Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon: Wrap-up

During the Readathon, I finished one book (~40 pages) and completed three books.

  • Beyond the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
    • This is the book I finished.
    • I had heard a lot of good things about this book, so I decided to pick it up. It’s written like a novel, with the author playing no role in the story (note: this is non-fiction), which I wasn’t expecting. I had to continuously remind myself that this is a true story, not something like Sweetness in the Belly or Slumdog Millionaire, which are realistic but still ultimately fiction. The reality of this non-fiction novel was hard to swallow – not because it wasn’t realistic, but because it was heartbreaking to see what the people who serve as the characters in the story experience as ordinary, every day life. The amount of corruption was astonishing and infuriating – it quickly becomes clear that those who demand bribes and those who give them are only doing so to gain the smallest of advantages in a difficult society, or to gain access to basic necessities of life, or to ensure the criminal justice system plays out ‘fairly’. Beyond this common aspect of life, what the people of the slum have to do to survive is almost incomprehensible to someone like me, who has not faced any challenges even remotely similar.
    • The only complaint I have with this book is that there was no afterword describing what happened to the slum featured. Towards the end of the novel, destruction of the slum was imminent but there was no word of what ultimately played out. I’m sure I can find out through Google, but I feel this is basic information that should have been included.
  • When the King Comes Home by Caroline Stevermer
    • I had cautiously optimistic hope for this book! I stopped signing books out of the scifi/fantasy section years ago because I could only find awful books, but somehow this caught my eye and the description on the dust jacket sounded very nice, just the sort of thing I would like to read. But…
    • Oooh, what a disappointment this book was! It was alright for about 50 pages, then I thought it was going to get better, so I kept going, and by the time I realized it was going to stay awful I was so far in I decided to finish it. This is the only book I made any notes on because it frustrated me so much – here they are!
    • The first note I made was ‘Nice little read, not too much to note – lots of art, a little too perfect and blissful’ – hah!
    • There’s no real conflict (a bit of teasing is the most we see) then BOOM out of nowhere about 60 everything turns around and the main character’s running away and she finds the alleged King and things start to go haywire. There’s a number of weird plot things (SPOILER: I thought it was absolutely silly that this ‘King’ is not actually the King but his assistant and the King himself shows up a bit later, why bother, why not go straight to the King?) that don’t make sense or seem pointless or are really weak. For example, one numerous occasions the MC continues to tag along because it’s ‘not convenient’ for her to go home, as she is supposed to be doing – this isn’t played as wishful thinking, like the MC wants to tag along so she pretends it isn’t convenient; it’s played as actually being inconvenient therefore she must stay. It seems like the author had to work so hard to make sure her MC stays the MC and so everything feels really forced and awkward and out of place. Most of my notes are comments on the poor plot; you get the idea so I won’t post them all here.
    • I did like the writing style – nothing too fancy, fairly concise, but easy to read. I like to think it’s the sort of style I write in.
  • Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
    • I saw the movie first……I prefer certain aspects of the movie’s plot (mostly the differences towards the end of the film) and Tiffany’s portrayal, but I liked how the book handled mental illness and how the dance competition was intended to help young girls overcome depression. I also really enjoyed the narrative style and the counsellor character (can’t remember his name); the book was a nice easy breezy read for me so not too much to comment on. Also, I borrowed the book from my friend so I don’t have it here to reference. 
  • Isis by Douglas Clegg
    • I read this book around 11PM during the Read-a-thon, after I came home from a going away party. It turned out to be a great way to cap off the event! Really a short novella, it’s a creepy little tale told in what I consider to be a traditional storytelling style, just the kind of story I adore – I loved how it got darker and darker, and how the relationship between the brother and sister was always a little unnerving, bordering on incest but not quite.
    • The illustrations are also really lovely! Some repetition throughout the book (I’ve never understood why repeating an image is a thing :/) but very pretty all the same.

Roundup – Books Read for School

These books were all read for courses during winter semester 2013 (January to March). ‘Why I picked it up’ notes the department of the course that the book was read for.
  • Worldviews, Religion and the Environment: A Global Anthology edited by Richard C. Foltz
    • Published: June 2002
    • Genre: Non-fiction, anthology
    • Why I picked it up: Religion and culture course
    • Rating: 3 stars
    • My Thoughts:
      • Good collection, lots of variety, but assumes you know a lot about certain subjects – a lot of things in the articles about the Abrahamic traditions went over my head. I would’ve liked more explanatory commentary by the editor. I read this book for a basic religious studies course, though, so this book would probably be a great read for someone more familiar with religious studies or particular traditions – the book covers a lot of religions and worldviews, one could probably easily find articles relevant to their own specific focus.
  • Fairy Tale Films: Visions of Ambiguity by Pauline Greenhill and Sidney Eve Matrix
    • Published: August 2010
    • Genre: Non-fiction, original anthology
    • Why I picked it up: Women and gender studies course
    • Rating: 4 stars
    • My Thoughts:
      • I liked the variety and scope of the articles in this book – the intersections of the two subjects (gender studies and fairy tale films) provides for some really intriguing discussions. I particularly liked the article about Ever After; I wrote a paper stemming from my own response to that article. 
  • The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter
    • Published:
    • Genre: Fiction, anthology
    • Why I picked it up: English course (topic: fairy tale adaptions)
    • Rating: 2-4 stars
    • My Thoughts:
      • Unfortunately, I feel like this was one of those books ‘ruined’ for me by school – well, not ruined, per se, but I couldn’t truly enjoy it because it came during the hectic rush and my response was ‘AUGHH, I have to read another book when I have all this work to do?!’ and I couldn’t really get into it. I skimmed most of it, didn’t find the stories too intriguing but I did like the general premises. I’m not really a fan of ‘sexy fairy tales’, but that isn’t quite exactly what this collection is, though I’m sure many would argue that – essentially, I’m giving the book 2 stars based on my first encounter, but I think in a more favourable situation I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more. Hopefully it will see a reread in the future!

Extra Books – January

My reading habits are suffering this term because of the large amounts of reading (articles + books) I have to do for school…I am making steady progress with The Lord of the Rings and The LotR: A Reader’s Companion (196 and 141 pages, respectively). Here are a few books I read casually.

  • The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith
    • Date read: 16 January to 18 January
    • Published: April 2007
    • Genre: Slice-of-life/detective fiction
    • Why I picked it up: Fan of the series
    • Rating: 3 stars
    • My Thoughts:
      • Not a whole lot to say on this…I don’t usually even put up a short review of this series but I thought I’d note that I found it a bit more ‘uncomfortable’ than the others, what with the outcome of the hospital dilemma and Mma Makutsi’s actions, but that doesn’t mean it was worse than the others. I’d judge it as being on par with the rest of the series. As usual, a fun, casual read.
  • Grafitti New York by Eric Felisbret
    • Date Read: 12 January to 20 January
    • Published: October 2009
    • Genre: Non-fiction
    • Why I picked it up: Was browsing library for books for a comics research paper; stumbled upon this and thought it looked interesting
    • Rating: 4 stars
    • My Thoughts:
      • A very thorough and enlightening read on the history of graffiti in New York. Lots of comments from writers throughout the decades, photos, input from law enforcement, description of techniques and supplies, etc.
  • Double On-Call and Other Stories by John Green
    • Date read: 21 January
    • Published: January 2013
    • Genre: Young adult fiction
    • Why I picked it up: Fan of John Green (I usually go for the John Green writing perk for the P4A)
    • Rating: 3 stars (see below!)
    • My Thoughts:
      • A neat insight into early writings that grew into The Fault in Our Stars. Therefore, particularly a great read considered alongside TFIOS. Otherwise, while not the most technically accomplished collection (obviously, given it’s nature), it’s a rather interesting collection of abandoned writings. I liked noting

      

    ‘Year Long’ Books

    There are two books I have spent a good portion of the year reading, at a daily pace. The Intellectual Devotional I have read a page a day since January 1st, whereas I started The History of the Hobbit in May, took a lengthy break and then took up a daily schedule in September in order to finish it by the end of the year without reading too much at once and becoming over-whelmed in knowledge.

    • The History of the Hobbit by John D. Rateliff
      • Date read: 6 May to 30 December
      • Published: 2011
      • Genre: Non-fiction
      • Why I picked it up: Great fan of The Hobbit
      • Rating: 5 stars
      • My Thoughts:
        • Oh my god. What an incredible book. The amount of work that must have gone into this enormous volume is staggering. There is just so much information packed into this book, on every single topic you could want to know more about and many more you might never have considered (such as what kind of thrush Bilbo would have encountered at Erebor). 
        • At a few times I felt the book was a bit heavy on aspects such as related story inspirations or historical information, but really, if you’re not interested in such things they are easily skimmed. Even more rarely, the book strayed more into Tolkien’s mythology than seems related to The Hobbit (for example, a lengthy passage on Thingol) but these segments of course will be enjoyed by strong Tolkien fans and again, easily skimmed over by those only interested in The Hobbit
    • The Intellectual Devotional by David S. Kidder and Noah Oppenheimer
      • Date read: 1 January to 30 December
      • Published: 2006
      • Genre: Non-fiction
      • Why I picked it up: Sounded like fun
      • Rating: 3 stars
      • My Thoughts:
        • I bought this books years ago, tried once or twice to read it as a devotional but always lost interest after a few months. This year I finally made it through on the daily schedule! I kept the book in the bathroom (out of the way of water’s harm!) and I found it to be good morning bathroom reading. ;P
        • Does what it says. Little snippets providing the basics on a range of topics. I Don’t expect fantastic knowledge from this book (I did feel at times that significant points were missing or that the authors focused on things not that important) but really, for an ‘intellectual devotional’ it’s a fun little read.

    Extra Books – December

    • The Stranger by Albert Camus
      • Date read: 9 December (part of the 3rd Annual Holiday Readathon hosted by Liz @ WhoRuBlog)
      • Published: 1942
      • Genre: Philosophical fiction
      • Why I picked it up: Interest in existentialism, this book often referenced
      • Rating: 3 stars
      • My Thoughts:
        • Not really sure what I was expecting but this was totally different from any unconscious expectations I held! Actually, I was expecting something more like The Trial…and while I think the the two novels are quite similar to a degree, what I was really expecting was the protagonist of this book to be a victim. Clearly not the case!
    • The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
      • Date Read: 8 December (part of the 3rd Annual Holiday Readathon hosted by Liz @ WhoRuBlog)
      • Published: 1983
      • Genre: Horror
      • Why I picked it up: High rating by someone I follow on Goodreads
      • Rating: 4 stars
      • My Thoughts:
        • Of the four books I read for the Readathon, this one is definitely my favourite! A favourite among the books I read for the Readathon, and a favourite among all the books I’ve ever read. I’ve never read any type of book that could be classified as horror, yet alone a Victorian ghost story, but I adored this one. 
        • I was a little surprised to find myself actually spooked! I read a good chunk of this book in the family room, where my mom and dad were also reading and the fire was burning – that is to say, I read a chunk of this book in the most comforting atmosphere possible and yet I was still frightened. That should give you an impression of how strong Hill’s writing is.
        • The story itself seemed, to me, fairly basic and simple for a ghost story, containing many of the characteristics or tropes one might expect from such a story (I thought the ending was particularly well done and probably relatively unique [though I have no comparisons on which to base this opinion]), but I suspect that it is highly difficult to craft a novel that actually makes the reader feel afraid. I honestly was not expecting to feel frightened – it’s a book, it’s just words on the page and my imagination. I believe a writer who is able to possess such strong control over my imagination must have a real talent.
        • The prose was easy to follow and flowing, despite being told in a style invoking Victorian fashion. I found the characters not too few or too many and that each was well-formed – in fact I think this adjective could apply to all aspects of the book: well-formed. 
        • I was disappointed to learn that the movie diverges greatly from the book…I would have loved to see it even though I know I would have been terrified!
    • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
    • We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
      • Date read: 9 December (part of the 3rd Annual Holiday Readathon hosted by Liz @ WhoRuBlog0
      • Published: 1962
      • Genre: Fiction (of an odd sort ;P)
      • Why I picked it up: High rating by someone I follow on Goodreads
      • Rating: 3.5 stars
      • Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
        • Date read: 15 December to 16 December
        • Published: 1988
        • Genre: Fiction
        • Why I picked it up: Mild interest in Japanese fiction
        • Rating: 3 stars
        • My Thoughts:
          • An odd little story, at the same time both light and refreshing and crushingly sad and melancholic. For me this story felt small and tidy and serene and also thoughtful, not too profound but still full of realization.
          • I definitely was not expecting a character to die! Though I did like the second part of the novel better.