Tuesday, November 29, 2011

2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge

I love books.  I buy them, win them, are gifted with them, on a very regular basis.  Unfortunately, I get books more often than I read them.  So I have a HUGE TBR pile on my shelves.  In an effort to work my way through some of the backlog, I'm going to participate in the 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge.

Challenge guidelines:
  1. This challenge will run from Jan 1, 2012 - Dec 31, 2012.
  2. As we would like to see quality reviews linked up to our monthly wrap-ups, only bloggers can enter. Sorry about that!
  3. Any genre, length or format of book counts, as long as it is a book that's been sitting on your shelf for some time now. Only books released in 2011 and earlier! NO ARCs and 2012 fresh-off-the-press releases allowed!
  4. You can list your books in advance or just put them in a wrap-up post. If you list them, feel free to change them as the mood takes you.
  5. When you sign up in the linky, put the direct link to your post about joining the 2012 TBR PILE Reading Challenge (You need to include the info + host list + challenge button. You can also grab the button code and add it to your sidebar!)
  6. You can move up levels, but no moving down.
  7. Sign-ups will be open until Dec 15, 2012, so feel free to join at any time throughout the year.
  8. At the end of each month one of the hosts will post a wrap-up. Every wrap-up will have it's unique theme, mini-challenge, a giveaway and place for you to link up your reviews from this month. For each review you link up, you will get one entry in a drawing of one book of choice from Book Depository. It's open to INTERNATIONALS. For participating in the mini-challenge you will get +1 entry.
  9. If you miss a wrap-up post + giveaway, you can link up your reviews next month. Do not, however, try to link up one review twice - we will be checking ;)
  10. December is a wrap-up for the whole year. All the book reviews you linked up January-November + the ones you'll link up in December will be entered into a HUGE giveaway - 12 books, 12 winners, INTERNATIONAL.
  11. You don't have to follow all the hosts to join the challenge, but you do have to follow all of us to be entered in giveaways!
1-10 - A Firm Handshake
11-20 - A Friendly Hug
21-30 - A Sweet Kiss
31-40 - Love At First Sight
41-50 - Married With Children

Evie from Bookish -http://www.evie-bookish.blogspot.com @SeoEvie
Nicole from All I Ever Read - http://www.nicoleabouttown.com/ @Nicoleabouttown
Bonnie from Hands and Home - http://www.handsandhome.ca/ @HandsHomeBlog
Donna from Book Passion For Life - http://bookpassionforlife.blogspot.com/ @BookPforLife
Caitlin from WatchYA Reading - http://whatchyareading.net @caitlingss
Rie from Mission To Read - http://missiontoread.com/ @missiontoread
Vicky from Books, Biscuits & Tea - http://booksbiscuitsandtea.blogspot.com/ @alouetteuette
Christa from Hooked On Books - http://christashookedonbooks.blogspot.com @ChristasBooks
Jenna from Fans Of Fiction - http://fansoffiction.blogspot.com/ @fansoffiction
Angel from Mermaids Vision - http://mermaidvision.wordpress.com @mermaidvisions

Wrap-up POST Schedule:

January - Donna (Theme: Let It Snow + Book Cover Challenge)
February - Nicole (Theme: Un-requited Love/Love Gone Wrong + Advice Column Challenge)
March - Rie (Theme: Green or Pinched + Green Cover Challenge)
April - Bonnie (Theme: Easter + Mini Challenge)
May - Christa (Theme: MayDay - Disaster Books! + Cover Disaster Challenge)
June - Jenna (Theme: Camping + Sentence Challenge)
July - Rie (Theme: International Day + Cover Comparison Challenge)
August - Angel (Theme: Summer Memories + Send Your Fav Character On Vacation Challenge)
September - Nicole (Theme: Life Changing Books + Mini Challenge)
October - Caitlin (Theme: Thanksgiving Theme + Share-A-Book Challenge)
November - Vicky (Theme: Spooky Halloween + Book Puzzle Challenge)
December - Evie (Theme: Xmas Bliss + Book Bachelor Challenge)

I'm starting out with A Friendly Hug.  I may move up as the year goes on.  It'll just depend on how many new books drag my attention away. Click on the picture above to go to the sign-up page!

2012 eBook Challenge

Sarah at Workday Reads is hosting the 2012 eBook Challenge.  I'm joining this one in the hopes that I'll have something (at some point this year) that I can read eBooks easily on.  Otherwise, I suspect I'll be spending time reading a few books on my netbook in bed at night.  But I do like a challenge, so I'm signing up, regardless.

You can click on the picture above to get to the sign-up page.  If you're curious about the guidelines for the challenge, take a gander below (taken directly from the sign-up page).

Challenge Guidelines:
  1. This challenge will run from Jan 1, 2012 - Dec 31, 2012.
  2. Anyone can join, you don't need to be a blogger. If you don't have a blog, feel free to sign-up in the comments. You can post reviews to any book site (i.e. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Goodreads, etc).
  3. Any genre or length of book counts, as long as it is in ebook format.
  4. You can list your books in advance or just put them in a wrap-up post. If you list them, feel free to change them as the mood takes you.
  5. When you sign up in the linky, put the direct link to your post about joining the E-Book Reading Challenge.
  6. You can move up levels, but no moving down.
  7. Sign-ups will be open until Dec 15, 2012, so feel free to join at any time throughout the year.
  1. Floppy disk - 5 ebooks
  2. CD - 10 ebooks
  3. DVD - 25 ebooks
  4. Memory stick - 50 ebooks
  5. Hard drive - 75 ebooks
  6. Server - 100 ebooks
  7. Human brain - 150 ebooks
At the beginning of each month there will be a roundup post for you to add your reviews for that month. If you forget, feel free to add your reviews in the following month. Any reviews submitted will be entered into the draw for that month.

Since I'm not sure what my eBook reading will be like for the upcoming year, I'm going Floppy Disk for now.  But I am hoping to change it to a higher level later in the year.

Who's going to join me?

Review: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rich had picked this book up from the library several weeks ago and told me that I had to read it as soon as he closed the back cover. I'd been putting it off for awhile, having several other books that were higher on my priority list (requests that needed to go back to the library). Yesterday, I decided that it was the time for me to settle in and read it.

Charlotte Doyle is a 13 year old girl, just out of finishing school in England, and on her way back to her family home in Providence, RI. Her father has arranged passage for her on a ship belonging to the company he works for, arranging for two other families to travel at the same time. But when Charlotte arrives at the boat, she finds that the other families are unable to travel and she will be the loan female on a boat full of men. What follows is a tale that moves from fear to adventure and takes this well-brought-up girl from her high society beginnings into a world she could have never imagined.

Overall a good story, the beginning seemed a bit slow to me. It took me awhile to warm up to Charlotte and her story. It wasn't until the mutiny were ready to begin that I really became enraptured and knew I would want to finish it that night.

The writing was very evocative, making it easy to mentally put yourself on a sailing ship in the 19th century. I could feel the cramped quarters, the sparseness of the cabin that Charlotte is first settled into. The main characters are very well written, each with their own quirks. The minor characters in the story aren't quite as fleshed out (many of the sailors seem indistinguishable from one another), but it doesn't detract from the overall story.

The book is a fairly quick read, one that I finished within about 3 hours. It's good for a rainy afternoon when you want to lose yourself somewhere that is far removed from your cozy chair.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: True Strength: My Journey from Hercules to Mere Mortal--and How Nearly Dying Saved My Life

True Strength: My Journey from Hercules to Mere Mortal--and How Nearly Dying Saved My Life
True Strength: My Journey from Hercules to Mere Mortal--and How Nearly Dying Saved My Life by Kevin Sorbo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With the sheer number of books that I've read since January, saying that True Strength: My Journey from Hercules to Mere Mortal - and How Nearly Dying Saved My Life was the best book that I've read this year is saying a lot. I haven't been reading a lot of non-fiction lately, but when I'd read a blurb about this book through one of my library newsletters, it intrigued me.

For many, Kevin Sorbo was Hercules. This included, to a large degree, himself. When he was struck down at 38 with strokes that affected his thinking, his balance and his ability to live the life he had, life becomes an uphill battle for Kevin and those that love him.

I'd been expecting this to be a true autobiography - telling everything from childhood to present day and the complications from the aneurysm would only be a small part of it. Instead, he only touched briefly on his earlier days and that, primarily, was to set up the changes that he had to make in his life. It really did focus on what this illness did to him and the difficult he had making the changes that were necessary to keep him alive.

Kevin isn't the only one to write about what happened to him. Interspersed throughout the chapters written by Kevin are chapters written by his wife (Sam), his mother and many other friends along the way. They gave a good glimpse into what the outside world was seeing while Kevin was dealing with his own issues.

I think part of why this book may have resonated so strongly with me is because of my own battle with a disease that doesn't allow me to live the life I want - depression. It's often been hard for me to accept that it's ok to slow down some days because of the weight that depression drops on my shoulders. Seeing someone with the physical and mental strength of Kevin Sorbo having to deal with those same issues reminded me that accepting isn't giving up.

I also loved reading about Kevin and Sam and the love they share for one another. It's rare in Hollywood to see love that lasts. But their love... it's been tested in a stronger fire than being on the set surrounded by sexy co-stars or having fans that are willing to do anything for the favorite stars. They hadn't been engaged long when Kevin was hospitalized for the aneurysm, but they managed to stay together through the roughest times. Sam admits that if Kevin hadn't had to endure this, they may not have survived together. He was a work-a-holic that put in 18 hour days and unthinkingly expected her to make the changes to fit into his life. But his illness taught them both a lot about each other and made their relationship stronger. I hope never to have to deal with the same kind of trial-by-fire, but I do hope to have that same kind of love with Rich for the rest of my days.

What amazes me most is that he was able to keep this secret for so long. In this entitled world, where everyone feels it's their right to know everything about those who have achieved fortune and fame, being able to keep a secret of this magnitude is mind-boggling. It took a lot of courage for him to write this book and I'm very glad he did.

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Review: True Blue

True Blue
True Blue by David Baldacci

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've owned the hardcover of this book for awhile, but hadn't gotten around to reading it. When I was looking for an audio to listen to while I was cleaning, I came across the playaway and thought now would be the perfect time to listen to it.

True Blue is the first book by David Baldacci that I've read, but I'm not going to let it be the last. He kept the right level of suspense through the whole story, with periods of slower moments interspersed between the tense moments where you wonder what's going to happen next.

I'll admit, this book did put a little fear in me. It shows how easy it is for just two members of the government to ruin the lives of many - almost without getting caught - and those lives they ruin have no recourse.

The characters were incredibly interesting. Mace is an incredibly strong character. A bit impulsive sometimes, but I like that in a character. I love that she's not giving up on clearing her name, not giving up on getting back on the police force. She's got a great relationship with her sister, as well as her new employer. And the way that she and Roy Kingman develop their relationship is just fantastic.

There were a few problems with the book, mainly a scenes that aren't quite true-to-life. But I was able to overlook those to enjoy the book as a whole. I wouldn't mind seeing these characters again.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Review: JSA: All Stars

JSA: All Stars
JSA: All Stars by Geoff Johns

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a very interesting graphic novel. The Injustice Society attacks the JSA, but they are under the control of a demon called Legacy. The original members of the team - Hawkman, Flash, Wildcat and Green Lantern (or Sentinel) - are taken my the IJS while those that are left, all of whom are legacies to the names they hold, need to figure out how to stop them. Oh... except for Sand. His silicone body has actually been fused into glass. The Spectre appears, telling them that this demon feeds on their psychic pain so they need to go confront the pains of their past.

So far, pretty standard graphic novel set-up. It's when we get to see the characters face their issues that the real brilliance of the graphic novel comes to the fore. For each character, there is color spread taking up 3/4s of the page. The bottom quarter has two paragraphs of information. The first is for the new version of the character and the second is for the originator of the name. Then we see a story about the new character confronting their past in their own way and it is followed by a story involving the old character.

I thought it was very clever of them to set it up in this way. It gave those younger readers (or newer to comics such as myself) a better sense of those that passed the torch. I now had a glimpse of Terry Slone, the original Mr Terrific, where I'd never before known he existed. I got to see the original Hourman bring a murdered in the armed forces to justice and realize that his true power doesn't come from the Miraclo that gives him his strength but from himself. For these glimpses alone, I'd have to say that this is probably my favorite new-read comic this year.

I was also impressed with the artwork. The drawings for the legacies were modern. They fit well with the current timeline that they were exploring. But the drawings for the older comics... it wasn't 100% like the older comics from the 40's and 50's, but it evoked that feeling in me. I felt like I was actually reading two different comic books - one from now and one from my father's childhood. It really kept me in the moment.

The end of the story went back to the traditional pattern of good guys together beating the bad guy and rescuing their friends. It took some special insight to do it (and I don't want to share too much because of spoilers, sweetie), but it felt believable. It's one that I probably wouldn't mind owning. And it makes me want to see if I can get my hands on some of the original JSA stories so I can read a bit more about these originals.

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Review: The Black Book of Buried Secrets

The Black Book of Buried Secrets
The Black Book of Buried Secrets by Mallory Kass

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I finished this book, all I could think was, "This is The 39 Clues version of The Demigod Files." And I say that as a good thing. It was a great way to reacquaint oneself with the major players before the Cahills vs Vespers series starts, plus is a great jumping off point for learning more about certain figures in history. Now, as far as I know, there is no great family of Cahills that have been maneuvering the world for 500 years (and if there was, since I'm not a Cahill, I wouldn't know, would I?). But it is interesting to think what various historical figures would have done in their search for the clues. (I don't think it's been addressed, but I could imagine Agatha Christie's disappearance would have been because of a clue hunt.)

It's a good book for when you have short bursts of time in which to read. Each part is only a few pages long, yet it still packs a ton of information into each bit without it feeling overwhelming. Like I've said in the past, I think the 39 Clues series is a great one for getting kids interested in history and historical figures. It tells just enough about them to whet the appetite and leave kids (and adults) anxious for more. I've got several people that I don't remember hearing about that I'm going to be reading up on thanks to this book.

There were two parts of this book that I enjoyed above all others - the introduction, written by Rick Riordan and telling the story of the first face to face meeting of the Cahills responsible for putting the story of the 39 Clues out there in the hopes of protecting Amy and Dan. It was a fun read and I loved having a different look at the authors.

The other were the agent reports. Written as short vignettes rather than factual information blurbs, it helped bring the reader back into the world of the 39 Clues very easily. But then again, I really like good fiction.

I would definitely suggest waiting until after you've read the first ten books before picking up The Black Book of Buried Secrets, unless you don't mind being spoiled. It doesn't give away every little bit but it does have some pretty major spoilers throughout. It's not a necessity to read before you start the Cahills vs Vespers series, but I do think you would thank yourself for reading it.

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Review: Superman: True Brit

Superman: True Brit
Superman: True Brit by Kim Howard Johnson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What if Kal-el had landed in Britain instead of the USA? This book is a hilarious look at that What-if, showing what Superman would have been like if it's followed his parents' motto: WWTNT (What would the neighbors think?) I'd seen this graphic on the shelves at the library for awhile, but hadn't picked it up. Then today, on a whim, I decided "Why not?" And I'm so glad that I did.

The writing is witty (but what would you expect from something co-authored by John Cleese) and there were far too many parts where I needed to stop and explain my laughter to Rich. Seeing the British versions of some of the iconic characters of Superman had me rolling with laughter - Perry White, respected editor, has turned into Peregrine Whyte-Badger, the owner of most of the tabloids in Britain and the King of Sleeze. Lois Lane's counterpart is Louisa Layne-Ferret and rather than the hard-nosed reporter, she is a Page 3 girl and Whyte-Badger's secret agent trying to ferret out information from Colin Clark (aka Superman). I do like the fact that they didn't completely ignore those icons, though. Louisa's cousin, Lois, is a newspaper reporter in Metropolis and comes over to do a story on Superman. When things start to fall apart for Supes at the end of the book, I think she's a large part of the reason why he decides to relocate to America.

The book has a perfect set-up for more comics in this alternate world, seeing several of the British Characters coming to America, all unaware of the others' arrivals. I could imagine a lot of fun with it, honestly.

I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who likes comics and has a sense of humor. Because it will tickle both of those quite nicely (especially when you meet the Bat-Man. ;))

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Review: Destiny: A Chronicle of Deaths Foretold

Destiny: A Chronicle of Deaths Foretold
Destiny: A Chronicle of Deaths Foretold by Alisa Kwitney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love almost anything written in the Sandman world as created by Neil Gaiman. And this is no exception. While it isn't quite as good as the actual Sandman series or Jill Thompson's Little Endless, it is an enjoyable read. The artwork is a bit more surreal than I generally enjoy, but considering the story takes place, in the main, in a post-apocalyptic plague world, it does fit the story very well. I enjoyed watching John Ryder travel through the years, looking for his lady in white. I also felt for Ruth - I couldn't imagine losing my boys, having to bury them. But I do like the redemption that she gets by the end of the book. All in all, it's a good read and another enjoyable view into the world of the Endless.

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Review: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As it states in the summary, this really is one of the classics of the graphic novel/superhero world. It's actually this book that is considered the cut off point for the "old" Batman and the "new" Batman. So it's been on my radar for awhile, but I didn't pick it up until last week's library trip. I'm glad, however, that I did. Seeing a world without Batman, followed by his return (and a man of 70 still kicking butt like he does is fantastic). At first, it seemed like the stories told within were independent of each other, beyond Batman's appearance. But by the end, they all seemed to mesh together nicely. This is one of those books that I actually wish I owned because I suspect I'd be reading and rereading it fairly regularly. Especially for the fight between Bats and Supes near the end. And I can't forget the brief appearance of my favorite boy, Ollie Queen (or Green Arrow, as he was known back in the day.)

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Review: The Son of Neptune

The Son of Neptune
The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Percy Jackson is one of my favorite characters in children's literature. And, while I enjoyed getting to know Jason, Piper and Leo in The Lost Hero, it was nice to read about Percy again. And meeting Hazel and Frank, along with the rest of Camp Jupiter (the Roman version of Camp Half-Blood) was like old friends introducing me to new friends.

The book was as exciting as the previous ones set in this world, with surprises peppered throughout the book that I never saw coming. Riordan's writing is exciting, keeping the reader anxious to hear more. Some of the lines that he had various characters say alternately cracked me up and made me want to adopt them as mantras. The characters mesh well and seem very realistic - for demi-gods.

There was only one problem I had with the audio book edition, and that was the pronunciation of Gaea. I'd always pronounced it (and heard it pronounced) Geye-ah. The reader pronounced it GE-ah. And each time he said it, I shuddered. Maybe I'd heard it pronounced wrong all this time. But it still bugged me.

I've got the paper copy of the book coming soon as well, and I'm going to reread it then. Because a) it was a good book and 2) I don't know what I may catch on the second read through. If you've loved the Percy Jackson series, you'll enjoy this one as well. If you love reading about mythology, you'll enjoy the series. And once you've read them, you'll want Fall, 2012 to hurry up and get here for the next installment of the series.

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Review: Odd and the Frost Giants

Odd and the Frost Giants
Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's not secret that I think Neil Gaiman is the best writer of our generation. The man can write for anyone! Odd and the Frost Giants is one of his children's books and is just as brilliant as Coraline and The Graveyard Book.

Odd is the son of an Viking Woodcutter and a Scottish lass. After his father's death, and his mother's remarriage, a winter comes that doesn't seem to end. Needing to be on his own, he takes his father's ax and leave's for his old hut in the woods. And that's where his adventures with the Gods begin.

As you can tell from some of my other reading, I love reading about ancient Gods and the stories around them. Since reading about Loki, Thor and Odin in The Sandman, I've loved Gaiman's view of them. The book was a quick read, but a wonderful one. It's one that I'm hoping to own so my boys can read it regularly as well. And I'm really hoping that Gaiman decides to tell more of Odd's stories. Because he really is a wonderful hero.

For all that the book was wonderful, the best part was the Author Biography at the end. It was one of the funniest biographies I've ever read. So don't stop when you get to the end of the story. Remember, the end of the story rarely is.

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Review: Poirot Investigates

Poirot Investigates
Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I like to have something playing when I sleep. Whether it be a television show, a movie or an audio book, having something that can lull me into dreamland is a necessity for me to fall asleep. This week, I've put on the audio book version of this book. David Suchet is one of my favorite readers of Poirot stories, so that was a huge draw for me to have it for my bedtime listening.

Part of why I enjoyed this was because I was pretty familiar with all the stories. I'd watched several of them through the BBC version of Poirot. So it was a combination of new (since the TV version is rarely the same as the story itself) and old (since the basis is still the same). Between waking several times through the night and starting it at different points on different nights, I've been able to listen to them all and I don't think there's one that I haven't enjoyed.

This is a perfect book for quick moments. Times when you want a little mystery, a little Poirot, but don't have a lot of time. While still not my favorite (that still goes to Curtain), it is far and away one of the better ones.

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Review: JSA Vol. 8: Black Reign

JSA Vol. 8: Black Reign
JSA Vol. 8: Black Reign by Geoff Johns

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was another random pull from the library book shelves. It was a time that I'd read about in some of the other graphic novels that I'd read, a time when Black Adam brings to him some of the other heroes who were tired of being reactive instead of proactive, including Atom Smasher. Their first order of business is to take back Black Adam's home country, Kahndaq. But the JSA doesn't agree with Black Adam's methods and want to try to bring their errant friends home.

Black Adam is one of my favorite hero/villains so to read a bit more about him was enjoyable. And the more recent stories that I've read about Atom Smasher also made me want to know more about him as well. And this was a good story for both of those. The violence that happened in Kahndaq was a bit... disturbing. But I've kind of gotten used to that.

The best part of the book, however, was at the end. You get to see the future for Atom Smasher and the good things that happen to him. And that makes me feel better for how things ended. I'm really hoping that it's a future that comes to pass.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Challenge!

The wonderful Briana over at The Book Vixen is challenging us readers to do more.  For 2012, she's challenging all comers to read more than you'd read in 2011.  I, for one, am up for that challenge!  She offers different levels of challenge and me... well, I'm challenging myself to be On Fire!  This means, I'm going to try to read at least 16 more books in 2012 than I did in 2011.  (And, considering I've read 152 so far, while being in the middle of 5 others, its going to be a fairly large amount of books.)

So come on out and challenge yourself.  After all, reading more is always a good goal to have!  You never know what you may learn!

2012 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge