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.
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.
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.