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Books I Read in October 2019

Note: I am including only the books I loved in these "Books I Read" blog posts. I read a lot, and I don't want to clog the blogsphere (and my blog) with negative reviews. There were a few books I read this month that I did not fully enjoy; those are not included here.

The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala

On two sides of a long-running war, a soldier and an assassin sent to kill his military general uncle fall in love over the course of many months in a cat-and-mouse game. Inspired by Indian mythology and gorgeously written, this young adult fantasy is a truly great read. I only read a handful of YA books a year, choosing based on premises that sound fantastic, and this lived up to my expectations. The romance is front and center (usually not my fave), but the plot line, character development, and world building really make the book amazing.

Savage Gods by Paul Kingsnorth

Kingsnorth is an author whose books I read just about as soon as they come out. His writing blows me away. This book is no exception; in fact, this may be my favorite of anything he's written. As a combination of biography, exploration of the writing profession, and analysis of the disconnect between society and nature, this book says things I've been thinking and feeling but have been unable to find a way to express. Feelings about what it means to feel like you need to find a "home," a place to belong, a patch of earth to own and take care of. Feelings about writing and whether the words work to clarify concepts or if they obscure them. For writers, environmentalists, anyone who feels they don't understand the ease in which other folks follow along with the mainstream—I can't recommend this book enough. I always check out books from the library (since I work at one), but this one I may have to buy so I can read it again and again.

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen

Anything involving time travel I will read. Eighteen years after a time-traveling spy gets trapped in the past, his rescue team comes to recover him. Though he has built a life for himself and doesn't want to leave, he is forced to return to the future, only two weeks after he left. The references to Doctor Who are everywhere in the text—plus in the About the Author section and the Acknowledgements. I'm not complaining—it's one of my favorite shows—but it was a bit distracting. The story, though, more than makes up for it, and the characters and science are compelling as well.

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz

Again, time travel. Here, a group of feminist activists in the future use time travel to battle misogynists trying to rewrite history to destroy women's rights. Sounds cheesy, yes, but it's written very well. There are surprising plot twists that work perfectly to shape the story arc, and the way the science works in the book is unlike other books I've read. It's a great feminist sci-fi read.

My October/November Writing Goals

Writing went quite well for me in the first half of this month, as I was hoping and expecting! In October, I wrote 7635 words in total, spread across two manuscripts. In "The Glitch," I wrote 2380 words, and in "Fate's Advocate" I wrote 5255 words. My main goal, however, was to write 20 out of 31 days of the month (every day Monday through Thursday), and I'm happy to say I only missed two days. Of course, there are still two days left in the month, and I plan to take a break, so we can consider that missing four days.

While I have been working on "The Glitch" for the past couple of months almost exclusively, I have begun to see many problems with the manuscript. It started as a short story—which I adore and am in the process of submitting for publication—but the novel-length version has too many plot holes and consistency issues for me to handle right now. It is my belief that it is better to leave "The Glitch" as a short story, at least for now. Hopefully it will find a place to be published, as I think it's a respectable piece on its own. For now, I will not continue to flesh the story out into a novel-length piece.

"Fate's Advocate" is a novel I have been working on for ... years, to be honest. While I'm not sure it will ever find publication, I want more than anything to finish its final draft. The plot and characters have gone through many overhauls in the past few years, and no doubt I will have to adjust the current outline before it finds a plot progression that works. Part of my goal for November is to continue working on "Fate's Advocate," perhaps finishing the current iteration's draft. There isn't much left to go.

My main goal for November is to write a total of 10,000 words, and to continue to write every Monday through Thursday. Some of these words will be in "Fate's Advocate," but most, I presume, will be in a new project that I will start November 1st. While I have attempted NaNoWriMo in the past, 50,000 words in a month is not right for me. I find the motivation of the NaNo community to be extremely helpful, however, so November is often my most prolific writing month. Aside from my first year, many years ago, this may be as close to sticking to the rules of NaNo as I've come—obviously minus the word count—as I will be starting a new project from scratch on the 1st.

Honestly, I haven't done much planning of the plot of this new story. I have always wanted to write a story that takes place in the French Revolution, so I know my setting. It will have sci-fi/fantasy features (NOT time travel, as I've written too much of that lately, and not an alternate history), but I haven't refined those yet either. This will be a fun endeavor into the world of pantsing—a new experience for me, as I usually plan well ahead. Wish me luck!

Thank you for reading!

Books I Read in September 2019

The Testament by Margaret Atwood

As this is one of the most popular books this year, I found myself lucky to be one of the first on the hold list at the library. It's an excellent follow-up to The Handmaid's Tale told from three perspectives—none of which are Offred from the first book. The narrative perspectives offer experiences outside Offred's, and they help to round out the world in a more thorough way. Each character is informed by her upbringing and the events happening around her. The plot is engaging and character-driven. For fans of The Handmaid's Tale, this book does not disappoint, but there's no need to have read it to understand this book. As far as sequels go, this one exceeded my expectations.

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

In an island off the coast of Japan, various items are disappearing—not only from the world but from people's memories. Birds, bells, fruit, and so on. The people in this small community continue on living without these items, though there are a few people who are unable to forget, and the Memory Police are there to seek them out to keep order in the world. The book's writing style is nonchalant, just as the people experiencing this memory loss are; they lose any sense of emotional attachment to the items once they've been removed from the world. It's an extraordinary exploration of sentimentality and how we move on from loss.

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

I had some trouble with this one. This writing is absolutely poetic and beautiful, but I felt that it takes itself too seriously. It's written as a letter from a young man to his mother, a Vietnamese immigrant. The writing is stunning, and the topics the book explores are important and uniquely defined. Thematically, the book is about the power of storytelling, of the secrets we decide to keep and when and how we decide to tell them, and of how our relationships are changed and defined by these secrets. In terms of the atmosphere of the book, I'm not sure I was in the right mood to appreciate it; it came off a bit pretentious to me. I used to adore "pretentious" books, if I'm honest, but I've become more sensitive to them now. This book is wise, and it knows it's wise, which was off-putting to me. Again, I may just not have been in the right frame of mind to enjoy it, but the writing truly is beautiful.

My September/October 2019 Writing Goals

I'd had a vacation planned for the month of September for months in advance, and I had planned to bring my tablet along with me to write while I sat on the dock on a lake at a cabin in Michigan's upper peninsula, which is why I had set my September writing goal at 5000 words. Stress led me to decide, however, to take a true vacation from life; thus, I wrote not a single word during my vacation, and it was heavenly.

In the month of September—in the days after my vacation (essentially the last week of the month)—I wrote a total of 1515 words in my current work in progress, "The Glitch." All of these words were in the second chapter, which is (obviously) still not finished; it's going to be a lot longer than expected.

I don't feel guilty for not writing much this month, not like I did last month. I knew I needed to go easy on myself, and I feel better for it. I'm feeling inspired and ready to dominate these next few months of writing!

My writing goal for October is going to be an ambitious 10,000 words. But, more importantly, my real goal is to write consistently at least four days a week, for a total of 20 out of 31 days. My new job schedule allows me a good chunk of time to write at home on Monday through Thursday mornings, and it's more important for me to maintain my writing routine than it is to hit a certain word count. "The Glitch" will be my focus for most of the month, I assume, though I may venture into a nearly-finished first draft of a project I was working on earlier in the year tentatively called "Fate's Advocate." This establishment of a consistent schedule is in preparation for November, where I'm hoping to write 20,000 words—a more realistic version of NaNoWriMo for me. And I'm very much looking forward to it!

Thank you for reading, and have an amazing month!

Books I Read in August 2019

The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind by Jackson Ford

I couldn't help but pick this one up for the title. And the story did not disappoint: a telekinetic young woman who does secret jobs for a government organization realizes she's not the only one with powers in her city when a murder is committed that only a telekinetic would be capable of. The narrator's voice is hilarious and distinct, and the plot is unexpected and exciting. It's the start to a series I will definitely be continuing.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Sloan's other book, Sourdough, is one of my absolute favorites; I figured I should read his first book as well! The writing style is along the same vein: witty, intelligent, quirky. The characters the same: funny, genius, lovable. Can't go wrong there. This book is so smart, and the story line is right up my alley. Whatever Sloan's next book is, I'll be picking it up the day it comes out!

Semicolon by Cecelia Watson

I'm a punctuation nerd, and this book called to me. It filled a hole in my grammar-deprived heart I hadn't know was there and reinforced my love of the semicolon (and the em-dash). There is so much knowledge in this book! Fascinating historical facts, particular grammatical incidents, sociological analyses: this book will excite any punctuation savant.

My August/September 2019 Writing Goals

Hello fellow writers!

The month of August was a bit of a roller coaster for me. I try really hard not to use unfortunate circumstances that come up as an excuse for not writing, but unexpected sad news at the start of the month and other stresses got in my way this time, for sure. Yes, just when I launched this blog, life prevented me from succeeding in my purpose of creating this blog. I was able write a bit; in fact, writing put me in a better mood on the days I was able to squeeze out more than a hundred words. Although this is the first update on this blog, I swear the low word count is a fluke and not my normal pace. It's just how life goes sometimes.

My goal for August was to finish the second chapter of my work in progress, "The Glitch," by writing and editing 5000 words. I wrote a total of only 1621 words in "The Glitch" in August, and I am nowhere near finishing the second chapter. Based on my outline, chapters two and three will be the longest (the outline shows it will be novella-length), so I'm guessing September won't see me finishing it either.

My other goal for August was to write an essay-type post for this blog. Based on my circumstances, I think it will be best for this blog to remain a writing- and reading-update blog only at this time. That may change in the future, but it is best for me not to pile too much on myself right now since life is piling things on me without taking my opinion into consideration.

Here are is my writing goal for September:

Write 5000 words in "The Glitch," in the second chapter and overflowing into the third if the second is finished within those 5000 words

Thank you for reading, my fellow wordsmiths, and keep writing!

Books I Read in July 2019

Recursion by Blake Crouch

There's a secret plague going on. People suddenly possess memories of a life they have not lived. False Memory Syndrome, they're calling it, until detective Barry Sutton discovers what is really happening: A scientist has created a machine that sends peoples' consciousnesses back into a memory, and some have changed what has happened in the past.

I am incredibly partial to any story that has time travel in it, and this one really blew me away. I was impressed by the internal logic and consistency, and I was genuinely surprised at the plot's twists and turns. The characters were engaging, and their story was heartbreaking. Definitely my favorite read of the month.

Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal

I rarely read graphic novels, but I could not pass this one up. After a plague has killed all men on the planet, women create communities to help rebuild the world. LGBTQ characters are handled decently well, though it would have been better if some issues were addressed more blatantly. The characters are all sweet and lovable. It's a humorous read, and many cis-gendered women will find scenes they relate to. I laughed out loud countless times in reading this.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

A spooky atmosphere follows this book from beginning to end, as a group of teen girls navigate the new rules at their boarding school after a strange illness that alters their genetics sees them quarantined on their school-island. Much here reminded me of Jeff Vandermeer's Annihilation, including the imagery and the characters' hiding of secrets.

Obviously, the gorgeous cover is what drew me to this book, but anything that has characters secluded somewhere where strange things happen is up my alley, and this book accomplished that very well. Also, it's super feminist, which I love.

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

Yes, this is another book where the characters are struck down by some mysterious plague, but each one handles it differently. Here, a handful of people across the United States begin "sleepwalking" together, unresponsive and marching through the midwest. Their loved ones follow them, keeping them safe from those who fear them, and members of the CDC administer numerous tests to figure out what is wrong with them.

It's obvious from the start that this is Stephen-King-inspired, in all the best ways. The main characters bring real depth to the story, and the whole situation is thoroughly imagined. I think it would make an amazing TV mini-series.

My August 2019 Writing Goals

Hello fellow writers! I hope all as been well since the last time I updated this site, about five years ago.

Like many people, it is important for me to have consistency in my writing schedule in order to be as productive as I would like to be. I have had that consistency in my past on and off, even for several years at a time, and I am hoping to return to it now.

In returning to this blog, I am sharing my writing process and keeping myself in check as I work to become the prolific writer I know I can be. What you can expect to see here, at least at the start, are monthly check-ins on my writing goals, reviews of the books I read each month, and occasional insights about writing and reading.

A little about my writing: Literary (and generally realistic) fiction was my first love. However, the past few years have seen me shift my focus toward speculative fiction. I adore reading and writing everything sci-fi, dystopian, and near-future focused. My niche is climate science fiction, especially pertaining to sociopolitical issues surrounding the environment. Of course, that may change over time, but my writing has revolved around social and environmental problems in the genre of speculative fiction for the past several years.

The current project I am working on is a novella-length sci-fi story about a near-future prison system, tentatively titled "The Glitch." The first of four sections is complete at this time. I also will use this blog to further establish consistency in my writing routine and to up my productivity.

My goals for August 2019 are as follows:

1. Complete part two of "The Glitch," both in writing 5000 new words and completely editing the finished second part

2. Write at least one essay post for this blog

At the start of each month, I will share my new goals and provide an update on how I achieved my previous goals. You can look forward to other fun posts here as well!

Thank you for reading, and you'll hear more from me soon!