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text 2014-09-01 03:47
2014 - 2016 Series' Challenge

I'm stealing a Series Challenge idea from Reader's Paradise, a discussion group on Goodreads that has a plethora of Reading challenges that are available to participate in.  Using their format, I'm creating my own personal challenge to follow along with.


Finishing up my 2014 reading challenges, I'd been searching the interwebz for more reading challenge ideas and stumbled across this particular one.  Since I've got a great many number of series under my belt and I like reading series anyway, I figured this would be another fun one to challenge myself with some tweaks here and there.


Even though the timeframe is from February 2014 onward, I will begin counting books read from September 2014 onwards, just to be fair.  Otherwise it won't seem like much of a challenge to me since I've already finished at least three of these challenge categories if we start counting if we start counting from February of this year.  And to make the challenge more challenging, I'm thinking of including a specific number of series required for each challenge category and I may even start by listing specific series that I fully intend to finish reading, but never got around to doing so.  I will not be counting novellas towards the "# of books left" in the series unless they are longer than 100 pages, but I will be reading them anyway (assuming I can get ahold of them).


Then again, this challenge is for fun anyway, so whatevs.


So starting from September 2014 until February 2016, I will have a little under two years to complete my challenges.  These books will, of course, also crossover with other challenges, but I want to make sure that they don't crossover with each other within this large challenge.



The sheer number of proposed books and series included in this series' challenge feels overwhelming, but it is meant to motivate me to read books that have been on my TBR for a long time with few exceptions.  It really only serves as a guide and I may or may not switch things up a little as the challenge year progresses into 2016.
I both love and hate reading lists because I read books dependent on my mood and hate to feel like I'm forcing a "required read"; while at the same time, having a list gives me an idea of what I want to read next or what I should read next, and keeps me on track of my goals.
Updated: 9/27/2015
In light of all the In Real Life chaos going on lately, I believe I have no choice but to admit that my previously planned out reading strategy had been a little bit arrogant.  While this reading challenge is technically a personal challenge I created for myself, I still try to keep myself restricted to the rules I created for myself.  Unfortunately, I have to genuinely admit that I will not be able to finish the challenge by my originally decided date of February 2016--it's just not going to happen.
Because, not only did I tweak this challenge's original goals into my own, thinking I'd make it a little more challenging for myself, but I also added one too many goals, thinking that I'd have enough time to finish everything.  So at this point, I'm going to give myself some leeway to finish the rest of these challenge goals and extend the deadline to exactly 2 years from when I started into this challenge.  That will give me exactly one more year to complete all my challenge goals.
If, by then, I cannot complete this challenge, then I will admit defeat.  Otherwise, I suppose I'll try to continue having fun with it.  To be honest, I think I've made pretty good progress with this challenge anyway.
Last updated: 9/25/2015
Original Timeframe:  February 15, 2014 to February 15, 2016
(This Challenge officially began for me in September 2014)
Updated Timeframe (as of 9/27/2015):  September 1, 2014 to September 1, 2016
Tentative Number of Books TBR: ~159
Tentative Number of Proposed Series to be Completed: 37
Number of Books Read: 107
Number of Series Completed: 15
The Challenge:
Challenge #1:  -- COMPLETED 10/25/2015
Complete a series in which you only have one book left to read.
My Goal:  Finish 5 series.  Tentatively pre-chosen.
Five Hundred Kingdoms by Mercedes Lackey -- Completed 10/10/2014
1.  The Fairy Godmother -- Read in 2012
2.  One Good Knight -- Read in 2012
3.  Fortune's Fool -- Read in 2013
4.  The Snow Queen -- Read in 2013
5.  The Sleeping Beauty -- Read in 2013
5.5.  A Tangled Web -- Read in 2013
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken -- Completed 11/29/2014
1.  The Darkest Minds -- Read in 2013
2.  Never Fade -- Read in 2013
1.5.  In Time -- Read in 2014 (pre-Sept.)
2.5.  Sparks Rise -- 10/1/2014
Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien -- Completed 6/11/2015
1.  Birthmarked -- Read in 2011
2.  Prized -- Read in 2012
Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson -- Completed 8/23/2015
1.  Ultraviolet -- Read in 2013
Storybound by Marissa Burt -- Completed 10/25/2015
1.  Storybound -- Read in 2012
Challenge #2:
Complete a series in which you only have two books left to read.
My Goal:  Finish 5 series.  Tentatively pre-chosen.

The Arkwell Academy by Mindee Arnett
1.  The Nightmare Affair -- Read in 2013
3.  The Nightmare Charade
The Elemental Trilogy by Sherry Thomas
1.  The Burning Sky -- Read in 2014 (pre-Sept.)
3.  The Immortal Heights
Splintered by A.G. Howard
1.  Splintered -- Read in 2013
2.  Unhinged
3.  Ensnared
1.5.  The Moth in the Mirror
Soul Eater by Eliza Crewe
1.  Cracked -- Read in 2014 (pre-Sept.)
2.  Crushed
3.  Crossed
The Lotus Wars by Jay Kristoff
1.  Stormdancer -- Read in 2013
2.  Kinslayer
3.  Endsinger
0.5.  Praying For Rain
0.6.  The Last Stormdancer
1.5.  The Little Stormdancer -- Read in 2014 (pre-Sept)
Challenge #3:
Complete a series in which you have more than 10 books left to read.
My Goal:  Finish the following pre-chosen series.
Bishop/Special Crimes Unit by Kay Hooper
1.  Stealing Shadows -- Read in 2014 (pre-Sept.)
2.  Hiding in the Shadows -- Read in 2014 (pre-Sept.)
3.  Out of the Shadows -- Read in 2014 (pre-Sept.)
16.  Fear the Dark
Challenge #4:
Complete a series in which you have more than 5 books left to read.
My Goal:  Finish the following pre-chosen series.
Haruhi Suzumiya by Tanigawa Nagaru
1.  The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya -- Read in 2012
2.  The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya -- Read in 2013
3.  The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya -- Read in 2014 (pre-Sept.)
4.  The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya -- Read in 2014 (pre-Sept.)
6.  The Wavering of Haruhi Suzumiya
7.  The Intrigues of Haruhi Suzumiya
8.  The Indignation of Haruhi Suzumiya
9.  The Disassociation of Haruhi Suzumiya
10.  The Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya (combined books 10 and 11)
Challenge #5:
Pick a completely new series and read all the books in that series.
My Goal:  Finish 10 series.  Tentatively pre-chosen.
Stillwater Trilogy by Brenda Novak -- (1) Completed 10/5/2014
1.  She Drives Me Crazy -- 10/12/2014
2.  She's Got the Look -- 10/13/2014
The Last Stand by Brenda Novak -- (3) Completed 11/3/2014
Storm Front by Sharon Sala -- (4) Completed 12/3/2014 
1.  Blown Away -- 11/16/2014
2.  Torn Apart -- 11/26/2014
3.  Swept Aside -- 12/3/2014
Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier -- (5) Completed 2/27/2015
Deadly by Cynthia Eden -- (6) Completed 4/21/2015
Dept 6 Hired Guns by Brenda Novak -- (7) Completed 5/27/2015
1.  White Heat -- 4/27/2015
2.  Body Heat -- 5/25/2015
3.  Killer Heat -- 5/27/2015
His Fair Assassin by Robin LaFevers
1.  Grave Mercy -- 11/21/2014 -- Review to come
2.  Dark Triumph
3.  Mortal heart
-- Unchosen series --
-- Unchosen series --
Challenge #6:
Create your own series challenge.
My Goal:  Finish the following 5 series challenges listed.
#1) -- Read 5 Romantic Suspense series. --
Black Ops, Inc. by Cindy Gerard -- Completed 1/27/2015
7.5.  Dying to Score -- 1/28/2015
Doucet by Tami Hoag
4.  A Thin Dark Line
For Me by Cynthia Eden
1.  Die For Me: A Novel of the Valentine Killer -- 6/7/2015
2.  Fear For Me: A Novel of the Bayou Butcher
3.  Scream For Me: A Novel of the Night Hunter
Mann Family by Kate Brady
1.  Where Angels Rest
2.  Where Evil Waits
#2) -- Start/Continue/Finish Any 5 YA series. --
Legend by Marie Lu -- Completed 5/6/2015
0.5.  Life Before Legend -- 4/14/2015
The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
1.  The Raven Boys -- Read in 2013
2.  The Dream Thieves -- Read in 2013
4.  The Raven King -- Publication 2/23/2016
Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
1.  Cinder -- Read in 2013
4.  Winter -- Publication 11/10/2015
0.5.  Glitches -- 10/31/2014
1.5.  The Queen's Army -- 10/31/2014
3.6.  The Princess and the Guard
Skylark by Meagan Spooner
1.  Skylark
2.  Shadowlark
3.  Lark Ascending
The Ward by Jordana Frankel
1.  The Ward
2.  The Isle -- Publication 1/19/2016
#3) -- Read 10 1sts each for 2014/2015 series. --
2014 1sts -- Completed 8/25/2015
3.  The Young Elites (The Young Elites) by Marie Lu -- 11/17/2014
5.  A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird) by Claudia Gray -- 12/7/2014
9.  The Vault of Dreamers (The Vault of Dreamers) by Caragh M. O'Brien -- 3/31/2015
2015 1sts
4.  Magonia (Magonia) by Maria Dahvana Headley -- 7/21/2015
6.  Ink and Bone (The Great Library) by Rachel Caine
8.  Illuminae (The Illuminae Files) by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
9.  Walk on Earth a Stranger (Gold Seer Saga) by Rae Carson
#4) -- Start/Continue/Finish Any 5 series. --
FBI/US Attorney by Julie James
1.  Something About You -- Read in 2013
2.  A Lot Like Love -- Read in 2013
3.  About That Night -- Read in 2013
Nikki Heat by Richard Castle
6.  Raging Heat
7.  Driving Heat
Tracers by Laura Griffin
9.  Shadow Fall
10.  Deep Dark -- Publication 4/19/2016
2.5.  Unstoppable -- 3/27/2015
KGI by Maya Banks
8.  After the Storm
9.  When Day Breaks
10.  Darkest Before Dawn
11.  Untitled book -- Publication in 2017 -- N/A for this challenge
5.5.  Softly at Sunrise -- 7/12/2015
One-Eyed Jacks by Cindy Gerard
2.  The Way Home
3.  Running Blind
4.  Taking Fire -- Publication 2/23/2016
#5) -- Read 10 1sts for Any series. -- COMPLETED 9/23/2015
2.  Enchanted (The Woodcutter Sisters) by Alethea Kontis -- 1/4/2015
4.  A Question of Honor (Morgan's Mercenaries) by Lindsay McKenna -- 4/13/2015
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photo 2014-09-01 01:27
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review 2014-08-29 06:27
Thoughts: Blue Fire
Blue Fire - Janice Hardy

I'm not quite sure much happens in this book that didn't already happen in the first book. Evil people are doing evil things, there's a war raging, there are riots, the world is in shambles, and it's up to Nya to save the day... again. It bugs me a bit still that the people in this book are so black-and-white and one-dimensional. If you're bad, you're bad; if you're good, you're good.

And Nya seems to be the only one with a gray-area-of-morality compass that keeps getting questioned by herself and even her friends. And then we rehash the same dilemmas that I had thought Nya had already established a somewhat of a conclusion to already. Mainly, her use of her Shifting powers to heal and hurt others keeps being pinned by herself and her best friend as morally incorrect and disgusting.

And while I stand on the point that torture and violence and killing is an evil, when you are an high fantasy with worlds at war with one another, maybe violence ends up being a necessary evil. Because then, why is it okay for others to use weapons (swords, daggers, etc.) to hurt or kill others, but it's wrong of Nya to use her own resources to keep someone from killing her? A sword can kill just as easily as her shifting pain into someone else, however, with a sword, dead is dead. Apparently with shifted pain you still get a chance so long as you can find a Healer and a slab of pynvium to relieve that pain.

So you want Nya to heal people and do good, but you don't want to see her shifting that pain into someone else even if it will kill her if she keeps it for too long? The idea of shifting pain back and forth from one person to another's not so bad an idea though, since this action apparently leaves no lasting side-effects (how convenient).

Despite the fact that she hates seeing her own "healing" powers as a weapon of potential mass destruction, the fact is, she just needs to accept what she can do and use appropriately... as she has been doing continually. Which then makes me wonder what all the whining about her guilty conscience is about if she's just going to ignore it anyway, then wallow in self-pity. This world is on the brink of war and destruction and it seems everyone else will not stop to reconsidering chopping your head off, but you're going to hesitate to "shift" pain into someone else because it could kill them if they can't heal themselves first?

This is probably why children shouldn't be the world's one hope in bringing peace in the midst of bloody war. I'm not saying that children can't save the world given the right resources and determination; it just seems like a heck of a whole lot to put on a child's shoulders just because she seems to be different. Or, even if Nya is the singular hope of saving the world, she should at least have some handy friends and experienced war veterans or soldiers to help her out.

I'm not certain how I feel about how competent her friends and the adult rebels are in this book. And Nya, herself, is a full stewing pot of rash decisions and no planning ahead and eventually ends up causing more trouble than not. Then again, there was enough monotony in the narration that maybe I missed some significant and genius rebellion plot somewhere that didn't involve biding your time until you could publicly humiliate the great evil villain, The Duke, and make him concede his throne... because... then what?

Of course, despite the repetitiveness of this second book from the first book, and despite the flatness and one-dimensional-ness of all the characters, I guess I managed to enjoy reading the book just fine. I just wished there was more to it than such a simple, The Duke is evil because he's evil and needs to be defeated. Nya's friends and sister keep getting kidnapped and it's up to her to save all of them. Something always ends up blowing up and nearly killing everyone. The magical "technology" in this book keeps evolving with no indication of how anything works, and I'm still teetering about the magic system and the healing process that still makes little sense.

While a lot of backstory begins to unravel concerning Nya's family, still very little is known about her (or even her friends). And even less is known about the world and the three countries that are portrayed in this world. We barely glimpse the surface of the cultures in a vague attempt to illustrate a setting. More enchanters are introduced, but their significance dwindles just as quickly as they appeared--and so I have no idea what enchanters do and why they merit being labeled as such if all they'd been doing is melting pynvium and molding them into weapons.

Or did I miss something, somewhere?

Anyway, I'll be finishing this series if only to find out how the entire war turns out and what other troubles Nya manages to get herself into and how she'll finally save the world without getting kidnapped again.

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review 2014-08-26 02:47
Review: The Shifter
The Shifter - Janice Hardy

I seem to be in a minority here with my rating of this book.  


It teeters very much in the "MEH" category, but I have to admit that once the show got going, I found enough enjoyment in it to continue reading the rest of the series. At the very least, there's a sense of, "Hmm, what's next?" going on here.

The characters weren't relatable; the heroes were flat and unexciting and the villains were kind of comical (I kept envisioning a creepy looking dude with a curling mustache and twirling it while plotting to do evil). The world was developed decently, but not experienced very well; it all sounds well and good on paper, but kind of boring and flat in action. Worse yet was the Healing/Magic system, which I'll get into in detail later.

There's too much "black and white" in this story when a lot hinges on gray area concerning Nya, the heroine's own moral dilemma's concerning her powers. The people seem to be set in absolute categories: they're either good or bad, heroes or villains... well, all aside from one particular character, Jeatar. He's just confusing.


But, nonetheless, I managed to find it entertaining and progressive.

The Shifter had an extremely info-dump-ish and slow start. And yet at the same time, I'm still not sure I understand how the world of The Healing Wars or the magic system works. The healing skills were explained in a very tedious fashion without actually telling you how the whole process works. I mean, it took 75% of the book to acknowledge that pynvium cannot be reused--it becomes pretty much dead rock after it takes in pain and then is used as a weapon to inflict more pain. I spent a lot of time wondering why the healers don't just re-purchase used pynvium to continue unloading pain into; why pynvium was such an expensive, yet rare and valuable resource aside from the obvious.

And it took about 50% of the book for me to realize how the healing process MIGHT work, because I'm still not really certain I understand it correctly.

Takers are able to heal people by drawing the injured's pain into themselves. Following, they must endure said pain until they can dump that pain into pynvium. Sometimes they are just manifested as aches and sores; other times the pain is so excruciating that it could render a Healer immobile. Then there are Pain Merchants who draw pain into themselves without actually healing people sometimes if they can get away with it--take the pain and make the victims think they've been healed, but leave the injuries that will eventually kill that person... or heal on its own.

But where do the injuries go? The broken bones, the bruises, the bleeds, and the crushed organs? Do they just stitch themselves once the pain is gone? Does the healing process in one's body speed up once the pain has been drawn away? But we've already been told that drawing away pain doesn't mean a healed body. What strange magic is this, unexplained, that actually heals the wounded?

And then what's the point in having a distinction between Pain Merchants and actual League Healers? Don't they both do the same thing? Because I'd spent a good part of the book thinking that the "real" League Healers also drew the injuries and wounds into themselves as well, relieving victims of their hurts. That maybe the Healers just have a higher tolerance for healing their own bodies and just need to handle it until they can get back to their League home to dump the pain and injuries and wounds into that big pynvium Slab.

Except, apparently I thought wrong because the League Healers also only draw pain into themselves while healing their patients at the same time... and so that brings me back to... where do the wounds and injuries go? How does it get healed? And what's the point in Pain Merchants being utter assholes and only drawing away the pain, but leaving the wounds if it doesn't cost them anymore than drawing the pain away would?

See... I still don't quite understand how this whole deal works.

And don't even get me started on the plausibility of other magics being involved in this book. Nya makes infrequent, yet obviously significant mentions of her father as an enchanter who "tells the pynvium to absorb pain" or something like that, but that set of skills is never explored further aside from passing mentions in flashbacks. There's still a lot of development to be made concerning the magic system in this world that I'm still having a hard time trying to grasp.

Either things aren't making any sense or things aren't being presented properly. It's all so vague.

The book has its appeal since it does draw those lines between right and wrong using Nya's shifting powers as a base. There's an entire "How can Nya's powers be used for good if it really just causes more pain?" type of scenario. Nya is a Taker like all the rest of the Healers, but she is incapable of dumping her drawn-in pain into pynvium. Instead, she can only dump pain into another person... which defeats the whole purpose of being a Healer, because, apparently, in order to save one person, she'd have to kill someone else since apparently shifting pain has even more dire consequences.

So now Nya must continue to figure out her niche in life and how she can be a hero to her people (at the age of fifteen, yo) by using her special, yet deadly powers. She needs to make decisions and depend upon her moral compass to tell her what the lesser of two evils is and when it would actually be justifiable to use her powers. It's an interesting concept that I would like to explore more of.

Then I'm reminded that when Healers draw pain from the injured, they go and dump it into pynvium which then gets molded and formed into weapons and sold to people who are intent on war... It still comes full circle: Healing one person, in the end, comes back to hurting others. The pain just travels and never really goes away.

Which brings me back to: Where do the wounds and the injuries go?


Because we've established that removing the pain doesn't necessarily make the injuries go away. How are people healed? Is it some other special skill or is it something that "just happens" when a Healer draws pain? I'm so confused. If the pain doesn't actually ever go away and circulates the world, how do the injuries and wounds that caused that pain in the first place just disappear?

And another thing that bothers me: The people in this world rely entirely too absolutely and heavily on Takers to heal all their injuries (broken bones to bruises) and only once throughout the entire book was the word "salve" used for some superficial scrapes and bruises. I'm not even sure there's any mention anywhere else about using more traditional or common means of treating injuries. Like how you can just wash and bandage up a cut and let your own body heal itself; or putting some soothing ointment (or salve) on scrapes and such and letting those injuries heal on their own.

I can understand going to extremes with the less accessible injuries such as internal bleeding, broken bones, and crushed organs. But those have proven to be quite the intense pain for even Healers to be able to handle. But then again, it seems like once they manage to deposit that pain somewhere else, their recovery time is almost immediate. I don't know, it all just feels too convenient for me.

It just would make more sense if the Healers also knew how to treat the wounded without relying completely on Takers relieving their patients of all their pain while healing them. I mean, as cliche as this sounds, sometimes enduring pain is how we learn to get stronger. Taking away all the pain as a means of healing would only make people weaker. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm hoping this issue will be addressed in the coming books.

Then again, that's because I still haven't quite comprehended the world and the magic system. Maybe things will make more sense as the series continues, but I have a feeling we'll just focus more on Nya's journey to finding herself while saving the world (at the age of fifteen, yo... and with friends). She's a smart girl, despite the whole, "act before you think" thing, so I'm still intrigued with her.

It's just that... The entire story also kind of reads like an overdone, rushed through hero versus evil villain plot. It's very straight forward, very simple, and everything just falls into place that's necessary for our hero to save the world without much backing to her own deductions on how the villains are planning things and making his moves. Everything is just entirely too convenient. There is no questioning of how our heroine knows all of these "facts" that she has deduced on her own without concrete evidence. She says it's happening this way, so it must obviously be right.

On top of that, I felt like there was a lot more "telling" in the narration rather than just letting the reader deduct their own opinions. Towards the end, the characters got pretty preachy to the point where I was wondering if the author didn't trust the readers to come up with their own opinions concerning the controversies and philosophies in the story. I felt like I was being told what I should be taking away from the story of The Shifter.

Nonetheless, I still managed to find enjoyment in this book and maybe that's all that matters.

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text 2014-08-23 03:34
Reading progress update: I've read 26%.
Fire - Kristin Cashore

The story feels like it's getting to a point of picking up now, but the first three chapters were kind of boring.  I found my mind wandering as Fire and Archer traveled from one town to another, rehashing old memories and backstory, talking politics, and spouting way extreme feminist values that were probably a carryover from Graceling.


It's been a long time since I read Graceling, but even then I'm not sure I found too much about it memorable.


The world is developed really well and I like the characters as well, but the tone of the story is so monotonous that I find myself rereading paragraphs several times because I had stopped paying attention halfway through a sentence or something.  Then some action happens, or an event is being spoken about, and I have to go back and reread other parts of the same chapter because I realized that my mind must have wandered a lot further back than I remember it wandering.


I'm hoping things will get a little bit better since the concept and the story are quite intriguing to me.  And also, the first two Graceling books were highly praised by a lot of reviewers.  While I found Graceling to be mediocre young adult high fantasy that had potential to be pretty awesome but missed its mark somehow, I'm hoping that Fire will prove different.


After Fire and Thorns, I'm still kind of on a quest to find another great high fantasy to quench my fangirl needs.

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