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2013 Readings Stats!

January 2, 2014 Leave a comment

Every year, I wrap up the old year and start the new one here on the blog with a look back at my reading stats.  You can see my stats for the years 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 by clicking on the years.

Total books read: 54
Average books read per month: 4.5
Month most read: May with 7 (No idea what gave me so much momentum in May)
Month least read: November with 2 (A long cold and the holidays)
Longest book read: The Isle of Blood by Rick Yancey with 538 pages
Fiction: 45 (83%)
Nonfiction: 9 (17%)
Series: 28 (52%) (This went up by 11%. You can tell I found a couple of series I really like.)
Standalone: 26 (48%)
Formats: 
–traditional print: 13 (24%)
–ebook: 27 (50%)
–graphic novel: 0 (0%) (I’m in shock that I somehow didn’t read a single graphic novel this year!)
–audiobook: 14  (26%)
Genres:
–scifi: 20 (Winner the fifth year in a row. It’s clear what my favorite genre is.)
–fantasy: 11
–horror: 9
–indie: 7
–YA: 7 (I dislike most YA, but when I find a well-done one, I read everything by the author I can find.)
–GLBTQ: 6
–historic fiction: 6
–romance: 6
–urban fantasy: 6
–dystopian: 4
–humorous: 4
–post-apocalyptic: 4
–short story collection: 4
–classics: 3
–Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge: 3 (I really should at least get to the lowest level of the challenge that I run! Wish I’d completed one more book for this.)
–mystery: 3
–nonfiction history: 3 (As someone with a History BA, it surprises me not at all that this is my most read nonfiction.)
–contemporary: 2
–cozy: 2
–nonfiction cookbook: 2
–nonfiction lifestyle: 2
–paranormal romance: 2
–thriller: 2
–time-travel: 2
–transhumanism: 2
–African lit: 1
–bizarro: 1
–Chinese lit: 1
–Cthulhu mythos: 1
–nonfiction environmentalism: 1
–nonfiction fitness: 1
–nonfiction memoir: 1
–nonfiction relationships: 1
–nonfiction social justice: 1
Aliens vs. Demons vs. Vampires vs. Zombies
–demons: 7 (Demons just barely beat aliens, who definitely got the extra attention I said I thought they deserved last year).
–aliens: 6
–vampires: 6
–zombies: 1
Number of stars:
–5 star reads: 9 (17%)
–4 star reads: 26 (48%)
–3 star reads: 16 (30%)
–2 star reads: 3 (5%)
–1 star reads: 0 (0%)

Glancing at my stats, I can see that I definitely achieved my main goal for 2013.  I read more books I like and stopped forcing myself to read books I don’t enjoy.  My percent of 5 star reads went up by 3%, and my number of 1 or 2 star reads went down by a whopping 11%.  I’m really glad to have refocused myself on the joy of reading, instead of treating it as a responsibility.

Overall, my stats make me happy.  There is still a variety for the well-roundedness I wanted to hold onto, but there is also a clear focus on the types of books I enjoy.  The one thing that took me aback was my complete lack graphic novels.  I can’t stop reading the new format I discovered just a few years ago! I also would like to see a bit more nonfiction and at least a couple more reads that count toward the Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge.  I do run it after all.

Beyond those two minor goals, I mostly just want to continue seeking out books that truly appeal to me, reading at a comfortable rate as one of many hobbies, and continue to expand my horizons a bit with a healthy sprinkling of variety.

Happy 2014, everyone! Any suggestions for my 2014 reading goals?

Book Review: Captain America: Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection (Series, #1-9 and 11-14) (Graphic Novel)

January 15, 2013 Leave a comment

Captain America Winter SoldierSummary:
Captain America has been increasingly violent and melancholy lately, and SHIELD is worried about him.  When his arch-nemesis, the Red Skull, turns up as a corpse, things go from troubled to worse for Captain America.  Ghosts of his past increasingly haunt him as the desire for the Cosmic Cube wreaks havoc once again.

Review:
I admit that I am new to the traditional comic book characters.  I found my way into graphic novels via manga followed by more literary graphic novels followed by The Walking Dead, none of which are really comic book characters, per se.  But I, just like most of the world, watched the new movies featuring Iron Man and Thor and loved them.  So I decided to try to start reading the comic books, a daunting task for a newbie.  I did my best to find a good introductory book, but I admit I probably should have actually watched Captain America before deciding to start with him.

Captain America is my least favorite of the Avengers.  He, to me, is so incredibly lame. Whiny and lame. And traditional.  I really should have started this comic book adventure with Iron Man.

Anyway, point being, take my review with the grain of salt that 1) I am new to traditional comic book characters 2) I don’t like Captain America.

The story itself is bright and action-packed.  Once I understood who the Red Skull and Bucky were, I started to get the feel for the tension in the story.  The pages are well-drawn and easy to follow with lots to suck the reader in.  Fans of Captain America will probably appreciate the chance to get to know more of his backstory, particularly concerning Bucky, his side-kick, and what happened to him.  The Cosmic Cube was amusing as ever to watch corrupt people, and I definitely was surprised by the plot twist at the end.  In spite of my distaste for the character, I was a bit tempted to read more.

Overall, then, this is an action-packed entry in the Captain America canon that simultaneously provides character development and backstory.  Recommended to fans of Captain America.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Finishing the Series Reading Challenge 2013

December 23, 2012 2 comments

Finishing the Series Reading Challenge 2013 BadgeHello my lovely readers!

Because life is so incredibly busy, I hadn’t been planning on participating in any of the many wonderful reading challenges in existence around the book blogosphere.  (Beyond hosting my own, the Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge, of course.)  But when I received a GoodReads invitation to Socrates’ Finishing the Series Reading Challenge, I couldn’t resist because it fits in so well with my already established (in my head) reading goals for 2013.  It’s incredibly simple. Choose a single (or multiple) book series you’ve previously started to finally finish reading during 2013.  I already have a GoogleDoc of all the series I’m reading and was saying to myself, “Amanda, finish at least a few of these in 2013,” and doing that in the context of the fun that is a book blog reading challenge just makes me happy.

I’m currently reading 26 series. I know, I know.  I’m not going to challenge myself to all of those, because then I’d only be reading series books all year. :-P  But I am signing up for the highest level of the challenge: Level 3: 3 or more series.

So what am I pledging to finish?

  1. Georgina Kincaid series by Richelle Mead
    #3 Succubus Dreams review 1/31/13, 5 stars
    #4 Succubus Heat review 12/25/13, 4 stars
    #5 Succubus Shadows
    #6 Succubus Revealed
  2. Y: The Last Man series by Brian K. Vaughan
    #8 Kimono Dragons
    #9 Motherland
    #10 Whys and Wherefores
  3. Riders of the Apocalypse series by Jackie Morse Kessler
    #3 Loss
    #4 Breath
  4. John Cleaver series by Dan Wells
    #3 I Don’t Want to Kill You review , 3/2/13 3.5 stars
  5. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
    #2 Children of God
  6. Katherine “Kitty” Katt series by Gini Koch I will not be finishing this series, due to severe dislike of the third book. It’s a permanent dnf.
    #3 Alien in the Family review, 10/3/13 2 stars
    #4 Alien Proliferation
    #5 Alien Diplomacy
    #6 Alien vs. Alien
    #7 Alien in the House
    #8 Alien Research

For the Katherine “Kitty” Katt series, it is not yet finished, so I’m only pledging to books that are projected to be published before the end of 2013.

I also reserve the right to give up on a series if it starts nose-diving before the end. ;-)

Phew! That’s a lot of books…but it would also make a serious dent into my series list.  So fingers crossed that I have good luck with it.

If the challenge sounds like a good match for you, be sure to check out the official challenge page!

Book Review: The Walking Dead Volume 15 by Robert Kirkman (Series, #8) (Graphic Novel)

July 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Blueish snowy walking dead cover with zombies.Summary:
Everyone’s world was rocked when the zombies got through the community’s fence.  Will they respond by banding together or falling apart?

Review:
Ok, before I review, the numberings need a bit of explanation.  Comic books are issued very similarly to academic journals. So there are skinny issues that come out every few weeks (generally). A few of these bound together make a volume. A bunch of these bound together make a book (what we call in academia a “bound journal.”)  I *was* reading the books of The Walking Dead but then I caught up to the author.  I decided I didn’t want to buy issues, because they’re flimsy and you read through them very quickly, so I’m now reading the volumes.  I hope that makes some semblance of sense.  This will probably be the case throughout the rest of the series, because you have to wait a long time for the books, and I just am too impatient for that.  My reviews will then be much shorter, because a book contains a few volumes, and I am now reviewing one volume at a time.  Moving right along to the review!

This volume is basically cleaning up the mess from the action of the previous one and prepping for the action of the next one.  Classic in-between chapter.  What this volume really reminded me of is the infamous “Live together or die alone” speech by Jack in Lost.  In fact, this volume sees Rick basically trying to turn into Jack and failing miserably.  Long-time readers know I’ve never liked the guy, so personally I got a lot of schadenfreude out of seeing him be so pathetic in this volume.

That said, the survivors are definitely going for a new strategy, which will lend itself well to future fresh storylines, which any long-running series needs.

Fans of the sex will be quite happy with the developments in that area. Drama! Intrigue! Changes of partners!

Overall, it’s an enjoyable entry, if not mind-blowing, that perfectly sets things up for the next volume. Fans won’t be disappointed!

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Newbury Comics

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
The Walking Dead, Book One (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Two (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Three (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Four (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Five (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Six (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Seven (review)

Book Review: Y: The Last Man: Paper Dolls by Brian K. Vaughan (Series, #7) (Graphic Novel)

April 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Summary:
Our trifecta of heroes have successfully crossed the Pacific Ocean and are now on the seacoast of Australia.  Yorick naturally insists on looking for his long-lost girlfriend in the drug-infested city of Sydney.  Meanwhile, Dr. Mann gets wooed by the one-eyed sailor rescued from the pirate ship in the previous book.  We also learn more of Ampersand the monkey’s backstory.

Review:
It probably comes as no surprise that I am still loving this series, although I am super-grateful to have one containing so many issues to be holding up so well!  Although I’m not a big fan of the Dr. Mann being duped story, the other two more than make up for it.

Seeing Sydney torn apart by heroin provides a different scenario in this post-apocalyptic world.  We’ve seen the women fall to violence, over-monitoring, and chaos, but we haven’t seen the self-medication reaction yet.  The scenes with the women on heroin are sad and poignant.  The perfect backdrop to Yorick’s story.

Naturally as an animal lover and animal rights person I love Ampersand’s backstory.  Originally abused and destined for a research lab, his shipping got mixed up and wound up with Yorick to be trained to be a helper animal instead.  How this ties in with Dr. Mann is disturbing and the perfect set-up for the next issue.  After seeing all he’s been through, I really hope they find Ampersand the next issue!

Overall, the art and story are consistently good and in spite of being the seventh in a long series the storyline has not gotten out of hand or become dull.  This is an excellent entry that will leave fans craving more!

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

Buy It

Previous Books in Series
Y: The Last Man: Unmanned (review)
Y: The Last Man: Cycles (review)
Y: The Last Man: One Small Step (review)
Y: The Last Man: Safeword (review)
Y: The Last Man: Ring of Truth (review)
Y: The Last Man: Girl on Girl (review)

Book Review: The Walking Dead, Book Seven by Robert Kirkman (Series, #7) (Graphic Novel)

March 7, 2012 1 comment

Man in yellow surrounded by zombies.Summary:
The people at the settlement quickly discover that the new group headed by Rick has a lot more knowledge, experience, and ability with the zombies than they themselves do.  But they also snap easily.  Is their twitchiness warranted or not?

Review:
I was pleasantly surprised by the direction this entry in the series went.  I was fully expecting the Rick group to be totally violent and messed up and expelled from the settlement.  Instead we see that they can sometimes over-react, but still have their humanity intact and actually have a smart level of caution.  This allows for the story within the settlement to continue on, further taking us in a fresh direction.

I am unhappy with the direction the Glenn/Maggie relationship has taken.  I don’t think their original relationship was just about having hot hot sex in the prison like both characters insinuate, and I also don’t like that Maggie is now a big ball of tears while Glenn constantly traipses off.  These were a good couple!  No reason to ruin them, agh!  Plus, how often to do we get a healthy Asian Male/White Female relationship in books?  Approximately never?  Can we please just leave Maggie/Glenn alone?  *sighs*  However, I am happy that Maggie eventually stands up to Rick in protecting Sophia, so I will withhold judgment until the next installment.

What everyone is hoping for, of course, is an excellent zombie scene, and this entry delivers.  We have people crossing on a rope over a zombie hoard, the hoard invading the camp, and an epic fight off the zombies scene.  These all have the excellent artwork we’ve come to expect.

The ending of the book had a great message and left me hungry for more. (haha)  In fact I just may have to subscribe to the comics. *twitch*

Overall, this is a great entry in the series that takes the story on an unexpected twist plus has pages and pages of zombies for fans to drool over.

5 out of 5 stars

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
The Walking Dead, Book One (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Two (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Three (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Four (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Five (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Six (review)

Book Review: Y: The Last Man: Girl on Girl by Brian K. Vaughan (Series, #6) (Graphic Novel)

March 6, 2012 1 comment

Two women holding each other.Summary:
We catch up with Yorick, 355, and Dr. Mann on board a freighter headed for Australia by way of Japan.  They seem to have abandoned their hunt for Ampersand the monkey for now.  The captain of the ship is gorgeous and has the hots for Yorick, but trouble arrives in the form of an Australian submarine.  Is it the freighter or the submarine that is the pirates?

Review:
So the title is sort of a double entendre.  We do get an excellent lesbian sex scene (inter-racial no less!), but we also have the war between the submarine of women and the ship of women.  Haha, well played, Vaughan!

The great thing about this entry in the series is that by itself it has a lot of very cool elements, but it also moves the plot forward.  We find out some about what’s been happening on the other side of the globe since the men died, characters hook up, and we get some really good action.  It gets us places (specifically moving across the ocean), but it doesn’t feel like a filler book the way #4 did.

Plus, the Pacific Islander ship captain is really hot and badass.

Overall, this is an excellent entry in the series that is entertaining and moves the plot forward.  Fans will not be disappointed.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

Buy It

Previous Books in Series
Y: The Last Man: Unmanned (review)
Y: The Last Man: Cycles (review)
Y: The Last Man: One Small Step (review)
Y: The Last Man: Safeword (review)
Y: The Last Man: Ring of Truth (review)

Book Review: The Rabbi’s Cat 2 by Joann Sfar (Series, #2) (Graphic Novel)

March 5, 2012 Leave a comment

People sitting around a fire with a cat and a lion.Summary:
The talking cat with the big ears who offers insightful commentary on his rabbi master and life in Algeria in the early 20th century is back.  The rabbi’s daughter is fighting with her husband (also a rabbi), and the cat is quite happy with that.  It means more snuggles from his mistress, Zlabya.  Of course, the talking cat also has a couple of adventures.  First he and a snake tag along with the famous Malka and his lion on a trek around the desert.  Then, a stowaway Russian Jew shows up in Zlabya’s house, and he understands the cat!  Soon a rag-tag bunch are off looking for the mysterious lost city of Jerusalem.  We thus get to see a lot of Africa through the cat’s eyes.

Review:
I have to say, I didn’t enjoy this sequel quiiite as much as the original.  I suspect that the fact that I was less familiar with the topics the cat is offering snarky commentary on had something to do with this.  I really don’t know much about Northern Africa or the “lost city of Jerusalem,” so I’m sure I missed some of the inside jokes.  Whereas the previous book was mostly about Jews in Algeria and the French occupation, this book seems to talk a lot more about the relative merits of the various monotheistic religions and why can’t we all just be friends.

While on their various treks, the groups run across some Muslim tribes who state that Jews are their brothers who they respect, but it is still their duty to attempt to get them to convert.  The rabbi eloquently states that he is too old to learn a new language for prayer, and he is sure god will understand.  Similarly, the Russian Jew falls in love with an African woman (I am uncertain from which country), and they ask the rabbi to marry them.  He says he can only marry two Jews, and she states she is glad to take her husband’s god as her own.  Exasperated, the rabbi states it is not that simple, she must study for years, but then relents when seeing how in love they are and says that god will understand.  The cat too has learned when to hold his tongue around extremists, although he still offers commentary to the other animals, whether over an obsessive Muslim prince or a Kabbalistic elderly rabbi.  What is incited repeatedly in this book is extremism in favor of tolerance and love, which is certainly always a good message.

The other message is never to judge someone as less intelligent than you simply because they speak a different language or their ways are different.  I really like how this is carried over into the animal kingdom where the cat even seeks to understand the snake.  At first the cat thinks the snake just willy-nilly bites people and animals, but then he realizes that this is his only tool of friendship.  And yet although we should seek to understand, the cat also doesn’t hang around too long anyone who is extremist or annoying.  The Muslim prince and the English explorer (who thinks the Algerians don’t bathe) are both quickly dumped by the traveling group.

While these are all good messages, I must say I missed the no holding back talking cat of the first book.  I suppose he’s older and wiser, but I like him precisely because I can’t imagine a talking cat ever actually holding his tongue.  Seeing him do so in this book made me kind of sad.  Also, I feel like the story of Zlabya and her husband got dumped partway through and never picked back up.  We know they’re fighting a lot, but then we just leave them and go off on an adventure across Africa.  It felt like a final chapter was missing from the book.

Overall, this is an interesting look at the intersection of many cultures, religions, and races on the continent of Africa through the unique eyes of a rabbi’s cat, a wandering lion, and a friendly snake.  If you enjoyed the first book, you shouldn’t skip this one.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
The Rabbi’s Cat (review)

Counts For:

Specific country? Algeria, primarily

 

Book Review: The Walking Dead, Book Six by Robert Kirkman (Series, #6) (Graphic Novel)

February 13, 2012 2 comments

Carl in orange against a pile of zombies.Summary:
The group continues to slowly lose their collective minds, although it is quickly made evident that they haven’t gone as crazy as some groups when they find themselves stalked by living cannibals.  Toss in a preacher who failed to protect his flock and what turned out to be a pack of lies from the scientist, and it’s no wonder the group is suspicious when a couple of men approach and offer them refuge in an idyllic community just outside of DC.  They in their state of PTSD can’t stop seeing danger around every corner and don’t even realize the dangerous ones just might be themselves.

Review:
You know how they say you can always find someone in the world worse off than you?  Well, the first part of book 6 seems to be all about proving that’s true, perhaps in a way to humanize the group prior to how abundantly evident their loss of humanity is in contrast to the DC compound.  That isn’t to say I particularly enjoyed the cannibalism plot-line.  I can see its value, yes, but I also feel like we’d already seen how bad humanity can go in Woodbury, and if people are going to be eating people, that’s what you have zombies for.  So the first half of the book is kind of meh to me.

On the other hand, seeing our group in the DC compound is delicious.  I think one of the pieces of artwork in the appendix at the back explores the contrast eloquently.  Michonne is dressed up talking to a group of women at a party, but she’s hiding a sword behind her back.  The group has become so used to constantly being turned on and at war with the zombies and other survivors that they cannot relax.  Classic PTSD.  It’s fascinating to see how even Carl can recognize that they are no longer like these people who’ve been able to have downtime in the zombie war.  Anybody who understands war and trauma at all would know that these people need special care.  Even just the way they clump up and sleep all together in spite of being offered separate quarters is a symptom of PTSD, and yet the DC group makes Rick a cop.  Um….ok.  A seriously questionable choice there, but then again, the mayor of DC did used to be in politics.  And we all know how smart those types can be.  *eye-roll*

In any case, it’s obvious that this book is setting things up for a show-down between our traumatized group and the DC folks.  I’m enjoying seeing our main guys turn slowly evil, and I’m curious to see how far Kirkman is willing to take it.  That said, the first half of the book with the cannibals seemed kind of unnecessary to me.  I’d rather have seen more zombies.  Overall, it moves the plot forward, but that plot momentum is left mostly to the second half of the book.  Worthy of the series and hopefully book 7 will live up to the build-up.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
The Walking Dead, Book One (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Two (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Three (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Four (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Five (review)

Book Review: Y: The Last Man: Ring of Truth by Brian K. Vaughan (Series, #5) (Graphic Novel)

February 2, 2012 1 comment

Woman staring at test tube.Summary:
Yorick, Dr. Mann, and Agent 355 (not to mention Ampersand) have finally made it to California, which surprisingly has managed to mostly avoid the chaos taking over the rest of the US.  Dr. Mann is hard at work attempting to figure out why Yorick and Ampersand have survived for so long.  Meanwhile, the crazed assassins who broke off of 355′s Culper Ring are in hot pursuit of the whole bunch.

Review:
I’m pleased to say that this entry in the series returned to the former glory of volume 3 and avoided the oddness of volume 4.

Perhaps what’s best is how much Yorick is growing as a character. Finally!  He actually has sex!  And makes plans. And thinks things through.  But not always, so he’s still him.

There is a lot of productivity in the storyline too.  I like that Dr. Mann actually considers a fantastical explanation for Yorick’s survival so far.  It adds another aspect to her character and the storyline as well.  In fact this choice of believing known fact or believing in a fantasy is a recurring theme in this entry in the series, and one that I really enjoyed.

The art continues to be good, the storyline moves right along, Yorick is less annoying, plus sex!  Definitely a worthwhile entry in the series.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

Buy It

Previous Books in Series
Y: The Last Man: Unmanned (review)
Y: The Last Man: Cycles (review)
Y: The Last Man: One Small Step (review)
Y: The Last Man: Safeword (review)

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