2020 Reading Challenges Report

This last year has been one hell of a ride for many reasons. I will not reflect about things that are not closely related to books and my reading experiences because I would like to keep the tone of this blog positive and hobby related as much as possible. With this in mind I want to go over the many reading challenges and reading opportunities I concentrated my reading on.

2020 has been a year in which I have started to more actively participate in all sorts of reading challenges for the very first time. I have participated in seven different reading challenges through the year. Most of these I finished with great success and learned a lot about my own reading habits and capacities. In addition to these I had a personal reading challenge I choose for the whole year and my usual TBR Jar Draw challenge. Both of these were designed to make me read more of the books I own and read the books from my own bookshelves in particular. In the last quarter of the year I joined a friend of mine on another type of reading challenge on a month to month basis. We liked it an decided to keep it going for as long as our schedules would allow and into this new 2021.

Challenges from month to month

Here are the seven reading challenges I participated in this year:

O.W.L.s Magical Readathon – April 2020

Medieval-A-Thon Reading Challenge – May 2020

Make Your Myth-Taker – June 2020

Olympic Games – June 2020

N.E.W.T.s Magical Readathon – August 2020

Sbooktober Readathon – October 2020

Reindeer Readathon 2020 – December 2020

In order to better track the reading challenges I participate in and to get better organized with them I will be making more room on this blog for them in the form of pages dedicated to them more closely. This will provide me and everyone interested with a better view and understanding of the content provided by my experiences with reading challenges. For this reason I will not delve into detail for all the reading challenges mentioned above.

Personal reading challenges

My long term TBR Jar Draw did not fare well this year. When I first envisioned this personal reading challenge my goal was to make myself read more of the books I own and more books from my own bookshelves; many of which I had for years and have never even started reading them. My initial idea was to draw three book choices from a jar filled with titles of books I own and have not read, and every month I read one of those books while the other two go back into the jar for another draw some other month. In the whole year I have managed to read seven books for the TBR Jar Draw challenge. I ended up sacrificing this challenge in order to pick books that fit into the other reading challenges trough the year.

The total result for this reading challenge actually differs from this assessment. Upon closer inspection and review of the book titles left in the TBR Jar I found I have read ten more books that were in the jar but were not pulled out for the TBR Jar Draw. I picked those books and read them as a part of other reading challenges.

So in short, while I read only seven books due to the TBR Jar Draw, I read another ten books that were in the jar which makes the goal of reading more books I won successfully achieved! This makes for a very nice pile of books from my own shelves that I finally read and removed from my TBR! I am still thinking on changing the format of the TBR Jar Draw to accommodate the reading challenges I choose to participate in and in continuation of reading the books I own at a steady pace.

Personal reading challenge 2020

For 2020 I had also set a personal goal to read thirty books I choose for just this purpose! Some of those books were newly bought by the end of the 2019. and some were on my shelfs for a lot longer than that. By design this was another reading challenge that set me on the same goal to read more of the books I already own but with the actual list of the books! By the end of the year I did not managed to read all thirty books from the list and here is the list in the end:

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1) by Leigh Bardugo
Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2) by Leigh Bardugo
The Fates Divide (Carve the Mark, #2) by Veronica Roth
Prey (Shifters, #4) by Rachel Vincent
Carniepunk by Rachel Caine (editor)
The Witch With No Name (The Hollows, #13) by Kim Harrison
Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy by Ellen Datlow (editor)
The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1) by Holly Black
The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air, #2) by Holly Black
Death of a Darklord (Ravenloft #13) by Laurell K. Hamilton
Carry On (Simon Snow, #1) by Rainbow Rowell
Wayward Son (Simon Snow, #2) by Rainbow Rowell
The Battle of the Labyrinth: The Graphic Novel (Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Graphic Novels, #4) by by Robert Venditti, Rick Riordan
Black Butler, Vol. 3 by Yana Toboso
Kitchen Princess Omnibus, Vol. 3 (Kitchen Princess, #5-7) by Natsumi Ando
Saga: Book Three by Brian K. Vaughan
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (The Wicked Years #1) by Gregory Maguire
Serpent’s Kiss (Elder Races, #3) by Thea Harrison
Djevojka iz noćnih mora (Anna #2) by Kendare Blake ( Girl of Nightmares )
* MOR – Plodovi osvete by Josip Kralik
* The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Balzac i kineska mala krojačica by Dai Sijie ( Balzac et la Petite Tailleuse chinoise)
Neobičan događaj sa psom u noći by Mark Haddon ( The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time)
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
The Borders of Infinity (Vorkosigan Saga #5.3) by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo, #2) by Rick Riordan
The Burning Maze (The Trials of Apollo #3) by Rick Riordan
The Tyrant’s Tomb (The Trials of Apollo #4) by Rick Riordan
Hellboy, Volume 1: Seed of Destruction and Wake the Devil by Mike Mignola
The Darkness: Darkness/ Batman & Darkness/ Superman 20th Anniversary Collection by Garth Ennis, Jeph Loeb, Ron Marz, Scott Lobdell, Marc Silvestri

Out of all 30 books I have finished reading 26 of them. 2 books I started to read but did not finish and I plan on finishing reading them at a slower pace: MOR – Plodovi osvete by Josip Kralik and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. 2 of the books I did not even start reading: Hellboy, Volume 1: Seed of Destruction and Wake the Devil by Mike Mignola and Carniepunk by Rachel Caine (editor).

Bookopoly TBR Game

This is a project I started with a reading buddy in September 2020. After having fun with it for the first time we diced to continue with Bookopoly TBR game on a monthly basis. It makes us both happy and keeps us connected in a bookish way. After just four months we had some awesome experiences with this TBR game and like the creative outlet it offers in our reading choices. Here are the posts related to the Bookopoly TBR Game so far:

Bookopoly TBR game – September and October 2020

Bookopoly TBR game – November 2020

Bookopoly TBR game – November and December 2020

Reading in 2021

In my reading plans for 2021 I feel a lot more comfortable with my ability to fit the books I already own into other reading challenges and I will forgo making lists of particular books to read. I will continue to enjoy different reading challenges and let my reading experience differ from month to month in new and exciting ways. I did make a rather optimistic 2021 Goodreads challenge update to read 100 books. But that is a topic for another post where I will go into greater detail using Goodreads data to delve more into the books and my reading statistics for 2020.

October Book Wrap Up 2020

Monthly reading review – October 2020

This October I have read:

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell ★★★★

Stone and Fire (Magical Kingdoms #1) by Marie Robinson ★★★

The Chosen Half-Elf (Elfes #4) by Éric Corbeyran, Jean-Paul Bordier ★★★★

U krevetu s vješticom – Najljepše ljubavne horor priče by Milana Vuković Runjić ★★★★

Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos ★★★

Olive Kitteridge (Olive Kitteridge, #1) by Elizabeth Strout ★★★

Tempting the Bluestocking (A Gentleman Courtesans Novella) by Victoria Vale ★★★★

Portrait of a Lady (The Gentleman Courtesans #1) by Victoria Vale ★★★★★

Masquerade (Scandalous Ballroom Encounters #1) by Victoria Vale ★★★★

Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo ★★★★★

Misadventures of a Backup Bride (Misadventures #2) by Shayla Black ★★

1. How many books have you read last month? Are you happy with the amount you read?

This October I have read 11 (eleven!) books. I am quite pleased with that number.

2. What was the best of all the books you’ve read in October? Any scenes or characters that made a lasting impression?

My best book in October was Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo. I even made a book review on it and you can check out my thoughts and reading experience HERE.

I’ve enjoyed most of the books I’ve read in October and another that stayed with me as a really good was a Kindle freebie Portrait of a Lady (The Gentleman Courtesans #1) by Victoria Vale. The idea of Gentleman Courtesans was an intriguing one and I might decide to buy and read the rest of the books some day.

3. Were there any not so good books for you last month? What made it hard or not enjoyable to read?

My least favorite book in October was Misadventures of a Backup Bride (Misadventures, #2) by Shayla Black. This was a buddy read book with a friend and we picked it up for fun not really knowing much about it except that it is an adult light read. I got my copy from the library and I had some real issues with Croatian translation. I don’t believe the spirit of banter and jokes got translated into the book all that well and that also had impact on my reading experience. The plot and the characters were underwhelming and kind off basic for me to take interest in them.

Another book that made my reading experience in October less than great was Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos. The main reason for my displeasure was that it took me over ten days to finish it and made me lose one third of the month on just one book. The reading was slow and I was enjoying the thirty something pages of foreword and the notes on the author more than the actual book…

4. How did the books you were reading last month fit in your reading plans if you had any?

I have managed to read all the books I choose for my October readathons: Sbooktober Readathon and Bookopoly TBR game. I did great with using the same books for prompts in both of the reading challenges to my advantage and that let me read a few more books outside of my plans as well! You can see my post for Sbooktober Readathon HERE and for the Bookopoly TBR game HERE for more info.

5. Any updates on the series you are reading or are you starting any new series?

I read a few first books of some new series and from those I have high expectations for Alex Stern by Leigh Bardugo even though the next book is yet to be announced. The Gentleman Courtesans series got my attention and I hope to continue reading them but I’m not in any hurry for them. I am specially glad to have continued with the graphic novel series Elves and will try to read a few more of them by the end of the year!

6. Would you like to recommend any books or authors you’ve been reading this last month?

The author Victoria vale caught my attention and I have read several of her works this October. It was a Kindle freebie I liked a lot and I am glad for taking chances with new authors like that! Again Leigh Bardugo has completely won me over by her book and I will keep buying and reading anything that woman publishes! It took me years to give her a chance since I only started reading her books one year ago and they have been popular quite longer than that! Give new and unknown authors a chance whenever you can!

Final thoughts on October 2020 reading

Even though I have read eleven books I managed to avoid any books that were on my personal reading challenge for this year! Only three books were from my actual physical bookshelves and the rest of them were either in digital form or borrowed! While it was an interesting month for reading I did not make much progress with Draconomicon: The Book of Dragons by Andy Collins, Skip Williams, James Wyatt or The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas which I am reading since the middle of summer. For next month I plan to do better in that regard!

Ninth House – Book Review

Ninth House 

(Alex Stern #1)

by Leigh Bardugo

★★★★★

Expectation

I got this book earlier this year after being so delighted with Grishaverse books that I wanted to read anything Leigh Bardugo had to offer. The theme of the Ninth House was not particularly appealing but I was intrigued by what I heard about the book and the pretty cover factor was an added bonus! I was looking for a chance to add this book to a reading challenge since it covers some of the prompts like dark academia I don’t read that often. In a way I was saving it for that perfect prompt and for months I thought it was going to be for some Halloween themed reading challenge this October. In the end the I read it for Sbooktober reading challenge under the category Festivities! – Hang Out With The Pets and the prompt that I used it for was – animal on the cover! You can check out my Sbooktober post HERE. The weirdest thing I noticed that this year my animal on the cover books were mostly those with snakes! I should try and use that for a thematic post soon!

Summary

The first few chapters were a mess and produced a feeling of vertigo while I was trying to get into the book. The chapters were written in a reverse timeline and getting the sense of it all proved to be a bit challenging. There was so much unique supernatural content to grasp and the flow of the story did not give room for idling away. The action starts right from the start! The first shocking scene got me hooked and dragged into the book in an almost violent manner. The main character got herself in some pretty desperate situations but even when everything looked grim there was a certain type of energy that survivors have.

There was one other thing that made it a challenge for me to get into this book. The setting was New Heaven, Yale college and the most prominent association I have with that was the Gilmore Girls TV show. While the Gilmore Girls had a similar quirky dialogue comedy to them that is where all similarities stop. This book had a dark thriller quality that was sobering and in direct opposite of the New Heaven natural outlook. There was an excellent map of the place in the book but I did not use it a lot since the action in the book was drawing me to read on and not fall back and check who did what and where.

The one thing that made me push my rating of this book to five stars were the female characters. Every female character had at least one trait that made her somehow more tangible, more real and more relatable. While the character of Darlington is held on a pedestal usually reserved for female characters in fiction, the women and girls get to take center stage and show their strengths. It all came down to a quote from Joss Whedon:

“…men who are going to be comfortable with powerful women are going to be more powerful men”

This picture of Darlington being the perfect gentleman and a man of extraordinary talents has made me love him more. He was sort of hanging over the scenes he was not a part of. All the while the badass heroines, survivors, villains, backup characters – all of them girls and women were beautifully written!

Conclusion

I loved the female character representation in this book! I loved their strength and spirit. I loved how strong they are and how boldly they swing at the world around them. The array of different types of characters from young to old, good to bad, passive to driven was impressive. The more I think about all of them to more I appreciate them!
I would love to read next book in the series and I’m not in any hurry because I know that whatever Leigh Bardugo writes it is going to be an absolute pleasure to read! 

Sbooktober Readathon – October 2020

There was a bunch of reading challenges this October and I tried making a list and adopting several different reading challenges. I made lists and tried fitting in books but was having trouble filling in the prompts and books until I found Sbooktober Readathon announcement! YouTuber Paper Faerie is leading this reading challenge along with many other hosts. You can check it out and give her channel some love HERE. What I love about this reading challenge is how easy it makes it for anyone to participate and offers plenty of options to join in!

I picked out one book for each of the four categories and it left me room to maneuver with the Bookopoly rolls I did with my friend for October!

Costume Party! – Besties Costume

Misadventures of a Backup Bride (Misadventures #2) by Shayla Black

For the first time ever I had someone to do a buddy read with! It was a welcome opportunity for me. After some debating we decided to try out something light and went with Misadventures of a Backup Bride (Misadventures, #2) by Shayla Black. It is the second book in a series that can be read out of order and is surprisingly translated into Croatian language. We both got our copies from the library!

Dance Floor Playlist! – Time Warp

 Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos

I decided to use this opportunity to use a book I have crossover from Bookopoly TBR because I’m apprehensive about reading this book. It has a certain feel to it that reminds me that I’m behind on reading The Count of Monte Christo by Alexandre Dumas. The are both from French authors and I’m expecting a similar writing style.

Refreshments! – Candy Bowl

The Chosen Half-Elf (Elfes #4) by Éric Corbeyran, Jean-Paul Bordier

Another crossover and I decided to get on track with this graphic novel series more! It is a feast for the eyes as well as a good story! It fills my need for a fantasy reading these days as well!

Festivities! – Hang Out With The Pets

Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo

I’ve been waiting for a chance to get this book on some reading challenge! I had plans for another prompt in a reading challenge I decided to pass on for October. When I saw that I could easily fit it with an animal on the cover prompt I was very happy to bump it up on my reading pile finally! Also I’m getting a lot of books with snakes on the cover lately…

I feel very motivated by this reading challenge and I hope to do more reading done this October!