Goodreads 2018 Challenge: Did I do the thing?

Let’s ignore the fact that my first post of the year is almost a month late and instead talk about books!

For the past few years, I’ve been using the Goodreads reading challenge to encourage myself to read more. I shared what I’d read so far in 2018 back in July and now it’s time to catch up with what I read for the rest of the year… And see if I met my challenge for 2018:

25. Before the Storm by Christie Golden

This book by Golden takes place after the Shadows of Argus in the World of Warcraft universe. It’s definitely a book for those familiar with the Warcraft franchise. It would be confusing as a stand alone book. That being said, I quite enjoyed this book. I’ve read other Warcraft titles by other authors before, but this one was the best I’ve read by far. I gave it a rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars.

26. Obsidio (The Illuminae Files #3) by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

The third and final book of the Illuminae Files series finds our surviving heroes with no other choice but to return to Kerenza seven months after the invasion, not quite sure what they’re going to find. While at the same time, Kady’s cousin, Asha has survived the original invasion and has joined the resistance, working to uncover proof of the atrocities committed by BeiTech in order to bring the corporation to justice. I loved this book, it was the perfect ending to this trilogy. I rated this book 5 stars.

27. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

The night before his ex’s wedding weekend kicks off, Drew gets stuck in an elevator with Alexa. In their time spent trapped together, Drew manages to convince Alexa to join him at the wedding posing as his girlfriend. Because you can’t show up at your ex’s wedding without a date, amirite? Anyway, the pair have a great time together and then go their separate ways. Soon, they find they can’t stop thinking about each other and you can probably guess the rest of the story. I was really concerned about the clichéd setup for this novel, but it wasn’t at all what I expected. It was a fun read. I gave it a 4 star rating.

28. First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

The latest novel by Emily Giffin tells the story of two sisters and how their relationship is impacted by a family tragedy. Meredith looks like she has the picture perfect life. The husband, the fancy, important job, the perfect kid and perfect house. But she’s miserable and kind of awful. Josie is single, sick of dating, but desperate to be a mother. She’s just about decided she’s going to have a baby on her own with a sperm donor, when she goes on a date with someone who turns out to be not your average guy. I’ve always picked Giffin’s novels because they’ve been my guilty pleasure reading, but these characters were incredibly unlikeable. Plus, at one point in the book, a little girl is told the little boy harassing her is doing so because he liiiiiikes her. And I’m not here for that bullshit, even in a book. This is a 2 star book.

29. Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

This novel follows the story of Suzette, returning home for the summer after spending a year at boarding school. She doesn’t think she’ll be returning to her boarding school after the summer’s over. She wants to be home with her family and to be there for her brother who was recently was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Plus, she doesn’t think she can face the girl she left behind at school and she has a solid friends group at home in LA. I enjoyed a lot of this book. It featured very diverse characters and it was so awesome to see the different representations. I think it did a decent job of handling mental health issues in a realistic way that didn’t feel exploitative or icky. I rated this book 4 stars.

30. Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favourite Guilty Pleasure by Amy Kaufman

A behind the scenes look at America’s favourite reality show. This book is exactly what you’d expect from an in-depth look into what was once a guilty-pleasure, fun thing to watch that has basically devolved into trash. I rated it 2.5 stars.

31. Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza

Charlotte Walsh is someone used to the high-pressure of being a big boss in Silicon Valley, has moved her family back to her hometown in Pennsylvania to run for Senate. She’s a strong, successful woman who wants it all and man, did this feel way too real after the last US Presidential election. Juggling her husband, her three young kids, the campaign and an opponent who is down to fight dirty, Charlotte isn’t sure all this upheaval will be worth it. This really felt too really given our political climate, but it was a good read. I rated it 4 stars.

32. Text Me When You Get Home: The Evolution and Triumph of Modern Female Friendship by Kayleen Schaefer

This book claims to be an insightful look at the female friendship and its evolution into what female friendships look like today. This book really irritated the crap out of me. The author shared a lot of personal experience about how she’d never been interested in friendships with other women because ew, girls are so shallow and mean and are all about pink and shopping and gossiping about boys, and she’d always been a man’s girl. Then she one day meets a woman who is into ‘man stuff’ like she is and she realizes that there are women out there that are worthy of being friends with her after all. It’s so patronizing and gross and I can’t think about this book without getting angry. I rated this book 1 star, because GoodReads won’t let me give a negative star rating.

33. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

This book claims to be the self-help tome of the generation, where superstar blogger (who I’ve never heard of until now) shares the secret to being happier by just choosing to stop giving a fuck. Man, this was NOT MY YEAR for reading self-help books. I found his condescending tone a little hard to take and his philosophy broke down to simply ‘life is shitty, walk it off and stop caring so much’ felt like a really bad take in a world where empathy seems to be a dying trait? I’m also not impressed by the shock value of using swears. And I really could have done without his anecdote about how rape victims’ trauma-induced false memories impact poor, innocent men. 2018 was not the year to read this book. I rated it 1 star.

34. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Lara Jean has always kept her crushes to herself. She writes them a love letter, addresses and then hiding them away in a box, never intending for her crushes to actually read any of them. Then her letters are mysteriously sent out, and Lara Jean has to face some of those crushes, past and present. I read this book after I watched the Netflix movie adaptation, which may have impacted my enjoyment of the book. It was cute and had great family relationships between Lara Jean and her sisters, but I had conflicted feelings about other plot points in the book. I rated this 3 stars.

35. This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab

This story is sort of a dystopian futuristic Romeo and Juliet. Kate Harker wants prove herself to be just as ruthless as her monster-killing father. August Flynn is a monster who desperately wants to be human. Kate and August stand on opposite ends of collapsing truce, in a city where monsters are born of crime and act of violence. The two meet and things may never be the same again. I read this book after seeing a few friends suggest it. I really enjoyed it. I rated it 4.5 stars.

36. Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Queens of Geek is about three very different friends attending their first fan conference. This is a fun read featuring really amazing and diverse characters. My one issue with the book is that the conference they’re attending is called SupaCon and I see where the Australian author was going with that, but it seemed weird for an American conference to be named ‘Supa’ when that’s not how the American accent works. Gah! But you may be a normal human being and this may not bother you at all. I gave this book 4.5 stars out of 5.

37. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

When Rachel Chu is invited to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend Nick, she is expecting a summer of meeting the family and spending time seeing where her boyfriend spent his childhood. She is not expecting to spend the summer traveling by private planes, staying at palatial estates and attending all the high society parties and events. She also isn’t expecting to be under a microscope, scrutinized by family, friends and strangers alike because Nick has failed to mention his family’s wealth and that he’s considered to be one of the most eligible bachelors in Asia. I read this book because of the hype surrounding it being turned into a major motion picture. It was a good read and really funny at points. I wish there had been a bit more character development. I feel like I never got the opportunity to really get to know the main characters and the pacing was a bit off for me at times. I gave this 3.5 stars out of 5.

38. Campaign Widows by Aimee Agresti

This book is about an ensemble of characters who form relationships because their spouses and partners are running for election or working on election campaigns. I have no idea how this got on my TBR list, or how I ended up putting it on hold, and for the longest time I thought this book was called Campaign Windows? I don’t know, you guys. 2018 was a rough year. Anyway. This was a fun enough read. At points I just skimmed because I wasn’t really invested in any of the characters. I found it took a long time to get into this book. It was fine. I rated it 3 stars out of 5.

39. Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin: A Memoir by Nicole Hardy

This memoir explores the balancing act of the expectations of love, relationships, sex and marriage she had developed due to her religious upbringing within the Mormon church and the realities of being a young, single. modern woman navigating dating, sex and life. I picked this up because a few friends had read it, but I struggled to relate to the author and that made it hard to care about some of these really dated-sound stories. Does that make me a horrible person? Probably. I rated this book 1.5 stars out of five.

40. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

I wanted to finish the year on a good note (and also couldn’t handle having read an odd number of books, because that’s who I am), so I picked up this favourite for a re-read. This book follows Natasha, Daniel and the Universe as it brings the two of them together for a timely and relevant story about being a person of colour in today’s world, immigration, deportation and how life can take you in unexpected directions. I’m really not doing this book justice. I absolutely loved it again on re-read and my rating for this book remains a perfect rating of 5 stars.

My goal for 2018 was to read 12 books, so with 40, I did the thing! I decided to make a higher reading goal for 2019, since this year went so well, so my goal for 2019 is to read 24 books.

Do you set reading goals for the year? Do you use Goodreads? (If you do, let’s be friends over there.) Tell me all about your reading plans for the new year!

What I’ve read this year

What I've Read This Year

For the past few years, I’ve been using the Goodreads reading challenge to encourage myself to read more. I’ve kept my goal fairly simple, aiming to read a book a month. I’ve fallen a bit behind on sharing reviews as I’ve gone, so I thought I would share a quick catch up. Here’s what I’ve read so far this year:

  1. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

    This book is a collection of poetry. This was beautifully written and gave me chills, but I found some of the poems difficult to read at times due to subject matter. Even still, I rated this 4 out of 5 stars.

  2. Wherever You Go, There You are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn

    This was a self help style book, all about mindfulness meditation. The book was very well-rated and I read it on the recommendation of my doctor, but man. This book was not for me. It was too new-agey, too philosophical for my liking. I rated it 1 star.

  3. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

    This is a YA novel from the writer of the Shopaholic Series. Audrey suffers from anxiety and mild agoraphobia. There were parts of the story that really irritated me, but it was a fine read. 3 out of 5 stars.

  4. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

    The autobiography of the Daily Show’s Trevor Noah tells his amazing story from his young life in apartheid South Africa to the host of one of the more popular satirical news shows. This was a great read and I totally cried. I rated it 4.5 stars out of 5.

  5. Everybody Writes: You Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley

    This was assigned reading for the course I took this year, so I picked it up because I had to. It’s a great resource for anyone looking for a guide to content writing. There were definitely chapters of this book that covered things I already knew, but it’s a solid guide for anyone that is new to content writing or looking to brush up on their strategies. I rated it 3 stars of 5.

  6. When We Collided by Emery Lord

    Another YA, this book put an interesting twist on the boy-meets-girl, summer loving story. It handles the portrayal of mental health and mental illness in a more realistic way. The story has alternating narrators, from the POVs of the two main characters. I really didn’t like the one character, but still rated this 3.5 stars.

  7. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandy Menon

    While I found this book slow to get started, I really, really enjoyed the main character, Dimple. I honestly thought I knew where the author was going with the story, but she surprised me. It was a well-crafted story with real characters. I rated this 4 out of 5 stars.

  8. Other People We Married by Emma Straub

    Other People We Married is a collection of short stories. I didn’t really enjoy this book, but kept reading, because I thought maybe the next short story would grab me. It was readable, but I wouldn’t call it enjoyable. I gave this book 1.5 out of 5 stars.

  9. The Assistants by Camille Perri

    I loved this book, it was a fun read. The story was incredibly far fetched, but I think that’s what made it so fun. And having spent my fair share of time working as an unappreciated assistant, there was definitely something cathartic about this book. Don’t judge me! I rated it 4 out 5 stars.

  10.  My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

    Another Sophie Kinsella book. This was definitely more of Kinsella’s normal chick-lit style, where her protagonist gets herself into some major trouble, lies about it, then gets found out and hilarity ensues. It was formulaic, but something you can pick up and read. It was fine. I rated it 3 out of 5 stars.

  11. This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

    Absolutely hated this book. I ended up hate-reading it because I really struggle with DNFing (Did Not Finish) books and again, it was a collection of short stories, so I thought maybe one of them would speak to me. I was not a fan of the main character. He came across as a complete asshole and maybe if I hadn’t read it in the middle of the garbage fire that is life, society and politics these days, maybe I would’ve enjoyed it more. But right now? Hard pass. I rated this 1.5 stars out of 5.

  12. This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills

    This book follows the story of Sloane, who’s adjusting to life in Florida. Her family has just relocated from NYC and Sloane is struggling with the fallout from the move. When a painting by her new best friends’ mother goes missing, Sloane takes it upon herself to find out what happened to it. I really enjoyed this YA novel. The author created a really great group of secondary characters in the main character’s group of friends and family. I rated this 4.5 out of 5 stars.

  13. I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee

    Samatha Bee’s autobiography was a good read. It was interesting to read about her early career and Canadianisms that were very familiar. I skimmed through some of the essays, but overall it was an entertaining read. I rated this 3 out of 5 stars.

  14. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

    I picked this book after watching this review of it on Marines’s YouTube channel. The story follows Starr in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend from childhood, Khalil, by a police officer. This book punched me right in the feels. It was heartbreaking, inspiring and all too real for many POC families in America. I cried a lot. I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

  15. The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennett by Bernie Su and Katie Rorick

    I have to start off by saying I did not watch the web series, so I read this as a stand-alone book. I feel like that probably took away a lot from the story. This book was fine, but I wasn’t totally as in to it as my friends who experienced the webseries and book together. I very much related to Lizzie as being a mid-20s post-grad struggling to break into a competitive job market so she doesn’t drown in debt/have to live with her parents the rest of her life, but otherwise I found the story a little predictable. I gave this 3 out of 5 stars.

  16. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

    Another autobiography! This one by Mindy Kaling had its moments, but at times her self-deprecating humour gave me the same feels as Amy Schumer’s brand of humour. As in, it felt bad, man. I rated this 2 out of 5 stars.

  17. Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

    This book tells the story of Norah, who suffers from anxiety and agoraphobia. She can barely manage to leave the house to see her therapist, but things change when she has an encounter with her new neighbour. This story reminded me of other YA novels like Finding Audrey and Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, but it was way better because Norah’s struggles feel more realistic and true to life than Audrey’s (and isn’t insta-cured when a cute boy shows up) and she is truly ill. I rated this book 3.5 stars out of 5.

  18. Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

    Okay, so this book was difficult to read at times. No pun intended. The stories in this collection deal with very heavy subjects. Some of the stories are hard to read and left me feeling uncomfortable. I had to take a break from this book because of how difficult I found some of the subject matter. That being said, I still found Difficult Women to be well-written and a good read. I rated it 4 out of 5 stars.

  19. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

    It’s been a few months since I’ve finished this book and I’m still not exactly sure how to describe it. The main story follows a group of kids in a small town where weird shit happens as they’re getting ready to graduate high school. It’s definitely science fiction, it’s definitely quirky and I love the diversity in the characters. This book is not for everyone, but it was definitely my kind of weird. I rated it 4 out of 5 stars.

  20. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

    Speaking of weird and quirky… Eleanor is an incredibly socially awkward, solitary woman in her mid-30s. She lives a very regimented life, which has been her method of survival. She and her awkward, sloppy and loud coworker, Raymond, happen upon an elderly man having a medical emergency. The unlikely pair save him, which inevitably leads to them all sort of saving each other.  I really wasn’t sure where this book was going at first. It’s clear that Eleanor is haunted by things that she has survived, but the ending of the book still took me by surprised. I’m pretty sure I liked this book? I rated it 3 stars out of 5.

  21. Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

    Set in 2575, a corporate war is breaking out and recently broken-up teenagers Kady and Ezra, along with the rest of their planet, are fleeing the conflict. On top of that, their fleet of evacuated civilians is dealing with a homicidal artificial intelligence and a zombie-plague. Kady is trying to untangle a scary corporate conspiracy and ugh, now she has to rely on her stupid exboyfriend and other teen-angsty things. I found this book distracting as heck to read, because it’s told through IM conversations, dossier briefings, medical reports, intercepted emails, and interview transcripts. But the design of the book is beautiful and once I got into the story, I had a hard time putting the book down. This is the first of a trilogy.  I rated it 4 out of 5 stars.

  22. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

    I loved, loved, looooooved this collection of essays by Roxane Gay, and it wasn’t only because she did a complete tear down of the bullshit that is the “romance” of books like the Twilight Saga and 50 Shades of Grey Trilogy. Though that was a very good part of the book and made me feel incredibly justified and validated for the trauma my friends and I suffered recapping the series for the Snark Squad website. Anyway. Twilight and FSoG aside, this was an excellent commentary on feminism, the culture and media we consume and that we can all do better. I rated this 4.5 out of 5 stars.

  23. Mr. Kiss and Tell (Veronica Mars #2) by Rob Thomas

    Okay, let’s be honest: I read this book for one reason and one reason only: I am a Marshmallow.  My love for Veronica Mars runs deep and she was taken from us too soon with the cancellation of her show after the 3rd season. After the Kickstarter campaign that brought us the Veronica Mars movie, these two books were released to carry on the VM universe. In this book, Veronica is hired to investigate the claims of a woman who says she was assaulted and left for dead by an employee in Neptune’s fancy hotel. The book was fine, but if it wasn’t Veronica Mars, I wouldn’t have read it. I gave it 3 stars out of 5.

  24. Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2) by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

    This is the second book in the Illuminae Files. I was better prepared for the way the story was presented, so I found this book easier to get stuck into. The book follows new characters on the Jump Station Heimdall, who wind up pulled into the corporate warfare when the company BeiTech tries to gain control of the station. Hanna, the daughter of the station’s commander, reluctantly teams up with Nik and Ella, members of a notorious crime family to try to save the crew of the Heimdall and the universe. No big deal, right? I gave this 4 out of 5 stars.

What are you reading right now? And do you use Goodreads? Let’s be friends there!

My Epic Summer Vacation

Every summer for the last few years, I have had 8 weeks of vacation. And every summer for the last few years, I have felt compelled to fill every single second of those 8 weeks off with some kind of work, job or project. I’ve felt this intense pressure to have a great story of what I did with my time off to prove that I was somehow worthy of this time off. I break out in cold sweats just thinking about having to face my coworkers and their ‘So, what did you do over the summer?’ questions. It’s almost not worth the anxiety vacation causes.

It’s been pointed out to me that maybe this isn’t the point of vacation and maybe I’m projecting. Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe my coworkers don’t care and are just making small talk. They’re probably not judging me at all if I don’t have a justification for my time off. Maybe I should calm the hell down.

But here’s the thing:

I am often very hard on myself.

I don’t listen very well when I’m not being told what I want to hear.

I am very stubborn.

I have anxiety.

It’s not uncommon for one to be hard on one’s self. Often we are our own worst critics and I’m no different. It’s also not unusual to not want to listen to someone when they’re telling you something you don’t want to hear.

Why can’t each and every person in my life just blindly enable me to do what I want, by telling me exactly what I want to hear?

I am stubborn. Very stubborn. Which only exacerbates the fact that I’m both very hard on myself and don’t want to listen to people who don’t want to validate my criticisms of myself.

And lastly, I have anxiety. Anxiety likes to focus on something small and grow it into a big, paralyzing problem. It doesn’t have to be rational. It usually isn’t.

It’s a frustrating combination.

At least I’m willing to admit that?

Anyway. What is my point here? My point is that maybe it’s okay to take a break. Maybe you can just enjoy vacation time and not feel the need to defend the fact that you’re taking things easier.

Maybe I don’t have an epic story of how I remodelled my kitchen, built a nature sanctuary for donkeys, or hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. But that’s okay.

We all work hard. We’re all doing our best. And we’re all surviving through the darkest timeline right now.

Like, have you watched the news for longer than five seconds? Because I haven’t. Anything longer than 2 seconds shoves my anxiety into overdrive.

So I’m going to try to not guilt myself into having to prove that I made good use of my vacation time. I’m not going to be baited into feeling like I need an epic story or example of how I spent summer vacation.

I’m planning on a summer vacation that can be just that: vacation. And that’s okay.