Monday, April 30, 2012

Discussion | Hello Goodbye

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on the importance of grammar, and just recently I had a bit of practical experience to go with it. I read, or anyway started to read, a book that was not merely filled but overflowing with grammatical errors. I couldn't get farther than a chapter and a half in because I was so distracted by the errors that I couldn't concentrate on the story in the slightest. When I read, I'm not really aware of the words themselves unless there's something spectacularly good or bad about them. I'm not very good at reading poetry. So seeing copious grammatical errors just makes me want to go through the book with a red pen, crossing things out with gleeful abandon. Reading it like a normal book? Extraordinarily difficult if not completely impossible.

But the broader question I'm going for here is, why should I have to deal with that? If an author or publisher or whoever can't be bothered to consistently capitalize their characters' names or the first letter of a sentence, something your computer does for you, it makes me think they put just as little effort into the story and characters themselves, and why would I expend extra effort on reading something like that?

I've heard a few people argue that a good story makes up for bad writing, but I don't see why it should. If you were on a date with someone who seemed like a great guy, but when you saw his place it looked like a hurricane spat out a pigsty and a landfill in the same room, would you go out with him again? I don't think so.

I'm not going to tell you what book this was, because it was an ARC and I assume (or at least hope) that these errors will be corrected in the finished copy. Since I have no idea of the quality of the actual story, it seems a little excessive to tarnish the book before it even comes out. But I want to know what other readers think of these kinds of problems. Are you willing to plow through poorly written books to see if their might be a diamond of a story beneath the dross? Or do you give up on the story with the knowledge that their are other, better fish in the sea? What makes you stop reading a book?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Sunday Post #1

The Sunday Post is a new meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer that offers an opportunity to recap the past week, showcase what's coming up on your blog, and share what books you got for the week.

This week I was pretty busy and didn't get a chance to post as often as I normally do, but I managed to squeeze in reviews of Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, and The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa. I also re-posted my favorite characters of 2011 for this week's Top Ten Tuesday.

Next week I'm planning to put up a discussion post and reviews of The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer, Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, and The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham.

It was a pretty crazy couple of weeks for books; I had a whole bunch of requests come through on NetGalley, visited a used bookstore, went to the library, and even won something!

Won from 132 Minutes (Melina Marchetta Fans)
Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

I am so freaking excited that I won this one. Thanks so much to 132 Minutes and Candlewick for sending it to me!

From NetGalley
Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
Yesterday by C.K. Kelly Martin
Poison Tree by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier
The Scorpions of Zahir by Christine Brodien-Jones
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

I'm not supposed to be buying books. And I was doing okay until I stopped at the used bookstore, but they were cheap! And good! I'm not very good at book buying bans.

The Grey King by Susan Cooper
The Palace of Impossible Dreams by Jennifer Fallon
The Darkness That Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker

From the library
Od Magic by Patricia A. McKillip
The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Review | Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane

Unholy Ghosts
Stacia Kane
Downside Ghosts #1
Published 2010 by Del Rey (Random House)
Urban fantasy
4 stars

Bite-Sized Review
Unholy Ghosts is a compelling start to a dark urban fantasy. I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for something on the grittier side.

King-Sized Review
Churchwitch Chess Putnam has a secret. A Debunker for the Church of Real Truth, she investigates hauntings, exposing the fakes and banishing real ghosts. She's definitely not supposed to be in debt to a powerful drug lord, so when he offers her the option of trading an off-the-books investigation for a debt she doesn't have the money to pay, she doesn't have any choice but to look into his case. Unfortunately she finds quite a bit more than she bargained for.

Unholy Ghosts starts with a fascinating world. After the dead broke free of their City and wreaked havoc on the living world, killing thousands. the Church of Real Truth rose to power, disdaining the old religions and using powerful magic to banish ghosts. Now the Church rules through the strength of its witches in holding back the dead. Usually post-magical awakening worlds look either very similar to ours or are without a central power, so it was interesting to read about a different structure, particularly one as interesting as this one.

I was surprised to find this book written in third person – the trend is for urban fantasy to be in first and paranormal romance in third – but although Unholy Ghosts leans heavily on the urban fantasy side, third person works. Chess isn't the type to reveal many of her innermost thoughts. She has a seriously screwed-up past that gains her sympathy despite the gratuitous drug use. At first this aspect of Chess's character was annoying, but as I learned more about Chess and her history, it became a little more understandable. Plus, Chess has a lot of room to grow; I can already tell that the character development in this series is going to be stellar, though it hasn't gotten far yet.

Chess is surrounded by an intriguing cast of characters. Terrible, drug lord Bump's enforcer, turned out to be a surprisingly excellent character, something I would never have guessed at first glance. I'm eager to learn more about him as well as to see more of his and Chess's interactions. Bump's rival drug mogul Lex was Bump's urbane opposite, suave and controlled where Bump was erratic and a little crazy. The Church played a fairly minor role in this book, at least considering its influence, so I'm looking forward to finding out more about its members.

I can't wait to check out the rest of the books in this series. Unholy Ghosts is a highly promising start to what should be a great series.

Quality: Excellent
Enjoyability: Excellent

PNR or UF?
GARS score: 1.4 (3/4/2/3)
What's a GARS score?

In the same aisle
Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning
Grave Witch by Kalayna Price

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Review | Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl
Eoin Colfer
Artemis Fowl #1
Published 2001 by Disney-Hyperion
MG science fantasy
Review copy from NetGalley
3 stars

Bite-Sized Review
Artemis Fowl contains a twelve-year-old genius, a highly unusual take on fairies, a kidnapping planned by the protagonist, and a smartass centaur. It's not as good as later books in the series, but it's still fun and good to read.

King-Sized Review
I actually read some of the Artemis Fowl books as a kid and enjoyed them, so when I saw them on NetGalley I grabbed them. As an adult, this was still a fun read and one I'd definitely recommend to fans of middle-grade books. Artemis, heir to a formerly vast fortune, is trying to track down a fairy in order to restore his family's status. However, when he decodes the fairies' book and manages to capture one, he gets rather more than he bargained for.

The fairies in the Artemis Fowl books are quite different from the ones you see in more recent paranormal books. While they do have great respect for and a deep connection to the Earth, they're also extremely technologically advanced, giving this book a bit more of a scifi feel. I really enjoyed the book's take on fairy tales and legends, like making leprechauns the LEPrecon squad, a branch of law enforcement.

As a kid, I don't think I really understood how incredibly morally questionable some of Artemis's decisions are. That's not a criticism; he changes throughout the book, and although I wouldn't exactly call him "good" by the end, he does get a lot better and continues to do so in later books. It's just interesting how oblivious elementary school Kate was to shades of gray. But don't worry, this book won't turn your kids evil or anything.

Artemis is a twelve-year-old genius, which is the only reason his schemes have any chance of succeeding. Of course it's a little ridiculous, but it's a fun character trait. He also has unusual freedom for a twelve-year-old because after his father vanished in a shipwreck, his mother sank into depression and now doesn't even recognize him most of the time. It makes his choices at the beginning of the book a little more sympathetic.

This book is full of action. It switches between various perspectives, including some underground, where the fairies live, and it's quite interesting to take a look at their culture, which is very well developed. There's quite a bit of fighting, with and without fairy technology, as well as lots of wittiness and humor. It does drag a bit at times, and there's certainly room for improvement, but it's definitely worth a read, especially since the series gets better after this.

Quality: Good
Enjoyability: Good

In the same aisle
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday | Favorite Characters (of 2011)

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted weekly by the lovely ladies at The Broke and The Bookish.

I was going to write this post for real. I swear. Only then I was really tired because I still haven't caught up on sleep from the read-a-thon this weekend, and I had a long day at work, and my brain was just not cooperating. But fortunately I had this great post from Top Ten of 2011 week, with quotes and everything, so I just blatantly plagiarized myself because I can. Hooray!

Best Heroine: Kate Daniels
Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews

I love Kate. Kate is my favorite. She is strong and funny and kicks major ass, and she cares about her friends more than anything.
"You said sloppy! Look, I didn't even use my sword; I hit him with my head, like a moron."

Whatever storm was brewing, I'd find it and fight it. If it was the price of being with Curran, then I'd pay it. He was worth it.

Best Hero: Kvothe
The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Kvothe is a hero with depth. He's brilliant and fascinating to read about. He's also far too clever for his own good, but just enough clever to make readers extremely happy. I look forward to The Doors of Stone.

I slid Threpe's sealed letter inside, where it joined the hollow horn with Nina's drawing and a small sack of dried apple I had stowed there. There was nothing special about the apple, but in my opinion if you have a secret compartment in your lute case and don't use it to hide things, there is something terribly, terribly wrong with you.

Best Teen Heroine: Puck Connolly
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races is an unusual book, and Puck is an unusual character. She's stubborn and she cares. If you get a chance, definitely check this one out; it's a wonderful story.

It's been a long time since I've been in Skarmouth after dark, and it reminds me of the time Dad cut his hair. For the first seven years of my life, Dad had dark, curly hair that was like me–in that he told it first thing in the morning what he wanted it to do, and then it went and did pretty much whatever it wanted to do. Anyway, when I was seven, Dad came back with the docks with his hair close shaven and when I saw him walk in the door and kiss my mother on the mouth, I started to cry because I thought he was a stranger.

And that's what Skarmouth has done, overnight: it's turned into an entirely different Skarmouth from the one I've known my whole life, and I don't feel like letting it kiss me on the mouth any time soon.

Best Teen Hero: Percy Jackson
The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Percy is loyal, courageous, and sometimes not all that bright, which make for an ideal MG hero. His journey through the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and now the Heroes of Olympus continuation has been great to read.

Just his luck he was related to this grubby old dude. He hoped all sons of Neptune didn't share the same fate. First, you start carrying a man satchel. Next thing you know, you're running around in a bathrobe and pink bunny slippers, chasing chickens with a weed whacker.

Best Animal Companion: Oberon
Hexed by Kevin Hearne

Oberon is Atticus O'Sullivan's Irish wolfhound, and he's definitely the dog I want. While he can communicate with Atticus in actual words, it's definitely clear that he's a dog, which makes for some highly entertaining conversations.

Oberon looked at me. <I know that has to make you sad. But call to me instead, Atticus. I'll always answer. Your fly has been open all this time, by the way, and Granuaile hasn't said a thing.>

Thanks, buddy, I said silently as I tried to surreptitiously zip up my jeans.

<See? I got your back AND your front. I deserve a treat.>

Best Sidekick: Jenks
Pale Demon by Kim Harrison

Jenks is absolutely hilarious. Even though I love Rachel, Ivy, and all the other supporting characters, Jenks is my favorite because of his ridiculous swearing, his 54 kids, and his complete lack of respect for any kind of authority.

"Tagged by a whiny little vamp," he said gesturing. "Rache, take this sword and stick it in me. Just go and stick it in me. I'm a back-drafted, crumple-winged, dust-caked, dew-assed excuse for a backup. Worthless as a pixy condom. Taken down by my own partner. Just tape my ass shut and let me fart out my mouth."

Best Villain: Ku'Sox
Pale Demon by Kim Harrison

Ku'Sox is a frightening creature. It's hard to say much else without spoilers, but Ku'Sox was definitely a part of the reason Pale Demon was the best book of The Hollows yet.

Best Villain/Reluctant Ally: Ruben Cavazos
Blood Bound by Rachel Vincent

Ruben is definitely not a good guy. But he is oddly fascinating, a lot like Johnny Marcone from the Dresden Files but probably less classy.

Best Character Development: MacKayla Lane
Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning

Who went from a pink-skirt loving southern belle who cared about nothing more than her favorite nail polish to this:
"Some people wouldn't see a traitor when they looked at me. Some people would see a survivor. Call me anything you like - I sleep fine at night. But you will look at me when you say it. Or I'll get so far in your face you'll be seeing me with your eyes closed. You'll be seeing me in your nightmares. I'll scorch myself on the backs of your eyelids. Get off my back and stay off it. I'm not the woman I used to be. If you want a war with me, you'll get one."

Best Humor: Harry Dresden
Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

Harry is both extremely witty and extremely heroic. The heroic generally doesn't work out great for him, but at least he has the witty to mock bad guys.

"Star Trek?" I asked her. "Really?"

"What?" she demanded, bending unnaturally black eyebrows together.

"There are two kinds of people in the universe, Molly," I said. "Star Trek fans and Star Wars fans. This is shocking."

She sniffed. "This is the post-nerd-closet world, Harry. It's okay to like both."

"Blasphemy and lies," I said.

A lot of these characters are on my all-time favorites list anyway, so it works. Who's on your list?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Review | The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

The Immortal Rules 
Julie Kagawa
Blood of Eden #1
Published April 24, 2012 by Harlequin Teen
YA paranormal/post-apocalyptic
Review copy from NetGalley
4 stars

Bite-Sized Review
The Immortal Rules is filled with action and interesting characters, just the way I like it. A definite must-read for fans of Rachel Caine's Morganville Vampires series.

King-Sized Review
The Immortal Rules begins with an execution.

I think this is supposed to be shocking, but it's very difficult to shock my fiction-reading brain. It's seen a lot. So instead of going, "Oh my God, they're executing teenagers!" I was using my years of reading political fantasy to think, "that's really not the most effective way to achieve long-term control over a population." That wasn't a great start.

Fortunately, it got much better. The story was enjoyable despite the occasional "how could you possibly think this might end even sort of well?" choice. Allie, an Unregistered living in a city ruled by vampires and surrounded by zombies (Rabids), struggles each day to survive. She hates the vampires with a passion. But when she has to choose between dying and being changed into a vampire herself, she chooses survival and begins a whole new life - or the vampire equivalent, anyway.

Especially at the beginning of the book, Allie reminded me of Katniss: focused on her own survival, but willing to do whatever it takes to protect her "family." She claims to be selfish and willing to let her friends die so she can live, but that's obviously not the case.

After Allie is forced to leave her city, she joins a group of people seeking a human city, a place with no vampires. While the time in the wilderness was certainly interesting, I wanted to know more about vampire society. Hopefully this will happen in book two.

Quality: Good
Enjoyability: Good

In the same aisle
Glass Houses by Rachel Caine

Sunday, April 22, 2012

24-Hour Read-A-Thon | Wrap-Up

Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane, 339 pages
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, 396 pages
The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer, 277 pages
The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa, 509 pages
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, 400 pages

Partially Finished
Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning, 55 pages

Listened to
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (2-3 hours)

Total Pages Read

End of Event Survey
1) Which hour was most daunting for you?
Definitely the last one. I think I may have fallen asleep for a few minutes. Before that I was actually okay; then suddenly I finished Daughter of the Forest and bam! wall of exhaustion.

2)Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
I liked all my books!

3) Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
It would be cool if all the mini challenge hosts lested how long their challenge would last prominently on their pages. Or if it was just listed on the main page. But really, not that big a deal.

4) What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
Overall I think it was really good! I actually didn't spend much time on the computer, so I can't say I know all that much about how everything went, but I had a great time.

5) How many books did you read?
About five and a half, altogether. One more than last time!

6) What were the names of the books you read?
They're listed at the top of the post.

7) Which book did you enjoy most?
Hmmm, tough choice. Probably The Arctic Incident.

8) Which did you enjoy least?
Again, it's a really difficult choice – I liked all of them. Honestly, probably Darkfever, because as much as I love the Fever series, I was really ready to sleep at that point.

10 ) How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
I certainly will if I can!

A huge thanks to everyone who stopped by and commented or chatted on Twitter! And many thanks to the awesome read-a-thon hosts for putting everything together and keeping us entertained! Congrats to everyone who participated!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

24-Hour Read-A-Thon | Updates, Part II

We're halfway through! Time for a new post. How's everyone doing?

Read So Far
Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane, 339 pages
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, 396 pages
The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer, 277 pages
The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa, 509 pages
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, 400 pages

Currently Reading
Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

Listening to
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Mid-Event Survey
1) How are you doing? Sleepy? Are your eyes tired?
I'm just eating dinner now, so I'm okay at the moment. Hopefully that'll last!

2) What have you finished reading?
Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane and Artemis Fowl and The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer (see above for links!)

3) What is your favorite read so far?
So far I am happy to have found three great books!

4) What about your favorite snacks?
Definitely the brownies 

5) Have you found any new blogs through the readathon? If so, give them some love!
I haven't been doing much blog-hopping (sorry!) but my friend from At Random is doing the RAT as well and I've stopped by there a few times!

Hosted by The Bluestocking Society

I love re-reading! Right now I'm listening to Shiver, which I've read before in the normal way. But here are some of my favorite re-reads, books I've read many, many times but haven't gotten bored with yet.

Sunshine by Robin McKinley
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Pegasus in Space by Anne McCaffrey
Medalon by Jennifer Fallon
Welcome to the Ark by Stephanie S. Tolan
The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

The theme song I chose for my current read, Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, is "Running Up That Hill" as covered by Placebo. In some ways it works really well and in other ways it doesn't really work at all, but I think the mood of the song sort of fits the mood of the book, which is what I was looking for.

I don't know why the video is upside down, but it's a good song!

24-Hour Read-A-Thon | Updates

It's read-a-thon time! I have my banana bread, coffee, and Oreo brownies with cream cheese frosting ready to go. And also real food, you know, just in case.

I thought about making a TBR pile post, but then I was lazy. So everything will be a surprise!
Hopefully not that kind of surprise.
Anyway. Here's where I'll be posting my updates and mini challenges, at least until this post gets too long to conveniently scroll down. Good luck everyone! May the odds be ever in your favor! (I realize that doesn't make sense here, but I feel the need to throw that phrase out any time anything begins. So thanks, Effie Trinket.)

Read So Far
Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane, 339 pages
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, 396 pages
The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer, 277 pages

Currently Reading

Listening to
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Introductory Questionnaire
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
I am reading from the US.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
See above. No real stack. So I'm looking forward to many (non-pool shark) surprises!

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Brownies. The answer is always brownies.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I am the walrus.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
This is my second read-a-thon, and I plan to not make so many update posts. I'd like to keep it to two, but we'll see.

Reading in Translation
Hosted by Reading Through Life

1) If you could read any book that’s been translated into English in its ORIGINAL language, what would it be?
I would want to read The Shadow of the Wind (La Sombra del Viento) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. The writing was beautiful even in translation; I imagine the Spanish would be even better.

2) Include the original book’s cover if possible; if you want, also post the English cover for comparison.

3) Optional imaginary bonus points: post a sentence from the book in its original language.
"Conserva tus sueños, nunca sabes cuando te harán falta." Google translate (and a little bit of logic) says this means something like, "Hold on to your dreams, you never know when you might need them." Any Spanish speakers want to give a better translation?

Book Puzzle
Hosted by One Librarian's Book Reviews

For my book puzzle, I picked a book that's coming out soon. I'm very excited for it!

Book Sentence
Hosted by On the Wings of Books

I found a verb! I mean, technically I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be a noun, but it could be a verb, and that's what matters, right?

Across the face of the world, spell bound dragon bones nevermore fool the lightning thief.

Book Appetit
Hosted by Book Journey

I've been listening to Shiver for most of the afternoon. Grace is a great cook, so I think we'd have a nice home-cooked meal, maybe with stromboli and sauteed vegetables, and something baked for dessert.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Review | Tomorrow Land by Mani Mancusi

Tomorrow Land
Mani Mancusi
Published March 8, 2012 by NLA Digital
YA dystopian/post-apocalyptic romance
Review copy from NetGalley

Bite-Sized Review
Tomorrow Land was much more of a YA romance than anything else, which basically means that it wasn't my kind of thing. I found the characters extremely angsty and numerous elements of the plot absurd.

King-Sized Review
Tomorrow Land takes place in alternating timelines, sometime in the future, where technology has advanced and an AIDS vaccine has been developed, and four years after the End of Days, when the Super Flu killed off much of the adult population and left behind isolated people, kids, and a whole lot of zombies.

When the Super Flu first emerged, Chris and Peyton's relationship was just beginning. They planned to leave together, along with a few other kids from their school, and hide in the mountains until the disease passed. But Peyton never showed up. Four years later, she emerged from the bomb shelter her father modified for her and her mother, and the first person she met was none other than Chris, now called Chase. After some convincing, she agreed to take Chase and the kids he and his brother rescued as she traveled to Disney World to find her father, who might be able to fix the world – and Peyton herself.

I think zombies are a cool concept that is rarely as brilliantly executed. Tomorrow Land was definitely another underwhelming zombie book. It was very heavily romance-oriented, and the romance itself was extraordinarily angsty, neither of which particularly appeal to me. Possibly I should have realized this from reading the blurb, but I pretty much just glanced at the book and said, "Zombies! Awesome razor hands! Want!" and requested it. Unfortunately, the zombies' main role was to provide romantic tension in various ways, which seemed wrong somehow. I need a "misuse of zombies" stamp.

As far as the writing itself goes, it wasn't bad. If you do like romances, possibly with a side of zombies, I imagine you might enjoy this book. Just keep in mind, the characters are pretty self-absorbed and can be absolute idiots about keeping secrets from each other for no reason other than to please the Romantic Tension Gods, whom I believe deserve better sacrifices. There were numerous times when I wanted to shake Peyton or Chase or both during the book, because their complete lack of communication created so many more problems than they actually had.

For a four hundred mile trip on horses with a bunch of kids in tow (I don't actually remember how many; they weren't very important) their journey was laughably hitch-less. There were, of course, a couple of zombie-related Incidents to move the plot along (and pay heed to the Romantic Tension Gods), but the kids hardly ever complained and never misbehaved or ran off and did something stupid. (That was left to our heroic protagonists.) I don't even have kids and I don't believe this.

Personally, I would have preferred a book with a little less romance and a little more dystopian/post-apocalyptic. but I think this book would appeal to people who enjoy romance more and don't mind a little angst. It just wasn't at all for me.

Quality: Fair
Enjoyability: Poor

In the same aisle
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

24-Hour Read-A-Thon!

The 24-hour read-a-thon is almost upon us! This was the first read-a-thon I did, last October, and all read-a-thons thereafter have seemed a little bit wimpy. (Kidding!) But honestly, I had a blast, despite the fact that I started dying of exhaustion around hour 19/20. So I'm very excited to be doing it again this Saturday!

As sort of a prelude to the RAT, I thought I'd do a post explaining all the things I was totally confused about last time before I started, in the hopes that this will help people who are new to the fun.

How it works

That's all. Go to it!

Basically, you start reading at noon GMT on Saturday and stop reading at noon GMT on Sunday. You are, of course, welcome to participate for as much or as little of that time as you want, but I think it's more fun and satisfying to complete the whole thing! You can sign up by clicking the link at the top of this post, and then you don't really have to do anything until the RAT starts.


You can update your blog as often or as rarely as you like during the RAT. There is a mini challenge every hour, but normally they stay open for several hours to give everyone time to enter. There are also many, many prizes for participating in the mini challenges, and they make a great break from reading, especially when you start hitting the wall of exhaustion.

Last time I created a new post for the RAT every time I finished a book, but for this one I think I'm going to just have one or two posts that I update periodically throughout the day to cut down on clutter.


You can tweet @readathon with questions or thoughts, and I know there was quite a bit of discussion in tweetchats last time, though I didn't have a twitter then. I'm looking forward to participating in that this year!

General tips

-Pick books that are on the shorter and lighter side. Reading more books makes you feel more accomplished, which is important when you haven't slept in twenty-three hours and your veins are filled entirely with coffee.

-The RAT is not the time to struggle through a book. It doesn't go well. You can always get back to it later, when things are back to normal and disinterest doesn't just make you want to go to sleep.

-Move around occasionally! If the weather's nice, read outside for a few hours. Visit a coffeeshop. Sitting around in my apartment for a long time makes me slightly claustrophobic, which is not conducive to reading.
-Have delicious snacks prepared ahead of time. You will need energy.

Not that much energy.
-Have fun! While this is definitely not something you'd want to do every week, it's a great event and you get to meet a lot of fun people, not to mention experience the thrilling insanity of voluntary sleep deprivation. Enjoy!

Have any other questions or advice? Leave me a comment!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday | Blogging Tips

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted weekly by the lovely ladies at The Broke and The Bookish.

I've been blogging for less than a year, so I'm not sure I'm entirely qualified to give blogging tips. I certainly don't have any advice for acquiring ARCs (except to sign up for NetGalley) or joining blog tours. But as always, I do have Opinions. And I am Not Afraid To Share Them, because what else do you do on the internet? So without further ado, my ten blogging tips, in no particular order except for #1:

10. no how 2 rite good

Or alternatively, how to make your mistakes funny. Obviously no one expects you to be William Faulkner, but please, please learn the difference between affect and effect, allude and elude, bare and bear, and so on. Learn how to use a semicolon and under what circumstances your subject becomes a direct object. Spell "dammit" with two "m"s, dammit. It will make your posts easier to read and make you seem like a more reliable source.

9. Your blog needs to be literally readable

Oh God. My eyes.

Which basically means don't use a font no one can read, or neon colors, or a background that that obscures your writing. You may love Hello Kitty, but if your cute little cartoony background means I can't actually read what you're saying, I'm never coming back to your blog. And yes, I have seen this before, and not just on the random ambulance site.

8. Reviews should discuss the reasons for your opinion

It's not enough just to say "OMG!!!! I loved it!!!! Everyone should read it!!!" It's shocking, I know, but excessive use of exclamation points does not, as a general rule, actually convince people to read a book. Especially if I'm looking at an unfamiliar blog, I have no idea how much the reviewer's tastes match up with my own. Sometimes I hate books that my friends love and vice versa. Make sure to mention what you liked or didn't like about the story, the writing, the characters, etc. Your review should show anyone whether or not they want to read the book, regardless of their preferences.

7. Keep the GIFs to a minimum

Awww...I think I forgot to be annoyed.
This is one that could actually just be a personal pet peeve. To me, even a single GIF is distracting, and multiple GIFs are overwhelming enough to make the actual post very difficult to read. They're also only funny about three times, max, and the next fifty-seven times they cycle through the same two point five seconds are increasingly obnoxious. If you want to use a GIF, think very carefully about whether the same objective could be accomplished with a still picture. And if you love GIFs, leave a comment about it – I'm curious about what other people think.

6. Reciprocate comments

If someone leaves a comment on your blog, do your best to comment on their blog as well! This doesn't just apply to memes like this one, but to any post. I've been working on improving on this myself, and though sometimes it takes me a while to visit, I try to stop by the blogs of everyone who comments on my posts.

5. Learn some basic html

Did you know that if you just copy and paste a URL to a blog post comment, it won't actually go anywhere? If you learn the html codes for basic things like italicizing, creating hyperlinks, and adding images, it will make your comments much nicer and your blogging much easier. Here's a list of links to different html tutorials, and usually you can find whatever you need very easily by googling it.

4. Leave relevant, meaningful comments

On the other hand...sometimes irrelevance can be good.

This basically means don't just say "Great post! Please stop by my blog! [unlinked URL]. Despite what I said about reciprocating comments above, I do not visit blogs that do this. At least make a minimal effort to mention one thing that was actually in the post.

3. Always have a few posts ready to go in case you're behind

When you post often and also have a life outside of blogging, it's easy to get behind and not have anything to post on a certain day. Should this happen you can a) do whatever the meme for the day is, which is fine as long as you have something to say about it, or b) use a post that you have already written. If you write reviews right after you finish the book, it's possible in good times to have a couple weeks of pre-written posts, which is a very relaxing feeling!

2. No automatic audio. Ever.

I cannot think of any circumstances under which I would want a random website that's not Pandora to suddenly start playing music as soon as I arrived. This is a signal for "leave immediately."

1. For God's sake, turn off the freaking CAPTCHA!
This may just be me, but I'm pretty sure my keyboard doesn't come in Hebrew.
It serves no real purpose other than to annoy people trying to comment on your blog. You might not even know it's on – embarrassingly, even after hearing numerous people mention how irritating CAPTCHA was, I didn't realize it was active on my blog for several months because I didn't have to go through it when commenting on my own posts. Unless you have gone in and manually disabled CAPTCHA, it is still on! At least on Blogger – I know nothing about Wordpress. Here is an explanation of how to turn it off. Go do it! Now!

And if you thought yours was off, double check, because somehow Blogger keeps switching mine back on. I think it has something to do with a bug in the newer user interface. (Sorry everyone who's tried to comment in those times! And let me know if you have to fill one out, because I just had to turn it off again. Grrr.)