Tag Archives: science fiction

Sci-fi books on my TBR pile

Like a lot of bookworms, my to-be-read pile is huge, like monster kanji huge. Genre-wise there’s just about everything in there, from romance to action, crime and (of course) almost every shade of sci-fi and fantasy you can imagine. Here are a few of the sci-fi ones I’m really looking forward to reading.

Descriptions from Amazon and Kobo.

 

Draekora (Lynette Noni)

Cover of Draekora by Lynette Noni“I swear by the stars that you and the others slain tonight will be the first of many. Of that you have my word.”

With Aven Dalmarta now hiding in the shadows of Meya, Alex is desperate to save Jordan and keep the Rebel Prince from taking more lives.

Training day and night to master the enhanced immortal blood in her veins, Alex undertakes a dangerous Meyarin warrior trial that separates her from those she loves and leaves her stranded in a place where nothing is as it should be.

As friends become enemies and enemies become friends, Alex must decide who to trust as powerful new allies—and adversaries—push her towards a future of either light… or darkness.

One way or another, the world will change…

My thoughts
Strickly speaking, I’ve already started reading Draekora but I’d barely started chapter three before I was sidetracked, so it’s back on the TBR pile. I enjoyed the first two books in this series but the third (so far) is a little so-so, still I’m looking forward to getting back to it.

Cold Welcome (Elizabeth Moon)

Cover of Cold Welcome by Elizabeth Moon
Admiral Ky Vatta should return to her childhood home a war hero, but on the way her shuttle is downed by sabotage.
Marooned in a hostile landscape it’ll take every bit of wit, skill and luck she can muster to lead her fellow survivors to safety, knowing that the mysterious enemies who destroyed the ship are on the hunt, and may have an agent in the group ready to finish the job at any moment. And was the sabotage an attempt on Ky’s own life, or someone else’s?

My thoughts
I LOVE SPACE OPERA! But moving on… I picked this beauty up when I was on holiday in New Zealand. I really enjoyed the earlier series (Vatta’s War), featuring the same universe and characters and I just could resist picking up this one when I saw it. Expecting lots of action and a butt-kicking heroine.

Star Wars: Ahsoka (E.K. Johnston)

Cover of Star Wars: Ahsoka by EK JohnstonFans have long wondered what happened to Ahsoka after she left the Jedi Order near the end of the Clone Wars, and before she re-appeared as the mysterious Rebel operative Fulcrum in Rebels. Finally, her story will begin to be told. Following her experiences with the Jedi and the devastation of Order 66, Ahsoka is unsure she can be part of a larger whole ever again. But her desire to fight the evils of the Empire and protect those who need it will lead her right to Bail Organa, and the Rebel Alliance…

My thoughts
I have three words for you. Star. Wars. Ahsoka. Or, if you’re one of those rare individuals who’ve never heard of Star Wars, awesome butt-kicking heroine with glowy swords! ‘Nuff said.

P.S. I totally want a poster-sized version of that cover.

Over to you

What sci-fi books are on your TBR pile? Any new ones coming out, or maybe an old favourite you’re itching to re-read?

Risking her life: Sue Parritt on Strong Female Characters

Sue Parritt is an Australian science fiction author. Her first trilogy tells the tale of a futuristic Australia ravaged by climate change, and racial oppression.

BELINDA: Tell us about Sannah, what makes her strong?

SUE: Sensuous, emotional and dramatic, Sannah, 39, a descendant of Environmental Refugees from the drowned Pacific Islands, is the Storyteller for Village 10. Storytellers–one for each Brown Zone village–are trained to deliver a distorted version of history to ensure compliance and reinforce White superiority. An articulate speaker, Sannah employs both voice and body to weave a spell around her audience. She also plays the role of ‘lover’ to many White men, to gain information useful to the Women’s Line, an undercover group that assists political prisoners on the run to flee the country and find sanctuary in egalitarian Aotearoa. Intelligent and savvy, Sannah knows what it takes to survive in an oppressive apartheid society ruled by tyrannical troopers, but willingly risks her life to ensure clandestine truth-telling continues. In twenty-fourth century Australia, she is a third-class citizen, but despite her low status, she believes in the power to effect change. This, plus the determination to engage in seditious activities whatever the consequences, makes and keeps her strong. Continue reading

6 awesome space operas books, all free

Space opera, it’s my favourite subgenre. I love how big the universe is, how spaceships can zip to and fro, with warp drives, hyperdrives and jump gates. But mostly I love the drama of it, how a single person (or a few persons) can save the universe. Inevitably, someone important dies along the way, but that just adds to the tension and that slightly breathless feeling you get as story draws to its conclusion.

If you haven’t read space opera before but want to give it a try, and even if you’re a hard core fan, below are few free space operas to get you started.

The Course of Empire (Course of Empire 1)

The Course of Empire by Eric Flint and KD Wentworth
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Would they destroy earth in order to save it?

Conquered by the Jao twenty years ago, the Earth is shackled under alien tyranny—and threatened by the even more dangerous Ekhat, who are sending a genocidal extermination fleet to the solar system. Humanity’s only chance rests with an unusual pair of allies: a young Jao prince, newly arrived to Terra to assume his duties, and a young human woman brought up amongst the Jao occupiers.

But both are under pressure from the opposing forces—a cruel Jao viceroy on one side, determined to drown all opposition in blood; a reckless human resistance on the other, perfectly prepared to shed it. Added to the mix is the fact that only by adopting some portions of human technology and using human sepoy troops can the haughty Jao hope to defeat the oncoming Ekhat attack—and then only by fighting the battle within the Sun itself.

Amazon.com Amazon.com.au

Caretaker (Caretaker Chronicles 1)

Caretaker by Josi Russell
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Fifty years in space—alone.

Ethan Bryant was supposed to fall asleep on a ship leaving Earth and wake up fifty years later with his family on the planet Minea. Instead, after the ship’s caretaker—the lone human in charge of monitoring the ship’s vital systems—suddenly died, the ship’s computer locked Ethan out of his stasis chamber and gave him the job. That was five years ago. Five years of checking to make sure everything runs smoothly on a ship Ethan knows almost nothing about.

Who wouldn’t dread the years ahead? Who wouldn’t long for their once-bright future now stolen away?

Ethan is resigned to his fate, until the ship suddenly wakes up another passenger: a beautiful engineer who, along with Ethan, soon discovers a horrible secret—a navigation room hidden from even the ship’s computer. The ship is not bound for Minea—but to somewhere far more dangerous.

With the ship nearing its sinister destination, Ethan soon learns he is the only one who holds the key to saving all 4,000 passengers from a highly-advanced, hostile alien race.

Amazon.com Amazon.com.au

Alien Hunters (Alien Hunters 1)

Alien Hunters by Daniel Arenson
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The skelkrins. Predators from deep space. Creatures of claws, fangs, and unending malice. They swarm across the galaxy, slaying all in their path. Planets burn in their wake. And now they’re heading to Earth.

Raphael “Riff” Starfire commands the Alien Hunters, a group of scruffy mercenaries. Galactic pest controllers, they mostly handle small critters–aliens that clog up your engine pipes, gnaw on your hull, or burrow through your silos.

Riff and his crew have never faced anything like the skelkrins before. As these cosmic killers invade our solar system, will Riff be the one hunting aliens…or will aliens hunt him?

Amazon.com Amazon.com.au Kobo

Bane of the Dead (Seraphim Revival 1)

Bane of the Dead by Jacob Holo
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In an empire ruled by the honored dead, seraphs are the ultimate weapons. Fueled by the pilot’s very soul, these colossal humanoid war machines are unstoppable in battle. Only a few possess the gift to control such craft, and those men and women are prized above all others.

Jack Donolon is the most powerful pilot in existence, a hero of Earth with a mind fractured by his seraph. On the far side of the galaxy, he uncovers a terrible truth about the seraphs and their pilots. Now he must return on a mission no one will understand, to face and kill the people who once called him friend and comrade.

But the death he will bring is insignificant next to the destruction that will follow, should he fail…

Amazon.com Amazon.com.au Kobo

Dark Expanse (Bright Beyond prequel)

Dark Expanse by Theresa Kay
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In a world of military space stations, planetary jumps and alien offensives, nineteen-year-old Eva Braebel’s life has never been easy. She’s small. She’s female. And she earned the ire of a powerful General at a young age. With hard work and the support of her friends, she achieves more than she ever dreamed possible: A position as flight squadron leader and the man who she loves by her side.

Eva just got everything she’s ever wanted, but how long can she keep it?

Amazon.com Amazon.com.au Kobo

Axira Episode One (Galactic Coalition Academy)

Axira Episode One by Odette C Bell
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She is different. Powerful. A solider of centuries.

For 450 years she was enslaved to one of the masters of the Kore sects. She was forced to fight in endless battles. War, destruction, desolation–all wrought by her.

But then she escapes. Seeking revenge on her master, she turns to the only group powerful enough to help her–the Coalition.

She joins the Academy. It should be easy. It isn’t. She rapidly finds out that despite her raw power, she needs more to become an effective recruit.

But now is not the time for failure. There is a spy on Academy grounds–a spy who is tearing the Coalition’s intelligence to shreds. She finds herself drawn into the hunt. A hunt she will not lose. For she is Axira, the most powerful spacer in the Milky Way…

Amazon.com Amazon.com.au Kobo

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Feature image courtesy of Bill Lile via Flickr. Used with a Creative Commons license.

Win 7 YA Sci-fi books!

Love YA Sci-Fi?

As part of the 2016 Brain to Books Cyber Convention, I’ve teamed up with six fantastic sci-fi authors–N.K. Traver, Janine A. Southard, Jenny Martin, Susan Adrian, Shallee McArthur & Fonda Lee–to offer you the chance to win some awesome books!

The giveaway starts 12 am on 8 April and ends 11:59 pm on 10 April. To enter, simply choose one, two or all of the options below. The winner will be drawn at random and notified via email.

Sign up to be kept up-to-date about this and future giveaways.

Win 7 YA sci-fi novels, signed by the authors!
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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want more?

Don’t forget to check out my booth at the Brains to Books Cyber Convention for more awesome giveaways!

Authors, readers and worldbuilders for interview

If you’re one of the following, I’m looking to interview you.

  • An author of books and/or comics
  • An avid reader
  • A game designer/game master
  • A worldbuilder in general.

Interviews are posted here and promoted via my newsletter, Twitter and Facebook.

Each month I post a series of interviews around a specific topic (check below for upcoming topics). If there’s a past topic you’d like to weigh in on, or one you’d like to be interviewed about, let me know!

Upcoming topics

  • Strong female characters
  • Writing about other cultures
  • Writing about disability
  • Non-traditional visions of masculinity

Past topics

Willing to submit yourself for interrogation?
Send me your details below.

Feature image courtesy of Josh Lloyd via a Creative Commons license.

On starcats, worldbuilding and cinematic storytelling

This is a reposting of an interview I conducted as part of the launch of Leonie Roger’s second book, Frontier Resistance, and has been edited to reflect the growing list of Leonie’s published works.

Frontier Resistance by Leonie Rogers
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Starcats are the kind of animals that we all would have nagged our parents to get for Christmas. Fortunately for our parents, starcats only exist in the works of Leonie Rogers, author of the Frontier trilogy.

Set on the alien world of Frontier, where everything is deadly, the Frontier trilogy (starting with Frontier Incursion and continuing in Frontier Resistance) tells the story of Shanna and her starcats as they defend their home from the invading Garsal.

Q) How did you come up with starcats?

I’ve always loved cats. I’m a cat person. When I began to write about Frontier, I always knew that the settlers needed to have some kind of special companion animal, so of course my mind gravitated immediately to cats. The normal house cat isn’t big enough to be much help on a planet as dangerous as Frontier, so I began to imagine a larger cat, and all of a sudden the cat was 100kg, and had glow-in-the-dark markings that flickered and glowed. They’re able to vanish at will, move at extraordinary speeds, and are completely loyal to their chosen humans. They also like to sleep on the bed, just like any other cat. As a result, beds on Frontier are often built with humans and starcats in mind.

Q) As someone who shares her bed with 2 regular-sized cats, I applaud the Frontier bed-makers’ thinking.

When you started thinking about the setting for the Frontier series, what came first, the starcats or the planet’s dangerous ecology?

I think I might be a little odd. I write from the pictures inside my mind. The initial concept for Frontier came from one of those pictures. I pictured a girl scaling a cliff face, above a dangerous jungle. I immediately knew that the girl was called Shanna, and that the planet was dangerous. I always knew that the settlers would need some kind of companion animal so that they could be safer than just humans alone on an alien world. So, it’s probably dangerous ecology, followed by starcat companions.

Q) That makes two of us! I also write from pictures inside my head; I think of it as a cinematic approach to writing. How does it work for your approach to world building?

It’s nice to meet another ‘pictures in the head’ person! Sometimes people give me funny looks when I try and explain it…

It’s very much like I ‘see’ the vegetation, I ‘see’ the animals, and then I just describe what’s happening. Sometimes it means that I use way too many adjectives – I’m an excessive user of adjectives – which then have to be edited out. Having said that, I have to make sure that my world building makes sense – that the ecology actually works, and that the world is believable. In my first book I wrote a scene that involved a tornado serpent, and because of the way the serpent appeared in the story, I had to explain that they were very rare, and constantly roaming, otherwise Frontier would have been completely depopulated and also denuded of vegetation. It’s one thing to know all of that inside my head, but another to realise that the reader isn’t actually reading my mind!

I think a key element to world building is to make sure that the world you’re building hangs together. For me, practically, it means that I sometimes have to slow the pictures down a little to examine them properly, or later on, go back and edit really well so that I weed out the ‘silly pictures.’

Q) Do you do all of your world building in this fashion, or do you employ other methods as well?

Most of the time I see the images inside my mind, and then I write them down, but at the same time there’s stuff that isn’t pictures. That’s the stuff that’s the building blocks of the society I’m creating – things like socio-political stuff, governmental organisation and the odd bit of back history that motivates the characters. Every now and then I’ll even write a short story of the back history so that it solidifies itself in my mind and makes sense. I have a few of them tucked away in folders on my laptop. I like to think that the world I’ve built is almost another character.

Frontier Incursion by Leonie Rogers
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Q) I think you’ve done a really good job. In fact, as I was reading Frontier Incursion, I was struck by how the characters interacted with the environment, not just in their physical movement through it, but in how they used and recorded the things they saw. It was a little like David Attenborough meets Bear Grylls. Is this utilisation and observation of the natural environment inspired by your work with the SES (State Emergency Service)?

The answer to that is partly… I was a volunteer with the SES for a number of years in Western Australia, prior to moving to NSW, but I’ve always been fond of the bush, and particularly walking in the bush. As a teenager and young adult, my group of friends would go walking on day trips, or backpack for a week or so somewhere in the Western Australian wilderness areas. One of the most useful adages of writing is ‘Write what you know.’ The people of Frontier like their natural environment, and so do I. Even now, I walk for exercise, and love seeing the native wildlife on my wanderings. The Scouts of Frontier can navigate flawlessly and they’re very competent with climbing and abseiling – I wish I was as good as they are – and I drew on skills learnt when I was a vertical rescue team member and search team member in the SES in the Pilbara.

The Scouts of Frontier are their people’s lifeline. The things they learn keep their community safe and allow them to spread out across the planet, so they have to be keen observers and they’re extraordinarily well educated. In that way they are both Bear Grylls and David Attenborough – who I suspect would enjoy exploring Frontier!

Q) Do you have a system for organising your world building, or do you keep it all in your head?

I began with lists and a card index, but a lot of it’s now written down in the bodies of three manuscripts. As I write, I try and update my character list as I go so that I can make sure that they’re consistent. Consistent as in the same sex, with the same cat (who is also consistently one sex), and the same name spelling. I also have a reader (our eldest daughter who’s now 21) who tells me bluntly when I’ve got something wrong. As you can imagine, sometimes you can get those things mixed up, despite the fact that you invented everything! I have all kinds of files with all kinds of funny names in folders on my laptop. I’m a bit obsessive about backing it all up as you can probably imagine.

Since finishing the Frontier Trilogy I’ve begun to experiment with a program called Scrivener. It has spots to file all of those things into one document, so that with a click on the sidebar I can pull up a character sketch, a helpful link if I add one and I can label chapters/scenes if I wish. So far I’m liking it, as it has everything in one place which makes it simpler than having ten documents sitting in my task bar.

Q) You’ve finished the trilogy already?! Wow! So, since you’ve only just released book 2, Frontier Resistance, when can we expect book 3?

Well, that will mostly depend on Hague Publishing! I submitted the manuscript last week, however submissions for this year have actually closed, and they’re flat out with several other books, so I can’t imagine it’ll be particularly soon. One of the reasons I submitted it knowing all the above was because I needed to stop fiddling with the manuscript. It had been completed and compiled, it had ‘rested,’ and I’d gone through three complete edits myself, so it was time for me to leave it alone.

Authors are often picky, and we can edit ourselves into oblivion, looking to perfect that “one little thing – oh and then that other thing I just noticed! But hang on – I need to change that over there so the other thing makes better sense…and I really hate the way I worded that, so I’d better rewrite that whole chapter…” Sometimes you just have to stop, and wait for some external feedback from a completely objective other party.

Q) Sounds like excellent advice. What other advice would you give to young writers, and readers, wanting to create their own worlds (and possibly, starcats)?

The biggest thing is to keep writing. If you never try, you’ll never know if you could have done it. That seems self evident, but it’s still very true. You also need to think – a lot.

Examine your work for plagiarism. Being influenced by another writer’s style isn’t plagiarism, but blatantly reusing their work or world is. Get someone else to examine your world – sometimes we unconsciously model our world building on someone else’s world.

Remember that you are unique, and so are your stories, and somewhere inside of you, you have the special thing that’s different. For me, it’s been starcats. For you, it might be a volcano made of cheese, or a talking frog, or perhaps you’ve just invented the most amazing time travel machine using two straws and a piece of elastic BUT it has nothing ‘Timey Wimey’ about it!

When you’re world building, use concepts that you really know about. Stuff you actually do or have experienced in real life, or talk to someone who knows a lot about those things or does them. If you want to know how to shoot an arrow, go and learn or talk to your local archery club people. You need to convince your reader that what you’ve created is really real, so that when your character is experiencing something in the story, they’re seeing, feeling and experiencing the right things.

It also needs to hang together. You need to know which way in your world is north or south and you need to know how the government works and why there’s only one language (or lots of languages) and where your character fits into the world. I tend to think about this stuff a lot, mainly because readers are picky, and I know this, because I’m a picky reader.

Having said all of that, none of us are perfect. We’re often blind to our own faults as writers, and having that external set of eyes that says “Hey Leonie, did you know that that bit really sucks?” or “Leonie, did you realise that you’ve just plagiarised Tolkien?” is more valuable than you can imagine.

Q) Thanks for that Leonie. With Frontier Resistance out and the third book with your publisher, what’s next for you? Will we be seeing you at NaNoWriMo?

I’m currently experimenting with a few new characters. I have several different things in mind, all quite different and I’ve been playing around with the characters, using a few short stories, just to get them solid in my head. There’s two in particular who have interesting stories to tell, and I’m vacillating between them, trying to decide if I want to tackle ‘Plague in Space’ or ‘Aliens Invade Earth’ – with a few more twists than those themes suggest. And I also had this weird image of a girl who wakes up with a talking wombat on the foot of her bed…

I’ve never done NaNoWriMo. Is that a bad thing for a writer? And I’ll be on a blog tour with Frontier Resistance during the NaNo month, so I’m guessing perhaps not. Of course it doesn’t mean I won’t be writing – I’ll just be trying to juggle the new story/ies, a blog tour, the other job and two kids arriving home from Uni instead!

Sounds like you’re going to be busy!

Thanks Leonie, for taking the time to let me pick your brains about starcats and worldbuilding. It’s also great to meet another ‘cinematic storyteller’.

Leonie Rogers
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You can read more about Leonie, her cats and her books on her website, and connect with her on twitter (@RaeYesac) and Facebook.

Leonie’s Frontier trilogy starts with Frontier Incursion, continues in Frontier Resistance and concludes with Frontier Defiant, due for release this year. Additionally, she has short stories in May the Fourth: A Collection of Stories Across Time and Space, The Cat The Crow and The Cauldron and the upcoming Novascapes Anthology 2, due in March 2016.

Header image courtesy of clement127.

Giveaway! Athena's Ashes by Jamie Grey

Athena's Ashes Book Blitz
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Another book to add to my exploding book pile! At this rate, I’m never going to get any writing done. I think I need a TARDIS, anyone got one spare?

Excerpt

Renna sat at the small round table in her room, reading through the data Dallas had sent to her tablet. She took another sip of scorching coffee and held the liquid in her mouth for a fraction of a second—until her tongue started to burn—before swallowing. Sometime in the past few days, she’d started doing stuff like that, letting herself experience feelings she’d normally ignore. Like each time might be her last. Continue reading

A world-building template for when you're on the go

World-building on my iPad
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Just whip out the iPad and get world-building, while you wait for you morning hot chocolate.

Patricia C. Wrede’s Fantasy World-building questions are great, and the World-building Leviathan is equally awesome, but there are times when they just don’t hit the spot. Like, when you’re halfway (or more) into your novel and you need to sort out what a battle mage can do that an illusionist can’t.

Sure, you can jot down a few notes and whack them into a notebook, but if, like me, you can’t stand the thought of not being organised, something a little more structured is in order.

Normally, I’d turn to Scrivener, but, until the iPad version comes out, it doesn’t work so well on-the-go. Yes, you can sync your files to an external folder and edit them on the iPad (which works great for writing), but whatever file structure you’ve created in Scrivener is lost, and when I’m world-building I need folders, and not just any folders, but nested folders and lots of them.

And so, I set out to make myself a template in which I could make random notes, while still being organised, and that I could use just as easily from my laptop as my iPad. Continue reading

Revising Hero and the Pantser's Beat Sheet

A screenshot of the 7-point plot system
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The revision of Hero, using the 7-point plot system

Just after Christmas, I finished the first draft of Hero and since the New Year I’ve been hard at work on the second draft. Dan Wells’s 7-point plot system (aka the Pantser’s Beat Sheet) has been incredibly helpful during the revision process – particularly the layering process (explained in part 5 of Dan Wells’s lecture, available on YouTube) – and it too has undergone a revision. Continue reading

Top Ten Tuesday – Bookish goals for 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the good people at the Broke and the Bookish.
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the good people at the Broke and the Bookish.

For this round of Top Ten Tuesday, I’m breaking my list up into two sections. The first section is for this year’s writing-related goals and the second are my reading-related goals.

Writing goals

  1. I completed the first draft of my first book, Hero, just after Christmas, so I think it’s only fair if I have a completed manuscript by the end of 2013 (if not before).
  2. Comprehensively outline book two (working title, Skin) in the Jorn trilogy.
  3. A-little-more-than-roughly outline book three (working title, Native).
  4. Come up with an appropriate title for the series. I almost like The Jorn Chronicles, but only almost.

Reading goals

Here, you may note that a number of my goals include some of last week’s to-read list, as well as a few other challenges. This is not cheating, it’s just good common sense. Promise.

  1. Read 11 books by female Aussie authors for the 2013 Australian Women Writers Challenge.
  2. Read at least a book a week, and 60 within the year, for the Goodreads challenge.
  3. Read more books from outside of science fiction, fantasy and urban fantasy.
  4. Read all of the ebooks I’ve bought and not read (there are many).
  5. Read On Writing and Story.
  6. Reduce the number of books in my TBR pile by 10%, which, as of today, stands at 240. Here’s my hit list for 2013.

Anyone else want to commit to reading 10% of their TBR pile this year?