2013 Goal: Finish the #50BookPledge

Goal 1: #50BookPledge

Goal 1: #50BookPledge

So I know this is really late (like a whole month late) but I decided to go ahead and post my goals for 2013. A goal (or more if they’re related and I can cram them into one post) per entry.

Goal #1: Finish the #50BookPledge.

I’m not going to go in depth on what the #50BookPledge is all about (you can read about it in my #50bookpledge 2012 Master List). Basically, the #50BookPledge is a pledge to read 50 books before the year ends. It’s not a strict program where you have to read exactly 50 books. If you’re a quick reader and you can read a book a day, by all means do so. If 12 is all you can manage in a year, then go for it. The whole point is to make reading part of your life.

Apart from reading 50 books before the year ends, I also plan on giving short pseudo-reviews for the books I’ve read. Instead of having one entry per book though, I’m going to have them per month. I tried giving each book an entry last year but I wasn’t able to blog about the books after my 24th one. I found myself too busy. So, to make blogging about my #50BookPledge more manageable, I’ve decided to just have them grouped per month. Also, my pseudo-reviews will be shorter (kind of like quickie reviews) so that I don’t feel too pressured by my writing.

I’ll try to blog about the January books sometime in the coming week. I hope you’ll stick around for that. 🙂

Anyway, time for me to go. Until next time dear readers.

♥ Niece

PS. You can check out my 2013 #50BookPledge Bookshelf while I haven’t set up the master list here on my blog. 🙂

2012 Gratitude/Accomplishment List: #50BookPledge 2012 Completed!

“I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.”  (Psalms 86:12 NRSV)

“I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.” (Psalms 86:12 NRSV)

Since the year 2012 is ending in a few more days, I thought I’d make a few blog entries about the things I’m thankful for and the things I’m proud of for the year 2012. I think that counting the blessings you received during the year and the accomplishments you worked hard for is a good way to end the year; it helps us appreciate everything that happened to us during the year. Wouldn’t you agree? 🙂

I also think that it’s a good way to start the upcoming year. If we come into the new year with positive attitudes and open hearts, I know that the new year will turn out to be a great one for us. 🙂

50 Book Pledge 2012 Completed!

50 Book Pledge 2012 Completed!

To start off, I’m very proud to announce that I was able to complete my #50bookpledge for 2012! *round of applause*

Honestly, I was in danger of not being able to finish. The first reason was that I started the pledge late. I started around the 3rd week of January which meant I was already behind by 2 weeks. Still, I’m usually a pretty quick reader so I figured it wouldn’t be that difficult for me to catch up. I was able to catch up (and actually be ahead by 4 books) but then work suddenly piled up and I stopped reading books for 3 whole months. That’s 12 weeks to catch up on. I did read a bit of manga during that time but I didn’t include manga as part of the pledge.

When I was finally able to start reading books again, I resigned myself to the fact that I might not be able to finish the 50 books. I still wanted to continue the pledge, so I shortened my list to 25 books. I had no idea what came over me during that time though because in around 2 weeks, I was able to finish 12 books. That’s roughly a book a day. Which was awesome because it meant that instead of being behind by 8 books, I was able to be ahead by 8 books again in just 2 months time.

Unfortunately, work issues slowed my reading pace again. Thankfully, by the time December rolled around, I only had one more book to finish. It took me three weeks though to be able to finish the whole book. I think I read the last book once or twice per week and only a few chapters at a time so it was quite a slow read (at least for me).

Still, I was able to finish my #50bookpledge and that is really something to both be grateful for and to be proud of. I really love reading and it’s sad that I haven’t been reading as much the past few years. This exercise refuelled not only my passion for reading but also my love for writing. I’m so glad I decided to do this. 🙂

Anyway, that’s all for today. I’mma be going now as I still have work tomorrow morning.

Later dear readers! (^^)/~~

♥ Niece

#50BookPledge Book 24: The Selection by Kiera Cass

The Selection by Kiera Cass

The Selection by Kiera Cass

“…true love is usually the most inconvenient kind.”

– America Singer

I picked Kiera Cass’ The Selection as book 24 of my #50bookpledge. I discovered it through one of the fashion bloggers I follow, Crissey, who tweeted about the book. The Selection, according to most of the blurbs I read on the internet, is a cross between The Hunger Games and The Bachelor. Yes, it’s weird, which is why I wouldn’t use that to describe it. It does have elements taken from The Bachelor (basically the premise: girls competing for the heart of the bachelor) and from The Hunger Games (the caste system and having each caste in charge of a certain job) but I don’t think the book is simply a cross between the two.

Anyway, here is the synopsis of the book from GoodReads:

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself- and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

“But you should know that love can wear away under the stress of being married… Love doesn’t always survive under those circumstances.”

– Shalom Singer

Before I read the book, I read some of the reviews on GoodReads. Admittedly, it’s probably not good practice as I’d probably end up biased regarding how I see the book while reading it. And well, there were quite a number of “bad” reviews regarding the book. But, personally, I enjoyed reading the book. I had a lot of questions and concerns but, in my opinion, it wasn’t like the book was as terrible as Twilight (sorry Twilight fans but I really didn’t don’t like Twilight).

The plot was okay but it definitely could have been stronger. Too many questions and barely enough answers. I need more information on the universe of The Selection: the history of Illea (Why are history books not allowed in school?), the caste system, the rebels (What are the rebels after?). The book was also kind of lacking in imagery. I found it a bit difficult to imagine how everything looks. I’m not sure of the technology available to them or how a city looks like. These would’ve been helpful in creating a more vivid image of Illea in my mind.

I think Maxon is an okay character. He seems honest and sincere, and he’s charming and likable. The only downside to his character is that he comes across a bit Gary/Marty Stu-ish (the male version of a Mary Sue). Sometimes he comes across as too perfect, like his character doesn’t have any flaws. I’m still undecided on how I feel about Aspen. He seems like a good kid and that his heart is in the right place but… I don’t know. Something about him just doesn’t click with me. I like Maxon better.

America annoyed me at first. Since she’s the lead, I wanted to see more from her. Maybe because I had certain expectations from a “heroine”, I didn’t really like her during the first part of the book. I especially didn’t like her after that thing with Aspen. But as she spent time with Maxon, she slowly changed and that was when I started liking her. Hopefully, her character continues to grow in the next book. Of course, I don’t expect her to become like Katniss or Hermione or some of the other strong heroines from other books.

“No, I’m not choosing him or you. I’m choosing me.”

– America Singer

I read on Kiera Cass’ website that there’s going to (might?) be a TV mini-series of The Selection by The CW coming out sometime next year. Around the same time as the release of the second book of the series. I’m interested in watching that. Mostly because I like shows shown on The CW.

Anyway, time for me to go. Until next time dear readers! 🙂

♥ Niece

#50BookPledge Book 23: Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith

Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith

Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith

I think about how things could have been different, if I’d just walked away.

I read Lockdown, the first book of Alexander Gordon Smith’s Escape from Furnace series as book 23 of my #50bookpledge. The Escape from Furnace series is a five book series and is about a special prison for teenagers where unimaginable horrors await the main character. I actually found Lockdown by browsing the YA Dystopia Novels list on GoodReads. Why was I perusing that list? Well, I needed to add books to my #50bookpledge which weren’t romance-centric. The synopsis of this book intrigued me and I added it to my to-read list.

Here is the synopsis of the book from GoodReads:

Beneath heaven is hell… Beneath hell is Furnace!

Furnace Penitentiary: the world’s most secure prison for young offenders, buried a mile beneath the earth’s surface. Convicted of a murder he didn’t commit, sentenced to life without parole, “new fish” Alex Sawyer knows he has two choices: find a way out, or resign himself to a death behind bars, in the darkness at the bottom of the world. Except in Furnace, death is the least of his worries.

Soon Alex discovers that the prison is a place of pure evil, where inhuman creatures in gas masks stalk the corridors at night, where giants in black suits drag screaming inmates into the shadows, where deformed beasts can be heard howling from the blood-drenched tunnels below. And behind everything is the mysterious, all-powerful warden, a man as cruel and dangerous as the devil himself, whose unthinkable acts have consequences that stretch far beyond the walls of the prison.

Together with a bunch of inmates—some innocent kids who have been framed, others cold-blooded killers—Alex plans an escape. But as he starts to uncover the truth about Furnace’s deeper, darker purpose, Alex’s actions grow ever more dangerous, and he must risk everything to expose this nightmare that’s hidden from the eyes of the world.

For most, the idea of escape from Furnace was so unthinkable, so impossible, that they’d probably have dismissed it even if there was a hole in the wall and a staircase marked “To Freedom.”

This book is scary. Furnace is hell. I think that’s the only apt word to describe it. The warden with his soul-sucking eyes, the wheezers with gas masks sewn to their faces, the blacksuits which don’t seem human at all, the giant carnivorous hounds, everything about Furnace is scary. To think that teenagers are the ones locked up in Furnace, and not adults, makes it more nightmare-ish. What makes the Furnace-verse truly scary is that though this is an alternate universe, I can’t help thinking that this alternate universe is possible. Violence and crimes by children are not unheard of. What if someone somewhere in the world is creating “Furnace”?

Now, I know that the reason they put children in Furnace was because of the Summer of Slaughter but I can’t completely blame them for the killings. After all, if their parents, their guardians, society, raised the children properly, there probably wouldn’t have been a Summer of Slaughter. When I think of the characters inside Furnace, they seem like adults to me and not like children anymore. They have gangs inside the prison and there is a power struggle between those regardless of the fact that all of them are living the same nightmare. What kind of upbringing did they have for them to grow up like that?

Even though Alex and Zee and Donovan are technically criminals, I can’t help but root for them. All through out the book, I wanted them to escape. I really wished that they wouldn’t get taken in the middle of the night, they wouldn’t get attacked by the gangs, the blacksuits wouldn’t catch them; I hoped that regardless of all the evils in Furnace, they would be able to escape. It might be weird to root for criminals, but I wouldn’t wish for anyone to experience Furnace. Even adults.

 ♥

“When you’re locked up in here for life, you learn to welcome the little freedoms.”

– Donovan

On a random thought, I’ve always wondered if there were girls in Furnace. While reading, it felt like there were only boys there. Also, I’m still don’t get why the blacksuits frame children (who I know are not so innocent). Is Warden Cross building an army or are they using the children for some experiments? The latter is probable considering some of the things that happened in the book. Oh well, maybe my questions will be answered in the next book.

For those who’ve read the book and want to read a bit more into the story of Furnace, Alexander Gordon Smith’s mini-story The Night Children is available for reading online. It’s sort of a short prequel to the series where we are introduced to some of the evils that are in Furnace (such as Warden Cross and the wheezers).

Anyway, time for me to go. Until next time dear readers! 🙂

♥ Niece

#50BookPledge Book 22: Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart by Sarah MacLean

Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart by Sarah MacLean

Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart by Sarah MacLean

“It’s different for me because I now know what it is to have someone expect me to be more than what I am. Now I know what it is to want to be more.”

– Gabriel

I chose the third book of Sarah MacLean’s Love by Numbers series, Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart, as book 22 of my #50bookpledge. Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart is about Juliana Fiori, the half-sister of twin brothers Gabriel and Nicolas Ralston, and Simon Pearson, the Duke of Leighton. As I’ve mentioned in my pseudo-review of the second book in the series (book 18 of my #50bookpledge), I’m really quite excited to read this as I wanted to see if the author can endear me to Simon, who has been acting quite like an arse since the first book in the series.

As usual, here is the synopsis of the book from GoodReads:

She lives for passion

Bold, impulsive, and a magnet for trouble, Juliana Fiori is no simpering English miss. She refuses to play by society’s rules: she speaks her mind, cares nothing for the approval of the ton, and can throw a punch with remarkable accuracy. Her scandalous nature makes her a favorite subject of London’s most practiced gossips…and precisely the kind of woman the Duke of Leighton wants far far away from him.

He swears by reputation.

Scandal is the last thing Simon Pearson has room for in his well-ordered world. The Duke of Disdain is too focused on keeping his title untainted and his secrets unknown. But when he discovers Juliana hiding in his carriage late one evening–risking everything he holds dear–he swears to teach the reckless beauty a lesson in propriety.

She has other plans, however; she wants two weeks to prove that even an unflappable duke is not above passion.

Juliana had never had a chance with him.

And only now, as the truth coiled through her, did she realize how much she had wanted one.

I enjoyed reading this book, a bit more than the second one in the series (but still less than the first). The story is a bit lighter compared to “Ten Ways to be Adored” but that might be because there’s a bit more fun happening in this book. I liked Juliana’s free-spiritedness even though she’s a bit impulsive. I think it’s unfair that people judge her because of what her mother did (I think it’s unfair that people judge the Ralston siblings because of what their mother did). Yes, she probably inherited her free-spirited nature from her mother but you can’t, and shouldn’t conclude that a person will become that same person just because they share blood. For example, I doubt Juliana would abandon the person the person that she loves.

I’ve already admitted to disliking Simon, the Duke of Leighton, in the past book. And really, you can’t blame me for that. I think that what he did in “Ten Ways to be Adored” is unforgivable. So, naturally, I was already a bit biased in my judgment of him during the start of the book. But as I read on, I began to understand where he was coming from. All his life, he was taught not to cause a scandal. Scandal had no place in the Leighton dukedom and nothing was allowed that could besmirch the family name. It’s sad that Simon did not grow up in a loving environment. It’s a wonderful thing that he has Georgiana for a sister. Georgiana is such a strong lady to be able to deal with her situation and forgive Simon for what he did.

Juliana and Simon’s mothers, though seemingly complete opposites of one another, are the same. At least, for me. I really thank that they’re both selfish and manipulative. Juliana’s mother only cares about what makes her happy, regardless if she tramples on the hearts of those who love her, while Simon’s mother only cares about their family’s reputation, regardless of how their family’s choices affect her children. If they continue with that kind of attitude, they’ll find themselves alone in the world.

She was everything he had ever wanted. And he would do everything in his power to keep her in his world.

I want to read a story about Callie’s brother. He seems like a charming sort of fellow and I want to see what kind of heroine Sarah MacLean envisions him with. It would be really awesome if there was a story, even just a short one, about him. It’s always interesting to read about the side characters in the story.

Before I go, here’s a teaser video for the book that I found on Sarah MacLean’s website.

Until next time dear readers! 🙂

♥ Niece

#50BookPledge Book 21: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

“Secrets are more powerful when people know you’ve got them.”

– Mr. Sutton

For book 21 of my #50bookpledge, I decided to read E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (yes, that is quite a long title). I actually discovered this book through Reasoning with Vampires. I blogged about RwV before but if you’re not familiar with RwV, it’s a blog that is… “dedicated” to pointing out the flaws in the Twilight series. It’s usually about grammar and sentence structure and the proper use of punctuations, but the owner also points out character flaws and the writing in general. If you like Twilight, you might just want to stay clear of this blog. If you have neutral feelings about Twilight, RwV is still a good site to visit as you’ll learn a bit about grammar.

Anyway, going back, I discovered this book from RwV. One of the frequently asked questions on her blog is “Are there any good series or authors that you’d recommend to teens instead of Meyer?” Dana answered that by recommending The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. And it was her recommendation that sold me. Her answer intrigued me and I wanted to learn more about Frankie Landau-Banks who seemed such a smart and sassy lady (based on the passages that were included in her answer).

Here is the synopsis of the book from GoodReads:

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.
Her father’s “bunny rabbit.”
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Laundau-Banks.
No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer.
Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society.
Not when her ex boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew’s lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.

Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.

This is the story of how she got that way.

It can seem saner to give up — but then one goes insane from giving up.

First things first, I’ve got to say that I love the writer’s style. I can’t explain it well but the book was just so quirky and fun that I finished reading the book in half a day. I didn’t want to stop reading. I loved how they made the lessons being tackled in one of Frankie’s subject, the panopticon and secret societies, analogous to the events in the book. Let’s not forget about the concept of neglected positives (you’ll have to read about it to understand what it is). That was just genius. 😀

I totally love Frankie. I love that she’s unique and witty and intelligent. She knows what she wants and does what she can to get it. Yes, her means were underhanded and of a juvenile nature, but you have to admire her cunning. She wanted her boyfriend (and the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds) to acknowledge her worth and that’s a noble pursuit. I don’t think her pranks were a cry for attention; I think it was a way for her to show people that she wasn’t a child or just a pretty face. It was a way for her to prove that she was a force to be reckoned with. I hope that I can be as formidable as Frankie.

I know that the book isn’t meant to be a romance but I really wished that Frankie and Alpha got together in the end. Or at least shown an inkling of that happening in the future. I suppose it might be weird to want them to get together after all that happened in the book but I think that they’d be totally compatible. They have chemistry and I think that they’d understand each other. Although Alpha underestimated Frankie in the start, I think that in the end he somewhat admired what she did. Of course, that could just be me reading too much into things. Oh well, I still liked the ending.

It is better to be alone, she figures, than to be with someone who can’t see who you are. It is better to lead than to follow. It is better to speak up than stay silent. It is better to open doors than to shut them on people.

She will not be simple and sweet. She will not be what people tell her she should be.

For those who want a sneak peek of the book, the preview is available for viewing at E. Lockhart’s website. 🙂

Well, that’s all. Until next time dear readers. 🙂

♥ Niece

#50BookPledge Book 20: A Night Like This by Julia Quinn

A Night Like This by Julia Quinn

A Night Like This by Julia Quinn

He did not need to be her first, he realized. He simply needed to be her last.

Her only.

For the 20th book of my #50bookpledge, I read Julia Quinn’s A Night Like This. Julia Quinn is my favorite historical romance author. I love her for the fact that it was because of her that I got into historical romances in the first place. If not for her, I probably still wouldn’t be reading historical romances. So, when I learned that the second book of Julia Quinn’s Smythe-Smith series was coming out this year, I knew that it was going in my #50bookpledge reading list.

For those who are not familiar with Julia Quinn’s works, the Smythe-Smith are a family who hold the annual Smythe-Smith musical. It is a musical that is famous, not because the Smythe-Smith girls are gifted with musical prowess, but because of the opposite. They actually are really bad. But even though most people wouldn’t want to listen to music being massacred, the ton still attend the event. Since the first Bridgerton book, I’ve always been fascinated with the Smythe-Smith girls because I can’t imagine being forced to play in front of people, especially if I know I don’t have the talent for it. It made me really happy that Julia Quinn decided to write a series about the Smythe-Smiths.

Anyway, here is the synopsis of the book from GoodReads:

Anne Wynter’s job as governess to three highborn young ladies can be a challenge – in a single week she finds herself hiding in a closet full of tubas, playing an evil queen in a play and tending to the wounds of the oh-so-dashing Earl of Winstead. After years of dodging unwanted advances, he’s the first man who has truly tempted her, and it’s getting harder and harder to remind herself that a governess has no business flirting with a nobleman.

Daniel Smythe-Smith might be in mortal danger, but that’s not going to stop the young earl from falling in love. And when he spies a mysterious woman at his family’s annual musicale, he vows to pursue her. But Daniel has an enemy, one who has vowed to see him dead. And when Anne is thrown into peril, he will stop at nothing to ensure their happy ending . . .

Was this what love meant?

That another person’s pain cut more deeply than one’s own?

I quite liked Daniel and Anne’s story. They both had secrets which led to both of them into hiding. But in the end, they were both able to open up their hearts. It did take longer for Anne to be able to share her secret with Daniel but I was relieved when she finally did. There’s a difference being being stupid and being strong. Opening up yourself to others, letting them in, giving them an opportunity to hurt you, it takes a lot of strength. It’s never easy to let people in. But if you know that your life might be in danger, you have to overcome your fear of being hurt by others and trust them with your life. I think that if Anne trusted Daniel earlier in the story, they could’ve avoided a lot of complications (of course, that would’ve made for a short story).

I do understand why it was difficult for Anne to trust people. As I said, it’s not easy to open up your heart and open yourself up for judging. Especially after opening up your heart once and being betrayed because of it. I also get that the reason she’s so distant is because people tend to judge her because of  her appearance. She’s described as really beautiful and her stature in life is on par with the ton so there are men who expect her to act or be a certain way (obviously, in this case, like a loose woman). Who would want to call attention to themselves if men expect that from you? I’m happy Daniel was able to show her that not all men would hurt her and that there are men who would treat her like a lady. Because she is one, regardless of her occupation.

I hate George Chervil. He is a proud, proud, proud brat. He is not a man. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that the reason he wanted to hurt Anne was because his face got cut in the process of Anne defending herself against his advances. It was his stupid fault. What kind of man leads a girl on, letting her believe that he loves her but just uses her in the end? Men who see women purely as sexual objects should get castrated. George should be happy he just got a scar on his cheek. At least he didn’t die. It’s just a stupid scar. Vain, vain, vain brat.

“I can take care of the George Chervils of the world, as long as you can take care of me.”

– Daniel

For those who want a sneak peek of the story, the prologue and the first chapter are available for reading on Julia Quinn’s website. Apart from that, there’s also a few tidbits about the story which are quite fun to read, especially after you’ve read the book. I always enjoy going to authors’ websites to read their personal thoughts on the story that they wrote.

Well, that’s all for today. Time for me to go. Until next time dear readers. 🙂

♥ Niece