Monday, August 26, 2013

Bout of Books 8.0: Days 4-7

I wanted to read a whole bunch, and ended up reading a decent amount without any actual, real concerted effort!

And it all works out anyway!
A lot of people go into Bout of Books with the expectation to read 4, 5, maybe even 10 books that week! And they might, they just might. But me? I went into Bout of Books with the pure intention to simply read more. Point blank. Simple, honest, and pure: read more.

I think that I accomplished this goal, with a pretty nice margin, as well. I could have read more, but I enjoyed the time I spent reading, and allowed myself to get lost in a book rather than counting pages and fretting about if I'd make a self-imposed quota.
I had one minor goal I'd set for myself: so minor, I didn't even mention it on this blog. That goal? Read 300 pages over the course of the week.

How many pages did I read? 296.

At first, I was really mad. Really mad! "Why couldn't you have just finished that chapter?" my inner perfectionist shrieked, fury hot and flaming on her face, her hair a frazzled mess tangled into a bun and held together with a pen cap. "You could have read 321 pages if you had just finished that chapter!"

I placated her by reminding her that the laundromat dryer had gone off, then I'd packed my clothes up, gone home, put sheets on the bed and clothes in the closet. Unloaded the dishwasher, fed the cat. Taken a shower. Curled up with the computer and gone to bed around 1 in the morning, choosing instead to watch the most recent episode of the blood-curdling Breaking Bad instead of reading.

So no, I didn't finish that chapter. But I enjoyed myself, and I do not count watching the most recent episode of one of the few television shows you religiously follow to be "idle" or "wasted" time. 2 hours spent surfing Reddit? Maybe a waste. But an hour of being actively engaged in television? Never, when it's just that one hour.

That said, I spent seven days and read a close-but-no-cigar 296 pages from two different books, which averages out to a bit more than 42 pages a day, which is pretty good! It's true: it's not the highest number in this contest. Truth be told, it might be one of the lowest. But to me, those numbers look pretty good considering my normal pages-per-week total probably hovers around 20. Not per day, all together.

Bout of Books has reminded me of how important a book is to your mental health, your stamina. As someone with a background in libraries, I don't know how I forgot, but I'm glad I've remembered. I hope to continue reading this passionately for a long time to come, and I look forward to Bout of Books 9.0 in January: I know I'll be there!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bout of Books 8: Days 2 & 3

Well, sports fans, I didn't exactly knock it out of the park the past two days like I did on day one. In fact, I've only read about 50 pages in the past two days combined. I think we both knew that would end up being the case, but I consider it a little victory in and of itself!

Confused? Allow me to explain.

On a typical night, before I am ready to go to bed, I'll lay under the covers with my laptop, lights out, and peruse the Internet for a couple of hours. This leads me from my sane 11 pm bedtime to upwards of 1 or 2 in the morning, due to things like Reddit and YouTube sucking up my free time. However, I challenged myself this week: read instead of using the Internet.

It's hard to get used to reading in bed. I used to do it as a child: I have memories of hanging my library bag on a bedpost and selecting a book reverently each night, returning it to its family before I turned off the light. But I got older, grew a chest, and found it harder to lay comfortably. I was not to be deterred, though!

I started Tuesday morning on page 3 of In the Woods, and I went to bed last night on page 59. I have to give myself a little additional credit, as well: Ms. French has created a magnificent, rich universe and her narrators speak wonderfully. However, this makes it a good bit harder to follow than, say, Vampire Academy, where the narrator says such gems as: "Juliet had it easy: she never had to kill Romeo." Compare that to, say, this excerpt from In the Woods: "Its silence is a pointillist conspiracy of a million tiny noises - rustles, flurries, nameless truncated shrieks," a good bit more challenging!

Tuesday night, I drowsily tucked 2 chapters under my belt, and Wednesday, another 1. I fell asleep by midnight both nights - usually closer to 11:30, and fell asleep much easier than I usually do. It gave me some food for thought, and I really enjoy imagining this story unfolding behind my eyelids, which might contribute to it.

So no, this isn't a max-page-number victory, but I never entered this contest looking for that. I came to increase my amount of reading, to gain awareness about the fact that I could be reading instead of spending hours online. And for that, I'm pretty proud of myself! I hope to carry this tradition long past Bout of Books 8: hopefully it will still be the case when Bout of Books 9 rolls around!

My Reading List for Bout of Books 8.0:
1. Finish Vampire Academy - 332/332 - 100%
2. Finish In the Woods - 59/429 - 13%
3. Begin The Red Pyramid

Page Totals:
Day 1: 156
Grand Total: 156

Day 2: 29
Grand Total: 185

Day 3: 26
Grand Total: 211

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bout of Books 8: Day 1 & a Book Review

Hello, dear readers! I am proud to report that on day one of Bout of Books 8, I actually completed a book!

Granted, I came into this with it half-completed, but I still read over 150 pages yesterday. Since my goal is not to read strenuously, but rather just read more than usual, I still played my requisite 15-20 minutes of Animal Crossing: New Leaf because I am not a rock, and my villagers needed me. However, after that, the boyfriend and I reheated leftovers and sat down to watch the WWE Summer Slam. (yes, I enjoy wrestling and watching it with my boyfriend. Never thought I'd be 'that guy,' but I love it, so who cares?)

I tend to half-watch wrestling, or any TV that's super-long. Usually, I've got a game on my 3DS going, but last night I decided to switch tactics and just read. I read through the 3 hour special with sporadic bits of watching TV, obviously. By the end of the night, the Summer Slam was over, Daniel Bryan was throned and then dethroned, and I had finished Vampire Academy.

What did I think of it? Well. I actually put the second book, Frostbite, on hold at the library. It was at least that good. It wasn't "all of my friends need to rush out and read this immediately" good, but it was interesting and I actually did not see the plot twist coming - in a lot of YA, they hit you over the head with the plot twists and so you can see them by standing on your front lawn and squinting. Vampire Academy did a good job of making me not know about the central conflict's resolution, but it also made me not care. I was extremely apathetic about the main character the entire way through.

The MC, Rose, is a goddess. Not literally, but she might as well be: she's gorgeous, and she knows it. There's the trope of a character who is gorgeous but doesn't know it - Katniss Everdeen, Tris from Divergent - the trope of the character who is average but inexplicably sexy regardless - Bella Swan, for instance - but then there's this character who is hot, knows it, and hates it. If there is one thing I can't stand, it's an arrogant pretty girl.

Rose is pretty snarky. She's cynical, she's a fighter, she's not gonna take anything lying down like Bella might. But she harps on her own good looks constantly. Boys in her class are always fawning over her, tripping over their own feet to get her to like them, and she just thinks about this in this absurdly boring way. Top that off with the icing on the cake that she isn't too smart. For instance, a friend speaks of primary and secondary sources, and she has no idea what that is, despite being 16 or 17 years old. She only pays attention in one class in school, she just doesn't have need for "book learnin'' because she's pretty.

I looked it up: this is "movie" Rose.
If you don't look at Rose's willful objectification - she uses her looks to get boys to do things for her more than once in the span of 300-odd pages and thinks it's awesome - the book is pretty decent. A mystery, characters that do undergo some development, though admittedly the males save for about two are pretty one-faceted (that facet being "Rose is hot"). There's a pretty graphic "let's take our clothes off" scene that never actually gets anywhere, but squicked me out. Not because I am a prude or I don't like that sort of thing, but because I know the target age group for these books is 13-15, and I don't think I'd want my 13 year old reading that. (I'm 24, I know. But bear with me). I can just envision a lot of high school girls wishing they looked like Rose, and with the film coming out soon, I can only imagine this getting worse.

Overall? I give it a 3 out of 5. It was incandescently mediocre, a forgettable YA read with some interesting plot twists. It would have a 4 were it not for Rose's sex appeal. Sorry that I'm not sorry, Rose.

As far as Bout of Books 8 goes? Well, here I am in day two! I will be spending the night by myself, and I see some bathtub reading in my future. Next on the agenda is In the Woods, which is lengthy and verbose and I highly doubt it will be finished before Sunday night. If for some reason it is, however, I'll add my third book to the list: Rick Riordan's The Red Pyramid, because I've read both the Percy Jackson oeuvre and what's been written of the Heroes of Olympus oeuvre, and all that remains is the Kane Chronicles. (I adore Riordan's writing, and I will say why in another entry!)

So, a TL;DR: Finished my first book already! Didn't totally hate it, on to book two!

My Reading List for Bout of Books 8.0:
1. Finish Vampire Academy - 332/332 - 100%
2. Finish In the Woods - 3/429 - 0%
3. Begin The Red Pyramid

Page Totals:
Day 1: 156
Grand Total: 156

Monday, August 19, 2013

Bout of Books: Introduction Part 2

Hello again, everyone! I'm back now that it's the dawn of Bout of Books, and I wanted to try to solidify my goals for this endeavor just a bit more firmly before I started off. That way, you'll know exactly where I stand, and I'll know where you stand! Plus, I am a huge book voyeur and figured that if I want to know what you're reading, you should be able to see what I'm reading!

I am currently a bit over half way through Vampire Academy.

I know, I know ...
Wait, don't walk away! Let me explain! I have my Masters degree in School Library Media, which means I spent a lot of time while getting that degree reading YA literature. I love young adult books, and I especially love getting to ones that are awesome before someone else does and they become famous. I was lucky enough to read The Hunger Games and Gone Girl before they turned into hit films, and so when I heard Vampire Academy was going to be a movie, I figured I had to give it a go. (this is not to say, of course, that every book that is also a movie is great - looking at you, Divergent, and let's not even get started on Twilight and its ilk).

I love books that don't require too much thinking, that are fun and light and interesting. Am I loving Vampire Academy? No, but it's got a few twists that are keeping me entertained, and I like to balance out my heavier reading with some lighter stuff. Sometimes after a hard work day, I don't want to contemplate Nietzsche, I just want to find out who kissed that guy and why and how she's going to get revenge. So the first thing on the agenda is Vampire Academy.

Next, I'm going to begin reading In the Woods, by Tana French. I drank in Gone Girl like it was a liquid, some sort of smoothie I could just gulp down and then crave more. So when someone drew a parallel between that masterful work and this other mystery called In the Woods, I had to request it from the library.

I've never been a huge fan of the Mary Higgins Clark-style writing, the serialized sort also present in One for the Money and the other Stephanie Plum novels, but a good standalone novel that has interesting depth is exactly what I get a hankering for. Tana French's book has thousands of good reviews, and since I try to alternate between a young adult book and an adult book, this will be next.

That's it. I have a two-book goal for Bout of Books 8 - not because I'm an underachiever, but simply because my goal is to read more, not read anxiously. I don't want to panic about whether or not I've fit my quota in, I just want to read instead of mindlessly playing Candy Crush Saga, read instead of paging through my Reddit feed one more time. No more, no less.

So the abbreviated version of my rant, here?

My Reading List for Bout of Books 8.0
1. Finish Vampire Academy - 178/332 - 54%
2. Begin In the Woods

What about you? I'll try to dig through the list as best I can, but please leave a link to your blog in the comments below! I'd love some Bout of Books friends!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Bout of Books 8!

Hey everyone! I've been amiss at writing for a lot of excuses I could lob at you, but honestly it just boils down to this: I've been too lazy to write blog entries. And isn't that always the case?

I heard about something on YouTube, though, that I would really like to use to create change here. After blogging A-Z I thought it would be easy to keep up momentum, but when is it ever? So let's see what I can do in August to make up for the dearth of posts May-July!

Bout of Books

I will be participating in the 8th edition of the Bout of Books read-a-thon! To put it simply:
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 19th and runs through Sunday, August 25th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 8.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team
 A lot of people seem to use Bout of Books as an excuse to piledrive through a large stack of books in the "to read" pile. And while I think that's a good idea, I just don't have it in me to do that. I read books to savor them, to appreciate them, and the notion of speeding through it makes me a bit sad. So my Bout of Books will be a bit different:

I will be reading. Full stop. Why are you saying that, Patricia!? you might ask. Well, it's because I don't. Plain and simple. If I have an hour of spare time, I'm liable to be on the Internet or playing with my 3DS. On a lunch break, I sit at my desk and read. I simply don't pick up the book I have on hand any more. My goal for Bout of Books is to actually read. To not turn to screen time if I get bored, but to actually do something that enriches my brain. To go outside and eat lunch at a picnic table, read a book, get some sunlight.

So, that's my goal! Simple at its core, but actually pretty difficult! If you'd like to see what I'll be reading, stay tuned! I'll know closer to the 19th what my starting book will be.

Anybody want to join me on this quest? It doesn't have to be able reading a ton of books, it's about effort!