Tuesday, September 30, 2008

2008 Challenges Recap / Update

With 3 months from the end of the year I thought I should go and recap my challenges to make sure I'm on track to complete them. Some have been more successful than others but they have been fun nonetheless.

In no particular order:

Triple 8 Challenge:

I think I'll be missing the mark with one of my categories.
The one I always have problems with - Anthologies.
I have read three of eight and I have three months to go. Not very promising.

I completed the Audiobook category in no time. I have listened to 35 audiobooks as of today so the 8 the challenge required was not much of a challenge.

The romantic suspense is 5/8 at this time. This category proved to be more difficult than I expected. For some reason some of the books I thought of categorizing as rom. suspense really weren't (too much suspense, no romance or too much romance, no suspense). I recently selected Midnight Rainbow by Howard to be my last Rom. Suspense but I'm not sure if it will fit the bill – When I read it I'll decide if I’m keeping it in the pool.

Paranormals... no problem. I seem to move in that direction lately so I finished this category fairly early although I have not reviewed the books I have read, I'm done with this category.

Done with the category for books published before 2000 as well. I found great titles that are just as enjoyable today as they were 8+ years ago.

Just finished Series Romance with the last two titles being picked up from my yahoo groups AOM (Amy Fetzer) and Suzanne Brockmann's Body Language. I read many Suzanne Brockmann's for this category. The woman can definitely write a good Short.

In the Young Adult category I have just one title to read and I'll be taking care of that by the end of the year. I typically pick up a YA or two over the year but this year I have read several and I must admit being a bit envious of the kids today. Most YA books tended to be category/serial books when I was growing up but with authors like Brian Jacques, Tamora Pierce and Stephenie Meyer out there, today's YA have more substantial reading material. Wonderful choices out there.

And then the New Authors category... With my Yahoo group sponsoring an AOM program, I didn't think this one would be very difficult to complete and I was right. Although I did notice that many of the books I read were in my TBR list and not necessarily a recommendation from my AOM group.

So in total I am 9 books away from completing the Challenge.
5 - Anthologies
3 - Romantic Suspense
1 - YA


TBR challenge:

I realized that this one was a bit more of a challenge. The fact that you create your list upfront and MUST follow it was a killer for me. The Triple 8 challenge allowed me to change my mind on the books as long as I kept the categories I felt good. I use the lists as guide by not as set in stone.

Still I have been holding my own. With three months left in the year, I have 3 books to complete.
I have kept to my main list and not had to tap into the Alternates but I think that will change in October since I challenge my self to read only Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Paranormal genre in October. I'm happy that I have a book that I can tap into, allowing me to continue the book a month rhythm I have developed on this one.


Classic Romances:

Another one that is on track to be completed in December.
I am 3 books away from this one and I'm doing well. Some of these were a hit but others where complete flops so I think I'll skip this one next year.


Book A Month challenge:

This has been the most challenging of all the Challenges I signed up for.
The theme for the month is not announced until the first few days of the month and some of them have left me stumped to find a book.

I have missed 3 books so far. The month of January (signed up a bit late), May (theme: Mother) and July (theme: Independence) so I'm six books behind and just 3 months to compete.

Any suggestions on the topics from these missing months?


I completed the PUB 08 challenge reading more than the required books published in 2008. As of today I have read a total of 15 books published in 2008.

I also completed the Stephenie Meyer Mini-Challenge and the Chunkster challenge (This was an unofficial challenge since I discovered the challenge a bit late and couldn't sign up for it).

And last but not least the 100+ Reading Challenge.

I will complete this one without a problem; I have read a total of 92 books as of today. This puts me at 8 books to reach the 100 book goal. I've been reading an average of 8-10 books a month this year and if I continue on that vein I will be at around 113-115 for the year, about 12 books below last year. I think I'll see if I can get a few more reads here and there so I can meet last years numbers.

Anyway, I'll be posting my yearly report card in January and we'll see how things wrap up.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Lightkeeper by Susan Wiggs

I had not read a Susan Wiggs book in a very long time. I scoffed down her titles like a madwoman when I started reading romance and collected everything in her historical genre (yes, even those VERY HTF and OOP titles) but I discovered other great historical writers and Ms Wiggs books sat forever in my TBR pile. When I had to make a list of books and authors I wanted to get back to for my challenges, Wiggs was on that list of "why did I stop reading her?"

Now I remember!!

The Lightkeeper was close to ending with a DNF grade (Did Not Finish) not because of bad writing or because of uninteresting characters but because the narrative went on forever! There was so little interaction from the characters for the first ¼ of the book it felt as if they lived mostly in their own little world. When Wiggs finally woke up and the interaction between Mary Dare and Jesse Morgan started I had almost lost interest.

Mary Dare is a survivor of a ship wreck who lands on the beach next to the Light house Jesse Morgan watches. He had lost everything in his life to the sea 12 years ago (wife and unborn child) and his guilt and remorse for their deaths has him commited to live without ties in the world. When a pregnant Mary washes ashore he is determined to shut her out but the feisty Irish woman will not allow it.

Both of these characters are damaged and they find strength and purpose in each other (in Jesse's case he finds it kicking and screaming). The book has great scenes that will stay with you for a long time, like a Norman Rockwell picture of early American life. The narrative that had me considering dropping the book in favor of another really made the book jump out.

The loneliness in which Jessi lived is brought into stark relief with his monologues. Mary's desperate attempts to attain some semblance of happiness and security is seem in her recriminations for herself and Jessi.

There is a villian in the story. The father of Mary's child tries to come between her and Jessi when they are close to finding peace. Because of who this man is, the threat he presents is credible and you don't roll your eyes when the villian drops in, although you know a HEA will arrive.

This one is recommended for those that can deal with a narrative tale. It is not everyone's cup of tea but if you can get past the first 100 pages, you will find a great story.

Grade: C+
Format: eBook

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

First in the Southern Vampire series and I really don’t know why I didn’t pick this series up before. I absolutely fell in love with Sookie!!! I can’t even explain her. She is a good girl that won't take your sh*t. She’s a country thang that tries to find good in everyone even when it’s obvious that that the person is a cesspool of evil.

Sookie is a small town girl that has a difficult disability to live with. She can hear people's thoughts. She works as a waitress in a bar (Merlotte's ) in a universe where Vampires have come out of the coffin so to say. They have spread to the world that being a Vampire is not an undead thing but a virus thing. The virus that makes people vampires cause sensibility to light and allergic reactions to silver. People have accepted this and cautiously accepted the vamps into society, although a lot of discrimination exists.

One day Bill Compton (a vampire who recently relocated to Bon Temps) walks into Merlotte's and she is instantly intrigued. This curiosity leads her to discover that a local couple plans to kidnap Bill and drain him of his blood (which is very sought after for it's healing affects and it's addictive nature). Sookie saves the day and rescues Bill earning her his gratitude. During the process of rescuing Bill, Sookie discovers that she cannot hear Bill's thoughts, which is a great relief and she becomes attracted to him.

Besides Sookie's romance with Bill (which is not the main focus in the book) there are other happening in the small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. Someone has been going out of their way to murder some of the women that have enjoyed vampiric companionship. The problem is that all fingers point to Sookie's witless brother Jason. Jason is a dumb mutt of a man, screwing everything in his sight but he is not a serial killer and Sookie sets out to find out who is the real killer.

It's hard to see how Sookie keeps her moral compass when she has such a 'disability'. Hearing so much evil going around can make you lose faith in humanity but that is what is so charming about Sookie, she keeps her head on straight and is always clear on what is right and what is wrong. The cast of characters that Harris introduces brings to life this little town and allows us to root for them, feel their pain and their joy.

I never suspected the killer and that in itself made this book a thrill to read. I recently finished the second book in the series and the fun continues there (Review to follow)

If you haven't made Harris a must read on your TBR pile, do it. You won't regret it.

The books have actually been picked up by HBO to be made a series staring Anna Paquin (Oscar winning actress for 'The Piano'). Look for it listed as True Blood.

Grade: A
Format: Audiobook

Friday, September 05, 2008

Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison

First in the Hollows series that follows the witch Rachel Morgan through her investigations and adventures. Had this one as an ebook but then discovered it as an Audiobook at my library and jumped on it. I am so happy I did since the book was the beginning of a wonderful series.

The book takes place in an alternate universe where many humans were annihilated after a man made virus ran across the world. The virus was introduced to the population via tomatoes and since then the vegetable has been banned right along with all medical research that might lead to another biological engineering accident.

Civilization is saved because of all the witches, vampires and fey that lived undetected among the human. This side of the population now live out in the open but are policed by several governmental agencies (Federal Inderland Security and it’s sister branch the IS).

Rachel Morgan worked for one of them, the Inderland Security agency – IS for short, but decided that her career was in the toilet and she needed to quit. Quitting is not so easy and although she was let go without fuss (she was a bit deficient in her duties), when her departure causes the best runner the agency has to leave with her (that would be Ivy, a half vampire that is a top notch agent), Rachel’s boss becomes very upset and decides that she will pay dearly for the loss. Jenks a fertile pixy decides to complete the mismatch crew.

Rachel thinks that if she brings in a huge catch her old boss will call off the assassins, so she sets her eyes on Trent Kalamack, a city councilor and successful businessman, who has been under surveillance for running brimstone (an edgy drug) but during her investigation she discovers that the handsome drug lord has his hands in a whole different type of cookie jar and she is determined to bring him in and save her hide.

There was not a lick of romance / sex / pairing in this book. I still loved this! Loved the world building, loved the unique characters, loved the mystery behind everyone’s motives. In the end there is so much more to learn and yet you don’t feel like you were left with any unanswered questions.

For those that need to know how to start a series, this is a great example. Make every single character interesting and with their own story to tell. Rachel was quirky but not stupid, Ivy was spooky but not a zombie, and Jenks was just plain adorable!!! I’m looking forward to reading the other 5 books in the series.

Grade: A
Format: Audiobook

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Death Angel by Linda Howard

The newest addition to the Linda Howard backlist was a bit of a disappointment. Nothing really jumped at me to tell me why I was not thrilled by it but I wasn't.

Drea Russo is the fluff piece for a drug lord called Salinas. She has her dimwit act down to the tee and she is making sure that when he dumps her she walks away with a comfortable retirement. She makes sure she minds her own business and takes everything that Salina throws her way. Her mouth shut and her head empty assures that she will have a life when Salina tires of her. What her plan did not include was Salinas using her as payment for a hit job.

Simon Goodnight, the assassin Salinas is contracting has asked for an unusual payment for his services. He wants a one time run with the boss's woman. He wanted it but didn't expect to get it. He was willing to walk away from the job and Salinas knew it and that was what turned the table in his favor. The little lady was not thrilled but when everything was said and done, both he and Drea walked away changed by the 4 hours they spent together.

Drea was not sure what she was going to do but she knew she could not stay by Salina's side after he gave her away. She was so moved by the few hours with the assassin, she knew she could no longer pretend. What she did to get away just leads her to a "near death" experience that further changed who she was and what she valued in her life. This transformation also takes place in the assassin.

Simon watched Drea die and the fact that she is still walking and breathing proved to him that there was more out there than just the here and now. He re-evaluates his life and decides that he wants something different. Not necessarily more, but different.

This is not a suspenseful book and that is what was missing. Now that I am writing this I can put my finger on that being my major disappointment. There was no real edge of the seat chases or great elaborate deceptions or anything that I have associated with a Howard book (at least her more recent ones). This was more story telling and it really was a bit out there even under that classification. If you are a Howard fan you will read it regardless, if you are not looking for much, it’s better than most, but if you are looking for great, skip this one.

Grade: C
Format: Audiobook

Monday, September 01, 2008

Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie

I realized that I have very little tolerance for novels with too much insanity in them. For example the disjointed stories of the Stephanie Plum series… Reviews to follow. This one was along that vein, where it has so many bizarre things going on, the book itself falls flat. Not that it wasn’t entertaining, because you enjoy the ride, but it borders on the ludicrous. There were pink flamingos, hitmen left and right, a psycho grandma, a gaggle of mobsters and food. Lots of Food.

Agnes has always yearned for a home to call her own and as a young girl she treasured the time she spent in the home of her best friend Lisa Lydia. As an adult she had the opportunity to buy the house her friend grew up in from Brenda Fortunato (LL’s mother). Brenda has agreed to privately finance the house and will waive the first three months of mortgage if Agnes agrees to host the wedding of LL’s daughter, Maria. Agnes eagerly agrees (she helped raise Maria so it’s an honor for Agnes)

Agnes plans to open a catering business with her fiancé so this gives them a great opportunity to put themselves on the map. Wanting to host the wedding and getting it done proves to be very difficult. There are several threats on her life, a mob hit scheduled for the wedding day, flamingos stolen from the zoo, dead people popping up in a basement Agnes never knew she had, and a very hot hitman that proves there is more underneath his cloths than his weapons.

The book definitely kept moving. It was fast paced and a whirlwind of commotion but as I mentioned earlier, maybe just a bit too much. It really needed more substance to all the action / comedy. I would recommend the book for a quick read on a day you don’t want to do much of anything.

Grade: C
Format: Audiobook
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