Third Quarter Challenge Check-In

This year is going so fast! I started doing quarterly wrap-ups this year (first and second quarters here) because I realized that although I mention my reading challenges frequently, I don’t always go into much detail about the books that I’ve been reading for them. By the end of the third quarter, I had read a total of 132 books, which means a total of 48 books in this quarter alone. This makes it my highest number of books per quarter this year, but only by 4 books. It also means that by the end of the third quarter, I also hit the halfway point on my overall challenge. It’s been a bit disappointing this year to feel so far behind, but that’s mostly because of the challenges with the logistics of using Goodreads. I set my total at 252 because that was the total number of books across all the challenges I’d decided to take on, but I knew that number would be way too high for one year. It’s difficult to find a way to accurately keep track of progress on Goodreads while still accounting for all the challenges, but I’m working on a new system for next year’s challenges that will hopefully make a little more sense. Of the books that I read this quarter, I rated 31 of them 5 stars, 15 of them 4 stars, and the remaining 2 were 3 stars. This means that in terms of the quality of the books, this was my best quarter so far!

Series Goals and Standalone Goals

By the end of the second quarter, I had 8 series remaining of the 14 that I had set as a goal for the year, but I also decided to revamp my goals a tiny bit. I noticed that there were new books due out in both the Renegades series and the Three Dark Crowns series, and started to think it would make more sense to delay those series until early next year when all of the books were published. I’m still a bit on the fence about Renegades because I might get the first two books for my birthday, and there’s a chance I’ll get to them before the end of the year. I decided to modify the goal a bit to include other series that I was sure to finish instead, so my goal list now also includes:  The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue duology, the Flame in the Mist duology, and the last two books in Jenny Han’s Lara Jean trilogy. That brings my overall total of series to complete to 15, with the possibility of Renegades as a 16th series. I had also tentatively considered adding the new books in the Shatter Me series but decided to wait and re-read the original trilogy plus the new books next year in stead.

This quarter, I completed an additional 5 series from the updated list. Probably my biggest accomplishment was finishing the last two books of the  Throne of Glass series! I also read all three books in the Infernal Devices series, the remaining books of the Lara Jean trilogy, both books in  The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue duology, and read all of the Giant Days graphic novels currently available through my library. That means I have currently completed 11 out of the 15 series that are on my list, and I am already halfway through The Mortal Instruments as well. Of the remaining series, I’m most nervous to start on Strange the Dreamer because while I love Laini Taylor’s writing, I know her books can be a bit dense or slower to get through, and I’m worried that it will feel like they are taking too long when I have so many other books to read. I’m definitely planning on getting to those pretty soon!

By the end of the second quarter, I had also read 9 out of the 19 standalones that I’d earmarked as top priority for the year. This quarter, I read 6 more: Our House, Spinning Silver, The Kiss Quotient, Ghosted, Anger Is a Gift, and The Last Mrs. Parrish. That brings me to a total of 15 books on this list completed, so I only have 4 to go to finish this goal by the end of the year! The remaining books are all ones that I own, and I’ve been putting them off in favour of reading library books instead, so I’ll have to make sure to prioritize them sometime in the next three months.

Balance and Prioritizing

Like last quarter, I think the fact that I’ve been pretty consistent in my overall number of books is a good sign that I’ve become reasonably good at balancing out my reading. I’ve really learned to offset some of my longer books with other shorter books. For example, I intentionally read the Giant Days series immediately after The Infernal Devices series, which are a bit on the longer side. I also read a few YA books and The Rosie Result, which reads very quickly, after the last two books of the Throne of Glass series. I definitely have not been feeling as burnt out as I did by this point of the year in 2018, where I read too many of the same genre in a row, and also too many long books in a row. I think overall I’ve done a great job of giving myself variety, and that’s really helped keep my motivation up through the whole year.

Prioritizing, on the other hand, is still a bit of a challenge for me. Having the lists of top priority series and standalones has definitely helped remind me to get to some of the books I was most interested in, but I’ve still struggled to find the right balance between library books and my owned books. This quarter, I especially felt limited by library holds because there were several occasions where I had to change the order of what I was planning to read because I was unable to renew a book due to other people’s requests on it. There were times where it made me feel rushed to finish books that I’d love to spend more time on, or to pick something up when I wasn’t really in the mood for it. For example, I meant to read both books in The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue duology back-to-back, but had to return the second one because I wouldn’t have had time to finish it before I went away on vacation. It took two months to get a copy again. Looking back at the books I read this quarter, only 3 of them were books that I owned!

By the end of September, I was around the halfway mark for all of my challenges, except for my Top Picks challenge which was at 40.5%. This quarter alone, I read an additional 11 books toward ATY, and only 7 books toward PopSugar, which were my two highest priority challenges. PopSugar is still one of my closest to being completed, so it makes sense that I didn’t prioritize it as strongly through these months. I also read 12 books toward my Bookish 2018 challenge, and 9 toward each of the Modified Mannegren challenge and my Top Picks challenge. I was actually a bit surprised to see that I had balanced out reading toward each of these challenges quite well, which was definitely not something that I planned intentionally. For the remainder of the year, my plan is to actively prioritize ATY and PopSugar since those are the two that I most strongly want to complete by the end of December. I also need to decide how to handle remaining prompts on the other challenges, whether that means carrying them forward as some kind of “leftovers challenge,” or starting fresh next year.

New-To-Me vs. Previously Enjoyed

This goal was more of a guideline than something I planned to actively seek out, but it’s still be fun to look back and see where my reading falls. This quarter, I read books by 20 new-to-me authors, including several who I expect to be new favourites (Emily X.R. Pan, Alex Michaelides, Louise CandlishCourtney Summers, Liv Constantine, Helen Hoang and possibly Mark Oshiro). I was surprised to see that about half of the books I’d read were by authors who I hadn’t tried before. The number does get skewed a bit by series. For example, John Allison, who wrote the Giant Days series, was new to me but I guess that would only apply to the first book in the series and not all 10 that I read. I also read one anthology that mostly had authors who were new to me. I was also glad to revisit some authors that I’d already read and loved, loved including Graeme Simsion, Fredrik Backman, Gillian Flynn, Tiffany D. Jackson, and Sarah J. Maas, even though in some cases I didn’t love their newer books quite as much as their previous ones (Naomi Novik and Sally Thorne, for example).

Recent Releases vs. Backlist Books

This is a goal that is more for the planning phase of my challenges than the actual month-by-month breakdowns, but it is still one that is interesting to note. My goal was to include some books that had been on my list since 2016 or earlier. This quarter, only three of the books I read had been on my TBR since 2015 or 2016. 12 books had been on my list since 2017. That means that more than half of the books I read this quarter were either recent releases or books that I’d only found out about in the past couple of years. I didn’t actually count how many backlist books I read in previous quarters, but I think overall it’s been a decent mix up until now. This quarter definitely felt like the lowest number of backlist books, at least if I define it by when I added them, as opposed to when they were actually released. At least this means I made a lot of progress toward my goal of reading more recent releases (which I defined as published in 2018 or 2019)!

Other Goals

One of my vaguely defined goals for the year was to read “more” graphic novels, and it definitely helped that I had a few graphic novel series planned to help with that. This quarter, I read a total of 12 graphic novels (in large part thanks to reading the whole Giant Days series), bringing my total for the year up to 27. For the sake of comparison, in the entire 2018 year, I’d read a total of 18, so I’ve already far exceeded that goal! I still have a few more graphic novels planned for the next couple of months as well.

Another vague goal was to read “more” thrillers, again with an unspecified quantity since I didn’t want to lock myself into a set number. This quarter, I was surprised to realize that I had only read 3 more thrillers! I’m not entirely sure whether to count Sadie by Courtney Summers, since it is not tagged as one on Goodreads, but I think a case could be made for it. I think I’ve read about the same number of thrillers each quarter so far, which seems surprisingly low! I think a big part of the reason I haven’t read as many as I thought is because I’ve been focused on fantasy series so far, and in any case, the fall is the perfect time to read thrillers so I wouldn’t be surprised if the number jumps a bit by the end of the year! To be fair though, in 2018 I read a total of 10 thrillers for the whole year, so I’m basically on track with that number, with a few months to spare.

My last vaguely defined goal was to be less intimidated by longer books, and I would still say that I have both accomplished it and not quite accomplished it. I have definitely read a lot of long (500+ pages) books, but I still do have that bit of hesitation about picking them up because I know they will take me a long time. This quarter, I read 5 books that were over 500 pages (including Kingdom of Ash, which is almost double that), and an additional 6 books that were between 450 and 500 pages. Like last quarter, that means a total of a quarter of my books were on the longer side. In total so far, I have read 14 books this year that were over 500 pages, and 14 books that were between 450 and 500 pages. That’s a total of 28 (about one fifth) of my books for the year so far. I still have a few more books on the long side planned for the next few months, although fewer since it’s so close to the end of the year. I’m very happy with the overall number of bigger books that I’ve read this year, and I think I’d consider this goal accomplished even if I don’t read any more by the end of December.

Reader’s Choice Awards

It still bugs me a bit that the ATY Goodreads group has stopped offering a thread for the Goodreads Choice Awards! I’m not sure why it stopped, since it was always a great way to see what everyone else had been reading and get some new recommendations.

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

Considering I had a whopping 31 books rated 5 stars this quarter, it’s tough to choose just one! I think if I had to pick, I would have to go with Sadie by Courtney Summers. This is an author that I’ve had on my TBR for many years, but I’ve never been the most motivated to pick up any of her books. I decided to try this one because of all the hype around it, and it easily became one of my favourites of the year!

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

I always struggle a bit with this question because my first instinct is to pick one of the books that I rated lowest, but those aren’t always disappointing since I sometimes didn’t expect much from them anyway. I think the one book that really struck me as most disappointing was (unfortunately) Spinning Silver. To be clear, I did not hate this book at all and still gave it 4 stars. I just expected it to capture my attention immediately like Uprooted had, and it didn’t. It took me nearly a whole week to read. Part of that may have been because I made the mistake of reading it after work instead of on a weekend when I had more time, but it just didn’t grab me.

Best Dressed: The book with the most attractive cover.








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

I think I have to give this one to the Infernal Devices series. For years, I’d been hearing about how amazing Will, Jem and Tessa all were, and to be honest, I didn’t expect them to live up to the hype. Luckily for me, they did!

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

The Astonishing Colour of After. The vast majority of this book was set in Taiwan, and I loved the way the author described the country and especially the culture.

Best Story: A book with a great storyline.

This is always one of the most difficult categories! I’m going to give this one to Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson, which was about a group of three teenagers who try to make their recently murdered friend into a famous rap star by creating mixtapes of his songs.

Best Feelings: A book that made you really emotional.

The Astonishing Colour of After for its very strong portrayal of grief (ironically, the same reason that I picked Summer Bird Blue last quarter for this category), tied with  Sadie, which is one of the most impactful stories I’ve read in a long time.

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

There are a few that come to mind. I really liked Monty and Percy in The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue, Chaol and Yrene in Tower of Dawn, and Tessa with both Will and Jem in the Infernal Devices series.

I also want to give a special mention to Stella and Michael in The Kiss Quotient because I really loved the way the author incorporated consent and respect for boundaries in such a natural way.

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

I think The Silent Patient was the one that caught me most off-guard this quarter. I did not expect that twist at all!

The Last Mrs. Parrish was also a strong contender, but I unfortunately saw some spoilers that compared it to another thriller I’d already read, so I had a good idea of what was happening before it was revealed. If I hadn’t seen those though, I think this one would have been pretty shocking too.

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

So many! As always, I’ll limit this one to authors who were new to me, so I’ll go with Courtney Summers and Emily X.R. Pan.

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

Again, there are so many great books to choose from, but I think I have to give this one to The Rosie Result. I had no idea a new book was expected in this series this year until well after my challenge plans had already been made, but I had to rearrange things to fit this one in!

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

I guess it’s no surprise since I’ve mentioned these books the most, but I have to give this one to Sadie, with The Astonishing Colour of After in an extremely close second. To be honest, the only reason that Sadie got the slight edge is because I’d already expected to love The Astonishing Colour of After, and I wasn’t quite sure how much I’d like Sadie.


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