Wednesday, August 12, 2015

UPDATE: LAST BOOK OF THE 2015 READING CHALLENGE



As it stands right now, I have read 19 books out of my goal for 20 books read in 2015. When I initially set this goal, I was very skeptical about my ability/commitment to complete this goal. Now that I'm here in August of 2015 (and didn't start the challenge until around April) I think I should have set the bar a bit higher, but since this is the first year that I have been on Goodreads and been able to do the challenge, I'd say it's been a very satisfying challenge so far and I look forward to completing it and then continuing to add to the list of books read in 2015. What's even better is that I am currently reading four books and I really don't know which one will be my #20. I know I'm technically the one in control of which one gets finished first, but as it stands, I'm just kind of chugging through each of them for different reasons, in different settings, at different paces so I actually just don't know which one of the following it will be:


The Martian by Andy Weir
Having already read and reviewed Rat Queens, this is my only August readalong with the BookTubeSFF Awards Goodreads group. I like it a lot so far (I'm 58% of the way through) and it will definitely be done by the end of August but since I only have so much time to sit down with a paperback, I'm not really sure if I'll finish it before the others. 



Grim's Fairy Stories by Jacob Grim
I've been listening to this one as an audio-book whenever I have to iron my work clothes. That only really happens once a week so it's unlikely that this will be my #20, but it could be, you never know (I'm currently 72% done with it). Frankly, I'd actually rather this not be the book that completes my challenge since the cover is kind of boring. These classic tales, while interesting and worth a read, also just aren't as good as more modern takes on this sort of fiction. It's really cool to go back and appreciate the literature that paved the way for things we enjoyed today, but it's also kind of strange to see how much better today's fairy tales or fairy tale inspired works are compared to the original source material.


Unstable Prototypes by Joseph R. Lallo
I've been chugging away at this one since July. It's really enjoyable and entertaining, but has no real sense of urgency so it's very uncertain as to whether it will be complete before others. This does happen to be the one that I'm deepest into (84% done), but it is also the longest of the four so what little percentage I have left actually adds up to a pretty decent amount of reading time. It's got a gorgeous cover and is a worthwhile read so it would make a very worthy last entry to my twenty-book goal.




Brooding City by Tom Shutt
I literally just picked this one up yesterday from a fellow indie author. It doesn't actually come out until September which makes this an ARC, but from what I can tell so far, this is a completely finished work that's just in need of a few early reviews. In exchange for a free copy, I am happy to oblige. This one has a ways to go if it's going to make #20 (I'm 17% done), but it's also a shorter work so if I have a couple of good sit-downs with this, then it could make it.

So I suppose I'll have to see which one I get around to completing first!

Friday, August 7, 2015

REVIEW: RAT QUEENS VOLUME 1: SASS AND SORCERY

INTRODUCTION 
Humor is one of those things that I often stay away from in entertainment. All too often, it just doesn't appeal to me. I get the sense that writers think they're more clever than they actually are or that the sense of humor is so far beyond the boundaries of what I consider reality that it just doesn't feel authentic. For me, jokes are best served in the midst of misfortune or general angst. Life can definitely be funny if you choose to look at it in such a way, but its not all jokes and laughs all the time. Humor is an important part of the human condition and like any other human element, it feels flat when too much emphasis is placed  upon it. That's why when a work manages to create a silly tale that is balanced out with other emotional qualities, it resonates with me in the way that all fiction should. RAT QUEENS is a series that managed to make me laugh throughout it's pages while also feeling connected to the characters, story, and world.

HOW I CAME UPON IT 
As part of the BookTubeSFF Awards readalongs, I am picking two books from each of the reading months and participating in the group discussions. In the month of August, one title I took note of was RAT QUEENS VOLUME 1: SASS AND SORCERY by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch. One thing that stood out about this is that it was a graphic work. As I've mentioned in a previous post, I don't read a ton of graphic literature and this series seemed like a really great place to read something other than the INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US series. I also bought this in print (I didn't see any option for an eBook edition) so I got to experience this type of fiction in a new medium as well! I had high hopes for this because of all the good things people had to say about it, but went in with a relatively blank slate as to what I was really in for. So here's how it turned out for me:

HOW I RATED IT 

4/5  I wouldn't go so far as to say that I thought this was an outstanding collection of comics. I think it was a really good one that was immensely satisfying throughout, but still struggled in some key areas.

CHARACTERS 
The characters featured in RAT QUEENS are by far the most consistently exceptional parts of this
A look at the different mercenary bands
series. The Rat Queens are four young women who are renowned mercenaries by the time the story starts. This group includes, Hannah, an elven mage, Violet, a dwarven fighter, Dee, a human cleric, and Betty, a  smidgen (hobbit/halfling or whatever) thief/archer/rogue. These four ladies comprise a band that made me immediately think of one type of DRAGON AGE adventuring party that I've rolled with in the past. In fact, just about anyone familiar with high fantasy games, movies, television, comics, or novels will feel instantly at home with the different combat roles that all the different characters fall into. What readers might also be delighted to know is that while the jobs these ladies occupy will feel very iconic of the genre, their personalities and physical appearances will not.

All four of these ladies are very beautiful, but in a more normalized way. That is to say that their bodies are proportioned such that they have curves that are still appealing, but are also fare more accurate to what an actual woman would be shaped like. What's more is their costumes feel a lot more respectful. I don't know if I'd say they're modest so much as they simply seem to be designed with a bit more care than the typical fantasy attire. These ladies do like to show some skin, but their clothes don't look painted on, they fall like actual cloth which contributes greatly to the sense that these are real people. I found them easier to connect with because they looked this way and honestly found them far sexier than your average "sexy" comic book lady. The female form is still celebrated, it's just done so in a far more stylish, respectful, and down-to-earth way. It gets even better too once you get past the superficial differences.

This is what Betty calls dinner...yum!
Most notably, these characters feel like real people. They have their own personality traits, some good, others bad. They behave in a dynamic way that will probably remind you of people you know in real life and for me, this made all the difference. These women have different backgrounds, varying goals, and different lifestyle preferences that range from simple things like what they like to eat to more complex stuff like their sexual orientations and relationship history. These women are also very adept in the art of combat. Each have their own strengths and weaknesses in battle and watching them work together as a unit was an absolute treat. To this point I should clarify that this isn't some kind of over-the-top girl-power ultra-feminist type of deal. Instead, what you get is feminism in a far more positive and constructive sense than what most people associate with that word. These ladies aren't inherently better than anyone else, they're just very good at what they do and they put a lot of passion into doing it. To see female characters come off this well is a truly rare thing, even in the more progressive fantasy genre.

The vast plethora of side characters are equally wonderful. The Four Daves (another mercenary band) was a total hoot even though they are largely just background characters. Then there is Braga, "Old Lady" Bernadette, and a whole host of other great sides that add a nice flavor to each of the issues without ever detracting from our leading ladies. Captain Sawyer Silver is probably one of the more prominent side-presences and he interacts with the Rat Queens in a fun and believable way. Overall, the cast is just flawless from the main protagonists all the way down to the people that you will only see in a scattered few panels.

WORLD/SETTING 
I mentioned before that this is the type of thing that Fantasy regulars will feel right at home in. This is absolutely true for the setting which takes place exclusively in and around the city of Palisade. This isn't really a sprawling adventure story, but rather one that is a bit more concentrated on the affairs of a single part of the world. That may be a bit disappointing to some, but for me this made for a far more meaningful story since the writers weren't spending precious time delivering exposition on new
locations at every turn. We get to know Palisade in the first issue and that becomes the center of our attention until the final page is turned. Fortunately it is an interesting and diverse enough city that I never really felt curious about other places in the world. In fact, I would have been vastly disappointed if I was ever torn away because the city is a sprawling space that is staggeringly beautiful to look at and one that holds a lot of intrigue as well. In a very true to life way, Palisade felt like the entire world or at leas the only part that really mattered.

Fortunately, the backdrops aren't all urban. There are points where the adventurers must go out beyond the city walls, but they never go too far. It was nice to see the lush wilderness that surrounds Palisade since it offered a more diverse set of scenery to enjoy. I don't know if this place ever really takes on a certain character of it's own, but it certainly offered a worthy backdrop for all of the wonderful personalities to exist in. Perhaps part of this potential shortcoming comes from the fact that the plotline doesn't quite keep up with the rest of this story's elements.

PLOT/TONE 
RAT QUEENS kicks off on a really strong note. The world around Palisade is filled with dangerous creatures like goblins and orcs. All of which present huge hazards to the citizens, but the Rat Queens are there to keep the danger outside of the city's walls...at least that's what they used to do. Now that the Queens have a lot more money and a bit too much free time, they present as much of a hazard to the city as any monster might. They're reckless, rambunctious, and not always the most respectful. Because of this, they, along with several other bands of rowdy mercenaries, are forced to take up assignments where they go out and clear areas of dangerous creatures. During this round of blood-soaked chores, the Queens discover a plot to kill off mercenaries. Members of other bands fall at the hands of these mysterious assassins and upon surviving their own encounter, the ladies must uncover the plot behind these attacks. This setup, which spans the first two chapters/issues in the volume, creates a very positive first impression and kicks off what promised to be a compelling narrative.

This all sort of falls apart once Chapter 3 comes around and we get a bit of a break from the main thread. There was a lot of potential with the mysterious killer theme since a lot of people in the town harbored resentment toward the mercenaries and some might have had cause to want them dead. The twist that comes at the end of this chapter wasn't something I expected, but it also wasn't terribly shocking nor did it solve the mystery in an especially satisfying way. We get glimpses at the various background stories for the Queens, but a lot of it feels like a setup for stories to come rather than anything that actually holds any impact in this volume. Scenes featuring Betty and Violet felt particularly unfulfilling in this issue and these loose ends really aren't at all tied up since Chapters 4 and 5 are more focused on a battle that occurs. The end of five sees resolution to some things, but ends things with a lot more questions than before. There's still some potential with the plot to kill the Queens and some extra layers have been added to that scheme, but I didn't walk away with a satisfying conclusion to the main story arch. To be completely clear on this end, I'm not at all saying the story is nonexistent or weak, it's just that I didn't feel a sense of true completion upon flipping those last pages of the book. This does pose a bit of a problem as I'm left to wonder if the writers really have any interest in granting readers that sort of satisfaction since every single issue ended with a cliffhanger of sorts. This may not be altogether irregular for a comic series which wants readers to keep buying the next installments, but at the same time, I can only go so long without having SOMETHING closed off in a rewarding way.

As for the overall tone of this piece, I've mentioned that this is indeed a really funny piece of fiction. It is also a very gruesome one and is at times a bit somber. Hannah's sour belligerence, Betty's wacky silliness, and Violet's never-ending struggle to come up with a badass one liner all make for fantastically hilarious moments. There is a mix of stereotypical fantasy-speak mixed in with modern day slang that just works so well. Then there is the absolutely gruesome gore that comes in copious amounts. There were some shots that literally had me cringing and perhaps a little queasy. That said, the action is wonderful and isn't so overdone that it felt tiresome. Some of my favorite moments from this volume came from the battles that the Queens get themselves into. All of this is remarkably well supported by the gorgeous visuals that grace the pages of this book.

ART
A shot of Violet on one of the chapter covers
The artwork in this piece is almost beyond reproach. At it's best, RAT QUEENS is one of the most visually stunning works of graphic fiction that I have ever seen. It makes frequent use of bigger panels so there are a lot more detailed shots of the characters and the action taking place. This does have a trade-off though. One is that it speeds up the momentum of the reading experience since there are less panels per page to look at which makes for what I perceived to be a shorter read. The second drawback is that when there are smaller, less well-done panels, they look so much uglier than they would otherwise. Small, low-res panels are not at all uncommon in comics and I am almost always bothered by them, but the issue is heightened in Rat Queens because they are employed so infrequently. Even with this dip in the graphic quality though, I still felt like the visuals look better than even some of the most beloved works of graphic fantasy on the market. For example, I've looked at the SAGA series and just don't find the art that appealing at all. To me it looks flat and lacks a certain texture or volume. Even at it's ugliest, Rat Queens still manages to deliver on images with depth and complexity and even outshines INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US VOLUME 1 in this area (in my opinion). The colors are wonderful, the action is well depicted, and everything is superbly lit. The only other thing I noticed was that the artist spent noticeably less time on detailing the backgrounds than the characters. It's not bad exactly, but if you're the type of reader that likes looking at each pane, you will notice that a few shortcuts are taken in these backdrops. I have to stress again though that this is an absolutely beautiful work of art. Many of my complaints in this area are things that I think the casual reader will probably not care much about at all.

CONCLUSION
RAT QUEENS VOLUME 1: SASS AND SORCERY is something I can easily recommend to just about everyone. There is a little something for people of all types to enjoy here. The best part is I could see seasoned comic readers loving this every bit as much as complete newbies to the medium. My only caveat to all this is that you really shouldn't pick it up if you're intention is to stop at this volume. VOLUME 1 is a wonderful introduction to a lush world with vibrant characters, but it does not really tell a story from beginning to end, at least not in a way that feels truly satisfying. I certainly enjoyed it a great deal and fully intend to see what VOLUME 2 has to offer, but will also be going in with some skepticism over whether or not I will really be getting any more fulfillment out of it. In either case, I am very happy I gave this series a chance and look forward to picking up the next installment!

RAT QUEENS VOLUME 1: SASS AND SORCERY collects issues 1-5 in the series and can be picked up in paperback format on Amazon.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

UPDATE: 8/4/15

My TBR is cleaned up, the awards readalongs have begun, and I have posted reviews for Whispers of the World that Was (4), Sinking (4), The Hunger Games (5), and Catching Fire (5).

It seems like I will be running off of a monthly reading schedule after all since I am participating in the BookTubeSFF Awards readalongs and have a goal of reading two of the books from each month (August, September, and October). This will have a lot of influence on what it is I read from now until the end of October so things will be a little different from the update post I made in June.

So here's what is going on for me in the month of August:

I'm currently reading:
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
    •  Up for the Best Novel award in the BookTubeSFF Awards. This is my primary read in the month of August and one that I have greatly anticipated due to all the great things I've heard about it. I'm only about sixty pages in, but I like what I see so far!
  • Unstable Prototypes (Big Sigma Book 2) by Joseph R. Lallo
    • This is a carry-over from last month. I think it's a worthy enough follow-up to Bypass Gemini, but it is a bit longer and there is a tonal/narrative shift here that is perfectly enjoyable yet doesn't really rouse me to rush to the finish line. I'm using this one as sort of a slow burner to just read if I need to kill a half hour or so here and there. 
  • Rat Queens Volume One: Sass and Sorcery by 
    • An irreverently funny series that I am in love with already! I've finished three out of five issues in the volume and will likely have  a review up very quickly. It's great fun, has gorgeous art and is the only SFF graphic work that I will be reading so I'm trying to make it last, but that's probably just not going to happen. 
I'm planning on reading:

  • Sung In Blood by Glen Cook
    • This is a shorter book that I randomly picked up at a bookstore near where  I work. It's short enough where I will probably just pick it up and kill it on one weekend if I finish my SFF readings earlier than expected. 
  • Mockingjay (The Hunger Games # 3) by Suzanne Collins
    • I WILL read this before seeing the movie. With the SFF readings, it will be tough to fit it in, but I blasted through Catching Fire really quickly so maybe I can just cram it into a week.  
Then there are the September SFF reads that I will be looking into and most likely picking up. Both of these are nominated for the Best Short Fiction category so this might be a good place to slip in one of the books above.
  • The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
  • The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye by Matthew Kressel

But what about the other books I had as "To Read?" Well, let me tell you: 

Kinslayer (The Lotus War Book 2) and Endsinger (The Lotus War Book 3) by Jay Kristoff are absolutely still on my TBR for this year. I picutre these as being like an early Christmas Present to myself or something (or perhaps a real Christmas Present - who knows!) I aim to at least read Kinslayer by the end of the year.

Artificial Evolution (Big Sigma Book 3) by Joseph R. Lallo is one that I will certainly read eventually, but since I'm neither done with Unstable Prototypes nor overly ambitious to rip through this trilogy, I will just pick it up whenever feels good so I think this one is on hold for now. 
    I'm currently writing:
    • The next big project of mine is finally underway! I'm still not yet at a point where I feel comfortable announcing the concept or even the title, but there has been some good progress made and I'm excited to keep working at it until I have something worthy of publication. 
    • Visions of: The Future is still in the works. I haven't heard about the project's status just yet, but we indie authors lead busy lives so as soon as there is some more news on it, I'll definitely be posting it here. 
    • I keep promising more Writing Insight Posts and I kind of delivered with one on giveaways. There will definitely be more, but my TBR Cleanup got me a little side-tracked and it can be hard deciding what to write about since I'm no expert at any of this myself.  The main plan is to just keep it honest and keep it real and I'll see where that gets me. 

    Saturday, August 1, 2015

    UPDATE: TBR CLEANUP - FINAL VERDICT


    INTRODUCTION
    After going through my list of planned reads here are the results of what I'll definitely keep and what I will be passing on. To keep things a bit shorter than the first post, I will group these in a somewhat more concise way. If something's been removed, then I will provide a bit of justification as to why something didn't keep my interest upon giving it a second look or why I selected one book over another.


    BOOKS IN SERIES I HAVE ALREADY STARTED (And Knew I Would Continue)
    These are all books that belong to series I have already begun. Because they are series I will like, I will most definitely be reading all of these:
    1. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
    2. Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff
    3. Endsigner by Jay Kristoff
    4. Injustice Year Two Volume 1 by Tom Taylor
    5. Injustice Year Two Volume 2 by Tom Taylor
    6. Artificial Evolution by Joseph R. Lallo


    BOOKS I PICKED FROM THE BOOKTUBE AWARDS READALONGS
    There are six books scheduled to be read each month from August through October until these BookTubers do their awards special. I haven't read a single one and want to catch up, but can probably only do one or two of them a month. There are four from August I had my eyes on and really needed to decide quickly which I should pick. At this particular moment in time, both of these are technically now on my Currently Reading list:
    1. The Martian by Andy Weir
      • This is one I have heard a TON about but was fairly undecided on picking up till I checked it out at a bookstore, flipped through some pages and now feel pretty confident that I'll love it. I can't wait to do the read-along for it. 
    2. Rat Queens by 
      • Checked this out using the "Look Indside" feature on Amazon and holy moly, the artwork is well done! And it is so irreverently funny only a few pages in. I just had to pick this one up! Hopefully it comes in in time for me to do the read-along for it.  
    OTHER BOOKS REMAINING ON MY TBR
    There were a number of books I put on my To Read shelf that I really didn't know much about. I figured that if I won them, then I would read them for sure and if not, then I still wanted to check them out. These are as follows (not in order):
    1. The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft
      • A bunch of my friends love these stories and I feel like I should read at least a few of them. I think this will be one I just get in eBook format for casual reading
    2. The Written by Ben Galley
      • A super cool and very successful indie author. I watched a really great interview with him and am curious about his writing. Plus I love the cover since it heavily reminds me of the standalone Prince of Persia game that Ubisoft released. 
    3. Angel War by Philip Dodd
      • Loved this guy's other book and though this one looks a little more serious, I think I might like it. It's this strange, mythological spin on Christianity which I'm iffy on, but the guy is a great writer and a fellow indie so I think this one is worth a shot at some point. 
    4. Sung in Blood by Glen Cook
      • A short novel I picked up at a bookstore that seemed like I might like. I'll definitely read this eventually, I'm just not sure when.
    5. Ogden by Cory Abernathy
      • Cory wrote a review for Digitarum and I discovered that he was not only another indie author, but also a fellow Indie Book Booster Club member so I think will definitely be trying to return the favor to Cory at some point. 
    6. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
      • Think I will probably be keeping this one on the list since I haven't really read any Gaiman.
    7. Ultraexenopia by M.A. Phipps
      • Sampled this one and really liked the concept. The writer also has a nice literary voice AND I do believe she's a fellow indie. Will definitely be picking this up at some point.
    8. Fires of Invention by J. Scott Savage
      • Apparently not out until September 29 this year, so I can't really sample it. The premise still sounds interesting enough so I'll keep this one for now and check it out later
    9. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
      • A sort of fairy tale in novel format. Since I already own Stardust by Neil Gaiman, it will probably be a long while before I get around to this one. I'd also be really into an audio-book version even if it means just doing the Kindle and paying extra for narration since the audio quality is pretty good and this would be a prime candidate for my next audiobook. 
    10. Watchmen by Alan Moore
      • The art style is a little old and the story is definitely brutal, but this is so widely loved and regarded as a classic, that I still wan't to give it a go. I feel like once I'm into it, I won't be able to put it down. 
    11. White Wind Rising by Dan Davis
      • Read a sample and have to admit that I was quite charmed. It's an indie book by an author I've never really spoken to and will probably be picking up in the near future. There were some small potential copy-editing errors I noticed in the first chapters which isn't a GREAT omen, but I liked what I saw enough to want the full version. 
      • Infernal byJoseph T.  Bowder
        • Another indie book that I wanted to sample. The first few pages of the sample didn't really grab me, but I kept on and was quite intrigued by the end of it so I think I'll be reading this after all. 
      BOOKS THAT WON'T BE STAYING ON MY TBR

      Note: Two things that I may bring up often as reasons for my not picking up a book are price and page length. Lengthy and/or expensive books are find - completely 100% fine. The problem is that as a reader, when I pick something up I'm unfamiliar with, namely an author I've never read before, then I'm kind of taking a chance on whether or not I will like their work. Sometimes I'll check out something new and I just instantly know that I will enjoy a book based on its theme, tone, writing style, or general concept. In those cases, money and length are really not of too much concern, but in cases where I'm not really sold on the aforementioned elements, a high-priced eBook and/or narrative that promises to be a time-sink make me a lot more hesitant to give something a shot. I don't like wasting money and I hate to waste my time and with so many other books out there that I might love, spending either commodity on something I'm less than thrilled with will only make me dislike it more so I try to steer clear of that - for everyone's sake. Hopefully that seems like a reasonable standpoint to most.

      I'll kick things off with the readalong books that I won't be going with:
      1. Half a King by Joe Abercrombie
        • I read a sample and quite honestly I just didn't love the setup, writing style, or general tone of the piece. It kinda felt like the sort of book that tells you a lot and really doesn't show you anything. I liked the Viking inspired setting, but there didn't seem to be a particularly interesting use of it in terms of how the first few chapters sets the plot. Ultimately, what does it for me is the price. I'd probably risk trying this if I could get it cheap on Kindle, but NOPE it's $8.99 just for the eBook version and without really being all that thrilled over the style or where I think the plot will go, I think I'll be passing on this one. It's also almost 400 pages which isn't a huge deal, but if those 400 pages involve content I don't care for then that starts to feel very long indeed. Picking up new books is sort of a gamble in a lot of ways and the odds of my liking this don't seem so good.
      2. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
        • The writing on this piece is actually quite good. I just really don't feel that into the concept and at another highly priced, fairly long eBook, ($9.40), I don't think this is one I'll take a chance on. 
      And here are the others that I looked and and am just not really thinking that I actually end up picking up:
      1. Echo 8 by Sharon Lynn  Fisher
        • While the concept still interests me, I just don't love the wrtiting and the eBook is a tad pricey. The Paperback is very fairly priced and it's a good length. I was iffy enough on the Sci Fi romance angle to start with and I just feel like I'd rather read other things instead. I'd definitely recommend taking a look at this one though if this hybrid genre is of interest to you.
      2. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
        • I think this is one of those series where I am ashamed to admit I'd really rather just watch the movies. I really liked the visuals and the actor's performances and the story was pretty good too. I'm just not sure if reading the book will really engage me in the same way. The writing's fine and all, I'm really not sure what my issue is with it other than its a distinctively YA style. I think FOR NOW I will take this one off the TBR, but it's not like I'll forget about it so I may still end up picking it up at some point. 
      3. The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington 
        • There's really not any easy way to preview this book. It's only 200 + pages, but without a preview or even a Kindle option, I think I'll just pass on this one. It's recommended to me on Goodreads so I think it will just stay there in case I ever do want to give it another look. If I ever stumble across it someplace, I'll definitely peek at it then too. 
      4. Barking Madness by Ryan Hill
        • Something happened where this book is now no longer for sale, but is rather a pre-order. Unless I get back in touch with the author at some point, I think this one will also be dropped. That's not to say I won't look at it later when it goes back on the market, but it's also a very long one and since I'm doing all the readalongs until October and trying to finish up some of the series I started, I don't think I'll get to this one this year. 
      5. Heather by A.J. Sendall
        • The writing is fine on this one, but the content and language is just a bit dark for my tastes. It's written by a fellow indie, but I don't think I'll be able to do it, mainly due to the strong use of choice words in dialogue which I didn't feel was all that strong with or without all the swearing anyway. Given the length, I could see myself feeling a little bitter by the end of it all and maybe not giving it the greatest rating. Not my cup of tea, but I know this gritty, crime-centric type of drama is popular among a lot of folks. 

      CONCLUSION
      With eighteen books still on my TBR, I feel like I shouldn't very well have to worry about running out of new reads anytime soon especially since a couple of the books listed are ones that I already own. I've ultimately ruled out seven titles for various reasons. None of them seem like altogether bad books (they probably wouldn't have ended up on my TBR in the first place if I thought so), but after a closer look, I also don't think they will be ones I'll enjoy as much as I'd like to, so in that case, it's probably best to leave them alone. I also have my three months of readalongs with the BookTubeSFF awards to consider. I aim to have two reads with them each month which will keep me pretty busy until the last couple months of the year. I'll also need to pick which ones I want to dive into during September and October. I think I still have quite a bit to get through, but I feel a lot more confident that my TBR now reflects the actual list of books that I intend to eventually read.