Readathon 2011: Update #1 #readathon

7am:  Sleeping

8am:  Sleeping

9am:  Woken by hungry cats giving me a wet willie.  Cats pacified with food and fresh water so I decide to wake up fully and go foraging for breakfast and snacks.  Wearing yesterday’s makeup, but I did brush my hair and put my contacts in (it’s pretty sunny out, so I’ll need my sunglasses).
Reading:  All Wound Up, starting page 34

10am:  Eating breakfast at Bruegger’s and thinking that it might be colder indoors than out (only about 50 degrees outside) and watching silly people walking to the football game
Reading:  All Wound Up, starting page 40
Off to Target for food, cat litter, and a trip past the bookstore so I can get my triple mint white mocha with my employee discount and apologize to Jackie for the deplorable state of the store when it opened (I did enough work for three people last night because the others were slacking, oy vey).

1130am:  Back home and in my jammies.  Time to read, read, read!
Reading:  All Wound Up, starting page 58
12pm:  Break to find some lemon Yoplait (yum)
Reading:  All Wound Up, starting page 124
The cats, rather than sleeping like I’m sure they normally do during the day, are working on their applications for World’s Most Annoying House Pets.  Chaucer-the-bottomless-pit has twice tried to break into the Cheerios box and then walked all over my back, yowling at the top of his lungs.  There is food in the food dish – I checked.  Pest.
Finished:  All Wound Up, page 235 @ 1256pm

1pm:  Quick blog update, find the cats’ catnip mousie, and back to reading!

Best American · Readathon · stuff I read

Dewey’s 24 hour Readathon 2011: I’m in!

Having missed last year’s Readathon due to travel, I almost missed this year’s ‘thon due to inattentiveness.

Surprise, right, since I’m having trouble keeping my head on straight.  But!  I have signed up just in time (holy cats, there are over 400 readers!) and, by some miracle, I don’t have a bookstore shift in the middle.  Yay!  I will have to run out for food tomorrow (advance planning = fail) but I did round up a stack of books to work through (advance planning = win):

Yikes!  Quite a stack, right?  You are thinking I am crazy, no?

Well, I tend to count my Readathons in total number of pages read, not just books, and I often take the opportunity to knock off half-finished things.  Also, there are MG/YA books in this stack due to my woefully neglected Newbery Project – they read mucho rapido.  Thirdly, I have the attention span of a gnat right now and I may have to jump around from book to book depending on interest.  I don’t want to waste time staring at the 1000s of books in my house, trying to make up my mind.

Projected titles, top-to-bottom (not reading order, this is just so the stack wouldn’t fall over):

  • All Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a Spin by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (in progress)
  • Best American Short Stories 2011 edited by Geraldine Brooks (Best American Project)
  • Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (galley I picked up from work that Pam loves TONS)
  • The Sea of Monsters and The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan (yeah, yeah, I got behind on my Percy Jackson reading)
  • Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov (because I want my store to adopt a penguin)
  • Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (Newbery, but I have the cool HarperPerennial cover)
  • The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley (Newbery)
  • Crispin by Avi (Newbery)
  • The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsberg (Newbery)
  • I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Treviño (Newbery)
  • Vintage-looking “Natural History of Birds” journal that I write all my Newbery Vocab in (I will not be reading this, obviously)
  • Second Reading by Jonathan Yardley (in progress)
  • Ulysses and Us by Declan Kiberd (in progress)
  • Needles and Pearls by Gil McNeil
  • McSweeney’s Joke Book of Book Jokes (because it has been hanging around the house too long)
  • Still Alice by Lisa Genova
  • Arthurian Romances by Chretien de Troyes (for the book, in progress)
  • Das Niebelungenlied translated by Burton Raffel (for the book, in progress)
  • The White Devil by Justin Evans (galley I requested ages ago – sorry)
  • Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson (galley I requested ages ago – sorry)

Something I will be trying very hard NOT to read: my dratted manuscript (mostly through draft version #6 – it will perhaps be ready for eyes other than mine by draft #10…perhaps not)

Bookclub · stuff I read

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Shirley Jackson is the supreme ruler of pschyological fiction.

Don’t believe me?  Haven’t read The Lottery?  Or The Haunting of Hill House (movie versions with Liam Neeson don’t count)?

Then you ought to read We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

The Blackwood family is so many ways of messed up.  What is left of the family (Connie, Uncle Julius, and Merricat) lives in their huge house, fenced off from the town, after Connie is acquitted of fatally poisoning the other four family members with arsenic six years ago.

It was in the sugar.  For the berries.

Cousin Charles shows up to help the girls “move on” and stop living in isolation/being fodder for the local gossips (so he says).  For a little while, it seems he might be successful.  Then everything goes completely wrong.

This book constantly keeps a reader on his or her toes – mostly due to the fact that the book is narrated entirely by Merricat (Mary Katherine).  At eighteen years of age and either immature or unbalanced (draw your own conclusions), Merricat is an unreliable narrator at best.  She has odd rituals and practices sympathetic magic.  Things happen when she’s around.  Creepy.  Forboding.

My edition, the Penguin Deluxe Classic, has an introduction by Jonathan Lethem and fantastic cover art by Thomas Ott.  The cover alone is worth buying the book.

stuff I read

Jane Austen Made Me Do it

Janeites take their Jane Austen seriously.  She is “my Jane” in a way that Charles Dickens will never be “my Charles” (er, icky).  I’m a bit picky about Austen variations/sequels/modernizations/also-rans.  Well, a lot picky.  In short, I don’t like many.

I heard about the publication of Jane Austen Made Me Do It through Lauren Willig, she of the Pink Carnation series.  Lauren, of course, had a piece in the book so I decided that it was worth a look.

And a purchase.  Edited by Laurel Ann of Austenprose, there are stories in this anthology to suit any taste.  Do you like straight-up sequels? “Nothing Less than Fairy-land” by Monica Fairview looks in on Hartfield after Emma’s wedding (and even captures Miss Bates’s breathless, pitter-patter way of speaking).  Or a sequel to an homage?  “Me and Mr. Darcy, Again…” by Alexandra Potter.  How about a little absurdist humor ala Jasper Fforde?  “Intolerable Stupidity” by Laurie Viera Rigler.  Perspective from a different character?  “Letters to Lydia” by Maya Slater.  A little ghost story?  Perhaps “The Ghostwriter” by Elizabeth Aston.

I personally liked Lauren’s story, “A Night at Northanger”, which introduces us to Cate (who also figures in the modern frame of her most recent Pink novel, The Garden Intrigue, pubbing February 2012).  We meet poor Cate, stuck “investigating” haunted houses as an assitant on Ghost Trekkers, who gets the surprise of her life when she stays one night at Northanger Abbey.  The story has Lauren’s signature funny asides and is a great Band-aid for those of us drooling for the next Pink book.

I also quite liked “Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss” by Jo Beverley.  The story uses the basic frame of Sense and Sensibility (as well as a few names) and a theme from Northanger Abbey.  Elinor, a widowed, formerly well-off mother with three daughters, is given the point-of-view in a story about finding happiness and Christmas romance, with a little advice from that wicked novelist Jane Austen.

My favorite story, though, involves Sense and Sensibility and the Beatles.  Yes, the Beatles.  “Jane Austen, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!” by Janet Mullany is set in 1964.  Julie Morton is a low-on-the-totem-pole-of-Cleverton High-School-for-Girls teacher of who, unfortunately, draws detention duty with three Beatles obsessed girls.  The students landed in detention for, you guessed it, telling their English teacher what they thought of Sense and Sensibility: stupid, and all the characters are silly cows.  Julie, taking inspiration from the girls’ obsession with John, Paul, Ringo, and George, does a bit of literary analysis to show her students that, perhaps, classic literature does have a place right next to Beatlemania (there’s also a good feminist side-plot, too).

Bookclub · stuff I read

Inverted World

Christopher Priest’s Inverted World is a very scientifically-grounded dystopic novel (the afterword classifies Inverted World as a Hard SF novel but it doesn’t seem that way at first; it seems more typical of a dystopic novel but about halfway through the Hard SF elements start poking their way through).

A walled city is being winched through a devastated landscape on rails.  The rails must be laid before it and taken up after.  The city is forever in chase of The Optimum.  To halt is to fall victim to a crushing gravitational pull.

Helward Mann is our guide to this world.  When he takes the oath to become a Future Surveyor, he is inducted to all the secrets normally kept from the city population.  The dystopic novel was previous to this point, now it’s Hard SF’s turn.

History, geography, and physics all come into play.  Is this world truly inverted, that only the enlightened of the city will follow the Optimum and avoid death, or are those in the city chasing a truly delusional vision?

audiobooks · stuff I read

The Night Circus

I love  the concept of The Night Circus – a black-and-white, Cirque du Soleil-like circus that materializes overnight and is filled with tents both awe-inspiring and whimsical.  Traditional acts – trapeze artists, contortionists, big cats – are interspersed with a tent of strange bottles, a memorial tree filled with candles, and a forest made of ice and snow.

At the heart of this circus is a contest of magical education – Celia and Markus are pitted against one another in a mysterious, ill-defined age-old contest of magical illusion. 

The narrative thread in The Night Circus is broken into three parts:  a “real-time” narrative that follows Celia and Markus and the development of the circus, a “later” narrative that follows a Massachusetts farm boy, Bailey, who becomes obsessed with Le Cirque de Reves whose story to whose story the “real-time” narrative gradually catches up to, and a “free-floating” narrative that drops chapters describing the various tents intbetween the other narratives (this is a more “modern” line and it is narrated in the 2nd person – “you” – as if the book is narrating the reader’s movement through the circus).

This is a very atmospheric book. Morgenstern sets a scene so well, with very visual, auditory, and olfactory (could do without so many caramel-apple smells, though) description.  There is an exquisite scene between Celia and Markus where they create visions for one another – including a forest of paper trees with love scenes from books written on the trunks.  The writing is just that evocative (Morgenstern is a visual artist as well and it shows in her world building).

I enjoyed this book – the concepts, the evocations in individual chapters – but the book didn’t blow my mind, much as I wanted it to.  I lost the thread of the plot several times and, had I not been listening 10 minutes at a time in the car on audiobook, I might have set it aside to read later.  Without spoiling specifics, I was a little disappointed in the denouement – some of the plot was clever and some failed to explain anything.  I kept wishing all the magical tents were real and that I knew more than I did about the different cards of the tarot (points to Morgenstern for not over-explaining things like that).

Audiobook specific observation: Jim Dale (the narrator) says “thank you” weird, like he bites off the “you” and gives it a bit an “r” on the end…and it cuts across all of his accents. This is an annoyance I heard on the Harry Potter audio, too. Also, there are American characters who should have New England/Boston accents yet he chose to give them English-ish accents. Sorta odd (although not as odd as the rather nasal Gaelic accents of Poppet and Widget…annoying).