March 2019: Reading Wrap Up

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

What I read in March:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What I bought:

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

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

Net impact on my Kindle Backlog:

Books purchased on Kindle this month: 1

Kindle books read from my backlog list: 0

New Kindle backlog total: 136 (+1)

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

 

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completed this month:

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

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

Total tasks completed: 7

Total tasks remaining: 17

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

 

First half 2019 TBR Status:

Total TBR: 33 books

Books read to date: 16

Books remaining: 17

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

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

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

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

February 2019: Reading Wrap Up

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

What I read in February:

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

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

What I bought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Net impact on my Kindle Backlog:

Books purchased on Kindle this month: 6

Kindle books read from my backlog list: 0

New Kindle backlog total: 135 (+6)

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

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completed this month were:

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

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

First half 2019 TBR Status:

Total TBR: 33 books

Books read to date: 11

Books remaining: 22

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

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

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

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

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

January 2019: Reading Wrap Up

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

What I read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what I bought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Net impact on my Kindle Backlog:

Books purchased on Kindle this month: 6

Kindle books read from my backlog list: 1

New Kindle backlog total: 129 (+5)

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

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

Read Harder Challenge Status:

Tasks completed this month were:

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

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

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

First half 2019 TBR Status:

Total TBR: 33 books

Books read: 5

Books remaining: 28

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

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

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