2008 June archive at Stray Talk
an archive of my forays into fact and fiction

Archive: June ‘08

30th June, 2008
Here Be Dragons: Challenge wrap-up
— Love @ 20:24 Comments (3)
Filed under: Here Be Dragons

Here Be Dragons It’s the 30th of June and thus ends the Here Be Dragons challenge I’ve been hosting since January. I hope everyone who participated had fun and discovered new (and old!) dragon acquaintances.

Tell me, did you finish the challenge? Which was your favourite book?

My list:

  1. A Strong and Sudden Thaw; RW Day — finished 14th June, 2008
  2. His Majesty’s Dragon; Naomi Novik — finished on 3rd January, 2008
  3. A Game of Thrones; George RR Martin — finished 30th June, 2008
  4. Dragon’s Bait; Vivian Vande Velde — finished on 2nd March, 2008
  5. Throne of Jade; Naomi Novik — finished on 22nd June, 2008

My favourite was A Strong and Sudden Thaw by RW Day, followed closely by the two written by Naomi Novik. I’m definitely going to have to get my hands on the rest of that series (as well as the sequel to ASaST, which I hear is in the works).

I’m going to be visiting all the participants in the next few days to see how you all did. ‘Cause I’m nosy like that. ;D

I’ve already got some half-formed plans for a follow-up challenge, or a repeat challenge.

30th June, 2008
A Game of Thrones; George RR Martin
— Love @ 20:10 Comments (1)
Filed under: C, English, Fantasy, First in a Series, Here Be Dragons

A Game of Thrones; George RR Martin A Game of Thrones
by George RR Martin

For the Here Be Dragons and First in a Series reading challenges.

837 pages
Bantam Books
ISBN: 987-0-553-57340-4

First line: “We should start back,” Gared urged them as the woods began to grow dark around them.

Back cover blurb:
In a land where summer can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family born as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs periously in the balance, as each endeavor to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

Thoughts: I kept pushing back reading this forever, as it’s such a big book. I didn’t use to mind big books—quite the opposite, in fact—but then I got a job and I don’t have as much time for reading as I used to, so I’ve rarely got time to finish big books in one sitting, which is what I prefer to do (example: I read A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, which was 1239 pages in the translation I read, in less than two days).

Anyway, I went to London and I needed to have some reading material with me, or I’d go spare, but I also didn’t want to take too much, on account of weight issues and such, so this book got to come along with me. I didn’t finish it there, but I did get about half-way through. And then I finished it today.

For the first couple of hundred pages or so, it was pretty much just confusing. It’s written in third person. However it’s not one person we follow, but at least eight (I probably forgot someone now. It wouldn’t surprise me) and they never have two chapters in a row, which means that it took a while to get to know them.

Once I did, though, things did pick up a little and the story ends up being quite good. I even had a couple of favourite characters (Dany, Eddard, Jon and Tyrion). However, I don’t feel that it was good enough that I’ll likely want to read the rest in the series. Probably not, anyway. I am itching a little to know what happens next, so maybe one day I will end up reading the other books, but right now I doubt it.

It’s a C grade, which means it was a decent read, but not awe-inspiring.

29th June, 2008
The Uncommon Reader; Alan Bennett
— Love @ 22:19 Comments (3)
Filed under: A, English, Fiction

No cover image available The Uncommon Reader
by Alan Bennett

121 pages
Faber and Faber
ISBN: 978-1-84668-133-2

First line: At Windsor it was the evening of the state banquet and as the president of France took his place beside Her Majesty, the royal family formed up behind and the procession slowly moved off and through into the Waterloo Chamber.

Back cover blurb:
Led by her yapping corgis to the Westminster travelling library outside Buckingham Palace, the Queen finds herself taking out a novel by Ivy Compton-Burnett. Duff read though it is, the following week her choice proves more enjoyable and awakens in Her Majesty a passion for reading so great that her public duties begin to suffer. And so, as she devours work by everyone from Hardy to Brookner to Proust to Beckett, her equerries conspire to bring the Queen’s literary odyssey to a close.

Thoughts: This book is made of awesome and that’s a fact. I read it in just a little over an hour and I kind of wish I hadn’t read it yet, so I could read it again for the first time.

I love the ending. I think it was absolutely fab. The rest also. I laughed out loud more than once and giggled madly about three times that.

There was a paragraph—well, not actually even a whole paragraph really, but a bit of a paragraph— at the beginning of the book that made me shout with glee. This, to be exact:

[…] he was largely self-taught, his reading tending to be determined by whether an author was gay or not.

Because I have a tendency to do that. Well, not exactly. More like I tend to turn towards books that I know have gay characters, even if maybe they don’t sound terribly exciting otherwise. I am hooked on boy on boy, okay? IT IS AN *AFFLICTION, BUT I AM NOT ASHAMED! (I am, however, operating on about four hours of sleep and um, it’s starting to show?) Almost, without fail, if a book has a gay character, he will be my favourite. I am terribly predictable about this, but there it is. (And it doesn’t apply to females. Because most of the time I couldn’t care less about the womenfolk. Which is, err, not so great, actually.)

Aaaaanyway, then I finished the book and read the blurb about the author. And I realised I was well daft and that Alan Bennett of The Uncommon Reader is Alan Bennett of The History Boys, which set my gaydar off big time. Because there were certain elements in The Uncommon Reader and there were also elements in The History Boys (very cute elements. V.v. cute elements! Adorable, even! I should read the play. Like, yesterday) and sometimes I have a functioning gaydar.** After a quick Wikipedia check, I had all the confirmation I needed.

And that’s when I cracked up about the quote again. Because it shouldn’t matter, and it doesn’t, but it does. (One day I will show you the little symbols I use in my little black book of books and you will laugh at me.) HI, I’M SHALLOW AND I LIKE BOYS WHO LIKE BOYS.

I think I might have got a bit sidetracked there. Y’know, just a smidgen. The Uncommon Reader gets an A grade, because it’s brilliant, but not because it has boy on boy (it doesn’t. Really) or because my gaydar worked on the author, but because it is about books and about reading and it’s funny and quirky and I LOVED IT!

Um, I think I should go to bed now…

*Being hooked on it, I mean. Not the boy on boy. Never!
**Which would be useful, except it only works on authors and fictional characters, more’s the pity.

29th June, 2008
Read-a-thon: Wrap-up
— Love @ 18:15 Comments (8)
Filed under: June 28th, 2008

Wrapping things up The Read-a-thon’s over and I’m sitting here with pasta with blue cheese, a cup of tea and my little black book of books.

I enjoyed the whole experience ever so much and next time I intend to participate again, only that time I hope to be able to do the full twenty-four hours (why must there be such a thing as work? Why, oh why?). And next time, I hope my blog doesn’t die on me right in the middle of it. Do you have any idea how excruciatingly annoying that was?

I wish I’d had more time for visiting all the other participants. I did try at the start of it, but then I hardly got any reading done, so I stopped after a while. There were a couple of people I did check in on regularly, but I was a poor commenter to be sure.

Let’s have some numbers then!
8 books finished
2 books dabbled in
1,550 pages read
12.4 hours spent reading
6.5 hours spent sleeping/watching Doctor Who
4 hours (approximately) spent blogging/visiting other people’s blogs
10 cups of tea consumed
1 cup of (shoddy) coffee consumed

Next time I want to spend less time sleeping, more time reading, and hopefully break the 2,000-page barrier. I wasn’t that far off this time, all things considered. (Eva kind of scares me, though. I think she must be superhuman…)

In the photo below you can see eight of the books I picked up and read at some point during the Read-a-thon. Only six of those I finished, though. The other two of my completed reads were e-books, which makes it a tad difficult to include them in the photo.

The books I read Post-event survey from Dewey:
1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
Hour 22 and 23, definitely. I wasn’t very tired, exactly, but my eyes were finding it a little hard to focus on the text.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
My last hour I spent on The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, and I wish I’d started it a little earlier, because it’s a very fast, very fun, read and I would’ve liked to have finished it during the Read-a-thon.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Not really, I think it was fab the way it was! What do you mean, next year, though? ;D

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
I really loved the mini-challenges and the cheerleading. I know I didn’t participate in many of the mini-challenges (I meant to for a lot of the later ones, but then my blog stopped working so I couldn’t, and some of the earlier ones I missed because I’d gone to bed), but they are a very nice touch to keep people interacting with each other. And the cheerleaders were gold!
Another thing is I read a lot of kid’s fiction/YA, which helped move things along (even though I felt a bit like I was cheating at times, reading such “simple” stuff).

5. How many books did you read?
I finished eight and read parts of two more.

6. What were the names of the books you read?
Finished: Travels in the Scriptorium РPaul Auster, The Rose and the Ring РWilliam Makepeace Thackeray, Dr̦mponnyn РPia Hagmar, Teena g̴r til filmen РRia Tofft, Sandman: The Kindly Ones РNeil Gaiman, Lad, a Dog РAlbert Payson Terhune, Good Luck to the Rider РJoan Phipson, Melka: The Story of an Arab Pony РJoan Penney
Dabbled in: A Game of Thrones – George R R Martin, The Uncommon Reader – Alan Bennett

7. Which book did you enjoy most?
See my answer to question 2. I really liked Travels in the Scriptorium too, though, as well as Gaiman’s The Kindly Ones.

8. Which did you enjoy least?
I liked them all, or I would’ve put them straight down. I can say that A Game of Thrones was perhaps not the best choice for the Read-a-thon. I was already more than half-way in by the time the ‘thon started, but I felt it was a little heavy and really slowed down my pace, so I didn’t read that much from it.

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
I should like to participate again very much! Same role as this time, except I hope I’d be able to stay awake the full twenty-four hours.

29th June, 2008
Read-a-thon: Hour 24
— Love @ 17:02 Comments (1)
Filed under: June 28th, 2008

Title of book(s) read this hour: The Uncommon Reader – Alan Bennett
Number of books read since you started: 8 (Travels in the Scriptorium РPaul Auster, The Rose and the Ring РWilliam Makepeace Thackeray, Dr̦mponnyn РPia Hagmar, Teena g̴r til filmen РRia Tofft, Sandman: The Kindly Ones РNeil Gaiman, Lad, a Dog РAlbert Payson Terhune, Good Luck to the Rider РJoan Phipson, Melka: The Story of an Arab Pony РJoan Penney)
Pages read: 94
Running total of pages read since you started: 1550
Amount of time spent reading: 47 mins
Running total of time spent reading since you started: 12 hrs 25 mins

I ended up not going with the Hitchcock short stories after all. I had it in my hand and everything, but then I glanced at my copy of The Uncommon Reader, tried a page and just had to go on. I didn’t quite finish it, but as I’ve only got about twenty-five pages to go, I dare say I will later tonight.

And that’s the end of that. I had heaps of fun and will be posting an entry summing things up in a tick.