Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon

I’ll be participating in the Dewey’s 24 Hr Readathon today, officially beginning at 8a my time and running for 24 hours. I don’t pretend I’m young enough to pull an all-nighter, but I’m thinking that this is a delightful treat after two weeks of overextending myself, and gives me the perfect excuse to do what I want (i.e. read with my feet up) ALL DAY LONG.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?  from my cozy living room in Oakwood, Ohio
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? I’ve chosen two to begin with: one fiction and one nonfiction (see below for details)
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? I’ve been so overextended the last two weeks that I gave zero thought to this part.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! Lifelong bookworm, living with lupus for 28 years now, was a CPA in a former life, now have 4.9 grandsons under the age of four.
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? I did participate once before and recruited friends to join me, but set expectations too high so this time I will simply be doing this for fun! And one of my friends will be joining me again.  🙂

I plan to read for at least 45 minutes out of each hour and use the other minutes to wiggle my toes, check in on the readathon and make a few posts here. I’m not going to set goals for how many books or pages I’ll read, but I am going to start off with two books I’ve been eager to read again.

I first read The Time Traveler’s Wifeback in 2005 and absolutely fell in love with the characters. Because the author resisted letting the book be published digitally (and particularly to kindle) for so long, I haven’t been able to read it since switching entirely to reading on my kindle. (So much easier on painful hands, etc.) A dear friend gifted me the book yesterday, and I can’t wait to dive in.

The nonfiction book I’ll be reaching for is Paul Theroux’s account of walking around England: The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around the Coast of Great Britain. This kind of travel diary is just my “cup of tea”. With these two books I should have a lot of fun ahead of me in this day of reading.

I plan to post my updates here on this post. Happy reading, all!

Hour 1: read 7% of The Time Traveler’s Wife (plus the beginning material including a new introduction by the author, which didn’t count toward my percentage read. At 416 pages that means I read only around 40 real pages in my 40-ish minutes of reading. Not very speedy.) To clear my head I got up and rescued the bread dough I’d made on Thursday and forgotten to bake yesterday. Oops! It’s now in the pans for a final rise and the oven is warming up. That means that during hour 3 I will smell fresh bread and get to feast on that through the day! Now it’s on to my nonfiction book for the next hour…

Hour 2: 12% into The Kingdom by the Sea, enjoying the hike. Bread dough isn’t rising very well; apparently 48 hours is too long to leave it, haha. I’ll give it another half hour then bake it and hope for the best.

Hours 3 – 4: It’s now hard to switch back and forth because when the timer hits I want to keep going in the book that I am. i”m also starting to lose a little bit of focus. (The bread turned out quite well and I’ve been using the few minute breaks per hour to fuss around the kitchen and get lunch started. So far that hasn’t cut into my reading time though obviously it got me behind here.)

I’m currently at 18% in Time Travelers Wife and 22% in my trip around the coast of Britain. Enjoying both very much!

Hours 5-6 I kept up my alternating pattern. Hour 7 I needed a nap. Since hour 8 it all blurs together and I’m not paying attention to breaks or anything. My eyes hurt, but mostly that lack of attention means I’ve stopped switching back and forth. I’ve read some in each book but now I’m stuck in Time Travelers Wife, and enjoying it. Perhaps I’ll switch again after the next time I get up and move around.

Currently at 42% in this one and 40% in my walk around Britain.===========

Mid-Event Survey:

1. What are you reading right now? I’m still alternating between The Time Traveler’s Wife (kindle says I have 3 hrs and 28 mins to finish the book) and The Kingdom By the Sea (2 hrs 25 mins left) and debating whether to push hard to finish one or the other of them or whether to continue going back and forth. Both are excellent.
2. How many books have you read so far? I began both the above books this morning and haven’t finished a complete book to this point.
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? Can’t decide. If I finish one, I’ll try and finish the other afterward.
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? Mostly for painful eyes or feeling sleepy. Twice I went for a brisk walk around the block, once down to Starbucks.
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? That it feels like something I should try far more often

The Time Traveler’s Wife 51%, The Kingdom by the Sea 43%

Well, at midnight my time, with eight hours still to go, I’m finally resorting to audiobooks… Listening to “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanigihara. Loving it so far but really wishing y eyes would jump up and say “we’re good for another eight concentrated hours!”

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Must take another nap, though this might last more than one hour. I will be lying still and listening to A Little Life. Looks like I might finish this readathon with about 800 pages. Not “good enough” but may be the best I can do.

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I was up again in time to go on with hour 20 of this readathon and have focused solely on The Time Traveler’s Wife because I could see I had time to finish it and it’s racing toward the conclusion. I haven’t taken the time to move around or post updates, but I’ve been reading and as of now my lovely kindle Voyage is saying I have 55 minutes of reading yet to go. What will I do when I’m done? Probably go crawl back into bed for an hour or two, and then I’ll want to finish up my other book.

I’ll come back and post a final update in an hour or so.=========

Which hour was most daunting for you? 11p which was hour 16 for me
Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? I can’t recommend The Time Traveler’s Wife highly enough. What a wonderful, satisfying read.
Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Encourage us to round  up some real life friends ahead of time and read in each other’s presence. I saw some people posting about doing just that and I think it would have helped me.
What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? This was the first time I’ve had cheerleaders show up and post to encourage me (it was a real disappointment last time when none did) and that was wonderful!
How many books did you read? One from start to finish, another start to more than half done, and part of an audiobook to which I was already listening.
What were the names of the books you read? The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Kingdom by the Sea: A Journey Around the Coast of Great Britain and A Little Life.

Which book did you enjoy most? The Time Traveler’s Wife
Which did you enjoy least? all are fantastic
If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? Remember how much help you are to someone who’s trying to keep going. Go back and answer any comments your readers have made. My cheerleaders were awesome!
How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?  100% likely to participate again, and I will plan as well as I can for reading but will also reach out and encourage others.

Finally tally: >716 pages (that many on kindle plus another couple of hours via audiobook). I didn’t read nearly as quickly as I used to and I’m not sure if that’s my new normal or if I spent too much time doing other things.

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Books-on-the-Nightstand Summer Bingo

I’m very late posting this, but once again I am participating in the challenge hosted at Books on the Nightstand, for their Summer Bingo Challenge which runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Each reader generates their own card and can tweak it if so desired (I edited the list of options only so far as eliminating the genres I simply “don’t do” such as Horror and Manga. I regrettably didn’t delete Romance, but I am going to make myself find something that can qualify and not make me gag.)

The rules state that you can consider it a WIN if you complete any row, as would be true in Bingo, but I”m going to make it my personal goal to fill in all 25 squares, and perhaps even go on to fill a 2nd card.

As I write this on July 16, I have completed 16 of my 25 squares. I suppose I shall just list my categories, and fill in the books I’ve read for them…

1) Published 100 years ago (i.e. 1915)

2) An academic/campus novel:  Disgrace, by J.M. Coetzee [6/22]

3) That was turned into a TV show or movie: The Longest Day: The Classic Epic of D-Dayby  Cornelius Ryan [6/9]

4) About a disease:

5) Poetry:

6) Reread something: A Rule Against Murder: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (A Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery Book 4)by Louise Penny fills the bill nicely [6/28]

7) That “everyone but you” has read

8) A library book: How to be bothby Monica Ali  [6/2]

9) A classic you should have read in school: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy  [5/27]

10) Set in a place you want to visit: The Rocksby Peter Nichols (set in Mallorca) [6/22]

11) With a one-word title: Outline by Rachel Cusk [5/27]

12) By a Canadian author: Still Life: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (A Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery Book 1)by Louise Penny (the first category I filled in during my re-read of this series) [6/22]

13)  “Free Square” I’m not sure if this counts as a Joker, and we can count any book, or if it’s just a gimme. If I hear an answer to that I’ll update this accordingly. I’ve certainly read a number that I could put in here if needed.

14) Revolves around a holiday: A Fatal Grace: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (A Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery Book 2)again by Louise Penny [6/26]

15) Recommended in a BOTNS episode: Dark Placesby Gillian Flynn [6/13]

16) With a place name in title: Howards Endby E.M. Forster [6/26]

17) Audiobook: The Paying Guestsby Sarah Waters [5/30]

18) YA novel:

19) The last published book by an author before they died:

20) Romance:

21) Re-read a favorite (yes, this is suspiciously like #6 above, but both categories were apparently in their database of suggestions): To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee [7/12]

22) Part of a series: Finders Keepersby Stephen King [6/6]

23) About books/bookstores/publishing:

24) An author debut: The Beesby Laline Paull [5/24]

25) With food as theme:


Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction 2015

I’m very far behind on writing this post, but I had made it my mission to read all six of the nominees for the prize by the time the winner was announced on June 3. I had read 5.3 of the six by then and finished the last one a day or two later. I don’t always agree with prize winners (or often find them merely ok if I read only the winner) but in this case I did agree with the committee. Not that anyone else thinks that’s relevant (haha).

I loved several of the offerings and think I’ll list them here in my order of preference:

1) How to be both: A novel, by Ali Smith. This book is written in two distinct parts which (according to the publisher) can be read in either order; in fact the paper versions were printed in both orders so it was a matter of luck as to which the reader got first. In my case I read the modern half of the story first, followed by the historical fiction portion, and found both of them utterly charming. It isn’t the easiest read, and is often downright confusing, but I loved the main character in each half, and as soon as I finished it, I wanted to go back and read it all over again so I could pick up even more. The two parts fit together, and indeed weave in and out of each other, in ways I couldn’t fully grasp with one reading. I will definitely go back to this one, and although I really enjoyed some of the other nominees, this one made me want to read it again so I gave it my top ranking.

2) A God in Every Stone: A Novelby Kamila Shamsie is set from WW1 through the early 1930s and the bulk of the story is in what is now Pakistan. It was beautifully written and I enjoyed learning about the cultures, both for the British Raj members and the locals. There is an archaeological mystery involved but it’s primarily a character driven book and I highly recommend it.

3) The Bees: A Novelby Laline Paull is set in a beehive and reminds me very much of “Watership Down” for bees. It seems well-researched and I really enjoyed it.

4) A Spool of Blue Thread: A Novelby Anne Tyler received very mixed reviews, at least in my discussion groups, but I enjoyed it. I think she is one of the best at writing family dynamics and dialog.

5) The Paying Guestsby Sarah Waters was much further down my list. I liked parts of it but basically didn’t buy the romance that was at the heart of the main drama, so it didn’t hold together well for me. I did enjoy the courtroom portions.

and finally 6) Outlineby Rachel Cusk. This consists of a number of loosely related stories and while I enjoyed nearly all of them, I didn’t feel it worked as a whole. But she can definitely write and I will read her next book when it comes out.

The only one of these that will count toward one of my challenges is The Bees, but I haven’t written the post yet for my BOTNS Summer Bingo challenge!


Updates (mea culpa)

Clearly, letting even one self-imposed deadline fall by the wayside encourages me to let more slide. And then the backlog is daunting so I just say, “I’ll have more time tomorrow; I’ll do it then.” So today is the cliff: one more postponement and I’ll crash over the edge. Don’t want to do that, so we’ll have a quick rundown of recent reads…

I had fun re-reading a book from childhood, The Little Prince and noticing once again how well the illustrations enhance the story.

I raced through the first five books in Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles series. I mentioned the first one in an earlier post, but this time I consumed volumes 2-5 without a break.

In nonfiction I enjoyed Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home but then I always like books about books. I wish the author had given us a few more of her impressions from her “year of reading from home” rather than mostly a listing of books she had on her shelves. I also read (or listened to) Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century because although I used to love Perry’s historical mysteries, I’ve categorically refused to read any more of them since learning she herself is a convicted murderer. I have no problem with someone living a productive life after serving one’s time, but I think it’s the height of poor taste to choose murder mysteries to make her (very good) living. After reading this book, I have more complicated feelings toward her and I’m not sure if I’ll stick with my ban forever. Please note, however, that the narrator for this audiobook is really annoying and I will definitely not listen to any others she may have narrated.

A much better nonfiction read is Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption and this one I highly recommend. Thought-provoking, discouraging and hopeful all at once. I need to come back and add more thoughts on this one, but I must get this post up, so for now I suggest you go find the book and read it.

I also recommend David McCullough’s latest book The Wright Brothers, who are probably my hometown’s most famous local boys.

In general fiction I’ve read Aquarium, The Bone Tree, The People in the Trees, and All the Light We Cannot See. I enjoyed all, but am not sure that any will make my top ten list for 2015.

A quick trip through At Bertram’s Hotel was an easy reminder that Agatha Christie can be relied upon for a good read. Casino Royale was my first time to actually dive into one of the books behind the James Bond film series. It also qualifies in two challenges: my TBR one and the Literary Birthday one. And I finally read Anna Karenina from start to finish, and thoroughly enjoyed it! (this one counts in my Back to the Classics challenge.)

There have been a few other books, but as I’ve already lost the draft for this post TWICE, I’m going to post as is and come back to add the rest of the links and perhaps a few more thoughts.

Currently I’m working my way through the shortlist for this years Baileys Women’s Fiction Prize, but those will be covered in another post.


Book Challenge Updates

After having to declare that in two weeks I hadn’t checked off a single new box on my 2015 Book Challenges, I’ve now finished three in the past three days.

First, in furtherance of my Literary Birthday challenge, I read Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington. I had known his story since I was a little girl, but can’t swear that I’d ever read it in his own words. What an impressive man; a worthy role model for any age. Despite his experience, he “resolved that I would permit no man, no matter what his colour might be, to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.” He was so forward-thinking and I was inspired by soaking up his words for a few days.

Next, I needed to choose a micro-history on some topic for the Read Harder challenge, and I’d recently seen a blurb for one that was named a Best Science Book of 2014: Proof: The Science of Booze. Impressive in its reporting and interesting in its wordcraft, this traces the history of intoxicating drinks and gives many details about how various firewaters came to be, their effect on cultures around the world and the science of their physiological effects (more confusing than you might expect.) An interesting read.

And then, thanks to another night of insomnia, I finally read (and enjoyed) Albert Camus’ classic The Stranger . A thoughtful novella.

I have other books going (including one that’s printed on actual paper — gasp!) but these three apply to some directed reading goals so I decided to post them as a group.


Some April Reads

Every time Sunday rolls around, I have this niggling thought that I should be writing a blog post, and somehow it’s slipped anyway. So here I will do a quick fly-by of the books I’ve read so far in April. When the month began I was still in a bit of a hangover from A Little Life, so the next book I turned to on my kindle needed to be something very different that would be a brain-cleanser.

Not to recommend this as great literature, but The Great Zoo of China certainly was a change of pace. Think Jurassic Park, but with dragons. What could possibly go wrong! “No, no, we’ve thought of everything — it’s completely safe.” I was only surprised at how soon it really picked up the adrenaline rush (at around 25%) and wondered how the author could sustain it for 300 more pages. I expected bloodshed but thought it was perhaps a bit too much, and I could have done without the constant profanity, but it definitely held my attention and was a very quick read. The main character wasn’t realistic, but I was rooting for her anyway. (I also wanted to like the dragons, but few of them turned out to be sympathetic creatures.) I did enjoy what seemed to be realistic traits and habits for imaginary creatures (or are they… ?)

My audiobook during this time had been An Unnecessary Woman, a quiet and thoughtful read about a Lebanese woman who has devoted much of her life to translating great works of literature into Arabic, only to box each one up and set it aside when she’s done with it. I really enjoyed this one, and may very well put it in my “re-read someday” stack.

I wouldn’t have picked up my next book had it not been for a new book club meeting at our local public library, led by an English professor, with the sole topic of books nominated for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. The Thing Around Your Neckwas a series of short stories each dealing in some way with the Nigerian experience. Some were told from the perspective of people living there, others of expats but each touched in some way upon modern day Nigeria. I loved them, and the book club meeting, and hope it continues for a long while.

A friend of mine wanted to read Stephen King’s The Running Man and I got through it but found it far too bleak to enjoy. And again, why all the cursing? Even in a broken world I just don’t want to hear that much.

The Sparrow and its sequel Children of God were  thought-provoking and  well done. I kept being reminded of a book I reviewed earlier this year, but found these two to be even better. I’ll admit I was hesitant about reading the sequel, afraid it would disappoint but it did not. I often feel that a series could be just as “finished” if it stopped at the first book. I felt that way about The Hunger Games, for example, and that’s probably true here as well, but the second one was satisfying.

Because I love thoroughly science-y books, I devoured Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from the title, but brought back memories of when I was a teenager and on visits to my grandparents would often accompany my grandfather when he’d be called out at night to perform an autopsy. This book was full of the details that make it real and was well written. I found the chapter on 9/11 particularly disturbing, but I do highly recommend this one.

Not a one of these books apply to any of my book challenges for 2015.


Other March Reading

A quick run-down on other books I’ve finished this month but hadn’t yet blogged…

3/23/15 Only Time Will Tell (Clifton Chronicles Book 1)by Jeffrey Archer. The author can always be counted on to tell a good story and keep it moving. Like so many of his other books, this one begins with an underprivileged but bright young person and follows them as they rise into the circles of the rich and famous. There are  four more books already published in this series, and I look forward to seeing Harry Clifton traverse the 20th century.

I finished The NIV Bible in 90 Daysand enjoyed this quick trip through the entire Bible. Now for some deeper reading of it during the rest of the year.

As the end of March loomed, I realized I hadn’t yet read anything for my literary birthday challenge (anything by a dead author who was born during this calendar month) so I found The Inspector-Generalby Nikolai Gogol. This is a comedy of misunderstandings in a small Russian village where absolutely everyone in office (major or minor) is corrupt. The rumor starts that someone is here from the government to inspect how they are performing their jobs and everyone tries to outdo the others in impressing the young man they are certain holds their fate in his hands. It was an amusing, quick read and will meet not only the literary birthday challenge but another task in the Read Harder challenge as well as one in the Back to the Classics challenge.

Finally, I finished the book I had begun before picking up A Little Life and becoming lost in it. A Separate Peaceis set at a boys’ academy just at the outset of WW2 and captures the last of their innocence before their world changes. Not what I expected, but a good read for time and place. This will also count toward the classics challenge as my choice for 20th century classic.