Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 2013 Wrap-Up

Here's a summary of my book-related activity for January. Several read-a-thons and the excitement of new reading challenges made me get a lot of reading done this month! I didn't go too crazy buying new books (despite having Christmas gift cards!), but I did find quite a few interesting NetGalleys.

You may notice that there's a new category the books I've read can go into: free ebooks. I added this category because, having just started getting free ebooks that aren't review copies, I've decided to treat free ebooks like library books. They won't count as books being added to my TBR pile, and therefore when I read them it won't count as removing books from my TBR pile. They're neutral. This is simply because they take up no physical space, so I'm not nearly as concerned about being overrun by them. :)

Books I read (linked to the reviews)

Geomancer (The Well of Echoes #1) by Ian Irvine (TBR pile)
7 Generations: A Plains Cree Saga by David Alexander Robertson (library book)
The Secret (Animorphs #9) by K.A. Applegate (TBR pile)
The Uninvited by Liz Jensen (NetGalley)
Shadows of Kings (Dragon Rising #1) by Jack Whitsel (review copy)
Damage Control by J.A. Jance (library book)
Caarina the Cooking Fairy by Julia Dweck (free ebook)
Bright Star by Nickie Anderson (review copy)
The Archived (The Archived #1) by Victoria Schwab (NetGalley sneak peek + new book)
The Android (Animorphs #10) by K.A. Applegate (TBR pile)
The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl (TBR pile)
Burnish Me Bright by Julia Cunningham (TBR pile)
The Ghost Witch by Betty Ren Wright (TBR pile)
The Forgotten (Animorphs #11) by K.A. Applegate (TBR pile)
The Reaction (Animorphs #12) by K.A. Applegate (TBR pile)
Lasher (The Mayfair Chronicles #2) by Anne Rice (TBR pile) (in progress)

Books I bought

The Selection
by Kiera Cass
The Thirteen by
Susie Moloney
Territory by Emma Bull

The Woman Reader
by Belinda Jack

Books I've been approved for on NetGalley

Three Graves Full
by Jamie Mason
The Sea of Tranquility
by Katja Millay
Love Water Memory
by Jennie Shortridge

Out of Nowhere
by Maria Padian
Lichgates by S.M. Boyce
Gabriel Stone and the Divinity
of Valta by Shannon Duffy

Surrender by
Rhiannon Paille

Other e-books I received for review

Lizzy Speare and the Cursed
Tomb by Ally Malinenko
The Emerald Tablet
by Joshua Silverman

Progress on challenges

Geomancer was my January Random Read.

I discovered Damage Control by going out of my comfort zone this month.

I completed the following letters for the A-Z Book Challenge: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, L, R, S, U

I read 9 books for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge.

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

I read 0 books for the Debut Author Challenge.

I completed the following squares for the Book Bingo Challenge: read 1 book from your tbr pile, read 2 books that are part of a series

I read 0 books for the Nerdy Non-Fiction Challenge.

I read 1 books for the Dystopia Challenge.

I read 12 books written by women.

I read 2 books for the Seriously Series Challenge.

Progress on my TBR pile: I added 13 books to my to read list and removed 13, so my pile stayed the same.

7 Generations by David Alexander Robertson

Title: 7 Generations: A Plains Cree Saga
Author: David Alexander Robertson
Illustrator: Scott B. Henderson
Publication Date: September 26, 2012
Length: 128 pages

This graphic novel includes several stories, following one Cree family through the generations. The framing story is a mother telling the stories to her son, who just tried to commit suicide. He gains strength through learning about his family's past.

This was a really beautiful story. There are really painful parts in it, from the Europeans bringing smallpox, to the horrors of the residential schools, yet throughout there is still a sense of hope and strength, often coming from the characters' connection with their past.

The art, by Scott B. Henderson, is also lovely. From the simple facial expressions to the intense vision quests, it really brings the story to life.

5 stars.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Geomancer by Ian Irvine

Title: Geomancer (The Well of Echoes #1)
Author: Ian Irvine
Publication Date: 1994
Length: 621 pages

Tiaan is an artisan who makes controllers, delicate instruments that control huge war machines. She lives in a world defined by its war against a winged race called the lyrinx. Everyone's job is serving the war effort, and if you aren't good enough at a skilled trade, like being an artisan, you get sent to the front lines if you're a man, and the breeding factory, where you pump out the next generation of soldiers, if you're a woman. When Tiaan is falsely accused of sabotage, she runs away, and winds up on a mission to find a man she's seen in her crystal visions, the man she loves.

I had so much hope for this book. It started out great. The world building is perfect. The writing is excellent, except for the fact that people are always described using the exact same wording in multiple places, like a final edit was never done. And in the beginning, I liked a good chunk of the characters.

Unfortunately, Tiaan soon became insufferable. She falls in love with this guy that she's only seen in these visions she has when working with a particularly powerful crystal. Seriously, she's had maybe two conversations with him when they start calling each other "lover". And when he tells her that he lives in a different world, and she needs to go to this mountain and open a gate for his people to come through, so that they can be safe from the threat on their own world, and also help Tiaan's world with their war, she doesn't even question it.

I'm going to have a spoiler section now, so I can talk about some other things that annoyed me in the story. Skip this part if you want to read the book!

OK, so she helps a lyrinx that's injured, for some reason. Then she finds out that apparently the lyrinx have honour, and so he won't kill her, and will help her get home. She says that she doesn't want to go home; she has to go to a far-off mountain to save her lover. So off they go. He saves her life several times, and yet she is shocked when eventually he's like "my debt is repaid!". Like, you've been at war your whole life, but you so easily came to trust the enemy and think he'd just keep helping you?

As for the ending, I saw it coming way in advance. She successfully helps the people from the other world through, and though they said it would just be a few thousand people, instead an army comes through, and oh wow, they're here to take this world for themselves. Shocker. I spent most of the book just complaining about how stupid Tiaan is.

There were characters I liked, however. Sadly, most of them die, but a few survive. Interestingly, some of the best characters were ones who started off seeming really bad, but grew as people throughout the story. They were flawed, but ultimately sympathetic.

3 stars. There were good things, but ultimately Tiaan's stupidity really affected my enjoyment of the book.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Living Room by Bill Rolfe

Title: The Living Room
Author: Bill Rolfe
Publication Date: June 2012
Length: about 155 pages (ebook)

Daniel Clay is a successful businessman, who has everything in life, except family. His boss tells him he needs to make time to meet someone, so when he finds out he's inherited a house in England, it's the perfect chance for him to take a long-overdue vacation. Once there, he meets a pediatric nurse who cares for dying children, and she arranges for children who are close to death to stay in a beautiful room in his house, which she says will make the children feel alive. When Daniel has trouble dealing with the children dying, he prays for a miracle. He gets it, but at a price.

When I heard that this book came to the author in a dream, it made me nervous. And when I realised the book was about miracles, I was even more apprehensive. But this book won me over with the pure emotion of it. It made me cry, and that wins a book points from me.

The Living Room is not really an easy story to read. Children die in it, which is always tough to read about. But I think it was handled really well in this case. You really get to see the pain experienced by those who grow close to the child near the end, but without feeling totally depressed. Because ultimately, this story is filled with hope. When some of the children miraculously get better, and even when the children are sick but get to experience some moments of true happiness, this story is anything but a downer.

5 stars.

Full disclosure: Free ebook copy received from the author.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Animorphs #9 - The Secret by K.A. Applegate

Title: The Secret (Animorphs #9)
Author: K.A. Applegate
Publication Date: August 1997
Length: 158 pages

Warning: This is a review of the ninth book in the series, so it may contain spoilers from earlier books.

The Animorphs discover that the Yeerks have set up a logging facility in the woods by Cassie's house, where Ax and Tobias live. Since they still think the Animorphs are Andalites, the Yeerks figure they must be hiding out in the woods, so they plan to destroy the habitat to flush out the Animorphs. Cassie has the idea to sneak in and find out how they got permission to log there, so there might be a political way to stop them. They sneak in by morphing termites, which turns out to be a pretty disturbing experience.

I love when Cassie narrates. She's definitely the nicest and most down-to-earth character. Plus, she's always thinking, so her books always have philosophical questions. In this case, she comes to the realisation that nature is brutal, and that morality is complicated when animals need to kill each other to live.

The termite morph was awesome. It started off fine, seeming like the termite had no will of its own for the human mind to have to overcome. But once they get near the queen, they find themselves forgetting that they're even human. It's very creepy, and Cassie has a bit of a panic attack.

The Secret also has some impressive fight scenes, and Visser 3 totally gets sprayed by a skunk. That really made my day. :)

4 stars.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

2013 Anne Rice Challenge: Reviews

The 2013 Anne Rice Challenge started on January 1, 2013, and continues until December 31, 2013. If you haven't signed up for the challenge yet, you can still sign up any time before the end of November.

This is where you can link to your reviews. The inlinkz will be open until the end of January 2014, so you'll have plenty of time to get all your reviews in. (For any fast readers who have already reviewed a book for this challenge, I'm sorry this post wasn't up sooner!)

For your name in the Inlinkz, please put your name, and then in brackets put the name of the book you're reviewing. Eg. Lianne (Lasher). That way it'll be easy for everyone to read reviews of a particular book. :)

Enjoy the challenge, everyone! I look forward to reading everyone's reviews!

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Winter's Respite Read-a-Thon

It's time to begin the A Winter's Respite Read-a-Thon, hosted by Seasons of Reading!

To start with, I'll be finishing the two books I'm reading right now: Damage Control by J.A. Jance and Bright Star by Nickie Anderson. I'm close to the end of both of those, so I'm hoping to finish them in the first day. My real goal comes after. I'm going to read as much of Lasher by Anne Rice as I can in the next week. (What a coincidence! My goal in the FrightFall Read-a-Thon was to finish The Witching Hour!)

Lasher is 628 pages long, which wouldn't be unreasonable to finish in a week, except that Anne Rice books tend to have tiny printing, and are not exactly fluff! The Witching Hour, which is about double the length of Lasher, took me a whopping 6 weeks! So I'm really going to challenge myself this week and see how much of Lasher I can get done.

As for how much time I'll be dedicating to reading this week, it's hard to say. I'm currently unemployed, but I do have an interview tomorrow (yay!). So if I get hired quickly I might end up with a shift or two this week. Other than that, I have plans a couple of evenings, but I'm not crazy busy, so I should have a lot of reading time!

Good luck to everyone who's participating! Happy reading!


What I'm reading: Damage Control by J.A. Jance
Number of pages read today: 134 (finishing the book)
Total pages read so far: 134
Well, thank goodness that's done. I did not enjoy that book. Anywho, now I'm going to finish Bright Star.

What I'm reading: Bright Star by Nickie Anderson
Number of pages read today: 65 (44 pages of Bright Star, plus a 21 page kids' book, Caarina the Cooking Fairy by Julia Dweck)
Total pages read so far: 199
Apparently I underestimated how much longer it would take me to finish the books I was already reading! I was hoping to be on to Lasher by now. I'm sure I'll finish Bright Star in the next day, though, and then it'll be all Lasher all the time! :)

My lack of progress was getting me down, so I'm just going to wait a while before my next update. I don't really want to keep updating just to say that I'm not done Bright Star yet so I still haven't started Lasher. I kinda messed up on my goals on this one!

Wednesday - Friday
What I'm reading: Lasher by Anne Rice
Number of pages read in these days: 125 (the last 99 pages of Bright Star, plus the first 26 pages of Lasher)
Total pages read so far: 324
I liked Bright Star, but I'm happy to be reading Lasher now, since that was supposed to be my read-a-thon goal! I still have the weekend, so I'm still hoping to get a good chunk of it read.

What I'm reading: Lasher by Anne Rice
Number of pages read today: 60
Total pages read so far: 384
Not bad! 60 pages in a day is quite good for an Anne Rice book. And so far the story has pulled me right in and I'm really enjoying it, so I'm not experiencing any of the weighed down feeling that sometimes accompanies big books. Her writing is just SO good! One thing I'm regretting right now, though, is not having drawn up a family tree as I read The Witching Hour. I keep forgetting how people are related. Maybe there's one online...

What I'm reading: Lasher by Anne Rice
Number of pages read today: 110
Total pages read during read-a-thon: 494
Well, I might have had a bit of a slow start to this read-a-thon, but I certainly ended it well! I'm nearly a third of the way through Lasher, which is more than I'd hoped to finish this week.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

2013 Why Buy the Cow? Challenge

I wasn't going to join this one, but then I got a Kobo Glo for Christmas, and started using it for more than just NetGalleys, and have discovered the joys of free ebooks on the Kobo site and Smashwords! So now I've made a free-ebooks-to-read shelf on Goodreads, because it doesn't seem fair that these should count towards my huge TBR pile. But still they are books I want to read, hence this challenge.

I'll start at the lowest level, Coupon Clipper: 12 books. I'll list the books I read below.

To get the deets and sign up, check out the challenge page on Reading the Paranormal (also hosted by On a Book Bender).
  1. Caarina the Cooking Fairy by Julia Dweck
  2. The Testing Guide (The Testing #0.5) by Joelle Charbonneau
  3. Brianna the Ballet Fairy by Julia Dweck
  4. Glitches (Lunar Chronicles #0.5) by Marissa Meyer
  5. The Queen's Army (Lunar Chronicles #1.5) by Marissa Meyer
  6. Donuts by Julia Dweck
  7. Pie-Rits by Julia Dweck
  8. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  9. Sworn (The Vampire Legends #1) by Emma Knight

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sneak Peek at The Archived by Victoria Schwab

I got the NetGalley of The Archived, and was crushed when I finished it and realised it was only a sneak peek, not the whole book! I was wondering why nothing seemed to be wrapping up... Anywho, so that was annoying, but I'm really looking forward to reading the rest!

The Archived is about a girl named Mackenzie, who is a Keeper. That means that when Histories (copies of dead people that store their memories) escape from the Archive, it's her job to find them and put them away.

The sneak peek is only about 100 pages long, so it's mostly world building and character background, but it's been really interesting. Scenes from the present alternate with flashbacks to Mackenzie's conversations with her grandfather, who was a Keeper, and trained her to take his place. Also, a cute boy who wears eyeliner has appeared, and I am intrigued.

The Archived comes out on January 22. I've already preordered it!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My TBR shelf by pages - January 2013

One year ago today, I figured out how many books I had of various lengths on my TBR pile, to get an idea of the "bigness" of the books I need to read. I also challenged myself to read my three longest TBR books over the next year. 6 months later, I did an update.

Continuing this tradition, it's time for another update! Here are my current book length stats, in a table with the previous stats for comparison. Because HTML is fun!

January 17, 2012July 17, 2012January 17, 2013

Basically, other than the progress I made on the very longest books, all the numbers have gone up, because I just bought so many books last year! This year, I plan to be a lot more disciplined in terms of reading more books than I bring in each month. So hopefully at the next update the numbers will have gone down across the chart.

My three longest TBR books one year ago were The Complete Works of Lewis Carroll, Shōgun, and The Witching Hour. I ended up reading two of those. I didn't get to Shōgun. My mistake was waiting too long to get started; I didn't read any of these books in the first 6 months, so it ended up feeling like way too many pages. This year I'll make sure to start earlier rather than cramming near the end.

Here are my three longest books now, which I plan to read in the next year:
  1. Shōgun by James Clavell (1211 pages)
  2. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (1006 pages)
  3. The Golden Book of Faerie by O.R. Melling (946 pages)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Dented Cans by Heather Walsh

Title: Dented Cans
Author: Heather Walsh
Publication Date: November 2, 2012
Length: about 150 pages (ebook)

Dented Cans is the story of a weird family and their trip to Disney World. Actually, it's mostly the parents that are weird. Hannah's dad collects dented cans, especially the kind that are missing labels, so they're marked down really cheap because their contents are a mystery. Her mom is just absurdly overprotective.

My main complaint with this book is that not a lot really happened. I guess it's one of those get-to-know-the-characters books, rather than being really plot-driven. It all sort of leads up to an explanation of the family's weirdness, but I found that it didn't really explain very much.

On the other hand, the writing is very enjoyable. I laughed out loud a lot, and there are some good quotables. Also, Ben, Hannah's youngest brother, is a neat character. He's an 8 year old kid, but he doesn't act like one, making funny noises all the time. He might have some sort of disability, but his parents get mad at anyone who tries to suggest that, so they don't really know. He's the most likable character in the book. (Sidenote: I could have done without the whole he's-so-cute-because-he's-blonde-in-a-family-of-brunettes thing.)

So, the writing is good enough that I'll probably check out future books by this author, but the story didn't do much for me.

3 stars.

Full disclosure: Free ebook copy received from the author.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Vol. 1, adapted by Denise Mina

Title: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Vol. 1
Author: Denise Mina (adaptation)
Publication Date: November 13, 2012
Length: 146 pages

Note: I'm reviewing this as an adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, so I'm assuming some familiarity with the plot of the novel.

This is the first of what will be a six-volume graphic novel adaptation of Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy. It basically covers the part of the first book before Mikael and Lisbeth cross paths.

The one issue I had with this graphic novel is that a few too many liberties were taken with the plot for my liking. For example, in the novel, Lisbeth gets a new guardian because Palmgren had a stroke. In this book, Palmgren is shown talking to Lisbeth about her new guardian, seemingly perfectly fine. But if he was fine, why would she get a new guardian? Also, at times the characters seem like exaggerated versions of themselves, presumably because several hundred pages of narration is being crammed into a short graphic novel.

I did really like the "feel" of this book. It felt like Stieg Larsson's work. So it was true to it in that way. In particular, I really liked the art (by Leonardo Manco and Andrea Mutti). It was always clear who was who, which is my basic standard by which I judge comic book art (because so much of it fails at this).

4 stars. Because even though there were problems with it that I'm thinking of as I review it, while reading it I did have a good time.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Animorphs #8 - The Alien by K.A. Applegate

Title: The Alien (Animorphs #8)
Author: K.A. Applegate
Publication Date: July 1997
Length: 159 pages

Note: This is a review of the eighth book in a series, and may therefore contain spoilers from the earlier books.

The main plot in this installment of Animorphs starts when Ax, thinking he's playing a computer game, accidentally advances the work of some scientists by a few centuries. When he realises that he's created something that could be used to contact his home world, he decides to take the opportunity to contact his parents. Of course, trouble ensues...

The Alien is the first Animorphs book narrated entirely by Ax (short for Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill). That was a refreshing change in perspective. He's the one character who has different knowledge than the others. There was a lot of delightful, children's book style foreshadowing, with Ax talking about how his friends can never know his shameful secret, and stuff like that. Such fun! Eventually, though, he does share his deep dark secret, and it fills in some interesting backstory for the series.

Ax also continues his efforts to learn more about humans, and once again gets in trouble for his extreme reactions to taste. He discovers the joys of popcorn, chocolate, and very hot chili. He also starts reading books the others give him to help him learn, including the World Almanac, and a book of famous quotes. These scenes are fun from any perspective, but I'm looking forward to more books narrated by Ax.

5 stars.

This book counts towards the Read Your OWN Library! Challenge (hosted by The Beauty of Eclecticism) for December. This book also counts for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

S is for Space by Ray Bradbury

Title: S is for Space
Author: Ray Bradbury
Publication Date: 1966
Length: 211 pages

S is for Space is a collection of short stories by Ray Bradbury. There's a big variety, from a guy who turns into a crysalis and hatches, to a dead man climbing out of his grave in a future world where morbid things have been banned, to a kid who hears a woman screaming from underground, but no adults will believe her.

It takes a LOT for short stories to impress me. I've read short story collections by people I adore, like Neil Gaiman, and still thought they were kind of meh. It's just not the format I prefer. Short stories often feel rushed, obviously, but worse than that, I hate when they don't end. I argued endlessly with my high school English teachers about "open endings" and how stupid they are.

Well, these stories, as a general rule, did not have open endings. They were exactly what short stories should be. I enjoyed almost every one of them. So if you're like me, and you're looking for some good short stories with really interesting premises, and that don't leave you hanging, I recommend this book.

4 stars.

This book counted for the 2012 Mount TBR Reading Challenge.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

"Who Could That Be at This Hour?" by Lemony Snicket

Title: "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" (All the Wrong Questions #1)
Author: Lemony Snicket
Publication Date: October 2012
Length: 258 pages

This is the first book in a new Lemony Snicket series, All the Wrong Questions, and it's sort of like a prequel to A Series of Unfortunate Events. It's told from Lemony Snicket's perspective, back when Lemony was a child (teenager?). Lemony is actually the main character in this book, though, unlike in Unfortunate Events where he's just writing about what happened to the Baudelaires.

Lemony Snicket has just started his apprenticeship with S. Theodora Markson, a terrible detective. The first case they work on together involves a statue that wasn't actually stolen. Since S. Theodora is hopeless, Lemony sets out to solve the mystery, and along the way asks several wrong questions.

Whether or not you'll like this book depends on whether or not you liked A Series of Unfortunate Events. "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" contains the same hilarious weirdness, and the same frustrating lack of answers. It was very enjoyable to read, and I'm excited for the rest of the series, but I also fear that it will end with no answers, like A Series of Unfortunate Events did. Either way, I will continue to read everything by Lemony Snicket, because he is amazing.

4 stars.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Take Control of Your TBR Pile - March 2013

During my late-night traipsing through the book blogosphere, I came across this month-long challenge: Take Control of Your TBR Pile. The plan is to spend March 2013 reading only books off your TBR pile. Reading more books off my TBR pile is a constant goal of mine, so I'm in! I'm currently catching up on my review copies, so hopefully by March I'll be caught up enough that I'll feel no guilt in reading just my own books for a month. :)

This post is just to get the word out. More to come closer to March!

The Tree With No Branches by Johnny Knew

Title: The Tree With No Branches
Author: Johnny Knew
Illustrator: K. Von Ward
Publication Date: September 24, 2012
Length: 23 pages

The title character in this story is a little tree that doesn't have any branches or leaves, living in a forest of big, beautiful trees. The other trees make fun of it, but while they're putting all their effort into growing their big, leafy branches, the tree with no branches is growing deep, strong roots. So when a big storm comes along, the little tree is better able to weather it than the big, proud trees.

There are some parts that are a bit awkwardly written in order to make them the right length for the poem, like "They were looking for shelter from all of the wind", but I've definitely seen much worse. Overall it reads well.

The illustrations are great. They're clear, but also really detailed. The tree with no branches is just adorable, and I liked how the other trees had different characteristics depending on the type of tree. They reminded me of the Ents from The Lord of the Rings. The humans are tall and spindly like in 101 Dalmatians (which I just watched, which is probably why I thought of that).

This is a really sweet story, with a great message about how what's inside is what matters. I think it would be good for kids of any age.

4 stars.

Full disclosure: Free ebook copy received from the author.

2013 Mammoth Book Challenge

I'm slightly late in discovering this one, but I'm joining another challenge! :) Darlene's Book Nook is hosting the 2013 Mammoth Book Challenge. It's a challenge to read books that are over 450 pages long (or their ebook or audiobook equivalent! I'm happy to find a challenge like this that allows any format.). This goes quite well with my ongoing efforts to read my longest books.

So, I'm going to be crazy and go for the highest level, African Elephant: Read 12 or more mammoth-sized books. I'll list them below as I finish them.

  1. Geomancer (The Well of Echoes #1) by Ian Irvine (621 pages)
  2. Lasher (The Mayfair Chronicles #2) by Anne Rice (628 pages) 
  3. The Host by Stephenie Meyer (619 pages)
  4. Industrial Magic (Women of the Otherworld #4) by Kelley Armstrong (493 pages)
  5. Red Moon by Benjamin Percy (531 pages)
  6. Taltos (The Mayfair Chronicles #3) by Anne Rice (556 pages)
  7. Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer (454 pages)
  8. The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1) by Patrick Ness (479 pages)
  9. Angel Omnibus by Christopher Golden, Joss Whedon, etc. (480 pages)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Krampus: The Yule Lord by Brom

Title: Krampus: The Yule Lord
Author: Brom
Publication Date: October 30, 2012
Length: 357 pages

Krampus is a creature from Germanic folklore. He's often compared to Santa Claus, but is actually much older. Unlike Santa, who is known more for rewarding good children, Krampus came at Yule to punish bad children. In Krampus: The Yule Lord, the author takes this basis in folklore and builds on it to create a fascinating character and story.

Krampus is the Yule Lord, and he visits houses during Yule, leaving gold coins for children who leave him tribute, and beating children who don't. He is adored by all. That is until Santa Claus takes over, imprisoning Krampus in a cave, and perverting the traditions of Yule with his Christian influence. Hundreds of years later, with the help of his Belsnickels, it's time for him to escape and take his revenge.

This was a great holiday read. I loved the different take on Santa and Krampus, with Krampus actually being a pretty good guy, and Santa being sort of ambiguous. I also liked Jesse, a guy with problems of his own who gets swept up into the conflict when Santa's sack falls into his trailer. Throughout the story, he's just trying to protect his daughter, but he also comes to care about Krampus (yet also feels weird about setting out to kill Santa Claus).

The art is another thing to love about this book. The author, Brom, is also an artist, and there are some amazing illustrations of the characters. I particularly like his depiction of Santa, looking way more badass than any Santa I've ever seen. You can see that image, and some of the other characters, on Brom's website. Check it out!

I definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a holiday read that's a bit more on the Pagan side.

4 stars.

This book counts for the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Bout of Books 6.0 - Goals

It's time for another Bout of Books read-a-thon! This one goes from January 7 to 13. Check out the Bout of Books site for full details and to sign-up!

Here are my goals and my reading list, and once the read-a-thon starts I'll post daily updates at the bottom of this post.


  • Read 100 pages a day! I occasionally do this, on a good day, so I'm gonna aim to do it every day during the read-a-thon.
  • Comment on at least one other participating blog each day.
  • Write at least 2 reviews during the week so that I'm not overwhelmed later.


Here are the next few books on my to read list, which I'll probably be reading in this order. If I'm successful in my goal of reading 100 pages per day, I might get through the first three. More are listed in case of DNFs and/or suprisingly fast reading.
  • The Uninvited by Liz Jensen (302 pages)
  • Shadows of Kings by Jack Whitsel (274 pages)
  • Bright Star by Nickie Anderson (166 pages)
  • Basilisk by N.M. Browne (320 pages)
  • The ABACUS Protocol: Sanity Vacuum by Thea Gregory (220 pages)


What I'm reading right now: The Uninvited by Liz Jensen
Pages read: 128
Total pages read so far: 128

What I'm reading right now: The Uninvited by Liz Jensen
Pages read: 119
Total pages read so far: 247
Only 55 pages left in this book, so I'll be on to something new tomorrow.

What I'm reading right now: Shadows of Kings by Jack Whitsel
Pages read: the last 55 pages of the last book, and 16 pages of this one, for a total of 71
Total pages read so far: 318
I hardly read at all today! In fact, that's all from what is pretty much last night (I do a lot of reading between midnight and 4). Ah well, at least I'm still averaging over 100 pages a day! :)

What I'm reading right now: Shadows of Kings by Jack Whitsel
Pages read: 22
Total pages read so far: 340
Umm, yeah, I think I forgot I was doing a read-a-thon or something. I just keep sitting down at the computer, and just staying there all day. Tomorrow I will read during the day! A lot! (Oh, and I organised my bookshelves today! That totally counts. ;) They look amazing now. All the books are standing up, instead of new ones being piled precariously on the edges.)

What I'm reading right now: Shadows of Kings by Jack Whitsel
Pages read: 80
Total pages read so far: 420
I did a bit better today! I think the pages of this book are a bit longer than the pages of the last one. But I think I'm picking up the pace as I get more into the story.

What I'm reading right now: Shadows of Kings by Jack Whitsel
Pages read: 61
Total pages read so far: 481
It looks like I might just finish this one by the end of the read-a-thon! I was hoping to get to a third book. :(

What I'm reading right now: Shadows of Kings by Jack Whitsel
Pages read: 21
Total pages read this week: 502

So, I fell a bit short on my reading goal. The first few days I was strong, and then I went downhill from there. And while I commented a few times, I didn't comment every day. I did, however, get at least 2 reviews written this week, so I didn't fall behind!

Well, it's been fun! Thanks to everyone who commented here throughout the week; you really made it more enjoyable! :)

Now I have one week off before the next read-a-thon: A Winter's Respite hosted by Seasons of Reading!

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Title: The Secret Life of Bees
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Publication Date: 2002
Length: 336 pages

The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of a young white girl named Lily Owens, living in South Carolina in the 1960s, whose mom died when she was young, and whose father is abusive and just all-around horrible. When one of the family's black servants, Rosaleen, goes to jail for insulting the town racists, Lily breaks her out and they run away to Tiburon, South Carolina, a location chosen by Lily because it was written on the back of a picture of the Black Madonna that belonged to her mother. Once in Tiburon, the two are taken in by three black sisters who keep bees.

I liked this story a lot more than I expected. I feared a book steeped in White Saviour crap, ala The Help*. Instead, Lily is saved by the black women she meets. She's an interesting character, because she's too young and sweet-hearted to really be a racist yet, despite her home town, but she does realise along the way that she has prejudices she wasn't even aware of.

This is an interesting story about a key moment in African-American history (black people have just won the right to vote, but trying to actually register to vote can still get them killed). It's also a beautiful story about a family that's been through a lot of pain, but still find strength in each other, and in their somewhat-Catholic-somewhat-Goddess-worshiping religion.

4 stars.

*To be honest, I haven't actually read The Help. My negative opinion on it is based entirely on reviews and whatnot that I've read about it.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Journey by John A. Heldt

Title: The Journey
Author: John A. Heldt
Publication Date: November 3, 2012
Length: about 242 pages (ebook)

The Journey is part of the same series as The Mine, but it has different characters. This one stars a 48 year old woman named Michelle. Her husband has just died, and she's starting to regret some of her life decisions. She goes to her high school reunion, a she and some old friends decide to take a tour of an abandoned house, where a family disappeared back in their high school days. Michelle enters a mysterious room, and comes out in 1979.

For the first few chapters of this book, I worried a bit that it might just be a rehashing of The Mine. But very soon, my worries faded away. While similar in style and topic, The Journey is a very different story. For one thing, Michelle only goes back in time 31 years. She sees herself as a high school student, her parents and best friend still living. Her concerns about changing the course of history are very real; she can change her own life.

And unlike Joel, who tried not to change things, Michelle jumps right in, trying to make a difference in people's lives, including her own. She's a great character. (And yay for older female characters doing cool things!!)

Parts of this book are also told from the point of view of the younger Michelle (Shelly). That adds an interesting perspective, as Shelly gets to know Michelle, the mysterious woman with whom she seems to have so much in common.

The Journey is a beautiful story about a woman who has a lot of regrets about the way she's lived her life, and is presented with an opportunity to go back and make better choices for herself. It's a great feel-good story.

5 stars.

Full disclosure: Free ebook copy received from the author.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Skin Again by bell hooks

Title: Skin Again
Author: bell hooks
Publication Date: 2004
Length: 32 pages

Skin Again is a children's book by bell hooks, the well-known writer who focuses on the interconnectivity of race, gender, and class, and the system of oppression produced by them.

This book has a powerful message: that skin is just a covering, and you have to come inside and open your heart to really know someone. It does not make the mistake of advocating "colourblindness", as another author may have done in writing this story. It acknowledges that the colour of one's skin is part of that person, but not the whole.

The writing is very poetic. That's actually what brought my rating down. I'm not a big fan of poetry, because I often find it hard to understand. I like some poetry. But there were some parts in this book where I didn't entirely understand a sentence here and there, and I'm an adult. I assume I'm better at understanding poetry than the average child (at least I hope so). So it seems like kids might be confused at times.

The illustrations, by Chris Raschka, are really nice. They're very vivid, and different from what I usually see in kids' books.

3 stars.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 Wrap-Up

I don't have a really structured year-in-review type post prepared, but I just wanted to do a quick wrap-up of my 2012 challenges, awesome books I read last year, my most popular posts, etc.


I didn't quite reach my goal in the Mount TBR Reading Challenge. I'm planning for this to be one of my big areas of improvement!

I exceeded my goal (78 books) in the Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge, finishing 90 books in 2012!

I read 7 Anne Rice books for the Anne Rice Reading Challenge that I hosted. My goal was a lot more than that, but that was just unrealistic! I'm hosting the challenge again in 2013.

I read a book for every letter of the alphabet for the A-Z Reading Challenge! I had a blast with this one, and I'm participating again in 2013.

See my 2013 Reading Challenge Addict post for all the challenges I'm doing in 2013.


It's hard to pick the best books of the year (that's books I read in 2012, not books published in 2012; I don't read a lot of new books). There were so many good ones! But there are a couple that come to mind:

I finally read The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, which gave me a whole new appreciation for Arthurian legend, but probably made it impossible for me to ever again enjoy a non-feminist, non-pagan version of the story.

I read MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend by Rachel Bertsche, and it was awesome. It inspired me to make more of an effort to do things with other people, outside of my home. I joined several Meetup groups because of it (one of which I'm now the organiser of), and met some amazing people.

Blog Posts

These were my most popular blog posts over all of 2012, according to the number of page views on Google Analytics:

2013 Anne Rice Challenge - This post quickly rose to the top, thanks to Anne Rice herself posting the link on her Facebook page!

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket - For some reason, my review of this series has consistently been one of my most popular posts since I wrote it a year ago. Search terms related to the series are also the most common search terms that bring people to this blog.

John Dies at the End by David Wong - My review of this very weird book has also had consistently high page views since I wrote it in April 2012.

My About, R.L. Stine Books, and Reading Challenges pages are my next most popular pages.

2012 was my first full year of writing this blog, and it's been awesome. I just want to thank everyone who's read this blog, but especially everyone who's commented, or otherwise made me feel like I'm really a part of the book blogging community. You guys rock. And I wish you all the best in 2013!

January Random Reads selection

Happy New Year!!! Also, it's time to select my Random Read for January! I took a break from Random Reads in December to get caught up on some review copies, but now I'm back and ready for some randomness!

So it's off to the random number generator. I have 751 books on my TBR shelf at the moment, so I enter 1 as the min and 751 as the max, and hit Generate.

Drum roll, please!

For January’s Random Read I'll be reading Geomancer (The Well of Echoes #1) by Ian Irvine. It's been on my TBR shelf since May 15, 2009, which is when I was adding my collection to Goodreads, so it's potentially a few years older than that. I'm happy with what the Fates have thrown me in this month's Random Read! It's been a while since I read a nice fat fantasy novel. :)