2015 Return and Report; Also, Big Blog Changes

Hello, everyone! It's been a while since you've heard from me; I'll explain why in a minute. First things first, though. Here's my report on my 2015 challenges:

2015 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge

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

Level: Getting My Heart Rate Up
Goal: 51-55 books
Tag: 2015 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge

I did it! My official count was 62.

2015 Newbery Reading Challenge

Newbery Reading Challenge 2015
Hosted by Julie at Smiling Shelves

Level: L'Engle
Goal: 15-29 points
Tag: Newbery Reading Challenge 2015

Epic failure. The only Newbery book I read was A Wrinkle in Time, giving me 3 points. :(

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

Goal: 12 books, one in each category
Tag: The Eclectic Reader Challenge 2015


  1. Retellings -- Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  2.  A book set in a country starting with the letter S (eg. Sweden, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Slovakia)
  3.  PI Crime -- Jackaby by William Ritter
  4.  A novel published before you were born -- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  5. Contemporary romance -- The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  6. Fiction for foodies  --  Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay
  7. Microhistory (Non Fiction)
  8. Science Fiction set in space -- No Life But This by Anna Sheehan
  9. Sports -- On the Fence by Kasie West
  10. Featuring diversity -- A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam
  11. Epistolary Fiction -- Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay
  12. Middle Grade/YA Adventure -- The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
10 out of 12 isn't bad, in my opinion, but still falls short of my goal.

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

Level: Early Reader
Goal: 9 books
Tag: I Love Library Books 2015

Oh, thank goodness. One I actually did well on! I read 32 library books -- success!

2015 EBooks Reading Challenge
hosted by Annette at Annette's Book Spot
Level: Megabytes
Goal: 25 books
Tag: 2015 EBook Reading Challenge

I mentioned when I signed up for this challenge that most of my reading was going to be electronic, and I was definitely right. I read 59 ebooks last year, which means, for those following along at home, that I only read 3 paper books last year. O_O


Now for my other news. I'm switching blogs! Y'all. I started a new blog over on WordPress, and because of Lack of Motivation, I unfortunately haven't gotten much traction on it yet. But you're welcome to go find me there! It's called Novel Diplomacy.

Things coming soon on it:
-Joining some 2016 Reading Challenges
-Possibly some book reviews
-General news about my life

I'll see you there!


A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

Summary: It should have been a short suspended-animation sleep. But this time Rose wakes up to find her past is long gone-- and her future full of peril.

Rosalinda Fitzroy has been asleep for sixty-two years when she is woken by a kiss. Locked away in the chemically induced slumber of a stasis tube in a forgotten subbasement, sixteen-year-old Rose slept straight through the Dark Times that killed millions and utterly changed the world she knew. Now, her parents and her first love are long gone, and Rose-- hailed upon her awakening as the long-lost heir to an interplanetary empire-- is thrust alone into a future in which she is viewed as either a freak or a threat. Desperate to put the past behind her and adapt to her new world, Rose finds herself drawn to the boy who kissed her awake, hoping that he can help her to start fresh. But when a deadly danger jeopardizes her fragile new existence, Rose must face the ghosts of her past with open eyes-- or be left without any future at all.

Review: What a great read. Things I liked about this book:

-The romantic subplot. It turned out in a way that I really appreciated, and I liked how it addressed the "instalove" trope.

-Rose's parents. Not in the sense that they were great people (because they weren't), but in the sense that they're great people to hate. Like, thoroughly despise. The more you learn about them, the more you realize how much they suck as people. I... I'm not sure why I like that about this book. Oh, yeah, I remember. Because it made me seem like an AWESOME parent in comparison. "Am I a bad mom because I let my kid eat Nilla Wafers for breakfast?" "I don't know, did you lock your kid in cryo-stasis for months at a time because she talked back to you?" "No. No I did not." "Then you're good."

-I realize this might be a controversial thing to be a big fan of, but I kind of liked how low the stakes were in terms of the Mysterious Assassin plotline. I mean, Anna Sheehan tried her best, but I was just never really worried about a big plastic guy who (in my head) was just not that fast on his feet.

-Otto. His relationship with Rose ended up being really sweet, in my opinion. (In this book, anyway.)

-Rose's journey into finding out who she is without her parents around. I liked watching her become herself, as she adjusted to not having to be who her parents made her be.

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, fluffy, is-or-would-be-a-good-movie, is-this-a-kissing-book, thought-provoking



The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Summary: Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

Review: Oh, man. How much do I love Neil Gaiman's brand of creepy.

It's just... it's a delicious creepy. Neil Gaiman's magic is different than, say, J. K. Rowling's. No spells, no wands, no broomsticks. It's more like wicca (as I understand it)-- grounded and based on the Earth and its powers, and also really really old.

The only other book I've read by Gaiman is Coraline, and if you liked it, you'll LOVE this one.

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



Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Summary: Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble; it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn't expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

Review: So... The premise of this novel doesn't actually sound that amazing to me. I don't know what it is, but it just doesn't appeal. I read it anyway, though, and have since come to the conclusion that if Rainbow Rowell decided one day to write nothing but the back of cereal boxes, I'd read them.

She's that good.

What is it about her writing? I know she's wildly popular, but that popularity is backed up by a lot of talent.

I enjoyed Landline a lot. Not as much as Attachments, which had the benefit of an intriguing premise, but I didn't want to put it down. I felt for Georgie.

I liked Neal's characterization. I liked learning about him, and I like that he isn't just some faceless Romantic Leading Man.

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



Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Summary: In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

Review: So the whole time I was reading this one, I kept thinking about Levana's obsession with Evret and comparing it to the way Scarlett O'Hara is obsessed with Ashleigh. Am I alone here?

Also, is it bad that my favorite part of Fairest was the preview of Winter at the end?

That being said, I liked it more than I thought it would. I liked the insight into Levana's psyche. It explained her motivations and her "how she got this way" story without making trying to make me sympathetic for her. This story actually provided a good explanation for my issue from back in Cinder, about why she practices such crappy diplomacy, which was nice.

Although this isn't my favorite of the Lunar Chronicles by a long shot, I'm sure some of the things I learned from it will be relevant in Winter-- and that makes it worthwhile.

PS. I remember seeing an animated version of the cover at some point... Does anybody know where I might have seen it? Am I making this up?

Goodreads Shelves: bechdel-test, fluffy, nook-ya, pretentious



Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Books From the Past 5 Years

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

So technically the prompt is "Top Ten Books You Would Classify As ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOKS from the past 3 years", but I don't think I would have ten "all-time favorites" from the last 3 (or even 5) years. Some, maybe. Because there have been some darn fine books published in that time. But ALL-TIME favorite? I don't know. So these are my top ten regular favorite books that have come out in the last 5 years, in order of publication:

1. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell -- This was my first Rainbow Rowell book; it was so very adorable.

2. A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan -- Super good scifi book based on Sleeping Beauty.

3. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin -- I loved this one for Mara's delusions and her PTSD.

4. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore -- This choice is kind of in honor of how much I love Graceling and Fire, although Bitterblue is a great one, as well.

5. Pivot Point by Kasie West -- This one is trippy good-- think X-Men meets Sliding Doors.

6. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman -- Oh, Neil Gaiman's creepy mind...

7. The Four Doors by Richard Paul Evans -- This book is so inspiring to me. It makes me want to jump up and take control of my life.

8. Cress by Marissa Meyer -- So far, Cress is my favorite of the Lunar Chronicles. Although that opinion might change after Winter comes out later this year.

9. The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick -- Have you seen The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube? Why not...?!

10. Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay -- SUPER lovely novel with TONS of Austen influences.

And a bonus...

11. Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg -- I got this one for Christmas from my brother- and sister-in-law. Some of the text conversations are just ok; others are hysterical.


Then and Always by Dani Atkins

Summary: Rachel Wiltshire has everything she’s ever wanted: a close group of friends, a handsome boyfriend, and acceptance to the journalism program at her top-choice college. But one fateful evening, tragedy tears her world apart.

Five years later, Rachel returns home for the first time to celebrate her best friend’s wedding. Still coping with her grief, she can’t stop thinking about the bright future she almost had, if only that one night had gone differently. But when a sudden fall lands her in the hospital, Rachel wakes to find that her life has completely changed. Now the people she loves most are not the way she remembers them. Unable to trust her own recollections, Rachel tries to piece together what really happened, and not even she can predict the astonishing truth.

Review: Yeah... I don't know. I picked this one up because it was being compared to Sliding Doors, which is one of my favorite movies.

But it was a little... lacking, I guess? It's pretty predictable, she doesn't do much with her premise, and the "big twist" ending was a huge, depressing let-down.

It was an easy read, but I don't know that that's much of a compliment.

Goodreads Shelves: bechdel-test, fluffy, is-this-a-kissing-book, pretentious


Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay

Summary: Lizzy and Jane never saw eye to eye. But when illness brings them together, they discover they may be more like Austen’s famous sisters after all.

Lizzy was only a teenager when her mother died of cancer. Shortly after, Lizzy fled from her home, her family, and her cherished nickname. After working tirelessly to hone her gift of creating magic in the kitchen, Elizabeth has climbed the culinary ladder to become the head chef of her own New York restaurant, Feast. But as her magic begins to elude her, Paul, Feast’s financial backer, brings in someone to share her responsibilities and her kitchen. So Elizabeth flees again.

In a desperate attempt to reconnect with her gift, Elizabeth returns home. But her plans are derailed when she learns that her estranged sister, Jane, is battling cancer. Elizabeth surprises everyone—including herself—when she decides to stay in Seattle and work to prepare healthy, sustaining meals for Jane as she undergoes chemotherapy. She also meets Nick and his winsome son, Matt, who, like Elizabeth, are trying to heal from the wounds of the past.

As she tends to Jane's needs, Elizabeth's powers begin to return to her, along with the family she left behind so long ago. Then Paul tries to entice her back to New York, and she is faced with a hard decision: stay and become Lizzy to her sister’s Jane, or return to New York and the life she worked so hard to create?

Review: What a great book. Seriously.

Things I love about this book:

-The food. Really, the food. Constant descriptions of deliciousness; it made me want to cook more. And eat more.

-The sister stuff. Although my relationship with my own sister isn't strained like this one, I definitely related to Elizabeth and her attempts to bond with her older sister.

-The literary references. Being an Austen fan, I appreciated how Austen's world and her novels are a big part of this novel without it being a "retelling." I like how there are other books besides Austen's that play a big part, too. And I really like how Elizabeth knew her source material well and related it all back to food.

-I LOVE watching Elizabeth find herself again and come back to what's really important in life. She has one set of priorities at the beginning of the novel, and over the course of the story, she slowly comes to reevaluate those priorities.

-I LOVE how Christian it is. Which is to say: Not that much. The main characters are all Christian, and every once in a while they talk about how God will take care of them and loves them and stuff, and that's pretty much it, besides the fact that there's no swearing or sex. Which I appreciated A LOT.

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, funny, is-or-would-be-a-good-movie, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman, nook-book, snark-attack, thought-provoking


This book fulfills category 6 of the Eclectic Reader Challenge, Fiction for Foodies.


Late to the Party -- Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Heroines, and Bookish Problems I Have

So I always see the Top Ten Tuesday features on The Broke and the Bookish, but I never bother to go look at this week's topic ahead of time. Which means... well, apparently it means Tuesday fell on a Saturday this week. Anyway --

My Top Ten Favorite Heroines:

1. Pretty much all of Lois McMaster Bujold's heroines -- especially Cordelia, Ekaterin, and Ista.

2. Elizabeth Bennet, Elinor Dashwood, and Anne Eliot -- For different reasons, but these are three characters who know who they are, what they want, and what they're willing to do (or not do) to get it.

3. Jane Eyre -- Heck yes Jane Eyre. Speaking of knowing who you are and how far you'll go for what you want. This is a girl who Takes. Control. Of the Situation.

4. Ella from Ella Enchanted -- Ok, have we noticed a trend yet of women who fight back, take control, and don't accept what life gives them? Good, because Ella totally fits in with that trend as well. Cursed by a stupid fairy? Find her. She threatens to turn you into a squirrel? Just kidding, you speak a different language. (That you learned just 'cause, because you learn languages for fun.) 

5. The Graceling girls -- Katsa, Fire, and Bitterblue all have a special place in my heart.

6. All the Lunar Chronicles girls -- I think my love/obsession with the Lunar Chronicles is well documented by now.

7. Buran from Seven Daughters and Seven Sons --My best friend handed me this book in high school, and it's still one of the things I love about her-- that she made me read this book. In fact, I'm tempted to go find myself a copy RIGHT NOW and reread it, because it's been way too long.

8. Frankie Landau-Banks -- Oh, Frankie. You're that girl in high school who I would have seen and really really wanted to be friends with, but I was too shy and awkward to actually TALK to you or anything. But good for you, fighting The Man and still wanting a man.

9. Matilda Wormwood -- When I was little, I wanted to be Matilda. I still do.

10. Jasmine from Bad Kitty -- I love Jas. So very much. She has a very clear idea of what she wants to do, she works hard to be good at it, she knows where she's going in life, she surrounds herself with supportive people who think she's amazing and want her to succeed... Yeah, I love Jas a TON.

Ok I thought I'd have trouble thinking of ten heroines I love. Clearly, I was being stupid.

Just for fun, I want to tell you about some of my Bookish Problems, which was last week's Top Ten Tuesday.

-Forgetting which ebooks I own. I keep buying ebooks and forgetting about them. On the one hand, this is annoying because I forget about them and don't remember to go back and read them. On the other hand, though, it's makes for a kind of nice surprise whenever I get around to looking through my ecollection. (However, confession: It's harder for me to browse e-collections of books than physical collections of books. Something about being able to SEE the books on my shelf just makes it so much easier.)

On the subject of physical books, though...
-Moving. I don't know if you know this about me, but I move constantly. In the last two years, I've moved four times, and I'm moving again in two weeks. And all that moving tends to wreak havoc on my book collection. I've got books in storage, books almost out of storage, books in boxes, books on shelves... These days, because it's all so pell-mell, I mostly rely on my e-books. (In fact, I've only read two paper books since September.) But someday, my friends. Some day.

-My 18-month-old daughter keeps ripping up her board books. She keeps tearing the spine off, which occasionally leads to pages falling off. I don't know how to stop her, and it breaks my heart that she can't look at books unsupervised anymore.

One last one, which isn't about books themselves, but about content and writing styles.
-I hate it when I finish a book that's written in the first person and I can't remember the main character's name. Seriously. If I have to go back to the synopsis and look it up, what's the point of even having read the book? Just say people's names a little more, authors!


The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn't think she's the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her "Duffy," she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren't so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

Review: Ok, first things first: There is a LOT of swearing in this book, and a lot of teenage sex. So go into it with that knowledge.

That being said, I actually really liked this book. Even though Bianca's coping strategy isn't one I would try or recommend, I can totally understand where she's coming from. When there's an issue you want to avoid dealing with or thinking about, finding something to distract yourself can help you stay sane. But it can also be unhealthy to constantly escape from your problems instead of dealing with them or solving them, which Bianca came to discover. I felt like her journey was believable and relatable, and I was happy to follow along with her.

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, fluffy, funny, is-a-movie, is-this-a-kissing-book, snark-attack

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