#BookTubeAThon 2017: Update 1 & Review

JUST FINISHED: All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman.

Tom’s wife isn’t ignoring him, she just can’t see him any more… leaving Tom with only the scant hours of her flight to Vancouver in which to convince her that he’s still by her side.

This book is incredibly short, and very anecdotal, which combine to make the overarching plot quite weak; it’s interesting conceptually, but I found that I wasn’t given enough time with either Tom or his wife (whose superhero name is the Perfectionist) to become fully invested in them, or in their plight – both due to the length of the book itself, and to the amount of time that was spent meandering through Tom’s musings over the various different superheroes he’s known.

Kaufman’s writing, however, was wonderful, and the descriptions he included of all Tom’s superhero friends and their powers were incredibly imaginative. In particular, I was struck by the Projectionist and Mistress Cleanasyougo, but to be honest, if Kaufman was to write a directory of superheroes, I’d read it happily. I also spent much of the book (and still remain, to a certain degree) unsure of whether many of the superheroes were actually personifications different kinds of mental illness, but I may have been reading too much into it… and in any case, I doubt that knowing for sure would have made me like the book any more or less.

Conclusion: Interesting, imaginative, enjoyable, and splendidly written, but weak in terms of story and character development.

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Happy to see some sunshine, which allowed me to get that tricky “read a book outside” challenge finished early on. I’m already halfway through book #2 (The Darkest Minds, which I started yesterday), so hopefully I’ll be able to finish that soon, too. 😊

Books Completed: 1
Pages Read: 373
Challenges Completed: 3

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#BookTubeAThon 2017! | TBR

Guys, it’s Booktubeathon time again! 😆 Which means… a whole week of reading, and reviews, and challenges! (If I can drag myself away from my PS4…) If you’re new to the Booktubeathon, it’s an annual week-long readathon hosted by Ariel Bissett on Youtube, and always includes reading challenges to guide your TBR, daily video challenges and giveaways, a discount code over at The Book Depository, and this year there will also be a readalong, so that people can (if they so desire) all pick up the same book and read together for a day. I don’t tend to take part in much beyond the actual reading, but it’s still probably my favourite of all the readathons I’ve taken part in.. 💕

As always, I’ve tried to tailor my TBR to tick off as many of the challenges as I possibly can (and I hope to be posting reviews of each one as I go along), though, interestingly, it looks like that might be a bit more difficult this year than usual, as quite a few of the challenges are more situational than book-specific. If that makes any sense at all (it probably doesn’t, but you’ll see what I mean)… 😓 But in any case, here’s what I’ve decided on so far:

1) Read a book with a person on the cover.

For this challenge I’ve decided (after much agonising, because there are so many books I want to read that could qualify for this challenge) to go with Darkbeast by Morgan Keyes, which is a fantasy novel about a girl who lives in a society where everyone has an animal companion that represents their inner darkness – or something of the kind – which is sacrificed when they come of age.

2) Read a hyped book.

In contrast, I knew what I was going to read for this challenge almost as soon as it was announced: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken, which I picked up ages ago after hearing so many people heaping praise on the series… and then never looking at it again. I don’t even know what it’s about, really (kids with superpowers, I believe, and something to do with a road trip?), but I’m looking forward to finding out! 😁

3) Finish a book in one day.

This is the first of the two “situational challenges” that I mentioned earlier (meaning, ones that are to do with how you read, rather than what you read), so I haven’t really picked out anything specific for it; it may well end up being Darkbeast, as it’s quite short, but more certain is that if I get this challenge done, it will be on either Wednesday or Thursday, as those are my two days off next week…

4) Read about a character who’s very different from you.

I was tempted to choose Now I Rise by Kiersten White (the sequel to And I Darken) for this challenge, as Lada – a murderous Transylvanian princess – is about as different from me as a person can get, but I thought it would be a bit of a cheat to pick a book that I’d already started reading, even though I’m only about 60 pages in… So instead I decided to go with Nowhere People by Paulo Scott, which is about a Brazilian law student (also called Paulo), who one day decides to give a lift to a young indigenous girl who he spots on the side of the road as he drives home.

5) Read a book only while outdoors.

This is the challenge that I’m dreading the most, as it looks like it’s going to rain for most of next week… Understandably, I’d like to pick something short for the challenge, but picking Darkbeast again seems like a bit much (especially since it’s going to be ticking off the next challenge as well 😓). All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman might work, as it’s both very short, and on my kindle (which has a waterproof cover), but I’m not feeling particularly enthused about it right now, so who knows.

6) Read a book you bought because of the cover.

Like most people, I’m drawn to pretty covers, but I was surprised by how difficult I found it to pick a book out for this challenge, as the only book I own that I bought solely because of the cover is The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, which I’ve finally decided to get rid of, after accepting the fact that I’m never going to read it… So I’ve decided that this is going to be another challenge that will be fulfilled by Darkbeast; I didn’t just buy it for its cover (it also has complimentary comments from my favourite author on the back, and the synopsis sounds pretty interesting, too), but it was definitely a significant contributing factor… 😅

7) Read seven books.

And all this leaves me with three more books to pick out if I want to meet the ultimate Booktubeathon goal of seven books in seven days (which I do)! But I figure I should give myself some flexibility here – and I don’t want to just end up re-hashing the TBR I did for my holiday in Skye last week! A couple of (very shaky) possibilities are A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb or The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. Or maybe a graphic novel? 🤔 I guess I’ll figure it out when I get there. 😊

[EDIT (22/7/17): The Booktubeathon starts on Monday, and will end the following Sunday… which is probably something I should’ve mentioned earlier… 😓]

#BookTubeAThon 2016: Update 5 & Mini-Review

Bram Stoker//DraculaJUST FINISHED: Dracula by Bram Stoker.

Engaged as a solicitor to Count Dracula, to assist him in acquiring a house in England, Jonathan Harker comes to Transylvania to meet the man himself. Over the course of his stay, however, he finds himself becoming more and more suspicious that the Count is much more than he appears.

By which I mean that he’s a vampire, of course. And that’s not a spoiler; everyone and their mother knows that Dracula is a vampire – the most famous literary vampire ever to have existed. More famous even than Edward Cullen! 😉 Something I didn’t know about this book, however, was just how long it is (I don’t think I’ve ever come across a physical copy of it)… so it took me much longer to read than I was expecting. But I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed it! The characters were well fleshed-out, and I really liked all of them, especially Mina and Lucy; I even think it may have passed the Bechdel test, which is a big surprise coming from a book written in the nineteenth century. 😀

The plot was also really well thought out, and very interesting, with mostly good pacing. There were a couple of places where it dragged a little (particularly while Van Helsing and company were planning how to deal with their vampire problem), but usually I found that the scenes that seemed unnecessary when I was reading them became more integral to the story as it went on. Overall, I had a really great time reading this, and I’m glad that I finally decided to pick it up. 🙂

[An addendum re: the film:
Dracula has been adapted a great many times, but the version I watched was the 1931 film starring Bela Lugosi, which was greatly abridged from the book, and in a few startling ways: For instance, the character of Jonathan Harker’s role seems to have been greatly reduced, and the part he played in the book was given instead to Renfield – most of the characters, in fact, are mangled beyond belief… :/ For the most part, the changes seem to make sense, if you consider that all the events of the book couldn’t possibly have fit into an hour-long film, and it does make a cohesive and enjoyable story in itself, but I was expecting the best-known adaptation of Dracula to be a little more faithful to its source material.]

4 stars

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Booktubeathon is now over! And I didn’t manage to finish all the challenges, but I did at least get most of them – which is an achievement, considering how busy I’ve been this week! I didn’t actually finish the film of Dracula (which was part of one of the challenges) until just after midnight, but I’m still counting it, as that was mostly the fault of my (incredibly slow) internet connection.

Books Completed: 5
Pages Read: 1440
Challenges Completed: 6

#BookTubeAThon 2016: Update 4 & Mini-Review

Brandon Sanderson//Perfect StateJUST FINISHED: Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson.

Kairominas, God-Emperor, has unified the world and brought it peace, and now spends his days on scientific and magical research, and battling his nemesis. He’s working towards mastering controlling the weather, after which he will be omnipotent, and will have achieved all there is to achieve in life. The Wode, however, disagree – they want him to procreate, and have put together a list of suitable women for him to choose from. His choice? Sophie, a women’s rights activist, from the very bottom of his compatibility list.

As always, Sanderson’s world-building is fantastic – especially considering that this is a short story – as is his writing. I really enjoyed the action scenes towards the end of the book (and it was particularly appropriate that I decided to read this when I’ve had Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots rattling around in my head for several days 😉 ). In terms of the plot and premise of the story, I got spoiled for the major twist a couple of weeks ago, but I found it really interesting regardless. I also loved the relationship dynamic between Kai and Sophie, which was both very funny and incredibly awkward… and there was also a surprising amount of character development (on Kai’s part) packed into such a short story. Would definitely recommend. 😀
4 starsCURRENT READATHON STATUS: If I finish Dracula today, then that’ll be all but one of the challenges complete… but chances are this’ll probably be my last readathon update. 😦

Books Completed: 4
Pages Read: 1034
Challenges Completed: 4

#BookTubeAThon 2016: Update 3 & Mini-Review

Sabaa Tahir//An Ember in the AshesJUST FINISHED: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.

Laia is a Scholar, a race of people subjugated by the Martial Empire, so her life’s never been easy, but she’s been lucky so far; she has her friends and family, and is learning a trade, so she’ll be able to support herself when she leaves home. But this all changes when her brother is accused of conspiring with the Scholar Resistance. He’s taken prisoner, their grandparents are slaughtered, and Laia finds herself on the run.

Elias is training to become a Mask, one of the Empire’s elite soldiers, and the heir to one of its oldest, most powerful houses, but he despises the violence and oppression that he sees – and is forced to take part in – every day. With his graduation approaching fast, he’s planning on deserting, until an opportunity presents itself for true freedom, without betraying his friends and family, but which may cost him his life.

I was super-excited for this book before it came out (a fantasy setting based on ancient Rome? Yes, please!), but my enthusiasm waned slightly as I waited for the chance to read it (hardbacks are expensive, and even if I’d bought it, my bookshelves are pretty much full :/ ). But I’m so glad that I finally did; I loved this book! The writing was engaging; the plot intriguing, with plenty of unexpected twists and turns (I had real difficulty tearing myself away from this book, even when I had important things to do, i.e. packing). For me, though, the main appeal was the characters:

Laia and Elias were really great leads, both incredibly likeable and relatable, even though they were ostensibly on opposing sides, and at odds for much of the story. Their character growth, too, was incredible; it was wonderful to see how much they both (but especially Laia) changed as the story went on. I also really enjoyed their relationship, which was fraught with tension and misunderstandings, but in a way that always really built up anticipation for their next encounter. And as for the romance, my shipper’s heart has been completely brought to life! 😉 I’m definitely rooting for Laia and Elias, so Elias’ will-they-won’t-they relationship with Helene made me quite anxious at times. I wasn’t so convinced by Laia and Keenan, as they had so few shared scenes (and I had a lot of difficulty trusting Keenan, right from the beginning), but I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationship progresses – and keeping my fingers crossed that it’ll take a few more platonic turns. 😛
5 starsCURRENT READATHON STATUS: Didn’t get as much reading done on the train as I’d hoped to, but I’m also making decent progress on Dracula… (It’s much longer than I thought it was.)

Books Completed: 3
Pages Read: 947
Challenges Completed: 2

#BookTubeAThon 2016: Update 2 & Mini-Review

Franny Billingsley//The Folk KeeperJUST FINISHED: The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley.

Corin Stonewall is a Folk Keeper; he protects the people in the orphanage where he lives, and the houses surrounding it, from the Folk – sinister creatures that sicken crops and livestock, rot food and play awful tricks on people if they’re not appeased with gifts and sacrifices. And Corin also has a secret: He’s not really Corin-the-Folk-Keeper, he’s Corinna, a girl who’s taught herself a few Folk Keepers’ tricks in order to gain some semblance of power over her own life. But when a dying man comes looking for her at the orphanage – asking for her by her real name! – and takes her away with him, all her carefully maintained layers of disguise are in danger of falling away.

While I can’t say that I loved this book, I did find it very interesting. Some good things: It was written in an eerie, haunting style that reminded me a bit of David Almond’s work (one of my favourite authors), which made it a very atmospheric read. There were also a couple of characters that I really liked, specifically Finian the lord who wants to be a sailor, and Taffy the deaf dog who so insistently tries to befriend Corinna. The transformation from Corin to Corinna was also quite remarkable, and I enjoyed how the completely separate entities that they initially seemed to be managed to gradually blend together – for such a short book, Corinna had some amazing character growth.

That said, I wasn’t a huge fan of Corinna for most of the first half of the book (she gave off some serious young Voldemort vibes), and was often so childish and petty that I had to consciously remind myself that, no, she wasn’t a petulant ten-year-old, but a teenager, and almost considered an adult in the story’s setting. Most of the book’s cast was unmemorable, and completely faded into the background – even the main villain! (The first few times he appeared, I kept muddling him up with one of the other characters who Corinna arbitrarily disliked.) And lastly, I would really like to have seen more of the Folk, who were made a prominent part of the setting, but weren’t much involved in the plot (beyond it’s premise).

In short: I did enjoy this book (mainly for its writing), but I probably wouldn’t read it again.3 stars

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Sleepy… And I still need to pack! 😦

Books Completed: 2
Pages Read: 497
Challenges Completed: 1

#BookTubeAThon 2016: Update 1 & Mini-Review

Junot Díaz//The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar WaoJUST FINISHED: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz.

The hilarious and heartbreaking story of a Dominican-American boy called Oscar and his family and friends… his childhood in New Jersey (and his sister Lola’s very different perspective on the same period of time), his mother’s childhood in the Dominican Republic under the rule of the dictator Trujillo, and Oscar’s later life as an adult who’s not really able to fit in anywhere. The whole book is narrated by a friend of his from university, but that’s not made obvious until quite late in the book when he also becomes a prominent character in the story, and I found it fun speculating over who he could possibly be in the earlier chapters. 🙂

I really enjoyed this book! I was slowed down a little in my reading because of all the random Spanish, which I don’t speak, and the meaning of which wasn’t always made obvious through the context – but at the same time, I only very rarely felt the urge to pick up a dictionary, and I do feel like Díaz’s use of Spanish lent a really great atmosphere to the book.

The characters were wonderful: Oscar loved everyone and everything so intently, something that was particularly interesting when contrasted with Lola, who (as Yunior states in the book) only really loves Oscar. I wasn’t always a huge fan of their mother, especially after reading Lola’s chapters, but she was still incredibly sympathetic, and her own chapters of the book were probably some of the most interesting: They explained the bleak oppressiveness of life under Trujillo’s rule in a way that really spoke to my own personal brand of nerd – through Lord of the Rings analogies! 😛 And I also really loved Yunior’s narrative; he really shone through as a character even when I was only thinking of him as “narrator”, and the affection he had for Oscar and his whole family was evident the whole way through the story.

So, to sum up: Beautiful writing, fascinating historical setting, incredible characters… What more could I ask for? (Answer: Not much.)

4 stars

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Hoping to finish at least one more book before my epic train journey. 🙂

Books Completed: 1
Pages Read: 335
Challenges Completed: 1