Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 2012 Wrap-Up

Here's a summary of my book-related activity for July 2012. It's, uh, really long. Very bad month for Operation: TBR Reduction; very good month for my R.L. Stine collection!

Books I read (linked to the reviews)

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (TBR pile)
Xoc by Matt Dembicki (NetGalley)
The Wish List by Eoin Colfer (TBR pile)
Auraria by Tim Westover (NetGalley)
The Tale of the Body Thief by Anne Rice (re-read [but this time in audio!]) (not quite done, but I'll finish it on the long weekend for sure)

Books I bought

The Cat From Outer Space
by Ted Key

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 8 Volume 7: Twilight
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 8 Volume 8:
Last Gleaming

Full Moon Halloween
(The Nightmare Room #10)
by R.L. Stine

Fear the Fantastic
(Everworld #6) by
K.A. Applegate
Full Moon Fever (Goosebumps
Series 2000 #22) by R.L. Stine
Spike: After the Fall
Jerks-in-Training (Space
Cadets #1) by R.L. Stine
Daughters of the Moon, Sisters of the
Sun: Young Women and Mentors
on the Transition to Womanhood

Mrs. Jeepers in Outer Space
by Debbie Dadey
Dune: House Harkonnen
by Brian Herbert and
Kevin J. Anderson
Secret Admirer (Fear
Street #36) by R.L. Stine

Sandworms of Dune by
Brian Herbert and
Kevin J. Anderson
Midnight Games (Fear Street
Nights #2) by R.L. Stine
All Night Party (Fear
Street #43) by R.L. Stine

Darkest Dawn (Fear Street
Nights #3) by R.L. Stine
The Good, the Bad, and the
Very Slimy (Rotten School #3)
by R.L. Stine
Heads, You Lose! (Goosebumps
Horrorland #15) by R.L. Stine

Nightmare House: Time for Terror
by R.L. Stine
Haunted Lighthouse by
R.L. Stine
House of a Thousand Scream
(Ghosts of Fear Street #17)
by R.L. Stine

Books I've been approved for on NetGalley

The Blueprint: Averting
Global Collapse by
Daniel Rirdan
The Infects by Sean Beaudoin
What I Didn't Say by Keary Taylor

A Tale of Two Daddies
by Vanita Oelschlager
A Tale of Two Mommies
by Vanita Oelschlager

Books I received as gifts

Organic Weddings: Balancing Ecology,
Style, and Tradition by
Michelle Kozin

Books I won in giveaways

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

Books my honey lovingly bought me, because he knows me so well

The Fate of the Dwarves (The Dwarves #4)
by Markus Heitz
(OMG it's finally here!!!)

Progress on challenges

The Mists of Avalon was my July book for the Read Your OWN Library! Challenge.

The Wish List was my July Random Read.

I completed the following letters for the 2012 A-Z Book Challenge: X

I read 2 books for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge.

I read 1 book for the 2012 Anne Rice Challenge. You can still sign up!

Operation: TBR Reduction: I added 29 (!) books to my to read list and removed 9 (the number of books I read, plus FIVE that I managed to give away off my TBR pile! Booyakasha!), so my pile increased by 20 this month. Once I realised it was hopeless, I just sort of gave in and bought more books than I normally would! Also, my partner and I did a bit of used book store hopping, and I found a couple of gold mines, so all thoughts of challenges flew out the window!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Getting sorted on Pottermore

I actually signed up for Pottermore quite a while ago, I think right around when it opened up to the public. My plan was to play with it a bit, write a review of it, and then play with it some more. Instead, I obsessed over it for several hours straight to get to the house sorting (because OMG I needed to know!), then forgot to write a review, and also forgot to go back on Pottermore for a while.

But now, I'm back to playing with Pottermore, and it's time to tell you about it! That is, assuming there are still Harry Potter fans who have not yet jumped at the chance to be sorted and read new content from J.K. Rowling.

So, this is how my initial experience with Pottermore went. Up until the sorting, you basically follow Harry's story. Along the way, you can click on various things in the scenes to unlock explanations, as well as new content. The new content is what makes Pottermore amazing. You get to learn more about Lily and Petunia's childhood, how Petunia and Vernon met, and much more. It's enough to make anyone starved for more Potter squee with joy.

After a couple hours of this (I was very thorough, so it took me a while to move through the story), I finally got to the sorting. Finally! The moment I've been waiting for since the first time I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, over a decade ago! It was time for me to take my rightful place in Ravenclaw!

I was so sure, you see, that I would be in Ravenclaw. I've always been studious, curious, a lover of books and learning, and not really all that courageous (Gryffindor never really spoke to me).

To be sorted on Pottermore, you answer a series of questions that are supposed to determine which house you're best suited for. They're not like a lot of online quizzes, that you can easily fix the outcome of. Some of the questions are quite subtle. But I was still sure, as I answered some of the questions, that surely I was picking the Ravenclaw ones (not that I tried to affect the outcome or anything, I just felt that my choices were Ravenclaw-like).

Then I got the result.

I'm not in Ravenclaw.

I'm in Slytherin.

You've never seen such drama as I demonstrated upon receiving this news. There was much wailing, and "woe is me"ing, and "how could this happen to me"ing. It was all very emotional.

After I had a chance to calm down, I read on. I read the letter from the house prefect. She told me all about Slytherin, and how misunderstood the house is, and how Merlin himself was a Slytherin. I read all about how Slytherins care about the traditions and honour of their house, and how we always stick up for each other. And seriously, have you seen their common room? So nice!

Suddenly, I didn't feel so bad about being a Slytherin. I think it's time to take pride in my new house. (Which, by the way, is currently winning in terms of house points.) It's time to knit some green and silver scarves.

If you're on Pottermore, add me as a friend! I'm GlowLumos7036.

Monday, July 23, 2012

High Summer Read-a-Thon Wrap-Up

The read-a-thon is over! I had an awesome weekend of reading, and so ended up actually exceeding my read-a-thon goals! :) I not only finished The Mists of Avalon and read The Wish List, but I also read a little graphic novel called Xoc, and read the first 27 pages of Auraria.

Here are my totals for the week:
Pages read: 757
Books finished: 3

I call that a successful read-a-thon! And I don't have to wait long for another reading challenge to keep me on my toes, because the August 2012 Review Copy Cleanup starts in just over a week, on August 1.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Animorphs #2 - The Visitor by K.A. Applegate

Title: The Visitor (Animorphs #2)
Author: K.A. Applegate
Publication Date: June 1996
Length: 175 pages

The second book in the Animorphs series is told from the point of view of Rachel (who I think I preferred seeing from Jake's point of view over being in her head). It centres around the Animorphs trying to get more information from the vice principal (who's a Controller [someone who's being controlled by a Yeerk]), mostly by Rachel morphing into his pet cat and following him around his house.

I didn't like this one as much as the first one, simply because it didn't feel like it had a full plot. It was enjoyable enough to read, but there wasn't really a story arc. It was just stuff happening, in between other books in the series. There's a run-in with Visser Three, which I guess is the climax of the story. It just didn't have the same suspense leading up to a big battle as the first book.

3 stars.

This book counts towards the Read Your OWN Library! Challenge (hosted by The Beauty of Eclecticism) for June. For July, my book for the challenge will be The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. This book also counts for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge.

Friday, July 20, 2012

High Summer Read-a-Thon Update 2

We're just over four days into the High Summer Read-a-Thon, and I've made some really good progress since my last update. I've been reading like crazy!

In the first two days, I read 84 pages of The Mists of Avalon, and in the two days since, I've read another 153 pages, bringing me to a total so far of 237 pages read! Not too shabby! That means I only have 119 pages left, so it's definitely possible that I'll finish The Mists of Avalon AND read The Wish List before this read-a-thon is done. Whether I reach that goal or not, I already consider this read-a-thon to be a success!

Oh, and there's another Twitter chat tonight, which I will hopefully participate in. (At the last one, I was on the bus home from work during part of it, and ended up missing the whole thing because I got distracted on the way home and bought a book and a Slurpee.) Tonight's Twitter chat is from 8 to 9 pm central time, and I'll be tweeting as @TheToweringPile.

Happy reading, read-a-thoners!

Final Crossing by Carter Wilson

Title: Final Crossing
Author: Carter Wilson
Publication Date: June 1, 2012
Length: 320 pages

This book is a thriller, which is not my usual reading material, but for whatever reason it caught my eye on NetGalley, and I decided to give it a shot. I'm glad I did! Final Crossing tells the story of a killer named Rudiger, who believes that he's being instructed on who to kill by God. It's also the story of an ex-army guy named Jonas who now works for a senator, and gets caught up in the case when he discovers that he has a connection to Rudiger (oh, and he's told about this by a psychic criminologist).

It's really disturbing. People get crucified. Also, I find murderers who believe their killing is the will of God to be particularly terrifying. Rudiger is totally convinced that what he's doing is right. He has a gift for finding anagrams of words, so he reads signs, newspaper headlines, etc., and sees the letters mixed up to spell messages from God about who he should kill. Creepy.

I really enjoyed this story. I definitely felt the suspense! (Actually, I felt it a bit too much: My NetGalley file expired in the middle of the climax so my Kobo locked me out! Luckily, the book was still up on NetGalley, so I was able to download it again to finish it. Thank goodness!) I never felt like I knew what was going to happen, and it was hard to put down through most of the book!

5 stars, for leaving me pleasantly surprised, and also for freaking me out.

This book counts for the 2012 A-Z Book Challenge.

Full disclosure: Free e-book copy received from the publisher through NetGalley.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Animorphs #1 - The Invasion by K.A. Applegate

Title: The Invasion (Animorphs #1)
Author: K.A. Applegate
Publication Date: June 1996
Length: 192 pages

In the first book of the Animorphs series, an alien ship lands in an abandoned construction site, and is discovered by five kids. Out of the ship comes an Andalite prince named Elfangor (kind of a part horse, part human, part scorpion), and he gives the kids the power to morph into other animals, which they are to use in their fight against the Yeerks (slug-like aliens that take over people's bodies).

This was a reread, but I haven't read it since probably elementary school. I was a little worried that it wouldn't age well, and that I would roll my eyes a lot while reading it. Well, I did roll my eyes a few times, when K.A. Applegate not-quite-successfully tried to sound like a preteen boy, but overall, I really enjoyed it.

One thing that totally blew my mind (spoiler alert here!):

Tobias gets stuck as a hawk in the first book?! Why did I think that happened like way later in the series? Crazy. I guess I didn't really read much of the series as a kid (just books 1 and 5 and all the Chronicles and Alternamorphs) (though I did also watch the show), so I don't really have a good overall picture of how the story goes.

4 stars. I'm looking forward to reading the whole series! (Very few of which I actually read as a child.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

High Summer Read-a-Thon Update 1

We're just over two days into the High Summer Read-a-Thon, and I've been reading I think a bit more than usual, but not quite at read-a-thon levels.

So far, I've read 84 pages of The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, bringing me up to page 604 of 876. So at this point I'm not quite on track to reach my goals this week. However, this evening I'm going to be home alone for most of the evening, because I don't have anywhere I need to be and Jonathon is going out to a movie. So that means I finally have an evening of just sitting back and reading without any interruptions! I'm quite looking forward to that, and hope to get a good chunk of this book done.

Also, I'll be around for part of tonight's Twitter chat, which runs from 4 to 5 pm central time. Part of that time is when I'm travelling home from work, but that doesn't take long, so I'll mostly be tweeting! (In case you're not already following me on Twitter, I'm @TheToweringPile.)

Happy reading, read-a-thoners!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My TBR shelf by pages - 6 months later

You may recall that 6 months ago, I sorted my to read shelf on Goodreads by number of pages, and counted how many books I had of various lengths. The results were encouraging. I discovered that the majority of my books are under 300 pages long, which makes me feel better about eventually getting through my mountain of books. Then I resolved to read my three longest books in 2012, and at least that many each year after. (Spoiler: I have not yet reached that goal.)

So let's see how the numbers have changed in the last half a year!

The numbers as of January 17, 2012:
>1000 pages: 4 books
>900 pages: 6
>800 pages: 12
>700 pages: 19
>600 pages: 30
>500 pages: 57
>400 pages: 105
>300 pages: 178

<300 pages: 470
Total: 648

The numbers as of July 17, 2012:
>1000 pages: 4 books
>900 pages: 6
>800 pages: 11
>700 pages: 20
>600 pages: 33
>500 pages: 58
>400 pages: 109
>300 pages: 188

<300 pages: 513
Total:  701

Erm, not very impressive. My number of "long" books (over 300 pages) has gone up by 10, but at least it went up only with books under 800 pages long. My number of short books has also gone up, by 43. That would probably be the fault of the R.L. Stine books... My TBR shelf has gone up by a total of 53 books in the last 6 months.

As for my three longest books, I haven't read any of them yet. However, one of them is the next book on my Anne Rice list, so I should be reading it soon. And I'm currently reading my 7th longest book, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. So in another 6 months, I'm confident that these numbers will be looking a little more impressive! Good thing I just started a read-a-thon!

Monday, July 16, 2012

High Summer Read-a-Thon Starting Line

It's Monday morning, and time to begin the High Summer Read-a-Thon! I'm reading this week in Winnipeg, Manitoba, primarily in my apartment, my office (on my lunch breaks), and on the bus to and from work. Maybe by the poolside, too. :)

My goals for the read-a-thon are as follows:
1) Finish The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (as of the start of the read-a-thon, I'm on page 520 out of 876)
2) Read The Wish List by Eoin Colfer

If I can finish those two books, I'll be done my challenge books for the month, and can then get a head start on my review copies for the August 2012 Review Copy Cleanup.

Update posts will go up on (probably) the 18th, 20th, and 23rd, but in between updates I'll be on my Facebook page and Twitter.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Offbeat Bride by Ariel Meadow Stallings

Title: Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides
Author: Ariel Meadow Stallings
Publication Date: 2007 (the first edition)
Length: 240 pages

This is the book that started the (amazing) website, http://offbeatbride.com//. It is basically a memoir of the author's process in planning her own offbeat wedding. I read this book because I, too, am planning an offbeat wedding. (By offbeat, I mean it's Pagan, I'm wearing a black dress, and there are some elements of Star Trek involved.)

I enjoyed reading this book, and getting inspiration from it. The thing is, I'd already found the website when I read this book, so I already had huge piles of inspiration at my fingertips (seriously, brides-(and grooms-)to-be, check out that website). So while it was fun to read about Ariel's wedding planning experiences, it really was just a memoir. It's not a how-to book, or anything like that, as I expected it to be.

So, 3 stars. But the website gets a lot of stars.
This book counts for the 2012 A-Z Book Challenge.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Mummy by Anne Rice

Title: The Mummy or Ramses the Damned
Author: Anne Rice
Publication Date:
Length: 416 pages

Anne Rice's tale of The Mummy is very different from any other version I've seen. Nowhere in this book will you find a dead body, raised by a curse, walking slowly and clumsily towards people who scream, rather that simply walking quickly away. Instead, Ramses the Damned is a charming, sexy man, who took an elixir that made him immortal. After having himself wrapped like a mummy and sleeping in a burial chamber for several thousand years, he awakens when exposed to the sun by an English Egyptologist.

I'd almost describe The Mummy as a romance novel rather than the horror story I expected. It's a love story between Julie Stratford (the daughter of the Egyptologist) and Ramses, and between Ramses and his long-dead love, Cleopatra. Oh Ramses, such a ladies' man.

Of course, this story also examines the idea of immortality, which I always enjoy. In this case, immortality is especially terrifying, as it's not the you-could-die-in-a-fire-or-the-light-of-the-sun kind of immortality, or the you'll-live-forever-as-long-as-you-keep-drinking-this kind. It's the kind where you could sink to the bottom of the ocean and have no choice but to just keep on living. Theoretically, the sun could explode, and bits of your body could just float through space forever, still feeling. *shudders* Anywho.

4 stars. A good Anne Rice novel.

This book counts towards the Read Your OWN Library! Challenge (hosted by The Beauty of Eclecticism) for May (again, a little delayed in posting). For June, my book for the challenge will be The Visitor (Animorphs #2) by K.A. Applegate. This book also counts for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge and the 2012 Anne Rice Challenge.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

WWW Wednesday - July 11

WWW Wednesdays is a meme hosted by Should Be Reading. To participate, simply answer these questions three:

1. What are you currently reading?
2. What did you recently finish reading?
3. What do you think you'll read next?

1. I am currently reading The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

2. I recently read The Marrying Kind by Ken O'Neill.

3. Books I'm planning to read soon include The Wish List by Eoin Colfer and The Encounter (Animorphs #3) by K.A. Applegate.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Running in Bed by Jeffrey Sharlach

Title: Running in Bed
Author: Jeffrey Sharlach
Publication Date: May 5, 2012
Length: 291 pages

Running in Bed tells the story of a gay man living in New York City in the 70s. This was definitely a promising premise, as that was a setting in which the gay pride movement was really gaining momentum, but HIV/AIDS was also appearing. The story follows Josh, a successful young advertising exec, as he comes to accept himself as a gay man, and tries to find his Prince Charming. He becomes rather obsessed (in quite an unhealthy way, I think) with a guy named Tommy, seemingly just from seeing him once at the beach.

What I liked: Seeing the major events in the gay community unfold from the point of view of someone who was living through them, and therefore not realising how historically significant they would be, was really interesting. I learned a lot about the history of AIDS (like that it was originally known as GRID: Gay Related Immune Deficiency. Can you imagine?).

What I didn't care for: The book reads like a diary. There were major events in the story, and in between were long stretches of Josh going out to the bar, Josh pining over Tommy and wishing Tommy would call (also an element I didn't care for), Josh hanging out at Fire Island, and in general just Josh going about his daily life. So, it was a bit slow. And I spent a lot of time wishing that Josh would find a guy who was nice and would actually give a rat's butt about him.

3 stars.

Full disclosure: Free e-book copy received from the publisher through NetGalley.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The High Summer Read-a-Thon

Michelle from The True Book Addict has created a new blog just for her seasonal read-a-thons, called Seasons of Reading. The first thing she did on this blog was announce the upcoming High Summer Read-a-Thon, which will be July 16 to 22.

I've got quite a pile of reading I'm hoping to get through this month, so this is coming at a perfect time for me. It'll be one week in which I really push myself to spend extra time reading instead of on my excessive number of other hobbies. :)

Will you join me?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Jesus on Mars by Philip José Farmer

Title: Jesus on Mars
Author: Philip José Farmer
Publication Date: 1979
Length: 256

A group of astronauts goes on a trip to Mars to investigate what appears to be an abandoned alien spaceship. They're captured and brought underground, where they find a society of humans and aliens called Krsh (yeah, I have no idea how to pronounce that), who seem to be practicing Orthodox Judaism, but accept Jesus as their Messiah. However, they believe that Jesus is a man, not the son of God, oh and by the way he lives in a big orb that is like an underground sun.

A lot of the story centres around the astronauts trying to decide if the man is really Jesus or not. The reader is also led in various directions on this, so I definitely found myself flip flopping a lot! Sometimes he seemed pretty genuine, but then he'd come out with this crazy plan to take over Earth (but in a friendly way?) and suddenly the egomaniacal alien theory would be looking pretty good again.

I liked how the author tried to be pretty progressive for his time. While some offensive sentiments are still expressed, the main character is black, and one of the other astronauts is a feminist. She's also an atheist, and another character is a Muslim. I guess this was probably done to show diverse viewpoints, and it was effective, making the whole story a sort of philosophical debate.

3 stars. A neat idea, but I was bored at times as it sort of dragged on.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

August 2012 Review Copy Cleanup

Another Review Copy Cleanup is coming! Books, Biscuits & Tea and Nyx Book Reviews are once again hosting this challenge. The goal is to get through your review copies during the month of August. This is coming at the perfect time for me, because I've been feeling a little weighed down by my review copies lately, and was hoping to get caught up this summer.

I currently have 4 review copies, all from NetGalley. I'm hoping to read some of them in July, if I have time, and I may or may not have acquired more by August. So I'm not posting my list just yet. This is just to let everyone know that I'm doing the challenge, and you should join me, if you have a pile of review copies of your own (or even just a towering TBR pile, which we all have)! Come on, it'll be fun! Who doesn't love a challenge? :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mount TBR Challenge Checkpoint #2

It's time for the second checkpoint in the 2012 Mount TBR Reading Challenge! Oh my gosh, I can't believe the year is half over. I must admit, I'm not halfway done this challenge, so I'm gonna have to step things up!

Here are the books I've read so far (out of 40):
  1. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  2. The Grimoire Chronicles: Veil Between Worlds by Sally Dubats
  3. The Hollow Tree by Janet Lunn
  4. Stolen by Kelley Armstrong
  5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  6. John Dies at the End by David Wong
  7. The Twits by Roald Dahl
  8. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
  9. Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C. Clarke
  10. Charmed Season 9 Volume 1 by Paul Ruditis
  11. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More by Roald Dahl
  12. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
  13. Jesus on Mars by Philip José Farmer
  14. The Mummy by Anne Rice
  15. The Visitor (Animorphs #2) by K.A. Applegate
So, I should be at 20 right now. 5 books behind. That's not so bad, I guess! I'll be caught up in no time!

To give you just a quick update on my other 2012 challenges, my worst one is currently my own challenge: The Anne Rice Challenge. That's embarassing! I've only read 4, out of the 20 I'd planned to read. So, I most likely won't be reaching my goal (Anne Rice books are long!), but I'll see how far I can get, anyway! For the Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge, I'm at 32 out of 78, which is pretty good. I'm doing the best in the A-Z Reading Challenge, for which I've already completed 16 of 26!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

July Random Reads selection

It's time to select my Random Read for July! Last month, my Random Read was Ghostlight by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Unfortunately, for the first time, I did not get to my random read. However, I have moved it up into the "read these soon" section of my TBR list, so that I won't forget about it, and will hopefully get to it soon! In the meantime, I'll pick a new one for July. I don't like being held back by one book I didn't get to.

So it's off to the random number generator. I have 695 books on my TBR shelf at the moment, so I enter 1 as the min and 695 as the max, and hit Generate.

Drum roll, please!

I actually managed to get a book that's not in the middle of a series on the first try this time!

For July’s Random Read I'll be reading The Wish List by Eoin Colfer. It's been on my TBR shelf since April 19, 2011. I'm really happy with this month's selection! Next month is (surprise surprise) looking like it's going to be pretty busy, in terms of both reading and life in general, and The Wish List is a nice short, YA type book, by an author I know I like (the author of the Artemis Fowl series). So I should have no trouble fitting this one in.
Also, happy Canada Day!!! :)