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  • Writer's pictureKatja

May Reading Round-up!

Happy June!

YAY PRIDE MONTH!! I'm super excited for some queer-themed blog posts throughout the month!

But first, my May reading report! Much like April, I managed to read a hefty number of books, not quite as many, but I'm still pleased by my progress. If I keep going like this, I might get to order more books as soon as July to replenish the TBR!

I participated in the @Medievalathon Read-a-thon Challenge for May and I ended up as a Supreme Witch Overlord (self-given title) with 6 outfits, a horse, a goat, a dog, a FOX, as well as some daggers, a sword, and an axe. It was a super fun challenge and I loved the idea of leveling up with each book I read.

This month I decided to highlight four books that are going into my re-read and study for craft purposes pile. If you're a writer, it's so incredibly important to read as much as you can. If you can figure out what it is about a book that sweeps you away and makes you turn off your inner editor, you can unpack that and apply it to your own writing. Read good books and bad books, in your genre and out. And when you find a book that does something well, TAKE NOTES.

I'm a highlighter and post-it tab kind of girl. One day I dream of making a database for myself of what books to go back to for various reasons, but that's a project for another day.

This month I added four books to the re-read and study pile:

The Mermaid, The Witch, & The Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall: I was three pages into this book when I decided that not only did I absolutely adore it, but that I was going to reread and study it on a craft level. And, trust me, the rest of the book held up just as well. THAT ENDING. *DED I WAS DED* There are pirates, witches, mermaids, and adorable queer flirting. The world is a rich tapestry and so well fleshed out with equal parts magic and mythos tempered by the darker aspects of human nature and by hope. This book ended perfectly for me, which is not something that happens very often (the only other *perfect* ending book for me has been Our Dark Duet). Just go and read The Mermaid, The Witch, & The Sea, its so so fantastic. 10/10 Would recommend!

What I gleaned from it on a craft level:

  • Pacing- it hit all the plot and emotional beats PERFECTLY

  • Dealing with gender & gender identity--this is a major back bone of the story and I felt it was handled so very well (full disclosure, I identify as cisgender so I may not have caught something, but from what I could see, it was handled beautifully)

  • Language/Word choice- Maggie's writing is breathtaking and captivating and it just pulls you along. Every word and scene has a purpose (in most cases several) and it's a great study of how to layer things into your own writing because she does it so damn well

  • World building- The Mermaid, The Witch, & The Sea takes what you *think* you know about mermaids, witches, the sea, and pirates and reweaves those concepts into a brilliant new mythology. Its a lovely example of how to take the reader's expectations and build on them to create something new and captivating

Jade War by Fonda Lee: This sequel to Jade City was PHENOMENAL. And I did this last month, tricking you into reading multiple books by giving you one later in the series, but like, seriously, why are you sleeping on this story? I devoured this book. DEVOURED. I am so invested in the Kaul family and No Peak that everyday I'm like, is the third book out yet? Why isn't it in my brain now? The Green Bone Saga follows the No Peak clan as they rule the streets of Janloon. Headed by the Kaul family this book will keep you on the edge of your seat. I listened to the audio and I REGULARLY either swore or whooped in elation. 10/10 Would Recommend!

What I gleaned from it on a craft level:

  • World building--these books are the chef's kiss of world building. It's immersive, logical, consistent, and its layered in, no info dumps. BRILLIANT

  • Fight scenes! --I love a good fight and Fonda writes them so very well. She hits that perfect balance between emotion and action and let me just say there is a fight in the middle of this book that made me swear A LOT it was so damn good.

  • Sequel-ing --Sequel's are hard. You went all out in the first book, you need to build on that, you have to be bigger, more intense, MORE. Jade War does that, it continued to build upon the very solid base of Jade City. You want a lesson in how to sequel? This book is it

  • Politics--The alliances and team ups in both of these books are so good. The subtle manipulations and plans of these brilliant crime bosses is stunning. Fonda weaves elaborate plots and the way they play out are just, *ugh* PERFECT

A Treason of Thorns by Laura Weymouth: *gentle sigh* This book was beautiful and enchanting and absolutely swept me away. This was another binge read, I couldn't put it down and I'm still thinking about it. Vi has to save the sentient Burleigh House and its magic from a power hungry king who killed her father. This book is so full of magic and hope and beauty and though that's not my normal reading MO, I adored this book (Also, if you haven't read my exciting saga wherein I make the ginger biscuits mentioned in this book, you can do so here: OH SNAP The Great Ginger Biscuit Bake Off )

What I gleaned from it on a craft level:

  • World Building--(are you sensing a theme here?) Laura takes a familiar world and gently twists it into something new and exciting and basically leaves you wondering if maybe there are Great Houses out there keeping the world in sync (which, logically if you think about it, might be why 2020 has been so terrible? Perhaps several Great Houses have died.)

  • Sentient House--okay, so you might not have a *house* in your manuscript, but if you have a non-human thing that you want to possess human qualities, read this book. Burleigh House was such a well written character and Laura did a fantastic job of capturing its character. This house broke my heart y'all. BROKE. MY. HEART.

  • Prose--Every word of this books is beautiful and so carefully chosen. If you've read The Light Between Worlds, you know that this is one of Laura's signatures. It sweeps you away and holds you fast. Nothing is wasted or superfluous. It's lyrical and lovely. This prose is #goals.

  • Strong Female Protagonist--Look, I know we have this idea that a strong woman has to be willing to wield sharp objects and stab a lot of people, BUT, there is so much more to feminine strength than that and we need more strong female characters that don't rely on the male defined traits of stabbing and punching. Vi is such a good study for this. She has so many NON VIOLENT strengths that she uses throughout the novel (compassion, kindness, empathy, intelligence!). So if you need to figure out how to make your female protagonist tough without having her stab someone, here's your gal!

Timekeeper by Tara Sim: THIS BOOK!!!! I buddy read this for the @Medievalathon Reading Challenge with my friend Sarah and it was delightful! (we're planning to buddy read the other books in the trilogy as well: Chainbreaker and Firestarter). Danny is the sweetest little Hufflepuff clock mechanic and the love interest is just as delightful. And DAPHNE! Together they need to figure out why clocks are breaking and causing whole towns to stop and become stuck in a time loop. This steampunk Victorian fantasy is such a fun read and every

time you think you have a theory, you find out you just how wrong you were as Tara throws you for a loop. 10/10 Would Recommend! (CW for dealing with PTSD/mental health)

What I gleaned from it on a craft level:

  • Mystery Clues: You get to ride along with Danny as he Scooby-Doos for clues as to why clock towers are being bombed and figure who the bad guy is. Tara lays out the clues expertly with well placed red herrings when you get to the end, you can go back and see the careful trail of bread crumbs she created. It's a super tight plot line.

  • World Building--(you had to know this was gonna happen, right?) Like A Treason of Thorns, Timekeeper is an alternate history, a re-imagined steampunk Victorian England. So whether you want to study how to write a good steampunk or you just want to see how to expertly layer in magic and queernormative-ness in a well known historical setting, this is the book for you.

  • Depiction of Abstract Concepts--So this book deals with time and time magic. Portraying abstract concepts in written word is hard, its much easier to do in a movie or a graphic novel, but Tara nails it. She uses words and rhetorical devices to depict the way time moves and she makes you feel so present in that moment that you can sense the way time is moving. She makes it real.

  • Soft Boi Magic--Much like Vi mentioned above, we also need more strong soft boys in literature. Danny is a perfect example. He doesn't rely on his "manliness" or his ability to stab people (look, I love a good stabby character as much as the next person, but there are myriad other ways to show strength and bravery and we need those stories in the world) to obtain his goals. His strengths lie in his passion, his emotions, and his intelligence. MORE SOFT BOI STORIES PLEASE

As writers, we learn from every book we read. Find the books that stand out to you and take an afternoon to study it--bonus points if you can buddy read with somebody and really do a deep dive, the discussion will open up more opportunities to learn from the experience and a writer should never stop learning. Tell me in the comments what books you've "studied" craft wise, I'd love to keep adding to my pile.

I'm looking forward to my June reads. Lots of LGTB+ content lined up for Pride month! Thanks for reading! <3

If you're interested in adding any of the books I mentioned to your TBR, consider purchasing them through my Bookshop Affiliate Page--you'll be supporting indie book sellers & me!

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