Sunday, December 29, 2013

What an Animal Reading Challenge VII 2014 Sign Up

I'm going to sign up for this one because these categories fit into a few of books I was already planning on reading.  Also, I've been surprised how many books have random birds and other animals on the cover even if they have nothing else to do with animals.
For now, I'm going to go for Level 2.

1. Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield - prominently features rooks; also rook feathers on cover
2. The House Girl by Tara Conklin - birds (and butterfly) on cover
3. Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin - magical white horse
4. Life of Pi by Yann Martel - Richard Parker (cover and character)
5. Splintered by A.G. Howard (insects on cover, moth character)
6. The Twistrose Key by Tone Almhjell - cover; majority of characters animals
Potential Reads:
Cat Sense
The Hare With Amber Eyes
Your Inner Fish
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Welcome to the 2014 What an Animal Reading Challenge VII. The challenge will begin on January 1st. Read on for more details...

The rules are really simple...

1. Read at least 6 books that have any of the following requirements:

a. there is an animal in the title of the book

b. there is an animal on the cover of the book

c. an animal plays a major role in the book

d. a main character is (or turns into) an animal (define that however you'd like).

***** AMENDED:

Level 1 - Read up to 6 books

Level 2 - Read 7-12

Level 3 - Read 13 or more

2. The animal can be any type of animal (real or fictitious)--dog, cat, monkey, wolf, snake, insect, hedgehog, aardvark...dragon, mermaid, centaur, vampire, get the idea...

3. Challenge runs from January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2014. That's a full year to read at least 6 books (you can read more if you'd like). 

4. Books can be fiction or nonfiction.

5. You may make a list of books at the beginning of the challenge or you can just list them as you find them.

6. Book titles may be swapped out at anytime (assuming you made a list to begin with).

7. Crossovers with other challenges are permitted and encouraged.

8. You don't have to have a blog or write a review, but you can if you want to.
 If you don't have a blog, just post in the comment section that you'd like to join. You can post your books in there. Or you can sign up by joining my group on Goodreads for this challenge by clicking here.

9. Books can be in any format of your choice (print, audio, ebooks)

2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge Sign Up

Last year, I read over 40 historical fiction novels which put me in the Ancient History level.  I'm not sure if I'm going to be reading quite that much historical fiction since I also have quite a few WWI and WWII related non-fiction in my queue.  As a result, I'm going to stick with Medieval - 15 books, and see where I go from there.  The rules are pretty simple and self explanatory.

1. Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield
2. In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner
3. The Rhythm of Memory by Alyson Richman
4. The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
5. The Soldier's Song by Alan Monaghan
6. No One is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel
7. The House Girl by Tara Conklin
8. The Golden Hour by Margaret Wurtele
9. Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
10. In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl
11.  Cut to the Quick by Kate Ross
12. Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan
13. The Disappeared by Kim Echlin
14. Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent
15. The Eye in the Door by Pat Barker
16. South of Broad by Pat Conroy
17. The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian
18. Serena by Ron Rash
19. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
20. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
21. The King of the Castle by Victoria Holt
22. The Truth of All Things by Kieran Shields

Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2014 Sign Up
Last year, I signed up for Mt. Vancouver and made it past Mt. Ararat.  Now on the one hand, I expect to have less time next year but I also want to read all the books I bought/received this year and didn't read, which is over 30 alone.  Add to that books that were on my meant to read for last year's challenge, and well, you get the picture.
I'm signing up for Mt. Kilimanjaro with 60 books.  I'm sorry, Barnes & Noble and Amazon, you may see a dip in your sales numbers in the next few months.

Challenge Levels:

Pike's Peak: Read 12 books from your TBR pile/s

Mount Blanc: Read 24 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Vancouver: Read 36 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Ararat: Read 48 books from your TBR piles/s
Mt. Kilimanjaro: Read 60 books from your TBR pile/s
El Toro: Read 75 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Everest: Read 100 books from your TBR pile/s

Mount Olympus (Mars): Read 150+ books from your TBR pile/s

And the rules:
*Once you choose your challenge level, you are locked in for at least that many books. If you find that you're on a mountain-climbing roll and want to tackle a taller mountain, then you are certainly welcome to upgrade. All books counted for lower mountains may carry over towards the new peak.

*Challenge runs from January 1 to December 31, 2014.

*You may sign up anytime from now until November 30th, 2014.

*Books must be owned by you prior to January 1, 2014. No ARCs (none), no library books. No rereads. [To clarify--based on a question raised last year--the intention is to reduce the stack of books that you have bought for yourself or received as presents {birthday, Christmas, "just because," etc.}. Audiobooks and E-books may count if they are yours and they are one of your primary sources of backlogged books.]

*You may count any "currently reading" book that you begin prior to January 1--provided that you had 50% or more of the book left to finish in 2014. I will trust you all on that.

*Books may be used to count for other challenges as well.

1. Hitler's Furies by Wendy Lower
2. Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield
3. Waking the Witch by Kelley Armstrong
4. Spell Bound by Kelley Armstrong
5. Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong
6. In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner
11. The House Girl by Tara Conklin
12. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
13. The Golden Hour by Margaret Wurtele
14. Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan
15. Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
16. Dust by Hugh Howey
17. In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl
18. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
19. What Happened to Anna K. by Irina Reyn
20. Cut to the Quick by Kate Ross
21. The Disappeared by Kim Echlin
22. The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
23. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
24. South of Broad by Pat Conroy
25. Palisades Park by Alan Brennert
26. The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
27. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
28. The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
29. This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff
30. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
31. The King of the Castle by Victoria Holt

The Official 2014 TBR Pile Challenge Sign Up

This is one of two TBR challenges I plan on participating in.  The catch for this one is that I have to commit to 12 books ahead of time with 2 alternates.  I have until 15 January to finalize this list, but I might use this one to really commit to certain books that I would otherwise add to the pile but still avoid.  Well, at least for part of them - I may still give myself an easy one or two that I know I won't have a problem getting into.
Some of the Specifics:
1. Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or "To Be Read" list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2013 or later (any book published in the year 2012 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile – I WILL be checking publication dates). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the "can't get through" pile.
2. Your complete and final list must be posted by January 15th, 2014.
*Note – You can read the books on your list in any order; they do not need to be read in the order you have them listed. As you complete a book – review it, and go back to your original list and turn that title into a link to the review.
My 2014 TBR Challenge List:
1. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff (2010)
2. The Hare with Amber Eyes (2010)
3. Living History by Hillary Clinton (2003)
4. The Violinist's Thumb by Sam Kean (2012)
5. Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2003) - completed 2/23/14
6.The Disappeared by Kim Echlin (2009) - completed 3/19/14
7. The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry (2006) - completed 4/5/14
8. The Soldier's Song by Alan Monaghan (2010) - completed 1/11/14
9. Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee (1999)
10. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett (2010)
11. Big Girls Don't Cry by Rebecca Traister (2010)
12. South of Broad by Pat Conroy (2010) - completed 4/30/14
1. The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie (2007)
2. The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (2008) - completed 5/19/14

2014 Book Bingo Reading Challenge Sign Up Post

2014 Bingo Challenge-01
Anne and Kristilyn are hosting the Book Bingo Reading Challenge again this year, and they have made changes to the board - I might actually get a black out this year since there is much less of a focus on re-reading!
Here is this year's board (books can't be used for more than one square).

Four Bingos Complete!  Four squares and nine books to go for a blackout!

One Book from TBR Pile (Complete):
In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner
Two Books from TBR Pile (Complete):
The Soldier's Song by Alan Monaghan
No One is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel
Three Books from TBR Pile (Complete):
The Golden Hour by Margaret Wurtele
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
What Happened to Anna K. by Irina Reyn
Four Books from TBR Pile (Complete):
Cut to the Quick by Kate Ross
The Disappeared by Kim Echlin
The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Five Books from TBR Pile (Complete):
South of Broad by Pat Conroy
Palisades Park by Alan Brennert
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

Nonfiction (Complete):
Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan
Classic (Complete):
The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius
Reread (Complete):
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Free Square (Complete):
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Contemporary (Complete):
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

One Book in a Series (Complete):
Splintered by A.G. Howard
Two Books in a Series:
The Eye in the Door by Pat Barker
Three Books in a Series (Complete):
Waking the Witch by Kelley Armstrong
Spell Bound by Kelley Armstrong
Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong
Four Books in a Series (Complete):
A Conspiracy of Faith by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Dust by Hugh Howey
Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger
The Truth of All Things by Kieran Shields
Five Books in a Series (Complete):
Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison
The Good, the Bad and the Undead by Kim Harrison
Every Which Way But Dead by Kim Harrison
A Fistful of Charms by Kim Harrison
For a Few Demons More by Kim Harrison

Fantasy (Complete):
Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
Free Square (Complete):
The House of Lost Souls by F.G. Cottam
Historical Fiction (Complete):
In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl
Mystery (Complete):
Snow White Must Die by Nele Neuhaus
Romance (Complete):
The King of the Castle by Victoria Holt

One New Release (Complete):
Cress by Marissa Meyer
Two New Release (Complete):
Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan
That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay
Three New Releases (Complete):
Redeployment by Phil Klay
Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor
I Don't Know What You Know Me From by Judy Greer
Four New Releases (Complete):
Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire Holt
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
Skin Game by Jim Butcher
Five New Releases:
The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

European Reading Challenge 2014 Sign Up
Of course I'm signing up for the European Challenge again - between my love of all things English and World War II obsession, I have at least three countries without doing anything!  Maybe I'll try to do some countries I didn't make it to last year.  Like last year, I'll try to include translated works and authors of a variety of countries, but I do not expect to be quite as involved in this one as last year - I may not make it double digits this year.
Each book needs to be a different country and different author to count.
The countries: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Vatican City.

2014 Monthly Motif Challenge Sign Up

2014 Monthly Motif Image1_BUTTON
This is hosted at the same site as the Keyword Challenge so I figured I might as well do both.
"Welcome to the 2014 Monthly Motif Reading Challenge! For this challenge, each month is assigned a certain motif or theme. Your task is to read one book per month that fits in with the motif for that particular month."


Feb- Award Winner - Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Mar- Fairy tales or Fairy Creatures - Cress by Marissa Meyer
May- Mystery, Murder, & Mayhem - The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
June- A Long Journey - Orphan Train
July- Assassins, Warriors, & Rebels - The Blade Itself
Aug- Alternate Reality - Eragon
Sep- Book to Movie - One Day
Oct- The Witching Hour -something from The Hollow series
Nov- An Oldie but a Goodie - The Last of the Mohicans
Dec- That's a Wrap - The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

2014 Monthly Keyword Challenge Sign Up

2014 Monthly Key Word Image_BUTTON
I had a lot of fun with this challenge last year and it helped me knock out a good chunk of my to read pile so I'm back again this year.  This is my sign up post with some possible selections.  I'm sure these will change and see additions over the year. 
"~ JANUARY 1, 2014 - DECEMBER 31, 2014 ~
Welcome to the 2nd Annual Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge! For this challenge I have chosen six key words associated with each month in 2014. Your task is to read one book each month whose title includes one or more of the key words for that month.
* The title you choose can be a variation on one of the key words. For example- your title could include the word 'snowing' or 'snowflake' even though the key word is 'snow.'
*Key words can be tweaked. For example- You could read "Cinder" or "Ashes" for the key word 'Fire' and that would be just fine. If the key word is 'family' then your title could include the word 'sister' or 'mother.'If the key word is 'food' then your title could include the word 'cake.' "
JAN- Angel, Secret, Clock, Black, Day, Wild
FEB- Her, Life, Night, Red, Dark, Island
MAR- Forever, Inside, Storm, Sky, Flower, Stay
APR- Star, Light, Never, Princess, Break, Clear
MAY- Dawn, Death, End, Lost, Beautiful, And 
Every Which Way But Dead by Kim Harrison, Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige, Beautiful Ruins
JUN- Color, Beyond, Found, Place, Grave, Road
The Devil in the White City, Prague Winter
JUL- Crash, Ship, Prince, Whisper, Sun, Of
City of Scoundrels
AUG- Forgotten, Down, True, Run, Danger, Me
The Woman Who Could Not Forget
SEP- Number, Take, Shadow, Ice, Who, After
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much
OCT- Ocean, Blood, Still, Out, The, Fate
Bloody Crimes, Blood and Rage
NOV- Into, Sound, Blue, House, My, Last
The Last of the Mohicans, Blue Nights, The Blue Orchard, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
DEC- Kiss, Fire, Ruin, White, Promise, Infinity
Inferno, Tales of Burning Love

Lucky No. 14 Reading Challenge Sign Up

lucky no14
This is my sign up post for Lucky No. 14 Reading Challenge - the categories are listed below with planned reads.
This challenge will require you to read 14 books (or more) from 14 categories below. You can combine the books you read with other challenges, but can not use the same book for different categories in this challenge.
Try to match the categories from your TBR piles :) But if you don't have any suitable books in your TBR – and want to find an excuse to buy a book for this challenge, that's totally fine too!
Here are the 14 categories:
1. Visit The Country: In the Shadow of Banyan by Vaddey Ratner (Cambodia)
2. Cover Lust: Cat Sense (it was a gift, but I requested it because of the cover)
3. Blame it on Bloggers: Cut to the Quick by Kate Ross (gift from Siege)
4. Bargain All The Way: The Rhythm of Memory by Alyson Richman ($3.99 bargain bin)
5. (Not So) Fresh From the Oven: Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield
6. First Letter's Rule: Jasmine
7. Once Upon a Time: Rob Roy
8. Chunky Brick: The Secret History by Donna Tartt - over 500 pages
9. Favorite Author: Americanah
10. It's Been There Forever: Life of Pi by Yann Martel
11. Movies vs Books: Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
12. Freebies Time: Hitler's Furies by Wendy Lower
13. Not My Cup of Tea: Redeployment by Phil Klay (not a big short story reader)
14. Walking Down The Memory Lane: The Twistrose Key by Tone Almhjell
1. To complete the challenge, you have to read at least one book for each category, or total of 14 books during the challenge period. You can set your own pace and do not need to follow the categories in particular order. You can also read more than one book for each category. You have to write your reviews in your blog/FB note/Goodreads page/tumblr/etc.
2. Please write a master post about this challenge in your blog/Goodreads/FB notes/etc, and submit your link below for signing up. You can use this master post to sort down the book(s) that you'll read for each category, and edit them later if necessary. The sign-up linky will be opened from November 12, 2013 throughout the year until December 1, 2014.
3. There are also linkies for each category of the challenge. Please submit your link of review posts for each category in their respective linkies. These linkies will be opened in January 1, 2014 until December 31, 2014.
4. At the end of the challenge, write down a wrap-up post and submit the link in the linky too. The linky for wrap-up posts will be opened until January 10, 2015 to give you more time for wrapping things up. It's okay if you don't finish the challenge but you are not eligible to be selected as the winner.
5. After the wrap up post linky is closed, I will pick two lucky winners who had completed the challenge for winning great bookish prizes (including book vouchers, novels, and other exclusive bookish gimmicks/goodies :) ) The prizes will be revealed soon, so please stay tuned. You must have delivery address in Indonesia to be eligible for the two grand prizes.
6. If you are an international participant who doesn't have Indonesian mailing address, don't worry, I'll also choose two winners, each winner can pick any book from The Book Depository for maximum of $ 10.
7. I'll try to write a round-up post every month and pick some of the most interesting reviews. And who knows? Probably there will be some surprise gifts and giveaways throughout the year :)
Now, let's start this wonderful 2014 and get ready to tackle some great books!

What's in Name 2014 Sign Up

Please save this image to your own webspace
This is my sign up for the "What's in a Name Challenge" - there are five categories, and I need to read a book for each one.  These are the ones I'm currently planning on using.

Back to the Classics Challenge 2014 Sign Up
This is my sign up for the Back to the Classics - the rules, categories and some of my possible reads are listed below.  My selections may change over the year, especially given school related reading.
"Like last year, there will be six required categories that all participants must complete. Everyone who reads and reviews six eligible books and writes a wrap-up post will automatically be entered into the drawing for an Amazon gift card for $30 (U.S) or a choice of book(s) from The Book Depository.

There will also be five optional categories for additional entries. Participants who complete three of those (with corresponding posts) will also get an additional entry into the prize drawing; those completing posts in all five categories will get another entry, for a total of three. To receive the maximum of three entries, you would need to post eleven times.

I am making one slight change, other than varying the book categories. I'm a little stricter than Sarah regarding the definition of a classic. In my opinion, a classic is a book that has endured for some reason ; therefore, I am defining a classic as a book that was published at least 50 years ago. Therefore, any book published after 1964 is ineligible.

Here are the rest of the guidelines:
  • All books must be read in 2014. Books started prior to January 1, 2014 are not eligible. Reviews must be linked by December 31, 2014.
  • E-books and audiobooks are eligible! Books can count for other challenges you may be working on. However, books may NOT crossover categories within this challenge. You may NOT count the same book twice for different categories in this challenge.
  • If you do not have a blog, you may link your review from Goodreads or other publicly accessible online format.
  • Please sign up for the challenge using the linky below BEFORE MARCH 1, 2014. Please link to your sign-up announcement post (if possible/applicable).
  • You do not have to list your books prior to starting the challenge, but it is more fun that way :). You can always change your list at any time. You can read the books in any order (including mixing in the optional categories at any time).
  • You can decide to attempt the optional categories at any point (you can also bow out of the optional categories at any point as well).
  • Please identify the categories you've read in your wrap-up post so that I can easily add up your entries for the prize drawing! Adding links within the post would also be greatly appreciated."
And finally. . . . The 2014 categories:

  1. A 20th Century Classic: The Wrath of Dionysus by Evdokia Nagrodskaia
  2. A 19th Century Classic:
  3. A Classic by a Woman Author: Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
  4. A Classic in Translation: The Prince by Machiavelli
  5. A Classic About War  Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott (Jacobite Rebellion)
  6. A Classic by an Author Who Is New To You The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius 
Optional Categories:
  1. An American Classic: The Last of the Mohicans or Invisible Man
  2. A Classic Mystery, Suspense or Thriller:  The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  3. A Historical Fiction Classic.  The Scarlet Pimpernel
  4. A Classic That's Been Adapted Into a Movie or TV Series.  The Romance of Tristan by Beroul
  5. Extra Fun Category: Write a Review of the Movie or TV Series adapted from Optional Category #4. 

Color Coded Reading Challenge 2014 Sign Up
I'm signing up for the Color Coded Challenge again this year since I already have a few titles that would work, and plan on buying one or two others that would qualify.
*Read nine books in the following categories.
1. A book with "Blue" or any shade of Blue - The Blue Orchard, Blue Night
2. A book with "Red" or any shade of Red - Written in Red
3. A book with "Yellow" or any shade of Yellow - The Golden Hour by Margaret Wurtele
4. A book with "Green" or any shade of Green -
5. A book with "Brown" or any shade of Brown - The Chocolate Kiss
6. A book with "Black" or any shade of Black - Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield
7. A book with "White" or any shade of White - Snow White Must Die by Nele Neuhaus
8. A book with any other color in the title - Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent
9. A book with a word that implies color - Death in the City of Light; Full Dark No Stars

* Any book read from January 1 through December 31, 2014 will count.

*Crossovers with other challenges are fine.

*Everyone who completes all nine categories will be entered in a year-end drawing for a book-related prize package.

*Please post about the challenge on your blog. Sign ups accepted until Nov 30, 2014.

Book 145: The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England

This was such a fun and clever idea.  I have read various history books about people or events occuring in Medival England, but Mortimer focuses on the people and customs of the time, breaking it down in various categories to help bring the period and people to life.
His descriptions provide a helpful context for why people did what they did, and such small details for how long travel would take, thus explaining how fast news could possibly travel.  The parts I enjoyed most were the ones about the customs, medical and hygience practices, and the law.  While I also found the landscape, and how to travel parts informative, they were among my less favorite - for some reason, I can only take so much description before zoning out, and while some of the fact about travel were interesting, once we started discussing models of ships, I was a bit less interested - I wouldn't exactly be that interested in current day models of cars or transportation, either.
I think this is a great supplement for people interested in Medieval England - while he alludes to historic event, he tries to focus as much as possible on the customs, traditions and daily life.  As a result, it provides whole different perspective on history.  However, while I guess I am now prepared to go back in time, I can't say I'm ready to give up my medical access or running toilets.  Or potatoes.

Book 144: Living with the Dead

The core of this story is very good.  While it doesn't introduce a new group of supernaturals, it does introduce a hidden community of them, namely the kumpania for clairovoyants.  In many ways, this community is rather cult-like but it also claims to have solved the problem of insanity that plagues most clairovoyants living on their own.
The main character is Robyn, a human friend of Hope's, who gets caught in the cross hairs of a supernatural issue.  Adele is trying to sell herself to the Nast Cabal and leave behind the kumpania, but thinks that Robyn has some evidence that could get her in trouble.  It quickly turns out that Adele is a psychopath who has no problem manipulating people and leaving a trail of bodies to cover herself.
The detective assigned to the case is a necromancer, though a fairly weak one, but he is not actually aware of the supernatural community and has never even heard the term necromancer until this novel.  Given that Robin is a human and has no idea of the supernatural world, and Finn is a supernatural with no knowledge of the supernatural community, the novel is set up for a lot of confusion.  For example, Paige and Karl assume that Finn is on the Cabal's payroll, and everyone else also assumes that the other characters are working for various agents and agencies.  As a result of all this, there is quite some confusion which got a bit tedious.
The novel shifts between Adele, Robyn, Finn, and Hope, and like in the last novel, Hope barely has control of her powers.  While her connection to Robyn was incredibly relevant to the novel, the Karl/Hope part was the least favorite part of the story for me.  Oddly enough, none of the narratives are in first person, unlike Armstrong's previous novels.  While I enjoyed this one, I'm looking forward to the next one which is an Elena focused novel because I need a break from Hope.

Book 143: Daughters Who Walk This Path

While this is mostly the personal story of Morayo, Kilanko also touches on a lot of different cultural and historical aspects of Nigeria.  Morayo is the older of two daughters, and for the most part her family is rather modern - her sister is albino, and her parents recognize that this is the result of a recessive gene and not some superstition.  However, they are also very strict in regards to what is proper, especially regarding their daughters and proper behaviors.
Morayo's parents have close ties to their families and as a result, her older cousin Bros T comes to stay with her family when he becomes too much for his mother to handle.  At first, he seems to reform, but eventually he rapes Morayo.
Her aunt Morinke is the only one that Morayo feels comfortable talking to, and the novel explores the silence that surrounds rapes, the way that the women often feel like they are on their own, and how they respond as they get older.  Kilanko, however, doesn't believe this has to be the way, and even shows one character who receives a very different reaction than Morayo following her rape.
In addition to Morayo's personal story where she struggles with the gender inequalities in her community, the novel addresses some of the political corruption in Kenya, and the difficulty of progress.  She also makes a passing reference to different cultural stereotypes and prejudices since Morayo falls for an Igbo boy.  While I don't know much about Nigerian history, I do know that the Igbo were one of the groups persecuted during the Civil War in Nigeria (read A Half of a Yellow Sun for more information on that time period).
I really liked this novel, and the characters that Kilanko created - Aunt Morinke is such a strong and interesting character, and she alone makes this novel worth the read.

Book 142: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

This wasn't a quick read by any means.  It was definitely a good book, and Marra did a very good job of humanizing all his characters, providing background to all of them and showing how the war affected people with just little snippets, but it definitely wasn't something that I could just quickly read or get absorbed.  It took me a few chapters to adjust to his style, to get to know the characters and to get invested.  Having said that, it's one of those books that I was glad I read after I completed it, and it definitely pays off, so while there is so much that is dark, there is also hope in the ending.
After Dokka is taken, Akhmed finds Havaa in the forest, and decides he must save her life.  Dokka was his best friend and he feels he owes him a debt.  Due to the flow of refugees that has come through the village in previous years, Akhmed knows the name of a surgeon at a hospital over 11 kilometers away, and takes Havaa there for protection.  This surgeon is a Russian in Chechnya, and trained in England but returned to her home because of her sister Natasha.  When Akhmed appears at her hospital, Natasha has disappeared for the second time.
Akhmed is medically trained and convinces Sonja to let Havaa stay in return for his services even though he may be the worst doctor in the country (but a tolerable portrait artist).  Though it takes a while to really get going and connect, eventually the cast starts to come together, revealing hidden connections, family secrets and betrayals.  The story flashes back and forth over a ten year period, between the present day of 2004, and as far back as 1994.  With his selection of characters, Marra is able to touch on a large variety of aspects of Chechen history, including relocation and the population of the area with ethnic Russians, the slave and sex trafficking that took advantage of the women of a war torn country, and various other stories and people, small and large.
Eventually, everything ties together rather poetically, and I ended up quite liking the novel, but I would say it took me over half the novel to really get into it.  Basically, save this one for when you have the time and concentration and aren't just looking for a quick escape.

Book 141: Tales of the Otherworld

While this collection of stories was also fun, it didn't have the same unifying theme as Men of the Otherworld, and instead gives glimpses into some characters that seem more random as well as the main characters.
For example, it kicks off with a story about Aaron, which sheds more light onto how vampires are created (while there is more than one way, it starts out as a genetic mutation for Aaron).  There is also a short story about Logan, Elena's friend from earlier in the series, who also plays a role in one of the longer novellas of this book: the story of how Elena and Clayton met.  While Elena has already implied or revealed much of this, in this novella, the details are revealed, and it alternates between Elena's and Clayton's perspectives.  While readers already know that Clayton bit Elena, in this book, that part is told from Clayton's perspective, and shows exactly what was going on in his mind.
There are also a few stories involving Lucas and Paige such as their wedding and another case, but the other highlight of the book is the story about Eve and Kristof, and how they met, developed a relationship and fell in love.  Overall, the book is definitely worth a read but feels more like a collection of stories (which it is) than Men of the Otherworld did.

Book 140: Men of the Otherworld

As Armstrong explains in the foreword, she started releasing novellas and short stories related to the Otherworld series on her website every December, and this book is the first to take a selection of those and compile them into one volume.  This focuses exclusively on the men of the Pack, and could really be described as Jeremy's rise to power.  He only narrates the last of the four selections but it is all about him, and it is really perfectly set up.
The first story is told from the 3rd person limited, focusing on Malcolm Danvers, Jeremy's father, and Jeremy's conception and birth.  The story reveals that his mother was a supernatural in her own right and she and her family chose Malcolm to strengthen their bloodline though she obviously didn't count on Malcolm tracking her and Jeremy down before she could escape with him.  The next two novellas are told from Clayton's perspective and deal with his turning and Jeremy's "taming" of him as he becomes his guardian and gets him into the Pack.  I love Clayton as a narrator.  He is so matter of fact about so many things.  Clayton's second novella chronicles Jeremy's rising star in the Pack and the eventual stand off between Jeremy and Malcolm for leadership of the Pack.
The fourth story is narrated by Jeremy, taking place after he and Jaime have gotten together, and brings the narrative full circle.  After seeing Jeremy's supernatural origins on both sides, and witnessing his rise to power, this final story reveals more about his mother's origins.  While it doesn't answer much of anything and raises more questions, at least it gives Jeremy something to research and I hope to see more about this in the next novels of the series.
I really enjoyed this collection, and am glad that she compiled them into a book because I'm not always very good about going out and looking for electronic versions of stories.

Book 139: Personal Demon

This one starts out very strong and interesting, but I wasn't enjoying it as much by the end.  Hope Adams, chaos demon, tabloid reporter of the fake supernatural and council member, is recruited by Benito Cortez to pay up on a debt she owes him and infiltrate a gang of supernaturals in Miami.  This gang has been disgruntled with the Cabal, but this is nothing new.  However, Cortez is concerned because they seem to be taking more actions against the Cabal and causing more trouble.  He wants her to pretend to be someone else to get into the group since given the rarity of her specific type of half demon they would surely be glad to have her.
I like Hope when she is in investigative reporter mode and she seems generally self reliant on her own in that mode.  Parts of her powers are quite interesting since she can tell when someone has chaotic thoughts, such as when they might be planning to make a violent move against someone, and she can also tell where violence has occurred and what has occured.  Those both seem like good skills to have.  However, she is attracted by the chaos so once she gets to a place that can feed this hunger in her, she basically becomes useless and a liability.  While Jaime might feel like she isn't that helpful and is a damsel in distress, at least she would be able to walk out of a scene.  With Hope that isn't guaranteed.  As a result, I think Hope may be my least favorite narrator.
Hope also had been flirting around with Karl, the werewolf, for quite a while but when they finally acted on it, it didn't go well.  He is back in the picture now, and Hope is trying to determine what his intentions are.  While Hope is investigating the gang, she is also in communication with Lucas to ensure his father plays it straight.  Lucas actually narrates a few chapters.
Overall, I liked the story that developed, and there were quite a few threads to tie together as no one is ever quite sure who to trust when a Cabal is involved, so I enjoyed the story, I just didn't really enjoy Hope as a narrator.  This is the first novel of the series that had multiple narrators, too (some of the others have had scenes from a different perspective but never to this extent).  I can't believe that I'm already over halfway done with the series.  I'm enjoying them so much, I'm actually kind of sad that I'm coming closer to the end.

Book 138: Time and Again

I'm not entirely sure why but I thought this novel was a bit of a minor classic for time travel novels.  I was expecting something slightly whimsical and fun that would follow around the narrator as he enjoyed 19th century New York City, similar to The Little Book by Selden Edwards.  Instead I got this thing with lots of descriptions and barely any plot.
Now, I know I've said this a few times when talking about historical fiction but one challenge that authors face and that the best overcome very well is how to incorporate their research organically without feeling like a data dump or them showing off - just because you learned how to make soap 17th century style doesn't mean I need all the details.  A time travel novel faces this challenge as well, but to a lesser degree.  After all, if the narrator is from the modern day, he is going to notice the differences and remark on them so the author gets to show off his research and knowledge more.  However, that shouldn't happen to the detriment of the plot so when a four hundred page novel feels like two hundred pages of straight up, long and tedious description, something has gone wrong.
First off, this novel was first published in 1970, and is set in that time frame so I may have been missing a bit of cultural context, such as disillusionment with the government due to Vietnam as well as just local occurences in Manhattan, so my reaction may be a bit more critical as a result of this.  Anyway, the novel begins in its idea of modern, so late 1960's/1970, when Simon, the narrator, is approached to join a secret government project.  Simon is intrigued and becomes a member of a experiment attempting to test time travel.  Their idea behind time travel is rather simple, and eventually, Simon successfully finds himself in 1882 Manhattan.  It takes over a quarter of the novel to get to the past but at this point the novel wasn't irritating me. I figured it was a slow burn - I wasn't exactly excited to pick it up each evening but I also wasn't put off by it.
Now, the reason Simon went back to 1882 is because his girlfriend Kate has a letter that her guardian had kept from his father dated 1882, and the agency was willing to let Simon pursue his whim to find out more about the letter.  So the whole plot of the novel revolves around Simon finding out more about the letter and its sender, Jake, which leads to him staying at the same boarding house and falling for Jake's girlfriend Julia.  Eventually, Simon decides that Jake is evil, and Julia could do better, so he is willing to risk the course of history to prevent a woman from a bad marriage (this all happens within a four or five day period at most).  Yep, that's the plot.  There's also a fire and lots of other stupidity.  And descriptions of store fronts.  And a carriage driver that gives a page and a half speech about the horrible work conditions.  Despite this speech, Simon continues to romanitcize the 19th century.  Seriously, you know how everyone now is obsessed with the "good old days" of the 1950s?  That nostalgia for a time that never happened - well, apparently in the 1960s this nostalgia was for the 1880s.
And I think that may be my biggest gripe about the novel - the past and history are interesting, but there is no such thing as the perfect time period.  Look deeper and under the glitz and glamour there will be bad things.  Simon may be disillusioned but escaping to the past isn't the solution.  He has this whole rant about the evils of the 20th century, including World War I, World War II, the atomic bomb, pollution and the killings of civilians in Vietnam and how that shows that humans are just horrible.  While that may be true, I'm not sure how that makes 1882 better - Simon says the evils of the 20th century may have their root in the past but he certainly has rose coloured glasses on.  I'm sure the indigenous populations of Australia and America would have something to say about the concept of genocide as a 20th century invention, and I doubt that the victims of Wounded Knee would think that armies in the 19th century were kinder and gentler towards civilians.  In fact, if I were to blame someone for World War I, I'm pretty sure I'd point to someone alive in 1882 over someone alive in 1970.  But you know, whatever, the past is so much better!  He basically thinks people in the past were more alive and interested in their surroundings.  I had a similar problem with King's 11/22/63 because I thought he talked too much about the good of the past and neglected the evils of it, but King at least seemed to realize the trap he was falling into and tried to compensate.  Finney just dives in head first.  Basically, I don't recommend this one.  At all.

Book 137: The Imperfectionists

I remember seeing this everywhere a few years back but it never quite caught my interest.  When I saw it again on one of the tables at Barnes and Noble (it may have been the "buy two get one free" display), I recalled that denesteak had liked it (she's the first Cannoballer I had the opportunity to meet!), and picked it up, though it took me a few more months to actually read it.
While I don't like short stories, I enjoy the occasional novel that is a series of vignettes and chapters told from the perspectives of related characters.  In this case, each chapter is told from the point of view of a different member of an English language newspaper headquartered in Rome, and each chapter ends with a few pages about the history of the paper itself which had its start in 1950s/1960s.
The thing is that while this has its amusing bits, it's a rather poignant and sad story.  Most of the characters are not that happy, or if they are, they become less so over the course of their chapter as they deal with rejections and upsets in their professional and/or personal lives.  Even the creation of the newspaper is sad as it is clearly an act of love on the part of a man that missed the chance to spend his life with the woman he truly loved, instead pursuing the life he should lead in favor of the one he wanted.
The characters I enjoyed the most include Arthur Gopal, the obituary writer, son of a famous reporter who is perfectly content with as a mediocre job performer because it gives him time to be with his family; Herman Cohen, the corrections editor, who realizes that he is happy and has lived his life to the fullest; Craig Menzies, news editor, a sweet and kind man who watches his personal life fall apart; Orenella, a loyal reader; and Oliver Ott, the publisher, whose family put him in this position despite knowing he did not have the proper skills, and who avoids everyone except for his bassett hound, his only friend and companion.  There were a few other characters that just made me feel uncomfortable, such as Hardy Benjamin because I wanted so much better for her, and I couldn't help but feel bad for Winston Cheung who gets used and manipulated by a journalist in Cairo.
The novel documents the struggles of the newspaper industry in the world of the internet as they face cuts after cuts.  Overall, it's definitely worth the time, and is a very engaging read about people, relationships, settling for less, the decaying newspaper industry and people's problems communicating.

Book 136: No Humans Involved

Jaime Vegas finally gets her chance to narrate, and as much as I love Elena, I think Jaime and Eve are definitely up there with her for my favorite narrators in this series.  I like Paige but these others are just more fun - it might just be that I really don't like Lucas and Paige's whole playful reward system of sexual favors for successful spell casting.  I mean I get what she is trying to do, but it makes them seem more immature in at least that respect than the rest of the couples.
I think one of the reasons I enjoy Jaime so much is that even though she is supernatural, she is still very relatable because her powers leave her vulnerable compared to the rest of the characters - she doesn't have spells, or super strength; she communes with the dead, and can raise them though she really tries to avoid that as much as possible.  While Jaime is in California for her regular job as a celebrity medium, she stumbles across something that may require her involvement as a necromancer and a council member.
Since Armstrong intermixes a few short scenes from the villains' perspective, the reader already knows that the strange phenomena that Jaime is feeling are actually the result of human sacrifice.  However, there is something off about these sacrifices and deaths because the spirits are not interacting with Jaime the way normal ghosts should.  As Jaime tries to solve this case with the help of Jeremy who has come to visit, she must do so surrounded by other celebrity mediums (only she is a true necromancer) without raising any suspicions.  After years on the celebrity circuit, Jaime has a shot at a television show if this current project goes well: she and two other celebrities are living in a house together to contact the spirit of Marilyn Monroe for a TV special.  Jaime soon realizes that the producers are perhaps less interested in the seance part of this as much as pitting the three of them against each other for a celebrity medium version of The Real World.
The novel introduces a new character (well, I think she was introduced in a short story, but for the novel readers, she is new), Hope Adams, a tabloid journalist and half chaos demon, and while there are a few short scenes with Paige and Lucas, this is mostly Jaime's novel.  I quite enjoyed the phone conversation with Elena and Clay, and how their two children, born in the last novel, are already developing distinct personalities for the readers based simply on phone conversations and stories from Jeremy and Jaime.  Also, after years of crushing on Jeremy, he appears to finally have caught on to Jaime's interest and is even reciprocating though how he feels about the idea of a relationship and being the Alpha is another issue the two have to address over the progression of the story.

Book 135: Defending Jacob

Andy Barber, the novel's narrator, used to be the assistant district attorney in his community until his fourteen year old son Jacob was implicated in a murder he plans to try.  Given his obvious conflict of interest, Andy is put on sabbatical or suspension as his family must deal with the repercussions.
As the novel progresses, Andy's family history comes back to haunt him, even though he has been avoiding his family's past for years.  The parts of the novel that I found most interesting were the ones where Andy explains the legal process and what goes on behind the scenes.  It becomes clear very quickly that simply being suspected or accused of a crime is enough to ruin a family and a life, especially if the family isn't rich to begin with.  The loss of income and job alone have a huge impact on a family's finances and that doesn't even address the costs of a defense laywer, and whatever professional witnesses are used.  Andy also makes the case that the system is less reliable than believed since the officers and lawyers soon focus on one specific scenario and find the witnesses and evidence that back it up.
Despite all these failures in the system, I was not at very convinced by Andy's case for his son.  Andy loves his son, unquestioningly, but that also means he isn't the most reliable narrator.  Or actually, it's less a matter of reliability or trustworthiness since he isn't trying to mislead the reader - he is trying to convince himself, or is in true denial about even the possibility of his son's involvement.  He believes he knows who the killer is, and like the legal system he presents to the reader, he will not look at any other evidence.
I thought the things that the novel portrayed about the legal system were fascinating, and Landay did a good job of portraying a family on the verge of collapse.  In the end the novel doesn't care about guilt or innocence, and while I certainly have my own beliefs, this book is much more than a whodunit, and much more of an analysis of family and the law.  While the novels are nothing alike, The Dinner also explores the idea of how much a parent should believe in their child or protect the child.  I had a huge issue with the parents in The Dinner because they knew their child was guilty and protected him anyway.  In Andy's mind, that question never enters his mind.  A parent that can believe no wrong of their child is certainly a problem but at least it's not nearly as reprehensible as one who would protect a murderer from all consequences.

Book 134: Joyland

While there is certainly a mystery in this novel, it is almost besides the point.  It is much more about an older man looking back on an important summer of his life, about growing up, friendships and first love (or loss there of).
For the summer between his junior and senior year, Devin gets a job at an amusement park in North Carolina.  He is both excited about this job, and a bit nervous about the separation from his girlfriend.  It becomes clear over the summer that she has lost interest in him.  The park is said to be haunted by the ghost of a young woman who was murdered and left behind in park's one scary ride.  While most of the book and the summer concerns Devin's work and his friendship with Erin and Tom over that summer, he is fascinated by the ghost.
Devin ends up staying past the summer, deferring his senior year of college by a year, partially because of his continuing fascination with the ghost and partially to get over his heartbreak.  While he remains in North Carolina, he interacts with a young single mother and her terminally ill son.  The ill boy seems like many of the other children of King's novels - precocious, with some slight supernatural abilities - I would say he has a bit of the Shining, actually.
It is such a simple story about a young man's coming of age, but what really makes the novel work is that it is told from the perspective of a much older Devin, at least twenty to thirty years later.  As a result, that adds a certain amount of wistfulness to the story and yearning for days gone by, friendships gone.
Given that the ghost and supernatural aspect are rather low, this would definitely be a good starter novel for anyone hesitant to try King.  As far King fans, if they are anything like me, they don't read King for the supernatural or horror parts of the story, but because he can write characters and stories.  Sometimes he may repeat himself a bit but it doesn't mean they aren't good stories.

Book 133: Scarlet

This is the second novel of the Lunar Chronicles, and while I preferred Cinder to this one, I have to say that Meyer avoids many of the pitfalls of a second novel.  Yes, this does fill a bit like a bridge between novels since it combines characters and sets up the narrative for future books, but unlike many second novels in a trilogy or series (there are going to be four total), this one flies by.  It doesn't feel like it's been padded out simply to create a series, but really takes up all its space and uses it to tell a fast moving story.
Since the chapters alternate between Cinder and Scarlet, Scarlet isn't quite as developed as Cinder who already had an entire novel devoted to her.  Scarlet, the Little Red Riding Hood of this series, lives in France and is trying to find her grandmother who has gone missing, and used to be a pilot.  Cinder, in the meanwhile, is escaping from prison and picks up a fellow prisoner on her way out because he has a ship that he stole from the American Commonwealth before relocating.  Cinder is in search of more answers before agreeing to the doctor's plan to come to Africa, and she believes they may be in France.
Scarlet also picks up a companion on her way to saving her grandmother, though she can't decide how much to trust Wolf and whether or not this is a trap.  He says he was once part of the community that has her grandmother but has left their ranks but Scarlet has some misgivings.  To be honest, while I understood her distrust, I was also a bit irritated with her continued questioning since she didn't have much choice other than going with him.
I'm definitely enjoying the way the series is developing and am already looking forward to Cress which comes out next February.  Cress is the one I compared to Rapunzel in my review of Cinder, so I'm also curious to see if it introduces the character for the fourth novel - or has she already made an appearance without my knowledge?

Book 132: The Chocolate Thief

There have been a few reviews of this over at the CBR V, and it sounded cute.  Additionally, I was trying to find a title with a variation of "brown" in the title, so this was exactly what I was looking for.  I'm not sure if this falls more into the "chick lit" or romance category of books but it certainly seems to work for both.
Cade Corey has always been the good daughter - her sister is off doing protests, while she plays her part as the Corey heir.  Corey chocolates is basically a stand in for Hershey's, and Corey wants to expand into the European market.  Cade also has a wish to start having a branch of the factory that sells gourmet chocolate, and in pursuit of this plan, travels to Paris to talk to worldfamous chocolatiers and see if any of them will give their name to her venture.  Her first choice is Sylvain Marquis but he practically chases her out of his kitchen.  While more polite, the rest of the chocolatiers also give her firm no's.  Cade is flummoxed by these reactions, and doesn't understand why none of them are willing to partner with her.
While Marquis has no interest in the Corey empire, he is fascinated by Cade.  He quickly discovers that someone is breaking into his kitchen and stealing his chocolates.  Naturally it is Cade because she is so irritated and attracted to him.  I was glad when the chocolate thiefing was over because it seemed so ridiculous, but it was an entertaining story.  One thing that I really appreciated about this novel is that Florand did not throw in some stupid story line to keep the couple apart once they were together or to break them up.  That isn't to say that everything is perfect once they are together as there are clearly still some issues as neither knows quite how much to trust the other's interest, and they still have work related conflicts but nothing is blown up so much that the two can't talk it through.
Between the fact that Florand doesn't throw in pointless contrivances just to expand the plot, and all the chocolate, this was definitely a fun breezy read, and I will pick up the next one in the series.  Unfortunately, I've never had the same infatuation with Paris and France that many have so the setting really didn't do much for me beyond the generic "I'd love to be back in Europe" feeling.  Personally, I would always choose London or Rome over Paris.  Or Brussels if we're talking chocolate - I do love Godiva.