Down the TBR Hole #18

Down the TBR Hole is a (very) bookish meme, originally created by Lia @ Lost In A Story. She has since combed through all of her TBR (very impressive) and diminished it by quite a bit, but the meme is still open to others! How to participate:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  • Order by Ascending Date Added
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or let it go?

I missed this meme in my schedule last month because of overload, but it’s time to get back on track! With my decreased reading time it’s even more important to weed out anything that doesn’t appeal to me anymore, so let’s get started.

#1 – When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon

28458598YA contemporary romance focusing on non-white characters. We need more of this! I want to support this!

And my friends’ reviews range from “it’s cute, 3 stars” to “best thing since sliced bread, 5 stars.” So, even though my history with YA contemporary romance is mixed, I’m still on board.

It stays.

 

 

#2 – Soundless, by Richelle Mead

24751478Pretty sure this one made the list because pretty cover + Tumblr hype.

Since then I’ve read two of Mead’s adult romance novels, and I wasn’t terribly impressed. Plus I have an unread copy of The Glittering Court on my TBR shelf, picked up for pennies at a library sale.

When the reviews for this book are so scattered across the board, I don’t think I need to go out of my way for it, when I already have one of Mead’s other YA titles to try. It goes.

 

#3 – The Secret Horses of Briar Hill, by Megan Shepherd

28588101I’m not entirely sure where I picked this one up–looking at the Goodreads page, I thought perhaps it was because Maggie Stiefvater gave it a glowing review, but I actually added it a month prior to that. The universe just sent it to me, apparently.

I rarely read middle grade books these days, but this sounds like it’s encapsulated most of my childhood reading memories and turned them into something new for me to enjoy. It can stay.

Thank you, Universe.

#4 – A Life in Parts, by Bryan Cranston

29868612Okay, I’m mostly burnt out on celebrity memoirs after reading far too many from chefs and other foodie personalities that generally left me disappointed.

But, dude. Bryan Cranston. I love Breaking Bad, I never watched Malcolm in the Middle much but whenever I did I laughed my ass off, and in every interview I’ve seen him do in the last few years, he’s been intelligent, well-spoken, and slyly hilarious.

I’ll dip my toes back into the memoir pool for him. It stays.

 

#5 – We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson

6708624A horror classic I haven’t gotten to yet. I generally avoid horror media outside of books, yet find myself reading it frequently, and even if I don’t end up loving this–my track record with “classics” is hit and miss at best–it’s short and I think it will be worth my time.

It stays.

[Man, I’m really not cutting much this month, am I?]

 

 

#6 – Beyond This Dark House, by Guy Gavriel Kay

104090My days of reading poetry for fun seem long past–I read tons in college, when I was also writing my own poems far more frequently.

Now I’m all about that prose, both in writing and reading. My husband has a huge shelf of poetry that I could try, and yet, I never do.

But Kay is one of my all-time favorite authors, so when I found out that he has published poetry as well, I had to add it. I don’t know when I’ll get to it, but I want to. It stays.

 

#7 – The City of Shifting Waters, by Pierre Christin

7810429This classic series of French comics came to my attention with the movie adaptation, so on the TBR it went.

But, for the most part, I’m not a graphic novel reader. I still have eight volumes of Preacher to get through this year, and I want to finish Saga as well. Adding another long series to that particular pile doesn’t appeal to me.

Also, I heard the movie wasn’t that great. I’m just not excited about this anymore. It goes.

 

#8 – Her Secret Lover, by Robin Covington

28054518This came from one of the frequent short lists of romances by authors of color that float around. I always scan them for books that sound interesting and for authors I haven’t tried, because damn, the Romance Industry might be mostly women (yay!) but it’s still very, very white.

For that reason alone, it should stay–I need to broaden my horizons and put my money where my mouth is–but luckily for me, this still sounds as good as when I first found it! I’m always a sucker for romance-author characters.

It stays.

#9 – The Trumpet of the Swan, by E.B. White

24335So, I only recently discovered that the author of my beloved Charlotte’s Web ever wrote anything else–talk about being known for one thing!

Obviously I have to read this, too. Will it be as good? Not sure. Do I care? Absolutely not!

Look at him! A swan with a trumpet! It’s adorable!

I’m 100% keeping this.

 

#10 – Written in Red, by Anne Bishop

15711341Oh, Anne Bishop. I loved The Black Jewels at first, but when I went to reread them years later, I found I’d outgrown them. Ephemera started strong then left me bitterly disappointed–I couldn’t even finish the third book, it was so dull.

Do I risk it again? Do I try your most recent series? Am I ready for that potential heartbreak?

I think I do, I will, and I am–maybe. But only if I get it from the library. I’m not ready to invest more energy than that. It can stay. But I won’t hesitate to forget the series exists if this doesn’t wow me.


I only cut 2/10 this month! What? That doesn’t sound like me.

As always, if you’ve read any of these and have opinions to share, want to change my mind about something, please leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you.

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End of the Month Wrap-Up: April 2019!

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I had a lot going on in April, with the new job and all. Which is going well! But I’m not here to talk about that–I’m here, as always, to talk about how well I did on my reading and writing goals this month.

Reading: Yay! Even with my decreased free time, I still managed to read nine books in April. I was hoping for at least two a week, and I did it. With full reviews, still.

Writing: Meh! My mandatory half-hour of writing time quickly got lost, as did my motivation to rewrite #spookyromancenovel. However, when I realized I could sneak in a paragraph here and there during downtime at my job, I squeezed out about 6K on an old project (my unfinished NaNoWriMo 2017 novel, surprisingly enough) and have definitely been spending plenty of quality daydreaming time on where it’s going.

The Life Reboot in General: Semi-successful! I haven’t been meeting my exercising goals either, but I’m still eating healthier.

Overall Mood: Tired, but hopeful for May. Still want to read at least two books a week, which will be eased by a new Mini Challenge from one of my Goodreads groups, The Reading Frenzy–“Try a Chapter.” I committed to reading at least the first chapter of five books (in my case, five romance novels languishing on my Kindle) and deciding whether to keep them around or chuck them. If you saw my book review post last Friday, I’ve already shot one down!

This Week, I Read… (2019 #18)

 

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#55 – Their Fractured Light, by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

  • Read: 4/23/19 – 4/27/19
  • Challenge: Virtual Mount TBR (18/48)
  • Rating: 5/5 stars

I am so full of feels right now.

My mental palate has been blown out so many times by big, sweeping, angsty save-the-world/galaxy/universe stories that it’s amazing to me that this ending feels earned. I care about these six idiots and their three happy love story endings. I’m invested in their ultimate fates. I cried a little. It was glorious.

About this book specifically, I definitely think it’s the strongest of the three, even separated from its being a great ending. Gideon and Sofia are vibrant, believable, and deeply conflicted characters, and I felt the story spun between them was the most deeply realized.

I’m so, so glad I came back to finish this series after letting it idle for over two years!

A Darker Shade final for Irene

#56 – A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab

  • Read: 3/27/19 – 5/2/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (38/100)
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

Good but not amazing. I loved the world-building, I loved the magic, I loved the descriptions of setting and style–I could visualize this story easily, it’s definitely a movie-in-my-head kind of book.

But I wanted stronger characters to fill this world with. Kell and Lila are great at keeping the action moving, but I don’t feel that I ever really got to know them. Both characters get thin back stories that don’t give them much depth because the consequences of their histories aren’t ever really explored; and Lila especially is only one step up from a stock character, “Tough Girl Desperately Wants to Be a Pirate.” Without that depth, even though the stakes were obviously high in the climax, I didn’t feel the sense of connection I needed to be invested fully in those stakes.

57 - Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes

#57 – Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes, by Denise Grover Swank

  • Read: 5/2/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (39/100); The Reading Frenzy’s “Try a Chapter” Mini Challenge
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

DNF after the first three chapters, 15%. Mysteries aren’t generally my thing, but I’ve made exceptions before for romance-mysteries. However, this far into the book, the love interest has barely been introduced, and if I hadn’t bought this book because it was listed as a romance, I would most certainly think it was just a straight-up mystery.

And sadly, not a good one. The grammar is noticeably bad, and I’m honestly not sure if that’s unintentional (the author’s fault) or intentional as a way of making Rose, the narrator, seem stupid or poorly educated, which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing in and of itself. However, this is set in the South, and Rose is both sheltered and emotionally abused by her terrible Momma. So piling the dumb hick Southerner stereotype on top of Rose’s situational trauma is just too much for me; if that’s the case, I believe it to be a poor choice. (And if it’s not intentional, it’s just poor writing.)

Oh, and she has visions. Because why not? But there’s nothing else in the story so far to develop this as magical realism, so it feels like a gimmick, and not an interesting one at that.

Writing Through a Transitional Period

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I’ve been at my new job for a month now. I’m working on a different schedule, sleeping on a different schedule. It’s going well, and I’m happy there, but even with my best efforts, my writing output has taken a hit. Here’s what I’ve learned.

  1. Try to make (or keep) your writing a daily habit, but don’t stress if you miss days. That’s solid general advice, but even more important to remember while you’re making big life changes. But if your writing style has never meshed with the “write every day” advice, don’t try to force yourself now while you’re under stress from other sources.
  2. Accept that you’re probably going to be less productive for a while. This will be a harder pill to swallow for some than others. I can crank out thousands of words a day during NaNoWriMo when I’m super motivated, but outside of that I can still usually slap down 500-1000 words on any random day. That’s not happening now, some days because I don’t have time, others because I don’t have energy. It’s okay. I have to remind myself of that often, but it really is okay.
  3. Your writing time frame might change. If you used to have large blocks of time to get a lot of writing done (like the weekend,) maybe you don’t anymore, and you have to become one of those “five minutes whenever I can” writers. Or maybe you suddenly have bigger chunks of time than before, but only on certain days. Prioritize your time, plan for writing sessions if you can, but keep #1 + #2 in mind.
  4. Write everywhere. Also good advice in general, but keep a notebook on you at all times, or write a few lines on the back of your napkin on break, or dictate a snippet into your phone. You can type it up later!
  5. Don’t allow your writing time to cut into your sleep. I’ve said it before in NaNo prep posts, and I’ll keep saying it until the end of time. Healthy sleep is basically the best thing for you, physically, emotionally, and creatively. Burning the midnight oil every once in a while is fine, when you’re inspired (or on a deadline,) but if your solution to a lack of writing time is to get an hour less sleep every night, that’s probably not going to work long-term.
  6. It’s okay to do other things with your free time. I’ve picked up cross-stitch again, and I’m spending more time listening to music (which I don’t generally do while I write, lyrics make me sing along and lose focus.) I need relaxing activities that don’t demand so much creative energy. Part of my brain is always chanting “but you could be writing right now,” and that’s true. But if I let writing stress me out, I’m not going to want to do it at all.

I’m hoping now that I’ve got a better handle on my new, rebooted life, I can be more productive in May, but I’m still keeping my goal pretty small: write for half an hour a day, more days than not. It keeps me writing actively, but it’s doable without a lot of time or stress involved.

A New Bookmark Revelation

Owl Bookmarks

I’ve complained before about some styles of bookmark after I attempted to make and use them. Corner bookmarks, not my favorite.

I don’t have anything against traditional, thin, stick-it-between-the-pages bookmarks. They’re readily available, cheap or often free, easy to make if you want to DIY and they are limited only by your imagination if you want something fancier.

However, I do have a tendency to take the bookmark out of my book, set it down while I’m reading, and manage to lose it. Especially if I’m in bed at the time, it will turn up three days later in the covers somewhere, crumpled or bent.

These adorable owl bookmarks came home from vacation with me as well as the book haul, and now that I’ve tried magnetic clip bookmarks, I’m in love. They don’t fall out. I can still lose them if I’m dumb and set one down in a random place, but it’s easy to secure to a different page in the book and not lose it, whereas regular bookmarks, if I did that, always wanted to slip out.

And while I happily turned over $5 for four little owls because owls are superb, and because I was on vacation and splurging anyway, this style of bookmark is easy to DIY as well with a few inexpensive supplies. So I might very well be making batches of these as gifts for all the book lovers in my life as well as for myself. (I tried to gather tutorials to link, but honestly, they’re all just “put adhesive magnets on paper, boom, it’s a bookmark.” Some were fancier and others plainer, some used die cutters or washi tape or stickers, but the basics were always paper + magnets = bookmark.)

Honestly, I’d just been so negative about bookmarks the last time around, I wanted to spread the joy. Give them a try if you haven’t already, they’re fantastic.

This Week, I Read… (2019 #17)

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#53 – The Fairy Tale Bride, by Kelly McClymer

  • Read: 4/17/19 – 4/19/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (36/100)
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

Not satisfying as a romance, a period piece, or even a fluffy piece of escapism.

Our heroine Miranda definitely qualifies as Too Stupid to Live. She makes some of the worst decisions about her health and safety a woman of her era could make and manages to come through mostly unscathed, though at times there were references to some scandal in her past that didn’t really seem to be talking about the encounter she had in the prologue, because didn’t that get effectively covered up? I was confused. (Not a point in the book’s favor that the plot, weak as it was, could be difficult to follow at times because of apparent inconsistencies.)

Our hero Simon is not quite The Worst, but he’s pretty bad. Since Miranda was such a blithering idiot, Simon continuously felt it necessary to “teach her a lesson,” and those lessons included nearly seducing her, in an early scene that was, in modern-day terms, clearly sexual assault even if he stopped short of deflowering her; later he follows her in disguise, assaults her again in a less sexual way, and robs her of the trinkets she’d intended to pawn. From these incidents and a few other more minor ones, she’s supposed to learn to not be a naive girl and put herself into compromising positions, because what if the next man wouldn’t stop! Gross, gross, gross.

As if that weren’t enough to make me throw my hands up in despair, these two morons never actually fall in love. Simon’s horrible secret prevents him from asking for Miranda’s hand five years ago, but it’s never really established that it’s a love match rather than any other sort of engagement, and we don’t have any time to see them being fond of each other. In the present of the story, they treat each other like garbage and I simply don’t believe their behavior ever equates with love, no matter what their words (or their horny, horny bodies) might say.

54 - Her Fierce Warrior

#54 – Her Fierce Warrior, by Paige Tyler

  • Read: 4/20/19 – 4/23/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (37/100)
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

As a military romance, I’m underwhelmed. Everyone in this secret shifter organization doesn’t seem to give a single eff about any sort of rules, up to an including the director of said organization. Yes, okay, I picked this up free and didn’t realize I was starting the series in the middle, but I quickly gathered that Angelo and Minka aren’t the first couple in this series who are breaking the non-fraternization rule.

So it’s not much of a rule at all, is it? Not even a guideline.

And without at least a token nod to military discipline, this was really just a bunch of buff dudes and shifter ladies running amok in poorly done action scenes.

I was prepared to give this a bit of a pass, in terms of plot, because it’s my own fault if I didn’t understand something because I didn’t read the previous entries in the series. But honestly, so much page time was devoted to back story that I didn’t feel lost, but it did detract from the immediacy of the romance and main plot. Also there was a B-plot romance over maybe two or three chapter’s worth of text between two semi-random people as well, who are probably holdovers from another book, or maybe a preview to a future book, but it felt really out of place. How was there room for that too?

I said the action was bad, and it was, but the non-action stuff isn’t much better. I felt talked down to. After a tense scene from Angelo’s perspective, where his observations about Minka learning to control her beast within gave me a solid handle on what she was probably feeling, the next chapter in her POV took its first two pages to rehash the scene and explain, in great detail, exactly how she felt at every point. Which was incredibly frustrating, because I already had that all figured out! Don’t tell me twice! Trust me not to be a complete idiot!

Most of the book felt the same way. I usually do fine with dual-POV in romances, but not when the author uses that structure to repeat herself in case I was too stupid to figure it out the first time.

The March + April 2019 Book Haul!

Spring 2019 Book Haul.JPG

Courtesy of two library book sales, and a stop at both Half Price Books and Barnes & Noble on the first night of our vacation, when we didn’t have any other plans except crash in the hotel before doing more driving the next day.

  • Geist and Spectyr, by Phillippa Ballantine
  • Cell; Full Dark, No Stars; and Dreamcatcher, by Stephen King
  • So I’m a Spider, So What? by Asahiro Kakashi
  • Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi
  • Red Rising, by Pierce Brown
  • Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie
  • The Inexplicable Logic of My Life, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
  • The Japanese Lover, by Isabel Allende
  • Fool’s Quest, by Robin Hobb

All over the place in terms of taste and style, as usual when I’m buying (primarily) used books. Some are titles I’ve had my eye on for a while and got lucky enough to find. Others simply sounded interesting. And then, of course, I buy every Stephen King novel I find because it’s impossible to tell ahead of time which ones I’m going to love and which I’ll DNF, but on the whole, I do love King, so I’ll try them all. (These three bring my owned-but-unread King novels to 14. I’ll get to them eventually.)

On top of all that, yesterday my Kindle pinged me for World Book Day, so I picked up nine free works they’d selected from around the world. Which reminded me I still haven’t read any of the ones I got last year. My TBR might actually be approaching out-of-control status.

This brings my total acquired-in-2019 books to 54–precisely the same number of books I’ve read so far this year (as of this Friday’s book review post, anyway.) But that doesn’t mean I’m breaking even–17 of those read books were borrowed from the library or elsewhere, so my collection has actually grown slightly. Which is NOT the goal.

I’m not abandoning my Virtual Mount TBR Challenge, not yet, but to get the new physical books onto the shelves, I had to make a decently large TBR pile to bring out to the living room. I need to read and unhaul some of the stuff I have!

But I’ve proven time and time again that I don’t have the discipline to stick to any long-term book bans, so for now, I’m only cutting myself off for a month, until my Thriftbooks coupon shows up for my birthday.