Saturday, January 25, 2014

Book Bingo: The Enchantress Returns

The Enchantress Returns is the second book in Chris Colfer's The Land of Stories series. This is my first read for the "Series" box in the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. Here's my current scorecard:

Here's a short review I wrote about the first book in the series, The Wishing Spell: This was a fun fairy tale book. I couldn't particularly enjoy Colfer's writing style, because it felt too simple and repetitive to me, but I did enjoy his story and the world he created with traditional fairy tales and his own original ideas. I'll probably continue reading the series to see what happens next with Alex and Conner.

(picture taken from Goodreads;
 illustrated by Brandon Dorman)

The Enchantress Returns: Colfer has a very imaginative mind, and he really uses it to expand the fairy tale world in this series. I enjoyed this book more than the first one in the series. Colfer's writing has improved somewhat (although the style of over-simplistic repetition sometimes re-surfaces), and I really enjoy how he expands the villainous characters from traditional fairy tales. My favorite part was the chapter with the Snow Queen--what a fascinating character! There are three main reasons that I can't give this two thumbs-up instead of one: 1) Colfer's writing style is still a little lacking for me. Hopefully he'll improve with time, because I love his ideas! 2) Alex's and Conner's home life is too easy. For instance, they might say they're angry at their mother for dating, but there they are, jumping on board the "bless this marriage" train right after she springs the news on them (only two years past their father's death, too!). Too fast, too's unrealistic. 3) Last but not least, I don't really like the ending. I guess I could see it happening eventually, but in the second book in the series? And it's all stuck in the last few pages of a fairly thick book--why not take a little more time instead of rushing through it? Anyway, I did enjoy reading this book, and it's a fairly quick read for the length. I would recommend it to people who like middle grade series or fairy tales.

 (picture taken from Goodreads;
illustrated by Brandon Dorman)

Don't forget to subscribe so we can share ideas and find new books to love!

Where Are You Reading 2014 Challenge

This challenge is definitely in the spirit of fun, since the primary goal for me is to see where I'm reading rather than aiming to read a certain number of places. Mapping my reads is such a great idea, which I never would have thought of without the Where Are You Reading Challenge 2014 hosted by Book Journey! For this challenge, I'll be showing all of the books I read (with the exception of picture and board books), including those that I don't review for this blog. We'll just see where all I end up at the end of the year! Check-out my map, which I'm having a lot of fun making! Try it! Even if you don't share the link, it's a neat little tool to have in your belt.

Side note: Since a lot of the books that I read exist on a fictional or fantastical plane, I'll be posting those on my map with a marker where the author is from. If the book is set in multiple places, the marker will be where the most amount of time is spent.

Join me in mapping where you read in 2014, and don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss any fun, new book discoveries!

Dive into Poetry Reading Challenge 2014

I haven't read lot of poetry since getting my degree, so I figure it's high time to get back into it with the Dive into Poetry Reading Challenge 2014 hosted by Savvy Verse & Wit! I won't be deciding the books or authors I read for this challenge before I read them. I'll use it as an excuse to raid my local library's poetry section, probably! I'm signing-up for the Dip Your Toes level, which is two books of poetry. I don't want to over-commit myself, but I loved the first book I read for this challenge, so I might be at the Wade In level before you know it!

Jimmy Stewart and His Poems by Jimmy Stewart

Join me in exploring fascinating poetry in 2014, and don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss any fun, new book discoveries!

2014 Book Bingo Reading Challenge

This is probably my favorite reading challenge in which I haven't participated yet, so this year, I'm doing it! It's the 2014 Book Bingo Reading Challenge hosted by Reading in Winter! In the spirit of fun and going-with-the-flow, I won't be deciding the books I read for this challenge before I read them. We'll just see what I end up with! This is my current bingo scorecard for the challenge:

TBR Pile: Divergent by Veronica Roth
My plan is to make a diagonal bingo from the lower left to the upper right corner. I'm not a fast reader, but if I complete my goal early I might expand it. Join me in playing Book Bingo in 2014, and don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss any fun, new book discoveries!

Update 4/19/14: Bingo! It's crazy--I already completed my diagonal! I thought of a bunch of different ways to follow-up and maximize the fun on this excursion. In the end, I thought it would be the most fun if I just read whatever I want from here on out and check off boxes when they apply. Next year, I'll challenge myself more, but this year is all about reading whatever I want and having a great time without the pressure! I hope you'll join me if you haven't already. It's really fun to cross off the boxes as you finish them.

TBR Pile: A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
Classic: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson 
Re-Read: The Giver by Lois Lowry
Contemporary: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Series: The Lunar Chronicles: Cinder by Marissa Meyer
            The Clifton Chronicles: Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer 
            The Giver Quartet: Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
            Divergent Trilogy: Insurgent by Veronica Roth
            The Inheritance Trilogy: The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen
            Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
            Legends of the Dark Crystal: The Garthim Wars by Barbara Randall Kesel 
Fantasy: Fever: Dani O'Malley Trilogy: Iced by Karen Marie Moning 
New Releases: The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
                          Age of Legends: Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong
                          The School for Good and Evil: A World Without Princes by Soman Chainani

Update 1/3/15:

TBR Pile: The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
Non-Fiction: Shop Like a Chef: A Food Lover's Guide to St. Louis Neighborhoods by Chef Clara Moore and Matt Sorrell
Historical Fiction: The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini
Romance: Caged in Winter by Brighton Walsh

Let Me Count the Ways 2014 Reading Challenge

I may or may not have mentioned before that my reading challenges for this year will be focused more on fun and less on pressure to read more or to find certain texts...if not, you know now! In the spirit of fun, I'm going to count the pages I read with the Let Me Count the Ways 2014 Reading Challenge hosted by Avanti Ciera. There are lots of ways to approach this challenge; I think a lot of people add the number of pages they've read as they complete books. I thought it would be fun to separate this challenge from my others by counting all the pages I read, including criticisms within books and individual poems or short pieces. I won't be counting picture or board books on any of my challenges for this year (although I will still be blogging on those from time to time). I picked the Gold goal level, which is 4001-6000 pages. But as you can see from my challenge status bar on the side, I'm moving much quicker through pages than I thought I would. I think I miscalculated, considering it's the first month and I'm 1/4 of the way through. Crazy! If I reach my goal before June (which is likely), I will raise my goal substantially.

Join me in counting the number of pages you read in 2014, and don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss any fun, new book discoveries!

Update 4/19/14: I don't know how many of you realized this, but it has come to my attention that the links to this blog and the challenge no longer exist. So, I will continue to count the pages I read this year just for fun, but I won't be linking back to a report page, and I'm going to remove the links to the original post from this page. I've already completed my original goal, but it will be interesting to see how much more I read in 2014! Feel free to link back here if you were doing this challenge. I'd love to hear about your progress or just chat with you about books we're reading this year!

Update 8/21/14: I reached 10,000 pages this week! Pretty crazy. I've only ever tracked the number of books I've read in a year, never pages, so I had no idea I would reach this number so easily! I guess I underestimated the sizes of the books I've been reading. Anyway, I'll still be changing the number of pages I've read on my sidebar, but I won't be changing my goal again, as I have no idea where to set the bar now. Maybe next year I'll have a better idea and can really challenge myself! I hope you all have been having fun with your own challenges--we're over halfway there!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

2013 Wrap-Up / Beginning 2014

2013 was quite the year! I got a lot of reading done and discovered a multitude of books for future reading, not to mention my son's first birthday and the biggest promotion in my career thus far! I had lots of plans for this blog in 2013 that did not come to fruition, but I am not discouraged! There is always tomorrow until there isn't, right?

As you know, I participated in two blog challenges for 2013: the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge and the What's in a Name Challenge. Neither of these were completed, although they each brought quite a few new titles and authors to my attention, so I am satisfied with where I ended up. These were the first challenges I've taken on, and upon further reflection, I think I committed myself to too many things that did not coincide. Neither of my challenges matched-up with the books I was reading in my book club (with the exception of Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James), and my time was limited as I divided it more and more. Anyway, here are my results in those challenges:

Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge
goal: 12 entries     completed: 8 entries
Austenland by Shannon Hale
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange
Recorded Books audio version of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and narrated by Flo Gibson
Two Guys Read Jane Austen by Steve Chandler and Terrence N. Hill
Darcy's Story by Janet Aylmer
1995 BBC miniseries with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle
2005 version with Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightley
1980 BBC miniseries with David Rintoul and Sabina Franklyn
Lost in Austen (2008) with Elliot Cowan and Jemima Rooper
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

What's in a Name 6 Challenge
goal: 6 books     completed: 2 books
1. up or down (or equivalent): The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells
2. something you'd find in your kitchen: Bread Alone by
3. party or celebration: Masquerade by Cecilia Sternberg
4. fire (or equivalent): Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
5. an emotion: Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
6. lost or found (or equivalent): A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

For 2014, I've chosen challenges that coincide more with reading plans that I already have, so be looking for posts on those soon!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Pride and Prejudice Giveaway Winners!

Okay guys, it's time to announce the giveaway winners for my Pride and Prejudice-themed giveaway!

And the winners are...

prize: Two Guys Read Jane Austen by Steve Chandler and Terrence N. Hill


prize: Lost in Austen (2008 movie with Elliot Cowan and Jemima Rooper)

Congratulations to Hamlette and Emily!

I'll have those prizes mailed out to you girls as soon as this crazy snow clears up.

(Side note, anyone reading this could have won just by entering and responding to my mailing address request! I didn't get as many entries as I'd like, so we'll just have to try again for a bigger turn-out next time.)

Thank you all for sticking with me through my computer problems (which I'm still having) and the lapses in updating!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book Club / Book Bingo: The End of Your Life Book Club

After his mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Will Schwalbe decided that they should start a book club of sorts: they would read the same books and then discuss them while waiting for her chemotherapy treatments or any time they were together. This book club inspired many revelations in Schwalbe about books, his mother, and the world around him, and when her fight began to slow down, he decided to write these thoughts in The End of Your Life Book Club.

(taken from Goodreads;
published by Knopf; I'm unsure of the cover designer)

First Impression: Since you pretty much know how the book will end when you first start it, I'm a bit depressed when reading it. There's something so sweet and yet morbid about reading Mary Ann's final discussions with her son, and yet, I already feel completely engrossed and involved in the lives of this family. I'm fairly certain this book will be chock-full of meaningful revelations and good book suggestions.

Conclusion: I kind of jumped the gun with The End of Your Life Book Club, since it's supposed to be my book club's pick for next month. But I couldn't help myself; this book was incredibly moving, every step of the way. It's such a beautiful idea to me: sharing your final months with someone by reading the same books he or she does and discussing them, learning a little more about that person and sharing more of yourself every step of the way. As predicted, I've gleaned lots of new book titles for my To-Be-Read list, and I feel very appreciative of my life and the opportunities I've been given. I would highly recommend Schwalbe's memoir of his mother. What a great way to start the new year!

This was one of my free reads for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. Keep an eye out for more Book Bingo posts, and feel free to join in for 2014!