Read Harder 2019: January and February

I got horribly behind on blogging about these, so here’s a combo before I fall farther behind!

January

#11) Read a manga.

I Hear the Sunspot; Yuki Fumino.

Nice and easy. This is a manga. 🙂

A cute, slow romance, where two college students gradually realize they have feelings for each other. One is hard of hearing, and it deals with that disability, and communication problems. Much of the struggle is how people treat him once they know. Not much happens, relationship wise, but though this was originally a one shot, they added a sequel. I recommend getting both.

#12) Read a book with an animal or inanimate object POV character.

Fox 8; George Saunders.

Narrated by a fox.

A very short story/letter, narrated by a fox. His spelling is a bit off, but for a fox, it’s pretty impressive. And it’s readable, with cute illustrations scattered around. The story itself is a bit sad, as animals who run into humans tend to be. But there’s some humor and lightness to balance it out.

#9) Read a book published prior to 1/1/2019, with less than 100 reviews on Goodreads.

The Fourth R; George O. Smith

This book had 67 ratings, and 12 reviews when I read it.

I liked the start and the end, but it got a bit preachy towards the climax. James Holden is the possessor of information that holds a great deal of power and potential–but he’s five years old, and in the power of his parents’ killer. The deck is stacked against him, but he’s a very educated boy, and watching him plot his way around his obstacles is entertaining.

He’s not terribly likable, and I wish justice had been served, but this is overall an interesting exercise on the power of learning in all its forms.

February

#14) Read a cozy mystery.

Books Can Be Deceiving; Jenn McKinlay.

276 Goodreads people labeled this a cozy, and it downplays violence and takes place in a small tight-knit community, as cozies are defined as doing.

A quick read, along familiar cozy lines. A friend is suspected of murder, so Lindsey Norris needs to find proof to save her. There’s some fun characters (though there are also some stereotypes that defy logic), plenty of bookish references, and crafting, too. A sweet start to a series, and a fun read. A pretty setting, and set up for some romance, too. You get exactly what you expect from the description, which is nice.

#23) Read a self-published book.

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo; Zen Cho.

Published by the author

Short, told diary style. Humorous, telling about a stretch of life of a woman, with plenty of disasters–but also plenty of good moments. Snarky. I wished there was more.

#1) Read an epistolary novel/ collection of letters.

84, Charing Cross Road: Helene Hanff.

This is a collection of letters by Helene Hanff to a bookseller (and a few related people.)

This book serves best as an introduction to Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. It’s a collection of letters between a book buyer and a book shop, and full of affection over that shared love of literature.

It’s a fun read for book lovers, with plenty of humor, and book references. It’s quite short, as it’s a collection of letters. And the end is a bit sad–as the description says, they never meet. But Duchess has the author actually traveling to England.

#2) Read an alternate history novel.

Making History; Stephen Fry.

This book describes a world in which Hitler was not born.

I liked the concept–what if you made sure Hitler was never born? Not by murder, but by contraception. How would it change the world?
Of course, wars, for all their horrors, also come with social and technological changes for the good. And they hinge on such large issues, the real question becomes what really changes?
My big issue is that I didn’t like the protagonist. He was flat and whiny, and the start was slow. Other povs were more interesting, and the interjection of play script sections lightened the dull moments, but not enough for me to really enjoy it overall.

#5) Read a book by a journalist/ about journalism.

Abbott; Saladin Ahmed.

The main character is a journalist, the story focuses on her efforts to report stories others would like covered up.

Abbott is a reporter, one who doesn’t let racism get swept under the rug. And she’s constantly being attacked for it, her job in jeopardy. Even her allies don’t stand with her very well. But she’s focused and determined–which doesn’t always help against the dark magic attacking the city, which seems to be focused on POC victims, which the police don’t care as much about.

I was hoping for a more positive solution, and the overall tone was quite dark. Still, there’s some kind of hope. This is a gritty sort of mystery, realistic despite the magic involved.

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The Stepmother

Content warning–implied assault.

Image from WikiCommons, by ErgoSum88

It’s not as if I wanted to remarry. Six months widowed, with two young daughters–and poor, because my husband had left his money to his younger brother, who had sworn he’d take care of us, and evicted us within the week.

I scraped by as a companion to a cranky old tyrant no one could stand, not even her own son. So when my dear, dear brother-in-law suggested a kind widower who needed a mother to his daughter–who was of an age with my eldest, what choice did I have?

That or slow starvation.

He was polite to my girls, though disinterested, but positively doted on his child, who resembled her beautiful mother–wheaten curls, sky blue eyes, porcelain skin, delicate features, pink lips–a miniature beauty.

For a time, life was fine. I kept his house, and raised the girls all together. And if mine sometimes whimpered over the dollhouses and lacy dresses and pony that their stepsister got when they had none, I made sure he didn’t hear. And I made sure they knew to stay quiet, to seem content–to not stand out lest we lose what I’d sacrificed for.

But then his daughter Ella started to blossom into womanhood, and she grew into the dangerous kind, that men wanted to grasp and take, but wouldn’t offer fairly for–not for a merchant’s daughters whose father was elderly, and often out of town.

So I kept her inside and busy, dressed her plainly, and forbid her parties. I’d caught a lord outside her bedroom one night when I hosted a dance, so I stopped throwing them. He made excuses, but hers was the only room down that hallway–my girls shared the smaller converted nursery. Her room had a large balcony and double windows to let in light and air, and one night while I paced the garden, sleepless over my husband’s late return, I spotted a local lad climbing the trellis to her window. I scared him away, and had it ripped out, but that didn’t stop them. Lustful sneers, over-bright gazes–and not one offer of courtship and marriage. Ella was only fourteen, but perhaps a long engagement, if the man seemed kind…

There was nothing to do but make a bed by the fireplace to keep her warm. Her room was only safe in the daylight, with the servants inside and passerby outside–but Ella wouldn’t listen. She didn’t believe me about the dangers of some men, that her merely pretty sisters could be guarded with less effort, because they didn’t glitter and attract that jackdaw avarice.

Rumors of the prince spoke of his treatment of his housemaids, his fondness for fair girls. One had been turned away without reference last month, her belly already swelling.

I wouldn’t have brought my own daughters to the ball, but my husband insisted I go in one of his infrequent visits, and I knew better than to chance his wrath. So I went, but I made Ella stay–created an impossible task to keep the stubborn girl busy.

When she stepped into the ballroom, shining and beautiful, and every eye turned to her, she beamed in triumph. But I was watching the prince, and saw his smile like a knife, and despaired.

The ball was a crush. I could not get to her, I could not warn her before he swooped down and carried her away into a dance.

Soon I lost sight of her, and when I spotted her fleeing at midnight, dress torn, a shoe missing, my heart ached. She hadn’t listened, had believed in fairy tales, and the wolf in fine clothing had gobbled her up.

I made our excuses, and went home, to gather the shattered pieces of that beautiful girl, and try to go on.

What else could we do?


Top Ten Tues: On The Fence

Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, feature lists related to all things bookish–characters, authors, titles, and favorites. They’re an excellent way to find new interesting books on a variety of topics, and to find bloggers that love the books you do.

Check out their blog for their top ten and lists by other bloggers!

February 5: Upcoming Releases I’m On the Fence About (these are the books you need help deciding if they’re worth adding to your TBR or not.)

A few of these are coming out today, but were upcoming as I wrote the draft. Alphabetical as always.

  1. City in the Middle of the Night; Charlie Jane Anders. A hyped book that caught my eye, which may or may not live up to its reputation.

2. To Kill a Kingdom; Alexandra Christo. Does this Little Mermaid retelling live up to the hype?

3. Freshwater; Akwaeke Emezi. It sounds great, but it’s described as ‘unsettling.’ Just how much, though? I don’t need nightmares.

4. The Cerulean; Amy Ewing. It looks pretty, but the ratings aren’t great.

5. The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls; Anissa Gray. It looks good, but maybe too dark.

6. I Owe You One; Sophie Kinsella. I’ve had mixed reactions to her books.

7. Warrior of the Wild; Tricia Levenseller. Some reviews mention not great character development, so I’m concerned.

8. We Set the Dark on Fire; Tehlor Kay Mejia. Compared to the Handmaid’s Tale, and sometimes those comparisons don’t hold up. Hope this one does!

9. Polaris Rising; Jessie Mihalik. I love space opera–but only good space opera.

10. Four Dead Queens; Astrid Scholte. Another I hope lives up to its hype!

Top Ten Tues: New TBR

January 29th: The ten most recent additions to my to-read list.

Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, feature lists related to all things bookish–characters, authors, titles, and favorites. They’re an excellent way to find new interesting books on a variety of topics, and to find bloggers that love the books you do.

Check out their blog for their top ten and lists by other bloggers!

From my Goodreads list, starting from the most recently added book.

  1. The Valley of Shadows; John Ringo. Part of a zombie series, which I didn’t realize another book had come out.

2. Last Night in Nuuk; Niviaq Korneliussen. A Book Riot Read Harder Challenge book. Book in translation, written/translated by a woman.

3. Funny in Farsi; Firoozeh Dumas. Ditto. Humor.

4. Kingpin; Kevin Poulsen. Also ditto. Nonviolent true crime.

5. Making History; Stephen Fry. Another Read Harder book. Alternate history novel.

6. Fall; Neal Stephenson. New sci fi book by favorite author.

7. Giant Days, vol. 9; John Allison. A slice of life graphic novel series I enjoy.

8. Hex Vet; Sam Davies. Saw an ad for this supernatural veterinarian, it looked cute!

9. The Gilded Wolves; Roshani Chokshi. Saw this on a TTT, actually.

10. The Night Tiger; Yangsze Choo. An author I’ve liked stuff by. Dying wishes, the afterlife, ghosts.

Top Ten Tues: Meant to Read 2018

Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, feature lists related to all things bookish–characters, authors, titles, and favorites. They’re an excellent way to find new interesting books on a variety of topics, and to find bloggers that love the books you do.

Check out their blog for their top ten and lists by other bloggers!

January 22: Books I Meant to Read In 2018 but Didn’t Get To

This is a tough one, because there are so many books I meant to read in 2018, including some I meant to read in ’17, and ’16, and ’15… 😉 Alphabetical order as always.

  1. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry; Frederik Backman. I read A Man Called Ove, and then added a bunch of his books to my list.

2. Riveted; Meljean Brook. Book 3 in a steampunk romance series I started years ago.

3. The Devil You Know; Mike Carey. Freelance exorcist. Sounds dangerous.

4. Gods of Gotham; Lyndsay Faye. This one has been on my list for a few years.

5. Tower of Ravens; Kate Forsyth. A friend recommended this to me, and I really ought to read it.

6. Moab is my Washpot; Stephen Fry. He’s funny but I’ve never read any of his writing.

7. The Wicked + The Divine; Kieron Gillen. Another series that’s been on my list for a long time. Looks so cool, though!

8. Air Awakens; Elise Kova. This pretty cover’s been watching me at a bookstore I frequent, too.

9. Crown of Vengeance; Mercedes Lackey. One of my ‘I’ll try anything they write’ authors.

10. Sky Pirates; Liesel Schwarz. Book 3 in a series I started, that’s approaching 5 years on my TBR.

Top Ten Tues: New to Me Authors

Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, feature lists related to all things bookish–characters, authors, titles, and favorites. They’re an excellent way to find new interesting books on a variety of topics, and to find bloggers that love the books you do.

Check out their blog for their top ten and lists by other bloggers!

January 15: New-to-Me Authors I Read In 2018.

Alphabetical as always.

  1. Grace Draven. The author Ilona Andrews recommended her, and I’ve read a couple of her romances.

2. Nicky Drayden. Prey of the Gods has robots and gods running amok.

3.Drew Hayes. A series about a vampire accountant. Funny reads, but hard to get a hold of!

4. Todd McAulty. His sci fi world with A.I. is fascinating.

5. Madeline Miller. I saw Circe everywhere until I finally picked it up. It’s a good retelling, so I’m going back for Achilles.

6. Natasha Pulley. I’d been meaning to read The Bedlam Stacks for a while, now that I finally got to it, I’m ready to read another of her books.

7. Emily Skrutskie. Just started The Abyss Surrounds Us series. Space pirates and monsters. Fun!

8. Tade Thompson. Rosewater was an amazing, complex sci fi adventure. More, please!

Weekend Writing Warriors: 1/13

This 8-10 sentence blog hop is hosted by The Weekend Writing Warriors. (Click the link for the list of participants, or rules if you want to join!)

Here’s a WIP–“Discovering Gremlins.” Seth had a bad day at work–hit his head and saw a monster, which he dismissed as his imagination. The next day, he breaks his phone screen, his shower sprays water everywhere, the subway is delayed–after lunch Harry (she of I.T. fame) tells him she can fix his gremlin problem–and sends him to buy an expensive sound system, then wait for her before he enters his apartment. Seth goes in alone, and is threatened by gremlins until Harry rescues him and arranges the apology.

Previous snippet:

“I don’t have a death wish!” Seth protested.

“If you try to stay in your apartment when the gremlins come to claim your apology, you do. Seth, and I can’t stress this enough,” she fixed her dark eyes on him intently, “if you see another gremlin, they will definitely kill you. And make it quick.”

Seth gulped, feeling suddenly queasy.

Pulling out her phone, Harry checked the time, then shoved the phone back into her pocket. “They should leave you alone now, but don’t tempt fate, okay? No staring into shadows, no lurking around the servers. Just live like a normal person.”

“I’m not sure how to do that anymore,” Seth said weakly.

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Seth shook his head, his stomach churning at the thought of pretending that those horrifying monsters, with their sharp teeth and giggles, weren’t lurking in the shadows.

“Fine, then, I’ll get you transferred to the I.T. department.”

“I…what?”

“Keep up, Seth. You want to learn how to negotiate with gremlins, I don’t have time to teach you unless we’re working together. You’ll figure it out, I’m sure,” she said, though her tone was doubtful.

“Come on,” she said, with another glance at her phone, “they’ll be long gone by now. Let’s clean up, and you can have your first lesson now.”

Seth followed her through the door, finding that the boxes were gone, and most of the electronic odds and ends, though not the powder.

“Welcome to the magical world of I.T.,” Harry said, “now get a broom.”

*    *    *

Gremlins have camouflage magic, and a way of making people who catch just a glimpse forget them. This is good for humanity, because they’re powerfully ugly, and react violently to being discovered. But when Seth hits his head and lands on the floor right next to a gremlin, he sees it… and it notices that he’s done so. Things are about to go downhill for Seth.

Top Ten Tues: Releases First Half 2019

Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, feature lists related to all things bookish–characters, authors, titles, and favorites. They’re an excellent way to find new interesting books on a variety of topics, and to find bloggers that love the books you do.

Check out their blog for their top ten and lists by other bloggers!

January 8: Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2019

Here’s ten books I’m hoping live up to their hype! Alphabetical by author as always.

  1. The Winter of the Witch; Katherine Arden. I need this book from the library already!

2. Mostly Dead Things; Kristen Arnett. A review I found promised it was “hilarious, deeply morbid, and full of heart.”

3. King of Scars; Leigh Bardugo. I just love her characters.

4. The Wicked King; Holly Black. The fair folk at a capricious and scary best.

5. The Golden Tresses of the Dead; Alan Bradley. Flavia de Luce is amazing. That is all.

6. The Kingdom of Copper; S.A. Chakraborty. Book 2 of a gorgeous story.

7. The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls; Anissa Gray. Family is weird.

8. Black Leopard, Red Wolf; Marlon James. Fantasy with shapeshifters, necromancers, and witches lurking about.

9. The Dreamers: Karen Thompson Walker. A sleeping sickness, with some significance to the dreams the sleepers are having.

10. The Bird King; G. Willow Wilson. Maps that bend reality!

Weekend Writing Warriors: 1/5

This 8-10 sentence blog hop is hosted by The Weekend Writing Warriors. (Click the link for the list of participants, or rules if you want to join!)

Here’s a WIP–“Discovering Gremlins.” Seth had a bad day at work–hit his head and saw a monster, which he dismissed as his imagination. The next day, he breaks his phone screen, his shower sprays water everywhere, the subway is delayed–after lunch Harry (she of I.T. fame) tells him she can fix his gremlin problem–and sends him to buy an expensive sound system, then wait for her before he enters his apartment. Seth goes in alone, and hears something behind him.

Previous snippet:

Once she was finished, she crouched down to make small adjustments to the circle of computer parts, nudging a twist of wire to the left, and a computer chip toward the center of the circle. Then she stood, dusted off her hands, and stood behind him, her hand coming to rest on his arm.

Her grip was firm, just shy of painful, a tangible reminder that she’d told him to keep his mouth shut. She said some more of those liquid syllables, and then she unceremoniously shoved him out of his apartment.

Seth dug his heels in. That was it–a weird circle and a few words and his problems were over?

As he’d noticed before, Harry was strong for someone her size, and determined. He ended up outside his door anyway.

“What is wrong with you?” Harry demanded. “Now is not the time to discover a death wish.”

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge

“I don’t have a death wish!” Seth protested.

“If you try to stay in your apartment when the gremlins come to claim your apology, you do. Seth, and I can’t stress this enough,” she fixed her dark eyes on him intently, “if you see another gremlin, they will definitely kill you. And make it quick.”

Seth gulped, feeling suddenly queasy.

Pulling out her phone, Harry checked the time, then shoved the phone back into her pocket. “They should leave you alone now, but don’t tempt fate, okay? No staring into shadows, no lurking around the servers. Just live like a normal person.”

“I’m not sure how to do that anymore,” Seth said weakly.

*    *    *

Gremlins have camouflage magic, and a way of making people who catch just a glimpse forget them. This is good for humanity, because they’re powerfully ugly, and react violently to being discovered. But when Seth hits his head and lands on the floor right next to a gremlin, he sees it… and it notices that he’s done so. Things are about to go downhill for Seth.

2018 in Books

For a year I collected all sorts of information on my reading–author gender, birthplace, whether a book was a translation, publication year, etc. But it took too much time from the reading process, so instead I just let Goodreads do the work for me.

Do any of you track your reading? What do you track?

I don’t have much more to say about this, other than my biggest book was actually a collection of three books, and my least popular was from an indie author who just doesn’t have many Goodreads ratings.

My reading for 2018 made me pretty happy–tried some outside-of-my-comfort-zone reads, tried to read diversely, read fiction and nonfiction and poetry and graphic novels.

Looking forward to seeing what 2019 brings!