Archive for the ‘52 Books in one year challenge’ Category

2012 52 books challenge commences! Plus a recap of 2011

January 2nd, 2012    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Kelly
 

Since my 2011 52 books in one year challenge went so well, I’m doing it again for 2012. Unlike last year, hopefully I’ll do a better job of blogging once I meet my goal.

In 2011, I read 118 books. I think I blogged about 56 of them. To blog or not to blog is an interesting question. Some of the books I read but didn’t write about were good, maybe excellent, books. I just didn’t necessarily have anything to say about them, even though I may have adored the novel. In a few cases, the books didn’t match my expectations and I didn’t want to write a negative review. I respect bloggers willing to write critical reviews that fall on the negative side but I’m not comfortable doing so in a public forum.

My reading goals for 2012 include mixing in more nonfiction. I read a few nonfiction books last year, but the majority were fiction. I also want to read a wider variety of literature this year, and knock a few books off of my “should read” list.

We’ll see how it goes! Here’s to another year of books and literature.

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Ghost on Black Mountain

October 13th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, ARCs, Fiction, Kelly, Literary Fiction
 

Five women narrate the story of Nellie’s unfortunate marriage to Hobbs Pritchard in Ann Hite’s Ghost On Black Mountain.

Set during the backdrop of the depression, ghosts and a sense of magic is woven through the story. Seventeen year old Nellie meets Hobbs as she works in a soup kitchen, and she marries him despite her mother’s objections.

Hobbs takes Nellie home to Black Mountain, and his cruel nature is slowly revealed to Nellie. She also begins to see the ghosts of people Hobbs killed, and she has to decide: will she take action, or end up becoming a ghost herself?

Ghost on Black Mountain is great for fans of Southern fiction, paranormal stories, literary ghost stories, and Southern gothic. The sense of time and place is wonderful, and the writing will suck you from the first page until the last. The different narrators all bring a new perspective to the story.

Title: Ghost on Black Mountain
Author: Ann Hite
Date Read: September 2011
Source: E-Galley

 

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Why Lemon Cake is Particularly Sad

September 7th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Fiction, Kelly, Literary Fiction
 

Nine-year-old Rose is excited to bite into her mother’s homemade lemon cake. Little does she know she’s about to learn about a peculiar gift: Rose can taste the emotions of the person who created the food. If the person loves to cook and finds the experience joyful, she will taste the joy. If the person feels trapped and upset, the sense of despair will come through in the taste of the food, say, in a lemon cake made by a mother anxious to change her life but unsure what to do.

While Rose is too young to fully realize the full impact of the emotions she’s tasting, she’s still upset and reaches out in the way she knows how. For years, she sticks to eating processed food to escape the emotions (and she can narrow foods down to the factories and farms that produced them). In part through food and its affect on Rose we learn about her father’s curious detachment, her mother’s affair, and her brother’s odd, almost Asperger-like behavior.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel and I appreciated the concept. I enjoy novels about food and family life, and I generally love magic realism. While there are a few things in the second half of the novel that made me scratch my head, I’m happy I read this. (I’m also very happy I can enjoy food without learning about the emotional state of the cook.)

Title: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Author: Aimee Bender
Source: Nook E-book
Read: September 2011

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

September 7th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Middle Grade
 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children took me by surprise. By the back cover copy, I thought it would more of a ghost story with maybe some light horror type elements. It’s actually a fantasy novel along the lines of an X-Men type story with no technology and a little more magic.

In the present day, teenage Jacob loses his World War II grandfather to what police and his parents call a vicious dog attack. Jacob knows this isn’t true, as he found his grandfather and saw the hideous monster responsible for the attack. Jacob falls apart, and eventually his father takes him to a Welsh island for six weeks. The island is interesting to both Jacob and his father. To his father, it’s a birdwatchers paradise. For Jacob, it’s a chance to research his grandfather’s past, as his grandfather was evacuated from Poland to an orphanage on this island during World War II.

Jacob’s grandfather showed both his son and grandson photos of ‘peculiar’ children, like a girl floating a few inches off of the ground. He told them tall tales of his life in the orphanage before he enlisted in the Army. As Jacob finds the bombed-out orphanage, he realizes that maybe those tails weren’t quite as tall as he’d assumed.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a great novel for both older middle-grade and younger YA readers. There’s a little romance but it’s inline with novels like Rick Riordan’s Olympian series. The old photos add a nice visual touch to the novel. This is clearly the first novel in a series, with an end that clearly sets up the adventure for the following books.

Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Source: Nook e-book
Read: August 2011

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Where Unicorns Don’t Poop Rainbows

August 31st, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, ARCs, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Young Adult
 

The first thing that attracted me to Drink Slay Love was the title. I hoped the novel had a sense of humor, and thankfully it did.

Sixteen-year old Pearl is the youngest vampire in a powerful family. When she’s getting a “snack” at the local Dairy Hut, she sees a unicorn. Which is a surprise to her, since unicorns don’t exist. She doesn’t take the unicorn seriously, a bad miscalculation since the unicorn stakes her in the back.

Pearl awakes the next day in the not-so-loving arms of her family. Instead of dying, Pearl can now walk in the daylight and more shockingly – she develops a conscience. Of course, she ends up going to high school, and a high-stakes adventure ensues.

Drink Slay Love is campy, kitschy, funny . . . in short, a great summer read. It made me laugh out loud, like when Pearl sarcastically says that unicorns poop rainbows. It pokes fun at other YA vampire novels. Durst adds lots of amusing details, like vampires learning about high school by watching John Hughes movies, and Pearl’s analysis of high school based on hunting and war theories.

Title: Drink Slay Love
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Source: Publisher E-Galley
Read: August 2011

 

 

 

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The Unwanteds: Dystopian Middle Grade novels mixes an idyllic magical world with a cold, repressive regime

August 2nd, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, ARCs, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Middle Grade
 

In Quill, the people are divided into three groups: wanted, necessary, and unwanted. The unwanted are eliminated. Permanently. When thirteen-year old Alex is declared unwanted, he tries to stay strong and be grateful that his twin brother Aaron is wanted.

When Alex arrives at the eliminated site he’s shocked to find that instead of being killed he’s taken to the magical world of Artime. Created to protect the unwanted, who tend to be artists, musicians and other creative folk, Artime is a magical paradise with fun classes, talking statues, and more. Alex is finally able to express himself, as drawing, creative thinking, and expressing emotion are encouraged in Artime while banned in Quill.

Meanwhile, Aaron progresses in the Quill University and has come under the eye of the country’s dictator, Justine. Alex wishes Aaron was with him in Quill, feeling a bond between them that increases over time. This bond could destroy Artime’s very existence.

The Unwanteds would make a nice combination gift pack with The Giver by Lois Lowry and Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Fans of Harry Potter might also enjoy it. The world is a fun mixture of cold, repressive regime and colorful world in which children are taught to use their creativity to solve problems. Alex makes his own choices and faces consequences, yet he also has a strong mentor able to both understand and guide him.

Definitely recommended for middle grade readers.

Read by: Kelly

Title: The Unwanteds
Author: Lisa McMann
Date read: July 2011
Source: ARC

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High fantasy YA: Witchlanders by Lena Coakley

August 2nd, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, ARCs, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Young Adult
 

Ryder is a farmer in Witchland, trying to maintain the farm that’s fallen into his hands after the death of his father. His mother doesn’t help, as she spends most of her time high and trying to tell the future by throwing bones. But Ryder knows that fortune telling is hogwash, and that the witches that take a tithe from his farm each year to protect him are fakes.

In the Bitterlands, Falpian is a disappointment to his father and he’s been sent to a remote cabin on the border with Witchland to mourn the death of his twin brother. Needless to say, they’re brought together.

Bromance ensues.

Well, not exactly. Falpian and Ryder are opposing sides of a conflict, but they have a lot in common. Despite their quirks and different upbringings, they’re both noble and it’s clear they have a shared destiny.

Witchlanders is an interesting read. I appreciated the male protagonists. I also appreciated that while I saw a potential love interest for Ryder, the novel was about so much more and that area wasn’t explored at all. The world-building is strong and nuanced throughout the novel, slowly revealing the beliefs of the two cultures. I enjoyed the magic and the mythology, and I’m curious where the author will go in the rest of the series.

Read by: Kelly

Title: Witchlanders
Author: Lena Coakley
Read: July 2011
Source: ARC

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Mythology adapted to YA Lite-Horror Tale

August 2nd, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, ARCs, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Young Adult
 

The classic mythological creatures the Furies are adapted to a teenage audience in Fury by Elizabeth Miles.

The novel starts out from the perspective of someone—identified later—attempting to commit suicide. One can only assume her attempt draws the Furies to Ascension, Maine for the beginning of the holiday season.

While lead character Emily is popular, she’s in the shadow of her best friend Gabby, and she secretly pines after a boy. Not just any boy: Gabby’s boyfriend, Zach. With Gabby gone for Christmas, will the temptation be too much for Em to handle?

Chase is the quarterback of the football team, and he spends his time trying to fit in with the popular kids and hide his trailer park upbringing. He studies life carefully, dressing and acting act right to create an impeccable facade. But why have the furies chosen him?

I enjoyed the voice of the novel. It felt more like a light horror novel than a paranormal romance. I wish we learned more about the furies and how they chose their targets. The author spends time detailing what the furies looked like without going into their characters. Was Chase’s punishment justified? Does Ty have a different sense of morality from her Fury-cousins? It’s hard to tell without more insight. The novel is clearly the first in a series and the end of Fury sets up the next book.

Read by: Kelly

Title: Fury
Author: Elizabeth Miles
Read: July 2011
Source: ARC

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A Goliath of a book

July 31st, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, ARCs, Fiction, Kelly, Uncategorized
 

In Leviathan and Behemoth, Scott Westerfeld set up his own alternative, steampunk take on World War I. Germany and its allies are the “clankers”, countries who rely on mechanical devices. Great Britain is “Darwinist”, and they’ve developed ships with biological material. For example, the Leviathan is the premier warship in the British service, and it’s a whale hybrid. If this sounds confusing, don’t worry: it makes sense when you read the novels.

In Goliath, Austrian prince Alek has rejoined the Leviathan as a pseudo-captive after assisting an uprising in Turkey. Deryn is also back with the crew after helping Alek in Turkey, and she’s continuing to live her double life as Dylan. (She’s pretending to be a boy so she can fly.) There’s one problem: Alek knows that Deryn has a secret, although he doesn’t know what. And it doesn’t help that the perspicacious loris keeps calling Deryn Mr. Sharp.

Alek feels he has a destiny to fulfill, and he’s sure that stopping the war is part of it. Add in a crazy and potentially rogue scientist, unscrupulous journalists, and the Mexican revolution, and our heroes have plenty on their plates to deal with.

The novel has plenty of humor and action, and it comes to a satisfying if perhaps—in some aspects—unexpected conclusion. The writing is sharp, and as strong as the previous novels in the series. This is a great novel for teens and would also make a great introduction to steampunk for the uninitiated.
Read by: Kelly

Title: Goliath
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Read: July 2011
Source: Electronic Galley

 

 

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Heartless is a strong addition to the Parasol Protectorate series

July 24th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Fantasy, Fiction, Kim
 

The fourth installment of the Parasol Protectorate series might be my favorite thus far. Alexia’s world is well developed, and the story gets off to a fast and funny start. Eight-months pregnant Alexia taking on the world of werewolves, vampires, ghosts, and Victorian society? Perfect.

When a crazy ghost (because in this world, ghosts slowly devolve into poltergeists as the longer they exist since death) contacts Alexia about a plot on the queen, the soulless one has to dive into action. It doesn’t help that vampires are trying to assassinate Alexia and her unborn child, and they’re not afraid to use demonic hedgehogs and exploding gravy boats.

The storyline is fun, and sheds light into the back-stories of several characters, including Alexia’s father. The resolution makes sense, and it’s a fun journey to get to the end. The novel sets up the fifth and final installment “Timeless” well, since Alexia’s baby isn’t necessarily what everyone expected.

The Parasol Protectorate series is great those who like supernatural novels with a mix of comedy and romance. It’s a great guilty pleasure read, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself craving strong cups of English Breakfast tea while reading this novel.

Read by: Kelly

Title: Heartless
Author: Gail Carriger
Source: Powell’s Books
Date read: July 2011

 

 

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