Weekly Recap (5) – Lots of News

 
On Fridays I post a recap of books I’ve read, am reading, and plan to read, as well as any other tidbits I feel like sharing. The format was inspired by Small Review’s Recap posts and On a Book Bender and 25 Hour Books’ Clock Rewinders on a Book Binge posts.

Blogging

This week on the blog:

  • I updated my theme to make the colors a little more cohesive with my header. Do you like the new look? Any weird color clashes I didn’t catch?
  • Out With the Old… – A fresh start to blogging
  • …and In With the New – My 2013 challenge wrap-up

Reading

Started: 

  • Summer Knight (Dresden Files #4) by Jim Butcher
    • I am trying to work my way through this entire series by the end of the year. These books are funny, gut-wrenching, and totally entertaining. I love Harry Dresden!
  • Immortal (Immortal #1) by Gillian Shields
    • I tried to squeeze this one in last year for my Gothic book in the Literary Exploration challenge, but didn’t quite make it before the end of 2013. I’m a sucker for boarding schools and creepy moors, so I’m loving it so far.

Watching

  • Football!
    • I came in second in my fantasy football league this year, and I still can’t shake the football viewing addiction. My favorite college team (Nebraska) won their bowl game, and the NFL playoffs start on Saturday. I’m a happy camper.

Exercising

  • Ironman 70.3 Racine
    • This is perhaps the biggest news I’ve had in a long time. In September my husband and I took the plunge and registered for our first Half Ironman triathlon. I’ve been trying to shake a very persistent case of plantar fasciitis, so I’m not in the shape I had hoped I’d be in at the start of the year. Our training program starts in March, so I have 3 months to get my butt in gear! The holidays are over, so no more excuses.

What have you been up to this week?

 

 

 

…and In With the New!

The year 2013 is done, and so my many challenges have come to an end. I’ve updated my 2013 Challenge Index and overall I did pretty well, though some areas definitely could use some improvement. Here’s a quick recap of how I did on my reading challenges:

2013 Goodreads Challenge: 130/75 books read

My previous high (since I started tracking everything I read on Goodreads) was 120 books in 2011. In 2012 I had a pitiful 50 books read. This year, I was glad to get back on track and I blew my conservative estimate out of the water. I think I reached my initial goal of 75 books by July or August! 

Debut Author Challenge: 4/12 books read

Once again, I didn’t read very many debuts. My self-imposed restriction on advance review copies has limited my access to debut author books, and they are harder to find at the library. I also found that I love reading new authors, just not necessarily debut authors.

Seriously Series Challenge: 12/12 series read

My focus for this challenge was to get up to the last book in a series that I had already purchased. I ended up getting quite a few from the library too. I’m happy I finally caught up on the Black Dagger Brotherhood, and I also finally read the entire trilogies of Across the Universe and the Infernal Devices. 

Get Steampunked Challenge: 5/5 books read

I managed to read more than my goal of five books, actually. I read 9! My favorite was the first in a new series combining steampunk and faeries, A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz.

Off the Shelves Challenge: 20/50 books read

I did better than last year, but still not as great as I would have liked. I made copious use of the library this year, and my shelves suffered as a result. I’m doing two challenges on Goodreads this year that focus on whittling down our TBR lists, so hopefully I can exceed this number in 2014.

Graphic Novels Challenge: 6/12 books read

I think I read all 6 of these in January and then promptly ignored my collection after that. I acquired two new graphic novels this year, one of which I’m reading for my YA book club in the spring. It would be nice if I could read another 6 this year.

Back to the Classics Challenge: 2/6 books read

I had so hoped to devote some time to the classics this year, but this was a pretty spectacular fail. I only read one of the required six, and read one alternate. I think in 2014 I’ll consider it a win if I read just one!

TBR Pile Challenge: 6/12 books read

There’s no cheating in this challenge run by Roof Beam Reader. The lists were set even before 2013 began, and I did pretty well. Ultimately, the rest of the list just didn’t appeal to me over the newer, shinier choices as the year progressed. 

Authors After Dark Challenge: 2/8 books read

I thought I would do better in this one this year, given the amount of PNR/UF I read. Turns out I just read a bunch of authors who happened not to be going to AAD. After two years of limping to the finish, I think it’s time to give this challenge a rest.

Literary Exploration Challenge: 33/36 books read

I came so very close to finishing this one, but just ran out of time. The five books I had left included a play and some sonnets – easy and quick reads. But the others I couldn’t quite sneak in. I had a lot of fun challenging myself to read such varied genres, and I struggled with the ones I expected to find more difficult. In many ways, however, it was easier than I expected. I learned that I tend to read in a lot more genres than I thought. This challenge has its own widget and group on Goodreads for easy tracking, and they’re offering it again in 2014 if any of you are interested in giving it a try.

Book to Movie Challenge: 6/6 books read and movies watched

This was the most fun to complete, I think. It helped that there were so many new movies this year based on great books. I saw Beautiful Creatures, The Great Gatsby, Ender’s Game, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and snuck in two oldies: The Princess Bride and One Day. I managed to read Austenland, The Book Thief, and Carrie, but didn’t get a chance to see the movie adaptations. I also haven’t seen City of Bones yet.

Did I miss any biggies? What book to movie adaptations did you see this year?

That’s it for my challenge round-up. Are you doing any challenges this year?

 

 

 

Out With the Old…

It’s the last day of 2013, and I have never been more ready for a new year. 2013 had a lot of ups and downs for me, in so many ways. I am so happy to be perched on the edge of a new beginning.

Ruby over at Ruby’s Reads wrote a post yesterday about her long hiatus from blogging, and it really hit home for me. Life got hectic, I lost interest in a lot of things (including blogging), and when the time between posts kept stretching and stretching, I started to think maybe it was time to let it go.

Last year I started to feel the weight of keeping up with post after post after post, and this year, it was the tech side that got to me. I moved to a new hosting service, and it created a lot of weird characters through almost all of my blog entries. I couldn’t find a solution, and it quickly brought down the high I’d had from moving my entire site over to Bluehost all by myself. My fist pump of victory turned into a sad half-hearted junior high slow dance.

I am determined to move on, however. I’m fixing the problem as I go back to old entries, but I’m not going out of my way to search through hundreds of old posts just to delete out some oddities. It’s almost 2014! Time for a clean slate!

So where have I been? Goodreads, mostly. I’ve become crazy active on that site – joining groups and actively participating in them, doing buddy reads, and entering challenges and competitions that have pushed me to read more than any other year. In fact, I’m trying to wrap this up so I can go back to reading and hopefully knock a few more books off my list.

In 2014, I’ve decided to track all of my book challenges on Goodreads. I set up my own page (group, really) there to keep my lists organized, and I’ve found it much easier to check off my lists there instead of on the blog. I may do a post in the future on the different groups I’ve joined, but in the meantime, if you’re curious, here’s a list of where I’m a member. The Goodreads crowd is a lot of fun, and they are so creative with ways to keep reading fun.

Tomorrow I’ll have a post up summarizing my challenges in 2013, and I’ve updated my widgets and challenge page on the blog. Here’s hoping I can squeeze another one or two in before midnight!

Happy New Year to you all!

Logan signature

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Books On My Fall 2013 TBR List

I love lists, so I’m dipping my toes in the listy fun that is Top Ten Tuesday. This meme is run by The Broke and the Bookish and each week they post a new list for us to complete and share.

Just post your own list, link back to The Broke and the Bookish, and add your link to the linky tool to participate!

Top Ten Books On My Fall 2013 TBR List:

(These aren’t new releases, but books I have promised myself to get through ASAP.)

1. The Book Thief

I borrowed this from a friend over a year ago, and I promised her that while housesitting for her this month I’d finish it.

2. Ender’s Game

A book club pick – just in time for the movie!

3. Storm Front

I told myself I’d read this whole series over the next year, so I better get started.

4. Carrie

I haven’t read a Stephen King book in so long. With Halloween coming up, it’s the perfect time to dive back in.

5. Prodigy

I just finished re-reading Legend, so now I’m ready for the sequel.

6. Glamorous Illusions

Technically, I already started this one. I need to finish it before it’s due back to the library in a couple of weeks.

7. Murder in the Marais

This has been on my TBR for so long, as it combines two of my favorite things: mysteries and Paris. I finally picked it up from the library.

8. Clockwork Princess

I read the first two back-to-back and then forgot to come back to this one. I need to read it before I forget everything that happened.

9. Requiem

After a hundred million years, my library ebook loan finally came through.

10. Coda

This came home with me during birthday book shopping. I can’t wait to finally read it!

What books are you planning to read this fall?

Review: Splintered by A. G. Howard

[book-info]

Alice in Wonderland is one of those tales that is so pervasive you feel like you’ve read it, even if you haven’t. Though I have never read Lewis Carroll’s classic book, I probably watched my old VHS tape of this ridiculously cheesy 1985 TV miniseries about a hundred times. I’ve seen the Disney version and the Johnny Depp version. And I’ve loved them all.

This modern take on Alice’s story imagines our protagonist, Alyssa, as a descendant of the Alice who lived and inspired Carroll’s stories. Along with a similar name, she is in line to inherit the psychological madness that is passed from female descendant to female descendant. Her mother is locked in an asylum, and Alyssa tries very hard to convince herself that she can’t hear the voices starting to appear in her head. She’s a cool skater girl into art and bugs and other Things That Are Dark And Twisty.

The coolest thing about this book is the brilliant display of imagination on the part of author A. G. Howard. I only wish I could think up stuff this vivid and exciting. When Alyssa goes down the rabbit hole, we get a version of Wonderland that is fresh and new without being unfamiliar. Carroll’s characters pop up, but in different forms than you might expect. I don’t want to spoil the fun of discovery, but I will say that the White Rabbit is not just a rabbit – he’s much creepier than that.

If you’re tired of love triangles, consider yourselves warned. Alyssa is into the boy next door, Jeb, and while in Wonderland starts to fall under the spell of the difficult and dark Morpheus. Morpheus acts as a sort of guide and childhood friend of Alyssa’s on the Wonderland side of things, while Jeb is her friend and protector on the reality side. Morpheus is certainly the more interesting and mysterious of the two, but his sketchy motives later in the story made me not like him as much.

If I had one complaint about this book, it’s that those motives, and the plot, got a little confusing toward the end. I had a hard time following what was happening because the history was so rich and complex. The politics of the Red Queen and White Queen and Morpheus’s place in the middle of all of it overwhelmed me, and I’m still not entirely sure I absorbed it all. I kept having to go back and re-read sections to track who supposedly did what and to what end, and what they really meant when they did them, versus what everyone else thought they were doing.

Did you get that? Yeah. Me either.

Fuzzy plot or not, this was a really enjoyable story. I loved seeing such a cool concept from a debut author, too! I picked this one up at the library because I couldn’t find it at the store, and the cover is absolutely stunning. The text is a beautiful dusty purple color. Normally I’m not a fan of colored print in books, but for some reason this really worked for me. If you’re in the market for a beautiful book for your shelf and want to support a debut author with a fantastic story, I recommend this one.

Rating: 4/5 stars

[rating stars=”four-stars”]

Review: The Twelve by Justin Cronin

Book: The Twelve
Author: Justin Cronin
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release date: October 16, 2012
Source: Borrowed from local library
Series: The Passage #2
 
Summary from Goodreads:

At the end of The Passage, the great viral plague had left a small group of survivors clinging to life amidst a world transformed into a nightmare. In the second volume of this epic trilogy, this same group of survivors, led by the mysterious, charismatic Amy, go on the attack, leading an insurrection against the virals: the first offensives of the Second Viral War.

To do this, they must infiltrate a dozen hives, each presided over by one of the original Twelve. Their secret weapon: Alicia, transformed at the end of book one into a half human, half viral but whose side, in the end, is she really on?

I know what you’re thinking. Why would I review the sequel to a book I didn’t like all that much?

Well, the ending to The Passage was exciting enough that I felt The Twelve was worth a try. I wasn’t going to spend money on it, but I’d put a hold on the ebook at the library and see what happened. If it didn’t hook me in the first 50 pages, then I could just accept that this wasn’t the series for me and go on my merry way.

So I put it on hold, and when the hold came through, I started reading.

And it completely hooked me.

THIS was the book I wanted to read when I was promised literary-style vampires. THIS was the book I wanted to read when I was promised post-apocalyptic viral mayhem. THIS was 100 times better than The Passage.

Though we are, frustratingly, introduced to even MORE new characters in this book, at least these characters didn’t stumble around incoherently through 50 pages of backstory for each one of them. We also get to spend the majority of the book with characters we know from the first book, and they get to do way more interesting things. I’m still not a huge fan of the author’s stylistic choices, but the narrative switches bothered me much less in this book.

Justin Cronin is juggling a large timeline (100 years or so), multiple locations separated by hundreds of miles, and an enormous cast of characters. While I found the scope to be somewhat disjointed in book one, here some of the puzzle pieces start to fall into place. He has certainly earned my trust that all of my investment in his world will pay off.

In this book, we slide one generation back in time to see some important lead-ins to the current action, and we also get to see a new side of Year Zero. This time around we actually experience the viral outbreak and its immediate consequences on the population. I absolutely loved seeing the government side of the story and how they tried to balance their resources in the face of a society-ending plague. How would they try to quarantine large sections of the country? Who would they sacrifice for the greater good? What would happen to the world economy and foreign relations? These are the kinds of questions I enjoy exploring in post-apocalyptic fiction, and Cronin finally delivers.

The mysteries and objectives facing the characters were thrilling. I was swept up in the story, and found myself trusting Cronin to lead us to where we needed to be. My familiarity with the main characters put me at ease while reading, but the new challenges they faced had me on edge. Life is bleak in this world, and just when you think you know where things are going they take a right turn into a new surprise. It’s very much an enjoyable ride.

Action-packed mayhem, deepening plot mysteries, and strong characters make this a book well worth a read. If you can slog your way through the first book, The Twelve will reward you in spades. I will absolutely be reading the final book when it releases next year, and it can’t get here soon enough.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Bout of Books 7.0 – Wrap Up

Bout of Books

 
Bout of Books 7.0 is over! I managed to meet all but one of my goals, which is super exciting for me. I am looking forward to returning to a more leisurely pace, however!
 
Time devoted to reading: I read both ways on my commute and before bed every weekday. I even managed to find good chunks of time on the weekend, which is rare for me. I did better on Sunday than Saturday, and still managed to sneak in a trip to the ballet Sunday afternoon.
 
The goals I accomplished:
  • Read five books total
  • Finished the two books I started prior to the readathon
  • Read at least 1,000 pages
  • Updated Twitter at least three times per day – well, I averaged 3/day

Books read:

  • Splintered by A.G. Howard
  • The Twelve by Justin Cronin
  • Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
  • Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter
  • Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter

Total pages read: 1,614

Challenges completed: 0 – ran out of time for these

Thank you Amanda and Kelly and all the challenge hosts for a great Bout of Books 7.0! I had a great time, as always. Looking forward to 8.0!

 

Bout of Books 7.0 – Goals and Updates

Bout of Books

Bout of Books 7.0 is here! I’ll be participating here and on Twitter (@loganturner). For those not in-the-know, here is the official Bout of Books blurb:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 13th and runs through Sunday, May 19th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 7.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog.

-From the Bout of Books 7.0 team

Time devoted to reading: I want to read at least 2 hours every weekday and 3 hours each weekend day.
My goals for participation:
  • Read at least three books
  • Finish the two books I started prior to the readathon
  • Read at least 1,000 pages
  • Update Twitter at least three times per day – well, I averaged 3/day
  • Participate in a few challenges (view the Official Schedule) – ran out of time

Books to read (subject to change):

  • Splintered by A.G. Howard
  • The Twelve by Justin Cronin
  • Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
  • Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter
  • Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter

Updates:

5/13
Number of pages Iâ??ve read today: 185
Total number of pages Iâ??ve read: 185
Books read today: Phoenix Rising (finished) and The Twelve
Today’s tweet: First book down! Now on to that behemoth I keep pretending I’ll finish: THE TWELVE.

5/14
Number of pages Iâ??ve read today: 106
Total number of pages Iâ??ve read: 291
Books read today: The Twelve
Today’s tweet: I’m falling behind on my #boutofbooks tweet goal! I need to get reading and cover 140 pages to make my daily quota. Gulp.

5/15
Number of pages Iâ??ve read today: 178
Total number of pages Iâ??ve read: 469
Books read today: The Twelve
Today’s tweet: Dang! I missed tonight’s chat! FINE. I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO READ. #boutofbooks

5/16
Number of pages Iâ??ve read today: 272
Total number of pages Iâ??ve read: 741
Books read today: The Twelve and Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover
Today’s tweet: 2 books down! Hope to finish one per day from here on out. #boutofbooks

5/17
Number of pages Iâ??ve read today: 235
Total number of pages Iâ??ve read: 976
Books read today: Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover
Today’s tweet: Whee! Done with book three! #boutofbooks

5/18
Number of pages Iâ??ve read today: 128
Total number of pages Iâ??ve read: 1,104
Books read today: Splintered
Today’s tweet: I always overestimate my weekend reading time. #boutofbooks

5/19
Number of pages Iâ??ve read today: 510
Total number of pages Iâ??ve read: 1,614
Books read today: Splintered and Only the Good Spy Young
Today’s tweet: Book 4 done. Can I push it to 5 by midnight? #boutofbooks

Challenges: None this round.

 

Bout of Books 7.0 Sign Up Post

Bout of Books

Bout of Books 7.0 is coming up! Join me here and on Twitter (@loganturner) from May 13-19. For those not in-the-know, here is the official Bout of Books blurb:
 

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 13th and runs through Sunday, May 19th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 7.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. 

-From the Bout of Books 7.0 team

 
Want to join in the fun? Visit the Bout of Books 7.0 sign up page for all the details, create a post, and link up. It’s that easy!
 
C’mon. You know you wanna.
 
 
 
 
 

Weekly Recap (4)

Every Friday I post a recap of books I’ve read, am reading, and plan to read, as well as any other tidbits I feel like sharing. The format was inspired by Small Review’s Recap posts and On a Book Bender and 25 Hour Books’ Clock Rewinders on a Book Binge posts.

Blogging

This week on the blog:

Reading

Finished: 

  • Spider’s Bite (Elemental Assassin #1) by Jennifer Estep
    • I was really enjoying this one until the ending dragged on forever. Plus the writing got irritatingly repetitive. Still a great read, though, and I’ll be continuing with the series. 
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • I’m working myself into a fever pitch over the upcoming movie, y’all. I forgot how great this book is.

Acquiring

Borrowed:

  • Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy (Gallagher Girls #2) by Ally Carter
    • Fun and fluffy. Can’t wait to start.

Watching

  • 42 (The Jackie Robinson Story)
    • This was an incredible story to see on the big screen. I just wish the screenplay had been better.

Listening

  • The video of the National Anthem sung at the Boston Bruins game on Wednesday night gave me chills.

Exercising

  • Back full-force into the running. After almost 5 months off, this is not pretty. I also had a Groupon expiring at the Bikram studio, so I had to squeeze in a couple of classes.
    • Saturday – 2 miles
    • Sunday – 60 minutes on the helliptical
    • Monday – Bikram yoga
    • Tuesday – 4 miles
    • Wednesday – Bikram yoga
    • Thursday – 3 miles

What have you been up to this week?