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. 🙂




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

2012 Speculative Romance 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 Speculative Romance Challenge
Hosts: Book Chick City

Starts: January 1, 2012
Ends: December 31, 2012
Eligible Books: Books (no audiobooks) in speculative romance genres (urban fantasy, steampunk, paranormal, sci-fi, etc.).
Levels: 4 levels of 6, 12, 18, or 24 books. I’m choosing Two Sexy Werewolves: 12 books.
Prizes? None.
Sign up here!

Why I’m Interested:

I noticed that I got into speculative romance last year and I’d like to read some more of it.

Some books I’m considering:

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
River Marked by Patricia Briggs
Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris
Lover Avenged by J. R. Ward

Books completed:

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