Falling down the rabbit hole…

A May 2023 wrap-up

May had delighted me with progress – not quite where I want to be, but progress nonetheless. My greatest obstacle has been dealing with the after-effects of COVID-19 (#LongCOVID.) I spent nearly a week resting up after some lung complications as a result of trying to up my exercise routine, and during that downtime fell down the rabbit hole of catching up on more episodes of ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ I should have been writing, or reading in this period, but couldn’t resist the call of the medical drama. Oi Vey! Luckily I snapped out of it and started to get back to the regularly scheduled program 🙂


Photographing the Dead (#2 Season 1 Nameless), Anomaly (0.5 The Blood Race), The Praying Mantis Bride (#3 Season 1 Nameless), Flight 3430 (#1 Flight 3430), Red Rain (#4 Season 1 Nameless), The King of Fu, Grounded (#2 Flight 3430), The Mercy of Snakes (#5 Season 1 Nameless), and Tormenting Lila (#2.5 Lila).

May wasn’t the month I wanted it to be for reading – damn ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ for being so addictive – but I did complete 9 novels/novellas. I was also not quite hitting my stride reading ‘Blitz’ by Daniel O’Malley… the pacing is really slow and the book feels overwritten – but it is all so deliciously interesting. I’m loving the book but am needing to take frequent breaks. It’s taken me all of May to get to the halfway mark. I was hoping reading ebooks in between would buy time until the pacing picks up, but that hasn’t happened yet. I’m determined to return to form in June and get my library of physical books (TBR) down. I’m not technically buying any new ebooks because they are borrowed for free through Amazon Prime, but it’s not helping my task to reduce the number of unread books sitting on my shelves. Still on that self-imposed book buying ban, now 5 months strong!

I managed to finish off 3 book series this month. All of my reads were ebooks, but only 1 contributed to my #BeatTheBacklist goal – the third book in a trilogy wasn’t available in a physical copy. It felt great to finally get back into reading ebooks again – I tend to prefer physical copies, only because of the weight of my tablet, and the life of the battery because it’s so old. Maybe I’d enjoy it more if I get a proper kindle or a new tablet in the future.

Do you have a preference on what you like to read? Hardback, paperback or ebook?

My TBR remains at 303


I had big dreams for writing in May… but reality came to bite me in the ass – literally. Because of being sick and bedridden for months, and then the effects of Long COVID, meaning symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, hair loss, chest pain, headaches, muscle aches and pains, and other regular cold and flu-like symptoms pop up when you push yourself too hard. Consequently I couldn’t exercise as much as I need to and my bursitis and sciatica flared up. Which is a constant pain in your lower back and stabbing pains that shoot down the back of your legs. So I was getting broken sleep because I was waking up in pain. And sitting at a desk is the worst thing you can do with this injury, it exacerbates the condition. So, that’s a long-winded overshare to say that not a lot of writing happened.

I tried to rig up a standing desk to let me get more work done, but it just added to the fatigue. I really felt like I was in a battle with my body this month. Especially with the copywriting and ghost writing work to fixed deadlines that helps pay the bills. But in the last week of May I noticed the flare-up leave and I was able to get in a proper work-out again. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it remains that way for June and beyond. I’d forgotten what the pain was like and was just about to make an appointment with my doctor for some heavy duty painkillers (yuck) before I turned the corner.

May just made me feel old and like my body was falling apart.

On the up-side I got to schedule my book reviews for June and July in advance (because they are fairly quick to write-up.) So that left me feeling proud of some productivity.

So my writing goals for June are the same and May – finish off that queer contemporary novel I’m over half way through. And if I still have time start on the science fiction novel I’m 2 chapters into. Plus I have a couple of large editing jobs contracted for that month. But it’s my favourite thing to do in the writing process, so it won’t feel like a task at all.


There have been some great new shows to indulge in for April, but after a huge viewing month in March, I wanted to pull back a little and make sure I’m keeping my time productive.

Grease : Rise of the Pink Ladies, Up Here, Sweet Tooth (Season 2), Citadel,  9-1-1 (Season 6), and 9-1-1 Lone Star (Season 4).

Really enjoyed all of these shows, I’m always up for a musical show like ‘Grease : Rise of the Pink Ladies’ and ‘Up There,’ they are stand out in the comedy, acting and singing. ‘Citadel’ is jam packed full of action and is laced with humour here and there which tickled my chicken! And the ‘9-1-1’ franchise is an old favourite and love the familiar characters and their stories. ‘Sweet Tooth’ just had this heart-warming undertone that kept me cozy on these cold Aussie winter nights.

Finally got myself all up to date on ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ now my OCD can let me get invested into some new shows 🙂

Movies: Upgrade, The Mother, Simulant, Renfield, Dungeons and Dragons : Honor Among Thieves, and Mafia Mamma.

Some fun sci-fi, and brilliant action movie starring Jennifer Lopez (‘The Mother’) and Toni Collette is hilarious – as always – in ‘Mafia Mamma.’ Honourable mention to Dungeons and Dragons : Honor Among Thieves’ and ‘Renfield’ – a fantasy laugh riot. A good month for movies!


I’ve found some great online content in the form of blogs and Instagram this month, so there’s been a flurry of activity in social media for me. Which is great, in previous months I commented that I wasn’t finding all those people I was subscribed to had either stopped posting or switched to a completely unrelated field from reading and writing. So I have been in search of fun new content creators, and it’s starting to pay off. I’m enjoying my scroll feed again.

If you can recommend a social media account, shout them out in the comments below.

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Are we losing some young readers after middle grade publications?

I recently watched a discussion, and then online hate pile on author Shaun David Hutchinson after he tweeted that currently the YA market is dominated by books targeted towards female readers. Which is true – mainly because the biggest market share is female. You don’t see as many boys reading for recreation in the tween and teen years.

When I was in my teen years, there was no YA, so we just had to flounder around the libraries and book shops and find our own way. Boys reading were seen as geeks and nerds and socially shunned. It was the boys who rough-housed and played sports who were the most influential members of the scholastic microcosm. But granted, back then there was little representation of girls in literature.

In recent years with the popularity of YA and a surge in representation of strong female characters – and female authors breaking into what was (and in some places still is) an ‘old-white-man’ dominated industry. Finally feminine voices are thriving in literature. But has the pendulum swung too far?

The heated responses I saw as I fell down the twitter black hole were mostly about how the publishing industry was gatekeeping women out for so long, and now they have their moment in the sun and you want to wind back the clock? Which is obviously not what Shaun David Hutchinson was saying. He merely commented on a current market trend – and has seen firsthand through the experience in publishing – and things like school visits, that after middle grade titles, the young adult market has a majority of female led protagonists. Which means there aren’t a lot of books for boy to identify with.

I don’t see anything wrong with that statement, and not overly bothered with the publishing landscape because it ebbs and flows with trends and marketing gimmicks. I love the current upward tick in diverse books and socially aware characters. It’s adding some fresh blood and perspectives to literature – and reflecting the interests of the next generation.

And at the end of the day – if you look hard enough, you can find plenty of novels that fit your interest.

Looking at YA today – a genre that been around since the 1800’s but came into popularity in the 1970-80’s (remember the ‘choose your own adventure’ books?) In the late 90’s the Harry Potter franchise started to move publishers towards marketing young adult as a genre and we started seeing sections appear in book stores – separate from children’s or younger readers.  Following that with the success of Twilight, Divergent, and the like – we get a surge of female-led young adult titles dominating the market. And since 2017 we are starting to see an explosion of diversity in this category. So it’s easy to see every 10 or so years the publishing landscape shifts and we see popularity in a different genre or style. It’s a little awkward at the moment where there is a growing number of diverse titles hitting the shelves – but that is coinciding with the number of books getting added to ban lists. (I can’t wait to see how that turns out!) I still think there are plenty of titles out there with male protagonists in the YA market and I don’t necessarily believe this is a gatekeeping thing from the publishers, it’s simply a fashionable trend. Plus I think this is more a social issue relating to values placed on reading in childhood. There are so many gender stereotypes enforced – girls should be seen and not heard, boys will be boys… I think there is more blame to place there for lower engagement of younger male readers. How many families encourage boys to read recreationally? How many younger boys have access to reading? It’s a much bigger social quagmire.

What’s your take on this issue?

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Most Anticipated June 2023 Releases

I waded through over a whopping 200 new releases for June to find the top picks I’m interested in. This list is dominated by mystery/thrillers and romance. There’s definitely three titles I’m looking to add to my shopping list… the rest I’m still undecided about. I wonder what will tip my opinion either way?

The Only One Left – Riley Sager (Thriller/Mystery)

At seventeen, Lenora Hope
Hung her sister with a rope

Now reduced to a schoolyard chant, the Hope family murders shocked the Maine coast one bloody night in 1929. While most people assume seventeen-year-old Lenora was responsible, the police were never able to prove it. Other than her denial after the killings, she has never spoken publicly about that night, nor has she set foot outside Hope’s End, the cliffside mansion where the massacre occurred.

Stabbed her father with a knife
Took her mother’s happy life

It’s now 1983, and home-health aide Kit McDeere arrives at a decaying Hope’s End to care for Lenora after her previous nurse fled in the middle of the night. In her seventies and confined to a wheelchair, Lenora was rendered mute by a series of strokes and can only communicate with Kit by tapping out sentences on an old typewriter. One night, Lenora uses it to make a tantalizing offer—I want to tell you everything.

“It wasn’t me,” Lenora said
But she’s the only one not dead

As Kit helps Lenora write about the events leading to the Hope family massacre, it becomes clear there’s more to the tale than people know. But when new details about her predecessor’s departure come to light, Kit starts to suspect Lenora might not be telling the complete truth—and that the seemingly harmless woman in her care could be far more dangerous than she first thought.

The Silent Bride – Shalini Boland (Thriller)

It’s the wedding day of Alice’s dreams. Until it becomes a nightmare…

Alice and Seth are a perfect love story: the handsome doctor and his beautiful fiancée. They’re wealthy, well liked and made for each other—the envy of all their friends. Alice can’t wait for the day of their dream wedding. But when she arrives at the altar, she doesn’t recognise the man waiting to marry her.

When this stranger insists he’s Seth, her husband-to-be, the entire congregation seems to agree. Even her parents try to persuade Alice to go through with the wedding.

As panic sets in, Alice’s world comes apart. Where is the real Seth, and why have all traces of him disappeared from her life? Fearing she’s losing her mind, she sets out to uncover the truth and escape the nightmare she’s living in. But with everyone around her convinced by the fake Seth, how can she ever hope to find the man she loves?

Borrow My Heart – Kasie West (YA, Contemporary, Romance)

When a girl overhears a guy getting verbally destroyed by his friends for being catfished, she jumps in to save the day—and pretends to be his online crush. A young adult romance from the critically acclaimed author of Places We’ve Never Been.

Wren is used to being called a control freak. She doesn’t care; sticking to the list of rules she created for herself helps her navigate life. But when a cute guy named Asher walks through the door of her neighborhood coffee shop, the rulebook goes out the window.

Asher is cute, charming . . . and being catfished by his online crush. So Wren makes an uncharacteristically impulsive decision—she pretends to be the girl he’s waiting for to save him from embarrassment. Suddenly she’s fake-dating a boy she knows nothing about. And it’s . . . amazing.

It’s not long before Asher has her breaking even more of her own rules. But will he forgive her when he finds out she’s not who she says she is? Wren’s not so sure. . . . After all, rules exist for a reason.

…and the following 5 novels I’m still undecided about:

Always Isn’t Forever – J.C. Cervantes (YA, Paranormal, Romance)

From New York Times bestselling author J.C. Cervantes comes a sparkling, unforgettable YA romance, perfect for fans of You’ve Reached Sam.

Best friends and soul mates since they were kids, Hart Augusto and Ruby Armenta were poised to take on senior year together when Hart tragically drowns in a boating accident. Absolutely shattered, Ruby struggles to move on from the person she knows was her forever love.

Hart can’t let go of Ruby either…. Due to some divine intervention, he’s offered a second chance. Only it won’t be as simple as bringing him back to life–instead, Hart’s soul is transferred to the body of local bad boy.

When Hart returns to town as Jameson, he realizes that winning Ruby back will be more challenging than he’d imagined. For one, he’s forbidden from telling Ruby the truth. And with each day he spends as Jameson, memories of his life as Hart begin to fade away.

Though Ruby still mourns Hart, she can’t deny that something is drawing her to Jameson. As much as she doesn’t understand the sudden pull, it can’t be ignored. And why does he remind her so much of Hart? Desperate to see if the connection she feels is real, Ruby begins to open her heart to Jameson–but will their love be enough to bridge the distance between them?

The Seven Year Slip – Ashley Poston (Contemporary, Romance, Magical Realism)

An overworked book publicist with a perfectly planned future hits a snag when she falls in love with her temporary roommate…only to discover he lives seven years in the past, in this witty and wise new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Dead Romantics.

Sometimes, the worst day of your life happens, and you have to figure out how to live after it.

So Clementine forms a plan to keep her heart work hard, find someone decent to love, and try to remember to chase the moon. The last one is silly and obviously metaphorical, but her aunt always told her that you needed at least one big dream to keep going. And for the last year, that plan has gone off without a hitch. Mostly. The love part is hard because she doesn’t want to get too close to anyone—she isn’t sure her heart can take it.

And then she finds a strange man standing in the kitchen of her late aunt’s apartment. A man with kind eyes and a Southern drawl and a taste for lemon pies. The kind of man that, before it all, she would’ve fallen head-over-heels for. And she might again.

Except, he exists in the past. Seven years ago, to be exact. And she, quite literally, lives seven years in his future.

Her aunt always said the apartment was a pinch in time, a place where moments blended together like watercolors. And Clementine knows that if she lets her heart fall, she’ll be doomed.

After all, love is never a matter of time—but a matter of timing.

Zero Days – Ruth Ware (Mystery/Thriller)

The New York Times bestselling “new Agatha Christie” (Air Mail) Ruth Ware returns with this adrenaline-fueled thriller that combines Mr. and Mrs. Smith with The Fugitive about a woman in a race against time to clear her name and find her husband’s murderer.

Hired by companies to break into buildings and hack security systems, Jack and her husband, Gabe, are the best penetration specialists in the business. But after a routine assignment goes horribly wrong, Jack arrives home to find her husband dead. To add to her horror, the police are closing in on their suspect—her.

Suddenly on the run and quickly running out of options, Jack must decide who she can trust as she circles closer to the real killer in this unputdownable and heart-pounding mystery from an author whose “propulsive prose keeps readers on the hook and refuses to let anyone off until all has been revealed” (Shelf Awareness).

Have You Seen Her – Catherine McKenzie (Mystery/Thriller)

A thrilling and timely novel about three women with dark secrets whose lives intersect in the picturesque and perilous Yosemite National Park from the USA TODAY bestselling author of Please Join Us.

Equipped with a burner phone and a new job, Cassie Peters has left her hectic and secretive life in New York City for the refuge of her hometown of Mammoth Lakes, California. There, she begins working again with Yosemite Search and Rescue, where a case she worked a decade ago continues to haunt her.

She quickly falls into old patterns, joining a group of fellow seasonal workers and young adventurers who have made Yosemite their home during the summer. There, she meets Petal, a young woman living in a trailer with her much older wife, keeping a detailed diary of the goings on of the park, and Jada, a recent college graduate on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend, documenting their journey on Instagram.

When these three women cross paths, Cassie’s past catches up with her, and the shocking consequences ripple out far beyond what any could have imagined in this unputdownable thriller.

We Could Be So Good – Cat Sebastian (Historical Fiction, Romance, Queer)

Colleen Hoover meets The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo in this mid-century romdram about a scrappy reporter and a newspaper mogul’s son–perfect for Newsies shippers.

Nick Russo has worked his way from a rough Brooklyn neighborhood to a reporting job at one of the city’s biggest newspapers. But the late 1950s are a hostile time for gay men, and Nick knows that he can’t let anyone into his life. He just never counted on meeting someone as impossible to say no to as Andy.

Andy Fleming’s newspaper-tycoon father wants him to take over the family business. Andy, though, has no intention of running the paper. He’s barely able to run his life–he’s never paid a bill on time, routinely gets lost on the way to work, and would rather gouge out his own eyes than deal with office politics. Andy agrees to work for a year in the newsroom, knowing he’ll make an ass of himself and hate every second of it.

Except, Nick Russo keeps rescuing Andy: showing him the ropes, tracking down his keys, freeing his tie when it gets stuck in the ancient filing cabinets. Their unlikely friendship soon sharpens into feelings they can’t deny. But what feels possible in secret–this fragile, tender thing between them–seems doomed in the light of day. Now Nick and Andy have to decide if, for the first time, they’re willing to fight.

There were some other titles that could have made this list, but I was trying to be brutal because the number of books that piqued my interest was enormous – and I’m trying to limit my book buying. Any titles that you think should be on this list let me know in the comments.

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Publishers vs Book Banning

Discussion Post: In the advent of the Book Banning movement and with Publishers still signing diverse authors – do Publishing companies have an obligation to look after their authors in the face of this adversity?

I think this is an even more important question after the debacle with Scholastic trying to remove words from an author’s book dealing with race to make it more palatable and not fall victim to book bans. There have been other authors over on Twitter putting their foot down on this issue. You can’t erase reality from books just because you don’t like it. Its erasing peoples past, peoples identities.

Should Scholastic be championing the authors they are representing rather than trying to edit their work behind the scenes?

It’s tantamount to censorship.

What are publishers doing to combat this? I remember years back when I was in my last year of high school, a publisher used the ban list to hold a faux book burning event which was actually a celebration of all the banned books and promoted the authors and boosted sales. I haven’t heard of anything like this since. Maybe I’m just out of touch?

Further looking into this issue, I heard some authors had people showing up to book signings and blatantly mocking the author for being on a banned list. Online hate. Being spat upon. I mean damn, when did the human race become so nasty? It’s a book for goodness sake – it’s not going to blow up your house or steal your children. And the sad fact of the matter is most of the perpetrators of this kind of hate, and those that are nominating books for ban lists haven’t even actually read the book in question. Maybe we need publishers to push for tougher International and federal laws and regulations and protect their authors?

I know there was talk some time ago about grading books like they do movies: G (General Admission), M (Mature Content), A (Adult Content), R (Violence and Horror) etc… and recently there has been talk about compulsory trigger warnings or content warnings on books. Will that help solve the problem? I don’t necessarily think so. Because the same groups/people trying to censor and ban books (majoritively) still will not read the novels they are wanting to ban. It will just make it easier for them to target greater numbers of books.

On a side note – I also wonder if competing publishing houses are nominating books as a sales strategy? Trying to limit sales of their competitors. I really hope something like this doesn’t happen, but with the hate and behaviour I’ve seen around this topic, sadly, it wouldn’t surprise me.

There is this cultural push for more diverse books at the moment; and then we are seeing push-back from some community groups trying to shut this movement down. Again it’s just censorship.

When you look at media – television, newspapers, magazines – they don’t seem to be in the eye of this type of censorship even though they are under the same laws with copyright. And they discuss many more confronting issues than these books that are getting banned, yet there is no furore there? Parents be letting their kiddies watch the news. Parents be leavin’ their magazines all over the house. Oh the hypocrisy!

If I look at the issue practically: publishers are out to make money, they are a business. And they are not going to be investing more than a set amount in an author just because they are a minority, or diverse – it will hit their bottom line. (Unless that author is a top tier seller.) So do they need to take another look at their services and marketing in today’s climate? Change strategies? Add a dash of humour – because this whole situation is laughable.

I feel like publishers are keeping silent about this issue so as not to rock the boat because their livelihood may come in jeopardy. Behind the scenes you see publishers supporting their authors- and then some, like the example of Scholastic, editing authors to make their work more palatable for the general public. But who sets this standard for the general public? It’s just a made up thing from the publisher. They are essentially gatekeeping content.

It is a complex issue, with many sides and viewpoints, but my stand puts responsibility back on the reader/consumer. You don’t have to read a book you think is controversial. Just like if you don’t want to watch a television program, turn off the tv. You don’t need to be banning books, attacking authors, picketing libraries. Are you protesting the fact that someone has had a different experience in life to your own? Because that’s what it boils down to. You’re trying to wipe out difference. Just turn your head. Walk the other way.

What can you add to this issue? Are there further examples you can cite? Have you seen evidence of publishers fighting back against ban lists?

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Hitting my stride

An April 2023 wrap up

Where March was a start in establishing routines again, April left me feeling like I was starting to make some progress. I found myself also doing a lot of planning and scheduling and I would hit days where I was productive in one thing, then take a time to break to rest and get back at it. I’m still not back at the pace and productivity I was pre- cancer and COVID-19, but I’ve achieved more for April than any other month for the last few years. And it’s only going to get better as my health improves and my routines become more familiar.

Once you’re in the habit of writing regularly some great things happen! J

It Starts With Us (#2 It Ends With Us), Rebel (#4 Legend), The Glory of the Empress (#2 Admiral), Trust in Me (#1.5 Wait for You), The Taking of Jake Livingston, Finding Perfect (#2.6 Hopeless), Fault Tolerance (#3 Chilling Effect), Stolen (#0.5 Taken), Neon Zero (#0.5 Neon), In the Heart of the Fire (#1 Nameless), Feast of the Swamp Goblin

This month I managed to read 11 books and I was aiming for higher, but I hit a mini-slump while reading ‘Fault Tolerance’ (#3 Chilling Effect,) and getting sucked into my re-watch of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ from season 1. I think the number of books is artificially bolstered by 5 novellas.

I managed to finish off 4 (possibly 5, depending if the ‘Chilling Effect’ franchise is going to venture past a trilogy) book series this month. Most of my reads were new purchases to complete series I’d already started, so there were only 5 off my #BeatTheBacklist goals. I even read e-books – which is not common for me. I tend to favour physical copies.

My book buying ban is still in place with no new purchases in this month – all the new books are still from the Christmas presents I obtained with gift cards, or free from Amazon Prime when I signed up years ago and have never gotten around to reading. I’m trying to make an effort to get through some more e-books each month.

My TBR has come down to 296 from 303

I am giving myself a huge pat on the back – I completed the first draft of my Aussie outback romance novella. It turned out longer than I anticipated and was way more fun to write. All of this repressed knowledge from growing up in Alice Springs (around where the novella is set) and desert survival skills came into play. And I felt like my humour was popping up in all the right places. I’ll sit this aside for a few months before my next pass to give it some fresh eyes.

There was hope I would get to complete a contemporary novel that I was over half-way through before I started chemotherapy and had to stop, but because my word count on the novella was much higher than I was aiming – and the amount of time spent ran over, I had a less number of days to tackle this novel. But I managed to get a little done and will carry it over into May. I’m hoping the first draft will be completed next month.

I spent a chunk of April organising and scheduling my writing and blogging time – drafting out articles and daily wordcounts. As a result I have the entire rest of 2023 blogs planned and am aiming for at least another 5-6 first drafts of novels/novella for the year. After years of little or no productivity, my health and enthusiasm returned, I’m aiming for as many first drafts to be completed this year (so I can feel like I’m actually getting some work done) and then complete 2nd and final drafts and put them out for submission near the end of the year, or in the first half of 2024.

There have been some great new shows to indulge in for April, but after a huge viewing month in March, I wanted to pull back a little and make sure I’m keeping my time productive.

Grease : Rise of the Pink Ladies, Not Dead Yet, Schmigadoon (Season 2), Shadow and Bone (Season 2), Star Trek : Picard (Season 3), Star Wars : The Mandalorian (Season 3), Outer Banks (Season 3), and Gotham Knights.

Loved Season 2 of ‘Shadow and Bone’ – though I can see how they are trying to stretch out the ‘crows’ storyline for another season and connect those characters to Mal and Alina… it wasn’t as smooth as I’d like. But I’m really excited for the musical series ‘Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies’ tackling surprisingly current social political issues in something set in the 50’s. Plus the singing is absolutely fantastic with numerous powerhouse performances. Totally lives up to the legacy of the original film.

Re-watching Seasons of ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ I stopped watching this over ten years ago because of a housemate that hated the show, and I really miss it. So I’m starting from the beginning and plan to get up to date in the coming months. The drama! The blood and guts! I have to be careful not to lose a day indulging.

Movies: Murder Mystery 2, Shazam : Fury of the Gods, 65, Ant-man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Ghosted, and re-watched Edge of Tomorrow.

I have to say the stand out was ‘Ghosted’ – the cameos, the humour, I loved it! And still a fan of the Marvel movies and enjoyed how ‘Ant-man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ kicked off Phase 5 of the MCU. I really hope we get more Ant-man and the Wasp in the future, they are one of my favourites in the franchise.

This month the initiative to reconnect with friends is going great. It gives me warm fuzzies inside to catch up on our lives and share experiences again. There is so much going on in our lives and I’m thankful to still be able to share with them like we are sitting around the lounge with a cup of tea or glass of wine. There’s even preliminary talk of arranging a reunion towards the end of the year given we are all scattered across the continent.

I’m trying to build relationships with fellow bloggers, but they don’t tend to engage after a quick response to a comment or question. I might have to shift to a different medium if I want to be a part of, and build a community. Bloggers either seem to be time-poor or only interested in their statistics… maybe that’s a presumptuous blanket statement, but it’s been my experience so far.

Or if you want to recommend any great blogs that centre around reading and writing comment below!

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Where do you get your reading recommendations from?

Discussion post: What’s the best source to find great books to read – and how does that compare to the most popular ways to market a novel?

I did a poll over on Twitter last week because I was thinking about where I get my reading recommendations from (out of the popular spaces.)

I have never done a poll on twitter, but have participated in many and I thought it would be a great resource to get large numbers of participants to vote and get some balanced results. But I guess I grossly underrated my reach and willingness for people to simply click on a choice. (Girl, you thought you were popular!) Because it shows I only reached 52 people and only 2 voted. I did get a written response which was also book blogs so I think this twitter poll experiment was a massive fail. Maybe I should save face and blame it on the algorithm? A pox on you interwebs!!

In truth, my personal book recommendations most likely come from everywhere. I never use just one source, but the majority of recommendations come from book bloggers. Then, it’s depending on where I’m spending my time…

It could be catching up with friends. It could be chatting in book club. It could be attending a Con or writerly event. Or just browsing an online bookstore.

After the fail of the twitter poll I did the leg work myself hitting up people I’ve connected with on all of my socials. I asked colleagues and students, friends and family.

I guess this kind of information could be real handy for anyone wanting to market a novel – they’d know where to spend their marketing dollars. (For readers like me.) But this analysis, like reading tastes, is subjective. It’s through the lens of my demographic and those I’ve connected with over social media… so again the results are skewed.

The only reason I am discussing this topic is when I was thinking about how my reading habits have changed over the years in my last discussion post, and how much of it relies on having certain types of books available for me to purchase, the same goes for how I was recommended books.

It makes me cringe saying this, but in my teen years the internet was not a thing. The only way I’d get a book recommendation was either from a friend at school, or from browsing bookstores and libraries and spending the time to read book blurbs to see what interested me. Maybe I’d read an article in the newspaper or magazine (or occasional in-flight magazine,) but that was pretty much it.

In the last 10-15 years with the explosion of social media, online stores, and blogs, nearly all of my recommendations have come from online. I read reviews on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, I follow copious book bloggers, I peruse top 100 lists, New Release lists, I chat in online book clubs, connect with authors and other readers on social media. More so since I moved to a remote location from the city.

Juxtapose that with how authors and publishers market their books… I have never bought a book from an ad on social media at any time. Ever. I hear all this talk that authors must buy paid ads to help market their book, but my behaviour in getting book recommendations makes that argument moot. Word of mouth is still the biggest way I get my recommendations – from sources I trust and know have similar tastes to my own. I don’t get influenced by pretty Instagram pictures and I’m not on TikTok to understand all the BookTok craze. Plus, I like to research the books I’m purchasing so that they are genuinely something I’m interested in reading rather than follow a popular hyped craze.

Am I missing out on something – is BookTok any good? With all the governmental bans on that platform I’m unsure that it will last too much longer.

I was getting some great reviews from YouTube about ten years ago, but the number of book reviewers on that platform has decreased: and most of them tend to review popular new releases to make sure they get the clicks and views (it is a business for the majority of content creators at the end of the day) so I wasn’t really discovering many new books.

I get emailed directly often with authors and publishers offering a free ebook in return for a review – but pretty much all of those offers have been for books that don’t even match my interests. It’s like the sender truly didn’t read any of my previous reviews or glance at any part of my blog. It feels disingenuous. Like they are not really wanting to build a reader/reviewer relationship. If an author invested the time to do that properly, I’d shout their praises from the roof tops.

Going back to authors using paid ads, Instagram and such – although they don’t directly influence me to buy a book, if I later read a review about it, it does help with brand recognition. I’d seen the book about before, so will take the time to read the review to see if it is any good.  But again, it has to be from a trusted source.

Does anyone check out the ‘Recommendations’ tab on Goodreads, or scroll through recommended books on Amazon? I take a peek every now and then.

It’s becoming less available to me here, but when I get into the shopping centre in town and they have those pop-up stores with fire sales on books I will always wander through and hardly ever leave without purchasing something. It’s not necessarily a recommendation, again it’s picking things up and reading blurbs to see if the novel sounds interesting. Blurbs are by far the most important tool in recommending me a book.

So at the end of the day the place I get most of my recommendations from is other book bloggers, followed by reading blurbs while browsing bookstores (either physical stores or online.) All the other social media advertising only influences me with brand recognition – not in actually recommending me a novel. From canvasing the pool of participants that I reached out to, most said they get recommendations from reading my posts – they don’t know anyone who’s as obsessed with reading and reviewing as much as me. The other source was from emails sent out by Amazon, either from their followed authors or suggested reading on their e-reader device. And the reasons because of this was that they are time poor and tend to stick to reading similar types of novels. The third source was from magazine articles and reviews when certain book clubs of reading lists are showcased.

When I asked about things like recommendations from TikTok, YouTube, Instagram etc. most of those I approached did not realise there was a presence around literature on the platforms, or didn’t place much credence in those recommendations. Like it wasn’t anything serious. I did try to canvas a wide age and gender range and cover readers’ interests of a wide selection of genres. I only got a sample size of just under 500, so not so large.

What about you? What are the best sources for reading recommendations?

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

How has your reading evolved in the past 10-15 years?

Have your tastes changed? Have you abandoned once-favoured authors? Are you reading more widely?

They say with age comes experience. Does that hold up with our reading habits? Well, I say kind-of. Granted my tastes for novels have shifted slightly since I was a teen. I read less fantasy and more non-fiction these days by comparison. But my love for science fiction has always remained paramount.

Contemporary novels when I was younger were more marketed towards housewives; these days the genre has expanded (with many subgenres) to target a wider market. And we’ve also seen the invention of new genres and the popularity of books grow – especially in the last 10-15 years.

YA was not a category when I was in high school. There were very little books with representation: queer, people of colour, able-bodied protagonists, multicultural, or books with characters who suffered mental illness – and if they were represented they were usually villainized or used for comedic value. Same with the representation of strong female characters who aren’t in the story just as a prop or sexual object.

So my reading habits have changed in that respect – the availability of novels with more representation and better portrayal of characters adds so much more fun and colour in my reading. I make a concerted effort not to get stuck in one genre for too long and pick novels out of my comfort zone now and then. Sometimes the surprises are delightful, sometimes it’s a real struggle to reach the end of the book. But each time I gain an important perspective that not only broadens my mind and builds a worldly view, but also adds tools in my belt to help me as a writer (if I read critically.)

As lame as it sounds to some, I still get a kick out of reading the occasional textbook. It educates me or refreshes something I learnt in the past and leaves me feeling independent and knowledgeable.

In high school I primarily read science fiction and fantasy books; then in the university years (thanks to required reading) I got a plethora of texts and novels and found while I enjoyed the classics of literature for discussion, they weren’t necessarily my favourite type of book. I liked novels more along the lines of speculative fiction or those that pushed the bounds of popular opinion. The ‘thought experiment’ types. I think growing up feeling like an outsider I gravitated to books with protagonists or themes that embraced their otherness.

When I entered the workforce the first ten years I wasn’t reading as much and tended to stick to auto-buy authors in the science fiction, horror, and action/adventure genres. Mainly because my reading was more about relaxing and escaping for an hour or two rather than educating.

Since then it’s been about variety. I have my comfort reads, but like to get in a plethora of different type of reads as much as I can. And I definitely read a lot more these days. Work isn’t as demanding and I’ve gotten into a groove with my day. I also think I read faster. It’s no problem for me to knock off a book in one or two days. (Depending of the writing style and length of a book.) Plus, I’ve gotten out of the habit of watching television and movies – because I’m at my computer all day, I tend to shy away from screen time in my leisure hours.

Availability (the types of books published today) has definitely been the strongest influence in my reading habits. As well as time and having the finances to buy books: I’m not out partying and socialising like I was in my 20’s and 30’s and prefer snuggling down at home with my furbabies and getting lost in a good book.

What about you? Has the inclusion of better representation and experience influenced your reading?

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Most Anticipated May 2023 Releases

So many upcoming releases in May! There are two mystery/thrillers I’m definitely wanting to purchase. The rest of the list I’m still considering. Might wait until I’ve heard back from a few of my peers/friends before I add them to my wish list. But I’m still on a book buying ban, and trying to make my purchases count by completing series that I already own some books for. It’s all about #BeatTheBacklist and whittling down my TBR shelf! I really feel like I’m missing out this month L

Drowning – T.J. Newman (Thriller/Mystery)

Flight attendant turned New York Times bestselling author T. J. Newman—whose first book Falling was an instant #1 national bestseller and the biggest thriller debut of 2021—returns for her second book, an edge-of-your-seat thriller about a commercial jetliner that crashes into the ocean, and sinks to the bottom with passengers trapped inside, and the extraordinary rescue operation to save them.

Six minutes after takeoff, Flight 1421 crashes into the Pacific Ocean. During the evacuation, an engine explodes and the plane is flooded. Those still alive are forced to close the doors—but it’s too late. The plane sinks to the bottom with twelve passengers trapped inside.

More than two hundred feet below the surface, engineer Will Kent and his eleven-year-old daughter Shannon are waist-deep in water and fighting for their lives.

Their only chance at survival is an elite rescue team on the surface led by professional diver Chris Kent—Shannon’s mother and Will’s soon-to-be ex-wife—who must work together with Will to find a way to save their daughter and rescue the passengers from the sealed airplane, which is now teetering on the edge of an undersea cliff.

There’s not much time.

There’s even less air.

With devastating emotional power and heart-stopping suspense, Drowning is an unforgettable thriller about a family’s desperate fight to save themselves and the people trapped with them—against impossible odds.

This is the Way the World Ends – Jen Wilde (YA, Mystery/Thriller, Queer)

Fans of One of Us Is Lying and The Hazel Wood are cordially invited to spend one fateful night surviving an elite private school’s epic masquerade ball in Jen Wilde’s debut thriller, This Is the Way the World Ends.

As an autistic scholarship student at the prestigious Webber Academy in New York City, Waverly is used to masking to fit in—in more ways than one. While her classmates are the children of the one percent, Waverly is getting by on tutoring gigs and the generosity of the school’s charming and enigmatic dean. So when her tutoring student and resident “it girl” asks Waverly to attend the school’s annual fundraising Masquerade disguised as her, Waverly jumps at the chance—especially once she finds out that Ash, the dean’s daughter and her secret ex-girlfriend, will be there.

The Masquerade is everything Waverly dreamed of, complete with extravagant gowns, wealthy parents writing checks, and flowing champagne. Most importantly, there’s Ash. All Waverly wants to do is shed her mask and be with her, but the evening takes a sinister turn when Waverly stumbles into a secret meeting between the dean and the school’s top donors—and witnesses a brutal murder. This gala is harboring far more malevolent plots than just opening parents’ pocketbooks. Before she can escape or contact the authorities, a mysterious global blackout puts the entire party on lockdown. Waverly’s fairy tale has turned into a nightmare, and she, Ash, and her friends must navigate through a dizzying maze of freight elevators, secret passageways, and back rooms if they’re going to survive the night.

And even if they manage to escape the Masquerade, with technology wiped out all over the planet, what kind of world will they find waiting for them beyond the doors?

…and the following 10 novels I’m still undecided about:

The Book That Wouldn’t Burn – Mark Lawrence (Fantasy)

A boy has lived his whole life trapped within a vast library, older than empires and larger than cities.

A girl has spent hers in a tiny settlement out on the Dust where nightmares stalk and no one goes.

The world has never even noticed them. That’s about to change.

Their stories spiral around each other, across worlds and time. This is a tale of truth and lies and hearts, and the blurring of one into another. A journey on which knowledge erodes certainty, and on which, though the pen may be mightier than the sword, blood will be spilled and cities burned.

Imogen, Obviously – Becky Albertalli (Queer Contemporary)

With humor and insight, #1 New York Times bestseller Becky Albertalli explores the nuances of sexuality, identity, and friendship.

Imogen Scott may be hopelessly heterosexual, but she’s got the World’s Greatest Ally title locked down.

She’s never missed a Pride Alliance meeting. She knows more about queer media discourse than her very queer little sister. She even has two queer best friends. There’s Gretchen, a fellow high school senior, who helps keep Imogen’s biases in check. And then there’s Lili—newly out and newly thriving with a cool new squad of queer college friends.

Imogen’s thrilled for Lili. Any ally would be. And now that she’s finally visiting Lili on campus, she’s bringing her ally A game. Any support Lili needs, Imogen’s all in.

Even if that means bending the truth, just a little.

Like when Lili drops a tiny queer bombshell: she’s told all her college friends that Imogen and Lili used to date. And none of them know that Imogen is a raging hetero—not even Lili’s best friend, Tessa.

Of course, the more time Imogen spends with chaotic, freckle-faced Tessa, the more she starts to wonder if her truth was ever all that straight to begin with. . .

Lying in the Deep – Diana Urban (Mystery/Thriller)

A juicy mystery of jealousy, love, and betrayal set on a Semester at Sea-inspired cruise ship, with a diverse cast of delightfully suspicious characters who’ll leave you guessing with every jaw-dropping twist.

After being jilted by her ex-boyfriend and best friend, Jade couldn’t be more ready to embark on the adventure of a lifetime—11 countries in 4 months, all from the luxurious Campus on Board ship—and to wedge an entire globe between her and the people who broke her heart.

But when Jade discovers the backstabbing couple are also setting sail, her obsession with them grows and festers, leading to a shocking murder. And as their friends begin to drop like flies, Jade and her new crush must race to clear her name and find the killer they’re trapped at sea with….before anyone else winds up in body bags.

They Hate Each Other – Amanda Woody (Queer Contemporary)

Jonah and Dylan get along like oil and water. Until a fake dating ploy gives them new perspective, and they realize that “falling for your enemy” isn’t as impossible as it seems.

There are plenty of words Jonah Collins could use to describe Dylan Ramírez. “Arrogant,” “spoiled,” and “golden boy” to name a few. Likewise, Dylan thinks he has Jonah accurately labeled as an attention-seeking asshat who never shuts his filthy mouth. Their friends are convinced Jonah’s and Dylan’s disdain for one another is just thinly veiled lust—a rumor that surges like wildfire when the two wake up in one bed after homecoming. Mutually horrified, Dylan and Jonah agree to use the faux pas to their advantage by fake dating. If they can stay convincing long enough to end their “relationship” in a massive staged fight, they can prove their incompatibility to their friends once and for all. But the more time they spend together, the more their plan begins to fall apart—and the closer they come to seeing each other clearly for the first time.

Fractal Noise – Christopher Paolini (Science Fiction)

July 25th, 2234: The crew of the Adamura discovers the Anomaly.

On the seemingly uninhabited planet Talos VII:a circular pit, 50 kilometers wide.

Its curve not of nature, but design.

Now, a small team must land and journey on foot across the surface to learn who built the hole and why.

But they all carry the burdens of lives carved out on disparate colonies in the cruel cold of space.

For some the mission is the dream of the lifetime, for others a risk not worth taking, and for one it is a desperate attempt to find meaning in an uncaring universe.

Each step they take toward the mysterious abyss is more punishing than the last.

And the ghosts of their past follow.

Planes, Trains, and all the Feels – Livy Hart (Contemporary)

Fans of Christina Lauren and Tessa Bailey will adore this witty and unforgettable rom-com about skyways, highways, and all the perfectly wrong ways to fall in love.

As the black sheep of the family, choreographer Cassidy Bliss vowed she’d do anything to get home in time to help with her sister’s wedding and avoid family disappointment…again. She just never expected “anything” would involve sharing the last rental car with the jerk who cut her off in line at the airport this morning. But horrible times apparently call for here-goes-nothing measures.

Driving across the country with Luke “life can be solved with a spreadsheet” Carlisle must be a penance for some crime she committed. Because the second he opens his mouth, it’s all she can do to not maim him with her carry-on. But somewhere between his surprisingly thoughtful snack sharing and his uncanny ability to see straight to the core of her, her feelings go unchecked.

Suddenly, their crackling chemistry is just one more thing they have to navigate—and it couldn’t come at a worse time. But after a lifetime of letting the expectations and needs of others drive her life, Cassidy must decide if she’s ready to take the wheel once and for all.

Best Men – Sidney Karger (Queer Contemporary)

When two best men in a wedding party fall for each other, they realize love isn’t a piece of cake in this hilarious and heartfelt romantic comedy debut by screenwriter Sidney Karger.

Max Moody thought he had everything figured out. He’s trying to live his best life in New York City and has the best friend a gay guy could ask for: Paige. She and Max grew up next door to each other in the suburbs of Chicago. She can light up any party. She finishes his sentences. She’s always a reliable splunch (they don’t like to use the word brunch) partner. But then Max’s whole world is turned upside down when Paige suddenly announces some huge news: she’s engaged and wants Max to be her man of honor. Max was always the romantic one who imagined he would get married before the unpredictable Paige and is shocked to hear she’s ready to settle down. But it turns out there’s not just one new man in Paige’s life–there are two.

There’s the groom, Austin, who’s a perfectly nice guy. Then there’s his charming, fun and ridiculously handsome gay younger brother, Chasten, who is Austin’s best man. As Paige’s wedding draws closer, Max, the introverted Midwesterner, and Chasten, the social butterfly East Coaster, realize they’re like oil and water. Yet they still have to figure out how to coexist in Paige’s life while not making her wedding festivities all about them. But can the tiny romantic spark between these two very different guys transform their best man supporting roles into the leading best men in each other’s lives?

The Last One to Fall – Gabriella Lepore (YA, Mystery, Queer)

Six friends. Five suspects. One murder.

Savana Caruso and Jesse Melo have known each other since they were kids, so when Jesse texts Savana in the middle of the night and asks her to meet him at Cray’s Warehouse, she doesn’t hesitate. But before Savana can find Jesse, she bears witness to a horrifying murder, standing helpless on the ground as a mysterious figure is pushed out of the fourth floor of the warehouse. 

Six teens were there that night, and five of them are now potential suspects. With the police circling, Savana knows what will happen if the wrong person is charged, particularly once she starts getting threatening anonymous text messages.

As she attempts to uncover the truth, Savana learns that everyone is keeping secrets—and someone is willing to do whatever it takes to keep those secrets from coming to light.

Summer Reading – Jenn McKinlay (Contemporary)

When a woman who’d rather do anything than read meets a swoon-worthy bookworm, sparks fly, making for one hot-summer fling in New York Times bestselling author Jenn McKinlay’s new rom-com.

For Samantha Gale, a summer on Martha’s Vineyard at her family’s tiny cottage was supposed to be about resurrecting her career as a chef, until she’s tasked with chaperoning her half-brother, Tyler. The teenage brainiac is spending his summer at the local library in a robotics competition, and there’s no place Sam, who’s dyslexic, likes less than the library. And because the universe hates her, the library’s interim director turns out to be the hot-reader guy whose book she accidentally destroyed on the ferry ride to the island.

Bennett Reynolds is on a quest to find his father, whose identity he’s never known. He’s taken the temporary job on the island to research the summer his mother spent there when she got pregnant with him. Ben tells himself he isn’t interested in a relationship right now. Yet as soon as Sam knocks his book into the ocean, he can’t stop thinking about her.

An irresistible attraction blossoms when Ben inspires Sam to create the cookbook she’s always dreamed about and she jumps all in on helping him find his father, and soon they realize their summer fling may heat up into a happily ever after.

Lose You to Find Me – Erik J. Brown (YA, Queer Contemporary)

A romantic, heartfelt, and hilarious queer coming-of-age story from All That’s Left in the World author Erik J. Brown, perfect for fans of What If It’s Us and If This Gets Out.

Tommy Dees is in the weeds—restaurant speak for beyond overwhelmed. He’s been working as a server at Sunset Estates retirement community to get the experience he needs to attend one of the best culinary schools in the world. And to make his application shine, he also needs a letter of recommendation from his sadistic manager. But in exchange for the letter, Tommy has to meet three conditions—including training the new hire.

What he doesn’t expect is for the newbie to be an old crush: Gabe, with the dimples and kind heart, who Tommy fell for during summer camp at age ten and then never saw again. Unfortunately, Gabe doesn’t remember Tommy at all. The training proves distracting as old feelings resurface, and the universe seems to be conspiring against them.

With the application deadline looming and Gabe on his mind, Tommy is determined to keep it all together—but what if life isn’t meant to follow a recipe?

A massive list – are there any May releases that you to add? Let me know in the comments.

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Conquering the reading slump.

What to do when nothing in your TBR interests you.

I’ve had times when I’ve hit a rough patch with my reading – where I just can’t get into anything and immediately start to stress a little. But I’ve found a few little tips that have nipped that anxiety and disinterest for reading in the bud.

The most obvious thing is – don’t stress. It’s not that important in the grand scheme of things. It might mean that you need to take a short break from reading and recharge your batteries. Visit the beach, walk in nature, play with puppies. There are times when eyestrain and an overworked brain simply refuse to assimilate anymore reading and a short vacay from words has always done the trick.

For the times when every book I pick up just seems boring? Yes there have been times this has happened. I read blurbs to see something that will grab my interest and if it doesn’t draw me in in the first chapter or two, that’s fine, I return it to the shelf and hunt for another. There used to be something in my brain that wanted to finish every book I picked up and started to read: even if I hated it. But now I have worked past that and am happy to peruse until something clicks. You can re-visit those abandoned books another time… or if they keep refusing to pique inspiration maybe it’s time to unhaul them.

Read an old favourite. Sometimes it pay to indulge in the familiar. Pick up a book that you know you enjoy. It’s like muscle memory triggering the pleasure sensors in your brain, reminding you that you love reading. It might also inspire another book you’ve been keen to pick up.

Pick up a favoured author or an auto-buy author; one you are confident in that you’ll love their work. It’s always gotten me out of a jam.

Start a conversation about your favourite books with another book lover. Excitement is infectious and once you start sharing your passion with someone else it can ignite that delight for reading again.

Browse books – either in your own collection, the library, online, a friend’s house… getting out of the familiar and exposing yourself to something new may kick in that interest again.

But what if its required reading, something for school or work and you just can’t? I’ve faced this many times. The way I’ve gotten around it is to speed read a chapter and then write a short summary: you get all the main plot points and don’t have to indulge in the prose. Or grab a study buddy and start a game – treat yourself with a different type of candy whenever a character does something boring, or make a drinking game out of finding a word in the prose, or –my favourite, read aloud in a funny accent and try and make someone else laugh. Maybe explain the book to your dog?

The main crux of the issue is to remain flexible, creative, and don’t let stress or anxiety put you off!

Do you have any tips for getting out of a reading slump? I’d love to take on any new ways of that apathy over reading…

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

MARCHing into 2023

The first quarter for 2023 and things did not go according to plans because of that bloody virus

All of January, and half of February, was spent in bed fighting off a moderate-to-severe case of COVID-19. Talk about being infirm and leaking from all orifices! March brought with it the promise of starting to make progress towards my goals (even if it was 2 months too late. *shrug*) But I’m not putting pressure on myself this year – I’m more concerned with building up consistent habits… the goals will then sort themselves out. Only because I’m guilty of putting in 110%, going hard, and burning out quickly; maybe I was a shooting star in a previous incarnation?

Book worm:

What I read in March: 13 Books!

TBR 314 down to 311

No. of series completed: 5

I really feel like I’m starting to get places with finishing off series that I have started – or where the debut (of entire series) has been sitting on my TBR shelf for years. Does anyone else do this… I have book 1 in so many series, but never bought the following sequels – the OCD in me is meshugasing!

No. of books off my #BeatTheBacklist initiative: 6

I was hoping this would be higher, but, as stated above, did not own the rest of the books in series, so am having to purchase the rest to finish reading the franchise. (My poor bank account is not happy.) It’s throwing off my estimation to how long it will take me to significantly reduce my TBR shelf because as many titles as I choose to read in a given month, I have to purchase nearly the same amount of books to complete book series… but I am enjoying the journey! THIS BOOKWORM WILL WIN!

I’ve been making a concerted effort to continue reading widely. I’m predominantly a mood reader and consequently find myself getting stuck in a certain genre at times. So contemporary romance and fantasy generally get pushed to the back of the line (and is also the most number of books on my TBR shelf.) I think I also want to get in some more horror, mystery, and non-fiction… that’s my aim for April.

Maybe Someday (#1 Maybe Someday), Maybe Not (#1.5 Maybe Someday), Maybe Now (#2 Maybe Someday), This Winter (#0.5 Solitaire) Nick and Charlie (#1.5 Solitaire), A Lady for a Duke, Wait for You (#1 Wait For You), The Red Scrolls of Magic (#1 The Eldest Curses), Flashtide (#2 Flashfall), Mount Buggery to Nowhere Else, Oaths of Legacy (#2 The Bloodright Trilogy), Vows of Empire (#3 The Bloodright Trilogy), Into Deep Space (#2 The Galahad Archives), A New Life (#3 The Galahad Archives)

Scribe and scribble:

I have been determined to complete writing an Aussie Outback romance novella this quarter…. Instead of word count to motivate me, I’ve been focusing on completing a scene a day to get me started and back into the habit of writing every day. It seems to work better than focusing on the word count. Admittedly, I kept letting myself get distracted and didn’t spend as much time writing as I wanted to. I need to value my writing time better if I want to reach my goals. But it has gotten me back into habitual routines of writing – which was the point of gently reintroducing myself back into writing. I’ll definitely have a first draft completed by the end of next month. Then I’m also looking forward to jumping back into a contemporary I was halfway through before the whole cancer and COVID thing happened.

Has anyone sat down to write and then suddenly found themselves working through a chore list of housecleaning and not known how they got there? Like what happened I was meant to be writing!

One of the distractions I had this month when I should have been writing was plotting out another novella. I’ve loosely mapped out a series of interconnected contemporary romance novellas following different characters in the same town but there is an overarching plot that brings them all together. I’m already halfway through the first novella from the series and wanted to plot out the second… even though I won’t get to writing it for some time because I’ve committed myself to finishing off several other projects first. It’s disgraceful how many writing projects I have waiting in the sidelines. But I’m all about finishing off manuscripts this year!

Does anyone else have a stack of new book ideas that keep distracting them? It happens to me all the time but 2023 is the year of finishing off manuscripts otherwise I’ll never get published. When I thing of writing this meme comes into my mind:

Work that body:

March saw me beginning to complete small exercises. My lungs aren’t fully recovered, but it won’t take long the Doctor has informed me. I started doing 20 mins of elliptical training followed by a 20 min stretch and warm-down. The stretches are very important because of an old back injury… and being bed-ridden for so long the pain has started to flare up again and I don’t want to be reliant on pain killers to get through the day. Sitting and writing for extended periods of time does not help, I’m constantly breaking up my day with little chores and walks (or going silly with the dogs) to keep movement in my body. I can see proper workouts coming in the near future and looking forward to feeling fitter and healthier (and hopefully a few more kilos lighter.) By the end of the March I was getting in a full hour of exercise and a 20 min warm down. Completing 7km on the elliptical. I’m really proud of the progress. Especially with some Long COVID symptoms poking their head up. Issues with my lungs and exhaustion have been a big obstacle in me getting active again. But I finally feel like I’m back to normal again.

Social Butterfly:

Getting sick, and being immune-compromised meant that I had to self-isolate for Jan and Feb. By the time March came around I was back on my feet and able to get in a grocery shop solo. I got to catch up with old friends from my hometown in January before I fell ill, but I’ve been a bit gun-shy to pull the trigger and venture out to social gatherings. (What a wuss!) The memory of the pain and fear I experienced fighting the virus is still fresh in my mind. Plus we had a heatwave for most of March so I stayed indoors with the air-con. All of my social activity has been online… not quite the point of this goal, but it’s a forward step. Health first, then I can let my social butterfly free.

March is also my birthday month – which I didn’t really celebrate. I think I’m turning into an uber-introvert! Gah! Help!

What I watched in March:

Star Trek Picard, The Mandolorian, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Wolf Pack, The Equalizer, Class of ’07, Poker Face, Not Dead Yet, School Spirits, True Lies, The Last of Us, The Night Agent.

I wish there was some more quality Aussie content. Last month ‘Colin from Accounts’ was great, and this month ‘Class of ’07’ was hilarious… I need more shows like this please! I’m lining up season 2 of ‘Under the Vines’ for April.

Most of the shows were complete seasons, or wrap-up this month with the exception of a few, so I’ve also got some new shows lined up for April. But my favourite this month has to be ‘The Night Agent.’ I was shouting and doing karate chops in the lounge when watching this.

A Man Called Otto (made me cry), Status Update (a bit of musical fun and silliness to lift your mood)

Still finding that I’m not spending a lot of time watching films. I think in trying to manage my time better, I’m not spending as much of my downtime viewing content – I’m reading instead. And when I do choose to watch something an episode of a tv show is only around 45 mins instead of 180 mins for a film means I get in my viewing pleasure for less. And more time to sleep J But of the two films I did get to watch ‘A Man Called Otto’ had me crying nearly all the way through… it’s beautiful but sad.

So a bit of a fumbling start to 2023, but I feel like I’m starting to gain some momentum. Next quarter should show double the growth! I’ve omitted some categories of my goals in this wrap-up because it was all about getting healthy again and not taxing myself too much.

Has anyone else struggled with COVID-19? Most of my friends and family have reported that it was just like a cold that stuck around for a week. My experience was vastly different and wonder if I was an outlier, or if there are others out there in the blogosphere that has a hard time getting through? Did you also get post COVID-19 symptoms? I’ve been losing a lot of hair (shedding) and get lung pain.

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