2019 Reading Challenges

As I mentioned in my last 2018 in review post, I found myself quite bored with my usual style of reading challenges by the end of last year (setting myself a goal of a certain number of books to read in a selection of categories), so I thought that for 2019 I’d do something a little different. As always, I have my Goodreads challenge ready to go (& set at 60 books for this year, which I think will be manageable), but recently I’ve seen a few of the Booktube people I follow trying to predict which of their unread books they’ll be giving five stars to, & I thought that sounded like an interesting (though also a little nerve-wracking; I don’t like to make myself expect to love a book before I’ve even started it) exercise, so I’ve picked out a few books on my TBR shelf that I have a really good feeling about, & am committing myself to reading them at some point this year…

I’ve made a little section for these in my bullet journal, where I’ll be keeping track of when I read each of these, and how I actually decided to rate them, but hopefully I won’t be too far off for any of them! 🤞

FIVE-STAR PREDICTIONS

The other challenge that I’ve set myself is a 5×5 book bingo square, which I thought would be fun, though perhaps 25 books will prove too much for me. 😅 Over Christmas, I asked my cousins to help me come up with some prompts, and I think they’re a good balance of difficult and less difficult ones. I’ve decided that none of the books I read will be allowed to count for more than one bingo square, but that’s my only real constraint with this challenge.

BOOK BINGO

Good luck, me – and good luck with your own challenges as well, if you’ve decided to set yourself any! I hope that 2019 proves to be an excellent reading year for us all. 🍀

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2018 in Review: Challenges & Resolutions

I was in a pretty huge reading slump near the beginning of the year, so I made a point of setting myself fewer challenges than I have in previous years – but although I didn’t quite manage to complete all of them, I find myself pleased with the progress that I did make. I actually surpassed my Goodreads goal, which I set at 50, and a good number of those I also managed to review – which is another thing that I’ve been trying to focus on. And although it’s not as packed as it has been in previous years, my My Year in Books page looks as satisfyingly stylish as ever. 😊

My reading resolutions are the challenges that I did slightly less well on in 2018, and to be honest, I’ve found myself getting rather bored with them in the last few months, so I haven’t made completing them a huge priority. (I’ll be changing things up quite a bit for my 2019 challenges, so keep your eyes peeled for that post in the next few days, if you’re interested.) Nevertheless, here’s my final results:

1) Take part in the Library Scavenger Hunt every month: [completed 10/12]

2) Read a book set on every continent: [completed 6/7]

  • Asia: The Life & Loves of Lena Gaunt by Tracy Farr [review linked above]
  • Africa:
  • Europe: A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond [review]
  • North America: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
  • South America: The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera [review linked above]
  • Oceania: The Life & Loves of Lena Gaunt by Tracy Farr [review linked above]
  • Antarctica: Mawson Lives by Douglas Mawson [review linked above]

3) Read 5 books that were given to me:

4) Finish or catch up on 5 series:

5) Read 3 classics:

6) Read 2 non-fiction books:

7) Read 2 DNF books:

  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • Obsidio by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff [series review linked above]

And with that, happy New Year, everyone! Here’s to a great many more books to read in 2019! 🥂🍾

2018 in Review: Highlights

🎊🎊🎊 Happy New Year’s Eve Eve, everyone! 🎊🎊🎊 It’s the time of year again for everyone to talk about their favourite books! 📚 … And usually I’d be joining in with the numbered-list-o-mania, but I’ve read so many great books this year, so instead I thought I’d talk about some of my bookish highlights for the year! 😊 Not all of these are necessarily my absolute favourites, but these are the books I found particularly memorable in 2018:

If you’ve been following my monthly/seasonal wrap-ups, you’ll probably have noticed that I finally got myself an Audible subscription, which I’ve been enjoying immensely. I find it hard sometimes to tell whether my feelings about the book being read are affected by the narrator’s performance, or vice versa, but quite a few of my favourites this year turned out to be ones that I’d listened to rather than read. In terms of pure performance, though, nothing comes close to Garth Nix’s Frogkisser!, which was wonderfully read by Marisa Calin; you can find my review of it here.

The other stand-out audiobook I listened to was Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, though in this case I think my enjoyment was based mostly on the story itself (though Steve West’s narration was also excellent), and I’ve no doubt that I would have liked it just as much in print form. I was a little behind the bandwagon in starting this series, but this first book definitely lives up to the incredible amount of hype surrounding it, and the sequel (Muse of Nightmares, which was released a few months ago) was almost as good.

And on the topic of more recent releases: The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff and The Conqueror’s Saga by Kiersten White both ended this year, and are by far some of the best series I’ve read in the last few years. Neither Obsidio nor Bright We Burn were my favourites from their respective series, but they both made for incredibly satisfying endings.

After a slightly disappointing start to the series, I was also pleasantly surprised by how much I liked The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan, which I finally – and reluctantly – picked up for the Fall into Fantasy readathon in November. I was never entirely sure why The Hidden Oracle didn’t resonate with me, but The Dark Prophecy has definitely saved the series for me; I’m currently reading book three (The Burning Maze), and enjoying it just as much, and no doubt it would be included in this post, too, if not for the fact that I’m unlikely to finish it before New Year. (I also have a review up for this book, which you can find here, if you’re interested.)

On the whole, my 2018 seems to have been a really great (and intense) year for fantasy books, and it’s been really wonderful to delve so deeply back into my favourite genre, including my first (kind-of) go at one of the classics: Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle! I’ve been meaning to read this series for such a long time, and now that I’ve started, I can’t believe it’s taken me so long! So far, I’ve only read the first three books, but I’ve loved them all, and the second book, The Tombs of Atuan, is probably my favourite book of the year; it was such a wonderful read. 💕 Needless to say, Tehanu (the fourth in the series) will be one of the first things that I read in 2019.

Finally, I’d like to also give a quick mention to We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, which is probably the most thought-provoking book I read this year, and was an incredible roller-coaster of emotions. I feel like I read it so long ago that it’s heard to believe that it was really still 2018, but it’s stuck with me, and I have no doubt that it will continue to do so for a long time to come.

Teaser Tuesday #12

THE RULES:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
    • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other Teaser Tuesday participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

At the moment I’m reading La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman, the first in his new Book of Dust trilogy, which is a prequel to His Dark Materials… I’ve been taking my time with it, not because it’s at all a struggle (it’s not), but because I want to savour the experience – and I’m also doing a month-long readalong of it with one of my friends. 😊 The story is about a young innkeeper’s son, who meets Lyra as a baby, and then gets caught up in all the intrigue surrounding her, from the shadowy and threatening CCD (Consistorial Court of Discipline) to the also mysterious (but more benign, at least to Malcolm) organisation of Oakley Street…

Teaser #1:

‘Not really,’ Malcolm said, beginning to feel awkward. He didn’t want to keep things from his parents, but they didn’t usually have the time to ask anything more than once. A non-comittal answer normally satisfied them. But with nothing else to do this evening, the matter of Malcolm’s talking to Alice became of great interest.

Teaser #2:

Pan was a sparrow chick now, so Asta became a bird too, a greenfinch this time.

[Teaser Tuesday was created by MizB over at A Daily Rhythm.]

2018 Reading Resolutions

I’ve decided to cut back on my resolutions quite a bit this year, both because I’m not reading at the pace I have been in past years (my Goodreads goal is also a little lower than in 2017), and to allow myself more freedom to just read what I feel like reading; the end of last year was something of a frenzy of books that would fulfil challenge requirements, and consequently I ended up having to put off several books that I was really eager to read (like The Book of Dust, which has been taunting me from my bookshelf since I bought it the day after it was released!)… I definitely don’t want to do that again. 😓

This year’s challenges will be:

  • Take part in the Library Scavenger Hunt every month – This hasn’t changed at all from last year, though I have decided that I’m not going to be too upset if I miss a month or two…
  • Read a book set on every continent – This is an adaptation of my “books that showcase different cultures” challenge, which has been serving its purpose, but I do find that I end up just reading a lot of books set in one or two cultures, so it doesn’t actually diversify my reading all that much (for instance, I read quite a lot of books that are set in Japan). The seven continents are Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America, Oceania & Antarctica, and I already have a few ideas for what I could read for a couple of these. 👍
  • Read five books that were given to me – This is almost the same as in previous years, but I’ve dropped the “or lent” part of the challenge in addition to the “or recommended” part that I left out last year. I was given quite a few books this Christmas, so even if nobody else gives me a single book this year, I have enough exciting books to fuel me through this challenge. 🎄
  • Finish or catch up on five series – The only change I’ve made to this challenge is that the series don’t have to be ones that I started before the beginning of the year; while this was a helpful challenge, I found that it discouraged me from finishing newly discovered series more than it encouraged me to finish off older ones.
  • Read three classics or modern classics – No change from last year; three seems to be the perfect number for this challenge.
  • Read two non-fiction books – I’ve increased the number for this challenge by one, as last year I fulfilled it much more easily than I was anticipating, and then went on to read a couple more non-fiction books, as well!
  • Read two DNF books – In contrast, I’ve decreased the amount here, simply because I don’t have all that many DNF books left on my shelves (except for anthologies, which I don’t tend to count).

If you’ve been following my resolutions for the last couple of years, you may notice that most of these are quite familiar, but I’m happy with the changes that I’ve made, & I think they strike a nice balance between challenge, flexibility and achievability.

2017 in Review

Last year (and it’ll be strange for a while yet to be using that phrase to refer to 2017) ended up being a pretty great reading year for me, despite several not-quite-slumps, and a few very time-consuming video game obsessions. 😅 I’m still not reading at the pace that I was when I was in China (just before I decided to start this blog), but considering that I now have a considerably more active social life, and a job with far less downtime, I’m happy with both the quantity and the quality of the books that I read. I managed to complete my Goodreads Challenge, as well as all of my Reading Resolutions, which makes a huge change from 2016, where I only managed two out of ten. 😰 The My Year in Books page on Goodreads also looks as cool as ever, but I especially like that they’ve added reviews into the layout this time.

Of course, I’ve picked out a few favourites, which I’d like to say a little about (in order of reading, not preference), starting with The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke, which was not at all what I was expecting it to be, but completely blew me away. It’s a story about a woman and the robot who helped to raise her, and all the ways that their relationship shifts and changes as they grow older. I only initially gave this four stars, but I took the fact that I’m still thinking about it, and remember it so favourably as a sign that I ought to bump it up to a five-star rating.

The next book was definitely the best book I read in 2017: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie! This book not only defied my expectations, but completely blew them out of the water. It tells the story of a soldier called Breq who used to be part of the consciousness of a sentient starship, and is now on a mission to avenge the destruction of herself (kind of). It’s very strange conceptually, but I found the characters, the plot, and the intergalactic society that Leckie created completely enchanting, and I can’t wait to finish the series (after which I will be deciding whether this book specifically, or the series as a whole, will make it onto my all-time favourites list)!

And third is Radio Silence by Alice Oseman, which I finished reading on Boxing Day evening, so it’s a very recent addition to the list. It’s a British contemporary novel about a girl who’s always been super-focused on her academic performance, but secretly loves a strange podcast called Universe City, whose creator is a complete mystery – until one day an acquaintance of hers drunkenly reveals himself to be the mysterious “Radio Silence”. Plot-wise, this book was probably quite weak, but I loved it for its characters, who I identified with very strongly, as well as its homage to fan-culture (of the podcasts and fan-art variety), which read very much like a love letter. 💕

Lastly, here’s a round-up of my resolutions, which (as I previously mentioned) went  really well:

1) Take part in the Library Scavenger Hunt every month:

2) Read 1 non-fiction book:

  • Seeing Voices by Oliver Sacks [review linked above]

3) Read 10 adult/literary novels:

4) Read 3 classics or modern classics:

  • Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen [review linked above]
  • Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne [review linked above]
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen [review linked above]

5) Read 5 books that showcase cultures different to my own:

6) Read 5 comics, manga or graphic novels (each series can only count once):

7) Read 10 short stories (not including spin-off novellas):

  • Nora’s Song by Cecelia Holland (from the Dangerous Women anthology)
  • Odd & the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
  • The Hands That Are Not There by Melinda Snodgrass (DW)
  • Raisa Stepanova by Carrie Vaughan (DW)
  • Wrestling Jesus by Joe R. Lansdale (DW)
  • Neighbors by Megan Lindholm (DW)
  • I Know How to Pick ‘Em by Lawrence Block (DW)
  • Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson (DW)
  • A Queen in Exile by Sharon Kay Penman (DW)
  • Midnights by Rainbow Rowell (from the My True Love Gave to Me anthology)

8) Read 5 books that were given or lent to me:

  • Odd & the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
  • The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman [review]
  • Wild Lily by K.M. Peyton [review]
  • The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke [review linked above]
  • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [review linked above]

9) Finish reading 3 DNF books:

  • Now I Rise by Kiersten White
  • Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld [review linked above]
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen [review linked above]

10) Finish or catch up on 5 series that I started before the beginning of the year:

Teaser Tuesday #11

THE RULES:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
    • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other Teaser Tuesday participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

At the moment I’m reading Homecoming by Kass Morgan, the third book in the 100 series (though if I’d decided to write this post half an hour earlier earlier, then I’d be talking about a different book altogether. 😋), which is set in the aftermath of the nuclear apocalypse, where humanity survived by going into space, but are now forced to return to Earth several generations before they’d planned to, because their space station is running dangerously low on air. The books follow a group of teenage prisoners who are the first to be sent down to Earth, to see if it’s survivable, and documents the trials of life on an irradiated planet. The premise is great, the execution is maybe not so great, but I’ve been finding these books buckets of fun regardless… 😁

Teaser #1:

“Already luring children into the woods like a real creepy hermit, are we? That didn’t take long.”

Teaser #2:

He knew that strict order was absolutely necessary on the ship, but it’d be hard for the guards to abandon their mantra of shoot first, ask questions later.

[Teaser Tuesday was created by MizB over at A Daily Rhythm.]