11/29/13

2014 Sequel & Prequel Challenge

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Welcome to the 2014 Sequel & Prequel Challenge, hosted by Novel Heartbeat and Writer Grrl Reads! This year's challenge is an expansion on the 2013 Sequel challenge. We've compared our unbelievably long series TBR lists and come to the conclusion that we need a bit of extra help knocking those sequels of our TBRs and we're sure that a few of you have the same problem!

The goal: To read as many prequels and sequels as you can. You set your goal at whatever number works for you.

Guidelines

  1. The challenge runs from January 1st to December 31st.
  2. Any books started before Jan. 1 will not count.
  3. All books in a series count for points (see below)
  4. Novellas count, either prequels or sequels (i.e. #0.5, #1.5, #2.5, etc).
  5. Books can be of any publication date. They don’t have to be released in 2014.
  6. In order to get 10 points for a completed series, there must be at least 3 full-length books in the series.
  7. You can still get sequel points for a duology, you just can't get the 10 bonus points for finishing it.
  8. Sign-ups will be open until December 1st, 2014.
  9. To join, add the URL of your challenge post to the linky widget. (If you’d like to wait, it’s ok to use your blog URL and send us your link when you get the post up)
  10. At the end of each month we will post a linky for you to add your sequel reviews to. The linky will rotate between our blogs on alternate months, so you can link up at Novel Heartbeat at the end of January, March, May, July, September and November, and over at Writer Grrl Reads at the end of February, April, June, August, October and December.
  11. We will try to do some giveaways throughout the year for participants (as long as we can afford it), as well as some mini-challenges and read-alongs ... so stay tuned for further details!
  12. There will be a giveaway at the end of the year for all participants who completed the challenge!

The Point System


For each prequel and sequel read this year, points will be awarded as follows:
  • 1 point for each prequel or sequel novella read and reviewed
  • 2 points for each full-length sequel read and reviewed
  • 10 points for completing and reviewing a full series
  • **You do not get points for the first book in a series
  • **The 10 bonus points is for finishing a full series.  That means that all books must be published (unless you got an advance reader copy early).  I.e. If you are completely caught up on a series, and the next book is not releasing until 2015 (and you do not have an advance reader copy), that does not count toward the 10 bonus points.
  • **If you started the series before 2014, you can still get the bonus points for finishing it if you reviewed the other books in the series at some point.  For example: You read The Hunger Games in 2013, but read Catching Fire and Mockingjay in 2014 - you would get 2 points for both sequels (4 points total) and 10 points for finishing the series.  You don't have to start the series in 2013 to get the bonus points.
To get points, you must review the book/novella somewhere. If you want to earn points, please link up your reviews at the end of each month, and enter the number of points earned (we will give examples in the linky). Each point earned is an entry into the giveaway at the end of the year for all participants who completed the challenge. So, the more sequels you read, the better your chances of winning the giveaway! Plus, we are also considering one prize for the "overacheiver award" -- the person who gets the most points!

10-25 points: Newbie
25-50 points: Amateur
51-75 points: Advanced
76-100 points: Professional
101+ points: Veteran


So let this year be the year that we stop whining about how many sequels are sitting on our TBRs or cluttering up our shelves! Take control of your reading destinies and sign up to read with us!

Grab a button!

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Friday Favourite - White Oleander

Happy Friday everyone!  This is a new feature that I'm starting here on the blog, highlighting some of my all-time favourite books.  This is partially inspired by Jaime @ The Perpetual Page-Turner's Before I Blogged series, where she highlights books that she read and loved before she started blogging.  I have SO MANY favourite books to share and plan on doing at least a couple of these per month ... it'll take off the pressure to post frequent reviews, since I'm sharing thoughts on books that I read a while ago, while also giving me the chance to plug some older titles that you might not have read.

Janet Fitch's White Oleander was one of the first adult titles that I read.  I think I originally picked it up after it was reviewed in Seventeen magazine (but I was in Grade 12 at the time ... so my memory might not be 100% accurate on that detail!)  I absolutely fell in love with the writing style; it's so beautiful and poetic.  If you've seen the movie, the novel is so, so, SO much better.

White Oleander is the story of Astrid, whose mother has just been convicted of murdering her lover.  Astrid is thrust into a series of foster homes and, with each new home, her world is shattered in new and unexpected ways.  The story is beautiful, yet horrifying and heart-wrenching. It's difficult to read about the things that Astrid experiences, but at the heart of the story is Astrid growing stronger and becoming an independent woman who refuses to live her life in her mother's shadow.  Where some might see this book as depressing, I really enjoyed watching Astrid grow as a character.

I fell in love with this book from the opening pages and was so upset when I finished that I flipped back to the first page and started reading Astrid's story all over again.  It is truly a heartbreakingly beautiful story that will tear your heart out, but one that I highly recommend.
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11/28/13

Life of a Blogger - Pets


My good friend, Jessi, over at Novel Heartbeat has just started this awesome new feature as a way for her followers to get to know her better!  Check out the list of upcoming topics here.

This week's topic is pets.  Since I talk a lot about Marko on here, I thought I'd join in this week to talk about my other baby -- my fur baby, Romeo!  After we had to put our previous cat down in April 2011, we waited for our hearts to heal (and until we'd been away on our honeymoon) and then went to the SPCA "just to look" (my words).  Well, as soon as we saw Romeo (whose name was Love because of the little black heart on the back of his right paw), we just knew that he would have to come home with us.  As you can see in the picture, he's a tuxedo cat and he has a Marilyn Munroe mole!  He has filled our hearts with so much joy and he's really good with Marko too.  He's still not too sure what to make of the baby, but he hasn't hissed or swatted at him, so that's a good sign.  I can't wait for them to grow up together and be the best of friends.


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11/27/13

WWW - November 27 [Anniversary Edition!]

Before I get on with the WWW post, a brief announcement: today is a special day.  On November 27, 2010, three years ago, I married my very best friend.  Last year, on our other anniversary (December 22nd -- our first date), I shared a post about how we met in a bookstore and a bit about our bookish wedding.

Earlier this month, we made a trip back to Victoria and visited the bookstore where it all began.  Of course, our lives are much different now that we have our baby boy, but we thought we'd take a picture of our new little family, with the book that started it all.  I thought I'd share it with you all!


And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming ...

Happy Wednesday Everyone!  W...W...W...Wednesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.  To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions...

What are you currently reading?
Veronica Rossi's Into the Still Blue and Amy McNamara's Lovely, Dark and Deep.  I finally made a dent in my library TBR, so was able to pick a book off my shelves ... and read one of the books on my fall TBR list!

What did you recently finish reading?
I read Katie McGarry's Pushing the Limits last week.  I was hoping to blitz through all the books in a week, but Dare You To was due back at the library, so that thwarted my plans.  I'm still hoping to make it through the last two books before my e-galley of Crash Into You expires.

What do you think you'll read next?
Probably my next book club read, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford.

What are YOU reading this week?  Please leave me a comment below!
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11/26/13

Morning Glory - Sarah Jio

I read Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio earlier this year and loved it, although some scenes were hard to read as I was eight months pregnant at the time. Now that I have my beautiful baby boy in my life, there were moments of this book that were even harder on my heart; however, I think that the emotional response I had is also testament to Sarah's incredible storytelling ability.

There were a lot of similarities between Morning Glory and Blackberry Winter, especially with regard to the story structure.  Morning Glory switches narration between Ada's story, set in the present day, and Penny's story, set in the past.  Ada has just moved into a houseboat in Seattle, after choosing to take a break from her life in New York City, and to escape from a painful situation and let her heart heal and grieve.  Penny, who lived in the same houseboat decades earlier, is a newlywed, but unhappy in her marriage.  Ada has learned about Penny's unhappiness and subsequent mysterious disappearance and resolves to learn more about this mysterious woman.

I think I love Sarah's books for the same reason that I love Jodi Picoult's writing.  Although the storylines of both novels that I've read were similar in execution, I absolutely adored the writing and the storytelling.  If Sarah's other books are similar in storytelling, it'll be nice to always be able to return to one of her books whenever I'm in need of a predictably good story.  And by predictably good, I don't mean predictable -- but just one of those writers that you just KNOW is going to write a good book, with no disappointments.

Note: I received an e-galley of this book from Edelweiss.  The fact that I received this book for review did not influence my opinion of this book in any way.
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11/20/13

Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell

In all honesty, I'm still on the fence about whether or not I'm a fan of Rainbow Rowell's writing.  I know, I know -- how scandalous of me to say such a thing, right?  I think my expecations are often too high when I pick up one of her novels, which saddens me.  I LOVED Attachments when I read it last spring, so when I picked up Eleanor + Park, I was expecting to be blown away, especially since so many of my blogging buddies adored it.  It was good, but just not as spectacular as I'd been hoping for.

When reviews of Fangirl started popping up, it seemed like the blogging community had mixed thoughts.  So I went into Fangirl not expecting much, and ended up enjoying it.  I didn't love it, but it was a pretty good read.  There's not too much that I can add to what's already been said around the blogosphere.  The fanfiction bits were a bit odd, so I found myself skimming or skipping them altogether.  I liked the characters though -- I think that's one of Rainbow's ultimate strengths as an author.  She writes fan-freaking-tastic characters that are so well developed and REAL.  I also like that not all of her characters have to be likeable -- they have flaws, but that's what makes them seem so lifelike.

If you're a fan of Rainbow's work, then you'll probably like this one.  If you're on the fence like me, I still think it's worth a read.  The most interesting thing about Rainbow so far is that none of her books are alike -- from adult to YA to new adult -- so I am interested to see what she comes up with next.
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11/18/13

On Adult Fiction

As I posted earlier, I'm planning to write some more discussion-type posts in the future.  I had previously posted about having the blogging blahs, and I think the stress of trying to read and review in order to have content for the blog was really getting to me.  I keep reading all of these GREAT discussion posts (like Cass' Thursday Thoughts and all of the great discussion posts that Jaime @ The Perpetual Page-Turner posts) and I HAVE all these bookish thoughts, just never the guts to post them.  So here goes.

Hannah @ So Obsessed With and Cass @ Books With Cass started a new feature a little while ago, where they read an adult book together and each post own their "Favorite Factor."  I really enjoyed reading their first post, which got me to thinking about my own reading habits.

At the beginning of the year, I posted my bookish resolutions for 2013.  One of my resolutions was to read more "big kid" books.  I will be doing a full resolution recap towards the end of the year to evaluate where I succeeded (and where I didn't), but I wanted to take a moment and just think about adult literature.

Prior to blogging, I used to read a blend of young adult and adult books.  If I heard that a book was good, I'd pick it up.  In fact, I'm honestly not certain that it really mattered what section of the library or bookstore the book came from, I read and loved them all.  Yet nowadays, I read primarily young adult books.  I think that this switch originated for several reasons:

1. Young adult books are shorter.  I'm sure that you've all felt that pressure when you look at your Goodreads challenge and it reminds you that, at your current reading pace, you're two books behind schedule?  And then you purposely pick a couple of short-ish books to pick up the pace a notch?  Yup, I've totally done that.  In an effort to reach my reading goal for the year, I've often steered away from reading some really hefty reads, just because I know it's going to take a month or so to plow through it, therefore reducing the number of books that I'll be able to read during the year.

2. Adult books are sometimes boring.  Please don't hate me for saying this!!!!  Not ALL books are boring, but sometimes I find that adult writers just feel like they're trying to hard to be all fancy and literary, and I get so lost in trying to decipher what the heck is going on that I end up losing interest in the book.  Case in point: J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy.  Granted, I only read the first chapter or so, but I just couldn't get into the book or the story or the characters.  And after having that experience in several adult books, I crave the linguistic simplicity of a young adult book.  But with that being said, there are some young adult writers that can be a little over the top with the writing too.  I'm not trying to generalize at all here.

3. The pressure that I put upon myself to generate enough content on this blog.  This ties in with my first point of reading a certain number of books.  If I take the time to savour a book over the period of a month, what am I going to post about?  Well, I'm hoping that this will change next year, since I'm trying to get way ahead with some review books and discussion posts, which will hopefully mean that I can just slow waaaaay down and read some books for pleasure.  Because there's really nothing worse that a reading slump that gets generated by trying to read too much in too short of a period of time.

I'm sorry that this discussion post is a little all over the place.  I came up with the idea a few weeks ago, and should have written it while it was a little fresher in my mind, rather than waiting for a break between school projects.  Alas, such is life -- if you have any thoughts on adult lit vs. young adult lit, please leave a comment below!  Also, any recommendations for great adult lit are very much welcomed!!!
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11/15/13

Friday Favourite - The God of Small Things

Happy Friday everyone!  This is a new feature that I'm starting here on the blog, highlighting some of my all-time favourite books.  This is partially inspired by Jaime @ The Perpetual Page-Turner's Before I Blogged series, where she highlights books that she read and loved before she started blogging.  I have SO MANY favourite books to share and plan on doing at least a couple of these per month ... it'll take off the pressure to post frequent reviews, since I'm sharing thoughts on books that I read a while ago, while also giving me the chance to plug some older titles that you might not have read.

Last month I highlighted Ann-Marie MacDonald's Fall on Your Knees as one of my all-time favourites, which I'd read as part of a Women's Studies course in university.  Fortunately, I also read The God of Small Things as part of that same course and fell in love with this book too!  Arundhati Roy's story is heartbreakingly beautiful as she tells the story of a man and woman who fell in love, but were from different castes.  The story is told from the point of view of the woman's son and daughter (who are fraternal twins).

I'll be honest and say that this story may not be for everyone, as there are some devastating moments that result in a loss of innocence for the narrators, but if you're okay with handling some heartwrenching content, then the writing and the storyline make this book soooo worth it in the end!
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11/14/13

The Bitter Kingdom - Rae Carson

I read The Girl of Fire & Thorns in May and then The Crown of Embers in September.  I must say that I'm quite proud of myself for reading this entire series in one year!

Judith @ Paper Riot posted this great post last week about her enthusiasm diminishing for certain series over time, and I have to agree with what she wrote.  I think this is why I have such a problem with finishing series; I read book one and I'm all "This is AMAZING!  I can't wait for the next book!" and then by the time the next book comes out, I'm just "Meh.  I want to read something else."  BUT with this series, I gobbled up book one, waited for book two to come in at the library, and by the time that one was finished I didn't have long to wait until book three came in.  I think it also really helped that my memory was so fresh on the storyline too.  I have a tendency to be really forgetful with books and I think I don't finish series specifically because I just can't remember what happened in the first book, nor do I have that sense of urgency that comes just after I've finished reading the book.

BUT I digress.  I have to say that I still liked The Crown of Embers a little bit more, but this was a fitting end to the series.  There was one part that I still don't think I really understand.  Just in case I'm being spoilery, if you've read this (highlight the next part) -- what was up with the oasis?  I think I need someone to e-mail me and help me make sense of that part.  I'm a little confused.

I recommend this series wholeheartedly.  It's a great story, fantastic world building, characters that are really well developed and an interesting premise.
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11/13/13

WWW - November 13


Happy Wednesday Everyone!  W...W...W...Wednesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.  To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions...

What are you currently reading?
I'm almost finished Fangirl.  It's pretty good, not amazing, but pretty good.

What did you recently finish reading?
I just finished Courtney C. Stevens' Faking Normal from Harper Teen via Edelweiss.  I was SO FREAKIN' excited when I got whitelisted for their titles that I went a little crazy downloading them and just dove in without really looking at the release dates.  This one doesn't come out until the end of February 2014.  Oops.

What do you think you'll read next?
I said Anna Godbersen's Beautiful Days for my series challenge on my last two WWW posts, and then I said I'd read Katie McGarry's Pushing the Limits but then Fangirl came in at the library and, well, that happened.

What are YOU reading this week?  Please leave me a comment below!
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11/12/13

The First Phone Call From Heaven - Mitch Albom


My first Mitch Albom book was The Five People You Meet in Heaven, and my review on Goodreads says simply this: Read this one on the ferry back to Victoria. Crying in public is a little embarrassing.

I liked, but didn't love, Tuesdays with Morrie, so I approached this title with eager anticipation, hoping for a book that would touch my heart the way the first book had.

The First Phone Call from Heaven is typical of his other reads, and by that I mean that the goal of the book is to make you think a little about life and things that are larger than life.  In the small town of Coldwater, several residents begin receiving calls from loved ones in heaven.  Sully Harding, who has recently returned to the town after being released from prison, is determined to prove that the calls are a hoax (he has his own personal reasons for wanting to do so).  What results in a story that both tries to prove and deny the existence of heaven as the narration flips from character to character.

What I liked about the story:  It made me think.  There were some beautifully written passages that made me say, "Wow!"  There were a few characters' stories that really tugged at my heartstrings.

What I didn't like about the story:  There are a LOT of characters and the story flips around between them a bit too much.  While sometimes it was fluid, other times the switch was a bit jarring.  There were a couple of moments where the story became a bit preachy, but luckily it wasn't too much of the story.  I'm torn on whether I really liked the ending, or if I felt like I needed more.  It's a short read (just over 200 pages) and I felt like I needed just a couple more chapters.

It's perfect that this book is coming out before Christmas, since I think it's a good stocking stuffer for someone who's a fan of Mitch's books.  I'm already planning to pick up a copy for my sister-in-law -- if you loved Five People You Meet in Heaven, you'll probably enjoy this one too.

Note: I received an e-galley of this book from Edelweiss.  The fact that I received this book for review did not influence my opinion of this book in any way.
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11/11/13

On Remembering

Usually I have discussion posts up on Mondays, not every Monday, but just those Mondays that I feel like I have something to share with you all.  Today is Remembrance Day, a day to remember those who have fought and given their lives for the freedom that we enjoy today.  In Canada, we don't have quite the same constant reminder of war that many other countries have, as we're mainly involved in international conflicts as peacekeepers, although there still are Canadian soldiers that are losing their lives today in the pursuit of peace around the world.  So today is a day to thank them for their dedication to peace, and to remember some of the worldwide tragedies that resulted in so much death and suffering.

On this day of remembrance ... I just can't help but talk about a book.  Because, you know, it's what I do.  This is a favourite from many, many years ago: Iain Lawrence's Lord of the Nutcracker Men.  I remember being absolutely blown awake by this book ... the story is childlike in its simplicity (it's middle grade after all) yet really packs a Book Thief-like punch in the historical significance and beauty of the storytelling.  Oh, and it's totally a Canadian author ... oh yeah!  Here's the Goodreads summary, for those who may be interested:

Ten-year-old Johnny eagerly plays at war with the army of nutcracker soldiers his toymaker father whittles for him. He demolishes imaginary foes. But in 1914 Germany looms as the real enemy of Europe, and all too soon Johnny’s father is swept up in the war to end all wars. He proudly enlists with his British countrymen to fight at the front in France. The war, though, is nothing like what any soldier or person at home expected.

The letters that arrive from Johnny’s dad reveal the ugly realities of combat — and the soldiers he carves and encloses begin to bear its scars. Still, Johnny adds these soldiers to his armies of Huns, Tommies, and Frenchmen, engaging them in furious fights. But when these games seem to foretell his dad’s real battles, Johnny thinks he possesses godlike powers over his wooden men. He fears he controls his father’s fate, the lives of all the soldiers in no-man’s land, and the outcome of the war itself.

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11/8/13

Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always - Elissa Janine Hoole


I have to confess something with this book: I requested a review copy on Netgalley because I thought the cover was really pretty.  I'd just been turned down for a couple of titles that I was REALLY excited about, so I thought that I maybe my chances of getting approved for my next request might be better if I'd read and reviewed more titles (silly, I know).  So I perused through some upcoming titles, and the cover of this book jumped out at me.

Once I started reading the book, it was NOT at all what I expected.  Cassandra's family is very religious, and they seem to be part of a fundamentalist Christian church (i.e. the Church is opposed to all kinds of things, including the school's Winter Carnival).  Cassandra, despite her family's beliefs, feels that she's an atheist and struggles with how to coexist with her parents.  Also, her older brother is gay, and she's learning how to deal with the way that the world sees him.

These conflicts aren't the centre of the story.  The main focus is the fact that Cassandra purchases a pack of tarot cards for her birthday and then starts up a fortune-telling blog that goes viral, where she does readings in response to her readers' questions.  The main subplot that runs through the story is that Cassandra's English teacher has asked her to write a poem, a song of herself.  Since Cassandra isn't too sure how she fits into the world, with her religious beliefs and friendships that just don't feel right, she can't write the assignment.

There were a few moments where I wondered where the book was headed, and felt that the storyline was getting just a little too preachy.  But then the writer pulled it back perfectly and I found myself enjoying the book again.  By the end of the book, I was loving Cassandra's story and rooting for her.  This is a very enjoyable contemporary tale that deals with a lot of tough issues, but in a heartfelt and genuine way.

Note: I received an e-galley of this book from Netgalley.  The fact that I received this book for review did not influence my review of this book in any way.
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11/5/13

Top Ten Sequels I Can't Wait to Get My Hands On


It's Tuesday and time for another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the wonderful people over at The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is sequels that I just can't wait to get my hands on!  I have a number of series that I've read book one, and am holding off on reading book 2 until book 3 is out -- so, without further ado, here are the top ten series that I'm looking forward to finishing just as soon as the final book comes out...

1. Legend Trilogy by Marie Lu
2. Everneath Series by Brodi Ashton
3. Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
4. Article 5 Trilogy by Kristen Simmons
5. Dust Lands Trilogy by Moira Young
6. Daughter of Smoke & Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor
7. Mara Dyer Trilogy by Michelle Hodkin
8. Unwind Trilogy by Neal Shusterman

And for my final two -- I haven't even started reading book 1 yet, since I'm waiting for the release of all of the books ... yet I know that these are going to be on my list of all-time favourites.

9. Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas
10. Grave Mercy series by Robin LaFevers
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