Friday, July 1, 2016

Review: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

[Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead]

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Goodreads Summary:

Choose: A quick death…Or slow poison...

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear...

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Spotlight on the Classics: Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

[Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead]
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Goodreads Summary:

Robinson Crusoe, set ashore on an island after a terrible storm at sea, is forced to make do with only a knife, some tobacco, and a pipe. He learns how to build a canoe, make bread, and endure endless solitude. That is, until, twenty-four years later, when he confronts another human being.

Classics have a certain stigma in our day. As Mark Twain once said, "'Classic'--a book which people praise and don't read." Nowadays, most people view classic novels only as unpleasant homework assignments and not beautiful stories that can be enjoyed just as much as the hottest new publication. My mission is to change that stigma by reviewing classics that I enjoyed exactly as I would any other novel.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling

[Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead]

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Goodreads Summary:

Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy. He lives with his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley, who are mean to him and make him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. (Dudley, however, has two bedrooms, one to sleep in and one for all his toys and games.) Then Harry starts receiving mysterious letters and his life is changed forever. He is whisked away by a beetle-eyed giant of a man and enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reason: Harry Potter is a wizard! The first book in the "Harry Potter" series makes the perfect introduction to the world of Hogwarts.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

[Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead]

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 Goodreads Summary:

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it's the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth's last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie's only hope for rescuing her brother--or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Review: Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

[Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead]

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Goodreads Summary:


Does one need four fully grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully grown guests?

Sophronia's first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy--won't Mumsy be surprised? Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners.

Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers' quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship's boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a field trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot--one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card.

In this sequel to New York Times bestselling Etiquette & Espionage, class is back in session with more petticoats and poison, tea trays and treason. Gail's distinctive voice, signature
humor, and lush steampunk setting are sure to be the height of fashion this season.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Review: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

[Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead]

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Goodreads Summary:

It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage--in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Wrap-Up: 2015 Reading Challenges

Well, 2015 wasn't my best reading year. I only finished two of the reading challenges I attempted, though I didn't set a goal for the Around the World challenge so that doesn't really count. I did, however, read a total of 86 books during the year. Not what I was hoping for, but not too shabby nonetheless. Without further ado, here are the final reading challenge results.

Around the World

AroundTheWorld2015

 Hosted by All About Books

The challenge here was to read books that take place in countries all over the world. Every time I read a book, I marked its location on the Google map below.




There were also mini challenges to complete, some of which were very difficult, meaning I didn't get to them all. But they were fun anyway.
  • Read one book for each continent (North America, Africa, Asia, South America, Australasia, Antarctica, Europe)
  • Read one book for each state in the US (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming)
  • Read one book for each ocean (the character travels across the ocean, no matter how) (Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, Arctic Ocean, Southern Ocean)
  • The mountaineering challenge: climb the Seven Summits (Mount Everest, Aconcagua, Mount McKinley, Kilimanjaro, Mount Elbrus, Mount Vinson, Mount Kosciuszko)
  • Three Poles Challenge: visit North Pole, South Pole and Mount Everest
  • Visit a certain number of extreme points of Earth (North Pole, South Pole, Mount Everest, Challenger Deep, Lake Titicaca, Auckland)
  • Read a certain number of books set in capital cities (The Funeral Oration of Pericles, The Crito, The Aeneid, Confessions, 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Cinder, Glitches, Scarlet, Cress, The Red Pyramid, All's Well That Ends Well, Out of Sight, Out of Time, The Renaissance, Only the Good Spy Young, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, The Conspiracy of Us, The New Concise History of the Crusades)
  • Read a certain number of books set in at least 5 different places (e.g. road trip books) (13 Little Blue Envelopes, The Red Pyramid, The New Concise History of the Crusades, The Renaissance, I Am Malala)
  • Read a certain number of books that are set in two places from different continents (Scarlet, Glitches, Confessions, Cress, The Red Pyramid, 13 Little Blue Envelopes, I Am Malala, A New Concise History of the Crusades, Out of Sight, Out of Time, The Conspiracy of Us)
  • Read a certain number of books within a 60 Mile radius of where you live
  • Visit a certain number of the most famous landmarks in the world (Giza Pyramid and Great Sphinx, Taj Mahal, Stonehenge, Great Wall of China, Angkor Wat, Acropolis, Colosseum, Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Empire State Building, Forbidden City, Sydney Opera House, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Brandenburg Gate, Luxor, Chichen Itza, Hagia Sophia, St. Peter's Basilica, the Kremlin, the White House, Versailles, Schönbrunn Palace, Mount Fuji, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Vesuvius, Mt. Olympus, Ayers Rock, Mount Ararat)
  • A to Z challenge: Find a place for each letter in the alphabet (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z)
  • Visit a certain number of countries. (Greece, the USA, Turkey, Italy, China, France, Tunisia, Mexico, the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Egypt, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Israel, Syria, Cyprus, Turkey, Tunisia, Pakistan, Switzerland, Pakistan)
  • Read books from authors from a certain number of different countries. (the USA, Greece, Italy, Algeria, England)
  • Read a certain number of books set in places you’ve visited yourself. (The Aeneid, Confessions, 13 Little Blue Envelopes, The Red Pyramid, Chains, All's Well That Ends Well, A New Concise History of the Crusades, The Conspiracy of Us, The Renaissance, You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), Everything, Everything, Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover, Out of Sight, Out of Time, The Conspiracy of Us, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy)
Result: Completed

Debut Author Challenge

DAC2015Big


I liked this challenge because it helped support up-and-coming authors! The goal was to read twelve (or any other number) debut books by new authors. There were some rules and other fun ways to participate, such as entering SWAG giveaways.

(The Honest Truth, Red Queen, Under a Painted Sky, Everything, Everything, The Conspiracy of Us, Made You Up)

Result: Incomplete 

Goodreads Reading Challenge

2015 Reading Challenge

 Hosted by Goodreads

This challenge was as simple as can be, and Goodreads hosts this every year. All it requires is a commitment to read a certain number of books during the year, and then you go out and read them! The nice thing is that Goodreads provides a widget to keep track of the books you've read and how many books you should have read by the current date to be on track.

(The Phantom Tollbooth, The Funeral Oration of Pericles, Free Four: Tobias Tells the Divergent Knife-Throwing Scene, The World of Divergent: The Path to Allegiant, Oedipus Rex, Fragments, Etiquette & Espionage, Parmenides of Elea, Enuma Elish, The Testing, Antigone, The Odyssey, The Crito, Fashioned by Faith, Independent Study, Vocabulary From Classical Roots - C, The Aeneid, Cinder, Glitches, The Book With No Pictures, Graduation Day, The Iliad, Faith on the Edge, The Queen's Army, Scarlet, Theogony, The Athanasian Creed, The Apostle's Creed, Recognizing Idolatry, Confessions, The Promise and the Blessing, Cress, Esperanza Rising, The Hunger Games: Official Illustrated Movie Companion, Uglies, Beowulf, The Red Pyramid, 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Analogies 3: Problem Solving Strategies, Wordly Wise 3000 Grade 10 Student Book - 2nd Edition, Vocabulary from Classical Roots - D, Chains, All's Well That Ends Well, Blogging for Teens, The Honest Truth, Red Queen, Dating With Integrity, Under a Painted Sky, Chew On This, Food Rules, French Women Don't Get Fat, In Defense of Food, Mindless Eating, Easy Homeopathy, The Rumpelstiltskin Problem, Body & Soul, Lyrical Life Science, Vol. 3: The Human Body, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Total Nutrition, Improve Your Survival Skills, Babies, Facing the Facts, Your Food is Fooling You, You: The Owner's Manual for Teens, PUSH: Persevere Until Success Happens Through Prayer, The New Concise History of the Crusades, Inferno, Boundaries in Dating, Utopia, I Am Malala, You're Never Weird on the Internet, I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover, Only the Good Spy Young, Out of Sight, Out of Time, United We Spy, The Testing Guide, On Christian Liberty, A Gallagher Wedding, Macbeth, The Renaissance, Everything, Everything, The Conspiracy of Us, Made You Up

Result: Incomplete

"Real" Book Challenge

http://www.swoonyboyspodcast.com/real-book-challenge


I liked this challenge too because it sough to promote reading real, physical copies of books instead of e-books. I have no problem with e-books, and I read them once in a while myself, but the experience is entirely different from reading a physical book. Something about the smell of the book and the feel of the pages and the weight of it all is so satisfying and fulfilling. Because I have this feeling, I thought, why not, I should take on this challenge.

There were different levels you could try and attain based on how many books you completed, as well as giveaways to enter. I went for the top level--Real Book Queen. This required that I read 50 or more physical books, which was completely doable.


(The Phantom Tollbooth, Etiquette & Espionage, The Testing, The Odyssey, Fashioned by Faith, Vocabulary From Classical Roots - C, The Aeneid, Cinder, Glitches, The Book With No Pictures, The Iliad, Faith on the Edge, The Queen's Army, Scarlet, Confessions, The Promise and the Blessing, Cress, Esperanza Rising, The Hunger Games: Official Illustrated Movie Companion, Uglies, Beowulf, The Red Pyramid, 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Analogies 3: Problem Solving Strategies, Wordly Wise 3000 Grade 10 Student Book - 2nd Edition, Vocabulary from Classical Roots - D, Chains, All's Well That Ends Well, Blogging for Teens, The Honest Truth, Red Queen, Dating With Integrity, Under a Painted Sky, Chew On This, Food Rules, French Women Don't Get Fat, In Defense of Food, Mindless Eating, Easy Homeopathy, The Rumpelstiltskin Problem, Body & Soul, Lyrical Life Science, Vol. 3: The Human Body, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Total Nutrition, Improve Your Survival Skills, Babies, Facing the Facts, Your Food is Fooling You, You: The Owner's Manual for Teens, The New Concise History of the Crusades, Inferno, Boundaries in Dating, Utopia, I Am Malala, I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover, Only the Good Spy Young, Out of Sight, Out of Time, United We Spy, On Christian Liberty, Macbeth, Everything, Everything, The Renaissance, Made You Up, The Conspiracy of Us)

Result: Completed

That's all for 2015! Next year I am planning to be more diligent and consistent in my reading habits. Check out my 2016 reading challenges here.

Happy reading!

Sarah