Monday, March 3, 2014

February Reading Challenge Update

As you may recall from my previous post, I have decided to take part in the 2014 Reading Challenge through Goodreads. I set a conservative goal of reading 26 books this year, and so far I'm doing great. This month I read four more books, which puts me at 31% of my goal, and I'm now four books ahead of schedule.

Here are this month's reads:

Innocence, by Dean Koontz

Addison lives in seclusion, a complete outcast who must hide his existence from the world or risk great physical harm, or even death. Then one night he meets Gwyneth, another outcast who lives completely apart from society. Within a very short time they fall deeply in love, fight to save innocent lives from the evils that would harm them, and survive world-altering events. If that sounds vague, that's because the whole book kind of is. It isn't until the last few chapters that much of anything is actually (kind of) explained.

I've been a Dean Koontz fan for a very long time, and I've read almost all of his books. I know a lot of people really loved this one - there are plenty of glowing reviews out there - but personally I was pretty disappointed. The incredibly non-specific "I can't let anyone see me or they'll instantly want to kill me" thing that Addison repeated over and over (and over and over and over) just ended up grating on my nerves.

When the secret was finally revealed at the end I found it mildly interesting, but not nearly enough to make up for all of the previous annoyance. I also found the whole book incredibly slow, and not at all compelling. (I had it on a three week loan from the cloud library, and it took me almost the entire three weeks to finish it.)

I know that some people like to get upset when somebody doesn't like a book that they loved, and say that "you just didn't understand its brilliance" or some such thing. I did get it. I just didn't really care for it. Please don't be offended if you're one of the people who loved it. We all have different taste, and that's okay.

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

She may not know exactly how much time she has left, but Hazel does know that her cancer is terminal. She still goes about her routine, being cared for by her incredibly supportive and loving parents, attending community college classes as she is able, and begrudgingly attending a Cancer Kid Support Group (because her mother thinks it will be good for her.) It turns out her mother is right, because it is at a group meeting that she meets Augustus. And while both of their lives may be destined to be cut short, they both can rejoice in having found love.

I know I mentioned last month that I almost instantly fell in love with John Green. And as much as I loved Looking for Alaska, this one was even better. The character development was outstanding (as Green always seems to do so well) as was the compelling plot. The characters are smart, and funny, and very likable.

I loved the dynamics of each relationship - between Hazel and Augustus, between the teens and their parents (and each other's parents), and several others along the journey. I loved that Hazel and Augustus's relationship wasn't perfect, and didn't turn out like I had expected it to. I loved that Hazel is obsessed with her favorite book, and simply has to know what became of the characters. And I loved how much it bothered her that scrambled eggs are relegated to being "breakfast food." (You can have sausage or bacon at any time, but you add scrambled eggs and suddenly it's breakfast.)

This a beautiful (if heart-wrenching) story, wonderfully told. I highly recommend it.

Accidents & Incidents, by Riley Graham

After reading Miss Riki's review and author interview, I was compelled to read this book. That tends to happen a lot when I read her blog, but I don't mind. :)

While dealing with her overly critical mother, Leslie is also trying to navigate a complicated, teen-angst-filled social life. Her boyfriend never quite treats her the way she deserves to be treated, and his best friend suddenly begins to aggressively flirt with her at the same time that she is becoming closer friends with his girlfriend. Plus there's the new guy, who seems to understand Leslie in a way that nobody else does.

As a fan of young adult novels, I really enjoyed this book. The only drawback for me was the initial lack of clues about the relationship between Leslie and her mother. I found myself really wanting more of an explanation about why things were so strained between them, and what it was that her mother always seemed to be taking out on her. Eventually the clues do come, and it all makes perfect sense. I just would have liked to be able to figure things out a little sooner (mostly so I could be a little more understanding toward the mother, and not dislike her for so long.)

This book is not for everyone - you really have to like teen drama. But if you do, I recommend giving this one a try.

On a related note, not only do I like Riley Graham as an author (and look forward to seeing more from her), she also seems like a really nice person. After connecting with her on Facebook, she ended up sending me a free copy of the Accidents & Incidents e-book, which I thought was incredibly thoughtful of her. (I love authors who are down-to-earth, and appreciate their fans.) If you'd like to connect with Riley on Facebook, you can find her page here.

Hounded, by Kevin Hearne

Our hero, handsome and witty Atticus O'Sullivan, is an occult bookseller near the Arizona State campus in Tempe, Arizona. But while his friends and customers think he is a relatively normal 21-year-old, he actually closer to 2100 years old, not to mention that he is also a shape-shifter, and the last surviving Druid. His world is full of vampires, warewolves, witches, and Celtic gods, all set against the urban backdrop of Tempe, and the surrounding desert.

I have to admit that it took me several chapters to really get into the story. But because this book had been recommended by several friends, I stuck with it (and in the end I was really glad I did.) There were two main reasons that I had a hard time getting into it, and neither was anything that was really "wrong" with the book - they're both just personal preference things.

The first was that I never really care for it when authors so liberally sprinkle foreign words into their work. If a book is written in English, I want it to be in English. I don't like to have to take the time to stop and use context clues to figure out what the word means, or try to figure out how to pronounce it. In this case it made sense (we're talking about an ancient Druid and a bunch of Celtic gods) but it still slowed things down for me for a while.

The second thing that I've never cared for is when authors are super-specific about their setting. Because all it does is make people who know the area say "Hey! I know where that is!" And for people who don't know the area it makes no difference at all. (I actually live not far from where this book was set, but I still didn't care about the specifics.) I don't really care if the character's favorite restaurant is on the northwest corner of Mill Avenue and University Drive. And I don't care that he took a right on Roosevelt when he headed home. For me, it just doesn't add anything to the story (and kind of detracts from the pace.)

But like I said, those are just personal preference things. It took me maybe a third of the book to get used to them, and then I was fine. And by about halfway through I had a hard time putting the book down, and ended up playing the "one-more-chapter" game into the wee hours of the morning. I have a feeling that I'll end up reading the rest of the series.

Sorry for the incredibly long post. I think in future months I will have to do each review individually as I finish the book so that I don't end up throwing so much at you all at once. We'll see how that goes.

And as always, if you have an recommendations please feel free to share them. My reading list keeps growing, but that's fine with me.

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