Bout of Books 4.0 Wrap Up

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon
 

Last week I participated in Bout of Books 4.0. This was my third (second?) attempt at a read-a-thon, and once again life didn’t give me much help in my efforts. My sister’s baby decided she was good and ready to get out into the world, so mid-week I rushed to Nebraska to meet my new niece. (I tweeted a pic in case you missed it.) Then I had to rush back to Chicago to work all weekend protecting civil liberties during the NATO summit. 

So, you know, pretty quiet week. 😉

Despite these hiccups, I actually managed to finish two books and start a third, which is a pretty impressive week for me all things considered. I’ve been reading soooo slooooowly this year, and this read-a-thon jump started my reading life a bit. Big thanks to Amanda at On a Book Bender, Kelly at Reading the Paranormal, Shirley at Creative Deeds, and Hannah at Once Upon a Time for running the event and keeping me entertained on Twitter!

My goals were to:
  • Read four books
  • Finish at least one physical book I already own
  • Catch up on my backlog of comics

Well, I read pages out of three different books, and that’s something. Although I didn’t finish a physical book, I at least started one (A Clash of Kings). I did not get to my comics – I brought a stack to work with me over the weekend hoping to tackle some during downtime, but there was no downtime to be had!

Books I finished:

  • Bourne by Lisa T. Bergren
  • Lover Avenged by J. R. Ward

Books I started but in no way came close to finishing:

  • A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

The Game of Thrones books require lots of concentration from me. Martin has this way of writing that seems full of hidden puzzles that I must read carefully in order to ferret out. During one day’s roundtrip commute I can generally fly through 80-100 pages of a book. Martin’s book? Try 30 pages, if I’m lucky. I find myself re-reading the same passages over and over. Is it just me? Maybe this is why I don’t read more fantasy. I’m always terrified I’m missing things.

You can see a more detailed break-down of my reading week in my Bout of Books 4.0 update post. I know I may not have read anything close to what other people did, but the beauty of these read-a-thons is that they are to challenge yourself. I set pretty high goals (which frankly I didn’t think I’d meet anyway), but given the craziness of the last week I’m REALLY proud of myself. I got farther than I thought I would, and it got me excited about reading again. 

And that’s always a good thing. 

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Spring Blog Carnival Winner!

 

There were 961 entries in my Spring Blog Carnival givewaway! Most people got tripped up by the one-word titles, but I had no idea how hard or easy it would be, so thanks for bearing with my first attempt at a word scramble and for playing. After running all of the correct entries through Random.org, the winner is…

Congratulations Maly! Be sure to check your email so I can get your books off to you as soon as possible. Enjoy!

The correct answers were:

  1. Olokcrwck Icnerp (2011) – Clockwork Prince
  2. Yarhr Ottper and teh Edhyatl Lawhlos (2007) – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  3. Rgaclngie (2008) – Graceling
  4. Csaosr hte Vniuerse (2011) – Across the Universe
  5. Mavripe Amyedca (2007) – Vampire Academy
  6. Rieenvdgt (2011) – Divergent
  7. Ihtrente Osaresn Hwy (2007) – Thirteen Reasons Why
  8. Augdhetr fo Ksmeo nda Onbe (2011) – Daughter of Smoke and Bone
  9. Npdemnumoai (2012) – Pandemonium
  10. Naan Ddesers in Obldo (2011) – Anna Dressed in Blood

Announcing the Outlander Read-A-Long!

I’m so very excited to announce that Into the Hall of Books, Gone with the Words, The Reading Housewives, Stalking the Bookshelves, Tangled Up in Blue, and yours truly are hosting an Outlander read-a-long! From June 11th through July 23rd, we’ll be reading and discussing one of the most beloved historical romance novels of all time (and one of my personal favorite books of all time) – Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER!

The details:

It’s simple, really. The six of us love Outlander, and we want you to love it, too. If you know me at all, you know it holds a special place in my heart. We know you’ve been meaning to read it, but it’s looong. As looong as your TBR list. And you only have so many hours in a day. You’ve got a schedule to keep, what with your stacks of review copies and trips to the library. Who can blame you?

But the six of us love Outlander. Did we mention that? And we think you will, too. So we’re going to help you out. We’re going to walk you through it. We’re going to break it down into manageable chunks. We’re going to ask you questions and get you talking about it. We’re going to invite you into the community of readers who just can’t stop talking about Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall.

Each Monday during the read-a-long, we’re taking turns hosting a discussion of 7 chapters of the book.  You’ll have a week to read the chapters and write up a response to the questions. Then we’ll post a linky on that week’s host blog for participants to link-up their discussion questions so everyone can hop from blog to blog and see other readerâ??s thoughts. We’ll also post the next week’s questions so you can get prepared for the following week. 

The schedule:

June 11th
Questions for chapters 1-7 announced at Gone with the Words

June 18th
Questions for chapters 1-7 answered &
Questions announced for chapters 8-14 at Stalking the Bookshelves

June 25th
Questions for chapters 8-14 answered &
Questions announced for chapters 15-21 on Tangled Up in Blue

July 2nd
Questions for chapters 15-21 answered &
Questions announced for chapters 22-28 on Into the Hall of Books

July 9th
Questions for chapters 22-28 answered &
Questions announced for chapters 29-35 on Logan E. Turner

July 16th
Questions for chapters 29-35 answered &
Questions announced for chapters 36-41 on The Reading Housewives

July 23rd
Questions for chapters 36-41 answered on Gone with the Words. 

The book:

Outlander is widely available, both in print and ebook. We wanted to give you as much advance notice as possible, so you can get it reserved at the library, order a copy from your favorite retailer, or pick it up in your local store. It’s available worldwide. Mass market copies and the ebook are available for $8.99. Or you can pick up the fancier 20th Anniversary Edition. Or even a signed copy from The Poisoned Pen. You can probably find a copy at a used bookstore, or spring for a used copy online. However you choose to read it, we want you to join us!

To join us:

Please create a post announcing the event to help us spread the word, and then link up that post in the linky tool below! It’s that easy! The linky is the same at each host’s announcement post, so you only need to sign up once. And don’t forget to grab a button!

 

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Bout of Books 4.0

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon
 
Bout of Books 4.0 is here! I’ll be participating here and on Twitter.
 
My goals:
  • Read four books
  • Finish at least one physical book I already own
  • Catch up on backlog of comics

Books to read:

  • A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
  • Bourne by Lisa T. Bergren
  • Finish Lover Avenged by J. R. Ward
  • TBD

Updates:

5/14
Number of books Iâ??ve read today: 26% of Lover Avenged
Total number of books Iâ??ve read: 
Books finished:

5/15
Number of books Iâ??ve read today: 12% of Lover Avenged; 3% of Bourne
Total number of books Iâ??ve read: 1
Books finished: Lover Avenged 

5/16
Number of books Iâ??ve read today: 2% of Bourne
Total number of books Iâ??ve read: 1
Books finished:

5/17
Number of books Iâ??ve read today: 1.5 chapters of A Clash of Kings
Total number of books Iâ??ve read: 1
Books finished:

5/18
Number of books Iâ??ve read today: 60% of Bourne
Total number of books Iâ??ve read: 1
Books finished:

5/19
Number of books Iâ??ve read today: 35% of Bourne; 10 pages of A Clash of Kings
Total number of books Iâ??ve read: 2
Books finished: Bourne

5/20
Number of books I’ve read today: 28 pages of A Clash of Kings
Total number of books I’ve read: 2
Books finished:

Spring Blog Carnival – Contortionist Booth

 
Step right up, folks! The second annual Spring Blog Carnival is here, hosted by Lori from Pure Imagination, Candace from Candace’s Book Blog, and Angela at Reading Angel. All week long, you can visit different booths sponsored by your favorite book bloggers, where you can enter giveaways and compete in carnival games to win all sorts of bookish goodies. Check out the Carnival Map to find the booths that interest you!
 
You’ve arrived at the contortionist booth! Witness the awe-inspiring backbends, the cringe-inducing positions, and the mind-blowing twists these book titles have gotten themselves into. It’s madness! You won’t believe your eyes! Tuck your children’s faces into your skirts, ladies, because these sights are not for the easily frightened. 
 
For this contortionists’ challenge, you must unscramble the following well-known young adult book titles. There are ten titles listed, and for each title you correctly guess, you gain one entry into the giveaway. Get all ten right? That’s ten chances to win! To enter, simply leave a comment listing your guesses, along with your name and email address. Comments will be moderated for the duration of the challenge to prevent cheating. When the carnival is over, I’ll approve all of the comments for viewing, and post the correct answers. Be sure to come back to see how you did!
 
Think you’re a brave one, then? Well, come on in…if you dare.
  1. Olokcrwck Icnerp (2011)
  2. Yarhr Ottper and teh Edhyatl Lawhlos (2007)
  3. Rgaclngie (2008)
  4. Csaosr hte Vniuerse (2011)
  5. Mavripe Amyedca (2007)
  6. Rieenvdgt (2011)
  7. Ihtrente Osaresn Hwy (2007)
  8. Augdhetr fo Ksmeo nda Onbe (2011)
  9. Npdemnumoai (2012)
  10. Naan Ddesers in Obldo (2011)
*Hint* Spacing is correct, but the capitalization may not be applied to the correct letter in the jumbled form. I’ve also included the publication year to help if you get stuck – it’s defaulted to be hidden, but you can highlight it to get the hint.
 
The winner will be chosen at random from the pool of correct answers by all entrants. It is open internationally, as long as The Book Depository ships to you. The winner of the contortionist carnival game will win two books of their choice from the following list that features books with big twist endings:
This giveaway, and all of the giveaways in the carnival, run from May 7-13. Winner will be announced on May 15 and notified by email. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, I reserve the right to pick a new winner. 
 
When you’re finished, be sure to hop around to visit the other booths:

Clock Rewinders on a Book Binge (2)

Clock Rewinders on a Book Binge is where Tara @ 25 Hour Books and Amanda @ On a Book Bender recap and share blog events from the week, and talk about what they’re reading. Now they’re letting the rest of us join in the fun! Head over to Amanda’s blog if you’d like to participate and link up.

WEEKLY RECAP
ANNOUNCEMENTS AND UPDATES
  • Yesterday was the annual national event Free Comic Book Day. I dragged my husband to my local comic book store to pick up free books, and tried out a new store as well. I even got a book signed by the author, which was fun.
  • I sat through almost 8 hours of theater this weekend (The Iceman Cometh and CATS), plus saw The Avengers. I’m exhausted about watching stuff and paying attention.
  • I’m nearing the end of my migration to WordPress, thanks to Cialina at Paper Wings Design Studio.
  • Look for my Spring Blog Carnival game and giveaway tomorrow!
  • I continue to slog through two different manuscripts and waste many, many hours getting myself familiar with WP.org.
AROUND THE BLOGOSPHERE
ODD SEARCH TERMS
  • design for game of thrones – not much help here, I’m afraid
  • fire stoning – Don’t mess with me!
BOOKS RECEIVED

Bought:

Cindy at Princess Bookie clears her personal bookshelves every so often, and puts the books up for sale. She posts a list and asks people to choose what they want and you name your own price. I rarely can resist her sales because she always has books I want. So I picked up 7 books on the cheap!

Rampant and Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund
(Vicious unicorns for the win!) 

Rivals (The Ivy #3) by Lauren Kunze and Rina Onur
The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade

I own the first two books in the Ivy series (not that I’ve read them yet), so I wanted to complete my set. The Ghost and the Goth was highly reviewed by Small Review, and I trust her opinion.

Funny aside – My husband saw The Ghost and the Goth cover and immediately began making fun of me. Him: “You know, that cover makes it really hard for me to tell what the book is about. I think it must be something dark and serious. What’s it about anyway?”  Me: “It’s a really complicated metaphor. You wouldn’t understand.”

A Breath of Eyre by Eve Marie Mont
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen 

Havoc by Jeff Sampson

For review:

  • Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin – Thank you NetGalley and Tanglewood!
  • Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier – Thank you NetGalley and Random House!
  • Dark Companion by Marta Acosta – Thank you NetGalley and Tor Teen!

That’s it for now. Have a great week!

Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Book: Grave Mercy
Author: Robin LaFevers
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release date: April 3, 2012
Source: eARC from NetGalley
Series: His Fair Assassin #1

 

Summary from Goodreads:

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous giftsâ??and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittanyâ??where she finds herself woefully under preparedâ??not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Deathâ??s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

First impressions: YOU GUYS. LADY NUN ASSASSINS. Enough said.

Lasting impressions: Ismae may be one of my favorite heroines of all time. She’s up there with Claire Randall, vying for the top spot. She’s smart, humble, kind, merciful, and oh yeah – a stealthy handmaiden of death.

Conflicting impressions: While the convent was a large focus of the first part of this book, the ending didn’t tie up many loose ends in that regard. I have a feeling much of this information will become the focus in later books, but I felt a little jilted in this book when it came to Sybella and some of the other sisters.

Overall impressions: It’s a historical novel with courtly intrigue and a protagonist who is a kick-ass murderer. But a nice kick-ass murderer. I would have bet anyone a million dollars that I would love this book.

Guess what? I win!

The premise of this book could never hold the weight of its own ambition without a heroine that makes the reader care about her. From the very first page, Ismae stole my heart. Trapped under an abusive father, marked by Death himself to be an outcast, and thrust into a marriage with a disgusting pig of a man, I couldn’t help but want something more for her. When she is offered a home and a purpose for her miserable life at St. Mortain’s convent, Ismae can finally start to believe in herself. 

The bulk of the novel focuses on one of Ismae’s first major assignments. She is assigned to play mistress to Lord Duval and accompany him to the Breton court to ferret out traitors that need assassinating. There is a delectable romance that builds between the two unlikely lovebirds, and I appreciated that LaFevers devoted more time to personality based obstacles than class driven ones. Yes he’s a Lord and one of the most influential men at court, and she’s just the lowly peasant girl, but that never seems to be the focus for why these two shouldn’t fall in love.

Perhaps why I loved Ismae so much was precisely because LaFevers made her more complicated than the usual historical trope. Despite her training and occupation, Ismae is an Everywoman. She’s unsure of herself and makes mistakes. She follows at times she should be leading. She trusts when she shouldn’t. Yet we don’t fault her for any of it. We understand why she makes the decisions she does, and it makes her all the more believable and compelling. 

Do I think this story needed to meander through nearly 600 pages? No. There were moments where the pacing lagged and Ismae got a bit repetitive with her musings. At its core, however, this novel has a pure soul that guides us carefully through morally complicated situations that at times benefited from a lengthier examination. As Ismae determines her true calling as Death’s handmaiden, the book culminates in one of the most spiritually enlightened moments I’ve ever experienced in fiction. 

The vast depth to this book offers pure pleasure to the reader. If you’re willing to invest the time, it will heap its rewards upon you. There’s a reason for the hype, and this one definitely lives up to it.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system