November 30, 2016

Challenge Additions 2017, Part 1

I call this 'Part 1' because I know myself and I know this won't be all of them, but here's the latest ones I found:

Beat The Backlist Reading Challenge
This one is right up my alley since I *still* have books that I got waaaay back in 2007.

Pages Read Reading Challenge
I needed a version of this challenge and I've loved other challenges hosted by this same site.

Strictly Print Reading Challenge
I've always read almost all print books, but the last couple of years I started reading more ebooks.  This challenge will help me remember that my 'real' books need some love!

Wild Goose Chase Reading Challenge
I admit it.  I was drawn to this challenge because of the hilarious name.  Not to mention that I'm *still* working on the Gargoyle's challenge from this year.  I know this one will really challenge me so I'm in!

Literary Loners Reading Challenge
I really wanted to do this one this year, but for some reason I sort of burnt out and gave up too soon.  I'm trying again!

European Reading Challenge
Oh, this one is going to be hard for me.  Not much of Europe in most Sci-Fi or Fantasy!

Read It Again, Sam
I've been looking for a good excuse to re-read some of my favorite books and here it is!

November 29, 2016

My First Challenges for 2017

It's that time of the year again.  And here I go...again.  I visited some of my favorite challenges from this year and, lo and behold, they are running the challenges again.  I'm very excited.  So, without further ado, here are some of the challenges I'll be joining in 2017.  And, yes, I'm sure there will be more!

I'll be creating individual pages for each challenge like always in a little bit.

The Worm Hole What's In a Name Challenge
Fourth year and I still love this one!

My Reader's Block Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017
Since I'm not going to reach Mt. Everest this year, I'm scaling back and choosing Mt. Ararat: Read 48 books from your TBR pile.

My Reader's Block Color Coded Challenge 2017
I just love this challenge!

Girlxoxo's Monthly Motif Reading Challenge
This one really challenged me and I can't wait to do it again!

Socrates' Book Reviews What An Animal Reading Challenge
This one is really fun!  I'm going for Level 4 - Read 21 or more!

Reading Challenge Addict 2017
I'm still waiting for a few others to post their challenges for next year and I'm going to be looking for some new ones as well.  I'm very sure this list isn't complete, but I'm going to hold off on choosing a level until I see how many challenges I actually find to join. 

A Door In The Woods by James Dashner

Title:  A Door In The Woods
Author:  James Dashner
Pages:  171
Genre:  Juvenile Fantasy Fiction
Publisher:  Bonneville Books, 2003
Series:  Jimmy Fincher Saga, Book 1

Synopsis:  Jimmy Fincher entered the dark woods on a day like any other.

But what he sees there changes his perception of reality and sets off a chain of events that explodes in a torrent of suspense and excitement.  An ancient legend comes to life.  A conspiracy of madmen.  Strange portals to other worlds.  Villains named everything from Raspy to Shadow Ka.

And behind it all is the old wooden door, lying deep in the forest by Fincher's home.

Review:  What fun this book is!  It's refreshing and full of good, hopeful feelings.  It's also full of scares and thrills and adventure.  It's obviously written for the younger reader, but that didn't stop me from reading it obsessively and finishing it in one afternoon.

I've been a fan of James Dashner since his Maze Runner series.  I'm not at all surprised that I really liked this book.  While it isn't as good as The Maze Runner, it's a wonderful story and I can't wait to start book two tomorrow.

Rating:  8.5 / 10

The Measure of Magic by Terry Brooks

Title:  The Measure of Magic
Author:  Terry Brooks
Pages:  383
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Ballantine, 2011
Series:  Legends of Shannara, Book 2

Synopsis:  For five hundred years, the survivors of the Great Wars lived peacefully in a valley sanctuary shielded by powerful magic from the blighted and dangerous outside world. But the enchanted barriers have crumbled, the borders have been breached by predators, and the threat of annihilation looms large once more. Sider Ament, bearer of the last black staff and its profound power, devoted his life to protecting the valley and its inhabitants—and, in his final moments, gave stewardship of the black staff to the young tracker Panterra Qu.

Now the newly anointed Knight of the Word must take up the battle against evil wherever it threatens: from without, where an army of bloodthirsty trolls is massing for invasion; and from within, where the Elf king of Arborlon has been murdered, his daughter, Princess Phryne Amarantyne, stands accused, and a heinous conspiracy is poised to subjugate the kingdom. But even these will pale beside the most harrowing menace Panterra is destined to confront—a nameless, merciless figure who wanders the devastated land on a relentless mission: to claim the last black staff . . . and the life of he who wields it.

Review:  I really liked this story.  The characters were rich and compelling.  The story was fast-paced and exciting.  I don't have any more of this series to read right now, but I'll be looking forward to the next installment when I get my hands on it.

If you've never read this series, I suggest giving it a try.  The author has a suggested reading order on his website and you should follow it.  But, be warned, the first book isn't even half as good as the rest.  I'd recommend skipping the first one (The Sword of Shannara) to be honest, but it does give some background that proves helpful later.  If you decide to start with book one, be prepared to work through that one so you can enjoy the wonder of the rest!

Rating:  9 / 10

November 17, 2016

Bearers of the Black Staff by Terry Brooks

Title:  Bearers of the Black Staff
Author:  Terry Brooks
Pages:  353
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Ballantine, 2010
Series:  Legends of Shannara, Book 1

Synopsis:  Five hundred years have passed since the devastating demon-led war that tore apart the United States, leaving nothing but scorched and poisoned ruins, and nearly exterminating humankind. Those who escaped the carnage and blight were led to sanctuary by the boy savior known as the Hawk—the gypsy morph.

In an idyllic valley, its borders warded by powerful magic against the horrors beyond, humans, elves, and mutants alike found a place they believed would be their home forever. But after five centuries, the unimaginable has come to pass: The cocoon of protective magic surrounding the valley has vanished. When Sider Ament, the only surviving descendant of the Knights of the Word, detects unknown predators stalking the valley, he fears the worst. And when Panterra Qu and Prue Liss, expert Trackers from the human village of Glensk Wood, find two of their own gruesomely killed, there can be no doubt: The once safe haven of generations has been laid bare and made vulnerable to whatever still lurks in the wasteland of the outside world.  

Together, Ament, the two young Trackers, and a daring Elf princess race to spread word of the encroaching danger—and spearhead plans to defend their ancestral home. But suspicion and hostility among their countrymen threaten to doom their efforts from within—while beyond the breached borders, a ruthless Troll army masses for invasion. And in the thick of it all, the last wielder of the black staff and its awesome magic must find a successor to carry on the fight against the cresting new wave of evil.

Review:  It's been a while since I last visited Shannara.  I believe this to be the 21st book in the Shannara series.  I can only say that the magic and the majesty of these stories hasn't changed.  I read the last book back in March of 2011 and I was a little scared I'd be lost.  I was more afraid I wouldn't love the stories any more. I was wrong on both counts.

I hadn't forgotten anything and I certainly haven't lost interest.  Mr. Brooks writes some of the best fantasy out there, hands down.

Rating:  9 / 10

November 9, 2016

Haunted Heart by Lisa Rogak

Title:  Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King
Author:  Lisa Rogak
Pages:  289
Genre:  Non-Fiction
Publisher:  St. Martin's, 2008
Series:  Stand Alone
"I want to write about spiders because it's the one theme that cuts right across and scares just about everybody," he said. "To me spiders are just about the most horrible, awful things that I can think about."
Synopsis:  A fascinating look at the life of the author who created such modern classics as "Carrie," "IT, "and "The Shining."  One of the most prolific and popular authors in the world today, Stephen King has become part of pop culture history. But who is the man behind those tales of horror, grief, and the supernatural? Where do these ideas come from? And what drives him to keep writing at a breakneck pace after a thirty year career?

In this unauthorized biography, Lisa Rogak reveals the troubled background and lifelong fears that inspire one of the twentieth century's most influential authors. King's origins were inauspicious at best. His impoverished childhood in rural Maine and early marriage hardly spelled out the likelihood of a blossoming literary career. But his unflagging work ethic and a ceaseless flow of ideas put him on the path to success. It came in a flash, and the side effects of sudden stardom and seemingly unlimited wealth soon threatened to destroy his work and, worse, his life. But he survived and has since continued to write at a level of originality few authors could ever hope to match. Despite his dark and disturbing work, Stephen King has become revered by critics and his countless fans as an all-American voice more akin to Mark Twain than H. P. Lovecraft.

"Haunted Heart" chronicles his story, revealing the character of a man who has created some of the most memorable---and frightening---stories found in literature today.

Review:  I knew that Stephen King was an odd man.  You'd have to be to write the believable, scary stories that he writes.  What I didn't realize was how hard his life was before he became the King of Horror.

I usually have a really hard time with non-fiction books, but this one was written in a very approachable and interesting manner.  It told things that I never knew about the man who is my very favorite author.  I didn't realize quite how old the book was and wish that the book had been published later and told more of Mr. King's life now.  Other than that, I have no complaints.

I was really amazed at how much I did enjoy the book and how quickly the pages turned.  I highly recommend it.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

November 4, 2016

Start of November Wrap-Up

This update runs from October 5th through today.  I've had a dismal month when it comes to reading.  I just keep picking the books that seem to take me forever to finish.  No new challenges completed this time around.  I did manage to visit one new state, for a total of 36.

I only read four books this month so choosing a favorite isn't really much of a contest.  Hands down, I loved False Memory by Dean Koontz best.

False Memory by Dean Koontz

Title:  False Memory
Author:  Dean Koontz
Pages:  627
Genre:  Horror / Thriller
Publisher:  Bantam, 1999
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis: Martie Rhodes is a young wife, a successful video game designer, and a compassionate woman who takes her agoraphobic friend, Susan, to therapy sessions. Susan is so afraid of leaving her apartment that even these trips to the doctor's office become ordeals for both women—but with each trip a deeper emotional bond forms between them.

Then one morning Martie experiences a sudden and inexplicable fear of her own, a fleeting but disquieting terror of...her own shadow. The episode is over so quickly it leaves her shaken but amused. The amusement is short-lived. For as she is about to check her makeup, she realizes that she is terrified to look in the mirror and confront the reflection of her own face.

As the episodes of this traumatic condition— autophobia—build, the lives of Martie and her husband, Dustin, change drastically. Desperate to discover the reasons for his wife's sudden and seemingly inevitable descent into mental chaos, Dusty takes Martie to the renowned therapist who has been treating Susan, and tries to reconstruct the events of recent months in a frantic search for clues. As he comes closer to the shocking truth, Dusty finds himself afflicted with a condition even more bizarre and fearsome than Martie's.

No fan of Dean Koontz or of classic psychological suspense will want to miss this extraordinary novel of the human mind's capacity to torment— and destroy—itself. In False Memory, Dean Koontz has created a novel that will stay in your memory long after the final page is turned— a story not only of gripping fear but also of the power of love and friendship. Once more Koontz reveals why he has, as People put it, the "power to scare the daylights out of us."

Review:  This is a really long book.  Koontz is usually a quick read, but this one took real effort.  In the end, the effort was worth it.  The subject is mind control.  The bad guy is so completely insane that it's amazing he managed to hide his sickness as well as he did, for as long as he did.

I didn't see the ending coming and I do love being surprised!

I loved this story, but once again I managed to pick a book that took far too long to read.  The year's almost over and I'll never finish some of my challenges.  I guess that's why they're called challenges.  They are absolutely challenging me!

Rating:  10 / 10
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