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

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).

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)

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

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She had just bought a three hundred and fifty thousand dollar diamond ring she didn’t much care for, a twenty-eight thousand dollar bracelet she quite liked, and a seven hundred and eighty-four thousand dollar pair of earrings that made her look like Pocahontas. For the first time in weeks, she felt bloody fantastic.

This book can be summed up as indulgent and dramatic. It is exactly what you would expect of this kind of chick-lit novel. Everyone is out to get everyone else, the younger generation spends wildly and the older generation are stingy and pretend they have no money at all, mothers hate daughter-in-laws and fathers just try and keep their wives happy.

I really enjoyed this novel (although when I originally heard the title I actually thought it was a biography). Once I started reading it I couldn’t put it down and finished the 403 pages in just over 48 hours. The characters weren’t necessarily likable or relatable, but they were juicy and I wanted to find out what would happen next.

I am not sure how I felt about Rachel Chu and Nicholas Young’s relationship. They were almost a side plot in my opinion whereas the book set them up as the main event. This was more a soap opera kind of book than anything else. So if you’re expecting a romance, I would warn you that it is not the kind of book where you read all about the characters love lives, it was more the kind of book where the romance was necessary to induce all the drama. But the drama was worth the read.

I am interested to see where this trilogy goes and so I will be reading China Rich Girlfriend. Hopefully on my next vacation as Crazy Rich Asians was the perfect beach read.

Buy Crazy Rich Asians Here

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

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I was lying in bed, Christian’s new job meant that I couldn’t talk to him until after midnight so I was scrolling through Libby looking for a way to pass the hours. I clicked on “Available” and then “Audiobooks” and then “Romance”. This was at the top of the list. I thought it looked light and fun and comforting.

That is the story of how I found this book. I love romance novels, they’re my guilty pleasure, and with our wedding less than 6 months away I am enjoying them even more. I also love the royal family and a fan-fiction that mixes the love stories of Prince William and Kate Middleton and of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle seemed like a really good idea.

The thing is, while I really enjoyed the beginning of this book and the end of this book, the middle was long and dragged. Instead of being 454 pages, this book could have been around 250 or 300 and been far more enjoyable and engaging. About half way through the book I realized that they had been together (on-again-off-again) for four years and thought “where else could this go”. As a result what was supposed to be a fun and light read for me ended up being a chore to get through (I did really want to know how it ended) and having several hours of boring audio in there.

One final complaint is I got all mixed up with the names. Gemma, Emma, Eleanor… they were rather similar. And sometimes it felt like a character would disappear for a while and then return and I would have no idea who they were. This is a pet peeve of mine in books.

My advice to all you romance readers looking for a royal romance would be to give this a go. I thought the characters were fun and I did enjoy the story. However I wouldn’t recommend the audio as it is so long (about 18 hours) and I would be willing to skim through some of the scenes that felt repeated. The beginning and the end were all worth it in my opinion but, unfortunately, I have to give the book as a whole only 3 stars.

Buy The Royal We Here

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

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I normally would not choose to display the movie or TV show cover of a book but I have done so this time because its hype as a TV show is what got me to pick up this book in the first place.

“I wish I’d be murdered… Then I’d never have to worry again. When you die, you become perfect. I’d be like Princess Diana. Everyone loves her now.”

The people in this book are messed up. You spend a lot of time sitting there thinking “did I just read that?” and having to read it again because it’s almost impossible to take it in. This novel is not nice. It’s not an entertaining read. This is a psychological thriller/drama that will leave you feeling like you’ve read enough of them for a while.

One reviewer that I follow on Goodreads put it very well:

"You know how you eat a bag of potato chips? You pull it off the shelf, and you begin with a small handful. And then you take some more. And some more. And before you know it, you are just eating the whole thing. In one fell swoop.

And then you feel a little sick afterward. Not sick to your stomach, but sick that you gobbled all those chips and enjoyed them so dang much when they really aren't good for you AT ALL.

That's pretty much analogous to how I felt about this book."

There is messy stuff in this book. The sexual content (warning, the book is full of it) alone is horrific, often manipulative and sickening, and left me skipping a paragraph here or there. I wouldn’t suggest this to someone with a weak stomach as there is also a fair amount of gruesome content in it.

So why did I read it?

I read it because it was fascinating. Flynn is a fantastic writer who sucks you in and you want to see how this is all going to end. About 2/3 of the way through I found myself thinking I knew who the suspect was, and right at the very last minute, in the last couple of pages, she turned the whole thing on its head.

I also read it because it felt like watching a horror movie that had no music. Normally when you read a book you can sense that something is coming, sort of like the scary music in a horror movie, but this book would slap you across the face with something brand new and unexpected. It’s not often you get a book like that and so I wanted to keep reading.

Finally, I was interested in the way Flynn dealt with women. Throughout this book, women are grossly undervalued and it is believed that they are simply the decorative and gentle sex whose greatest purpose is to please men. She didn’t tell you how to feel about that, she just told you the story.

I would recommend this book mostly for how good Flynn’s writing is. I may even read another of her books simply for the pleasure of experiencing her brilliant pacing, writing and storytelling… but probably not for a while.

I am now off to read something lighter and happier.

Buy Sharp Objects here