2019 End of Year Book Survey

I can’t believe it’s already the end of the year! Like last year, I found that this year got away from me a bit when it came to getting my reading challenges done. I somehow ended up with way too many books remaining for my “main” challenges by the beginning of December, and as of right now, I still have a couple more books to finish off by the end of the year. I think I’m close enough to the end though where I can safely do my End of Year survey, which was a post I found a couple of years back on PerpetualPageTurner, and I thought it’s a great way to try and sum up an entire year’s worth of reading! All credit goes to PerpetualPageTurner for the graphics and the questions! Overall, although it’s felt like a bit of a scramble again toward the end, this has been another fantastic reading year!

Reading Stats

Number of Books You Read: As of right now, I’ve read 194 books, and I’m hoping to finish at least 3 more short books to finish off my main challenges.
Number of Re-reads: 11. I re-read the entire Harry Potter series, and also read a Curious George collection and a Little Critter collection which contained mostly stories that I’d read before.
Genre You Read the Most From: 
Fantasy and contemporary (mostly YA), both in approximately equal numbers.

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1. Best Book You Read In 2019?

As always, it’s hard to pick just one, so I’ll have to pick one per genre, excluding re-reads:

Best YA Contemporary –  Sadie tied with On the Come Up
Best YA Fantasy (From a Series) – Crooked Kingdom
Best YA Fantasy (Not from a series) – The Astonishing Colour of After (magical realism)
Best Graphic Novel – Strong Female Protagonist Book Two
Best Fiction – The Rosie Result
Best Thriller – The Woman in the Window
Best Adult Contemporary – The Kiss Quotient
Best Historical Fiction – Daisy Jones & The Six

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

I have two answers for this one, and for very different reasons. The first book is Spinning Silver, which I still ultimately gave 4 stars so it wasn’t a bad book by any means. I’d just really expected it to be an easy favourite of the year like Uprooted, and instead I really struggled to get into it. To be fair, I’d read it during a particularly stressful and tiring week and under pressure to get it back to the library in time, so I didn’t really go into it with the right mindset either. I’d like to read this one again at some point because I really don’t think it was the book’s fault.

The second one is Hidden Bodies, which I wanted to read before watching the second season of You on Netflix. I’d heard the book was pretty awful, but I’d loved the first one and kind of assumed that it couldn’t really be as bad as people were saying. I ended up extremely disappointed to find that the book was completely mediocre, and had lost a lot of the unique appeal of the first book by not using the second person narration anymore.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

I think I have to give this one to Verity. I’ve had Colleen Hoover’s books on my TBR for years without bothering to pick any of them up, and I was a bit apprehensive to try this one since it seemed so far outside her usual style. I wasn’t super invested in the first couple of chapters, but once this one really took off, it was amazing! It was such a fascinating story, and I flew through it!

Also, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed The Nowhere Girls, especially considering I’d been previously disappointed by other books on a similar topic. This book was so well-written and I’m so glad I decided to read it.

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

I don’t know if anyone has really picked up any of the books upon my recommendation, but I think if there is one book that I’ve mentioned more than any other so far this year, it’s probably The Astonishing Colour of After or maybe Sadie.

 5. Best series you started in 2019? Best Sequel of 2019? Best Series Ender of 2019?

Best series started – Slayer
Best sequel – Clockwork Prince
Best series ender – Kingdom of Ash

I also have to give a special mention to Vengeful, which was another favourite of the year but I wasn’t sure whether to count it as a sequel or series ender. I believe there is another book coming at some point, but I don’t know if or when that will happen.

 5. Favourite new author you discovered in 2019

This was definitely a great year for discovering new (or new-to-me, anyway) YA authors, including Emily X.R. Pan, Courtney Summers, Alice Oseman, Amy Reed and Elizabeth Acevedo. And because I apparently neglected to mention her last year even though that’s when I first tried one of her books, Kiersten White.

I also discovered a few new favourite thriller authors: Aimee Molloy, Alex Michaelides, A.J. Finn and Jessica Knoll.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

It’s not totally outside my comfort zone because I love thrillers in general, but the first book that came to mind was Confessions because I rarely tend to go for books in translation. Also, The Poet X was a bit outside my comfort zone because I don’t often read books that are written in verse, and I ended up loving this one.

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

A few of the books that I remember having a really hard time putting down were: Daisy Jones & The Six, Sadie, On the Come Up, Confessions and The Woman in the Window. I think if I had to pick just one of those to be the most thrilling or unputdownable, it would have to be Sadie.

 9. Book You Read In 2019 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

I don’t have any plans to re-read any of the books that I read this year so soon, but if I had to choose something, I’d probably pick Crooked Kingdom or Vengeful.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2019?

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New to me character: Sadie from Sadie and Bri from On the Come Up. Also, Magnus Bane.

Character from a series I continued: Yrene and Chaol from the Throne of Glass series, and Inej and Nina from Crooked Kingdom

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2019?

The Astonishing Color of After

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2019?

This is a tough one. I think just by sheer number of quotes that I’d saved from it, I’d have to go with Us Against You.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2019 to finally read? 

The Infernal Devices series, and to a lesser extent, the Mortal Instruments. I’ve been very mildly interested in these series for years, but never strongly enough to try them. I decided to make it a goal this year to read all 9 of these books, and I’m so glad that I did.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2019?

I did make a conscious effort to save more quotes to Goodreads this year. These are a few of the ones that stood out to me the most:

“Just because I made it here doesn’t mean it was easy. And just because I don’t seem overwhelmed doesn’t mean that I’m not” – Jen Wilde, Queens of Geek

“One small kindness in a sea of cruelty, one word of truth among lies, these are the seeds that can change the world” – Amy Reed, The Nowhere Girls

“Adulthood brings limitations like gravity and linear space and the idea that bedtime is a real thing, and not an artificially imposed curfew” – Seanan McGuire, Beneath the Sugar Sky

“Hell is the absence of the people you long for” – Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven

“It’s okay to be afraid. But not okay if be[ing] afraid means you do nothing. You must not do nothing. That’s not life worth living.” – Emily X.R. Pan, The Astonishing Color of After

“The worst thing we know about other people is that we’re dependent on them. That their actions affect our lives. Not just the people we choose, the people we like, but all the rest of them: the idiots” – Fredrik Backman, Us Against You

“Confidence is being okay being bad, not being okay being good” – Taylor Jenkins Reid, Daisy Jones & the Six

“Sometimes there won’t be a right choice, just the best of several bad options.” – Sarah J. Maas, Queen of Shadows

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2019?

Shortest – The English Roses (48 pages)
Longest –  Kingdom of Ash (984 pages)

17. Book That Shocked You The Most

Probably The Woman in the Window. I didn’t see the ending coming at all. The Silent Patient is also up there as one of the books with the best twist that I read this year.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

All of the main couples in Crooked Kingdom.

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Frances and Aled in Radio Silence, Will and Jem in The Infernal Devices, and Esther, Susan and Daisy in the Giant Days series.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2019 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Probably On the Come Up or Let Me Hear a Rhyme, if I exclude books that are from series. I find it hard sometimes to differentiate books from a series when I read many of them back-to-back, so it’s hard to pick a specific favourite.

21. Best Book You Read In 2019 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

Daisy Jones & The Six. It’s funny because I picked Evelyn Hugo for the same question last year. In both cases, the books are about topics/kinds of characters that I’m not usually that interested in, but I gave into the hype and ended up loving them!

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2019?

I don’t really get fictional crushes, so I have no idea. I really liked Jem in The Infernal Devices, and also Matthias from Crooked Kingdom, so maybe one of them.

23. Best 2019 debut you read?

By default, it would have to be The Silent Patient. I didn’t read a ton of 2019 releases, and the majority of the ones that I did read weren’t debuts anyway. This probably is the book I would have picked anyway though since it was an outstanding thriller.

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

I think I have to exclude my Harry Potter re-reads for this one, otherwise they would win hands down. Otherwise, I think I’d have to give it to the Throne of Glass series. It was a very intricate world, but it was developed very well.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Little Moments of Love by Catana Chetwynd. These cartoons are always so much fun to read, and they are so cute!

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2019?

The Astonishing Color of After

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

Confessions. I don’t think a lot of people really know about this one since it’s translated from Japanese, and one of only two books by this author that have been published in English. It is definitely worth reading.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

I still don’t quite get what this means! I’m assuming the book that was most impactful or most devastating to read, in which case I’d have to give it to Sadie.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2019?

Probably Long Way Down, which is told in verse and focuses on a teenage boy’s trip down the elevator to go after the person who killed his brother. The entire book takes place over the span of that one-minute elevator ride, where the boy encounters a variety of people from his past, all of whom are dead, as he tries to decide what to do. It was a very quick read, but very powerful.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

I think Ghosted because it was so different from what I expected, to the point where I felt like it had been falsely advertised at first. I went into it expecting a thriller or at least a mystery, and it wasn’t really either of those.

book-blogging

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2019?

I’ve been terrible at keeping up with the book blogs that I already follow, so I don’t think I’ve discovered anyone new this year! I can’t even really say that I subscribed to any new favourite Youtube channels either, since I haven’t watched many new channels consistently enough to consider them favourites.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2019?

I only wrote three reviews this year, and those were all for Netflix adaptations of series. I think if I had to pick a favourite, it would probably be my review of the final season of A Series of Unfortunate Events (here), but I also really liked my review of the first season of You (here).

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

Again, I only had a few posts marked as discussions this year, so it’s kind of tough to choose. I think if I had to pick one, it would probably be my discussion of the pros vs. cons of binge-reading series, since that was definitely a topic that was relevant to me this year. I also had a lot of fun with my Library Struggles post.

Something new that I tried this year that I also really enjoyed doing was my 5-star predictions, where I guessed a few books from each challenge that I thought I might love.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

I don’t go to these kinds of events, but I did win a couple of Goodreads giveaways!

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2019?

Accomplishing the majority of my goals, and especially finishing off some of the very lengthy series that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time!

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

I felt constantly behind when it came to my library holds this year, and it meant that I kept reading books when I wasn’t really in the mood for them, just so I could try and get them back on time. I completely failed to properly prioritize my reading challenges again and ended up with way too many “main challenge” books that still needed to be finished by the beginning of December.

In terms of blogging specifically, I’ve found getting enough variety in my content a bit of a challenge, so I’ve tried to introduce a few new things this year to keep things fresh!

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

I always forget how to check this! As far as I can tell, the post that got the most views this year was my Unpopular Opinions post in June, and my Most Disappointing Books I Read in 2018 which I posted way back in January.

The posts that got the most comments were my Book Titles I Would Change post, my Page to Screen Freebie post, and Outrageous Things I’ve Done for the Love of Books, all of which were Top 10 Tuesday topics.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

Many of them, to be honest, given how much time I spend on them. I think if I had to pick one, I’d probably choose the You’re Not Good Enough tag that I did in March of this year, because it was so much fun!

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that was completely new to me this year. I’ve definitely been using Book Outlet a lot, but that’s not new at this point.

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

Surprisingly enough, I accomplished a lot more than I’d realized! I’m very close to completing my two highest priority challenges on time too. I didn’t finish every challenge that I’d taken on, but then I knew upfront that my overall total was unrealistic so I don’t really consider that a failure.

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1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2019 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2020?

I have a few! Just What Kind of Mother Are You? is the first that comes to mind, because I’ve had it down as an option for two years in a row now without picking it up, so I think it’s about time I cross it off my list! The same goes for Three Dark Crowns and Flame in the Mist. I’ve been meaning to try both of those for way too long. I own all of these, so there’s really no excuse!

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2020 (non-debut)?

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes!

3. 2020 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

I’ve heard Tweet Cute is absolutely adorable, so I really want to try that.

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2020?

Chosen by Kiersten White

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2020?

Actually prioritize my reading properly so I don’t come to the end of the year with 10+  books remaining in my main challenges!

6. A 2020 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone (if applicable):

I haven’t read any yet, but there are many that I’m looking forward to!

Top 5 Wednesdays: Books I Would Give As a Gift

I always seem to struggle when it comes to choosing books that I’d give as a gift! As much as I love to receive books as gifts myself, it can be really hard to choose what someone else would like. I also don’t have too many people in my life who are huge readers, or at least not readers of the kinds of books I read, so I don’t have many opportunities to give books as gifts either. In general, I find making recommendations a bit tricky since I naturally want them to be something the other person will love, but it can be really hard to tell! Last year, we were asked to put a bit of a spin on this topic by choosing a specific person or type of reader that we’d be choosing the gift for, but this time, I decided to leave it a bit more open and choose some of the books that I really loved this year that I think other people would love too. I’ve intentionally tried not to repeat any books that I had in mind for my upcoming favourites of the year list.

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) Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

40597810I very strongly considered adding this one to my favourites of the year list, but it very narrowly didn’t make the cut. I read this book mostly because of how much I’d loved The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo last year. In both cases, I went into the book not expecting a ton because they contained elements that I didn’t particularly care for. I’m not that interested in stories about celebrities, and I know nothing about 70s rock music, but I was very impressed by this book! While I wouldn’t say I loved it quite as much as Evelyn Hugo, it was still a great read. I especially found it interesting to see that this one was written as interview transcripts, which was a very unique angle. I’ve heard that the audio version of this is even better, but I haven’t tried that yet. As it was, I found this book so engaging and fun to read, and like with Evelyn Hugo, I was so absorbed in the story that I’d completely forgotten that the characters Taylor Jenkins Reid was describing weren’t real celebrities from the 70s. I think this book would be a great one to give as a gift because it is so easy to get into the story and the characters.

2) Confessions by Kinae Minato

19161835Had I read this one a bit earlier in the year, I think it would have easily made my Top 10 favourites of the year list! I went into it expecting to be interested, but didn’t expect to love it nearly as much as I did. This is a Japanese thriller about a teacher whose young daughter died in an accident on school grounds. During her final lecture to her class, she shocks them with the news that two of the students in the room were responsible for her daughter’s death, setting into motion a plot for revenge. I was completely blown away by this book and devoured the entire thing very quickly! I loved how it was written to give the perspectives of a variety of characters before, during and after the incident, and thought the story was absolutely fascinating. I’d love to give this one as a gift because it is a book that does not seem to be very well-known, but I think fans of thrillers in general would really enjoy it.

3) Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft edited by Tess Sharpe and Jessica Spotswood

36426163I tried to branch out a bit more this year and try a few anthologies, since these are not something that I read often since I find most of them pretty hit-or-miss. This one was definitely my favourite of the handful that I read, containing a variety of stories about women who are accused of witchcraft. I loved that it included a combination of both historical and contemporary settings, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really enjoyed nearly all of the stories. Even those that I liked the least were still quite strong. This book contains stories by multiple popular YA authors, including Brandy Colbert, Robin Talley, Emery Lord, and Anna-Marie McLemore, and these were among my favourites in the collection. I was also glad to discover several new-to-me authors whose stories were also among my favourites. I think this would be a fun and interesting gift to give someone who had an interest in the topic, or who really enjoyed books by many of these authors already.

4) Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson

36285129. sy475 I think this book got overshadowed a bit by On the Come Up, but if you enjoyed one, you’re likely to also enjoy the other. In general, I find Tiffany D. Jackson is a pretty underrated author and I think her book would make a great gift so people who might not have heard of it otherwise would get the chance to try it. This book is about a group of friends who are trying to make their recently murdered friend Steph into a rap star, by releasing underground mixtapes of the many raps that he had already written and recorded. As his mixtape begins to capture more attention, the friends struggle to keep up the facade so no one would find out that the voice behind these songs has died. I thought the concept of the book was very interesting, and I loved the character dynamics. It’s a book that has mostly flown under the radar so far, and I’d love for more people to give it a chance.

5) Slayer by Kiersten White

34723130. sy475 This is another one that probably would have made it onto my favourites list if I had read it a tiny bit earlier in the year, but it’s also one that I think would make a great gift, especially for Buffy fans! It is not the same as the TV series, nor should it necessarily be, but I think it is quite a strong addition to the Buffy universe in general. I went into it treating it as almost completely separate from the show, and I think that really helped. Kiersten White completely nailed the sense of humour that was such a staple part of the Buffy series and that brought the new characters to life. I’m not sure how much people who haven’t watched Buffy or who didn’t like it would really enjoy this book, but it is definitely a great choice for someone who is looking for something new set in this kind of world. I thought this book was a lot of fun to read and I’m already looking forward to the sequel! In general, I think any of Kiersten White’s books could be a great gift, but this one is definitely a favourite of mine.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Books I Hope To Get as Gift

I think this was the first year where I really started to actively ask for books as gifts, and it’s been great to get so many of the books I really wanted! I even recently got the latest Lisa Jewell book as a Secret Santa gift from my coworker, which was exactly the book I would have chosen if I could have asked them for one thing. I’m also always very happy to get gift cards to the bookstore so I can choose books for myself! I was surprised to look back at my lists from the previous two year (here and here) and see how many of those books I now have. Of the 10 that I put on my 2017 list, I now own 6 out of the 10 items listed but those were all books or series that I purchased for myself. Of the 10 that I listed last year, I own 7 out of the 10. Of those, only one duology was given to me as a gift, and all of the rest that I now own are books that I bought for myself. Sometimes, I feel like I choose books for my gift wishlists that are books that I want but I wouldn’t necessarily think to buy myself or that I’d be a bit hesitant to buy for myself. I don’t think I’ll be getting any more books as gifts any time soon, but these are the ones that I’d probably ask for next!

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) The Nevernight Chronicles by Jay Kristoff

26114463This is one of my top priority series for the year, so I’d love to have my own copies of them! The only series I’ve read so far that Jay Kristoff has been involved with is The Illuminae Files, which I absolutely loved! This one is very different and to be honest, I’ve heard some mixed things about it, but I think I’m going to end up loving it. It is about an apprenticed-assassin named Mia who is seeking vengeance against the people who destroyed her family. I actually don’t know a ton about the series, aside from the fact that it seems to be the kind of thing that people either absolutely adore or DNF. It reminds me vaguely of Throne of Glass, which I ended up loving, although I don’t think they are actually that similar. I’m very curious to try more of Jay Kristoff’s writing, and since I already own books from his other series, I’d love to get this one as a gift, especially if I could get the whole set together.

2) The Shades of Magic Collector’s Edition by V.E. Schwab

Shades Of Magic Collector's Editions Boxed Set: A Darker Shade Of Magic, A Gathering Of Shadows, And A Conjuring Of Light by V. E. SCHWABVictoria or V.E. Schwab has quickly become one of my favourite authors, and I’m very interested in collecting all of her books. So far, I have her Monsters of Verity duology and I got Vicious and Vengeful for my birthday this year, so this series is next on my list. I was especially intrigued to see that there was a new Collector’s Edition of the series that recently came out. Normally, I don’t care that much about Collector’s Editions, but I do want to get this series as hardcovers and this seems to be the easiest way to do so. As far as I know, this version of the series includes bonus content like fan art and the extremely vaguely worded “exciting bonus material.” It bugs me a bit when there are edition-exclusives like this, often because I either own the series by the time the bonuses exist or they are too expensive, but since this is a series that I don’t have yet, I’d love to get this version as a gift so I can have the additional content too.

3) Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

40024139I’ve been hearing so much about this book lately that it’s jumped straight to the top of my list for next year. This book is the start of a new YA fantasy series about a witch who is forced into a marriage with a man who is a witch hunter, and who does not know that his new wife is a witch herself. This book sounds like so much fun to read! I think I actually did have it on my birthday wishlist, but it wasn’t one of the books that my friends or family chose. I generally love to read books that have to do with witches in just about any capacity, so I’m especially excited for this one. I’m also very intrigued by the whole forced marriage aspect because I’m curious to see what the circumstances surrounding it were. I’m always a tiny bit hesitant to buy YA fantasy books that I haven’t read yet since they can be a bit hit-or-miss, but I’d definitely be happy to get it as a gift.

4) The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh

42265183Again, this is a book that I think I’d put on my birthday wishlist, and also one that I’m not sure I’d be a little hesitant to buy for myself without reading first. I’ve never read anything of Renee Ahdieh’s, although all of her series so far interest me a lot. This book is her most recent release, which is a YA fantasy book involving vampires, although strangely enough, I’ve heard quite a few reviews comment that there are surprisingly few vampires for a book that is supposed to be about them. My first instinct always seems to be that I’m not that into vampire stories in general, but they are actually one of my favourite paranormal creatures to read about because I love all the lore that comes along with them. I also think it’s about time to have more vampire books apart from Twilight or Vampire Academy, and this seems like it could be a great place to start. I’m definitely intrigued by this one, especially with a sequel already due out in 2020.

5) Carry On and Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell

3276852244017627Carry On was on my 2017 list for this same topic, and I still don’t have a copy of it! At the very least, I read it for the first time earlier this year, and I’m planning to read Wayward Son next year too. I really liked Carry On, although it did take me some time to really separate it in my mind from Harry Potter and not view it as a re-hash (or fanfiction version) of the same story. Once I got past that though, I ended up really enjoying it and loving the characters, and I’m excited to read more about them. Wayward Son came out just a couple of months ago, and I’m already looking forward to trying it next year. I’d be very happy to get either of these books as a gift, or ideally both!

6) The Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi

Image result for shatter me box setThis would be an extremely generous gift, since I want all of the books, including the novellas, and ideally all in hardcover. I don’t even know if hardcover editions of the novellas even exist! I read the first three books, but stupidly made the decision to spread them out over three years even though all of them had been released by the time I started the series. I’ve made it a goal for 2020 to re-read the first three, so I can read the second half of the series that has since been released. I really enjoyed the first three books when I read them, but definitely wished that I’d read them closer together so I could remember the details of the story better. I’d love to get this whole series as a gift so I could get started on reading it as soon as possible! If anyone has read the novellas, please let me know how essential they are to the story. I’ve read some series where the between-the-numbers books were just extras, but also some where not reading them meant missing out on important scenes.

7) The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

Image result for grisha box setI was very late to the party with this one! I’d been hearing about it for quite a while but ultimately ended up reading it because I thought it would be good to read before the Six of Crows books. Even though it’s not absolutely essential to have read these first, I definitely found it very helpful. This is another series that I’d love to get as a hardcover boxset, or just individual hardcovers, but I’m not sure if those exist or at least not anymore. I could have sworn the versions I got from the library were hardcover, but I’ve only been able to find paperbacks for sale. These are the only Leigh Bardugo books that I don’t own yet, aside from the Language of Thorns and her Wonder Woman book, and she is another one who is becoming one of my favourite authors. I really enjoyed this trilogy, and think I probably would have loved it even more if I had read it when it first came out. I’d love to have my own copies to finish off my collection!

8) The Arc of the Scythe series by Neal Shusterman

45186666. sx318 This is another case where I’d love to get these as a gift, but I’m not sure if I’d buy them for myself yet. I have not read any of the books in this series yet, but they are a high priority for next year. I’ve heard some amazing reviews for the series, and actually for Neal Shusterman in general. The only thing of his I’ve read so far was a short story in Violent Ends, a collaborative book about a school shooting told from 17 different authors narrating 17 different perspectives. Neal Shusterman’s chapter, written with his son, was narrated from the perspective of the shooter’s gun, and it wasn’t really for me even though I think it was written well. I’m curious to see this series after hearing so many great things about it and because it is such an intriguing concept. It definitely seems like a unique take on a dystopian, and I’m very interested to see how that plays out.

9) The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

43568394This book didn’t quite make it onto my birthday wishlist since it came out shortly after, but I’m really looking forward to trying it. I’ve loved everything that I’ve read by Kiersten White so far, although I don’t have any interest in trying her older paranormal series. This book is the first in a new trilogy inspired by the legend of King Arthur. So far, one of the biggest strengths of Kiersten White’s books for me has been her compelling characters, and I hope that this one will be no exception. This book focuses on Guinevere, who has been sent to marry King Arthur, but this princess might not be what she seems. I read The Once and Future King a few years ago now, so I may need to brush up on my knowledge of Arthurian legends before I pick this one up, but it sounds so interesting. I’d love to get this one as a gift and keep up my streak of excellent Kiersten White books!

10) Loki: Where Mischief Lies by Mackenzi Lee

37076222. sx318 This is another one that I’m not sure I’d buy for myself, but I’d love to get as a gift. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed when I read my first Mackenzi Lee book, This Monstrous Thing. I expected to absolutely adore it, but I found the characters a bit underdeveloped. I still rated it 4 stars so it wasn’t a bad book by any means, but I’d expected more. Luckily, I absolutely loved The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue, which convinced me to keep giving Mackenzi Lee’s books a chance. This book is her most recent release, which gives a backstory to Loki and how he grew to be the “villain” that he is now. Loki is one of my favourite characters in the Marvel universe, although I’m not as familiar with the original Norse mythology behind his character. I’m very interested to see what Mackenzi Lee does with this story, and I’d be very excited to get this one as a gift.

2020 Reading and Reading Challenge Goals

I think I’m a little in denial about the fact that we are already at the point in the year where I need to start “officially” making 2020 goals, but on the other hand, it’s also something that I’ve been tentatively thinking about for a while. I love seeing all the new challenge prompt lists that come out around this time of year, and part of the fun for me is the puzzle element of planning ahead and fitting in all of the books that I really want to read. I was especially glad to find a new-to-me, Harry Potter-themed reading challenge that I’ve decided to try this year! When I’m planning my challenges, I tend to have a bunch of books already in mind that I’d like to read soon, and do my best to pick challenges that allow room for at least most of those, while still having plenty of space for other books too. Once again, I’ve decided to pass on the Book Riot Read Harder list, and Bookish has not yet posted a new challenge for 2020. I tentatively considered taking on all or at least some of the Bookish 2019 challenge instead, but once I found the Harry Potter one, I changed my mind!

When I did a wrap-up on my goals for this year lats week, I was very surprised to find that I had actually accomplished, or at least mostly accomplished the vast majority of them. I spent a big chunk of this year feeling behind and struggling to keep up with library holds, which is definitely something that I want to tackle this year. It was very nice to see that I had accomplished a lot more than I had expected, and the logistics of tracking everything are always one of the most difficult parts of the challenge for me. Looking ahead to the new year, I’m very excited about the goals that I’ve picked, and especially excited to have some brand new goals this year! Here are my goals for 2020:

1) Finish all challenges by the deadlines that I set

This is immediately going to be my most complicated goal because although I’m planning as if it is a one year challenge, I’ve changed my mindset a b it to view the challenges that I’ve chosen as a two-year challenge instead. I wish Goodreads gave me the ability to post it in that format, but instead I’ll have to go with a work-around. For 2020, I will be taking on a total of 5 challenges again:

  • Goodreads Around the Year (52 books plus 1 extra wild card, plus 3 extra books because of a prompt divided into 4 – 56 books in total), by December 31, 2020
  • PopSugar (50 books + 4 extra books because of a prompt divided into 5 – 54 books in total), by December 31, 2020
  • ATY Top Picks + Leftovers – 50 of the prompts that I voted for in 2019 that didn’t make the final list, plus 25 leftover prompts from my 2019 challenges that I still want to read (75 books in total), by end of 2021
  • Mommy Mannegren 2020 (53 books in total because of one prompt divided in 2), by end of 2021
  • Flourish & Blotts: Wizarding World Tour (8 wizarding schools from around the world with 7 prompts each, so 56 books in total), by end of 2021

As it stands right now, that would bring me to a total of 294 books, which is obviously unrealistic for a single year. If I wanted to read these all in a year, I would need to read 24.5 books every month! The only two challenges that I’m intent on finishing by the end of December are Goodreads Around the Year and PopSugar, and my intent is to just read as many as possible toward each of the other challenges by December 31. Anything that is left at the end will most likely become a “leftovers” challenge for 2021, or at least that’s the idea. Obviously if I lose interest in the books or prompts by then, I’m not going to force myself.

2) Read 200 books

This brings me to my next goal, which is to limit my Goodreads reading challenge goal. I picked 200 because it felt appropriate for a “2020” theme, and I might even up it to 220 since that’s about 75% of my overall total. My biggest frustration with using Goodreads to track is that it doesn’t feel very accurate if I’m not including every book that I’m reading, but such a high total also becomes overwhelming and leaves me with constant “you are 60+ books behind!” warnings. Although 200, or even 220 are very high goals, I actually do think it’s realistic for me. I’m just short of 200 books this year, and that’s including several massive books like Kingdom of Ash (and I can usually read 2 or 3 books in the time it took me to read just that). I have fewer very long books in total in my plan, and quite a few faster paced books. I will leave my goal at 200 for now, and reassess halfway through the year whether to up it to 220.

3) Read some more series

For the past two years, I’ve set myself goals around finishing off series that I have in progress, and also reading some of the popular series that I felt like I was missing. I have discovered so many of my new favourite books this way! My 2019 series goal got a little confusing because I kept having to readjust my list, so I’m hoping that this year will be a bit smoother. I have a total of 13 series on my goal list, although I have a few others already worked into my plans as back-up options. Ideally, I’d love to have these series all done by the end of 2020, but there could be some flexibility in the deadline.

  • Re-read the entire Hunger Games series, including the new book (4 books)
  • Renegades by Marissa Meyer (3 books)
  • Nevernight by Jay Kristoff (3 books)
  • The Shades of Magic trilogy by V.E. Schwab (3 books)
  • The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black (3 books)
  • Shatter Me (6 books, someone please let me know if the novellas are essential to understanding the later books!)
  • The Dark Artifices by Cassandra Clare (3 books)
  • The Arc of the Scythe by Neal Shusterman (3 books)
  • Saga by Brian K. Vaughan (9 books)
  • Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco (4 books)

And three series that are very high priority because they’d previously been on my goals list or I’ve intended to read at least one of the books for more than one year:

  • Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake (4 books, someone please let me know if the novella is essential)
  • Strange the Dreamer duology by Laini Taylor (2 books)
  • The Flame in the Mist duology by Renee Ahdieh (2 books)

4) Read at least one book by each of my top priority authors to try

This is a new goal that I wanted to try out this year, because I realized there were a whole bunch of authors that had multiple books on my TBR for several years now, and I hadn’t read anything by them! In the spirit of 2020, I decided to pick 20 authors to prioritize trying this year. Half are YA authors, and the other half are non-YA authors, mostly thrillers. I left myself room to pick up any book by these authors instead of setting a goal of a specific one, but my goal is to read at least one book by each of these authors by the end of 2020.

YA Authors to Read in 2020

Morgan Matson
Kasie West
Jenn Bennett
Maurene Goo
Katrina Leno
Karen M. McManus
Ruta Sepetys
Moira Fowley-Doyle
Katie Cotugno
Holly Bourne

Non-YA Authors to Read in 2020

Karin Slaughter
Peter Swanson
Mary Kubica
Riley Sager
Gilly McMillan
Sophie Hannah
Sarah Pinborough
Lisa Jewell
Megan Miranda (she writes both, but the books I’ve chosen are not her YA titles)
Mhairi McFarlane

5) Prioritize my reading better!

I was actually shocked to see that this was not a goal for 2019, and I think that really explains why this was one area where I really failed! Toward the end of 2018, I realized that I had way too many books remaining for my highest priority challenges to read in December and even November, and wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again. Fast forward to this month, and I had 15 books for ATY and around 8-10 for PopSugar remaining! That’s way too many considering those are the two challenges that I really want to finish by the end of the year. I don’t want to read only for these two challenges to the exclusion of everything else because there are books and authors that I’m excited about across all of my challenges, but I definitely don’t want to have so many books remaining for my top priority challenges by the end of the year!

I think the same goes for my goals around series, priority authors, and priority books (see below). Ideally, I’d love to make sure that I get to all of these by the end of 2020. Given the huge total number of books that I have planned, I fully get that it might not be possible, so for the sake of being realistic, I would like to set the goal to be at least 75% of the way finished each of those lists by the end of 2020, with the ideal goal of completing them all. This allows some leeway with the deadlines in case of unforeseen circumstances (or just a book that becomes a doorstop!), but still sticks to the spirit of the challenge and the goal.

6) Read more of the books that I own!

This was the other area where I really feel like I failed in 2019. I’d planned to include so many the books that I’d bought from BookOutlet into my challenges and genuinely thought I’d get to them. Somehow, these ended up consistently pushed aside in favour of library books. About one-fifth of the books that I read were still books that I owned which is still decent, but I definitely want to start making my way through my piles of unread books!

I decided that this year, I will be doing an “Own Books Only Winter,” where I will spend the first few months of the year only picking up books that I already have in my house. I haven’t decided yet whether to allow ebooks from the library since those are technically in my house, but I’m leaning toward excluding them. Technically, I intended to start that this month, but haven’t been sticking to it so far, so I’m setting it up as a 2020 goal. I live in Canada, and our winters tend to extend from December until, sometimes, mid to late March, so my plan is to only read books that I own in January, February, and at least half of March, and then again toward the end of the year in December if possible. Part of this is just logistical reasons because it’s hard for me to get to the library consistently in bad weather, and I also think it’s a good motivator to really focus on the books I already have.

7) Read some books that have been on my TBR from 2017 or earlier

I actually think this is a goal that is mostly going to take care of itself by prioritizing books from authors that I’ve had on my list for ages without reading. I haven’t specifically paid attention to when books were added to my TBR when making my challenge plans for next year, but I do know that 2017 specifically was a pretty big year for adding books to my Goodreads TBR. I started my account in 2015, but I think 2017 was the year when I really started using it “properly” to keep track of books and authors that I wanted to remind myself to read. I don’t have a set number of books that I want to read for this goal, but I want to make sure I at least cross some backlist titles off of my list. It’s a goal that I update every year to include a new year, generally for books that have been on my list for three years or longer.

8) Read some new releases

As always, I still see this as a bit of a contradictory goal to the previous one, but I really don’t want to get behind on new releases. I think this year was the first time in a long time that there were a ton of new releases that I was excited enough about to actually buy around the time of their release, and even a few pre-orders! I still do tend to avoid books that feel extremely overhyped, but I also don’t want these sitting around for too long. This is another goal that I’ve been noticing seems to be helped my by priority authors, since I’m finding that many of their newer releases are very intriguing and have made their way into my plans. By recent releases, I mean anything that has been published in 2019 or will be published in 2020, and I think I have a very good number of those already incorporated. And a bonus of this one is that for very new releases, I need to wait for my library to get a copy, which means more time to focus on the books that I own!

9) Read my Top 20 to Read in 2020

Last year was the first time that I had set myself a list of priority standalone books, to kind of balance out my focus on reading series. Although I didn’t quite accomplish my goal of reading all 19 in 2019, I loved the concept of the list, and decided to try it again this year, with 20 books for 2020! These were generally the books that kept springing to mind before I’d even started planning my challenges and that I wanted to make sure that I fit in somewhere! I’m debating whether to set my goal to 75% of this list again, but I would really love to be able to say that I read all 20 of the books in 2020!

  • Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore
  • Now Entering Addamsville by Francesca Zappia
  • We Are Totally Normal by Rahul Kanakia
  • King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
  • Starworld by Audrey Coulthurst
  • Frankly in Love by David Yoon
  • The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
  • Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
  • Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell
  • With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman
  • Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky
  • The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
  • Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi
  • The Escape Room by Megan Goldin
  • An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena
  • Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
  • Saving Meghan by D.J. Palmer
  • Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

10) Enjoy what I’m reading!

I’m hoping this will be my easiest goal of the year again! This is a goal that I repeat every year, but ultimately it is the most important one to me. I’m not going to push myself to do reading challenges if it’s not fun or too stressful, but as long as I’m still enjoying it, then I’m happy to do them! Part of the reason I do challenges is as an extra push to prioritize reading and I’ve discovered so many great new books and authors that I might have otherwise missed. Each year, I become a bit better at finding and choosing books that I’m likely to enjoy. In 2019, I finally had more 5 star ratings than 4 stars for the year! Obviously I know that not every book can or will (or even should) be a 5 star read, but it would be a great trend to continue.

Top 5 Wednesdays: Most Disappointing Books of the Year

Like the most surprising books of the year, I find “disappointing” a bit of a tricky term to define sometimes. My natural inclination is always to pick the books that I rated the lowest, but I find that these are often books that I was already on the fence about anyway. What’s a lot more disappointing sometimes are the books that I’m really expecting to love, and I somehow end up not connecting with at all. In some cases, they are books that I thought would go in one direction but veered off somewhere completely different. Like last year, when I look back at the books that I gave 3 stars this year, I found that most were books that I didn’t really think I’d love anyway. I think part of this is just because I’ve become a lot better at predicting which books I’d really enjoy, although the fact that I could still pretty easily pick out some disappointments from the books I read this year means that it’s still impossible to perfectly predict.

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) Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

36896898. sy475 This was the first book that immediately sprung to mind when I thought of books that disappointed me this year, and I’m still not really sure whether it is entirely the book’s fault. I was very excited to try this one because Uprooted was one of my favourite books the year that I read it, and I assumed that this one would be as well. Unfortunately, I also read it during a very stressful week when I wasn’t quite in the mood for it, which definitely didn’t help. Even at the time, I knew I shouldn’t pick it up then, but it was getting close to the library due date and I couldn’t renew it, so I decided to go for it anyway. I’m not sure if it was entirely because of these factors or the book itself, but I just couldn’t get into it and ending up feeling like I was slogging my way through. It’s too bad because there were some parts that I loved and I really enjoyed what I got of the concept, but I also found it very slow and it didn’t keep my attention at all. I do feel like this is a book that I might have enjoyed more if I had read it at a different time and it’s one that I might want to eventually try again, but I was pretty disappointed by it this year! Even with all that said though, I still ended up giving it 4 stars so it really wasn’t that bad.

2) 500 Words or Less by Juleah del Rosario

34104980. sy475 For some reason, this was a book that I kept coming back to on my TBR and it became one of my priority books for the year, which is especially unusual since it is written in verse. I loved this book because of the concept, which was a high school senior who, after cheating on her boyfriend, tries to repair her reputation by writing college admissions essays for her classmates to help them get into the competitive colleges of their choice. As someone who has always been pretty good at writing essays, I could definitely relate to the idea of being asked to write for others, although I have never nor would I ever actually done so. I’m not a huge fan of books that are told in verse in the first place because I find it a style that can be really hard for me to get into, but I loved the whole storyline about academic pressure. However, I didn’t care for the romance parts of the plot and thought they actually detracted from the rest of the story. I actually ended up rating this one a 4.5 initially but rounded it down to a 4, which is not a bad rating at all, but I was a bit disappointed because I expected this one to be a very easy 5 stars.

3) Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

38564416. sy475 This was a book that I was always a bit on the fence about, since it was for a challenge prompt that I already wasn’t too excited for. I hope this isn’t taken the wrong way, but for some reason, I always struggle to find books by Native American authors or that focus on Native American characters that strongly interest me. I was excited to see this one on Goodreads because it sounded like something that I’d love. It focuses on a teenage girl named Louise, who is of the Muskogee Creek, whose younger brother is cast as a lead in the school’s production of The Wizard of Oz, leading some parents to complain about the diverse casting choices. I liked Louise in the first few pages, but very quickly lost interest in the character and especially in her interest in just about every guy she meets. I thought the characters all felt underdeveloped, and was disappointed to see that the storyline about the “colour-conscious casting” of the play did not get as much attention as I’d expected, despite being the most interesting aspect of the story. I found the writing strangely jarring and disjointed, and characters were introduced so quickly and with so little development that I couldn’t remember who they were when they were later mentioned again. Although I didn’t necessarily expect this to be a 5 star read, I was still disappointed that it didn’t do more with such an interesting premise, and ultimately gave it only 3 stars.

4) Ghosted by Rosie Walsh

36464087I suspect this one was partially my own fault, because I’d assumed that this book would be more of a thriller, when it really wasn’t. To be fair, that seemed to be how it was initially pitched, but many of the reviews that had been written by the time I wrote it had commented on the fact that it wasn’t really a thriller at all. This book is about a woman named Sarah who meets a man named Eddie and very quickly falls in love with him, only for him to disappear after leaving for a previously-booked vacation. Sarah is convinced that Eddie wouldn’t just ghost her like that and insists something must have happened to him, while everyone around her tries to persuade her to just move on. This was another of hte books that I was most looking forward to trying this year, and while I didn’t hate it, I also didn’t really get what I was looking for from it either. I really liked the first half of the book, but thought it fell apart a bit in the second half, where the focus changed a lot. There were some very strong moments, especially about some of Eddie’s backstory, and the twist toward the middle did genuinely catch me off-guard, but I also couldn’t buy into Sarah and Eddie’s relationship and thought it felt very unrealistic. I also thought things got dragged out way too much toward the end, although I may have enjoyed that part more if I had been more invested in the relationship. I ultimately rated it 4 stars because the parts that were done well were excellent, but this was just not the book that I expected it to be, and I thought it should have been an easy 5 stars.

5) The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

12813630I picked this one up because I’d been hearing so much about Holly Black in the past couple of years because of the Folk of the Air trilogy, and I wanted to try some of her earlier books. Unfortunately, it looks like this was not the best place to start, and I had seen very mixed reviews for it even before starting to read it. It is about a teenage girl named Tana who wakes up at a party to find everyone else dead, except for her ex-boyfriend Aidan, and a vampire named Gavriel, both of whom are alive and imprisoned in the same room as her. I liked Holly Black’s writing style immediately and I found the first few chapters interesting, but the book pretty quickly lost my interest and felt very slow-paced. I liked how Holly Black included the backstory for the main characters and some worldbuilding in alternating chapters with the main story, and I liked that the vampire mythology was a bit different from the typical lore although some of it was a bit confusing. I loved the concept of the story, but just couldn’t connect at all with the characters and found myself not remembering who people were or even plot details from day to day when I picked the book up again. I liked the second half a bit more, but by then I had already mostly lost interest, and it was another case where I just couldn’t buy into the main relationship. I ultimately rated this one 3.5 stars rounded down to 3 because although I liked the writing enough to continue reading Holly Black’s books, I just couldn’t get into this particular story.

Honourable Mentions:

  • Textrovert by Lindsey Summers – I didn’t really expect to love this one much so it wasn’t a huge disappointment, but the elements that had drawn me to the book in the first place were such a minor part of the story, and I found the characters bland and predictable
  • Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes – This had such an interesting premise, and Joe Goldberg is a fascinating character, but taking away the second-person narration lost a lot of the appeal of the first book and this one just didn’t hook me the way the first one had
  • Wildcard by Marie Lu – I really liked Warcross and was hoping that the reviews I’d seen commenting that this wasn’t anywhere near as good would be proven wrong. There were some elements that I really liked, but I found the story a bit inconsistent and the characters felt a bit underdeveloped

Top 10 Tuesdays: My Winter 2019/2020 TBR

I always find the winter TBR posts a bit awkward to structure since it covers the very end of the current reading challenge, and the start of next year’s challenges…and I often haven’t decided yet which books I’ll be reading first! I always end up wanting to default to just mentioning books that I plan to read in December, when really anything from December to February would apply. Sometimes, I have a set idea in mind of a book or two to start off my new year of challenges, but I haven’t quite gotten that far into planning yet. One thing that I will be doing this winter though, which I haven’t really mentioned yet, is focusing exclusively on the books that I already own. It’s hard for me to get to the library in the winter, and I have literally piles of books that I bought and need to read! It does mean skipping a few books that are obvious “winter” reads unless I can get a copy though (ie. One Day in December), but I can always save those until the start of next winter. There’s a slight chance I’ll give myself a bit of leeway and include books that I can get through my library’s ebook system, but that’s still books I can get without leaving my house.

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) Just What Kind of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly

16071790I am strongly considering this book for my first one to read in 2020, just because it’s one that I’ve put into my challenges for two years in a row, and still haven’t picked up! I sometimes find that books I own get pretty easily pushed aside in favour of library books because it’s easy to fall into the attitude of “meh, I can read that any time,” but that only really works if I actually follow through and read it. This book is about an overwhelmed mother of three named Lisa, whose best friend’s daughter Lucinda goes missing while in Lisa’s care. Lucinda is the second teenager to go missing in their community in the past two weeks, and Lisa decides to take it upon herself to fix her mistake and find Lucinda. I have several of Paula Daly’s books on my TBR, and I’ve owned this one for quite a while with the intent to read it soon, and it’s about time that I finally follow through and read it. I think if  I don’t make it one of the first books that I read next year, it will easily fall through the cracks again.

2) The Flame in the Mist dulogy by Renee Ahdieh and/or Three Dark Crowns series by Kendare Blake

23308087. sy475 28374007. sy475 I’m lumping these two together because they have both become very high priority series for next year, and for a similar reason as the book above. I’ve been meaning to try them both for two years now and kept putting them both off, but now that I own the books, there is no excuse! I’m saying “and/or” for these two because although both are goals for 2020 in general, I’m not sure if they will both be read in the winter specifically. I’m strongly considering making at least one of these series among the first books I read as well to make sure I don’t skip them again. Flame in the Mist is a duology that is a loose Mulan retelling, about a young woman named Mariko who disguises herself as a boy to infiltrate the ranks of the group who had been hired to kill her on the way to meet her betrothed at the palace. Three Dark Crowns is about three sisters, each with their own magical abilities, who are competing heirs to the crown. Both are series that I’m very interested in trying, and both have been put off for way too long!

3) An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

38240386I really wanted to read this book before the end of the year, but I just ran out of time! I actually didn’t love The Couple Next Door by this author nearly as much as I’d expected, but I’ve heard such great things about the rest of her books, that I think all three have made it into my plans for next year. I picked this one for a winter TBR specifically because it is set during winter, so it seemed the most seasonal. It is set in a remote lodge in New York, with a group of guests who have been trapped there when a blizzard cuts off their electricity and any means of contacting the outside world. Slowly, they start to realize that guests are being killed one by one, and with no way out and no way to call for help, everyone is left to do what they can to survive. This book reminds me a lot of And Then There Were None, which is still one of the best mysteries I’ve ever read, and I’d love to see another story along the same lines. It also seems like the perfect book to read in the winter because of the setting. I wish I would have the time to squeeze this one in before the end of the year, but I’m at least glad I have my own copy to pick up some time in the winter!

4) Chosen by Kiersten White

40851846. sy475 I just finished Slayer two days ago, and absolutely adored it! I was a bit apprehensive going into it because Buffy is one of my all-time favourite shows, and I’d seen several reviews from huge fans of the show commenting that it was nowhere near as good. I think like a lot of sequels (ie. Love Never Dies compared to Phantom of the Opera), I essentially need to think of it as a completely separate story from the originally, and in this case, I think the book actually did pretty well separating itself. Slayer does make reference to Buffy and many of the events and characters of the show, as well as the comics, but it is distinct enough that I could enjoy it on its own, and I’m now highly anticipating the sequel! This is the only book on this list that I don’t yet own, so there’s a possibility it won’t fit into my “own books only winter” plan, but I might end up buying a copy when it comes out in a few weeks. I thought Kiersten White nailed the humour of the TV series and I loved the characters, so I can’t wait to read more about them all!

5) The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

34912895. sy475 I picked this one as a winter read mostly because of the setting. To be honest, I was a bit on the fence about whether I’d have much interest in reading it at all. I love Kristin Hannah’s writing, but I’m not particularly interested in Alaska. This book is about a 13-year-old girl named Leni, whose father Ernt, a Vietnam veteran, impulsively decides to move the family to live off the grid in Alaska. The family enjoys their new community at first, but as the winter approaches, Ernt’s mental health begins to deteriorate, and Leni and her mother soon realize that they are truly on their own to face the threats, both internal and external. I’ve heard such great things about this book that it sparked my interest in trying it, especially because I’ve absolutely loved the previous two books that I tried by this author, especially The Nightingale. I thought this one would be a great winter read because it is set not only in Alaska, but specifically in an Alaskan winter, so it definitely feels very seasonal.

6) Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

40130093I actually didn’t even realize that this book was set in the winter when I picked it! I chose it mostly because it was a relatively long book, and I tend to stay in during the winter, so I thought I’d have plenty of time to read. It is about a mysterious young girl who was discovered by a stranger on a midwinter’s night. The girl appears to be dead, but after a few hours, she wakes up mute and unable to answer any questions about who she is or where she came from. Three families try to claim her as their own, but no one knows where she really belongs. Each of these families also has secrets of its own that must be uncovered before the girl’s true identity can be revealed. I think winter is a great time to read mysteries, and especially ones like this that seem to be a bit more dense. I loved The Thirteenth Tale by this author and it still stands out as one of the best books I’ve read in the past few years, even though it’s been three years! I’m hoping this one will be just as good.

7) The Winters by Lisa Gabriele

38525524This is another book that I meant to read this year, but unfortunately ran out of time for. I guess it’s not necessarily a winter read, aside from the title containing the word “winter.” This book is a loose retelling of Rebecca, one of my all-time favourite classics, and I’m very interested in seeing a new take on this story! It is about a young woman who moves in with her new fiancee, Max Winter, whose home seems haunted by the memory of his dead first wife, Rebekah. What makes this version unique is that Max has a teenage daughter, Dani, who is intent on driving her new stepmother away, and showing her that there’s no place for her in their lives or their home. As the new Mrs. Winter starts to become more fascinated by the family’s history, she is drawn deeper into their secrets. I love character-driven thrillers like this, and I’m especially intrigued by the comparisons to Rebecca. I’m hoping to love it just as much as the original.

8) The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

40610803. sy475 For some reason, I keep thinking that this is a book that should be read around Valentine’s Day, even though a thriller is definitely not the usual kind of read for that time of year. I originally planned to read this one last February around Valentine’s Day, and ended up delaying it in favour of library books instead. It is a thriller about a newlywed couple, Alice and Jake, who decide to join an exclusive group known as The Pact. The goal of this group is to keep marriages happy, with seemingly common-sense rules such as exchanging gifts, answering your partner’s calls, etc. however members are not allowed to mention The Pact to anyone else. Alice and Jake are initially drawn into the sense of community and especially getting to know other couples with a similar mindset, until one of them breaks a rule. The couple soon discovers that membership in The Pact is forever, and the group will stop at nothing to enforce that rule. I think this is such an interesting idea for a thriller, and I love the cult-like vibes. I definitely don’t want to put this one off for another year!

9) Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

32768509. sx318 This is the book that I bought most recently of everything on this list, and it is also one that I bought mostly on a whim after hearing a lot about it from several of the reviewers I follow. This book is a Snow White retelling about a princess named Lynet, who was forced to grow into an exact copy of her late mother, and her stepmother, Mina, whose set out to win the king’s heart so she can become queen and finally be loved. Lynet and Mina had always been close, but when Lynet’s father decides to make her the Queen of the Southern Territories instead of Mina, their relationship becomes a lot more complicated. To be honest, I found the synopsis of this one a bit confusing, but I’ve heard such great things about this one that I think it’s still worth a try. It definitely feels like a book with a lot of winter vibes, especially because of the title and the cover art, and I’m looking forward to giving this one a chance. I love fairy tale retellings, and especially ones that are a bit on the darker side, so it sounds like something I could really enjoy.

10) The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

43575115. sy475 This is another one that I chose for the winter because it’s a bit on the longer side, so I thought I might need a bit of a push to read it early. It’s also a bit on the longer side and supposed to be quite atmospheric, which are both great fits for the winter. This book is about a boy named Zachary who discovers a mysterious book that somehow includes a story from his own childhood. Zachary doesn’t understand how this is possible, and it leads him to uncover a series of clues that lead him to a secret club and a doorway to an ancient library below the surface of the earth. He soon discovers that this library is more than just a buried home for books, but is also a place of lost cities and stories, where much has been sacrificed to keep all these secrets safe. Zachary joins forces with Mirabel, one of the library’s protectors, and Dorian, a man with uncertain alliances, to explore this hidden world and discover his purpose. I loved The Night Circus, and I’ve been really looking forward to reading something new by this author. I’m still a bit confused by the premise, but it also sounds very intriguing and I’m looking forward to trying it!

2019 Reading Challenge and Goals (Early) Wrap-Up

I always feel like it’s a bit too early in December to do a goals wrap-up, since there are still two and a half weeks left, which is plenty of time to squeeze in a few more books. This has been kind of a strange reading year for me, in the sense that I’ve felt constantly behind on my goals for the majority of the year, and I can’t quite figure out why. I’m hoping that the process of doing a wrap-up will help shed a bit of light on what happened so I can plan a bit better for next year! At the beginning of the year, I set myself a total of 10 goals, most of which had to do with trying to prioritize specific books. For some reason, this year more than any other, I’ve found it difficult to keep up and it’s been a bit discouraging, which also feels a bit ridiculous because I’ve read more books overall this year than any other year! It put me in this weird limbo of feeling disappointed that I didn’t accomplish goals, but also very happy with my reading in general. Last year, I was surprised to see that I had actually accomplished more of my goals than I’d expected, but I’m not sure that will be the case this time around.

My 2019 Goals

1) Finish all of my challenges by the deadlines I set – Still In Progress

This is kind of a tricky one to wrap-up. I took on a total of 5 challenges this year, for a total of 252 books overall. I knew upfront that this overall number of books would be unrealistic for the year, but I didn’t know of any other way to keep track accurately since I wanted to use Goodreads to track my progress. As of right now, I have read a total of 183 books, and I expect to finish off another 7-10 before the end of the year, if all goes well. The only two challenges that I really wanted to finish before the end of this year were Goodreads Around the Year (55 books in my version), and PopSugar (50 books). As of right now, December 15, I have not finished either of these challenges, but I’m hoping to be able to finish them off by December 31. I am on track to finish both, but it will be tight! I have currently read 46 books toward ATY, and 45 toward PopSugar. Even though I’m pretty likely to finish these off, I still kind of feel like I’ve failed these goals because I’ve had to make quite a few book changes in order to fit everything in before the deadline, and there is still a good chance that I won’t be able to finish everything.

In terms of my other challenges, none of them are finished, but I also didn’t expect them to be either. I had “officially” set a deadline for each of these as March 31. Oddly, I seem to have written March 31, 2010 for one of them and never noticed! I ended up carrying forward many of the books that I had in mind to my new challenges for next year, so I will end up considering it a fresh start. I’m not going to officially track whether I finish these all by March since I have enough logistics to manage already. I did, however, take 25 “leftovers” from this year that I still want to read and add those directly into my ATY Top Picks challenge for next year, so these are books that I still really want to read and will do my best to get to in 2020 instead. As of right now, I have read 19 out of 37 (51%) books on my 2019 Top Picks list, 36 out of 52 (69%) for Bookish’s 2018 #KillYourTBR challenge, and 35 out of 58 books (60%) for my Modified Mannegren challenge, which means I’ve actually finished a good amount of books toward each of these. If I had stuck to my plan of finishing everything by the end of March, I likely could have been able to do that.

2) Read some series – Mostly accomplished!

This became a tricky one to really assess, because I kept changing my mind about which series I wanted to count toward this goal. At the beginning of the year, I made myself a list of 14 series that I wanted to read before the end of the year. Partway through the year, I changed the list to remove two series that I’d learned had new books due out late in the year, and decided to push those off to 2020 instead so I could binge-read them. Instead, I added 3 other series that I intended to read. I have currently finished all the series that I’m going to be able to fit in before the end of the year, which brought me to a total of 13 series completed, out of the 15 in total that I ended up intending to read.

I pushed back Three Dark Crowns and Renegades because of the new books due out, and I also pushed back the Strange the Dreamer duology and Flame in the Mist duology because I didn’t think I’d have enough time to read them, and didn’t want to rush through them for the sake of finishing them on a deadline. All of those series have now been added to my 2020 challenges instead, and are high priority to take on next year! In general, I think I’m more inclined to count this goal as accomplished because I read about the same number of series overall that I originally intended to read, but the specifics of which ones changed. Plus, completing series in general has felt like one of my bigger accomplishments of the year, especially because it involved longer series with relatively lengthy books (ie. the Mortal Instruments and Throne of Glass).

3) Balance my reading better – Accomplished!

I think my biggest achievement of the year was learning how to balance out my reading much better than I have in previous years. I had quite a few very long books planned for this year, so I intentionally included some shorter options as well. This year, I read a total of 16 books that were over 500 pages, and another 16 that were in the 450 – 500 page range. That’s still well under a fifth of my books in total, but it is quite a few longer reads! Some of those, especially the books in the Throne of Glass series, took nearly a week to read just on their own, whereas I can usually read around 3 books in a week. Thinking about it, this was probably one factor in why I felt behind on my two priority challenges, because individual books took up some of the time that could have been put toward books from those challenges. However, I think the fact that I read some of those huge books and still managed to read more books total for the year shows that I’ve managed to balance things better. In the past, longer books like that tended to derail things a bit. I also didn’t have much problem of finding myself reading too many similar books in a row. There was one span early in the year where I felt a bit burnt out after reading about 5 longer books in a row, excluding my re-read of the Harry Potter series, but other than that, it has not been a problem!

4) Read more graphic novels — Accomplished!

I always leave this as such a vague goal! Subjectively, I would definitely say that I feel like I’ve read more graphic novels overall, especially since two of my series goals were also graphic novel series, and those contained around 9 books each. By the end of 2018, I had read a total of 21 graphic novels. This year, I have already read 44! I still have a few more that I might be able to squeeze in before the end of the year, but it means that I have read more than double the number of graphic novels compared to last year. I think I can easily count that as a goal successfully accomplished. I don’t even know if I need to set graphic novels as a goal anymore, since it’s become such a part of my reading plan in general.

5) Read more thrillers – Accomplished!

Again, this was a goal that I intentionally left kind of vague. In 2018, I only read around 9 books that could be classified as thrillers or mystery-thrillers, which was surprisingly low since it’s a favourite genre.  This year, I read a total of 15, or 16 if you count Sadie as a thriller. I’m tentatively counting this one as accomplished since it is technically more thrillers overall, but still a bit lower than I expected. It still means that less than 10% of the books I’ve read overall have been thrillers. However, I do have a couple more thrillers in mind to squeeze in before the rest of the year, so I may need to add a small update by New Year’s if I manage to read a few more! Either way, I’d say that this goal is accomplished since I had nearly doubled the number of thrillers compared to last year.

6) Read more of the books that I own – Partially accomplished!

This is another one that has been really tricky to assess. I definitely incorporated a lot of books that I owned into my challenge plans for the year, but these were also the books that tended to be pushed back to next year instead. I think in terms of my balancing goal, this is the one area where I didn’t really succeed since I didn’t do a great job of balancing my library books and the books I owned. I felt a bit constantly behind on my library holds for most of the year, and had to renew books a lot more than I usually do just to make sure I got through everything. Again, this might have been a function of taking on such a high total goal in general, so I’m not really sure.

Overall, as of December 15, I’ve read a total of 37 books that I own out of the 183 that I’ve read so far. The majority of the remaining books that I read this year will also be my own books, aside from a few graphic novel ebooks from the library, so my total will probably go up a bit. This means that approximately 1 out of every 5 books that I read was a book that I owned, which when put into that perspective, doesn’t sound too bad. I’m also excluding books that I bought after reading them since I didn’t own them at the time that I read them. I would still like to focus a bit more on the books that I own for next year, but I don’t want to avoid the library completely since part of the fun for me is visiting the library to pick up my books! I originally went into this post expecting to say that I had failed in this goal since I hadn’t read nearly as many owned books as I had in mind, but looking at it in the context of the year, it doesn’t seem right to consider it a failure.

7) Read some books that have been on my TBR since 2016 or earlier – Partially accomplished!

I purposely didn’t have a set number in mind with this goal because I knew that several of the books that had been on my list so long were fairly low priority, or otherwise difficult to get a copy of. In total. 27 of the books that I’ve read so far this year, including my Harry Potter rereads, had been on my TBR since 2016 or earlier. That’s about 15% of my books in total, although I suspect the books I have remaining before the end of the year might push it slightly higher. I’ve decided to mark this one as only partly accomplished because I feel like it was a goal that got screwed over a tiny bit by all the books that I’d planned to read but didn’t get to. I think many more of those had been on my list since 2016 or earlier, so that number could have been much higher. To be fair though, that’s completely based on my subjective impression of when I’d added those books, so I might be way off. Still, I think it’s partially accomplished because I at least read some!

8) Read more recent releases – Accomplished!

I still find it a bit weird to have two seemingly contradictory goals like this, but it also makes sense to me since I don’t want to completely miss out on new releases while focusing only on backlist books. For this goal, my intent was to read books that had been published in either 2018 or 2019, but again, I had no set number in mind. I have read a total of 89 books that were published in either 2018 or 2019, which is barely under half of my overall total. I don’t even think I put too much conscious effort into checking the release dates of books when I made my plans for this year, but I definitely think this shows a good balance of newer and older books, in terms of publication date regardless of when I added the book to my list. I have a bad habit of adding books to my TBR on Goodreads long before they are released, which makes it really hard sometimes to keep track of when things are actually published. Even though this is a goal that I easily accomplished, it is one that I can see keeping as a goal every year!

9) Read the standalone books that are highest on my priority list – Mostly accomplished!

I’m a little confused by this one because in my original post, I’d written “the 10 standalone books” that were highest on my priority list, but proceeded to write a list of my “top 19 to read in 2019.” I assume that my goal was to read all 19 of those and I’d just forgotten to change the original heading. I wanted to prioritize some standalone books because I had such an emphasis on series this year, and I compiled a list of the 19 books that I was most excited to try, for a variety of reasons. As of now, I have read 16 out of the 19 books that I had listed, and the remaining three have been added to my plans for next year. To be honest, this was a goal that I probably could have easily accomplished, but there was a time in the year where I’d completely forgotten what was on this list, and ended up picking up library books instead. The three that I hadn’t read were all books that I own. I’m a bit frustrated that I got so close to accomplishing this goal but didn’t! It’s too bad I didn’t stick with the “read 10” wording, because then I could easily count it as accomplished.

10) Enjoy what I’m reading! – Accomplished!

This is another repeat goal from previous years, but ultimately, I think it is also the most important goal. I got a bit bogged down this year with the logistics of managing my reading challenges, and it would have been very easy to start thinking of all of it as a chore. Luckily, I did a great job overall at choosing books this year, and I think my Goodreads stats are definitely a testament to that. Not only are the vast majority of the books that I read overall in the 4 and 5 star range, with only a handful getting 3 stars, this year is also the first time that I had more 5 star books than 4 star books overall! And it’s actually by quite a wide margin too. I have 103 5-star books, and 68 4-star books. This might shift a tiny bit in either direction with the remaining books by the end of this year, but even if every book from now on was 4 stars, they still wouldn’t overtake the number of 5-star books. Granted, the number might be skewed a tiny bit because of my Harry Potter rereads, but I think the trend is still there. I think it’s been a fantastic reading year overall in terms of my enjoyment of what I’ve been reading!

 

 

 

 

Top 5 Wednesday: Biggest Surprises of the Year

This is such a perfect time of the year to start looking back on some of the best and worst books that I’ve read so far this year. In some ways, it feels a tiny bit too early since there’s still about three weeks total left until the end of the month, so there is plenty of time to find new favourites. Even more than favourites or least favourites, one of the things that I really love to look back on are the books that really took me by surprise. I’ve become pretty good at predicting what books I’m going to enjoy, but there are still some that really manage to surprise me! In most cases, it’s a surprise in a positive way, where a book ends up much better than I expected. This year, I had quite a few books that I ended up loving more than I thought I would, and it was a real struggle to decide which of these would make this list without being too repetitive with an upcoming best books of the year post. Actually, I would consider all of these books favourites of the year as well, so consider these an addition to that list!

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) Sadie by Courtney Summers

34810320. sy475 I was so hesitant to pick this one up, because I’d previously been disappointed by the last book I read that had a similar premise. I read Mindy McGinnis’s The Female of the Species a few years ago expecting to love it, but I just couldn’t connect with it. I thought this one would be along the same lines, and it ended up blowing me away! I literally could not put this one down. For those who don’t know, this book is about a teenage girl who is looking to avenge the murder of her younger sister. Her journey is followed in a podcast by West McCray, a radio personality who has become obsessed with her case. This book is literally everything that I expected from The Female of the Species and more, and I’m so glad I decided to give it a try! It was one of those books that I literally saw everywhere, and decided to see if it lived up to the hype. I read the physical copy, but have also heard that the audio version is even better. I’ve actually gone ahead and already bought a copy of this one from Book Outlet recently because I loved it so much (although I was a tiny bit disappointed that my copy came with a slice to the spine).

2) Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

25566675I didn’t expect too much from this book because I’d always seen it labelled as middle grade, although I’m not entirely sure why this since the character is in her later years of high school. It is about an African-American teenage girl named Jade who has been offered the opportunity to take part in Woman to Woman, a mentorship program for “at risk” teens. Jade is assigned a mentor who is meant to help expose her to new opportunities and provide her with the support her school assumes she needs due to her race and where she lives. I don’t read a lot of middle grade so I went into this one expecting very little, and ended up thoroughly enjoying it. Jade was a very interesting main character to follow, and I loved the commentary that the author included about race and class, and especially about the kinds of microaggressions Jade faces that others might not notice. I loved the writing style and thought that it really brought the characters to life. This book was so much more interesting than I expected, and I hope others don’t skip it because of the middle grade label.

3) Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

30653843. sy475 I’d been hearing about this book for so long and with almost universally excellent reviews, but it was one that I kept putting off because there were always others that I wanted to try more. I finally decided to give in to the hype and give this one a try, and I’m so glad that I did! This book is about a high school senior named Frances who is obsessed with a podcast called Universe City, and soon finds out that it is created by Aled, a boy who lives near her who also happens to be the brother of her former best friend. Given the opportunity to do some artwork for the show, Frances and Aled quickly bond and develop a strong friendship, but everything is put to the test when their identities are revealed to fans of the show. This was such an intriguing, understated kind of book and I love that it touched on issues of academic pressure and anxieties around what to do after high school, which are topics that are so rarely addressed in YA books. I loved all of the character dynamics, and found this book so much more powerful than I expected. Of all the books here, it was probably the least surprising since I expected to enjoy it, but I didn’t realize quite how strong it would be.

4) Verity by Colleen Hoover

41957126. sy475 I’d never read a Colleen Hoover book until this one, and the main reason that I picked it up is because it seemed like such a departure from her usual romances. This book is about a struggling writer named Lowen who receives an opportunity to finish off a bestselling series by famous author Verity Crawford, who is unable to complete it due to an accident that has left her in a coma. Lowen moves into Verity’s home to go through her notes, and soon finds herself falling for Verity’s husband, Jeremy. Among the notes, Lowen also discovers a disturbing manuscript that appears to be Verity’s journal, the contents of which would devastate Jeremy. With feelings growing between them, Lowen is left to decide what to do with this newfound information and its potential consequences. I’d always heard very mixed things about Colleen Hoover’s writing so I went into this one with very low expectations. To be honest, the first chapter or two didn’t really hook me right away, but it didn’t take long for me to get fully immersed in the creepy atmosphere. I ended up really loving this book and I’m curious to see if I’d like any more of Colleen Hoover’s writing.

5) The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

28096541. sy475 This was actually a book that I was very late to add to my challenges this year, and it was such a good decision! Like Sadie, this was another case where I went into it not expecting too much because I’d previously been disappointed by a very similar story. I read Moxie, which I enjoyed but not as much as I thought I would, and I expected this book would be along the same lines. Both have to deal with girls taking action to tackle sexism and rape culture in their schools, but I think this one took it a few extra steps further. This book was so well-written and it drew me into the story and the characters immediately. I loved the way this one addressed such a variety of topics, and more importantly, a variety of perspectives on those topics from the many female characters. This book really highlights a lot of real and relevant issues and I especially loved the character Erin, who was on the autism spectrum. This book wasn’t even really on my radar at the beginning of the year, but I’m glad I decided to squeeze it in since it has definitely become a favourite.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Freebie — 2019 Releases That I Didn’t Get To

I’m not sure it’s necessarily accurate to call these books that I didn’t get to, since none of them were actually in my plans for this year’s challenges, but they are all books that were released this year that I’m excited for! In the past couple of years, I’ve become a lot better about keeping up-to-date with some of the most anticipated books of the year, although I’m often about a year behind on them. I made it a goal this year to try and read several newer releases, and while I think I’ve done that overall, it would be impossible to try and keep up with every new book that I want to read! When I make my plans for the next year, there are usually a bunch of books that jump out at me as something I want to read soon, but as the years go on, I often realize that I’ve missed some. Usually, this is because the book comes out quite a bit later in the year and I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to get them in time. I thought this topic would be a fun new way to simultaneously look back at the year, and also think ahead a bit to next year without giving any spoilers yet about my upcoming goals or plans! I’m not sure if any of these books will ultimately make it into my 2020 plans, but they are all books that I’m very interested in picking up in the future.

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) The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine

38899788Somehow, I completely forgot about this book! I knew that it was due out this year, but forgot about it completely until I looked at my Goodreads list again for 2019 releases. It’s probably because I prioritized The Last Mrs. Parrish this year, so that overshadowed a second book by the same author. This book is about a woman, Dr. Kate English, who is an heiress with a wonderful husband and daughter and a beautiful home, but her life changes when her mother is found brutally murdered. Kate reaches out to her estranged best friend, Blaire, who rushes to the funeral to be there for her, despite years of distance. That night, Kate receives an anonymous threatening text, and Blaire decides to take the investigation into her own hands, alienating Kate’s friends and family in the process. It seems that the killer is likely someone Kate knows, and that she is next on their list. I really enjoyed The Last Mrs. Parrish and would love to read more by this author duo, but I’m a bit suspicious of the fact that I’ve heard next to nothing about this one. The reviews on Goodreads aren’t great either, but I’ll have to try it and see for myself.

2) I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney

39863431I have never read any of Alice Feeney’s books, but my mom recently read one and really enjoyed it. I’m fairly certain it was this one that she read, but I’m also partly convinced that it was Sometimes I Lie. This book is about a well-known actress named Aimee Sinclair, who comes home one day to find her husband’s phone and wallet on the table, and he is nowhere to be found, after a huge fight the previous night. When Aimee tries to go for coffee the following day, her credit card is denied and her bank tells her that her account was emptied — and they claim that she herself has done it. Interspersed with her story is that of a young girl who wandered away from home. I’m not entirely sure how the two stories fit together, but it definitely sounds like something I would be interested in. Like many thrillers, the reviews have been very mixed, including two very negative reviews from two of my most trusted reviewers, but I am still curious to try this one.

3) Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

42091291. sy475 Ian McEwan has become one of those authors that I really need to be in the mood for in order to pick up one of his books, and I was especially hesitant with this one because I rarely read sci-fi. This one is set in London in the 1980s, about a man named Charlie who has fallen in love with his upstairs neighbour, Miranda. Charlie has spent his inheritance on Adam, one of 24 highly developed robot humans, and this robot becomes central to his relationship with Miranda. Although I don’t read a ton of sci-fi, the stories that I am most interested in tend to be those about androids and the differences between humans and robots. I was interested in this one because the Adam character reminds me a bit of Data on Star Trek, and the story also reminds me a bit of Bicentennial Man, which is one of my favourite movies. Given how much we now rely on technology and the prospects of more advanced artificial intelligence in the future, the whole premise of this story sounds fascinating, as long as I have the patience for Ian McEwan’s writing.

4) The First Mistake by Sandie Jones

41150483I had The Other Woman by Sandie Jones on my list for this year, but doubt I’ll be getting to it before the end of the year. Even though thrillers are generally standalones, I always seem to want to read them in publication order for some reason. This book is about a woman named Alice, who runs a successful business with her second husband, Nathan. When she starts to find her husband acting differently, Alice turns to her best friend Beth for support but soon starts to question whether her friend can really be trusted. On the surface, this book sounds a bit predictable, but based on the reviews I’ve seen, there seems to be a lot more to it than I expect. I find it really difficult in general to get a good sense of how a thriller might be since the synopsis for most of them are so vague. On the other hand, I also prefer to go into them knowing as little as possible, because it’s way too easy to spoil myself for the twists. That happened to me a few times this year already, and it was very frustrating! I think part of the reason I’d forgotten about this book is because the synopsis was so vague, but I’m definitely looking forward to trying at least one by this author.

5) The Boy and Girl Who Broke the World by Amy Reed

42201421This is one that only recently became very exciting for me, after I read The Nowhere Girls by this author, even though this one is completely different. This book is about a boy named Billy and a girl named Lydia, who have both lost their mother and both live on the wrong side of the tracks. When their lives collide, they both begin to question their outlook, and at the same time, weird things start to happen around them. This book is a bit on the longer side for a YA contemporary, with around 460 pages, and it sounds like a very weird kind of story. I’m always a bit hesitant when it comes to anything with magical realism. I do tend to enjoy it most of the time, but it can also really throw me off a story when it is not done well. This is a pretty big departure from The Nowhere Girls, but I really loved Amy Reed’s writing style in that one, so I’m curious to see how she’d tackle a different genre. It was also one that I was drawn to because I found the cover art pretty interesting. It’s not necessarily at the top of my list right now, but I think I could really like this.

6) I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal

43352274I keep coming back to this one because the title just seems so intriguing. It reminds me a bit of They Both Die at the End. This book is about two girls, Lena and Campbell, who both attend a Friday night football game that devolves into chaos due to a violent incident, which unexpectedly forces them into each other’s lives. This book has only been out since August, so it doesn’t seem to have too much attention overall yet , but it is another one where I’ve seen some extremely mixed reviews. I’ve seen everything from comparisons to The Hate U Give, to comments of problematic content. It is also a very short book, at barely 250 pages, which is quite a bit shorter than I’d usually be interested in since that rarely gives enough room to fully develop the story or the characters. However, it is a debut for this author duo, and it sounds like a pretty interesting concept. For some reason, it is one of a handful of books that really sticks out to me when I look at my Goodreads list, so it might be one that I end up reading sooner rather than later.

7) The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert

38097294I read Little & Lion by this author last year, and I enjoyed it although nowhere near as much as I expected to. I missed her 2018 book, Finding Yvonne, which is also on my TBR to pick up eventually. This book is her 2019 release, about a girl named Dove (known as Birdie) who works hard to follow her parents’ expectations, until she falls for a boy that she knows her parents would never approve of due to his troubled past. When her estranged aunt returns to town and moves in with Birdie’s family, after years in and out of treatment for addiction, Birdie begins to get to know Aunt Carlene and the boy she likes, causing her to start to want more freedom. I liked Brandy Colbert’s writing for the most part in Little & Lion, so I’ve been looking forward to trying more of her books. I’m not often too interested in stories that involve a character dealing with addiction, but this one sounds like it could be a great one because it is so character-driven. I’m definitely looking forward to trying more of Brandy Colbert’s books in general, and this one might be a great place to start.

8) I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi

43699608. sy475 I saw another book earlier this year which had a very similar cover, and I kept getting the two of them confused! This is another one that I’ve only recently become very interested in, after seeing several vloggers talk about it since they all received it in a book box. This book is about several high school students who hear that the Earth might end in 7 days, after it makes contact with another planet called Alma. Jesse doesn’t care if the world ends since life has consistently been a series of struggles for him anyway. Cate is desperate to use her remaining time to find the father she never knew, and Adeem is struggling to forgive his sister for leaving, even though he knows this week might be his lats chance. It took me a while to actually differentiate this one from We Are Lost and Found, because I somehow found the covers very similar, and both are about three teens trying to come to terms with their futures. I’m glad I saw this one so often lately on so many vlog channels, because it really got me interested in trying it!

9) Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao

36596583. sy475 I really wanted to read American Panda this year, but there’s only a slight chance that I’ll be able to squeeze it in. This book is Gloria Chao’s latest release, which just came out mid-October, and focuses on a teenage girl named Ali who is the only Asian person at her school, where she tries to fit in with her classmates while ignoring the seemingly unintentional racism from staff and students. When a new student, who is also Taiwanese, arrives at the school, Ali is hesitant since everyone expects the two Asian kids to be together, but she and Chase soon connect. As soon as Ali’s mother finds out about their relationship, however, she forces Ali to end it, which leads her to dig into her family’s past to unearth the reasons for her mother’s disapproval. I keep getting drawn to this one lately because of the cover art, although I rarely like covers with people on them for some reason. I also think this sounds like a very interesting story, and I love anything that involves family dynamics. I’d love to be able to fit this one into my reading challenges next year!

10) Jackpot by Nic Stone

43744299I’ve read both of Nic Stone’s previous YA books so far, and I’ve really enjoyed them both. This one is her latest release, published in October, about a high school senior named Rico who works after school at a cashier at a gas station, before rushing home to take care of her brother every day. When Rico sells a lottery ticket that wins the jackpot, she thinks it’s the opportunity she’s been looking for to change her luck, and teams up with wealthy classmate Zan to find the person who has the ticket, but has not yet claimed the prize. This sounds like such an unique and interesting premise for a story, and I’m very curious to see how this one plays out! There seem to be a few more books lately that go into issues of wealth and class, and I’d be very interested to see how Nic Stone tackles it, especially given the strength of her debut, Dear Martin. I tend to really enjoy her writing style, and I like that she tackles stories that are a bit different from the typical YA contemporary, so I’m looking forward to trying this one too.

9 Things I Learned in 2019 (From Doing My Fifth Year of Reading Challenges)

Over the past couple of years, I’ve found it really interesting to look back on my experience of doing the challenges, and especially how that experience change a bit each year. The first time I reflected on my challenges, back in 2017, most of what I had learned was about the process of compiling my lists. That was my third year of challenges, and I think the first time that I really seriously started to take on more. Last year, I started to notice a bit more about my own reading habits and tastes. This year, I think it was a bit of both. I’ve definitely noticed some more of my own reading habits and I think by doing the challenges for so many years now, I’ve learned how to apply this to my challenges and keep them fun for myself.

This is now my fifth year of reading challenges, and in a sense, I consider it a year of failed experiments. For the first time, I made myself a list of priority books and priority series to read with the intent of finishing all of those by the end of the year. As of right now, I’m very close to both goals, but doubt I will be able to fully complete them by the end of the month. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t try these kinds of TBR lists again though, since I’m definitely intending on trying it again (but better) next year. More than anything, looking back on what I’ve learned this year from doing my challenges gave me some ideas of ways to switch things up a bit for next year, and I’m looking forward to trying some of these out!

1) There is no shame in using my library renewals!

Part of the fun of doing challenges for me is getting books from the library! I’ve been buying a lot more books in the past couple of years, and definitely should be reading more of the books that I own, but I love to get books from the library. There’s something really fun about getting the message that my holds have come in (except maybe when they all come in at once!) and bringing home a huge stack of books. In general, I’ve always been good about getting my books back on time. This year, because of a variety of reasons, I found myself feeling constantly behind, especially when it came to my library books. Given the number of books that I took out at a time, it’s no surprise that I had to renew many of them, and in many cases, renew them multiple times. For some reason, it had always bugged me a bit to renew a book more than once, probably because I don’t like putting them off for so long, but I definitely learned to use renewals to my advantage this year to hold onto the books I really wanted to read until I had enough time for them.

2) It is essential for me to take breaks during long series,  but not too long  to risk forgetting details

One of my biggest goals this year was to tackle a couple of the very long series that I had been putting off for a long time. I love reading series, but I also find that I get a bit burnt out reading too many books with the same character or same world in a row, especially when the books themselves are very long or complicated. I initially planned to read all the Throne of Glass books back-to-back this year to make sure I didn’t forget anything, but by the time I finished Empire of Storms, I needed a break! It was getting to a point where even though I was really enjoying the story and especially the characters, I wanted something new. The struggle I tend to have is how long to wait before going back to the series. I don’t want to wait too long and risk forgetting the specifics of plot or characters, but I also need to be in the mood to pick it back up. I think the best decision I could have made this year was to split Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series into the trilogies in publication order to spread them out, and taking a break during Throne of Glass!

3) I have a really hard time deciding how to rate books, especially when Goodreads doesn’t allow half stars

I think this year more than any other, I found myself really struggling to figure out how to manage half-star ratings on a system that didn’t allow them. I’ve always had a few books that were a 3.5 or 4.5 stars, but this year, it felt like a majority of my books fell somewhere in between two star ratings. It left me with the difficult decision of whether to round up or down for Goodreads purposes. It often leaves me feeling like the lower score is much to low to accurately reflect what I thought of the book, but the high score is way too high. In general, I find that I’m always a bit resistant to giving books lower ratings unless I really didn’t like it. Even 3 stars is a struggle for me because for some reason, I feel a bit bad to rate it that “low” even though 3 stars really isn’t that bad at all! It’s actually very rare that I’ll read a book that’s 1 or 2 stars for me, so I suspect that’s why a 3 seems so bad. In the end, I settled for deciding on a rating for Goodreads, and noting my accurate half-star rating in my own notes about the books that I keep anyway in case of writing reviews, recommendations, etc.

4) I struggle with the wording of challenge prompts sometimes, especially when it is a book “related to” something

I tend to be a literalist when it comes to reading challenge prompts, as much as possible. It is very important to me to choose a book that I have at least some interest in reading, but I do tend to stick as closely as possible to the wording of the prompt. If I can’t find something that fits the wording as is, I’ll go for something that I think fits the “spirit” of the prompt. For example, I had a prompt requiring a book published by a micropress a few years ago. When I couldn’t find anything that interested me or accessible to me, I went for a book published by a very small independent publisher, which felt close enough to the same idea. Sometimes, I find it really hard to figure out what the prompt is intending or what could fit. I struggle when it comes to prompts that essentially require you to read the book first to know whether it fits (ie. a book that makes you laugh), and I tend to use books that I expect to fit for those. The biggest struggle that I’ve noticed is when a prompt is worded as “a book related to x” because unless there is a clear and obvious connection, it doesn’t seem related to me. Most people seem to love these prompts because there is a lot of freedom to choose books and make a connection to the topic yourself, but for some reason, I really struggle and usually end up overcompensating by finding a book that makes the most connections possible (ie. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown for a “book related to something cold”).

5) The worst part of challenges for me is the logistics

I love doing reading challenges, and I’m often surprised to see people complaining that they have trouble fitting in the books they really want to read. It might be because I usually take on multiple challenges, but I’ve never had much problem fitting in all the books that I wanted to pick up. The problem that I have instead is trying to manage the logistics around accurately keeping track of my reading. I’m sure there are other sites or apps that would work better, but I really like to use Goodreads and it annoys me that I can’t set my own timeline on my reading challenge tracker on the homepage. This year, I ended up setting a yearly goal of the overall total number of books I had planned for all my challenges, knowing full well that it was an unrealistic number to finish by the end of December. I already knew that several of the challenges were likely to carry over into next year, but I didn’t want to skip over recording books I was reading that wasn’t for my “main” challenges (ie. the ones that I want to finish by the end of the year). On the other hand, trying to track everything leaves me with a constant “You are 50+ books behind” throughout the year, which doesn’t feel accurate either. I love doing reading challenges, but the logistics can be a real nightmare sometimes!

6) I am much better in general at choosing books that I’m going to enjoy

I noticed this one yesterday when I was looking at Goodreads yesterday. Not only have I read the most books in total so far this year compared to any other year of reading challenges, but I’ve also had the most 5 star books! I’m pretty good in general at guessing what I’m likely to enjoy, so I haven’t rated anything in the past 5 years less than 3 stars. However, even I was surprised to see that my number of 5 star books far exceeded my number of 4 star books this year! In previous years, 4 stars has always been the majority. This year, I’ve read a total of 101 5-star books, and 67 4-star books, which I think is my biggest gap between those two categories yet, and definitely the first time the 5-stars are the majority. To be fair, this might be skewed a bit because 8 of those books are Harry Potter rereads, and my 5 star books also include several graphic novels and books from series, but it still makes it an excellent year overall. When I first compiled my plans for this year, it was the most exciting list I’ve had in general, and even though I didn’t actually get to all the books I was excited for, I think that was a huge factor in why the majority have been 5 stars! The more I read, the better I seem to get at predicting what I might enjoy and choosing books accordingly.

7) It is essential for me to be in the mood for a book before I pick it up, otherwise I won’t enjoy it (even if I otherwise might)

I am a huge mood reader, which might be a bit surprising since I try to plan the majority of my books before the year starts. In general, aside from becoming good at picking books I think I’ll like, I’ve also become good at figuring out when to pick them up. I really need to be in the mood for a specific book in order to enjoy it. I often find that if I pick up a book because I feel pressured in any way, such as by library due dates, I automatically tend to view it as a chore and it’s much harder for me to get into it. Even if it’s a book that I otherwise would love, picking it up at the wrong time could really put me off. I think this was a huge part of my struggle with library books this year because I kept finding myself constricted by due dates for books that I wasn’t able to renew because other people had holds on them. I’m a pretty fast reader, but I don’t like to feel rushed. I also find there are certain times in the week are better for me for specific kinds of books just based on my schedule. I always find it a bit frustrating to realize that I’m having trouble getting into a book that I expected to love because of the timing!

8) It really bothers me to switch out too many of the books I intended to read, even if it’s for a good reason

Back in 2017, I’d commented that I’d learned it was not “cheating” to switch out books that I’d initially planned to read, but I think it’s something I keep re-learning. This year, I found myself putting aside several of the books that I had intended to pick up for a variety of reasons, but mostly because of timing. There are some books that just didn’t want to rush to finish before the end of the year because I’d been looking forward to them so much, so I proactively decided to push them back and read them next year instead. It’s a bit frustrating not to get to a book that I really wanted to read, but I also didn’t want to set myself up to rush or pick things up when I didn’t feel like it. Although I still struggle a bit with the idea that switching books I’d planned to read out for shorter options for the sake of finishing a challenge on time is “cheating,” I’m learning to accept that sometimes it’s really the better decision and  really to my own advantage.

9) I still have not learned how to prioritize my challenges properly!

This was a surprising realization this year, since it was one of my top goals! After I realized I had way too many books from my main challenges remaining by the beginning of December last year, I’d sworn that I would not let that be the case again since it puts way too much pressure on me to finish things quickly. Somehow, I ended up back in the exact same position again! This year, I blame the problem mostly on my constant struggle to balance library books and books that I own. I had purposely included many of the books that I own as part of my main challenges since I thought it would give me an extra push to read them, but I ended up putting them off to get through my library holds first. I definitely have some ideas of how to tackle this problem for next year, although I don’t necessarily want to go the route of having a specific number of books per challenge to read since I’m such a mood reader. I would love to be able to say by the end of next year that I’ve learned to prioritize properly!