Saturday, April 23, 2016

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon: Update post

Hours 1-13 (1pm-2am)
Reading: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Pages read: 76
Total pages read: 76
Snacks: Quorn bacon and egg sandwich, Special K bar, gum and Wham bars

I'm late to the party, but I'm finally here! I stayed at my parents' house last night so with driving back up to Belfast and stopping for groceries (and the requisite read-a-thon snacks) on the way I only got home at about 2, squeezed in an hour of reading and then headed to work. Got home from work at 1 am, made some food and now I'm hoping to get in an hour or two of reading before I fall asleep :)

Hours 14-22 (2am-11am)
ReadingThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Pages read: 38
Total pages read: 114
Snacks: Nothing, just blissful sleep...

You know how some nights you make an actual effort to go to sleep, and then on others sleep just comes for you?

Actual footage of me around 3 am last night
I think I was exhausted from work. But there's two hours left of the readathon and I'm determined to make them count! The plan is to stay in bed with my book and some breakfast until the end- hopefully I'll get some serious pages in before then!

Hours 23-24 (11am-1pm)
ReadingThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Pages read: 88
Total pages read: 202
Snacks: Coffee and disappointing cornflakes (Asda Price ones literally taste like paper. Weird and annoying because Tesco Value ones are the same price and are delicious!)

Well, that's it folks! I wish I could have read for longer but with work and sleep and all that I only managed a bit less than four hours out of 24. Even so, I succeeded in making a fairly decent dent in The Goldfinch- I'm past the halfway point!- and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Thank you to the hosts for giving me an excuse to do nothing but read for an evening and a morning, and congratulations to everyone on some seriously impressive page counts I've seen! :)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Did someone say read-a-thon?

I love the 24 Hour Read-a-Thon. There's something about the sheer scale of the thing and the number of people participating that really motivates me. That said, I'm participating slightly... oddly this year.

1. Every single year, I tell myself "Oh, Dewey's read-a-thon is coming up, better book it off work!" Every single year I fail to do so. This year is no different. I'm working Saturday evening, but that still leaves me a couple of hours before work and all Sunday morning!

2. I will not be sacrificing sleep. As someone who balances working nights with morning classes, I never miss out on an opportunity for eight hours of sleep in a row.

3. I love seeing the book piles everyone makes. Love them! I love making book piles myself! But this year there's no book pile, as I'm just planning on reading as much of my current read as possible- The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I'm less than halfway through so I doubt I'll get it finished- it's quite the doorstopper- but if I can make a good dent in it that'd be awesome!

4. I'm aware that conventional readathon wisdom advises against reading just one book for the whole 'thon, so I might pick up Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure at some point, as I'm only about a quarter way through it and I need to have it finished for class on Thursday. Actually, considering that, I probably should pick it up at some point.

Weirdness aside, I can't wait! See y'all tomorrow!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

March in books

March was a weird month in terms of reading. Remember how I was reading like crazy in January and February? Yeah, that sort of fizzled out for the whole of March. Even the Re-Readalong couldn't save me. I read nine books in March... five of those were for uni and one was my read-a-long of The Crimson Petal and the White, which I've already talked about so much that I won't repeat myself here. Out of the three books that are left, two of them are strong candidates for my top ten of the year, so it's definitely not all bad :)

Alexander Hamilton, American by Richard Brookhiser

Like most of the internet, I'm pretty obsessed with the musical Hamilton and I fancied finding out more about the man himself and his ridiculous life. This looked to be the best biography my university library had. It's only about 200 pages- so much more manageable than the famous Ron Chernow biography- and it's a pretty straight-forward read. It was interesting to read something that's not my usual fare- I don't go in for political biographies, or American history, all that much. But, yeah. I learned things. So this was decent.

Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

I've talked before about how I love YA that deals with mental health issues. I picked this up randomly in Waterstones one day and read the blurb and the main character is on the same medication as me, so that was kind of... not nice exactly but new and interesting and reassuring? And then I went away and read up on this a bit more and found out that it's feministy as well as dealing with mental health problems, so I knew then I just had to read it. I'm happy to say it was just as good, if not even better than I'd hoped! So, Evie's just started college and is hoping to make a fresh start away from being 'the girl who went crazy'. She's struggled with OCD but is doing well in recovery. That's another thing I love that we definitely don't see enough- characters living with mental health problems, not just the drama of when they first manifest or particularly low points. The only other book I can think of that does this is Will Grayson Will Grayson and it's not something we see anywhere nearly enough. Anyway, Evie doesn't want her friends to know but at the same time feels bad about it, and worries that maybe she's getting worse again. And yes, there's feministy bits with the issues the main characters face as teenage girls, and yeah, I'm pretty much in love with this book. It's first in a series- I think the others follow Evie's friends, Lottie and Amber- so I can't wait to get my hands on those as well. Highly recommended.

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

Oooh, now this was a strange wee one. It's going to be difficult to describe. So, it's set in a possibly-future world where the earth is flooded and people are divided into 'landlockers' and 'damplings' (people who live on land and people who live on the sea) and there's all sorts of complicated stuff going on between them. North and her bear are performers in a sort of floating circus, and through one thing and another she meets and befriends a landlocker called Callanish, who's a Gracekeeper- someone who attends to the dead. Honestly, the whole world is so well developed- the whole thing is just really magical and watery and slightly melancholy. I loved this.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Much belated February round-up: Part 2

Okay, yeah, this is beyond late. To the point where I seriously began to wonder if it was even worth posting. But, hey, I had it mostly written and I like the idea of having a little something to say about everything I read this year, so here it is, my mini-reviews/talky bits for books I read in the second half of February!

Volpone by Ben Jonson

My degree was English/French combined, which was great in some ways- I got to pick the best modules and didn't have to settle for any filler, but it also meant I missed out on some things that I really ought to have read by now. So I've kind of been making an effort to read those books, push into different eras/styles and all that. And I have to say, my initial foray into that experiment was not... particularly successful. It's Renaissance era, which is something I basically never read, and it's drama, which I don't read enough of... but yeah, this wasn't really for me. As a comedy I didn't find it particularly funny- not in the way Shakespeare can make me laugh, and the misogyny kind of turned me off- yeah, yeah, part of the time and place and that, but even taking that into consideration. So, not my thing. But, I'm still glad I read it and I'm not going to give up this weird project of mine.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
So, there was a lot of hype about this book a while back and I was intrigued, but also a little cautious because of natural distrust for hype and a few negative reviews I read (nevermind all the positive ones- apparently I only remember the bad ones...) Also, come to think of it, because even though I love the epidemic-apocalyptic in theory, there are an awful lot of well-loved books on the topic that I just couldn't get into- The Stand, The Passage, World War Z...

But I eventually picked it up and I really enjoyed it, so yay! In case you've somehow managed to avoid this, it's set in the aftermath of a deadly virus that killed most of the world population. The protagonist travels the desolate US in an orchestra/Shakespearean theatre group, which is kind of awesome. There's shifting point of views and flashbacks to the outbreak itself and everything just kind of worked- the world building, the writing, the characterisation. One of my favourites of this year so far!

The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits by Emma Donoghue

Emma Donoghue is one of my absolute favourite writers, and it breaks my heart that I'm getting towards the end of her back catalogue. She is still writing though, so there's that. Anyway! This interestingly titled book is a collection of short stories based on anecdotes and oddities in old newspapers that Donoghue encountered while researching other things. Including, yep, a woman in the 18th century who apparently gave birth to rabbits. This is a pretty great little collection- some stories are funny, some are downright horrifying. All are really quirky and interesting.

Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity, ed by Mattilda AKA Matthew Bernstein Sycamore

Passing is a topic close to my heart. I've been gender non-conforming for pretty much my whole life. Basically, I only identify as a woman some of the time- the rest I'm a boy or, just, neither. I've struggled with trying to 'pass' as a boy for as long as I can remember- and, since about the age of eight, with little success. I'm small and slight and have 'feminine features' and yeah, sometimes that's bothered me a lot. But I also know that the whole idea of 'passing' is pretty much bullshit and leads to all sorts of dangerous and problematic ideas. Which is something that's pretty relevant these days, because while there's a lot of talk about trans acceptance, if anything there's even more pressure on trans people to look 'feminine' or 'masculine' enough.

So anyway! I picked up this book in the hope of exploring these ideas and I was not disappointed. The essays are incredibly diverse, dealing not only with sexuality and gender but also 'passing' with regard to race and religion and other things. So, I really enjoyed this and it made me feel good about being the girly boyish girl mess that I am. Really good stuff, definitely best of 2016 material.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Crimson Petal and the White Read-along: Week 5 and 6

It's over! Can you believe it? Once again I'm sneaking two weeks into one, because that's how I roll. I started this post before I'd finished the book and now obviously I have finished it, so if my answers are a bit all over the place in terms of what I know/don't know, then that's why. Just... go with it.

Week 5 questions

1) Sophie and Sugar's relationship has developed a lot this week. How do you think this is affecting them? And the Rackham household generally?

Like I said last week, I'm glad Sophie has someone on her side. I feel so sorry for her- it's tough enough to be a young girl in this time, without everything else she has to deal with- she's alone, her nurse seemed a bit forbidding, and her parents are pretty much totally absent. So it's nice that she has Sugar now. It's unexpected that Sugar would come to be such a good governess and get on so well with Sophie, but it's nice. It shows us a different side to Sugar than we've previously seen.

2) Let's talk about Agnes. I don't think that even those of us that hadn't read the book before expected her to see the end of the book but her actual (maybe?) demise wasn't what I was expecting! What do you think? Was it her body that William identified or is she living happily at a convent somewhere?

It's funny, the first time I read this book I was pretty convinced it was her, but I'm much more sceptical this time around, because it doesn't really make sense for her to be anywhere near the river. I suppose she could have been stolen away by someone or come to another unhappy end, but I choose to believe she found a convent and lived out her remaining days peacefully. She deserves some sort of happiness at the end of it all.

3) As we move into the last section of the book how are your predictions from Week One panning out? If you've read it before, how well do you remember what's coming up? How should we be feeling?!

Awkward answering this question after we've finished, but anyway! I sort of had vague memories of what happened (Sugar moving into the Rackham house, Agnes and Henry dying) but it was only when we actually got to Henry's death that I suddenly remembered all the details about how it ends. Memory is funny like that. Then there's another big thing that happens in the final section, but I'll talk about that in the next part ;)

Week 6 questions

1) THE ENDING! Discuss.

Yeah... I totally forgot about the ending. Or lack thereof. I actually double-checked to make sure my copy wasn't missing pages :P

I'm not opposed to ambiguous endings where not everything is wrapped up- I actually prefer them, in many ways- but the ending is crazy abrupt. I suppose you can fill in the rest of the details- I like to think Sugar and Sophie got away and are living more or less happily together, far far away, and that William dies in a fire. Sorry. But I have to rant some more about William.

You almost think when Sugar moves in that it's going to be a case of Sugar taking over the wife/mother role eventually, with Agnes being shipped off to an asylum or dead. He's obviously attracted to Sugar, and she's business minded and probably more suited to him than Agnes was. Sure, there'd be a bit of scandal for William to marry his governess- especially if Sugar was pregnant when they married- but it wasn't completely unheard of. Things like that did happen, and people did get through them with their reputation relatively unscathed.

But, noooo. Instead William loses all interest in her and she's just the servant/whore. How dare he dismiss her for being pregnant when he got her pregnant in the first place. How dare he. But yeah, that sort of thing happened all the time back then- servants being fired for being impregnated by their own employers. Which just makes it all the sadder.

(Sugar did succeed in aborting, right? It's not completely clear on that part. I hope she did, it would make the 'happily ever after with Sophie' part so much easier.)

But, you know, Sugar was a big part of the Rackham perfumeries success- with all her marketing decisions and practically writing letters for him, so with her loss and the stress of losing the rest of the family, I'd say William's fortunes won't last long. Thank god.

(Phew. Had to get all that out :P )

2) How do you feel about the book overall? Score out of 5? Is it something you'd recommend other readers pick up?

I'm gonna say maybe 4.5? Like I've been saying all along, it is basically right up my street- well-written, evocative fiction set in my favourite time period. The ending is frustrating, but I don't think it outweighs the rest of the book. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone interested in this period. And if you're daunted by the page count, don't be, because the pages really do fly by.

It's reminded me that I really need to track down Michel Faber's other stuff- from what I've heard, all his books are really different but all really good. So I'm curious. Then there's The Apple, which I forgot existed and definitely want to read now, because I love this universe, I really do.

There's also a BBC adaptation I forgot about! I haven't seen it but I'm intrigued. Mark Gatiss plays Henry and Chris O'Dowd (of all people) plays William, so I'd be interested in seeing that if I can track it down online or find a DVD cheap.

Thanks for hosting Charlotte! It's been a blast, thank you for giving me an excuse to re-read an old favourite :)