MONTHLY REWIND: September 2019

Hello, friends! I can’t believe it’s October already. September seemed to fly by while also dragging along? I only read five books this month. My average for the month is usually around 9-10 books, so part of me is just like ??? whereΒ did the time go? I started working for a temp agency halfway through the month and that’s exactly when my reading tapered off. Everything tapered off – reading, blogging, social media usage. I started reading a lot of things halfway through the month and later, but I never stuck with it long enough to finish. Now I have about eight books that I’m working my way through (physical and digital), and I’m going to use October to finish those off and get some spooky reads in.

In September, I read:

  • Three Flames, by Alan Lightman
  • The Widow of Pale Harbor, by Hester Fox
  • Mysteries of the Middle Ages, by Thomas Cahill
  • Embers of War, by Gareth L. Powell
  • The Silent Companions, by Laura Purcell

I am decently pleased with what I read for the month, and I caught up with everything that I had started in the summer because I was determined at one point to “start fresh” for the season. I enjoyed Embers of War even though I kept misplacing the book, and The Silent Companions is a title from my earlier Top Ten Tuesday list of books I’ve avoided reading (I’m currently reading two more from that list, and this list is serving as my TBR for October!).

I haven’t bought many books due to not having consistent work and needing to save money (and not being at a bookstore once a week for work also helps), but I did get the following with some gift cards as well as a publisher gift:

  • Call Upon the Water, by Stella Tillyard (thank you, Atria!)
  • Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir (preordered last year?!)
  • Bringing Down the Duke, by Evie Dunmore
  • Flamecaster, by Cinda Williams Chima
  • Nocturna, by Maya Motayne
  • Roar, by Cora Carmack

What did you read in September? What was your favorite read of the month?

REWIND: Summer 2019

Even though the header says “Monthly Rewind,” this installment will cover June, July, and August’s reading! I want to get in the habit of writing more than just review posts to add some variety and hopefully keep me out of a blogging slump. Now that I’m settled in my new place, I have plans in place to organize myself better, and I already have a Monthly Rewind for September in the drafts! I’ll be adding to it throughout the month so I don’t feel like I have to catch up at everything in the last minute.

Over the summer, I read thirty books! I read nine books in June, and in July, I didn’t read for the first half of the month, but I managed to read and finish twelve books. I read nine in August. Ten books is a month is my average, and I do try to shoot for at least that many. However, if I’m busy or just not feeling reading, I’ve been letting myself not read. I’ve been doing the same with social media over the summer as I realized it’s hard to read, want to read, post, and want to post when there’s a lot going on IRL. I needed to give myself space to adjust to the changes. I’m still adjusting, but I’m finding myself in a better frame of mind to get back in the swing of things with my blog and Instagram!

In June, I read:

  • The Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan – Caitlin R. Kiernan 3.5/5
  • The Earl Next Door – Amelia Grey 3/5
  • Rouge – Richard Kirshenbaum 3/5
  • Sky in the Deep – Adrienne Young 4/5
  • The Templars – Dan Jones 3.5/5
  • Jane, Unlimited – Kristin Cashore 3/5
  • Not One of Us: Stories of Aliens on Earth – Neil Clarke 4/5
  • The Mere Wife – Maria Dahvana Headley 5/5
  • Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck 4/5

In July, I read:

  • Off the Grid – Robert B. McCaw 3/5
  • Chaucer’s Tale: 1386 and the Road to Canterbury – Paul Strohm 4/5
  • The Beast’s Heart – Leife Shallcross 4/5
  • Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky 4.5/5
  • The Dragon Lady – Louisa Treger 4/5
  • The Flatshare – Beth O’Leary 4/5
  • Neuromancer – William Gibson 4/5
  • Cold-Hearted Rake – Lisa Kleypas 3.5/5
  • A Memory Called Empire – Arkady Martine 5/5
  • Annihilation – Jeff VanderMeer 5/5
  • A Conspiracy of Truths – Alexandra Rowland 4.5/5
  • Seafire – Natalie C. Parker 4/5

In August, I read:

  • The Duke is But a Dream – Anna Bennett 3/5
  • We Are All Good People Here – Susan Rebecca White 4/5
  • Love at First Like – Hannah Orenstein 4/5
  • To Kill a Kingdom – Alexandra Christo 4/5
  • Authority – Jeff VanderMeer 5/5
  • Meet Me in the Future: Stories – Kameron Hurley 5/5
  • An Enchantment of Ravens – Margaret Rogerson 5/5
  • Savage Appetites – Rachel Monroe 3/5
  • Rogue Most Wanted – Janna MacGregor 3/5

Overall, I’m really pleased with what I read and the variety of what I read. I’ve been really into medieval history lately and I’ve been picking at a few history books over the summer. Reading historical romance has been one of my personal challenges this year because I dismissed the romance genre as a whole without really understanding what it was about, so I’m learning a lot about the history of the genre and what place it has, and honestly, I’m enjoying it! This year I challenged myself to read more classic SF, which I’m failing at because I had a whole challenge set up and then my life kind of did a whole whirlwind change and that fell to the wayside, and more YA because I keep buying it but not reading enough even to marginally keep up with what I’m buying.

What were some of your favorite books you read this summer?

On Changes and Letting Go; a personal reflection on my reading life, and otherwise

I miss blogging? It’s weird to say. I’ve been blogging on and off since 2001, but I miss the feeling of being able to sit down, think, and write about something just for me. After undergraduate and graduate experience, I fell into the sort of mindset of “omg I must be productive and only produce stuff for people to consume” rather than like… writing for myself for fun. My reading shifted a lot between all levels of my education and beyond, and I feel like my reading has shifted the most from the time I started bookstagram in 2016 until now. After being unhappy with social media a lot in the latter half of 2018, I came to the conclusion that I need to return to my roots in a way, change, and start letting go.

I used to have a lot of trouble setting aside a book. I can read fast, I don’t like leaving things unfinished, and I like the small accomplishment that comes with having finished reading a book. But within the last year or so, I’ve become better and more ruthless about setting books aside that aren’t grabbing me in any way. I’m thinking about it more this year because

  • I have some changes coming up in the future and I want to pare down so that the transition happens as smoothly as possible.
  • I have a lot of unread books thanks to my poor spending habits and the graciousness of publishers.
  • There are so many books I want to read, so I’ve made the executive decision to not waste time on something that’s middling, mediocre, boring, or just bad.

It still feels a little weird and I still feel a little guilty when I decide to set a book aside, but all I need to do is remind myself of all those other books, look at my TBR and reviewing obligations, and move forward. I have to remind myself not to think of money spent because of the sunk cost fallacy. I spent that money, and I learned a lesson that I need to remember in the future.

It’s hard sometimes trying to maintain a blogging and Instagram presence when so much is focused on the new, new, new. It’s fun reading new books, don’t get me wrong, but what happens when all those new books I bought suddenly turn into last week’s, last month’s, or last year’s backlist? I can’t read as fast as I want to, even though I consistently read 8-11 books a month. … but when you start doing the math, and I’m bringing in fifteen or more books a month, I’m going to fall behind incredibly fast.

I know I can manage this with more discipline. I’ve proven it to myself that if I read 150-200 pages a day, I can read an average of four books a week. My reading goals are always 100 books a year, but if I read four books a week? That’s 208 books a year. That’s double my goal. Telling myself to read that many pages a day can be difficult with the distractions of work, life, and the internet. It’s difficult to rearrange your strategies for time management, but I think it’s coming time that I really need to shift some focuses. Doing Whole30 this month has helped immensely with not only feeling great but forcing me to deal with stuff head on rather than hide from it.

Every weekend, I’ve been going through my books bit by bit and doing some weeding. I’ve made one trip to the used bookstore already, and I think I’m going to go next time. I brought four Trader Joe’s bags full of books last time, and I’m probably going to do the same this weekend. Of course I come back with books, but I come back with fewer and more thought-out choices (usually classics [Penguin Classics or NYRB Classics] or mass market sff I’ve missed out on that I know I wanted to read). I’ve noticed that once the first purge happened and I let those books go, it felt cathartic and great, like a weight lifting from my shoulders. The books I said goodbye to had a lot of weird memories and expectations attached, and letting go of that was so freeing.

I want my shelves, wherever I end up, to be curated and reflect me rather than just be a hodgepodge mess of things I only half like. I want my Instagram feed to be a better reflection and curation of what I am actually interested in talking about and not worry so much about engagement levels. Instagram started as a fun project for me to engage with other like-minded readers. The algorithm changes seemed to affect me and everyone else, and I think returning back to that feeling of it’s for fun and not for obligations will help. I want everything I have to reflect my best self, rather than the halfhearted attempts at being someone different and someone I’m not.

Hi, I’m Meg; and I like reading science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction with a little historical romance thrown in, history, and science (especially astrophysics and cosmology space stuff even though some of it’s really hard to understand and I’m not good at math). It’s time for some changes, and it’s good to remember to let go every once in a while. Let’s boldly go.

2018 Reading Reflections

2018 has come and gone, and I realize now that I never posted my reading goals on the blog for 2018! I wrote them all down in my book bullet journal, but now I kind of wish I had made a post outlining what my yearly goals were. I have a post coming up this week about my goals for 2019! Since January 1 was in the middle of the week, I decided that my 2019 “goal year” would start this week.

These are the goals I wanted to reach in 2018:

  • Read 12 Star Wars books
  • Read 12 Star Trek books
  • Read 12 classics
  • Read 12 nonfiction books
  • Read 12 science fiction books
  • Read the first 80 Penguin Little Black Classics
  • Read 180 books total for the year

Here are the end results of those goals:

  • Read 4/12 Star Wars books
  • Read 0/12 Star Trek books
  • Read 8/12 classics (every 10 LBCs I read counted as one “classic”)
  • Read 12/12 nonfiction books
  • Read 8/12 science fiction books
  • Read 80/80 Penguin Little Black Classics
  • Read 180/180 books for the year

Overall, I think I did a really great job, and if I could redo the year, I’d make more of an effort to read more classics and nix the Star Trek list all together. And possibly reading all 80 of Penguin’s Little Black Classics. I’m going to do a post reviewing the entire box set, but honestly, I don’t think the entire box set is worth it unless you like having them look pretty in bookish photos or on your shelf. All that time I spent stressing over reaching a monthly quota of reading those Little Black Classics stressed me out and often put me off reading. I also realized that consistently being part of big marketing campaigns took a toll on my reading as well. I loved being part of them and wished I could have chosen more specific titles to feature and review, but ultimately, I felt like my blog and Instagram became advertising channels, and I know I lost a lot of engagement that way because who wants to deal with someone advertising at you all the time?? I’m not a hustler by nature, and it was draining and demotivating me more than I realized.

On the flip side, I did get to work with some amazing publishers and imprints, I read a lot of books out of my usual zone (a post on my attitude toward romance as a genre coming soon too!), and I learned a lot about myself, my reading styles and habits, my social media output and expectations, and the world. 2018 was definitely a year of turbulence and change socially and politically, and I have such good vibes already going into 2019.

What goals did you have for 2018? Did you reach them?

Favorite Reads of 2018

A little late in posting, but here are some of my favorite reads of 2018! I’ve been in such a reading and blogging slump even though I had such high hopes to do more (having a technical error that was 99% my fault just totally wiped my motivation because I worked so hard on some posts only to realize they hadn’t posted because I didn’t actually hit “schedule,” UGH). ANYWAY. A new month starts tomorrow. I am going to make the effort to do better. January is just a weird month for me, and I think I just need to start my “new year’s resolutions” in February instead.

I read a lot of different things than my “usuals” in 2018 (and I have a post for that coming soon), but here are some of the standouts of the 180 books I read last year!

TORDOTCOM NOVELLAS! Especially the following:

  • The Only Harmless Great Thing – Brooke Bolander
  • The Descent of Monsters – JY Yang
  • River of Teeth – Sarah Gailey
  • Every Heart a Doorway – Seanan McGuire
  • The Armored Saint – Myke Cole

tor.com have released some of the best reads I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, and I can’t wait for what else they put out! If you’re in the mood for a shorter, but highly engaging and imaginative read in the speculative fiction vein, definitely check out the above titles and the rest of their offerings!

2019 RELEASES!

  • Daisy Jones & the Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • The Wolf in the Whale – Jordanna Max Brodsky

Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was one of my favorite reads of 2017, and I was so excited to receive an advance reader’s copy of Daisy Jones & the Six. It’s going to be a big spring read. The Wolf in the Whale was one of the most immersive historical fantasies I’ve read in quite some time, and I couldn’t put it down.

2018 RELEASES!

  • Hull Metal Girls – Emily Shrutskie
  • Playing With Matches – Hannah Orenstein
  • Space Opera – Catherynne M. Valente
  • The Poppy War – R.F. Kuang
  • The Calculating Stars – Mary Robinette Kowal
  • The Fated Sky – Mary Robinette Kowal
  • A Knife in the Fog – Bradley Harper

I didn’t seem to read as much YA last year as I’ve done in previous years (even though I bought a lot, but that’s neither here nor there >.>), but Emily Shrutskie’s Hull Metal Girls was one of the best sci-fi YA titles I’ve read in years, and I found myself wanting so much more once I had finished reading it. I ventured more into the romance genre in 2018 (also more on that later!) and I really loved Playing With Matches by Hannah Orenstein, and I can’t wait for her next one! Catherynne M. Valente’s Space Opera was the most fun sci-fi read of 2018 because it’s a mash of Eurovision and Douglas Adams and all sorts of goodness. R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War is the start to what looks to be an amazing fantasy series, and I was blown away that it’s a DEBUT because it’s just that well-written. If you like space and women in space programs and alternate histories and haven’t read Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Lady Astronauts yet, what are you waiting for? Bradley Harper wrote an incredibly engaging historical mystery with Margaret Harkness, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Jack the Ripper, and it’s another one of those incredible debuts! I can’t wait for the next installment!

BACKLIST!

  • The Refrigerator Monologues – Catherynne M. Valente
  • Villette – Charlotte Bronte
  • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series – Jenny Han
  • Eve’s Hollywood – Eve Babitz

I really just want to read everything Valente has ever written, and The Refrigerator Monologues is an homage to all of those female characters fridged in superhero comics (and apparently it’s going to be made into a mini series by Amazon!!). I wanted to read more classics last year, and aside from the 80 Little Black Classics that Penguin Classics put out a few years ago, the one that stuck with me the most was Charlotte Bronte’s Villette. Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series had been on my radar since its initial release, but the Netflix movie kicked my want to read them into high gear and I enjoyed them all. I read Eve Babitz’s Eve’s Hollywood after finding the book at Strand in NYC, and I fell in love with her. I’m making it my mission to read more of her work in the upcoming months.

What were your favorite reads of 2018?