How is it possible that January feels like it flew by but also lasted years? I don’t know, it’s always a strange month for me. Maybe it’s the long stretch before the next holiday.
But regardless, it was a busy and productive month. If you’ve noticed from my recent blogs, I’ve been really focused on making this year my best yet – in every aspect. I’ve also taken January to prioritize my health after some recent issues and challenges. Being healthy – mentally and physically – is beyond important to everyday life, including your writing. So I am feeling strong and giving myself the grace to do what’s best for my mind and body.
And that being said, let’s get down to business on the reading and writing I did last month.
What I Read
GRAND TOTAL: 5
Intercepted by Alexa Martin ★★★★★
So I started out listening to this as an audiobook on a three hour drive, and I loved it so much that I also bought the ebook to finish reading when I got home. If that’s not a glowing recommendation, then I don’t know what is.
I don’t read a lot of sports romance, but being immersed in the world of professional football was so fun. Catty sports wives, insecure man-children, and zealous fans make for a lot of built in conflict that kept the story moving.
I adored the protagonist Marlee. Her voice was so strong, and she had a distinct, wonderful personality that left me laughing out loud several times. And Gavin… He had me melting into a puddle. But my favorite part of the book was how Martin handled the ending. I won’t give anything away, but definitely go add this one to your list.
The Wicked King by Holly Black ★★★★☆
Guys, I was a rollercoaster of emotions with this book. At times, I loved it and couldn’t stop reading. At others, I was bored and annoyed – though those were few and far between. Pacing continues to be Black’s weakness in this series. It moved quite slowly for the first half of the novel until it finally picked up – then flew by.
But Black’s characters just shine. I mean, everyone in this book is flawed and nuanced and so unique. I absolutely loathe Taryn, but even she was well-developed. One thing I did find odd was that this book is marketed with a very strong romantic element, and I really don’t think that rings true. It’s there, but barely. And as a romance girl, that was a tiny bit disappointing.
The plot itself was brilliant, filled with tension and twists, intrigue and betrayal, and her prose is gorgeous. So I will definitely continue with this series and anxiously await the final installment.
Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty ★★★★★
If you look at the reviews, people either loved or hated this new release from Moriarty. And after reading – considering how the book played – I was surprised to find myself in the first group. The novel covers nine people who attend a health retreat for a variety of reasons – weight loss, mental health, couples counseling, etc. And the POV switches between those nine characters as well as the head of Tranquillum House and her two associates.
Now let me be perfectly clear. There is absolutely zero plot until about halfway through. The first half is an in-depth look at each character’s lives, wounds and motivations. It may sound boring, but I found it absolutely fascinating! Their stories were funny, neurotic, heart-wrenching and incredibly relatable. And when the “thriller” part of the book picked it up, it carried that much more gravitas now that we knew the characters so well.
So if you’re looking for a fast-paced, action-paced story, this isn’t it. But it’s a touching, thought-provoking and funny look at human experience.
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne ★★★★☆
A slow burn, enemies to lovers romance? Yes please! I was recommended this debut by a friend, and I am so glad I took her advice to read it.
Lucy and Joshua work together, and they hate each other. Then when they are pitted against each other for the job of their dreams, tensions rise… and rise… and rise. But Joshua has a secret…
From the first steamy elevator kiss to the happy ending (not a spoiler – this is romance after all), I was hooked. The sexual tension was incredible, and the witty, passive aggressive banter between two unique characters had me laughing out loud. The conflicts were strong and believable, and I loved watching these two grow together.
Now the ending was a tad disappointing for me – just too abrupt and easy. And I did wish there were more leading characters as everyone else besides our main couple is a little one-dimensional. But overall, I very much enjoyed this read, and Thorne is definitely a romance author to watch.
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo ★★★☆☆
This series is set in the same universe as Six of Crows (one of my favorite fantasy reads), so it’s been on my list for forever. While I enjoyed it overall and will continue reading, it definitely didn’t live up to my expectations.
First, we have a plain girl who suddenly gains special powers and is the chosen one to save the world. It’s an overdone trope, but I don’t mind when it’s done well. The problem is that Alina bugged the crap out of me for the first half of the book. She’s sullen and self-pitying. But then – BAM! With one particular – and powerful – plot point she accepts herself and becomes so much more likeable. And it really elevates the entire story from there on out, and the overly trope-y feel gets more complicated and lovely.
Bardugo’s writing style was engaging as always, but the world building was a little too light. If I hadn’t already read Six of Crows, I would’ve been confused. She did nail the pacing though, I never felt bored or like things were becoming tedious.
The other characters were fine but not nearly as nuanced as Kaz and crew. And while this novel is typically lauded as an incredible example of a love triangle, I just couldn’t buy into either romantic relationship. Here’s hoping that changes in book 2.
What I Wrote
I really struggled with my writing motivation for the first half of January. I’d taken a long (two month) break, and getting back into it was tough. Also facing down a two-pound, 130K word manuscript is intimidating. And as I started taking my revision notes – colored pens and tabs in hand – that sense of overwhelm didn’t really go away.
My point in sharing this with you is that if you feel overwhelmed or intimidated at the thought of revisions, you’re not alone and it’s totally normal. This is my third book, and it’s still almost paralyzing to think about how much work still needs to be done – especially since this novel is longer and more complicated than my previous.
Each one of those little colored tabs is something that needs to be fixed. Overwhelming, right? I could easily panic and just throw in the towel. But the key for me is to break it into small digestible chunks. “Today I am going to take notes on five chapters, and that’s it. Tomorrow I am going to focus on editing this one scene.”
And to remember that I am going to be making this book so much better, and I’m pretty in love with it already.
Encouraging feedback on the first several chapters from my agent and writing coach don’t hurt either.
I have a date with The Blood Between Us this weekend to go back through the copious notes I took, fill out my plot line spreadsheet, and make a revision plan. Then I am hoping I can complete the majority of the heavy lifting over the course of February and March. It may not happen that quickly, and that’s okay. But it’s important to have a goal.
As far as reading goes, I have some books on my list that I am really excited about. So I will read, report back and let you know how they are:
- Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
- One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
- A Curse So Dark and Lovely
- 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne
With one month into the New Year, how are all of you feeling about 2019? Are your goals progressing as you’d hoped? Let me know in the comments!