Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Reading Challenged Update: July 2012

Here is where I stand with the challenges I have joined after the month of July (only challenges that I read books for this month are featured here):

Mystery & Suspense (9/24)
9. Jericho's Walls by Michael Bret Hood

100 Books in a Year (95/100)
80. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
81. Jericho's Walls by Michael Bret Hood
82. The Haunting of Gad's Hall by Norah Lofts
83. His Chosen Bride by Sherry Gloag
84. Nightschool: The Weirn Books 3 by Svetlana Chmakova
85. The Song of Kahunsha by Anosh Irani
86. The Soldier's Wife by Joanna Trollope
87. Knee Deep by Jolene Perry
88. Nightschool: The Weirn Books 4 by Svetlana Chmakova
89. Listening to Africa by Diana M. Raab
90. Initiate by Tara Maya
91. The Aspen 2-Million Winner-Take-All by John Morris
92. The Color of Snow by Brenda Stanley
93. Soulbound by Heather Brewer
94. Wraith's Forest by L. J. Leger
95. Sirenz by Charlotte Bennardo & Natalie Zaman

YA Contemporary (5/5) - COMPLETED!
5. Knee Deep by Jolene Perry

Book Blogger Recommendation (7/10)
7. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Horror & Urban Fantasy (20/48)
18. The Haunting of Gad's Hall by Norah Lofts
19. Nightschool: The Weirn Books 3 by Svetlana Chmakova
20. Nightschool: The Weirn Books 4 by Svetlana Chmakova

Why Buy the Cow? (5/12)
5. Initiate by Tara Maya

YA Mythology (5/10)
4. Initiate by Tara Maya
5. Sirenz by Charlotte Bennardo & Natalie Zaman

Standalone (9/15)
8. Knee Deep by Jolene Perry
9. The Color of Snow by Brenda Stanley

YA Saves (8/10)
7. Knee Deep by Jolene Perry
8. The Color of Snow by Brenda Stanley

Telling Tales (5/5) - COMPLETED!
4. Initiate by Tara Maya
5. Wraith's Forest by L. J. Leger

British Book (8/12)
6. The Haunting of Gad's Hall by Norah Lofts
7. His Chosen Bride by Sherry Gloag
8. The Soldier's Wife by Joanna Trollope

Free Reads (4/5)
2. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
3. Jericho's Walls by Michael Bret Hood
4. His Chosen Bride by Sherry Gloag

A to Z (22/26)
22. Knee Deep by Jolene Perry

Self-Published (5/5) - COMPLETED!
4. Initiate by Tara Maya
5. Wraith's Forest by L. J. Leger

Paranormal Fantasy (8/10)
8. Wraith's Forest by L. J. Leger

The Verse Challenge (1/5)
1. Listening to Africa by Diana M. Raab

Summer Giveaway Hop (US/Can)

Hop:  Summer
Hosts:  I Am a Reader Not a Writer, Book Hounds, & Book Hounds YA
Prize: Used ARC of This Charming Man by Marian Keyes
Entry Form: 
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Follow the Hop:

Elsewhere Online: July 2012

As you know from my In My Mailbox posts, I review for two other websites (bookloons.com and bittenbybooks.com). As I cannot post my reviews there and here, but I would still like to count the books I read for the challenges, I am going to have a post like this at the end of the every month listing the books I reviewed and what challenges the went towards.

Title: Soulbound
Author: Heather Brewer
Challenges: 100 Books in a Year

Title: Wraith's Forest
Author: L. J. Leger
Challenges: Telling Tales, Self Published, Paranormal Fantasy, 100 Books in a Year

Title: Sirenz
Author: Charlotte Bennardo & Natalie Zaman
Challenges: YA Mythology, 100 Books in a Year

The Color of Snow

The Color of Snow
by Brenda Stanley
published by Tribute
ISBN 978-0-9837418-9-3
Why Read?: Review
Challenges: Standalone, YA Saves, 100 Books in a Year

The Color of Snow is one of the most intense YA contemporaries that I have read this year.  Brenda Stanley takes the reader for one highly-emotional ride.

Sophie Sanchez lives in seclusion with her father, Miguel, who never allows her to travel outside the home or receive any visitors.  One day, she accidently reveals herself when a co-worker of her dad’s comes to call with her two boys in tow.  Sophie forms a fast friendship with the boys, Donny and Damien, who come to see her in the morning while her father is at work.  When Donny dies mysteriously, her father explains why she must never get close to anyone; he believes their family is under a curse that will kill anyone they love.  This leads him to putting bars on her windows and replacing her bedroom door with a gate.  Years later, Damien comes back to see Sophie and discovers the conditions in which she is living.  After her father shoots Damien, the authorities come and arrest him and take Sophie to live with her mother’s family whom she believes hates her.  Sophie quickly learns a lot about her new family, but the reason for her father’s kidnapping her is still a mystery to her.

What Stanley did that really made The Color of Snow stand out from any similar story is tell the story with a loose timeline, alternating between Sophie's present, her past, and her father's past.  It gives the novel wonderful depth and lets the reader see what events led up to her father's arrest which started the book, and lets the reader sympathize with not only Sophie but also empathize with her father.  This last point is highly tricky, but Stanley executes it very well.   However, handling so many story threads slows the pacing a little in spots, but Stanley's engaging story definitely keeps the reader salivating for more and to continue reading until that thread is picked up again.

Brenda Stanley's story-telling prowess makes The Color of Snow one of the standout reads of the summer.  

Rating: 4/5

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Aspen 2-Million Winner-Take-All

The Aspen 2-Million Winner-Take-All
by John Morris
published by Two Harbors
Why Read?: Review
Challenges: 100 Books in a Year

If you are looking for an oddly compelling, twisting and turning, hilarious read, I highly suggest you check out The Aspen 2-Million Winner-Take-All by John Morris.  This is a story unlike anything I have ever read.

Morgan Somerville is living the good life in Aspen.  Earning his living as a golf-themed self-help guru leaves him plenty of time for his overgrown fratboy ways of skiing, throwing parties, and playing with his garage band whenever he likes.  Things change quickly, though, when his old duplex-mate moves out and his new neighbor, the incredibly hot Risa, moves in.  Try as he might, Morgan cannot get Risa to give him the time of day - that is, until his pot plant pot falls off his balcony and kills her beloved dog Tyson.  Before Morgan can even comprehend what happened, Risa is throwing stuff at him and threatening to sue him. As far as Morgan can figure out, this leaves him with three option - make Risa fall in love with him, find out her dark secrets and blackmail her, or come up with a million to pay her off.  With her constantly throwing objects at him, the first does not seem like an option, and makes the second rather difficult, too, so when the chance to win two million in a secret golf tournament comes up, Morgan jumps at the chance.  However, even though his business is golf-related, his game is not up to par with the rest of the tournament's players...but could Risa be melting a little to his irresistible charm?

The Aspen 2-Million Winner-Take-All is one crazy story.  It is a longer read, and there are some spots where you wonder where Morris is taking you, but then something new happens and it all makes sense.  It really makes for one roller-coaster of a read.  Of course, there are times when you just want to yell at Morgan to tell Risa what really happened to Tyson, but then you realize that there wouldn't be this hilarious series of mishaps and the book would only be a few rather uneventful chapters.

The only problem I had was Morris's reliance on using celebrities to instantly describe the characters rather the using his own descriptions.  Luke the handyman being likened to Jesus was humorous, but with the rest, it felt more like Morris was casting a movie than populating a novel.

All in all, The Aspen 2-Million Winner-Take-All is one highly engaging, zany read.  John Morris shows great potential in the humorous genres.

Rating: 3/5

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Stacking the Shelves: 7/22-7/28

For review (here, Bookloons and Bitten by Books):
The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Fever by Lauren DeStefano
The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma
Flying Blind by Deborah Cooke
Winging It by Deborah Cooke
Blowing Embers by Lauri J. Owen
The McSweeney's Book of Politics & Musicals by Christopher Monks, ed.
The Aquarius Code by Andrew May
On the Day I Died by Candace Fleming

Hunted by Holly McDowell
A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger
Only One Life by Sara Blaedel

Stacking the Shelves Special: Summer Books Exchange

For the Summer Book Exchange, I received two books from Rachel which I have had multiple people recommend to me:
The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Title: Initiate
Author: Tara Maya
Publisher: n/a
ISBN: n/a
Why Read?: For Fun
Challenges:  Why Buy the Cow? (Kindle), YA Mythology, Telling Tales, Self-Published, 100 Books in a Year

Thoughts: This is a very unique story with a lot of threads that lead up to one heck of a cliffhanger.  At first, it took a while to get into because it is told from so many points of view, but once everyone is introduced and the exposition is over, the story really picks up.
Rating: 4 stars

Listening to Africa

Listening to Africa
by Diana M. Raab
published by Antrim
ISBN 978-1-936482-18-4
Why Read?: Review
Challenges: Verse, 100 Books in a Year

In Listening to Africa, poet Diana M. Raab details her trip to Africa.  The sights on the trip, so different from America, bring about many emotions and reminiscences in Raab, from her fear that her frail immune system might not be able to handle some of the bug-carried diseases ("The Scent of Death") to how much her son reminds her of her deceased father ("Your Camera").  However, these heavy moments are also balanced by lighter ones, notably when she is observing the wildlife such as monkeys ("Mischievous Monkeys") and dug beetles ("Dung Beetles").

As a whole, Listening to Africa wonderfully captures the feel of Diana M. Raab's experience.  However, there were times when it felt like she was holding back a little, teasing the reader with a taste of the culture rather that fully emerging the reader in Africa.

Rating: 3/5

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Nightschool: The Weirn Books 4

Title: Nightschool: The Weirn Books 4
Author: Svetlana Chmakova
Publisher: Yen
ISBN:  978-0-316-09126-8
Why Read?: For Fun
Challenges:  Horror & Urban Fantasy, 100 Books in a Year

Thoughts: Lots of action in the final volume, which means lots of chances for Chmakova to show off her wonderful artwork.  This volume was intense, and the ending was perfect.
Rating: 5 stars

Knee Deep

Knee Deep
by Jolene Perry
published by Tribute
ISBN 978-0-9837418-8-6
Why Read?: Review
Challenges: YA Contemporary, Standalone, YA Saves, A to Z, 100 Books in a Year

Jolene Perry knows how to present tough issues in a way that is accessible and acceptable to teens, as evidenced by her latest novel, Knee Deep.  This is a realistic portrayal of abusive high school relationships, charged with emotion.

Ronnie has always known Shawn was the one for her.  They began dating as young teens, stayed connected when Shawn's family moved, and are stronger than ever now that it is senior year and Shawn has moved back.  However, Shawn is different from that boy she fell in love with.  Lately, he has become moody and temperamental when Ronnie does things he does not like - such as wear shoes that make her taller than him.  When Ronnie finds out that his parents have been getting into heated arguments that often become physical, she blames his irritability on that...and even looks the other way the first time he leaves bruises on her wrist.  Soon, though, the bruises become more frequent, but Ronnie knows she must stand by Shawn.  Their friend Luke, though, begins to notice that something is not right, and even stops Shawn from hurting Ronnie a few times.  But no matter what Luke says, or how close she and him become, Ronnie feels Shawn can go back to that boy she feel in love with and she must stay by him no matter what.  What will it take for Ronnie to finally see the truth?

While I, luckily, have never been in a situation like Ronnie's, Perry made it really easy to see where she was coming from.  So many times we read about an abusive relationship and wonder why she (or he) does not just leave; through Ronnie's viewpoint, Perry shows why that is not possible.  Hearing Ronnie's thoughts and seeing how they parallel some of my own in totally different situations helped me connect with her and truly understand her predicament.  

Knee Deep is a must read for all teen girls, whether they are in an abusive relationship or not even in a relationship at all.  Jolene Perry gets to the heart of the matter in a story that is highly readable and enjoyable.

Rating: 5/5

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Stacking the Shelves: 7/15-7/21

For possible review (here and on Bookloons):
The Jericho River by David Carthage
Fever Moon by Karen Marie Moning
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
War Stories by Elizabeth Doyle
Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling by Michael Boccacino
Cuttlefish by Dave Freer

The Bay of Foxes by Sheila Kohler
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Auracle by Gina Rosati

Swaps on Swap-Bot:
The Good Doctor by Wensley Clarkson

Requested from Paperbackswap:
Travels with Charlies by John Steinbeck
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Bought on Amazon:
Minna & the Valentine by S. G. Rogers

Bought on Kobo:
From Now Until Forever by Sherry Gloag
The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Stacking the Shelves: 7/8-7/14

Sufis at Culver by Richard C. Davies

Fix by Force by Jason Warne
Under My Skin by Charles de Lint
The Last Romanov by Dora Levy Mossanen

Swaps from Swap-Bot:
The Fall by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan

Requested from Paperbackswap:
How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The House of Sleep by Jonathan Coe
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynn Jones

Bought on Kobo:
The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma