2020 Reading Challenges – First-Quarter Update

Already into April, it’s time to check-in about how 2020 reading goals are going!  I hope you are all enjoying nice weather, staying safe in a weird time, and reading as much as you’d like to.

My overarching goal this year was to read more, with a number goal of 125 books.  I read a lot in January, starting me off well for the year.  I’m at a total of 32 books for the first three months of the year, though it has been dropping off.  Now that I’ve been following “stay at home” orders for a few weeks, my audiobook listening has reduced (very little driving!) and I don’t seem to be doing a lot of extra print reading…but I’m still going through some books, and wondering how long my last-minute stock-up pile from the library will last!

Here’s my monthly totals:
January: 14 books
February: 11 books
March: 7 books

Now onto the specific challenges…

The Phantom of the Opera Reading & Viewing Challenge
Host: Tales of the Marvelous
Goal: Lon Chaney Level

I already posted the check-in post for the Phantom challenge I’m hosting.  So far, I’ve reread the Gaston Leroux Phantom.  I have a modest goal for this one, so I’m currently on track.  I’m hoping to re-watch the 25th Anniversary Webber play next.  We’ll see!

Continue reading “2020 Reading Challenges – First-Quarter Update”

The Guardian of the Opera: Nocturne Cover Reveal

I’ve been talking about my Guardian of the Opera trilogy for a long time, and am so pleased that the first book, Nocturne, will be out June 5th – just about two months away!  And today I’m very excited to finally reveal the cover.

First, a little about the story, from the back of the book…

Set against the backdrop of 1880s Paris and the stunning Opera Garnier, The Guardian of the Opera: Nocturne brings you the familiar tale from a different direction. Meg Giry met the Phantom once when she was twelve years old, a new ballet dancer lost in the Opera’s maze. Years later, when an Angel of Music offers singing lessons to her best friend Christine Daaé, Meg is sure she knows what’s actually happening. But as strange events unfold and the pieces stop adding up, Meg has to wonder if she truly understands the Phantom—or Christine.

Erik is a man of many talents and many masks, and the one covering his face may be the least concealing. The opera house is his kingdom and his refuge, where he stalks through the shadows as the Phantom of the Opera, watching over all that occurs. He never intended to fall in love; when he does, it launches him into a new symphony he’s certain can only end in heartbreak.

I think this description will rather explain the cover…which you can scroll down to see!










I’m very pleased with how it looks!  I actually took the background picture of the Opera Garnier myself, so it’s especially cool to have it put together like this.  I hope you’ll get your own copy come June. 🙂

The Phantom of the Opera Reading and Viewing Challenge – 1st Update

It’s April 1st, a quarter of the way through 2020 already, and that means it’s time for an update on Phantom reading and viewing adventures.  I hope you and yours are staying well in the midst of the pandemic situation, and maybe having time for some extra reading.  And remember – social isolation may be hard, but donning a mask and crashing chandeliers is never the answer!

I kicked off my Phantom exploration for the year with a reread of the original story, Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera.  This was my…third? fourth? time reading the book, and I enjoyed it immensely–and had lots of thoughts about the unreliability of the narration.

Read my written review of Leroux’s Phantom.

Watch my video review of Leroux’s Phantom.

If you’d like a refresher on the challenge, check out the launch post here.  And please share about your Phantom adventures so far in 2020 in a comment below.  I look forward to seeing what you’ve been exploring this year.

Shameless self-promotion: As a further update on my own retelling of the Phantom, The Guardian of the Opera: Nocturne will be out June 5th, and the cover reveal is this Friday, April 3rd.  Drop by Friday and see the awesome cover I can’t wait to share!

Video Book Review: The Happiness Project

I’m following up last week’s review of When Bad Things Happen to Good People with another favorite nonfiction book, and one that also feels relevant to right now, though in a very different way – The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  Now may be a good time to think about little ways to boost your happiness.

Blog Hop: Visit My Bookshelves


Today’s Book Blogger Hop question is:  Share a photo of one section of your bookshelf randomly selected or go ahead and share the entire bookshelf.

I’ve been wanting to share a video touring my L. M. Montgomery shelves (so, not that randomly selected), making this blog hop prompt perfect!  Please enjoy the visit to my shelves in the video below. 🙂

Writing Wednesday: Round Robin, Round Three

My writing focus has been a bit scattered for the last couple of weeks, and this week it took a new turn.  It was my turn again to write a chapter of my next collaborative novel, Pesto, Pirouettes and Potions.  I’m trading chapters with three other writers, and this was my third chapter but Chapter Ten of the novel.  Considering we outlined a total eighteen chapters, we are well on our way through the story!

In this chapter, our heroines got closer but then had a huge fight.  Fun stuff to write!  I actually struggled a bit this time around, trying to figure out how to interpret our notes and whether they were lining up with some earlier sections.  A couple notes for different chapters actually were in conflict – for instance, Lola’s roommate Mario was supposed to flirt with Charlie in Chapter Six, but then it’s revealed in Chapter Twelve that he’s a member of Charlie’s coven, so what’s he doing flirting with her like he doesn’t know she’s a lesbian?

I ended up contacting my fellow writers and we held a video chat brainstorming meeting Monday night to figure some things out before we went further.  Very helpful, although we mostly observed that it’s all holding together surprisingly well so far!  We also decided Mario isn’t in the coven and kept the flirting 😉

I finished writing up my chapter today, along with adding a bit to the previous chapter about Charlie’s ballet production.  I researched modern ballet for Chapter Two, so even though I didn’t write Chapter Nine, I had the most expertise to add a bit about the production.  Charlie is dancing to the Rolling Stones, and it’s not at all what Lola expected!

For now, here’s a brief excerpt, from right after Charlie and Lola’s first kiss.


“So.”  Say something, crack a joke.  “Is Mario going to ask me my intentions?”

Lola bristled, and it was so her that Charlie loved it.  “Mario doesn’t have any say in who I date.”

“I was just kidding,” Charlie said, even though she figured Lola probably knew that.

“Yeah.  Of course.”  Then Lola’s gaze, defiant for a moment, dropped awkwardly as she kicked one heel back against the door.  “Anyway,” she mumbled, “Mario likes you.  I mean, likes you for me.  I mean…”

“Do you want to, I don’t know, grab some drinks?” Charlie suggested.  Ugh, so cliché—but she didn’t know what else to suggest, she just knew she didn’t want this, whatever this was, to end.

Video Book Review: When Bad Things Happen to Good People

I don’t expect every review I do in the future will be by video, but right now I’m home a lot and it’s a good time to film.  I’m home a lot because, probably like many of you, my region is under a “stay at home” directive for the coronavirus pandemic.  I decided a very small thing I could do in response was to make a video reviewing a book I have found helpful (and recommended in the past) for dealing with scary, tragic, unfathomable things.

I wrote a review of When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner before, and yesterday I made the video below.  The book explores the role of faith and God in the face of inexplicable tragedy, and offers enormous insight.