Sunday, 28 October 2012

Playing Catch Up!

Wow, I have a lot of catching up to do. This time it was not because I have been busy elsewhere. Well, I am busy elsewhere but it's not the main reason. I haven't had internet access for the last wee while and it's only now back to normal. Hopefully I will soon catch up with all my reviews. However I have something like 6 to do and I am on placement doing 13 hour shifts. So I may have to do some mini ones. Hope everyone is well though.

Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

Ender has been watched from a very early age. His brother and sister are also geniuses but they failed to make the cut. Now Ender is the last hope. Only he can stop the alien's who once devastated Earth from doing so again. First though he has to be put through some rigorous training and testing at military school. All rule book is thrown out the window in order to test Ender to the fullest. However, if pushed too far they could break him which would mean all is lost.

I wasn't sure what I was expecting with this book. I just knew that sci fi and non sci fi fans seem to love it. Glad to say that I enjoyed it too. Surprising considering this book is about a 6 year old genius who is expected to go through military training and save the world.

Yet, love it I did. The premise does seem a bit rediculous. No matter how intelligent Ender is a 6 year old doesn't have the emotional intelligence to go through what he was put through. I was able to get past that though because Ender was such an engaging character. Occasionally he would come across as a 6 year old who has been taken to a strange place and won't see the people he loves for years to come. This is shown on his first night when he has been deliberately isolated from his class mates.

The majority of the book is set in the military school. As Ender becomes used to something (and as the reader becomes used to the situation too) those in charge deliberately through in challenges or change the rules so that Ender has no time to get comfortable. In this way the reader also has no time to get comfortable. You don't want Ender to have to deal with more challenges for the characters own sake but these challenges keep the book pacing along.

About a third of the way through we see things from the point of view from Ender's equally intelligent brother and sister. Peter is cruel with a hard side which was why he failed to make the cut. Something he has been bitter about. Valentine is loving and caring, too soft which was why she failed. Peter though plans to use his intelligence to manipulate the political scene on Earth with Valentine's help. Through them this gives us a good idea of the history of Earth and it's politics. In this way we are given a bigger view instead of just Ender's need to prove himself and defeat the aliens.

I very much enjoyed it as a whole and enjoyed each of the characters, the good and the bad. I understand this is just the first book in a series and I think that I will be reading the rest at some point. It was a relatively easy read. I can see why my local library classed it as YA. I also think that the non-sci fi fans may like it for it's psychology and political aspects. I read this as part of the sci fi challenge hosted by Ellie of Curiosity Killed the Bookworm. If you want to see what others have been reading you can do so here.

Monday, 15 October 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This is a book meme hosted by Sheila of Book Journey. A great way for everyone to share their reading week.

Thanks to two weeks and a readathon I have quite a list of finished reads to share. Feels like I have actually achieved something this month.

I finished reading;

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. I liked this but I don't think I will ever be a huge fan of this writing style.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain. I read this for the classics challenge. Was disappointed but that had more to do with my expectations and my mood at the time of reading.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I read this for the sci fi challenge. I LOVED it. Was very sorry when I finished it. Could have kept reading.

A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler. This was the first of the readathon books. Very much enjoyed it. Just a nice read.

Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs. Annoyed me in sections but still enjoyed it overall. Able to ignore the annoying bits for the most part.

Skulduggery Pleasant: Kingdom of the Wicked by Derek Landy. Not as good as the others. However, the ending was brilliant.

Just now I am reading;

Books to Die For edited by John Connolly. Just reading a bit at a time but have enjoyed reading what authors think of other authors.

Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler. I started this in the last hour of the readathon. It was a little slow in starting but I'm getting into it now.

Next I plan to read;

The Greatest Show On Earth by Richard Dawkins. This is my last book in the Mixing It Up Challenge. Not usually a popular science book person so it will be interesting to see what it's like.

Anyone else had a good reading week thanks to the readathon?

Sunday, 14 October 2012

A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court - Mark Twain

A man mysteriously talks about King Arthur's court as though he has been there. He then leaves some papers with a stranger and encourages him to read. The papers are an account of this man's time in court. How he tried to change the way those people worked and how he was sent on his own crusade by King Arthur himself.

When I picked this up I was hoping for/expecting something light and extremely funny. Sadly that's not actually what I got. Whilst there was plenty tongue in cheek the book took itself a little too seriously, I thought. First the humour was really a ridicule of the King Arthur legends. It strips away the romantic view everyone has of King Arthur and his court. The men and women are slobs. The men make up or exaggerate their tales of adventure before King Arthur. Everyone realises this but it's all part of the ritual. The ladies are crude, laughing and making jokes that would make a women of Hogan (the time traveler  era blush.They are also none too bright.

Once Hogan manages to save his own neck he believes that he can change the way the world works with him as the leader. This is where the serious part comes in. He spends much of his time trying to remove power from the church and put it in the hands of the man. He sets up a school to educate the masses. When he is sent (against his will) on his own quest he rescues prisoners and sends them to his schools. He brings about commercialism and advertising.

Had I known that much of this was going to be an essay on the power of the state and the church I probably would have left it to another time because it's not what I was in the mood for. That's not to say it wasn't a good book./ It was, it just wasn't what I wanted at that time and as a result I didn't enjoy it quite as much. I also found the narrator, Hogan, to be quite irritating. He was quite pompous and so sure that he was right. Quite a lot of the time he made a bit of a fool of himself but he was also Twain's mouthpiece. On the plus side I was amused at recognising some of the stories thanks to John Steinbeck.

I read this as part of the classics challenge hosted by Katherine of November's Autumn. This months prompt is about the last chapter read. As I tend to wait until I finish the book before doing these prompts I am going to go for most memorable. For me that would be the first chapter. The one in which the story is set up. The person who comes to read Hogan's story is admiring a portrait of King Arthur's court. As he does he notices that one of the figures in the painting has been damaged so you can't see the features. It's then that Hogan approaches him and claims to have known Arthur. We can guess that Hogan had deliberately damaged the painting so that he wouldn't be recognised. This set up makes the book sound more promising and more like what I was expecting.

What I Learned - Redathon Wrap Up

So I made it through the readathon. I have napped (not enough) and I am actually wanting to pick up my book again. Does this mean I am a glutton for punishment or just dedicated?

Anyway, thank you to everyone who has sponsored me for this. I have so far collected £118 on behalf of SAMH. I have a few sponsorship's to collect and a friend of mine took part for 6 hours (she's not a blogger so did this just to help raise money). This means that I will have beaten April's £130 for Crohns and Colitis UK. So big thank you everyone as the mental health charity means a lot to me and my family.

April I read 4 books and just over 1200 pages. This time I read 3 books and 1354 pages. I don't know if that means I beat last year on that front to or if it equals out. Either way I am chuffed with the results. Sadly I doubt I will be able to take part next April. If I can though I might join in for 12 hours at the most. Which means I won't be beating this years tally. The books I read were;

A Patchwork World - Anne Tyler
Monday Mourning - Kathy Reichs
Skulduggery Pleasant: Kingdom of the Wicked - Derek Landy.

Hopefully I will get reviews up over the next week. I did enjoy them all but the first one was a favourite. Every year I seem to make mistakes in my readathon choices so here are my tips if you decide to take part (ignore them if you want).

1. Remember to buy snacks. A mix of healthy and naughty works for me. Anything heavy just makes you all the more tired later on.

2. Start on the caffeine when you really need it. It will eventually lose it's effect if you start straight away (think that was my problem last night).

3. Have your books decided before hand. Don't go for a huge pile unless you won't be disappointed if you don't read them all. Can be off putting when you realise you will be lucky to finish half of them. Instead go for  3 or 4 and a couple reserves (if this wouldn't bother you then pile them on).

4. Go for light reads. Anything that doesn't require concentration and you know that you will enjoy them. I know some people choose classics but I personally wouldn't be able to concentrate on them when it's hour 20 and all I can think about is sleep.

5. Book size, here is the big mistake I made this year. I would recommend shorter books. 400 pages at the most. One of mine was just over 600 and in the end it felt like a slog.

6. If you normally like a mix of books then mix them. You don't want to get bored. Oh, and this is one I learned in April, do not leave the scary books until the early hours of the morning. Maybe that's just me but I have an overactive imagination. Books that wouldn't normally scare me in the light of the day had me wondering if there was a serial killer waiting for me outside the kitchen.

7. Find somewhere comfy to read where you are unlikely to be interrupted. Also if you can change rooms every so often.

8. The last couple of times I've had a yankee candle lit and it's been refreshing. Especially this years candle which was Garden Sweet Pea. However, if there is a chance you might fall asleep then put it out.

9. Face wipes! They do refresh you a little.

10. If you need to nap then nap. Set your alarm for a couple of hours and come back in. It's actually rare for people to manage all the way through with out a nap. You shouldn't feel you've let yourself down because of it.

Lastly, enjoy it.

Nearly There! Last Readathon Update

Hour 24: This is the last hour and I'm onto book 4. Went for the second Anne Tyler rather than the Karen Rose as I need to get this back to a friend and I doubt I will get much read this last hour. So far have read 3 books and am 10 pages into this one. This brings my total page count up to 1,327. Despite my 2 hour nap I think I have beaten last years page count.

End of Event Questionnaire;

1. Most daunting hour was probably right before I fell asleep around 7.30am. Think that's around hour 19.

2. Not sure I can recommend any books from this years pile. I think I picked ones that were far too long. The first Anne Tyler was my favourite though.

3. No suggestions for improvement.

4. The mini challenges seemed interesting although I didn't take part in that many.

5. I have read three and a bit books this time.

6. I read; A Patchwork World, Monday Mourning, Kingdom of the World.

7. Already mentioned my favourite book in question 2.

8. The book I enjoyed the least was the Skulduggery. Simply because I was at my most tired and it wasn't quite as good as the rest of the series. More disappointed than dislike.

9. No advice for future cheerleaders. Thought they did a fab job and they made me laugh (in a good way).

10. I doubt I will be able to take part over the next few years as my studies are getting heavier. If I had known how much my work load was going to increase I wouldn't have taken part in this one (had already taken in sponsorship).

FINISHED: I am so tired now. How did I manage the full 24hours and the stay awake reading for another two in April? Anyways, I am off for power nap. I will give my final update later. Well done everyone!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Readathon Update 2

In case you haven't noticed me mention it before I am doing this and trying to raise money for the Scottish Association for Mental Health. It's a fantastic charity which promotes well being. It helps many people who suffer from mental health problems and their families  Little known fact but anyone can reach a crisis point at some time in their lives which will affect their mental health and 1 in 3 people do. So if you have a few pennies you can donate by clicking on the SAMH image.

Enough of my spouting. Have finished book 2 and I have now moved onto book 3. That brings my page count up to 741. I think I am still behind April but I am getting there. The main thing is I am enjoying it and have now reached the half way point. Here is the mid event survey;

1. I am doing okay although I am very tired. It's 1.10am here in the UK and I would like my second wind right about now. Haven't gone cross-eyed yet though.

2. Just finished Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs which I enjoyed.

3. Favourite read is the first one, A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler.

4. I haven't really snacked yet. I am about to toast some pitta bread and have that with humous. Looking forward to that.

5. No new blogs discovered but I am re-discovering some I haven't visited in a while

Hour 14: Breached the halfway mark and I got my wish for a second wind. Lets hope it lasts. 76 pages into book 3. Am away to toast the pitta bread I've been promising myself and then back to bed cause it's freezing!

Hour 16: Starting to slow down again and feeling VERY tired. Dozed off for about 10 mins there. 184 pages into book 3.

Hour 18: Still here, still going. 310 pages into book 3 which is just over the half way mark. That means I have read a total of 1,021. I am ahead of April as I reached 1,021 by hour 19.

Hour 22: oops, fell asleep for 2 hours. Really didn't mean to do that but I can see myself finishing now. 422 pages into book 3.

Read-A-Thon Update Post

Like April I am going to update by editing the same post. Unlike April I'm not going to interrupt those posts with reviews. Will leave those until next week. I'm also starting two hours early. Mainly because I am bored just now and can't think of anything to do. Also it means tomorrow I can have a power nap and get back to studying.

So here is the first book on the cards, A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler. I read one of hers years ago and loved it. Always meant to read more but never quite go round to it. I mentioned this to a friend and she loaned me a couple, including this one. Looking forward to it.

Hour4: I know it's going on to hour 2 for everyone else. I am about halfway through A Patchwork Planet. Very much enjoying it. I am actually going to take some time out to go snack shopping. That should bring me up to almost the same time as everyone else. Should have done that instead of starting earlier but I forgot all about snacks. When I come back I'll do the introductory questionnaire.

Introductory Questionnaire

1. I am reading in Glasgow, Scotland. It's cold and wet today so quite glad I will be spending it reading.

2. The book I am most looking forward to is the one I am reading just now. Although I am also looking forward to the Skulduggery book I have lined up.

3. Snack I am most looking forward to - a cheeky wee glass of wine! Does that count as a snack? If not then humus and pitta bread.

4. Hmm, I don't think there is anything about me that I haven't mentioned here before. I'm a student nurse taking a weekend out of studying to read (should really be studying for my exams).

5. I think this year if I need to have a nap I will. Last year I felt to guilty to do it because I was fundraising. I still am but I don't think I can go through those last few painful hours again (and follow it up with some studying). I'm basically just looking forward to some non-pahtophysiology related reading.

This is my readathon mascot. Wee Sis made this for me ages ago and suggested that I sit him by me for luck, so that's what I've done!

Hour 6: I am now at the same time as everyone else thanks to my snack buying spree. I also finished my first book and I'm sitting at 288 pages. Very much enjoyed it. Reminded of how good Anne Tyler is. On to an easier read now with Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs.

Hour 8: Just about to enter hour 8 and I have only read a further 86 pages which means I am sitting at 374. I did have hour 7 interrupted with dinner which was my mums home made chili. So tasty! I now have my Garden Sweet Pea yankee candle lit (a gift from my sister). I am now dressed in my jammies and I think I will have that cheeky glass of wine.

Hour 10: Picked up the pace a bit and I'm almost halfway through book two. Sitting at page 210 which means I've read 498 pages so far. Time for some tea I think.

Hour 12: At page 390 and not far from finishing. Had umpteen cups of tea but still feeling tired. So have moved onto the diet coke. I am thinking that as soon as I start book 3 I will start a new update post.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Dewey's 24hr Read-A-Thon

I am normally more organised than this but I am finally posting about tomorrow's readathon and I have finally decided on what books to read. It's still not too late to sign up if you want to take part. Just click on the image above and it will take you to the readathon web page. I don't see any times there so I am assuming it's the same as April which means 1pm UK time (since the clocks haven't changed).

This time I am picking all light reads. Got a couple of crime books in there, a kids book and one general fiction. I've read Anne Tyler before so I know what to expect. The two crime books have been on my tbr pile but the Skulduggery book is relatively new and the Anne Tyler is a loan from a friend. Won't make a huge inroad to my pile but it's still getting there.

Once again I am raising money. So far I have £98 raised for the Scottish Association For Mental Health. They do fantastic work and I have heard of them through all my placements. Nurses speak very highly of them and I got a great reception when I contacted them. There are a few people very dear to me who have suffered from mental health problems such as depression and anxiety so this one means a lot to me. If you want to know more about the charity then click on the image above. It might interest you that Chris Hoy is an ambassador. If you would like to kindly donate you can do so at my Just Giving page. All donations are greatly appreciated.

The last few times I have taken part I have reviewed the books I have read as I went. I don't think I will be doing that this time. I will just be giving small updates and I might take part in some of the challenges. I've also opened up my twitter account again should anyone wish to follow me there - Karencrafts.

Anyone else taking part? Have you chosen your books yet?

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Sound and The Fury - William Faulkner

The Compson family were once  an aristocratic southern family. Times are tough for them and it's hard for them to come to terms with the fact that their place in society has changed. The mother tries to cling on to the past which makes her ill and effects each of her four children in different ways. In their own right each of the Compson children have their own daemons to fight. Benjy fights to be recognised, Quentin fights his depression and his fathers expectations, Caddy fights for her independence and for Benjy, Jason fights to improve their standing and his economic status.

I found this quite difficult to get into at first. The book is split into four sections and each section is from the point of view of different members of the family. The first section is from the point of view of Benjy. Benjy has learning difficulties and his only way of communicating with his family is through crying. He also gets his information from them through his sense of smell. This whole section is disjointed and a little all over the place. Chronology is mixed up as we see the world as Benjy see's it. It makes for one very difficult read or at least it did for me.

The second section is only slightly better but that's when I finally got into the story. This time it's from Quentin's point of view. Again the chronology is slightly disjointed but not to the extreme of the first. Once I got into the flow of it it became easier to follow. The disjointed flow and the lack of punctuation is meant to convey Quentin's deteriorating mind. The third section is very easy to follow. This is from the point of view of Jason and it's a little hard to take in that Jason isn't exactly a nice character. He's angry all the time and feels that the world owes him something. Everything he does is for his own gain. He's a bully and seems to enjoy exerting power over his family since he has none in his professional career.

The last section was my favourite. This one was mainly from the point of view of the house maid. It's written slightly different from all the others. The others were written as a stream of consciousness. I have to say that it is not a style I took to easily. For me personally it made it more difficult to just enjoy the story. It was harder to follow and a little limiting too. You only get a vague notion of what's going on and it isn't until others add their voices to that stream that you get the bigger picture. For that reason I can also admire it. All these fragments coming together to show a history of one family.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

A Non-Book Related Post.

When I reviewed Moranthology by Caitlin Moran I mentioned that I was a little uninterested in her articles about Downton Abbey. Mainly because I was one of those next to non-existent people who had never watched it. It's not that I didn't want to watch it. I just watch next to no television. This all changed last week (not the TV viewing).

Some friends and I planned to meet up for a catch up. We usually go for coffee once a month and every so often we go for cocktails. Saturday was a cocktail day. However, they surprised me with a Victorian tea as a late birthday present. They warned me of it a few days before mind you. I was freaking out a little because they were winding me up with the surprise. Going by their hints I was imagining all sorts.

So to prepare I watched a few episodes of Downton which is on my film/tv package. I realise that Downton is set about 11 years after Queen Victoria died. Still it felt right and I loved it! I am sure that if I was off I would have watched both seasons in one sitting. As it is I am nearing the end of season one.

In all honesty I love it mainly for Maggie Smith. It's her one liners. I have found myself chortling away for ages just from one of her scenes.

Then to make things just that little bit better, this lady came along and gives Smith's character a run for her money. I wouldn't mind at all if the whole show revolved around these two competing characters.

Of course I do keep expecting her to pop out with the above line (sorry had to get the Dr Who reference in there).

Anyways, maybe when I get my copy of the book back I will re-read those articles about Downton with new appreciation.

Monday, 1 October 2012

September Overview/ Month Ahead!

I've lost a day. Well, not really. I stupidly had in my head that September has 31 days so I feel like I am missing out now that I remembered that has only 30. I am blaming having to retain lots of new information for this. Space has to be made for it somehow.

Anyway, I thought I would have another book finished for this month because of that. I'm not complaining though. It's been a busy month with uni starting back and a large workload. So I think 6 is a respectable number considering. Plus I have caught up with all my reviews and have stayed up to date. Something to be proud of. Here is my list;

1. Villette - Charlotte Bronte
2. The Crucible - Arthur Miller
3. The Dreaming Void - Peter F. Hamilton
4. Moranthology - Cailtin Moran
5. The Sea, The Sea - Iris Murdoch
6. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle

Despite all my complaining of The Sea, The Sea I have had a good reading month. The Murdoch book isn't the worst book I have ever read and I could see merits in it (I finished it after all). Plus the rest I very much enjoyed. I especially loved The Crucible and Villette. Then of course I do love my Sherlock (my Sherlock). There has been humour, sadness, alien threats, witches, crimes uncovered and a self-deluded man. That pretty much sums up my experiences for the month (how sad not to be a reader).

Challenge Overview

 So last months books was Villette by Charlotte Bronte. A book I loved. Not quite as good as Jane Eyre but it certainly reminded me that I should probably go back and read more Bronte's. The prompt this month was about music. I did answer it but basically it was to say I don't usually listen to music whilst reading. I love them both to much that it's a contest as to which gets the most attention (I can have the TV on though and ignore it). I am going back to Mark Twain this time with A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court. My second Twain for this challenge but the first one for grown ups. Looking forward to having some humour in my classics.

 Last month I once again went with my own choice rather than the challenge choice. I read The Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton which was then the oldest book on my tbr pile. Also the last sci fi one sitting there. Very much enjoyed it and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series at some point. This month I plan on reading Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. When I joined this challenge I planned on reading this book at some point. It proved difficult to get and I have only just managed to get it from the library.

 I read two books for this challenge. The Crucible for the drama category and Moranthology for humour/journalism. I hadn't intended on reading two but as a result I have only one more category left. So for science/natural history I am going to read another book from my pile - The Greatest Show On Earth by Richard Dawkins. Will be nice to read another non-fiction.

I unexpectedly finished this challenge last month. The last character I had left was Moriarty. I honestly thought the tale with this character was in one of the later books but it was in Memoirs. I will post an overview of the challenge later on in the week.

Other plans for the month is to basically try and reduce my tbr pile. I have the readathon in two weeks which will help. I might read one or two of my Stephen King books as Halloween reads.

How did everyone else's month go?