Top 5 Wednesdays: TBR Benchwarmers (#7)

I’ve finally made it onto a new year of my TBR list! The books I added in 2016 started on the 18th page of my TBR, and I’d have to say it is quite a random mixture. This was just after I finished my first year of doing a reading challenge, so I think some of the books I’d added were meant to plan ahead for potential prompts. I added several nonfiction books, even though I rarely read nonfiction. It seems that I was looking for books about teaching since I had quite a few education-related books in a row, both fiction and nonfiction. I can’t remember now what prompt I was even going for. I think of all the books on my TBR, the batch that these come from are the ones at highest risk of being removed from my TBR unread, especially because several of them are not easily accessible to me. On the other hand, I’ve left them on my list so long because if I am going to read non-fiction, books about teaching are usually what I would go for.

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Dancing on Broken Glass by Ka Hancock

12245809This was the first book I added to my TBR in 2016, and I think I found it by browsing Goodreads’ recommendations page. It is about a couple named Lucy and Mickey, who are determined to make their relationship work. Mickey has bipolar disorder, and Lucy has a family history of breast cancer. Given their circumstances, they make the difficult decision not to have any children, but just before their 11th anniversary, Lucy gets an impossible surprise during a routine physical that changes everything. I have not read very many books about bipolar disorder, but it is something that I’m very interested in reading more about. The main reason that I haven’t picked this one up yet is because I keep forgetting about it. This is the author’s one and only book so far, and it has not received very much attention on Goodreads, so it was easy for it to get buried on my TBR.

2) Send in the Idiots: Stories from the Other Side of Autism by Kamran Nazeer

12506This book combines two of the elements that would actually motivate me to pick up a nonfiction book: autism and teaching. Kamran Nazeer was diagnosed with high-functioning autism himself, and this book is about his journey to find his former classmates from his small specialized school in the 1980s. From what I’ve seen of this book, it touches on special education and people’s attitudes toward autism, but the main focus is on the futures of Kamran’s classmates. I have not read this one yet because it is not accessible to me through the library, and it probably is not something that I’d be strongly interested in buying. However, I am very interested in reading it. I currently work with adults with autism and other developmental disabilities, and have been in this field in varying ways since I was in high school, when I volunteered in our school’s special needs classroom. I was drawn to this one because I thought it was a very attention-grabbing title, so I hope I can eventually find a copy of this.

3) Riding the Bus with My Sister: A True Life Journey by Rachel Simon

40100I actually strongly considered reading this one for a challenge prompt last year, and can’t remember why I ended up going for a different book. Rachel Simon wrote this about her experience taking the bus with her sister Beth, who has a developmental disability. Beth spent her days riding buses around their city, and asked Rachel to come with her for an entire year. I realize now as I look at the synopsis that I’d misunderstood what the book was about. I thought it was about Rachel accompanying her sister on bus rides to school with other special needs classmates, but that is not the case. It is actually about the year that Rachel committed to visiting Beth every weekend and riding the bus with her, which gave her the opportunity to get to know her sister in a new way and learn from her. This sounds like it could be a very interesting memoir and definitely something I’d be interested in trying.

4) Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood by Phillip Done

6546439I love stories about “little kid logic” and generally about people working with younger children since they are usually so much fun to read. This book is about a teacher’s year of teaching a third grade class. Phillip Done had been a teacher for around 25 years at the time that this book was published, so I’m sure he has a ton of stories to share. This book takes us through the school year month by month, sharing the best moments he had with his class. It sounds like it could be a very fun book to read, but unfortunately it is another one that is not currently accessible to me. When I was younger, I wanted to be a teacher for the early elementary school grades or even kindergarten, so I love to read funny kid stories or books about teaching in general. This seems like it would be a lot more interesting to me than most other nonfiction, so I hope I can find a copy of it at some point.

5) Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom

22701879. sy475 I have both of Eric Lindstrom’s YA books on my TBR already, even though I keep putting them both off. This one is about a girl named Parker who is blind, and who is also struggling with her father’s fairly recent death. When Scott, a boy who broke her heart, suddenly comes back into her life, Parker decides to keep him at a distance to avoid getting hurt again. The more Parker starts to learn about what really happened with Scott and with her father’s death, the more she realizes that the rules she’s put in place for herself might need to change. Although I don’t feel like I’ve heard very much about this book in general, many of the reviewers that I follow on Goodreads have given it excellent reviews, and I’m especially interested in the representation for blindness since that is not something that I’ve read much about. I especially like that this one has a bit of a different angle from most other YA contemporaries that I’ve read, so I’m excited to give it a  try.

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Top 10 Tuesdays: Auto-Buy Authors

I think I need to keep a master list somewhere of all of the topics I’ve posted about in the past, since once again I was convinced that I had already written something on this topic. It turns out I had, but in a more limited capacity. Last year, I had a Top 5 Wednesday topic that was about my auto-buy authors, but limited to sci-fi and/or fantasy books only. At the time, I had commented that it was rare for me to automatically buy from any author due to limited shelf space and the overall cost of books, but I think I’ve changed my mind on that by now. There are now several authors that I’m likely to buy, no matter what they write, or at the very least, automatically add to my TBR. Given that many of these are authors that I’ve discussed in detail in the past, I’m just going to list names this time around. I’ve already collected many of the books by these authors, and I’m definitely planning on getting the rest! The only thing I struggle a bit with sometimes is the older series by some of these authors, like Maggie Stiefvater’s Faerie series. Sometimes these older books don’t appeal to me very much, but I’d at least consider these authors auto-buy for their work from now on.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

  1. Jodi Picoult
  2. Leigh Bardugo
  3. Maggie Stiefvater
  4. Victoria/V.E. Schwab
  5. Marissa Meyer
  6. Sarah J. Maas
  7. Laini Taylor
  8. Audrey Niffenegger 
  9. Liane Moriarty
  10. Patrick Ness

Discussion: What It Means to Be a Reader

For most of my life, I’ve considered myself a reader, but I’ve never really thought about what that means until recently. A few years back, there was controversy around a man who posted a video on Youtube criticizing what he called “fake reader girls.” Essentially, his complaint was that many of the more popular channels were people who were not “real” readers, and were just posting videos about books to make money. He especially seemed to complain about women who have professional quality cameras and lights, and post videos wearing make-up. It sparked a lot of discussion about his comments, and I’ve seen something similar happen around “fake gamer girls” too. It comes down to the idea that people who don’t fit the typical mold for what others think of as a reader must not really be readers.

This idea came up again the other day while I was browsing one of my Goodreads reading challenge groups. In discussion of some prompt ideas for next year’s reading challenge, a suggestion came up for a non-fiction and fiction book pair. Some users, myself included, commented that they would be unlikely to vote for that because we weren’t huge fans of non-fiction. In response, another group member made a comment that kind of rubbed me the wrong way, and reminded me of the whole “fake reader” discussion, albeit to a much lesser extent. The comment basically stated that they don’t understand the aversion to non-fiction, and classics since that was another suggestion being discussed, and that they must say that people who don’t like those genres were probably exposed to the wrong ones or read them when they were too young, and therefore mistake these genres for being challenging. The part that really irritated me was the line “Surely a reader would find a nonfiction book they would enjoy.”

Just to break down the comment a little: I have absolutely no problem with this person saying that she does not understand people’s aversion to specific genres. Everyone has their own preferences and it can be hard to understand sometimes why others don’t like a genre you love. However, I do take issue with the assumptions about why people must not like non-fiction and classics. As I’ve mentioned, I’m generally not a fan of non-fiction, but it is not because I assume it will be challenging. I have tried a variety of different subgenres of non-fiction, and while there were a few books that I liked, I generally prefer to read fiction overall. That is not to say it would be impossible for me to find a non-fiction option that I might like, but it is not something I gravitate toward nor something I want to feel forced into reading because of a prompt. I definitely did read  some classics when I was too young to really get them, and enjoyed them much more when I re-read them later, but it seems odd to me to make such a sweeping statement that everyone who does not enjoy these genres must dislike them because they find them too challenging. I don’t find non-fiction challenging necessarily, just dry. I’m much more interested in reading a story I can really get immersed in.

Even last year, when non-fiction-specific prompts were being suggested, it sparked a huge discussion across the board about non-fiction. I remember even then, a comment was made by another user saying that it doesn’t make sense for people to say they don’t like non-fiction at all because there are so many different kinds. Again, people are entitled to their own opinion and preferences, but it seems just as odd to me to say that not liking a genre doesn’t make any sense. There are also many people who don’t enjoy fiction, regardless of the genre, and prefer to read non-fiction. My grandfather was one of those, and so is my boyfriend, just as two examples. The overall message that came out of that discussion was that people who didn’t like non-fiction essentially must not have been trying hard enough to find something they would like, but to me, that kind of begs the question of why should they have to?

The comment that a reader would “surely” be able to find something they would like seemed to imply that only people who manage to do so are real readers. It doesn’t matter if you love to read and pick a variety of books — if you haven’t been able to enjoy non-fiction, you must not be a “real” reader. When it’s put that way, I would hope that it sounds as silly as it is. There are many people who consider themselves readers who stick to only one or two favourite genres. Based on my experience watching many vloggers, it seems like most of them have a couple of favourite genres that they stick to and don’t necessarily branch out from — yet I would still consider these people readers.

It seems like people have a set idea in mind of what a reader “should” be. To many people, it seems that someone is only a reader if they like to read a variety of books from different genres, if they read a lot of books very quickly, and/or if they own a ton of books. On the surface, these ideas do make a lot of sense, but I think they miss out on one key element. To me, the most important thing that makes someone a reader is a genuine interest in and love of books and reading. I think someone can be reading nothing but graphic novels or even picture books, and still consider themselves a reader. We don’t need to be reading more than 100 books in a year to consider ourselves a reader. We don’t need to own hundreds or thousands of books, whether we’ve read them or not, to be a reader. The one thing all readers seem to have in common is their love of books, whatever those books might be. It seems so silly to me to  judge other people for their tastes or suggest that they are not readers because they don’t like certain kinds of books. Everyone is free to pick up whatever kinds of books they want, and shouldn’t feel pressured about it. Granted when you are participating in a prompts-based challenge, you might be pushed to try something you wouldn’t otherwise pick up, but that’s part of the fun. If a person considers themselves a reader, than they are one!

Discussion Time: What do you think makes someone a reader? Is it necessary to read from all genres to be a reader? Has anyone experienced any of the “fake reader girl” kind of comments?

Top 5 Wednesday: TBR Benchwarmers (#6)

I’ve realized today that my TBR has hit the 3000 book mark, which is a little intimidating! Aside from a few classics that I’d theoretically like to read but not sure if I’ll ever actually get around to, I’ve yet to see anything that I’m sure I’d like to remove either. As I’ve probably mentioned in this series alone, there are some books that I’ve been a little on the fence about reading, hence why I kept putting them off, but every time I look at the synopsis again, it reminds me why I was interested in the first place. This set of books is the last group from December 2015. In total, I have about 17 and a half pages of books on my TBR since 2015 (20 books per page) on Goodreads!

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany

15802442I keep mixing up Amy Hatvany and Amy Harmon, and it confuses me every time. What makes it even funnier is that I have all of Amy Hatvany’s books on my TBR, but only two by Amy Harmon. This book is about a woman named Grace who never wanted children, but decides she could be a stepmother for the right man. When she meets Victor, divorced father of two, she thinks she will be fine, especially since the children live with their mother, Kelli. Unfortunately, days after Grace and Victor get engaged, the children’s mother dies under mysterious circumstances, causing Grace and her new stepdaughter, Ava, to discover long-hidden secrets that Kelli was hiding. The story is told from the perspectives of Grace and 13-year-old Ava, who has essentially taken on the role of a parent to her younger brother since her parents’ divorce. I’ve been especially interested in trying some of Amy Hatvany’s books since seeing them compared to Jodi Picoult, so I’d love to give this one a try at some point.

2) Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas

17262187The main reason I’ve never picked this one up is because it wasn’t accessible through my library! I’ve even just checked my library’s two online systems for ebooks or even audiobooks, and it is not available through those either. It is about a woman named Josephine, who is determined to maintain the perfect life she has established for herself and her family. When her oldest daughter Rose runs off with a boyfriend, Josephine tightens her control, causing the rest of the family to spin out of control. Her husband Douglas turns to alcohol, and their other daughter, Violet, turns to eastern philosophy, drugs and extreme fasting. Her son Will is on the autism spectrum and also has epilepsy, and is homeschooled for his own safety. A visit from Child Protective Services sparks the breakdown of their carefully maintained public image, threatening to reveal the truth about the family. I’ve seen very mixed reviews for this book, which often seems to be the case for thrillers and especially those with unlikable characters, but it still sounds very interesting to me. I hope I can find a copy of this one so I can try it for myself.

3) Forget Me Not by Luana Lewis

27069126. sy475 This is another book that I haven’t been able to read because it is isn’t accessible! It is about a woman named Rose, whose daughter Vivien is found dead in a suspected suicide. As the police begin to investigate, it raises the question of whether Vivien would have really killed herself or if something else happened to her. Rose is left to piece together what she can about her daughter’s life to find out what really happened to her. This is exactly the kind of thriller that I tend to enjoy, so it’s too bad that I can’t find a copy of it. I’m not even sure if it was available at the time when I added it to my TBR. I usually don’t check whether a book is available at my library until I decide I’m ready to read it, but I add them on Goodreads anyway so I remember that I was interested. This one drew me in with the very interesting cover and I’ve also recently noticed that the author is a clinical psychologist, which could be great for a psychological thriller. Even though I can’t find this book anywhere, I’m hesitant to remove it from my list because it it something I’d really love to read.

4) Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

7948230Finally, a book on this list that is easily accessible! I first heard about this book when I saw it listed as an example for a prompt in the Goodreads Around the Year challenge a few years ago. The prompt asked for a book with a repetitive word or phrase in the title, and this book was offered as the primary example. It is about two friends, Larry and Silas, who grew up together in the 1970s. Larry was the son of a lower-middle-class white family, and Silas of a poor, single black mother. After a girl that Larry took on a date disappears, everyone suspects him as the culprit, shaking the town in general, and especially Silas’s view of his friend. Twenty years later, Silas returns to town as a constable with no reason to seek Larry out again, until another girl disappears and Larry is once again blamed. I vaguely remember seeing this book compared to John Grisham’s A Time to Kill, which I’ve also been meaning to read for quite a while, but I can’t remember where I saw that. It sounds like it could be a very interesting, character-driven story and I was a bit surprised to realize that it was only around 300 pages. For some reason, I had assumed it was quite a long book. It is also a book that has received many awards and nominations, so it definitely seems like it will be worth a try.

5) The Man I Love by Suanne Laqueur

22515690. sy475 I always thought this was a mystery/thriller, but apparently it is actually a New Adult Romance. That just goes to show how much I look in detail at the books that have been on my TBR for so long. It is about a man named Erik “Fish” Fiskare, who witnessed his girlfriend get caught in the line of fire when a gunman walks into the campus theatre his junior year. The story spans 15 years, showing how that single act has long-lasting effects through a group of friends, including Fish and his girlfriend Daisy, especially after the incident brings out the worst in both of them. This is one of those books that can be a standalone, but is also listed on Goodreads as part of a series. I think the fact that I saw it was part of a series put me off initially because it was already not the highest priority for me at the time, and I didn’t want to commit to reading the series. It is another book that is now not accessible to me, so I’d imagine it will continue to be on my TBR for quite a while. New Adult Romance is not a genre that I read very often, but there is enough about this story that interests me, if I can ever find a copy.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Character Freebie – New Books Featuring Favourite Characters

I had such a hard time settling on a topic for this week’s post! I think sometimes the freebies give me a little too much freedom in a way. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a trend toward expanding popular series, bringing out new books that sometimes involve past favourite characters. Some of these are books that have already been released, while others have just been announced. I’m not just referring to straightforward sequels, since you would expect those to follow the stories of the same characters. I was thinking more specifically about series that are returning after some time, to bring back popular characters with a story or even a series of their own. It seems that many of these books are due to public demand for more of these characters, and it is easy to see why!

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

1) Vengeful by V.E. Schwab – This one is already out, but I think it is worth mentioning because it took 5 years for this book to be released! I was lucky enough to avoid this wait since I only read Vicious last year, so it didn’t take me long to pick up Vengeful after it. I have also heard that V.E. Schwab might be releasing a third book in this series at some point, but there is no real information about that one yet. Victor and Eli are two of my favourite characters, and I also really liked the new additions in Vengeful, so I’m very excited to see them all again whenever the next one comes out.

2) King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo – I have not read this one yet, but I’m trying to find somewhere to squeeze it into this year’s reading challenges. This book brings back characters from both the Grisha trilogy (finished 5 years ago) and the Six of Crows duology (finished 3 years ago), and I’m very interested to see how they mix. Nikolai was one of my favourites from the Grisha trilogy, and I think it will be very interesting for him to have a series (or duology, at least) of his own. While I really enjoyed the Grisha trilogy, the Six of Crows duology have very quickly become one of my favourite series, and it was those books that really pushed me to consider Leigh Bardugo a favourite author. I’m very excited to try this one.

3) Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell – I read Carry On for the first time this year, and I really enjoyed it! This book comes 4 years after the release of Carry On, and I’ve seen it already on so many people’s most anticipated lists for this year. I think part of the reason it took me some time to get into Carry On is because I couldn’t help comparing it to Harry Potter, but I didn’t love the writing or characters as much as J.K. Rowling’s. Once I started to view this book as its own completely separate world and story, I started to love the characters more, especially Baz. I still don’t think I’m as excited for it as most people, but I’m still looking forward to reading it.

4) Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater – It’s already been three years since The Raven Cycle ended! I only finished it last year myself, so it doesn’t feel like such a long gap for me, but this book is due out late this year, and is the start of a new trilogy that focuses on Ronan. Ronan was a very interesting character in the original Raven Cycle series, so I’m glad to see that he will be brought back for more books. I’m a tiny bit worried about this one because part of what I loved about The Raven Cycle was the dynamics between all the main characters, and that will obviously change here, but I love Maggie Stiefvater’s writing so I’m sure it will be great!

5) A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs – This book came out last October and I already have a copy, although I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. The original Miss Peregrine trilogy ended in 2015, so I’m sure I’ll have to refresh myself a bit on the details before I start this one. This book starts off a new trilogy featuring Jacob Portman as he returns to America with Miss Peregrine and the other peculiars, who are doing their best to fit in, until Jacob learns of yet more secrets that his grandfather had been hiding. I loved the Miss Peregrine series, although I’ll admit that I remember very little of the third book by now. I’m glad to see that there will be more of these characters. The Conference of the Birds, the next book in the series, has already been announced for next year, too.

6) Untitled Panem Novel by Suzanne Collins – I’m so glad to see that this book is due out next year, since I was already planning on re-reading the Hunger Games series for the first time. This book comes a full 10 years after the end of the original series, and it brings us a prequel focusing on events 64 years before Katniss’s story. The Hunger Games is one of my all-time favourite series, and I’m very interested to see more of this world. I’m generally not such a huge fan of prequels or between-the-numbers books, but this one actually seems like it will be worthwhile and add a lot to the story. This is definitely one of my most anticipated books for next year!

7) Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi – I’m quite behind on this series already, even though I apparently finished reading Ignite Me in January 2018. I think that goes to show how much I remember of that book though. I made the mistake of stretching the original series out over three years, so by the time I reached each book, I’d mostly forgotten the previous ones. Restore Me was published 4 years after the end of the first series, to add more to Juliette’s story, and there have also been several between-the-numbers stories that I’ve missed. Although I have the next books down in my plan for this year, I am strongly considering holding off and re-reading the entire series next year instead so I can actually keep track of what happened.

8) The Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare – Speaking of series I can’t keep up with, it seems that Cassandra Clare is endlessly putting out new books in the Shadowhunters world. The Mortal Instruments ended in 2014, followed by the Dark Artifices series, which as far as I can tell features completely different characters. The Red Scrolls of Magic, released this April, is the beginning of a new series featuring Magnus Bane, a clear fan-favourite character. I’ve read the first three books of the Mortal Instruments so far, and while I like Magnus as a character, I’m not quite sure I see why so many people are obsessed with him (yet?). Either way, I think it’s interesting that Cassandra Clare would give him a series of his own, although it’s not surprising given his popularity.

9) Untitled by Sarah J. Maas – I wish there was something more to go on for these new additions to the Court of Thorns and Roses series, but so far there really isn’t any information available. Goodreads has three new books in this series listed, and Sarah J. Maas’s website mentions that A Court of Frost and Starlight was meant to bridge the gap between the this series and a new spinoff, set in the same world. There are so many incredible characters in the ACOTAR series that just about any of them could easily have a spin-off series of their own. I’m actually very interested to see which direction she will take. Considering ACOTAR was a series I was a bit hesitant to read in the first place, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it became a fast favourite and I’m really looking forward to reading more set in this world.

10) There Will Be Other Summers by Benjamin Alire Saenz – I need to re-read Aristotle and Dante before I try this one. I liked that book, but definitely didn’t love it as much as everyone else seemed to. Of the two characters, I was a lot more interested in Dante, and I’m curious to see what the storyline for this book will even be. Personally, I found the ending of the first book didn’t quite feel right to me. My impression was that Aristotle had been pushed into things with Dante before he was quite ready for it, but I’ll also admit that I read the book very quickly so it’s highly likely that I missed out a bit on some of the character development. I recently picked up a copy from my library’s book sale, so I’ll see when I’ll be able to fit it in. I don’t see any date for this book yet though, so it looks like I have time.

Second Quarter Challenge Check-In

It’s so hard to believe that the year is already half over! Back in April, I did a wrap-up of my first quarter of this year, to reflect a bit on my progress toward the goals I set for myself this year. As of the halfway point, I had read a total of 85 books, meaning that this quarter alone, I’d read a total of 44. I think it helped a bit that I read quite a few shorter books and graphic novels to off-set some of the longer books that I had also read this quarter, keeping my progress pretty steady from the start of the year. It was a bit disappointing to see on Goodreads that I’d only finished about a third of my total goal by the halfway point, but that’s down to the sheer number of books I had planned. I knew from the start that my total was not the most realistic, but I’m hoping to just read as many as I can by December, and carry the rest forward. Of the books I’ve read this quarter, I had 24 that I gave 5 stars, 16 that I rated 4 stars, and only 3 that I rated 3 stars. Compared to my first quarter, that means that I had more 5-star books from April to June than toward the start of the year, which was great to see! I think a big part of that is because I often spend the first quarter getting rid of some of the books that I’m less excited for anyway, so by now I’m reading more of the books that I really expected to love.

Series Goals and Standalone Goals

As mentioned last quarter, I set myself a goal of 14 series that I wanted to read for my challenges this year. It got a little tricky, since I ended up adding a couple more to my plans after that list had been created, so I guess I can count those as bonus goals. By the end of the first quarter, I had finished 3 series from that list, with the last book in a duology half-finished by March 31. That book was Vengeful, which I finished off in the first few days of this quarter. I also read Wildcard, the remaining two books in the Conqueror’s Saga, got caught up as far as I could on Lumberjanes (all the books that my library had available), and read 5 of the remaining 7 books I had in the Throne of Glass series. That brings me to another 4 completed series this quarter, with progress on the fifth. I do kind of regret that I didn’t manage to finish off all the Throne of Glass books, but I read several of them in a row and decided that I needed a break.

I still have a total of 8 series to finish on the list that I had identified at the beginning of the year. In addition to that, I’ve somehow ended up adding several more: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue duology, the Flame in the Mist duology, the last two books in Jenny Han’s Lara Jean trilogy, and possibly also catching up on the newer books in the Shatter Me series. That does make it a bit more complicated to track my series goal since it feels a bit weird to exclude these, but they also weren’t on my original list. To complicate things even further, I’ve also been considering pushing back the Three Dark Crowns series, which was on my list, to next year because I’ve learned that there is a fourth book coming out later this year, and I thought it might make sense to wait until that one was out. I’ve also been considering waiting to read the new Shatter Me books until next year as well, so I can possibly re-read the original trilogy first, since I have very little memory of it. Considering I’m averaging about 4 series per quarter so far, I’m definitely on track to finish my original list, although I might bump Three Dark Crowns off for a different series. I’m hesitant to do that too though, since this would be the second year in a row that I end up delaying it, and I really do want to read it!

By the end of first quarter, I had also read 4 books out of the 19 standalones that I had identified as my “Top 19 to Read in 2019” list. This quarter, I read 5 more: The Wife Between Us, A Spark of Light, The Woman in the Window, Summer Bird Blue, and Nine Perfect Strangers. That brings me to a total of 9 out of 19, which is essentially half of the list, so I am definitely on track for this goal! After mostly forgetting about this goal in the first quarter, I made a point of checking this list occasionally to remind myself specifically which books I’d put on it, and made sure to prioritize some of those.

Balance and Prioritizing

Speaking of prioritizing, I’ve really tried to focus on balancing my reading and prioritizing books this year better than I had last year. I think the fact that I managed to read just about the same number of books in total this quarter, including some incredibly lengthy books (ie. the Throne of Glass series) is a definite sign that I did a good job of balancing things out. I offset some of the longer books with shorter options, including graphic novels, children’s books, and some fluffy YA. I think the only times I felt that I was reading too many long books in a row is when I read 5 Throne of Glass books back-to-back, and possibly one other time when I read several books that were around 500 pages in a row. I definitely did not feel the same kind of burnout like I had toward the end of last year when I had nothing but YA fantasy for a while, or when I read multiple 500+ page books from fantasy series close together. I’ve been very careful to avoid getting myself into that kind of scenario again, and so far I think I’ve been pretty successful.

In terms of prioritizing my books, I wanted to make sure that I focused on the Around the Year and PopSugar challenges first, to avoid finding myself with a huge chunk of these challenges remaining by the last month or two of the year. I still find myself struggling to figure out how to balance the books I own with the ones I am getting from the library. Although one of my goals was to read more of the books I own, I still find myself using the library more often. I think that will change though as we get towards fall and winter in a few months, when it is harder for me to get there. Of the 44 books I read this quarter, about 30 of them were from the library, so it is definitely something that I should pay more attention to.

By the end of June, I had done pretty well in making progress on all of my challenges, with the exception of my “Top Picks” challenge. I’ve finished nearly half of my PopSugar challenge (23/50 books), and around a third of each of my others. I’ve read 17/55 books toward my ATY challenge, 19/52 for Bookish 2018, and 19/58 for my Modified Mannegren challenge. My Top Picks challenge is currently stagnating at around 16% (6/37 books) but for no particular reason. Although I’d love to be closer to the halfway mark on all of my challenges, I think this is great progress so far. I’m especially glad that I read 11 more books for ATY this quarter and 13 toward PopSugar. Those were my two biggest leaps in terms of totals for a specific challenge, and it’s great that they were for my highest priority challenges.

New-To-Me vs. Previously Enjoyed

Like I mentioned last quarter, this is not necessarily a goal that I put too much conscious thought into. I have a habit of adding multiple books by authors I haven’t  read yet on my TBR because the synopses sound so interesting. Most of the time, it works out since I end up enjoying those authors when I try them. I wanted to try to read at least one book from several of these authors, but I didn’t set myself any specific number as a goal. At the same time, I also set myself the goal of reading more books by authors that I’ve already enjoyed to try and keep up with some new releases. I think in this quarter, I accomplished a little of both. If anything, I would say there was a definite preference to reading previously enjoyed authors (V.E. Schwab, Liane Moriarty, Jodi Picoult, Akemi Dawn Bowman, Sarah J. Maas, Taylor Jenkins Reid, and Angie Thomas, just to name a few), but I also tried books by Jane Corry, Madeline Miller, Rachel Lynn Solomon, and the duo of Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. Actually, looking back at my list, I was surprised to see how much of a preference there was toward previously enjoyed authors although I think it was partly because of my focus on finishing series.

Recent Releases vs. Backlist Books

This is another goal that I don’t put much conscious thought into on a month-by-month basis, since it was more relevant when planning my list for the year. I definitely had a good number of newer releases this quarter. Looking back at the books I read over the past three months, my inclination is to say that the majority were newer releases, but I also read a few that had been on my TBR for several years. Most notably, I read Enduring Love by Ian McEwan and Unteachable by Elliot Wake, which had both been on my TBR since 2015. My goal specifically was to read some books that had been on my list since 2016 or earlier, and this quarter, only 5 of the 44 books I read fell into that category. This is not necessarily my highest priority goal, so it doesn’t really bother me much that I didn’t make a ton of progress on it. On the other hand, I’m glad that I read quite a few new releases, with many of the books I read added to my TBR in 2018 or even 2019. This should help me avoid the pile-up of letting books sit unread on my TBR for years at a time.

Other Goals

It’s tricky to assess goals that had no set criteria, but I intentionally left some of these vague because I wasn’t sure of a specific number that I wanted to read. I have definitely accomplished, or at least made progress, toward my goal of reading more graphic novels, mostly thanks to reading the Lumberjanes series. This quarter alone, I read 10 graphic novels. For sake of comparison, in 2018 I had read a total of 18 graphic novels for the whole year, and I’m already nearly at that total. I read 5 in the first quarter this year, and 10 this quarter, so I’m already at 15!

I’d also set myself a loose goal of reading “more” thrillers, without really defining what was meant by more. I purposely didn’t have a specific number set because I wanted the flexibility to switch books around without worrying about removing a thriller if needed and messing up a goal. This quarter, I read 3 books that were thrillers or mystery/thrillers, which I think is about the same as I had read in the first quarter. I would definitely love to read more thrillers by the end of the year, and have quite a few already in my plans so I’m hoping I can get to most of them!

My last kind of vague goal was to be less intimidated by longer books, and I think I’ve both accomplished this and not accomplished it. I have definitely incorporated a lot of longer books into my plan for this year, to the point where I was a bit surprised to realize how many 500+ page books I had on my list. I read 4 books that were over 500 pages, and another 6 books that were between 450 and 500 pages. That makes almost a quarter of the books that I read this quarter on the longer side. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m intimidated by books of this length, but I do tend to think quite carefully about when would be best to read them to make sure I have the time to devote to them properly. I still have at least 6 books that I can think of off the top of my head that are more than 500 pages (including Kingdom of Ash, which is close to 1000!) planned for this year. I guess in a sense it is a bit intimidating because I end up worrying that if I read these, it will slow down my challenge progress in general, but the fact that I had so many longer books in general on my list for the year is definitely progress toward this goal.

Reader’s Choice Awards

I have no idea why the Goodreads Around the Year challenge group has stopped doing this thread each quarter, because it was always a lot of fun. It’s such a great way to look back at the books I read in the quarter, and to see what everyone else had been reading too.

Breakout Read: A book that was surprisingly good or exceeded expectations.

I would have to say The Woman in the Window. I heard such mixed reviews for this one, especially after all the controversy surrounding the author, but I loved this book. I was a bit disappointed to accidentally spoil myself for one of the twists by seeing a content warning in someone’s review, but otherwise this book really kept me guessing.

Biggest Let Down: A book you thought would be brilliant but was a total disappointment.

This is such a hard question to answer because there are so many ways to find a book disappointing. My natural inclination was to pick one of my 3-star reads, but none of those were books that I really expected to love either. I think I would have to say my biggest disappointment was probably Wildcard. I really enjoyed reading Warcross last year, and while I still liked this book, it didn’t interest me nearly as much. I think part of the problem is that by the time I read this one, I barely remembered Warcross so I wasn’t very invested in the story or the characters and I found myself kind of bored at times.

Best Dressed: The book with the most attractive cover.

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Best Characters: A book with characters you couldn’t get enough of.

On the Come Up. Bri was such an interesting main character and I would love to see more of her. I also thought the side characters in this one were very well-developed and it really brought the story to life.

I also have to give a special mention to the amazing characters in the Throne of Glass series. Even though I had to take a break before reading the last two books, I was fully immersed in this story and its characters. I especially loved Lysandra and Manon, and how much their roles have grown as the series progresses.

Best Place: A book that was set in an interesting place (fictional or not).

I thought Circe had a very interesting setting, with so much of the story taking place on her island. This is another of a few books this year that I’ve really struggled to give a rating to, and I’m strongly considering upping it to a 5 because the further I get from it, the more I’m thinking the strong parts really outweighed the minor issues I had with it at the time. Either way, this book had a very interesting setting and I’m glad I decided to give it a chance.

Best Story: A book with a great storyline.

Definitely the Throne of Glass series, but if I had to pick just one book from it, I would say Crown of Midnight. The storyline of the whole series is quite complex, but I especially loved this book. I always have a hard time separating books from a series when I read so many of them in a row!

Best Feelings: A book that made you really emotional.

I’d probably have to go with Summer Bird Blue, for it’s very strong portrayal of grief.

Best Love: A book with a romance worth swooning for (does not have to be a romance book).

I think the only especially strong romance that I read this quarter were the relationships in Throne of Glass, especially once Rowan was introduced in Heir of Fire. I also loved Dorian and Sorscha.

Best Shock: A book that made your jaw drop in surprise.

It’s a toss-up for me between The Woman in the Window, and The Wife Between Us. Both books had some very interesting twists that would have really caught me by surprise, if I hadn’t accidentally spoiled myself for them.

Best Author: An author whose writing you really clicked with.

It’s hard to say when the majority were authors that I had already read before. Choosing from authors who are least newer to me, I would probably have to go with either Kiersten White for the Conqueror’s Saga or Taylor Jenkins Reid for Daisy Jones & The Six, since I loved that book even with it’s unusual format.

Best Series: A book from a series you either can’t get enough of or can’t wait to indulge in more.

Definitely Vengeful! I feel like I have not mentioned this book enough, but I loved it and would love to see more of these characters and this world. While I did like Vicious very slightly better, I thought this book was a great follow-up and would love to get more.

Best Read: The book you read in April, May or June that topped all the others.

This is a very difficult choice because even though I had many 5-star reads, I’m not sure if any of them stand out as the best because they are so hard to compare. I think if I had to pick, I would say The Woman in the Window with On the Come Up in a very close second.

Top 5 Wednesdays: TBR Benchwarmers (#5)

Apparently I added a ton of books to my TBR in December 2015! I think all of my TBR Benchwarmers posts so far have been about books that were added to my list that month. Like always, many of these are books that I keep remembering that I really want to read every time I see them, but I always end up pushing them aside. More than anything, I feel like this series has really reminded me to take a look back at the beginning pages of my TBR and find some books to prioritize. It’s challenging sometimes to find copies of these books, which is why some of them end up on my TBR for so long, but in the case of the books here, they are all easily accessible so there is no excuse!

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

23149128I always add Robyn Schneider’s books to my TBR, even though I haven’t read anything of hers! I even recently purchased a copy of her most recent release, Invisible Ghosts, from Book Outlet and I’m very excited to read it this year. The only books of hers that I’ve never added, partly because I didn’t know about them until just now when I double-checked Goodreads, are a couple of YA books that she had published in 2007, neither of which interest me at all. Neither of them have many ratings or reviews on Goodreads, and I honestly knew nothing about them despite seeing all of Robyn Schneider’s other books mentioned frequently. Extraordinary Means was the second of her books that I added to my TBR, partly because the cover intrigued me. The synopsis for it is strangely vague, but it is about a boy named Lane who is sent to Latham House, a boarding school for sick teens, after learning that he has a rare form of tuberculosis. While there, he meets Sadie and her eccentric group of friends. It sounds like an interesting premise and I’m very interested in trying it. I just keep putting it off in favour of other books that I wanted to read more.

2) A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

18774964I was a little on the fence about this one at the time that I added it, which is probably why it’s taken me so long to come around to actually reading it. I loved Beartown and plan to read the sequel soon, so I now know that I love Fredrik Backman’s writing. I’ve been hearing about this one absolutely everywhere, but wasn’t sure if I’d like it. It is about a grumpy “old” man named Ove, who is fed up with his life, until he meets the young new family who moves in next door. The reason I put old in quotes above is because I’d always assumed that Ove was quite a bit older than he was — but according to the reviews and summaries I’ve seen, he is 59. I have heard that this book is absolutely heartbreaking. From what I’ve heard, it reminds me a bit of the Pixar movie UP! and I definitely think it will be worth a try. I’ve heard so many great things about it, and especially now that I’ve already tried one of Fredrik Backman’s books, this one will probably move up my priority list.

3) The House by Christina Lauren

24885831. sy475 I bought this one from Book Outlet last year because it seemed very intriguing and it was available for about $2. I was very surprised to later realize that it was written by Christina Lauren, the pair behind so many new contemporary romances! This book is a YA horror/paranormal story about a girl named Delilah who comes back to town after seven years away, and reconnects with Gavin, an outcast who lives in a strange isolated house. It is essentially a haunted house story, where the house itself is obsessed with Gavin and terrified of losing him. The House becomes determined to scare Delilah away and keep Gavin to itself. It is such a strange premise, but also very interesting. I’m a huge coward when it comes to any kind of scary story, but somehow I don’t imagine Christina Lauren’s writing would be too much for me. Also, it is a YA book and I generally don’t find YA horror too scary. I was interested enough in this one to buy it, so hopefully that will give me the push I need to actually pick it up.

4) The Unfinished Child by Theresa Shea

17162695I added this book to my TBR because I work in a day program for adults with special needs, and I always find it interesting to find related books. This one is about a woman named Marie who gets pregnant unexpectedly, and has to decide whether she wants another child, given that she has an increased risk of having a child with Down syndrome at her age. She especially feels guilty about having to make the choice because her best friend Elizabeth has never been able to conceive. The book also follows the story of Margaret, a woman who gave birth to a child with Down syndrome in 1947, when they were considered “unfinished” children. This sounds like a very interesting and potentially thought-provoking story, along the lines of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. I work with quite a few young adults who have Down syndrome and it is really hard for me to imagine their parents being faced with the kind of choice the mother in this book has. I was also interested to see that this book has been endorsed by the Canadian Down Syndrome Society, so I would assume the representation is well done. Unfortunately, glancing through some of the reviews has given quite a few spoilers, so I may have to delay reading this one a bit until I’ve forgotten the details. I really wish people wouldn’t give everything away like that!

5) Speechless by Hannah Harrington

13069681This is another book that I keep forgetting that I have on my TBR, and I’m sure the extremely bland cover does not help. It also doesn’t really help that it has a very vague synopsis too. It is about a teenager named Chelsea who has decided to take a vow of silence in the hopes that she won’t hurt anyone else after sharing gossip had serious consequences. It’s always hard for me to remember to pick up books like this, when there is very little distinguishing about it. I have quite a few books on my TBR about characters who are choosing to remain silent for various reasons, although I find many of the YA versions of that story tend to be along the same lines. I’m a bit worried to try this one at this point since I sometimes find older YA books feel a bit dated already, and this one only came out in 2012! I have seen some pretty strong reviews for this one though, and it does sound like a story that could really interest me. I’m still intrigued enough to keep it on my TBR for now, but I’m not sure how soon I’ll be getting to it either.