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text 2015-12-20 08:50
2015 Reading Challenges Wrap-Up

Original 2015 Reading Challenge Post

 

 

As the post title states, this is really just a general wrap-up for all the reading challenges I participated in this year.  There's a sense of accomplishment in completing so many challenges, but at the same time, I know that I had chosen several of these challenges because they WOULD be easy to complete (Romantic Suspense Challenge, Men in Uniform Challenge, and so on).

 

My biggest accomplishment, honestly, would be the 2015 Reading Assignment Challenge hosted by Michelle at Because Reading and Berls at Fantasy is More Fun.  To create a large list of assigned reading, stick to it, and officially complete every book I set out to complete for the year... it feels good.

 

 

What I'm Currently Reading

These are the books that I am still reading and hope to have finished by the end of the year.  I've also listed which reading challenge they will qualify for if I DO manage to finish reading them before 2016.  Otherwise, another year is another year.

 

 Head Over Heels by Jill Shalvis

  • General Reading Challenge @ GR and BL
  • Outdo Yourself Challenge
  • 2015 Reading Assignment -- extra credit book #2
  • Men in Uniform Challenge -- Police

 

 The Chimes by Charles Dickens (narrated by Richard Armitage)

  • General Reading Challenge @ GR and BL
  • Outdo Yourself Challenge

 

 Risky Christmas (two story anthology)

-- Hidden Secrets by Jill Sorenson

-- Kidnapped at Christmas by Jennifer Morley

  • General Reading Challenge @ GR and BL

 

 

What I Hope to Read Before the Year is Over

There are still eleven days left of the year and so I'm in hopes that I will be able to 1) finish reading the above listed books, and 2) add a couple more books to my 'Read' pile for 2015.  So the following are books I DO plan to start reading before the year is over and hope to have completed, as well as the challenges they will be part of.

 

 Shadow Dance by Julie Garwood

  • General Reading Challenge @ GR and BL
  • Outdo Yourself Challenge
  • Mount TBR Challenge
  • Romantic Suspense Challenge
  • Men in Uniform Challenge -- FBI agent
  • Neverending Series Challenge -- final book to complete!!!

 

 Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis

  • General Reading Challenge @ GR and BL
  • Outdo Yourself Challenge
  • 2015 Release -- not an actual challenge, but I'm keeping track

 

 The Immortal Heights by Sherry Thomas

  • General Reading Challenge @ GR and BL
  • Outdo Yourself Challenge
  • 2015 Release -- not an actual challenge, but I'm keeping track

 

 A Family For Christmas by Mona Ingram

  • General Reading Challenge @ GR and BL
  • Outdo Yourself Challenge

 

 

The Stats

  • General Reading Challenges -- COMPLETED 11/13/2015

Goodreads Reading Challenge -- GR list/shelf

BookLikes Reading Challenge -- BL list/shelf

My Goal:  150 books

Progress:  170/150 books read

 

This is a typical reading challenge I participate in every year and aside from cheating my first year participating in 2012 (by dropping my goal at mid-year when I realized I probably wouldn't make it), I've actually been pretty good at keeping up.  I think I increased my goal by a small amount last year and ended up surpassing that number, which gave me the confidence to set a more stable number of books to read as my yearly goal.

 

Of course, this particular reading challenge includes everything from short stories, anthologies, novellas, and even manga volumes.  Last year I had read several manga volumes, each listed as one individual book on my list.  This year, my count actually has more full-length novels included.  Last year I managed my time a little differently.  This year I struggled through a lot of pre-chosen books for reading challenges that made my time management a little more difficult.

 

I will be participating in this same general numbers goal challenge next year and my goal will remain the same.

 

 

  • Outdo Yourself Challenge

-- CHALLENGE COMPLETED -- 12/17/2015

2015 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge

Hosted by Book Vixen

My Goal:  Getting My Heart Rate Up: read 1 - 5 more books

(I read 154 books for this challenge in 2014 / My goal will be 155 - 159 books in 2015.)

My Progress:  155/155

See Also: 2015 Outdo Yourself Challenge shelf for list of books

 

This is probably one of the harder challenges I picked up two years in a row, although last year, it was no difficult feat to surpass the number of books I had read in 2013.  But since I pretty much stretched my limits in 2014, this year ended up being a real challenge to try and outdo my final reading count from last year.

 

The reading count for this challenge is a little more restrictive as we can only include books that are at least 100 pages or more in length.  So, no manga volumes, no short stories, no picture books.  So this particular reading challenge number is a bit more accurate describing the number of books I've read (or audio books I've listened to).

 

I barely made it to complete my goal this year.

 

I will not be participating in this reading challenge next year, if only because I'm pretty sure I've found my yearly book average and will probably remain fairly steady for a while to come.  Maybe in a year or two I will try my hand at this challenge again.  Knowing myself, however, I'll probably still keep track of books for this challenge and maybe join the challenge at a later date.

 

The Book Vixen will no longer be hosting this Reading Challenge, but Corinne Rodrigues will be taking over:  2016 Outdo Yourself Challenge.

 

 

  • Romantic Suspense Challenge

  -- CHALLENGE COMPLETED -- 4/9/2015

2015 Romantic Suspense Reading Challenge

Hosted by Book Vixen

My Goal:  SWAT: read 21+ romantic suspense novels

My Progress: 77/21

See Also: 2015 Romantic Suspense Challenge shelf for list of books

 

 

  • Men in Uniform Challenge

  -- CHALLENGE COMPLETED -- 3/17/2015

2015 Men in Uniform Reading Challenge

Hosted by Book Vixen

My Goal:  Chief: read 16+ men in uniform novels

My Progress: 71/16

  -- 16 books read -- COMPLETED -- 3/17/2015

See: 2015 Men in Uniform Challenge shelf for book list

See: 2015 Men in Uniform Challenge post for detailed list

 

The above two challenges were the easiest two challenges I've ever chosen.  Knowing full well that I can binge-read several Romantic Suspense novels (a good percentage of which involve Men in Uniform), I was certain I couldn't fail these two challenges even if I tried.  On top of that, the goal levels were also pie.  And as anyone can see, both challenges were completed in full at the highest goal level before June even rolled around.

 

I will not be participating in either of these challenges next year, if only because they really just present an extra set of statistics I need to record... despite the fact that I will probably continue to record these statistics for future use.  Maybe.

 

The 2016 Romantic Suspense Challenge will be hosted by Shooting Stars Reviews.

 

 

  • 2015 TBR Pile Challenge

 -- CHALLENGE FAILED -- 

Hosted by Roof Beam Reader

My 2015 TBR Pile Challenge Summary Post

My Progress: 10/12

See Also: BookLikes shelf / Goodreads shelf

 

This is the third year I participated in the TBR Pile Challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader.  This is the third year I have failed, even if not miserably.  You would think that if I could finish a 48 book Reading Assignment Challenge (see below), then I'd have no trouble at all finishing a 12 book reading challenge wherein I can read any of these books at any time during the year.

 

The problem is, I keep choosing books to place on this list that I can't find the motivation to read.  This is my "I would love to read these books one of these days" challenge, with books that I include that are books that I keep telling myself to read and books that are sort of outside my comfort genres.

 

It probably helped that I did some challenge crossover books between this challenge and the Reading Assignment Challenge, but by the time the last stretch of the year rolled around, I was so obsessed with the Reading Assignment Challenge that I sort of blew off this challenge.

 

I will probably not be participating in this challenge next year for obvious reasons.

 

 

  • 2015 Reading Assignment Challenge

Hosted by Because Reading & Fantasy Is More Fun

My 2015 Reading Assignment Challenge Summary Post

My Goal:  Reading Level 5:  48 books (4 books/month), 4 Extra Credits, 1 Pass

My Progress: 48/48 (4 Extra Credits used / No Passes used)

-- Goal Reached on 12/13/2015

Extended Goal:  Added on 2 Extra Credit books

Extended Goal Progress:  1/2 Extra Credit books read

See Also: BookLikes shelf / Goodreads shelf

 

This was my favorite reading challenge this year.  I can't really say why, but I had a lot of fun with making my list, formatting my update posts, and in general, reading books I would have otherwise avoided reading (**coughcough**Allegiant**coughcough**).  But I don't deny the huge sense of accomplishment bestowed upon myself for setting out a large list of books to read, with a restricted number of books to read monthly, and completing this grand mission.

 

I've picked up new-to-me authors because I chose to list books I probably wouldn't have picked up dependent on my reading mood.  New-to-me authors include: Molly Harper, Tess Gerritsen, Christine Feehan, Roxanne St. Claire, Meg Cabot, Robin Benway, Meagan Spooner, and a few others.  Unfortunately, I can't really say that I've actually liked all of them, and really only a small percentage of the new-to-me authors picked up due to this challenge actually made my "interested in reading more from this author" list.

 

Fortunately, I also picked up a second or third book of an author I had previously only read one book from and had never been sure whether or not to continue reading said author's works.  These authors include: Jill Shalvis, Julie Garwood, and Marie Lu.  Jill Shalvis' Lucky Harbor pilot novel turned out fun and I'm not opposed to continuing that series.  Julie Garwood's Heartbreaker was an average start to a long series, but I'm now kind of hooked to said series.  And Marie Lu's Legend trilogy was excellent and I look forward to continuing on with other books she has written.

 

I will definitely be participating in this challenge next year and have already formulated my list and other thoughts.  I have even given thought to including series that I need to finish, that I actually DO want to finish as well as some new authors or new series I've been circling around for ages without making time for.  Some of these authors will include Jeannie Lin, Amanda Quick, Nora Roberts, Lisa Gardner, and others who've always sat on my radar only, or who have drawn my attention recently.

 

 

  • Mount TBR Reading Challenge

 -- CHALLENGE FAILED

Hosted by My Reader's Block

My Goal:  Mt. Ararat:  Read 48 books from your TBR pile/s

My Progress:  31/48

See: 2015 Mount TBR Challenge shelf for book list

 

I have a huge bookshelf.  I keep adding to that bookshelf.  Both digital and physical.  Unfortunately, I also have a huge reading list that also keeps growing, a bad spending habit, and this uncanny ability to always check out four weeks worth of reading from the library at least once a month.

 

When I first set out to participate in this challenge--to read books I acquired on my shelves before the reading challenge year--I had even made a list and had done some rough guesstimation calculations and came up with a realistic number of 48 out of all 200+ books on my shelves.  I figured that of all the books I owned, 48 was a reasonable number to whittle my shelves down by.

 

And I have failed spectacularly.

 

HOWEVER, I will not be deterred.  I'm going to try again.  2016 is another year and I will always have more books on my shelf to add onto my challenges... or something like that.

 

 

  • The Series That Never Ends Challenge

Hosted by Delighted Reader

My 2015 The Series That Never Ends Challenge Summary Post

My Goal(s):

First Goal:  Surviving the Book Tsunami - 5-9 books / COMPLETED

- 5 books completed -- 3/8/2015

- 9 books completed -- 6/1/2015

Next Goal: Removing the Thorn From My Side - 10-15 books / COMPLETED

- 10 books completed -- 6/9/2015

- 15 books completed -- 7/31/2015

Next Goal: Goddess of Reading the Never Ending Series - 15+ books / COMPLETED

- 16 books completed -- 8/16/2015

My Progress: 18/15 books

Listed Series Goals Completed:  2/3

See: 2015 Series Never Ends Challenge shelf for book list

 

 

I chose to participate in the Neverending Series Challenge because I had recently started into a few long-running Romantic Suspense series that were still getting new installments as the years go by:  Tracers by Laura Griffin was a new one I started in 2015.  Buchanan-Renard by Julie Garwood was a series in which I had started the year before with the first book--curiosity and continually loving the next book more and more got me interested in continuing the series.  Bishop/SCU by Kay Hooper was another series I'd been following for some time, but just never made time to continue even though I wanted to read the entire series.

 

In the ensuing months of 2015, I went on to reading other long (5+ books) or ongoing series such as KGI by Maya Banks, Steele Street by Tara Janzen, Bullet Catchers by Roxanne St. Claire, and so on.  I wasn't sure how dedicated I was to reading these other series so I didn't include them in this challenge, but they would have totally qualified.  And also, I'm already up to book #9 of KGI and I recently finished book #6 of Steele Street.

 

I'm a little conflicted as to whether or not to participate in this challenge in 2016.  For one, this is not an easy challenge unless it's crossing over with other challenges.  I've still got one book left to go in the Buchanan-Renard series to complete my challenge.  On the other hand, I had only planned on reading 5 of the Tracers books as part of my challenge goal, but ended up finishing all 8 of the already published installments, then continuing to read the newest, recently published installment #9, thus catching me up with the entire series at present..

 

In 2016, some of the books for my Reading Assignment Challenge are part of some really long series, both ongoing and completed, with at least 5 books in the total series book count.

 

So this might actually be a good challenge to continue to participate in.  I just haven't quite made up my decisions yet.

 

 

In Summary

I will be publishing an official Reading Challenge post for my 2016 Reading Challenges, but here is the gist of everything:

 

I have decided to cut back on the number of challenges I will be participating in next year.  Keeping track of all of my books read and for what challenges and any other statistic has become something of a tedious, obsessive activity for me this year and I realize that I might have gone a bit overboard.  If I showed everyone my bookish spreadsheets, it could get a little scary.

 

So aside from the general number goal challenge via GR and BL, I will only be participating in 3 other challenges (decided as of this moment):

 

2016 Reading Assignment Challenge

2016 Mount TBR Challenge

2016 Bookish Resolutions

(I will update links as I create each starter post.)

 

I will probably still end up keeping track of the number of series I've read and completed and started as well as all other statistics I normally keep track of on my personal spreadsheets, but that's probably about it for me.

 

I DO, however, want to participate in more Read-a-thons, so those are still in the 2016 bookish plans.  I'm particularly interested in the Bout of Books week-long read-a-thons, though I haven't decided which one to participate in yet.

 

Otherwise, this year, I feel like I've managed pretty well.

 

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-12-06 14:28
Thoughts: Allegiant
Allegiant - Veronica Roth

Allegiant -- Veronica Roth

Book 3 (final) of Divergent

 

 

As much hype as Divergent has gotten because of its movie adaptation (and the lovely Theo James who is the big screen version of the lovely Four), this series was admittedly never really one I especially loved. Sure, the books have been well-written and fairly intense and exciting in comparison with a lot of other dystopians in recent years. And sure, this trilogy had its appeal. But at the same time, there really wasn’t much to set Divergent apart from every other YA dystopian ever written--save for the fact that there was never a love triangle nor a cynical YA female lead.

Tris can be said to be strong and ideal and kickass. I don’t deny that. And Four is her soul mate OTP counterpart as the strong, broody, hero. They make a great couple and they make a strong pair of teenagers, created to save the world and stuff like that.


I put off reading Allegiant for the longest time ever since word leaked about the ending that had fans breaking into two camps of love or outrage. It was amusing to see all the discussions, the debates, the anger and such stuff. I was indifferent since I was never really invested in these characters enough to care what would happen to them in the end.

Nonetheless, I’ve always been a Happily Ever After™ ending type of person and anything that deviates from that rose-colored ideal tends to give me pause. On the other hand, as I’d already stated, it wasn’t as if I was ever really a huge fan of the Divergent series to begin with.

In the end, I realize why I’d subconsciously pushed the book back time and time again when it was purposefully chosen as a book for my Reading Assignment challenge.


Allegiant (and its preceding two books) is well written, fast-paced, and intense. It’s hard NOT to fall into the story, narration, and progression. I can kind of see why it exploded into something so big--it also probably helped that the book ended up on the big screen.

But that’s probably where my personal likes stop.

I’ve still been quite uncertain about how I’ve felt about the entirety of the Divergent series’ world building. In the first book, the world was slightly confusing and the set-up monotonous--you also end up asking more questions than getting answers and you know you won’t get any of those answers for a while to come. Thus is the life of a trending YA trilogy.

The second book became more fast-paced, focusing more so on story progression and character development, yet we still see very little world building (or at least any that makes sense). Yes, you get to see more of the other factions. But really, who cares when I don’t know why they matter?

Finally, in this concluding installment of Divergent, we get to see the basis of the Divergent world and we get our answers to why things are the way they are. And I’m only slightly content with that. The problem is that it wasn’t all that unique considering all the other dystopian story lines in existence. And also, nothing really made much sense concerning the history of the Divergent world or anything else that we learn anew about factions, the people, and the technology and sciences.

More so, I never got a sense that I understood what time frame this world takes place in or even what what the state of the rest of the world is in, or even what’s actually going on outside of this community of factions. It was explained, but it was still vague.


To be honest, however, what really bugged me the most about this book wasn’t the ending that everyone else seemed to be upset about, though it wasn’t helpful either.

Allegiant was drawn out and dragged on. The beginning of this last installment gave us a meandering journey in which we had no idea what direction the story was going. At least I had no idea what was going on and what was supposed to be going on. And then when the action finally DID pick up, more events occurred that honestly did not make sense to me.

Tobias’ behavior was out of character and a bit hard for me to believe. Tris’ attitude became more annoying as the story progressed. It’s hard to believe that someone who presented as so level-headed and quick on his feet as Tobias would completely lose his composure and end up causing problems. And Tris’ holier-than-thou attitude made me irritated, especially since everything always seemed to work out for her anyway despite how reckless and thoughtless she’d always been and still continues to be.

No. The ending, while eliciting a pang of sadness in me, wasn’t what made me the most frustrated with this book. Although it wasn’t as if I really liked it either. Written well and handled well, yeah. I guess.

But in the long run, Tris’ death just felt a little unnecessary. Yes, it’s sad. And maybe it’s symbolic. But it felt like it was a stupid death because it could have been avoided if Tris would have just been developed beyond her typical reckless, unthinking self. There was no reason why she couldn’t have just stepped back and thought about her options before rushing headlong into danger just because it was her instinct to do so. There was no reason for her and her friends not to think of more options. I might be in the minority here about the ending, but Tris’ death was a needless one. I’m not saying it shouldn’t have happened; I’m saying it shouldn’t have happened the way that it did. There are better ways to stage a symbolic, heroic death, in fiction, and the way that Tris was killed really made no sense when I could see holes where that event might have been avoided if Tris really wanted stay alive.

(spoiler show)


My frustrations with this book really hinge on how pointless a lot of actions were, how much a lot of things didn’t make sense, how there seems to be no tangible story line outside of that global "this is a dystopian society and we're here to save the world just because", and how the characters just seem less relatable to me than they had even been in the first place.

As far as conclusions go, Allegiant wasn’t the best thing in the world, even if it wasn’t the worst. But it had taken two books just to come up with an explanation for the world surrounding the Divergent series, and it just didn’t feel satisfying, and in a way, kind of poorly thought out. With a draggy progression and a world that made little sense, I would have at least preferred a Happily Ever After™ to make up for it.

 

***

 

This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):

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review 2015-11-28 09:43
Thoughts: The Luckiest Lady in London
The Luckiest Lady in London - Sherry Thomas

The Luckiest Lady in London -- Sherry Thomas

Book 1 of London trilogy

 

 

I don't often read Historical Romances. The one and only Historical Romance I read had been a long time ago, back when I was in high school and considerably more pretentious about my reading preferences than I am today. I had an English teacher who regarded Historical Romance novels (and Romance novels, in general), as uninspiring and trashy--she was a beloved teacher and I found myself going with a lot of things she said. However, in an effort to prove to my friends that I wasn't also prejudiced about my reading preferences, I borrowed a book from a friend, something by Jill Barnett, I believe, and gave it a go, with some reserves.

I can't say I gave it a fair trial though since, at the time, I read mostly textbook classics, human drama, a lot of Michael Crichton and books in the science or crime thriller genre. I ended up being very uninterested in that book, though, and couldn't quite get into it. I don't remember which book it was I had read, but I just recall that I never touched another Historical Romance since and adopted my English teacher's view on Romance novels.

Of course, times have changed and my biggest outlook on reading is simply this: Read what you like. Read what you enjoy. And over the years I've come to like reading a variety of books, including Romance novels and especially Romantic Suspense. Contemporary Romances are also books I may pick up randomly as well.

But Historical genres were still never a preference for me.

The main reason I even chose to put The Luckiest Lady in London on my reading list was because several trusted reviewers/bloggers I follow hyped about it. I then went on to read at least two or three other books that had a historical setting and quite liked them. Other more interesting sounding Historical Romances and Historical Mysteries also made their way onto my list.

And then The Elemental Trilogy happened and decided for me that Sherry Thomas would become an author to look out for.


Rambling aside...

The Luckiest Lady in London has been a highly anticipated book for myself due to positive reviews and the fact that there were elements listed within these reviews that piqued my interest. And then the book ended up on sale via Kindle and somehow made it into my library. As a means to expand my reading experience, I consciously chose to put the book on a pre-chosen Reading Challenge list.

So here we are.

And I'm glad that I made time for The Luckiest Lady in London. So very glad.


The Story:
The story of The Luckiest Lady in London is actually a fairly standard Cinderella-esque story. Lord Felix Rivendale is our wealthy and highly respected Marquess of Wrenworth. Louisa Cantwell, while coming from a respectable family of well-to-do station, is in fact on the poorer end of things with several sisters to take care of, including one with epileptic episodes, youngest sister Matilda. If her mother were to pass away any time in the future, all of the Cantwell sisters would be left without a penny or any assets to their names--in other words, they will either end up homeless and begging or they will have to figure out how to sustain their lifestyles by finding work.

Or another option would be to marry into a wealthy union.

While Louisa admits that she and her sisters would likely be able to get by if they all found jobs, she realizes that the best way to support her sisters is to marry well. So off she goes to London to present herself in the finest way possible in order to draw the attention of any eligible, well-to-do man who would also be willing to take care of Matilda as well. But, of course, she comes across Lord Wrenworth who's attention she manages to catch almost immediately, but who would most likely be the worst candidate for a husband since he is more inclined to NOT settle down and get married for a long time to come.


My Thoughts:
While the story itself was pretty clichéd and started off quite slow, I was ecstatic to find that the book's best quality happened to be the characters. Sure, we get a standard rich man-poor girl romance. Sure, we get a rocky start with the "Lust at First Sight" plot device and an almost instalove development. We even have an arrogant hero who always gets what he wants, shows people a sunny, gentlemanly side of himself (being known as "The Ideal Gentleman"), who has childhood issues to propel his present-day behavior. Which also happens to become a cause for romantic angst in the long run.

But the characters gradually grow on you, and eventually, I stopped caring that some of the events and plot twists where predictable. I even didn't even really concern myself with the mundane, banality of the day-to-day progress of the book's story line. I fell in love with our main couple.

It's not every day that you get a romance wherein the female main character openly expresses her carnal desires, or who has an ambitious, scheming mind in order to achieve her goals. And while Felix tends toward the carbon-copy standard Romance novel main male character, he does have an extremely charming air about him that makes it hard not to like him.

The entirety of the first 30% of this book was a hot and heavy courting ritual riddled with innuendo that felt like sexual foreplay--and the main character barely touch each other during this time--but things were hot, nonetheless. The duration of the couple's relationship, the development, and even the obligatory misunderstanding and ensuing angst wasn't really anything to write home about, honestly.

But the interactions between Louisa and Felix, the witty bantering, the few quips and one-liner conversations had between the two of them were absolutely amazing. In the end, it had been our characters, and even some of the side characters that really drew my attention.

Sherry Thomas has a knack for writing readily lovable characters (as I found with her Young Adult series, The Elemental Trilogy). Even with a standard fairy-tale-like love story such as The Luckiest Lady in London, her characters are still layered in complexity and unpredictable behavior and actions.

This was a wonderful and fun book to read, simple as that.

 

***

 

This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):

 

 

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review 2015-11-10 11:28
Thoughts: Skylark
Skylark - Meagan Spooner

Skylark -- Meagan Spooner

Book 1 of Skylark trilogy

 

 

When I first started reading YA dystopians, Skylark had been one of few I’d been immensely interested in. For what reason that is, I’m not even sure I remember anymore. But due to the current “trilogy” fad for any and all YA novels, I had decided to wait until the entire series was completed before reading it.

As intriguing as the story concept is, and as solidly as the story had started out, Skylark wasn’t exactly the most exciting YA dystopian out there, among many. I can’t help but feel like it could have been better or more exciting… but in the end, I’m not even really sure what it is that Skylark needed to have in order to appeal to me from beginning until the end; because I could have used a dose of something in order to not feel like the story’s adventure arc dragged something terrible.


The Basic Story Line…
To be totally honest, I’m not entirely sure that I understand what the story line of Skylark encompassed. The beginning was a bundle of confusing, and I understood only that our heroine, Lark Ainsley, lives in a city (of typical dystopian setting) wherein children are “harvested” regularly for their power. No one knows what it means to be harvested, except that a certain power within each person is taken away to help power the city’s machines and keep the “Wall” in place, to keep dangers outside of the wall from coming in.

Then it is discovered that Lark may be a “Renewable”, an individual capable of regenerating her power even after it is taken away from her. And now the city wants to plug her into their network so that she can endlessly power the city.

So then we start an adventure wherein Lark escapes and must make her way through the dangerous outside world of uncivilized wilderness where there are fierce hunters, monsters, who used to be human--it is said that the lack of magical influence has turned them into what they are now: monsters, cannibalistic, dangerous…

Lark’s destination is a place called Iron Wood where she will find many others like her, a place where she may finally feel as if she could belong; a place where she can feel safe and live out the rest of her life.


My Thoughts:
I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I’d been hoping. In all honesty, the book’s premise had potential. The world is a creative one with interesting ideas. The characters were a little bland, though, and Skylark felt like it might have been grasping for story while trying to get Lark from Point A to Point B. It dragged.

I love adventures. So books wherein there is a lot of travel or a lot of walking don’t typically bother me… unless they’re written with such little pizazz that I stop caring about what’s going on with Lark as she travels by herself and self-monologues about her life and her future life and the life she left behind, and all the new scary, frightful things she’s encountering. Because it didn’t feel exciting to me even if it was whole new territory for her.

Even while I got extremely bored with Lark’s solitary trek through the dangerous forest; and even after she met up with Oren and brought the pixie, Nix, on-board her journey, the adventure was still a bit boring. And then, the moment things started getting exciting, another change would take place with our traveling troupe and the story would dip into either boring (again) or frustrating (even worse).

So while I DID find some parts of Skylark enjoyable, and while the ending seemed to reignite my interest, it makes me wary that the book had more moments of boring monotony than the good stuff.

Nonetheless, I’m still curious (a mild curiosity) as to what will happen next, and so I’m hopeful that things will pick up a little bit in the next books. I may not be entirely invested in these characters, but I’m hoping something will come of the rest of the trilogy.

 

***

 

This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):

 

 

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review 2015-09-25 08:32
Thoughts: Murder List
Murder List - Julie Garwood

Murder List -- Julie Garwood

Book 4 of Buchanan-Renard-McKenna series

 

The narration and the story telling always feel flighty and haphazard whenever I read one of Julie Garwood's Buchanan-Renard installments (recently known as the Buchanan-Renard-McKenna series). I never get a solid feel for who's perspective we're seeing certain scenes through because the POVs flip back and forth within sentences of each other so quickly that I get a little lost. But aside from that and some rather outdated ideals, I can't deny that each book in this series seems to get more and more enjoyable.

I will openly admit that even with some reserves going into each book, I ultimately end up enjoying the heck out of them. And Murder List was no different--I really ended up liking it a lot!


The Story in Brief:
Wanting to help expose a sleazy con artist for the lying scum that he is, Regan Madison joins her two best friends at a celebrity therapist's seminar to find evidence against him. During the conference, the room is tasked to create a list of names of people they believe the world would be a better place without. Regan plays along to keep in tune with her "undercover" role--she absently jots down a few names. Soon after a run-in with a mysterious, crazy man in the parking lot on that rainy night, one of the people Regan had named on her fake list which she had playfully titled "Murder List" is killed. Then the murderer contacts Regan claiming responsibility for the kill as well as sending her a copy of her "Murder List" with the name of the first victim crossed off.

Meanwhile, realizing the connection Regan may have to a maniac killer, her elder brother doesn't hesitate to demand protection detail. And so Regan is stuck with Alec Buchanan, a detective who has recently pissed off his commanding lieutenant and is delegated to bodyguard duty. As the criminal investigation moves forward, of course, romance ensues, even while Alec already has plans on leaving Chicago in the next three weeks.


Some Thoughts:
This book almost reads like a contemporary romance if you discount the consistent and continued urgency of a killer hanging around in the background, biding his time and waiting to kill off the next person on Regan's list or killing Regan. A lot of the interaction is based around Regan and her friends or Regan and her brothers, and especially the budding romance between Regan and Alec. The actual murder investigation kind of feels like it takes place in the background of the relationship dynamics and the short self-revelation sequence that Regan goes through.

And so this book feels like it could have been a contemporary romance first, spring boarding off of a romantic suspense in the background.

Nonetheless, amidst the love story and the Regan story, the crime thriller is still there since Regan's life is established to be in some kind of danger, requiring her to have a bodyguard. The time frame of this book just kind of skips by, day-by-day anyway.

Very early on we see that Regan had been the killer's initial target, but conflicting circumstances in his head changes the course of his actions. There's no doubt that this crime thriller is dealing with a particularly disturbed individual as we DO see a few scenes from the killer's perspective, even if we don't know who the killer actually is. In this, I'm actually kind of glad that we don't spend too much time in the killer's psyche, but enough to know that there's really something terribly wrong with him and his twisted logic.

Anyway, as I had already stated, the books in this series become more enjoyable as each one goes by. And even if the content was extremely predictable and the romance was standard fare, I had a lot of fun reading the interaction and the dialogue between all the characters. Julie Garwood is very witty with a light dose of warm humor to get me smiling at all the right points.

Regan and Alec had a cute relationship with their witty and snarky banter. I still have my issues with Regan being too readily a doormat when it comes to her brothers though, and while she managed to settle some of the issues with them, I still don't feel like she came out too victorious in her stand for more independence from them and less interference in her life. The banter between her and her brothers was a little less fun to read.

On another hand, Regan's young assistant, Henry was so adorable it was hard not to fall for him. He was a delight to have present in the book and was probably a good percentage of my enjoyment.

Despite all the flaws and faults I usually find in these Buchanan-Renard books, I still can't help finding them extremely entertaining to read, and very easy to like.



***

 

This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):

 

 

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