Wrapping Up My 2012 Challenges

Wow … I still can’t believe that we are just a few short days from 2013! And I haven’t done anything in regards to my yearly reading statistics/favorites/new challenges/old challenges, etc. Ugh. There’s just not enough time in the day anymore. It never stops. Of course getting the flu earlier in the week did not help one bit. Honestly, I may just only do a Top 10 reads this year – no one really needs to know all the other junk I always include – plus I don’t have the time or energy to sit down and calculate it all up like I have in the past.

But tonight I’m just going to do a quick one post wrap up of the 3 challenges I participated in this year. Unfortunately, I only successfully completed one of those challenges. But that’s okay – I had a lot of fun either way.

Here goes:

First up is The Eclectic Reader Challenge. I actually completed 75% of this challenge, and to be completely honest with you, the four genres that I was unable to finish (Literary Fiction/Fantasy/Horror/Classic) were the ones that I knew I would have trouble filling when I originally signed up. So I’m happy with how far I got.

Literary Fiction
Crime/Mystery Fiction – Drop Shot by Harlan Coben
Romantic Fiction – Immortal in Death by J.D. Robb
Historical Fiction – Jack 1939 by Francine Mathews
Young Adult – Betrayal by Gregg Olsen
Science Fiction – DiSemblance by Shanae Branham
Non Fiction – Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
Thriller /Suspense – The Venetian Betrayal by Steve Berry
Your favourite genre – Crime/Mystery Fiction: Damage by John Lescroart

Next up is the Mystery & Suspense Challenge. Let me be completely honest here – this is the easiest challenge in the world for me. Mystery and Suspense books are my absolute favorites. It makes up the majority of my reading. So it would be almost impossible for me to not complete this challenge. I originally signed up for 12 books, but I ended up reading 24 – very happy :)

  1. The Venetian Betrayal by Steve Berry
  2. Drop Shot by Harlan Coben
  3. Damage by John Lescroart
  4. Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow
  5. Don’t Scream by Wendy Corsi Stuab
  6. The Immortals by J.T. Ellison
  7. The Empty Chair by Jeffery Deaver
  8. Split Second by David Baldacci
  9. Stolen Prey by John Sandford
  10. The Pawn by Steven James
  11. Tick Tock by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge
  12. The Wrong Man by David Ellis
  13. Immortal in Death by J.D. Robb
  14. Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell
  15. Sly Fox by Judge Jeanine Pirro
  16. Blowback by Brad Thor
  17. DiSemblance by Shanae Branham
  18. The Lincoln Conspiracy by Timothy L. O’Brien
  19. Betrayal by Gregg Olsen
  20. Takedown by Brad Thor
  21. The Prophet by Ethan Cross
  22. Rules of Prey by John Sandford
  23. Father Night by Eric Van Lustbader
  24. The Intercept by Dick Wolf

And finally – Off the Shelf. *Sigh* I really am kind of disappointed with this one. I knew I was taking a big chance when I signed up for 30 books (having a baby definitely puts a damper on reading), but I was determined to clear off my shelves. Okay, so I managed 15 – that’s 50% of my goal. Not bad. But definitely not where I would have preferred to end the year.

  1. The Venetian Betrayal by Steve Berry
  2. Drop Shot by Harlan Coben
  3. Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow
  4. Don’t Scream by Wendy Corsi Staub
  5. The Immortals by J.T. Ellison
  6. Golden Buddha by Clive Cussler & Craig Dirgo
  7. The Empty Chair by Jeffery Deaver
  8. Split Second by David Baldacci
  9. Under Cover of Daylight by James W. Hall
  10. The Pawn by Steven James
  11. Tick Tock by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge
  12. Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell
  13. Blowback by Brad Thor
  14. Takedown by Brad Thor
  15. Rules of Prey by John Sandford

So there you have it. There’s my quick wrap-up. I’ve already got my eye on some of the 2013 challenges. But I’m definitely going to try to control myself again this year. I hate setting myself up for disappointment. I’ve been considering not signing up for some of them, just trying to do them myself, without completely committing to them. But there are a couple out there that I am definitely signing up for – keep checking back for that info :)

2012.31 REVIEW – Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot
by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard

Copyright: 2012
Pages: 275
Rating: 5/5
Read: Nov. 24-Nov. 28, 2012
Challenge: Eclectic Reader Challenge 2012
Yearly count: 31
Format: E-Book
Source: Personal Copy

Blurb:Killing Kennedy

A riveting historical narrative of the shocking events surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the follow-up to mega-bestselling author Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln

More than a million readers have thrilled to Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln, the page-turning work of nonfiction about the shocking assassination that changed the course of American history. Now the anchor of The O’Reilly Factor recounts in gripping detail the brutal murder of John Fitzgerald Kennedy—and how a sequence of gunshots on a Dallas afternoon not only killed a beloved president but also sent the nation into the cataclysmic division of the Vietnam War and its culture-changing aftermath.

In January 1961, as the Cold War escalates, John F. Kennedy struggles to contain the growth of Communism while he learns the hardships, solitude, and temptations of what it means to be president of the United States. Along the way he acquires a number of formidable enemies, among them Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and Alan Dulles, director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  In addition, powerful elements of organized crime have begun to talk about targeting the president and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

In the midst of a 1963 campaign trip to Texas, Kennedy is gunned down by an erratic young drifter named Lee Harvey Oswald. The former Marine Corps sharpshooter escapes the scene, only to be caught and shot dead while in police custody.

The events leading up to the most notorious crime of the twentieth century are almost as shocking as the assassination itself. Killing Kennedy chronicles both the heroism and deceit of Camelot, bringing history to life in ways that will profoundly move the reader.  This may well be the most talked about book of the year.

Review: I just got a new Nook with Glowlight (for my long-time readers, you already know that I have a Nook Color – I will explain in a later post as to why I decided to get a different Nook) for Christmas. I picked it up at my local Books-a-Million on Saturday. I immediately brought it home and (impatiently) waited for it to fully charge. Then I was off and running and Killing Kennedy was the first book sample I downloaded to my new device. I read through the sample and immediately hit the “Buy” button. The beginning of it really grabbed me and hooked me in.

I have to just state that I am a huge JFK nut. Being a history major in college, I even wrote a paper on his assassination for one of my classes. Actually, it was for History of Journalism, and I compared the media coverage of Kennedy’s assassination to that of Lincoln’s assassination. The similarities are astounding, really. But that’s a little off-topic for this review.

I realized that I hadn’t read a single non-fiction book all year, and what better way to ease myself into one than this book. I found it to be an extremely fast-paced and exciting read. It definitely does not feel like you’re reading non-fiction at all. It reads more like a fiction novel to be completely honest – but that is partially because just about everything revolving around JFK can seem like it can’t possibly be true.

But since many of the events recounted in this book are so fantastic and also so horrific, and because so many of the details are rather intimate, it’s important to remind the reader that Killing Kennedy is completely a work of nonfiction. It’s all true. (pg. 258)

This book leads you up to the assassination. It starts with Kennedy’s inauguration, but then it goes back and touches on his time on PT-109 (something that I’m not very familiar with). Then it goes through all the big events in his presidency (Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, Civil Rights) until it hits the assassination. And you learn a little about Lee Harvey Oswald and what he’s doing during these same time periods. It’s a very well laid out book and presented perfectly for everyone, whether you be a JFK expert or just a casual reader.

Obviously this is a book where the ending is very well-known. But it didn’t stop me from wanting more and more. I absolutely did not want to put this book down. I seemed to be constantly reading (something that hasn’t happened to me in quite some time).

In the backseat of the Lincoln, Jackie Kennedy holds her husband’s head and quietly sobs. “He’s dead. They’ve killed him. Oh Jack, oh Jack. I love you.” (pg. 231)

I would definitely highly recommend this book and I can’t wait to get to the other book, Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever – I already have the sample downloaded to my Nook :)

2012.22 REVIEW – DiSemblance by Shanae Branham



by Shanae Branham

Copyright: 2012
Pages: 369
Read: Sept. 4-8, 2012
Challenge: The Eclectic Reader 2012, Mystery & Suspense 2012
Yearly count: 22
Format: Print
Source: Review copy provided by author

Blurb: As a computer prodigy, Jason has spent his life with limited social contact due to his father’s secretive work on a hologram machine that can create digital immortality. When his father is murdered and framed as the Comfort Killer, Jason is targeted as the killer’s new fall guy. Having spent much of his youth living in the virtual world his father created, he must now go on the run if he is going to save himself, his brother, and the beautiful girl next door.

Review: I was contacted directly by the author to review this book.

My faithful readers know that I don’t read a lot of young adult books. But when I was pitched this book, something about it really caught my attention.

I finished this book this morning. And I’ve been sitting on it trying to figure out how to best review it. Let me start with this: nothing is as it seems in this book. There were times where I couldn’t even tell what was real life and what was happening in the machine.

There is truly so much that could be said about this book, but I want to be careful and not give too much away, because I think that it would be very easy to say too much about this particular book.

Generally, I  have a pretty low tolerance to unbelievable things. This pretty well explains why I usually dislike anything paranormal or science fiction. But for some reason this book didn’t bother me. And it should have; seriously, a hologram machine? Whatever the reason, it worked for me.

The characters were well developed. I especially liked how Bruce and Angela were at odds throughout the entire book. I personally felt as if that made things feel so much more believable. Jason and Isaac seemed to be your typical teenage brothers. And while the story really belonged to Jason, I felt as if Bruce was a truly great supporting character. His part in the story was integral to the whole book. I felt like he was really the hero in this book. Definitely an A+ for this book in terms of character development.  (I guess I should mention that character development is HUGE for me).

My one complaint is that there were a few minor typos. I’m just such a stickler for perfect grammar. But I’ve determined that just about every single book on the market has typos. It makes me have flashbacks to senior year in high school when I was feature editor of our school newspaper and I had to edit so many mistakes out of every article that crossed my desk! But in reality, I only noticed two typos, not bad in a 300+ page book.

So what does all this rambling have to do with my thoughts on this book? I liked it. A lot, actually. I found it fast paced and engrossing. I would start reading and realize that I had flown through 50 pages before I realized it. I’m definitely glad that Ms. Branham stumbled across my blog and sent me her pitch, I would never have found this book otherwise. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good read. It’s not just for the young adult crowd or the science fiction crowd. It’s definitely a book that will appeal to a wide variety of readers and I highly recommend it.


2012.16 REVIEW – Jack 1939 by Francine Mathews

Jack 1939
by Francine Mathews

Copyright: 2012
Pages: 358
Rating: 4/5
Read: June 19 – June 26, 2012
Challenge: Eclectic Reader Challenge
Yearly Count: 16
Format: Print
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewer Program

Blurb: It’s the spring of 1939, and the prospect of war in Europe looms large. The United States has no intelligence service. In Washington, D.C., President Franklin Roosevelt may run for an unprecedented third term and needs someone he can trust to find out what the Nazis are up to. His choice: John F. Kenedy.

It’s a surprising selection. At twenty-two, Jack Kennedy is the attractive but unpromising second son of Joseph P. Kennedy, Roosevelt’s ambassador to Britain (and occasional political adversary). When Jack decides to travel through Europe to gather research for his Harvard senior thesis, Roosevelt takes the opportunity to use him as his personal spy. The president’s goal: to stop the flow of German money that has been flooding the United States to buy the 1940 election – an election that Adolf Hitler intends for Roosevelt to lose.

Review: I received a copy of this book through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer Program.

I was immediatley intrigued by the description of this book when I first saw it on LibraryThing’s website. I am a JFK junkie; anything with John F. Kennedy even remotely mentioned will immediately draw me in. So I was definitely more than thrilled to learn that I had managed to snag a review copy.

I will say that historical fiction is not my usual genre. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, because for the most part I do, it’s just not something that I read a lot of (which is funny, I was a history major in college, so you would think that I woud read more historical fiction just because of that). And while this is historical fiction, I use that term loosely, because when I think of historical fiction, to be completely honest, I think a lot farther back than 1939. But that’s a discussion for another time :)

Okay, so on to the nitty gritty about this book. I enjoyed it. I was sucked in immediately, pretty much from the first page. I was very pleased with how Ms. Mathews portrayed JFK. He was a Kennedy – so he was charming, smart, funny, well-traveled, etc. But she also portrayed him as somewhat of a romantic. And she didn’t hide his illnesses either – something that he seemed to work very hard at hiding throughout his public life. I think she was really able to get to the gist of who JFK really was.

The story line was very interesting. I never realized there was no intelligence agency back then. I guess I thought the CIA had been around longer than it obviously has. So I found it quite interesting when the President of the United States recruited his own “spies.” It was also quite eye-opening to realize that Roosevelt was in the precarious situation of not being able to trust certain people around him. That would be extremely hard for the President to have to deal with. And J. Edgar Hoover – well we all know just how difficult he was.

My only complaint with the entire book comes with an issue I had near the end of the book. At this point Jack is hopping from place to place all over Europe. And I had trouble keeping track of where he was and where he was going. It might have had more to do with the fact that I was trying to read and take care of my 4 week old son than the book itself though. :)

Overall, I would highly recommend this book. I think that it will appeal to a variety of readers – historical fiction lovers, mystery lovers, spy/intrigue lovers, there’s even some romance. It definitely appealed to my obsession with anything JFK.

Bottom line: Enjoyable read, highly recommendable.

2012.15 REVIEW – Immortal in Death by J.D. Robb

Immortal in Death
by J.D. Robb

Copyright: 1996
Pages: 320
Rating: 4/5
Read: June 8 – June 19, 2012
Challenge: Eclectic Reader Challenge; Mystery & Suspense 2012
Yearly Count: 15
Format: E-Book
Source: Library

Blurb: It is 2058, New York City. Lieutenant Eve Dallas uncovers a world where technology can create beauty and youth, but passion and greed can destroy them.

She was one of the most sought-after women in the world. A top model who would stop at nothing to get what she wanted -even another woman’s man. And now she’s dead, the victim of a brutal murder.

Police lieutenant Eve Dallas puts her life on the line to take the case when suspicion falls on her best friend, the other woman in the fatal love triangle. Beneath the facade of glamor, Eve finds that the world of high fashion thrives on an all-consuming obsession with youth and fame-one that leads her from the lights of the runway to the dark underworld of New York City, where drugs can fulfill any desire, for a price

Review: It has been forever since I read the first two books in this series. I recall being less than thrilled with the second one, which is probably why I never got around to the third one. Most of my problem stems from the fact that these books are set so far in the future (2058) that I have a hard time getting past all the futuristic parts involved. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

To be completely honest, because of that big gap in between reading book 2 and book 3, I was a little more than lost when it came to the characters and any previous development/interaction. But overall that doesn’t really take away too much from this book. While it is obviously a series, I wouldn’t necessarily say that it stands well as a stand-alone, but it definitely wasn’t too hard to follow in my opinion.

The storyline in this installment was very good. I was just as stumped as Eve was about who the killer was until it was revealed at the end. And honestly, it was a surprise for me – something that doesn’t necessarily happen every time, but something that I really like in a book.

To be completely honest, this book was a great distraction for me. It was an easy read. I read the majority of this book on my iPhone during Garrett’s middle of the night feedings. I’m going to have to fire up my Nook in the future, because the iPhone screen is not the easiest thing to read a book on! (Or I could just wait until I get my iPad next month for my birthday!!)

So what’s the bottom line here? It was a good book, provided me with some great distraction when I needed it most and I’m really looking forward to reading the next book in the series (I already put myself on the waiting list for the e-book through my library).

2012.3 REVIEW – Damage by John Lescroart

by John  Lescroart

Copyright: 2011
Pages: 445
Rating: 4/5
Read: Jan. 16 – Jan. 29, 2012
Challenge: The Eclectic Reader 2012; Mystery & Suspense 2012
Yearly Count: 3
Format: Print
Source: Personal Copy

Blurb: The Curtlees are a powerful force in San Francisco, unscrupulous billionaires who’ve lined every pocket in the Bay Area in pursuit of their own ascent. So when the family’s heir, Ro Curtlee, was convicted of the rape and murder of a servant girl in the family home, the fallout against those responsible was swift and uncompromising. The jury foreman was fired from his job and blacklisted. The lead prosecutor was pushed off a career fast track. And head homicide detective Abe Glitsky was reassigned to the police department’s payroll office.

Then Ro’s lawyers win him a retrial, and he’s released. Within twenty-four hours, a fire kills the original trial’s star witness, and her abused remains are discovered in the ashes. When a second fire claims another participant in the case, Abe is convinced that Ro is out for revenge. But with no hard evidence and an on-the-take media eager to vilify any challenger, Abe finds himself in the crosshairs, wondering how much more he can sacrifice in the name of justice.

Review: So my grandmother gave me this book a couple of weeks ago with a glowing recommendation to read it as soon as I possibly could. Since 99% of the time we always agree on books, I jumped right into this one. I want to make it perfectly clear that while it took me what felt like forever to read this book, it had absolutely nothing to do with the book itself. It’s the fact that I’m not reading as much or as fast as I once was. That being said, seriously: read this book.

Having read a couple of Mr. Lescroart’s earlier Dismas Hardy novels, and one of the earlier Abe Glitsky books, I was a little familiar with most of the main characters in this book. And although I read it out of series order (something that I hate doing), I feel as if this could read perfectly fine as a stand-alone for anyone who is unfamiliar with Lescroart’s work.
The Curtlees were definitely some interesting characters. They actually reminded me a little bit of the people who were from the richest family in my hometown. And when I say rich, I mean super duper rich – private airplanes, trips to Paris to go shopping, vacation homes all over the country – you get the idea. And while the abovementioned family from my hometown may not be as devious as the Curtlees, they sure do own most of the town and most of the people in it. So I could relate a little bit to what the people involved in the investigation felt like when they were getting squeezed by the Curtlees to make sure that everything went their way.
I must say that the ending was surprising, but not completely out of left field for me. I had kind of a feeling as to where Glitsky was headed in his investigation into one of the murders. It was actually a really cool twist, if you want my opinion. And almost the perfect crime.
Overall, I would highly recommend this novel 100%. I thoroughly enjoyed it. As always, Mr. Lescroart has definitely written another winner in my opinion.

2012.2 REVIEW – Drop Shot by Harlan Coben

Drop Shot
by Harlan Coben

Copyright: 1996
Pages: 341
Rating: 4/5
Read: Jan. 8 – Jan. 15, 2012
Challenge: The Eclectic Reader 2012; Mystery & Suspense 2012; Off the Shelf 2012
Yearly Count: 2
Format: Print
Source: Personal Copy

Blurb: A young woman is shot in cold blood, her lifeless body dumped outside the stadium at the height of the US Open. Once her tennis career had skyrocketed. Now the headlines are being made by another young player form the wrong side of the tracks.

When Myron Bolitar investigates the killing he uncovers a connection between the two players and a six-year-old murder at an exclusive club. Suddenly Myron is in over his head. And with a dirty senator, a jealous mother, and the mob all drawn into the case, he finds himself playing the most dangerous game of all…

Review: So this is the second in the Myron Bolitar series. I read the first one (Deal Breaker) a long time ago. (And please excuse my terrible review, which was before I got very detailed in my reviews). I wasn’t too impressed, so naturally I wasn’t in very much of a hurry to get around to the second book. For whatever reason, I decided to give this series another shot. I’m glad I did. To be completely honest, having that big of a gap (3 years) in between reading the two books, I was a little lost. I didn’t remember the supporting characters. I didn’t remember some things that were mentioned. But that was okay for me; it didn’t hurt my opinion of the book at all.

What I continually kept asking myself while reading this book was this: was the first book this funny? I mean, I’m talking laugh out loud funny at times. Other times it was cheesy funny. But in all seriousness, I don’t recall Myron being humorous. I would assume that he was funny in the first book, that’s not something that is likely to change in a character; I just don’t remember that aspect of Myron’s character. Either way, I enjoyed the humor.

The big ah-ha moment came at a perfect time in my opinion. I hadn’t figured out what was really going on before the big reveal. That’s exactly how I like my books to be, I don’t want to figure it all out way too early and then have to finish the rest of the book. And to be completely honest, the person who ended up being the killer made perfect sense when I sat down and really thought about some of the clues left throughout the book.

Overall, I would recommend this book. I found it to be funny and enjoyable. And while I would recommend reading any series in order, this book stands relatively well on its own.