So you can probably infer I didn’t actually get a whole lot done.
But let’s talk about it anyway. (I’ll talk. You listen. I have three small and exceedingly strong-willed children – you have no idea how rare this is. I plan to take full advantage.)
In which I can apparently no longer binge read
Let me take you back in time. Although if I actually did have a time machine, I would re-run February and now have Productive Things to talk to you about.
Back when I was a teenager, I was – well, let’s just say not exactly a social animal. After school evenings and at weekends, I read. I could get through two or three decent sized books in a day. I’d come home from the library with a stack of twelve new books and be back two weeks later for the next.
Then adulting happened. Job, house, bills, responsibility, etc. etc. But still, I could in get a good three books a week. My reading mode of choice was to devour until interrupted by necessities, pick back up and repeat.
And then… Kids. Eat. Time. I’m sure they have some good points too, but seven years after the first, I’m still shocked by how little of my time is my own any more. And since I also decided to make a serious attempt at a writing career, it has to be my priority in the free time I do have (not that I don’t love that, too). Between the two, I’m lucky to finish a book a week. And I’ve got out of the habit of having extended, uninterrupted reading sessions.
How is this relevant, Jamie?
The completed Shades of Magic trilogy. I raved about A Darker Shade of Magic in November. The book, characters and author catapulted straight to the top of my favourites. I got A Gathering of Shadows for Christmas, but thanks to the aforementioned time squeeze, couldn’t dive straight in. (I may also have been warned of a killer cliffhanger. Spoiler – they weren’t wrong.) A Conjuring of Light released this month. My plan was to read the whole series, beginning with a reread of ADSOM.
Cue pitiful weeping.
ADSOM took me a long time. If anything, I loved it more than first time, but I had to fit it into the slivers of the day left after the other demands on my time.
AGOS. This book was heartbreaking. To the tune of 5 stars. It was a slow build, focused on characters and relationships, with the plot not particularly high stakes, at least at the outset. We got more romance in this one, but I’m not naming names. There’s enough going on to hold interest and a third plotline (major freaking spoiler) bubbled menacingly under the surface. In a nutshell, this book was about consequences – no one gets off lightly from the events of ADSOM – and freedom. What it costs, what people will do to have it/keep it, and what might be worth sacrificing it. I basically wanted to cry every time Kell (or Rhy) was on page for the first half of the book. The unnamed plotline also ripped my heart out with abandon. (HIGHLIGHT TO READ MASSIVE SPOILER THAT KILLED ME Holland’s chest ached. Another binding. Would he never be free?). Lila, however, was off having the time of her life with Captain Alucard Emery, a new character whom I adore – sassy, flamboyant and hard-edged, with plenty of secrets of his own. The emotional turmoil drives the action half of the plot – the characters’ choices were often terrible, but utterly believable because of the corners they’ve ended up in. It’s what I loved about ADSOM ramped up to a whole new level.
I had to let the AGOS cliffhanger sit for a couple of days to fully absorb it before I started ACOL. Once I did – woah! Talk about an explosive start, danger and despair, expectations being pulled out from under you again and again. And if I liked Alucard in the first book – oh, I can’t get enough of him now (we get his point of view in this book as well). I could only watch helplessly as more and more things went wrong.
And I read myself into an enormous reading slump. A sort of pre-book-hangover. I was so invested in the series – yet trying not to go too fast because I don’t want it to be over – I got completely overwhelmed and couldn’t force myself to read the last 200 pages. What even is that? I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows THREE TIMES on the weekend it was released. I reread the whole Throne of Glass series in a week to be ready for Empire of Storms (which I then didn’t read, but that’s a whole other story). This should not be happening to me!
Ahem. But it did. So. I will finish ACOL in March. Eventually.
Oh, I also read A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard. I picked it up to skim the beginning after ADSOM, and ended up reading it in a single sitting. And I don’t even really like YA contemporary, so that tells you something about how good it was. It’s all light, fluffy, sweet romance on the surface (but set in the UK!) but actually there’s a lot underneath – mental health issues and disability (deafness, specifically) are treated sensitively and realistically, the romance might the be main focus of the plot but the characters’ other relationships aren’t ignored, there’s no boy-fixes-mental-illness trope, or insta-love. I’d seriously recommend it, whether you’re a huge fan of the genre or not (4 stars).
Can we ask about the writing this month?
It was a very slow month, with only 17,400 words added to The Hunt, but I’m happier with where it’s going and I’ve hopefully left it in a good place to power through the finale in March.
I also had a major brainwave regarding Abriny (you may recall the bloated monstrosity of a first draft came in at 350,000 words) – apart from moving the whole last quarter of the book into the start of book 2, I figured out that I could link the storylines together, have a more convincing antagonist and improve the pace of the slower sections by adding a fifth viewpoint character. In theory, that shouldn’t be good for wordcount, but in practice I think it will help me skip over or cut completely a lot of the parts that weren’t working, by focusing the plot better. I’m trying very hard to concentrate on one project at a time, so I made notes on how I was going to work it but then set them aside.
If I can get The Hunt finished in March, I’ll be able to turn to the revision of Abriny for Camp NaNoWriMo in April.
I did say it was a short month!
If you enjoy listening to me rave or rant about books, you can see my longer, more detailed reviews on Goodreads, or follow me on Instagram where I try to keep things a little more succinct and post pretty pictures of pretty books.
In the meantime, here’s another sample of The Hunt’s playlist, which has started growing again:
Have you read Shades of Magic? Are you as ridiculously in love with it as I am? Have any tips on fitting reading and writing around the demands of Real Life™? Let’s chat in the comments!