Dewey’s Readathon Updates: October 2014

by Erin on October 18, 2014

ReadathonWell I said I wasn’t planning to be up for the start of the Readathon, but here I am! (Though I have to say, I miss my leisurely east coast start time…)

Update #1: 5am PST

Kickoff Meme

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

Bay Area, California. *yawn*

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Oh goodness. They all look so good. Probably The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, read by David Pittu, which will keep me company through cleaning, cooking, a walk, and possibly a few other audiobook activities throughout the day. (I’m already three discs in and hooked!)

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

I will be making myself a big bowl of homemade popcorn at some point, I have no doubt. YUM.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

Ack, open-ended question! Um, I like to read…a lot, heh. Fiction of most stripes is my favorite, and I love audiobooks. I’m a knitter and a quilter once the weather gets cold. I live outside of San Francisco with my husband and my cat (who is wondering why I’m up so early!), though I grew up in Ohio.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

Well, for starters, I’m up on time! I liked what I did last time — didn’t push myself too hard, took a long walk with an audiobook in the middle of the day, got lots of good reading done. I wish I’d been a little more social, though, so maybe this time I’ll try to be around more.

Updates to follow, once I’ve…you know…had a chance to read something.

And with that, The Goldfinch and I are off to make a hearty Readathon morning breakfast. Happy reading!

Update #2: 6:15am PST

Breakfast is done (buckwheat pancakes with strawberries, a cup of tea, and The Goldfinch on audio), and now I’m settling in to work on Not Fade Away by Rebecca Alexander.

Mini-challenges:

  • Usually I wait a bit and do a couple of mini-challenges at once (or else I get no reading done), but this time I couldn’t resist jumping in. I did the Coffee or Tea? challenge over at Fig and Thistle! I’m #TeamCSLewis all the way on this one. Here I am with my first big mug of rooibos of the day:

Erin with a big mug of tea

Update #3: 9:25am PST

I’ve been reading pretty solidly, and now it’s time to clean the house (BOO). Thank goodness for audiobooks!

Stats:

  • Currently reading: I just finished Not Fade Away by Rebecca Alexander, which I’d started before today’s event. I think I’ll be moving on to Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar next.
  • Currently listening to: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. This one will last me through the Readathon and beyond (26 discs!), but it’s excellent.
  • Running total of pages read: 122
  • Running total of time spent reading: 2 hours, 37 minutes
  • Running total of time spent listening: 55 minutes

Mini-challenges:

  • First up: Shelfie! Here’s the “novels to keep” section of my shelves:

Three shelves of a bookcase

  • My Quotable Quotes selection from my galley of Not Fade Away by Rebecca Alexander:

“People tend to get so stuck in the unhappiness of their lives because at least it’s familiar, and they find comfort in the discomfort because at least it’s predictable and what they know. Breaking that cycle requires you to face your fears, to explore the unknown and to let yourself be afraid and vulnerable.”

  • Here’s Book Staging for Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar, which is about the sisters Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell:

"Vanessa and Her Sister" galley on top of a notebook and "A Writer's Diary"

Update #4: 1:15pm PST

Cleaning is done, lunch has been eaten, and I made good headway on The Goldfinch, which is enthralling. I’ll be switching gears for the next chunk, going back to reading.

Stats:

  • Currently reading: I’m about to start Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar.
  • Currently listening to: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  • Running total of pages read: 122
  • Running total of time spent reading: 2 hours, 37 minutes
  • Running total of time spent listening: 3 hours, 5 minutes

Mini-challenges:

  • For the Show It Off mini-challenge, I’ve got my signed galley of Fire by Kristin Cashore. This series is hands-down one of my very favorites. I have the other two books in hardcover, though…so of course, I have two copies of Fire: one hardcover and one signed galley!

Signed galley of Fire by Kristin Cashore

  • My <140-character cheer for they day: Read the day clear away! Nighttime, too — read on through! Feeling tired? Let’s get wired! Books galore, read some more! <insert pompom shaking here>

Update #5: 4:25pm PST

After a short nap and an hour or so with Vanessa and Her Sister, I’m about to head out for a nice long walk, The Goldfinch playing on my iPod. It’s a lovely sunny day, and I’m looking forward to being outside!

Stats:

  • Currently reading: Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar
  • Currently listening to: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  • Running total of pages read: 202
  • Running total of time spent reading: 4 hours, 34 minutes
  • Running total of time spent listening: 3 hours, 14 minutes

Mid-Event Survey:

1. What are you reading right now?

I’m about a hundred pages into Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar, about Virginia Woolf and her siblings.

2. How many books have you read so far?

I’ve only finished one, and it was one I’d started before the event: Not Fade Away by Rebecca Alexander. I’m definitely a slow reader!

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

Snacks. For some reason, I’ve been saving the stuff I’m looking forward to — popcorn and mug cakes and Brussels sprouts (yep, I know I’m a weirdo with that last one!) — for the second half.

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

No interruptions. I did clean, but I listened to an audiobook, so that counted as reading time. I also got super sleepy around 2pm, so I took a short nap. No sense in falling asleep every fourth word!

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

How quickly it’s going by! That always surprises me. The early morning hours stretch out so leisurely, and then suddenly the event is halfway over.

Mini-challenges:

  • I couldn’t resist doing the second half of the Beloved Books mini-challenge! Here are five of my absolute favorite kids’ books, mostly from my childhood. Can you name them?

Five kids' books with their titles covered up

Update #6: 7:15pm PST

Walk and a snack with The Goldfinch, and now I’m settling in to read again. I can feel the sleepiness hovering…another nap might be in order!

Stats:

  • Currently reading: Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar
  • Currently listening to: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  • Running total of pages read: 202
  • Running total of time spent reading: 4 hours, 34 minutes
  • Running total of time spent listening: 5 hours, 44 minutes

Mini-challenges:

  • I went with red, black, and white for my Color Cover mini-challenge. Some of my favorites, too!

Red, black, and white book covers in a square

Update #8: 10:30pm PST

Losing steam…which means my reading pace is getting even sloooower… At some point, I’ll switch back to audio and work on a quilting project. But I have a little more reading in me, I think!

Stats:

  • Currently reading: Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar
  • Currently listening to: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  • Running total of pages read: 296
  • Running total of time spent reading: 6 hours, 24 minutes
  • Running total of time spent listening: 6 hours, 19 minutes

Mini-challenges:

  • For the Pet Parade challenge, here’s my readathon buddy…totally conked out. At least she’s still keeping me company, sort of!

Cat sleeping next to a book

  • My Mad Lib comes from Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar:

I am hula-hooping in the postage-stamp garden behind this crumbly hotel drinking a margarita from a handle-less blue cracked bowl. John Travolta is painting on a bluff overlooking the harbour. I should be painting, or reading Dr. Seuss under a plane tree, but incriminatingly, I am doing our household accounts. They pass to the silliest woman in our family. Mother, Stella, and now me.

Update #9: 2:15am PST

I’ve been listening to The Goldfinch (thank goodness it’s so long!) and working on a quilt for the past chunk of time. I’ve pretty much switched to audio from now until I collapse in a sleeping heap, I think — too tired to process written words! This is waaaaay later than I’d planned to participate, though, so yay there. Three more hours to go…

Stats:

  • Currently reading: Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar
  • Currently listening to: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  • Running total of pages read: 331
  • Running total of time spent reading: 7 hours, 6 minutes
  • Running total of time spent listening: 8 hours, 49 minutes

Update #10: 3:15am PST

Aaaaaand I’m done. I could make myself stay up, quilting and listening for another two hours, but then I might not wake up in time to watch football. Tradeoffs! Such an awesome event — thank you to the organizers and cheerleaders and prize donors and hosts and all my fellow readers. You all rock, seriously!

Final Stats:

  • Reading: Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar
  • Listening to: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  • Total number of pages read: 331
  • Total of time spent reading: 7 hours, 6 minutes
  • Total of time spent listening: 9 hours, 39 minutes

Update #11: The Day After

End of Event Meme

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

Probably 2-3pm PST, actually, so…hour 10? I had to take a nap…couldn’t keep my eyes open.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

I found The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt on audio to be really engaging, and the reader is excellent. I listened more than I read this time around, I think in part because I was so absorbed in the story. And I was glad I didn’t have to keep finding new audiobooks — I had plenty of listening with The Goldfinch to last me through the event and beyond.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

Not off the top of my head. It’s an awesome event, and I’m so grateful to everyone who participates!

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

I know it’s not a new thing, but I love the hourly post format: a little text, a video or gif, a list of active mini-challenges, and door prize winners. The consistency makes it super easy to pop in, see what’s going on, and then jump back into reading.

5. How many books did you read?

I finished one that I’d started before the event and got through about two thirds of another. I also listened to half of The Goldfinch (which is 26 discs long!).

6. What were the names of the books you read?

Not Fade Away by Rebecca Alexander, Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar, and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, read by David Pittu

7. Which book did you enjoy most?

Honestly, they’re all excellent. I think this is the first readathon where I haven’t had a clear favorite or least favorite.

8. Which did you enjoy least?

See previous question!

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?

I wasn’t. I used to cheer every time, but lately I’ve just wanted to curl up on my couch and read the day away. But I so appreciate the wonderful cheerleaders!

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

Very, as long as my schedule works out. I love this event. I’ll probably just be a reader again next time. We’ll see.

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Sunday Salon: Readathon Excitement!

by Erin on October 12, 2014

The Sunday Salon (badge)How is it possible that Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon is happening this Saturday already? It caught me off guard, but still, I’m thrilled. The Readathon is one of my favorite events of the year.

The Plan

In April, I did a few things I plan to repeat this time around:

  • I have zero things scheduled for the day (other than reading, of course!). That means I’ll be reading or listening as much as I can, with a little socializing thrown in as needed.
  • I most likely won’t be up and reading at 5am. Last time was my first Readathon from the west coast, where start time is…well, three hours earlier than the leisurely 8am it was when I lived on the opposite side of the country! Getting a full night’s rest means I’m more alert throughout the day, which (I discovered last time) is a good thing.
  • I’ll use a single updates post that I’ll…uh…update (surprise!) throughout the event. That way no one gets bombarded by a million posts, and everything is together in one place. (Here’s last time’s updates post, if you’re curious.)
  • I’m keeping my book list short. I used to collect a whole pile of books so I’d have options. Last time, though, I had just a handful I really wanted to make progress on. I’m doing that again — see below!

I know plenty of people get special snacks and such for the day, but I never quite manage to think that far in advance. I do know, however, that I’ll be doing most of my reading from my favorite spot on the couch. It’s about as perfect for reading as it could be. I have a couple of quilting projects going as well, so I’m sure I’ll do plenty of listening.

The Books

I always make sure I have at least one audiobook (for walks, cleaning, cooking, etc.) and a few print books of various difficulties pre-selected. Here are my selections for this round:

My October 2014 Readathon Stack

  • Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar
  • Delancey by Molly Wizenberg
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (on my TBR Pile Challenge list… #11 of 12!)
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, read by David Pittu

I may also read one of the ebooks I’ve been accumulating on my tablet. I don’t love digital reading, especially for long periods of time, but…we’ll see.

The more I look at these picks, the more excited I am to dig in. All four of these intrigue me!

What about you?

Will you be participating in this Readathon? What do your plans for the day look like?

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The Martian Chronciles was recommended to me by a bookstore coworker several years ago, and it’s been sitting on my shelf ever since — a perfect candidate for the TBR Pile Challenge. I enjoyed Fahrenheit 451 when I listened to it a while back, so I was looking forward to wandering into Bradbury’s world again.

About the Book

"The Martian Chronicles" by Ray Bradbury (cover)The Martian Chronicles is structured as a collection of loosely related short stories. Their titles include a date, and they move chronologically, from January 1999 to October 2026. Together, they tell the story of how humans came to Mars, what they encountered when they landed, and what happened over the years that followed.

My Thoughts

I found The Martian Chronicles to be…interesting. Not in a “fascinating!!” sort of way, but with a bit of skepticism and reserve thrown in. “Interesting” preceded by a moment’s pause, the word you choose when you’re not entirely sure what other word would be more accurate.

There were certainly fascinating moments. Bradbury is an impressively creative writer, working in details that really make the story and coming up with little plot twists that create moments of surprise and even delight. My favorite story/chapter, one entitled “April 2000: The Third Expedition” that occurred early on in the book, had a particularly clever and chilling twist, as did my second favorite (“September 2005: The Martian”) a little later on.

I think it was the format that got to me. It felt much more like Bradbury had taken a bunch of Mars-related stories he’d written, figured out which order made the most sense, written a few short pieces to provide transitions, and then published it as a novel. That may, in fact, be what happened, as several of the longer stories included notes saying that they were originally published separately in the 1940s and 50s. There are a couple of characters that appear in two stories instead of just one, but the vast majority of characters, and even some of the world-related details, are isolated to their single, confined appearance.

At the very least, I wanted some kind of continuity when it came to Mars itself. But it seemed like sometimes there was water and sometimes there wasn’t; sometimes the Martians behaved in one particular way, and other times they were completely different. Was Bradbury trying to show that different parts of the planet were as diverse as Earth? I couldn’t tell. For me, it just made the collection feel disjointed, like the setting was tweaked between tales.

It’s an interesting book, as I said, and I’m glad I read it, but aside from a few of the stories, I don’t think it’ll stay with me, and I don’t plan to keep it on my shelf.

The Verdict: Mediocre

Bradbury is, as ever, a wonderfully creative author who surprises you and makes you think. I just wish The Martian Chronicles had been more novel than collection of stories.

Your Turn!

How do you feel about the interconnected-short-stories format? Does it work for you?

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I can’t remember where I heard about Sovay by Celia Rees, but when I saw the audiobook version at my library, the title jumped out at me as familiar, and I decided to give this YA novel a try.

About the Book

Thoughts on "Sovay" by Celia Rees (audiobook)Our first introduction to Sovay Middleton, the fiery daughter of an English aristocrat, is when she dons men’s clothing and sets out as a highwayman to stop the carriage in which her fiance is riding. There have been rumors that he’s been unfaithful, and Sovay is determined to test him. He wears a ring she gave him, one he swore he’d rather die than remove. And therein lies her test: Will he remove this token of her love when the mysterious highwayman demands it? Or will he die instead?

But errant fiances quickly become the least of Sovay’s worries. As the French Revolution rages on the continent, things in England are far from peaceful, and Sovay soon finds herself and those she holds dearest entangled in an invisible and dangerous web of suspicion and conspiracy. Not one to sit quietly at home and wring her hands, Sovay launches herself into the fray, determined to do what she can to help the people she loves.

My Thoughts

Sovay has about it the air of a legend or a fairytale, the kind of story where all the rough edges have been smoothed away and the narrator has her timing down perfectly from many retellings. Miraculous coincidences occur. Resolutions come easily. All the extraneous bits that make a story feel rich and real have been stripped away. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. It just made for a different kind of book, one I wasn’t expecting and don’t normally gravitate toward.

Sovay was almost too impetuous for me to like. She’s strong-willed, to put it mildly, and, for the most part, unafraid to the point of rashness. Because of these traits, she ends up in situations that a less hasty person (of either gender) would use common sense to avoid. There was little in her character to endear me to her, especially since I quickly realized she was untouchable and would get out of any scrape she got into relatively unharmed. Also? Every man who crosses paths with her falls for her, though she remains conveniently (and frustratingly) oblivious. Don’t go looking for a great love story here.

It was some of the more minor characters I really liked: Gabriel, the son of the Middletons’ steward; Virgil, an American whose work brought him to England; Captain Greenwood, one of Sovay’s highwayman peers; and Toby, a poor young orphan Sovay runs into (somewhat improbably) time and again in her London adventures. They, more than Sovay herself, kept me mildly engaged in the story…and prevented me from docking the novel another metaphorical star.

I wondered, as I listened, whether Sovay were based on some fragment of a true story. Several of the bigger incidents felt like the only way an author would choose to include them would be if they’d really happened, because otherwise no one would believe them. It turns out the very first scene, with Sovay as highwayman, was inspired by a traditional ballad that tells a similar story. The rest, however, is the author’s own creation.

Bianca Amato read the audiobook, and she was ok. Her narration style had a matronly air to it. As I listened, I could almost imagine a stately nanny reading the story aloud to her young charges in a warm, almost teacherly voice. The thing that really bothered me was the lack of accents — particularly for the American, though there were Irish and French characters who could’ve used a little flavor and differentiation, too. Everyone sounded British. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by too many stellar narrators, but it grated on me just a little when rough-and-tumble American Virgil perpetually sounded like a mild, genteel English gentleman.

The Verdict: Mediocre

Sovay was enough to keep me mildly entertained, which is why I didn’t quit partway through. But it didn’t make much of a lasting impression, and you won’t find me begging people to run out and read it ASAP. Not bad, per se, but not amazing, either.

Your Turn!

What books have you enjoyed that were sparked by a little-known scrap of history?

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I realize I’m late to the Rainbow Rowell fan club, having only just listened to Eleanor & Park this past spring. But I really enjoyed that one, so now I’m making my way through her others! Fangirl was available on audio from my library (without the waiting list Landline has), so I listened to it next.

About the Book:

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (audiobook cover)Cath and her identical twin sister, Wren, have been inseparable all their lives. They got each other through their mother leaving them in third grade. They kept their dad from losing himself to his manic tendencies. They even co-authored a bunch of fan fiction stories about Simon Snow, a Harry Potter-esque fantasy series that’s taken the world by storm.

But as they prepare to leave for college, Wren tells Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. More and more, she backs away from everything she and Cath have shared as she tries to find her own way through freshman year. Cath is left with an upperclassman roommate who hardly speaks to her, an irresistible preference for the world of fan fiction over the real world, and a stash of protein bars — which is good, because she doesn’t know where the dining hall is and doesn’t feel up to finding out.

The story unfolds from there, following Cath through her freshman year — through family emergencies and crushes and coursework and growing up. And a whole lot of Simon Snow, of course!

My Thoughts:

Goodness, I like the way Rainbow Rowell writes. Her stories could be so painfully cheesy, and yet in her hands, they’re perfect. If adult chick lit were like this, I’d read it. The characters, the dialogue, the narration that holds it all together — it all feels so real. The balance of heavy stuff and lighter bits is spot on. And the plot pacing, the rise and fall of the narrative, the events — nothing feels forced or contrived. All of which I find seriously impressive.

What I think added a whole extra dimension to Fangirl was the way it explored fiction. Each chapter starts with an excerpt from the “real” Simon Snow series or from one of Cath’s fan fic stories. There are times in the novel itself where Cath reads her stories out loud, and there are plenty of passages about what it’s like for her as she’s writing this parallel story that thousands of people are reading while they wait for the eighth and final installment in the official series to be released. On top of that, Cath has talked her way into an upper-level fiction writing course, and her work from that bleeds into the pages of Fangirl, too. Rowell even explores the relationship between fiction and fan fiction, just enough to make it interesting.

I know some people preferred Eleanor & Park to Fangirl, but I’m in the opposite camp. I felt like I “got” Cath more than I got Eleanor or Park, for some reason. And I liked that the narration stayed solidly with her instead of switching back and forth. The alternating approach certainly worked with Eleanor & Park, but with Fangirl, I liked following one character from start to finish. The supporting characters — Wren, Cath’s roommate Reagan, Professor Piper, the sisters’ dad — felt weightier in this one than in Eleanor & Park, which made the story feel more grounded somehow. The biggest thing that bothered me about Eleanor & Park — the ending — wasn’t an issue at all with Fangirl. I even preferred the romance in Fangirl to the one in Eleanor & Park, even though after reading the latter I’d probably have told you I couldn’t imagine anything better. Don’t get me wrong, though…I loved them both!

Rebecca Lowman, who narrated Fangirl as well as Eleanor’s half of Eleanor & Park, is magnificent once again. She’s perfect for these stories, with a gentle, warm, intimate, wonderfully expressive voice. She does guy characters without sounding weird, and her inflection throughout is just right. There are times when you can actually hear the smile coming through. Maxwell Caulfield reads the pre-chapter excerpts in a solid British accent, which fits nicely. I would definitely recommend the audiobook. It’s great!

Am I gushing? I think I’m gushing. I’ll stop now.

The Verdict: Excellent

Surprise! I loved this one. (Bet you didn’t see that coming!) It was one of those find-excuses-to-keep-listening, over-too-soon, wish-I-could-read-it-for-the-first-time-again books. I think I’m now solidly a Rainbow Rowell fan, and I’ve put myself on the list for Landline on audio at the library.

Your Turn!

Who’s the last author you binge-read (or listened to)?

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