Second Quarter Challenge Check-In (2020)

It’s still so weird to me to think that this year is already half over. I’ve spent the entirety of the last quarter in lockdown, which is only just starting to ease up now. I’m finally going back to work in person as of next week! It’s only for two half-days at a time right now and with a very small group, but at least it’s something. I’ve been taking advantage of the fact that I’ve been stuck at home since the middle of March to really focus on some of my reading goals, and especially to read some of the bigger books or series that were on my list. This year, my goal was to finish at total of 220 books by the end of December, which would be 75% of all the books in the 5 reading challenges I’ve taken on. The rest would be carried forward into next year.

So far, I think I’ve made great progress although it does feel a tiny bit slower than I expected. I naturally assumed that being home for months would mean a huge increase in my reading, but I’ve still been working full days from home 5 days a week, and there have been a few periods where even though I wanted to read, I just couldn’t focus very well. As of the end of June, I had read a total of 86 books (39% of my yearly goal), which means that this quarter alone, I read 51 books! This was quite a big jump compared to the first quarter, where I’d read 35 books. Even though I was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t that close to the half-way point of my challenges by the half-way point of the year, I definitely made some great progress! The vast majority of these books were also 4 and 5 star reads, with only 3 books falling below that to a 3-star rating. Of the books I read this quarter, 21 were rated 5 stars, and 26 were rated 4 stars. Compared to the first quarter, I had about the same number of 5-star books, and exactly double the number of 4 star books!

Series Goals and Standalone Goals

As mentioned last quarter, I set myself a goal to read 13 series before the end of the year. It’s starting to get a little more complicated right now since I have only one series remaining on this list that I actually own, and I’m not sure yet how easily I’ll be able to access the rest. The library is just starting to open but still has quite a few limits on it. By the end of the first quarter, I had finished 4 of the series on my list. In the past three months, I also read the Shades of Magic trilogy, the Saga series, and I re-read The Hunger Games trilogy, including the new prequel. That brings me to a total of 7 out of the 13 series on my list, so it’s just over half! It definitely seems to help that I prioritize one series per month, as much as possible, and I’m hoping to be able to continue with my list for the rest of the year. I realized after the fact that I probably also should have added the Lifelike series to my list since the last book recently came out, and I can read that complete trilogy too. I guess I can consider that a bonus series to my priority list.

I also set myself a list of Top 20 Books to Read in 2020, and as with the first quarter, I’m regretting the structure a bit since some of the books I thought I’d included on there ended up in my 5-star predictions instead. At the end of the first quarter, I had read only 2 books from this list. This quarter, I finished 3 more: We Are Totally Normal, The Starless Sea, and Middlegame. I’d been a bit worried at first that this goal would be difficult to complete because many of them were books I would need to get from the library, but I ended up purchasing many of them instead! Of the remaining books on my list, I already own 9 and I plan on buying the rest when I can find them for a good price. I’m a lot less worried about this goal now that I actually have the majority of the books already available.

Priority Authors

I think this is the goal I’ve somehow been struggling with the most, and I’m not even sure why! At the beginning of the year, I chose 10 YA authors and 10 non-YA authors that I’ve been meaning to try. My goal was to read at least one book by each of them by the end of the year. By the end of the first quarter, I had only read books by one author off each list, and this quarter, I ended up reading a second book by each of them (Lisa Jewell and Maurene Goo). I also read (actually, listened to) one book by Kasie West, so that’s one more author off my list. This is definitely a goal that I need to actively put more effort into! Part of the challenge with it originally is that I did not have books by many of these authors, but I’ve since bought quite a few, so there is really no excuse not to pick them up now. I think the main reason I haven’t picked up any of their books yet is because I’ve been actively trying to read some of the books I meant to pick up last year but didn’t get to, and most of these authors were not on that list.

Read Books That I Own

On the other hand, this has by far been the easiest goal to accomplish. I’d originally set myself a goal of an “Own Books Only Winter,” so in the first quarter of the year I was focused on reading my own books anyway. With the lockdown happening, I didn’t have much choice but to stick with that goal. I started branching out a bit to borrowing some more books from my library system in the past few months. Of the 51 books that I read,  28 of them were books that I owned, and the rest were audiobooks or ebooks from the library. That means that just over half (55%) of the books I read this quarter were still books that I owned. I’m expecting that this year in general, the vast majority of the books I read will end up being books I own. I’ve been buying a ton of them, and I’m not sure how easily I’ll be able to use the library even as the year goes on. Including the books that I read in the first quarter, which were all books that I owned, I’ve read a total of 63 books that I own out of the 86 I’ve read overall this year (so 73% were my own books).

Backlist Vs. New Releases

This is always a bit of a tricky one since it is not something that I actively keep track of while I’m reading. This year, I defined “backlist” as books that had been on my TBR since 2017 or earlier. I’ve been on Goodreads since 2015 and there were many books that have been sitting there for way too long. By the end of the first quarter, I’d read a total of 8 backlist books. This quarter, I read 26 more books that had been on my TBR since 2017 or earlier! I knew I’d read quite a few, but I didn’t realize that the number was so high. It means that around half of the books that I read were books that had been on my list for 3 years or more.

At the same time, I also wanted to prioritize  some newer releases, which I defined as books published in 2019 or 2020. It didn’t matter how long they had been on my list, as long as the publication date was within those two years. This quarter, I read 12 books that had been published in the past 2 years, which means just under 25% of all the books that I read this quarter. That seems about right considering I’d been prioritizing some of the books I meant to read last year, and I definitely expect that number to go up a bit given all the newer releases I’ve been buying. I also read 7 books that were published in 2018, which is still pretty new. I’m not that surprised that I’ve been reading more backlist than new releases so far, but I’m sure the balance will start shifting a bit more in the next couple of months.

Reader’s Choice Awards

As always, I’d like to end off with a “Reader’s Choice Awards” for the quarter, especially now that the Around the Year in 52 Books group does not seem to be running it anymore. It’s a bit similar to the Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag, but not quite the same since this one only includes books I read this quarter, while the tag included any books I read in the first half of the year.

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

I would have to say The Starless Sea. I was so nervous to even pick this one up in the first place because it seemed so long and so dense, but it drew me in right away! I connected immediately with Zachary Ezra Rawlins and even though I did get a tiny bit confused toward the end, I loved this book so much more than I expected. Actually, I’d also have to say the same for Middlegame, and for similar reasons. I went into it knowing very little of what it was actually about, and ended up absolutely adoring it.

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

I think I would have to go with The Bookseller, which was one of three books that I gave only 3 stars. To be fair, this one wasn’t even my lowest rated since I’d actually given it 3.5 stars and actively considered rounding it up to 4 for a while. Of my three lowest rated books this quarter though, this was the one that I’d really expected to love and I was disappointed when I didn’t. I didn’t really like the writing style and found that it actually ruined my immersion in the story at times. It’s too bad since there was such potential for a very interesting plot here.

Best Dressed: The book with the most attractive cover








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

I think I’d have to give this one to House of Earth and Blood, but there were some other very strong contenders. This one gets the slight edge because of how Sarah J. Maas got me genuinely invested even in the side characters, and I loved both Bryce and Hunt. I’m really looking forward to reading more of this series.

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

I loved the parallel Londons in the Shades of Magic trilogy (which, to be honest, was also a strong contender for Best Characters too). I loved the whole concept of the parallel Londons and how different they all were.

Best Story: A book with a great storyline

I could very easily give this one to any of the books mentioned above (except The Bookseller), but I think I’d have to give it to The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. I love a good mystery, and this one had such an intriguing concept. I loved how all of the parts of the story eventually tied together.

Best Feelings: A book that made you really emotional

I think the book that comes closest for this one is House of Earth and Blood, because there are a few key emotional moments that really stood out to me. This book really got me attached to the characters and genuinely invested in what was happening to them. It’s a bit of a weird choice since I usually pick a hard-hitting contemporary for this kind of category, but it was the first book that came to mind.

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

I really loved both of the main romances in the Shades of Magic trilogy. Those were some of the relationships that were most memorable to me (aside from Bryce and Hunt in House of Earth and Blood, and Katniss and Peeta, whom I’m excluding because that was a re-read).

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

This was a surprisingly tough question to answer. I think I would have to go with The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. I had several ideas about what direction the story would take, and none of them were right!

There was also one moment in Saga that was quite shocking, but I’d accidentally spoiled it for myself for it before reading that volume, so it wasn’t quite as impactful as it probably should have been.

Best Author: An author whose writing you really clicked with

If I limited myself to only new-to-me authors, I’d have to go with either Stuart Turton or Sara Barnard.

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

Definitely House of Earth and Blood but I’d also love to see more of the Shades of Magic world too! I’ve heard that V.E. Schwab might write a new series that involves this world, but I’m not sure if or when that is happening. I also really enjoyed Call Down the Hawk and I’m looking forward to continuing that series too!

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

I think if I had to pick just one book, it would probably be House of Earth and Blood, which was a huge surprise to me! I was very intimidated to pick up a book that size (and might not have picked it up yet, if it weren’t for the lockdown), and I ended up loving it.




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