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Wordless Wednesday: Medieval Horse Armour, Royal Armouries, Leeds

Horse HelmHorse Helm Explanation

Review: The Emperor's Blades, Brian Staveley

the emperor's bladesThe Emperor has been murdered, dead far before he planned to be. His heir, Kaden, is far away, learning to be a monk, not yet ready to take on the mantle of imperial rule. His second son, Valyn, is still in training to become one of the empire’s most deadly fighters. Only his daughter Adare is in the capital. Though her father has granted her the position of Minister of Finance, she still isn’t as powerful as either of her brothers could be, and must navigate the tricky waters of court politics while trying to bring her father’s murderer to justice. Meanwhile the lives of Kaden and Valyn are in danger and both brothers must confront their own problems before they can even begin to start on the empire’s.

This book, which is an ARC, makes the claim on the back that “fantasy has never been more popular”. While I’ve been a fan of fantasy for most of my life, I think I’d agree with its assertion. Game of Thrones has taken over the imagination of many people and, although I like the books a lot less than I once did, I like that it’s becoming less of a stigma to enjoy fantasy and science fiction. The Emperor’s Blades isn’t quite up to the standards of the masters who have gotten us this far, like Robin Hobb or George R.R. Martin, but is certainly a big step in the right direction for its author.

The narrative is balanced between the three children, although they are all mostly grown. I think Kaden and Valyn were given more page time than Adare, but I personally found Adare’s part of the story most interesting. She’s the one who actually has to figure out what is going on, while her brothers are more impacted by related events. And her part of the story had the one moment where I think my mouth actually gaped open in surprise, although both boys have interesting stories, too.

For me the book started off slowly. I no longer read much epic fantasy and I’ve found that this sometimes means I am a little slower on the uptake as I try to learn who each character is, what their backstory is, and how it all relates together. It really picks up in the second half though because all three characters start sensing that something is going on. Neither of the boys know their father is dead for a good portion of the beginning of the story, but both sense that something is wrong in the way that others behave and how events fall out. Once those events and conspiracies start to come together, everything ties in and gets much more exciting.

The magic system in the book is particularly interesting as well. Magic has a very strong stigma against it and those who practice it are called leaches, because they must leach their power from something in their environment. The magic itself is slippery and mainly seems to involve changing the environment just slightly, enough to throw enemies off balance but only sometimes to cause big, cataclysmic events. It’s an intriguing enough concept but wasn’t developed enough for me.

I did think the book was lacking in some areas. Like I mentioned above, I didn’t think Adare had enough page time; there is far more potential around exploring her story and I hope that Staveley lets her shine in the rest of the series. I also felt that the world-building was a bit weak and confusing; most of it seems to come about through telling, especially one particularly long diatribe to Kaden, because the main characters stay more or less in the same relatively boring places throughout the entire book. The capital, where Adare is located, had the most potential, but was again not really explored. Amazing world-building really adds an extra dimension onto a fantasy novel and it was missing here.

In any case, I did feel The Emperor’s Blades was a solid debut and, if the next volumes address some of the lacks in this one, has a lot of potential for a great series. I’ll be giving the next one a try.

All external links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review.

TSS: The scary halfway-through-the-year-already post

tssbadge1June will be over tomorrow and that means six months of 2014 will be gone. I’m sure I only wrote this goals post a short while ago, but now we’re here checking up on progress.

I’m not sure how I’d rate the first half of 2014. Nothing much has stood out to me, to be perfectly honest. We haven’t left the country except to visit my parents and that was pretty much the only time I’ve had off from work, too. Nothing to complain about, nothing to shout about. Just ticking along, working to clear off the rest of our debt, and buying copious amounts of books with what’s left over. This might be why the year feels like it’s gone by so quickly already; I know breaking up time with unusual events is a great way to make it feel like it’s taken longer, but there hasn’t been much of that this year so far.

I have kept to the spirit of most of my goals, I think, and I’m relatively pleased with where I am. I think we’ve spent most of the year so far being reasonably healthy. Both Keith and I have been exercising regularly (until I got shin splints which seem to never go away, but that’s a different story). We have a 10k to run in August which I hope I’ll be able to do. I’ve been cooking more without meat. I’ve not really taken enough pictures or signed up for a class yet, but we have six months to go, and it’s now looking like that class will be for swimming lessons (what with the shin splints and the not being able to swim at 28 years old).

On the reading front, according to Goodreads I’m just behind my goals, about 2 books behind with 71 books read so far this year (assuming I finish a couple in the next two days, which might not happen). I don’t think this is *too* bad and I can easily make it up if I try, so I’m not going to worry about it too much. What does disappoint me a little is that I haven’t stuck well in particular to the non-fiction goal. I am doing better reading more international fiction and authors of colour, with June the single exception where I managed the former but not the latter. All other months I have actually been right on target, if not exceeding it, about which I’m pretty pleased. I’ll try and make up for June’s lack in July.

Here’s what I’ve read this month (I’ll add if I finish anything tomorrow):

  • Three Weeks with Lady X, Eloisa James
  • Mogworld, Yahtzee Croshaw
  • Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather
  • The Borgia Chronicles, Mary Hollingsworth
  • Year of the Demon, Steve Bein
  • Deadly Sting, Jennifer Estep
  • Fortune’s Pawn, Rachel Bach
  • The Emperor’s Blades, Brian Staveley
  • The Dead Girls’ Dance, Rachel Caine
  • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler

I’m much happier with the quality of my reading this month than last month and some of these books were real gems. Fortune’s Pawn and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves were definitely the highlights in different ways. I hope to write about both; I’ve actually already drafted up a post about the second one.

In July, I’m hoping to get to more of my summer reading listHild by Nicola Griffith will definitely be read and written about, as I might actually start it today, and Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire might as well. I’m also going to finish Bone by Jeff Smith, which I’ve purposely been dragging out mainly because it’s amazing and I could race through it much too quickly if I tried, and I suspect I am going to start getting into more graphic novels in the very near future.

I honestly haven’t made many plans for the next six months; at the moment I feel like most of my life plans are put on held a little bit while my husband finishes the university degree he’s working towards (while also working full time, which makes for a distinct lack of free couple time). We’ll see what the world brings after that.

How is 2014 treating you?

Review: Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims, Toby Clements

kingmakerIt’s 1460. Katherine is a young nun, caught outside her English priory by a group of rampaging knights during the Wars of the Roses. Her life is saved by a slightly older monk, Thomas, but her reputation isn’t. Not only has she spoken to a man, but her closest friend has died under suspicious circumstances, and Katherine finds herself expelled from the priory. Under related circumstances, so does Thomas, and these two young people find themselves with nothing and nowhere to go in the middle of a bloody civil war, fleeing from a knight whose mission is to kill them.

We’ve reached a bit of a saturation point with the Wars of the Roses, or at least I have. There are so very many books floating around about the Woodvilles, Richard III, Edward IV, the Princes in the Tower that it’s actually overwhelming, and no longer all that interesting in fiction. These royals have been considered from virtually every angle and it can seem like there isn’t anywhere new for fiction writers to go. Clements goes completely against that trend and focuses his novel on two ordinary people instead, who are simply caught up in what is wreaked by those who rule. In doing so, he creates something that is much more innovative and, ultimately, retains its interest in an over-saturated market.

In altering his focus, Clements allows us to take a completely different perspective on the war. Thomas and Katherine don’t really care who wins the war. They don’t even know what’s going on sometimes, though they do know the man who’s caused all of their troubles. They do their fair share of fighting and they even meet some of those figures about whom so many authors write. But this is a more personal struggle, viewed from a different level. They’re loyal to minor lords and it’s a member of the minor nobility who plagues them throughout the book. Everything else is more or less incidental, even though they travel across the Channel and back and feature in a few of the major battles fought during the war.

Both characters are sympathetic; I especially liked Katherine, but I wanted both of them to survive and thrive as best they could. Their personal struggles can easily strike a chord with readers; both have to find their way in a world outside the priory. They had assumed they would be there for their entire lives, but instead find themselves not only in a war but challenged with moral questions they never expected to encounter. The responsibility for killing people, the exposure to an outside world of sin, the fight for revenge; it’s very human.

Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims took me a while to read because it’s fairly long, but I enjoyed it, getting wrapped up in their struggles and experiencing a little more what the other side of the Wars of the Roses would have been like. Recommended.

All external links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review consideration.

TSS: Summer Reading

tssbadge1I love summer. It is by far my favorite season. There’s just so much to love about it; sunshine right into the evening, flowers, warmth, greenery everywhere, holidays and weekends away (not this year, but most of them). It’s all about the endless possibility that nice enough weather brings. I like wearing dresses and t-shirts without thinking I’m going to be too cold or I need a jacket.

In addition, I love the heat, more so since I live in a country now which doesn’t actually get that hot. I’m the one who actually enjoys the heat inside a car that’s been parked for a while, who takes every opportunity to sit in the sun (within reason, I don’t like sunburn), and who delights in opening all of the windows in the house to let all the fresh air in. I love especially going home for a visit and feeling the humidity and heat in the air around me as soon as I step out of a plane; I’m sure this is at least partly because we have modern wonders like air conditioning, so it’s never endless, but I’m just happier when I’m slightly too warm.

Then there’s the fact that as a child summer meant almost limitless freedom; for me, it was hours and hours of reading and no real responsibility. Now that I’m an adult and and work full-time, this is no longer the case, but I think summer still retains some of that feeling of freedom. And that means it’s fun to think about which books I want to read this summer and always makes for a good excuse to pull together a pile of all of those books I wish I could just read now.

Here’s what I’m looking at:

summer reading 2014

  • The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan – I read A Natural History of Dragons back in March and loved it. It was just the sort of book I love to read and completely fulfilled the expectations I had of it (which were honestly pretty high). I’ve been looking forward to the sequel ever since and so I picked it up on my last trip to Forbidden Planet in London. Hoping to get to it soon.
  • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler – I don’t know much about this book except for the fact that I want to read it! It’s been gaining rave reviews all over the place and I feel I’ve had it in my TBR for too long already.
  • Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire – I buy pretty much everything Seanan McGuire writes (in actual fact, I do think I own every book she’s published). I’ve so enjoyed all of her books, especially the October Daye series, that it’s always worth giving the next one a shot.
  • A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie – I loved the first book I read by Kamila Shamsie and I’m really looking forward to this.
  • A Darkling Sea by James Cambias – My craving for science fiction has not gone away in the slightest and I’ve had this space opera on my list since I first heard it existed. I had intended to get it last time I went to the United States but actually couldn’t find it anywhere. I was delighted to find it in Forbidden Planet at the same time I bought The Tropic of Serpents and it goes straight into the immediate TBR.
  • Skin Game by Jim Butcher – The Dresden Files are awesome. I have a whole shelf full and there was no question I’d be buying this as soon as it came out. I suspect I’ll get to this sooner rather than later.
  • Hild by Nicola Griffith – The only historical fiction book on my pile, this promises to be an amazing read set in 7th century England around St Hilda of Whitby, starting with her youth in what is now northern England. Very much looking forward to this.

What are you looking forward to reading this summer?

May 2014 Reading Wrap-Up

For me, May 2014 was a slow reading month, but in all good ways. I spent the first 10 days visiting my parents in the United States, which naturally meant that I didn’t have as much time as I normally would to read (although you might expect the opposite). By the time I’d got back, one of my friends had started work at my current company, so I got a commuting buddy – less time to read on the train, although company I am certainly happy about having. It also looks like we’re going to start driving to work, which eliminates that commuting time altogether. And then I got completely obsessed with Veronica Mars and spent every free hour for the last few weeks watching the show.

Speaking of Veronica Mars, I can’t believe I missed it when it was actually on TV. I think the first season is among my favorite seasons of television ever now. I’m in the middle of the third season now and will probably finish that and the movie this month.

We spent the last weekend of May in London, which was really lovely. Even the weather managed to be wonderful, staying in the low 70′s and sunny most of the time. We went to see the Viking exhibit (a real Viking ship!) and the Ancient Lives exhibit in the British Museum. Naturally, my favorite was the Vikings, while Keith preferred the mummies, but both were really, really interesting. I also brought my husband to his first Shakespeare play at the Globe and we went to Hampton Court Palace for the first time.

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace

Learning how to be mostly vegetarian is also consuming some time (thank you so much for all of the suggestions!) as I’ve been experimenting with different types of cooking and ingredients, like tofu and lentils. So far, I’ve been relatively pleased with what I’ve managed to create, but there has been quite a bit of recipe following as I try and figure out what to do on my own.

There was also the reading slump that I mentioned last time I actually managed to blog.

So what did I actually read?

  • Heart of Steel, Meljean Brook
  • The Dream Thieves, Maggie Stiefvater
  • Indexing, Seanan McGuire
  • How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days, Laura Lee Guhrke
  • Level 2, Lenore Appelhans
  • Banished, Liz de Jager
  • The King Must Die, Mary Renault

Looking at that list, I can see why I felt fairly uninspired by reading in May. For once, a favorite choice is easy; The Dream Thieves stands out immediately, as did its predecessor, The Raven Boys. I loved those books. Everything else on the list was mostly okay, but nothing stands out.

The list is also distinctly not multicultural; all of the authors are white women (as far as I can tell, anyway) and only one book is set elsewhere in the real world, which is The King Must Die. I’m definitely not hitting my goals here and will need to do my best over the rest of the summer.

How did your May go?

The Sunday Salon on Bank Holiday Monday

tssbadge1Apologies for the long, unexpected break from blogging! I’ve spent very little time on the computer in the last three weeks; we went to visit my parents on the 1st of May and stayed for 10 days, during which time I pretty much didn’t touch a keyboard (although I meant to). We have now been back for 2 weeks, but my free time has unexpectedly been consumed by starting to watch Veronica Mars and randomly getting back into crochet, as I’ve made two little toys in the space of that time as well. I’ve also been handling most of the cooking and general chores as my husband has had to spend quite a bit of time on some coursework in addition to his normal full-time job.

This is made a bit more complicated by the fact that we’ve turned mostly pescatarian for general health reasons in the last couple of weeks. I’d like to be closer to entirely vegetarian but fish is allowed as a backup at least a couple of times a week. I actually tried to be a vegetarian for a while when I was a teenager but went back – I don’t remember why I stopped, but probably because it made my mom’s life too difficult. It is important now for various reasons for my own health and I’m more or less forcing it on my husband when we’re eating together too. I’m allowing myself exceptions while eating out or a guest at other people’s houses, but in my own we’re going meat free. If you have any amazing vegetarian recipes or any great resources online / in print, please send them my way, as I’m now trying to rebuild my menus.

Excuses aside, I’ve also been having a week-long reading slump, which is pretty unusual for me. I think I’m actually reading five books and have paused in all of them for various reasons:

  • The King Must Die by Mary Renault – I’ve actually heard a lot of really good things about Mary Renault and this book about Theseus seemed like a good place to start. I’ve had it for ages, so it would satisfy one of my once-a-month goals, too. I’ve really struggled to get into it; I know nothing about Theseus and Renault’s writing seems old-fashioned to me and hard to get into. I’m just not interested enough in the story to power through. I’ve only got about 100 pages left so I probably will finish it, but I will probably give away the other of her books that I have.
  • Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather – For some reason I started a book I thought would be meh while I was reading the above meh book. Partly because I needed another book I’d owned for ages and partly because I thought a different style of book would work better. Wrong. I have tried reading other books by Willa Cather and haven’t liked them, but I was much younger. Turns out things haven’t changed for me.
  • Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia by Christopher Clark – Okay, this one is good, it’s just somewhat dense non-fiction so takes a bit longer to read. German history has turned into an interest of mine and the small fraction of this book that I’ve read so far has been great.
  • Heart of Venom by Jennifer Estep – Accidentally started reading book 9 instead of book 8 in the series. Why is it so hard to label a book with what number of the series it is? -_- I read about 50 pages before I got to the catch-up part of the backstory that I didn’t recognize. Now need to both acquire book 8 and read it.
  • Mogworld by Yahtzee Croshaw – And I started reading this because my husband read it and insisted that I read it so much that he emailed it to my Kindle (Humble e-book bundles are wonderful things) and asked every time I was reading whether I’d started it yet. I gave in.

And that’s all the books I’m reading! I hope to finish at least one or two this week because I’m feeling a bit lost with all of them floating around. Fortunately today is Bank Holiday Monday so I’ve not only found time to finish this post, but I also might have time to read for an hour or two. Let’s hope that works. If I’ve missed anything in the last 3 weeks, I’d love it if you let me know, as catching up on blogs is also a daunting prospect.

I hope May and the real start of spring has been enjoyable for all of you!

Books I Haven’t Managed to Write About Yet

cinderI had a high and lofty goal of writing about everything I read this year, even if only a sentence, at the beginning of the year. I’ve failed at that, but here are a few thoughts on books I have read and think are worth talking about this year so far.

CinderScarlet, and Cress by Marissa Meyer

I loved these books. I went on a work trip to London and had to stay overnight back in February and I managed to read Cinder and Scarlet back-to-back on the evening (in between a trip to Forbidden Planet and a curry for dinner). I didn’t sleep much, needless to say, but I loved them. I got completely and totally absorbed in Cinder’s world. By a small stretch of time I managed to wait to read Cress - about a month – but my resistance wore down absurdly quickly and I devoured that one, too, although so far I think Cinder is my favorite. And now I have to wait all the way until 2015 for Winter, which seems pretty unendurable whenever I think about it!

It’s difficult to pin down why I loved them so very much. I really liked the way they reflected fairy tales, how they’re burdened by expectations and each girl has to make her own way, and because each book has a great romance going on (although I think Cress’s is probably the weakest) without being just about that romance. There is so much packed into each book, so much emotion and story. I even like how they reflect a wider scope of the world within fantasy and each girl comes from a different place and different walk of life. I so hope Winter is just as good as the first three books in this series.

germaniaGermania, Simon Winder

I didn’t really love Germania, but I appreciated it a lot, and it reminded me of why Germany is so interesting. Winder basically goes off on a long, rambling, nostalgic and affectionate rant about Germany and takes his readers along for the ride. So while it isn’t an organized history of much of anything, it has a whole lot of charm. Just the subject of Germany is complicated now, still, in the shadow of both World Wars. They fundamentally changed the way that Germany was perceived by the rest of the world, especially Europe, and Germany’s reputation hasn’t recovered in the way. Anecdotally, I’ve never met anyone obsessed with German culture, like people so frequently are with France or Italy, and German friends I have had do say that there is still shame pervading Germany because of what happened. But Germany was regarded completely differently before those wars in ways that it’s now difficult to imagine.

Winder agrees with this interpretation. Germany is kind of disregarded now, certainly compared to its European neighbors, but it’s an enchanting country with a bizarre history, so fractured into tiny little pieces that still hold on to their own eclectic pasts. I felt a fragment of this when I went to Munich almost two years ago; I had never really heard of any of the people or places around Munich, but there are royal palaces and paintings and little bits of history all over the place. I wanted to know more, but it feels like learning more about Germany is unravelling a massive swath of history that has the potential to be overwhelming. I’ve picked up little bits and pieces, like in Vanished Kingdoms and Noble Endeavours and I have Christopher Clark’s history of Prussia for when I get some time, but this book in part reminded me how much I don’t know and how much I’d like to find out. It also made me really, really want to visit Germany again. I haven’t been anywhere else where history smacked me in the face quite so vividly in so many different ways. That history is complicated and has a traumatic relationship with the rest of the world, but it’s important to remember the good right along with the bad.

Anyway, if you are at all interested in Germany, I would recommend picking this up. Like I’ve said, it isn’t a straight history and didn’t really satisfy my cravings to know more, but if anything it made those cravings much stronger.

a dance with dragons dreams and dustA Dance with Dragons: Dreams and Dust, George R.R. Martin

I’ve been re-reading A Song of Ice and Fire for months mostly so I could get to book five finally (and so I could know what was going to happen on the show, as I’d forgotten a lot). Unfortunately, I remember A Feast for Crows as a disappointment, and I was pretty bummed that I didn’t much like this first installment of A Dance with Dragons, either. In the UK, they split it into these two books, and the first half just didn’t grab me although I slogged through. I guess I’d forgotten in my head how sexist, brutal, and depressing Martin’s world is. I was primarily disturbed by the excessive and unnecessary sexism, in this particular book; it just felt relentless and I didn’t enjoy the experience of reading the book as much as I thought I would. Plus, I think at this point, the series is just too long. A new minor character seems to pop up every other page, distracting me from the characters who are actually interesting to read about, but everything just gets worse for them too, with no actual break. It’s too dark, too long, too frustrating to read. I used to like this a whole lot more than I do now and discovering that has been disappointing. I haven’t been in a rush to pick up the second half and I’m not sure when I will.

Review: The Bees, Laline Paull

the beesFlora 717 is a worker bee, designed to be a silent sanitation worker who simply picks up after her betters. But Flora can talk in a way that her sisters can’t, so despite the fact that she is an ugly, large brown bee, completely unlike her black-and-yellow striped siblings, she experiences life outside that of the other floras. She spends time feeding the baby bees and even goes foraging. But after a few days pass, and Flora meets the queen, she realizes she has a secret, and she can no longer follow the bees’ mantra: Accept. Obey. Serve. Instead, she has to think for herself and fight for what’s forbidden at all costs.

This is an utterly unusual book. I picked it up as a review copy from Amazon Vine and, typically for me, didn’t actually read the description in any great detail. I just saw “The Hunger Games meets The Handmaid’s Tale” in the description and thought that this would be a book well worth my time, should that actually hold true. And, as it turned out, a book called The Bees is genuinely about bees. Funny, that – I mention it because it colored my experience of the book, especially at the beginning, and because it highlights that this is unusual. The back of the book itself actually also mentions Watership Down, which is probably a more apt comparison, at least as far as non-human subjects go. I can kind of see why they’ve compared it to those books, but it’s not really like them at all, and I can see how someone who was misdirected, who might be like me and not very fond of reading book descriptions, might not actually end up liking the book much.

Anyway, I digress. This was extremely engaging and extremely unusual. Laline Paull has taken the lifecycle of bees, something is generally taught in school and ignored afterwards, and turned it into a compelling story about differing from and defying the norm. Flora isn’t meant to be what she is. Other bees tell her that she’s too big, that she’s too ugly, that they dislike the privilege she appears to have been given, just due to the fact that she has talents outside her social class. They look down on her and every day she fights to be herself and to keep her own secrets from the world. She fights harder than the other bees because she’s different and because she feels she has to earn her privilege, which really made me root for her.

I’ll admit that I know next to nothing about bees, so I have genuinely no idea how “right” the author gets the way things actually work, but given that the bees tend to use dustpans and brushes and curtsey to each other, I don’t think she’s going for realism. It seems more to be a story about sticking to your own principles and doing what you feel is right, no matter who looks down on you or disdains you for it. But at the same time, by humanising these bees, she does highlight how little they fit in the modern world, and how little we understand or know about them.

The Bees‘s cover also says it’s “An extraordinary feat of imagination” and I think I’d agree with that. I certainly never thought about what it would be like in a beehive, but I appreciated the perspective and I liked the story. I’d recommend it if you’re looking for something different.

All external links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review.

Spring 2014 Read-a-thon: The Update Post

deweys-readathonbuttonWelcome to my Read-a-thon update post! Rather than spread out updates as I have done previously, I’d like to start with just this one post and update each time I’m ready for a break. It’s a rainy day outside and I’m ready for reading. I hope you are too!

Hour 0: The Starting Line

Books Finished: 0

Currently Reading: The Bees by Laline Paull. This is my current read outside of Read-a-thon day, although I’m only on page 52. It’s actually about bees, which somehow wasn’t what I expected despite the fact that it’s called The Bees, but it’s intriguing so far. I’m intending to finish it before I move on to the official stack.

Total Pages Read: None yet!

Time Spent Reading: None yet!

Mini Challenges: The kick-off meme:

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

Home in the lovely city of York, England.

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

I honestly couldn’t say. I tried to pick books that were all exciting. Maybe Half-off Ragnorok by Seanan McGuire or The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. But I hope they’ll all be great.

Here’s my stack again in case you didn’t see yesterday’s post!

Spring 2014 read-a-thon

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Pizza for dinner. We’ve been healthy for the whole month, I think the Read-a-thon is a fantastic chance to have some junk food for a change. Also, not cooking, totally a plus.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

28 year old American living in the UK; I’ve loved books as long as I can remember; I’ve got two bookcases full of unread books (my husband loves this bit the least I think); I love cats, history, and museums; my day job is in online marketing. I’ve been blogging for around 7 years.

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 have participated in many Read-a-thons now. The different thing I’m doing today is updating this post each time I update rather than creating a new post. I’ll be hanging around on twitter for brief breaks. You can find me at @mbookworm.

Just ten minutes until the official starting line – see you in a couple of hours! And enjoy your reading, if you’re participating too!

Hour 3

Books Finished: 1

Currently Reading: Just finished The Bees. It was a really good choice – a very fast read with a lot happening. And surprisingly imaginative. I can’t say I’d ever really thought about what life is like as a bee, but this author has done a really good job.

I think next I will read Half-off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire. It’s the third book in the Incryptid series and I actually read the last one during a prior Read-a-thon, so it seems particularly appropriate.

Total Pages Read: 290

Time Spent Reading: 2 hours and 14 minutes

Mini Challenges: The kick-off meme only so far.

I think it’s probably time for a snack and a walk around the house, then I’ll be right back into it.

Hour 7 … I think?

Books Finished: 2

Currently Reading: And now I’ve finished Half-Off Ragnarok. As with Midnight Blue-Light Special, this was a great choice for the Read-a-thon. Fast-paced, engaging, and fun. I can’t resist the appeal of the Aeslin mice, although there totally could have been more of them in this book.

Next? I might read a short story before I tackle another book. Or maybe I’ll read another book. I haven’t decided! I might just go over to the pile and leaf through until one decides I should read it.

Total Pages Read: 636 pages

Time Spent Reading: 5 hours

Mini Challenges: The kick-off meme only still. I never really get terribly interested in the mini challenges. Once I start reading I think I’d rather continue.

Hope everyone else is getting along okay!

Hour 10

Books Finished: The Bees, Laline Paull and Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire.

Currently Reading: I’ve started Redshirts by John Scalzi. I’m about 80 pages in so far. I’m finding it highly amusing, but I’m wondering where he’s going to actually take this story. Not sure I’m going to make it through the book tonight, but one of the good bits about being in the UK is that I’ll undoubtedly get up tomorrow morning and have a few more hours of reading left. I hope to finish it then and potentially make a start on a final book.

Total Pages Read: 716 pages

Time Spent Reading: 6 hours (I think – I got distracted in the last couple of hours)

Food consumed: I’ve now had salmon and rice for lunch, Reese’s sticks for a snack, and pizza, cheesy chips, and onion rings for dinner. Yum. And leftover pizza for tomorrow. Can’t complain at all.

I am probably not going to update until the last few hours of the Read-a-thon when I get up again. Hope everyone else is enjoying their reads. And if you stop by, thank you!

Hour 23

Hello! I have actually been up and about for a few hours, but mostly I was too involved in The Raven Boys to turn on the computer. I have since had breakfast and continued reading, although I lost track of timing. I amazingly made it to hour 12, which is tricky for me, and finished Redshirts last night. I was really pleased with myself, as normally I am in thrall to my work schedule even on weekends and fall asleep at 10:30 no matter what I’m doing.

Books Finished: The Bees, Laline Paull, Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire, and Redshirts by John Scalzi.

Currently Reading: I’m now into The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, mostly because as soon as I put it in my pile people whose opinions I trust very much told me to read it (and who were the reasons I’d bought it anyway). Currently on page 184 and I’m suspecting you are very, very right about how I would feel about this book. No one is surprised.

Total Pages Read: 1120 pages

Time Spent Reading: 9 1/2 hours (I think – I have stopped keeping track as I left my laptop off for so long. Kind of an estimate.)

I’ve got another hour left and then I’m going to get on with my day (which I think includes visiting our shiny new re-homed Waterstones and probably finishing this book, as well as hopefully some blog posts and the end of event meme). I hope you’ve all had a great time and, if you’ve not slept yet, I am seriously impressed! Thank you to all the people who stopped by once again, I was delighted to see comments when I’d got up this morning, and I’ve really enjoyed this Read-a-thon.

End of Event Meme

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

Probably Hour 12-13, which is where I went to sleep. It always is around then.

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

I thought all the ones I read were really good choices. RedshirtsHalf-Off Ragnarok (and most lighter urban fantasy) and The Bees all worked well and were fast and engaging reads. I also finished The Raven Boys later on in the day and I think it works less well, only because it’s more thoughtful and a bit longer (but I still loved it, a topic for another post).

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

No, I think it went really well this year. Andi and Heather did a great job.

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

I like the way the cheerleaders were split into teams. Maybe it’s just because I had one post which could be regularly commented on, but I felt more cheering happening and more of the community atmosphere than the last couple. I still liked those, but I definitely felt more connected this time, and I liked that!

5. How many books did you read?

I officially finished 3 and most of a fourth, but I only had about 100 pages left in the last and I finished it around an hour after the official end of the event.

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

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Redshirts by John Scalzi, Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire, and The Bees by Laline Paull.

7. Which book did you enjoy most?

The Raven Boys. But they were all good, to be honest. I have no complaints about this selection.

8. Which did you enjoy least?

See above – I think all of them were good!

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

I wasn’t a cheerleader this time. I did like taking a short amount of time to hang out on twitter and read some other participants’ blogs, though, and I think I will do that again next time. I spent a bit more time there than this year than previously.

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

Unless I absolutely have something I can’t miss, I’ll participate again as a reader. I just like the whole experience; choosing what I might read, picking from that stack, and reading uninterrupted for hours, knowing that there are literally hundreds of book lovers around the world reading at the exact same time. I love reading a book all the way through with no interruptions (you can see above that this is what I did with the first two). I think many books are best experienced that way for me. I would like to still read others’ blogs and hang around on twitter a little, though, and I will aim to do the same next time.