Thursday, December 31, 2015

Bookish Goals Status Update: December 2015


In an effort to help keep myself on track, I am going to post monthly status updates showing where I stand for each of my 2015 Goals.

  • Read and review at least 40 books - 
    1. Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
    2. The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
    3. Splintered by A.G. Howard
    4. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
    5. Slammed by Colleen Hoover\
    6. The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare
    7. The Inventor's Secret by Andrea Cremer
    8. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
    9. Inking Him by Cora Carmack
    10. The 5th Horseman by James Patterson
    11. Alienated by Melissa Landers
    12. Spirit Bound By Richelle Mead
    13. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist - Rachel Cohn
    14. Miss. Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs
    15. Sweet by Tammara Webber
    16. All Fall Down by Ally Carter
    17. Point of Retreat by Colleen Hoover
    18. The Heir by Kiera Cass
    19. Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead
    20. The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris
    21. The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
    22. Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter
    23. Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kenneally
    24. The Trials by Stacey Kade
    25. Finding It by Cora Carmack
    26. The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan
    27. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
    28. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
    29. Because of Anya by Margaret Peterson Haddix
    30. The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
    31. The Distance Between Us by Kasie West
    32. Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan
    33. Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
    34. Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins
    35. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
    36. Rooms by Lauren Oliver
    37. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
    38. Until Midnight by Melissa Landers
    39. Die Once More by Amy Plum
    40. The Queen's Army by Marissa Meyer
  • Reach Level 2 (12-23 pts) in the New to You reading challenge at Herding Cats & Burning Soup.
    1. Splintered by A.G. Howard - New Author & New Series
    2. The Signature of All Things - New Author
    3. Slammed by Colleen Hoover - New Author & New Series
    4. The Iron Trial - New Series
    5. The Inventor's Secret - New Series and New Genre (Steampunk)
    6. Alienated - New Author and New Series
    7. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - New Author & New Series
    8. All Fall Down - New Series
    9. The Fine Art of Pretending - New Author
    10. The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes - New Author and New Series
    11. Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kennealy - New Author
    12. Cinder by Marissa Meyer - New Author and New Series
    13. Because of Anya by Margaret Peterson Haddix - New Author
    14. The Distance Between Us by Kasie West - New Author
    15. Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens - New Author
    16. Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins - New Author
  • Read at least 10 New Adult books
    1. Slammed by Colleen Hoover
    2. Sweet by Tammara Webber
    3. Point of Retreat by Colleen Hoover
    4. Finding It by Cora Carmack
    • Read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 
      •  I FINALLY Finished reading the Harry Potter series.  
    • Finish reading at least 5 series I have already started.  (I have several trilogies with final books I still need to read.
      1. The Retribution of Mara Dyer - 3rd and final book in the Mara Dyer series
      2. Last Sacrifice - 6th and final book in the Vampire Academy series
      3. The Trials by Stacey Kade - 3rd and final book in the Project Paper Doll series
      4. Finding It by Cora Carmack - 3rd and final book in the Losing It series
      5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - 7th book in the Harry Potter series
    • Attend a book convention
      • I don't make it to a convention this year, but I'm registered for BEA in Chicago next May!!
    • Read at least 20 books from my TBR list that are not 2015 new releases for the TBR Pile Reading Challenge.
      1. The Retribution of Mara Dyer - Released 11/4/2014
      2. Splintered by A.G. Howard - Released 1/1/2013
      3. The Signature of All Things - Released 5/1/2012
      4. Slammed by Colleen Hoover- Released 1/4/2012
      5. The Iron Trial by Black & Clare - Released 9/9/2014
      6. The Inventor's Secret - Released 4/22/2014
      7. Eleanor & Park - Released 2/26/2013
      8. The 5th Horseman - Released 1/1/2006
      9. Alienated - Released 2/4/2014
      10. Spirit Bound - Released 5/18/2010
      11. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist - Released 5/23/2006
      12. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Released 6/7/2011
      13. Point of Retreat by Colleen Hoover - Released May 2013
      14. Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead - Released 12/7/2010
      15. The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris - Released 9/30/2014
      16. The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes - Released 11/5/2013
      17. Only the Good Spy Young - Released 6/29/2010
      18. Finding It by Cora Carmack - Released 10/15/2013
      19. The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan - Released 5/5/2007
      20. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Released 1/1/2007
      21. Cinder by Marissa Meyer - Released 1/3/2012
      22. Because of Anya by Margaret Peterson Haddix - Released 5/1/2004
      23. The Distance Between Us by Kasie West - Released 7/2/2013
      24. Invisibility by Andrea Cremer & David Levithan - Released 5/7/2013
      25. Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens - Released 2/25/2014
      26. Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins - Released 5/1/2012
      27. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan - Released 9/9/2003
      28. Rooms by Lauren Oliver - Released 9/23/2014
      29. Until Midnight by Melissa Landers - Released 12/23/2014
      30. The Queen's Army by Marissa Meyer - Released 11/23/2012
      • Achieve an Advanced level in the Novel Heartbeat 2015 Prequel and Sequel challenge with 51-75 points. 
        1. The Retribution of Mara Dyer - 12 points for a sequel + finishing a series
        2. The 5th Horseman - 2 points for a sequel
        3. Spirit Bound - 2 points for a sequel
        4. Sweet by Tammara Webber - 2 points for a sequel
        5. Point of Retreat by Colleen Hoover - 2 points for a sequel
        6. The Heir by Kiera Cass - 2 points for a sequel
        7. Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead - 2 points for sequel, 10 points for finishing a series
        8. Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter - 2 points for sequel
        9. The Trials by Stacey Kade - 2 points for sequel, 10 points for finishing a series
        10. Losing It by Cora Carmack - 2 points for a sequel, 10 points for finishing a series
        11. The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan - 2 points for a sequel
        12. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows - 2 points for a sequel, 10 pts for finishing a series
        13. The Copper Gauntlet by Black and Clare - 2 points for a sequel
        14. Until Midnight by Melissa Landers - 2 points for a sequel
        15. Die Once More by Amy Plum - 2 points for a sequel
        16. The Queen's Army by Marissa Meyer - 2 points for a prequel
                                                          Total Points = 82
      • Complete 2 half marathons during 2015
        1. I ran the Capital City Half Marathon on May 2, 2015
        2. I started training for the Glass City Half Marathon, which is scheduled for April 2016

      Wednesday, December 30, 2015

      Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

      The Darkest Part of the Forest

      Hazel and Ben are a brother and sister who have grown up in the unusual town of Fairfold.  The locals know all of the "rules" to keep yourself safe from the monsters that live in the forest, but it is never safe for a tourist.  The faeries prey upon the unsuspecting visitors who come to visit the prince, who has been sleeping in the forest for generations.  The local high school students routinely gather around his glass casket to party, but the prince has had an even greater impact on the lives of Hazel and Ben.  While their parents were busy working, the siblings spent hours talking to the prince and pretending to kill the monsters in the forest.

      One day, it is discovered that the prince is no longer in his casket.  Where did he go?  How did he escape? Is his disappearance related to the increase in violence in Fairfold?  

      Holly weaves a wonderful tale that connects the human world with that of the faeries.  There is a boy named Jack, who is considered to be a "changeling".  He is an immortal fairy who has grown up with a human family in Fairfold.  Through him we are able to see how life on the other side really is.  While the faeries are known for their trickery, they aren't all bad.  There is more to the mystery of the "monster" than one can imagine and his or her true identity is not as obvious as it first appears.

      The book started out a little slow for me, but it really took off about 100 pages in.  Once Hazel and Carter began working together to solve Farifold's mysteries, I simply could not put it down.  There are a couple of love stories that add an additional element of interest as well.

      I haven't read Holly's Modern Faerie Tale series, but I am definitely intrigued by it now that I have completed this book.  I have added the first book in the series to my TBR list and hope to get to it soon.  Well...that is a relative term when your TBR list contains over 300 books, but I do look forward to reading it some day. 

      Sunday, December 27, 2015

      Creativity Corner: Graham Cracker Gingerbread House & Coloring


      My 10 year-old son, Preston, is very crafty and enjoys all forms of art.  I decided to start this Creativity Corner feature as a way for us to look back on our projects while sharing ideas with others.

      Preston made a gingerbread house at school out of graham crackers.  We have made traditional gingerbread houses in the past, but this was a fun activity for the kids that didn't require nearly as much preparation.



      I spent some time coloring the day after Christmas and finished the first page in Secret Garden.






      Saturday, December 26, 2015

      Stacking the Shelves: Christmas Edition


      Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.  It is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, be it physical or virtual.  This means you can include books you buy in a physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

      Tynga publishes her post each Saturday, so be sure to link up your posts and check out what books others have added to their shelves that week.

      Gifts

      The Heir and the SpareThe Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright 

      Flo sent me this for Christmas, which I was super excited about.  It has been on my TBR list for a while and I can't wait to read it.  







      Hush, Hush (Hush, Hush, #1)Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

      My brother gave me a copy of Hush Hush for Christmas.  Now that I finally finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, this is one of the older books on my TBR list.  It looks like I can finally tackle this one in 2016.

      Thursday, December 24, 2015

      Review: Rooms by Lauren Oliver

      Rooms

      I've read Lauren Oliver's Delirium series and Panic, so I am well aware of her YA books.  I knew this was an adult book when I tried to pick up a copy at BEA a couple of years ago, but I obviously forgot in the meantime.  I downloaded the audio book and started listening to it on a road trip with my ten-year-old son and quickly discovered that it is NOT appropriate for younger readers.  After a couple of "bad words" and some content he hopefully didn't understand, I had to pull the plug for the rest of that trip.  

      Rooms is told from multiple character's points of view, which I found to be very entertaining.  Alice and Sandra are both ghosts who were former residents of the home they "haunt", for lack of a better word.  Richard Walker was the most recent owner of the home, but he recently passed away and his ex-wife, Caroline, teenage son Trenton and adult daughter Minna are there to settle his affairs.

      Trenton and Minna haven't been to their childhood home in years, so their return stirs up a number of old memories.  In addition, Trenton was involved in a car accident prior to the start of the book that nearly killed him.  He believes it was this near death experience that is causing him to hear ghosts in the house.  Caroline, Trenton, and Minna are all battling their own demons, but hearing ghosts is even a stretch for them.

      The majority of the book is an unraveling of the lives of the ghosts as well as the living.  There are a number of finely woven details that link the past with the present and several surprising revelations.  I don't think I was quite as close to the edge of my seat as I was reading Panic, but this was still an excellent ghost store and a solid debut into the world of adult fiction for Lauren.

      The only negative that I perceived was the somewhat crude language that was dispersed throughout the book.  I read a lot of YA and NA, so I'm definitely not used to it.  Some adult content and language is fine, but I thought it was excessive in places and could have been toned down.  

      Wednesday, December 16, 2015

      Waiting on Wednesday: The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin


      Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases we are eagerly anticipating.

      The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin
      Release Date: January 26, 2016

      I found this book when I was looking for books to read for next year's new release challenge. They pretty much had me with the mention of Sarah Dessen, but the description sounds like it has a lot of potential.

      The Year We Fell ApartGoodreads Overview: 

      In the tradition of Sarah Dessen, this powerful debut novel is a compelling portrait of a young girl coping with her mother’s cancer as she figures out how to learn from—and fix—her past.

      Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.

      Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different—he’s taller, stronger…more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.

      While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from.

      As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all.

      In this honest and affecting tale of friendship and first love, Emily Martin brings to vivid life the trials and struggles of high school and the ability to learn from past mistakes over the course of one steamy North Carolina summer.

      Monday, December 14, 2015

      Review: Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

      Boy Meets Boy

      I have read several of Levithan's collaborations (Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, and Invisibility) and really enjoyed them, so I decided it was time to read one of his solo books.

      Boy Meets Boy tells the story of a high school boy named Paul who has known and embraced the fact that he is gay since kindergarten.  While I have lived in a very accepting area near Columbus, Ohio for sixteen years, which received a brief mention in this book, I don't think I have ever experienced a town or school like Paul's.  For example...the starting quarterback is a drag queen as well as the homecoming queen.  It seemed like most of the town was openly LGBT, or perhaps that is just the side of things that is presented from Paul's point-of-view.  Everyone seemed so supportive and accepting until we meet Tony's parents.  Tony is Paul's long time friend, but he is a sharp contrast to Paul.  His parents are very religious and believe Paul is the devil's influence on their son.  It was great to see how Tony slowly asserted his independence and stood up to his parents.

      The remainder of the story is a love story.  Paul first meets Noah at a book store and quickly discovers he is a new student at his school.  It takes a few days for Paul to reconnect with Noah, but their relationship soon escalates until Paul manages to botch everything up.  Now he has to figure out how he can earn back Noah's trust.  

      I honestly didn't realize this book was written in 2003.  I added it to my TBR list in March 2014, so I guess I was assuming it was written shortly before then.  If that were the case, I don't think this story would have been such a far reaching piece of fiction.  With the legalization of gay marriage and other recent events, I don't think Boy Meets Boy is that far from today's reality.

      Overall, this was a short and very entertaining story that kept me engaged from start to finish.  It was a very eye opening read that I will not soon forget.

      Thursday, December 10, 2015

      Movie Review: Paper Towns

      Image result for paper towns movie

      It has been a REALLY long time since I have watched a movie before reading the book, but I was on the waiting list to get this movie from the library for quite some time.  I only had a 7 day window of opportunity to watch the movie, since renewing it was definitely not an option.  I was in the middle of two books already, so I had to make an executive decision.  

      I was expecting this movie to be the next The Fault in Our Stars....with fewer tears.  It didn't quite live up to my expectations.  

      While I could appreciate the fact that map makers created "paper towns" when making their maps, I couldn't quite correlate that to a person's feelings or a character's view of a vibrant city.  

      The story is told from Quentin's point of view.  He is a high school senior who has always been on the straight and narrow path.  He doesn't go to parties, gets good grades, wants to go to med school, etc.  I enjoyed his interactions with his good friends, Radar and Ben.  I could appreciate him wanting to revive his childhood friendship with Margo, but she wasn't exactly a likable character.  She is the exact opposite of Quentin.  She sneaks out of her house, goes to parties, and came across as very self centered and vindictive.  I really didn't think she was worth all of the trouble Quentin and his friends went through to decode Margo's clues behind her disappearance.  

      The most enjoyable part of this movie was watching Quentin experience life to the fullest for the fist time.  Perhaps that was the real message to this story, but I'm not exactly sure.  He had a night of mischief with Margo, went to his first party, took a road trip with friends, and even went to the prom...all within the last few weeks of his high school experience.  

      I am glad I waited to get this movie from the library instead of spending the money to see it in the theater.  It was entertaining enough to keep me engage for a couple of hours, but I would have been disappointed if I had shelled out theater prices for this one.  I'm actually a little leery about reading the book now.  I know...the book is always better than the movie, so I'm sure I will read it eventually, but it isn't going to miraculously reach the top of my TBR list based upon this performance.

      Wednesday, December 9, 2015

      Waiting on Wednesday: Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare


      Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases we are eagerly anticipating.

      Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
      Release Date: March 8, 2016

      I'm currently working my way through the Mortal Instruments series (I'm on book 3), but I'm still excited about the release of her latest series.  Hopefully I can finish up the MI series before this book is released.  

      Goodreads Overview:

      Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices #1)
      Los Angeles. It’s been five years since the events of the Mortal Instruments when Nephilim stood poised on the brink of oblivion and Shadowhunter Emma Carstairs lost her parents. After the blood and violence she witnessed as a child, Emma has dedicated her life to to discovering exactly what it was that killed her parents and getting her revenge.

      Raised in the Los Angeles Institute with the Blackthorn family, Emma is paired as a parabatai with her best friend, Julian Blackthorn. A series of murders in the city catch her attention — they seem to have the same characteristics as the deaths of her parents. Could the murderer be the same person? And her attention isn’t the only one caught: someone has been murdering Downworlders as well. The Fair Folk make a deal with the Institute: if the Blackthorns and Emma will investigate the killings, they’ll return Mark Blackthorn to his home. The catch: they have only two weeks to find the killers. Otherwise it’s open war between faeries and Nephilim.

      The Shadowhunters of the Institute must race against time to catch the killers, even as they begin to suspect the involvement of those closest to them. At the same time, Emma is falling in love with the one person in the world she’s absolutely forbidden by Shadowhunter Law to love. Set against the glittering backdrop of present-day Los Angeles, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches from the warlock-run nightclubs of the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica.

      Wednesday, December 2, 2015

      Creativity Corner: Go Bucks!!


      My 10 year-old son, Preston, is very crafty and enjoys all forms of art.  I decided to start this Creativity Corner feature as a way for us to look back on our projects while sharing ideas with others.

      Last weekend my husband and I hosted an Ohio State vs. Michigan party.  I decided to share the Brutus the Buckeye cake and Finger Jello Preston and I made.  Both were a huge hit with the kids and adults in attendance.

      I purchased the silicone cake and muffin pans from a local store a few years ago, but they can be found on Amazon by clicking on the attached links.  If you use a little cooking spray your cakes, muffins, brownies, or jello will come out of these pans beautifully.

      I lightly rinse the jello before serving to make sure there isn't any residual cooking spray left on the final product.  

      Go Bucks! My Brutus cake for the OSU vs. Michigan game.:

      Brutus finger jello for the kids. OSU vs. Michigan party!: