Winter Biannual Bibliothon 2018 – Wrap Up

Last week was the Winter Biannual Bibliothon, a reading challenge in which the goal is to read as many books as you can in seven days. The readathon also consists of a few social media challenges, which I didn’t take part in, and some reading ones, which I did. You can find the list of reading challenges and the books I chose for them in my bibliothon TBR post.

In total, I managed to complete six of the seven reading challenges with ‘Read a book under 200 pages’ being the only one I did not quite manage, despite it being one of the ones which should have been easier to complete. Most of the challenges were achieved by doubling up as well. While I did manage to start six books during the bibliothon week, I was only able to finish four of them, mini-reviews for which are below.

I thoroughly enjoyed the week and the fact it gave me a chance to pick up books I probably would not have read otherwise. On the whole I stuck to my TBR, only swapping out The Winner’s Curse for Before the Devil Breaks You as my sequel as I wanted an audiobook for the week. This ended up being for the best as Before the Devil Breaks You ended up being one of my favourite books of the bibliothon. I cannot wait until the next readathon, be it the Biannual Bibliothon or otherwise.

Now, onto the books I read and finished. For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

 

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

My first book of the Winter Biannual Bibliothon was the Penguin Clothbound Classics edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, both of which were including in this binding (the binding also included a rather-long introduction and the original manuscript version of Alice’s Adventure’s Under Ground, neither of which I read). I had not actually read any print versions of this book prior to the bibliothon so going into the Alice stories were an adventure. They were as barmy as I expected, with a lot of nostalgic familiarity with relation to the various adaptions and retellings I have seen and read. It was a fun book and it’s easy to see why it’s so debated with regards to meaning – I’m half-tempted to read it again to see what more I can uncover from it!

Challenge: Read a Book That Was Mentioned in Another Book/Movie/Show

Rating: 4/5

Pages Read: 242

Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

Otherworld was the group book for the bibliothon and was also my second read of the week. The book is set in a world where virtual reality is at the forefront of gaming and technology; the graphics are almost life-like and players spent hours inside the game. Behind that though a new technology is being developed, one which puts your very life on the line as you play. I did not know what to expect going into Otherworld but, on the whole, I’m pretty pleased with the story I got. It was fast-paced with regular developments to the stakes and to the world itself as we discover what is going on alongside Simon, the main character, as he tries to find his best friend who is trapped in the VR world. Unfortunately, the story is heavily let down by the fact Simon is simply so unlikeable that I ended up not really caring for him at all, and the other characters were not developed enough to counteract that. There were also a couple of points where the story felt confused. On the whole, however, it was a fun, gripping read that explored the terrifying potential of virtual reality, it is just unfortunate about the characters.

Challenge: Read the Group Book and Read a Book You’ve Never Heard of Before

Rating: 3.5/5

Pages Read: 355

 

Nation by Terry Pratchett

Prior to picking up Nation, I had not read any of Terry Pratchett’s books which were not set in the Discworld. As such, I went in not really knowing what to expect. What I got was something magical. Nation is a children’s book, but it can easily be read by any adult and it would be a rare adult who read this book and did not get anything from it. Nation is an exploration of identity, belief and what it is that makes a nation. It follows Mau who returns to his homeland to find it demolished by a tsunami. Slowly, he starts rebuilding with the help of Daphne, a girl ship-wrecked in the same tsunami. Of course, this book is written in Pratchett’s usual wacky style, which only makes the story even more delightful.

Challenge: Read a Backlist Title

Rating: 4.5/5

Pages Read: 410

 

Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray (narrated by January LaVoy)

One of my favourite series is The Diviners by Libba Bray – it is fun, spooky and completely gripping. When I found out that the third book in the series was out, I immediately downloaded the audiobook and it was everything I could hope it could be. I loved being back with the Diviners, despite them being put through so much in this novel. Bray does not hold back at all, and each of our favourites ends up with challenges to face. Numerous topics are tackled in this book as well, including sexual assault, racism and politics. January LaVoy is a fantastic narrator and I cannot imagine this series being read by anyone else; there is enthusiasm in her narration while also capturing the tone of every scene perfectly. This book would have received 5 stars if not for three reasons: for the most part I found Mabel’s story line a little dull, it did feel more of a set up to the final book than a contained story and there were too many epilogues for my liking. None of those, however, will do anything in the slightest to stop me from reading the fourth book. If you haven’t read this series, I highly recommend it, especially if you’re into historical fiction (this is set in the 20s) with a strong supernatural flare.

Challenge: Read a Sequel and Read a Book About Mental Illness

Rating: 4.5/5

Length: 21 hours and 26 minutes

Pages Read: 552 pages

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Winter Biannual Bibliothon 2018 – TBR

The Biannual Bibliothon is pretty much what the name suggests – a readathon which takes place twice a year. Each readathon is a week long and is hosted by a number of booktubers on the Biannual Bibliothon YouTube account, and there are both video and reading challenges for the week. This year’s Winter Biannual Bibliothon runs from the 20th to the 26th January – a full seven days which I will spend reading (and doing the things I cannot really avoid – like work).

I decided to take part in this year’s Winter Biannual Bibliothon for one simple reason – I wanted an excuse to read. With the fast-moving pace of life today, particularly with regards to social media, it’s very difficult to step away, slow down and read. There is also something strangely relaxing about sitting down reading and knowing that somewhere a stranger is doing the same thing, for the same reason.

While I won’t be taking part in the video challenges, I will be attempting the reading ones. There are seven in total and it is possible to double-up on some of them if you’re not able to read them all. I am going to have a different book for each challenge although, as it’s unlikely I’ll get to them all, I have selected some that will easily double-up with other challenges. I have also added the rule that all the books, with the exception of the group book, must be books I already own but have not read.

Here is my TBR for the Winter Biannual Bibliothon:

  1. Read the group book: OTHERWORLD by Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller

As I don’t already own this book, I have reserved it from the library (although, at time of writing, it has still to arrive). I did consider buying it for the challenge but, in an attempt to save money, I thought it might be a good excuse to support the local library. I just hope it gets to the library in time.

 

  1. Read a sequel: The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski

I had a few books which I could have picked for this challenge but, unfortunately, most of them were quite long. I read the first book in this series about a year ago and, while I enjoyed the first book, I was not motivated enough at the time to pick up the second. I thought this challenge would provide me with the incentive to give this series another go. This book is also a potential double-up with challenge 7.

 

  1. Read a book you’ve never heard of before: Flawed by Cecelia Ahern

This was the hardest challenge to fulfil to start with as, by only using books I already own, nothing actually fit the bill, so I decided to change it slightly. Instead of reading a book I’ve never heard of before, I decided to read a book I had never heard of when the book entered my possession, something which instantly opened up options. I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while and, since it also fits with challenge 7, it seemed like a good time to read it.

 

  1. Read a book about mental illness: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Sadly, this was also a challenge for me as I struggled to find any books I owned but had not yet read which were specifically about mental health. After much searching through blurbs and reviews, I decided to include Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine for this challenge. I do have a couple of non-fiction options as well, should I change my mind during the bibliothon.

 

  1. Read a book that was mentioned in another book/movie/show etc.: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll.

For this challenge, I went with a classic. There has to be at least one book/movie/show in which Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland is mentioned and, I am ashamed to say, I have not read any of Lewis Carroll’s writing. The copy I have also includes Through the Looking-Glass, so I’m also using this book as a potential double-up for challenge 2 as well as challenge 7. Based on some arguments and discussions around this book, it could also work as a double-up for challenge 4, although I’m less inclined to use it for that.

 

  1. Read a book under 200 pages: How to Think Like Sherlock by Daniel Smith

This was a relatively easy choice as I only own one book which I have not read which is less than 200 pages long. That book is How to Think Like Sherlock, a non-fiction book which came in a book subscription box. As such, this book could also work as a double-up to challenge 3, along with challenge 7. It seems like a quick, fun read and so should be a useful book in this week-long readathon.

 

  1. Read a backlist title: Nation by Terry Pratchett

Of all the challenges, challenge 7 was the easiest to select a book for but, for the same reasons, was also one of the hardest. For the purpose of the challenge, a backlist title is one which was published before 2017; at least half, if not more, of the books on my TBR bookcase were published before 2017. As such, this challenge is the one I will most likely be doubling up on but, should I get to it, Nation is book the book of choice. It’s hard to go wrong with some Terry Pratchett.

So, there we have it, the books I have set out for my week of reading. I am not expecting to read them all, but I will at least attempt to complete all the challenges through doubling-up. I am also not confining myself to this particular TBR. The purpose of the readathon is to read and to enjoy yourself while you’re reading. If I’m not feeling a book, I’ll swap it out with another one to ensure maximum reading entertainment. Regardless, I’m looking forward to tackling my TBR and getting into a good book.

Bring on the Bibliothon!

 

The Books I Read in December 2017

2017 has come and gone. For the duration of the year, I was taking part in the Goodreads challenge, with the goal of reading 100 books in the year. By the end of November, this goal was beginning to look more like a lost cause. But, thanks to a massive push in December, during which I read 17 books, I managed to meet the goal of reading 100 books in 2017 with a day to spare.

The 17 books I read were a mixed bunch, both in the type of book as well as in my rating. I read some brilliant books, but also some that I am unlikely to pick up again. The highlight of the month was easily The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. I love Agatha Christie’s books yet had not ever got around to reading the book which is considered her masterpiece. A programme on the television (Agatha Christie Vs. Hercule Poirot) prompted me to buy the book and read it. I went in blind and absolutely loved the story. If you do ever want to pick up this book, don’t read anything about it beforehand; it’s the best way to enjoy it fully.

That wasn’t the only book I enjoyed in December, however. There were plenty of others, which you can see below in the complete list of the books I read, along with their ratings. For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

 

Audiobook

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens – 3.5/5

Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger – 3.5/5

Kindle

Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss – 4.5/5

The Forever Ship by Francesca Haig – 4.5/5

The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason – 3/5

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie – 5/5

Hardback

The Truth by Terry Pratchett – 4/5

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell – 4/5

Everless by Sara Holland – 4.5/5

Paperback

Return to the Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz – 4/5

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman – 4/5

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman – 3.5/5

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman – 3/5

World Mythology in Bite-Sized Chunks by Mark Daniels – 1.5/5

I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells – 4/5

Rise of the Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz – 3.5/5

Feminism: A Very Short Introduction by Margaret Walters – 3/5

 

17 books. That, for me, is an achievement for a single month’s reading and I’m beyond happy to have completed my challenge to read 100 books. This year, in 2018, I am going to repeat the challenge. While it was difficult to do, particularly given the reading slumps I suffered during a couple of months, it was fun and led me to read a wide range of books, including some I probably would not have considered at the beginning of the year. Going into 2018, I am listening to the audiobook The Widow by Fiona Barton (read by Clare Corbett) and reading Zenith by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings. As for the rest of the year, I have no plans for what to read beyond just seeing what I’m in the mood for and enjoying every word (hopefully).

 

 

NaNoWriMo 2017 Update – Week 3 and the Beginning of Week 4

Writing Progress

The final week of NaNoWriMo is here and three days remain until the clock strikes midnight and the magic of November is over. It has been a while since my last update and that’s because I’ve been busy. The number of social commitments I’ve had this last week or so has meant that I have had five days where I have written nothing at all. Indeed, in the first half of Week 4, I have only managed to write 984 words.

Fortunately, the situation is not so dire as to be irretrievable. Thanks to a period of writing 2,000 words a day in Week 3, and a day in which I wrote over 6,000 words, I only need to write a minimum of 1,711 words a day in order to win. It is more than the daily average you need to win, but it’s not a horrendous amount of words and, as far as I’m concerned, I can still make it if I try. I might just have to suffer a couple of late nights.

Writing Inspiration

It’s hard to write of inspiration when I’ve just had a four day break from writing. That being said, a four day break may have been what I needed to refresh my mind and return to the pages with a cobweb-free head, and enough energy to charge onwards into the final few days.

One the main hurdles I’m facing at the moment is just being too tired to write, particularly after a long, cold day at work. It’s hard to find the motivation when you just want to be asleep under the duvet. While having naps may not be the best idea in the evening, letting yourself switch off for an hour or so after a busy day is vital for letting the brain get into the creative zone. Some people enjoy a walk, others a long, hot bath. For me, it varies. Often-times, I find that just watching an episode of a show will suffice. Once that hour is up, I am ready to make myself comfortable (often with a blanket if it’s one of those chillier days), get a cup of tea and start writing.

Writing Plans

Today, my push for victory begins. As I’ve said, I need to write a minimum of just over 1,700 words a day in order to win and win I intend to do. It is possible, even though I do have plenty of other things which need doing this week, and it is going to be my priority. To achieve this, I decided to look back on the days I wrote the most.

On a few, the words came from having no words at all. I started writing about something which I had experienced, such as a headache or being cold, and those ended up turning into more and more words, all perfectly relevant to the story. On others, I wrote in focused time periods, using the Pomodoro technique. I’d put on some background sound and write for 25 minutes, then took a break to do something completely different, before starting the 25 minutes again. This technique helped me write 6,000 words in one day. Other times, it was simply the goal and the story which got me to 2,000 – I decided to write that many words and so I did.

So, this week, I am going to do a combination of those. I am going to sit down to an empty page, and let either the story or my experiences guide me. I will write in sprints, with regular breaks for both eyes and brain, with the final goal of the day being 2,000 words. Some days I will succeed, other days I may fail but so long as I write more than 1,700 words a day, I should be okay.

Let the final days of NaNoWriMo begin.

 

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Week 1 Update!

Writing Progress

Week 1 of NaNoWriMo is over and, if I’m honest, I am quite proud of myself with my progress in the first week. My daily word count has been a bit varied (writing ~1,000 words on one day and ~3,000 words the next), but on average I have written 1,863 words a day for the last week. And I wrote every day. The biggest challenge for me was actually making sure I wrote a reasonable amount each day while also not letting general work and life-admin get in the way of it. As it turns out, the one week I have had more to fit in, I’ve been the most successful at getting things done than I have for a long time. As a result, my total word count at the end of Week 1 is 13,044 words. Only 36,956 words to go!

In terms of the novel itself, I started out by trying to alternate between my three protagonists each day. Each one has quite a different story, so I thought it would be a good way to keep myself interested in the novel if I kept switching between them. It worked, at least for the first four days when I was in the initial exploratory stages and excited to meet each character and those they associate with. For the last three days, however, I have mostly been focused on one character’s perspective and really enjoying getting a bit deeper into her story without having to step in and out of it. This particular character was always the most vocal in the planning stage, so I am not particularly surprised by her dominance at the moment. That being said, I am still excited to see what the other characters have to bring to the table.

Writing Inspiration – GollanczFest

Almost every writer has those moments where inspiration is slow to strike, or no muses are in town. At these times, writing can prove to veer on the difficult and it becomes an effort to get the words on the page. At times like this, I find one way to build up motivation and inspiration is to actually listen to other writers talk about their work, or the world of writing in general.

This week, I went to GollanczFest, a weekend of panels and workshops made up of the authors of Gollancz, a sci-fi and fantasy publisher. I only went on the Saturday, and only to the panel discussions, but the whole day was a lot of fun (although it did veer onto more serious topics a surprising number of times).

My favourite panel was the one where each author picked a weapon and were pitched against one another in an author death match (absolutely hilarious), but each one was great in different ways. From topics such as things that go bump in the night to where the authors get their own inspiration, it was fascinating to hear the different opinions from each of the authors (particularly when a near fight broke out on stage based on whether we’re heading into a dystopia or a utopia in the real world!).

Ultimately though, the most inspiring thing I find from author talks isn’t the advice they give, or their debates on if ghosts are real. Instead, it’s the fact that the talks humanise them a bit. Authors are real people, with their own lives and own challenges and, really, if they can do it then so can you.

Writing Plans for Week 2

Going into Week 2, I am feeling positive. Week 2 is notorious for being the most challenging and most vicious of NaNoWriMo weeks, yet after the success of Week 1, I do think I will be able to ride out the wave. That being said, I am going to make some slight changes.

A couple of days ago, I moved my novel onto Scrivener. In the past, I have always written a book in a fully chronological order, so writing in a word document worked reasonably well. This time around, however, I have found myself taking a completely different approach. Each writing session starts with a blank page and an idea. If the idea is slow coming, I take a glance at my rough plan (which consists of a list of key scenes for each character, with about 3 words to describe each scene – very broad), and pick the scene which grabs me first. As a result, I’ve ended up with a large number of word documents of random scenes. So, to keep track of them all, after writing, I’ve added the scene to Scrivener with the name format ‘<protagonist name> – <4 word scene summary>’. This has instantly helped me see where new scenes could be added, and where the scenes I have written fit in the book. I will still write on a blank Word document, but at the end of the session, it all gets copied into Scrivener which, in turn will help me decide on new scenes to write.

This blog post is getting a little long (the NaNoWriMo mode has hit) so I’m going to wrap it up now. Another one will be up next week, covering the battle that is Week 2 of NaNoWriMo.

 

 

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Let the Challenge Begin!

Today is the 1st November and, for many people out there, that can only mean one thing: NaNoWriMo, the month-long challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organisation that has been encouraging writers across the world to, well, write for 19 years. I have participated in 4 of those years, winning in two.

This year will be my fourth consecutive NaNoWriMo and, after two years of failing to write those 50,000 words, I’m determined to turn the tables. I have a new novel plan on my desk, a new world to discover and new characters to breathe life into.

Unfortunately, the November I am going into isn’t a November of empty nights and empty weekends. I have, perhaps rather foolishly, turned it into a fairly eventful and social month. This is going to make the challenge a little bit trickier and will require a lot more perseverance and planning on my part.

So, after careful examination of my productivity levels over the preceding few weeks and a closer look at my calendar for the coming month, I have worked out a schedule that might help me win. This mostly revolves around planning to write more words on days where I have no plans, focusing the majority of my writing on the weekend and week-beginning (my post-work productivity drops from Wednesday to Friday). I am also resolving to write more towards the beginning of the month, taking advantage of that first week burst, so that I have enough of a boost/buffer to get me through week two and any slow days which come my way. I also have a spreadsheet to keep track of it all.

The novel itself is going to be a crime fantasy, told from three perspectives. Each PoV character will have their own story, but each will play an important role in the over-arching story-line. There will be magic (in the form of telepathy), there will be murder (multiple murders in fact) and there will be knives at a gun-fight (because, why not?).

As NaNoWriMo has already begun, I have actually started to make progress with this novel. My word count at the end of today is 1,825 words and those words have been spent meeting my least-defined protagonist, one of my main secondary characters and an entirely new character who popped up completely unexpectedly (and on the first day, no less).

I will likely keep weekly updates on my NaNoWriMo progress, although this may vary depending on how my writing is going. If I’m falling behind, the novel is the priority; if things are going well, then I may be able to sneak in a few more updates here and there.

My NaNoWriMo page: https://nanowrimo.org/participants/razka13

 

 

24-Hour Readathon Wrap Up

Last weekend was the 24-hour readathon and I just knew I had to take part. Not only was I about 9 books behind schedule for my goodreads goal of 100 books this year, but I was also looking for a good excuse to simply put life aside for a few hours to sit and read. The 24-hour readathon provided the perfect opportunity.

I started reading at 1pm on Saturday and, while the readathon itself did come to an end at 1pm on the Sunday, I’ll admit I continued reading. I think my favourite part of the experience was that, while it was a challenge, it was a good-natured one with countless others across the world taking part. I was sat reading, knowing that at the same time someone else was doing the same thing for the same reason. The readathon’s twitter hashtag also helped keep up the sense of community.

Getting fully indulged in a book with few distractions was also another favourite. Normally, when I read, there is always something getting in the way, be it life admin, work or just being social. Putting aside everything to read was a treat and one I will certainly be repeating. I also got a chance to read three books which have been on my to-read list for quite some time and fitted perfectly with a slightly creepy October setting.

 

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco – 4.5/5

My first book of the readathon was Stalking Jack the Ripper and this was also my favourite of the three. I’ll be the first to admit that I find serial killers fascinating and Jack the Ripper is the most famous of them all. This book was a fresh, fictional take on the story, from the perspective of a girl secretly studying forensic science at the time. Obviously, she becomes embroiled in the mystery and works to find and stop Jack before he can kill anyone else. The book itself is great fun to read with a balance of light-heartedness mixed in with the macabre. It was the perfect novel to set off the readathon and I now cannot wait to read its sequel (which I believe involves Count Dracula).

 

Because You Love to Hate Me by Various (edited by Ameriie) – 3.5/5

The second book I read for the readathon was also the book I half-wish I had read at another time. It is a collection of short stories created by a partnership between a number of authors and booktubers – the booktuber would provide a prompt and the author would write a story based on that prompt, but from the villain’s perspective. As an anthology, it involved a number of different stories and it was very clear when one ended (each story was published with commentary from the respective booktuber). This made it difficult to get into at first and, the very nature of it being an anthology, meant I enjoyed some stories more than others. That being said, I loved reading from a villain’s point of view and it was actually quite inspiring for my own writing.

 

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith – 3/5

While I read the first two books on the Saturday, Sunday morning was devoted to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. This is where I think it had the disadvantage. After intensive reading the night before I had, rather foolishly, given myself eye-strain and was also rather tired. Even so, the third, and final, novel surprised me. I love the original (and was sorely tempted to, at the very least, watch the film adaption after finishing the book) but the addition of zombies help to liven up the story and, simply put, were a lot of fun. Some parts didn’t quite work, the zombie addition did conflict with the other storylines a bit, and a lot of the reason I enjoyed this was the familiarity of the original. This was also the only book I didn’t quite manage to finish in the period of the readathon, although I did tuck into the rest of it on Sunday afternoon.

 

Finally, some statistics! Over the course of the readathon, I read for approximately 11 hours (and slept for another 11), reading a total of 808 pages (roughly 73 pages an hour). I finished two books and read three quarters of the third. I also drank countless cups of tea and ran out of snacks on the Saturday, but we won’t go into that.

Now that the readathon is over, I am looking forward to the next one I can get involved with. Next time, I will probably aim to avoid anthologies as they are harder to get into; I’ll also try to move and rest my eyes more frequently and, most importantly, endeavour to ensure my cupboards are fully stocked before beginning. For those who also took part, I hope you enjoyed it. For those who organised it, thank you for setting it up for us!

Dewey’s 24-hour readathon: http://www.24hourreadathon.com/