Reading Ranting – Don’t Have Time to Read?

Disclaimer: The product recommendations mentioned below are based on my personal experience. Also, I have no affiliation with them.

Do you have time to read? Me neither. I also find it super hard to focus on written words after a long or busy day, especially on Kindle because I only have my phone for digital books. My mind races at a million miles per hour, and I struggle to pay attention to just one thing. Ironically, I’m a slow reader, too, so it’s extra difficult for me to sit down with a book no matter how good the story is. 

However, audiobooks have changed my reading habits, and I now read/listen to a book in about a week as opposed to a month. I listen during my drive to work, when I’m washing up, when I go for a walk, or sometimes in the shower. And I definitely find it helpful to wind down at the end of the day and listen in bed. 

But audiobooks are expensive, right?

Yes. They can be, but an Amazon Audible subscription is about the same price as a book, and you get 1 credit for any book, plus a selection of books included like Kindle Unlimited. I’ve read some really good books on their subscription. If you want to buy and keep more books, they’re a lot cheaper as a member, so it really doesn’t cost that much. 

Alexa will read Kindle books aloud and is quite natural. I sometimes switch from UK to US or Australian English, so each book sounds different. I needed a better speaker to connect to my phone because my Wi-Fi doesn’t reach my kitchen where I like to listen to music or my ebooks. When I saw how cheap the basic Alexa Echo was, I bought that instead, and it connects to my Wi-Fi just outside my kitchen. I just tell it to read my book, and it does. It’s also fun for music, information, and connecting to my smart plugs, so it has infinite uses beyond a speaker.

I also get a few ebooks as ARCs or beta copies and I use Google Books for those. Google uses its own voice to read those aloud or I can use FB reader’s premium version with Google voices. Personally, I prefer FB reader because it shows the play and pause options in my phone’s notification section, so it’s easier to control. 

Thanks to these fun apps and devices, my reading has become so much easier and more enjoyable.

Also, not long after I bought my Alexa, my internet service provider gave me a media assistant and a shiny new Samsung A6 tablet. Thank you, Movistar. Now I have a bigger device to read ebooks and the assistant acts like another speaker that I put in my bathroom, which is the opposite end of my flat to my Echo and I can connect the two. So many connections to make life easier 😍😍😍

My new media assistant and my new tablet.

Writing Ranting – Magic Makes a Story

Magic systems are more than just world building in fantasy fiction. As a writer, you make the rules and can use your magic system as part of the plot.

Here are things to consider for your magic system when planning your story…

  • Create a challenge for your characters like newly discovered magic, opening a magical room, translating a magic book.
  • Represent something emotional for your MC. Maybe trauma locked away their powers. Maybe an estranged parent has answers.
  • Establish a social hierarchy. More power could mean more respected or feared. Certain abilities might be good or bad in society.
  • Tools to complete a bigger task. Maybe a specific power will achieve the final goal. Maybe a certain combination of abilities is the only way to solve a problem.
  • Secret magic. Perhaps magic is banned, so any magic users have to hide it. Someone could dabble in dark magic and they have to keep it a secret.
  • A race. There could be something special that multiple people are trying to find.
  • Base your magic system on something real. Manipulating natural energy or elements can make it easy to set limits and exceptions.
  • Magical conduits like devices, runes, spells, etc. can have specific magical effects on things or people around them. 

There are probably more, but these are some of the main things that I have in various WIPS. 

My favourite is connecting emotion to magic. I have a character who fears her magic because her mother couldn’t maintain control, and my MC is worried she’ll end up the same. Another WIP has merging magic that is only possible with a strong emotional connection like family, friends and extra fun when it’s between lovers.

In one WIP, I imagine the magic as a way to combine magic, science, and religion in that one all powerful being (a sort of star) released a massive amount of energy that created the universe. This being then created worlds and more masses of energy that are like stars from a science perspective but are also similar to angels. Each ability has a scientific explanation or theory behind it, such as creating wormholes like portals, breaking down and reforming physical matter for shifting, bending light, etc. Sure, much of it is pushing it in relation to exact science, but it helps me as the writer decide what is and isn’t possible. 

One WIP has stones that hold the power of the elements, and only specific people can use them through special devices. The stones are also used for everyday things like light, heat, showers, helping plants grow, and powering airships.

Book Review – Dark Fae – Ruthless Boys of the Zodiac book 1 – By Caroline Peckham and Susanne Valenti – 4.5 stars

Warning: May contain spoilers, but opening comments are spoiler-free. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I loved this book and the characters. It’s set in a mirror world to our own, but Fae live there in place of humans. They have the power of the elements plus a magical creature form. Dragons, vampires, basilisks, and harpies are just a few of the amazingly fun creatures along with lion shifters and werewolves. The list goes on…

Elise starts off with a mission to find her brother’s killer and fakes her way into Aurora Academy. Her grief and need for vengeance drive her on her solo mission until she realises she might just need a friend or two to get her through it all. Or she’ll end up on the wrong side of a gang fight. 

What I liked…

Elise – I love female characters who don’t take shit from people around them. At the same time, she needs friends after losing her brother, and is open to it with the right people.

Dante – Love the name. Love dragon shifters. Live storm dragons. So he was an instant 😍 for me. Also, a fun balance of friendly and “not to be messed with”

Leon the lion 🤣 – He’s very much the tame one compared to the other guys, but he’s also what Elise needs to lighten her mood. We get to see hints of his beast so he’s not always the oversized purring kitty cat. 

Ryder – Interesting character with a seriously underappreciated creature for his shifter form. His past trauma that explains his current behaviour though he lets others believe differently. He has feelings that he can’t bear others seeing. And he has awesome hypnosis powers.

What I didn’t like…

Gabriel – Honestly, I don’t feel much of anything for him. Sure, he’s one of the good ones… mostly, but he’s not particularly interesting as a character considering his role in this story. He’s also kinda annoying with Elise even though we kinda get his reasoning. Not cool to play hot and cold then blame her for it.

Final thoughts…

Definitely a good read if you like questionable characters, badass magical powers, countless mythological creatures, and murder mysteries. Also, if you’ve read Zodiac Academy then you’ll love this. It’s less chaotic in all the crazy things that happen, but still exciting to read. And if you haven’t read ZA, then I suggest you do after this. Some characters overlap, which is always fun with series set in the same world.

Monthly TBR Update – June 2022

Oops. Sorry it’s late. I meant to post this last weekend but… tired.

I read some looooong books this month, so didn’t get through that many. But I did finish book 7 of Zodiac Academy. I don’t think I’ll survive until the next one in December, so I’ll probably read the novellas some point over the summer.

Books I read this month…
  • Zodiac Academy book 4, Shadow Princess by Caroline Peckham and Susanne Valenti 
  • Zodiac Academy book 5, Cursed Fates
  • Zodiac Academy book 6, Fated Throne
  • Zodiac Academy book 7, Heartless Sky
Mini non-spoiler reviews…

Wild. Just freaking wild. So many things go wrong and only half go right. All the books are hilarious, heart-wrenching, steamy, and outrageously addictive. It is very immature at times, so I wouldn’t recommend it for people who like “serious” characters. But they have serious moments that just draw on so many emotions that I’m left flailing after. See my reading ranting page for full reviews.

Books I’m going to read next month… 

It’s going to be a demanding month at work with the summer camp, so I’m sticking purely to audiobooks. 

  • Ruthless Boys of the Zodiac book 1 – Dark Fae by Caroline Peckham and Susanne Valenti 
  • RBotZ book 2
  • Book 4
  • Book 5

Books I’m putting on hold until August…

  • The Never King by Nikki St. Crowe
  • Ruin & Roses by Deanna Ortega
  • Halven Rising book 3, Fates Fulfilled

Book Review – Heartless Sky – Zodiac Academy Book 6 – By Caroline Peckham and Susanne Valenti – 5 stars

Warning: May contain spoilers, but opening comments are spoiler-free. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Twisted Sisters never fail to make me laugh and cry throughout every one of these books. Just… 😭😭😭

So things seemed a bit too random for a while until it all clicked, so bear that in mind when going into this book. But if you liked the spice in previous books, prepared to have your mind blown in this one. War can make people realise how precious things are, so everyone is humping like rabbits as if the world is ending. I freaking love it when it’s meaningful. 

What I liked…

Darius – Oh, Darius. You break my heart every time you break Tory’s. But in this one, he’s mostly behaving himself when it comes to not being an alphahole. I’d love him anyway because it’s only fiction, but seeing him be nice and truly escape his father’s hold over him is really satisfying. 

Tory – I like how she lets Darius get away with some of his shit because he lets her get away with hers, but she makes the point that he’s pushing it. She’s always fun and badass and stubborn. 

Darcy and Orion dial back the personal drama, even though Seth adds a little awkwardness. 

Xavier – He’s finally able to explore what he wants. Also, his timing is hilarious when he… no spoilers… He’s just really funny in this.  

Seth and Caleb – No spoilers, but seriously, these two are adorable and steamy with the flirting and build up to the “when will they finally admit their feelings?” that started a couple of books ago. I’m like… grrrr, just do it already. 

Curses and fates – Again, no spoilers, but there’s just so much for the Vegas and Heirs to overcome when it comes to this. I love the idea of invisible or distant enemies that aren’t so easy to fight. 

What I didn’t like…

Lionel POV – As Tory would say “no thanks.” But I kinda get why the twisted sisters put in in there.

Random POVS – Again, just… not feeling Geraldine, Max, or Gabriel in this one. Plus we get a random Catalina POV that didn’t feel right to me. 

Final thoughts…

I don’t know what to do with my life until the next book is out. I saw somewhere it was in December. Thank f**k for the novellas and retelling of book 1 from the Heirs’ POVs to help me get through the next 6 months until the final book comes out. I hope it gets published sooner.

Writing Update- The Fourth Wall Series.

Oops. I meant to give this one last check yesterday before posting it, since I post my writing ranting on Wednesdays. This week has been a bit weird with final prep for summer camp at work and family health stuff getting to me. Actually, this is perfect way to introduce todays post because it’s something I work on when I don’t have much.

The Fourth Wall is a new mini series I’ve started based on a TikTok video I made about my MC accidentally hearing me as the writer. I thought it would make a few short and fun pieces to have for various characters where they overhear me or tumble into my world if it suits the story’s magic system, which in some cases, it does.

It’s also a way to get an interest in my novels as prequel chapters since they’re set not long before the mains story and don’t spoil anything. I have some other short stories planned for various WIPs as non-spoiler backstories, and some bonus chapters from other POVs. But they’re something to share after I’ve published to keep people interested in between each book in the series.

Mostly, these started when I got into writing slumps or in the middle of planning. They helped with world-building and fleshing out my characters or detailing past events that don’t need whole scenes or chapters in the main book. 

I have my debut novel about to go through the publication process once I’ve chosen my editor and made some decisions on art, etc. My Fourth Wall story with Clair will be available before publication as a glimpse into her life. Also, it’s something fun to write during a busy few days where I need to write but can’t focus on the main novel.

Book Review – Caraval by Stephanie Garber – 5 stars

Warning: May contain spoilers, but opening comments are spoiler-free. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Wow. This book swept me far, far away just like Legend’s game. It has a circus feel to it with quirky characters and strange goings-on that remind me a little of Sorcery of Thorns and The Discworld series. 

Following Scarlett’s journey from her simple and planned-out life to being thrown into the most challenging game of her life was so much fun. Every chapter has something exciting and surprising to keep me on my toes, and the romance was nicely done. 

What I liked…

Everything.

The writing was fabulous, so creative and captivating. I couldn’t put this book down.

I loved the quirky magic in the game and fancy clothes that changed colours with Scarlett’s mood.

All the characters were suspicious in their own way, and knowing who to trust was super hard.

Julian had me constantly second-guessing his role in the game as well in Scarlett’s life.

 I didn’t even care how young the characters were because it’s hardly mentioned, and Scarlett begins the story engaged, so I genuinely thought the characters were older.

What I didn’t like…

Nothing worth mentioning. 

Final thoughts…

If you like games with cryptic clues, mysterious characters, and unique magic, then this book is for you.

Book Review – House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J. Maas – 4.5 stars

Warning: Review contains minor spoilers. Opening comments are spoiler-free.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The ending was 5 stars, but the whole book loses points for what felt like a long haul for the first 500 pages. Worth it though.

In book 1, Bryce and Hunt survived a demon attack on the city, ark angels manipulating them, and discovering her best friend, Danika, had kept so many secrets before her untimely death. Now Bryce has to keep a low profile despite everyone knowing she’s the Autumn King’s daughter and a starborn princess.

I love how this series is different from Sarah’s other works. It’s grittier and a more adult style (but has plenty of adult immaturity) and the sense of the modern world in the fantasy setting. It gives it a sci-fi /urban fantasy element. 

The start was a bit of a slog. I’m not sure why it took me so long to get into it properly, but when things picked up, I knew it was worth it. I love the new POVs on top of Bryce, Hunt, and Ruhn, and I like how we delve more into the world. I always love worldbuilding. 

There are lots of surprises in this and a few twists, some made me laugh and others made me cry.

Now for minor, or non-specific, no-name, potential spoilers, so read on with caution.

What I liked…

I love when the characters discovered new things with their magic and that it was also part of the bigger story.

The fire sprites and the dragon added another fun element to the story and led the main characters to another discovery.

Night and Daybright.OMFG, I knew it. I just knew it. This couple was definitely my favourite in this book.

Bryce and Hunt get super spicy, and it was worth the wait.

The last scene. Just that scene alone had me laughing at the sheer brilliance of it.

What I didn’t like…

Silly nitpick thing but… My physics brain exploded at Cormack’s dismissal of his power being like wormholes and teleportation. Which is it? They are NOT the same thing. And speaking while teleporting…. Me thinks not. 

POV defining wasn’t well established in quite a few scenes, so I got a few paragraphs in before I worked out who’s mind we were in. 

The one thing I find frustrating with all of Sarah’s books is that POV characters keep secrets from the readers as well as from the other characters. I let it go in book 1 with Bryce’s power because she kept jumping back to a memory that hinted at it. But in this one, she keeps a pretty significant secret from the other characters and the readers. Not impressed.

I think I missed something because it was a little on the boring side at times. 

Final thoughts…

Book 1 didn’t make it to my favourites lists, but Sarah made me love the characters and their journeys, so I was invested and wanted book 2. Also, when things picked up towards the end of book 2, I found myself getting very emotional.

This is how it made me feel…