Three more books

Reading a lot these days…

  • Borderline by Mishell Baker: this was a re-read (it’s on the Sirens Reading Challenge). I liked it the first time; I enjoyed it this time around too. There are now two more books in this series. I read Phantom Pains (the second in the series) a while back, but Borderline is still my favorite.
  • Damsel by Elana K. Arnold: I found this book super-original and I admired it…and at the same time it wasn’t really my kind of thing. But my feeling about it isn’t dissimilar from previous books that, upon re-reading, HAVE become my sort of thing. I’ll have to wait and see with this one.
  • Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen: this was a Sirens Reading Challenge book. This one was *really* not my kind of thing, even while I admire what the author managed to do (vampire/other creature-infested Wild West with a heroine of color). Some of my issues are straightforward – vampires and Westerns both are hard sells for me, as are books with a world with a mashup of magical creatures (sirens and chupacabras, among others, also make an appearance in this one). Some are not so easy for me to pinpoint – while I can say that the native representation in the book seemed more related to tropes in Westerns than to any real understanding, that’s just my initial reaction and I can’t pull out exactly what bugged me. It just made me uncomfortable. I did look for a review of this book on Debbie Reese’s blog, but she apparently hasn’t received a copy.

2019 Sirens Reading Challenge

And it’s off! With this post I begin my reading log for the 2019 Sirens Reading Challenge. I finished my first book in the “Guest of Honor” section today: Aru Shah and the End of Time. This is a fun, fast-paced middle grade fantasy. It was a little on the fast-paced, wacky end for me, but even so I enjoyed it; and I think many readers in the target age range would love it. Which, given that it deals with complex aspects of a mythological system not tremendously well-known in much of the US, is pretty darn impressive (for instance, one of the terms defined in the course of the book is dharma – not really typical middle grade fare). I read author Roshani Chokshi‘s YA The Star-Touched Queen a while back, and enjoyed that one too.

I also recently re-read K Arsenault Rivera’s The Tiger’s Daughter, which is in the “Heroes Books: Required” section this year. This was an interesting one for me. When I first read it I had two reactions: first, that this book is really not my kind of thing (it features,for instance, some extremely gory demon stuff, the sort that I generally avoid); and, simultaneously, the writing, the worldbuilding, truthfully the whole book SERIOUSLY blew me away. I put it down in a kind of despair, my writer brain thinking, how did she do that???? 

I had those same two reactions on the second read; if anything, they were magnified. This book is beautiful.

I’m not sure what my next Sirens Reading Challenge book will be – I have a few from which to choose – but I will keep logging here as I read.


I recently read A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s the sequel to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, a book which began life as a Kickstarter-funded self-published novel, was eventually picked up by a major publisher, and went on to be nominated for a number of prizes and make all sorts of “best of” lists. I read The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet last year and really enjoyed it – it’s a fun novel about a multi-species crew traveling through space. It reminded me of Firefly in some ways, particularly in its focus on families of choice, but politically it ran in a very different direction than Firefly, its vision of the future being much more upbeat.

As I wrote earlier this year, I’m worn out with bleak projections right now, and The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was well-written and fun and a great antidote to all the dystopias littering the science fiction literature. After finishing it I immediately went to see what else Chambers had written/was writing, and was simultaneously delighted and dismayed to see she had a sequel coming out in 2017 – delighted because more to read, but dismayed because generally I’m not a fan of sequels.

There are a few reasons why I feel this way. Some are ones I know others share: so often sequels are heavy on filling in the backstory for readers who haven’t read the first book; and I find they often suffer from not enough plot, presumably because the author is trying to tie up loose ends from the previous book (as well as fill in backstory).

But the biggest reason I generally don’t like sequels is that, if I liked the ending of the first book, a sequel will often takes away from my enjoyment of that first book – because it’s essentially changing the ending. I know a lot of readers don’t feel this way – some people want to know “what happens next.” For me, though, the ambiguity in what happens off-screen is one of the things I enjoy about reading!

So I had mixed feelings when I picked up A Closed and Common Orbit. I’m happy to report, though, that this sequel was the kind I like – not a sequel exactly (though it does overlap slightly with The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet), but more of a story-set-in-the-same-world. I thought it was fantastic, and am not at all surprised to learn that it’s been nominated for a Hugo.

Update on 2017 Sirens Reading Challenge progress

Figured it was about time to do a check-in on what I’ve read so far for the 2017 Sirens Reading Challenge (the full list for this challenge is here). Here’s what I’ve read so far:

Guests of Honor: Required

 Required Theme (category complete!)

Additional Theme Books: Select Five

Middle Grade/Young Adult: Select Five

Adult: Select Five

Eight more books to go (plus the one I’m currently reading) to complete the challenge! I’ll probably substitute a few new reads for the ones I’ve currently listed, given that I read quite a few of these last year. But I’m finding this charting of my reading rather fun 🙂

Back to the roots

Winter Yucca

In hope:


“In a way Winter is the real Spring – the time when the inner things happen, the resurgence of nature.”
– from the short story “Clara” in Mrs Reinhardt and Other Stories (Edna O’Brien)


Still here

marigoldsJust busy. I haven’t been able to get much writing done over the last month, thanks to a hectic fall schedule (why do I always forget how busy September can be?).

I have managed to read Cheryl Klein‘s The Magic Words this month though. I’ll try to get a post up about it soon – it’s given me many revision ideas, so I may have more to say about the WIP as well.

Iguana by the hot tub

028I’ve been traveling a lot – too much – this month, and in the bustle of airports in the ramp-up-to-holiday-travel season, I’m trying to remember that peace can be found in unexpected places. An iguana by the hot tub (seen on my last trip) was a good reminder!

Passing 30k

A couple of years ago I stumbled upon this blog post. For those of you who don’t want to click through, the gist of it is that many novel-writers get stuck around the 30k word mark.

When I first read it, I was in the midst of writing my first novel. Or maybe I should say, figuring out how to write my first novel (I wound up rewriting it four times; I read the blog post partway through my second rewrite). 30k didn’t seem any worse (or any better) than the rest of it; and because I was doing so much rewriting I would have been hard-pressed to figure out when I was at this point anyway. I wondered if this was my “process” (ha ha) or if, once I was a little more experienced, I too would hit the 30k wall.

I’m currently writing my third book and second novel. I didn’t have any problems at 30k with my second book (which was non-fiction) but I have just, after several grueling weeks of little progress, made it past 30k with the third. I know a lot more about writing longer works now than I did with that first book. Is that why 30k gave me trouble this time? Or is this book simply different, and my relationship with it particular to its needs?

Deep searching

searchinginsunflowersThe flowers in my garden are full of bees right now – especially the sunflowers. Bees burrow right in and hang out, barely moving, as if they can’t bear to leave their source of sustenance.

This is where I am with my writing today: burrowing in.