So, I have read more books since I posted last — I just didn’t have the mental energy to say anything about it. (Sorry.) Here’s a recap of what’s happened since my last report.

I made some progress on the “bought but never read” list. I started with two Fae books — Spare Changeling by Andrea Stewart and Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire. I didn’t actually plan to read two similar books so close together; I was trying to give priority to the books that I’d neglected the longest, only my memory wasn’t entirely accurate and I really should have read a different book before R&R. But it was interesting to read these back to back, since the structure of the novels seemed very similar — lots of fight scenes before any progress was made finding the unknown murderer. I enjoyed both but got antsy waiting to past all the fights and move the plot forward.

At some point, I also read Murder on the Titania, a series of connected stories and novellas by Alex Acks. I spaced these out a bit, reading one or two and then taking a break to read a novel. I felt like these stories were a bit of a mixed bag; some I liked, while one or two felt like a bit of a slog. I was happy to check this one off and move on.

After that, it was early October, and my careful plan kind of went off the rails. I started reading several books from authors I’d met at writing events; I had a book of short essays, a book of longer essays, and a novel, and I started going back and forth between them. I got halfway through the essay books before I lost the ability to concentrate on anything substantial. (This was probably around the time that three extended family members got COVID.) I put all three books aside in favor of comfort reads — an old Tom Holt favorite, then three Sariah Wilson romances (one excellent, one okay, and one disappointment), and finally a Hamster Princess book. That got me past the COVID scare and the election drama and out the other side.

I’m still having a little trouble reading, but I got one more book off my “bought but not read” list: This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. I really liked it at first but had mixed feelings by the end. I may revisit it at some point and see if I have a different reaction.

So that’s more or less where things stand now. I still have more books in my TBR pile than I’d like (partly because I bought two more books and got five free through a holiday promotion), but I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself to whittle down the pile right now. I discovered the library has a lot of Courtney Milan historical romance novellas, and that seems to be the right speed for my current frame of mind. (My current frame of mind would be better if eleven members of my extended family hadn’t decided to go to Disney World during a COVID surge, but they’re finally back home and no one seems to be sick so far, so fingers crossed.)

I hope you’re enjoying a comfort read of your own, preferably safe in your own germ-free space. Happy quarantine holidays.

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Last night, November 7, I sat at my computer and watched the fireworks explode over Delaware, celebrating Joe Biden’s victory in the Presidential election. Seeing those bursts of light in the sky — a sight so tied in our nation’s consciousness to the Fourth of July — I almost cried, because over the past four years, I had forgotten what it felt like to be proud of my country.

This year, Independence Day came in November.

There is still so much work to do. But this was the first major step on the path, and it gives me hope.

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I actually finished my second batch of five books in mid-August, but put off writing the blog post. I read mostly shorter works again — only one full-length novel, while the rest were novellas of various lengths.

Sisters of the Vast Black was the longest novella, and it surprised me — I wasn’t sure going in whether I was going to like the religious aspect of it, but that didn’t bother me. It was an interesting story, and felt unique and different even though there were some echoes of existing narratives. I’m not sure if I’ll read it again (and I’m not sure it’s the best pandemic read, since there’s a contagious disease element to the story), but I’m glad I read it.

The Governess Affair was my next choice. This novella is part of Courtney Milan’s Brothers Sinister series, which had been highly recommended by more than one friend. I’d tried the first novel in the series but hadn’t been able to get into it. Possibly I wasn’t in the right frame of mind at the time, because I definitely didn’t have that problem with this novella — I enjoyed it quite a lot, and I’ll probably try more of Milan’s work in future.

The Widow of Rose House was a ghost story romance and was also recommended, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. It felt like the story dragged, and I wasn’t wild about the point of view flipping back and forth between the two main characters. I had trouble keeping my enthusiasm to get through it and I doubt I’ll read this one again.

Wool, a short novella, was my fourth selection. Again, probably not the best choice for a pandemic read — it takes place in future, when everyone is trapped indoors because the environment has become toxic. And the story was sad, for reasons I won’t state because spoilers. But it was very well written with a compelling story, so definitely worth reading.

My last pick was Silver in the Wood — another novella that had been recommended. The cover of this one had turned me off, but the story ended up being my favorite of the five. In fact, as soon as I finished it, I bought the sequel, Drowned Country, and read that one as my “reward” book. I didn’t think the sequel was as good as the first, but there was enough satisfying content in it that I’m still glad I read it.

I should also mention my other reward book, The House in the Cerulean Sea. Victoria Schwab and Seanan McGuire raved about this one, saying how comforting and perfect it was, so I decided to try a sample. I still wasn’t 100% sure about it by the time I finished the sample, but I decided to give it a try and I’m glad I did. I really enjoyed this one, especially the ending. (I totally pictured Michael Sheen — Aziraphale in the Good Omens adaptation — as the main character of Linus, which probably helped. I tried picturing David Tennant as Arthur but couldn’t make that stick. Still, your mileage may vary.)

So that’s a quick recap of my second round with the reading challenge. I’m going to pivot at this point and shift the challenge to focus on unread books that I bought (as opposed to gifts or freebies). I want to read at least one of those each month, plus finish two nonfiction books that I started last year and have been slowly inching my way through. I’ve been really happy with the progress I’ve made so far in the challenge — I’ve gotten more variety in my reading and read some books that probably would have been neglected otherwise — but it bugs me when I buy a book and then don’t read it, so I figure it’s time to whittle that pile down.

I’ll check back in at some point. Until then, happy reading!

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For the first few months of Covid lockdown, I struggled with reading. Sometimes I could manage it, and sometimes I couldn’t. I’d pick up old favorites, read a few chapters, then pick up something else. I even had trouble with The Network Effect, which I’d pre-ordered in September and been dying to read — I’d get through a few chapters, then hit a wall and put it aside for a week or more.

Finally, though, I started getting back into a reading groove. I finished The Network Effect. I borrowed some books from the library. I read one of the novellas I got free from Tor for Pride Month. And I impulse-bought a few new books, despite having literally dozens of unread titles (some purchased, some free promos from Amazon, Tor, or others). I looked at my overflowing To Be Read list on Goodreads and decided this was a problem.

So two weeks ago, I vowed that I wouldn’t buy any more new books until I’d read some of the ones I have. My original intention was to read at least ten before I bought or borrowed anything new, but I’ve realized that’s not realistic. So I revised my challenge to get one new book for each five titles I finish from either my Currently Reading or TBR lists. And in the past two weeks, I have miraculously gotten through five titles. Go, me.

(An interesting aside: the one with the worst cover, the one that screamed “self-published”, was the book I enjoyed most. The one with the best cover very nearly got DNFed.)

I read three novellas, one full novel, and one story. I figured the story counts because it was on my list, and the novel was as long as two novellas, so it balanced out.

The novellas were reasonably good. The Road to Farringale was my favorite: a bit whimsical and surprising, with lots of fun magic. Let It Shine ended up being very timely, if somewhat challenging, since it dealt with an interracial couple participating in the 1960’s Civil Rights movement; it was sad to read it and realize how hard people fought and how much work is still to be done. The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo was my least favorite of the three, but I still enjoyed it, particularly the ending.

I’ll skip naming both the novel and the story, since I don’t think I’d recommend either one. (You can check my Goodreads challenge and probably figure out the titles if you really want to know. The link is in the sidebar.)

I haven’t decided what new book to get as my reward, although I’m leaning towards the next novella in the Modern Magick series. I have a few other books in contention, though, so we’ll see what wins out.

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