2018 Reading Stats

Now that December is over, it’s time to take a look at my 2018 reading stats. (For last year’s reading stats, check out this post.)

I read a total of 56 books in 2018. Or 59 books if you include the two books I wrote (and had to read over and over again during editing), plus the early draft of a book I read as a critique for an author friend. For the purposes of this post we’re going to stick with 56 books read. Whatever the “official count” is, it was more than the 50 book goal that I set for myself. Go me! 🙂

Here’s how my 2018 reading stats break down:

  • New vs. backlist: 39% of the books I read (22 total) were books published in 2018 vs. 61% (34 books) published prior to 2018.
  • Fiction vs. non-fiction: This was another big year for fiction (no surprise) with 93% (52 books) fiction books read and only 7% (4 books) non-fiction.
  • Author genders: This one is a bit complicated because some books I read had multiple authors, but 93% of the books I read had at least one female-identifying author. I only read 4 books where the only author was a male-identifying author. I feel like usually this is a more balanced split, but this year I just didn’t find very many books written by men that I wanted to read. Go figure.
  • Book format: This was a much bigger than usual year for audio because I had an eye issue earlier in the year that made it frustrating to try to read. So, I listened to 20% of the books I read this year (11 total). Ebooks made up 73% of my reading (41 books), and print was only 7% (4 books).
  • Age category: The really interesting thing here is that this year’s split is identical to last year’s split. Weird, right? 57% of the books I read this year (32 total) were “adult” vs. 39% “young adult” (22 books) and 4% (2 books) “middle grade.”
  • Genre: The majority of what I read was fantasy (41%) and sci-fi (20%). The total of these two genres is actually up a bit from last year, but there are still a good number of “realistic” books in there (18% of the total, and this includes historical and contemporary as well as those four non-fiction books I read) as well as some straight up romance books (14% of the total), and mysteries (7%). With so many genres represented, this is probably a good time to throw in a pie chart. So, here you go:

  • AOC: 43% of the books I read (24 books total) were written by an “author of color” (aka one that does not identify as “white”). I am very proud of this stat. That’s the closest to 50% that I’ve been since I started keeping track of this stuff, and I didn’t even do it on purpose this year. It just happened. I love that!
  • LGBTQA: This stat, on the other hand, was less great. I’m not doing a fantastic job of including queer representation in my reading. Please note, I’m not always sure how an author identifies, and I don’t think that I need to be. That said, I think only 13% of the books I read (7 total) were written by an author who I knew identified as something other than “straight.” This is another reason why I’m excited about the 2019 Read Harder Challenge. Several of the tasks are LQBTQA related, and I’m hoping that helps me “Read Harder” in this personal blind-spot.

Ebook buying in 2018:

Of the 56 books I read in 2018, 57% (32 total) were borrowed from the library. That might seem like a good thing, and it would be a good thing, if I’d actually managed to not purchase any books in 2018, or if I’d at least purchased fewer books than what I’d read off my backlog of purchased books.

But, alas, ebook sales are kryptonite for me, and there were a lot of 2018 new releases by authors I love. The end result was that I bought 37 books on Kindle in 2018. That’s down from pervious years (see chart below). And, I also managed to keep my cost per book down, despite those new release pre-orders.

I don’t mind spending money on books. It’s pretty much the only money I spend on entertainment. The problem is, I feel like if I’m buying them, I should read them.

In 2018, I only read 20 of the books that I’d purchased for Kindle. 10 were books I’d purchased in previous years. The other 10 were ones I’d purchased in 2018. But, remember, I purchased 37 books in 2018. So, that means I didn’t read everything I bought, and the additional purchases negated the small dent I’d managed to make in the backlog of books bought in previous years.

Keep in mind, we’re just talking about ebooks here. I also have unread print books that were given to me as gifts or ones that I’d purchased as part of a subscription box. Since I’m less inclined to run out and buy a print book that I’m not going to read right away (see comment about ebook sales, above), I don’t really track unread print books. I use my bookshelf as a visual reminder of those. The Kindle books, on the other hand, just seem to disappear onto my Kindle until I remember I bought them, or check my list.

This is why one of my reading goals for 2019 is to read more books than I buy. I’m starting 2019 with at least 124 unread books on my Kindle. I say “at least” because there are books on there that I received for free and ones that I might have missed from before I started keeping track and ones that I bought for my husband back when we were sharing a Kindle account. It’s complicated. For example, my “tbr-Kindle” shelf on Goodreads says that I have 148 books unread. That’s probably more like the actual number. But, for the purposes of this exercise, I’m going to go with 124 books because that’s what’s on the list in my book buying spreadsheet.

As I mentioned in my 2019 reading goals post, the rule this year is that for every book that I buy, at least one book has to be read so that I end the year with no more than 124 books on that list. Now, ideally I’d read at least two books for every one book that I buy (one being the book I bought, plus another book from the backlog). But, this year I’ll be satisfied as long as that number stays flat. To keep myself honest, in my monthly reading recap posts this year, I’m planning to do an accounting of books added (inbox) vs. books finished (outbox). We’ll see how it goes.

If you stuck with this post all the way to the end then you must be a kindred spirit who loves to geek out on data! Or you’re my mom. Either way, hi, friend! Thanks for reading and appreciating the annual combination of my love of reading with my love of spreadsheets and data.

If somehow you got this far and are not already tracking your own reading but think you might want to start, I highly recommend using a spreadsheet like the one provided in this post on Book Riot. It’s pretty thorough, and they set up all the formulas and charts for you. So, if you don’t love spreadsheets and formulas as much as I do, you don’t have to worry about that part.

Okay, data geek-out is over. Time to get back to working on writing and editing my books! Happy reading!

Reading summary for December (and sneak peak at what I’m currently reading)

One of these years I will remember that after a month of writing (aka NaNoWriMo), I need to take a break to read and recharge. That ended up being the theme of my December. I didn’t get much writing done, but I did a lot of reading.

Here’s what I read in December:

I started off the month with Light Years by Kass Morgan and Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor, two entirely different books.

Light Years is a fun YA sci-fi novel told from the perspectives of a mixed cast of characters. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I wanted to love it because it had so many elements of sci-fi stories that I love.

What I did love was Muse of Nightmares. It was an excellent companion novel to Strange the Dreamer. I love Laini Taylor’s writing style. Her descriptions are delicious without being over-the-top flowery, and she writes great angsty love stories.

After that, I picked up Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse. I’d been really looking forward to reading this book, but I’d forgotten that I’m not a huge fan of urban fantasy. If you are a huge fan of urban fantasy, you really need to read this book. I loved the world-building. It’s very well thought out, and the backstory of why things are the way they are is woven into the story nicely. I really liked it, but it’s not really my favorite genre, so I’m not sure if I’ll keep going with the series.

As I was finishing up Trail of Lightning, I stumbled onto the Magical Readathon “Christmas at Hogwarts” and posted about how I thought I might participate. I did participate, but didn’t finish it. I accidentally skipped the second to last task, and did not make it to the Christmas feast. Here’s how it went for me:

  • After I “finished my coursework” (aka Trail of Lightning), I “helped Hagrid decorate the trees” by reading Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone. Saying there is gold on the cover of this book is a bit of a stretch. But, of the books I wanted to read next, this was the only book with something like gold on the cover. Also, the only thing magical about this book was how well the author captured the first-person voice of this female psychopath. So good. Also super disturbing. If you’ve ever been in a verbally abusive relationship, this book may be triggering for you. But, it’s so good. My friend (who also read this) and I want to subtly give this to everyone we know who might be in, or might find themselves in, a bad relationship.
  • After I recovered from that adventure, I “visited the Three Broomsticks for mulled pixie wine” by reading Night Flower by Kate Elliott. As you may remember, I listened to the Court of Fives series on audiobook earlier this year and loved it. Reading the novella was a trip because I hadn’t seen any of the names in print before, but knew how to pronounce them all because of the audiobooks. It’s usually the opposite for me. As for the story, it was a nice addition to the series. Not critical to read, but added some context and world-building beyond what was in the books.
  • The “mulled pixie wine” must have gone to my head because I forgot that I was supposed to “sneak into the kitchen to gift Dobby socks” next. I had a few novellas and short novels with clothing on the cover, but I wasn’t sure which book I wanted to pick, and I knew what I was reading for the next task. I’m bummed I missed this one because giving socks to Dobby was possibly my favorite task on the chart. After all, I’d tried to pick the path I would most likely have taken if these were actual things I was doing at Hogwarts for Christmas, and this was one thing I would *definitely* have done.
  • Instead, I got ahead of myself and “put on my knitted sweater from Molly Weasley” by reading the other novella in the Court of Fives series, Bright Thrones by Kate Elliott. Again, this is non-critical to understanding the series of books, but does give more insight into what happened with Jess’s twin sister. One of the things I loved about this series was how it really did have that sense of family and included present parents in the story. That’s not something you find a lot in YA fantasy novels, and it’s why I felt like this was the perfect pick for this task.
  • Since I didn’t finish all the tasks, I didn’t “attend the Christmas feast” by watching a Harry Potter movie, but I did attend an IRL party on Boxing Day, and I did plenty of Christmas feasting (*pats bloated tummy for emphasis*). Honestly, watching a Harry Potter movie may have been a better choice. Fewer calories consumed and less awkward socializing. 😉

After Boxing Day, we went down to Portland for a short visit with our friends, and I didn’t finish any more books. There was much game playing, but no reading (at none done least by me) until I got home.

I did start a few books in the last two days of the year with no intention of finishing them before January first. That’s so unlike me. I usually like to have everything all wrapped up nice and tidy by the end of the year. Not this year.

One of the books I started was The Bullet Journal Method, which was waiting for me in my mailbox when I got home. The other was The Power of Habit, which I’ve been hearing a LOT about and decided to finally try. Both of these were excellent choices to start off the year, as far as I’m concerned.

As for my first fiction read of 2019, I picked Planetside by Michael Mammy. I started reading it on January first, and I’m only about 25% through it, but I’m really enjoying it. It’s reminding me how much I miss reading military sci-fi.

Normally, I only read one book at a time, but right now I’m dipping into five books simultaneously. Here’s a glimpse at what I’m currently reading:

We’ll see how many of these I manage to finish before the end of this month… But first, it’s time to crunch the numbers on my 2018 reading stats. That post should be up tomorrow. In the meantime, let me know in the comments what you picked for your first book of 2019.

Reading List: Powell’s Books staff’s best books of 2018

Powell’s just released their Staff Top 5 Picks of 2018! As I did last year (and in 2016, and 2015), I’ve crunched the numbers* in order to calculate which books were most mentioned and determine a “consensus” top ten list.

Presented in order of most to least total points, the top ten highest rated books of 2018 according to the staff at Powell’s Books (in Portland, Oregon) are:

(Links below take you to Powell’s, because that seemed appropriate.)

  1. The Alehouse at the End of the World by Stevan Allred (fantasy) — This was the clear winner with 18 total points and was mentioned by five of the staff in their lists, but somehow I never heard of it before I saw it here. I immediately clicked over to my library to reserve a copy, but they don’t have it. I have library cards at three different libraries, and none of them had it (or at least not on digital). So, I requested they go buy it, and I moved on to the next on the list.
  2. Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot (memoir) — I don’t usually read memoirs. But, when I read the description and saw that it was about a woman growing up on Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest, I read the glowing reviews and saw it was a really short book. So, I looked it up and found out that my local library had this one available for digital loan. Then I borrowed it. It’s now on my Kindle.
  3. Educated by Tara Westover (memoir) — This wasn’t only a popular staff pick, but it was also included on their “picks of the season” gift buying list. Again, this is a memoir, so not my usual jam. But…the description intrigued me. A woman who was born in rural Idaho with no birth certificate but then later left that life. I was interested enough to go add this to my holds list as well.
  4. There There by Tommy Orange (lit fic) — This is a novel written by a Native man and takes place in Oakland. The sheer amount of glowing reviews, blurbs, and best of lists that are mentioned on the page for this book make it hard to find the book description. Apparently, it’s really good. So, I decided I’d better check it out (from the library) and added it to my hold list.
  5. Circe by Madeline Miller (fantasy) — Finally! One that was already on my “to-read” list. I haven’t read her Achilles book. I’ve heard enough good stuff about this book that I decided I’m just going to read this first. Since I already had my library Overdrive open, I clicked over and added this to my hold list as well.
  6. Red Clocks by Leni Zumas (spec fic) — This is a near-future speculative fiction book that sounds like it would be a big hit with fans of Margaret Atwood, especially the ones who enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale. That includes me, so I figured I should probably add it to my hold list as well. I couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t heard of this book, but I think it may be due to the fact that, assuming I saw it at my local bookstore, the cover and title gave no clue about what this book is about. Marketing fail.
  7. Heavy by Kiese Laymon (memoir) — It seems that the staff at Powells like memoirs. I thought I’d finally found one that maybe I wasn’t interested in reading. But, this is one of those books written by and about a life and experience very unlike my own. So of course I had to add it to my holds list.
  8. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara (true crime) — This is one of those serial killer true crime books that should never ever end up on my to-read list. Even the reviews say it’s super scary. But, by this point in the list, I’d committed myself to reading all of them. So, now it’s on my Kindle (there wasn’t a wait list for the hold at my library). I’m going to need to read this alongside something a lot fluffier. And in daylight, surrounded by other people.
  9. Washington Black by Esi Edugyan (lit fic) — The description of this book sounded almost like a cross between The Signature of All Things and Homegoing. I really enjoyed both of those books, so this got added to my holds list as well.
  10. The Third Hotel by Laura van den Berg (lit fic) — This one’s a novel with an interesting premise. Grieving widow goes to Havana after her husband dies in a car accident, then she sees him at a museum. See? Interesting, right? By the time I’d got to this book, I’d already maxed out the available holds at my local library. So I had to put this one on hold at a different library.

When I started crunching the numbers for this post, I definitely did not think I was going to walk away with ten new books on my library hold list. The only thing I can attribute this to is the fact that I haven’t been reading much “lit fic” or non-fiction, lately. I think maybe my brain is searching for new material to chew on. Whatever it is, I’m going to go with it and see where it leads.

I try to avoid trash talking the publishing industry, but I have to say that nothing about the covers (or titles) for any of these books would have made me pick them up in a bookstore. I wander through my local bookstore almost weekly, and I’ve probably walked past most, if not all, of these books *many* times. Maybe I’ve spent too long immersed in the romance and sci-fi / fantasy genres where everyone is all about the covers and the titles. But, it seems like the non-fiction and lit fic folks have never heard of #bookstagram.

Seriously, if these books are really as good as the staff at Powells thinks they are, then I think maybe the non-fiction and literary fiction arms of the publishing houses may need to up their marketing game. I have Goodreads friends (and IRL friends) who read these sorts of books more than I do and only half (five) of these books had been added to any of their shelves. And only two of those books (Educated and Circe) had actually been read by any of my Goodreads friends. That’s really unfortunate for these authors.

If you want to add these books to your TBR (and maybe read some along with me), I’ve added them to a Goodreads shelf called PowellsBestof2018. If you do add any to your TBR, let me know in the comments which you plan to read. Alternatively, if you have already read any of these, let me know what you think/recommend in the comments, and maybe add me as a Goodreads friend. 🙂

 

* In case you’re interested, here’s how I came up with the total points… I did some good old “copying and pasting” of all the lists into a spreadsheet. Then I assigned points to each mention of each book based on where it appeared in each list (5 points for first place, 4 points for second place, etc.). Then I made a pivot table and sorted the results by total number of points in descending order. There was an obvious cut-off after the first ten books. So I capped the list at ten books.

Top Five Wednesday: reading goals for 2019 (#T5W)

Happy New Year, everyone! I took a little time off over the holiday to rest and recharge. I read a bunch of good books and had fun times with family and friends. Now I’m ready to start 2019! I hope you all had a happy New Year and a fun and relaxing holiday, too!

Today’s Top 5 Wednesday theme is “2019 reading resolutions.” I was planning to post my 2018 reading summary before I did my reading resolutions, but I didn’t get that done yesterday. So, we’re going to do this a bit out of order. Today you’ll get my 2019 reading goals, and later this week I’ll post my December reading summary and 2018 reading stats.

Oh! And Powell’s posted their staff Top 5 lists! So, my summary post is in progress. I’ve already crunched the numbers and reserved the entire list at my library. Spoiler: there are a LOT of good books that weren’t on my radar. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out last year’s post.

As for my “2019 reading resolutions,” I’m not really a fan of making “resolutions,” but I’ve definitely have some reading goals for 2019 (as I do every year). I never thought this was an odd thing to do until last week when I was talking with friends and they all looked at me funny when I asked about their reading goals for 2019. Apparently, not all avid readers make reading goals. Who knew?

My reading goals are pretty much the same every year: read at least 50 books (about a book a week, on average) and try to read diversely (books by AOC, different genres and age ranges, books by or about folks with different experiences than me, etc.). This year I’m adding a few other goals to that list, and not just because I wanted to round it up to make a “top five” list, I swear. I actually had a few more goals than the ones listed here, but I trimmed things back to keep focused, reduce overlap, and limit myself to only five.

Here are my reading goals for 2019:

  1. Read an average of a book a week for a total of 52 books read in 2019. — I’m increasing my usual goal by two books to make it an actual average of a book a week. I almost always exceed this goal, so adding two more books shouldn’t be an issue.
  2. Create one page in my bullet journal for every book I read, once I start reading it, to write down thoughts and notes about that book. — I’ve stopped writing reviews on Goodreads and only leave star ratings these days. On my blog, I only mention high-level thoughts in my monthly reading recap posts. Mostly, this is because I know how much work goes into writing a book, and I’m not interested in dissecting that work in public. I do think it’s useful to read critically and make notes about what I enjoyed, what I didn’t, and why, as well as what I learned (from a craft perspective, if I’m reading fiction). So, at the end of last year, I started capturing these thoughts in my notebook. The added benefit is that it’s much easier to reference these notes.
  3. Attempt to complete all the 2019 Read Harder tasks and try to do it using books that are already in my TBR (physical or virtual) wherever possible. — This one is sort of two goals wrapped in one. I don’t have any specific reading diversity goals I’m trying to hit this year, and I liked the ones on the Read Harder challenge because there were plenty that represent new areas of reading for me. But, I also have over 100 books unread on my Kindle, plus an entire shelf of unread print books on my bookcase. So, before I go running out to reserve a book at the library to cover one of these tasks, I’m going to see if I have any purchased and unread books that I could read to check off a task, instead.
  4. Read more indie published books. — When I decided to self-publish my Modern Fae series, I hadn’t read a lot of indie-published books, but I had talked with a lot of indie-published authors and watched a lot of indie-authors talk about publishing on YouTube and at RWA events and conferences. This year, I’d like to try to expand my reading beyond the mainstream popular traditional published stuff and read more books by indie-authors. Coincidentally, this is also a task on the 2019 Read Harder challenge.
  5. Read more books that I own than the amount that I buy for myself. — This is one I’ve been working on for the past few years. You’ll see when I post my 2018 reading stats that I did a great job of buying fewer books this year. The problem is, I read a LOT from the library this year. So, net effect is that I added books to my “purchased and unread” books. This year, I want to try to keep the number of books on that list at neutral, or hopefully reduce it. My plan is to only buy books if I can’t get them from the library *and* I plan to read them immediately.

All this requires tracking, so I’ve added some new spreads in my bullet journal. This first one I’ve already added to a previous post. I’m using this to track new releases and the Read Harder tasks.

I added another to remind me of all the awesome books on my shelf and my Kindle that I keep forgetting to read in place of the new shiny stuff. That list on the far right are the books I currently have on digital hold at the library. There’s no way I’m getting to all these this year. Too many books, not enough time…

I also mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been frustrated with how many places I’m tracking what I’m reading. This year, I’ve decided to narrow things down as much as possible. I’m going to use Goodreads to keep track of what books I have in progress and/or checked out from the library. I’ll update Goodreads when I start a new book or when I finish a book. All day to day tracking and book notes are going in my bullet journal. And, I’ve decided to keep using a spreadsheet (I like this one from Book Riot) to keep a list of books and related details about those books because it makes it easier for me to run my reading stats at the end of the year. But, I’m probably only going to update it once a month or so because I only check my stats every six months. That should take some of the pressure off.

That’s the plan, and I’m pretty excited about it. So, how about you? Do you have reading goals or resolutions? Do you track your reading stats in a spreadsheet like the one from Book Riot? Tell me about it in the comments.

Happy New Year! Wishing you all the best for 2019!

Ten tropes I am trash for…paired with book I just read or want to read!

Ah, tropes, those time-tested story elements that keep popping up over and over again. You know, like the much-discussed love triangle. Some people love them. Some people hate them. But, they’re definitely not going away anytime soon, and that’s fine by me.

Tropes are a little like favorite foods, every reader has ones that make their mouth water, but they’re different for everyone. Find someone who loves a particular trope, and you’re bound to find another who doesn’t like it, or who avoids it entirely.

I’m of the opinion that the only “bad” tropes are the ones that perpetuate harmful representation. Other than those, I’m here for all tropes, especially a trope done well, or done in a unique way. But, the ones I’ve listed below are my favorites. They’re the ones that will get me to one-click a book to my TBR or shopping cart every time.

  1. Masked balls —This is a tropey plot point that I’m all in for, no matter how corney and obvious it may be. If the hero and the heroine have to attend a masked ball, you can expect there will be fireworks and mistaken identity and yearning. I love it. One of my favorites is the one at the heart of The Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. It’s so delicious and angsty, featuring the perfect pair of star-crossed lovers.
  2. One last job, especially a heist — Getting the gang back together is one of my favorite tropes. I love a good ensemble cast, especially one with tensions from years of working together, and hopefully a good romance thrown in as well. I loved the movie Ocean’s Eight. I need to find more books like that. Especially ones with an all lady, or mostly lady, crew. Along those lines, I recently read and enjoyed Seafire by Natalie Parker. It features an all lady pirate crew out to destroy the awful tyrant in charge of their world. There’s also a nice enemies to lovers romance that starts sizzling when the Captain of the crew allows a boy onto her ship. Just beware of the cliffhanger ending. It’s the first in a series, and book two isn’t out, yet.
  3. Female spies and assassins — Think “female James Bond” or La Femme Nikita (specifically, the Luc Besson movie from 1991). If a novel features a female spy or assassin, my ears perk up and my fingers start clicking. Earlier this year, I heard mention of The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne in a podcast and immediately borrowed it from my library. It’s so good. If this is your catnip, too, you should definitely check out that book and the rest of the series.
  4. Found family — Oh how I love a found family. This goes along with my love of a good ensemble cast. When it’s a rag-tag group of misfits thrown together on a spaceship or to embark on a fantasy quest, I can’t resist. A series that I finished recently and loved for this very reason is the Illuminae Files series. There are three books. Each one features a different setting and romantic pairing, all in the same world focused on different vantage points of an event that happens in the first book. In the last book, each pairing and their found family comes together to make for one big crew. It’s glorious. Just be sure to get it in paperback or hardcover because the interior layout is best viewed on paper, in my opinion.
  5. Dancers and men who can dance — I’m especially susceptible to any book featuring ballet and/or hip hop dancers (think Step Up vibes), but ballroom dancing is equally athletic and hot. Recently, I’ve been digging Alexis Daria’s “Dance Off” series, starting with Take the Lead. I’ve got the next book queued up in my library holds, and I’m very excited about it.
  6. Secret space alien pretending to be human — This isn’t strictly limited to space aliens. Other fantasy creatures pretending to be human are also catnip for me. But I’m a sucker for anything that gives me Rosewell vibes (specifically, the original TV show from the ‘90s…I’m still skeptical about this reboot thing…). One that I’ve been meaning to read for a while and have heard great things about is Obsidian by Jennifer Armentrout. Come to think of it, I may have to bump that up on my TBR…
  7. Suddenly royal — If a book has a hero or heroine who thinks they’re no big deal only to find out that they are actually royalty, I’m in. This also applies to a hero or heroine falling for royalty and becoming royal that way. Most recently, I’ve loved A Princess in Theory and A Duke by Default, both by Alyssa Cole.
  8. Jane Austen retellings — It doesn’t matter the genre, I can’t resist a Jane Austen retelling. It’s been a while since I’ve stumbled across one that I particularly enjoyed. There are several out right now that I have on my TBR, but the one I have my eye on most isn’t coming out until February 2020! That’s The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne, and it’s being billed as “Jane Austen meets The Bachelor in space.” It sounds delightful.
  9. Elite military academy, especially if it’s in space — The fastest way to make me click “buy it now” is to tell me there’s a military space fleet academy involved. I blame this on my favorite, and criminally under-appreciated, Anne McCaffrey novel, Sassinak. It’s difficult to find books with this trope that also include a strong romance plot, but many of my favorites include romantic subplots, including the book I just finished reading, Light Years by Kass Morgan.
  10. Fake relationship —  Oh how I love a good fake relationship. Especially when it’s between a pair who have sworn that they’ll hate each other forever only to fall madly in love when forced to spend time together. The recent Netflix adaptation of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han got me all excited about this trope and made me want to go read the book. This is also a trope I played with in my most recent novella, Vivian’s Promise. So, if you like fake relationships, you might want to check that out. 🙂

I hope I didn’t do too much damage to your TBR with all these recommendations! Feel free to return the favor and let me know your favorite examples of these tropes that I should definitely add to my wish list.

Happy holidays and happy reading!

Magical Readathon: Christmas at Hogwarts

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

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

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

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

The readathon tasks are decoded as follows:

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

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

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

Jane Doe

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

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

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

Top 5 Wednesday: Most Anticipated 2019 Releases (#T5W)

It’s time for another Top 5 Wednesday blog post! This week’s topic is “most anticipated 2019 releases.” There are so many good books coming out in 2019!

These are the books coming out in 2019 that I am most excited to read right now (listed in increasing order of excitement, with #5 = most excited!):

  1. Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee — Release scheduled for January 2019. This is a middle grade book, but it’s written by the author of the Ninefox Gambit series and is part of this new, expanded Rick Riordan multi-cultural universe. I really liked Ninefox Gambit and have been trying to get to the rest of the series for months now. But this book looks so damn good, I’m willing to try yet another middle grade, even though we’ve already determined that rarely ends well because I’m no longer in touch with my pre-teen self.
  2. The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi — Release scheduled for January 2019. I’ve yet to land on a favorite book by Roshani. I like her writing, but my absolute favorite story of hers isn’t one of her books. It’s a short story she wrote called The Vishakanya’s Choice that I read in volume one of the Booksmugglers’ Quarterly Almanac. I think it’s because she leans more poetic in her writing, and I love a good plot. This one is a treasure hunt with a secret society and being comped to National Treasure. So, it sounds like something I’m going to love.
  3. Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells — Release scheduled for July 2019. I was lucky enough to read an early version of this manuscript because I met Rebecca at a writing workshop (Madcap) and offered to be a beta reader for her. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of this book so I can see the final version and get back to this world. If you like dragons, you have definitely got to add this to your TBR.
  4. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern — Release scheduled for November 2019. It’s no secret that I LOVE The Night Circus and that I’ve been patiently waiting for another book by this author. I barely read the book blurb before adding this to my TBR on Goodreads. I have a feeling this is going to be #1 on my Christmas wish list next year.
  5. The Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner — Release scheduled for March 2019). Another author and series that I LOVE is The Queen’s Thief series. I still haven’t had a chance to read book five (released last year) because I’ve been meaning to do a full re-read of the series. I guess that means that re-read will be happening starting in January. Who’s with me?

I’ve created a spread in my bullet journal to keep track of all the awesome new releases… as well as the 2019 Book Riot Read Harder tasks.

Yep. That’s right. I’m thinking of participating in #ReadHarder again this year… Stay tuned for a future post on my 2019 reading goals. I’ve been thinking about what I want next year to look like in terms of reading and everything else. At some point between now and the end of the year, I’ll formulate my thoughts into a blog post.

Let me know in the comments if you know of any new releases that you think I’d love and that I should add to my 2019 new release BuJo spread. And let me know if you’re up for a Queen’s Thief series re-read (or if you plan to read it for the first time to get caught up before March).

Happy reading!

Top Five Wednesday: Books to give my husband as gifts (#T5W)

It’s Wednesday! Time for another Top Five Wednesday post! This week the topic is “Books to Give _____ as Gifts.” I’m filling in the blank with my husband. I feel pretty safe doing this because 1) I’m not actually getting him any books for Christmas, and 2) should I decide to change my mind about that, he probably won’t read this blog post anyway.

Doing a top five list on books I would buy for my husband may seem incredibly specific. But, this list would also work for any incredibly difficult people to buy for on your shopping list. Particularly, ones that prefer to read only non-fiction or hard sci-fi. If the person you’re trying to find the perfect book for is really into learning new things and following their curiosity, but prefers all the world-building in the novels they read to be grounded in reality, this list may give you some gift-giving ideas.

And, as an added bonus for anyone who knows my husband and is inclined to buy him a present for Christmas, you are free to take any of these ideas. I know he’s particularly difficult to buy things for. So, consider this my gift to you. You’re welcome. 🙂

To give you a sense of my husband’s taste in books, most recently, he read and enjoyed the first two books in the Expanse series (Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War), as well as Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill. He also reads a lot of non-fiction, but I’m keeping this list focused on sci-fi novels that I think he would enjoy, based on ones I know he’s read and liked (recent and past), plus his favorite sci-fi authors (like Neal Stephenson).

Here are my selections for the top five books I think my husband (or anyone who loves hard sci-fi) would enjoy:

  1. Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers — Technically, this is the third book in a series of loosely connected books. I’ve read the first two in this series, and I think my husband would enjoy both of those books (the second maybe more than the first). But, I already have those books. So, I’d recommend this one for him, especially because I’ve heard this one is slightly different and possibly the best, yet. One of the things I love about these books is how they wrestle with tough questions and meaty themes, but are ultimately optimistic about humanity. He really likes meaty themes, and sometimes he could use a dose of optimism in light of the state of “general world suck.”
  2. Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice — I love finding new takes (especially from under-represented authors) on “the same old” sci-fi and fantasy novels. In this case, a crumbling post-apocalyptic society. My husband is a fan of post-apocalyptic books, especially when they have plausible apocalypses and deal with the gritty reality of survival. For example, he really liked The Dog Stars and also The Water Knife. This one sounds like another that he would enjoy.
  3. Walkaway by Cory Doctorow — My husband has read, and really enjoyed, several other books by Cory Doctorow, and I’ve been hearing that this one, Cory’s latest, is maybe his best yet. This is another spin on the post-apocalyptic novel, but likely to be unique because Cory Doctorow is kind of known for spending a lot of time thinking about the intersection between the future of technology and society. And since he knows a thing or two about technology, and the culture surrounding technology, he usually comes up with some pretty plausible stuff.
  4. I Still Dream by James Smythe — I found this on The Guardian’s best of 2018 list. Their lists have, in the past, been a good source for finding books that my husband might like. This one is about artificial intelligence, which is something I know he’s interested in. I also got a lot of Diamond Age (by Neal Stephenson) vibes from the blurb. It may be because of the young and brilliant, female protagonist. I’m not sure how available this book is in the U.S., but I think there is a high probability that he would like it.
  5. Gnomon by Nick Harkaway — I wonder if this one isn’t a little too “on the nose” to be a hit with my husband, but I’m including it anyway because it’s got all the markers of being a book he would really enjoy. It sounds like it’s kind of a 1984 -type story of government surveillance, but the blurb also reminds me of The Circle (another book my husband liked), and it appears to maybe have a sort of code for the reader to uncover along with the main character. So, while it appears to have a lot of themes that I feel are maybe getting a bit overdone at this point, I think it has unique enough aspects to be something he’d find interesting.

If you have other suggestions that you think he might like, let me know in the comments. I’d love to know what else might be a good choice, just in case I do decide to buy him a book or two for Christmas. 🙂

Top Five Wednesday: Book Wish List (#T5W)

I think we’ve established that I have more than enough books on my Kindle, on my bedside table, and on my TBR shelf. I probably have enough to keep me reading for years without ever buying another book. Yet somehow that does not seem to stop me from buying more, or putting more on my wish list.

This week’s “Top 5 Wednesday” topic, inspired by the holiday season, is asking about the top five books on your wish list. Narrowing my list down to just five was challenging. Luckily, a lot of the books on my list don’t release until 2019. So, I excluded those (for now…they’ll probably show up in a future T5W post…). Since the spirit of this list is about gift giving, and giving print books is usually more fun than giving/receiving ebooks, I decided to keep my top five focused on the books I wouldn’t mind having in print.

Given that, right now the top five books on my wish list this year are (in no particular order):

  1. Skyward by Brandon Sanderson — I’m super curious about this book. It sounds like something I would love. But I’m skeptical. No offense to an author who is clearly a beloved fantasy writer, but I’ve been a little unsure about white male writers writing young female main characters of late. I’ve been burned before. So, I’m hesitant to spend money on this when I might not like it. Also, I don’t love the cover, which is kind of a maker or break it print buy thing for me. My solution to this is that I’m waiting for it to come out in paperback, be available at the library, or for someone to get it for me.
  2. The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi — I loved the first book in this series and am really excited to find out what happens next, just not $13.99 on Kindle worth of excited. Especially not when I have a pile of other great stuff to read. So, like Skyward, I’m waiting for it to be available in paperback, or at my library, or to go on sale, or for someone to get it for me.
  3. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle — Somehow I never read this book. I was reading a blog post recently on Tor’s website talking about how it’s the 50 year anniversary of this book and how well it’s held up. The article really made me want to read this book. Unfortunately, because it’s an older book, it appears you can only get it in print. No digital options are available. So, I added this to my wish list.
  4. Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The rise and reign of the unruly woman by Anne Helen Petersen — I recently listened to a Smart Bitches podcast interview with the author of this book and immediately added it to my wish list. Non-fiction is an automatic print read for me, unless I can get it on audiobook from the library. Reading non-fiction in a digital format annoys me. I think it’s because I’m a very visual reader who can flip back to find a passage in print a book super fast because I remember where it was physically on the page and in the text. I can’t do that as well in digital, and its something that I find useful when reading (or referencing) non-fiction.
  5. The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll — I’m a bullet journal nerd and this book looks great. I’m always looking for inspiration and ideas for how to organize and track things better. This would make an excellent present for any paper-planner person in your life. I put it on the wish list I sent to my “The Broke and The Bookish” secret Santa. But, if I don’t get it from them, I may just have to buy myself a copy.

If you happen to be someone I exchange gifts with, and you don’t know what to buy me, you can always check what books are on my “want to read” list over on Goodreads. Those are the books I don’t own yet, but that I’ve marked as ones I want to read. Some more than others. Conversely, if you’re looking to rule out something I may already own, just have a look at my tbr-Kindle or tbr-paper shelves. If it’s on one of those, then I already own it.

What books are on your wish list? Definitely let me know, especially if we exchange presents. Also, let me know if you’ve added Eve of the Fae or Vivian’s Promise to your wish list this year, or if you’re planning to give a copy as a gift, because that would be awesome, and I would love to know about it! 🙂

November reading summary and NaNoWriMo recap

Well, it’s taken me all weekend to (mostly) recover from NaNoWriMo. I made achieved the 50k words in 30 days goal, but the first draft of book two isn’t done yet. Right now it’s looking like I’ll need to write a total of around 70-75k words to get to “the end” in this first draft. But still… Winner!!! 🙂

NaNoWriMo is always a challenge for me. The “writing with abandon” mantra is not always a good fit with how I write. That’s partly why I enjoy participating. It pushes me a bit because it favors the pantser, and I like that it brings an infusion of serendipity and whimsy into my writing, because I’m a planner. I write really lean and organized first drafts. I don’t like writing words I’m just going to have to cut later. And I don’t write super fast, because I tend to edit as I go. Even though I tried not to edit during NaNoWriMo, it was pretty much impossible. So, I just wrote the way I write and took extra time to make sure I got to 50k words before the end of the month. It worked, but it took a lot out of me, as it does every year.

Based on the past few months of writing, I think a target of about 25k (new) words per month is probably about right for me in a non-NaNo month. I like to write every day, when I can, but I don’t like to feel like I have to write 1700 words every day. That’s about three hours of writing for me, when you factor in breaks. And I have other things I need to do in a day, even if I’m not “working” at a “real job.”

The other thing I figured out this month is that every single time I got stuck it was because I didn’t do a good enough job planning where I was going next or because I forgot to research something or figure out how I wanted it to work ahead of time. For example, I did a great job thinking through character names in October, because I know that always slows me down. But, I forgot to spend time working out the details around the magic system, and I didn’t do nearly enough prep around the capabilities and characteristics of my antagonist and her crew. So, some of those scenes were much slower to write then they needed to be. I may spend some time working out those details this week, now that the big push for words is over.

Since NaNoWriMo kept me busy in November, I didn’t have much time for reading. This is so unusual for me, but I only finished one book in November. I did get about halfway through Muse of Nightmares during Tome Topple, but the writing came first. So, as much as I’m loving that book, I didn’t allow myself much time to keep reading and finish it.

Seafire by Natalie Parker was the one book I finished in November, and it was pretty great. My only gripe was that it ended on a cliff-hanger. I wasn’t expecting that. For some reason, I hadn’t grasped that this was supposed to be a series. Even if I had, I still don’t think I would have anticipated that the book would end where it does. So, if cliff-hangers bug you, maybe wait until the next book is out to read this one. But, definitely add it to your TBR. I love the female pirate crew in this book. The characters are great, the friendships are so well done, the world-building for lives primarily lived on the sea or near the sea is thoughtful and logical. It’s listed as “fantasy,” but I’m not sure I would classify this as fantasy. It could be fantasy if you assume that the setting is meant to be secondary-world, but that world operates under laws of science like our own, so that’s why I think of it as more futuristic, possibly even post-apocalyptic, sci-fi. So, if you like your speculative fiction more on the plausibly realistic side, and if you like found family and female friendships, you definitely need to check this book out.

The first few weeks of December are going to continue to be busy as I finish this first draft, edit a novella, and prep different novella for release later this month. My goal is to have everything wrapped up by launch day (12/18), and then spend the rest of the year reading, hanging out with family, and having a little reflection and goal setting time in my bullet journal. But, don’t worry, I’ll definitely be posting for “Top Five Wednesday” and other fun stuff throughout the month.

Until then…Happy last month of the year! Happy reading! And happy holidays!