…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?

 

 

 

Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Book: Graceling
Author: Kristin Cashore
Publisher: Harcourt Books
Release date: October 1, 2008
Source: Bought
Series: Graceling Realm #1
  
Summary from Goodreads: In a world where people born with an extreme skill called a Grace are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the skill even she despises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him.

When she first meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po’s friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away…a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

Lady killers!

I have this thing with assassin stories. I love them. One of the things that drew me to this book was the promise of a girl with a special power to kill. Sign me up any day for a female main character who can kick some major ass.

The opening scene pulled me in immediately. Katsa is sneaking around in the dark, roundhouse-kicking guards to the ground, and rescuing a prisoner. Soon after, we meet Po, a mysterious boy with a fighting Grace who lets Katsa beat up on him for fun. I instantly loved both of these characters and the world they inhabited.

In Katsa’s country, her Grace is looked down upon. She is frequently shunned or feared, and her uncle, the king, manipulates and uses her to his advantage by sending her off to settle his quarrels. She’s his muscle – a thug he dispatches to get his way.

Po is a Lienid prince from across the sea, whose country doesn’t see Graces as bad things. He challenges and encourages Katsa to get over her shame and embrace her Grace. As they grow closer, Katsa learns the truth about Po’s Grace, and they both have to learn to trust each other in order to successfully reach their goals. I loved the growth of their relationship over the course of the book.

Mawwiage.

I know there have been complaints about Katsa as uber-feminist. I didn’t mind her commitment to stay unmarried, because it felt truthful to her character and experiences. I did feel that this point was beaten over our heads a few too many times, however. I also felt sorry for Katsa, because she had this concept of marriage as a loss of identity that was never reinforced by the world. I wasn’t sure if this was Katsa’s perspective that evolved from her own fears, or whether it was truly the way marriage worked in her society. Did child-free couples exist? Were there women who still had freedom and independence within their marriages, if not in Middlun then in Lienid? It was hard to know whether to root for Katsa and Po to end up together.

Questing!

The plot of the book revolves around the prisoner Katsa rescues in the opening scene – he is Po’s grandfather, and they are trying to figure out why he has been kidnapped. Katsa and Po set off to travel through the country and glean what information they can, and eventually they turn to the southeastern country of Monsea and the strange behavior happening there.

Oh. Questing.

Unfortunately, it was at this point the book lost some of its luster for me. Questing is usually one of my favorite story elements, but here it turned more Harry Potter than Lord of the Rings. First, Katsa and Po tromp through the woods finding information. Then they tromp through woods and mountains getting to Monsea. Then they tromp through more mountains trying to get out of Monsea. Then Katsa crosses the mountains, and a sea, trying to escape and plan her next move. But she doesn’t get to plan her next move, because the plot just comes to her. It felt like a lot of unnecessary walking/riding/sailing that didn’t accomplish much.

This was an enjoyable read, and I definitely recommend it to fantasy readers. I’m anxious to spend more time in the Seven Realms and explore other characters and Graces, so I’ll continue with the trilogy. 

Rating: 3/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

2013 Off the Shelf Challenge

 

This challenge is another do-over for me from last year – the Off the Shelf Challenge, hosted by Bookish Ardour. I’m serious about reading books I already own, thus my participation in a second TBR challenge this year. I need it!

The challenge has seven levels ranging from 5 to 200 books. I’m going to ramp things up from last year and go with the On a Roll level, which is 50 books! Crossovers are welcome in this challenge, as well as ebooks, audiobooks, and graphic novels, so my list will consist of lots of books seen in my other challenges. 

Sign up here!

My list so far:

  1. The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook
  2. Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers
  3. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
  4. Evernight by Claudia Gray
  5. The Luxe by Anna Godbersen
  6. Heist Society by Ally Carter
  7. The Falling Machine by Andrew Mayer
  8. Deception by Lee Nichols
  9. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
  10. Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
  11. Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
  12. The Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffith
  13. My Fair Lazy by Jen Lancaster
  14. Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
  15. Immortal by Gillian Shields
  16. Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris
  17. Native Star by M.K. Hobson
  18. Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
  19. Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr
  20. Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr
  21. Radiant Shadows by Melissa Marr
  22. Darkest Mercy by Melissa Marr
  23. The Ivy by Lauren Kunze and Rina Onur
  24. Secrets by Lauren Kunze and Rina Onur
  25. Rivals by Lauren Kunze and Rina Onur
  26. Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray
  27. Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  28. Hex Hall by Rachel Dawkins
  29. Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston
  30. River Marked by Patricia Briggs
  31. Bloodline by James Rollins
  32. Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund
  33. Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning
  34. Bloodfever by Karen Marie Moning
  35. Faefever by Karen Marie Moning
  36. Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning
  37. Fantasy Lover by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  38. Night Pleasures by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  39. Night Embrace by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  40. Dance with the Devil by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  41. Under Wraps by Hannah Jayne
  42. Under Attack by Hannah Jayne
  43. Havoc by Jeff Sampson
  44. The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
  45. The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade
  46. Masquerade by Melissa de la Cruz
  47. A Breath of Eyre by Eve Marie Mont
  48. Wither by Lauren DeStefano
  49. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
  50. Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

Check my progress all year on the sidebar or on my 2013 Challenge Index.

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. 🙂

 

 

 

2012 Off the Shelf Challenge Sign-Up

**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 Off the Shelf Challenge
Hosts: Bookish Ardour

Starts: January 1, 2012
Ends: December 31, 2012
Eligible Books: Any books owned or acquired prior to 2012.
Levels: 7 levels ranging from 5-200 books. I’m choosing Making a Dint: 30 Books.
Prizes? None.
Sign up here!

Why I’m Interested:

I tried really hard to get through older books last year, and it didn’t work. Because of the blog, I also acquired a lot of new books last year that I’d like to…you know…actually read. So sign me up!

Some books I’m considering:

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
Divergent by Veronica Roth
The Greyfriar by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith
My Fair Lazy by Jen Lancaster

Books completed:

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