off the shelf: what I read in March and April 2021

what I read – March & April 2021

Currently reading

Taming Him by Kennedy Fox

Read

Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas – My third Kleypas read and my second of the 2021. There’s a lot of debate in Romancelandia about Derek Crave vs. St. Vincent and, friends, I am a St. Vincent girl, so I read this one purely for the cameo. It’s nice to see the series transition to the Victorian era, but Pandora is that class of independent-naive-quirky-rich-girl (dare I say manic pixie dream girl?) that gets on my nerves in a historical romance. The plot also falls flat in the third act… Kleypas loves an injured hero/heroine, but it didn’t work for me this time.

Take a hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert – SO MUCH LOVE! I can’t believe I slept this long on Talia Hibbert (partly because I know she’s prolific and I wasn’t ready for a rabbit hole of new books…). There is a lot of me in Dani and I loved how the way her character grows from someone who only cares about academics to someone who is emotionally competent. Also, Zaf’s protein bars 🥰

Take the Lead by Alexis Daria – This one was partly research because one of Alexis Daria’s books is a comp title for my future queries, but it’s also just good fun. It’s not something I ever really talk about but I LOVE dance. I always wished we could’ve afforded dance lessons, because I love dancing, even though I’ve always been too shy and awkward to dance in public 😅. Alexis Daria has a way of making TV celebrity romance something that I actually care about and this one was no exception. If you enjoy reality dance competitions and sexy, contemporary romance, this one’s for you.

The Rakehell of Roth by Amalie Howard – Normally, I’m a sucker for second chance romance, but sometimes even I get tired of a hero who thinks he isn’t good enough for his wife.

An Unexpected Peril by Deanna Raybourn – Can it be that I miss the slow burn of Veronica and Stoker’s will they/won’t they romance? I kind of think I do… Another fun Victorian mystery, but it fell a little flat. Will, of course, continue to read the series.

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin – on hold. Hmmm… I’m not sure if I’m not in the right place for this one or it’s not for me. Will revisit.

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown – DNFed against my will! Lol 😅 it took me too long to get to it and I had to return it to the library. I’m on the hold list until it circles back to me.

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata – Taking a few book layovers because this is a HEAVY little tome. Currently on hold, maybe future DNF? Not sure if I’m in the right place for this one either. It’s clearly leading to a recurring sexual abuse plot.

TW for verbal and physical abuse and sexual assault.

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas – If you thought ACOTAR was too sexy, this is not for you… This book SIZZLES. It spicy, y’all. Also, so much angst. I wasn’t sure I would care for Nesta’s story, but this hit all the marks for me: high stakes fantasy, angry heroine, female friendship, and a fated mates love story.

TW for ALL the violence, threat of/assault on the page, depression, self-hatred, and mention of self-harm.

Lore by Alexandra Bracken – I LOVED this book. It’s the perfect blend of mythology and urban fantasy that destroys me as a reader AND a writer because it is the kind of story I yearn to publish one day. If you love Greek mythology, high stakes, and violent urban fantasy, this book is for you. It’s technically YA, but reads like an adult novel.

DNF

The Awakening by Nora Roberts – I like Nora Roberts. I like slip fantasy. I just couldn’t get into this book and was thrown out of the story the minute the heroine mentioned sharing an iPod with her roommate. This was published in 2020, y’all. Who has an iPod?

Audiobooks

n/a! Mostly because I’ve been binging youtube on my downtime.

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off the shelf: what I read – November 2020

Not the greatest month for reading. It’s been hard to focus and even harder to find the desire to sit still long enough to read, but at least I found some good ones.

Still Reading

A Touch of Stone and Snow by Milla Vane – I am loving this sequel! I enjoyed the first book in this series, but generally disliked the hero, so that made it a little hard to finish. No such qualms here!

Finished

Any Rogue will Do by Bethany Bennet – Second chance regency romance with a heroine who wants her own place and a hero who knows he screwed up. It dragged a little towards the end, but I enjoyed it and loved all the side characters as much as the heroes.

Temptation’s Darling by Johanna Lindsey – This is the only example I have of Johanna Lindsey’s work… I don’t think I’ll be delving further. Though this was the last book she published before she passed away in early 2020, it reads like old school romance. Kind of long, kind of rambling, penetration to orgasm in 0 seconds flat is a thing that happens more than once. I finished it because I purchased a physical copy, likely would’ve DNFed if I had borrowed it.

The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer – I, like so many others, watched Enola Holmes on Netflix and was charmed by the story. The book is A LOT darker than the film, and the characters are younger and in more peril. Overall, a fun read and a series that I will return to when I get through some of the other books I’ve been meaning to read.

Audiobooks

Emma by Jane Austen, narrated by Nadia May – This is the third time I read Emma, but the first time I listen to it on audio. Nadia May is excellent! I highly recommend this version of the book. You can hear my full thoughts on Emma (and Clueless) in this month’s episode of The Bluestocking Circle Podcast.

DNF

None!

off the shelf: what I read – October 2020

Still Reading

Temptation’s Darling by Johanna Lindsey – a new story by an old-school romance author to round out my genre education. (Johanna Lindsey’s last novel before she passed earlier this year)

The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer – (just started) I was so charmed by Netflix’s Enola Holmes, I had to read the book.

Finished

Silverwolf (Rowankind) by Jacey Bedford – Magic and mills! I love how Jacey Bedford blends rich fantasy with a historical setting (Georgian era Britain in this case). I’m so glad I found this series!

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine – Tune into The Bluestocking Circle podcast on November 1st for my full thoughts, but this did not meet my expectations.

Skincare by Caroline Hirons – You can watch her channel and get the gist of it… I guess the book is a nice collectors’ item if you’re a big fan shrug

The Healthy Writer by Joanna Penn and Euan Lawson – In writing about reading writing advice while dealing with anxiety and depression, Joanna Penn notes, “I was able, in moments of clarity, to see that the reason well-meaning advice left me feeling so dispirited was not that I wasn’t cut out to be a writer but that I wasn’t the audience people were writing for.”

This is everything I needed and more. As a writer with chronic illness and chronic pain, the advice to write every day and push through isn’t practical, at best, and damaging, at worst. I can’t push through a head-splitting, three-day migraine that leaves me feeling drunk. Nor can I write through the exhaustion when fatigue takes over. Conventional writing advice isn’t for me and that’s ok.

Audiobooks

None this month

DNF

Hex, Love, and Rock & Roll by Kat Turner – I DNFed around 30%. I liked the concept but the plot was too messy for me and didn’t hold my interest. (LibraryThing Early Reviewer copy)

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See – I only got a few pages in. I usually like Lisa See, but the tone wasn’t what I needed at the moment.

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video: off the shelf reviews – what I read in April (and March)

The best books I read in April (and March, if I’m being honest). Mystery, finance, and manga, oh my!

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writing: writespiration and pinterest

Pinterest is one of my online happy places. I make regular boards for the podcast, but one of my writerly pursuits is curating boards for WIPs and saving writing tips for easy access.

Current project: “Red Dragon”

note: my WIPs have a “code name” before they have a title. There are no dragons in this novel. *shrug emoji*

 

For inspiration, tips, and more, follow “Writing and Fiction”

5 things: unexpected love stories

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I rounded up 5 of my favorite, unexpected, slightly unconventional, but totally magical love stories.

5 things: unexpected love stories

 

Lovely, easy breezy reads with a twist. A Song for Summer is a historical romance set against WWII, while The China Garden is set in the English countryside sometime in the ’90s (I haven’t read it in a while, but I think it’s aged pretty well). UprootedShades of Milk and Honey, and Rose Daughter need little introduction. Excellent, magical girl fantasy for all.

writing: Crown of Ice, Crown of Air, a summary

 photo WIP_zpsp96gclxs.png
Summaries are difficult. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Writing a summary on something I’ve been working on for nearly 4 years, that’s a whole other level.

I’ve written and rewritten this manuscript multiple times. I’ve edited and restructured. I’m looking at more edits to come. Though the details may change, the story remains. So, today, I’m being brave and putting my little draft of a blurb out into the world. No going back.

The day Siobhan tried to kill her, Anúna swore she’d never return. Never seek her power. Never seek her crown. Three years she’s locked her truth away, hiding in the mortal realm, letting the iron drain her magick and steal her power. But Siobhan will not rest and Anúna knows it. Now, the walls she’s built are starting to crumble and her wards are beginning to fray. It’s only a matter of time before Siobhan finds her. When Marek, Anúna’s friend and mentor, and erstwhile leader of the Queen’s guard comes to call, Anúna is forced to make a choice—-take back the crown she lost or leave the realm at her sister’s mercy.

Crown of Ice, Crown of Air is a story of magick and power, love and war… about finding yourself and something worth fighting for.

It needs work, but it’s a start. I also keep debating whether Air or Ice should be first… that’s a whole other set of concerns.

Camp NaNoWrimo FTW!

I did it! I actually reached my 80k word goal! That’s the Good News…

The Bad News is that I’m still not finished.

Yep, I was right when I said predicted that this draft wouldn’t be complete when I reached my goal. Re-outlining the ending certainly helped me get it going at a better pace, but I still see another 3-4 chapters to finish, which might mean anywhere from 15-20,000 more words given my average chapter lengths for this draft. All in all, I feel much better about it than I did last week. See 🙂 staying positive after all.

*Goodness, I just compiled and saw that it’s really 337 pages long! Thank you, Scrivener, for keeping all that text in an orderly fashion.*

that is it. 80k reached.
that is it. 80k reached.

 

Cassiel, rewrite draft 1/part 2 (total word goal)

 

About Cassiel (or the best summary I could come up with for the moment)

With her family and fortune gone, sixteen-year-old Cassiel Loriett is placed under the guardianship of the exacting Mrs. Maywoods, but there is more to her family’s fate than Cassiel knows and the only way to learn the truth is to solve the mystery herself. Willing to do whatever it takes to find out what really led to the loss of her father’s fortune and her mother’s unexpected death, Cassiel runs away with little more than her father’s journal a couple of clues, but first she has to stay away from Mrs. Maywoods and her brother, Mr. Stellworthy, who seems to take a strange interest in Cassiel’s position as the Maywoods’s erstwhile ward.

Finding herself on a quest, Cassiel ends up the unlikely resident of Walstone House–a derelict manor house run by Stephen Frye, and his cousins Christabella and Nathan Walstone, and owned by their reclusive grandfather, Pierce Walstone. Finding a friend and ally in Stephen, Cassiel sets on a journey that might mean losing it all, or finding herslf along the way.

A YA historical mystery set in late Victorian England.

A re-write in progress…

Follow my Cassiel writing updates here: http://things-she-said.org/tag/cassiel/

Adventures in re-writing, part 1

Cassiel... in progress
Cassiel… in progress

That, my friends, is my pile of notes, outlines, summaries, and the first 5 chapters of Cassiel, draft 1 (aka. the wild beast). Now, here I am, nearing the first week of CampNaNoWriMo and I am actually feeling really good about choosing to rewrite Cassiel rather than rework the existing text. I feel like I’ve been living with these characters for the last 7 years (I hadn’t even realized it was that long until I looked at the original file save dates), so I know their voices and stories inside and out. Now, I just need to make them come to life in a fresher way. Just looking at those first 5 chapters, I can see how much I’ve grown as a writer. There is a serious Victorian influence running through my early writing, something that was definitely a result of too much Classic lit in school… and while I love the Victorians, I don’t want Cassiel to read like a Victorian knock-off. I want this book to have a style and tone all its own, and I am getting there! Not to too my own horn, but I’m surprised at how it’s coming along. It’s not perfect, but that’s not my goal right now. My goal is to write a solid first half of a novel, so that I can then find a balance between editing Anúna and finishing Cassiel. There was way too much time and distance between chapters when I wrote the first version of this book and I don’t want to fall into that trap again. That way lies the bad place! No no, I much prefer to stay closer to this draft. I do feel stronger about the last quarter of the original and some of the dialogue, so I do plan on printing the rest of it out and going through to find those nuggets of inspiration, but I think this will be a mostly new draft all around.

I’m ahead of my word count goal for the week, which is surprising given that I’ve been writing in the space between my eating breakfast and leaving for work (with kitty cat cuddle time squeezed in to keep kitty from attacking me for attention). The plan for the weekend is to put in another 3000 words. And do some yoga. I seriously need to stretch after all this desk time.

Cassiel, rewrite draft 1 (Camp NaNo word goal)

Camp NaNo… here we go!

getting ready…

The day is almost upon us… Camp NaNo lurks just around the corner with its frantic writing goal. I’ve got my “plan”–which is really just a list of ideas I’ve been plotting for Cassiel Draft 2 (or, as I like to think of it, taming the wild beast). I printed out the first five chapters of the original draft (written oh so many moons ago) and realized it’s damn long. And I mean loooooong. As in, nearly a quarter of the length of Anúna Draft 1–and that one clocked in at around 80k. Seriously, when I say this is an exercise in wrangling my word story into something neat and orderly, I mean it. It’s way too involved. Unless I break it into several parts, it just doesn’t work as a YA length novel. My goal is to get around 20k works down in April and have a solid start at a new draft. Entirely new. I was toying with revising and reworking what I have, but I feel that the second half is stronger than the first, so a solid first half should be my greatest priority for this one, at least for now. I love my characters and I love my settings, but I have to get my plot under control. I kind of wish I had more time to research some of the elements I’m uncertain about, but it’s been a mad month. I’ll work with what I have.

In other news… I haven’t reached my editing goal for the month 😦 . I have two more chapters before I finish the first round of revisions on Chapters 5-10. Mad month, after all. Not that April will be any better…

Ah! Writing!