Saturday, 22 July 2017

24in48 Readathon: Day One

The readathon started at 00:01am ET, but over here in the UK that means 5:01am. Needless to say I did not set my alarm for this ungodly hour. It's now 8:28am and I'm blearily awake and ready to start reading. Admittedly I'm still in bed.

My target was originally going to be 12 hours over the whole weekend, because I need to sort, pack and clean in order to move house as well as read! I now also have plans on the Sunday, so we're probably looking around the 6-8 hour mark. I'm going to leave my official target as it is, but I'm not going to worry about it too much and just aim to read more than I would normally, which is about two hours a day.

8:28am (Hour Four)

Time spent reading: 0 minutes
Books read from: 0 books
Pages read: 0 pages
Time spent blogging: 20 minutes 

Introduction Survey

1. Where in the world are you reading from this weekend?

I'm reading from West Yorkshire, England. I live a few miles away from Haworth, where the Brontes lived.

I haven't opened my curtains yet, but I can hear it's currently absolutely pouring with rain. Sounds about right for July.

 2. Have you done the 24in48 readathon before?

I have not! The timing has never been quite right. It's still not right, to be honest, but I figure that I'll just be relaxed about it and see how it goes.
    3. Where did you hear about the readathon, if it is your first? 
     Weirdly, I actually just fancied doing a readathon so I googled it about Wednesday. This readathon came up and it sounded perfect, so here we are.
      4. What book are you most excited about reading this weekend?
    Well we'll have to see how it goes. I'm currently reading The Dragon Reborn, the third book in the Wheel of Time series. I love it, but it's quite heavy going at times.
     If I need a break from that, I'm going to read either One of Us is Lying, which is a light YA, or The Super Mutant Magic Academy, a graphic novel.
     
5. Tell us something about yourself.

I collect different editions of Pride and Prejudice - I have 77 so far.
    6. Remind us where to find you online this weekend.
    Here, mostly, on this post. I'll also be rambling on my Twitter, which is @bookinginheels.com 
    10:07am (Hour Six)
Time spent reading: 1 hour 1 minute
Books read from: The Dragon Reborn
Pages read: 62 pages
Time spent blogging: 28 minutes
Well that's a good start, at least! After setting up this post and completing the introductory survery, I spent a solid hour reading in bed. I'm up and dressed, and unfortunately I now have to do a bit of packing and other life admin.
The Dragon Reborn probably isn't ideal readathon fodder, to be honest. Whilst I do really enjoy this series, it's a little heavy and I'm beginning to get frustrated with the characters. After my break to deal with my real world responsibilities, I might try for a little more of it, but then switch over to Super Mutant Magic Academy for a while.
Hope your reading is going well!

    11:47am (Hour Seven)
Time spent reading: 1 hour 13 minutes
Books read from: The Dragon Reborn
Pages read: 79 pages
Time spent blogging: 28 minutes
Time being Life Productive: 1 hour 12 minutes

Pfft, tired now. I've been packing up clothes and I've done a trip down to the Post Office, and now I'm wiped. I've not been that well, so I'm fatiguing easily at the moment. Probably a good time to get some reading done. Or I will when I clear up the pile of irritating stuff that I can see out of the corner of my eye, anyway.

Oh, and here's our first challenge!

Snap a Shelfie

 
 Here are some of my lovely bookshelves!

    2:20pm (Hour Ten)
Time spent reading: 2 hours 8 minutes
Books read from: The Dragon Reborn
Pages read: 145 pages
Time spent blogging: 36 minutes
Time being Life Productive: 2 hours 7 minutes

It's weird how I keep spending almost exactly the same time reading as I do with my packing - it's unintentional but I'm happy with that.

I've read a little more and I'm happier with my book though. I'm still a bit frustrated with certain parts, but my grumpiness from this morning has worn off.

I had to go on a drive to a village a few miles away to return one of my Cub Scout's possessions (it's almost an end of year ritual, by this point) as well as stop for some lunch, but I'm home now and ready to read some more!

    4:18pm (Hour Twelve)
Time spent reading: 2 hours 53 minutes
Books read from: The Dragon Reborn (176 pages)
                                      Super Mutant Magic Academy (37 pages)
Pages read: 213 pages
Time spent blogging: 41 minutes
Time being Life Productive: 2 hours 30 minutes

I've changed books for a little bit - I'm now reading from the Super Mutant Magic Academy, a graphic novel by Jillian Tamaki. I'm very achy and very tired, and my mind just wasn't able to deal with the dense prose of The Dragon Reborn anymore! I like it so far - it's drawn very basically and it has a dark sense of humour that's quite amusing at times.

My progress on packing has slowed somewhat as it hurts when I move. I'm still persevering, but perhaps not as enthusiastically as I was.

My original reading target was 12 hours which boils down to 6 hours per day. There's no reason that I shouldn't make that at this stage, so I'm quite pleased really :) 

    9:17pm (Hour Seventeen)
Time spent reading: 4 hours 31 minutes
Books read from: The Dragon Reborn (266 pages)
                                      Super Mutant Magic Academy (104 pages)
Pages read: 370 pages
Time spent blogging: 48 minutes
Time being Life Productive: 2 hours 39 minutes

Every time I do a readathon, it amazes me just how much time there is for reading, if I only focus. It's not even particularly late and I've managed to read for 4.5 hours as well as running errands, milling about and spending thirty minutes looking for a viable Women's Institute that doesn't meet on a Thursday (there isn't one).

There's probably a lesson to be learned there - maybe I should spend less time faffing about and messing around on my phone, and more time reading.

I'm 56% into The Dragon Reborn now. I do like it, but probably not as much as the second book, The Great Hunt. I was hoping to finish the whole thing this weekend, but considering I have plans tomorrow, that's not likely now. 

    11:52pm (Hour Nineteen)
Time spent reading: 6 hours
Books read from: The Dragon Reborn (352 pages)
                                      Super Mutant Magic Academy (142 pages)
Pages read: 494 pages
Time spent blogging: 55 minutes
Time being Life Productive: 2 hours 39 minutes

Well that's it for today. It's bedtime. I admit to getting a bit distracted towards the end - I kept checking to see if I'd reached six hours yet (halfway to my goal of twelve hours). I'd probably naturally have given up around 5.5 hours, so not that much earlier really.

I'm very unlikely to make twelve hours overall as I've ended up with plans tomorrow, but at least I reached my goal for today.  

Friday, 21 July 2017

Review: The Great Hunt (Wheel of Time series #2) by Robert Jordan

The Great Hunt modern book cover by Robert Jordan, Wheel of Time series
I seem to be having a bit of a Fantasy Summer. I'm currently alternating between the Wheel of Time books and the Belgariad series by David Eddings. Honestly, I'm having a great time of it, and reading the two (completely different) series means that I'm not getting bored either.

I read the first book in this series, The Eye of the World, last week and really liked it. I called it 'proper' fantasy and lauded the world-building and the characters, although I admitted it was sort of slow. Enter The Great Hunt, which is very much more energetic, and I loved it.

Spoiler-free.

Plot summary: The Forsaken are loose, the Horn of Valere has been found and the Dead are rising from their dreamless sleep. The Prophecies are being fulfilled - but Rand al'Thor, the shepherd the Aes Sedai have proclaimed as the Dragon Reborn, desperately seeks to escape his destiny.

Rand cannot run for ever. With every passing day the Dark One grows in strength and strives to shatter his ancient prison, to break the Wheel, to bring an end to Time and sunder the weave of the Pattern.

And the Pattern demands the Dragon.


Whilst there is still quite a lot of walking, it's an 800+ page high fantasy novel, so what did we expect, really? And it's walking with a purpose, so we'll survive. The difference between the books is that I can actually point to Things That Happened in The Great Hunt, which isn't strictly true with the first novel

So much is going on in this book and it's all just brilliant. Some of the events and subplots really grasped me, to the point where I genuinely gasped and did a little excited dance. It was very attractive, I assure you. I'm going to be vague, but I loved what happened to Egwene, and Nynaeve's trials were perfectly executed. There were some really dramatic passages about Garion Rand (oops, wrong series) being forced to accept his destiny. Which we knew he would because, hey, it would be a remarkably short series otherwise, but it was just wonderfully written.

It's strange, but it's simultaneously more action-packed but also more political than the first book. Part of the novel revolves around the different factions of the Aes Sedai and the significance of the different-coloured cloaks, and I found that really interesting. I liked seeing a bigger cross-section of their order than just Moraine and I imagine it's going to become very important in the later books.

What I particularly appreciate about these books, and what makes me grudgingly condone the sheer length of them, is that there's hardly ever an information dump. New places, characters and backgrounds are introduced gradually and I rarely find myself having to flick back to remember what's going on. It's rare in a book of this nature that I don't find myself confused at least once, but I never felt particularly overwhelmed here.

My one quibble with this series is the characters. Some of them are great - I love Perrin in particular. In my head, I see him as the guy who plays this person in Game of Thrones (I don't know the character's name because I don't watch it, but I've seen him everywhere) and he's the most pleasant and interesting of all of them. He doesn't really like using his axe but accepts that it is occasionally necessary, he's so patient with both Rand and Mat (which is more than I could manage) and his subplot is fascinating. 

I like Nynaeve too. She went through a particularly harrowing ordeal in this book and she came out the better for it. My mother says that she wants to choke her with her own plait, but I think she provides the common sense desperately needed by the rest of the group.

The rest of the characters are more or less completely unlikeable. Mat is bitter and whiny (I've been told there's a reason for that by multiple people, but I think my irritation is too firmly ingrained now), and I really, really want to hit him a lot of the time. Even the minor characters, like Ingtar, aren't great. Don't get me wrong, they're fully fleshed out with backstories and motivations, but it doesn't make me feel any sympathy towards them.

And Rand. RAND.

Watching Verin's smile, small and mysterious, Perrin felt a chill. He did not think Rand knew half what he thought he did. Not half. 

Look, I get it. He wants a quiet life back in Two Rivers, and lots of different people and forces are telling him that it just isn't an option anymore. I'd be pissed off too. But does he have to be so naive and stupid!? 'Nope, you've told me to do this because it'll save my life, but I'm going to do the opposite - that'll show you!' And repeat. It was really quite annoying. Like, really.

Luckily, there are enough interesting characters to offset the annoying ones, and the plotlines are so brilliant that I'd read this even if Mr Blobby were a character. It's a lengthy book, but unlike The Eye of the World, I'd argue that this one probably does need to be this long. So much happened that the pages just flew by. Whilst I really liked the first book, I really do think that The Great Hunt is so much better.

And yes, of course I've bought the next book, and yes, I am obviously already reading it.

Read my review of The Eye of the World, or another review of The Great Hunt at Lit Addicted Brit.


Friday, 14 July 2017

A Life of Sensation Read-a-Long: AND WE'RE DONE.


Two days late - sorry, sorry. I'm currently going through the twin joys of moving and also moving in with somebody and, whilst we haven't yet murdered each other, it's been a near thing. Nothing makes you want to move in with somebody less than the actual process of moving in with somebody.

But yay! We've finished the book! I have to admit to a pleasant feeling that arose when I realised that a goodly chunk of this book was the bibliography, and so it took much less time than I expected when I eventually settled down to read.

So, the final check-in of Andrew Lycett's A Life of Sensation:
(Alternate title: Everything You Never Wanted To Know About Victorian Copyright Law)
  • At one point, Wilkie took both Caroline and Martha (both his long-term mistresses) to the seaside, installed them in different houses... and then buggered off to France.
  • I do like that he made equal provision for all his children in his will, including Harriet, who was technically not even his step-daughter.
  • Martha Rudd
  • The chapter entitled 'TWO HOUSES, TWO FAMILIES' is a tease. It remains entirely centered on copyright law and American publishing houses and has pretty much zip to do with either Caroline or Martha.
  • For all Wilkie's talk about Martha's buxom-ness (buxomity? buxomitude?), she wasn't a looker, bless her, was she? I can only assume she was fucking amazing with his Person.
  • Wilkie is some sort of Victorian Charlie Sheen, and can 'down a tincture that... would be enough to kill a dozen people,' which he carried around in a hip flask.
  • He had a weird relationship with a twelve year old girl, which Lycett is quick to point out was absolutely fine because her mother saw all her letters. Honestly, he's the least impartial biographer ever. Wilkie called her 'dearest wife' and 'Mrs Collins,' and used her to 'prattle on about his' excellent friends Opium and Quinine... which is not the Christian name of another wife.'

  • By this point, I was sort of hoping that Wilkie would hurry up and die already. He did, many pages later, and I did genuinely feel quite sad. I think I might go visit his grave at Kensal Grave the next time I'm in London.
So here we are. Did this book need to be this long? No. Did we need a biography of everybody Wilkie Collins passed in the street? Probably not.

I'd have liked to know more about Caroline and Martha, who get very little air-time in this book and who Andrew Lycett judged pretty much constantly. Did they ever meet? Were they actually happy with the arrangement? I'd have been way more interested in this than a who's who of Americal copyright law. 

Thank you to Alice for running this and I'm 100% up for reading another of Wilkie Collins' novels now!

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Review: The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time #1) by Robert Jordan

Eye of the World UK book cover by Robert Jordan, Wheel of Time
My over-riding question is - why didn't I read this sooner? I was aware of the Wheel of Time series, of course. It's one of those absolute fantasy staples and so, logically, I should have been champing at the bit to pick it up. Not so. I think I must have read the blurb of one of the much later books, been ridiculously confused and backed away slowly, intimidated and bemused. The lesson: don't judge a book by it's tenth installment.

Let's all bless Charlotte for rereading this series herself, and subsequently sending me a copy. It only took me four years to read it.

Plot summary: Life in Emond's Field has been pretty boring for Rand Al'Thor and his friends until a strange young woman arrives in their village. Moraine is an Aes Sedai, a magician with the ability to wield the One Power, and she brings warnings of a terrible evil awakening in the world. That very night, the village is attacked by bloodthirsty Trollocs - a fearsome tribe of beast-men thought to be no more than myth. As Emond's Field burns, Moraine and her warrior-guardian help Rand and his companions to escape. But it is only the beginning of their troubles.

I admit that The Eye of the World took a bit of getting into. Whilst it didn't help that I was trying to trudge through it after an exhausting 48 hour Scout Camp, it's quite slow to start. It begins with an unknowing farmboy going about his routine, as these things usually do, but it lasts a while. It is relevant and does provide some backstory for later events, but it's possibly not the best way to entice a new reader into the series.
  
It soon picks up though, and we're off into the wider world. The Eye of the World, and presumably the whole series, is what I call 'proper' fantasy. There's lots of dialogue, lots of sub-plots and lots of interesting characters. Not a whole lot of action, but the bits that are present are excellent and riveting.

The simultaneous best and worst thing about this book is the level of detail. I loved it most of the time, but occasionally I did get bogged down in the description of a solitary leaf. Nothing is missed out, which really helps from an immersion point of view, but there's no avoiding that this 800+ page book could have been an awful lot shorter. Would it have suffered from some hefty trimming? I'm not sure. The pages flew by because I was so riveted in the story, but I remain unconvinced that every single adjective was absolutely required from a plot perspective.

Speaking of, I love this plot. Or I'm sure I would, if I knew what it was. The Dark One is threatening to break free, which would be less than ideal... and that's it. The world-building is so thorough and the prose is so detailed, that there's only the vaguest of overarching plots so far, which is fine. This is off-set by some wonderful side-stories. Each of the nine (I think?) characters travelling with the party is equipped with their own backstory, motivation and sub-plot and they're all pretty great. I'm torn between Perrin and Mat as in whom I'm the most interested, although the Ogier is wonderful too.

There's a strange sense of realism throughout this book that really impressed me. I mean, there's magic and gods and whatnot so I'm not going for hyper-realism here, but a lot of things that usually annoy me about fantasy novels simply aren't present. For example, the characters discuss simply not blindly following the prophecy - they actually consider shirking their responsibilities, just like real people. Characters who inherit magical powers aren't an instant prodigy within a day - they're actually pretty rubbish, as they should be. It's possibly because the slow pace allowed time to expand on all these things, but I loved it. It's so rare in these books.

There is some romance of a sort, but it's very subtle and in no way overshadows the remainder of the book. If anything, I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes.

I wasn't a huge fan of the ending, but considering that The Eye of the World is only the first part of an epic series and presumably exists pretty much solely as an introduction, I'll let it slide. It was the only part of the whole book that went over my head. It was slightly abstract and I'm not 100% sure I understood every single aspect, but I'm sure it will be explained in the next book.

In essence, I'm not convinced that this book needs to be this long or that any series requires fifteen books to adequately tell a story, but I did really love The Eye of the World. I'm completely willing to be convinced that the lengthy, weighty books are worth it and I've already ordered the second book, The Great Hunt. If you're a fan of epic fantasy, don't leave it as long as I did to pick this up.

Read Charlotte's review of The Eye of the World at Lit Addicted Brit. 

Thursday, 6 July 2017

A Life of Sensation Read-a-Long: EPOCH FOUR


I'm a little bit late with my check-in this week - three days at Scout Camp doesn't leave a whole lot of time for reading (I love my Scout Kids, but they're exhausting) and in any event I got totally distracting by racing through the first book in the Wheel of Time series.

Anyhow, we're back to Wilkie now. A short read this week, luckily, and I'm thrilled to finally see The Moonstone make an appearance.

Here are the highlights of this week:

  • Wilkie has met the second lady of his life, Martha Rudd. It's heavily implied that she was on the curvier side, whilst Caroline was a little more petite. The author refers to her as a 'buxom wench.' The author. Nice.
  • 'A feature of mid-Victorian sexuality was that men were often aroused by women in socially inferior positions.'

    Yeah, but... really? Are you sure it's not just that those were the women they could abuse because they weren't really able to say no? Because, honestly, I'm pretty sure it's that. 
  • Apparently Wilkie was drawing on his own experiences of opium whilst he was writing The Moonstone. You don't say.

  • It does note, however, that he treated the Indians in the story with respect, with a fitting and appropriate conclusion, unlike other authors of the time period *cough* Dickens *cough*

    I think I said much the same thing when I reviewed it a few weeks ago, passive-aggressive Dickens references aside.
  • Dickens and Wilkie are sort of falling out now. My favourite burn ever is 'It is part of the bump in Wilkie's forehead that he will not allow his brother to be very ill.'
  • I really want to read Man and Wife, for his take on the injustice of the matrimonial laws. I can't seem to find a decent copy though.
  • Caroline went off, married somebody fifteen years younger, decided she didn't like it and came back to live with Wilkie again. So now she's married to someone else whilst living quite comfortably as a mistress.
  • Oh, but the biggest WHAT THE FUCK moment in the whole thing is where Wilkie has a second child with Mistress B... and calls it the same name as the child of Mistress A. 

  • What!? No. Why would you DO that!? I mean, I know that some names were fairly common in Victorian England, but there were more than two names, you selfish, inconsiderate wazzock. At this point I'm really starting to wonder if these two women were as fiiiiiine with the situation as history makes out. 


    Next week, we're finishing the book. Stay tuned! 

    Thursday, 29 June 2017

    A Life of Sensation Read-a-Long: EPOCHS TWO AND THREE

    Please note that alternative titles for this book include:
     The Lives of Everybody Wilkie Collins Passed in the Street
    AND
    Wilkie Collins: A Life of Infection.

    Welcome to the second check-in of the read-a-long hosted by Rambo Reads. We're reading Wilkie Collins: A Life of Sensation, a biography of the weirdly-shaped-headed author of The Woman in White and The Moonstone.

    Not only have I completed the reading sort-of-on-time (even if this post is late), I also finished my reread of The Moonstone (click for review) which I loved possibly even more than I did the first time. 

    After you've removed the detailed ramblings about every single person that featured in Wilkie Collins' life, here is what we're left with:

    • Wilkie knew a lot of people. By definition, we therefore now also know about a lot of people. I admit to skimming some of these lengthy portions about people I have never before heard of, and never will again. Although I do intend to name my first-born 'Augustus Egg.'
    • We've finally started learning about his novels, although we haven't got to The Moonstone yet. The Woman in White made Wilkie a rich man - about £100,000 in today's money. I've ordered some of his other books already, so I've tried to skim past the plot explanations.
    • 'Although not yet thirty, Wilkie was already showing signs of wear.'Ha. Same.
    • His gout is starting to play up quite badly, which sucks because he's still in his 30s. Partly self-inflicted, but I don't think they knew as much about the causes back then so we probably shouldn't judge him too harshly?
    • Somehow he runs into the Pope down a random street in Italy. Somehow. Am I the only one starting to take his anecdotes with a pinch of salt?
    • He also tells all his friends that his maid is trying to watch him pee. Is she though, Wilkie? Is she!? 

      Because, while I'm sure there's nothing quite as erotic as a gouty, middle-aged, stoned womaniser trying to pee, I quite simply doesn't trust you. Or your 'Person.'
    • Charles Dickens referred to himself as 'Inimitable.' Of course he did. And to Wilkie as an 'amiable fantasist,' which makes a lot more sense.
    • They also had facial hair growing competitions. These are the men we idolise and cherish for their literative skills... and they amuse themselves by seeing who can grow the biggest moustache *headdesk*
    • Wilkie and Dickens caught a lot of veneral diseases. Like, a lot. We should play a drinking game where every time Lycett says 'this can be interpreted to mean that he was again suffering from gonorrhea,' we take a shot. Except we'd end up with gout.

      So. Many. Diseases.
    • I love how Wilkie has a reputation for being sort of interested in the right of mental health patients, or at least the ones who have been locked away for having an inconvenient vagina. I have a Masters in Mental Health Law and that period of time is fascinating.

    See you next week for Epochs Four and Five! 

    Wednesday, 28 June 2017

    June 2017 Wrap-Up

    June wasn't a great month for reading, but then I hadn't expected it to be. The boyfriend and I had a week off together (in which we seemed to achieve very little), I had an important job interview to prepare for and I've generally had to clean and sort the house for future plans. Add to that a fun dose of illness flare-up and we're only 5.5 books further on with our lives.

    I can't complain too much though, as I was completely blown away by two of those books and I really enjoyed a third. Let's have a look at what's been happening at Booking in Heels.


    Fiction

    My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
    Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
    The Song Rising (Bone Season #3) by Samantha Shannon

    Rereads

    The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

    Non-fiction

    The Man Who Couldn't Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought by David Adam 
    Wilkie Collins: A Life of Sensation by Andrew Lycett 

    Best Book of June 2017:
    My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
    (I'd say that The Moonstone is sliiiiiightly better, but it was a reread so doesn't count!) 


    I've had such a good reading month that three of the books I've read ended up on my Top Ten Books of 2017 So Far list.

    I'm reading the Wilkie Collins biography as part of a read-a-long hosted by Reading Rambo, and I'd say we're about halfway through. Or I will be, anyway, once I finish the required reading for today!

    The one thing I can say for sure is that the above lack of reading in no way justifies the huge amount of books that have come into my house this month. 


    I know, I know. Let's evaluate why Hanna has a Problem:
    • I don't even like Dickens. Can't stand him. The above eleven books just happened to be cheap and pretty, so what can you do?
      (not buy them?)
    • I already own Jane Eyre. Six times over.
    • I already own To Kill a Mockingbird. Twice over. 
    • I already own Rebecca. Twice over.   

    I am looking forward to reading Frenchman's Creek, due to my success with My Cousin Rachel, and as I've heard that it's a sort of swash-buckley version of Rebecca. 

    Fingers crossed for a more prolific reading month in July!


    What was your favourite read from June?

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