Biannual Bibliothon TBR

As I mentioned in this post, I am participating in Biannual Bibliothon from 12-18 January. Christian has decided to join me and has planned a book for each challenge but is going into it more casually, knowing he won’t be able to read nearly as much. I thought I would share our planned TBR for the readathon.

Challenge 1: Read the group book

This one is simple as it is decided by the hosts:

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Challenge 2: Read one of the hosts 5 star reads

AJ’s choice: Summer of Salt

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Christian’s choice: Pivot Point

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Challenge 3: Reread a book that got you into reading

AJ’s choice:

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Christian’s choice:

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Challenge 4: Read an adult book

AJ’s choice:

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Christian’s choice:

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Challenge 5: A favorite genre in a format you don’t like

AJ’s choice:

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Christian’s choice:

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Challenge 6: A book with a cover you don’t like

AJ’s choice:

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Christian’s choice:

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Challenge 7: A book by an author you have never read before

AJ’s choice:

I am going to allow this book to be a mood read as I have many books on my TBR by new-to-me authors at the moment.

Christian’s choice:

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If any of these books interest you, click on the cover to purchase them.

If you are participating, comment what is on your TBR and feel free to join in with us! Follow me on Twitter (@aj_timberlake) for more regular updates.

Upcoming Readathons AJ is Participating In

The title is pretty self explanatory, but I love readathons and I really have been aiming to make January one of my best reading months of my life and so I have signed up for several readathons this month:

Bout of Books: 7-13 January

Sign up here.

The idea of this readathon is simply to get you to read more than you would in a normal week. There are daily challenges but I don’t know that I will be participating in those. I am just going to enjoy being part of the reading community of this readathon as I read this week.

Biannual Bibliothon: 12-18 January

View the TBR challenge video here.

This is mostly done by booktubers and they have video and reading challenges. The reading challenges are:

  1. Read the BB chosen read. They have chosen Empress of all Seasons
  2. Read one of the hosts 5 Star Recommendations: Pivot PointEliza and Her MonstersSummer of SaltStrange the DreamerThe Graveyard BookThe Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, or Emergency Contact
  3. Reread a book that got you into reading.
  4. Read an adult book
  5. Combine your favourite genre with your least favorite type of book to read. This one is confusing to me, the explanation he gave was if you like fantasy but you don’t like graphic novels to read a graphic nove l fantasy (or vice versa). But I don’t really understand what “types of books” would mean.
  6. Read a book with a cover that you don’t like.
  7. Read a book by an author you’ve never read before.

Their guidelines say that you can double up on the challenges if you like, but you can’t triple or more up.

I haven’t decided yet what I am going to read for these. If you have any suggestions for me please leave a comment. This is my first time doing this readathon and I am very excited for it.

Buzzwordathon: 14-20 January

View announcement videos here and here

The idea for this readathon is to read a book with their chosen “buzzword” which will be a word that is often seen in book titles. Their buzzword for this round is lie (also lie, liar or lying).

The one book I have already chosen to read for this is Sometimes I Lie.

If you want to participate and you are looking for a recommendation, I really loved One of Us is Lying.

24 in 48: 26-27 January

Sign up here.

I did this readathon in July and I absolutely loved it. The idea is to read for 24 hours out of the 48 in the weekend. They run it from midnight EST on the Saturday to midnight EST on the Monday but you may also choose to do it in your timezone and you are still eligible for prizes if you choose to do so. They put up mini-challenges every 2 hours and it is honestly so much fun to choose to participate in this to the fullest extent.

Join Me!

If you decide you want to participate in any of these with me, please comment and let me know where to find your updates. You can follow me on Twitter (@aj_timberlake) or friend me on Goodreads (here).

Please note that clicking on the links above and buying one of the books gives me a small share in the profits (and we’re saving for a wedding, so we’d love it if you did that). This is also true across the site when we link to amazon to allow you to buy the book quickly and easily.

The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle

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Rating: 4/5 Stars
I would recommend you read this book if: you like the Percy Jackson books, you like magical stories, you want to escape back to childhood for a while
Why I picked it up: My brother picked it out for me, see video here
Location book is set in: Ireland
Genre: Children’s, Middle Grade, Fantasy
Published: 2018
Total read in 2019 thus far: 2/100
Challenges the book fits: Play Book Tag Monthly Tag (Action and Adventure), Lifetime Reads (2018)
Favorite Quote: “Fionn had reached the following conclusion: some things, and impossible things most especially, were worth the risk of punishment.”

This is a story about an island that is magical, a boy who needs some hope and a grandfather who is a bit odd (like all grandfathers should be). Every generation the island chooses a Storm Keeper, whose job it is to track the weather and hold on to the magic of the island. Unfortunately, there are some who would like to be the Storm Keeper so that they may use the magic for themselves. Fionn Boyle just wants to make his mom happy again and so is trying to find a sea cave that is said to grant wishes, but the sea cave only grants one wish and there are many people who would like to find it.

I don’t tend to read a lot of Middle Grade fiction but this one was just so sweet and magical. It made me happy and sad (sometimes at the same time) and I really felt connected to the characters of the story. I am not sure that this story would have been grasped by its intended audience and this was my only fault with the book.

Click Here to Purchase

Walk of Shame by Lauren Layne

32491187.jpgRating: 2.5/5 Stars
I would recommend you read this if: you like romantic comedies, you want a mostly sweet romance with a bit of spice, you don’t mind a slightly flawed book in order to get a feel good story
Why I picked it up: The Audible romance package recommended it to me if I was looking for a book that would make me laugh
Location Book is Set in: New York City
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Published: 2017
Total Read in 2019 thus Far: 1/100
Challenges the book fits: Lifetime Reads (2017), Revealing Romances Review Series
Favorite quote: “She wasn’t blindly waiting for some fairy tale; she was just smart enough to believe that she deserved it.”

Georgie Watkins is a rich heiress party girl who lives in New York City. She spends her evenings at clubs and her days sleeping. At 5am every morning she brings doughnuts to the concierge at her building and while in the lobby always runs into Andrew Mulroney, a divorce lawyer who has no time for partying or the frivolous things that Georgie spends her time on. They have a love-hate relationship, the kind where they love to hate each other. Every day they have their regular banter before moving on with their unfulfilling lives.

I gave this book 2.5 stars, not because I didn’t enjoy it, I did. There were several reasons why I couldn’t up this to a three star (potential small spoilers ahead):

  1. It was so cliché. I love enemies to lovers romances. I love happily ever romances. I love romantic comedy movies. But there was nothing fresh in this whatsoever. It even had the wrapping everything up at the last second thing that movies have where the majority of the plot happens in the last 15 minutes. I just think that when I am reading a book, it should be a little more spaced out.
  2. The broody male problem. He told her “you’re mine” and started telling her what to do and how to live about 24 hours after they got together. Also did the whole “pull yourself together, calm down” thing. Very possessive, even commenting (in his head) that he liked that she was wearing a sweater because he didn’t want anyone else to see her perfect shoulders because he wanted to have them all to himself (ummmmmmm… ok then). Also, the entire book she asked him to call her Georgie, not Georgianna, but he still insisted on calling her by her full name and never remedied this.
  3. The rushed romance. It all took place very very quickly them going from not liking each other to being completely consumed by one another and madly in love.

I did enjoy the experience of this novel. It was a sweet (except for when Andrew was being creepy) happily ever after story that made you feel like love is possible in any capacity and we all know that is why we read these. I just think it could have had a touch more originality and a slightly more polite love interest.

Click Here to Purchase

Christian’s 2019 Reading Plan

This year (2018) has been a rough one for reading. Lots of things going on, people to see, hours to work, etc. At the writing of this post, I have read 28 books this year. I’ve read into the 50s and 60s fairly consistently for the past years before this. I’m hoping to be more intentional with my reading in 2019, though. And a great way to do so is to set well-defined goals.

2019 Reading Goals:

Read 100 Books

This is one of those bucket list things for me as an avid reader. I see other working people exceeding and sometimes doubling or tripling this amount in a year so I know it is doable if I set my mind to it. Within these 100 books, I want to read:

– 20 Audiobooks

– My Fiancée’s (almost wife’s) Top 3 from 2018

– 15 Classics

– 10 Rereads

– 20 Non-Fiction

Many of these may have cross over and that’s ok, but I believe these sub-goals will give me the structure and diversity needed to reach this reading milestone in 2019.

Review Every Book

I love to read and I do remember a great deal from each book, but many times I wonder what I thought about a particular part of a book that I don’t intend to reread. I would like to be able to have reviews to refer back to for all 100 (in faith) books this year. Plus, then you all can hear what I think about a book, if you’re interested.

Expand My Reading Taste

In my defense, I already have a fairly wide reading taste. However, I will never be satisfied with my range of reading. This year I want to discover some amazing books in genres that I’m not as familiar with or would not usually explore. You are welcome to comment below with any books or authors that may assist me in this pursuit.

Anticipated Binge-Worthy Authors

Brandon Sanderson – I have read Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and Elantris by Sanderson but I think this year could be the one I really crack into his other works and be swept away by the greatest literary magician of our time.

Steve Berry – In 2017 a friend of mine gave me The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry, the first in his Cotton Malone series. It has taken me until a year and a half later to finally pick up the next book in the series and begin reading it, but I think I’m falling in love. He writes what I would call conspiracy fiction or maybe conspiracy historical mystery or maybe who even knows what but imagine if National Treasure met Indiana Jones and then got spritzed with a spy novel or two and that’s pretty much what this series is. I’m feeling like you can expect a lot from me about these books in 2019.

Jodi Picoult – AJ loves Jodi Picoult and has read an impressive amount of her books. I’ve read Handle with Care and it was good. So good, in fact, that I’m considering her to be a binge-worthy author for 2019. Plus, we own like half her books so that sets me up nicely (thanks Hun!).

Rick Riordan – Last but certainly the farthest thing from least, Mister god of Olympus himself, Rick Riordan. I am desperately in love with Percy Jackson & The Olympians and Heroes of Olympus. Back when the first Trials of Apollo book came out I was excited and read through it adoringly, but I haven’t read the rest of the series (the parts of it that have been released anyway), so I want to fix that tragedy this year. I also am interested in the Kane Chronicles for this year. Riordan makes this list because he is amazing and because, let’s face it…can you actually read his books without binging them all in a row?

Anticipated Binge-Worthy Series

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan

Song of Ice and Fire by George R. Martin

Ember in the Ashes Trilogy by Sabaa Tahir

Darker Shade Trilogy by Victoria Schwab

What should YOU be reading in 2019?

This year, I’ve not regretted a single of the 28 books I have read. It pains me to limit my favorites down to five, but here we go! Here are the five books I think you should read in 2019:

  1. When We Collided by Emery Lord
  2. 11.22.63 by Stephen King
  3. Beartown by Fredrik Backman
  4. Caraval by Stephanie Garber
  5. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

AJ’s 2019 Reading Plan

I can’t believe that it is less than a week until we are in the new year and the last of the twenty tweens, that’s pretty scary to me. Anyway, my plan is to make this the best reading year of my life and so I have set some pretty ambitious goals. Christian and I get married in March so it’s already set to be the best year of my life and so I am hoping that it will only be made better by my reading.

I am also wanting to review every single book I read in 2019. This is the third year in a row I am trying to do this, I have not even come close to succeeding before, but I am hoping that this blog will push me to be better at that.

Reading Challenges:

  1. Read 100 books. The best reading year I have ever had since I began tracking my reading, I read 84 books. This year I read 50. So, this is pretty ambitious, but I think I can do it. I am going to do a smaller aim of 10 books per month knowing I probably won’t hit that each month particularly around the time of the wedding.
  2. Popsugar 2019 challenge. You can view the challenge and some suggestions for books that fit the various challenges here, I am hoping this will stretch my reading and expose me to some books that I wouldn’t have otherwise read.
  3. Read One Book for Every Year I Have Been Alive. 1997-2019 = 22 books. The only rule for this challenge is that they can’t be rereads.
  4. Goodreads Choice Checklist. I want to read all of the Goodreads Choice 2018 winners (except for the cookbook and picture book).

Authors of the Year:

  1. Brandon Sanderson. I actually haven’t really read anything by Brandon Sanderson, but he has so many popular books and I would love to get through a large chunk of them.
  2. Rick Riordan.I have read his Percy Jackson series and The Lost Hero. I really enjoyed those so I would like to get through a few more next year having not read a single thing of his in 2018.
  3. Jane Austen.I read Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility in high school and loved both. This is the only author where I am hoping I will get through all of her works next year (including P&P and S&S).

Series of the Year:

(I have started some of these series and some of them I haven’t, but I am hoping to finish all of them by December 31st, 2019.)

  1. Outlander
  2. Vampire Academy
  3. Mistborn
  4. Lunar Chronicles
  5. Crazy Rich Asians
  6. Red Queen
  7. Kingkiller Chronicles
  8. A Court of Thorns and Roses
  9. Throne of Glass
  10. A Darker Shade of Magic

5 Star Predictions:

I’m guessing I’ll absolutely love the following books and these will be like the top 10 of my 2019. Obviously, there is no real way to know but I thought it would be a fun game to guess:

  1. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  2. Vicious by V.E. Schwab
  3. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  4. The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody
  5. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
  6. Circe by Madeline Miller
  7. Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
  8. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
  9. The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
  10. Queen of the Tearling by Erica Johansen

My final aim for this year is to more read books that I am interested in even if they have peculiar names or covers, or even if they have a stigma attached to them. Honestly, not judging myself for what I am enjoying reading will be one of the most stretching things I could do in my reading life.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

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Virginia Woolf wrote: ‘English, which can express the thoughts of Hamlet and the tragedy of Lear, has no words for the shiver and the headache… the merest schoolgirl, when she falls in love, has Shakespeare or Keats to speak her mind for her; but let a sufferer try to describe a pain in his head to a doctor and language at once runs dry.’ And we’re such language based creatures that to some extent we cannot know what we cannot name. And so we assume it isn’t real. We refer to it with catch-all terms, like crazy or chronic pain, terms that both ostracize and minimize. The term chronic pain captures nothing of the grinding, constant, ceaseless, inescapable hurt. And the term crazy arrives us with none of the terror and worry you live with. Nor do either of those terms connote the courage people in such pains exemplify, which is why I’d ask you to frame your mental health around a word other than crazy.

I know that this is a very long quote to start my review with and I apologize. But it hit me hard as one of the best descriptions of what people with a mental-illness go through that I have read/heard in a very long time. I want everyone to read that passage.

I am not a John Green fan. I know that these days that’s a very unpopular thing to say but I’m just not. I read The Fault in Our Stars about 4 years ago and it was okay. But honestly just okay. I can’t remember if I read Paper Towns before or after I read TFIOS but I really hated that one. I read Let It Snow and couldn’t even finish John Green’s section. I think I tried Will Grayson, Will Grayson too and DNFed about 30 pages in. So I have given him a reasonable try and had given up.

When Turtles All The Way Down came out I thought the title was interesting and the cover attractive. But I had given up on John Green already so I was mostly ignoring the very small hype. But the other day I went with my best friend Elri to the library and I was picking out some easy vacation reads. TATWD was there and I looked at her and I grabbed the book, resolving to give him one last try and if I hated this book then never give his work a second glance ever again.

I did not hate this book.

There, I said it.

But I didn’t love this book either. I actually gave it 3 stars.

I think one of my biggest difficulties with John Green was that he tried too hard. He so desperately wanted to be deep that instead it felt cheesy to me. I think he might finally be getting to the maturity of a writer who can actually be deep. I also like that there weren’t a million and one f-words and incessant swearing and sexual language from the characters. This book was actually pretty PG. I’m not against some of that stuff in YA, but it can be a bit over the top and that’s how I’ve felt about his works in the past. This was refreshing to me from Green.

I liked Aza, I sympathized with her. I liked her best friend Daisy and I felt for what she had to put up with. I liked Davis too and how much he accepted Aza’s boundaries. Aza’s mom was sweet and Noah was too. I found the characters likable and the plot decent.

I don’t know why I didn’t love it. It may honestly be that I am still biased, I’ll admit to that. But it might also be that I felt that John Green is getting there, but isn’t quite there yet. I think I will give his next book a go. I might even consider buying this one as it is good enough to own. That says something right?

One final note: the texting actually resembled teenagers how teenagers text. FINALLY!

Buy Turtles All the Way Down here (you should do it, you know you want to, look how pretty it is).

Beartown Duology by Frederik Backman

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“Bears shit in the woods and everyone else shits on Beartown.”

Fredrik Backman is one of my favorite modern authors. There’s an increasingly small number of his works that I haven’t read. My Backman journey began in March 2017 with A Man Called Ove. Eleven months later, I saw Backman’s newest book, Beartown, was available on Audible and, without knowing a single thing about it, I purchased it and began listening…

“Everyone has a thousand wishes before a tragedy, but just one afterward.”

For those who are unaware of this fact, Beartown is about a girl who was raped and the ripple following this tragedy. Because of this, there are a few incredibly intense, somewhat graphic scenes. The audiobook may also magnify the intensity of these elements. Nevertheless, if you can make it through these, there is a treasure worth seeking. Backman has a sharper, clearer perspective on life and the way a community of people functions together in the wake of controversial tragedy than anyone I have ever read.

“What is a community? It is the sum total of our choices.”

Beartown feels real. Painfully real. As someone who grew up in a small town, some of the “mob scenes”, so to speak, were incredibly relatable. Morality becomes vague in the surge of consensus and conflicting interests. What was formerly black and white becomes grey. A cliff becomes a slope. Oftentimes, it is the loudest, most determined voice that prevails. Backman observes moral decline and offers a powerful commentary on society. It is his “state of the union” address to the whole world and it has the power to shatter you.

“Loneliness is an invisible ailment.”

Unfortunately, Beartown would have been better left standing solo. Its follow-up novel, Us Against You lacked much of the reality and poignance that made Beartown so magnificent. Perhaps Backman felt as though he had unfinished business in Beartown. The story leaves one with a partially resolved unease, so I can see why this would be his feelings. In Beartown, Backman simply seems content to offer his thoughts on humanity and the various dynamics of a community. In Us Against You, however, he seems compelled to offer hope, closure, and comfort to both reader and characters. I would not discourage reading Us Against You, as it did have some merit on its own. I just caution you to not expect the quality brought to us in Beartown.

If you have wondered what makes a person, a family, a community shatter…if you have wondered how to pick up broken pieces without knowing when or how they broke…then Beartown may offer some comfort (or, sadly, familiarity) to you.

It is a story that will challenge the way you think and act. It will, if you let it, impact the way you live today, tomorrow, and forever.

“We stand tall if you stand tall.”

Buy Beartown Here

Buy Us Against You Here

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

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Reese Witherspoon declared this her Reese’s Book Club X Hello Sunshine pick of October and so I decided to pick it up without any real knowledge of what the book was about. So I downloaded the audio and off I went on a journey with no expectations.

I loved it.

Honestly, every single second of this book was loved by me. It is a story of a family, a family in which the last born doesn’t want to be a “he” but rather a “she”, but really it is simply about a family.

I don’t tend to spend a lot of time reading LGBTQ+ books. I have read one or two, but I don’t personally seek them out like some of my friends do. Sometimes I feel like I really can’t relate to them at all because they seem to be pushing an agenda at times and then it can honestly come out seeming contrived to me. This book wasn’t contrived, this book was so real and so heart warming and yet heart breaking simultaneously.

Penn, the dad, was my favorite character. Maybe that I have ever come across in any book. The simple reason being he reminds me of Christian. Penn is a sweet man and all his moments are what will stick with me from this book. Staying in the ER so that he can talk to Rosie whenever she comes out, or maybe just so she will get a glimpse of him, because he wants to woo her. I loved that everyone did homework together under his supervision and only after he had made them “a really good snack”. I loved loved loved his stories that he told his wife and children (honest moment: Christian makes up stories for me regularly and this similarity may be the reason I most loved this book).

I think the biggest thing about this book is it simply felt so raw and real. You could have no relation to anyone LGBTQ+ or even really know anyone LGBTQ+, and you would still likely relate to this book in some way. Because reading (or listening to, like I did) this book feels like you have been invited to join the family. The characters were real and lovable and relatable and I felt like I knew them. In this book I laughed and I cried, I got anxious and fearful, and I had so much hope.

I don’t feel like I can adequately sum up this book. I don’t feel like I can give this book what it deserves in my review. I kept saying to Christian (and Elri, my best friend) “you have to listen to this book” and that’s my advice to you too. Whoever you are, whatever you are doing, stop and go listen to this book!

Buy This Is How It Always Is Here (I personally recommend the audio)

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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I don’t understand the point of being together if you’re not the happiest.

My mind is Gillian Flynn’s bouncy ball. Up, down, over, up, down, up…

This book toyed with my heart and mind more than any book has done in a long time. Imagine the emotional turmoil that Titanic leaves you with (yes, the pain is still very fresh for me as I saw it for the first time just over a week and a half ago), but this time your mind is sucked in too. I hated this book. I loved this book. I still don’t know what to make of it.

I picked up this book knowing three things about it:

  1. It was called Gone Girl
  2. It was by Gillian Flynn
  3. It was (is) extremely popular

The whole book I was trying to discover if it was a thriller, horror, romance, etc. I have finished the book and I still don’t know how to categorize it. This is an incredible work of art. Flynn’s characters are unpredictable yet believable. Her twists had me yelling in my empty apartment at my kindle. A few times I actually thought I was gonna pass out. I simply couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to satisfy my burning curiosity.

Now, there are a few things I just have to mention. Not to take away from the magnificence of this heart-wrenching book, but just a few things that my conscience was poking at me for. Language and sexual content. The sexual content, it can be argued, was contextual. I think it was a bit excessive and more explicit than I would prefer, but you can dismiss me as a conservative and plunge right in if you like. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. The language was, without doubt, excessive and not entirely contextual. I think fifty pages could have been shaved off Gone Girl had each profane word been removed. As with every review, I want to remind you that this is not a reason to avoid the book, but rather to assist you in your efforts to read with discernment.

Here is typically where I would include a summary about the book. I can barely do so without adding spoilers. Nick is a lazy husband who thought he could maintain the fires of love without ever adding more kindling. Amy is a wife with a long past and a sharp mind. One day—their fifth anniversary, actually—Amy goes missing.

If you are emotionally secure…mentally stable…and okay with those two things changing, then this book is for you! Any book that makes me think about it almost nonstop for days after reading it is a must-read.

Buy Gone Girl Here