Sunday, June 29, 2008

Read-a-Thon End-of-Event Survey

The 24-Hour Read-a-Thon, hosted by Dewey, has been over for about twelve hours now, and although I've not yet recovered, I did want to post the end-of-event survey before I went to bed for the night.

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

I think the very worst was about 5:30 a.m. my time - 19:30 of elapsed time. The sun was starting to come up, and I guess I just couldn't cope with the idea that it was a new day.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

I think young adult and children's books are maybe the best choice. I read two of them (see no. 6), and they were easy-to-read and quick-moving.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

It really was fabulous this year! I think Dewey almost has it down to a science.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

The "cheerleader" concept is brilliant. The mini-challenges are a lot of fun. The best part of the Read-a-thon, I think, is trading comments with both other Readers and with Cheerleaders; it's a great feeling of "community."

5. How many books did you read?

I read three complete novels - one for adults, one for teens, and one for children. In addition, I read part of two non-fiction books I've been working on and started another children's novel.

6. What were the names of the books you read?

These books were Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss, and Flip by David Lubar, respectively.

7. Which book did you enjoy most?

I can't pick one favorite. They are all good reads - although I will say that the three I finished are better read-a-thon reads than the non-fiction.

8. Which did you enjoy least?

I am loving The Devil in the White City - but it is too mentally taxing for me to read for hours at a time. And Eat, Shoots & Leaves was definitely not a good choice for the early morning hours. I am going to finish both of these - as well as Flip - though.

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?

Not applicable.

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

If my schedule permits, I will definitely be participating as a Reader in the next read-a-thon! I'm hooked!

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

This mini-challenge was hosted by Lori's Reading Corner, who wanted an image of the covers of the books we've read. I'm slow getting it posted, but here it is!

Alison's Read-a-Thon Collage

Elapsed Time 24:00

Final report!

Time Read: 12:15

Pages Read: 826 (my additional time and pages since the last report came from having Sugar Plum read to me from Flip)

Books Finished: 3

Time Blogged: 6:45

Time Slept: 3:30

Time Remaining When I Ended My Participation: 1:30

Frame of Mind: I'm so glad to have participated in this read-a-thon again! I managed to get through church just fine - and I've now eaten a good lunch. After a very long nap, I will try to get a book cover collage posted, as well as the Post-Event Survey. I've got three book reviews to write as well.

Elapsed Time 21:30

Progress report ...

Time Read: 11:45 (although I have to say that the last half-hour included here was pretty much the same paragraph over and over)

Pages Read: 804 (my additional pages since the last report came from reading from page 90 to page 128 in Eats, Shoots & Leaves)

Books Finished: 3

Time Blogged: 6:15

Time Slept: 3:30 (yes, i fell asleep again! once Jelly pointed out that the sun was coming up, and i could start hearing some birds singing, my body had a very hard time believing that the read-a-thon wasn't done.)

Frame of Mind: I was woken up by my 12yo daughter Sugar Plum, who was getting ready to have her shower in preparation to attend church. She reported that Jelly Bean is asleep in the living room - although I can see from Jelly's blog that she finished The Host before succumbing to the power of dreamland. (Woohoo, Jelly!) With two-and-a-half hours left to go, I'm going to try to get in a little more reading and blogging between showering and dressing for church. If I didn't have to teach Sunday School to 14-year-olds just as the read-a-thon is scheduled to end, I think I would have forced myself to stay a little more awake, but now that I've actually had about three-and-a-half hours sleep, I'm sure I'll be better able to deal with the class. I really would like to get a book cover collage posted, as well as the Post-Event Survey.

Elapsed Time 17:30

Uh, I'm awake ... Progress report ...

Time Read: 10:15

Pages Read: 766

Books Finished: 3 (the third one is Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary)

Time Blogged: 5:45

Time Slept: 1:30

Frame of Mind: Yes, I've now had a little nap! As I reached the end of Dear Mr. Henshaw, I was drifting off every sentence or so. I made myself finish the book, then I told Jelly Bean, "Mom is having a nap," and promptly fell asleep. It appears Jelly is still going though! I'm definitely going to take off my contact lenses now - but then I'm hoping I'm in for the duration (or at least until it's time to get ready for church). I do need to pick a new book - or else return to The Devil in the White City.

Elapsed Time 14:00

Progress report ...

Time Read: 9:15

Pages Read: 632 (that's nearly 70 pages an hour)

Books Finished: 2 - Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich
and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Time Blogged: 4:45

Frame of Mind: Thirteen Reasons Why was just as good as I'd heard it was! So what should I start next? Now that it's midnight here, I'm definitely getting sleepy. I'm debating on whether or not to take out my contact lenses. On the one hand, my eyes might feel less "buggy" without them; on the other hand, taking them off will be a sure signal to my body that it's bedtime. I'm not going to be able to eat anything to keep awake either - at least for the next little while - because I'm stuffed from the Cafe Rio take-out that WhiteRabbit brought for Jelly and I.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Read-a-Thon Mid-Event Survey

Dewey has posted a survey for us to complete,
now that the read-a-thon is half over.

1. What are you reading right now?

I'm working on Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher - which, as several commenters suggested, was a perfect read-a-thon pick!

2. How many books have you read so far?

Just one complete book - Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich - but I've also read 34 pages from the middle of The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson and I've got about 100 pages left to go in Thirteen Reasons Why.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

Actually, I was trying to decide what I want to start when I finish Thirteen Reasons Why. I'm thinking about Dear Mr. Henshaw, the Newbery Award-winning children's book. I'm also thinking about several YA possibilities. I've got the graphic novel Electric Girl for the wee hours too.

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?

Unfortunately, June has been an incredibly busy month for me, and I've had to pick and choose from among a number of options this entire month. Having some time for myself, and also spending some one-on-one time with Jelly Bean, took priority this weekend, though. I dealt with a lot of things yesterday, and WhiteRabbit was willing to make sure that the younger kids' transportation needs for today were met.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

With three non-read-a-thon participants living in the house, there have been plenty of interruptions! For the most part I've just read through them. A couple of times I've had to remind my kids that Mom and Jelly Bean need a bit of quiet for reading.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

I am surprised that the time has passed so quickly. It's really hard for me to believe that we're half-way done!

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

From this side - as a Reader - it's been absolutely terrific! A big thank you to Dewey and to her helpers!

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader, if you were to do this again next year?

One thing I really wish I'd managed was to get a good week's sleep prior to the event, but things have just been too hectic at work this week.

9. Are you getting tired yet?

Not really. (Although I'm doubtful it'll stay that way.)

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?

Hmmm. I can't think of anything right now.

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

Jelly Bean and I just got back from completing a mini-challenge is hosted by Dewey. She wanted us to go outside for a walk and get some fresh air. Both Jelly and I were definitely ready for some movement - but we didn't want to stop reading, so we strolled around the neighborhood with books in hand. It's pretty warm out today - currently 88° according to Google - so I'm feeling a little sweaty. But, still, it was good to move! By the way, the book I'm currently reading is Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

Elapsed Time 07:30

Progress report ...

Time Read: 4:45

Pages Read: 344

Books Finished: 1 - Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich

Time Blogged: 2:45

Frame of Mind: The last hour-and-a-half just flew by! Now that I've finished Fearless Fourteen, I've got to decide what to read next.

Elapsed Time 06:00

Progress report ...

Time Read: 3:45

Pages Read: 260 (i switched to Fearless Fourteen after my last progress report, and it moves much more quickly than The Devil in the White City.)

Books Finished: 0

Time Blogged: 2:15

Frame of Mind: I'm nearly finished with Fearless Fourteen, so I'm encouraged by that. I haven't decided what I'll read next - but it'll probably be a YA book. I ate some popcorn just a bit ago, but I'd really like some substantial food. Jelly Bean and I are hoping we can bribe her dad into picking up some Cafe Rio for our dinner. It's hard to believe that we're already a quarter of the way through the read-a-thon.

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

This mini-challenge is hosted by Vasily, who wants a favorite book quote. Earlier this year I read and fell in love with Shannon Hale's Princess Academy. Here is a favorite quote - from Britta, one of the girls attending the academy:

"The only thing I wish is that whoever does become the princess is happy, I mean really, really happy. Otherwise, what would it matter, right?" [pages 108-109]

Elapsed Time 02:30

Progress report ...

Time Read: 1:30 (although it's been somewhat intermittent as i've gotten organized and also supervised the younger kids)

Pages Read: 34 (i read from page 256 to page 290 in The Devil in the White City)

Books Finished: 0

Time Blogged: 1:00

Frame of Mind: i'm definitely off to a slow start, but i think i'm ready to settle in for a while - right after i get another glass of Diet Coke with Lime!

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

The first mini-challenge of the read-a-thon is an Introduction Meme, brought to us by Darcie. Here goes:

Where are you reading from today? My comfy leather love seat in the family room of my home.

Three facts about me:

  • I have been an avid reader since I was in first grade and my mom brought B is for Betsy home from the library for me while I was sick in bed.

  • I am reading today with my 17yo daughter Jelly Bean (aka Aoi Sakura). She shares my love of books. Unfortunately for me, she reads a lot faster than I do, so she's going to accomplish more during the read-a-thon than I am.

  • I don't do well when I don't get enough sleep. So participating in an event like this one is a bit of an act of faith that the rewards will outweigh the cost.

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
Lots! I listed some of them here. But Jelly and I picked up a few more from the library last night - in addition to the many that are in our personal library. I'm certain that I'll find enough options to keep my interest.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (e.g., number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
I think my only goal is to have some fun. Well, I'd also like to actually complete more than one book during the event. Last time I read part of three different books, finishing one of them. I want to feel a bit more "successful" this time, so I'm going to try some shorter books. (I think Jelly Bean is going to read The Host - all 619 pages!) I also plan to make regular posts and to visit other participants.

Any advice for people doing this for the first time?
Last October, one of the best parts for me was visiting and being visited by other readers and cheerleaders. I'd recommend that everyone do that as much as they realistically can!

Elapsed Time 00:00

Here we go ...

My 17yo daughter Jelly Bean (aka Aoi Sakura of Books Are My Friends) is going to join me - and I think we're ready! She and I went to the library last night to stockpile a few extra book choices. First up for me will be continuing with The Devil in the White City, which is the June read for Book Buddies and for which, of course, I'm behind schedule. As we start to read, Jelly and I are going to prepare a quick, yummy breakfast of hard-boiled eggs and toasted bagels with bacon and provolone cheese.

Good luck to all the other read-a-thon participants, and a big thanks to the cheerleaders and other helpers! (If you're just stopping by and want to know more about what's happening, check out our host Dewey's first post of the event here.)

Friday, June 27, 2008

The 24-Hour Read-a-Thon Is Almost Here

I'm not nearly as prepared - either mentally or physically - as I was for last October's event. But as the day passes, I am getting more and more excited! My 17yo daughter Jelly Bean would like to join in the fun too - if she can convince her dad to let her.

Among the Things I've Been Dealing with Today
(so I'll be able to dedicate the time tomorrow to the read-a-thon):

  • Emails about work (but at least I'm not in the office!)

  • A giant pile of laundry

  • Vacuuming

  • Dishes

  • Grocery shopping

  • Bills and bank deposit

  • Preparation of templates for posts
Among the Books I've Piled Up:
  • The Devil in the White City (One of this month's in-progress reads.)

  • Eat, Pray, Love (Another of this month's in-progress reads.)

  • Fearless Fourteen (The latest Stephanie Plum novel.)

  • Thirteen Reasons Why

  • Flip

  • Catalyst

  • Dear Mr. Henshaw (Last time I concluded that some YA or children's books would be good read-a-thon picks, so I've got several ready.)

  • Eats, Shoots, Leaves (With the probably mistaken idea that I really am going to finish the Book Awards Reading Challenge by June 30.)
Among the Food Items That Will Give Me Sustenance:
  • Tomato Sandwiches

  • Vanilla Yogurt with Raspberries and Pecans

  • Lucky Charms

  • Shrimp Cocktail Dip with Wheat Crackers

  • Ginger Cookies

  • Tortilla Chips with Refried Beans and Cheese

  • Plums

  • Pizza

  • Diet Coke with Lime

  • Popcorn

  • Perrier

  • Raspberry Tea

  • S'Mores (prepared by my own private chef, Sugar Bear)
Other Things I'll Need:
  • My Laptop

  • A Pillow and Blanket

  • A Watch
Things To Blog About If I Need a Break
(in addition to my read-a-thon updates):

  • Review of Dark Assassin

  • Update of Challenges YTD

  • New Posts for My Series Blog
Tips From Dewey That I Need to Remember:
  • Pick a variety of shortish books.

  • Start with something short and easy to get a sense of accomplishment early on.

  • Choose some light things for the end when I'm tired and sick of reading.

  • Give myself permission to put a book aside if it’s not holding my attention.

  • Just in general don’t be a masochist. This is supposed to be fun!
The Read-a-Thon Beneficiary:

Besides just having a lot of fun reading and book blogging, this read-a-thon has an official beneficiary: RIF (Reading Is Fundamental). I will be making a donation to the organization here - and I encourage you to do the same.

For more information about the 24-Hour Read-a-Thon, click here.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Spring Reading Thing Wrap-Up

I started the spring with a list of thirteen books for this challenge, hoping to leave myself open to reading maybe another thirteen or so during the same period. (I'm trying to read 104 books this year - which means an average of two books a week.)

Here's how I did with my challenge list:

  • The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

  • The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton

  • Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

  • Dairy Queen: A Novel by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

  • Dark Assassin by Anne Perry

  • The First Patient by Michael Palmer

  • The Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff

  • The Lady in the Tower by Jean Plaidy

  • Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen

  • People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

  • Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Here are the other books I also read this spring:
  • Dead Time by Stephen White

  • Don't Know Much About the Universe by Kenneth C. Davis

  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

  • The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

  • Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult

  • Someone Like Summer by M.E. Kerr

  • Windfalls by Jean Hegland

Sixteen books is a ways off the two-a-week goal, but life has been particularly hectic the past month or so. I guess it'll have to do.

A big thank you to SRT host Katrina! The following are some of the questions she suggested we consider as we wrapped up the challenge:

Did you finish all the books you had planned to read? If not, why?

In Spring Reading Thing 2007, I completed a total of fifteen books, with two others in progress as the challenge ended. While I had truly hoped that I could read twenty-six books during the period of this challenge, I guess that the sixteen I completed (with two others currently in progress - The Devil in the White City and Eat, Pray, Love) would have been a reasonable goal. Spring is a busy time at work, and I also spent a good part of this month traveling. There is never as much time to read as I would like.

What was your favorite book you read this spring? Least favorite?

My least favorite reads of the spring were not on my SRT list: Someone Like Summer and Picture Perfect. Of the books I read from my SRT list, I'm not sure I can pick a favorite - and there is certainly not a "least favorite" among them. I do think that Speak and A Thousand Splendid Suns are particularly good novels - ones that will stay with me for a long time.

Did you discover any new authors or genres that you now love?

Laurie Halse Anderson and Catherine Gilbert Murdock are both young adult authors whom I will definitely read again.

Are you interested in another "Fall Into Reading" challenge this fall?


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dead Time by Stephen White

Published in 2008. 397 pages.

The latest in the Alan Gregory series, Dead Time is another compelling thriller from clinical psychologist Stephen White. In this one, Alan's former wife, Merideth, asks for his help, dragging him into a complicated mystery that reaches back years.

I have been a fan of this series for many years. I love that Alan Gregory is not only a hero but also a flawed man with complicated relationships and issues. I also love that although all the novels in the series have the commonality of the Alan Gregory character, each is unique in its set up, its voice, its perspective. In sixteen books to date, the series has not gotten the least bit stale.

I found a fun Q&A with Stephen White about Dead Time on his website here.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Twenty-Two Days and Counting ...

It's been twenty-two days since I last posted here. I have been reading - at least a little - but with my various travels this month and trying to put in some time at the office between trips, as well as having the kids out of school for the summer, I just haven't found as much time to read and blog about books as I would like. Embarrassingly, this reading/blogging dearth comes at a time when my friend Sue has just subscribed to my book blog and actually posted about it!

For the record, I have been schlepping a number of books around with me in my suitcase and my computer bag. Eat, Pray, Love was the discussion book for the women's retreat I attended at the beginning of the month. I hadn't read before the retreat started, but I did read some of it there (and enjoyed the discussion) - and I read some more of it in Montreal and in San Diego. I'm still working on it.

On my flight to Montreal I read part of Dark Assassin by Anne Perry, and I finished it last week - between trips. Earlier this month I read Dead Time by Stephen White. (I'll get brief reviews of both of those thrillers posted soon.)

Two other books I took to Montreal were 1984, which was this month's pick for my IRL book club, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is this month's pick - unless it was last month's and I'm even further behind than I thought - for the goodreads YA Book Club. I didn't get to either of those - but they are still on my to-read list (or, in the case of 1984, my to-re-read list).

I made a good deal of progress on The Devil in the White City in San Diego yesterday, some of it on the beach and some of it on the plane. I'm behind schedule for this Book Buddies pick - but I'm hopeful I'll finish it before the month is over.

I need to write a wrap-up post for the Spring Reading Thing, now that is is summer, and I've got the Books Awards Reading Challenge to finish up by June 30 too.

I think I'm off to bed to read a little before I fall asleep. I hope I'll be back for more book blogging tomorrow!

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Published in 2007. 277 pages.

First sentence: Every Labor Day, the Jorgensens - they own Jorgensens' Ice Cream - set up a little ice cream stand right in their yard, which means you can spend the entire Labor Day picnic making yourself ice cream sundaes if that's what you want to do, and for years when I wasn't playing softball or chasing the Jorgensen kids or trying to keep up with my brothers, I'd sit myself at that little booth making one sundae after another until it was time to head home for evening milking, and then a couple miles into the drive I'd bring that whole sundae experience back up, right there on the side of whatever road we happened to make it to.

Last sentence: Someone else who's strong enough to take on a whole herd of trouble when it comes their way.

Plot summary (from the Library of Congress): High school junior D.J. staggers under the weight of caring for her badly injured brother, her responsibilities on the dairy farm, a changing relationship with her friend Brian, and her own athletic aspirations.

Blurb from the book jacket: This hilarious, heartbreaking, and ultimately triumphant sequel to the acclaimed novel Dairy Queen takes D.J. and all the Schwenks from Labor Day to a Thanksgiving football game that you will never forget.

How I felt about this book: I loved it! I loved Dairy Queen and picked up The Off Season immediately after I finished Dairy Queen. This one deals with some more serious situations - resulting in my reading through my sobs at times - but it's still as funny and as real as Dairy Queen. I truly hope that this isn't the last we've heard from D.J. Schwenk.

Other book bloggers' reviews of The Off Season:

If you have read and reviewed this book, I would love to link your review here. Please leave me a comment or email me your link!


Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Published in 2006. 274 pages.

Paperback Cover

Hardback Cover

First line: This whole enormous deal wouldn't have happened, none of it, if Dad hadn't messed up his hip moving the manure spreader.

Last line: Maybe Curtis should try flunking English.

Why I read this book: I chose Dairy Queen for the Triple 8 Challenge in my "Bee Bonanza" category - picks from the nominees for the 2008 Beehive Awards. I also chose it to celebrate Dairy Month, which is June, for the Every Month is a Holiday Challenge.

Basic concept: A coming-of-age story of a sixteen-year-old dairy farmer and her relationship with her family, all of whom love football, and with the quarterback of a rival football team.

Why I loved this book:
One of the blurbs on the back cover of the sequel The Off Season says it well:
"D.J. Schwenk is a real, true-to-life heroine ... full of self-doubt, yet incredibly determined and brave. Plus, she's funny. Her voice just dragged me in and didn't let go. I loved this book."
- E. Lockhart, author of The Boyfriend List and Fly on the Wall

I found it impossible not to like D.J.! Additionally, the secondary characters are well-developed, and the whole story just rings true. The chapters have fun titles too, such as "People Who Are Crazy and Need to Have Their Heads Examined" and "Who Ever Said Love Was Fun?"

What else you might want to know:
The sequel to Dairy Queen is The Off Season - which I started reading immediately after finishing Dairy Queen. (My review of The Off Season is here.) Catherine Gilbert Murdock's website is here. I'm whole-heartedly recommending this book to my seventeen-year-old daughter.

Other book bloggers' reviews of Dairy Queen:

If you have read and reviewed this book, I would love to link your review here. Please leave me a comment or email me your link!


Sunday, June 01, 2008

My Book Binge

book bingeSince May is my busiest month at the office, it probably wasn't the best month to try to "binge" on books. But I had to try - and this is what I ended up with (in alphabetical order):

(The links are to my reviews.)

Seven books in May. Not many compared to lots of people. But not too bad for me. (I'm still behind pace on making my goal of 104 books for the year, but I remain hopeful that it can still happen.)

To see what other book bingers read, click here.