the mid-year book freak-out tag // speculative, historical, and much Goldstone Wood

Hello hello, readers, and welcome to (as the title suggests) a post in which I talk about the books I have read so far this year, the books I want to read later, and the fact that despite my grand plans to read 40 works of nonfiction this year, I have yet to read a single one.

(Yes, seriously, I haven’t read any nonfiction.)

I’ve seen this tag on several blogs already; I’m going to be taking my questions from Heather @ The Frozen Library and May @ Forever and Everly.

Before we start: I wrote this post on June 21; I will have (hopefully) read more books before its publication. (Including some nonfiction?) And, I’m going to relegate rereads to the “honorable mention” category (unless there’s a very good reason not to).


reading stats

books read

  • total: 77 (+ two in-progress works by friends and about 10 Melanie Dickerson books — more on that later)
  • library books/borrowed: 47 (that was hard to count!)
  • ebooks/read on computer: 18
  • audiobooks/read alouds: 3
  • DNF: plenty that I will finish (including some I’m currently in the middle of); I don’t think I’m abandoning any
  • rereads: 46
  • sequels: 46 (I think?)

target age

  • YA: 45
  • middle grade: 27 (not quite sure where to categorize books by N.D. Wilson, so I put them here)
  • adult: 6 (I counted most classics as adult)


  • scifi: 16
  • historical fiction: 25
  • nonfiction: 0 (☹)
  • fantasy: 26
  • dystopian: 7
  • poetry: 1
  • horror/scary/mystery: 1 (The Night Gardener)
  • scifi/fantasy/historical/Western: 3 (Outlaws of Time trilogy — no idea what genre?)


in which I answer the questions

1 // best book you’ve read so far

I debated this for a while, but I think the answer is the Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. (Yes, the whole series.) The first book, Heartless, doesn’t compare to the later volumes — but it’s still quite good. My personal favorites are DragonwitchShadow Hand, and A Branch of Silver, A Branch of Gold, which isn’t technically a part of the series but is set in the same world and has a cameo of the Dame — one of the best characters from the original series.

“I can’t believe in the impossible,” he whispered as though trying to convince himself against what he had just witnessed. “A man can’t be big and small at once. He can’t be a freak and a hero.”
The cat glared. “Do you believe in justice?”
The Chronicler hesitated. Then, only once, he nodded.
“Do you believe in mercy?” pressed the cat.
“Ha!” [The cat] lashed his tail again. “What an impossible contradiction. Ha!”

// Dragonwitch //

The series is an allegorical fantasy set in a world that is actually many connected worlds. Some of the books go together (Moonblood is a direct sequel to Veiled Rose, and the main characters of Dragonwitch play an important role in Shadow Hand — which itself brings back characters first introduced in Veiled Rose), but it’s very much a non-linear series that can be read in almost any order. I recommend reading them in publication order (starting with Heartless).

Before she’d gone five paces, she heard Benedict speak softly behind her. “You matter, Heloise,” he said.
She didn’t stop. She didn’t turn.
“Whether or not you believe it. Whether or not you rescue your sister tonight,” he said, his voice reaching out to her as the distance grew between them. “You matter. You matter…to me….
“You reminded me what it means to live. I thought I was dead and done, but you taught me otherwise. I… I’ll never…”
She could hear what he was going to say. I’ll never forget you. It caught in his throat, but she heard it as clearly as though he’d spoken the words.

// A Branch of Silver, A Branch of Gold //

There are two characters that appear in every single book (except A Branch of Silver/Gold) — the cat and the Dame, who are my two favorite characters in literature currently and the best ship ever. (Yes. I ship them. So will you.) (*tries to come up with a ship name* … um, Eanraldera? Imralin?)

I’ve only read the series once. I think I’ll reread it later this year.

honorable mention: Golden Daughter by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (another Goldstone book), Ender’s Game/Children of the Mind/Shadow of the Giant by Orson Scott Card (rereads), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (reread) Right Ho, Jeeves (9781787461031): Wodehouse, P G: Books2 // best sequel you’ve read so far

Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse was absolutely hilarious. I want everyone to read it now. (I started with My Man Jeeves, but the Jeeves books can absolutely be read in any order to the great enjoyment of the reader.) Anyone who can comprehend British humor (or wants to try) and handle a tiny bit of crude language (seriously, very tiny) and likes classics should read Wodehouse.

Anyone who doesn’t like classics should read Wodehouse.

(Basically, everyone should read Wodehouse.)

Thanks to Megan for recommending this book to me!

“What, in your opinion, will the harvest be?”
“One finds it difficult to hazard a conjecture, sir.”
“You mean imagination boggles?”
“Yes, sir.”
I inspected my imagination. He was right. It boggled.

// Right Ho, Jeeves //

3 // new release you haven’t read yet but want to

Cover art

I read the Hunger Games trilogy for the first time this year. It wasn’t my favorite (Nadine Brandes’ Out of Time is better) but I truly enjoyed the reading experience and thought the concept was clever and the characters interesting (except Gale and Peeta — I didn’t like either — and Katniss in the last book, at which point she just got very annoying). My favorite character was Finnick and my favorite book Catching Fire.

Anyway, I’ve heard very mixed reviews and thoughts on the prequel. I have complicated thoughts myself, since I’m not a fan of President Snow (who is?) but I love the songs from the originals (who doesn’t?). I’m going to read it, eventually, but I’m not willing to spend money on something I may not like at all (I don’t even own the main series).

“You’ve no right to starve people, to punish them for no reason. No right to take away their life and freedom. Those are things everyone is born with, and they’re not yours for the taking. Winning a war doesn’t give you that right. Having more weapons doesn’t give you that right. Being from the Capitol doesn’t give you that right. Nothing does.”

// The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes //

Dragonwatch 4: Champion of the Titan Games4 // most anticipated release for the second half of the year

I guess Dragonwatch: Champion of the Titan Games? I don’t really keep up with what books are coming out when, and I typically read books that have already been out for a while, so this is the only one I can think of.

The Fowl Twins Deny All Charges | Disney Books | Disney Publishing ...I read the Fablehaven books a few years back and re-immersed myself in Dragonwatch (which is a sequel series) last year when my ten-year-old brother started reading them. We’ve had lots of fun talking about them and I’m looking forward to reading this one with him too.

Oh, and I’m also super excited for the release of Red Rising 6 (title unknown), though its release date is probably going to be 2021 or later, given that Pierce Brown didn’t start writing it until January 2020. But you never know…

(coming back to this after answering #6 below) The Fowl Twins: Deny All Charges. Without a doubt. I didn’t know this book was coming but now I need it.

A Spy's Devotion (The Regency Spies of London Book 1) - Kindle ...5 // biggest disappointment

Obviously, the biggest book-related disappointment of the year was that Anne Elisabeth Stengl has no plans to write more Goldstone books (*sobs*). But the most disappointing book(s) I read? Probably the Regency spies series by Melanie Dickerson. I think I’ve read every single one of her books now (a friend gifted me most of them, and I got the rest on Libby), and I really enjoyed the Hagenheim series (lighthearted, Christian romance retellings of fairy tales — not the best books ever, but not a waste of time, with some good themes and characters). But I started with A Spy’s Devotion because I like mysteries and Jane Austen and thought it sounded like a good combination.

Unfortunately, it was not. There was a lot of Austen-like dialogue that didn’t come close to her level of wit and intrigue, a sort-of spy who was not very interesting or good at spying, several plot holes and impossible situations contrived to make the characters fall in love, and a great deal of gazing at each other while bemoaning social rank and societal expectations.

She was energetic and didn’t always conform to polite society’s idea of how a young lady should conduct herself, but perhaps those things had nothing to do with achieving God’s approval. Didn’t God see inside a person’s heart and judge them for their thoughts and motives? God’s ways were not man’s ways.

// A Spy’s Devotion //

Yes, it’s true that society should not dictate how we behave. But please stop writing historical fictions where the main female character defies society’s expectations and is (gasp!) independent and feminist. Please research the era you are writing and have your heroine act like people actually acted back then.

If you want a feminist MC in your romance, why not write a contemporary (since feminists actually exist today).

feminism in Regency romances | 5 things historical heroines need to STOP doing
(posts by Kellyn Roth)

I didn’t end up counting any of the Melanie Dickerson books for my yearly total because a) I read them all so fast it was more like skimming and b) I forgot to write most of them down in the notebook I use to keep track of books I read.

honorable mention: Hunter by K.B. Hoyle (the original dystopian Breeder trilogy was great, but this prequel was full of violence/profanity/sex that didn’t add to the story)

The Fowl Twins | Disney Books | Disney Publishing Worldwide6 // biggest surprise

I did not expect to love The Fowl Twins. I did not even expect to like it. The original Artemis Fowl series is such a gem — humor, fantasy, sci-fi, and complicated family relationships, all in a well-written middle-grade series — and I was very skeptical of this spin-off/sequel.

But it worked, and it worked so well that it now claims the #2 place on my list of Fowl family books (still can’t beat The Last Guardian). The best part is that even if you haven’t read the original series, you can try this one with no context whatsoever and completely enjoy yourself. Go on. I dare you not to like this book.

(Just realized book #2 is coming this fall and went and edited question #4 above because MORE FOWL TWINS? YES PLEASE.)

Myles saw the pain on his brother’s face… and the expression broke his young heart.
If I do one thing before I die, it will be to relieve Beck’s suffering.
But how to achieve this humanitarian objective?
Myles thought back to the two lemons who had been shrink-wrapped in the shower room. Steam from Lance’s lance had distended the cellophane. He did not have steam at hand, but perhaps he had a substitute.
I have a more noble use for you, little fellow, he thought, snatching the hair dryer from its clamps.

// The Fowl Twins //

Anne Elisabeth Stengl7 // favorite new author (debut or new to you)

Can I say Anne Elisabeth Stengl?

I think I must. Because her writing has (truly) changed my life. It’s beautiful and powerful. Character- and plot-driven (if that’s a thing). Well-written and interesting. The kind of books you can devour in a day and remember for a lifetime. The best ships ever and the most important themes.

Basically, Goldstone Wood combines two of my favorite things: stories that make me think and stories that are so interesting I can’t put them down. All of Stengl’s books are both. She gave me Eanraldera (that’s a thing now, okay) and the Songs of Spheres, and I will forever be grateful.

Beyond the final water falling,
The Songs of Spheres recalling,
When the senseless silence fills your weary mind,
Won’t you return to me?

// Heartless //

Pierce Brown

But I also am glad to have discovered Pierce Brown. I was listening to a CenterforLit podcast episode and heard almost the entire Andrews family rave about Red Rising, so I talked to my parents about it. I started reading the series soon after — it was magnificent.

Now, it’s not for everyone. It’s a mature story with violence, profanity, and sexual content (ages 16 and up is probably a good idea), and I’m certain many of my readers do not share Brown’s worldview (I don’t either). But he’s a very good writer. And I believe that we can find true, good, and beautiful lessons, themes, and stories even in works by authors we don’t agree with.

Thus, I will be finishing the series and reading the next book when it comes out. I have to add the content warning — but I also have to say, if you think you can handle it, read this series. Or at the very least, read Red Rising. It’s worth it.

Down in the vale
Hear the reaper swing, the reaper swing
the reaper swing
Down in the vale
Hear the reaper sing
A tale of winter done

My son, my son
Remember the chains
When gold ruled with iron reins
We roared and roared
And twisted and screamed
For ours, a vale
of better dreams

// Red Rising //

author photos from Goodreads

8 // new fictional crush

[spoilers for Ender’s Game/Shadow series and the Hunger Games books]

*laughs* I’m pretty sure I said Peter Wiggin last year?

Yep, I did. (Apologies for the terrible formatting in that post — I was still figuring things out.)

Anyway, I guess that’s not a new thing, but I will never stop liking his character.

(Too bad he gets Wang-mu. Or Petra. Depending on which series we’re talking about.
I know it makes no sense.
But it’s such fun talking about it when no one else gets it.)
Finnick Odair | The Hunger Games Wiki | Fandom

Let’s see… I love Eanrin (Goldstone Wood) but he gets a happy ending with somebody. (Or, well, he ought to have, and we all know he would have if the author had ever finished the series.) I think I have an aversion to liking book characters who are perfect in their canonical relationships.

Ah! Found one. Finnick. I never really shipped him and Annie. I mean, I love that he has somebody to love, and his love for her is incredibly sweet, but she’s not in the story enough for me to really connect to her. I actually ship him with Katniss — though obviously that’s not happening.

Thus, he is my new fictional crush.

9 // new favorite character

A list is necessary.

  • Selene (Breeder trilogy)
  • Eanrin, Imraldera, and basically everyone else (Goldstone Wood)
  • Beckett Fowl (The Fowl Twins)
  • Finnick Odair (Hunger Games trilogy)
  • Flinn Waters and Nina Lanier (The Reflections — beta)
  • Cimorene and Mendanbar (Dealing with Dragons and sequels)
  • Mustang, Cassius, Sevro, and Lyria (Red Rising books)
  • Gaderian (Jackaroo)

Iron Gold: The explosive new novel in the Red Rising series: Red ...10 // book that made you cry

Iron Gold by Pierce Brown, the first in the sequel series to the Red Rising trilogy, made me cry. Mainly because one of my favorite characters died. It was very difficult. I’m still devastated thinking about it (and I have yet to start Dark Age, the next book, because that character won’t be in it).

I could also say Morning Star (the third in the original trilogy), but that wasn’t tears so much as — constant worry and adrenaline? I was literally running into the living room at intervals to tell someone, anyone, what was going on. The book goes from betrayal to wedding to betrayal to wait-actually-it-was-fake to nope-it-was-real to death to resurrection-ish to ha-it-was-actually-fake-we’re-friends to nope-we’re-enemies and I just couldn’t stay calm.

11 // book that made you happy

I reread Cinder and it brought me much joy. It was also relatable, since the city of New Beijing is going through a pandemic.

Cover Love: The Lunar Chronicles – Alison In Bookland

12 // most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

The only books I acquired this year were the Melanie Dickerson series, along with a few other books, from my friend Lydia. There were two others not by Dickerson that I read and really enjoyed — I don’t know if their covers count as beautiful, but their contents certainly were. So Lyddie by Katherine Paterson and Jackaroo by Cynthia Voigt (awful title, amazing story).

13 // books you need to read by the end of the year

Oh, goodness, so many.

I’m currently in the middle of…

  • The Songkiller’s Symphony by Daeus Lamb (beta)
  • Hills and Valleys by Juliet Artman (beta)
  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  • Shiloh by Helena Sorensen
  • Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  • 12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson
  • The Chestnut King by N.D. Wilson
  • The Silent Bells by N.D. Wilson (serial newspaper; reading as it’s written)
  • Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

And I also plan to read…

  • a poetry collection by a friend (alpha)
  • Dust by Kara Swanson (ARC)
  • The Heaviest Lightest Things by Weez Phillips
  • A Blind Man’s Tales of Emberwood by The Grim Writer (beta)
  • Sing! by Keith and Kristyn Getty
  • Dark Age by Pierce Brown
  • The Gift of Fire by Richard Mitchell
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
  • Scarlet, Cress, and Winter by Marissa Meyer
  • The Shadow of the Almighty by Elisabeth Elliot
  • The Fowl Twins: Deny All Charges by Eoin Colfer
  • Dragonwatch: Champion of the Titan Games by Brandon Mull
  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
  • more nonfiction (ideas include Echo, The Augsburg Confession, Night, The AnabasisUnbroken, How to Read a BookOne Thousand Gifts, The Four LovesAmusing Ourselves to Death, and Walden)
  • possibly some Brigid Kemmerer (recommended by Charis) and/or Maggie Stiefvater (recommended by Olivia)

I let myself read pretty much what I wanted to during quarantine — and it was a genuine pleasure to re-immerse myself in the worlds of Harry Potter, Anne Shirley, Jo March, and others. I don’t regret it.

But I intend to read things I should for the rest of the year. I’m going to have a job and a crazy school load this fall, so I won’t have a ton of free time to read, and I want to use what time I do have wisely.

Prayers for self-control and wisdom would be appreciated 🙂

14 // favorite book community member

The Story Sponge writes amazing bookish posts. So does Charles Baker Harris (okay, I know that’s not her name). And Sarah Seele.

I guess it’s a three-way tie.


the questions

If you’d like to do this tag yourself (and I encourage you to do so), here are the questions I used.


I found these on Heather’s blog and modified them slightly.

  • books read // total, library/borrowed, ebooks/read on a device, audiobooks/read alouds, DNFs, rereads, sequels
  • target age // YA, middle grade, adult, anything else
  • genre // scifi, historical, nonfiction, fantasy, contemporary, dystopian, poetry (and others, if you read them: horror, romance, etc.)
  • (others that I didn’t put here but Heather did: ratings // 5 star, 4, 3, 2, 1; publication year; length/page number // 500+, 400-499, 300-399, 200-299, under 200; series or standalone; books with POC authors; books with multiple POVs)


I got all these from May.

  1. best book you’ve read so far
  2. best sequel you’ve read so far
  3. new release you haven’t read yet but want to
  4. most anticipated release for the second half of the year
  5. biggest disappointment
  6. biggest surprise
  7. favorite new author (debut or new to you)
  8. new fictional crush
  9. new favorite character
  10. book that made you cry
  11. book that made you happy
  12. most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)
  13. books you need to read by the end of the year
  14. favorite book community member


I leave you now to go and read nonfiction.

I hope my post inspired you to read one of my new favorites (HeartlessThe Fowl Twins, and Red Rising are good places to start). May your reading for the rest of 2020 be enjoyable and profitable, and may stories always remind you of the goodness beyond human comprehension.

Go therefore and read.

sign off

P.S. What genre do you think Outlaws of Time is? What’s your favorite read of 2020 (so far)? Is Eanraldera a good ship name? Tell me in the comments!

32 thoughts on “the mid-year book freak-out tag // speculative, historical, and much Goldstone Wood

  1. This was entertaining! I love that you have read more than 70 books this year XD…and only June! I think Eanraldera is a great ship name. Any smashal of them is great….

    But now more books to add to the TBR….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wowww this post is great.
    I feel a little overwhelmed at trying to comment on it sufficiently since it holds material for about ninety-six different conversations. xD 😉
    When I read them a year or so ago, I was not very impressed with Heartless or Veiled Rose (the only two Goldstone Wood books I’ve read) but I’ve been told I should read the other ones because they’re better. So they’re there on my tbr haha. I should get around to them once my library starts up again.
    I am also in the middle of The Silent Bells and many of your current reads look good (ahhh Les Mis. The brick, the classic, the legend, so. good.)
    (Also I wanted to comment that I found your notes on music in your last newsletter (especially the musicals) very interesting. I will be looking into a lot of it.)
    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That is a great ship name!!! I love it!!!! And favorite read of 2020? Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is up there, as is Starflower(yes, I have reread it. For the third time). I love the Fowl twins (though, like you, I wasn’t sure at first) but they are babies and should be protected at all costs!!! Some of these books I might check out . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    • THEY ARE MY CHILDREN. Do not touch them, thank you.

      Starflower is great! *cries* the beautiful beginning of Eanraldera…

      (I got an audio version of Ballad to listen to on vacation!! So we can talk about it when I get back!)


  4. What? You’ve read almost 100 books already?! That’s more than my entire goal for this year. XD I had it at 70, but I had to bring it down to 65 cuz I was having trouble keeping up only a couple of months in. 😛
    Oh YES! I haven’t read the Hunger Games Prequel yet but I love that quote you used! The fact that that’s in there gives me hope. XD
    Awe you read with your brother? That’s cool. 🙂
    Haha wow, Morning Star sounds really emotionally crippling. XD
    My friend recommended Cinder to me years ago but I just wasn’t that interested for some reason. I finally bought a copy of it this January…buuut maybe now I still won’t read it for a while. I don’t know if I can handle it. XD
    Wow, what a great way to end a post! 😛 Mine seem so lame in comparison.
    I just finished The Geography of Lost Things by Jessica Brody the other day and really enjoyed it. The last 100 pages or so made me cry a lot cuz I related to it so personally.
    Thanks for mentioning my blog! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • I get it. Reading goals are hard. I’m something of a compulsive reader — it’s like I HAVE to have a book in my vicinity at all times — and that leads to me reading many books I didn’t plan to.
      Morning Star was soooo emotionally crippling… *decides to use that phrase to describe it to everyone who asks me about the series now*
      Cinder is really good. But weirdly strange right now, with the real-life pandemic.
      You’re welcome! I haven’t read much of your blog but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. That Jeeves quote. *wheezes* Every time I read a snippet of Wodehouse I realise how very much I ought to read him. He’s hilarious. I somehow still haven’t read him, but ONE DAY.

    N. D. Wilson is fantastic but yes, hard to categorize. XD He’s…a little dark for middle grade even though that’s the character’s ages and to be quite honest I’d have ADORED his books at that age and my little sister, who is that age, does adore them. I don’t think they’re TOO dark for kids, really, in a general way, so I just say middle grade. 🙂 (Alsoooo how is Silent Bells??? I’m so curious. And is Mercy in it??)

    Daww thank you, that made me so happy you like my bookish posts. And to be in a three-way tie with the Story Sponge and Katie Hanna! *blushes fiery red* (Seriously, I love their bookish posts so much though. They are both so eloquent and funny.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • ONE DAY YOU MUST. I particularly love Ukridge.

      I mean, NDW *is* dark but it’s like, that’s good? It’s good that kids get some darker stories, with the light shining through? I’ve always loved how he says that Moses literally turned a river to blood in the Bible. If that’s not dark magic, what is? But God told him to, and it was good. So we can enjoy books with “scary” and “dark” elements, even as 10-year-olds. (Though I have, as yet, refrained from introducing my younger sibs to Babd Catha and Radu Bey. There are limits.)

      I’ve only read one chapter so far… but Mercy was in it! And some freaky stuff about Babd and Rupert. I refuse to spoil it but I’m very excited. (Wishing I could type it out and post it online every time it comes, but I feel like that’d violate copyright or something XD)

      (You’re all eloquent and funny.)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m glad you are enjoying the Tales of Goldstone Wood and Right Ho, Jeeves! Fantastic books.
    I didn’t know that the Fowl twins had their own books– I remember when my brother was into the original series, and I used to steal the books and snoop.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You’ve read! Dealing With Dragons!
    That series was one of my favorites when I was in middle school and I feel like it’s very underrated and lesser known? I’m so happy you know about it and love Cimorene ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I totally agree about Finnick! And I was really hoping him and Katniss would get together. 🙂
    And Cinder! I read that recently and laughed so hard about the perfect timing. When I first got the book, I had no idea they were in a pandemic!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I can’t believe we’re halfway through 2020 already. That’s just crazy to me.
    Tales of Goldstone Wood sounds really good. I’ll have to put it on my TBR! I’ve heard a lot of good things about it.
    Good to know about the Regency Spy series. I’ve read a couple of Melanie Dickerson books and I thought they were just okay. The concept sounded interesting but I probably won’t waste my money on a copy. 😛
    This was such a fun post! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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