October reading summary and November TBR

Hello, readers! Happy Halloween and happy NaNoWriMo-Eve!

There’s a LOT going on right now in my world, and October was not a great reading month for me. I only managed to read TWO books. I know. Scary.

Here are the books I read in October (links go to Goodreads):

  • Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia — This was not exactly what I expected, but it was also even better than I’d anticipated. I think it’s shelved as “YA,” but the chapters are split evenly between the 1980s and the late 2000s. The characters are fifteen in the flashback chapters and in their thirties in the “present day” chapters. I’d thought it was going to be more definitely YA, but I actually liked this format better. Another thing I wasn’t expecting was the romance, but the romance in this is SO GOOD. It’s a sweet “reuniting with your childhood best friend who broke your heart at fifteen by not returning your affections” kind of story. There are a LOT of references to music, not all of which I’d heard of before, and it definitely made me wish there were a playlist for this book. If anyone knows of a playlist for this book, please let me know. If you like magical realism, records/music, and/or childhood friends who are destined to be soul mates, you should check out this book.
  • Heroine Worship by Sarah Kuhn — This is the follow up to Heroine Complex and is a SFF romance series featuring a group of friends with super powers who live in a house together in San Francisco. It’s a very fun and very cute read. It’s way more about friendships and relationships than “saving the world,” though there are some fun (and funny) action scenes as well. I loved the hero in this one, and I found the heroine very relatable. I definitely recommend this if you’re looking for a light sci-fi romance. This book does stand alone, but you may want to start with the first book in the series or the plot of the first book will be spoiled for you.

Now that there are only two more months in this year, I think I have a TBR dilemma. To make matters worse, I’m not sure I’m going to have a ton of time to read in November. The next two months are going to continue to be VERY busy for me, and my outside of work priority is switching over to writing from reading, at least for the next 30 days (NaNoWriMo Time!).

I really wanted to complete all 24 Read Harder tasks this year, but I also have five books that I REALLY want to read before the end of the year because I’ve really been looking forward to reading them and have a feeling they are going to be five star reads for me. Let’s compare and contrast and see if I can come to a decision about what to do…

These are the books I wanted to read for Read Harder challenge:

The problem is that there’s nothing on that list that’s jumping out at me as a book I know I’m going to love. There are some books that are supposed to be really good (ex: 1984, The Parable of the Sower, The Boys in the Boat, Reading Lolita in Tehran), and there are most likely going to be some surprise favorites in there (my money’s on Falling in Love with Hominids and/or Lagoon), but there’s nothing really jumping out at me and screaming “Read Me!”

Meanwhile, these five books are calling to me because I’ve been looking forward to for a very long time:

The first two (The Stone Sky and Our Dark Duet) were pre-orders that have been sitting on my Kindle, waiting for me to get around to reading them, but they’re both the last in their series, and I’m not really ready for those series to end. The middle one (Jane, Unlimited) is on hold for me at the library, but I put a temporary freeze on it because I didn’t think I’d have time to read it in November. The last two (Three Dark Crowns and The Queen of Blood) have been on my Kindle since nearly their publication dates, and now they both have sequels out this year. All of them sound like I will LOVE them and devour them.

So, do I do the responsible thing (Read Harder)? Or dive into these delicious SFF books that are calling to me?

I think the answer is obvious. The thing I should be putting a temporary freeze on is my Read Harder challenge so that I can pick one of the lovelies to read next. Except…any one of those books will definitely distract me from writing….Ugh. What do I do?

#ReaderProblems. 🙂

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A Top Five for my Five Year Blogiversary

Happy blogiversary to me! I’ve been blogging here for five years… that’s maybe longer than I’ve managed to keep any of my previous blogs going.

In honor of this achievement, I thought I might do one of my favorite things: make a “top five” list!

So, in no particular order, here are my top five books I’ve read so far this year:

  1. The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth, #2) by N. K. Jemisin — This series keeps getting better and better. The last book just came out in August and is next up on my TBR…
  2. Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2) by Seanan McGuire — This would make for some very good Halloween reading, and can be read even if you haven’t read the first in the series, yet.
  3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas — You don’t need to take my word for it, this one’s been #1 on the NYT best seller list since it came out in February. Instant classic. They’re making it into a movie.
  4. Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1) by Laini Taylor — I love the mythology in this book. I love the characters. I love everything about it, except that it had to end. But apparently there’s more coming…
  5. The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency, #1) by John Scalzi — I didn’t expect to love this one as much as I did, but it’s easily the best sci-fi I’ve read this year. The characters are excellent, and I am now impatiently awaiting the next book.

This was a very hard list to make. So far this year, I’ve given five stars to at least 9 books and 5 other book-like things (two novellas, a trade edition of a comic, a collection of essays/stories, and a book on writing). But these were the ones that I most want to re-read. So, that’s why they made my short list.

Huge thank you to everyone who reads, comments, and likes my posts! The fact that anyone reads my rambling always amazes me and never fails to make me smile. Thank you. You’re awesome.

September reading summary and October TBR

It’s October and officially FALL! Now, if only we had some nice crisp fall weather around here so that I could break out my sweaters and boots… I love fall, and I love that we’re now only one month away from National Novel Writing Month! But, before I get ahead of myself, let’s catch up on what I read in September…

Here are the books I read in September (links go to Goodreads):

  • The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman (Kindle) — I chose this book to read for the “Read a Travel Memoir” Read Harder task, and it was even more enjoyable than I’d hoped. The only problem was that it stoked my wanderlust in a major way and made it very hard to get excited about going to work.
  • A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet (Kindle) — This, on the other hand, was less enjoyable than I’d hoped. On the surface, this appeared to be everything I’d ever wanted in a secondary world fantasy romance. I liked the characters and thought the world-building was good. However, I found it to be plagued with consent issues, and had a less than satisfying ending for both the plot and the romance. I’ll probably keep reading because I like the world and the characters, but I’m not feeling a burning desire to run out and get the next books.
  • Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron (Kindle) — This one was also a little disappointing. Again, I liked the world and all the side characters. It’s fine as a first book in a series, but the main character (Julius) is possibly the least interesting character in this book. For large swaths of the story I had a really hard time caring about what happened to him. I’ll definitely keep reading, not just because I happen to own the next two books in the series, but again I’m not feeling a burning desire to jump into the next one.
  • The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan (Kindle) — Now THIS is the romance that I wanted from my month of reading romance. This is a novella prequel to her Brothers Sinister series, of which I’ve read the first two and one other novella. The heroine in this book is excellent, the hero is just exactly reluctant enough in all the right (reasonable) ways. Their romance is perfectly paced, and I appreciated the hero’s handling of the heroine’s previous (bad) experience in the bedroom. This is a hot, fast, entertaining read. Now why can’t I find an author who writes romance like this for the (secondary world) fantasy and/or sci-fi genres?
  • Star Nomad by Lindsay Buroker (Kindle) — I thought this was a romance. I was wrong. It was categorized as romance on Amazon. There’s some romantic tension, but it’s mostly just a sci-fi adventure that is heavily influenced by Firefly and Battlestar Galactica. The crew that the heroine assembles for her ship is nearly a direct one-for-one copy of the characters Mal gets to join him on the Serenity. As for the not-quite-a-romance, it’s like the author swapped Mal and Zoe’s roles, making Zoe the pilot/captain (with a dead husband) and Mal the badass fighter (in this case a cyborg), then twisted their backstory so they were on the opposite sides of the war instead of fighting alongside each other. It’s not a bad sci-fi adventure. It’s just not what I was expecting, and the world-building was a little weak.

Overall, I really enjoyed focusing on reading romance this month. I’d hoped to read more sci-fi and fantasy romance, but I definitely need to do some more work to find new authors to read in those genres. To that end, I asked for sci-fi and fantasy romance recommendations on Twitter and ended up getting re-tweeted by Courtney Milan which landed me a TON of recommendations. I started a list on Goodreads. So, if you’re on Goodreads and have suggestions, feel free to go vote on what’s already there or add your recommendations. I’m probably going to start there when I create my next romance reading list.

Most of October is going to be consumed with work (day job), and NaNoWriMo prep (for myself and for my region). So, I’m not anticipating having much time for reading outside of my insane commute. I’ll probably use whatever reading time I have to catch up on my Read Harder tasks and the new releases I’ve purchased but haven’t had a chance to read yet.

Here’s what’s on my TBR for October:

I’ve already started Signal to Noise and one other book. I’m anxious to read both The Stone Sky and Our Dark Duet, but I am painfully aware that they are both the last books in their respective series, written by authors I love. Since I loved the earlier books in both these series (5 stars, all of them), I really want to savor these last ones. As far as I’m concerned, these aren’t really commute reading…these are more like “Do Not Disturb” binge reading. Finding time for that is going to be tough. Hence, the other three books on my list: Superheroes Anonymous (a book that’s been on my Kindle for a while), Falling in Love with Hominids (a book of short stories), and Heroine Worship (the recently released follow up to Heroine Complex that I read and enjoyed last year). I picked the two super hero books to help get me in the right mood for this year’s NaNoWriMo…for reasons that I’ll be ready to talk about more in November…maybe.

In case you can’t tell, I’m ridiculously excited about NaNoWriMo. This will be the ten year anniversary of the first NaNoWriMo I ever participated in (2007), and it will be my third year as Municipal Liaison for my region. Today I started setting up my Scrivener file for my new project, and updated my novel and bio on the NaNoWriMo website. It’s beginning to look a lot like Novel Writing Season!

If you want a behind-the scenes updates on NaNoWriMo and my other writing projects, you may want to sign up for my monthly newsletter. I’ll still post general writing updates here, but newsletter subscribers will be the first to know about new projects and get sneak peeks of what I’m writing.

If you’re not interested in that sort of thing, no worries. The blog isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s turning 5 this month! Happy almost-blogiversary to me!

Oh, and don’t forget to vote for or add your sci-fi and/or fantasy romance recommendations to my list on Goodreads, or just add them in the comments…. until next time, Happy Reading!

August reading summary and September TBR

I didn’t get much reading done in August because I was working on writing projects and busy with my actual work. I’d wanted to read more romance this month, but it ended up being a very sci-fi heavy month instead.

Here are the books I read in August (links go to Goodreads):

  • Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi (Kindle, library) — This one took me forever to read. I just couldn’t really get into it. I don’t blame it on the book at all. I did push through to the end but, I never got invested in the story. The characters were cool, but I think that the majority of the the plot happens to them instead of the other way around. It didn’t help that the plot had a few holes that left me a little frustrated and pulled me out of the story.
  • The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden (Kindle, library) — This book was wacky and entertaining. I really loved the characters and the setting and the creativity of the world building. I would have given it five stars, but the plot kinda went off the rails a bit at the end. Everything leading up to the huge climax scene at the concert is excellent. After that, things get a bit muddled. I think it’s because the villain’s ultimate goal and underlying motivations are a little murky. But, if you can squint past that, it’s a great read. I really enjoyed it.
  • A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (Kindle, library) — This was, hands down, my favorite book I read this month. I really liked the first book (A Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet), but thought it felt a little more like a series of related stories than a cohesive novel. This one is much better in that regard. There are still a lot of very obvious world-building “data dumps” that feel contrived at times because they are completely unnecessary for plot/character development. But, I really enjoy learning more about this world, so I don’t mind (much).

I’m almost finished with one more, but I wasn’t able to find enough time last week to finish it before the end of the month. I’ll probably finish it tonight or tomorrow.

As for September, I’m not really making a TBR. I’m setting more of a reading goal than a TBR this month. I want to cross off at least two Read Harder challenge tasks, but other than that, I’m dedicating this month to reading romance. I scrolled through all the books on my Kindle and tried to identify which ones might be considered “romance” and put them all on a list. I’m planning to just pick and choose based on what sounds good to me at the time.

Here’s my Romance Reading List for September:

There’s a good mix here of sci-fi romance, fantasy romance, historical romance, and contemporary romance. If you see anything on here that you’re also planning to read this month, let me know. Otherwise, I’m probably going to start with A Promise of Fire because it’s been on my Kindle for just over a year now (purchased 8/6/2016), and I’ve heard good things about it.

Happy Reading!

July reading summary and August TBR

I have been so busy since returning from RWA. Seriously. Last week was a blur. I spent most of it working on polishing up “Eve of the Fae” to submit to Pitch Wars. Plus, it’s been a very busy week at work. I’m hoping things calm down a little this week so that I have a little more time for reading.

Most of what I read in July was read on vacation. I miss vacation.

Here are the books I read in July (links go to Goodreads):

  • Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire (Kindle, library) — This book was so good. I loved Every Heart a Doorway, her first book in this world, and I think this one is even better. If you grew up reading portal fantasy like The Chronicles of Narnia, and you haven’t checked out these books yet, you’re missing out. Run, don’t walk to your nearest library (or bookstore of choice) and get yourself a copy of this one and the first book.
  • Hold Me by Courtney Milan (Kindle) — I had no idea what to expect here except that I liked the first book in the series (Trade Me), and I love anything by Courtney Milan. So, no surprise, I guess, that I *really* enjoyed this book. Also, the heroine’s internal conflict hit home with me and unexpectedly hit me pretty hard in the feels.
  • Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee (Kindle) — I waited to read this until I had a solid chunk of time to immerse myself in this world because I’d heard it took a little effort to get into it. For me it wasn’t that different than any hard fantasy/sci-fi with good, immersive world-building, and I loved it from the start. But, then again, I’m also a fan of military space opera. This was possibly my favorite book I read this month. I can’t wait to read the next in the series.
  • One Was a Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming (Kindle) — For the past several years, I’ve been reading these romantic suspense books while on vacation in the Adirondacks (where these books are set). Unfortunately, I think this is the second to last one in the series. I’m saving the last one for next year, but unless the author decides to write more in this setting, I’m soon going to have to find a new romance series set in the Adirondacks for my vacation reading. So sad. I’m going to miss these characters.
  • All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (Kindle, library) — Prepare for unpopular opinion time…I didn’t love this book. I know it’s winning all the awards, but it just didn’t sit right with me. I feel like it leaned a little too hard into literary tropes, and the writing felt like the author was trying to “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” poke fun at the SFF genre. I got a strong “look, I’m writing *literary* SFF” vibe from this book and it took away from my enjoyment of what, based on the premise, should have been a story I enjoyed.
  • Letters to a Solider by Julia Spencer-Fleming (Kindle) — This shouldn’t even really count, but I’m adding it here anyway. It’s bonus material from the author, meant to go along with One Was a Soldier. I read this first, but I think it might have got more out of it if I’d read it after One Was a Solider.

Now, on to August…How is it already the last month of summer? It’s “Fogust” here in the Bay Area, aka perfect reading weather. Unfortunately, my schedule this month is not leaving a lot of free time available.

Ignoring the realities of available reading time, here are all the books I put on my August TBR:

In general, there are WAY too many books on my TBR this month. This is a ridiculously ambitious list. Many of these have been featured already in previous TBR posts. So, I’m not even going to give you a breakdown. Instead, I’m just going to say that the priority this month is going to overdue library books (A Closed and Common Orbit, The Prey of the Gods, Raven Stratagem) and books for my Read Harder Challenge tasks (Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, Falling in Love with Hominids, The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost, Signal to Noise). I’d like to work a little more romance into the rotation, especially fantasy romance (Nice Dragons Finish Last, A Promise of Fire, Heiress Without A Cause), but it will depend on how much time I have and what sort of mood I’m in. And damnit, when am I going to have time to read Our Dark Duet?! Not to mention the fact that (not pictured here) The Stone Sky comes out this month…

As always, so many good books to read, and so little time for reading. Oh, how I miss summer vacation…

Rosemary Contest Winner for Petals and Runes!

I just got back from the 2017 RWA contest. It was AWESOME! I got to meet so many people I only know from the internet. Everyone was so nice and welcoming. I learned SO much. The RITA awards and Golden Heart awards were so inspiring. The post-RITA dance party was a blast. And…possibly the best part: I’m coming home a winner in the speculative category for the YA RWA Rosemary Contest for my YA fantasy novel “Petals and Runes!”

All that awesome had to be counterbalanced with some less than awesome stuff… for example, I killed my phone. It died via the dreaded infinite boot loop on Thursday morning, leaving me with no social media or ability to text/call anyone for the remaining three days of the conference. Then, my flight was delayed by six hours coming home last night. But, even those inconveniences couldn’t put a dent in how much fun I had at the conference.

10/10 I would totally do this again. Already looking forward to next year!

#NaNoWriMo Night of Writing Dangerously

Yes, I am completely aware that it’s mid-July, and there are four more months until NaNoWriMo and The NaNoWriMo Night of Writing Dangerously. That doesn’t dampen my excitement one bit.

I’ve already set up my donation page to attend this year’s event. If you can attend, I highly recommend it. It’s one of the most fun writing events I’ve attended, and I look forward to it every year.

Even if you’re not a writer or not able to attend this year, I’m hoping that you might consider a donation to support the NaNoWriMo organization (and my fundraising campaign).

If you’ve already donated, THANK YOU! Your name has been added to my “reward” list. I haven’t figured out what the reward is going to be yet, but stay tuned. I’ll make sure it’s awesome.

I know there are countless worthy causes out there hoping to get their hands on your charitable donation budget. Here’s why I encourage you to make (even a very small) donation to NaNoWriMo:

  • NaNoWriMo does inspiration like nobody else. It’s so inspiring that it’s been the catalyst to me writing 4 novels during past Novembers. With the magic and inspiration of NaNoWriMo 2017, I plan to do it again.
  • The money from donations is used to provide children and adults the encouragement, structure, and inspiration they need to achieve their creative potential.
  • Proceeds from the event will fund National Novel Writing Month’s free creative writing programs in hundreds of schools and communities around the world. For an example of what that looks like in action, watch this video:

So please, if you like my blog and want to support my writing while also supporting an excellent organization, click through to my donation page and consider a $5 or $10 donation. Anything helps. My goal is to reach $275 raised by the end of July. So, help me out? Pretty please?

Vacation Reads from my summer vacation

This is a short, post-vacation teaser post to share what books I read while on vacation…

I’ll share my thoughts on these in my July wrap-up post at the end of the month. In the meantime, I have to figure out how to return to the “real world” now that my big summer vacation is over. 😦

Before I go, I will add that I’ve now read half of this year’s Hugo nominees for best novel and my favorite so far is still The Obelisk Gate. But, Ninefox Gambit is a close second. I’ve already put Raven Stratagem on hold at my library. I’m hoping my hold on A Closed and Common Orbit comes up soon so I can read that one as well before the awards are announced. I didn’t get it in time for vacation, and I was pretty bummed about that because I’m really looking forward to reading more in that world.

That’s all I have time for tonight, but I’ll be back soon with more! Hope you are all enjoying your summer!

June reading summary and July TBR

June turned out to be a pretty good reading month for me. Overall, it’s been a pretty stressful month. But, I made plenty of time for reading (and swimming) to help me manage and remain as chill as possible.

Here are the books I read in June (links go to Goodreads):

  • Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (Kindle, library) — This was a satisfying conclusion to this two-book series. Overall, I really enjoyed it. I like the first book better, but I enjoyed seeing how these characters and this plot found resolution. The statute on spoilers for this series is probably over, but I still don’t want to say too much in case folks haven’t read it yet.
  • Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleze (Kindle, library) — I really, really wanted to like this book, and I did like it. I just didn’t love it as much as I thought I would. Space opera is possibly my favorite genre, but there were just too many loose ends and coincidences in this book that kept making me fall out of the story. I will say, it is jam packed with action and gets my full respect for pacing, tension, and structuring chapters to keep you turning pages. If you can squint past the plot issues, it’s a great read.
  • Ms. Marvel, Vol. 3: Crushed by G. Willow Wilson (trade paper) — This comic is the cutest. I love it. I especially love that this volume ended with a special issue of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. comic that paired Jemma Simmons with Ms. Marvel. I love Jemma, and I love Ms. Marvel. And this now reminds me that I *still* need to get caught up on the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show.
  • Lux and Lies by Meg Collett (paperback) — This is the most recently published book written by a friend I met at Madcap Retreats earlier this year. She’s awesome. This book is action packed. The world is imaginative and intriguing. It definitely sucked me in and kept me wanting to know how the mystery would be resolved. So impressed! Yay, Meg!
  • When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (Kindle, library) — This is seriously the cutest romance I’ve read in possibly ever. It’s adorable. And set in San Francisco in the “tech” community. Some of the tech stuff is a little less than realistic, but overall this is such a good read. If you like contemporary YA, definitely pick up a copy and read it at the beach/pool or on vacation this summer.
  • Kraken by China Miéville (Kindle) — Read this if you’re looking for a wacky romp through a well-imagined and highly creative urban fantasy world. But, if you’re here for a gripping mystery plot and/or fast pacing…well, like me, you may be disappointed. It was a slog of a read for me, but I stuck with it because the world and characters were so creative and vividly portrayed.

Six books isn’t shabby but, as I mentioned in my mid-year stats post, I didn’t put much of a dent in either my backlist of ebooks on my Kindle, or on my Read Harder challenge tasks. Not to worry, though. I have a LOT of reading time on the calendar for July.

I’ve been agonizing over my July TBR, and I almost didn’t make one, because I have not one, but TWO vacations planned for July. Both of these involve long plane rides and should allow for plenty of reading time, and I want to keep my reading options open.

So, I compromised and made a TBR of the books I really want to try to finish before the end of the month. Three of them are Hugo nominees. The awards are announced in August, and I really want to read as many of the “best novel” nominees that I can before then. The other three are books that are also on my backlist of Kindle books. Two of them will help me cross off two more Read Harder tasks. All of them, I think, will make excellent “summer reads.”

Here they are…the books on my July TBR (links go to Goodreads):

  • All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (Kindle, library) — This one is at the top of the Hugo nominations. I’m not sure if that means it got the most votes, but it already won the Nebula for best novel, so it’s probably pretty darn good. Somehow this one wasn’t really on my radar until the awards nominations started rolling in. So, I’m excited to see what the fuss is about.
  • A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (Kindle, library) — This one also made the Hugo best novel short list, but it was already on my TBR because I read (and really enjoyed) the first book by this author set in this world (Long Way To A Small Angry Planet). The Hugo nomination just means that I’ve bumped this companion novel to the top of my TBR.
  • Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee (Kindle) — Also bumped to the top of my TBR due to its Hugo nomination is this hard sci-fi novel. I’ve had this one for a while on Kindle, and I keep hearing amazing things about it. I also keep hearing that it’s really hard to get into at first. So, I’m hoping some dedicated vacation reading time will let me sink into this world long enough to get sucked in and see what all the fuss is about because it definitely has some of my reader catnip in the descriptions and reviews.
  • The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman (Kindle) — I picked this up to read for the “travel memoir” task in my Read Harder challenge. Since I’m already feeling the vacation vibes, I think it’s a good time check off this task.
  • Hold Me by Courtney Milan (Kindle) — Another one I’ve been meaning to get to for a while, this will also help me check off a Read Harder challenge task. Plus, everyone needs a little romance on their vacation TBR.
  • A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet (Kindle) — I can’t resist a good sci-fi / fantasy romance, and this one comes highly recommended by the Smart Bitches. Seriously, they don’t throw around their “A” ratings lightly. I’m really looking forward to finally getting a chance to read this.

I think this is a nice, well-rounded TBR with a lot of books on it that I’m really excited about reading. I can’t wait to get started. What’s on your “summer reading” list?