End of Event Meme

I missed the mid-event survey (I thought about doing but decided to keep reading instead :P), but here’s the end of event meme.

  • Which hour was most daunting for you?
    • The last one before I finally crashed (Hour 16). I actually fell asleep with the book in my hands! Should have had a nap…
  • Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
    • I don’t usually read the kind of books that are considered ‘good’ Read-a-thon reads… Perhaps a book you’ve wanted to reread for ages could be a good one to get pulled back into.
  • Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
    • Nope, keep up the good work!
  • What do you think worked really well in this yearโ€™s Read-a-thon?
    • I didn’t use the GoodReads group too much as part of my ‘less social media’ attempt, but it looked really well organized.
  • How many books did you read?
    • I read five books (but only one in its entirety during the Read-a-thon).
  • What were the names of the books you read?
    • The Lord of the Rings – 54 pages
    • “Shouldn’t You Be In School?” – 239 pages (finished the book) 
    • The 1918 Pilgrimage of Takamure Itsue – 80 pages
    • Walk on Earth a Stranger – 436 pages (entire book)
    • Skary Childrin and the Carousel of Sorrow – 165 pages 
  • Which book did you enjoy most?
    •  Surprisingly, I enjoyed Shikoku Pilgrimage book the most! (LotR aside, of course). Takamure sounds very much like a modern 23 year old. There’s a lot of humour I didn’t anticipate.
  • Which did you enjoy least?
    • Skary Childrin. It’s fine but not quite compelling enough to keep me awake ๐Ÿ˜›
  • If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next yearโ€™s Cheerleaders?
    • I cheered on Twitter (previously I cheered on blogs). I’m not sure I have any great advice, but I try to spread out my cheering throughout the day so it’s not too much to do at one time.
  • How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
    • Unfortunately I will likely miss out on April’s Read-a-thon for the first time in three years, as I will be WWOOFing in New Zealand ๐Ÿ™ (though I’m not too sad about that!)

I read 974 pages in 10.5 hours. I used a stopwatch to keep track of my reading so even bathroom breaks and drink top ups were excluded this time ๐Ÿ˜‰ Not quite the 12 hours I hoped for, but I managed managed to squeak by my last record! I stayed off social media more than ever before, I think. I took a couple bigger breaks to do engage on Twitter and that was really fun (what would this even be without Twitter?!). How was your Read-a-thon?

Introductory Meme

Good morning fellow Read-a-thoners! I awoke just before 7:00AM, and started reading right then. So far I’ve read 55 pages of The Lord of the Rings and eaten breakfast. Time to do the introductory post.

  • What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
    • Canadian prairies. I woke up to some lovely frost! I’m pleased as a peach to be reading at home after spending the last two Read-a-thons in Japan.
  •  Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
    • My immediate response is Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson, but I’ve got lots of books to look forward to today~
  •  Which snack are you most looking forward to?
    • A creme egg (not a ‘screme egg’). I’m very diligent about rationing them.
  • Tell us a little something about yourself!
    •  I’m going to New Zealand next spring and I don’t think I’ll be able to participate in the next read-a-thon :O So, I’m giving it my all this time.
  •  If you participated in the last read-a-thon, whatโ€™s one thing youโ€™ll do different today? 
    • I think I’ll take a bath this afternoon! Also, last read-a-thon I didn’t have a lot of time for participating whereas this time I’m hoping to read the most I’ve ever read.

Now I’m back to reading, this time “Shouldn’t You Be in School?” by Lemony Snicket. You can follow my updates on Twitter; otherwise, see you again at the mid-way update!

Prepping for Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon

Read-a-thon this Saturday! This will be my fifth time participating. I feel like it snuck up on me :O I’m making last minute preparations, but I think this could be my most successful Read-a-thon yet. I’m happy to be back at home to participate (I did the previous two in Japan).

Here is my potential reading list. I know it’s an impossible list – I like to have options! Of course, no rule says I have to only read what’s here, but I do want to get some of my ‘required’ reading done.

  • The Adventures of Tom Bombadil by J.R.R. Tolkien
    • A new edition was released while I was in Japan. I haven’t read this collection before and I think it will make good Read-a-thon fodder. 
  • Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson 
    • I’m counting on this one to grip my interest and make for an easy breezy read! I’ve been hemming and hawing over whether to buy it (I’m fourth in line at the library), but I finally decided to splurge so I can have it for the Read-a-thon. 
  • “Shouldn’t You Be in School?” by Lemony Snicket
    • Started this yesterday. Won’t be finished before the Read-a-thon.
  • The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe
    • A RIP Challenge pick. Also a short story that will probably be good when heading into the wee hours of the night!
  • Skary Childrin and the Carousel of Sorrow by Kathy Towell 
    • Another RIP challenge choice. I’ve had this book for ages, dunno if I’ll get into it, but I’ll keep it an option.
  • The Fall by Bethany Griffin
    • I didn’t think to put this on the RIP Challenge list, even though I referenced how it’s been on my TBR for ages and I wanted to read the original first! First in line at the library, not sure it’ll come in on time.
  • The Way of the 88 Temples by Robert Sibley
    • My life now is so disconnected from the year I spent in Japan. It’s too easy to forget! I always wanted to learn more about the pilgrimage I did. Now that I’m home I can get some hard-to-find books like this one from the university!
  • 79 pgs of The Bird’s Nest by Shirley Jackson
    • My final RIP Challenge pick. One of the few physical books I bought in Japan, I kept saving it for too long!
  • Chap. 6, 9 and 10 of How to Teach Grammar by Scott Thornby
    • I’ve become the sort of person who reads grammar texts for fun. Oh boy. These chapters are the only ones I didn’t have to read for the course I was taking.
  • 210 pgs of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
    • Hectic travel year means I haven’t started rereading this yet!!  I wanted to read FotR this month so ideally I’ll read the amount I should already have read…….
  •  Urban Tribes: Native Americans in the City edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Nary Beth Leatherdale
    • I’ve had an ARC of this for awhile but I haven’t gotten around to it because it seems I can only read it on my PC. Not a great Read-a-thon option but publication date is coming up so I want to get through some of it.

This year I will have no distractions – no homework, no work work, and no practices! I’d like to maximize reading time and minimize social networking time, though I will be cheer-leading once again. (Please consider cheering! It’s super easy, fun and doesn’t have to take up a lot of time.) It’s the first time in over a year that I’ll get to relax and read in my cozy home, so I want to take advantage of this time as much as possible. Here are some things I want to take into consideration:

  • Take a bath – I’ve never done this during a Read-a-thon and I’m wondering why not!
  • Read for 12 hours – Last October I read for over 10 hours, by far the most I’ve read during a Read-a-thon. Let’s see if I can surpass that!
  • Check social media only once an hour maximum – I’m going to try not too get too sucked into Twitter and challenges
  • Use a Pomodoro timer to remember to get up and move about
  • Keep track only of time spent reading + pages read (as opposed to filling out a more detailed spreadsheet I’ve used in the past)
  • Munch on healthy snacks  – crackers, cheese, apples, carrots, granola, yogurt, etc. I think I can also squeeze in one creme egg ๐Ÿ˜‰ (I’ve got eight left from the spring…I’m very good at rationing!)

I haven’t really planned meals yet…I do know I’m going to take a break to make a Thai soup for dinner. Otherwise, now that I’ve done this post, I’m feeling well-prepared for Saturday! Do you have any tips for a comfortable day of reading? Sign up here to participate in this October’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon,

Review: The Nest by Kenneth Oppel

Author: Kenneth Oppel 
Title: The Nest 
Format/Source: Hardcover/Purchased
Published: September 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins
Length: 244 pages
Genre: Middle grade gothic
Why I Read: Good creative team, intriguing plot, sister recommended
Read If You: Like creepy fairy tales, spooky stories, Coraline, etc.
Rating:  โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜… [ratings guide]
Links: GoodReads IndieBound Chapters | Amazon

This book kind of fell into my lap. I only added it to my TBR on 30 September. My sister talked a bit about it on the weekend. I wasn’t feeling any of the spooky books I planned to read, even though I want to read stuff that fits that mood. Suddenly I felt like I really needed to read this book, so I had my sister pick it up from work yesterday and I finished it this morning. Considering I have reading scheduled until the end of the year, this shows you just how much of a mood reader I can be. Thankfully, The Nest fits solidly in the realm of the RIP Challenge, becoming my first read for the challenge. I enjoyed The Boundless earlier this year, and Silverwing when I was young, but this surpasses anything Oppel wrote previously. I never would have expected such a satisfyingly eerie story from him.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to know right away whether this book stands up to the claims that it’s a “haunting gothic tale for fans of Coraline” (skip this paragraph if you don’t really care). Normally I would not compare one book to another so closely in a review. However. I have been looking for a Coraline successor for years. I have read many books that purport to be spooky or creepy or eerie but come nowhere close. The Nest captures that feeling I found in Coraline. Some readers will forever say “It’s good, but it’s not as good as Coraline…” I acknowledge that The Nest is somewhat of a different story than Coraline. Regardless, I still recommend it to fans of Coraline. I think the book will appeal to Gaiman fans, as long as they aren’t too dead-set on finding a perfect spiritual successor to Coraline in this book. I hope future readers will come to love this story for itself, and not for the ways in which it is like Coraline! 

There was something wrong with the baby, but no one knew what. Not us, not the doctors. After a week in the hospital, Mom and Dad were allowed to bring the baby home, but almost every day they had to go back fro more tests. Whenever Mom and Dad returned, there were new bits of information, new theories. (1)

The Nest is a creepy fairy tale, a changeling story presented in dreamy eerie prose, peppered with melancholic moments and stinging moments. More than once did I make an anxious sound while reading. Oppel carefully portrays a believable family, living alongside a couple of darkly fantastical characters. Steven makes a great protagonist (I appreciated the portrayal of his anxiety/OCD – it’s never named) and the Queen a nasty villain. The dialogues between the two stand out as one of the highlights of the story. This isn’t the kind of story where the frightening ‘fantasy’ bits play a subpar role (I’m looking at you, Doll Bones). This story is all about Steven and his encounter with the wasps. The prose is just what I like for this kind of tale – sparse yet pointed and clear, creating (at least for me) a dream-like impression that makes the story feel truly otherworldly, especially when paired with a limited first-person narrative. One word that might describe The Nest is balanced. It’s got just the right amount of characters and dialogue, realistic bits and terrifying bits, all at a good pace with good prose.

Nicole was the one who was always all over the baby. She loved the baby. To her the baby just meant this wonderful happy new thing in her life. She said once, not long after the baby had come home, “Just let me bask in his glory!” It always made me feel mean when I watched Nicole with the baby. Because when I looked at him, I saw all the things that were supposed to be wrong with him; and I saw Mom looking tired and worried; and I saw Dad staring out the window, sometimes just into the distance, sometimes at our driveway, where the car was. (113-4)

The Nest is also a physically striking object, highlighting all the reasons I love a solid book. A handful of subtle yet stark illustrations by one of my favourite illustrator/authors, Jon Klassen, add a subtle boost of the creepy to Oppel’s prose. I found the illustrations less integral to the story than Dave McKean’s for Coraline, but they definitely add another welcome dimension to the tale. The book itself is also well-designed. I liked the soft pages and the typeface (which is just Baskerville, but anyhow.) This book has a glossy dust jacket with clear spaces poking through to the hardcover itself. Here are some photos to supplement my lacklustre description:

The Bottom Line: Not something I would have expected from Oppel, yet one of my favourite reads this year. A great collaboration with Jon Klassen. If you want something that embraces the spirit of Coraline and truly creepy middle grade tales, look no further.

Further Reading: 

Review: Acceptance by Jeff Vandermeer

Author: Jeff Vandermeer
Title: Acceptance
Series: Southern Reach #3
Format/Source: Paperback/Sister’s copy
Published: September 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Length: 338 pages
Genre: Dystopian scifi
Why I Read: Devoured the first book, trooped through the second book, excited for the final book
Read If You’re: Ready to get some answers about Area X!
Quote: “I could not come to terms with the possibility that one day I might put aside my vigilance and become the moaning creature in the weeds.” (164)
Rating:  โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…โ˜…ยฝ [ratings guide]
Links: GoodReads IndieBound Chapters | Amazon

Previously: My sister and I discuss the many mysteries of Area X presented in Annihilation (Southern Reach #1)  

I first read Annihilation because my sister selected it for Family Reads. I enjoyed the story so much I immediately jumped into Authority. Authority, however, greatly differs from Annihilation. I became less eager to read the final book in the trilogy. The fact that my library didn’t have a digital copy of it didn’t help! I contented myself to wait until I returned to Canada and could borrow my sister’s copy. In what felt like a reward for my patience with Authority, Acceptance gripped me from the first page. Broken into three parts – the light house keeper’s tale before Area X is fully Area X, the director’s tale before the 11th expedition, and Ghost Bird + Control’s tale in the present – VanderMeer has penned an intense conclusion to the Southern Reach tale.

I’d like to pause here for a second and talk about the differences between each book in the trilogy. Acceptance felt more similar to Annihilation (than Authority), but the two books still feel independent from one another. I found Acceptance more intriguing and more intense, whereas Annihilation felt more like an exploration. Authority I found mostly bureaucratic and mostly dull. Annihilation and Authority are brought together primarily via Acceptance, but each book has its own style. Don’t try too hard to make them match up with each other (i.e., don’t expect a consistent style of narration) – they’ll fit together naturally as you start connecting the dots.

In terms of pace, Acceptance steps away from Authority back towards Annihilation. I blazed through Acceptance, reading in a way I haven’t read for a long time. I forgot about that feeling! When you’re reading solely for the story’s sake, because it fills you with a fiery excitement and you just have to know what happens next. One scene that sticks in my mind because of this feeling is when Lowry confronts the director and I had to pause in the middle of it to go back to class. Acceptance kicks off with a quick start, hitting you with more questions, but then gives ANSWERS, to other older, questions you may have been wondering about since Annihilation. After the first two books, I had wholly resolved myself to not receiving any answers about Area X’s mysteries, so I was surprised but extremely pleased to find certain answers suddenly being dropped. Such answers were unexpected, but (appropriately, I would say) only a handful of questions are really answered and you’ll still have plenty to ponder about the bigger questions. The prose, understated compared to what I usually enjoy, works well in conveying the shocks, surprises, tensions and can’t-stop-now moments that I’ll remember this story for.

All my notes on this book can be divided into two categories: A) “AHHHHH OMG CAN’T BELIEVE I’M READING THIS” and/or B) “Ohhhh whoa I can’t believe I’m reading this!”. Both of these comment types I’ve discussed above (A = driving moments that suck you into the story, B = answers I wasn’t expecting). I don’t have anything else I want to write about! I think I would have to read this trilogy twice, back to back, to really get all the answers that are locked within. Some things are clearly spelt out in Acceptance, but I get the sense there’s so much more I would understand if I really paid attention… (for example, I think a lot to do with Whitby went over my head). But, this feeling doesn’t frustrate me. I don’t think you need to have all the answers to enjoy this trilogy. But I bet there is more to be mined if you’re willing to dig deeper! And now we’ve come full circle to what my sister and I discussed after finishing the first book…I can’t wait til she finishes the trilogy and we can hash out the entire thing.

The Bottom Line: Don’t let Authority keep you from finishing the trilogy! Acceptance is worth your time. 

Further Reading: