It’s so hard to believe that the year is already half-over! Like last year, I approached my reading challenges as a two-year process this time, since there were just so many books that I really wanted to read! My goal for this year was to read at least 200 books, and the rest would be carried forward to next year. My grand total for all of my challenges is 360 books, which is definitely not realistic for one year, but I think 200 could be feasible. By the end of June, I had read a total 83 books which is slightly less than I’d read by this point last year (86 by the end of June in 2020). To be fair, by that point of 2020 I’d been in lockdown for several months, so the fact that I’ve read almost the exact same number without all of that “extra” time is still pretty good! 83 books is 43% of my goal of 200, or only 23% of the total of the full 360. It’s a bit disappointing that I didn’t get a little closer to 50% by the halfway point, but I rarely do.
Like last year, I also have not really had access to the library this year, aside from ebooks and audiobooks. I’ve been using audiobooks a bit more often than I have in the past, since I’ve found it really helps me while I’m working on a project for my job that takes up one day every other weekend, so at least I can still make progress on challenges while I work. Like most years, the majority of my books have been 4 or 5 star reads, but I always have a bit of a hard time pinpointing specific favourites. This year specifically, I had several books that I really enjoyed but somehow didn’t feel like I had any that I strongly loved. Once I looked back on all the books I read so far though, there were several that jumped out. I always have a great time doing this tag, and I think it’s such a great way to look back on my progress and plan ahead for the rest of the year! This tag was originally co-created by Chami, whose video seems to have been removed, and Ely, whose video can be found here.
1) Best book you’ve read so far this year
For the first time, I have to go with two answers for this one, and choose both The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and My Dark Vanessa since I loved both for very different reasons. I kept going back and forth between which one I liked better because they are just impossible to compare. I loved Addie LaRue because I loved V.E. Schwab’s writing style, as always, and I absolutely loved the way the author brought up so many interesting ideas about memory and legacy. I thought Addie was a fascinating character and loved how she learned to work with her curse and sometimes use it to her advantage, as well as the limitations it imposed on her life. I loved My Dark Vanessa because of how well the author tackled such a complex topic. It reminded me quite a bit of Lolita both in terms of the subject matter, but also because of some of the behaviour Strane showed to gaslight Vanessa and also cover up their relationship to keep others from noticing it. I was immediately drawn into My Dark Vanessa a lot more than I expected, and these both quickly became my favourites of the year.
2) Best sequel you’ve read so far this year
Again, I really struggled to answer this question because I had a few complete series that I read this year in addition to some books that were sequels to books I’d read previously. If I was going to choose from sequels in a series that I read in its entirety this year, my answer would hands-down by Darkdawn, but I decided to limit myself to sequels from series I already had in progress since that seemed a little more fair. Of those, I definitely have to go with Rule of Wolves. I did need a bit of a refresher on the previous book before I went into this one, but it did not take long at all to get right back into this world and especially the characters. I especially loved the chapters from Nina’s perspective and loved the political maneuvering involved in her keeping up her role as a spy. I also loved how this book included so many of the characters from earlier books in the Grishaverse, especially several from Six of Crows, and loved seeing the characters interacting with Kaz. I also loved how much the author developed several of the side characters, and also the relationship development for several characters. I absolutely loved the direction taken toward the end, which seemed to be gearing up toward the next Six of Crows book. As a side note, I would definitely put A Court of Silver Flames in a very close second for best sequel!
3) New release you haven’t read yet, but want to
I’ve been buying a lot more books in the past year and a half due to the pandemic, which has naturally led me to purchase a lot more very recent releases! In the past, I used to read mostly books from the library so there would be a bit of a delay between when the books became available and when I’d actually be able to pick them up. I think if I had to pick one that I’m most excited for, it would be The Maidens! My copy of it just arrived recently, although I’m still a tiny bit annoyed that I had to settle for the softcover instead of the hardcover, especially when so many vloggers have been showing off the Book of the Month hardcover copy! This is a dark academia book by the author of The Silent Patient, which was one of the best books I read back in 2019. I’m hoping to love this one just as much, and I’m expecting that I will considering dark academia is already such a buzzword for me.
Just to name a few other new releases that I’m interested in reading, and especially ones that I’m likely to read this year: One Last Stop, Malibu Rising, Survive the Night, Off the Record, People We Meet on Vacation, Second First Impressions, The Infinity Courts, The Cost of Knowing, Every Vow You Break and The Mirror Season. I’m sure I’ve mentioned all of these many times before, but they are all some of my most anticipated releases of the year!
4) Most anticipated release for the second half of the year
I just did a whole post about this just last week so more detail is there, but these are some of the books that I’m really looking forward to, whether I get to them this year or not:
- For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing
- White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson
- Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty
- Gilded by Marissa Meyer
- Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult
- The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell
5) Biggest Disappointment
Definitely The Exit! I really expected to love this one because it had such a cool premise, but I didn’t enjoy the writing style at all. This was one of only two books that I rated 3 stars this year, the other being a Mary Higgins Clark mystery from the early 1990s that I didn’t really expect to love anyway. This one was especially disappointing because I’d been waiting quite a while to read it and even bought a copy off Book Outlet a while ago to give myself an extra push to pick it up. I really expected to love it because it’s about a young woman named Catherine who is forced to take a job working at a care home to appease her mother, and soon meets an 82-year-old woman named Rose who has dementia. Rose insists that there is something going on in the care home that is putting the residents in danger, but no one believes her due to her dementia. I thought this was such a fascinating idea, but I found the execution weak especially because Rose’s sections were very repetitive. I did enjoy the character development for Catherine, and I liked the ultimate reveal of what was happening because it was so creepy and unexpected, but I found the writing in general so frustrating!
6) Biggest Surprise
This might be a bit of a strange choice, but I think I have to go with Lifelike by Jay Kristoff. I went into this series not really knowing much about the plot, and I ended up really enjoying it! To be fair, the first book in the series was my favourite of the three but I was surprised by how much fun I had with it. I was intrigued because I’d heard that it was a sci-fi version of Anastasia, which is a story that I’ve always found fascinating. I couldn’t really see how that would work based on the synopsis, so it was very interesting to see how it was incorporated. I loved the way this book played on the concept of Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics and the way the Lifelikes processed their existence as robots as well as the way various kinds of robots were involved in society and treated by humans. I didn’t love the rest of the series quite as much because the focus shifted a bit to a different character who I didn’t like quite as much as Eve. I still enjoyed the other two books, but it was the first one that really took me by surprise. I also especially loved the character Solomon and thought he was so fun to read! Considering how little I knew about this series before I tried it, I ended up liking it a lot more than I expected.
7) Favourite New Author (Debut or New To You)
Definitely Casey McQuiston! I actively avoided reading this book for such a long time because it seemed so overhyped, so I was surprised by how quickly it drew me in. I absolutely loved the characters and the writing. I was especially surprised by how much I enjoyed it considering I don’t care for books that involve politics. As soon as I picked it up, it was so easy to see what this one was so popular, and it made me immediately interested in trying more books by this author. I think it also says a lot that I read this book all the way back in February, and there are still several moments from it that really stand out (“I love him on purpose” being the main one!). Casey McQuiston’s next book One Last Stop is very high on my list to read this year, and I’m probably going to be picking it up within the next month or so. It was one of several books that I preordered this year, and I was so excited to get it not too long ago! I’m specifically thinking I’ll read it this month since I have some time off, so it seems like a great chance to get to some of the books that I’ve been really looking forward to!
8) Newest Fictional Crush
I don’t really get fictional crushes, but I think if I had to pick a character from a book I’ve read that I would date, it would probably be Julian Blackthorn from The Dark Artifices by Cassandra Clare. I love the way he is so devoted to his family and also his loyalty in general. I loved how he tried to protect Emma and his family, although it was also very hard to see how much all this responsibility from such a young age took a toll on him. He’s probably one of my favourite Cassandra Clare characters in general, in addition to Kit and Ty from the same series.
9) Newest Favourite Character
If I limit myself to characters who are new-to-me, I think I’d have to go with Mia Corvere from the Nevernight trilogy. I went into this series not expecting too much since I didn’t really care for assassin stories, but I was immediately drawn in by the characters, especially Mia. I loved how much growth she shows over the course of the series and especially in Darkdawn. I really enjoyed the characters in this series in general, including many of the side characters, but Mia was the one who really stood out. I also loved the way the author managed the relationships between Mia and her possible love interests. I don’t want to go into too much detail since it might still be considered spoilers, but I thought it was handled very realistically especially with regards to Tric. As with Lifelike, I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed this one considering I’d gone into it without knowing very much about it, and this series ended up being a favourite!
I’d also count Mav from Concrete Rose as a favourite character, but didn’t think it was fair to choose him because he wasn’t really a “new” character. I guess you could make a case for it because he was only a side character in The Hate U Give, and this book really gave a a chance to get to know him better.
10) A Book That Made You Cry
I always struggle so much with this question because it’s very rare for a book to literally make me cry. I think the one that would have been closest would be the section in Solutions and Other Problems where Allie Brosh discussed her sister’s death, which was very impactful. I can’t remember if it literally made me cry, but I’m sure it came pretty close and I distinctly remember reading that section a few times because it was so poignant. In general, I found this collection a lot sadder and more introspective than Hyperbole and a Half overall, which is unsurprising given what Allie Brosh had been through between the two books. Looking back at my choices from previous years, I generally picked hard-hitting YA contemporaries for this question, so it was a bit of a surprise to choose this kind of collection. To be fair, last year I picked House of Earth and Blood and that was a bit of an unusual choice too.
11) A Book That Made You Happy
I think I’d have to go with Geekerella. This was a book I read right at the end of June, and I absolutely loved it! I’ve been meaning to read it for such a long time, and I’m glad I finally picked up the series. I loved the way this author brought in so many elements from the original fairy tale, especially things I wouldn’t have expected to work well such as the fairy godmother and pumpkin coach. I was immediately drawn in by the writing style and loved Elle as a main character. I also loved Darien and the way the author explored his anxiety about playing his character well and doing justice to a franchise he secretly loved. The only thing I would have liked was a little more development of Elle’s stepmother and stepsister since they seemed like a bit of a caricature, and it would have been great to get a bit more of a backstory for why they were so mean to her. I also really enjoyed the way the author focused on fan culture and gatekeeping “fake” fans. I thought the entire Excelsicon setting and Starfield in general were very interesting, and this book was so much fun to read.
12) Favourite Book to Film Adaptation You Saw This Year
Definitely the Netflix adaptation of Shadow & Bone! This was by far one of the best adaptations of any book or series I’ve seen so far, and I can’t wait for the next season. I also really enjoyed the Netflix adaptation of Behind Her Eyes. I’d just read the book toward the end of 2020 and it was great to see the series so soon afterwards, and I thought they did a great job of adapting that one too.
13) Favourite Review You’ve Written This Year
I don’t write reviews in general, but I think some of my favourite posts I’ve done this year so far are my lists of Most Anticipated releases for the first and second half of the year. This year in particular, I’ve had so many new and upcoming releases that I’m excited for and it’s been fun to share some of them.
14) Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought or Received So Far This Year
15) What Books Do You Need to Read by the End of the Year?
There are so many! All of the books that I mentioned above as part of my new releases that I haven’t read yet would definitely make this list, but here are a few others:
- Lock Every Door and An Anonymous Girl (I meant to read them last year, but ran out of time)
- You Have a Match
- Anxious People
- Instant Karma
- Early Departures
- Goodnight Beautiful
Nice list. Red White and Royal Blue is on my summer reading list. I hope I enjoy it as much as you did!