Challenges or the I’m a miserable failure post

This week I decided I’d do a few wrap-up posts and I’m starting with challenges (my original list). I figured it would be an easy one since almost all attempts were botched this year.

So, jumping in, it’s the end of the year and I’ve failed at most of the reading challenges I entered this year. It was bound to happen. There are so many challenges and I always tend to over estimate what I’m capable of reading in a year. I kept signing up but somehow I didn’t keep reading.

The tally, here goes… In 2012, I managed to complete The Stephen King Project, reading more books than I thought I would thanks to a co-worker who gave me several of King’s books and got me started. For the Gender in SciFi Challenge, I managed only three of six. The Back to the Classics Challenge was even worse; of the nine on my list, I finished one and quit another. The Tea and Books Reading Challenge also had a pathetic showing; I was going to read four and only read one. In fact, I never even picked the fourth book for the challenge. For the BHA Book Club, which isn’t really a challenge but since I’m already adding up what I didn’t do I thought I throw it in, I read three books.

My personal re-reading challenge was also a bust — I had seven on my list and finished three. Since getting a Nook, I’ve started keeping track of the ebooks I read and this year I read 28 which is down from 36 the year before.

In general, I read less this year which shouldn’t make my failing challenges a big surprise. I know a lot of people who’ve stopped taking on challenges and maybe that’s why I haven’t seen many posts for 2013, that, and I’ve been ignoring all my feeds. I think what I’m going to do is continue my 2012 challenges into 2013 and finish out what’s on my list because there are some great books on that list. Also, I’m not going to feel any guilt about it. Books will get read in the end.

It’s your turn, did you finish any challenges this year? Feel free to gloat if you managed a ton.

Review – Bag of Bones

Bag of BonesThere are so many good reviews of this that of course I had to read it. It’s one of King’s many books that I never got around to, and with the number of books this man writes and publishes, I’m not surprised it took me this long to read it.

Mike Noonan is an author, a good mid-list author at that. He leads a comfortable life with his wife Jo in New England. When Jo unexpectedly dies of a brain aneurysm, Mike is left alone and almost incapacitated by her sudden death. His wife also left him with a bit of mystery and he wants answers. Since Jo’s death, Mike has developed writer’s block, something he’s never even briefly experienced in his career as a writer. Thinking a change in scenery will help with his writer’s block and hopefully quell the obsession he’s developing with his dead wife’s coming and goings, Mike heads to his vacation house on a lake in the woods of Maine. Shortly after arriving, he finds himself caught up in a nasty custody battle over a three year-old girl he accidentally made friends with when he saw her walking down the middle of a busy road. Unwilling to let Mattie, the young mother, get destroyed by the system, Mike steps in and learns what it means to be a stranger in this part of Maine.

I jumped into this book anticipating a full out ghost story and found myself in the middle of a custody battle. Strange how books emerge sometimes. The ghost element was more than strong and I liked the small town history and how it all tied back to Mike and the property he owns but the custody battle felt like it really never fit for me even when every last tie was explained. I think my expectations were set up to be very different from what I actually got in reading the book. This sounds negative but it’s not. It just wasn’t what I had in mind when I started this book.

That said, I did enjoy this book very much. It reminded me of 11/22/63 in the slight love story that starts to develop, and then when the ghosts start in, there’s nowhere to hide for the reader or the characters. This book spooked me early on but as the story got going, I was more interested in the ghosts themselves than some of the living characters. Anything that scared me in the beginning was out the door by this time because I wanted to know every last detail of this town’s ghosts and have them out every bitter secret.

Even with all the ghosts and their brutal pasts emerging, the main story was sad. Mike Noonan is a man lost without his wife and drifting without a career now that he can no longer write without getting violently ill. When he decides to visit the lake home, he hopes he’ll be able to write again, and when he does, it’s not what he thinks it will be. He ends up have to mourn not only his wife but a part of his life he never thought he’d lose. The custody battle is heartbreaking, as all are, but there’s a cruel aspect to it all that ties back very well to the area’s unfortunately well-known and well-hidden past.

There are a few references to Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca in Bag of Bones. I adored Rebecca and referencing it here only made my love of it stronger. Why not invoke a book with a ghostly aspect to enhance another ghost story?

I know many people might stay away from an author like King and may not like horror/ghosts stories either. Well, in some ways this book is many of those things but I still want to encourage you to try it. It’s a good story with some extra supernatural parts to make it interesting. It’s more than its ghosts. In other words, it’s a keeper.

Bag of Bones
By Stephen King
Scribner
ISBN: 9781439106211
4 stars

Stephen King Button BlueThis book was read for The Stephen King Project Challenge. You can find more information here.

Red Seas Under Red Skies Read Along – Week 4

I wasn’t able to participate last week because of work but this week I’m back. Next week may be a gamble depending on whether I can find a wifi signal in San Diego, CA so I wanted to make sure I got in as much as possible this time around. Kinda sad I might miss the last go around because this has been a great read along. Anyway, on with it!

Thanks to Ashley at SF Signal for last week’s questions and nrlymrtl from Dark Cargo for this week’s questions.

Week 3

1. Locke and Jean’s ability to find themselves at the center of a serious mess seems unparalleled. At this point, do you think that Stragos will get the return he expects on his investment in them?

He might but Locke and Jean will be extracting a price of their own as well, that’s my guess at least. Then again, they might end up at the bottom of the sea. These two seem to find attract every single bit of trouble any place has to offer. But if they didn’t, it wouldn’t be so much fun to read would it?
2. Merrain’s activities after our boys leave Windward Rock are interesting. What do you think her plans are?

I’m beginning to wonder who she’s really working for.
3. Does anyone know why having cats aboard the ship is so important?

Eat mice, scare rats?
4. The word “mutiny” creates a lot of mental pictures. Were you surprised? Why or why not?

No. I didn’t see this little boat ride going well for Locke, Jean maybe, but not Locke. He’s a good actor but he’s an actor. Someone was going to notice the man didn’t know what end of the boat he was on at some point. I’m surprised it took as long as it did.
5. Ah, the Poison Orchid. So many surprises there, not the least of which were the captain’s children. Did you find the young children a natural part of the story?

I was really surprised by the kids, mostly because there haven’t been any in the story except in flashbacks to mini Locke and Jean. It definitely humanizes Zamira and why she’s so cautious.

In a way, it is a natural part of the story though. Why wouldn’t someone have kids even a pirate?
6. Jean is developing more and more as a character as we get further in to the book. Ezri makes the comment to him that “Out here, the past is a currency, Jerome. Sometimes it’s the only one we have.” I think several interesting possibilities are coming into play regarding Jean and Ezri. What about you?

Oh yes.
7. As we close down this week’s reading, the Thorn of Camorr is back! I love it, even with all the conflict.  Several things from their Camorri background have come back up. Do you think we will see more Camorri characters?

Again, oh yes.

 

 

Week 4

1. I was much relieved when Jean and Locke made up, which started with Locke’s gesture of a cup full of honesty with Cpt. Drakasha. Do you think that was hard for Locke? Or was he using this bit of honesty like any other weapon in his arsenal to get what he wants in the end?

Double edged question. I think he needed to be honest for Jean because he respects and loves him. And I think there may have been a slight (oh so slight) amount of guilt mixed in with that respect and love that made Locke understand that he needed to lay the cards of the table. But, yes, he always thinks of himself first and what he can get out of it so even by telling the truth he was still using the situation to his advantage.

That makes Locke sound awful but I don’t see him that way, it’s just who he is and what he does, even when he isn’t lying.
2. The Parlor Passage: We still don’t know Locke’s true name, but whatever was in that mist does. What do you think it is?

It’s driving me nuts that I don’t know his name! Not that there’s anything wrong with Locke which I think is a fabulous name but I want the real one.

I’m not too sure I want to think of what’s in that mist but whatever it is, is what creepy is made of. Then again, maybe it’s nothing and the fog is really just a chemical or a drug that causes hallucinations.
3. There was an interesting section of the book that started about where Locke assisted Drakasha in selling the Red Messenger; he put on the persona of Leocanto Kosta and used the alias Tavras Callas and then Drakasha was still thinking of him as Ravelle….. Did using all those various aliases in such a short amount of time have your mind spinning a little? Do you think Lynch did this on purpose to give the reader a sense of Locke’s mind?

I was surprised to see Tavras Callas back. First, because I sort of think of him as a scheme from the first book, and two, it seems risky to bring someone like that back even in a part of the world he isn’t know. I keep thinking that’s going to come back and bite him. It does make you wonder about Locke’s head though and how full it is of disguises and personalities that I questioned if Locke even knows who he was. I don’t think of Locke in anyway negative but the fact that he can switch his personality on and off made me wonder about his mental health.
4. That was a sweet little kiss between Cpt. Zamira and Cpt. Jaffrim at the end of the Captains’ Council. Do you think they have some history, or is it just innocent flirting that’s been going on for some time?

Can you say baby daddy?
5. Jean and Ezri. Cue dove-cooing and little winged hearts with sparkles. Do you think Jean will stay with the Poison Orchid or that Ezri will leave her ship to pal around with Jean and Locke?

She’s the newest member of the Gentleman Bastards! She is. I know it.

And if she doesn’t leave to stay with Jean I’m going to be so upset. Finally, something nice for Jean. Don’t ruin it!
6. What is Utgar up to? What are his motivations?

It took me a second to realize what was going on here and I don’t like it. I have no idea what he’s up to but it’s all bad. That I know.
7. So last week we hashed over that Merrain killed some of Stragos’s guards on Windward Rock. But when Jean and Locke visit him, he doesn’t mention it. What is up with that?

I don’t get what’s up with her although I’m sorta digging her style. She’s like freelance killer, freelance spy, freelance I will tell you all nothing and play you all against each other.

Or, Lady Gentleman Bastard number two.
8. This week’s section left us where the book began – Jean pointing a crossbow at Locke’s throat. Do you think Jean knows who sent these crossbowers? Is he on their side? Is it a clever ploy to get him and Locke out of this predicament? Did you find it excruciatingly hard to stop here?

It’s a way to get them out of the mess because I can’t believe that Jean would turn on Locke, even though he is a huge pain in the ass.

And this was the worst place ever to stop this week’s reading! Worst. Place. Ever!

Now that my answers are posted, I’m going to start reading again.

Red Seas Under Red Skies Read Along Part 2

Back this week with an interruption in the #Reviewathon to play in the Red Seas Under Red Skies Read Along. Part 1 is here if you’re curious. This week’s questions are from Andrea at the Little Red Reviewer and she also has more info here.

I decided I had some fun last week writing pretty much stream of conscience and decided to go with it again so ignore dangling participles, fragments, and if I used the wrong conscience (conscientious), ignore that too. I, seriously, never use that word correctly. It’s my nemesis.

1 – Now that we know a little more about Selendri and Requin, what do you think of them? I worry Locke is suddenly realizing this con might be a bit tougher than he expected.

I don’t trust these two at all. Requin doesn’t give hints about anything, although once Locke did seem to surprise him with what he had to say, but I think he already knows what Locke is up to before he does so there’s the possibility of all this going so very wrong. Then again, why should I underestimate a character that seems to be able to get out of almost everything, with the exception of being poisoned? Ugh, he should have know better.

As for Selendri, I now think of her as the new Nazca. This will persist until Sabetha shows up because I appreciate a strong female character. Which, by the way, I do think Lynch does very well. The problem is that he kills them off, gives them horrible back stories, and has them only show up when someone else mentions her as in the case of Sabetha. What’s up with that?
2 – Isn’t the Artificers’ Crescent just amazing?  If you could purchase anything there, what would it be?

I would buy a mini elephant, around the 20 pound mark. Like a decent size dog, not too big but not too small either. Just think how much fun it would be to play fetch with that! Was that a weird answer? I sorta think it is but I’m leaving it because it said anything in the question.

3 – What did you think of Salon Corbeau and the goings on that occur there? A bit crueler than a Camorri crime boss, no?

Esh. I couldn’t wait for Locke to leave. The games are horrid and while it sounds like a ‘nice’ ‘safe’ place, I’d run as far away from it as I could.

One of the reasons I like Locke so much is that he isn’t cruel. He might scheme money away from the rich, play tricks on them, but he’s never outright cruel. And really, where does a child learn that entertainment comes in the form of beating an elderly person with clubs come from! Crap that place was a rat hole.
4 – The Archon might be a megalomaniacal military dictator, but he thinks he’s doing right by Tal Verrar: his ultimate goal seems to be to protect them.  What do you think he’s so afraid of?

This has me confused, not the question, this character. I can’t figure out what he’s up to and why he feels he needs to protect the place. Also, why does he feel so safe that his spies aren’t known by Requin! He should know that if he’s willing to pay, someone else is willing to pay more for the information he wants. Spying 101 — cuz I know so much about that. I should stop talking now but hole already dug, going in for me.

I don’t think he’s afraid of Requin, he understands him as a nemesis (I’m trying to work this word into everyday conversation. Used it twice in this post even!) and maybe a slight threat to his plans, but I don’t think there’s fear there. However, maybe there should be. Is it all a misplaced fear and he doesn’t get it at all? I don’t know.

5 – And who the heck is trying to kill Locke and Jean every few days?  They just almost got poisoned (again!)!

Head, e-reader. I’m pretty sure there’s an N on my forehead from my nook. Can these two just stop drinking everything put in front of them!? I was glad to see they passed on the ale because, really, you had to see that one coming.
6 – Do you really think it’s possibly for a city rat like Locke to fake his way onto a Pirate ship?

I want him to play the part, and I think it will be amusing to see him do it, but no, I don’t think he can be a pirate. In my head, now and forever, that’s Johnny Depp.

Red Seas Under Red Skies Read Along – Part 1

I had so much fun with The Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along I joined up for the Red Seas Under Red Skies Read Along.  What can I say; I’m a sucker for a series and for read alongs this year. It seems I can’t help myself when it comes to either. Yep, sucker.

Book two – Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch. I love a good series and so far, a mere 100 pages in, this one is living up to the first for me. Honestly, I think it’s the fact that two of my favorite characters are back and up to their good old schemey ways. No spoilers this week so you’re all safe.

Thanks to My Awful Reviews for this week’s questions. You can find more information at the Little Red Reviewer if you want it.

1. The Sinspire. It looks like our heroes (can they really be called that?) find themselves in search of a way into an unbeatable vault. Do you think they have what it takes to make it happen?

I will call them heroes. Bad examples, but heroes none the same! OK, I have to admit that as soon as I read the scene where Locke starts talking about ripping off the vault, all I could think about was Ocean’s Eleven. Locke and Jean because Clooney and Pitt in my head. I have no issue with this, but that’s all I can think about now. When does the rest of gang arrive?

Do they have what it takes to pull it off? I want them to do it, I do, but right now their prospects are pretty dim. I have faith though, I have faith.

2.  Anyone want to guess how they’re going to make it happen?

Ah, no. I’m notoriously bad a guessing games and don’t feel the need to embarrass myself needlessly. Moving onto question 3…

3. It’s a little different this time around, with us just being focused on Locke and Jean. Is anyone else missing the rest of the Bastards as much as I am?

YES! Oh, I so wish they had their brothers back but I’m also thinking they may need to find some new ones which makes me a little unhappy because they can’t be replaced. I don’t know how they can pull off the heist without more of them though.

4. I love the section where Jean starts to build a new guild of thieves. It really shows just how well trained and tough he is. Do you think the Bastards will end up training others along the way again like Bug?

I loved that part. Or maybe I have a crush on Jean, not sure. Yes, I do think eventually a new gang will form with training all around but I think Locke’s going to resist and Jean will see it as necessary and go out and do it. I do hope the personalities are different in the new Bastards though, not because I didn’t like those characters, but new gang, new personalities just seems to be in order. Also, I don’t want to think of the new Bastards as stand-in zombie replacements because I’m not above thinking that in my head. See question one — I’m already playing the Ocean’s Eleven soundtrack in my head. I don’t need extra reason to mash things up.

5. For those of you looking for Sabetha, we still haven’t spotted her yet. Anyone else chomping at the bit to see the love of Locke’s life?

It’s funny, I see Locke as a softhearted guy, even with all the robbing and scheming to rip others off (he did save people in the end of the last book don’t forget) and I really want to meet the woman who ruined him. Let’s face it; she’s got to be some woman to do what she did to Locke. I want her to be a badass like Nazca. Steel-heeled boots and all. And now bondage is in my head. See, this is what happens when I write without editing. You think I kid but I don’t. Usually I’m much more reserved and professional, or I try to be, but for whatever reason, I’ve lost that battle with myself this morning. (Self, drink some coffee before attempting to write.)

I say he’s softhearted not only because of Sabetha but the way he misses the fallen Bastards. I think of Jean much the same. Yeah, I know they’re criminals but they happen to be fictional ones so I can like them all I want.

6. It’s early on, but the Bastards are already caught up in plots that they didn’t expect. How do you think their new “employer” is going to make use of them (The Archon, that is)?

Again, not good at the guessing game but I surmise it will be interesting and I hope Locke and Jean manage to turn to the game on The Archon in the end.

Thoughts on Re-Reading Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Last year I decided I wanted to re-read this behemoth of a book. I refer to this book as a behemoth because I have the combined paperback of all three books. It’s a sucker to hold up, if like me, you’re reading it in bed which may have contributed to part of my slow reading. My arms would give out and due to the number of pillows holding me and my arms aloft, I would get comfy and drift off — the drifting off had nothing to do with the story though. That, I can assure you, is still good to go.

Did I enjoy this re-read? I did and here’s why:

Mr Norrell is still arrogant and naive. His hoarding of books is something I can totally understand although I obviously like to share more than he does. I found him to be much more annoying this time around though. I’m not sure if I noticed it the first time I read the book or not but he’s much more insecure than I remember his character to be.

Childermas, butler to Mr Norrell, is a character I liked much more this time around. His sarcastic, biting remarks are such a contrast to Mr Norrell and he does it sometimes knowing that Norrell won’t understand either because he hasn’t told him or he doesn’t get society in general. He also played a larger part in the plot than I originally remembered.

Mr Drawlight and Mr Lascelles are a riot of absurdity. These two are the main reason for describing this book as Austen-esque. They are society at its best.

Jonathan Strange is much more interesting on the magical front but has a few of the same eccentric habits about him which even he admits may have come from Norrell. He also doesn’t show up until much later in the story than I thought he did. The things you happen upon while re-reading.

The setting is lovely, lovely, lovely.

The man with the thistle down hair! Yes, yes, yes. He’s mean and self-centered but I adore his magical style.

Jonathan Strange’s fall into the magical underworld — it’s interesting to see what his obsession with outdoing Mr Norrell does to him and to those he loves.

What I didn’t enjoy so much:

The length. I knew this was a long book. I’d read it before and thought I was prepared for it but it was still long. Knowing what happened, even if I was a tad foggy on some of the specifics, stopped me from reading ahead but I also didn’t feel like there was a pressing need for me to rush through either. I read very slowly, and probably enjoyed the story all the more for it, but when I got down to the end, I wanted it to just end. Those last 150 pages were the longest 150 pages I’ve spent with a book in a very long time.

It was a successful re-read though. I’m glad I decided to read it again and that I did it early in the year. I think if I had waited, I might not have gotten to it, mostly because of the size. I like long books, but this one felt extra long though.

When someone asks about a great fantasy read, I’ll still recommend this book but I’ll warn people to scope out time for it and don’t tread into it lightly.

Read Along Public Service Announcement

The Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along was so much fun that I’m in for book two – Red Seas Under Red Skies. Scott Lynch, somewhat new to me author and new book crush. Really, hand to god truth. Andrea at the Little Red Reviewer is co- hosting again with @ohthatashely, Dark Cargo, Lynn’s Book Blog, and My Awful Reviews (Thanks co-hosts!) and here’s the schedule. We start reading April 20th. Want more info, go here.

Week 1 – Beginning thru end of Chapter 3, discussion questions go out April 26, posts go up April 28.
Week 2 – Reminiscence “The Lady of the Glass Pylon” thru end of Chapter 6, discussion questions go out May 3, posts go up May 5.
Week 3 – Chapter 7 thru end of Chapter 10, discussion questions go out May 10, posts go up May 12.
Week 4 – Chapter 11 thru end of chapter 13, discussion questions go out May 17, posts go up May 19.
Week 5 – Chapter 14 to the end, discussion question go out May 24, posts go up May 26.

Now go. Get your book.

For the curious, I’ll have a review of The Lies of Locke Lamora up next week, or soon anyway. When I get my act together. Let’s go with that.