Thursday, December 30, 2010

Challenge Accepted: Show Me the Free Challenge

Show Me the Free Challenge Icon Now this challenge is really something different. Missie at The Unread Reader asks two questions: "Do you have an e-Reader?" and "Do you download lots of free books?" And then she goes on to challenge us to not just collect the free books but to actually read them. Thus she is sponsoring Show Me the Free Challenge. Taken directly from her site, this is the description of the challenge.

Here is how it works:

  • Should you choose to participate in this challenge, your goal is to read at least twelve (12) legally obtained e-books which you got for FREE for your e-reading device. While twelve is the minimum there is no maximum limit.
  • Anyone can join. You don't have to be a blogger, and you don't have to live in the United States.
  • Any E-Reader will work for this challenge, including: iPad, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader, enTourage. Please Note: If you don't have an e-reading device, you can still join in with Amazon's Free Kindle Reading Apps which you can download for your iPhone, iPad, Mac, PC, Blackberry and more.
  • The challenge runs from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011. You can join at anytime.
  • e-books in ANY genre count for this challenge as long as it was FREE at the time that you downloaded it.
  • Every month in 2011, I will make a post for the Show Me The Free Reading Challenge so you can link your reviews.
  • Those that link their reviews will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win a different prize each month, such as an Amazon or Barnes & Noble Gift Card, a bookmark, or a GelaSkins for your E-Reader. Winners will be announced at the end of each month.

Challenge Guidelines:

  • If you blog, create a post announcing your participation in the challenge. Please include a link back to this post.
  • Non blogger must publish reviews on some type of public domain such as Goodreads, Shelfari, LibraryThing, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble to enter the monthly giveaway.
  • When you post your book review, you MUST say how you obtained the free read. Please make your source clear.
  • You can list your books in advance or list them as you read them.
  • Crossovers to other reading challenges is acceptable, but galley e-books DO NOT count. Again, this is a Reading Challenge to read as many of the FREE e-books legally offered for your e-reader. To get started, check out the Top 100 Free books on Amazon, or the Free e-books on Barnes & Noble.
  • Any linked reviews that do not meet the guidelines will not be entered into the monthly drawing for the prize of the month.


  • Coupon Clipper: 12 Books
  • Penny Pincher: 24 Books
  • Super Saver: 30+ Books

Once again, I'll invite any of you to join me in this challenge. Sign up and then leave me a comment if you've discovered this challenge through my blog. I look forward to reading your reviews.

Challenge Accepted: Take a Chance Challenge

Yeah, I'm signing up for yet another challenge in 2011. This one is just so intriguing that I couldn't pass it up.

Take a Chance Challenge Icon Jenners at Life ...with Books is challenging readers to step outside of their usual comfort area and take a chance on finding a good book through unusual or random ways. Here's her explanation of the challenge:

Basic Information

  • The concept of the challenge is to take chances with your reading by finding books to read in unusual or random ways. I’ve listed 10 different ways to find books below. Feel free to complete at many as you want. However, anyone completing all 10 challenges by December 31, 2011 will be entered in a prize drawing to win a book of their choice from Amazon.
  • The challenge will run from January 1, 2011 until December 31, 2011.
  • Crossover books from other challenges is fine. You can read books in any format.
  • On January 1, 2011, I will post pages for each of the 10 challenges so you can link up your completed posts.

The 2011 Challenges

  1. Staff Member’s Choice: Go to a bookstore or library that has a “Staff Picks” section. Read one of the picks from that section.
  2. Loved One’s Choice: Ask a loved one to pick a book for you to read. (If you can convince them to buy it for you, that is even better!)
  3. Blogger’s Choice: Find a “Best Books Read” post from a favorite blogger. Read a book from their list.
  4. Critic’s Choice: Find a “Best of the Year” list from a magazine, newspaper or professional critic. Read a book from their Top 10 list.
  5. Blurb Book: Find a book that has a blurb on it from another author. Read a book by the author that wrote the blurb.
  6. Book Seer Pick: Go to The Book Seer and follow the instructions there. Read a book from the list it generates for you.
  7. What Should I Read Next Pick: Go to What Should I Read Next and follow the instructions there. Read a book from the list it generates for you.
  8. Which Book Pick: Go to Which Book and use the software to generate a list of books. Read a book from that list.
  9. LibraryThing Pick: Go to LibraryThing’s Zeitgeist page. Look at the lists for 25 Most Reviewed Books or Top Books and pick a book you’ve never read. Read the book. (Yes … you can click on MORE if you have to.)
  10. Pick A Method: Pick a method for finding a book from the choices listed below (used in previous versions of the challenge).
    • Random Book Selection. Go to the library. Position yourself in a section such as Fiction, Non-Fiction, Mystery, Children (whatever section you want). Then write down random directions for yourself (for example, third row, second shelf, fifth book from right). Follow your directions and see what book you find. Check that book out of the library, read it and then write about it. (If you prefer, you can do the same at a bookstore and buy the book!)
    • Public Spying. Find someone who is reading a book in public. Find out what book they are reading and then read the same book. Write about it.
    • Random Bestseller. Go to and, using the True Random Number Generator, enter the number 1950 for the min. and 2010 for the max. and then hit generate. Then go to this site and find the year that generated for you and click on it. Then find the bestseller list for the week that would contain your birthday for that year. Choose one of the bestsellers from the list that comes up, read it and write about it.

Sign-ups can take place at any time over at It's Back: Take a Chance Challenge 3. Feel free to join me!

As with the other challenges that I'm taking on for 2011, I'm going to track my progress at 2011 Challenges.

Reading Charlaine Harris

And now for something a little bit different…

I just finished reading From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris. As I added it to my list of books read in 2010, I realized that the last four books I read were all by Charlaine Harris. First off, I read the final two books in her Harper Connolly series. (Well, I assume that they're the final two as the last book tied up all the loose ends.) Then I read numbers 7 & 8 in her Sookie Stackhouse series.

A quick review of these books:

An Ice Cold Grave by Charlaine HarrisAn Ice Cold Grave, Harper Connolly #3.

Harper and her step-brother Tolliver Lang are asked to travel to a small town in North Carolina and attempt to locate the bodies of young men once thought to be runaways, but now suspected to be victims of a serial killer. (Since she was struck by lightning when she was 15, Harper has been able to locate bodies and know the cause of death.) Sure enough, she quickly locates the property on which eight bodies are buried, but things just get worse. Forbidden to leave the area until the police are satisfied that they have all the information they need, Harper is attacked and injured, further delaying their departure. Which means she and Tolliver are dragged into the investigation to discover the killer.

Grave Secret by Charlaine HarrisGrave Secret, Harper Connolly #4.

By the time I finished reading An Ice Cold Grave, I was a little bit weirded out. I found that book to be quite distressing and I almost didn't continue on with the fourth book. But I'm really glad that I did. In this fourth book—which appears to be a conclusion to the series—Harper and Tolliver have traveled back to Texas to visit their younger half-sisters. On the way there, they stop off near their hometown of Texarkana for a quick job with a very wealthy family who asks for confirmation that the family patriarch really died of natural causes. And thus the stage is set to tie up a number of loose ends which have been dangling through the entire series.

I have to say that this was a very good series and I'm sad to see that it might be ending. In a field cluttered with any number of paranormal novels, Harper's talent was unique. Not only that, but Harris explored more thoroughly the implications and repercussions of such a talent on Harper and her manager/step-brother Tolliver. I would be delighted if Harris chooses to reprise this heroine.

On to Sookie.

All Together Dead by Charlaine HarrisAll Together Dead, Sookie Stackhouse #7.

In this seventh book starring the telepathic barmaid from Bon Temps, Louisiana, Sookie travels to Rhodes (on the shore of Lake Michigan) to assist Sophie-Anne Leclerq (Vampire Queen of Louisiana) at a regional summit of the vampire leadership. Not only is there plotting and positioning (and murder and mayhem) among the vampire attendees, but the Fellowship of the Sun is protesting the presence of the vampires. Sookie has her own problems, too. She detests Bill, is wary of Eric, and is falling for Quinn—and all three are vying for her attention there in Rhodes. As a full-on battle ensues, Sookie is right in the middle.

Looking back through my reading records, I see that I read the previous book, Definitely Dead, in October 2009. One reason I hadn't read any further in the series was that I didn't have a copy of All Together Dead until June of this year. But that's not a very good excuse, since I could have gotten a copy any time I wanted. I think the real reason that I wasn't pushing too hard to read any more about Sookie is that I was simply annoyed with her and her whining. But once I started reading this book, I realized that she wasn't whiney at all—at least not in the books. It's the characterization in True Blood on HBO that I'm so annoyed with. And it's a shame that I let the video production interfere with my enjoyment of the books. I'm so over that now.

From Dead to Worse by Charlaine HarrisFrom Dead to Worse, Sookie Stackhouse #8.

And thus on to Sookie's eighth adventure. After the bombing, fires, and deaths at the end of All Together Dead, all the major characters are simply trying to get everything back to normal. Sophie-Anne is recuperating from injuries received in Rhodes and her now-expanded territory is being managed by the sherriffs of Louisiana and Arkansas. Sookie last saw Quinn, her weretiger boyfriend, in the hospital in Rhodes and she hasn't been able to contact him. And then, she's invited to supper in Shreveport where she meets her great-grandfather, a fairy prince. As Sookie is learning more about her family and its history, powerful vampires in other parts of the country are moving in on Louisiana, wresting the area from Sophie-Anne. Not to be undone, there's a major coup among the weres. And, as is to be expected, Sookie is squarely in the middle of all this trouble.

I really enjoyed both of these books and I'm eager to get my hands on Dead and Gone so I can see what happens next.

Challenge Accepted: Book Bucket Reading Challenge

2011 Book Bucket Reading Challenge Icon In an attempt to whittle down the massive TBR stacks in my house, I'm joining the 2011 Book Bucket Reading Challenge hosted by Bookworm_Lisa. She says, "I have decided that for 2011, I will read 50 of the books that have been sitting on my 'to read' shelf for too long, some for three years or more," and she invites other readers to join her with their own commitments, whether 10, 50, or some other number.

So I've gone through a small portion of my TBR stacks—both paper and electronic—and put together a list of 50 books that will be the ones I read to complete this challenge in 2011. They are:

  1. Hornet's Nest by Patricia Cornwell
  2. A Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris
  3. Killer Hair by Ellen Byerrum
  4. The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
  5. Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy
  6. Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler
  7. No One You Know by Michelle Richmond
  8. Mrs. Jeffries Appeals the Verdict by Emily Brightwell
  9. Death's Daughter by Amber Benson
  10. The Know-It-All by A J Jacobs
  11. Ghost of a Chance by Simon R Green
  12. Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher
  13. Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon
  14. The Geometry of Sisters by Luanne Rice
  15. South of Broad by Pat Conroy
  16. The Second Wife by Elizabeth Buchan
  17. Inhuman Resources by Jes Battis
  18. The Second Silence by Eileen Goudge
  19. The Myth of You & Me by Leah Stewart
  20. Urban Shaman by C E Murphy
  21. Spellbent by Lucy A Snyder
  22. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  23. Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
  24. A Wolverine is Eating My Leg by Tim Cahill
  25. The Morning Show Murders by Al Roker
  26. The View from Mount Joy by Lorna Landvik
  27. Night Myst by Yasmine Galenorn
  28. A Bicycle Built for Murder by Kate Kingsbury
  29. Something from the Nightside by Simon R Green
  30. The Long-Lost Map by Ulysses Moore
  31. The Door to Time by Ulysses Moore
  32. Kitty Goes to Washington by Carrie Vaughn
  33. Blind Justice by Bruce Alexander
  34. Kissing Sin by Keri Arthur
  35. The Sporting Club by Sinclair Browning
  36. Queen of Babble in the Big City by Meg Cabot
  37. Queen of Babble Gets Hitched by Meg Cabot
  38. Dead Guilty by Beverly Connor
  39. The Alpine Decoy by Mary Daheim
  40. Running from the Deity by Alan Dean Foster
  41. S is for Silence by Sue Grafton
  42. The Mutant Prime by Karen Haber
  43. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
  44. The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi
  45. Deadly Gamble by Connie Shelton
  46. The Children Star by Joan Slonczewski
  47. Brain Plague by Joan Slonczewski
  48. Flag in Exile by David Weber
  49. The Tale of Holly How by Susan Wittig Albert
  50. I'm the Vampire, That's Why by Michele Bardsley

I will strike through each book as I read them, but I'm not making any promises to write reviews of any of these—unless they also fulfill the SF or Fantasy Challenges where a review is required.

If you're like me and have a large backlog of books that you need to read, then this is a challenge for you. Join me by signing up at Lisa's 2011 Book Bucket Challenge.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Challenge Accepted: 2011 Fantasy Reading Challenge

2011 Fantasy Challenge Icon To partner with the previous post— Challenge Accepted: 42 Challenge —I am signing up for the 2011 Fantasy Challenge sponsored by Darlyn of Darlyn & Books. And, I'm going to be a glutton for punishment by electing the Obsessed Level and committing to read and review 20 Fantasy novels in 2011.

I'm new to reading Fantasy—well, "new" as compared to reading Science Fiction. In 2010, I read 14 traditional Fantasy novels and 43 Paranormal and Urban Fiction novels, so I'm thinking that the goal of reading 20 Fantasy novels won't be too much of a stretch. What will be a challenge will be to post reviews of 20 books. I'm planning on posting more reviews here at Reading in Texas as well as at the official 2011 Fantasy Reading Challenge Review page.

Do you like Fantasy? Any particular sub-genres? If so, join me in this challenge. There are four levels: Curious (3 novels); Fascinated (6 novels), Addicted (12 novels) and Obsessed (20 novels). You can click the icon at the top of this post to sign-up for the challenge. Or use this shortcut.

... and leave me a comment if you decide to participate.

Challenge Accepted: 42 Challenge

42 Challenge Icon In obvious homage to Douglas Adams' "Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything", the 42 Challenge for 2011 starts 1 January 2011 and ends 3 December 2011. Along with other participants in the challenge, I have been assigned the mission to read, watch, listen, and review 42 items related to science fiction.

As I stated when I signed up for the challenge, "In 2009, I read 18 SF novels and in 2010, 19 novels. I haven't kept up with SF in other media, but given TV episodes, I'm sure I've exceeded 42 items each year."

Interestingly, although I have been a life-long fan of science fiction and have read almost all of the "Top 100 Sci-Fi Books", no matter whose list they are, I have only recently begun to read fantasy. I'm now enjoying catching up with the best fantasy novels. (Would you believe that I have never read Lord of the Rings or Wheel of Time?) I'm also a big fan of the new Paranormal and Urban Fantasy fiction, though I prefer the character-driven and plot-driven offerings rather than the romance spin-offs. Yes, I know that this challenge is for SF and not Fantasy, but I offer this as an explanation for why I have read fewer than 20 SF novels each year.

I will be posting reviews here at Reading in Texas and also at the main site: 42 Challenge. Feel free to join me. The sign-up can be found at Want to 42 Again? Again?.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Challenge Accepted: TwentyEleven Challenge

TwentyEleven Challenge Icon The first challenge I'm committing to in 2011 is the TwentyEleven Challenge hosted by Bart over at Bart's BookShelf

After the raves and cheers for Bart's TwentyTen Challenge, participants clamored for another challenge and he's stepped up to it.

I must note that I did not complete the TwentyTen Challenge this year, so I'm going to have to stay focused if I'm going to be successful in this new challenge.

In 2011, participants are challenged to read 20 books from 11 categories—a minimum of 1 book and a maximum of 2 books per category. Though he's retained a few categories from the TwentyTen Challenge, he's picked some new categories to toss among those carried forward. Here's the list:

  1. To YA or not YA…
    Okay, this one works like this… Tend to read more Young Adult than Adult Fiction books then read one or two adult fiction titles, vice-versa if you don’t tend to read much Young Adult.
  2. …With a Twist.
    This one focuses on sub-genres, read a lot of chick-lit, then try a paranormal romance! Fantasy? Why not give some Steampunk a go, like a bit of Space-Opera in your Sci-Fi then pick up a military Sci-fi book. Like your Contemporary Literature, give a Young Adult Contemporary a chance. Well hopefully you get the idea!
  3. Hot off the Presses.
    Read a book published (in your country) in 2011? Then it counts for this category.
  4. It Wasn’t Me! (aka Bad Bloggers*)
    Books in this category, should be ones you’ve picked up purely on the recommendation of another blogger count for this category (any reviews you post should also link to the post that convinced you give the book ago).
  5. Show it Who is Boss!
    Tackle that overflowing T.B.R. pile! Books for this category must be already residents of your bookshelves as of 1 December 2010.
  6. Bablefish.
    Read books that are translated from a language that is not your own.
  7. Will-Power? What Will-Power? (aka: The Henry Ward Beecher Memorial.)
    You know that quote Bart has in his blog-header… “Where is human nature so weak as in a bookstore?” Recognize yourself in it? Then this is the one for you! Bought a book NEW during 2011? Then it counts for this category. Second-hand books do not count for this one, but, for those on book-buying bans, books bought for you as gifts or won in a giveaway also count.
  8. Mind the Gap.
    Need just one more book to compete that duology/trilogy/series then read it for this one! (Obviously as this is for that final book you need to complete it, then you can’t read two books from the same series! And it clearly can’t be your first or penultimate read!) Because not everyone reads a series in order, this is for the last book you need to read, not necessarily the last book in the series…
  9. Back in the Day.
    Re-read an old favorite or two for this category.
  10. Way Back When.
    Read books that were published before you were born for this one, whether that be the day before or 100 years prior!
  11. Slim-Pickings
    Got a novella you want to read? Then this one is the one for you! Any books between 90-150 pages count.

I'm going to take a more serious run at challenges in 2011. So, I'm creating a special page to keep track of which challenges I decide to accept and how well (or poorly) I'm making progress toward their completion. Be sure to check periodically to see how I'm doing.

*Bad Bloggers is hosted by Chris of Stuff as Dreams are Made On.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Twenty-10 Challenge Results

At the end of the year, it's time to report on my progress toward the goals I set for Bart's Twenty-ten Challenge. Earlier posts with reviews and status can be found on May 8th's post and September 19th's post. Since September, these are the additional books which I'm counting toward this challenge:

Defending Angels by Mary Stanton In October, I read Defending Angels by Mary Stanton, which I'm counting in the Who Are You Again? category. I discovered this author and her series of books when I picked this book from a virtual book box based solely on the first page. The owner sent not only this book, but the next two in the series and I read them back-to-back in a reading frenzy known as Dewey's 24-hour Read-a-Thon

After taking over her uncle’s law practice in Savannah, Georgia, Brianna Winston-Beaufort (Bree for short) is looking forward to her first case. She's barely moved into her office when she finds a message from a businessman asking for her help. But when she returns his call, she discovers that he was already dead—murdered—at the time that the call was placed. Bree is soon to learn that in addition to solving his murder she's been appointed his advocate in the Celestial Court where her client's afterlife will be determined

This was a fascinating start to an excellent series, and when I went to the author's web site tonight, I discovered that the fourth in the series will be released in February 2011. You can bet that it will be very high on my To Be Purchased list.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen, was the first of two memoirs which I read for the Up to You! category. I picked the book up on a whim while browsing at Barnes & Noble. The blurb on the back cover looked interesting—“A hilarious and moving memoir in the spirit of Anne Lamott and Nora Ephron about a woman who returns home to her close-knit Mennonite family after a personal crisis.”—and I was on the lookout for a memoir to read for this challenge and to share in a Non-Fiction swap at BookObsessed.

Unfortunately, it was not as good as had been promised. Halfway through this book I wondered if I was reading a memoir or the author's stand-up comedy routine. She may have intended to use humor to tell a painful story, but at times it came across as mean-spirited and poking fun at others—in this case her parents' Mennonite community and her mother in particular.

Not Now, Voyager by Lynne Sharon Schwartz I discovered Not Now, Voyager when browsing online back in May, which I detailed in my Friday Finds post on May 14. The publisher describes the book saying, “Not Now, Voyager takes us on a voyage of self-discovery as the author traces how travel has shaped her sensibilities from childhood through adulthood.”

Reading the book, I decided that it was definitely more of a memoir than a travelogue. (Which is a shame since I was offering it in an Armchair Travel Swap at BookObsessed.) Schwartz introduces herself stating that she hates to travel and then proceeds to illustrate that with scenes from various trips. It was an interesting read, but not quite what I expected for a book about travel. I guess you'd say this was a book about not traveling. So, I've included Not Now, Voyager by Lynne Sharon Schwartz as my second book in the Up to You! category.

And here's my final status: 12 out of 20 books; 6 out of 10 categories.

The Categories

  1. Young Adult
    1. What was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn
    2. The Great Good Thing by Roderick Townley
    Category completed. See May 8th's post for short reviews of these two books.
  2. T.B.R.
    1. She's No Faerie Princess by Christine Warren
    2. Mystery Loves Company by Kate Morgan
    Category completed, and I posted a quick description of each of these books on May 8th.
  3. Shiny & New
    1. Swimming Without a Net by MaryJanice Davidson
    2. Vampire Sunrise by Carole Nelson Douglas
    Another category completed and some information about the books posted in the May 8th post.
  4. Bad Bloggers***
    This category was to include books that I had read about on another Blogger's site and was so motivated to read that I just had to go out and get the book. But, I was so busy trying to keep up with my book swapping at BookObsessed that I didn't find time to pursue this category.
  5. Charity
    I bought a lot of books at local used book stores—Half-Priced Books and Records (several locations in the DFW Metroplex) and Recycled Books, Records, and CDs in Denton. But, I didn't buy any books at charity shops. I did browse through the books at Goodwill in Denton, but they had very few books, unlike the charity shops I have previously visited in England and Ireland. So, I bought and read no books from charity shops in 2010.
  6. New in 2010
    1. The Mage in Black by Jaye Wells
    2. Hell Fire by Ann Aguirre
    This category is now completed. I reviewed The Mage in Black in May 8th's post and my review of Hell Fire is on September 19th's.
  7. Older Than You
    Oh my! I started this challenge with every intention of reading several classics—most of which were published before I was born—and I didn't read a single one.
  8. Win! Win!
    I had intended to read two novels by Anthony Trollope to meet this category since I had signed up for the Trollope challenge. Unfortunately, I did not finish reading these books. In fact, I'm only 1/4 of the way into The Warden, first in Trollope's Barsetshire Chronicles.
  9. Who Are You Again?
    1. Enchanted, Inc. Shanna Swendson
    2. Defending Angels by Mary Stanton
    See my review of Enchanted, Inc. in the September 19th entry and a quick review of Defending Angels at the top of this post.
  10. Up to You!
    1. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen
    2. Not Now, Voyager by Lynne Sharon Schwartz
    This category—in which I chose to read two memoirs— is completed. See reviews of both books at the top of this post.