All posts by Jo

Readathon Closing Survey

It’s done! 😀

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

For me it was hour 17, which was when I got up at around 5:15 AM to get back into reading.  I just wanted more sleep!  A shower and a few strong coffees helped, though, and I got through it!

2. Tell us ALLLLL the books you read!

My reading list changed quite bit during the event, but I managed to read around 1,200 pages over the 24 hours.

3. Which books would you recommend to other Read-a-thoners?

I definitely recommend Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, and Avril Joy’s Sometimes a River Song, which is a little harrowing, but incredibly captivating.  And I loved the gothic aspect of Bodies of Water by V. H. Leslie.

4. What’s a really rad thing we could do during the next Read-a-thon that would make you smile?

Just keep doing what you do!  I love readathon and the community element, which you can be as involved in as much or as little as you want to – I think it’s great that a group of like-minded people from all over the world can get involved in the event at the same time.

5. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? Would you be interested in volunteering to help organize and prep?

Very likely!  I can’t do it twice a year, but I do try to do either the April or the October readathon, depending what’s going on that weekend.  And I wouldn’t mind helping to organise and prep next time round 🙂

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Readathon – Hour 1 – Opening Survey

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

I’m in Nottingham, in the UK.  It’s reasonably bright (you know, for Britain) but quite blustery!

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

the eleventh letter

The Eleventh Letter by Tom Tomaszewski

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

A difficult one, but I’m looking forward to getting stuck into some chocolate chip shortbread cookies later 🙂

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I’m Jo, and I’ve been blogging for a little over two years, but I’ve always been an avid reader, even as a child.  I like to read a variety of different types of novel, but I do particularly like dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction.

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 third readathon, and I think I need to factor in more regular breaks and a bit of time to get up and move around during the event.  I’ve said it before, but I’m really not very good at following my own advice!

Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon – Oct 2017

This weekend I’ll be taking part in Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon which is an event that is held twice a year in April and October and that is open to readers worldwide (there’s still time to join up if you’re interested!)

It starts at 1pm UK time, and runs for (you guessed it) 24 hours.  Having done this event twice before (April 2015 and April 2016), I’ve not yet managed to read for the whole period, and I won’t be able to this time, either, not least because I’ve got an ice hockey match to go to on Saturday evening.  I normally aim for around 16 to 18 hours of reading time, which is feasible yet challenging.

If you are considering taking part, don’t feel like you have to read for the whole period – this is ultimately meant to be a fun event, so just do what you can.  For me, the hardest parts are the night-time hours – from hour 10 or so in the UK – and the last couple of hours, by which time I’ve usually had enough.  The best advice I can give is that it does help to plan strategic breaks, to get up and walk around regularly, and to make sure you’ve got plenty of good food and snacks available 🙂

It’s not essential, but I like to have a theme for the books I read during readathon, but it has to be a broad enough category to allow for plenty of variety, as I think that reading so much in a short period of time would get dull VERY quickly if the books were too similar.  This year I’ve chosen a theme of indie publishers, and my current plan is to read through the following titles:

I may not get through all of them, and I have several back up options available in case any of these isn’t working for me on the day, but reading these six would total ~1,200 pages.  Eeeek!  I’ll try to provide updates on my progress throughout the weekend – wish me luck!

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster

4 3 2 1

I love novels that look at what might have happened had this happened instead of that, or if a different decision had been made, and so I was instantly intrigued when Paul Auster’s 4 3 2 1 appeared on the long list for this year’s Man Booker Prize.

On March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born. From that single beginning, Ferguson’s life will take four simultaneous and independent fictional paths. Four Fergusons made of the same genetic material, four boys who are the same boy, will go on to lead four parallel and entirely different lives. Family fortunes diverge. Loves and friendships and intellectual passions contrast. Chapter by chapter, the rotating narratives evolve into an elaborate dance of inner worlds enfolded within the outer forces of history as, one by one, the intimate plot of each Ferguson’s story rushes on across the tumultuous and fractured terrain of mid twentieth-century America. A boy grows up-again and again and again.

As inventive and dexterously constructed as anything Paul Auster has ever written 4 3 2 1 is an unforgettable tour de force, the crowning work of this masterful writer’s extraordinary career.

Structurally, 4 3 2 1 is surprisingly (deceptively) straightforward.  The first chapter (1.0) gives you the background on Ferguson’s family, focusing mainly on his grandparents and parents, how they met, when they married, etc.  From there, chapters 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and 1.4 cover the four different versions of Ferguson’s childhood, before moving on in 2.1, 2.2, etc.  It’s worth knowing that the x.1 chapters always feature the same version of Ferguson, and this should have made it easier to keep track of which one was which, I still had to remind myself what had happened to each in the previous chapter.  To add to the confusion, some characters appear in multiple versions of Ferguson’s life, and in varying capacities – his girlfriend in one version might be his cousin in another, for example, and because of the similarities, it is easy to get the tales mixed up.

The first chapters in the novel (the 1.x chapters) are quite similar, and cover his life as a small child.  Those chapters all end quite differently, however, and set the tone for what comes next in his life as these four paths begin to diverge, and by the end of the novel, the four Fergusons find themselves in quite different places and / or circumstances.  I would struggle to pick out a preferred narrative of the four however – I found them all to be entertaining and engaging in their own way.  Some are happier than others, but each Ferguson goes through his own highs and lows at different times.

Going into this novel, I was expecting it to cover a longer span of Ferguson’s life.  Having finished it, I understand why it doesn’t, but I was a little surprised that it spent so much time on his late teens, and ends with Ferguson in his twenties.  A lot happens to Ferguson (all the Fergusons) in that time, and it uses the momentous (and often calamitous) events as a backdrop to his story – those moments that you’ll always remember where you were when IT happened.

The danger with this kind of novel is that it becomes repetitive, and I did feel that I was covering familiar ground at times.  There is a nice little twist at the end, however, which I didn’t see coming, and overall, I really enjoyed this novel.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

This Week in Books – 18-10-17

TWIB - logo

This Week in Books is a feature hosted by Lipsy at Lipsyy Lost and Found that allows bloggers to share:

  • What they’ve recently finished reading
  • What they are currently reading
  • What they are planning to read next

As part of my attempt to read the books shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize, I’ve just finished Autumn by Ali Smith.  My review will be up soon, but I have to admit that I wasn’t hugely taken with it (despite it being my guess for this year’s winner!)

autumn

Fusing Keatsian mists and mellow fruitfulness with the vitality, the immediacy and the colour-hit of Pop Art (via a bit of very contemporary skulduggery and skull-diggery), Autumn is a witty excavation of the present by the past. The novel is a stripped-branches take on popular culture and a meditation, in a world growing ever more bordered and exclusive, on what richness and worth are, what harvest means.

Autumn is the first instalment in Ali Smith’s novel quartet Seasonal: four standalone books, separate yet interconnected and cyclical (as the seasons are), exploring what time is, how we experience it, and the recurring markers in the shapes our lives take and in our ways with narrative.

From the imagination of the peerless Ali Smith comes a shape-shifting series, wide-ranging in timescale and light-footed through histories, and a story about ageing and time and love and stories themselves.


My current read, which I’ve only just started, is Elmet, the last of the Booker shortlisted novels for 2017.

elmet

Fresh and distinctive writing from an exciting new voice in fiction, Elmet is an unforgettable novel about family, as well as a beautiful meditation on landscape.

Daniel is heading north. He is looking for someone. The simplicity of his early life with Daddy and Cathy has turned sour and fearful. They lived apart in the house that Daddy built for them with his bare hands. They foraged and hunted. When they were younger, Daniel and Cathy had gone to school. But they were not like the other children then, and they were even less like them now. Sometimes Daddy disappeared, and would return with a rage in his eyes. But when he was at home he was at peace. He told them that the little copse in Elmet was theirs alone. But that wasn’t true. Local men, greedy and watchful, began to circle like vultures. All the while, the terrible violence in Daddy grew.

Atmospheric and unsettling, Elmet is a lyrical commentary on contemporary society and one family’s precarious place in it, as well as an exploration of how deep the bond between father and child can go.


I’m not entirely sure what my next read will be at the moment – I’m taking part on Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon this weekend, and still need plan what I’m going to read.  Watch this space! 🙂

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And that’s my week in books!  What are you reading this week?  Let me know!

Book Blast: Pleasing Mr. Pepys by Deborah Swift

Pleasing Mr. Pepys
by Deborah Swift

Publication Date: September 28, 2017
Accent Press
eBook & Paperback; 407 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

 

 

London 1667.

Set in a London rising from the ruins of the Great Fire, Pleasing Mr Pepys is a vivid re-imagining of the events in Samuel Pepys’s Diary.

Desperate to escape her domineering aunt, Deb Willet thinks the post of companion to well-respected Elisabeth Pepys is the answer to her prayers. But Samuel Pepys’s house is not as safe as it seems. An intelligent girl in Deb’s position has access to his government papers, and soon she becomes a target of flamboyant actress Abigail Williams, a spy for England’s enemies, the Dutch.

Abigail is getting old and needs a younger accomplice. She blackmails Deb into stealing Pepys’s documents. Soon, the respectable life Deb longs for slides out of her grasp. Mr Pepys’s obsessive lust for his new maid increases precisely as Abigail and her sinister Dutch spymaster become more demanding. When Deb falls for handsome Jem Wells, a curate-in-training, she thinks things cannot possibly get worse.

Until – not content with a few stolen papers – the Dutch want Mr Pepys’s Diary.

Swift brought Deborah Willet, the Pepyses, and the London of the 1660s to life in an exciting and sometimes touching way…I didn’t want to put it down, and found myself thinking about the story when I went about my day.” – Andrea Zuvich, Author of His Last Mistress

Deb Willet, Elizabeth Pepys’s maid and the object of Samuel Pepys’s attentions, is finally given centre-stage after 350 years, and her tale was worth waiting for. This is exceptional story-telling.” – L. C. Tyler

Laced with emotional intensity and drama, Pleasing Mr Pepys… (has) an intricate plot that features red herrings, unexpected twists, and surprises that will take readers on a very delightful ride.” – Arya Fomonyuy, Readers’ Favorite

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Chapters

About the Author

Deborah Swift is the author of three previous historical novels for adults, The Lady’s Slipper, The Gilded Lily, and A Divided Inheritance, all published by Macmillan/St Martin’s Press, as well as the Highway Trilogy for teens (and anyone young at heart!). Her first novel was shortlisted for the Impress prize for new novelists.

She lives on the edge of the beautiful and literary English Lake District – a place made famous by the poets Wordsworth and Coleridge.

For more information, please visit Deborah Swift’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Thursday, September 28
Review at The Maiden’s Court
Guest Post at Books of All Kinds

Friday, September 29
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Monday, October 2
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Tuesday, October 3
Review at The Lit Bitch
Feature at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Wednesday, October 4
Feature at A Holland Reads

Thursday, October 5
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Friday, October 6
Feature at Passages to the Past

Monday, October 9
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Tuesday, October 10
Review at Locks, Hooks and Books

Wednesday, October 11
Review at Book Nerd

Friday, October 13
Review at Poppy Coburn

Monday, October 16
Review at Just One More Chapter
Review at Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Tuesday, October 17
Review at Laura’s Interests
Interview at Suzy Approved Books

Wednesday, October 18
Book Blast at Jo’s Book Blog

Thursday, October 19
Feature at T’s Stuff

Friday, October 20
Review at A Literary Vacation
Guest Post at The Writing Desk

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a signed copy of Pleasing Mr. Pepys to one lucky winner! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on October 20th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Pleasing Mr. Pepys

And this year’s Man Booker Prize Winner is…

…George Saunders!

lincoln in the bardo

Congratulations! I thoroughly enjoyed Lincoln in the Bardo, and I’m thrilled that it won this year’s Booker.  You can see my review here.

Synopsis:

The extraordinary first novel by the bestselling, Folio Prize-winning, National Book Award-shortlisted George Saunders, about Abraham Lincoln and the death of his eleven-year-old son, Willie, at the dawn of the Civil War

The American Civil War rages while President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son lies gravely ill. In a matter of days, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy’s body.

From this seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a thrilling, supernatural domain both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself trapped in a transitional realm – called, in Tibetan tradition, the bardo – and as ghosts mingle, squabble, gripe and commiserate, and stony tendrils creep towards the boy, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

Unfolding over a single night, Lincoln in the Bardo is written with George Saunders’ inimitable humour, pathos and grace. Here he invents an exhilarating new form, and is confirmed as one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Deploying a theatrical, kaleidoscopic panoply of voices – living and dead, historical and fictional – Lincoln in the Bardo poses a timeless question: how do we live and love when we know that everything we hold dear must end?