April 2019: Reading Wrap Up

April was not a good reading month for me. I didn’t have as much time to read as I thought that I would, and I found myself in a bit of a slump towards the end of the month. I think I’m going to have to change some things up for May, but first… let’s talk about what I read in April.

What I read in April:

The month started off really well. I tore through Alyssa Cole’s Can’t Escape Love. It’s a novella in her Reluctant Royals series, which we’ve already established that I’m very much enjoying. This one was another fast and fun read. I loved the characters. The plot was perfect for a novella and well paced. The romance was fun and believable. Overall, loved it. Ready for the next book in the series.

After that though, things slowed down a bit. I started Updraft by Fran Wilde and I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells because I was going to be meeting both of those authors at Futurescapes. Turns out that Updraft was the perfect book to be reading for me at a pivotal moment as I’m working on revisions of one of my older WIP novels. Fran does a great job with using language to enhance world-building (which was also the topic of her workshop that I attended at Futurescapes). The world in this book also has these “laws” that are roughly equivalent to what I’ve been trying to do with the legends and folklore in my WIP novel. So it was nice to see how she handled that, from a craft perspective. The characters and plot were good, too, but what really stood out for me in this book was the world.

I didn’t have as good of luck with I Am Not A Serial Killer. Unfortunately, I started this one on audiobook and the narrator was just not working it for me. I finally ended up ditching the audiobook about half-way through. I wasn’t sure I’d finish it, but I had the book on my Kindle as well. So, when I got back from my trip, I tried picking up where I left off. I’m glad I tried again in a different format because it’s a compelling thriller. I ended up speeding through the last half because I wanted to know how it ends.

Somewhere in the middle of all this I started reading Mercenary Instinct. This ended up being the book that gets the credit for putting me into a reading slump. I had issues with the world-building that kept me from getting into the story. Most of that had to do with unrealistic space travel science stuff that maybe wouldn’t have bothered me years ago, as I discussed in yesterday’s post. I also had a really hard time getting on board with the plot and the romance aspects of this book. My biggest issues were that there was way too much use of the threat of rape as a plot device, and the entire premise was built on a huge plot hole. The bad guy placed a bounty on the heroine and her crew, sending a bunch of mercenaries after them and putting their lives, and work, at risk, when he clearly had more than enough money and resources to just buy their company and/or research and no good reason to take this convoluted path to get it. Under normal circumstances, I would have just DNFed the book, but it was the Smart Podcast Trashy Books first book club pick, and I really wanted to read it before listening to the episode where they discuss it. If you’ve listened to their recap episode, I’m pretty well aligned with Carrie’s and Elyse’s opinions.

More than being frustrated by the time I spent reading this book when I have other books I’d rather be reading, I’m actually disappointed because I wanted to enjoy this book. I still haven’t found the sci-fi and/or fantasy romance author that does for that genre what Courtney Milan does for historical romance and Alyssa Cole does for contemporary romance. If you have recommendations, please let me know in the comments (and don’t say Rachel Bach/Aaron or Amanda Bouchet because I’ve tried both of them already).

So, yeah… after that disappointment, I’m determined to change things up in May. I think it’s time to get into some of those books that I think I’m going to love but have been putting off reading because I’m scared they won’t live up to the hype. And I’m going to get aggressive with the DNF, if it comes to that. There are just too many books I want to read and never enough time to read them all.

 

What I bought:

I didn’t buy any new books this month! Crazy, right? But I did do a *major* library book haul. More on that below…

 

Net impact on my Kindle Backlog:

I realized I’ve been doing the math wrong on this section for months now because I forgot that since I’m adding new books I bought to my original list of 124 books, I should also be subtracting them after I’ve read them. I’ve gone back and fixed it in previous posts, but going forward I’m changing how I tally this “score.” Here’s my new breakdown.

Total Kindle backlog books read in 2019: 1

Total new *unread* Kindle books in 2019: 8

If you remember, the goal was to only buy if I’m going to read them right away and to read more backlog books than I buy and leave unread. So, right now, I’m failing at this goal because 8 > 1.

 

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completed this month:

  • Task #23: Read a self-published book. (Mercenary Instinct)

Total tasks completed: 8

Total tasks remaining: 16

Looks like I’m still on track with this goal. Go me!

 

First half 2019 TBR Status:

Total TBR: 33 books

Books read to date: 20

Books remaining: 13

Uh oh. I have two months left to read 13 books. Yikes. I am decidedly behind schedule on this goal. Better get reading.

 

My massive library book haul:

This has been brewing for a while, and it’s finally time. I took my Kindle off airplane mode and loaded it full of books I’ve had on hold at the library. Here’s a look at my (virtual) book haul:

I have no intention of reading all these before they’re due, but that’s okay. My Kindle’s back on airplane mode. Mostly, I just wanted to clean out my library holds so I could make room for new books that are coming out later this year.

May is my birthday month, so I’m going to make it a point to only read books that I’m loving. If I’m not loving it, I’m going to set it aside for later. And I think I’m going to start with one of the six “backlog bust” books that I put on my first half of 2019 TBR. If you don’t remember, that’s these books:

And since Mercenary Instinct left such a disappointed taste in my mouth, I think it’s time to bust out Brightly Burning next. Let’s see if that sci-fi romance can snap me out of my reading slump. If not, I’m reaching for Vengeful and/or The Belles. Those are the three that are really calling to me right now.

What are you reading this month? Let me know in the comments, especially if you’re reading (or have read) any of the books I mention in this post.

Bookish Things I’ve Changed My Mind About (#Top5Wednesday)

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Top 5 Wednesday post, and the topic this week works pretty well with something I’ve got on my mind. So, let’s do this!

This week’s topic is: “Bookish Things I’ve Changed My Mind About.” I’m going to get pretty specific here because I just finished reading a sci-fi romance book that disappointed me and got me thinking about how I’ve changed as a reader over the last 10+ years, specifically since I started writing books.

I like romance in my sci-fi and fantasy stories. It doesn’t have to be a major plot point, it could be a sub-plot. But I’ve struggled to find a sci-fi / fantasy romance book or series or author that I love. That got me thinking about why. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there are just some things that didn’t really matter much to me as a younger reader that will completely turn me off on a book now.

Here are the top five things that I’ve changed my mind about when it comes to reading sci-fi and fantasy romance:

  1. Diversity — I never used to notice when a future / fantasy world was homogeneously straight and white, but this has become one of those things that immediately pulls me out of a story. Once you recognize that the real-world population isn’t homogeneous, you realize that if a future and/or fantasy world is homogeneous, there better be a damn good reason for it. Ideally, I want to see positive representation on every axis, but at the very least with regards to race and sexual orientation.
  2. Consent — Sci-fi and fantasy romance can be pretty negligent when it comes to showing consensual romance. Again, this is not something I noticed as a teen, or even in my twenties. This was never okay, but my tolerance for it has definitely changed. If a modern hero is “taking” a heroine (or another hero), there better be a verbal “yes” in there before things get steamy. And power dynamics complicate things. If one character is another’s prisoner or subordinate, you better put them on an even playing field if you want me to get on board with the romance.
  3. Plausible Science — I don’t think I ever considered this until I started writing novels. Sci-fi and fantasy are full of crazy creative ideas that are not possible in our contemporary reality, and I love it. Give me all the magic and FTL space travel. Space ships and colonies on planets in distant galaxies are cool. Aliens and magical creatures are awesome. But these days I lose my ability to suspend disbelief when there aren’t consistent rules and limits to a magic system, or when the science fiction elements demonstrate no understanding of basic science and technology and don’t even offer a hand-wavey explanation as to how/why it works.
  4. The Smurfette Principle and/or the Strong Female Character Trope — This is a big one that I used to take for granted because I was a boy-crazy teen / young-adult and was just happy there were *any* point-of-view female characters in my SFF books. But now these tropes make me so angry I want to scream. If the leading lady is the only female character in the book, or if she spends the whole book trashing other women and has no female friends, I’m probably going to DNF the book. If she’s determined to show how “different” she is from “other girls” by being super tough and never wearing dresses, I’m done. And, if the heroine does have a female crew and immediately drops them to get with the hero, I may throw the book across the room.
  5. Plot is Linked to the Speculative Elements — I’m sure that I never even considered this before I started taking my writing seriously. I love plot, I always have, and it’s really hard for me to get into a book without a solid one, regardless of how much I like the characters or the world. But, if I can take the plot of a book, change the setting, and have the story still work, then I’m probably not going to want to finish reading the book. Plot and world and characters all need to be linked. This is the most frequent thing that fails to win me over when I’m reading a sci-fi and/or fantasy romance book. It’s a bummer, but I can’t turn off my writing brain when I’m reading.

If you have book recommendations for me that avoid these pitfalls, please PLEASE let me know in the comments. And if you’re curious what book set me off on this topic, stay tuned for my April reading recap post tomorrow.

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) –>

 

March 2019: Reading Wrap Up

It’s been another big reading month for me! I’m just plowing through the books this year. But, I’m also getting a ton of writing and editing done. So, don’t worry. Book two in the Modern Fae series is on schedule to be released in June, and I have some other fun stuff in the works as well. But this isn’t a writing blog, it’s a reading blog. Let’s talk about books.

What I read in March:

In addition to the books pictured above, I also read 1 book for the RITA contest preliminary round of judging. So, I finished seven books, total in March. That brings me to 25 books total for the first quarter of 2019. That’s half my Goodreads goal for the year, and we haven’t even hit the summer vacation months! I have a feeling this is going to be a big reading year for me.

Most of what I read was off H1 2019 TBR reading list. I started and ended the month with books two and three in Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series (The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia). I really love these books. I’d forgotten how much, but I’m having a great time enjoying these stories for a second time.

I also finished a couple of writing / publishing craft books. The specifics about various marketing techniques in Discoverability were a little dated, but the general advice (ex: the best thing you can do for discoverability is write the next book) was solid. I think this is still a valuable read for authors who are writing for the love of the books. It’s more about building a sustainable career than becoming a best seller. Since that’s my goal, I found it to be a very valuable read.

The other writing craft book I finished was The Artist’s Way. I’d been reading this a chapter a week for the twelve weeks of this self-directed course on reconnecting with your creativity. I enjoyed it, and I didn’t think that I would. I assumed this would be way to “woo woo” for me to take it seriously. But, there’s a lot of good content in here for people who are reconnecting with their “inner creative” after stuffing it in a closet or burying it for most of their life to pursue “practical” things. I didn’t do every exercise and follow the whole thing to the letter, but I think it’s a good resource and recommend it if this sounds like something you might be interested in but may have been scared off (like me) by the spiritual aspect to it.

I also spent an afternoon reading Get Jiro! by Anthony Bourdain because it’s a favorite of my chef brother-in-law, and I borrowed it from him on his recommendation. It’s a weird little comic with lots of gore where chefs are sort of the top of the food chain (so to speak) in a new near-future society. If you like Kitchen Confidential, you might also like this comic. I enjoyed it.

But, the book I enjoyed the most this month (of the new-to-me books, not counting the re-reads), was The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. This one reminded me a lot of Hidden Figures because it’s an alternate history of that same time period (the 1950s) and the main character is a computer (the human kind, who did all the math before modern computers were invented, and even for a while after). She’s also a pilot and was one of the WASPs during WW2. Now she’s trying to become an astronaut. There’s a lot of real-world history and science worked into this novel, and the author’s note at the end is fascinating and gives a ton more resources. I’m really looking forward to continuing on with this series. I’ve already got the second book on hold at the library. I highly recommend checking this one out.

 

What I bought:

I nearly got through March without buying any books… Then Alyssa Cole’s Radio Silence went on sale, and I decided to grab it. If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I’ve been loving her “Reluctant Royals” contemporary romance series. I knew she also wrote this sort of post-apocalyptic series in addition to her historical romances, and I’ve been meaning to try it for a while now. Unfortunately, my library doesn’t have it on ebook and hasn’t purchased it (yet), despite my requesting it. Oh well. Now I “own” it (as much as you own any of your Kindle books…).

The other book I bought is one I’ve already read (in an early draft form). Bless Her Dead Heart by my friend Meg Collett launched in February! It’s set in “Righteous, Tennessee” and is the first book in her new southern paranormal series. It’s really good. Check it out. I just love her voice in this series. And book two is already out, so you don’t have to wait to see what happens next. Since I’ve already read this one, I’m not counting it toward my total books bought this month.

Net impact on my Kindle Backlog:

Books purchased on Kindle this month: 1

Kindle books read from my backlog list: 0

New Kindle backlog total: 134 (+1)

Ugh. Good thing I have the O. W. L. readathon coming up in April. Maybe I can get this back under 130 by the end of the month…

 

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completed this month:

  • Task #9: A book published prior to Jan. 1, 2019 with fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads (Discoverability)

Despite a publish date in 2014, at the time of this blog post, this book only has 94 ratings and 27 reviews on Goodreads. I don’t review stuff on Goodreads anymore. So, I didn’t add to the review count, only the ratings number.

Total tasks completed: 7

Total tasks remaining: 17

Yay! I am one book ahead of schedule on my Read Harder challenge for this year!

 

First half 2019 TBR Status:

Total TBR: 33 books

Books read to date: 16

Books remaining: 17

I’m close enough to half-way on this goal that I’m going to count it as on-track. And a lot of this list is going to get read during the Magical Readathon in April. I’m very much looking forward to that.

Here’s what’s queued up next on my TBR:

My stretch goal is to finish all these by the end of the upcoming weekend. Five books in seven days. We’ll see how it goes. I also have novel revisions I’m working on this week. I’m trying to get them done so I can get the story out to my critique partners before I leave for the writing workshop I’m going to in April. But, I think I’ll have time to do both the edits and the reading because these are all pretty short books. The average is only 250 pages per book.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of these books (the ones I finished in March, or the ones I’ve got queued up for April), and tell me what you thought.

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!

Top Five Wednesday: Favorite SFF Creatures (#T5W)

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday blog post prompt is: favorite creatures from science fiction and fantasy books!

Here are my top five:

  1. Dragons I really like dragons. Dragon shifters are okay, but they’re not my favorite. I prefer stories where dragons are sentient creatures who bond with humans. I don’t really think dragons should talk, but I’m cool with them communicating telepathically. I don’t have any favorite dragon books, at the moment. Lately, I’ve been really digging the idea of tiny dragons, like the adorable dragons in The Tea Dragon Society (which I got for my niece for Christmas).
  2. Elves / Fae–I suppose I should clarify that I mean elves like Lord of the Rings elves, not like Santa’s little helpers. I’m lumping elves and fae together here because I’d be hard pressed to draw a line defining the difference between elves and fae. The way that most authors handle them, the two types of creatures usually end up seeming very similar. As for favorite books featuring fae or elves, I really like some of the stories in Robots vs. Fairies, and I liked the world-building in An Enchantment of Ravens and The Cruel Prince. And, I also really like my own books. ūüėČ
  3. Robots (like Murderbot) The other half of Robots vs. Fairies also make my top five list. That’s another reason I like that collection of short stories. I especially like robots when they’re done like Murderbot in All Systems Red. I suppose the droids from the Star Wars movies would also fall into this category. I love it when an author can manage to pull off cool autonomous, sentient robots who have personalities, but still have some real-world, logical science behind them.
  4. Mutants (like X-Men)–I love humans with superpowers. I love all the freaky and cool ways that mutant superpowers manifest in the X-Men comics.I also like stories that include humans with mutant-like super powers, like in Anne McCaffrey’s Talents series. (Side note: I’m planning to do a re-read of that series at some point because I want to see if it lives up to my memories of how much I loved those books, starting with To Ride Pegasus and going all the way through the spin-off series featuring The Rowan and her children and their children.) I’d also lump the Bene Gesserit (from the Dune series) and the Jedi (from Star Wars) into this category as well. Basically any time you have a human who is able to do super-human stuff, but not including alien superheroes like Superman and (some of) the Avengers. They have to be (essentially) Earth-humans that have mutated or evolved to do things “normal” humans can’t do. I also like this because these stories can play with that whole “what is normal and who gets to decide what’s ‘normal’ anyway” theme that I love.
  5. The Stone Eaters This one is pretty specific because it’s only been done in one series (that I know of), but N. K. Jemisin’s creatures who look like humans but are made of stone are super cool. I love how they can move through the earth’s crust and communicate with the obelisks. The back-story that you get about these creatures in book three makes them even more interesting. They’re so unique that I think they’re probably my favorite, at the moment.

What do you think? Which creatures are your favorites? Let me know in the comments what I missed, or if you also like any of the ones I listed!

February 2019: Reading Wrap Up

February went by super fast, I accomplished a ton of stuff, and I still managed to finish two books a week, on average. I think all those snow days may have helped. We got hit by a winter storm and ended up with over ten inches of snow, which is very unusual for the little island we live on in the Pacific Northwest. So I had a great excuse to stay inside and snuggle up with a book. I loved it. I’m also really glad the snow is mostly gone, and that it’s finally starting to feel like spring!

What I read in February:

In addition to the books pictured above, I also read 4 books for the RITA contest. So, I finished 8 books, total in February. That’s pretty great considering it was a short month, and I had some pretty ambitious writing goals for the month, like finishing the first draft of book two in my Modern Fae series¬†and releasing a novella. Both of which got done. Yay!

I started the month with a book of poetry (Felicity by Mary Oliver), then I pushed out of my comfort zone with some violent, unsolved true-crime written by an author who died while writing the book (I’ll Be Gone in the Dark). I¬†counter-acted any potential nightmare fuel by reading a short and entertaining Reluctant Royals novella (Once Ghosted, Twice Shy), and then I devoured book three in a series of books that may be my new favorite Sherlock Holmes retelling (The Hollow of Fear). Overall, it was a pretty good reading month.

What I bought:

So…I’m beginning to regret that whole “no buying books” reading goal already, and it’s only the beginning of March. Sigh. I do this every year. Technically, I only purchased two of these books in February. Another is one I just bought today, and the other three are all pre-orders.

I bought Mercenary Instinct because it’s the Smart Podcast Trashy Books book club selection for this quarter, and it was already on my wish list of “someday / maybe” Kindle books to buy on Amazon. Unfortunately, it wasn’t available on ebook from my library. The good news is that I think I can use this for the “read a self-published book” task in the Read Harder Challenge.

I bought The Queen of Sorrow because I own the other two books in the series, and this one went on sale for $1.99. I think I also had digital credits for choosing “no-rush shipping” that covered the purchase price. I plan to binge this series this year, now that it’s complete. Another totally justified purchase.

Then I had some more digital credits, so I bought The Phoenix Empress. The credits weren’t going to expire until the end of the month (I think these were for some non-shipping-related reason), but apparently they were burning a hole in my pocket. I decided to splurge on this book because I own the first book in the series, and it was one of my favorite books I read last year. Plus, I haven’t been able to get this on ebook from my library because of Tor’s new library ebook policy (which I hate). Maybe my library will buy it when it becomes available, but it’s less likely they’ll pick this up than book two in Scalzi’s Collapsing Empire series (which I’m also waiting for). We’ll see.

Two of the three pre-orders are from Alyssa Cole’s “Reluctant Royals” series. I like that she seems to be offering these for lower prices during pre-order, so I keep buying them that way rather than waiting and getting them from the library like a responsible owner of way too many ebooks.

Finally, I decided to go ahead and pre-orderYou’d Be Mine because it’s a debut book by an author I’ve been following for a long time on Twitter. I really like her and want to support her book launch. Plus, I think her book sounds great (even though it’s contemporary, which is not usually my jam).

Net impact on my Kindle Backlog:

Books purchased on Kindle this month: 6

Kindle books read from my backlog list: 1

New Kindle backlog total: 133 (+5)

Hahaha…I should just give up. But I’m not going to. I’m determined to make a dent in this now that I’m (almost) done with my RITA reading (only one left), and I have a few months off of actively drafting a novel.

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completed this month were:

Poet Mary Oliver died. I had no idea who she was until authors I like started talking about her death and the influence her work had on them. She sounded like a cool lady. So, I grabbed her most recent book of poetry from my library and read it. I’m just as shocked as you are that I actually completed the poetry task for Read Harder, and that I did it in February. I thought this would be the last task I completed for the year and that I would hate it. I guess it’s just a matter of finding the right poetry for you.

The other two were books I already wanted to read and found a home for on the task list. So, win-win. I can’t believe I’m actually ahead of schedule to finish the Read Harder challenge this year! And I’m enjoying it!

First half 2019 TBR Status:

Total TBR: 33 books

Books read to date: 11

Books remaining: 22

Let’s see…33 books in 6 months means I have to finish 5.5 books on average per month. I guess that means I’m exactly on track. Fantastic! For March, nearly everything on my TBR is from this list, and my Kindle is on mandatory airplane mode until at least mid-April. Time to cross some books off the backlog.

Here’s a look at what’s currently at the top of my TBR:

I’m almost done with my re-read of The Queen of Attolia. Oh, man! I love this book. I’m thinking I may want to continue and just roll right into The King of Attolia as soon as I’m done. But these other books are also calling to me, especially Skyward and The Calculating Stars.

I’m taking a month off from writing new words (but there will still be editing happening). So, I expect I’m going to make a huge dent in my reading lists this month. Now if I can just keep my finger off the “buy it now” button…

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read or bought any of these books and what you think. Until next time (like maybe Wednesday…), it’s time for me to get off the internet and go read!

Top Five Wednesday: Independent Ladies (#T5W)

This week’s¬†Top Five Wednesday¬†is all about our favorite leading ladies — specifically the ones who aren’t distracted from getting shit done by their love interest. This doesn’t mean there can’t be a romantic plot or sub-plot. It just means that for these characters, priority number one is kicking ass, saving the world, and getting shit done. Oh yeah. Let’s do this!

  1. First on my list is Sassinak, the title character from Anne McCaffery and Elizabeth Moon’s book of the same name. (And if you didn’t guess this already, you probably haven’t been reading my blog for very long… Welcome!) This book opens with Sassinak and her childhood best friend having a blast at a festival just before planet pirates descend on their colony and kill all the adults and enslave all the children of a manageable age (old enough to fend for themselves, but young enough not to fight back — basically pre-teens like Sassinak). Through the rest of the book we get to see her grow up and fight for her dream of becoming a Fleet Captain and getting her own ship to hunt down planet pirates. Along the way she has several liaisons with various side characters, but she never loses focus on her goal. Sassinak was my first favorite “strong female character,” and she maintains a special place in my heart to this day.
  2. Next up is Charlotte Holmes from Sherry Thomas’s Lady Sherlock series (first book is A Study in Scarlett Women). This series is set in the original Sherlock Holmes time period (Victorian England?), but in this series Sherlock is actually a woman named Charlotte, and she’s delightful. Of course, because this is the “bad old days” of the patriarchy, she has to hide her genius behind a pseudonym (Sherlock). Some people may think she’s cold and calculating or just plain “odd,” but she is in love with someone. Regardless of her feelings, nothing gets in the way of her desire to solve all the mysteries (and eat all the cake). I LOVE this series. Charlotte is my favorite version of Sherlock (yes, even better than BBC Sherlock). At some point, if we ever do a T5W of characters we’d like to be friends with, she’d definitely make my list.
  3. Now, let’s talk about two independent ladies who I love that appear in a book I did not like: Alice and Julia from The Magicians series by Lev Grossman. There are many reasons I didn’t like these books (and yet I LOVE the TV show), but the biggest reason is the awful way these two characters are treated in the books. For starters, Alice is smarter than everyone and completely focused on achieving her goal, even with the distraction of being the love interest of the main character, Quentin. (Oh how I hate Quentin as a main character in the books. The TV show did a much better job with his character.) But then, at the end of book one, (*spoiler alert*) Alice dies for sort-of no other reason than to enhance Quentin’s plot. The author “fridged” her. I could have accepted what happens to Alice, but then, just as we begin to realize how bad ass Julia is, and start to love her at least as much, if not more than Alice (*spoiler* Julia didn’t get in to Brakebills, but that did not stop her from learning magic and becoming at least as good, if not better at it than the others), the author doubles down on his awful treatment of female characters with an ending to book two that is completely unforgivable. It nearly made me DNF the series. I’m still not over it. Guys (and I do mean guys because it’s mostly male-identifying authors who keep doing this), please quit it with the rape as a plot device. I’m not even going to apologize for spoilers here because you should be warned about this ending. It’s not just rape, it’s rape that is supposed to somehow “inject” (literally) our female main character with god-like powers. Nope. No thank you. Alice and Julia are awesome. I’ll keep enjoying them (and Margo) in the TV show, and pretend the books never happened.”
  4. My next top five favorite independent lady is a classic, and possibly the original independent lady, Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. In a time period where the only realistic goal for young ladies was pretty much “find a rich and tolerable man and marry him,” Elizabeth Bennet was determined to marry for love. She turned down an “advantageous” proposal from a cousin who was set to inherit her father’s property when he died. She even declined Darcy’s initial proposal because he was behaving like an ass. Hers is a “quieter” independence. She’s not out killing monsters, learning how to wield magic to save the world, or having any other dramatic adventures. But she’s still a risk taker who stuck to her principles and went after what she wanted, and for that she’s earned a spot on my list.
  5. Last, but most definitely not least, on my list of favorite independent ladies is definitely Kiva from John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire. Kiva was hands-down my favorite character in this book. She’s smart and crafty, and she’s out there, making stuff happen. One of the coolest aspects of this character is that she gets to have casual hook-ups with any willing partner the way that a male main character would. No shame. No moralistic repercussions. She’s just out there doing her thing. I love it and can’t wait to see what happens next for her, and the other characters in this series.

That was fun. Now I better get back to the writing cave and work on writing the adventures of my current independent leading lady in my Modern Fae series. Let me know in the comments if you agree / disagree with my selections, above, and tell me who’s on your list.

Top Five Wednesday: Nostalgic Ships (#T5W)

This week, for¬†Top Five Wednesday¬†we’re talking about the first fictional couples we ever got butterflies over and the couples we used to be really into when we were younger.

“Younger” for me encompasses a pretty large swath of pop culture. So, for this post, I’m going to focus on the couples I swooned over at any point prior to graduating college.

I had a hard time coming up with examples from books. Almost all my nostalgic ships are from movies or TV shows. Maybe there weren’t many ship-able couples in the books I read.

  1. Meg and Calvin (A Wrinkle in Time) — As an inch-thick-glasses-wearing smart girl with not-quite-curly and definitely-not-straight hair, I identified with Meg so much. Calvin was the best pre-teen hero I’d ever seen in a book because he appreciated Meg for who she was and loved her without her having to have some stupid makeover that gave her contacts and made her hair magically straight (I’m looking at you, Princess Diaries). My favorite books in this series are the ones with Meg and Calvin, or the ones that feature their daughter, Polly. I loved that when the series continued with the next generation of Murry-O’Keefes we got little glimpses of Meg and Calvin’s grown-up happily-ever-after. They were #RelationshipGoals before hashtags were invented.
  2. Han and Leia (Star Wars) — “I love you.” “I know.” Why in the hell does that get me every time? I love their banter. I love their opposites attract relationship. They were probably the first on-screen couple that I was completely invested in seeing live happily ever after (only to fast forward forty years and have their stupid son Kylo go and ruin their HEA). Regardless, their relationship is probably what gave me my soft spot for ‚Äústuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder(s)” and rebellious princesses who get shit done.
  3. Sarah and Jareth (Labyrinth) — Honestly, what fantasy loving teen didn’t ship these two? I loved this movie so much that I can still recite¬†her little speech about “dangers untold and hardships unnumbered” by heart. The masked ball scene alone is super swoon-worthy. So she doesn’t exactly end up with him at the end of the movie. You know she’s going back now that her baby brother is safe and all the goblins love her. “If you miss us…”
  4. Andie and Duckie (Pretty in Pink) — I know. He basically stalks her for the entire movie, and she turns him down repeatedly. It’s not exactly a good example for “no means no,” and I can see that now. But back when I, as an impressionable pre-teen, watched this movie at a friend’s sleepover party, Duckie was my instant fave. His whole lip sync was irresistible to pre-teen (and teen) me. Meanwhile, Blane always came off as a douchebag, even when I didn’t really know what that meant. I always thought he was a preppy jerkface who just didn’t get Andie the way that Duckie did.
  5. Rogue and Gambit¬†(from the X-Men Comics) —¬†I started reading the X-Men comics in college. I didn’t really know where to start, so I just picked the relationships I wanted to follow and then followed characters and pairs around through all the relevant comics where they appeared. Rogue and Gambit were a pair that I loved. I tried to read everything I could get my hands on that had them in it. I know they’re planning on making a Gambit movie at some point in the future (maybe), and I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll get some more Gambit and Rogue at that point (if they ever decide to make that movie).

I hope you have enjoyed this trip back in time to 80s and 90s nostalgic romantic pairings in pop culture. I’m sure there are some I’ve missed. So, I’m looking forward to checking out everyone else’s posts and BookTube videos. Let me know in the comments if you did a T5W post this week that you think I should check out.

January 2019: Reading Wrap Up

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

What I read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what I bought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Net impact on my Kindle Backlog:

Books purchased and left unread on Kindle this month: 5

Kindle books read from my backlog list: 1

New Kindle backlog total: 128 (+4)

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

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

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completed this month were:

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

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

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

First half 2019 TBR Status:

Total TBR: 33 books

Books read: 5

Books remaining: 28

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

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

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