2015 Challenges

Well friends, I had such a great time with the 2014 Outdo Yourself Challenge that I want to find a couple more to do this year!

Here are my challenges, along with my goals:

2015 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge

2015 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge
Hosted by Brianna at The Book Vixen

So last year I really REALLY outdid myself. My official 2013 count was 9, and it looks like my 2014 count is going to be at least 50. This challenge was exactly the kind of jumpstart I needed to get myself reading again. I don't know that I'm gonna try TOO hard to outdo my total again, because there are a lot of other things in my life that I need to focus on besides just reading, so I'm gonna stick with the lowest level right now.

Level: Getting My Heart Rate Up
Goal: 51-55 books

2015 Newbery Reading Challenge

Newbery Reading Challenge 2015
Hosted by Julie at Smiling Shelves

I feel like I've been doing a lot of cotton candy reading lately. This next year I want to try to read more books with substance, and one of the places I'm gonna start is with Newbery winners. Julie grades on a points system - 3 for Newbery Medal Winners, 2 for Newbery Honor Books, and 1 for Caldecott Medal Winners. I'm not shooting for quantity as much as substance, so again, I'm choosing the lowest level. For now.

Level: L'Engle
Goal: 15-29 points

The Eclectic Reader Challenge 2015
Hosted by Shellyrae at Book'd Out

I also want to diversify. I feel like I constantly read the same book over and over these days, so in the interest of not doing that... here I am. Shellyrae has picked out several genres, and I get to pick a book for each one.

Goal: 12 books, one in each category

I Love Library Books 2015
hosted by Gina at Book Dragon's Lair

So those of you who know me in real life (or pay very close attention, because I've mentioned it on the blog a couple times now) know that I recently moved to Bangladesh. Which, among other changes, kind of restricts my access to paper books. I have what I brought with me, and I know of a couple "libraries" (community shelves where people just leave what they want to share). So thank goodness for my Nook, and thank goodness for OverDrive! Luckily I still have a library card from the States, and I can use it to check out ebooks on my library's website. (Or else I'd have to plan on paying Barnes and Noble a fortune in Nook Books.) I've been here for a month, and I've already checked out four. So I'm really excited about Gina's challenge to read books from the library. Even though I already know I'm gonna use it plenty, I DO still have a ton of books on my Nook that I own and want to read, so like my other challenges, I'm gonna start small and reserve the right to go up a level (or two) later.

Level: Early Reader
Goal: 9 books

Wish me luck, guys! I'm really excited for 2015!

The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

Summary: HOW HAD MRS. OLINSKI CHOSEN her sixth-grade Academic Bowl team? She had a number of answers. But were any of them true? How had she really chosen Noah and Nadia and Ethan and Julian? And why did they make such a good team?

It was a surprise to a lot of people when Mrs. Olinski's team won the sixth-grade Academic Bowl contest at Epiphany Middle School. It was an even bigger surprise when they beat the seventh grade and the eighth grade, too. And when they went on to even greater victories, everyone began to ask: How did it happen?

It happened at least partly because Noah had been the best man (quite by accident) at the wedding of Ethan's grandmother and Nadia's grandfather. It happened because Nadia discovered that she could not let a lot of baby turtles die. It happened when Ethan could not let Julian face disaster alone. And it happened because Julian valued something important in himself and saw in the other three something he also valued.

Mrs. Olinski, returning to teaching after having been injured in an automobile accident, found that her Academic Bowl team became her answer to finding confidence and success. What she did not know, at least at first, was that her team knew more than she did the answer to why they had been chosen.

This is a tale about a team, a class, a school, a series of contests and, set in the midst of this, four jewel-like short stories -- one for each of the team members -- that ask questions and demonstrate surprising answers.

Review: So it's been years and years since the first time I read this one. I remember liking it a whole lot, and when I saw the NookBook on sale on Barnes and Noble, I jumped at the chance to get it.

I'm not sure it was as amazing as I remember it? Like, I like the premise, and it's well executed and stuff. But... I dunno. It felt a little simplified, maybe? Like it was written for children, perhaps? (Heeeeyy....)

It does have elements of which I'm a fan, though. Quiz-bowl teams, which brings back fond high school memories. A ragtag group of friends. And I liked the way they helped their teacher get her confidence back.

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, i-own-it, is-or-would-be-a-good-movie, my-kind-of-woman, thought-provoking



Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Summary: "Tessa Gray should be happy—aren't all brides happy? Yet as she prepares for her wedding, a net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute. A new demon appears, one linked by blood and secrecy to Mortmain, the man who plans to use his army of pitiless automatons, the Infernal Devices, to destroy the Shadowhunters. Mortmain needs only one last item to complete his plan. He needs Tessa. And Jem and Will, the boys who lay equal claim to Tessa's heart, will do anything to save her."

Review: Soooo... ok. Done with that, then.

So I actually read Clockwork Prince almost three years ago, which explains why I was so confused while reading Clockwork Princess. Apparently it didn't make TOO much of an impression, because I really don't remember it very well. Clare handled the exposition well, I thought; there was just enough that I still caught most of what was going on, but not so much that it would have been annoying if I'd read the first two books recently (which is something I also liked about the Mortal Instruments series, come to think of it).

I don't really know what to say about this one though. I think I'm kind of over the whole Shadowhunter thing. I mean, I wanted to finish the book, and it was enjoyable, but I didn't feel a whole lot of emotion while reading it. I was just finishing it for the sake of finishing it.

I wasn't very invested in the Jem/Will/Tessa love triangle. I think Jem had a lot more personality earlier in the series, maybe? (Like I said, it's been a while.) He was really vanilla in this book. And there was a lot more tell than show in his relationships with Will and Tessa; they all spent a lot more time talking about their relationships than actually having them.

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, fluffy, funny, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman, nook-ya



Amazon Burning by Victoria Griffith

Summary: When 22-year-old aspiring journalist, Emma Cohen, is forced to flee the comforts of her NYU student life, she maneuvers an internship from her father at his newspaper in Rio de Janeiro. There, Emma is immediately swept into a major news story--and a life-threatening situation--when a famous jungle environmentalist, Milton Silva, is mysteriously murdered. Emma must now enter the Amazon rainforest with her father to investigate; both awed by the enormity and beauty of the Amazon, and appalled by its reckless destruction. Not only will Emma have to brave the primal world of the Amazon, she must fight to survive the kidnappers, villains, corrupt activists, and indigenous tribes that lay in wait along the ever-twisting trail of the murder case. Stretched to the brink, it s up to Emma, her father and the dreamy news photographer, Jimmy, to unravel the mystery and live to tell the tale. Amazon Burning by Victoria Griffith is a spectacular debut Young Adult novel. Griffith's powerful rendering of the Amazon rainforest forms the perfect, wildly exotic backdrop for this extraordinary tale of a young urban woman coming of age in the midst of intense conflict.

Review: Soooooo... yeah, not that impressed. I wasn't that interested in Emma as a character, although she does have qualities that are interesting. She's ambitious, she's curious about the world, and she's anxious to prove herself as a journalist. On the other hand, her obsession with Jimmy (and specifically, with hooking up with him) got pretty boring pretty fast. Griffith tries to give Jimmy some depth, what with his medical backstory, but really his sole purpose in this novel is to solve Emma's problems. Oh, and be eye candy, of course. (Not to mention that they fall In Love after what, a week or two?)

Speaking of Emma's problems, they all seem to be solved fairly easily. Despite the rich atmosphere of the setting, the stakes never feel terribly high. Even though the characters are constantly pointing out the horrible dangers the jungle poses, nothing TOO dangerous ever seems to happen. Even the climactic final act wasn't too stressful for me, because a convenient deus ex machina arrives to save the day.

I did like the setting, though. Despite the fact that she didn't do too much with the danger of the Amazon in terms of the story, Griffith clearly did a TON of research on the Amazon's flora, fauna, and peoples. The setting is definitely the book's strongest asset. In fact, the characters actually do face quite a bit of danger from the Amazon, but because the jungle itself always feels so ominous, the plot seems pretty tame in comparison to the scary possibilities.

One final thing: I try not to be too much of a pearl-clutcher; if there's content in a book that I don't like, I generally just ignore it. But frankly, I'm really sick of "New Adult" novels with college-age protagonists that are all about sex. As this genre becomes more prevalent, I hate seeing that strong sexual content seems to be a requirement. This book isn't an exception; although it isn't entirely about sex, but it has a few really graphic scenes, which cost my rating of it a full star.

One more final thing: I wrote all of the above several weeks ago, and today I got an email from the publisher about the copy of the book I read. According to the her, the ARC I read was edited for publication. The sexually explicit scenes are being tamed down and/or removed. To which I say, Good for you, Astor + Blue Editions. Good for you.

Goodreads Shelves: fluffy, is-this-a-kissing-book


I received a free ARC from the publisher, Astor + Blue Editions, in exchange for an honest review. Amazon Burning is available now.
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