at the top of my TBR for a while. I had hoped to get to read it for one of the prompts in the Magical Readathon last month, but I ran out of time. If I only have time for one book during this round of Tome Topple, this one is probably going to be it.

Option two for this round will be to read the remaining books in the Throne of Glass series, starting with Empire of Storms, which is where I left off when I abandoned this series back in 2015. Once upon a time, I really loved this series, but I kind of grew out of it and now I’m not sure if it’s even worth finishing. BUT I did put all three of these on my “21 for 2021” list. So, maybe? It’s been so long that I’m going to need to read several recaps in order to remind myself what happened leading up to book five.

What’s on your October TBR? Are you planning on participating in Tome Topple? Are you feeling the spooky fall vibes? Let me know in the comments. Happy reading!

September Reading Wrap-up

The first part of the best Magical Readathon ever is over, and now it’s time for spooky season and writing lots of words. But first, let’s recap what I read in September.

I participated in G’s Magical Readathon and completed three of the six prompts along The Novice Path. I can not even begin to tell you how creative and fun this readathon was. I loved every minute of it, right down to the wrap-up video where we found out what the choices we’d made during The Novice Path narrative (which was released in the Discord group in parts throughout the month) meant. The work that went into this… I am in awe. So good.

I adapted my notes pages for the books I read for this readathon to include the challenge prompt at the top.

The books I read / prompts I completed are:

  • Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell for The Mist of Solitude (Read a standalone) — I really loved this book. It’s a m/m arranged marriage in space, and there’s also a murder mystery. Just beware of the content warnings. One of the pair was in an abusive relationship and is still working through the trauma from that.
  • Witch, Please by Ann Aguirre for Ruin of the Skye (Read a book featuring supernatural elements) — This was a light and fluffy read. I liked it, but didn’t love it as much as I thought I would given the premise and the fact that I really enjoyed a previous book by this author. I feel like the pacing was off (which, if you’ve been reading my NaNoWriMo Prep posts hints at plot issues, but I’m not going to be more specific because spoilers). That sort of ruined things for me.
  • Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah Price for Obsidian Falls (Read a thriller or mystery) — Since I have been on a murder mystery kick lately, I was super excited to see this cozy mystery retelling of the beloved Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice. It’s set in the Victorian era, but it’s not an exact retelling. I mean, Bingley is accused of murder, and both Darcy and Mr. Bennett are lawyers in competing law firms. I liked the choices the author made and how she twisted this tale to adapt it to a different genre while still keeping a lot of everyone’s favorite beats (and in some cases, lines) from the original.
I ended up not putting the book cover print outs next to the appropriate prompts because they were too big.

I also read two non-fiction business books. The first was We Should All Be Millionaires by Rachel Rodgers. The second was 7 Figure Fiction by T. Taylor. They were both really good reads.

I never did make a cover page for September. I just started with the Magical Readathon stuff. And I pasted the book covers for my Magical Readathon books onto the map, so I decided not to do an “Outbox” page for September. Instead, I just added my usual summary page to the end so I could easily collect my book stats from the month, and pasted the two non-readathon book covers onto the bottom of that page.

Fun fact about my September reads, they were all published in 2021!

I will be doing a cover page for October, though. I’ve been checking out Draw So Cute‘s “How to Draw Fall / Autumn Art” playlist on YouTube for inspiration. I’m planning on having a little Sunday Funday art session later today and will post photos once I get it all set up. Until then, happy reading!