March Reading Wrap-Up

I did not read as many books as I thought I was going to read in March. I had wanted to read one for every line in my rainbow, but alas that did not happen. On the bright side, I really liked everything I read.

Here is what I read in March:

  • Hunt the Stars by Jessie Mihalik — This book gave me serious Firefly vibes. There’s a crew of mercenaries. The Captain falls for the alien who hires them for a job. I enjoyed it, and I think I liked it better than I liked her Consortium Rebellion series. If you’re looking for some sci-fi romance that’s not of the blue aliens kidnapping Earth women variety, you should give this one a try.
  • The Misfit Soldier by Michael Mammay — This book was great. The author has become one of my auto-buy authors, and I think I liked this book even better than his first series. Currently, this is a stand-alone. I could totally see this becoming book one in a series (and I hope that it does). The voice of the main character had me laughing out loud. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I was practically giddy when I realized that this wasn’t just a military sci-fi mystery novel. Another, somewhat unexpected genre has been sandwiched in here, and it’s done very well. This one is definitely my favorite that I read this month.
  • The Bounce Back by Addie Woolridge — Another REALLY good novel. Again, I think I liked this one even better than I liked her first novel. This book is funny and heartwarming, and there is so many wise nuggets about day jobs and sibling relationships and female friendships. I highly recommend checking out this book, even if you haven’t read The Checklist (but you should totally read that one, too).

If you want to watch the flip-thru video, you can check that out here:

I am still working on adding some background music to my April set-up video. Once I get that figured out, I’ll get that posted, too! Until then, happy reading!

April #MagicalReadathon and #TomeTopple TBR

April why do you have to be so full of events I want to participate in? The first few days of this month (and the last few of last month) have already been so jam packed with stuff that I’m late getting this post up. Somehow I don’t think that the pace is going to let up this month, on either the work or leisure side of the life equation.

Not only is April going to be the first Spring Equinox session of Book Roast’s Magical Readathon, but there is also going to be another round of Tome Topple, AND it’s Camp NaNoWriMo. I already had big (and I mean really big) writing plans for April, and now I have just added a boatload of reading as well.

Something is going to have to give in order for me to make that happen, but that will be a problem for me to figure out when I sit down to plan my month. Today we’re going to pretend like I have all the time in the world for ambitious reading TBRs. Ready? Let’s go.

When making my TBR for April, I started with the Magical Readathon prompts because I am super into the whole Orilium thing that Book Roast has created. In the process of picking books, I added a couple of chucky tomes (books over 500 pages) that will also allow me to participate in Tome Topple, which is happening in the second half of the month (15-28 April).

Part of me thought it might be too much to try to do both events. I considered skipping Tome Topple (again), but I have tomes that are piling up and desperately need toppling! I need the added incentive of this event to tackle those long reads. Plus, I kind of had to pick one long one for one of the Magical Readathon prompts, so there’s that, too. You’ll see what I mean when I get into the TBR, below.

Here’s what I picked out and why:

  • Paladin’s Strength by T. Kingfisher — This is my buddy read book for the month, and it also fits the prompt of “book with a trope you like” to check off my “Art of Illusion” Orilium coursework. Judging from the description, I believe this book has at least three of my favorite tropes: a fake relationship, forced proximity, and competence porn! So excited.
  • Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa — This is my “intimidating read” for my “Inscription” coursework. As I hinted at above, basically the only books I tend to think of as “intimidating” reads are the ones that are over 500 pages (aka “tomes”). Books considered “classics” and anything non-fiction can also be intimidating for me, but I don’t have any “classics” on my TBR at the moment, and I like to stick with sci-fi and fantasy reads during the Magical Readathon events. I was debating between this book and Lady Hotspur by Tessa Gratton, but ended up going with this one because I have it in both hardcover and ebook. Sometimes I’m picky about format with longer books.
  • Legendborn by Tracey Deonn — This is another tome that has been hanging around at the top of my TBR for a while. I’ve tried to fit it into my reading schedule for the last couple months and never quite got to it. Now I’m kind of glad I didn’t read it yet because it works perfectly to fulfill my “Mythology Inspired” homework for the “Lore” course. I’m don’t really have another good option for this prompt, so I’m really hoping I can manage to read two tomes this month.
  • Goldilocks by Laura Lam — This book “set in the future” was my pick for the “Psionics and Divination” coursework. But, there was a last minute change of plans this morning. Now I am pretty sure that I’m going to be changing this to Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha. My buddy read friends wanted to read that next, and it just so happens to work for this prompt, so I think I’m going to switch.
That thing on the bottom of the left-hand page is my “TBR pocket” where I’m storing all those book covers. I don’t plan to stick them onto the page until after I read them.

For those of you who are interested, I did film my reading journal set-up, but editing that is taking forever, and has been keeping me from getting this post up. So, that will be posted soon. Keep an eye on my YouTube channel if you want to watch that.

That’s all for now. I will be back very soon with my March reading wrap-up post. Until then, happy reading!

What’s On My Mini #MagicalReadathon TBR

I am very excited to be returning to the Orilium Academy for a little cram session that will determine my magical conduit and legacy!

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go check out this playlist of videos on Book Roast’s channel.

There are two categories of reading prompts for this week-long readathon. The first set of prompts determine your magical conduit. I’m pretty set on getting a dagger, since that’s the conduit that is only available to the Mind Walkers (which is the house I was sorted into after completing the Novice Path). I also like the options that are open to everyone, but I only have seven days, so I have to be reasonable and pick only one.

The prompt for earning the dagger is to read a stand alone book. I just got The Misfit Soldier by Michael Mammay, and it just so happens to be one of the few sci-fi / fantasy stand-alone books on my Kindle. Which works out perfectly, because this was one of my most anticipated new releases of 2022, and I am super excited to read it.

The second category of reading prompts determines your magical legacy, and each house has there own set, specific to them. There are five legacy options for Mind Walkers. I eliminated the two that didn’t appeal to me right away: Psychic Plane and Multiverse. Collective consciousness and time travel are not my jam, even though the prompts for those would be super easy for me.

That left three options: Shadow Realm, Astral Plane, and Faewild Plane.

You’d think I’d go for the Faewild one, but the Fae in this world sound super scary, and I’m not sure if I’m brave enough for that one. Plus the prompt is to read a horror novel or a book with horror elements, and nope. That’s unlikely.

The Shadow Realm sounds useful, and appeals mostly because I always lean towards creating rogue-like characters. The prompt is to read a book with a dark cover, which sounds super easy.

Then again, the Astral Plane sounds like teleportation, which is probably the super power I would pick if I got to choose one. The prompt for that one is to read a book set in a different world than ours, which is basically all sci-fi and fantasy.

This is good because I still haven’t read my buddy read book for this month, Hunt the Stars by Jessie Mihalik, and I have to finish that before Sunday. Luckily, that book happens to have a reasonably dark cover, and it’s set in a world other than ours. I can’t use one book to satisfy two prompts, but I can read the book and decide after I’m done which prompt I want to use it for. So that’s my plan.

If I finish these two books quickly and I have time for a third, I want to read Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco which also works for either the Shadow Realm or the Astral Plane. If I finish it, I’ll use it to fill whichever prompt I didn’t pick for Hunt the Stars. Or maybe I’ll use it to get a second conduit. It would work for either the wand (book with branches on the cover) or the staff (book from a series).

If you’ve read any of these books, let me know what you think in the comments. And if you’re participating in the Mini-Magical Readathon, what’s on your TBR?

March 2022 Reading Journal Set-Up

We’re already several days into the month of March, but don’t worry. I didn’t forget about posting my reading journal spread. This post just took a bit longer than usual to write. You’ll see why in a bit.

I have been messing around with my friend’s Canvas lamp. (Side note: She’s awesome and you should go check out her art!). I saw an ad for the Canvas lamp (which is like a ring light that has a phone holder and clamps to your desk), and I was considering buying one when I found out that Zoe had recently received one as a gift. So she’s letting me test it out while she’s busy with other stuff. I have mixed feelings about it so far. I think I can take better photos without the lamp (the one above was taken with the lamp, then “enhanced” a bit on my phone before uploading). So if that’s all I am going to do with it, I can buy a cheaper desk lamp for my office. But…

I did play around with making a video flip-through of my reading journal set-up. You can check that out below.

It’s a little rough, but I don’t think that’s the lamp’s fault. 🙂

I think I need more practice if I’m going to make more videos like this. But I’m willing to give it a few more tries. If you want me to make more set-up and/or flip-thru videos, please let me know by liking my video on YT, and/or subscribing to my channel, and/or just leaving a comment over there or on this post. If there’s enough interest, I’ll do a March wrap-up flip through and a set-up video for April where I actually film the me-doing-art part.

If you watch the video, you’ll get to hear me talking about my plans for the Mini-Magical Readathon in March. I made a few spreads to help me keep track of my reading prompts and options. I have to read a minimum of two books. One to earn my magical conduit and another to determine my legacy. I’m putting off picking books to go with the prompts until closer to the start of the event (14 March).

In addition to participating in the Mini-Magical Readathon, I have a few other reading goals for this month. I didn’t make specific pages for these in my reading journal. I am just sharing them here for accountability, and so I can remember to report back on how I did when I do my wrap-up post at the end of the month.

  • Aggressively DNF! — I really need to stop feeling guilty about not finishing books that just aren’t clicking with me. Usually, it’s not the book’s fault, which makes it even harder to just put it down and pick up something else. The problem is, if I’m forcing myself to read a book that I’m not clicking with, it takes me at least 2x as long to read it, and I risk putting myself in a slump. So, this month I’m going to be aggressive about DNFing anything that I’m not enjoying. If it’s not a “hell, yes!” then I’m setting it aside and saying “maybe later.”
  • Read at least one non-fiction book — I have a stack of non-fiction that I want to get through this year. The trick is going to be picking one that doesn’t violate my “aggressively DNF” goals.
  • Read at least 60 pages of one book from my physical TBR (then finish or DNF/donate) — This goes nicely with my “aggressively DNF” goal. I set myself a sixty page evaluation point because most of the books in my physical TBR stack are around 300 pages, and if I’m not into a book by the ~20% mark, then it’s probably not happening. I don’t need to horde books that I’m not interested in reading anymore, especially ones I got from subscription boxes. So, the goal is to pick one, read 60 pages, and decide if I want to keep going. If yes, I’ll try to finish it before the end of the month. If no, I’ll donate it, pick another, and repeat until I find something that sticks.

So that’s what I have planned for March. What are your reading plans? Are you participating in the Mini-Magical Readathon? If so, which guild did you get sorted into? Any fellow Mind Walkers out there?

February Reading Wrap-Up — #FaRoFeb and More

Fantasy Romance February is over, which is a little sad, but it was a good reading month for me. I ended up reading a total of seven books! Not bad for the shortest month of the year, right?

Since (like last month) I read both fiction and non-fiction books, but (unlike last month) I read more than one of each, I’ll start with my favorite fiction and favorite non-fiction that I read this month.

Fave fiction of the month goes to Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher, which I already gushed about here.

Fave non-fiction of the month goes to Black Love Matters: Real Talk on Romance, Being Seen, and Happily Ever Afters by multiple authors, edited by Jessica P. Pryde. I highly recommend checking this out, especially if you are a writer or a romance reader. But really anyone who consumes stories in any format or genre could benefit from the light that these authors shine on the myriad issues around how Black relationships are portrayed in books, shows, and movies. It really was some of the best non-fiction reading I could have selected for any month, let alone the month that is dedicated to both Black History and all things love (due to the mid-month Gal/Pal/Val/entine’s Day holiday).

Aside from those two excellent reads, my buddy read book for the month was the series finale, Aurora’s End by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. It was a solid culmination of this epic space adventure, but it wasn’t my favorite. I just wasn’t that into, and it nearly sent me into a reading slump. But then I jumped back into one of my favorite series and saved myself with Miss Moriarty, I Presume by Sherry Thomas. I cannot gush about her Lady Sherlock series enough. It’s so good, and it was exactly what I needed to pull me out of the looming reading funk.

I also read Newsletter Ninja 2 by Tammi Labrecque, which overwhelmed me with lots of excellent ideas (in a good way). Mentioning that book reminds me that I should probably say, if you like my blog posts, you might also like my monthly newsletter. Yes, shameless self-promo, but also, I’m not kidding. My newsletter is a lot like my blog posts, it just has different (newsletter exclusive) content, including updates on my writing projects and free stories. Like this one that you get in exchange for signing up.

Finally, I jumped back into fantasy romance because it was FaRoFeb, after all. I read Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper, which was cute and fun. I was really into the magic competition (because I love competition stories), though I was a little disappointed that the main character wasn’t participating as one of the witches in the contest. The world-building is very “our world, but with magic” (which I like), and I loved the little town of Thistle Grove (not least of which because it sounds like the kind of town that wouldn’t have been that far from where I grew up).

Then I picked up a newsletter freebie (The Duchess: Tales of Kelnore) from a fellow FaRoFeb author (Hannah E. Carey) who also writes Celtic-inspired fantasy romance, except I don’t think her books have magic in them. At least this prequel story didn’t. When I looked it up on Goodreads, there was only one review and it was 2-stars, but the low rating was because that reviewer was disappointed that the heroine has sex before marriage. After I stopped laughing, I signed up for Hannah’s newsletter and hit download. I’m glad I did because I enjoyed this little prequel novella, even though it would not be considered a romance (because the pair of characters who are in love don’t live happily ever after). But the story did it’s job in introducing me to this world of Pern Coen and making me curious about what happens in the first full book in this series (The Hunter: Tales of Pern Coen).

Possibly the most fun I had this past week was adding these books, plus last month’s books, to my 2022 virtual shelf in my reading journal, which is looking pretty sweet, if I do say so myself.

How was your FaRoFeb? Did you read any good fantasy romance that you recommend? I would love to hear your faves and recommendations in the comments.

Fantasy Romance Recommendation for #FaRoFeb

I just finished reading Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher, and REALLY enjoyed it. I had no idea based on the cover that this was a romance, OR that it also had a mystery plot! It’s also really funny! Of course, I could have read the blurb, but this is another book that I grabbed from the library based on a podcast recommendation.

Paladin’s Grace reminded me a lot of the Lady Sherlock series, but fantasy instead of historical. And the series structure is a bit different in that it sounds like each book is going to feature a different couple. So you get an ongoing mystery plot, with a sub-mystery solved in each book that leads you to the next mystery, and you get a full HEA/HFN in each book!

I mean… Fantasy + Romance + Mystery + complete HEA/HFN in each book of a series that looks like it’s going to have at least seven total books = Yes, Please! More of this in my eyeballs right now!

Except… I need to wait because I didn’t get the next two books out of the library, yet. I also have to fill in other squares on my FaRoFeb readathon bingo board. But, I’m definitely going to be reading the rest of this series, and I definitely recommend that you check this book out if you haven’t already.

As for placement on the bingo board, I think I’m going to hold off on attaching this one because it’s the first fantasy romance I’ve finished this month, and it can fit several of these prompts. It’s secondary world, so, I could use it in the lower right corner to fill the “epic fantasy / different world” prompt. The author’s books published under this pen name are indie published, so I could also use this for the “indie author” prompt in the middle of the bottom row. And, now that I’ve had a chance to look at the detail on the cover, I can also say that I do love the cover, which is the prompt for the lower left corner of the board.

Basically, it could go anywhere in that last row. I was thinking that I would try to fill the prompts in the corners of the board so that I had two diagonal bingos. But, it really depends on if I can manage to read four fantasy romance novels this month. So, we’ll see.

Next up is going to be Midlife Bounty Hunter, as planned. I know that one will work for the “low fantasy / our world” prompt in the upper left corner. We’ll see if it also has any of my favorite tropes, or something that I love to hate (like vampires and werewolves, or alpha males…), which would fill the prompt in the middle of the first column. Not that I need middle of the row or middle of the column prompts if I’m going with my corner strategy.

Anyway… How is your FaRoFeb going? What are you reading and loving? Let me know in the comments.

Reading Fantasy Romance in February for #FaRoFeb

Happy Fantasy Romance February (aka FaRoFeb)!

To celebrate the genre that we love, there are 70 authors (myself included) participating in events and giveaways all month long! And there’s also a readathon! So if you also like fantasy romance (or romantic fantasy) stories, you should definitely check out the books and authors involved in this event. There are so many different sub-genres that fall under the fantasy romance umbrella, and a wide variety of creatures, types of magic, heat levels, and settings are represented in this group. I’ve already found several new-to-me authors to add to my TBR.

More on that TBR in a moment. First, let’s have a look at my very simple reading journal set-up for this month. I’ve selected one of the FaRoFeb readathon bingo cards for the cover page, along with a booklist to summarize what I’ve read, and that’s it.

One of these days, maybe I’ll actually attempt to measure and equally space out the lines for my booklist. That day is not today, though.

As for my TBR, similar to what I did back in December, to give myself some flexibility with my book selections, I made a sort-of reading buffet to choose from rather than creating a specific TBR stack. I already have a LOT of fantasy romance to choose from on my Kindle, and I’ll probably be adding some more this month. So, I started by going on Goodreads and scrolling through what’s on my shelves to see which ones might qualify as fantasy romance (or romantic fantasy). I ended up tagging a grouping of twenty-four books.

I’m sure all of these will fit at least one of those readathon prompts. But I’m definitely not going to have time to read all of them in February. So the first question is: where to start…

Last month, I read the first couple of chapters of Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher. I set it aside for later because I was supposed to be reading something else, but I really enjoyed the bit that I read and am eager to get back to it. So I will probably start there.

I also promised my brother-in-law that I’d read Midlife Bounty Hunter by Shannon Mayer, which he read and recommended to me. I thought I would get to it over the holidays, but I didn’t. So that will probably be the next one I read. After that, who knows what I’ll pick next.

The only other one in that batch that I’m sure I’ll read is the last book in the Aurora Cycle series, Aurora’s End, because that is our buddy read book for this month. And yeah, I included it in this batch of fantasy romance even though I’m not sure how much romance there’s going to be, and it’s technically categorized as sci-fi, not fantasy. But let’s be real. The line between sci-fi and fantasy is really fuzzy, and this series features space-Fae and sentient plants. It’s a far cry from The Martian or The Calculating Stars (both of which are “science-based” or “hard” sci-fi). So let’s just call Aurora’s End a fantasy in space, okay?

I also have several non-fiction books I have already started and want to finish reading: Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals (the book that it seems like everyone is talking about right now), Black Love Matters: Real Talk on Romance, Being Seen, and Happy Ever Afters (which is a new release that I want to read this month because it combines both romance and black history), and Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America (which has been on my to-read list forever and is probably going to frustrate me, but hopefully in a very motivating way).

Definitely let me know in the comments if you’re participating in FaRoFeb this month and/or if any of these books are on your TBR! Until next time, happy reading!

January 2022 Wrap-Up — Reading or Not

I mentioned in my last post that I started the year in a major reading slump that lasted for the whole first half of January. So what happened? And why didn’t I picked up a book?

In retrospect, I think the problem was that I set myself this goal of re-reading all my Modern Fae books in January so that I would be ready to start developmental edits of book five in February. Whenever I had time to read, I felt like I should be reading those. But that wasn’t what I was in the mood for, so I just didn’t read. It’s the classic problem I have with TBRs and why I gave up on making them.

I picked up a couple of other books during the first half of the month, read the first chapter or two, and then set them down again, feeling guilty that I was cheating on what I was supposed to be reading, even though I was actually really enjoying them. Eventually, I picked up my buddy read book for the month, Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki, because I could rationalize that I had to finish it before my next virtual meet-up with my two bookish friends.

That book sucked me in. I think I was expecting more sci-fi and/or space opera based on the cover. I don’t think I ever read the blurb. I picked it because it had been highly recommended by other readers I listen to on podcasts and YouTube. So, when the first chapters were very real-world contemporary with a splash of paranormal, I was a little surprised. In a good way. I love that there were elements of both sci-fi and fantasy in this story! The donut shop scenes were great, and I loved the competitive violin world. The story pulled me in because I really needed to know what was going to happen to these very interesting people next. This book deserves the hype. I definitely recommend it. But be warned that all the delicious food descriptions are going to make you hungry.

Then, because one of the main characters in Light from Uncommon Stars is trans, and I wanted to learn more and educate myself about her experience, I picked up Redefining Realness by Janet Mock. I devoured that, too. I learned enough to remind myself how much more I have to learn, which is basically what happens every time I read non-fiction. So then I pulled a bunch more non-fiction books to the top of my TBR.

Overall, January wasn’t a big (quantity) reading month for me, but it was a good (quality) reading month. I didn’t finish (or even get very far into) my Modern Fae re-read, and I only read two books, but the books I read were both really good.

Even though I am starting edits on book five, I’m hoping to spend more of my spare time reading in February. We’re only a day and a half in, but the month is already off to a great start. I’ve got some big (ambitious) reading plans for February, and I’ll tell you more about them later this week when I post my February reading journal set-up.

Until then, I hope you are enjoying whatever it is that you’re reading!

2022 Reading Goals

After writing my 2021 reading wrap-up post, I nearly threw in the towel on tracking my reading at all, let alone keeping up this reading journal I’ve started. Then I took a breath and reconsidered.

For nearly three weeks…

While I was also in the middle of a massive reading slump…

I tried not to let that influence my thinking.

I’ve finally started to enjoy writing notes about the books I’m reading. Not for review purposes, but just as a way to think through how stories work and what makes them work for me, specifically. In other words, figuring out the commonalities in what I like vs. what I don’t like.

So, I’m not ditching the reading journal…yet.

But, I decided that I definitely needed a new plan for how I track my reading stats. After all those weeks of reflection, I broke down and spent an evening modifying the most basic reading spreadsheet I could find and adapting it to track only the metrics I care about.

This new approach means that I’m using three different tools (Goodreads, reading journal, and spreadsheet) instead of just two (like last year), which is not ideal. BUT each of them are going to be used for different purposes. Here’s how I’m thinking it’s going to work…

Goodreads is a pretty good database tool. Its search function is not great, but I’m not planning on building my own database of books anytime soon, and I don’t think anyone else is doing the book database thing better. That probably has something to do with Goodreads being owned by Amazon, but whatever. I don’t need to (or want to) reproduce all that info in my spreadsheet when they already did it for me. So I will continue to use Goodreads to browse book covers and other relevant info when I am trying to decide what to read next.

Then, once I decide what I want to read, I’ll enter it into my spreadsheet. When I’m done reading, I’ll mark it as read on Goodreads, write some notes in my reading journal, and repeat.

That covers my process changes, but what about reading goals? That was the topic for this post, right?

At the end of 2021, I drafted up some pretty ambitious goals for 2022. Then I proceeded to enter a reading slump and read zero books for the first half of January. Not good.

I’m reading again now. So I’m going to give it a little more time before I revise my initial 2022 reading goals. I mean, goals are just goals. They’re meant to point you in a direction. You don’t have to necessarily achieve them. You are allowed to change your mind about your desired destination along the way.

When I drew that table on the left-hand page, I assumed I would be using it to tally up reading stats. I just wasn’t sure what stats I wanted to track, so I only made one column for number of books read each month. Since I decided to go the spreadsheet route, I’m going to leave that space blank and use it to write notes on my reading mood and/or trends for the month and/or my favorite book I read that month. TBD.

The right-hand page is where I really went big. Not only did I give myself more goals than last year, I also made myself a little TBR pocket. With sideways evergreen trees. Do you think that maybe I should have taken that as a sign that this was probably a bad idea? Can I hear you saying “uh oh… what was she thinking?”

Let’s break it down.

The first two goals aren’t bad. They are the same ones that I gave myself last year and that I give myself pretty much every year. Specifically:

  • Read at least 52 books
  • Read at least 12 books by Black authors, at least 12 books by non-Black authors of color, and at least 12 books by queer authors (or featuring a POV queer character with positive representation).

The problem is that I decided to add a few reading projects to challenge myself a bit:

  • Read at least five indie-published books, and ideally not all by the same author — this goal is somewhat associated with Fantasy Romance February which I’m participating in this year.
  • Read at least six non-fiction books about anti-racism and/or social justice — this is a continuation of the goals I set for myself after reading Me and White Supremacy last year.
  • Read (or DNF and donate) at least three books from my unread physical TBR — my unread stack of paperbacks and hardcovers is getting too big, and I’m not buying any more bookcases.

At the moment, this seems like too many challenges, but I’m not going to give up yet. I’m planning on revisiting this list in a few months. I’ll see how I’m feeling about it then and recalibrate as necessary. This first quarter is particularly challenging for me because I have a lot of writing and publishing stuff that I’m focused on. Reading is taking a bit of a back seat. It’s probably not going to be like that all year, though. This may seem a lot more do-able by the end of March.

I have, at this point, finished at least one book this month. And I finally finished this post! Even better, I feel like I’m back in the reading groove. So I’ll have something to talk about in my January wrap up! Hooray!

Unfortunately, it’s nearly time to set up my reading journal for February…

I really hope your year in reading is off to a better start than mine!

Until next time, happy reading!

Reading Wrap-up for 2021

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

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

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

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

Surprise! I actually really like this spread.

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

Oh well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do I do this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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