Quick Review: eBook Novellas

I purchased an iPad back in October. I did not have reading eBooks in mind, as I prefer physical books wherever possible and I can borrow plenty of those from the public library. Then I discovered there are a number of eBook novellas by some of my favourite authors, telling prequels, filling in gaps, or sharing alternate perspectives. I bought three of them back around Christmas and finally decided to read them a few weeks ago on a break from school.

  • The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland – For a Little While by Catherynne M. Valente
    • Series:  Fairyland #0.5
    • When to Read: After The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in A Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland #1).
    • Rating:  ★★★½ [ratings guide]
    • A great read if you want to know more about Mallow and the Green Wind
    • Holds all the charm and character of the other Fairyland stories, while feeling a touch  more mature and solemn
  • Unstrung by Neal Shusterman and Michelle Knowlden 
    • Series: Unwind #1.5
    • When to Read: After Unwind (Unwind #1)
    • Rating: ★★★½ [ratings guide]
    • Tells the story of what Lev did between leaving CyFi and becoming a clapper
    • As with the Fairyland story above, contains all the qualities I like about Shusterman’s writing (plot twists, intense narration, thoughtful characters, moral grappling)
      • Last two chapters really pack a punch and bring the whole story together, in line with the rest of the series – fills in gaps well, relevant to the series, does not feel like an afterthought
  • Skeleton & Dust by Rhiannon Paille
    • Series: The Ferryman and the Flame #0.5
    • When to Read: Before or after Surrender (The Ferryman and the Flame #1)
      • I would have preferred to read this before Surrender (if you read it before, you’ll have a better context for Surrender; if you read it after, you’ll recognize key characters from Surrender)
    • Rating:  ★★★½ [ratings guide]
    • Sets up the first novel by providing historical context
    • Romantic aspect feels more realistic than in Surrender (though reading this clarifies the romance in Surrender so it seems more believable!)
    • Especially liked Aria’s interactions with the Ferryman, and the scene where Aria shares food with the children

I have The Ferryman and the Flame #1.5 and #2.5 still to go. I wonder how many more little eBooks by authors I like are out there. Have you read any stories that were only available as eBooks that you enjoyed? 

Review: The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

Author: Naoki Higashida
Title: The Reason I Jump
Format/Source: Hardcover/Library
Published: August 2013
Publisher: Random House
Length: 176 pages
Genre: Non-fiction question and answer
Why I Read: Saw it at the bookstore, thought it would be interesting 
Read If You’re: Interested in learning about autism from a person with autism’s perspective
Rating:  ★★★ [ratings guide]
Links: GoodReadsChapters | Amazon 

There seems to be a lot of suspicion surrounding this book as to whether it could actually have been written by a 13 year old with autism, or how much David Mitchell embellished the translation. I approached the book with some skepticism, but now that I’ve read I don’t think there’s any reason to be suspect of Higashida’s writing. Yes, I think there /could/ be some embellishment but I also think that it’s not unreasonable to believe a thirteen year old wrote this text. Now, controversy aside…

I found this book very heartbreaking at times. Many times Higashida writes about how he knows he can make situations difficult for people and how he hates himself for it, but he still very much wishes for people not to give up on him. This must be a terrible feeling for someone who cannot communicate with others in the generally expected and accepted ways. Yes, it can be difficult for a non-autistic person to engage with an autistic person – but it is important to recognize the person with autism is very much a person, just like someone without autism!

The above paragraph brings me to another point – how Higashida addresses his audience. He uses the plural you, presumably to address an audience of non-autistic people who have many questions about what it’s like to have autism. I’m not sure if there’s a better way to address these questions, given the nature of the book. but sometimes it does feel a bit presumptuous of him to make statements like “One of the biggest misunderstandings you have about us is your belief that our feelings aren’t as subtle and complex as yours.” (109) He also uses ‘we’ to speak for all autistic people which I think is more problematic than how he addresses his audience. Overall, his pronoun use is a relatively minor issue with the book, and it may possibly just be attributed to his age or his editor or something but it is a noticeable aspect of the narration that might bother some people more than most.p

The Bottom Line: Definitely check this book out if you any interest in what it might be like to have autism – but remember that it’s just one teen’s account.

Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-Thon: End of Event Meme

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Hour 11 (for me, 10:00-11:00PM). I had a short nap from ~9:00-9:45 but I felt even more tired when I woke up! Normally, I wouldn’t be that tired until around midnight. Who knew reading was so exhausting? 😉
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman (YA dystopia), The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (fantasy of a rare sort), Death With Interruptions by Jose Saramago (magical realism; if you can get into his style, I find his books are hard to put down)
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? I still have the same answer as at mid-event – “I think the improvements made this year have been fantastic! I can’t think of anything I would like to see changed.”
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? Cheerleading – it was very-well organized and I felt very supported 🙂
  5. How many books did you read? I only finished one, but I read three throughout the day, for a total of 700 pages.
  6. What were the names of the books you read? The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Hollow City by Ransom Riggs, and Justice by Rhiannon Paille
  7. Which book did you enjoy most? Ach, it’s almost unfair now that I read some of LotR because it is one of my all-time favourite books! I’ve read it lots before…
  8. Which did you enjoy least? I liked the other two books equally the same, but for me they are below LotR so I guess I liked them ‘least’ ^^; (but I did like them!)
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? N/A (I did some rogue cheering for people who signed up late and may not have been assigned a cheerleader – I think this is a good option for those who aren’t official cheerleaders.)
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? Ooh, I would love to say 100% but the next time it’s on I will be living in Japan. I’m not sure what my schedule will be like then. I would probably do the same role – primarily reading, broken up with some interactive tweeting.

This year I kept track of my reading stats with Jenn of Jenn’s Bookshelves spreadsheet. I used my iPod timer to keep a close track of how long it took to me to read how many pages – I read 707 pages in 6.8 hours! How that breaks down:

  • The Lord of the Rings  – 53 pages read in 98 minutes
  • Justice  – 376 pages read in 184 minutes (read entire book) 
  • Hollow City – 278 pages in 128 minutes

I came short of my goals (I underestimated the size of Justice and Hollow City), but I’m happy with the reading I did manage. I had a great a time participating. Here is an hourly recap of this year’s event (‘participating online’ means tweeting, commenting or completing a mini-challenge):

  1. 7:00-8:00AM: Sleeping. I reallllly dislike waking up early (I usually sleep until 8:30). But, even without intending to, I woke up at 7:45. I had been dreaming about the read-a-thon, so I guess I was eager to start!
  2. 8:00-9:00AM: Reading The Lord of the Rings
  3.  9:00-10:00AM: Eating breakfast (pancakes with strawberries and bacon) and reading The Lord of the Rings
  4. 10:00-11:00AM: Reading The Lord of the Rings, participating online
  5. 11:00-12:00PM: At sports practice
  6. 12:00-1:00PM: At sports practice
  7. 1:00-2:00PM: At sports practice
  8. 2:00-3:00PM: At sports practice [for the curious – practice goes from 12:00-2:00 but there is a lot of driving and set-up/take down]
  9. 3:00-4:00PM: Showering, eating lunch (grilled cheese, pickles and tomato soup), participating online
  10. 4:00-5:00PM: Reading Justice, participating online
  11. 5:00-6:00PM: Reading Justice
  12.  6:00-7:00PM: Reading Hollow City
  13. 7:00-8:00PM: Eating dinner (spring rolls, pepperoni pizza), participating online, reading Hollow City
  14. 8:00-9:00PM: Reading Justice
  15. 9:00-10:00PM: Napping
  16. 10:00-11:00PM: Reading Hollow City and Justice, snacking (grapes) participating online
  17. 11:00PM-12:00AM: Reading Justice, finished the book and got my ‘second wind, snacking (Cheerios)
  18. 12:00-1:00AM: Reading Hollow City 
  19. 1:00-2:00AM: Sleeping
  20. 2:00-3:00AM: Sleeping
  21. 3:00-4:00AM: Sleeping
  22. 4:00-5:00AM: Sleeping
  23. 5:00-6:00AM: Sleeping
  24. 6:00-7:00AM: Sleeping

Here are a few photos I snapped during the Read-a-thon. The shelfie was for The Book Monsters’ mini-challenge and the other is my reading corner around 11:00PM. 

Next time I participate, I will pay closer attention to the size of the books I want to read, and have an earlier nap for a longer period of time so I can stay up later. I woke up at 8:00AM this morning! I should have pushed through another hour or two and finished Hollow City…I will finish it today. Thanks to everyone who made this Read-a-thon an incredible event!

Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-Thon: Mid Event Survey

  1. What are you reading right now? Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
  2. How many books have you read so far? No complete books – 50 pages of The Lord of the Rings, 110 pages of  The Ferryman and the flame: Justice, 100 pages of Hollow City
  3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? I’m just hoping I can finish Justice and Hollow City!
  4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? Not particularly – I just give my parents (who are the only other people in the house today, as my sister is away) lots of notice that I am participating in a read-a-thon so I will be largely unavailable. 
  5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? The only unexpected interruption was talk about going out for dinner, but my mom isn’t feeling up to it so we’re still home. As much I love eating out, I’m glad I’m not losing reading time!
  6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? Hmmm…surprises…maybe how long it takes me to read a book! Haha… I love how positive and active the community is on Twitter, I wasn’t expecting so many responses or words of encouragement 🙂
  7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? I think the improvements made this year have been fantastic! I can’t think of anything I would like to see changed. 
  8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? I would like to not have to go to sports practice as it takes almost four hours out of my day. Usually, I would just skip it for today but since I know I have to miss the next practice, I didn’t want to miss it today. Lesson: Free your schedule as much as possible!
  9. Are you getting tired yet? Not yet! Feeling rather peaceful, though – I will probalby need a nap in a few hours 😉
  10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? The Cheerleaders have been incredible! Keep doing what you’re doing 🙂 Readers, use this day to do what you love – whether it’s reading straight through the 24 hours or discussing your favourite books on Twitter. 
Happy reading,

Dewey’s 24-Hour-Read-a-Thon: Kick Off Meme

  1. What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Canadian prairies (after a light snowfall yesterday, the snow is finally all melted!)
  2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Tough to say (in a good way – I’ve got lots to look forward to :)) Maybe The Mapmaker’s War or The King of Elfland’s Daughter. 
  3. Which snack are you most looking forward to? Cheerios – I always love eating a big bowl of dry Cheerios while reading.
  4.  Tell us a little something about yourself! I’m almost finished my undergrad (English with a focus on young people’s texts and cultures) and then I’m off to teach English in Japan in August.
  5. If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? This is my second Read-a-thon. I hope to do some more cheerleading and exercise at regular intervals (ex. for ten minutes every two hours).

Now, time to kick off the reading with The Lord of the Rings! I am on page 648 (one-volume edition) and I hope to read at least 100 pages from the book today.