Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon (Master Post)

End of Event SurveyDewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon

Busy weekend! I feel like my theme for this Read-a-thon was ‘late for everything.’ 😛 Lots of great things have been happening in October, but I will appreciate some breathing time in November. I ended up reading for 5 hours and 15 minutes. I lost three planned hours of reading to socializing of all things. I go to the pub maybe four times a year and of course one of those times had to fall on Read-a-thon night. The occasion was a friend’s going away party, as they’re moving to Arctic, so I didn’t really want to skip that.

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? I didn’t feel ‘daunted’, per se, but I planned to read all through hour eleven and that plan fell out the window in favour of watching hockey.
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? The Slacker by Gordon Korman made for a relatively quick and fun read. A good book for when you need a ‘break’.
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season? I didn’t participate too much this time, so I can’t say if anything needs to be improved.
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? This kind of ties in to the above question. I don’t know how well it worked, but I think it probably took some stress/expectations by eliminating cheerleading. I signed up to cheerlead in the past and it was a bit frustrating going from blog to blog of people who signed up but weren’t actually participating. I had more fun cheering for people who were visible and actively participating on Twitter.
  5. How many books did you read? I read 50% of one book, 90% of another, and 10% of a third. I guess that makes one and a half!
  6. What were the names of the books you read? The Witches of New York, The Slacker, and When Friendship Followed Me Home
  7. Which book did you enjoy most? The Witches of New York
  8. Which did you enjoy least? The two middle grades are so far on par with each other – nothing amazing, but nothing unenjoyable.
  9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again?  Very likely! I don’t have any plans, though I suppose it could be early to tell. I hope I will be less busy next time and able to read for 10+ hours.

Hour 3

Three hours into the Read-a-thon, I’m finally filling out the introductory survey.

  1. What fine part of the world are you reading from today? – Winnipeg, Canada. It’s a fine foggy day for reading.
  2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? – I’m currently reading The Witches of new York, which I love. I expect it will be hard for any of the other books to beat this.
  3. Which snack are you most looking forward to? – Salt and vinegar Crispers. I’ve had a hankering for them this past week.
  4. Tell us a little something about yourself! – I’m currently in the process of applying to MLIS programs.
  5. If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? I’m taking this one more casually than the last one. There’s been a lot of flux in work-related stuff, so I just want to have a fun day of reading and socializing.


Good morning! Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon kicks off in about 15 minutes. I scheduled this post last night – have I woken up in time? You’ll have to nag me on Twitter if I haven’t posted there yet 😛 I’ll be updating this post a few times throughout the day, but I’ll be most active on Twitter. I do have a few distractions tomorrow – tutoring, a book event at the public library (going to hear Jen Sookfong Lee discuss The Conjoined!) and a farewell party. I have packed my bags and set out my clothes to minimize prep time for the outings.

October 2016 Readathon StackLast night I prepped my reading stack and my munching stack, two stacks that are of almost equal importance when read-a-thoning. I’ve prepared a YA/MG sandwich. I’m focusing on MG fiction for the Cybils, but I’ve thrown in two YAs in case I feel like mixing things up: a book that my Dad and I are doing for Family Reads (Every Hidden Thing) and a book that has to go back to the library soon (Like a River Glorious). I’ll also probably be finishing up The Witches of New York, as I don’t think I’ll have time tonight.

As for food, I’ve planned two out of three meals (figuring out lunch always disrupts my schedule, even when I’m not trying to read all day…). I’ve got muesli, fruit and yogurt ready for breakfast and I’ve discussed ordering in pizza with my family. I’ve tucked my non-perishable snacks under my reading table – pumpkin seeds, candy corn, and salt and vinegar Crispers. I haven’t eaten those in years but I had a craving.

My goal for this year is 8 hours of reading. Are you participating in the Read-a-thon?

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October KidLit Blog Hop

October KidLit Blog HopThis monthly hop is designed to engage a group of people who love everything that has to do with children’s literature. Everyone is welcome to join us: bloggers, authors, publicist, and publishers!

For the October KidLit Blog Hop, I thought I’d review the reading I’ve done and plan to do for the Cybils this month. Public nominations closed on October 15. I went through the nominees list and noted which books my public library has (total: 28).

Read So Far

ocdanielall-rise-for-the-honourable-perryFull of Beans cover my-life-with-the-liars

  • My Life with the Liars by Caella Carter – A strange book about a young girl who is rescued from a cult. I’m not sure who this would appeal to.
  • Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm – A fun story set in a time and place with which I was unfamiliar (Key West in the 1930s). I feel like this book should exemplify middle grade historical fiction.
  • All Rise for the Honourable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor – Although I had to suspend my disbelief at the story’s premise, I came to appreciate its greater significance as a tale about a kid whose family can be found in a correctional centre. I like children’s books that include adult perspectives. Plus Perry is an easily lovable character.
  • OCDaniel by Wesley King – The protagonist of King’s novel struggles with OCD but doesn’t know it. This book offers a realistic portrayal of how kids can experience mental illness. The murder mystery and football plot lines were unexpected but mostly fun.

Slacker book coverI’m currently reading Slacker by Gordon Korman. When I was in fifth grade, my teacher read aloud from his books to us. I adored Radio Fifth Grade, I Want to Go Home, and the MacDonald Hall Books. I remember being disappointed when he began publishing ‘serious’ disaster stories such as Island, but I enjoyed that as well. Slacker sounds to me to be ‘classic’ Korman, and it’s off to a good start. Though it feels a bit strange reading one of his novels set in the present day!

Upcoming Reading

I have the following books currently signed out from the library. Thanksgiving and a road trip interrupted my progress, but this Saturday is Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-Thon – a perfect opportunity to get through a stack of middle grade fiction!

  • When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin
  • Makoons by Louise Erdrich
  • The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs by Cylin Busby
  • The Other Boy by M.G. Hennessey
  • Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Be sure to check out this master post for a list of other participants in the October KidLit Blog Hop. Have you read any great children’s lit recently?

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Why I Loved NerdCon: Stories

NerdCon: Stories logo

The second annual and likely final NerdCon: Stories took place this past weekend in Minneapolis. I drove down to attend with my sister and my best friend. We had a lot of fun when we made the trip last year.

What is NerdCon? NerdCon began as an experiment. It tends to defy description. This is probably a large factor in its failure, failure being here defined as not financially stable enough to support itself. Hank Green has made a couple videos about this. The simplest way to define the con’s purpose might be “to celebrate stories”.  I’ve seen a few posts that somehow pinned down why those who attended in 2015 loved it and would attend again. I’ve also seen just as well-reasoned posts about why people wouldn’t attend again. I fell somewhere between the two camps. I initially went 60% for the conference and 40% for the trip (visit a big city, attend a Sia concert, do some shopping despite the exchange rate…). After attending NerdCon for the second time, though, I am now more excited about it than I was before I went. I am now a bit bummed that it won’t happen again.

My travelling companions and I spent much of our not-at-NerdCon time discussing why NerdCon didn’t take off like it should have/might have/deserved to. I’m sure we didn’t come up with any great insights beyond what Hank and others have already noted. If there was a way to make NerdCon a success (i.e. sell enough tickets to be financially stable), then I would be happy to become involved in making that work. I think for now all I can do is share my experience as best as I can. Without further ado:

4 Reasons Why I Loved NerdCon: Stories

    • Being in a crowd of like minded people. I find it so refreshing and exciting and uplifting to find myself in a that kind of crowd – to see the hive of activity and ideas (that seem to live only in my computer) come to life.
    • Frank, open, caring, and normalizing discussions about mental health. From Amanda MacGregor‘s informative presentation on mental health in YA to John Green’s talk on creativity and OCD, talk about mental illness and destroying stigmas was front and centre for me in a way I’d never experienced before.
    • David the ASL interpreter. The entertaining moments he created at both NerdCons may have been a ‘you had to be there’ kind of thing. However, I think anyone can appreciate his performance of “It’s Raining Men.” I wasn’t even there for this and it’s my favourite part of the con.

  • There’s something for everyone. ‘Stories’ doesn’t just mean books. The con included panels, workshops, and community-led programming on podcasts, gaming, oral storytelling, and more. This also applies to the variety of guests. Although there weren’t many names with which I was familiar, I appreciated hearing from people with different experience. Another attendee may have had a totally different yet just as enjoyable weekend as me.

After attending NerdCon for the second time, I’m more excited about it now than I ever was before. I feel like the conference is being shuttered just as it might start to gain momentum (I know that’s not the case; I understand there are many good reasons as to why it can’t continue.) It’s an unfortunate situation. In the end, I’m so glad I got to attend for the two years I did. I’d love to read your thoughts on NerdCon: Stories if you attended. Link me up in the comments!

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Literary Pilgrimage: Visiting Middle-Earth (Part 3)

Middle-Earth Literary Pilgrimage
Earlier this year, I spent three months travelling around New Zealand. My primary reason for doing so? Exploring locations in featured in The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit, of course! Come along as I revisit what will likely remain my most extensive ‘literary pilgrimage’.


Queenstown serves as New Zealand’s hub of adventure activities. You can paraglide, jetboat, bungy jump, and visit a variety of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit filming locations! …That’s adventure enough for me. (I did have plans to go mountain biking but I scrapped that to save some cash.) Queenstown was a key hub of filming for both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, making it a must do for any literary pilgrimage like mine. To see all the locations in the area, you would need two or three days. I picked a half day tour hitting the sites that most interested. I took Pure Glenorchy‘s half-day tour.

Frodo and Sam see an Oliphaunt This is the ledge that Frodo and Sam peered over to spot the Oliphaunt in The Two Towers.Rangers cross the river

Although this little river doesn’t look too impressive, I was excited to see how similar it was to the film (where it appears for about two seconds), and to be standing to close to where Faramir stood…

Dead Marshes panorama

Kepler Mire served as the Dead Marshes in the distance shots. We had excellent timing with the weather I loved seeing the fog rising above the marsh. Dead Marshes Jenna in Lothlorien This bit of forest is where the Fellowship first entered Lothlorien and were caught by Haldir and company in The Fellowship of the Ring.

Fangorn mountains

This tour comprised of many small locations that you think wouldn’t be recognizable from the film, but they somehow are…these mountains are great example of that. They appear a few times in distant shots of Fangorn.Fake tree at Beorn's house

See the odd tree out? That’s a fake tree that was erected to stand by Beorn’s house in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I would have loved to get a bit closer to it!

Although I didn’t come away with as many great shots as I would have liked (I had some camera issues ;_;), that made me more grateful for the CD the tour company provided with numerous shots of the locations throughout the seasons. Which of these locations would you like to visit the most?

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Review: The Ice Master by Jennifer Niven

Cover of The Ice Master by Jennifer Niven

Author: Jennifer Niven
Title: The Ice Master
Format/Source: Hardcover/Library
Published: November 2000
Publisher: Hachette Books
Length: 402 pages
Genre: Creative/narrative non-fiction
Why I Read: Interested in the Karluk‘s journey
Rating: ★★★★
GoodReads | IndieBound | Indigo | Amazon

My introduction to the Karluk voyage came via Eric Walter’s Trapped in Ice. Walter’s book is one of the earliest chapter books I remember reading, perhaps in grade three. Earlier this year, I read Captain Bartlett’s official journals of the event in The Karluk’s Last Voyage. Both of these books indulge in some sugar coating and neither of them explore what happened to those left on the ice after Bartlett departed. The Ice Master by Jennifer Niven (author of All the Bright Places) fills in those gaps, offering a detailed account of how the Karluk‘s final voyage went so wrong. The fate of the Karluk provides an excellent exploration of how one terrible choice after another can lead to disastrous outcomes.

I enjoyed how Niven constructed the narrative. She attempts to allow “the people of the Karluk […] to speak on these pages in their own distinctive and passionate voices” (ix). This results in a tale that is less a factual account and more an adventure novel, though it still has that non-fiction vibe to it. She describes small yet poignant moments, such as when Mamen’s pocket watch suddenly starts working again during a dull day (78). However, Niven’s narrative makes it almost too easy to root for the good guys and boo at the bad guys. It’s harder to keep in mind that these were real people Niven didn’t know. The personalities of and interactions between the men may have been more complex than Niven portrays. Still, I enjoyed rallying behind Mamen and nodding in agreement with his judgment of certain characters.

The time the men spent on the island was a lot darker than I imagined. (The other two accounts I read of the Karluk were poor influences on my expectations.) Some nasty characters inhabited the Karluk, even if they weren’t in actuality as awful as Niven portrays them. I can’t help but wonder if any of it was inspiration for The North Water. Of course, that book is on a whole nother level; it’s a bit of a stretch to link the two…but I can see how one might get some seedlings of ideas from the Karluk’s situation.

The ice was misleading. It was easy to feel safe when the ice was still and settled and the men were tucked safely inside the ship. Their frozen home gave them a false sense of security. The scenery, too, was unspeakably beautiful, and it was hard to believe that something so lovely could at the same time be so deadly. The sky was bright as a mirror at times, and there was only ice and snow “and a few openings and small water channels that shine and glitter” as far as the eye could see, observed Mamen. (64)

Niven’s prose itself isn’t exceptional, but it doesn’t need to be. The subject matter impresses on its own. A handful of moments (I would have appreciated more of them) made me pause as I imagined what it would have been like to truly experience the Arctic ice, snow, and darkness.

There were two degrees of frost on McKinlay’s bunk, and everything that was freezable in the Cabin DeLuxe was frozen and frozen hard. When the men awakened, the room looked like a glittering ice palace. It covered everything, and long, jagged icicles shone from the ceiling. (87)

The Bottom Line:

A well-researched and well-written (and at times emotional) account of a lesser-known disastrous Arctic journey.

Further Reading:

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