NaNoWriMo 2019: The Word Count Plan

In years past, I never worried too much about making the standard daily goal necessary for a 50K win, 1667 words a day. Sure, I didn’t make it every day of every NaNo, but I usually wrote more, and when I fell behind, I was pretty good at catching up.

With my new job this year, I have less free time than I used to overall, offset with the benefit of always having a “weekend” off. Yeah, it’s Sunday and Monday, but it’s still two days, in a row, that I can always count on.

So here’s the plan.

On work days when I have a single shift, I’ll aim for at least the standard 1667.

On work days when I have a double shift, I’ll lower my aspirations to 444. Why that number specifically? It’s the minimum word count on 4thewords to add a day to your writing streak. Got to at least keep that going!

On my days off, I will aim to catch up to the expected total word count for that day, if I’m behind, and write at least 2K if I’m not.

I start November 1st on a double shift, of course, why wouldn’t I? I often work doubles on Fridays. But even if I start behind, my weekend comes quickly after that, so I won’t be behind for long!

This Week, I Read… (2019 #44)

138 - Feels Like Home

#138 – Feels Like Home, by Evelyn Adams

  • Read: 10/18/19 – 10/19/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (89/100)
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

I said in a review of a book I read just a few days ago that I dislike family-based romances that introduce a million siblings right away to establish future protagonists, and I do. But that book wasn’t nearly as bad about it as this one turned out to be. The opening chapter introduces the heroine, her sister, and her niece, all of whom end up being important to the plot, fair enough. It also talks about several other siblings, the issues with her parents, her dead grandmother, and half the town that’s shown up to the house after the funeral. Way too many names, way too soon, especially when most of them aren’t important at all. I was overwhelmed, almost to the point where I gave up then, because it was such a mess.

But I stuck it out, and honestly, I regret that decision. Meeting the hero didn’t help much–he’s so perfectly flawless he might as well have been set on a shelf for everyone to admire. Small-town doctor, doesn’t care about the heroine’s unstable family life or what his family/the town will think of them being together. Also, basically he loves her for no reason. There’s physical attraction instantly, and that becomes interest in dating at a reasonable pace, but I don’t understand why, from anything I read, he falls in love with her and goes to such great lengths to convince her to get over her self-imposed mentality of not being good enough.

The subplot about the heroine trying to “save” her sister and niece from a bad relationship/bad home life got old quickly. The niece was reasonably cute but the sister was a sad sack who had no personality and no character agency, just a walking plot device for the heroine to be worried about and shuffle from place to place as the plot demanded.

If I hadn’t gotten this for free, I’d want my money back, and as it is, I want my time spent reading back.

139 - If I Didn't Care

#139 – If I Didn’t Care, by Kait Nolan

  • Read: 10/19/19 – 10/20/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (90/100)
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

I thought I had caught up with all the Wishful novels I owned, I missed this one, so here I go.

It’s not great, but it’s not terrible.

As far as the romance is concerned, I feel the emotion, I feel the weight of the history between our lovebirds, but I’m thoroughly pissed off that everything about them is based on assumptions, misunderstandings, and miscommunication. Autumn opens the book by deciding to confess her feelings despite Judd being in a relationship, but backs down when she realizes (mistakenly) that he’s about to propose to his girlfriend. She lies about what she meant to say (twice! when the first excuse doesn’t hold up anymore she makes up a new lie!) and decides to leave town even though she doesn’t actually want to, because it’s better for both of them that way. Judd, on the other hand, has been hiding his feelings as well, telling himself it’s for Autumn’s good all these years, yet doesn’t even tell her when his girlfriend (rightly) dumps him, just letting her assume he’s still in a relationship.

So they’re both stubborn idiots who would rather martyr themselves for the other than actually talk about anything until events force them to. Which means they’re awful people in some ways, yet oddly perfect for each other.

As for the suspense plot, it starts out easy enough to follow, though it was obvious to me from the very beginning that Autumn’s ex-con father was a red herring. I didn’t catch on to the real culprit until he’d shown up a few times, but it wasn’t because there were clues I saw to help me figure it out, it was simply because the cast of characters wasn’t large enough to support multiple possible villains. Once I was sure it wasn’t daddy dearest, there was only one other character it could be who didn’t have a clear role to play elsewhere in the story–especially because a lot of the minor characters we already know from other Wishful books and are clearly not going to be sacrificed on the altar of being a villain in this one.

What bothered me, though, was just how little sense the ending made. It’s easy to write off a stalker’s behavior as delusional, and it’s not always wrong, but his delusions didn’t really gel with his demeanor earlier in the story, and basing those delusions on the plot of a novel the heroine has written, that we the readers don’t have full access to and have to figure out via explanation by the heroine and third-party interpretation from other characters–honestly, it’s a giant mess I couldn’t untangle.

And the very, very ending, the “will you marry me?” that becomes “well let’s get married literally right now because I organized the whole thing behind your back and everyone’s already here”–way too rushed for me. A proposal would have been enough, thanks.

NaNoWriMo 2019: Ready to Get Started

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I have a new novel idea for NaNoWriMo this year, and I’m excited about it. So excited that I’m impatient to start, in fact.

I have a notes document with almost four thousand words of rambling about it, a compilation of everything I’ve thought of so far, every scene, every bit of world-building, every potential plot point. To be honest, I haven’t actually thought of enough for an entire novel yet, except in the broadest sense of it being a romance (like everything I write!) so it’s got to start with two people not being together and end with them happily in love.

What is it going to be about, you ask? After years of reading stories about them, from semi-grounded historical fantasy to wildly original settings, I’m finally tackling the Fae. I admit I got a good chunk of inspiration from The Dark Mirror, even though in the end I didn’t like the book much at all, but it’s got a main character who’s a foundling born of the Good Folk, and I was disappointed by how little that seemed to matter, even as her origins were supposed to be a central conflict of the story. So I thought, what could I do differently with the same basic idea?

Of course, my setting is going to be totally fantasy, rather than historically based, because I don’t do historical. I like to research in much smaller amounts than that would require–I’ll look into a crafting method for something, or how long it takes a body to decay under specific circumstances, or what widespread tornado damage looks like, no problem. But I have no interest in the kind of intensive research and reconstruction that good historical fiction takes to be successful.

I linked that Fae foundling idea with a really old and battered single scene I’ve had floating in my head for years without putting into a story. You have those too, right? A disconnected bit of story that is really interesting on its own, but doesn’t have a home yet for whatever reason? Well, I think I found one for this scene, a snippet of a family taking their guests on an afternoon ride that nearly ends in a tragic drowning, but instead becomes a heroic rescue! Because why not?

I stuck my foundling into that scene, started playing “What if?” and “Why would that happen?” with the resulting mix of old and new ideas, and came up with a new twist on the Fae that I’ve never seen personally before–they can’t swim. They are afraid of any water they can’t hop over or walk through. (This, of course, doesn’t mean it hasn’t been done, only that I haven’t run into it. It’s a common bit of folklore that ghosts or spirits can’t cross moving water, so prevalent in the media I’ve consumed all my life that I don’t even know the origin of the idea, or even if it has one single and definite origin.)

All at once, the mishmash of inspirations came together into a single thematic statement: the Fae don’t build bridges. I can use that to explain their relative isolation from human society–their lands expanded to the point where they reached water they couldn’t cross, and no farther–thus the oddity of the foundling. That’s also why he nearly drowns as a child, because none of the (slightly negligent) adults with him realized he couldn’t swim like any other boy his age could be expected to. But the daughter of the family he was visiting, she’d been watching him, because he was so strange and wonderful, and she was quick enough to understand what their parents and attendants didn’t, when he fell into the river and didn’t come sputtering back to the surface right away. She saves him! (Way back when I first had this heroic child-saves-child-from-drowning story idea, back in my teens, it was definitely a boy saving a girl, because I was full indoctrinated with typical gender stereotypes. I actively try to work against that when I can, now, so I flipped the binary, why not?)

And that’s just the opening of the story, because I kept playing “What if?” with the idea and how to turn it into a romance as adults, if this strange Fae boy grew up knowing he owed his life to a girl he’d only just met before the incident, and what that incident might shape him into. Before I tell you the rest of the story, I have to write it.

Is it November 1st yet?

This Week, I Read… (2019 #42)

135 - The Dark Mirror.jpg

#135 – The Dark Mirror, by Juliet Marillier

  • Read: 10/9/19 – 10/14/19
  • Challenge: Virtual Mount TBR (42/48)
  • Rating: 2/5 stars

This is too long, too unfocused, and some of the characters are far too similar to those in Marillier’s other works.

Physically, Tuala is basically a copy of Sorcha from Daughter of the Forest, except that she actually is of the Fair Folk, whereas Sorcha merely seemed to be with her wildness. All the descriptors are actually the same, small, slim, barely eats enough to stay alive, constant comparisons to birds, big-eyed, dark hair, otherworldly. I’d be more willing to forgive this if Tuala had any personality to speak of, but she doesn’t. She’s young and lonely (also like Sorcha, though for different reasons) and that’s about it.

Bridei is slightly better off, being serious and studious and in the end, incredibly stubborn, but for good reason. He’s not quite as clearly matched to another Marillier character as Tuala is, but in some ways he does remind me strongly of Johnny, the golden child of the original Sevenwaters trilogy. But even if he’s more his own man, he’s still not really interesting enough to carry the story on his shoulders, because the major failing of the story is that our nominal protagonists are explicitly pawns in someone else’s grand scheme of kingship. Everything about Bridei’s life is bent toward making him the perfect candidate for king in the next election, and none of it by his own design, but by that of his foster father. That still might have had the potential to be an interesting story, if Bridei did more to test the limits of the constraints placed on him, but for most of the book he does exactly as he’s told, only breaking out of that narrow role at the very, very end. (And even that was unsatisfying, as romances go, which are always the backbone of this author’s work–this has an incredibly weak conclusion, more of a “to be continued,” because there are two more books about these idiots.)

The worst part, though, is the constant scene cuts to the schemers. Whether it’s the five “wise” men and women who formed the secret pact to make Bridei king, or the two Fair Folk who are meddling with Tuala and trying to tempt her away from the human world, every time the story is gaining some momentum, we have to stop and check in with the people in charge, and most of the time they aren’t even saying anything we don’t already know. Yes, Bridei is still mostly doing great. Yes, Tuala isn’t a part of the plan and we need to get her out of the way. Yes, time is running out because the old king is dying. STOP MAKING ME READ SCENES OF NOTHING BUT TALKING ABOUT INFORMATION I’VE ALREADY BEEN GIVEN FIVE TIMES.

This book could have been at least fifty pages shorter, just cutting repeated information, and probably more like a hundred pages shorter if all of the unnecessary scheming scenes were cut. I would have liked that book better, because it wouldn’t have dragged, though I still would have wanted a more engaging story that wasn’t two bland characters doing what they’re told for eighty percent of the book.

136 - Dare to Love

#136 – Dare to Love, by Carly Phillips

  • Read: 10/16/19 – 10/17/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (87/100); PopSugar Reading Challenge
  • Task: A book with “love” in the title
  • Rating: 2/5 stars

You can tell this is the start to a new family-based romance series, because there are a million siblings introduced as quickly as possible to establish the protagonists of future books in the series. I’m not opposed to this style of series at all, but I prefer the setups to be far less blatant, and also not to come at the cost of a good story at the outset. Most of these names being thrown around had very little to do with the plot, which focused on the hero’s jealousy of and competition with his half-brother, who was the love interest’s best friend.

There’s a compelling story in there somewhere, or at least the potential for one. But I didn’t read it here. The hero elevates “controlling” to its own art form and constantly put me off. (I’m not into the controlling type of man IRL, but I can often set that aside when I read, if there’s redeeming qualities or underlying issues. If the dude’s just a jerk, I won’t like him.) The heroine was the typical “I’m strong and independent unless I’m in the same room as the hero then I’m overcome with lust” type. The half-brother/best friend is not interesting on his own, not a very good friend to the heroine in most cases, and generally just as much of a jerk as the hero.

I will give credit where it’s due, despite this being centered around the themes of competition and jealousy, it’s immediately clear that the love triangle only exists in the hero’s head, not the heroine’s or the best friend’s. Which I do appreciate from a meta standpoint, though it led to the hero beating the dead horse of “But I don’t believe neither of you has romantic feelings for the other.” Because men and women can’t be friends, obviously, a viewpoint which lowers the hero even further in my estimation, a feat I didn’t realize was possible until it happened. I do not recommend this book to anyone, even if you like the controlling type of man, because there are much better examples to be found elsewhere.

137 - Silver-Tongued Devil

#137 – Silver-Tongued Devil, by Rosalind James

  • Read: 10/17/19 – 10/18/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (88/100)
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

I’ve read quite a few of James’ other novels, and I have to say, in terms of plotting this one stands out to me as well-crafted. There’s a lot of conflict, both external and internal, ranging from tragic family history and old injuries and teenage sexual trauma to criminal activity of several varieties and the hero quite literally saving the heroine’s life–but that event doesn’t come across as melodramatic or unnecessary to the story. None of it does, and considering the scope, that’s remarkable.

The chemistry between the leads is tangible, unforced, and satisfying to watch unfold. By the time these two got into bed together, I was on board with their relationship, even if they weren’t quite in it for the long haul yet.

Where this book falls down, really, is a sort of sameness of tone to nearly everyone’s dialogue, and that’s something I’ve seen in James’ other novels as well. After a while, Dakota and Blake and even Russ all sound alike, with that tendency to quip, to drop the subject of a sentence, to be sly when they think they can get away with it or stubborn a good deal of the rest of the time. The hero and heroine should sound more different from each other, and neither of them should speak like her dad! The only major character who stood out was Evan, because he was by far the most taciturn and emotionally shut-down, at least until he let loose a torrent of “I know better than you” at Dakota the one time.

It’s not enough to make me hate the novel or anything, but when I see how good the rest of it is, the dialogue issue is a pretty major distraction.


So, yeah, this is late because I got really sick this week. I gave up for a while on my planned TBR to switch to romance novels on my Kindle, because that’s physically easier to hold than a huge hardcover while I’m exhausted, and mentally easier to read than super-dense epic fantasy–I had just started Ship of Destiny and couldn’t face it while my brain was so fogged. I’m finally feeling better enough to write book reviews (I did four today, you’ll see the other two next week) and start getting my ducks back in their rows.

This Week, I Read… (2019 #41)

132 - The Mad Ship

#132 – The Mad Ship, by Robin Hobb

  • Read: 9/30/19 – 10/5/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (84/100)
  • Rating: 5/5 stars

I love it when a sequel is better than its predecessor.

I’m not always the best at figuring out mysteries and putting together two + two to equal a plot revelation. But Hobb has spun out the whys of her world-building with such grace that I can see the “what” of things without always understanding the “how.” Even before the revelations were explicitly stated, I knew them, on some level, even if I couldn’t have explained them in detail beforehand.

Yet one major reveal at the end was still a complete surprise, even though it made utter sense in retrospect, and has left me with half a dozen new questions to ask the final book in the trilogy.

Another strength of this story is that Hobb knew which characters to let diminish and which to strengthen. Kennit is a more complex character now with a stronger presence, while Wintrow’s importance wanes. Kyle is blessedly absent after the loose ends of the previous book concerning him are tied up–his only importance becomes his memory, in how it motivates Malta, who also gains greatly in complexity and importance in this story. Paragon and Amber, who were likable oddities in the first book, are now more fleshed out, while Brashen and Althea take smaller roles.

In many cases, it seems that we’re not following individual character arcs, but rather arcs of story relevance–not everyone is going to remain useful for the entire length of the trilogy, and some characters serve to introduce us to others later, like passing off a baton in a relay. I can see it happening (potentially) here at the end of the book–Keffria has never been of much import other than being Malta’s mother and Ronica’s daughter, but she’s handed a bit of intrigue to accomplish in the next book, and who knows if Ronica has even survived? Her importance to the plot might be passed along to Keffria.

That brings up my only real quibble with this book, and it’s not major enough to ding it a star, because it’s an issue of personal taste more than style–but with two books down and the stakes really high, our characters do seem to have pretty serious plot armor. Only one named character of any real importance has died, and he’s minor at best. Pirates die, slaves die, cities burn or crumble under earthquakes, but our important characters always seem to survive, though there has been some grievous bodily harm. In fact, most of the main cast, at this point, is wounded to some degree, but it was one in particular, Wintrow, who truly seemed like he should not have survived his ordeal, that really brought this point to my attention. Important characters simply won’t die. While I’m not bloodthirsty by nature, and I certainly don’t want any given character to die, there’s enough danger going around that I feel like the possibility should be available. And it could be that someone will die in the next book, maybe even early on, maybe even from the events at the climax of this book. But I wouldn’t bet money on it.

133 - Atonement

#133 – Atonement, by Ian McEwan

  • Read: 10/5/19 – 10/7/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (85/100); PopSugar Reading Challenge
  • Task: A book you see someone reading on TV or in a movie
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

I saw the movie, once, many years ago–probably not too long after it was released, I feel like I rented it from the Blockbuster we still had in town back then. But despite seeing it only once, and so long ago, I remember it vividly and could still have described every major plot point. It was elegantly crafted, it was tragic, I enjoyed it.

So of course, when I saw the novel at a used book sale, I picked it up for pennies. I am completely unfamiliar with Ian McEwan’s work, I only know there’s a lot of it out there, and I don’t believe I was aware the movie was an adaptation of a novel at all, back when I saw it.

I have to say, though the plot remains unchanged, the book has ruined the story for me, solely because of the atmospheric contempt for femininity that runs unchallenged through the entire work.

Briony is deeply flawed, to be sure, and in theory I want male authors to give that sort of in-depth treatment to their female characters. But Briony is also a child, and she’s depicted from the very start as a little tyrant trying to lord her artistic vision over her cousins; jealous of the apparent maturity of Lola, two years her senior and far more womanly already; self-loathing of her own imperfections, naivete, and the very notion of childhood itself. There’s even a scene where she whips nettle heads with a stick, naming each one after something she hates, and eventually it comes around to herself. Because that’s as close to literal self-flagellation as we can have a child character approach.

Briony is the worst, and the narrative never lets us forget that.

But okay, okay, the book is about her “atonement” for the mistake she made as a child, which means she can’t have been good to start with. So why are the other female characters also so weak, helpless, victimized and self-loathing? Cecelia spends the first half of the book bemoaning her uselessness and lying about dramatically. Their mother, Emily, a minor character at best, still gets a POV chapter where she explains to herself, and thus the reader, that she’d love to be a better mother to her children, if not for the crippling migraines, and because she isn’t a good mother, she’d best lie still and hate herself for it. Lola is the traumatized victim who can’t speak for herself, who doesn’t even know who actually attacked her, even though on some level it’s incredibly freaking obvious, but goes along with Briony’s mistake because she’s weak and hurt. (To McEwan’s credit, it is at least made clear that Lola was not in any way inviting her fate, and from the start, Paul Marshall’s character is stuffed with clues about his pedophilia. I wish all books that touched on this subject were at least this transparent that pedophilia is wrong, but time and again that proves too high a bar to set for some authors.)

In the movie, I thought the story was beautifully tragic, not just because of the eventual reveal of Robbie and Cecelia’s deaths, but because Briony never fully understood that ultimately, it wasn’t entirely her fault. She was a child, and so many of the people around her could have stepped in and done something to prevent the disaster in the first place, or questioned her story afterward, because it still strains my credulity that Robbie was convicted on her testimony alone, basically. I can see so many logical places for another character to speak up and say, hey, this doesn’t seem right.

But the book, with its pervasive air of disdain for all things female, takes that tragedy and makes it the just result of being a creative but tyrannical child, and female, because would a boy the same age have so greatly misunderstood the events of that fateful night? The entire plot hinges on the innocence and outrage of girlhood in the face of burgeoning sexuality, and yet McEwan doesn’t respect his female characters at all, turning the tragedy into a punishment.

134 - The Alice Network

#135 – The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn

  • Read: 10/7/19 – 10/9/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (86/100); PopSugar Reading Challenge
  • Task: A novel based on a true story
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

I was surprised by how readable this was for historical fiction–I got through its 500+ pages in just over two days. What? Really? But it occurred to me, as I was nearing the end, that in some ways this is historical-lite; not that it doesn’t concern actual places, times, and events, but that it isn’t bogged down by them or by excessive detail, instead choosing to focus on the characters and their emotional journeys. In that way, its style reminded me far more of good romance than historical fiction, and there is a romantic subplot to help move Charlie’s chapters along.

Here’s the thing, though. Charlie’s half of the story is far weaker than Eve’s, especially when it becomes clear that most of what Charlie is suffering now (uncertainty, lack of direction, loss, grief, and unintended pregnancy) Eve suffered herself, and generally far worse. Charlie takes pains to point out to Eve a few times that she knows her personal trials don’t compare, and it’s true, and good of her to acknowledge. But that doesn’t make Charlie more interesting, it just makes her slightly less of a brat. Her romance with Finn (who is charming and I adore him because, even as thinly fleshed out as he is, I am a complete sucker for stoic but considerate men) fills the space in her half of the narrative where Eve would be doing spy things, and much as I love romance, in this case, spy things are simply more interesting.

The other minor failing of the dual alternating plot lines is how blatantly obvious each small mystery becomes. Rarely do we have to wait more than a single chapter to have a question answered, and many chapter-pairs are tied together by glaringly obvious repeated lines, be they lines of poetry, or nuggets of wisdom Eve tells Charlie which we hear again a chapter later being told to Eve herself, years before. It’s a small thing, but it was like a repeated tiny slap in the face every time it happened, saying “Look how clever this narrative structure is! Look! Look!”

For all that, this novel does tell a story worth reading, and despite its accessible style, doesn’t do anything to gloss over the horrors of war, especially those inflicted on women.

The State of My Writing Folder: October 2019

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I’m suffering a crisis many writers will be familiar with, and if you haven’t experienced it yet, it’s probably somewhere in your future: what project do I work on?

I’ve covered this before, in terms of plot bunnies and NaNoWriMo prep, and surprise, surprise, it’s October and I’m feeling that pre-NaNo pinch again. What better time for a self-assessment of my project opportunities?

  1. #spookyromancenovel 3.0: Major undertaking, and what I feel like I should be working on. It’s definitely the closest thing I have to publishable. My beta readers worked so hard on their feedback. It’s not in terrible shape, it just needs some trimming down and shoring up! But after churning out the first draft during Fictober/NaNo last year, I’ve spent most of 2019 on this project, and I think it’s time for a break.
  2. #rockstarnovel 2.0: Also a major undertaking. Remember this project, guys? Wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t, it’s my NaNo 2016 novel. I toyed with the idea of revising it through 2017, but it needed so much work, and according to my document history, the last time I took a half-hearted stab at it was early 2018, but I didn’t get very far. I still love this story. I still think about this story from time to time, usually when I hear a new song that fits one of its characters. Its bones are still solid, but I guess I feel weird writing contemporary romance? No sci-fi, no supernatural elements, the stuff that marks almost all of my other writing. With only one series under my belt, I hardly have an entire brand to betray, but this still feels like a huge departure for me.
  3. Finishing NaNo 2017, Wolf Shifters in Love: I did so much prep work for this, I wrote almost 61K for NaNo, and then never finished it. I actually wrote a new scene for this last week, trying it back on, and it went okay, but it’s a weird genre mashup of paranormal and small-town romance, and I almost think with some effort I could restart it and make it fall in line with the universe I’ve built for #spookyromancenovel, which would give me more series potential.
  4. Unfinished Camp NaNo 2018 project, “Some Sort of Witchy Romance”: This will probably never get finished, because I co-opted a lot of the base ideas for #spookyromancenovel, and it can’t stand on its own anymore. But it’s there to mine for further ideas in the potential #spooky series, because this is an F/F pairing and I still haven’t done that and I still want to do that.
  5. Fictober 2019 Unnamed Project: totally half-assed, only a few days of work put in so far. Sometime in 2018 I wrote a bit of contemporary flash fic, never posted anywhere, a scene in a bar that I found interesting for various reasons. On October 1st, wanting to participate in the event but not knowing what to write, I set out to begin the story that would lead to that scene, but it’s a vague goal post and I did no prep work and it’s just not very good so far (which lead to me not working on it the first weekend of the month AT ALL.)
  6. #spookyromancesequel 1.0: If I want to start an entirely new project, at least I’ve already done some of the prep work for this. A minor character from #srn gets her own romance, possibly borrowing from that Camp NaNo 2018 draft I never finished. I do have ideas for other entries in the potential #spooky series–I created a lot of fun minor characters–but this one, chronologically, makes the most sense, so it’s where I should start. But it’s a bit intimidating, because the first book was an experiment in first-person narration for me (my other three works are third-person, dual POV) and this romance has me shackled to a haughty, difficult narrator, if I go forward with it. I should look at it as a challenge, not a problem, but not knowing if I can get #srn itself publishable, should I invest more effort in a series that might never see the light of day?

Top off that doozy of a list with the open-ended idea “start something totally unrelated to anything else and see what happens,” and you’ve got my dilemma. I don’t have an answer yet, but it’s definitely helped to write down all my possibilities and give them a good, hard shake to see how I feel about them. Mostly overwhelmed, at this point, but I’ve still got three weeks before NaNo to sort myself out. There’s no way I’m not going for my fifth year straight winning NaNo!

Down the TBR Hole #23

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?

It feels so good to cut books from the list that I’m not interested in anymore! Let’s do this!

#1 – Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day, by Seanan McGuire

31183180._SY475_I had honestly forgotten entirely what the blurb of this novella said, and when or why I added it. I’ve heard great things about McGuire, and she pops up across my social media a lot because she’s got honest and great things to say about the writer’s life, social media itself, book piracy, etc.

I respect her for that, but since adding this title, I’ve also read three of her books (the Feed trilogy, written as Mira Grant) and I went from flabbergasted by the first one to utterly disappointed by the third. Also, I own Every Heart a Doorway, thanks to a sale, so I have an opportunity to give her a fourth try without keeping this one around. It goes.

#2 – History is All You Left Me, by Adam Silvera

25014114._SY475_My gut is saying this should go, because I’ve had my fill of YA tragedy lately, and gay tragedy is wearing out its welcome with me. But that’s more of a “I don’t want to read it now” reaction than not wanting to read it at all.

So it can stay. With the caveat that I’m planning on reading another work co-authored by Silvera, They Both Die at the End, for the PopSugar Reading challenge sometime between now and the end of the year. If I don’t care for that, I’ll come back and pop this off the list.

If I do like it, then I’ll probably be glad I kept this around.

#3 + #4 – Rookie Move and Hard Hitter, by Sarina Bowen

27190530._SY475_

28869598._SX318_SY475_I’ve consistently liked Sarina Bowen’s work, and in fact, the first of hers I read was also a sports romance. While I’m not huge on hockey, I’ve lived in Michigan for most of my life, and it’s impossible not to know about the sport or be at least a little invested in how the Red Wings are doing any given year. These stay. Hoopla’s got them both as audiobooks so I can maybe listen while I cross-stitch.

#5 – Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat, by Bee Wilson

13587130I’ve been reading a great deal less nonfiction lately, after some less-than-stellar experiences last year when I made it a point to read at least one a month for a personal reading challenge.

But I’m a foodie and an avid cook, mostly self-taught. I’m an Alton Brown devotee who’s inherited his hatred of uni-taskers in the kitchen. I love my mom’s old ’70s and ’80s cookbooks with their strange ideas of how to make food pretty and, especially, “party-worthy.”

This sounds fascinating, so it stays.

#6 – Ramona Blue, by Julie Murphy

31449227._SY475_Oh, the controversy. I remember.

People went batshit over a badly-written blurb that made this book appear lesbophobic, so lesbian reviewers threw bisexuality under the bus. Then bi reviewers showed up in droves to defend the book. Then it was actually released and people actually read it, and reviews are mixed, and two years later no one’s talking about it on social media anymore, good or bad.

For apparently being about a girl who believes she’s lesbian falling in love with a guy and realizing she’s actually bisexual, some reviewers say the dreaded “b” word is never used, despite the author confirming Ramona’s identity in interviews and on social media. I hate the missing “b” word and that’s enough to make me give this a pass now, long after this book ceased to be relevant in the community.

#7 – March, by Geraldine Brooks

13529I added this after reading and adoring Brooks’ People of the Book, a random find at a used book sale, and diving into her catalog for other potential reads. I mean, I love Little Women, and I’d just read a book by her that I also loved, so why not?

But I’m tired of reading about war, and honestly, I never felt any real curiosity about what Mr. March was off doing while his women were at home. Yes, this book won a Pulitzer, but the reviews are still strongly mixed, and winning literary awards has never been an indicator of actual quality or how much I’ll enjoy reading it (yes, The Road, I’m still looking at you, I will never forget how horrible you were.) It goes.

#8 – Year of Wonders, by Geraldine Brooks

4965Same deal here about why I added it, and when I reread the blurb, this seemed more like a keeper. Plague fiction! Sweet!

But almost all of the reviewers who did not give this book five stars, no matter what the rating was, complained about how disappointed they were by the ending. The first 75% of the book is either good, great, or amazing, but the last 25% dove off a cliff.

I’ve seen too many properties I once loved suffer and become irretrievably tainted by terrible endings that I’m not going to waste my time on a novel setting me up for the same. It goes.

#9 – Truthwitch, by Susan Dennard

29939389Added because of Tumblr hype, but this is another case of “two years later, nobody talks about this book anymore.” I’d forgotten I’d added it–I’d forgotten it existed. Even more damning, two more novels and a novella have come out since then in this series, and I’d never heard of any of them. Social media hype is not the only indicator of quality, but total lack of it is troublesome.

Paired with so-so reviews that call out thin world-building, weird pacing, and love at first sight, I’m going to let this one go and return to forgetting it existed.

 

#10 – The Scandal of It All, by Sophie Jordan

32600753._SY475_No idea now where I found this.

Also, no idea now why I added this. Back in 2017 I wasn’t as disappointed, on the whole, with the historical romance genre as I am now, but still, what about this appealed to me? Sure, the heroine is older than the hero for once, but apparently the age gap is significant, and that’s not my thing in either direction.

It goes, no question, and leaves me scratching my head about why it was ever on the list in the first place.

 


Cutting six of ten this month, not bad, not bad. As always, if you’ve read one of these books and have a difference of opinion to share, I’d love to hear it!