Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had incredibly happy holidays and had a great New Year’s Day. I spent the majority of my holidays traveling, so I’m looking forward to some time at home the next few months!

In reflecting over the past blogging year, I took some time today to update my 2012 Challenge Index. Here’s a quick recap of how I did on my reading challenges:

2012 Goodreads Challenge: 50/100 books read

Compared to the 120 books I read in 2011, this is a pitiful number. I’m not sure why I read so many fewer books this year, but I think I simply wasn’t as motivated to power through so many review copies. I focused much more on library books and didn’t pressure myself to read quickly. I’ve adjusted my 2013 challenge to 75 as a “split the difference” strategy between my 2011 and 2012 reading goals.

Debut Author Challenge: 6/12 books read

I read far fewer review books this year. I even had my NetGalley account deactivated and changed my review policy so that I no longer accept advance copies at all. As a result, I read fewer debuts as their availability at the library is more limited than older titles, and I only purchased a couple of them. I probably won’t participate in this challenge anymore.

YA Historical Fiction Challenge: 6/10 books read

This is a favorite genre, so I’m not surprised I got closer to completing this one. I was derailed by finding lots more adult historical fiction this year, which doesn’t count for this particular challenge. I think I’ll try a less narrow genre challenge this year.

Get Steampunked Challenge: 3/15 books read

Yikes! I’m surprised I didn’t get through more of these. I have amassed a large selection of steampunk books this year, so now I need to get to actually reading them. I’ll be signing up for this one again.

Off the Shelves Challenge: 1/30 books read

At least it’s not zero! This was a challenge to read books sitting on my shelves, which did not happen (obviously). Because my book horde is approaching unmanageable proportions, this is a MAJOR goal of mine in 2013 – read the books I already own before I buy (or borrow) old ones. The library is proving to be the toughest competition, because I justify borrowing books because they are free, but doing so does nothing to increase the books read on my shelves. I am definitely doing at least a couple of TBR-oriented challenges this year to get my butt in gear!

Books Started But Not Finished Challenge: 2/6 books read

The idea here was to finish books from my short list of abandoned titles. It did not go well. There’s usually a reason I didn’t finish them, so most of these titles just didn’t appeal to me over shiny new books that might be the best book ever. I’ll give this challenge a miss in the future.

Graphic Novels Challenge: 0/12 books read

Another embarrassing failure. Because my graphic novel collection is precious to me, I don’t really want to take them out of my house. This means I don’t take them on the train, which is where I do most of my reading. Still, I plan to keep the same list and try again with this challenge. I can usually finish a graphic novel in a relatively short amount of time, so I need to pick a gloomy weekend this winter and get through a few at a time. Maybe that should be the primary focus of a read-a-thon?

Why Buy the Cow? Challenge: 0/12 books read

No freebies read this year. I also think I acquired very few (if any) of them. I have plenty of paid-for books to read, and I’m not really interested in glutting my Kindle with more freebies. Unless it’s a title I’ve been itching to read anyway, no thanks. After two years in a row of failing, I won’t be doing this challenge again.

Speculative Romance Challenge: 3/12 books read

This was another one that surprised me. I really thought I would read more than that in this genre. Instead of doing a strict romance genre challenge, I’ll be substituting the Seriously Series challenge, since I have so many UF/PNR series books in my TBR pile.

Dusty Volumes Challenge: 3/6 books read

Finishing half of my list is a definite step up from 2011, so I’m happy with that number. It’s entirely thanks to the Austen in August event hosted by Roof Beam Reader that I even got this far! I don’t think Midnyte Reader is hosting this again (so I’ll probably do her Authors After Dark challenge instead), but I’ll attempt a different classics challenge, since I have a good list in mind that I want to finish this year. 

Outlander Reading Challenge: 1/6 books read

This didn’t turn out to be a big priority for me, so it fell to the back of the pack. I know I’ll get to the rest of these eventually, but I don’t need a challenge to do so.

1st in a Series Challenge: 9/12 books read

I did the best in this challenge, partly because I like starting series, and partly because it’s hard to find books these days that aren’t part of a series.

Finishing the Series Challenge: 1/3 series finished

I guess I got too distracted by new series to finish the ones I’ve already started!


Now, on to 2013!

In the coming weeks I’ll be posting challenge sign-ups and getting my 2013 index ready. It felt really good to update links and do, well, anything, blog-related. Maybe this year I can get around to posting my challenge progress bar widgets to help keep me on track. 🙂

 

 

 

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Review: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Book: The Name of the Wind
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Publisher: DAW Books
Release date: March 27, 2007
Source: Bought ebook
Series: The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day 1

Summary from Goodreads: Told in Kvothe’s own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen.The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature. A high-action story written with a poet’s hand, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that will transport readers into the body and mind of a wizard.

First impressions: I’m not generally an epic fantasy fan, but after hearing everyone and their mother rave about this book, I had to try it. I’m so glad I did! The first few chapters had just enough mystery to suck me in, and once the story-within-a-story kicked in, there was no turning back.

Lasting impressions: Parts of this book were so beautiful I could hardly breathe, but there were times I wanted the pace to pick up a bit. You have to commit for the long haul with this one.

Conflicting impressions: The story Kvothe tells is meant to span three days, and this novel is the first of those. At times, because of the length of this tale, I felt the story lost its focus. I got swept up in the adventures Kvothe undertook, but occasionally got impatient wondering where this was all headed.

Overall impressions: There can be zero doubt that Patrick Rothfuss is a masterful storyteller. His patience and attention to detail, combined with a clear love of words and the beauty they can create, make it obvious that storytelling runs in his blood.

It should be no surprise to see a family of storytellers at the heart of this book. Kvothe is the son of a traveling band of performers, and learns most of life’s major lessons from plays, literature, and stories. As he grows up, and suffers a devastating series of losses, he vows to research the history of his world’s most dangerous stories – those surrounding the mysterious and deadly Chandrian.

Rothfuss juggles between Kvothe’s present and past, with the past related to the reader by Kvothe himself as he recounts his journey to a transcriber known as Chronicler. In the present, Kvothe is a man of many secrets, and the action is nailbitingly tense. I was desperate to know how this man’s life had shaped him into the innkeeper so many refer to as a “king killer.” Meanwhile, as we listen to the incredible tales from his childhood, I rooted for this boy of poverty and heartache to find his way in the world and realize his strengths.

Kvothe has remarkable abilities – his intelligence is quick and sharp, he can make music that causes even the most hardhearted men to weep – and at times he has an ego to match. He’s grounded by his extreme poverty and a hard life, however, and as often as his mouth gets him into trouble, he usually has the sneaky grace to get himself out of it. As he starts to learn magic, make friends, and fall in love, we get the pleasure of seeing how the smallest of stories can create a hero. Intentions do not generally find a way into history books, and though Kvothe may have reasons or circumstances that affect his actions, the stories quickly become larger than life. Actions speak louder than words, remember?

This is a dense book that took me nearly two weeks to finish, but it was absolutely worth it. Rothfuss has a gift for words, and he can spin them into scenery that fills the mind. Rarely have I felt so transported into the world of a book. Though the story is long, it is certainly not boring. I had the feeling that I was simply experiencing one part of a long journey, that would come to a full and satisfying resolution by the end of the trilogy. That doesn’t mean there was not a definite conclusion to this part, which had a great ending of its own. Instead, I was being prepared for an epic tale that required the patience of a good setup to give me the payoff of a glorious ending.

Well, if this book is any indication, that ending is going to be magnificent. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

2012 First in the Series Challenge

**I’ve swiped Small Review‘s format for these sign-up posts, because she is awesome and organized and I am lazy and harried**

Challenge Basics:

Name: 2012 First in a Series Challenge
Hosts: A Few More Pages

Starts: January 1, 2012
Ends: December 31, 2012
Eligible Books: Any books read and reviewed in 2012 that are the start of a series.
Levels: Four. I’m choosing the Series Expert level: 12 series.
Prizes? None.
Sign up here!

Why I’m Interested:

During the course of last year, I started quite a few new series. Since there are always new series coming out in YA fiction, and I still have a few I’d like to start, this challenge seemed appropriate.

Some books I’m considering:

Halfway to the Grave
Divergent
The Ivy
Personal Demons

Books completed:

Check my progress all year on the sidebar or on my 2012 Challenge Index.

Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Book: Soulless
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Orbit
Release date: October 1, 2009
Source: Bought ebook from Amazon
Series: Parasol Protectorate #1

Summary from Goodreads: Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampireâ??and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.

First impressions: One of the first things I loved about this book was Alexia’s voice. She’s a stickler for etiquette, and her commentary on the manners of others, even in the most ridiculous of circumstances, is hilarious.

Lasting impressions: What a refreshing take on the paranormal and steampunk genres! I loved the mash-up of steam and clockwork technology with werewolves and vampires in Victorian society.

Conflicting impressions: The first third of the book moved pretty slowly. It wasn’t until the last third that I got truly hooked on the story.

Overall impressions: I’ve been meaning to read this book for a long time, and I’m happy that I finally did. Although this is a steampunk novel, it’s really more along the lines of “steampunk light.” I think if I had read this a few years ago, when it first popped up on my radar, I would have had a much different idea of what constituted steampunk. There are some elements of steampunk to the story, but it’s not nearly as integral to the story as, say, Leviathan. I definitely recommend this one for folks looking to ease in to the steampunk genre.

The paranormal elements are what make this book really shine. In Alexia’s world, vampires and werewolves are a part of society, even if they still inspire some trepidation and fear. They pose no threat to Alexia, however, as she has no soul. As a preternatural, her touch returns supernatural beings to their human state – vampires lose their fangs, werewolves shift back. Alexia’s abilities are known to select members of society, but she works to keep it away from friends and family.

Alexia is strong, stubborn, willful, and of course, proper. Yet her Italian heritage, abrasive (for the time) personality, and advancing age (I think she’s 27) have resigned her to life as a spinster. If I have one complaint about the book, it’s the incessant beating to the head we take on these three facets of Alexia’s life. On almost every page, and certainly in every scene, we are reminded that Alexia is old, Italian, and not suitable as a mate. She constantly refers to herself as a spinster. Later in the book there are hints that this has been drilled into her by her family, but through most of the story it is simply presented as fact so I never felt bad for her. Since these descriptors didn’t serve to elicit empathy, they just became annoying.

Lord Maccon is the best sort of love interest. He’s a dashing alpha male who still respects and appreciates Alexia. He can be condescending and brusque, but all in good fun as he matches wits with the equally snappish Alexia. The verbal sparring between these two is lots of fun to witness, and were some of my favorite parts of the book.

The mystery and plot were not nearly as exciting as the characters and world, so the story seemed to drag at points. Still, the ending sets up a new chapter in Alexia’s life that holds lots of promise and I’m eager to start the next book.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system