Friday, August 31, 2012

Reading Challenges Update: August 2012

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

Mystery & Suspense (10/24)
10. Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George

Audio Books (5/6)
5. Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George

100 Books in a Year (100/100) - COMPLETED!
96. The Crimson Z by Robert Cloud, et al.
97. Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George
98. Silver & Gold by David Sakmyster
99. The Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook
100. The Picture by Stephanie Taylor

Debut Author (6/12)
6. Sykosa by Justin Ordonez

YA Historical Fiction (4/5)
4. Back to Bataan by Jerome Charyn

Book Blogger Recommendation (7/10)

Chick Lit (2/12)
2. The Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook

Horror & Urban Fantasy (25/48)
21. The Crimson Z by Robert Cloud, et al.
22. Silver & Gold by David Sakmyster
23. Nightmare by Annette Shelley
24. Fever Moon by Karen Marie Moning
25. Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Why Buy the Cow? (6/12)
6. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Chunkster (3/4)
3. Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

YA Mythology (6/10)
6. Sufis at Culver by Richard Gwyn Davies

Standalone (10/15)
10. Back to Bataan by Jerome Charyn

YA Saves (9/10)
9. Sykosa by Justin Ordonez

Immortal (7/12)
6. The Crimson Z by Robert Cloud, et al.
7. Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

British Book (12/12) - COMPLETED!
9.  Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George
10. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
11. The Aquarius Code by Andrew May
12. Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Free Reads (5/5) - COMPLETED!
5. The Crimson Z by Robert Cloud, et al.

A to Z (23/26)
23. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Time Travel (3/3) -COMPLETED!
3. Sufis at Culver by Richard Gwyn Davies

Multi-Cultural (4/12)
3. Sykosa by Justin Ordonez
4. Sufis at Culver by Richard Gwyn Davies

Paranormal Fantasy (10/10) - COMPLETED!
9. The Crimson Z by Robert Cloud, et al.
10. Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Short Story (1/3)
1. The Crimson Z by Robert Cloud, et al.

The Verse Challenge (1/5)

Back to the Books Giveaway Hop

Hop:  Back to the Books
Hosts:  I Am a Reader Not a Writer & Buried in Books
Prize: Used audio ARC of Another Piece of My Heart by Jane Green (in sleeves, but no box)

Entry Form:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Follow the Hop:

Elsewhere Online: August 2012

As you know from my In My Mailbox posts, I review for two other websites ( and 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: Nightmare
Author: Annette Shelley
Challenges: Horror & Urban Fantasy

Title: Fever Moon
Author: Karen Marie Moning
Challenges: Horror & Urban Fantasy

Title: Sufis at Culver
Author: Richard Gwyn Davies
Challenges: YA Mythology, Time Travel, Multi-Cultural

Title: Shadow of Night
Author: Deborah Harkness
Challenges: Horror & Urban Fantasy, Chunkster, Immortal, British, Paranormal Fantasy

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Aquarius Code

The Aquarius Code
by Andrew May
published by Post-Fortean
ISBN n/a
Why Read?: Review
Challenges: British Books

I want to be upfront: the first time I read The Aquarius Code, I was editing it for the now defunct Chippewa Publishing.  Since then, Andrew May has revised the story, giving it an update and some extra polish that helps make this fun and unique story sparkle.

When a tour group visiting Stonehenge vanishes mysteriously, several people immediately begin searching for answers.  First is Dominique Head, the detective assigned to the case.  Second is Henry Vaughn, a professor of Gnostic Theology, who has an idea of what happened and quickly becomes a person of interest to the police.  And last is Cornelius Fnord, a mysterious man with minions...and influential power.  The group that disappeared after performing a tantric masturbation ritual, find themselves in the Library of Babel.  The answer maybe in the books, but all they can find are obscure sexual passage amongst the gibberish.  

The Aquarius Code is not for the sexually faint of heart, but it sure is a fun read.  The ancient site, the mythical location, and the gnostic theory make it and intriguing tale with plenty of mysterious elements.  The characters were rather stereotypical, but that helped add to the fun.  

The Aquarius Code may not be for everyone, but for those who do not mind various sexual rituals being important plot points, it is a highly enjoyable read.  I am interested to see what else Andrew May can come up with.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Back to Bataan

Back to Bataan
by Jerome Charyn
published by Tribute
Why Read?: Review
Challenges: YA Historical Fiction, Standalone

Jerome Charyn is better known as an adult author, but his foray into the world of younger readers, Back to Bataan, is not to be missed.  Back to Bataan has all of the literary merits of Charyn's works for adults but is at a level that even middle graders can enjoy.

Eleven-year-old Jack Dalton has had a hard time dealing with his father's death while fighting in Bataan.  He dreams of going with General McArthur to claim not only his father's bodies but those of the other soldiers who died in that battle.  Luckily, he has his dear friend, Mauricette, to talk to and plenty of school compositions to write on the subject.  But when he loses Mauricette's attention, he does something unspeakable.  The only recourse he can think of is to run away and join the hobos in the park.  There, he learns some lessons just as important as those he learns at school.

Back to Bataan is simply told, but the story contains layers upon layers of depth.  Jack is an instantly sympathetic character, and despite some poor choices, Charyn makes it easy for the reader to keep empathizing with him.  Jack's intensity and strong beliefs make him more well-developed than many a middle grade character, and it is wonderful that Charyn does not shy away from this full characterization despite writing for younger readers than normal.

It is amazing how well Jerome Charyn is able to instantly transport readers to Jack's time.  Back to Bataan is a wonderful example of MG/YA historical fiction, giving a vivid glimse of what life was like in America during World War II.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Reading Promise

Title: The Reading Promise
Author: Alica Ozma
Publisher: Grand Central
Why Read?: Book Club
Challenges:  n/a

Thoughts: An uplifting, episodical memoir about a girl and her father as they attempt to read together every night until she goes away to college. Makes me want to do the same some day with my kid.

Rating: 4 stars

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Stacking the Shelves: 8/19-8/25

For possible review (on Bookloons):
The Little Woods by McCormick Templeman
Poison Tree by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Don't You Wish by Roxanne St. Claire
Red Heart Tattoo by Lurlene McDaniel
Fury's Fire by Lisa Papademetriou
Diva by Jillian Larkin
Touched by Cyn Balog
The Stone Girl by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Scarlett Dedd by Cathy Brett
Intentions by Deborah Heiligman
Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle
Under My Hat by Jonathan Strahan, ed.
Suck It Up and Die by Brian Meehl
The Blood Keeper by Tessa Gratton
What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton
Tilly's Moonlight Garden by Julie Green

Team Human by Justine Larbalestier & Sarah Rees Brennan
Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
Shine by Jeri Smith-Ready
Split Screen by Brent Hartinger
Veiled by S. B. Niccum
Send by Patty Blount

Downloaded from Amazon:
Thrift by Phil Church

Bought on Kobo:
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Sykosa Part I: Junior Year
by Justin Ordonez
published by TDS
Why Read?: Review
Challenges: Debut Author, YA Saves, Multi-Cultural

Sykosa Part I: Junior Year is one hell of a ride.  Justin Ordonez’s writing style is unlike anything I have ever encountered, and boy, does it pack a punch. 

It’s been a year since the even that forever changed Sykosa, bringing about a blackness whenever she thought about it.  One thing helps her cope with it, though, and that is Tom, the boy who saved her.  They meet regularly behind the Chapel, but no one knows they are a couple – he hasn’t even asked her to Prom – aside from Niko, Sykosa’s best friend.  Niko, though, is the one behind Sykosa’s problems.  Niko didn’t mean to cause any problems, but on her quest to constantly reinvent herself, while trying to put her mother’s shady past behind her, she sometimes takes things too far.  Their sophomore year, it was trying to take down the leader of the Bitches, the cool girls who rule the school.  Niko, now the leader of the Queens, a rival group, did succeed, but the cost ended up causing Sykosa’s fragile emotional state.

Somehow, Ordonez captures the sexually confused emotions of a teenage girl as if he were one himself.  Never have I read an adolescent female protagonist as true as Sykosa.  However, if I read Sykosa while in high school, I would have been utterly shocked at the language and situations that appear here in print, which leads me to categorize Sykosa as New Adult rather than Young Adult.

Aside from an amazingly realistic protagonist, Ordonez’s writing style also elevates Sykosa.  Knowing that there is something dark in Sykosa’s past makes the reader want to keep reading in the hopes of finding out what the juicy gossip is.  Ordonez carefully, skillfully doles out just enough information to drag the reader in deeper, chapter by chapter, until the tension is unbearable. The only downside to Ordonez’s writing the random head-hopping that happens infrequently but still noticeably.

Compulsively readable, raw and gritty, Sykosa Part I: Junior Year is a story that cannot be forgotten.  If this is Justin Ordonez’s debut, I cannot wait to see what he produces next.  Part II cannot come fast enough!  

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Oliver Twist

Title: Oliver Twist
Author: Charles Dickens
Publisher: Kobo
ISBN: n/a
Why Read?: For Fun
Challenges:  British Books, Why Buy the Cow? (Kobo), A to Z

Thoughts: I am not a big fan of Dickens, and Oliver Twist did nothing to persuade me. After the first third, the story began winding here and there (it was a serial after all), and I just lost the plot, especially as more and more characters were introduced.
Rating: 2 stars

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Mouse Guard, Labyrinth and Other Stories

Title: Mouse Guard, Labyrinth and Other Stories: Free Comic Book Day 2012
Author: Various
Publisher: Archaia
ISBN: n/a
Why Read?: For Fun
Challenges:  n/a

Thoughts: First off, this is definitely the best looking Free Comic Book Day book ever - it is hardcover!  The stories contained therein are just as delightful and a great introduction to various series.  My favorites were "Hoggle and the Worm" from Labyrinth and "Long While Ago" from Cow Boy.
Rating: 4 stars

Quest, Inc.

Quest, Inc.
by Justin Cohen
published by Telemachus
Why Read?: Review
Challenges: n/a

Justin Cohen has created a unique concept with Quest, Inc.: self-help fiction.  Combining fictional stories with real advice, Quest, Inc. is an interesting and uplifting read.

Robert Rivera won a prestigious award for his work on the national obesity crisis.  Unfortunately, deeply-rooted problems blocked him from following his own advice.  With the help of the rest of his former national committee members, Robert gets back on his feet in an amazing four months.  Psyched by what they accomplished and perturbed that the recent study shows that their national effort did not work, the four committee members – Robert, Carter, Jay, and Mickey – plus a beauty guru, Alexia, form Quest, Inc.  Determined to prove that self-help gurus are more than snake oil salesman, they take on a variety of cases while an investigative reporter scrutinizes their every move.

Instead of being one novel, I would have enjoyed Quest, Inc. as a series of novellas, each fully focusing on a client.  The first part which chronicles Robert’s recovery is excellent, and while the rest of the book is fine, more time could have been spent on each of Quest, Inc.’s clients, providing a little more conflict and intensity. 

Quest, Inc. is not fast-paced or action-packed but it is uplifting and motivational.  Justin Cohen has created the perfect vehicle for self-help advice without the stigma of an actual self-help book.

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Stacking the Shelves: 8/12-8/18

For possible review (on Bookloons):
The White Forest by Adam McOmber

Thieftaker by D. B. Jackson
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
What a Boy Needs by Nyrae Dawn
Shift by Jeri Smith-Ready

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Picture

Title: The Picture
Author: Stephanie Taylor
Publisher: Astraea
ISBN: 978-1-936852-29-1
Why Read?: Book Club
Challenges:  100 Books in a Year

Thoughts: This was an uplifting, well-paced, sweet romance.  I liked that the conflict was realistic and often touching.  The only problem I had was remembering the main character's name.
Rating: 3 stars

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Wildwater Walking Club

Title: The Wildwater Walking Club
Author: Claire Cook
Publisher: Voice
ISBN: 9781401341237
Why Read?: Book Club
Challenges:  Chick Lit, 100 Books in a Year

Thoughts: This was a very cute, uplifting chick lit about finding yourself. The idea of a walking club is awesome and made me wish I lived near a beach—I can definitely leave the lavender, though.
Rating: 4 stars

Silver & Gold

Title: Silver & Gold
Author: David Sakmyster
Publisher: Dragon Moon
ISBN: 978-1-896944-98-2
Why Read?: For Fun
Challenges:  Horror/Urban Fantasy, 100 Books in a Year

Thoughts: This is a wonderful historical fiction account of the Alaskan gold rush, reminiscent of the storytelling of Jack London. The beginning, as the story bounced back in time, was a little confusing, but once it started focusing on only Delin’s life, it really picked up. The Sesquats added some interest, but I think the story would have been stronger without them.
Rating: 3 stars

Believing the Lie

Title: Believing the Lie
Author: Elizabeth George
Publisher: Penguin Audio
ISBN: 9781611760408
Why Read?: For Fun
Challenges:  Mystery/Suspense, Audio Book, British, 100 Books in a Year

Thoughts: I loved the setting of this story, and the secrets that the family was keeping were highly intriguing. The ending, though, left me wanting. It was an entertaining listen overall.
Rating: 3 stars

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Stacking the Shelves: 8/5-8/11

For possible review (on Bookloons):
Every Day by David Levithan
The Dead Season by Christobel Kent

Journey in Time by Chris Karlsen
Heroes Live Forever by Chris Karlsen
Beautiful Lies by Jessica Warman

Swaps on Swap-Bot:
No Ordinary Child by Darlene Graham

Requested on Paperbackswap:
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Bought at Barnes & Noble:
The Devil's Puzzle by Clare O'Donohue