Four Sins of a Newbie Writer

I’ve done a lot of beta-reading in my day, and I find that my critique points often align along the same sort of issues. I thought it might be helpful to type up a list for anyone who is just starting out writing–I know a lot of people are using their self-isolation time to start a new WIP for Camp NaNoWriMo, for example. 😉 As always with these sort of posts, I’m not claiming I’m some genius master writer, but I do firmly stand by this list.

Sin #1: Being Too Mysterious

It’s happened more than a couple times that my very first, page one comment on a manuscript is that the author is trying to be too mysterious in the first couple paragraphs. In the first few pages, it is courteous to readers to clearly introduce your MC’s name, age, and identity. When authors dangle tidbits of information and invite readers to piece the puzzle together, it makes readers work too hard, rather than being able to sit back and enjoy the story–and that often means readers will stop reading and pick up a different book. These slow, spoon-fed introductions always makes me think of some cheesy anime character intro where they make their grand entrance to the show in silhouette.

The man walked into the bar and sat down with a weary sigh. “What’ll it be?” asked the man behind the bar, his voice a low growl. Green eyes glinted. The monk laughed. This was going to be an interesting night.

Okay, so here is the information we aren’t privy to in the above paragraph (not taken from a beta manuscript, just a few lines I made up that are representative of many past beta reads). There are no names, and the only physicality we’re given could belong to either man… or the monk… or a third party observer! Also, who is the monk? Is it the guy who just came into the bar or somebody else? Just how many people are in this scene anyway???

And take a look at the oh-so-mysterious line “Green eyes glinted.” Short sentences of physicality have started to drive me absolutely bananas recently–I think I’ve seen too many of them in books by authors like Sarah J. Maas, and they just… aren’t working for me anymore. Authors normally throw them in to establish a lyrical, poetic, or moody feel, but they read as lazy writing to me at this point.

Most crucially in the above few lines, the POV feels shaky; most readers will make the assumption that we are in the head of the first man, not the bartender, but that is not necessarily the case. This leads into the next sin…

Sin #2: Head-Hopping

Head-hopping is when authors change POVs within a scene. Unless you are some master literary craftsman who understands how to do this, stick with one POV in each scene, lest your readers become disoriented.

Wow, thought Paul, she’s super hot. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from her.

Emma blushed, noticing his gaze. Hey, good-lookin’. What she wouldn’t do for a man in uniform.

Okay, before our two characters above start getting it on, we have to fix an enormous problem; first we’re in Paul’s head, then we’re suddenly hearing Emma’s thoughts. That’s going to give your readers serious whiplash, and it will introduce major confusion throughout the manuscript. If you are using 3rd POV, you can only have your POV character think and react to information that they know.

And to help ground your readers if you’re switching POV from chapter to chapter, always use the POV character’s name in the first sentence–and ideally, make their name the first word.

Sin #3: Noticeable Dialogue Tags

There are a scant few dialogue tags I use on the regular in my writing. Here they are:

  • said
  • asked

Of course I’ll throw in a “murmured,” “growled,” or “spat” every once in a while, but generally, “said” and “asked” will do me–and my favorite scenario is when I don’t have to use dialogue tags at all and just let the dialogue sit by itself. 🙂

Here’s some dialogue from my current WIP, with extra dialogue tags thrown in.

“I’m going to pop by the liquor store, then we’re having a night in at your place. Any booze requests?” she inquired.

I thought for a second. “Just rum for me,” I sighed. “But get yourself whatever you want.”

“You getting sick?” she asked me. She knew me too well.

“Bit of a sore throat,” I told her. “That’s all.”

Okay, so this snippet is a telephone conversation between the MC and her best friend. Notice how every line includes some sort of dialogue tag (“inquired,” “sighed,” “asked,” “told”). Most of these aren’t necessary. For example, a question mark indicates a question (duh), so generally speaking there is no need to use “asked” or “inquired.” Our MC is telling her best friend what she wants to get from the liquor store, so “told” is also repetitive. As for “sighed,” it adds a bit of color, but not enough to make it necessary here. Some people would keep it, but I’d personally get rid of it.

My rule of thumb is to nix any dialogue tag that is not pulling its weight. One little thing to note, though, is that dialogue tags can do a lot for a sentence in terms of rhythm; sometimes it’s nice to break up sentences with a “said/asked,” just to keep things flowing nicely. But don’t worry about that if you’re a beginning writer–just take a good, hard look at all your dialogue tags and ditch the ones that are useless.

This is the way I wrote the text originally:

“I’m going to pop by the liquor store, then we’re having a night in at your place. Any booze requests?”

I thought for a second. “Just rum for me. But get yourself whatever you want.”

“You getting sick?” She knew me too well.

“Bit of a sore throat. That’s all.”

I can understand that to some people the above might read a bit sparse–that’s a personal preference thing. My point is that many newbie writers employ dialogue tags for every bit of dialogue, and this can quickly bog down your characters’ conversations and annoy your readers.

Sin #4: Using Telling Words to Show

“Show, don’t tell”–we’ve all heard it, but it’s often tough for writers to understand what that means. I could write a whole ‘nother post about “show, don’t tell” (and when you actually should tell), but I’ll save that for a different time. What I really want to talk about here is when writers think they’re showing, but they’re not.

Here’s an example:

He heard a braying voice from the other room.


She saw sparks fly from the machine.

Notice how “he heard” and “she saw” introduce distance into the sentence? It filters all action through the character’s senses. If you have centered your readers in a POV, we understand intuitively that a braying voice is something the character is hearing and that sparks are something the character is seeing. In the above example, these sentences tell, rather than show.

So get your character out of the sentence and let the action flow, rather than telling us what’s going on. Here are the sentences fixed up:

A voice brayed from the other room. / There came a braying voice from the other room.

Sparks flew from the machine.

Notice how much more actioney the above sentences feel? That’s because we’re suddenly not limited by having everything focus on the MC. Yes, we should be in their head, but not to the point where every single sentence tugs us back to the character.

I really hope the above tips are useful if you’re a writer just starting out! However, my biggest recommendation for avoiding these sins and developing your fictional voice is to read good books by competent writers. I’m going to be frank here: there are a lot of authors out there who are extremely successful commercially–but they don’t necessarily have the strongest chops when it comes to narrative voice. You should make it your mission to read authors who are good at their craft and pay attention to what they’re doing, maybe by even typing one of their chapters into a Word document so that you’re forced to pay attention to their stylistic choices. Here are a few of my absolute favorite authors when it comes to narrative voice:

  • Charlaine Harris (read for character description and voicey 1st POV)
  • Derek Milman (read for dialogue and voicey 1st POV)
  • Eloisa James (read for dialogue and character dynamics)
    • On a quick note, James very occasionally head-hops, but she does it as a master writer should: with purposeful subtlety that hopefully won’t annoy the average reader.
  • Kristen Britain (read for her wide range of emotion and sentence simplicity)
  • Maureen Johnson (read for voicey 1st and 3rd POV)

Can you think of any other “writing sins”? Who are your favorite authors to read for their narrative voice? Leave a comment down below!

The Rose Gate by Hanna Sandvig

One of my reading missions this year is to discover some indie authors of quality. I love the indie space for many reasons: it’s easier for authors to make a living, authors retain complete creative control over their work, and the author community has a positive, entrepreneurial vibe, rather than the doom-and-gloom of trad pub.

Story quality, however, can be an overlooked issue in the indie space; with the push to rapidly release books (I’m talking 4+ books a year, and sometimes wayyyy more than that), the majority of the indie books I read don’t meet my personal threshold for a quality novel. I totally get why indie authors release like this; readers and store algorithms respond well to rapid release, so there’s a lot of money to be made. When voracious romance fans are breathing down your neck for the next book in a series so they can throw money at you, who can blame an author for getting their book to market as swiftly as possible?

But I’m just not personally a fan of these pulp fiction-type books. No matter how cool a story’s premise, flat characters and weak prose will doom a book for me every time. So that’s why I was so happy to finally get a chance to read Hanna Sandvig’s Beauty and the Beast retelling, The Rose Gate.

Sandvig as an author has been on my radar for a while. (Her author Instagram is to die for, and I’m in the mood for Beauty and the Beast retellings, since I’m writing one myself.) The first in a fairy tale romance series, The Rose Gate follows MC Isobel (otherwise known as Bel–get it?) as she accidentally leaves our modern world for Faerie. Of course, there’s a handsome prince, a curse, and lots of fun flirtation.

This book is a strong first entry in Sandvig’s series. I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s voice, world-building, the characters, and especially the budding romance between Bel and her faerie beau. I do think the book could have done with another pass by an editor, as there are some punctuation issues and especially run-on sentences, but these lessened as the book went along, and I didn’t find they hindered my enjoyment.

Can I also talk real quick about the production quality behind this book as well? Sandvig designs her own covers, and the paperback edition is gorgeous, including full-spread illustrations also by the author. I’m so glad I picked up the paperback version!

The Rose Gate was a twenty-four hour read that really swept me up–it was the palate cleanser I desperately needed after the disastrous The Sound of Stars. I will definitely be taking a look at Sandvig’s future work!

Also, comment down below–do you have any recommendations for other books by indie authors? I’m always on the hunt!

ARC: The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

Thank you to NetGalley and Inkyard Press for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. The Sound of Stars debuted February 25th.

Apologies in advance that this review borders on a rant, but I feel a compulsion to fully express myself. Could be I get some anger for this post–I guess that’s just the risk you run sometimes.

If there’s one thing that can be said about The Sound of Stars, it’s that it doesn’t try to hide what it is. I was pretty excited to read this book–I mean, hello, I’m writing an alien romance, and this book is an alien romance–but from the very first paragraph I could predict this book would be a struggle due to its strong ideological bent.

The invasion came when we were too distracted raging against our governments to notice. Terror had a face and we elected it, my mom said. We were more divided than ever, and that division made our defeat easy.

Listen, I’m not saying that politics doesn’t have a place in books–if politics fit the plot, by all means have at it. However, this book (which is a YA alien romance, remember) is so steeped in progressive and leftist ideology that it’s not far off from propagandistic. In fact, as I read some passages aloud to my husband, he even asked me if it might be parody. (It’s not.) To give one example, Janelle, the MC, suffers from anxiety and frequently employs a counting technique to calm herself.

Five, Tamir Rice, Heather Heyer, Emmett Till, Oscar Grant, Nia Wilson. Four, little church girls, Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley. Three, Tree of Life. Christchurch. Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Two, people out shopping, Maurice Stallard and Vicki Lee Jones. One, so many–too many–black transgender women to name.

Nobody is going to convince me that the above is good writing. Am I really supposed to believe that all that is going through her head while she’s warding off a panic attack? It’s like some bizarre leftist take on Arya Stark’s kill list.

Let’s go more in depth about the main character as well. Janelle is black, bisexual, “demi-ace,” overweight, with a thyroid problem, and diagnosed depression and anxiety. All of that is okay, of course.

Can you hear the “but” coming? I have a real issue with the current push for “representation” in books, because it has ruined many, many characters for me. Often it feels like authors, especially in the YA world, throw statuses and traits onto their characters like stickers, as if to tick off items on a checklist. I want to have all types of characters in books, but I want those characters to appear organically, rather than just so the author can triumphantly proclaim, Oprah-like, “Ah-ha, here is a person of color, and here is the LGBT character, and here is the character with a medical diagnosis!” So with an MC like Janelle, I found myself reading her characterization as basically a marketing strategy rather than anything that enhanced the book. Is that way of thinking fair to all the characters out there who are LGBT, suffering from various diagnoses, etc? No, but that is the sad place where the “representation” push has led me, and I’m willing to bet a lot of money that others feel the same. The whole thing is a catch-22.

So when it came to understanding Janelle, she felt incredibly surface-level, as if she had been designed by Tumblr committee, or perhaps Vice’s dildo-firing squad.

And setting character aside, the plot and the world-building weren’t gripping enough to get me to forgive all the politics. It’s a pretty standard aliens-taking-over-the-world story, and the tech wasn’t cohesive; it came across to me as magical hocus-pocus instead of futuristic technology that sorta-kinda made sense.

There is a cringiness to this book, too, that would not let up. The MC loves reading, especially YA, and there was all sorts of name-dropping that crossed the line from referential into self-congratulation. It gave me a strong “breaking the fourth wall” type of feeling.

I wonder if that’s how Wylan felt when he finally kissed Jesper, or Dimple and Rishi’s first–no, second–kiss…

Pair all that with many new world-building concepts being thrown in at the eighty percent mark of the book. Pair it again with a deus ex machina. Then add on unrelenting and awkward progressivism. (The alien love interest cannot tell if a human is a man or a woman, for example, until they identify themselves… Oh, but he can easily suss out that Janelle is a girl in the beginning of the book by her name alone. Hmm…)

Well, this was just a really tough sell.

I constantly found myself wondering while reading what an author of a book this political would say if she knew a conservative woman was reading–a conservative woman who, by the way, has not hesitated in the past to read and praise books with a differing ideological lens. I don’t necessarily write off books just because I don’t see eye-to-eye with the author’s politics. Would the author of The Sound of Stars be disgusted by someone like me, who just wanted to read a new-to-market trad-pub alien romance? Or would she not even suspect readers like me exist at all? Hopefully it would be neither one of those extremes, because both are very disheartening.

I remain a reader desperate for well-written alien books, especially alien romance. I was betrayed by aliens last year, twice, and I feel yet again extremely disappointed. (The Humans was great, to be fair.) I am begging the universe–please let the next alien book I read be good. And if there are any authors reading this post, please try to understand that readers like me exist and don’t hate me for it.

Chapter Thirty-One of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The thirty-first chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST (and many times earlier)! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or on Wattpad.

So I’ve been absent from the blog for two weeks. 😦 I’ll be honest–worry about the coronavirus has been affecting me for a while, and lately I just… haven’t been in the mood to do much of anything. I’ve actually been following the whole coronavirus story closely since January; for anyone who’s read Specter, it probably won’t come as a surprise that a certain portion of my online hangouts are places that discuss conspiracy theories, “hidden knowledge,” etc (not that I’m necessarily a believer–I just like to read about these things for entertainment!). Anyway, my own personal experience living in China back in the day combined with talk about coronavirus on the websites I peruse has had me low-key freaking out for months–and that feeling has come to a head in the last few weeks as the virus has started to affect life in the United States.

Plus now I’ve woken up this morning with a sore throat and a ninety-nine degree fever. Fucking fantastic. Did I buy all those Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer for nothing?? D:

So as life has become a bit stranger in my area of the world (my husband is on indefinite paid leave from his job, I’m suddenly working from home, we’re ordering most of our necessities online, and all non-essential businesses are shutting down tomorrow at 8 PM), I find that I haven’t been so motivated to blog. That feeling will come back, I’m sure–actually, I’m finishing up an ARC that I can’t wait to write a review for.

What’s been nice is that with the shift from working in an office to working at home, I’ve been able to write more of my WIP. Beauty and the Beast and Aliens continues to crawl along, and like I’ve said before, I really like this book–it’s just that the process has been slooow. On a random note: does anyone reading this post kayak or have a friend who kayaks? Because there is an extended kayaking scene in the book, and I’m certain that some things are incorrect, so I’m on the hunt for someone to give me pointers. :XD

Anyway, I’m going to wrap it up here. Have a great (and healthy) rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Thirty-One.

Chapter Thirty of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The thirtieth chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST (and many times earlier)! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or on Wattpad.

Chapter Thirty marks the end of Part Two, and it’s one of the key chapters of the book. Reading through the chapter gives me such nostalgia, because I spent so long crafting the rest of the book so that it could lead up to this point. Unlike my other books, I spent a long, loooooong time brainstorming for The Gold in the Dark and working out plot points, since I was a new (and hesitant) writer. Now reading back through the chapter, I almost think this turn of events is too much, but I’ll stick by it–I’m mega proud of GitD as a first book.

This week I’ve been rekindling my love for my WIP. Writing the Beauty and the Beast and Aliens book hasn’t been the smoothest journey if you’ve been paying attention to these updates, but I do think that I’m settling into drafting again, as best I can. What can I say–I’m an editing kind of girl! I can edit for hours, but drafting is like pulling teeth, mostly because I just want to edit what I’m writing the whole time. And even though I hate drafting, I do really like how this WIP is progressing! Will anybody else want to read it, or just little ol’ weirdo me? Time will tell, hahaha.

Anyway, I’m going to keep it short and sweet this week. Have a great rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Thirty.

ARC: Mageborn by Jessica Thorne

Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Mageborn debuted February 18th.

Jessica Thorne’s book The Queen’s Wing blew me away last year; I fell in love with its characters, its science-fantasy feel, and the can’t-look-away plot. So when I saw that Thorne has a new series out, I immediately hit the request button on NetGalley. Mageborn was an all right read for me, but I don’t think that it measures up to Thorne’s other series, unfortunately. In all honesty, I do think that because I’ve read the other series and know Thorne’s potential, this knowledge kept me from fully falling in love with Mageborn.

The premise is pretty interesting–a woman who tracks down rogue magic users is given an assignment that puts her in close contact with the heir to the throne. There’s a lot of your standard fantasy tropes: court intrigue, prejudice against those with magical abilities, shaky or repressed memories, brewing rebellion. I saw some people on Goodreads complaining about the Graceling and Sarah J. Maas comps–I don’t see much of SJM in Mageborn, but I was reminded of Graceling throughout, especially because of the jumbled memory thread of the plot. The problem is that Graceling did it much better. It’s been a while since I read the trilogy, but it sticks pretty heavily in my mind, and I’m not sure if Mageborn will. I enjoyed it while I was reading, but there wasn’t one thing that stuck out to me as setting the book above other fantasy.

There’s another thing that I debated mentioning, but I’m just going to go ahead and say it: there are too many fragmented and repetitive sentences in this book for my taste. I don’t remember Thorne’s other series relying on these stylistic choices so much, or perhaps the intense plot of that series made it so that I didn’t notice. I noticed it here, though, a lot; it feels like you can’t go two sentences without a fragment or repetition. For example:

She didn’t pull away and for that he was grateful. Stupidly grateful.

Or this one, which takes the repetition to a ridiculous level:

“Tell him… tell him I didn’t want this. I didn’t want any of this.”

“He knows, pet,” said Simona. “Divinities protect and defend you, he knows.”

Did you count? That’s tell him, I didn’t want… this, and he knows, all repeated in the span of twenty-six words. Don’t get me wrong; repetition can be a powerful tool for writers to place emphasis on something, but you can’t go a page in Mageborn without seeing Thorne leaning on these writing tricks. It got old for me fast, sadly, in the same way that SJM’s writing can wear on a person.

Essentially, I had decent fun reading this book, but it didn’t leave me with a deep impression. Maybe I’ll pick up the next in series, but mostly I’ll be hoping for a third in Thorne’s other series, since there are still a lot of plot threads left to explore there.

Short Tuesday #42: “No Exit” by Orrin Grey

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine to read Orrin Grey’s short story “No Exit.” (Not to be confused with No Exit by Taylor Adams, which has been making the rounds the last couple years.) You can read it here for free here…

I loved this short story! It features an MC whose sister was involved in a brutal, ritualistic killing at a rest stop by a cult based in Kansas. The bleak setting and the author’s rock solid voice had me sold from pretty much the first paragraph.

“No Exit” read extremely Lovecraftian to me, not just in terms of the evocative descriptive details and the too-monstrous-to-understand world-building, but also the format. I’m no Lovecraft expert, but a lot of what I have read by him involves pages and pages of exposition and set-up without any actual scenes, followed by a horrifying conclusion where we at last get a POV scene that thrusts us front row center into the madness. In this day and age where the popular writing style has such a focus on “show, don’t tell” and close first POV, it requires a really talented writer to pull off this kind of a story.

This is a fun one that has an eerie, slow crawl to the visceral details at the end. I can actually kind of see it as pairing well with another Nightmare Magazine favorite of mine, “Methods of Ascension” by Dan Stintzi. Anyway, I really enjoyed this and would love to read more by this author!

Short Tuesday #41: “Good Girls” by Isabel Yap

This week I was watching my favorite streamer play the game Dreadout 2, which is set in Indonesia, and it got me very curious to get better acquainted with horror from Southeast Asia! I feel like East Asian horror is fairly well understood in the West, but we don’t hear much about horror from the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc. Googling didn’t get me far, so I threw up a post on Goodreads for fiction requests and got some interesting responses, one of which is Isabel Yap’s story “Good Girls.” You can read it here for free here at the now defunct Shimmer Zine…

I had a really great time reading this short story! Yap’s language is very evocative, but the plot doesn’t get bogged down in language. The story is split between two different settings, the Philippines and California, and it has all sorts of textural details that just get me more interested in Southeast Asian horror. The imagery of the piece really caught me, and I was a big fan of the sudden, extreme body horror details. Normally I’m not big on trigger warnings, but anyone with young children or an aversion to icky might want to pass this one up. It reminded me of a short story by a Chinese author I read eons ago in college with a detail about an ant and a baby (no idea what it was or who the author was, but if anyone knows what I’m talking about, leave a comment below).

Also, can we talk real quick about one of Yap’s other works, Hurricane Heels? Because it totally sounds like a Sailor Moon send-up, and I would be really on board for that.

Anyway, this was a fun one, and it just wetted my appetite more for horror from this region. I’d love recommendations if anyone has them!

Chapter Twenty-Nine of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The twenty-ninth chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST (and many times earlier)! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or on Wattpad.

I’m happy to report that I’m finally feeling better and my mojo is coming back! I’ve been in a serious funk lately, in terms of all sorts of aspects of my life: health-wise, reading-wise, writing-wise, and spirit-wise. Blerghhh–but things are on the up swing, and I’m finally making progress with my Beauty and the Beast and Aliens WIP! So much of writing is a mental game; I used to think topics like mindset were boring, but now I do pay attention to things like that, since I’ve noticed that my own well-being has such a profound impact on my productivity.

There is no question that I’m behind on my personal schedule of where I want my current WIP to be. I’d been hoping when I was planning my project timeline to be done with my first draft at the beginning of February and starting revisions mid-March. Now I’m hopeful to be done with my first draft by the end of March and starting revisions by mid-April. Yup–that’s how much my funk has set me back. Anyway, I’m not overly disheartened by the setback, since I still think a publish date of early July will be pretty easy to meet. I came up with that publish date, by the way, because I want to get on a one to two book a year schedule, and Specter released July 7th. I’ll be mega-proud if I can meet that goal, and maybe then I’ll push my next book release date up a little–perhaps April or May 2021.

All right, enough about me and my goals. Have a great rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Twenty-Nine.

Books I want to read but don’t want to read

My writer friend told me last year that the TBR is where books go to die.

I pooh-poohed it at the time, but there’s a certain kind of demented truth to that statement, isn’t there? I know all y’all reading this have a TBR a mile long; I definitely do. And I have such good intentions, but somehow there are books on there that I know will sadly never get picked for their turn in the spotlight.

Ah, well. Such is the life of an avid reader; books take a long time to get through, and it’s just difficult to get to everything. So when I got tagged for this tag, I knew I wouldn’t have a difficult time coming up with my answers. 😛 Thanks to Sophie for tagging me–I had such a fun time putting this post together!

The Rules:

  • Link back to the original tag (this post, and Jami!)
  • Complete the questions with books you want to have read but don’t want to read
  • Tag some people at the end to do the tag next

A book that you feel you need to read because everyone talks about it

I felt like I couldn’t go anywhere last year without hearing somebody talking about this book. It has all sorts of elements that you’d think I’d enjoy–a sister relationship (duh), serial killers (double duh), and an interesting setting. I’m just not entirely convinced I’ll love it for some reason; something about it gives off the “trying too hard” vibe? Like this is a book screaming, Please love me! Or maybe that’s just me? I really should just give it a go, especially because it’s so short.

Speaking of length…

A book that’s really long

I love this series, but I’ve been feeling SJM’d out for a while, so this book continues to languish unread on my TBR shelf. (Actually, come to think of it, it’s in the back of my car. I took it to work to start reading it on my lunch break, then got intimidated by the length, so now it’s taken up permanent residence in the back seat.)

Maybe by the end of 2020. Hnghhhhhhh.

A book you’ve owned / had on your TBR for too long

I first learned about Adam Nevill because he penned the novel that later became the awesome movie The Ritual. And I’ve never read anything by him, but this book sounds so cool! The cover’s great! I love cult stuff! So why has this stayed on my TBR for years and years? There is literally no logical explanation.

A book that is ‘required’ reading (eg, school text, really popular classic – something you feel obligated to read!)

Here’s my shameful admission: I rented this from the library last year as a Halloween read, then I got intimidated by the preface because I couldn’t make any sense of it and I DNF’d the whole book. Because of a preface that is maybe four hundred words long. Perhaps the point of the preface is that it doesn’t make sense, or perhaps I was just kinda dumb that day. (My worst fear is that I’ll pick up this book again, only to discover that I am still that dumb.)

So this book scares me, even though literally everyone loves it. On the topic of books that scare me…

A book that intimidates you

Everyone loves it, and it’s so long, and the sequels are so long. And my sister said I have to read it, so I guess I gotta, but at the same time I am just soooooo unwilling to add an enormous trilogy to my list.

A book that you think might be slow

It’s 769 pages, and it’s historical fiction with a horror thread. Those first two bits make me want to run screaming in the other direction, but the last bit makes me want to give it a go, especially because I love arctic horror (The Thing, et cetera).

But it just seems like it would be such a slow read, so I just keep this one tucked away in the back of my mind for later.

A book you need to be in the right mood for

I really wanted to pick this up after I listened to an interview with the author, but I think it’s going to be a really atmospheric, introspective read. I need just the right gloomy, lazy day to read this, and that mood hasn’t presented itself to me, so for now I’ll keep it on my TBR.

A book you’re unsure if you will like

My husband and I recently watched the first Conan movie, fully with the expectation that it probably hadn’t aged well, and it was awesome. I mean, I seriously loved it, so I got really interested to read the fiction that inspired the whole Conan universe. But I’m having similar doubts about whether the Conan stories will hold up; I guess I won’t know until I pick this up.

I tag everybody, as usual, but also these very special people! Apologies if you guys have already been tagged–sometimes it’s hard to tell!

I’m so curious to know what books you guys really want to read, but just… haven’t. What’s keeping you from starting? We’re all in this together, guys. 😀