Tag Archives: reading

Should You Go to BookCon? Belated Recap and Advice

I definitely meant to post this much earlier, as in right when I got back from BookCon 2018, but better late than never! This past year, I was lucky enough to be able to attend BookCon for the second time, and I had an amazing weekend listening to panel discussions given by fascinating and hilarious authors, meeting lovely bookish people, and learning about new and interesting books. I made the last-minute decision to attend BookCon 2017 on a whim and went in with little advance preparation or knowledge about the event, and I think that having already attended once helped me better prepare this time around. I did have just as much fun the first time attending with no prior knowledge, though!

If you aren’t already familiar, BookCon is a 2-day event held at the Javits Center in New York for bookish fans as well as those in the book industry (although book industry people generally are more likely to attend BookExpo, an industry-specific event held in the week before the Con). A lot of emphasis gets placed on the free books aspect of BookCon (and there are free books, it’s true!) but there’s a lot more to it than that. I’ll go through my experiences with BookCon and my favorite parts below, but as a disclaimer, I’m not an expert–I’ve only been to BookCon twice and basically just figured everything out on my own, I don’t work in the book industry, none of this is sponsored in any way, I’m just an avid reader and a fan of all things bookish. As another disclaimer, this post is going to be really long, because a lot happens at BookCon and I have a lot to talk about!

So at BookCon, there’s a gigantic showroom floor with tons of booths featuring different publishers, bookish companies, and independent authors–this is the part of BookCon that I feel gets focused on the most, but it’s not all of it by a long shot. It is really awesome, though; it’s a lot of fun to wander the convention floor and discover different books and creators. There are large mega-booths for the biggest publishing houses, which generally have the biggest crowds, but you’ll also find a lot of awesome smaller and independent publishers and independent authors as well. If you have bookish friends with birthdays coming up, the show floor is the perfect place to shop for them, since a lot of bookish companies are represented and generally have some really great deals and discounts that you can take advantage of; I purchased a Supergirl-themed notebook for a friend at the Insight Editions booth, and a tote bag with a black cat and a stack of books for another friend (who has a black cat, of course) at the Obvious State booth. I also couldn’t resist a tote bag with a bookish quote for myself at the Obvious State booth as well, and I had my eye on a Jaws T-shirt for my dad at the Out of Print booth, but unfortunately they were sold out. As a compensation, though, they were offering $50 giftcards for only $25, so I’ll be able to order him the shirt from their site anyways. Like I said, great deals!

Book-wise, you will also tend to find some good deals at BookCon, although it varies from booth to booth. Some publishers are selling their books for full price; others offer discounts or deals specific to BookCon, and others have giveaways going on at specific times during the weekend. Probably the most popular pricing deal I saw was paperbacks for $5 and hardcovers for $10, but again, this could vary a lot from booth to booth. So, how do you decide what books to purchase at BookCon? Some people purchase full-price books if it means that you can meet the author and get them to sign it; other people will look for giveaways and sales. Personally, I’ll pay full price if it’s supporting an indie author or publisher, and I’m a big fan of the $5/$10 deals as I think that’s a very fair price.

Giveaway-wise, some are publicized beforehand on publishers’ social media pages or via the show guide (which you can pick up once you get to BookCon); some are more spontaneous. Some involve waiting in really long lines; some involve spinning a wheel for a chance to win a prize which may or may not be a book; sometimes books are sitting in piles for you to take; some require a purchase to get a free item. For me personally, I’ve found that giveaways depend a lot on luck and timing, and I think of them generally as a nice and unexpected bonus of going to BookCon rather than something I’d depend on happening, especially for more popular titles which are really difficult to find. I’d say that for the past two times I’ve gone to BookCon, free books comprise about half of the books I end up taking home.

Another cool aspect of BookCon is the autographing sessions. I actually didn’t do a single autographing session in 2017 because I didn’t know about them (again, my trip was very last-minute) but this past year, autographing sessions were posted online a few weeks before the actual BookCon, and you were limited to signing up for 2 per day. Although technically I could have signed up for 4, I ended up only signing up for 3 because these were the authors/books that interested me the most that didn’t conflict with any of the panels that I wanted to go to:

  • Naomi Novik (Spinning Silver) – because I love a good fairytale retelling
  • Charlaine Harris (An Easy Death) – Harris is my most-read author on Goodreads, and her new series sounded great (which it is, I’ve since read An Easy Death and loved it).
  • Rebecca Roanhorse (Trail of Lightning) – I’d heard a lot of great buzz about this book and author, and the post-apocalyptic concept is always an intriguing one for me.

What might be the most underrated part of BookCon, and is also possibly the best part, are the panel discussions.

Here are the panels I attended, with the names of the panelists (names in bold are authors whose books I’ve read). As you can see, I definitely haven’t read books from every author in the panels I attended; I don’t think that’s at all necessary to do beforehand, and panels are actually a great way for you to find authors you may be interested in reading in the future. Of course, as a fan, you’ll likely want to see authors you already know you love speak as well.

Saturday:

  • Tor Presents: #FearlessWomen in Tor Science Fiction and Fantasy with Charlie Jane Anders, V.E. Schwab, S.L. Huang, and Seth Dickinson – the Tor panels tend to be really fantastic with wide-ranging discussions about politics, feminism, and the importance of awesome female characters.
  • Women of Mystery and Thriller with Sandra Brown, Megan Abbott, Sara Blaedel, Kate Kessler, and Karen Ellis–this was the only panel where I hadn’t read from a single author. Still great.

Sunday:

  • NaNoWriMo: The Power of Writing with Abandon with Susan Dennard, Marissa Meyer, Kami Garcia, Danielle Page, and Grant Faulkner – this was an interactive session, where there was both a panel discussion and a fun part where we were given index cards to create crazy sentences as a group. I found it really inspirational as someone who’s been doing NaNoWriMo for the past two years.
  • Toxic Male Syndrome with Jasmine Guillory, Zoey Castile, Alisha Rai, Sarah Morgan, Megan Frampton, and Claire Legrand – possibly the best panel I’ve ever attended.

(In 2017, I attended two panels: one with Margaret Atwood and the Handmaid’s Tale showrunner in conversation, and one given by Tor with Charlie Jane Anders and Annalee Newitz, in addition to other Tor authors).

In general, the quality of panels at BookCon is AMAZING. Panelists discuss interesting and relevant topics, and they usually have the audience both cracking up and thinking deeply about new insights by the time the panel is over. If you do make it to BookCon, I’d say that the panels are the one thing you absolutely shouldn’t miss.

One more thing I’d like to mention about BookCon is the people. Bookish people tend to be awesome in general, and BookCon is a great place to connect with other readers. I met several people standing in line who were so sweet and we shared tips and bookish info with each other; I also met up with people from Litsy on Sunday and attended panels with them. Some people attend BookCon with friends or in groups; I’ve attended by myself both times and it was completely awesome.

So, should I go to BookCon/Is it worth it go to BookCon?

I mean, I can’t really answer that for you, but it depends. I love BookCon and I think it’s a really awesome experience (see all of my gushing above) but it does require you to actually pay for the BookCon tickets, find a way to get to New York, and find a place to stay for at least 1 if not 2 nights. I’m lucky enough to have one of my best friends in New York who loves having people stay with her (and is very understanding about the whole “OK so there’s this thing called BookCon so I was wondering if I could stay with you except I won’t actually be able to hang out during the day” thing; she was actually the one who first suggested I come to BookCon last year when she heard about it and knew of my book obsession. Also, she has a life and a job so while I’m at BookCon she has her own plans and then we meet up afterwards to hang out.) so that means that I didn’t pay for a hotel, which in New York can get really expensive. I also live only a short plane ride away, and with advance notice can usually get a really good deal on a flight. So if you live further away and don’t have anyone in the city you can stay with, the cost of BookCon can really add up. The tickets themselves aren’t that expensive considering that you’re getting access to the show floor, some autographing, and the amazing panels (I paid $55.75 for standard weekend tickets; VIP tickets are more and they tend to sell out fast, but I’ve never even tried to get them) but the actual cost of a trip to New York is what gets you. And again, these are only my opinions–I’m sure that many people who attended BookCon had vastly different experiences from mine, and I’m absolutely sure that most of them probably planned better for it than I did.

 

If you have any questions about BookCon, feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer! Maybe I’ll see some of you there this June…

February Reading Wrap-Up

Despite the fact that I had a productive reading month in January, and it’s often hard for me to have two productive reading months in a row, I actually did a pretty decent job in February. I read one impactful and devastating 5-star read and several excellent/enjoyable 4-star books over the course of the month, and struck a good balance between reading physical and audiobooks. I also picked up books from a wide range of genres but managed three 2019 releases, in keeping with one of my main reading goals for the year. So even if February was a pretty cold and miserable month in terms of weather, it was still a great month for books.

Total books read: 9

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

Audiobooks: 2

ebooks: 2

2019 releases: 3

Short story collections: 1

Five Feet ApartGood and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's AngerUnexpected Stories by Octavia E. ButlerThe Underground Railroad by Colson WhiteheadThe Last Romantics by Tara ConklinChildren of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)The Wicked King by Holly Black99 Percent Mine by Sally ThorneAn Absolutely Remarkable Thing

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (5 stars) – With The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead wrote a book that everyone in America, and the world as a whole, should read. It’s impactful, devastating, and vitally important. The writing is intensely immersive and so skillful as to seem effortless, which underscores the emotional difficulty of reading a book like this. I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister (4.25 stars) – I listened to the audio of this informative, infuriating book that discusses women’s anger in both a historical and contemporary context, and I thought it was fantastic. There are three books that I know of dealing with similar topics that were released around the same time (Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper, which I read last month; this book; and Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly), and I’m slowly making my way through all of them, as getting in touch with one’s anger is especially relevant given the current political situation. I thought that Traister did an excellent job of arguing the case for the importance and power of women’s anger and its crucial status in today’s world.

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin (4 stars) – I really enjoyed this 2019 release that follows four siblings over a century. You can check out my full review here.

Unexpected Stories by Octavia Butler (4 stars) – Unexpected Stories was the sixth work I have read by Octavia Butler; she’s an author that I eventually want to read everything from. This particular ebook is comprised of a previously unpublished short story and novella that Butler wrote early on in her career, and although it wasn’t the strongest work that I’ve read from her, I still appreciated her skill and the emergence of the themes that haunt all of her works. The novella in particular was powerful and haunting, although it went in a direction I didn’t expect, one that was more optimistic than I had anticipated. It’s a very short book, just a quick snapshot of some of Butler’s early ideas, but it made me feel like I need to dive back into Butler’s longer work sooner rather than later. Her writing remains the one that tends to evoke the most emotional responses in me, and her use of science fiction to tell her stories somehow leaves them feeling more true than realistic fiction.

I was really intrigued by the world of the novella, “An Unnecessary Being,” which is set in a science fictional world where castes are determined by the amount of blue in one’s skin. The leaders of this world, the Hao, are revered for their strength as well as their completely blue status. That, and their rarity, also makes them a commodity and in many ways prisoners of the people who they lead. The story didn’t go the way I expected, but I thought the worldbuilding and sense of unease permeating the story were fantastic. The tone of most of the story reminded me a bit of “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by LeGuin. (The plots are very different, though.) I was less intrigued by the short story “Childfinder,” which I wish had been developed more, but I’m really glad I read this bind-up. Octavia Butler is an amazing writer and I know I’ll keep returning to her work throughout my life.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (4 stars)  – This book was a fast, action-packed read with an important message. I got so absorbed in the story and literally could not stop reading it; I don’t remember the last time I read such a long book so quickly. I loved main characters Zelie, an indomitable and impulsive member of a persecuted group of people who have lost their magical abilities and have since faced discrimination and repression, and Amari, a runaway princess facing a cruel awakening to the real world, and felt very invested in their journey. I thought that the book tackled systemic racism and the pervasiveness of bigotry really well, and managed to strike a great balance between heavy topics and fast-paced action. I really wasn’t a fan of the romance, or the male main character, Inan, who changed sides and perspectives too many times, but those were my only real issues with the book. As soon as I finished it, I faced a sudden and intense need to read the sequel, which unfortunately won’t be out until June 4th.

99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne (3.75 stars) – Along with seemingly everyone else on the bookish internet, I didn’t love this one as much as Thorne’s debut novel The Hating Game, but I did still really like it. In particular, I loved protagonist Darcy, a prickly, sassy photographer/bartender who refuses to let her heart condition dictate her life, and her determination to prove she’s capable of follow-through by sticking around to finish the flipping of her beloved deceased grandmother’s house. I didn’t find her love interest/twin brother’s best friend Tom to be quite as engaging, but it was definitely a cute, enjoyable contemporary romance, which is a difficult thing for me to find.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green (3.5 stars) – I listened to this scifi debut on audiobook, and I thought it was a fun, engaging, fast-paced book to listen to; the narrator was great, and it’s a quick read. The protagonist, April May, becomes an unwitting social media celebrity after she discovers the presence of the “Carls,” giant statues that appear simultaneously in cities around the globe and have properties that mark them as something not of this world. As she gains more and more attention and followers, she becomes unmoored from her everyday life and her girlfriend, Maya, and discovers that being famous–and the Carls themselves–maybe aren’t what she predicted they would be. Although I did enjoy this book overall, I wouldn’t say that I thought this book had a ton of depth, and I wish the ending had more of a resolution and wasn’t such a clear setup for a sequel.

The Wicked King by Holly Black (3.25 stars) – I liked this book about the same that I liked The Cruel Prince, which is to say that I overall enjoyed the read, but had quite a few issues with the book overall. Slytherin/Machiavellian protagonist Jude frustrated me perhaps more in this book than she did in the last one, as despite the fact that some of her scheming was very skillful, she continued to make choices that were clearly the wrong ones. I do like the fact that she’s a YA protagonist who is very morally grey, but I think that her supposed skill levels have a lot of inconsistency and she can be a frustrating person to read about. The plot of this book meandered quite a bit, and I found some characters and circumstances a lot more interesting than others. I would have loved more time and emphasis, for example, on Jude’s fae sister Vivi and her human girlfriend, since I think that Vivi’s unconventional choice to live away from the fairy world deserves more exploration. I do plan to pick up the third book in what I assume is a trilogy, and I hope that things go in an interesting direction.

Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott, Mikki Daughtry, and Tobias Iaconis (3 stars) – Some aspects of this contemporary YA romance about teens with CF worked better for me than others. I loved the female protagonist, a type-A teen with a popular YouTube channel, and I found her sections really informative and relatable, as an organization nerd myself. I also really appreciated how informative this book was in regard to CF, a disease I really didn’t have much familiarity with prior to reading this book. However, I wasn’t a fan of the male protagonist, who I felt was too much of a stereotypical YA love interest, and a few of the plot decisions toward the end were frustrating. I do think I’ll check out the movie at some point.

 

How did your reading go in February? Have you picked up any of these yet? Let me know!

Book Review: The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin

Book Review: The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin (4 stars)

I had no idea when I started The Last Romantics that I’d end up loving it so much. It’s the story of the unbreakable and transcendent bonds between four very different siblings, and how even their disparate paths in life can never truly keep them apart. It’s a story about what’s really important when the world is shattering around you, and how we grow together and apart from the people who mean the most in our lives.

The story starts in the future, in 2079, when a renowned poet named Fiona Skinner is giving a talk about her work in the midst of a world destabilized by climate change. Her talk turns to her three siblings, her source of love and inspiration throughout her life, and spans a century in its telling. The four Skinner siblings’ reliance on each other is cemented during a period in their childhood known as the Pause, when their mother enters a deep depression and they commit to taking care of one another until she recovers. As they grow older, their bonds are tested by the very different directions they find themselves moving in, but their childhood personalities continue to define them; Renee, the eldest, has always been the smart, responsible one with her life together; Caroline is more emotionally connected with those around her; Fiona, the youngest, buries herself in poetry and words; and Joe, their brother, has always been somewhat of a golden boy, although the cracks in this persona reveal themselves more and more over time.

I don’t usually tend to read books that could be considered family sagas, but I was really drawn to this one because of its emphasis on the bonds between siblings. I wasn’t aware prior to starting this book that there was any type of science fictional element; I have to say that although the science fiction is light, this was a huge plus for me as a lover of SFF. Having climate change woven into the story, and the hints throughout of a future that is far less stable than the world the Skinner siblings initially grew up in, felt very real and gave the story’s emotional bonds even more depth as we feel the fragility of the world. The Last Romantics is beautifully structured, with the story unfolding in bits and pieces throughout the Skinners’ lives, even as we’re given hints of the future world and the story’s telling. The writing throughout is also gorgeously done, with each of the four siblings given equal weight and their stories equal importance, even as Fiona remains our primary narrator. I have to say that I really loved this book; I felt very connected to the story and invested in all of the siblings’ lives throughout. I’ve already been recommending it to people and will be continuing to do so, as I think it’s a book that, with its emphasis on family, can find resonance with just about anyone.

I received an ARC of The Last Romantics from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

January Reading Wrap-Up

That’s a wrap on the first month of 2019, and I’m really happy with how I’ve kicked off my reading year. I set a lot of goals for 2019, and this time, in a shocking twist, I actually attempted to work towards accomplishing some of them. I know, right? Crazy. Specifically, I picked up 2 short story collections and 3 nonfiction reads this month as well as 2 books from my top 10 2019 TBR stack. I also read 1 2019 release, which I loved, and started a fun new YA fantasy series.

January stats:

Total books read: 10

#readmyowndamnbooks: 6

Audiobooks: 2

ebooks:2

The Mother of All QuestionsEloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her SuperpowerIn an Absent Dream (Wayward Children, #4)Bad Blood by John CarreyrouRabbit Cake by Annie HartnettGirl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring BlakeHow Long 'til Black Future Month?A Portable Shelter by Kirsty LoganA Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom on Fire, #1)A Poison Dark and Drowning (Kingdom on Fire, #2)

How Long Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin (5 stars) – Short version: this book is fantastic and you should read it. Long version: This is the 9th book I’ve read from N.K. Jemisin, and somehow she manages to blow me away every time. Each story in this collection is unique and fully realized, and Jemisin’s talent for world-building is on full display. I’m really in awe of her talent and range, and every time I finish one of her books I can’t wait for the next to be released. Some of my favorites from this collection were “Red Dirt Witch,” “Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Beneath the Still Waters,” “Valedictorian,” and “The Narcomancer,” but there really aren’t any weak links in this book. If you’ve never read Jemisin, this is a great introduction to her work, and if you have, you’ll love that some of the stories connect to her novels.

The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit (5 stars) – This is my second time reading Rebecca Solnit; after I read her other essay collection on feminism, Men Explain Things to Me, I knew that I wanted to read everything she had written. This collection explores different aspects of feminism and the issues that women face and care about in methodically researched, beautifully phrased sentences that elucidate new aspects of very old issues. I would highly, highly recommend it.

In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire (4.25 stars) – I really loved the fourth installment of McGuire’s Wayward Children series. Check out my full review here.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou (4 stars) – I’d seen this nonfiction book recommended over and over, and it absolutely lives up to the hype. Even though it’s nonfiction, it’s incredibly suspenseful; it’s also very detailed and told in such a compelling way. It follows the saga of Theranos, a Silicon Valley startup company founded by Elizabeth Holmes, whose purported mission was to develop the ability to run hundreds of tests on a single drop of blood and make blood testing freely available in the home. Instead, the company was built on a foundation of lies that only got worse with time. Definitely recommend; I listened to the audiobook, which was very well done.

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper (4 stars) – In this book, one of three anger-focused feminist nonfiction books I’ve been meaning to read for the past few months, Brittney Cooper succinctly and eloquently describes various aspects of black feminism and the power of women’s anger in a way that’s both intellectual and accessible. I’d highly recommend the audiobook, which is read by the author.

A Portable Shelter by Kirsty Logan (4 stars) – this is a short story collection framed by the story of two women promising to only tell their unborn child the truth rather than stories, but who then both secretly begin telling the child stories when the other can’t hear them. The stories in this book are mainly magical realism, and Logan’s writing is just as lovely as it was in The Gracekeepers. I really enjoyed it, but wasn’t completely blown away.

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (4 stars) – This book is a great example about how powerful and topical YA literature can be. It follows a girl whose twin brother has been accused of rape by his girlfriend, who is also her good friend, while she also deals with a devastating breakup with the girlfriend she still loves. When she discovers that her brother is actually guilty, which at first seemed unthinkable, she’s forced to confront the pervasive impact of rape culture in her community while simultaneously working through her own trauma. I thought this book dealt with very difficult topics extremely well, and I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for an impactful contemporary YA read.

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess (3.5 stars) – this is the first book of a Victorian-era YA fantasy featuring a chosen one main character who isn’t actually the chosen one, a drama-filled love square, and a ton of action. I really enjoyed it, so much so that I immediately had to start book 2.

A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess (3.25 stars) – The sequel to Shadow, I still enjoyed this book a lot, but I did feel that certain characters started to develop a lot of inconsistencies. I do plan to continue on to book 3, but I think I’m going to wait a bit.

Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett (3 stars) – I didn’t think this was a bad book, but I feel like I’ve read other adult literary fiction books with precocious child narrators that were done better. It’s a quick read, and I did enjoy Elvis and Lizzie as characters, but I wasn’t blown away.

 

Have you read any of these? How did your reading month go?

2019 Reading Goals

 

It’s 2019! And the year has already started, but it’s never too late for setting goals. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of resolutions; I prefer goals, because to me goals are things to realistically work towards and help you organize your priorities for the coming year. Resolutions always sound to me like the things you give up on February 2nd; goals are fun and you can check them off on lists, so they’re here to stay. So that being said, here are my reading goals for 2019!

Read all 10 books on my Top 10 TBR for 2019 list. This one’s pretty self-explanatory; every year, I make a stack of ten books that I’m really looking forward to reading over the coming year, and in the past, I’ve always done absolutely terribly at actually reading them. But not this year! This year, I’m going 10 for 10 on these books:

  • Passage by Connie Wilis
  • Severance by Ling Ma
  • Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
  • How Long Til Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin
  • The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  • The Pisces by Melissa Broder
  • Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton
  • Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
  • Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down by Anne Valente

Read more new releases, and read them closer to their release dates. In past years, I’ve set goals about reading more older books, but I’m calling it now–2019 is the year of the new release. There are SO MANY amazing-sounding books coming out this year (check out my most anticipated new releases guides here and here) and I don’t want to miss out on any of them if I can help it. When the Goodreads Choice Awards roll around in 2019, I’m going to have a bunch of options for every category, mark my words.

In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children, #4)The Last RomanticsIt Happened One Doomsday (Dru Jasper, #1)The Fall (Thieves of Fate, #2)

Read and review ARCs and finished copies sent from publishers ahead of their release dates. In the past few months, I’ve been lucky enough to have had a few review copies sent to me from publishers or to have won them in giveaways, so a key goal this year is to absolutely to stay on top of reading and reviewing them in a timely manner.

MilkmanA Little LifeA Tale for the Time BeingFates and Furies

Read more literary fiction. I’m generally a reader who tends to lean towards fantasy and/or genre-bending books, but that also means that there are so many great literary/realistic fiction titles that I’ve been missing out on. I’d like to catch up a bit in 2019.

How Long 'til Black Future Month?A Cathedral of Myth and BoneA Guide to Being BornWhat is Not Yours is Not Yours

Read more short story collections. I love short story collections, and at least one always makes it to my favorite reads of the year list. Last year I read 5; I’d like to top that in 2019, especially since I have quite a few on my physical TBR.

You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks, & Other Mixed MessagesGood and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's AngerWhen They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter MemoirCall Them by Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays)

Read more nonfiction. I was actually really surprised that nonfiction didn’t comprise a larger portion of my genre pie chart for 2018, since I’ve discovered over the past few years that I love listening to nonfiction on audiobook. So 2019 is going to be the year that I learn all the things.

The Handmaid's Tale

Re-read The Handmaid’s Tale. I’m not generally a big re-reader nowadays. When I was a kid, I re-read books constantly; now I’ll occasionally re-read a fun book if I’m stressed, but even then I’ll probably just go back to favorite parts. But it’s been quite awhile since I’ve read Margaret Atwood’s most famous novel (more than 10 years, I think) and with the sequel being released this fall, it’s time for me to revisit it.

A Little LifePassage

Read more big books. This is pretty much an every year goal. I count “big” as 500+ pages, and there are always some of those giant books sitting on my TBR shelf, mocking me.

Storm of Locusts (The Sixth World, #2)The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves, #1)Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)Gingerbread

Read more diversely. Another constant goal. I always try to read more diversely than I have in the past year, and make more of a conscious effort to pick up books from diverse authors.

Read a classic. I didn’t read any classics in 2018; I’d like to set a goal to pick up at least one in 2019.

 

What are your reading goals for 2019?

Book Review: In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

Book review: In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire (4.25 stars)

If you’re not already reading Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series, it’s one I’d highly recommend. It’s a series of novellas that explores the adventures as well as the consequences of portal fantasy, where children are spirited away from our world to other, stranger worlds better suited to their individual natures, and then are often forced to return to reality afterwards and deal with the loss of the world they have been made to abandon. In An Absent Dream is the fourth installment of this series, which has followed different main characters in every iteration, and focuses on a girl named Lundy and her escape into the rule-bound yet treacherous world of the Goblin Market. There, deals and bargains are struck according to the invisible hand of the concept of fair value, and incurring too much debt means losing pieces of your humanity.

It’s hard to say for sure, since I’m a big fan of the Wayward Children series as a whole, but I think that In An Absent Dream is my new favorite of the four books. It’s probably because I identified more with Lundy, our protagonist, more than I have with previous characters. Like many of us bookworms, I grew up reading constantly, like Lundy; like Lundy, I also tended to follow the rules and do well in school, although I also always searched for loopholes and ways to be creative while still staying out of trouble. When I was younger, I also believed strongly in karma, our world’s version of the concept of fair value–that the actions you put out into the world would eventually come back around to you, if not always directly, then in some form or another. And so I loved reading about the intricacies of the rules governing the Goblin Market and about Lundy falling into deeper understanding of them as she grows older.

Books that fall into the category of fairytale retellings or re-imaginings of classic concepts like portal fantasy can sometimes struggle with whether to imagine a retelling that is darker or sweeter than the tales they pay homage to. In the case of In An Absent Dream, I thought that Seanan McGuire perfectly balanced the wonder and beauty of a traditional portal fantasy with the darker edges of growing up in a world where even the concept of fairness itself may not even be truly fair. The result is a story that becomes more and more urgent as Lundy gradually approaches the age of eighteen, where she will be forced to permanently choose between the real world and the Goblin Market, which seems to have become her true home. It’s a story that feels true in the way that great fantasy literature sometimes can, because it makes a strange kind of sense; my only wish is that it could have been longer, and some of Lundy’s adventures in the Market explored further. I’d highly recommend this book and series to fans of portal fantasy and books like In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, and the Magicians series by Lev Grossman, that lovingly critique and explore classic tropes of the genre while making them into something entirely new.

 

Thank you so much to the YA Cafe Podcast and to Tor.com publishing for the opportunity to win an ARC of In An Absent Dream.

2018 Reading Wrap-Up and Stats

At the end of the year (or at the beginning of the new year, since this has taken a bit of time), it’s always interesting to look back and remind yourself what you accomplished. In terms of my non-reading year, I had a really fantastic 2018–I worked a lot, but was lucky enough to be able to do a good amount of traveling, and I made a lot of progress on my NaNoWriMo project. With regard to reading and bookish things, I attended BookCon for the second time (I’m working on a very delayed recap post about BookCon, which was amazing); was able to see a number of authors I greatly admire at various events in my city (more on this below); worked on growing my Bookstagram account; and found some new favorite books and authors. Let’s break it down!

Total books read: 98

Total pages read: 33,243

Shortest book read: I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya (96 pages)

Longest book read: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (709 pages)

Most popular: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (301,579 other GR readers)

Least popular: Between the Sea and Stars by Chantal Gadoury (137 other GR readers)

Average rating: 3.7 stars

Highest rated book on GR: Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews (4.54 stars)

To see all of the books I read in 2018, check out my Goodreads Year in Review here.

Author events attended (these were through various organizations in my city and normally consisted of an extended talk by an author, sometimes in addition to a reading of their work): Margaret Atwood, Colson Whitehead, Samantha Hunt, Angie Thomas, Alyssa Palumbo, Mohsin Hamid

BookCon Panels attended: Tor Presents: #FearlessWomen in Tor Science Fiction and Fantasy with Charlie Jane Anders, V.E. Schwab, S.L. Huang, and Seth Dickinson; Women of Mystery and Thriller with Sandra Brown, Megan Abbott, Sara Blaedel, Kate Kessler, and Karen Ellis; NaNoWriMo: The Power of Writing with Abandon with Susan Dennard, Marissa Meyer, Kami Garcia, Danielle Page, and Grant Faulkner; and Toxic Male Syndrome with Jasmine Guillory, Zoey Castile, Alisha Rai, Sarah Morgan, Megan Frampton, and Claire Legrand

BookCon signings attended: Charlaine Harris, Rebecca Roanhorse, Naomi Novik

Now, let’s get into the statistics!

Adult vs. YA:

This statistic has remained fairly stable over the past few years. I do really enjoy YA, but I still read primarily adult books. This year, it was about 75% to 25%, which seems about right.

Author Breakdown by Gender:

Again, fairly stable, although the percentage of male authors I read has been steadily diminishing over time.

Format:

Also, weirdly stable to last year. I vastly prefer reading physical books; when I listen to an audiobook it’s generally because I prefer nonfiction on audio, and if I read an ebook, it’s either because I’m not sure if I’ll like the book or if the physical book is new and expensive.

Genre:

As you can see, I read a wide range of genres, with fantasy comprising the largest piece of the pie (especially when combined with fantasy affiliates like UF/PNR and fantasy romance). The newest addition to this genre breakdown is contemporary romance, which I don’t think I ever actually read before 2018. I’m also a little surprised that the nonfiction section isn’t larger, since I feel like I read/listen to a lot of nonfiction. But the pie charts don’t lie!

Breakdown by Release Year

This graph turned out weirdly tiny and I can’t seem to make it any bigger, but basically, it’s embarrassing. I do like to read a good amount of new releases so that I know what’s happening in the bookish community, but I also like to read backlist titles, and clearly I did not do a great job of that this year. Also embarrassing is the fact that the oldest book I read this year came out in 1959.

When did I obtain the physical books I read?

Basically, this year I tried to keep track of when I obtained the physical books I read, so that I could see how many or few older titles I was reading versus newly purchased books. The reason that only the past 3 years are represented on this graph is that prior to 2016, I didn’t really purchase that many books, because I was in grad school, moving frequently, and on a very limited budget; the books I did buy during that time I generally read right away. So, what does this tell us? It makes sense that the majority of my reading was from newly purchased books, and I think it’s a good thing, since it means that fewer of those books will be languishing on my TBR shelf for an extended period of time. It also shows that I do continue to read books I’ve purchased awhile ago, although it makes sense that those numbers are smaller since I’ve had more time to read more of the 2016 and 2017 book purchases. So I’m not sure if this chart was actually helpful, but it’s still interesting.

How did I rate the books I read?

I’m actually really happy with this. Significantly more than half of the books I read this year got very good (4 and 5 star) ratings. I also didn’t have any 1-star books, although this is mainly because if I really hate a book I’ll DNF it. But the 2-star section is very tiny as well, which is good news.

 

Next up, hopefully in a timely manner, will be my top 10 reads of 2018 (and other superlatives!)

 

How was your reading year in 2018?