…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?

 

 

 

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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.

2013 TBR Pile Challenge Master List

This year I’m taking my growing TBR pile seriously, and must get through some of them to clear room for new ones. My husband has decreed that no new books can come into the house until I get rid of some old ones. This challenge should help me along the way!

This challenge, hosted by Roof Beam Reader, asks us to read 12 books that have been on our shelves for a year or longer (no publication dates before 1/1/12!). Sign-ups close 1/5/13, so if you want to participate, get your list together ASAP! Adam hosts great giveaways, and this challenge is no different. Click the button above to find out all the details. 

My master list for this challenge:

  1. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (2010)
  2. The Ivy by Lauren Kunze (2010)
  3. My Fair Lazy by Jen Lancaster (2010)
  4. Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning (2006)
  5. Graceling by Kristin Cashore (2008)
  6. The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima (2009)
  7. Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr (2008)
  8. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (2007)
  9. Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber (2011)
  10. If I Stay by Gayle Forman (2010)
  11. Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund (2010)
  12. Across the Universe by Beth Revis (2011)

Alternates:

  1. Masquerade by Melissa de la Cruz (2007)
  2. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (2010)

 

 

 

TBR 911!

Dude.

After 7 months of blogging, I finally reached meltdown mode with the pile of books taking over my living room. What once used to be a few precious winnings, gradually became boxes and piles of books won, gifted, bought (damn you Borders closing sales! *shakes fist*), or received for review. I began to fear for my sanity, as well as my marriage.

Bless his heart, the hubs hasn’t mentioned the three piles of books sitting on the floor. Or the pile on the shelf. Or the mail that brings bookish things with increasing regularity. I just had a feeling it was coming.

The talk.

“Listen, honey. I know you love blogging and all, but I thought the Kindle was supposed to reduce the number of books we had laying around.”

In an effort to avoid that little conversation starter, I went on a frenzy this weekend. I organized the books into a “keep” pile and a “don’t need to keep” pile. The “keep” books went on a special shelf in the living room to be gazed at adoringly.

And, erm…the “don’t need to keep” pile? It’s, um, *whispers* it’s still on the floor.

When all was said and done, I counted 67 books that I have acquired over the last seven months. It easily needs its own bookshelf. The pile is cuh-razy. And it doesn’t even include ebooks! I did buy a Kindle to avoid massive piles of books. Blogging has changed that.

Now I crave real books. I want to look at the covers and feel the pages. The only problem is that it takes me forever to read them because I only take my Kindle on my commute, and that’s when I get the most reading done. What’s a girl to do?

I feel a little bit better now that it’s organized, but it still feels overwhelming. I thought about putting myself on a book buying ban, but I know I wouldn’t follow it, so what’s the point? I’m not sure the best way to handle this going forward. Stay organized? Buy a new blogging-only bookcase? Never enter another contest again? (HA!)

Do you have unmanageable book/review piles? How do you handle them? Hit me with your best advice, because I need it!


Amazingly beautiful and painstakingly crafted signature courtesy of Small Review

In My Mailbox (2)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme devoted to sharing the new books we’ve received, borrowed, or bought. For more information, visit IMM’s fantastic host, The Story Siren. You can visit other blogs that are participating in this week’s IMM here.

Clicking on the book covers will take you to Amazon.com to pre-order or order these titles.

E-galleys for review:

Cinderella: Ninja Warrior by Maureen McGowan

Part of the Twisted Tales series, this book is a choose-your-own-adventure retelling of the Cinderella story, with a magical ninja twist. My review will be up within the next few weeks.

The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

Summary (from Amazon.com): Itâ??s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunsetâ??visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his ownâ??still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him. When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Ameliaâ??s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if sheâ??s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

Bought:

The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher

The Kindle version of this title is on sale right now for $2.39. Of course it is, since I already bought my copy for $9.99. Sigh.

Summary (from Amazon.com): Would you risk everything for someone you just met? What if he had a secret worth killing for?

Welcome to a future where water is more precious than oil or gold…

Hundreds of millions of people have already died, and millions more will soon fallâ??victims of disease, hunger, and dehydration. It is a time of drought and war. The rivers have dried up, the polar caps have melted, and drinkable water is now in the hands of the powerful few. There are fines for wasting it and prison sentences for exceeding the quotas.

But Kai didnâ??t seem to care about any of this. He stood in the open road drinking water from a plastic cup, then spilled the remaining drops into the dirt. He didnâ??t go to school, and he traveled with armed guards. Kai claimed he knew a secretâ??something the government is keeping from us…

And then he was gone. Vanished in the middle of the night. Was he kidnapped? Did he flee? Is he alive or dead? There are no clues, only questions. And no one can guess the lengths to which they will go to keep him silent. We have to find himâ??and the truthâ??before it is too late for all of us.

Won:

XVI by Julia Karr

Summary (from Amazon.com): Nina Oberon’s life is pretty normal: she hangs out with her best friend, Sandy, and their crew, goes to school, plays with her little sister, Dee. But Nina is 15. And like all girls she’ll receive a Governing Council-ordered tattoo on her 16th birthday. XVI. Those three letters will be branded on her wrist, announcing to all the world – even the most predatory of men – that she is ready for sex. Considered easy prey by some, portrayed by the Media as sluts who ask for attacks, becoming a “sex-teen” is Nina’s worst fear. That is, until right before her birthday, when Nina’s mom is brutally attacked. With her dying breaths, she reveals to Nina a shocking truth about her past – one that destroys everything Nina thought she knew. Now, alone but for her sister, Nina must try to discover who she really is, all the while staying one step ahead of her mother’s killer.

From the library:

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Summary (from Goodreads): the cold. Grace has spent years watching the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolfâ??her wolfâ??watches back. He feels deeply familiar to her, but she doesn’t know why.

the heat.
Sam has lived two lives. As a wolf, he keeps the silent company of the girl he loves. And then, for a short time each year, he is human, never daring to talk to Grace…until now.

the shiver.
For Grace and Sam, love has always been kept at a distance. But once it’s spoken, it cannot be denied. Sam must fight to stay humanâ??and Grace must fight to keep himâ??even if it means taking on the scars of the past, the fragility of the present, and the impossibility of the future.

The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

Summary (from Amazon.com): Mattie, an intelligent automaton skilled in the use of alchemy, finds herself caught in the middle of a conflict between gargoyles, the Mechanics, and the Alchemists. With the old order quickly giving way to the new, Mattie discovers powerful and dangerous secrets – secrets that can completely alter the balance of power in the city of Ayona. This doesn’t sit well with Loharri, the Mechanic who created Mattie and still has the key to her heart – literally.

In My Mailbox (1)

My first meme!  I’m so excited!  In My Mailbox is devoted to sharing the new books we’ve received/borrowed/bought this week.  For more information on this weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren, click here.  This is the last IMM of 2010, so I’m lucky to get in under the wire.  You can visit other blogs that are participating in this week’s IMM here.

Clicking on the book covers will take you to Amazon.com to pre-order these titles.

I’m particularly excited this week because the three books I have to report are my first ARCs from netgalley.com.  My first commissioned reviews!

First up is Unearthly by Cynthia Hand.  Here’s the synopsis from Amazon.com:

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she’s part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn’t easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into placeâ??and out of place at the same time. Because there’s another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara’s less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she’d have to makeâ??between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.

It sounds like a great paranormal romance love triangle read.  Definitely my kind of thing!  This book is being released January 4, 2011, so it is first on my list to be reviewed.

Second is Delirium by Lauren Oliver.  Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didnâ??t understand that once love -the deliria- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when sheâ??ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

A world without love?  Sounds pretty awful to me, which is why this book seems so fascinating.  This title is being released on February 1, 2011.

Last, but not least, I also received a copy of Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton. Here’s the synopsis from Amazon.com:

First there are nightmares.

Every night Ellie is haunted by terrifying dreams of monstrous creatures that are hunting her, killing her.

Then come the memories.

When Ellie meets Will, she feels on the verge of remembering something just beyond her grasp. His attention is intense and romantic, and Ellie feels like her soul has known him for centuries. On her seventeenth birthday, on a dark street at midnight, Will awakens Ellie’s power, and she knows that she can fight the creatures that stalk her in the grim darkness. Only Will holds the key to Ellie’s memories, whole lifetimes of them, and when she looks at him, she can no longer pretend anything was just a dream.

Now she must hunt.

Ellie has power that no one can match, and her role is to hunt and kill the reapers that prey on human souls. But in order to survive the dangerous and ancient battle of the angels and the Fallen, she must also hunt for the secrets of her past lives and truths that may be too frightening to remember.

I have to admit, I love strong female characters that are capable of hunting and fighting for themselves.  This book seems really intriguing and exciting and I can’t wait to read it. This title releases on February 15, 2011.

Happy reading!