Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

I wish all of you a very happy 2012! 

2012 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge

This will be my first year participating in the Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge. I decided to sign up for this challenge instead of the 150+ challenge because I don't think I could read 30 more books in 2012 than I managed in 2011.

There are four different levels to this challenge:

Getting My Heart Rate Up (1-5 more books)
Out of Breath (6-10 more books)
Breaking a Sweat (11-15 more books)
I'm on Fire (16+ books)

I am going to go for the Out of Breath level. As of right now, I've read 120 books in 2011 (but I am desperately trying to finish Little Women by 11:59 PM) so I hope to read at least 127 books in 2012.

If you'd like to participate, the Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge is hosted by The Book Vixen.

2012 Speculative Fiction Challenge

This will be a new challenge for me to participate in but it looks like fun! Speculative fiction includes science fiction, fantasy, horror, supernatural, dystopian fiction, etc. 

There are 5 levels to this reading challenge from Nosey (3 books) to Obsessed (48 books). I am going to be somewhat moderate and aim for In Nirvana (24 books).

Some of the books I hope to read for the challenge:

A Million Suns by Beth Revis
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Timeless by Gail Carriger
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves
Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder
Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Legend by Marie Lu

The Speculative Fiction Challenge is hosted by Baffled Books.

Friday, December 30, 2011

2012 Off the Shelf Challenge

I am once again signing up for the Off The Shelf Challenge, a challenge I continually fail to complete! Still, I am determined to try to reduce my TBR pile in 2012. In addition to unread books, I also have a lot of unread e-books on my Kindle.

I am going to aim low and go with the Tempted level of 5 books and maybe this year, I'll finally finish the challenge :)

Some of the books I might read:

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen
Eona by Alison Goodman
Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder
StarCrossed by Elizabeth Bunce
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
A Cottage By the Sea by Ciji Ware
The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy
The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson
The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
Whispers in the Sand by Barbara Erskine
Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
Hourglass by Myra McEntire
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey

The Off the Shelf Challenge is hosted by Bookish Ardor.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2012 Victorian Challenge

The Victorian Challenge is being hosted by Laura's Reviews. I am interested in reading more Victorian literature but what makes this challenge even more fun is that we can also read books published in other countries during that time period (Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, etc.), historical fiction set during the Victorian age (like some of my favorite mystery series) and even watch movies. 

The goal is to read or watch 2-6 Victorian related items. I am going to aim for 6 since we can watch movies!

I might read:

The Agency: The Traitor in the Tunnel by Y.S. Lee
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (reread)
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery (reread)

I plan to watch:

North and South
Little Women
Lark Rise to Candleford

If you'd like to sign up, head over to Laura's Reviews!

2012 Book Blogger Recommendation Challenge

The Book Blogger Recommendation Challenge is hosted by Reading With Tequila. The aim is to read books from a large list of recommendations (over 200) from fellow book bloggers. I participated in the 2011 BBRC but I did not do very well. I've decided to try it again this year but I will aim for only Level I (5 books from the list) and see how I do.

I have read 16 of the top 25 books on this year's list but there are several books on the list that I want to try to read in 2012.

Books I'd like to read for the challenge:

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Legend by Marie Lu
Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

If you'd like to sign up for the Book Blogger Recommendation Challenge, visit Reading With Tequila.

2012 Support Your Local Library Challenge

The 2012 Support Your Local Library Challenge is being hosted by The Eclectic Bookshelf. As a librarian, this challenge is important to me and I love to participate in it each year.

There are four different levels to this challenge. Level 1 requires only reading 12 library books , Level 2 requires reading 24 library books, Level 3 requires 36 library books, and Level 4 requires reading 37+ library books. I am going to aim for Level 4.

The nice thing about this challenge is that it encourages participants to use their local library and with many libraries now offering e-books as well as audiobook downloads, you can use your library card to get books from the comfort of your own home (I love downloading library books on my Kindle). If you are interested in participating, visit The Eclectic Bookshelf.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012 E-Book Challenge

Since I got a Kindle this past summer and I've been reading e-galleys and library books on it (as well as all those books I keep buying!) I thought I'd sign up for this challenge.

There are seven different reading levels for this challenge (5 e-books through 150 e-books) and I've decided to aim for the "CD" level which is just 10 e-books.

If you'd like to find out more or sign up, visit Workaday Reads.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top Ten Favorite Books I Read in 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's topic is "Top Ten Favorite Books I Read in 2011".

Not all of the books on my list were published in 2011 and two are not even available here yet. I couldn't just limit myself to 10 books so I split them up and wrote one list for YA books and one for adults.

Top Ten YA Books:

1. Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent is my favorite YA book of 2011 which is kind of surprising since I was only somewhat interested in reading it when I first heard of it. Some reviewers said it was pretty violent and I wasn't sure if I would like it. I am so glad I decided to give it a try!

2. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

This book wasn't even on my radar until I saw it offered on NetGalley. Good thing I decided to take a chance on it! I love the uniqueness of the story and that the protagonist is flawed and easy to relate to. I also like it when a book takes me by surprise! After Divergent, I think this is the best YA debut of 2011.

3. Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

While this book won't be published till 2012, I was lucky enough to read a review copy. Last year I became a big fan of Lauren Oliver's writing with Before I Fall and I was blown away by Delirium. Pandemonium is a good sequel though I wish I didn't have to wait so long for Requiem

4. Across the Universe by Beth Revis

While I was a little reluctant to read Across the Universe when I first heard of it (I don't usually read science fiction) I kept seeing all these positive early reviews so I changed my mind. It was more of a dystopian suspense novel with a serial killer and some truly creepy villains and I found it to be a page turner. I can't wait to read A Million Suns when it is published next month.

5. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

This is the best historical fiction novel I read this past year. The main character and her family are captured by the Soviets and sent to labor camps in Siberia during WWII. I found Between Shades of Gray to be a powerful and unforgettable story.

6. Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

To be honest, it was the cover that drew me to this book more than the synopsis. The idea of a romance between a zombie and a human didn't appeal to me at all. Then I started reading Dearly, Departed and I found myself surprised by how much I loved it. It is a well written story with fantastic characters, an interesting plot and good world building. 

7. Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott

Shadows on the Moon is not yet available in the States but I bought a British version from The Book Depository because I just couldn't wait to read it. I am a fan of Zoe Marriott's novels and this one is a retelling of Cinderella set in a fantasy world inspired by Feudal Japan. It reminded me of Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon and Memoirs of a Geisha.

8. Raised By Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

While I'd heard of Raised By Wolves in 2010, I didn't think it would be a book I'd like because of a review I'd read. Thankfully I saw it at the library one day and decided to check it out. Jennifer Lynn Barnes is now one of my favorite YA paranormal authors. So far I've read three of her books and I've been impressed with them. Raised By Wolves is unlike any other werewolf book I've read. I loved the main character Bryn and even the secondary characters are well developed. I loved the sequel, Trial By Fire and can't wait to read the next book. The Kindle version is currently on sale for $3.19 (through 12/31).  

9. Crossed by Ally Condie

I thought Crossed was an excellent sequel to Matched. We get to see the story from both Cassia and Ky's points of view and I liked Cassia more this time around. Finding out more about the resistance and Ky's past certainly added to the story. I also enjoyed how Ally Condie used another poem (Crossing the Bar) as a symbolic motif throughout the book.

10. Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger

This was on my TBR list for awhile before I finally had the chance to read it this past year. I was really impressed with this book and its exploration of racial identity, beliefs, and racism. It could have been a heavy handed message novel but it wasn't. Neesha Meminger achieves a good balance between the serious themes and the lighter moments. I enjoyed learning more about Sikhism and it made me think about my own teen years and how I wanted to ignore my cultural heritage back then. 

Top Ten Books for Adults:

1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I finally got to read The Help this past spring after years of waiting (I ended up buying my own copy instead of trying to get it from the library). It was definitely worth the wait and I can see what all the hype was about.  I loved the characters-especially Minnie-and the story was memorable. I think The Help will be considered a classic someday.

2. The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry

A library patron came in and told us how wonderful this book was so I decided to check it out for myself. The writing is beautiful, especially if you love food descriptions and recipes like I do. I also liked the unique perspective that Ginny brought to the novel as a protagonist with Asperger's Syndrome. I can't wait to see what Jael McHenry does next.

3. The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

I loved this romantic story set in Scotland because it is part contemporary and part historical. Susanna Kearsley is a new author to me and I enjoyed reading three of her books this year. Her books have a slower pace to them but I always find myself pulled into the story at some point and then it just flies by. The Winter Sea is my favorite of her books so far and it kind of reminded me of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander books.

4. The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair

The Girl in the Garden was inspired by The Secret Garden but it is not a retelling of that story. It is one of my favorites because I loved the writing style and the setting (India).  

5. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

After watching the film version (British movie not to be confused with the Patrick Swayze Civil War miniseries from the 80s) and having read Cranford last year, I decided I had to try reading North and South. It is a wonderful book although at times the writing does meander off topic a little. I was surprised to find that I liked the Mr. Thornton of the book even more than his film incarnation (for one thing he doesn't have that nasty temper) and I loved being able to read his thoughts about heroine Margaret Hale. If you are a fan of Pride and Prejudice you should give this romantic classic a try!

6. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

This book was recommended to me by a relative and I am so glad she suggested that I try it! I found Ernest Pettigrew to be a delightful character reminiscent of Alan Rickman or Hugh Laurie (if they ever make it into a movie I hope Alan Rickman plays Major Pettigrew-he'd be perfect for it). He has a dry wit and it was so fun to see him interact with others in the village of Edgecomb St. Mary or with his thankless son. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand also has a sweet romance, delicious humor, and a well written story about change and tradition. 

7. Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

After years of seeing this series on the shelf, I decided to try the first book and now I'm hooked. This historical mystery series always surprises me and I love the characters even if they are a little modern for the time period. I also loved the relationship between Julia and Brisbane and how he appreciates her intellect. 

8. Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

While I didn't like this as much as Cleopatra's Daughter, I still enjoyed this historical fiction novel with all its fascinating details about wax work and the politics of the French Revolution.

9. The Violets of March by Sarah Jio

I really enjoyed this debut novel that was full of secrets, history, and romance. My favorite parts of the book were the diary entries. I think this would appeal to fans of Nicholas Sparks and I can't wait to read Sarah's new novel, The Bungalow.

10. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Even though I already knew things about Poison Study because I read the spin-off series first, I still thought this was a fantastic book. I enjoyed reading about Yelena and Valek and the reintroduction to Janco and Ari. Yelena is a wonderful character and I loved seeing her grow. I still need to read Magic Study and Fire Study which I plan to get to in 2012 though I've heard they aren't as good as this one. 

What do you think of my list? What are your top reads for 2011?

2012 South Asian Challenge

The South Asian Challenge is one I enjoy participating in every year. The goal is to read books written by authors from South Asian countries (India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives) or books by non-South Asian authors that are about South Asian countries or have South Asian main characters.

Find out more about the South Asian Challenge at S. Krishna's Books.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays!

I've been seeing these creative book trees all over the place lately so I thought I'd share one of my favorites with you. You can find more book trees at GalleyCat. I hope to make one for my library next year.

A Jewish friend sent me a link to this fun Hanukkah video:

If you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, I wish you a very happy holiday season! 
I will be back to blogging next week. In the meantime I plan to enjoy spending time with my family and catching up on reading :)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2012 Eclectic Reader Challenge

The Eclectic Reader Challenge is hosted by Book'd Out. I like the idea of this challenge because the aim is to read books from different genres and I know I have a tendency to avoid certain genres like the plague (horror, science fiction). Since I should be familiar with a variety of genres for my job, I think this is the perfect challenge for me!

The goal of the challenge is to read one book from each genre:

1. Literary Fiction
2. Crime/Mystery Fiction
3. Romantic Fiction
4. Historical Fiction
5. Young Adult
6. Fantasy
7. Science Fiction
8. Nonfiction
9. Horror
10. Thriller/Suspense
11. Classic
12. Your favorite genre

To find out all the details and sign up, visit Book'd Out.

2012 Debut Author Challenge

The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge is one of my favorite reading challenges. Each year I discover great new YA authors like Veronica Roth, Rae Carson, and Lia Habel.

The basic rules of the challenge:

Read at least 12 debut YA/MG novels between January 1, 2012-January 31, 2013
ARCs read before January 1, 2012 do not count
You must have a blog, be a member of Goodreads, or review your books on YouTube
Your blog/review medium must be in English
Deadline to join: May 31, 2012

Some of the books I hope to read for the challenge:

Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves
A Breath of Eyre by Eve Marie Mont
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges
Gilt by Katherine Longshore
Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen 

For full rules and to sign up, visit The Story Siren!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review: Come Sunday

Come Sunday
By Isla Morley
Publication date: May 26, 2009

My review:

Abbe Deighton grew up in a troubled home in South Africa but now she has made a life for herself in Hawaii with her husband Greg and their three year old daughter Cleo. Lately, things have been difficult in her marriage especially with the stress caused by problems with the church her husband pastors. Abbe decides that she and Greg need a night out so they leave Cleo with a sitter and go to see a movie. This decision proves to have major consequences as it leads to a terrible tragedy that will shake the fragile foundations of their marriage. Now as Abbe grieves the loss of her child, she must also confront the ghosts of her past. 

Come Sunday is a moving story about loss and relationships. Abbe has suffered a tremendous loss and as the novel goes on, the reader also finds out about her tough childhood. Isla Morley does a good job of portraying Abbe's pain and she comes across as a very realistic character. Abbe can be unkind and selfish but that is understandable though it makes it hard to like her at times. This is the kind of book that makes readers feel strongly whether it is sorrow or anger. 

My evening book discussion group chose this as our November book. The consensus was that the group did not like Abbe because of her behavior towards her husband and others, particularly her close friends. There was also agreement that one of the plot points toward the end of the book was really unnecessary and didn't fit in with the rest of the book. Other members also wished that there was more about South Africa in the book in terms of a sense of place. 

I still liked Come Sunday even with its flaws. It definitely made me think about how our past can have such a hold on us if we let it and the importance of trying to forgive instead of being bitter.  The characters were true to life and I think the themes of the story were well written. I look forward to reading more from Isla Morley. Come Sunday would make a good book for discussion. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (90)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

This has been a really rough week for me because I haven't been feeling well but I am hopeful that this coming week will be much better. I am planning to go home to visit family on Wednesday afternoon and to stay through the New Year. 

Happy Holidays!

Books read:

All Is Bright by Sarah Pekkanen

I liked this short story though it ended too abruptly. Thankfully the companion short story, Love, Accidentally, wraps up the loose ends. 

Love, Accidentally by Sarah Pekkanen

Books reviewed:

Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Currently reading:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I hope to finish this by the end of the year so I can complete the Victorian Reading Challenge. Right now, I am at the part where Jo forgives Amy for burning her manuscript (after Amy nearly falls through the ice when they go ice skating). I was glad to find so many things from the movie were taken from the book.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

I am really enjoying this retelling of Jane Eyre set in 1960s Scotland. Right now Gemma has just arrived at her new job as an au pair but she hasn't met the "Mr. Rochester" character yet.

What I might read next:

Legend by Marie Lu

My goal is to finish this book by the end of the year so I can see if it makes it onto my Best of 2011 list. I also want to read it because it sounds really good :)

A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison

This novel is about two young Indian girls who survive the 2004 tsunami only to find themselves sold into slavery. 

I got this for Christmas last year but still haven't read it. Bad me! I better start it before my sister gives me a hard time about it :)

In My Mailbox (70)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren to share what books you received for review, purchased, or checked out from the library during the past week.

For review:

Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I am a fan of Jennifer Lynn Barnes's Raised By Wolves series so when I was offered the chance to review this through the Amazon Vine program, you can bet I was thrilled! I've already finished the book (it was pretty good though I like the wolf series better) and my review is here.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

I also got this through the Amazon Vine program. It is a retelling of Jane Eyre set in Scotland during the 1950s and 60s. So far it is pretty good.

A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison

I first saw this in a Shelf Awareness newsletter and I am glad I was able to get an ARC for review because it sounds like such a moving story. 


All is Bright by Sarah Pekkanen

While I don't usually read short stories, I am a fan of Sarah Pekkanen and I was looking for something holiday-ish to read. 

Love, Accidentally by Sarah Pekkanen

This is a companion short story to All is Bright and if you read the first short story, you definitely should read this to get closure on the story.

Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey

I like the Drake Chronicles so hopefully I will enjoy this one too. The synopsis reminds me of both The Vespertine and Clarity.

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

I decided to buy this when it was a Kindle Daily Deal. I've heard that this book is good for book discussions so I thought I'd try it.

The Heroine's Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore

I saw an excellent review of this by Lydia of The Lost Entwife so I decided that I needed to own it. I love Jane Austen and liked the Little House books as a child. The author also writes about Anne of Green Gables and other books I've enjoyed. I look forward to reading this next month.

From the library:

Legend by Marie Lu

Since I have heard so many good things about this book I have rather high expectations. It is definitely one I will be reading soon because I want to finish it by the end of the year. We'll see if it makes it onto my Best of 2011 list...

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

This is another one I've been wanting to read for awhile, mostly because it will be a flashback to my own teen years (minus the FaceBook part of course). 

Little Women and Me by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

I am currently reading Little Women and I like the idea of this book where the modern protagonist finds herself in the book and tries to change what happens in the story.

The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon

I haven't read any of the Lord John books but I did like Outlander. This book features Jamie and I believe it takes place between Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager. While I haven't read the entire series yet, I have read those so I should be okay with reading this book.