Weekend Update – The 2015 Reading Challenges and Events Edition

Posted by on Dec 21, 2014 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

I’m still winding down a couple of reading challenges for this year and since the year isn’t over I’m not calling either one of them done yet.

That doesn’t stop me from planning for and looking forward to some 2015 challenges and events.

First up is the next Bout of Books!! January 5th through January 11th

Bout of Books

I’ve been a big fan of this reading event ever since the first time I participated. Three times a year Bout of Books asks participants to devote more time than normal to reading. How can that not be a great thing??

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 5th and runs through Sunday, January 11th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 12 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

I love that it’s a low key read-a-thon and look forward to saying ‘not this week, I’m getting extra reading time instead’.

FYI Bout of Books will happen again May 11-17 and August 17-23 so mark your calendars and join in!

Next is my favorite Reading Challenge and the one I have done every year since it first started.

The Eighth Annual What’s in a Name Challenge

Charlie at The Worm Hole hosts this one.

For the What’s in a Name Challenge participants are asked to read books whose titles fit a selection of categories. It’s not a huge commitment and I usually manage to check off most of the categories randomly without even trying. There are usually a couple of categories that I end up needing to actively search for a book but that’s always a fun search and I’ve found some real gems along the way. It’s how I ended up reading The Scent of Rain and Lighting this year for a weather term.

The 2015 categories are as follows:

The basics
The challenge runs from January to December. During this time you choose a book to read from each of the following categories (examples of books you could choose are in brackets):

  • A word including ‘ing’ in it (The Time Of Singing, Dancing To The Flute, Lex Trent Fighting With Fire) My examples are verbs but you can of course use other words.
  • A colour (The Red Queen, White Truffles In Winter, On Gold Mountain)
  • A familial relation (Daughter Of Smoke And Bone, Dombey And Son, My Cousin Rachel) By all means include in-laws, step, and halves.
  • A body of water (The River Of No Return, Black Lake, Beside The Sea)
  • A city (Barcelona Shadows, Shanghai Girls, Under The Tripoli Sky)
  • An animal (Black Swan Rising, The Leopard Unleashed, The Horse And His Boy)

Remember the titles I’ve given here are only examples, you can by all means use them if you want to but it’s not necessary. There are plenty of other books that will fit the categories and you may have some in mind already or even some on your shelves you can read.

For more details check out the sign up post at The Worm Hole.

Finally I’m checking off a bucket list item in 2015. I have never attended any type of book conference or destination event. One annual event that has always sounded perfect for me is the Left Coast Crime Annual Mystery Convention held somewhere in the western US. In 2015 the convention will be here in Portland. I pretty much have to go, right?


They’re calling the 2015 event Crimelandia which for those of us who are fans of the show Portlandia is just about perfect. Two of the guest of honor are two of my favorite mystery thriller writers, Chelsea Cain and Timothy Hallinan.

The event will be March 12-15 and I’m getting just a bit giddy with excitement. You needed an excuse to visit Portland, didn’t you? Check out the Crimelandia website and join me!

Do you have any big book related challenges or events in your 2015 plans??

Hope you’re having a great weekend!

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Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

Posted by on Dec 19, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 comment

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

Genre: Horror, Suspense
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 247
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Employees in an IKEA like store stay overnight to find out what’s causing the strange happenings and chaos ensues.

Why I Read It:
Swapna at S. Krishna’s Books mentioned it on twitter and after reading the book description I had to give it a try.

The Book:
From the publisher:

Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Columbus, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring wardrobes, shattered Brooka glassware, and vandalized Liripip sofa beds—clearly, someone or something is up to no good. To unravel the mystery, five young employees volunteer for a long dusk-till-dawn shift—and they encounter horrors that defy imagination. Along the way, author Grady Hendrix infuses sly social commentary on the nature of work in the new twenty-first century economy.
A traditional haunted house story in a contemporary setting (and full of current fears), Horrorstör comes conveniently packaged in the form of a retail catalog, complete with illustrations of ready-to-assemble furniture and other, more sinister accessories. We promise you’ve never seen anything quite like it!

My Thoughts:
Part of the reason a horror story set in an IKEA knock off store appealed to me was because I’ve been to IKEA twice and both times felt relieved to have escaped with my sanity intact. The disorienting layout and sensory overload of the displays, not to mention the crowds are just torture as far as I’m concerned.

So a horror story set in this type of environment? Totally plausible to me.

The fun part is that the book cover at first glance looks like an IKEA catalog. Inside chapter breaks are descriptions of merchandise that are initially innocuous but grow more and more disturbing as the story progresses.

It’s not a slasher type or blood and guts horror story, It more of a haunted house on a big box scale. There is plenty of humor along the way but it’s definitely a horror story.

It’s a little different. It’s a little creepy. It’s actually a lot of fun. Get the book – the IKEA catalog comparison just cannot come through in an ebook or audio version.

3.5 stars Rating 3.5/5

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Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Posted by on Dec 16, 2014 in 2014, 3.5 stars, Book Review | 4 comments

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resiliance and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 457
Source: Loan from my sister-in-law

The Short Version:
A story that would be completely unbelievable if it was fiction is the best way to describe the life of Louis Zamperini.

Why I Read It:
Everyone I knew was loving this book 4 years ago and I’ve had my sister-in-law’s copy on my shelf for almost that long. It was high time I finally read it.

The Book:
From the publisher:

In boyhood, Louis Zamperini was an incorrigible delinquent. As a teenager, he channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when World War II began, the athlete became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to a doomed flight on a May afternoon in 1943. When his Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean, against all odds, Zamperini survived, adrift on a foundering life raft. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

My Thoughts:
This is one of those books I had on my shelf (on loan from my sister-in-law) that I purposely avoided for a long time. Initially it was because everyone seemed to be reading and recommending it. When that happens I tend to avoid the book because my expectations are so high that I always feel like I’m setting myself up for disappointment.

I finally started it as part of my unofficial Non-Fiction November and then started seeing ads and trailers for the upcoming movie version. I’m really glad I read it before the movie came out.

Louis Zamperini’s story is an amazing one. It’s actually several stories.

His transformation from wild kid to Olympic athlete is one. A wild child headed for trouble, he almost accidentally found his talent as a runner. That he made it into the record books and to the 1936 Olympics is a triumph in itself.

World War II changed his path. When his plane crashed he and two other crew members were the only survivors. To survive 47 days floating in the ocean with no food or water is an amazing story. To follow that up with 2 years of the horrific conditions endured by Japanese prisoners of war is truly a story that would be unbelievable if it hadn’t actually happened.

Zamperini’s final story is his struggle with PTSD and alcohol abuse. His encounter with evangelist Billy Graham was a turning point.

In addition to these stories Hillenbrand takes several detours along the way to tell more about Zamperini’s crewmates, his family and even the sadistic prison camp guard.

Parts of this were extremely difficult to read. In particular the treatment of the POWs was horrific.

Hillenbrand clearly did massive amounts of research and Zamperini’s life is clearly a long and amazing one. I’m glad I finally read this book but it wasn’t one that I’d call excellent. There was a lot of information about a lot of people and even though this is primarily Zamperini’s story it felt rather distant and removed. It full of facts and details but even when the details were about Louie it felt disengaged.

So while I think it was an amazing story, I don’t necessarily think it was an amazing book.

3.5 stars Rating 3.5/5

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? #13

Posted by on Dec 15, 2014 in Blogging/Reading, What Are You Reading? | 4 comments


This weekly reading roundup is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Finished this week:

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

I’m glad I waited to read it but also glad I read it before the movie hype started.

Started this week

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

This is a horror story that takes place in a IKEA like store and it’s a mix of humor, satire and horror. I’m enjoying it.

Herbie's Game by Timothy Hallinan

Herbie’s Game by Timothy Hallinan

This is the fourth book in the Junior Bender series. Junior is a professional burglar who also (and not always willingly) acts as a private investigator for the guys on the wrong side of the law. It’s a fun series and this one is good so far.

Currently listening to:

I’m taking a break from audiobooks to do some podcast listening. I’m almost caught up with Serial and will be ready for the final episode when it drops on Thursday.

Serial Podcast

Serial Podcast hosted by Sarah Koenig

Coming up next:

The Spirit of Steamboat by Craig Johnson

The Spirit of Steamboat by Craig Johnson. Narrated by George Guidall.

I usually find a Holiday themed short story collection to read or listen to in the last half of December. This year it’s this collection of Walt Longmire stories from Craig Johnson.

Posts from last week:

Texts From Jane Eyre

No Land’s Man

What are you reading?

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Weekend Update – The DVR Roulette Edition

Posted by on Dec 14, 2014 in Fun, Weekend Update | 2 comments

Pretty much the only thing we watch when it actually airs is sports. We record nearly everything we watch that’s not off of Netflix, Prime or On Demand. It’s partly because we can avoid commercials and partly because we can watch an hour long show in 45 minutes.

So what’s been on the rotation on our DVR lately?

Some shows we keep up with and watch within a day or so.


This latest season has been a good one. There were a couple of times this season when I thought I might have to break up with this show but they salvaged it. And Quinn!! I’m terrified that Carrie is going to get Quinn killed.


This one is filmed in Portland so it’s fun to see familiar locations. While the local connection is what got us started watching it I think we’d still be enjoying it. We love the creativity and characters. It’s a nice balance of drama, fantasy and humor.

tnt-the-librarians-the-series-posterThe Librarians

This is a new one that just started last week. It’s based on the premise that began in three TV movies starring Noah Wyle but the first two episodes that aired last Sunday really did a good job of resetting the story from the movies into a new beginning for the TV series. This one is starting out as just a whole lot of fun.

Most shows collect on the DVR. I obviously am not a fanatic about spoilers with these. Sometimes we’ll binge watch one so we can keep focused on the ongoing stories. We recently finished the final season of Boardwalk Empire that way. We might do the same with the current season of Agents of SHIELD so that we can catch up before the second half of the season starts.

Other shows we just watch when we get to them such as Modern Family, Blue Bloods, Hawaii Five-0 and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

There are a couple of shows we’re currently watching that we don’t record but watch off of On Demand or a streaming service.

The Affair is one we got sucked into because of the promos on Homeland. It’s been a fascinating story. Part of that is because of the way it’s told from different perspectives and part is because of the way the time shifts are doling out bits of the story slowly. I’m really curious to see how this first season wraps up now that it’s been approved for a second season.

VikingsThe Vikings from The History Channel is just excellent. I’d heard good things about it for a couple of years but we just started watching the first season a few months ago. I think we’re up so episode 8 of the first season so far.

Now that College Football season is in a bit of a break before the blitz of bowl games between Christmas and the playoffs we might actually get caught up with a few shows while they’re on their mid season breaks.

Or not

As for what upcoming shows I’m looking forward to . . that will have to wait until after the holidays.

Hope you’re having a great weekend!

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Audiobook – No Land’s Man by Aasif Mandvi

Posted by on Dec 11, 2014 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

No Land's Man by Aasif Mandvi

No Land’s Man by Aasif Mandvi

Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Audible (Print edition by Chronicle Books)
Publication Date: 2014
Length: 4 hours, 23 minutes
Read by: Aasif Mandvi
Source: Copy provided by the publisher

The Short Version:
Aasif Mandvi, an actor and comedian known for his work on The Daily Show, narrates his collection of humorous essays about his life.

Why I Read It:
While I rarely watch The Daily Show (because I’m sleeping) when I was offered this book for review I thought it sounded like it would be good.

The Book:
From the publisher:

If you’re an Indo-Muslim-British-American actor who has spent more time in bars than mosques over the past few decades, turns out it’s a little tough to explain who you are or where you are from. In No Land’s Man Aasif Mandvi explores this and other conundrums through stories about his family, ambition, desire, and culture that range from dealing with his brunch-obsessed father, to being a high-school-age Michael Jackson impersonator, to joining a Bible study group in order to seduce a nice Christian girl, to improbably becoming America’s favorite Muslim/Indian/Arab/Brown/Doctor correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

This is a book filled with passion, discovery, and humor. Mandvi hilariously and poignantly describes a journey that will resonate with anyone who has had to navigate his or her way in the murky space between lands. Or anyone who really loves brunch.

My Thoughts:
This was a thoroughly entertaining and fun audiobook with moments that really made me think in between the moments that had me laughing out loud.

Mandvi’s family left India when he was an infant. He grew up in Northern England and they moved to Florida when he was sixteen. He tells of being an immigrant in two countries and how he developed his passion for acting.

As I said there were moments that were very thought provoking such as

He was just a kid and he didn’t think much about it. It was baffling to me that he had not learned something that I had learned very early on: The world is a much easier, friendlier place when white people like you.

There are also many many moments that made me laugh.

In high school in Florida Mandvi was trying to discover where he fit and felt comfortable.

I found myself without an ally or a group that I could call my own in this new American petri dish. It was only a matter of time, therefore, before I got involved with the wrong crowd: The Actors.

When he was rehearsing his Michael Jackson lip syncing and dancing act for a school production his family didn’t quite understand.

Despite my poor display, my family was supportive. Even though my grandmother didn’t understand what it all meant, she would walk into my bedroom every day and sing “Billy Jesus, not my lawyer.

It’s a short book and the author does a pretty good job of narrating his own story. There were a few times where it felt like he was projecting as if he was on a theater stage rather than right next to a microphone but it was only in a few spots where the story he was telling was a bit frantic and tense.

All in all I really enjoyed this and if you’re looking for something fun to listen to I’d recommend this audiobook

4 stars  Rating 4/5 for the book

3.5 stars  Rating 3.5/5 for the narration

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