Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 In Review - The Reading Challenges

I was going to include this as part of one big "2009 In Review" post, but I decided to write up a separate post on the reading challenges, and include a list of the challenges I'm starting on January 1.

This year was the first time I have ever participated in a reading challenge, and I ended up participating in five challenges by the end of 2009.

My first one was the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge at the Paperback Swap forums. I read 13 books in a variety of categories, and finished the challenge in September.

I also completed the 1st in a Series Challenge (12 books that are series starters) at the end of November, and read three novellas for the November Novella Challenge.

My last challenge completed in 2009 was the Holiday Reading Challenge, which I read and reviewed three holiday-themed books for.

I failed to complete the 2nds Challenge, completing only 11 of the 12 books required for the challenge.

~~2010 Challenges~~

I have already signed up for TEN reading challenges that run during 2010. Here's a list (all run from January 1-December 31 2010 unless otherwise specified):
All links above go to my challenge posts.

I should also mention that I plan to participate in the quarterly 5 Minutes for Books Classics Bookclub event as well, which will help me to focus on reading some of the classics in my TBR pile this year.

Before you laugh at me for being a crazy person, I should note that most of these challenges allow books to count in multiple challenges. For example, some of my thriller & suspense reads will be historical mysteries, and will count in both challenges. I'm kind of excited about the challenges--here's hoping I have an even better reading year in 2010!

2009 In Review - The Books

What kind of blogger would I be if I didn't reflect on the fantastic books I was able to read over the past year? I've only been blogging since August, but I've kept track of everything I've read this year (except the childrens' books). So I went through my list and gathered some interesting data from it and picked out some of my favorite reads. This will probably be my longest post ever. LOL!

Total number of books read in 2009: 55
Total number of pages read in 2009: 21,606
Most-read genre: Historical Fiction (30)
Other genres: Mystery/Suspense (11), Fantasy (9), Non-fiction (5) --there is some overlap because some were historical mysteries and I counted them as both hist-fic and mystery.

~~Historical Fiction Is My Friend~~

I read mostly Historical Fiction this year, so it's only fair that I list my four favorites in that genre this year, in no particular order:

I loved The Rose Legacy by Kristen Heitzmann (click for my review), which I read in November. Amazon blurb: Driven by hope and vengeance, Carina Maria DiGratia leaves her idyllic home in Sonoma, California, for a new life in the mining town of Crystal, Colorado. Though the town has a rough element, Carina is determined that it is the place her dreams will come true. Early on, two men vie for her trust, but neither is what he seems. Will Carina discern the truth in time to prevent tragedy?

I also became a fan of J.M. Hochstetler this year, and my favorite of her books that I have read was Wind of the Spirit (click for my review). Publisher blurb: The fateful confrontation between the untried Continental Army under General George Washington and an overwhelming invasion force commanded by British General William Howe explodes at the Battle of Brooklyn. With the patriot cause on the brink of ruin, Elizabeth Howard scrambles for critical intelligence—and her life. Meanwhile, far out on the western borders, Brigadier General Jonathan Carleton, as the Shawnee war chief White Eagle, succeeds in driving white settlers from Ohio territory through a series of lightning raids. At the same time Blue Sky’s seductive charms and the rapidly escalating conflict with Wolfslayer force White Eagle to walk a treacherous tightrope between the beautiful widow and the shaman. As the British close in on Carleton’s whereabouts, and with Washington poised to make a desperate, last-ditch gamble to save the American cause at Trenton, Elizabeth rejoins Colonel Charles Andrews on a desperate journey to find Carleton before his enemies can execute him for treason. Can her love bridge the miles that separate them—and the savage bonds that threaten to tear him forever from her arms?

Another book that really stood out in my mind this year was The Winthrop Woman by Anya Seaton. I read it over the summer and did not write a review of it on this blog. But I thought this novel was fantastic. It was rich in detail and I found it immensely interesting. Elizabeth Winthrop is a fascinating character, and the historical detail is outstanding throughout the book. I can't wait to read another book by Anya Seton. PBS blurb: First published in 1958 and set in the early 17th century, this bestselling novel— and follow-up to Katherine— follows Elizabeth Winthrop, a courageous Puritan woman who finds herself at odds with her heritage and surroundings. A real historical figure, Elizabeth married into the family of Governor John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In those times of hardship, famine, and Indian attacks, many believed that the only way to prosper was through the strong, bigoted, and theocratic government that John Winthrop favored. Defying the government and her family, Elizabeth befriends famous heretic Anne Hutchinson, challenges an army captain, and dares to love as her heart commanded. Through Elizabeth's three marriages, struggles with her passionate beliefs, and countless rebellions, a powerful tale of fortitude, humiliation, and ultimate triumph shines through.

Julie Klassen was a new-to-me author this year, and her novel The Apothecary's Daughter was another of my favorite reads this year. I adored this book, I think partly because it reminded me so much of reading Jane Austen, whose books I love. PBS blurb: Lillian Haswell, brilliant daughter of the local apothecary, yearns for more adventure and experience than life in her father's shop and their small village provides. She also longs to know the truth behind her mother's disappearance, which villagers whisper about but her father refuses to discuss. Opportunity comes when a distant aunt offers to educate her as a lady in London. Exposed to fashionable society and romance--as well as clues about her mother--Lilly is torn when she is summoned back to her ailing father's bedside. Women are forbidden to work as apothecaries, so to save the family legacy, Lilly will have to make it appear as if her father is still making all the diagnoses and decisions. But the suspicious eyes of a scholarly physician and a competing apothecary are upon her. As they vie for village prominence, three men also vie for Lilly's heart.

~~I Love Book Series!~~

I started or read books from several series this year, including the first three books from Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, an alternative history/fantasy series set during the Napoleonic Wars that includes dragons! Starting with His Majesty's Dragon, it's one of my favorite series finds of the year. I've got book 4, Empire of Ivory on my TBR pile for 2010.

The author I read the most of this year was Terry Goodkind--I read the first four books in his Sword of Truth series earlier this year. I really liked the series at first (the first book is Wizard's First Rule), but started getting burned out during the fourth book. I'm still planning to read the next book in the series, Soul of the Fire, but I'm not sure that this series is keeping my interest anymore. The storyline of the two characters in love being kept apart by evil happenings is starting to get old. But I really like the characters, especially Kahlan. A strong, independent female character is always a good thing.

I also enjoyed a couple of cozy mystery series this year, including a couple of books in Rett MacPherson's fantastic Torie O'Shea mysteries (a fun series centering around a nosy genealogist/local historian) and the first two books in Dianne Day's Fremont Jones series (set in early 1900s San Francisco).

~~2009 Finds Worth Mentioning~~

The book that surprised me the most this year was A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (click for review). It was a classic that I had never read, but one that easily became one of my favorite reads for the year.

My favorite author find this year was Julie Klassen, author of The Apothecary's Daughter and Lady of Milkweed Manor. Both books were outstanding, and I am eagerly waiting for her newest book, The Silent Governess, which is coming out in January.

Austen-inspired books were another trend that I was surprised to enjoy. I read three Austen-inspired books in 2009: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler, Austenland: A Novel by Shannon Hale, and Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Patillo. I enjoyed them all, but I think Jane Austen Ruined My Life was my favorite of the three. I read them all over the summer and have not reviewed them on this blog.


So, that's what I read in 2009. I'm hoping to have an even better reading year in 2010, which seems probable with all of the wonderful books I've found on book blogs over the past few months. My TBR pile has grown substantially and my wishlist has grown ever longer. Stay tuned for a post later today on my 2009 Reading Challenges and a summary of what I've signed on for in 2010!

Wishing everyone a wonderful year of reading in 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wishlist Wednesday - The Supergirls

NPR ran a special "Best Books of 2009" series this month and it featured The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines by Mike Madrid as one of the "Best Five Books to Share With Your Friends." This book promptly went onto my wishlist. I think it would be a great nonfiction choice for the Women Unbound Reading Challenge.

Book Description:
A much-needed alternative history of American comic book superheroines—from Wonder Woman to Supergirl and beyond—where they fit in popular culture and why, and what these crime-fighting females say about the role of women in American society from their creation to now, and into the future. The Supergirls is an entertaining and informative look at these modern-day icons, exploring how superheroines fare in American comics, and what it means for the culture when they do everything the superhero does, but in thongs and high heels.

Has Wonder Woman hit the comic book glass ceiling? Is that the one opposition that even her Amazonian strength can’t defeat?

So, what are you wishing for this week?

To find out what other bookworms are wishing for this Wednesday, visit Wishful Wednesday, hosted by The Bluestocking Guide. Also check out the On My Wishlist meme at Book Chick City.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Classics Bookclub @ 5 Minutes For Books

Classics Bookclub

I know I said I was done signing up for reading challenges, and I am. This is not a reading challenge--it's an event! 5 Minutes For Books is updating their Classics Bookclub and since I've been planning on reading more classics in 2010, I thought this might be a good way for me to stay focused. Here are the details from the sign-up post:
  • We are going to reduce the frequency to quarterly — meeting up here on the 5th Tuesday of the month. Each quarter you can link up your reviews and thoughts of the classics that we've read over the previous quarter.
  • You pick the books you want to read, you pick when you want to read them, and you pick how many you'll read.
  • It's my hope that even though we aren't reading the same book, we'll still build a community of classics-lovers. If someone posts a review of a book you've read, go over and comment and join in the discussion, just as if we were holding a regular "bookclub chat." I also think that by doing it this way, we'll find books that we want to add to our list, or read reviews that will convince us that we can finally take a book that we thought we really should be read off that list for good.
I think this is a fantastic idea, and am looking forward to participating. Here is a list of some of the classics I've picked up for the coming year and have waiting for me on my TBR pile:
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
This is what I have so far, and hopefully I'll pick up a few more. I've been wanting to pick up Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury too--maybe I'll get to that one this year too. All are books I have not read before--a bit of an embarrassing admission, but it's true.

Monday, December 28, 2009

2009 Holiday Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

I managed to finish the 2009 Holiday Reading Challenge with two more books read than I had originally planned! I had only planned to read one holiday-themed book, but it was so disappointing that I had to read at least one good book before Christmas. LOL! Here's what I read (the links go to my reviews):

  1. A Christmas Beginning by Anne Perry (reviewed on 12/1/09)
  2. One Holy Night by J.M. Hochstetler (reviewed on 12/20/09)
  3. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (reviewed on 12/23/09)
My favorite book of the three was A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It was my first time reading the book, and I was so impressed! I'm glad Dickens is on my TBR pile for the coming year!

My least favorite book was A Christmas Beginning by Anne Perry. Although I have enjoyed a couple of her William Monk books, I don't think I've read enough of the series to appreciate this story.

I've never really sat down and planned holiday-themed reading to coincide with the holidays before. I enjoyed it this year and will have to plan ahead a bit better to do it again next year. This challenge also has me thinking of what books I can read to coincide with other holidays in 2010. :-)

This was a fun challenge! Thank you for hosting it Nely!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mailbox Monday and Christmas Loot!

Every week Marcia at The Printed Page hosts Mailbox Monday. It's a chance to share the books that came to your house last week, and to check out what other book lovers received. I always end up with several new books on my wish list after I go check out other people's mailboxes on Mondays.

I received two books this week, both books won in giveaways.

I won a copy of I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School by Caroline Taggart in a Twitter trivia giveaway from FSB Associates (@FSBAssociates). It seems like a fun little trivia book. For example, did you know that the Apatosaurus used to be called the Brontosaurus? (It was a Brontosaurus when I was a kid).

I also received a copy of The Dream Life of Balso Snell by Nathanael West, which was a giveaway win from Bibliofreak Blog. Thanks J.T.! I've been meaning to read something by West (he's mentioned in the textbook I use when teaching California History) and now I have something I can read quickly--this is a novella that I can hopefully finish quickly.

I didn't get any books this year (I did get a bookmark and two book lights), but my kids totally made out in the book department this Christmas! I'll have to weed through their current bookshelves and donate some of the books that they have grown out of to make room for their new books. Here are the books they found under the Christmas tree this year:

So, what came to your house last week?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Medieval Reading Challenge: A Tournament of Reading


I'm pretty sure this will be my last challenge before the new year. :-) It's being hosted by Meghan at Medieval Bookworm. Review Link-Up Here.
This challenge is designed to get us all reading a little more medieval literature in 2010.  The challenge will run from January 1st to December 31st, 2010, and will be hosted right here at Medieval Bookworm.  Challenge genres include history, medieval literature, and historical fiction.  Medieval, for simplicity of definition, will be from 500-1500, and literature from all over the world is welcome, not just western Europe.  There are 3 levels:
  • Peasant – Read 3 medieval books of any kind.
  • Lord – Read 6 medieval books, at least one of each kind.
  • King – Read 9 medieval books, at least two of each kind.
I am signing up for the Peasant level, 3 medieval books. If I can manage it, I may try to hit the Lord level. I'm keeping track of my list here.
    1. Scoundrel's Kiss by Carrie Lofty
    2. Watermark by Vanitha Sankaran
    3. Seasons in the Mist by Deborah Kinnard
    4. Highland Blessings by Jennifer Hudson Taylor
    5. The Black Death and the Transformation of the West by David Herlihy (history)

    Thursday, December 24, 2009

    Merry Christmas!

    Merry Christmas!

    I hope the holiday season brings you much joy and that you get to spend some quality time with the people you love the most.

    We are busily making preparations for Christmas morning, on which we are hosting my and hubby's families at our house. Along with the preparation and cleanup that follows this holiday, I have a lot of preparations to do for the coming school term that starts in January. So, I'm going to be going unplugged from the blog during the holidays. I might post a couple of book reviews, but I'm going to take some time off from the memes I usually participate in and give my family some more of my undivided attention. When I come back in January it will also be in a less active form, but I will explain more about that in January. Have a great holiday!

    Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
    for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away
    like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
    The good you do for others is good you do yourself...
    ~Norman Wesley Brooks, "Let Every Day Be Christmas," 1976

    Wednesday, December 23, 2009

    Book Review - A Christmas Carol (Special Edition) by Charles Dickens

    Purchase this book at The Book Depository (affiliate link)
    This is the first time I've read this classic holiday story, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I can't believe I haven't read it before now. I think part of my hesitation was because I've seen the story dramatized in dozens of different ways during my lifetime (really, I've even seen the Flintstones version), and I was worried that it would be a little bit boring to read a story that I already "knew" on a basic level. But as I made my way through this short little novella, I realized that I was so very wrong. No matter how many dramatizations I've seen, they never could compare to the wonderful original written version.

    I'll forgo the story summarization for this review, since I think most people have probably seen the basic story outline as I have. Instead, I'll explain some of the things I really liked about the book version and specifically this "Special Edition" version.

    One of the things I really like about Dickens's story is that it is a story about hope. It shows that even the most morally repugnant person can have a change of heart and find forgiveness. Even though he seems like a cold, uncaring soul at the beginning, you can see how Scrooge's heart begins to change with the visitation of each spirit. He is grouchy and resistant when the first ghost arrives, but by the time the last ghost appears he is really ready to make a positive change in his life. My favorite character in the book is Scrooge's nephew, Fred. He is so cheerful and friendly, and never gives up on trying to win over his disagreeable uncle.

    This "Special Edition" includes extensive sidenotes by Stephen Skelton to define period terms we don't use today, explain how parts of the story reflected Dickens's own life, and to comment on the Christian themes in the story. The sidenotes were quite useful and extremely interesting. They really helped me to better understand the story and to see the ways that Dickens's faith influenced it. There are also thought-provoking questions at the end of each stave (chapter) for family or book group discussion. These questions are broken up into four groups: Telling the Story, Telling Your Story, Telling the Story of Christmas, and Living the Story. The questions would certainly provoke meaningful discussion between parents and their children during the Christmas season.

    This was a wonderful holiday read, and I am so glad I did not put it off for another day. I now understand exactly why this story has become so entrenched in our culture and society. It really deserves its reputation as a classic. Another book to add to my keeper shelf!

    Rating: ★★★★★ 5/5 stars - It doesn't get much better than this.

    **I won this book in a giveaway from Bookin' With Bingo! Thank you Karen! If I hadn't won this book, who knows when I would have gotten around to reading it?!**

    This was the third book I have read for the Holiday Reading Challenge. For more great holiday reads, check out the challenge review page.

    Tuesday, December 22, 2009

    Teaser Tuesdays - A Christmas Carol

    Teaser Tuesdays logo

    Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
    • Grab your current read
    • Open to a random page
    • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
    • Share the title AND author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
    Here's my teaser:

    "He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched women with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a door-step. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever."

    --Pg. 28 in A Christmas Carol Special Edition by Charles Dickens

    Monday, December 21, 2009

    Page Turners Cover Challenge

    I just discovered Page Turners at the end of November and have been enjoying some of the fun holiday mini-contests there. This is week 4, and it's a cover challenge. I just couldn't resist participating--it looked like too much fun. Click here for details on how to participate. Considering that the cover image, title, and author were all randomly generated, I think I got a pretty interesting result!

     Cover Photo Credit goes to Celeste, whose image is in the Flikr Creative Commons.

    I thought about writing up a faux synopsis for an extra entry, but my creative juices were just not flowing. What would you think this book would be about?

    Sunday, December 20, 2009

    Mailbox Monday - December 21

    Every week Marcia at The Printed Page hosts Mailbox Monday. It's a chance to share the books that came to your house last week, and to check out what other book lovers received. I always end up with several new books on my wish list after I go check out other people's mailboxes on Mondays.

    I had a lighter mail week than I've been used to lately, with just three books arriving in my mailbox this week. But it's nice to get a breather and try to catch up on some reading of my toppling TBR pile.

    I won a copy of A Christmas Carol (Special Edition) by Charles Dickens at Bookin' With Bingo! and it arrived this week. :) I'm reading it right now--it's perfect for this time of year. Unbelievably, I've never read it before, but I have seen a few of the myriad of dramatizations of it on film.

    I won a copy of Alvor by Laura Bingham at Page Turners in their Week 1 Holiday Mini Contest. We had to guess the different books in the cover collage that week. It was really fun!

    I received a review copy of The Green Bronze Mirror by Lynne Ellison, a new reprint with new illustrations of a Young Adult title first published in 1966 that involves time travel and the Roman Empire. It sounds like fun! Thank you to Cnposner Books for sending me a copy! (FYI: you can win a copy of this book from the publisher on Twitter @cnposner by mentioning the title in a tweet. He's holding a weekly giveaway.)

    So, what came to your mailbox this week?

    Book Review - One Holy Night by J.M. Hochstetler

    One Holy Night by J.M. Hochstetler is the third book I've read by Joan Hochstetler in the last two months, and for good reason. I've been really enjoying her work. One Holy Night is a contemporary Christian fiction novel set during the Vietnam War. It is also what you could consider a Christmas-themed book, since the main climax of the story happens on Christmas Eve.

    The McRae family is facing a lot of tough times. Maggie is fighting ovarian cancer, her son Mike has been shipped off to fight in the Vietnam War, and her husband Frank is still wrestling with old hurts and prejudices caused by his experiences during World War II. Daughter Julie and her minister husband Dan try hard to keep things together, but when the family faces new and unexpected challenges and losses, it seems like more than the family can take. But on Christmas Eve, a miracle baby pulls the family back together once more, and helps bring them closer to God and to find forgiveness and healing.

    This was a wonderfully moving and inspirational story. It takes place over the term of a year, and it deals with a lot of difficult topics--grief, post-traumatic stress disorder, war, cancer, prejudice, drug addiction, and faith are all covered. I was moved to tears a couple of times by the heartwrenching events in this book, and by the glorious transformations that several of the characters undergo in the process. This is a book about faith in God and how He can bring peace, forgiveness, and healing to those who seek it. Somewhere in the middle it got a little bit preachy, but the characters doing the preaching were a preacher and his wife, so it wasn't out of character and it wasn't overwhelming. In fact, I really enjoyed those characters because of their loving and forgiving attitude with people who had hurt them--their attitudes were a lot less judgmental (and refreshing!) than I am used to in real life. I wish more of us could be so forgiving and compassionate.

    I thought this was a fantastic holiday read, but it would also be a great read any day of the year.

    Rating: ★★★★ 4/5 stars - I really liked it!

    **I won this book in a giveaway at The Book Connection. Thank you Cheryl!**

    This was the second book I have read for the Holiday Reading Challenge. For more great holiday reads, check out the challenge review page.


    Saturday, December 19, 2009

    What My Child Is Reading - December 19

    Every week Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns hosts What My Child Is Reading. It's a chance to share the books that our kids love and have been reading over the past week.

    Pajama Time! by Sandra Boynton has been one of my daughter's favorite bedtime stories for a long time now. She loves all of the different kinds of pajamas, she loves to say how she doesn't like the "ugliest pajamas you've ever seen," and she loves it when they "pajammy to the left, pajammy to the right!" She also likes the page with the stars--she always takes the time to count all of the stars. :-) This is a fun pajama party type of book.

    We have an ancient water-damaged and scribbled-in copy of Just for You by Mercer Mayer. It was mine when I was my daughter's age. I loved it. Now she loves it. She's been requesting it all week. Little Critter wants to do something special for his mom, but something always messes it up. He finally succeeds in giving her a big hug, just for her. The page when Little Critter makes a mess in the bathroom always makes her giggle. And we love to point out the grasshopper and spider on each page.

    Curious George Cleans Up is based on an episode of the current PBS Curious George television series. My son has been requesting this story more often lately. George makes a mess on the carpet and tries to clean it up, but goes a bit overboard on the soap and the water. So he has to borrow a water pump from the neighbors. We love how there's a cow in the living room at the end of the story.


    That's what my kids have been reading this week. Visit Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns for more children's book suggestions.

    Friday, December 18, 2009

    Typically British Reading Challenge 2010

    Timeline: 1st Jan 2010~ 31st Dec 2010. Only books started on January 1st count towards this challenge.
    1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate. 
    2. There are four levels:
     • "Put The Kettle On" – Read 2 Typically British novels.
     • "Gordon Bennett" – Read 4 Typically British novels.
     • "Bob's Your Uncle" – Read 6 Typically British novels.
     • "Cream Crackered" – Read 8 Typically British novels.
    3. Any book format counts.
    4. You don't have to select your books ahead of time, you can just add them as you go. Also if you do list them upfront then you can change them, nothing is set in stone!
    5. The books you choose can crossover into other challenges.
    6. If you decide to participate in this challenge please use the link I have set up below with the button to post on your sidebar, this way others can find their way back to this post and join in the fun.
    7. If you decide to join this challenge be sure to create a post telling others, please make sure you add a link back to this post so others can join in.
    8. There will be a place for you to link your reviews, but this is optional.
    9. Obviously only British authors count!
    I'm going to sign up for the "Gordon Bennett" level (4 Typically British novels), and we'll see where I end up at the end of the year. I have a few titles here by British authors that I've been planning to read, so why not? I'll keep track of my list on this post. Review link-up page here.
    1. The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer
    2. A Dangerous Mourning by Anne Perry 
    3. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie 
    4. Virgin and the Crab by Robert Parry 

    Thursday, December 17, 2009

    Eye Candy - Red Seas Under Red Skies

    Aarti at BOOKLUST reviewed this book not too long ago, and I thought the cover was really eye-catching!

    Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
    Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
    Length: 576 pgs.

    Book Summary:
    In his highly acclaimed debut, The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch took us on an adrenaline-fueled adventure with a band of daring thieves led by con artist extraordinaire Locke Lamora. Now Lynch brings back his outrageous hero for a caper so death-defying, nothing short of a miracle will pull it off.
    After a brutal battle with the underworld that nearly destroyed him, Locke and his trusted sidekick, Jean, fled the island city of their birth and landed on the exotic shores of Tal Verrar to nurse their wounds. But even at this westernmost edge of civilization, they can’t rest for long—and are soon back to what they do best: stealing from the undeserving rich and pocketing the proceeds for themselves. 
    This time, however, they have targeted the grandest prize of all: the Sinspire, the most exclusive and heavily guarded gambling house in the world. Its nine floors attract the wealthiest clientele—and to rise to the top, one must impress with good credit, amusing behavior…and excruciatingly impeccable play. For there is one cardinal rule, enforced by Requin, the house’s cold-blooded master: it is death to cheat at any game at the Sinspire. 
    Brazenly undeterred, Locke and Jean have orchestrated an elaborate plan to lie, trick, and swindle their way up the nine floors…straight to Requin’s teeming vault. Under the cloak of false identities, they meticulously make their climb—until they are closer to the spoils than ever. 
    But someone in Tal Verrar has uncovered the duo’s secret. Someone from their past who has every intention of making the impudent criminals pay for their sins. Now it will take every ounce of cunning to save their mercenary souls. And even that may not be enough...

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    Wishlist Wednesday - The Fiddler's Gun by A.S. Peterson

    This week, I'm wishing for a book that Amy recently reviewed at her blog, My Friend Amy. The Fiddler's Gun by A.S. Peterson is independently published and is only available through The Rabbit Room website. It sounds like a fantastic read, and the cover is just gorgeous!

    Book Description:
    Revolution. Secrets. An Unforgettable Adventure.
    America is on the brink of war with England, and Fin Button is about to come undone. She’s had it with the dull life of the orphanage, and she’s ready to marry Peter and get away from rules, chores, and a life looked after by the ever-watchful Sister Hilde. But an unexpected friendship forms between Fin and the fiddle-playing cook, Bartimaeus, which sets her on a course for revolution.
    With Bart’s beloved fiddle and haunting blunderbuss as her only possessions, Fin discovers her first taste of freedom as a sailor aboard the Rattlesnake. She’s hiding some dark secrets, but there are bigger problems for the crew—they are on the run from the Royal Navy, and whispers of mutiny are turning the captain into a tyrant.
    When Fin finally returns home, will she find Peter still waiting, or will she find that she’s lost everything she once held dear?
    So, what are you wishing for this week?

    To find out what other bookworms are wishing for this Wednesday, visit Wishful Wednesday, hosted by The Bluestocking Guide. Also check out the On My Wishlist meme at Book Chick City.

    Tuesday, December 15, 2009

    Teaser Tuesdays - One Holy Night

    Teaser Tuesdays logo

    Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
    • Grab your current read
    • Open to a random page
    • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
    • Share the title AND author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
    Here's my teaser:
    "Then I made a deliberate decision to hang onto hope and trust in God's ultimate goodness, no matter how bleak the situation looked. It feels like it doesn't make sense, but in the end, I came out of it stronger, even those times when I didn't get an answer."

    --Pg. 70 in One Holy Night by J.M. Hochstetler

    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge 2010

    OK, I'm going to try to do this challenge too. I have a few mysteries and thrillers on my TBR that I'd like to get to in 2010 (and I think the button for this challenge is adorable). Book Chick City is hosting the 2010 Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge. Review link-up page is here.
    Timeline: 01 Jan 2010 - 31 Dec 2010
    Rules: To read TWELVE (12) thrillers in 2010

    Now, there are many different sub-genres of thriller, so don't go thinking that you don't actually read these kinds of books because I bet you read more than you think. As I mentioned above you can choose from the numerous sub-genres, from cosy mysteries such as Agatha Christie to the more hard-boiled kind like V I Warshawski by Sara Paretsky, or even supernatural/paranormal suspense written by the likes of Laurell K Hamilton (Anita Blake) and Kelley Armstrong. So, there you have it, this challenge will have something for everyone I'm sure! :)
    Just brainstorming reading ideas for this challenge from my TBR pile:
    First the Dead by Tim Downs
    The Bohemian Murders by Dianne Day
    Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn
    A Misty Mourning by Rett MacPherson
    Plum Lovin' by Janet Evanovich
    Stillwatch by Mary Higgins Clark

    This may be a challenge I don't finish, but I'll try. I like cozy mysteries, and they count for this challenge, so I'll try to pick up a few more of those.

    1. Deadly Intent by Camy Tang (1/2010)
    2. A Dangerous Mourning by Anne Perry (4/2010)
    3. Riddle of Berlin by Cym Lowell (4/2010)
    4. Beguiled by Deeanne Gist & J. Mark Bertrand (5/2010)
    5. Hunter's Moon by Don Hoesel (5/2010)
    6. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (5/2010)
    7. The Last Christian by David Gregory (5/2010)
    8. Rooms by James L. Rubart (6/2010) 
    9. Forget Me Not by Vicki Hinze (6/2010) 
    10. 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan (7/2010) 
    11. Poison by Sara Poole (8/2010) 
    12. Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman (8/2010)

    Sunday, December 13, 2009

    Mailbox Monday - December 14

    Every week Marcia at The Printed Page hosts Mailbox Monday. It's a chance to share the books that came to your house last week, and to check out what other book lovers received. I always end up with several new books on my wish list after I go check out other people's mailboxes on Mondays.

    I just couldn't help myself and bought a few books from when they were running a sale during Thanksgiving. I got a few books off of my wish list: Deep in the Heart of Trouble by Deeanne Gist, From a Distance (Timber Ridge Reflections) by Tamera Alexander (no pic at Amazon), Just Jane by Nancy Moser, and Widows & Orphans by Susan Meissner. Merry Christmas to me! These books, along with a Sudoku puzzle book for hubby (so that's 5 books total!), cost less than $18, shipping included.

    So, what was in your mailbox last week?

    Flashback Reading Challenge 2010

     I'm officially signing up for the 2010 Flashback Reading Challenge, hosted by Aarti at BOOKLUST. Here are the details:

    The Flashback Challenge will run from January 1, 2010 - December 31, 2010. This isn't specifically limited to books you loved reading previously and want to reread.  It could also be a book you don't remember enjoying.  Or just don't remember reading.  It might be interesting to see how your perceptions may have changed.

    You can sign up for the following levels:
    Bookworm - Up to three books
    Scholar - Four to six books
    Literati - Over six books

    Within these levels, we have mini-challenges!  These are:

    1. Re-read a favorite book from your childhood
    2. Re-read a book assigned to you in high school
    3. Re-read a book you loved as an adult

    Thus, if you sign up for the Bookworm level, you could ostensibly choose to read one book from each mini-challenge.  Or you could choose to do none of the above (though, granted, not sure what you could have possibly read that does not fit into either childhood, high school or adulthood).
    So, I'm planning to hit the Scholar level--4-6 books. I'll keep track of my booklist and link to my reviews on this post. I'm kind of excited about this challenge because there are actually quite a few books from my younger days that I've been wanting to re-read.

    Tentative list (brainstorming here, so these may or may not be read):
    • The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
    • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
    • Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll
    • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    1. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (6/2010)
    2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (8/2010) 
    3. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin (11/2010) 
    4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (11/2010)

    Saturday, December 12, 2009

    I'm swimming in exams!

    Just FYI, I'm busily grading exams and finishing with my online class this weekend, so I'm missing my usual "What My Kids Are Reading" post. Thankfully, my grading will be over this weekend, so I should be able to get back to my reading (and posting) very soon!

    Friday, December 11, 2009

    Review and Book Tour Stop: Wind of the Spirit by J.M. Hochstetler

    This is my first time hosting a book tour blog stop, and I couldn't be more thrilled about the book (and author) I am reviewing today!

    Wind of the Spirit is the third book in J.M. Hochstetler's American Patriot Series. I read and reviewed the first book, Daughter of Liberty, last month (click here for that review) and was really impressed. I still have to read the second book (it's sitting on my nightstand), but this third book really knocked my socks off. It's even better than Daughter of Liberty.

    At the beginning of this third installment in the series, Elizabeth Howard and Jonathan Carleton are in very different places, both literally and figuratively. Elizabeth is still doing work as a spy and courier for General Washington, where she finds herself in the middle of an intense battle at Brooklyn Heights. But her thoughts and her heart remain fixed on Carleton, whom she has not seen in a year. Carleton's assignment to meet with Indian tribes in the West and persuade them to support the Patriot cause did not go as planned, and resulted in his being enslaved by the Seneca, and then rescued and adopted by the Shawnee. He is now known as the warrior White Eagle, and as Shawnee war chief he has been leading his people in attacking white settlers who are invading the Shawnee's ancestral lands. But even as he embraces the Shawnee culture, his heart still aches for Elizabeth. When Elizabeth and their friend Colonel Charles Andrews track down his whereabouts, they all face a sea of conflicting emotions, difficult decisions, and unseen dangers.

    This book worked for me on so many different levels. Throughout my reading, I was impressed time after time with the amount of research that had to have gone into this book. The depictions of the Battle of Brooklyn Heights are interesting and personal--as a reader, I felt like I was there. I could feel the characters' fear and anxiety, and I cared about what happened. It's bloody and realistic, and I was riveted. I'm not usually that interested in battle sequences, but Ms. Hochstetler succeeds in keeping me from skimming through those parts as I have done in other books that focus on battles.

    The other area that speaks to her in-depth research is her characterization of the Shawnee in this book. Her Shawnee characters are not just peripheral, one-dimentional characters--they are fleshed-out and real, with strong feelings and fears, loves, and hates. In other words, they are really a part of the story. Their part of the story is fictionalized, but many of the events depicted are very similar to events that occurred on the frontier at different times during the Revolution. I do know that the depictions of whites being adopted into the tribe are based in truth (Daniel Boone, for example, was adopted by a Shawnee chief during the war). And certainly any Native American group in close proximity to whites struggled with what aspects of white culture they should adopt and reject, and how they should deal with white settlers encroaching on their land.

    Wind of the Spirit gets high marks from me because it is so historically rich and well-researched, but also because I really like the characters. They are complicated and are forced to deal with many heart-wrenching events, but through it all they try their best to keep their faith in God and in each other. The historical information is seamlessly incorporated into what is, at its heart, a love story, and it helps to give the story tension and reality. The descriptions in this book are even better than in the first book, which almost overwhelmed me with description in the beginning. The book is made even more interesting with maps and an appendix that defines some of the terms in the book and explains some of the intricacies of Shawnee culture and society.

    Even though Elizabeth and Carleton have been reunited again by the end of this book, the war is far from over and they still have responsibilities that must keep them apart. I will be eagerly waiting for the next book, which Joan is currently working on, titled Crucible of War. In fact, there are four more books planned in this series (for more details, check out her interview with Cheryl at The Book Connection).

    This is first-rate historical fiction with Christian themes. I definitely recommend it to those interested in historical fiction set during the American Revolution. If you haven't read the first two installments in this series, Sheaf House has got copies of both on close-out for $4 each.

    My rating: ★★★★★ 5/5 stars

    Click here to read an excerpt from the book. (PDF file)

    And here is the wonderful trailer for Wind of the Spirit:

    About J.M. Hochstetler:
    J. M. Hochstetler writes stories that always involve some element of the past and of finding home. Born in central Indiana, the daughter of Mennonite farmers, she graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Germanic languages. She was an editor with Abingdon Press for twelve years and has published four novels. Daughter of Liberty (2004), Native Son (2005), and Wind of the Spirit (March 2009), the first three books of the critically acclaimed American Patriot Series, are set during the American Revolution. One Holy Night, a retelling of the Christmas story set in modern times, is the 2009 Christian Small Publishers Fiction Book of the Year and a finalist for the 2009 American Christian Fiction Writers Long Contemporary Book of the Year.
    Hochstetler is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, Nashville Christian Writers Association, and Historical Novels Society. She and her husband live near Nashville, Tennessee.
    You can find Joan online at or at this book’s blog
    There are a few more stops on the virtual book tour, so if you're interested in checking them out the schedule is listed at her blog, The American Patriot Series.

    **I received a complimentary copy of this book to provide an honest review and participate in this blog tour through Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Book Tours.**

    Thursday, December 10, 2009

    The Twenty Ten Challenge

    Sign me up for another challenge! This one sounds like fun--I like the categories--so I'll give this one a go. Here are the details:
    The aim is to read a total 20 books, over ten categories, in 2010.
    • Read 2 books from each category, making a requirement of 20 books total.
    • The categories are intended to be loose guidelines only, if you decide it fits, then it fits. (Apart from those marked **)
    • Categories marked with ** have tighter rules, and these must be followed.
    • Each book can only qualify for one category.
    • Crossovers with other challenges are allowed.
    • Books read from 01/01/2010 to 31/12/2010 are eligible.
    So, on with the categories
    1. Young Adult
      A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott
      The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

    2. T.B.R.** (must be on bookshelf as of Nov. 1, 2009)
      A Dangerous Mourning by Anne Perry
      A Misty Mourning by Rett MacPherson

    3. Shiny and New (acquired new in 2010)
      Glorious by Bernice McFadden
      Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

    4. Bad Bloggers (books chosen solely from book blogger recommendation)
      The Awakening by Kate Chopin (recommended by Nymeth at Things Mean A Lot)
      The Fiddler's Gun by A.S. Peterson (recommended by Amy at My Friend Amy)

    5. Charity (book bought at a local charity shop or sale)
      Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
      A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

    6. New in 2010 (new releases)
      Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
      Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

    7. Older Than You (in my case, anything published before 1978)
      The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer (pub. 1962)
      The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (pub. 1926)

    8. Win! Win! (books for other challenges)
      Sugar by Bernice McFadden (POC Challenge, Women Unbound)
      Riddle of Berlin by Cym Lowell (Thriller & Suspense Challenge)

    9. Who Are You Again? (authors you've never heard of before)
      Faithful Heart by Al Lacy
      Watermark by Vanitha Sankaran

    10. Up to You! (Non Fiction!)
      Embracing Your Freedom by Susie Larson
      The Eyes of Willie McGee by Alex Heard
    I'll keep track of my reading list in this post and update it as I go.

    Wednesday, December 9, 2009

    Wish List Wednesday - The American Revolution in Indian Country

    I recently finished up Wind of the Spirit by J.M. Hochstetler, a novel that, among other things, explores the complicated world of Native Americans during the Revolution. It made me want to learn more. So, this week I'm wishing for a nonfiction history title, The American Revolution in Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities by Colin G. Calloway.

    Book Summary:
    This study presents the first broad coverage of Indian experiences in the American Revolution rather than Indian participation as allies or enemies of contending parties. Colin Calloway focuses on eight Indian communities as he explores how the Revolution often translated into war among Indians and their own struggles for independence. Drawing on British, American, Canadian and Spanish records, Calloway shows how Native Americans pursued different strategies, endured a variety of experiences, but were bequeathed a common legacy as a result of the Revolution.
    What are you wishing for this week?

    To find out what other bookworms are wishing for this Wednesday, visit Wishful Wednesday, hosted by The Bluestocking Guide. Also check out the On My Wishlist meme at Book Chick City.


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