The Triwizard Tournament Readathon: The First Task (TBR)

November is here and the three magic schools competing in the Triwizard Tournament Readathon have found out which dragon they will face in the first task. I am a Beauxbatons student for this readathon (the school is determined by your birthday) and I cannot wait to join my school mates. We can face this challenge and win the Triwizard Cup!

I’ve already posted a very loose TBR, simply because I needed to have a book ready for any given prompt. I know I spend way too much time going through my unread books, looking for just the right one for the readathon – and that time could be much better spent, you know, actually reading. But now that the dragons have been announced, I have finalised the two books I am going to tackle during the first task.

The Dragon

Beauxbatons have to sneak past the Hungarian Horntail to get the golden egg which will lead us to our second task. The reading prompt for this task is to read a book with lots of action.

I believe I have just the thing for that. Jade War by Fonda Lee is not only the sequel to one of my favorite books from 2018 but – if it’s anything like the first book – will have plenty of action. In this series, gifted and trained people can use jade as a sort of magical enhancer for their abilities. So imagine martial arts but with magic. I cannot wait to see what’s in store for all these characters I’ve come to love.

The Method

There are four methods one can use to finish the first task and get that golden egg from the dragon. I have picked out a method and book already, but as I might change my mind, I’ll leave all the methods and reading prompts listed here.

Conjunctivitis Curse: Temporarily blind your dragon by reading a book with eyes on the cover.
Bewitched Sleep: Send your dragon to sleep by reading a whole book in bed.
Speed: Race past your dragon to retrieve the egg by reading a graphic novel.
Distraction: Distract your dragon by transfiguring a rock into an animal, read a book with an animal on the cover.

I am going to use Distraction on that dragon by reading Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher which has an adorable armadillo on the cover. If I finish that book fast enough, I may throw in another book for extra points. I don’t even know if you can earn extra points in this task, but more books read during a readathon is always a good thing, right? Depending on how the week of the first task goes, I have a comic book and another short book lined up that I could read in bed.

The first readathon task begins on November 11th, so until then, I’ll do my very best to finish my current reads (and not start any new ones!) in order to be ready for the Triwizard Tournament Readathon. I cannot wait to see what all the others are reading and I already love seeing people’s excitement over on Twitter. The bookish community on the internet is the best! 🙂

The Triwizard Tournament Readathon – A Tentative TBR

Since I’ve had so much fun and success with my last Harry Potter themed readathon, I thought I’d jump straight into another one. The Triwizard Tournament Readathon is hosted by Chapter Charms and is split into three week-long challenges. If you want to join, there’s still time to put your name in the Goblet of Fire.
The school you represent depends on your birth month. As I was born in January, I am proud to represent BEAUXBATONS! I also just came back from a week in Paris which makes this magical school an even better fit.

As in any proper Triwizard Tournament, there are three challenges to face, each with its own reading tasks to complete.

TASK ONE – DRAGONS

Monday 11th November – Sunday 17th November 2019
On Halloween, each school will learn which dragon we have to battle. Depending on which one we get, these are the prompts our books have to fulfill. We have to read one book that fulfills the prompt for our dragon and one book that represents a method of our choosing. So two books to complete this task.

Chinese Fireball: These dragons are rare for their ability to tolerate their own kind, read a book with a good community spirit.
Common Welsh Green: It is thought a Welsh Green may have started the Great Fire of London,  read a historical book.
Hungarian Horntail: Horntails are some of the most dangerous dragons, read a book with a lot of action.
Swedish Short-Snout: These dragons are sought after to use their skin to make shields and gloves, re-read a favourite that makes you feel protected.

I don’t really know what is meant by “good community spirit” of a book, but I’m interpreting it as a book that has some buzz surrounding it or that many people talk about.  I hope that’s correct, because in that case I’ll read House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig against the Chinese Fireball. To defeat the Welsh Green, I could read the fittingly green book Brightfall, a Robin Hood retelling by Jaime Lee Moyer. Should the Hungarian Horntail come my way, I may just pick up Jade War by Fonda Lee. I loved the first book and it had plenty of action. If I can get it, I’d love to defeat the Swedish Short-Snout with Little Witches by Leigh Dragoon, a Little Women retelling in graphic novel format.

All of us magic students have several tricks up our sleeve and can choose one of these methods to defeat the dragon in our first task:

Conjunctivitis Curse: Temporarily blind your dragon by reading a book with eyes on the cover.
Bewitched Sleep: Send your dragon to sleep by reading a whole book in bed.
Speed: Race past your dragon to retrieve the egg by reading a graphic novel.
Distraction: Distract your dragon by transfiguring a rock into an animal, read a book with an animal on the cover.

I have no idea which book to pick for the Conjunctivitis Curse, so I probably won’t use that one. If I want to go for the Bewitched Sleep I’ll read Desdemona and the Deep – it’s a short book by one of my favorite authors so I can definitely read this in bed in one or two nights. Speed may also come in handy, but my newest graphic novel La quête de l’oiseau du temps (The Quest for the Time Bird) is 225 pages long and in French, which takes me way longer to read than English or German. We’ll see. There is still Distraction, which I’d accomplish with Minor Mage by another of my favorite authors. The armadillo on the cover is so cute, it would distract any dragon, right?


SECOND TASK – THE LAKE

Monday 25th November – Sunday 1st December 2019
Just like Harry, Fleur, Viktor, and Cedric, we have to rescue someone who has been stolen from us and is trapped in the Black Lake. We will find out who that is after we completed the first challenge. For bonus points, we can first rescue our loved one and then go back and rescue the others.

Significant Other: Read a book with a romance.
Sibling: Read a book about siblings.
Friend: Read a book about friendship.

I’m prepared for all three prompts. The Queen of Nothing should be out by then and I hope it continues the strange and enticing romance from the first two books. Blanca & Roja is about two sisters in a fairy tale, and A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World will definitely contain a friendship between the boy and his dog. This was a hard task to find books for because I don’t know ahead of time which stories will actually be about friendship but I hope I’m safe with this choice.

Again, we can choose the method we use for breathing underwater:
Gillyweed: Gillyweed will allow you to breathe and move underwater, read a book with water on the cover.
Bubble-Head Charm: This charm gives you a continuous supply of oxygen, read a book set in space where this charm could also be useful.
Transfiguration: Partially transfigure yourself into a sea creature by reading a book about a sea creature.

I’ll pick my method as the mood strikes, but I got Gillyweed covered with The Future is Blue (water all over the cover), I am practising my Bubble-Head Charm and may read Brightly Burning (Jane Eyre in Space), and I’ve got my Transfiguration spells prepared with The Seafarer’s Kiss (mermaids are sea creatures).


TASK THREE – THE MAZE

Monday 9th December – Sunday 15th December 2019
In the maze, we have to complete at least one of the tasks, but can try and complete as many of them as we like.

Blast-Ended Skrewt: This is a hybrid creature, read a book outside your comfort zone.
Boggart: Read a book that contains something you fear.
Acromantula: You may need help to defeat this creature, read a book recommended by a friend.
Sphinx: Solve its riddle by reading a book about or with a puzzle.
Golden Mist: The mist turns everything upside down, read a book with something upside down on the cover.

To defeat the Blast-Ended Skrewt, I could go with A Local Habitation – I don’t normally read Urban Fantasy, but this series might work for me. Book one was pretty good but the entire subgenre is still out of my comfort zone. My boggart could easily turn into the dystopian society of The Handmaid’s Tale – it absolutely scares me and The Testaments is the brand-new sequel to that amazing novel. I am also terrfied of spiders but the Acromantula should be vanquished with  Gideon the Ninth, a book everyone has been recommending. All of Brandon Sanderson’s books contain puzzles, riddles, and mind-blowing plot twists, so I’m confident Starsight will defeat the Sphinx. The last one was the hardest to find, but Thorn with its upside down heart on the cover could get me through the Golden Mist. I doubt I’ll even get that far – I only have one week to read these books, after all.

Once we’ve made it through the maze and made sure the Triwizard Cup is not a Portkey, we simply have to read a book that involves travel of any kind to complete the Triwizard Tournament. Here are my choices for that – I will pick whichever book appeals to me the most when the time has come. I picked three time travel novels, and one that features a voyage on a ship.

  • Annalee Newitz – The Future of Another Time Line
  • Kate Atkinson – Life After Life
  • Diana Gabaldon – Voyager
  • Anna Bright – The Beholder

That’s a lot of books! Thankfully, I don’t have to read them all within three weeks. I love that this readathon is split into three separate weeks, so it’s not one stressful month of reading tons of books but one challenge week followed by a few “normal” ones. And I like that it’s three magic schools competing against each other, rather than the Hogwarts Houses. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m definitely excited!

Lyrical, touching, gorgeous: Patricia A. McKillip – The Forgotten Beasts of Eld

It’s easy to get swept up in the newest releases, the hyped-about fantasy debuts, the books nominated for awards – and it happens to me all the time. Last year, I made an effort to not forget about older books, to always read one newer and one older book at the same time, to catch up on classics, to read the books that inspired the books we’re currently hyping. I found some amazing books because of this and I will definitely try to read more older books in 2019 as well. Because, for one, it led me to The Forgotten Beasts of Eld.

THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD
by Patricia A. McKillip

Published by: Gollancz, 1974
Paperback: 208 pages
Standalone
My rating: 8,5/10

First sentence: The wizard Heald coupled with a poor woman once, in the king’s city of Mondor, and she bore a son with one green eye and one black eye.

Sybel, the beautiful great-granddaughter of the wizard Heald, has grown up on Eld Mountain with only the fantastic beasts summoned there by wizardry as companions. She cares nothing for humans until, when she is 16, a baby is brought for her to raise, a baby who awakens emotions that she has never known before. But the baby is Tamlorn, the only son of King Drede, and, inevitably, Sybel becomes entangled in the human world of love, war and revenge – and only her beasts can save her from the ultimate destruction…

Sybel lives isolated on her mountain, surrounded only be her beloved animals – creatures of myth, collected by her father and grandfather, and now the only friends she has or wants. Until one day, a baby is dropped at her doorstep, and in taking that child in, Sybel discovers her all-too-human emotions because she grows to love the child. This is how this fairy tale of a book begins and while the languages continues to be lyrical, rife with symbolism, and simply beautiful to read, the plot goes into more familiar fantasy territory soon.

Tamlorn, Sybel’s adopted son, is not just any child. Away from Sybel’s mountain, two nations are at war. One led by an insecure king, the other by a group of nobles trying to rise up against him. Tamlorn is the king’s son and as such an important piece in their game of power. Although Sybel wants nothing to do with humans and their war, Tamlorn naturally longs to find out more about himself and where he came from. They are both dragged into a war they know nothing of and will each play their part, whether they want to or not.

I came to this book knowing nothing beyond the barest premise – a sorceress living with some magical beasts on a mountain – and I think that has made the reading experience even better. McKillip immediately draws you into her world with her poetic language. It’s never too flowery or cheesy, but it hits just the right note of lyrical. Another amazing part of this book is its main character: Sybel, so aloof, so distant, yet so very human at her core, without even realising it herself. Throughout this tale, she learns who she really is and who she wants to be and that alone would have been interesting enough to fill a novel, even without the war and love story and mythical beasts.

But, oh, the beasts. While at first, they don’t seem to have too much personality (dragon wants to hoard gold, gets really cranky when not enough gold is there), each of them seems to become more distinct during the story. They are not just mythical creatures with magic powers, they are living, breathing beings with a mind of their own, with a moral compass, with feelings – some of them fond feelings toward Sybel. In the beginning, the eponymous forgotten beasts may only appear like window dressing, like a way for Sybel to demonstrate her power, but they are actually vital to the plot!

The Fogotten Beasts of Eld is also a love story, although a very different one than I’m used to from current fantasy books, especially YA. Coren is wonderfully open about his feelings for Sybel and there are no unnecessary obstructions created by misunderstandings or love triangles. Sure, there is a war going on, and Sybel, Tamlorn, as well as her beasts could turn the tide of events, and the fact that Sybel wants to stay out of it all does cause difficulties between her and Coren. But the love story itself, their feelings for each other, are never in question.

I can’t say any more about the plot without giving too much away, but let me say that the best parts (plot-wise) of the novel I haven’t even hinted at. This is a quiet sort of book that is much more concernced with the matters inside its characters than with epic battle scenes. But the questions of morality, of using ones power – whether for good or bad (and who’s good and who’s bad anyway?) remain. This is as much a tale about family – found rather than born into – as it is about kings and warriors. It’s an emotional journey through a magical world and I loved every beautifully told page of it.

MY RATING: 8,5/10 – Damn excellent!

An Update

Hello, dear readers. Sometimes, things are hard and then they get even harder. Two weeks ago, my grandmother, who basically raised me and has been my closest family member since I can remember, passed away. Losing someone this close to me simply wrecked me. I am crying as I write this but at least I feel able to write something again.

I never cared about follower numbers or likes or any of that but I do want to apologise to those of you who read my blog and haven’t seen anything new for months now. I’m doing my very best to get back on my feet, I have actually been reading again (distraction is everything, at the moment) and I think I have a couple of reviews in me.

Thank you all for reading and if your nearest and dearest are sitting close by,  give them a hug.

Books in the Queue – The Review Copy Edition

I don’t think I’ve ever received as many review copies as I have since January 2014. I did get occasional offers to read self-published works, or traditionally published books that just didn’t interest me much. But this year seems to be a great one – at least judging by the pile next to me and the ebooks on my Kobo.

Seeing as I’m really looking forward to most of these books and I want to keep up my end of the bargain (a free book for an honest review is more than fair, in my opinion), I intend to read all of these in time for publication day. For organizational purposes, and your TBR-note-taking pleasure, I made a list:

divider1MARCH 25th

Karl Schroeder – Lockstep

I finished reading this one last weekend and my review will be up tomorrow. I didn’t love it. I even hated some aspects of it. But overall, it was an okay read. Something light and fun for in between meatier novels, a story with bland, stereotypical characters, but a story with some great ideas.

lockstepWhen seventeen-year-old Toby McGonigal finds himself lost in space, separated from his family, he expects his next drift into cold sleep to be his last. After all, the planet he’s orbiting is frozen and sunless, and the cities are dead. But when Toby wakes again, he’s surprised to discover a thriving planet, a strange and prosperous galaxy, and something stranger still—that he’s been asleep for 14,000 years.
Welcome to the Lockstep Empire, where civilization is kept alive by careful hibernation. Here cold sleeps can last decades and waking moments mere weeks. Its citizens survive for millennia, traveling asleep on long voyages between worlds. Not only is Lockstep the new center of the galaxy, but Toby is shocked to learn that the Empire is still ruled by its founding family: his own.
Toby’s brother Peter has become a terrible tyrant. Suspicious of the return of his long-lost brother, whose rightful inheritance also controls the lockstep hibernation cycles, Peter sees Toby as a threat to his regime. Now, with the help of a lockstep girl named Corva, Toby must survive the forces of this new Empire, outwit his siblings, and save human civilization.
Karl Schroeder’s Lockstep is a grand innovation in hard SF space opera.

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APRIL 1st

Katherine Addison – The Goblin Emperor

Now this is such a pleasure to read. Sure, it’s chock full of names I won’t even try to pronounce, but it’s also got insane court intrigue, a young boy suddenly being the ruler of an entire empire, learning to grow up and put his past behind him. The language is lovely, the characters are multi-layered, the story got me hooked, and I have no idea where it’s going. I’m not even halfway through it, but I suspect this book will demand a rather glowing review. (And airships! Did I mention the airships?)

The youngest, half-goblin son goblin emperorof the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.
Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.
Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend… and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne – or his life.

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APRIL 10th

Nnedi Okorafor – Lagoon

I’ve been looking forward to this ever since it was announced. Okorafor’s Who Fears Death still gets at me after more than a year, her short stories in Kabu-Kabu were mostly wonderful, and I can’t wait to see what she does with this subject matter.

lagoonWhen a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself. Lagoon expertly juggles multiple points of view and crisscrossing narratives with prose that is at once propulsive and poetic, combining everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself.
At its heart a story about humanity at the crossroads between the past, present, and future, Lagoon touches on political and philosophical issues in the rich tradition of the very best science fiction, and ultimately asks us to consider the things that bind us together – and the things that make us human.

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APRIL 15th

Rjurik Davidson – Unwrapped Sky

Cover appeal, anyone? This book had me at minotaur. Not even the word minotaur, just the one on the cover. Apart from being gorgeous, it also sounds So Good. Magic, minotaurs, assassins.

unwrapped skyA hundred years ago, the Minotaurs saved Caeli-Amur from conquest. Now, three very different people may hold the keys to the city’s survival. Once, it is said, gods used magic to create reality, with powers that defied explanation. But the magic—or science, if one believes those who try to master the dangers of thaumaturgy—now seems more like a dream. Industrial workers for House Technis, farmers for House Arbor, and fisher folk of House Marin eke out a living and hope for a better future. But the philosopher-assassin Kata plots a betrayal that will cost the lives of godlike Minotaurs; the ambitious bureaucrat Boris Autec rises through the ranks as his private life turns to ashes; and the idealistic seditionist Maximilian hatches a mad plot to unlock the vaunted secrets of the Great Library of Caeli-Enas, drowned in the fabled city at the bottom of the sea, its strangeness visible from the skies above.In a novel of startling originality and riveting suspense, these three people, reflecting all the hopes and dreams of the ancient city, risk everything for a future that they can create only by throwing off the shackles of tradition and superstition, as their destinies collide at ground zero of a conflagration that will transform the world . . . or destroy it. Unwrapped Sky is a stunningly original debut by Rjurik Davidson, a young master of the New Weird.

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JANUARY 16th

Simon Ings – Wolves

This is already out but I’m still sitting on my review copy. I’ve been staring at the cover for weeks. It’s definitely on my read-very-soon list. Because it may look like fantasy, or even a fairy tale retelling, but it sounds like a crazy science-fiction ride.

wolvesAugmented Reality uses computing power to overlay a digital imagined reality over the real world. Whether it be adverts or imagined buildings and imagined people with Augmented Reality the world is no longer as it appears to you, it is as it is imagined by someone else. Ings takes the satire and mordant satirical view of J.G. Ballard and propels it into the 21st century.
Two friends are working at the cutting edge of this technology and when they are offered backing to take the idea and make it into the next global entertainment they realise that wolves hunt in this imagined world. And the wolves might be them.
A story about technology becomes a personal quest into a changed world and the pursuit of a secret from the past. A secret about a missing mother, a secret that could hide a murder. This is no dry analysis of how a technology might change us, it is a terrifying thriller, a picture of a dark tomorrow that is just around the corner.

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You’ll be seeing my opinions on all of these soon, although I am still catching up with some reading for this year’s Hugo nominations. Between April and whenever the nominees are announced I will have All The Time for new books. Because, see, if I read newer titles right when they come out, I won’t be in the same dilemma next year as I am now – not having read enough titles to make good decisions about what to nominate for a Hugo. Lesson one learned. On to the next one. 🙂

Stuff That Bothers Me: NetGalley, Edelweiss and ebook formats

Ever since I found out about NetGalley, I’ve been requesting books that interested me. I love how easy it is for readers to connect with publishers, to get free eARCs of books and to send feedback directly to the publisher. HOWEVER.

I have NetGalley Logobeen granted a number of books lately that I would really like to read. But most of them are DRM-protected epubs that I load on my reader (Kobo) via Adobe Digital Editions. Now I don’t mind that (apart from my general dislike of DRM) but when I receive an epub copy that is clearly a scanned PDF file, there is really no way of reading it. The font type is tiny and I can’t make it larger on my reader because the file isn’t really text, it’s images. I could zoom in on every page, scroll down – if you have an eReader you know this is no fun – zoom out again, turn the page and repeat. But seriously, who does that for a few hundred pages? I certainly don’t, which means I end up not reading the books I’ve been given. Which again leads to a very guilty conscience on my side.

Am I the only one dealing with this problem? I truly want to hold up my end of the bargain but reading a terribly formatted ebook is so tedious and annoying that even a free book is not worth the effort. Then I’d rather go and buy my own copy and be able to read it like a normal person, on paper or in a format that lets me set the font to a size that won’t ruin my sight.

I don’t get (or ever expect to) paper ARCs because I doubt anyone would want to ship books to Austria – the amateur marketing part of my brain tells me it’s just not worth it. Even if I ended up writing a rave review. So dear publishers. If you want us to read and review the books you offer us for free, then please, please, please give us formats that are readable.

Edelweiss Logo

Just a few weeks ago, I also discovered Edelweiss, another website that makes it possible to request free ebooks prior to publication. Difficult to navigate as it is, I received an ebook of Brom’s Krampus and was on page 50 or so. The next day, I tried to open up the book on my reader and a very friendly message popped up, letting me know that this DRM-protected file had expired. A bit of research informed me that it was the official publication date. So my question here is: Do you NOT want me to review a book once it’s out? This particular blog may still be small and not very well-known but I am still generating free publicity for your publishing company and for a book and its author. I would have been done within the week! Most NetGalley books also expire, but at least they grant you a few weeks after publication date to finish the book.

I guess at this point I should at least mention the publishers who offer good copies of their books. Angry Robot always sent me epubs that were wonderfully readable, St. Martin’s Press answered my e-mail, asking for a properly formatted copy of Jay Kristoff’s Stormdancer, with an invite to download an epub copy. Thanks again for that. I’ve read and reviewed all of these books here on the blog and if another one of their titles strikes me as interesting, I’ll be requesting it. Other publishers? Not so much.

Ever since I started blogging, I’ve read up on discussions about the blogger/publisher relationship. Again, I don’t have any personal experience with receiving paper copies but from what I’ve seen of NetGalley and Edelweiß, I am very close to throwing the towel (is that a Germanism?) and just going back to buying my own books, reading them at my own speed and writing reviews for whoever stumbles upon this page.

What I’m interested in is: Do any of you have the same problems? Do you convert your books (which requires you to remove the DRM-protection) and make them readable that way? Do you contact the publishers directly? Or have you given up on NetGalley?

Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-Thon

I recently found out about this event, hosted twice a year by Dewey’s read-a-thon and, luckily, I was just in time to sign up. I doubt I’ll be able to make it through the entire 24 hours but I look forward to the read-a-thon nonetheless.  I will keep this post updated with the books I’m reading, how many pages I have read and how many hours I wasted sleeping. Coffee, green tea, snack food, and comfy places to read have been prepared and I am ready to tackle this challenge.

What I plan to read:

Mary Shelley – Frankenstein
Mary Shelley is considered the first true science fiction writer because her story of Frankenstein is based on the scientific accomplishments and breakthroughs of her age. I can’t wait to read this book. Since we’ve never had to read it in school, I feel way behind on some of the classics. Plus, it’s very short .

                                                                                                                                       

READY – SET – GO!  (2pm)

Introductory Questionnaire

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Vienna, Austria.
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Mary Shelley – Frankenstein (see above why)
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Mmh… probably my stash of chocolate. You can never have too much chocolate at home.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I’m 26, I study English, French, and Spanish and I have just enjoyed lunch with my boyfriend who is now spending time on the couch, watching TV. Which is perfect  because that leaves me the bed and my favorite chair for reading.
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 first time and I’m super happy that I discovered it in time (just last week). I look forward to just reading, an entire day (if I make it), and getting done with some of my other challenges. Plus, this gives me the opportunity to grab some books that I normally would have left on the TBR pile for much longer. Or books that I have started and never finished (read GRRM here).

                                                                                                                                   

HOUR 2

Pages read: 64
Books read: 0
Currently reading: Mary Shelley – Frankenstein

It’s still early afternoon so I’m awake and happily reading along. Frankenstein is a lot more interesting than I expected it to be and I am equally surprised about how quickly Victor created his “monster”. Even though we have seen very little of the creature itself, I enjoy reading about Victor’s family and the gossip in Geneva. Sinister in tone, I’d recommend this as a Halloween read.

                                                                                                                                         

HOUR 3

Pages read this hour: 32
Total pages read: 96
Snacking on: Kinder Schoko-Bons
Currently reading: Mary Shelley – Frankenstein

Motivation level: Still quite high. My book is interesting, even though I can feel my weekendly afternoon slump coming on. I work so hard during the week that usually, on my weekends I spend a lot of the day sleeping, in addition to a good night’s sleep. But Frankenstein keeps me interested, especially now that the “monster” reveals his own story. And I can’t help but feel very tenderly towards him.

                                                                                                                                                   

HOUR 4

Pages read last hour: 30
Total pages read: 126
Snacking on: nothing
Currently reading: Mary Shelley – Frankenstein

Motivation level: I’m taking a few minutes break from reading to check out other people’s blogs and random book news on the internet. My book is getting better and better, though, and I’m curious how it will end. I am probably one of the few people who have never seen a Frankenstein movie adaptation, so I have no idea how it will end. But I suspect it won’t be very happy.

                                                                                                                                                  

HOUR 5

Pages read last hour: 4
Total pages read: 130
Snacking on: chilli beans
Currently reading: Mary Shelley – Frankenstein

Why only four pages? Because the latest episode of the Sword & Laser show got in the way. This time, Tom and Veronica interviewed Gail Carriger, who showed up with a parasol and tiny hat and all. I was only a huge fan of book one of her Parasol Protectorate books, the rest of the series was too repetitious for my taste, but it’s always a pleasure watching interviews with Gail.

                                                                                                                                             

HOUR 6

Pages read last hour: 32
Total pages read: 162
Snacking on: nothing
Currently reading: Mary Shelley – Frankenstein

I have only a few chapters ahead of me and will finish this book within the next hour. I have participated in some of the mini-challenges (no wins so far) and am checking out other people’s posts regularly. Still reading, even though I got up at 8am this morning and can feel the sleepiness coming over me already.

                                                                                                                                     

HOUR 7

Pages read last hour: 110 (includes endnotes)
Total pages read: 272
Books read: 1
Snacking on: a pomegranate
Currently reading: ???

I have finished and reviewed Frankenstein and will now browse my lists and TBR pile for my next read.This book has led me one title closer to completing my personal challenges. Mary Shelley’s novel features on NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books, is part of Gollancz’ SF Masterworks series and was even listed on the BBC Big Read. I’d say, this one’s a winner!

                                                                                                                                     

HOUR 8

Pages read last hour: 0
Total pages read: 272
Books read: 1
Snacking on: toasties
Currently reading: Jim Butcher – Furies of Calderon

I have spent the larger part of the last one-and-a-half hours looking for a new book. I didn’t feel like any of my choices so I read a lot of first pages to see where I get stuck. In the end, I went back to my current read, the first in the Codex Alera series, which I am enjoying as an audiobook.

                                                                                                                                       

HOUR 9

Pages read last hour: 25
Total pages read: 297
Books read: 1
Snacking on: nothing
Currently reading: Jim Butcher – Furies of Calderon

Audiobooks mean slow going, but it is incredibly enjoyable to have somebody else read a story to you, and read it well. Plus, I can play little browser games while listening which helps keep me awake. It’s 10pm here and while that’s way before my bedtime, I have a week of hard work behind me and my boyfriend woke me up at 8 this morning. The time for green tea and a cup of coffee will be coming very soon…

And because challenges are fun, here’s my entry for Name That Book. Happy guessing:

It’s George R.R. Martin’s “A Feast for Crows”.

                                                                                                                                           

HOUR 10

Pages read last hour: 40
Total pages read: 337
Books read: 1
Snacking on: nothing
Currently reading: Jim Butcher – Furies of Calderon

Yes, this kind of book is exaclty what I need now. I’ll continue listening to the audiobook in bed now, so there’s a fair chance I’ll be asleep soon. But I’ll be back for the last few hours, I promise.

                                                                                                                                           

HOUR 20

Pages read last hour: 13
Total pages read: 350
Books read: 1
Hours slept: 8,5
Snacking on: nothing
Currently reading: Jim Butcher – Furies of Calderon

Aaaah, I’m getting old (not really). But I do need my eight hours of sleep, regardless of awesome challenges. But I’m awake, my boyfriend brought me coffee and I shall have books for breakfast. Even though I probably won’t read much this hour as I have to catch up on all the things that have been going on while I was sleeping.

                                                                                                                                     

HOUR 22

Pages read last hour: 5
Total pages read:
355
Books read: 1
Hours slept: 8,5
Currently reading: Jim Butcher – Furies of Calderon

The last few challenges weren’t up my alley so I didn’t participate. I’m still reading, though slowly and without stressing myself.

                                                                                                                               

HOUR 23

Pages read last hour: 12
Total pages read:
367
Books read: 1
Hours slept: 8,5
Currently reading: Jim Butcher – Furies of Calderon

I’m thinking I may start a new book. I am a bit more than halfway through the first Codex Alera adventure and while it is enjoyable, it feels a little bland. Too much generic fantasy themes going on that I’m not in the mood for right now. I might start that Patrick Ness book, The Knife of Never Letting Go, or Blackout by Connie Willis.

                                                                                                                             

HOUR 24 – the End

I have started Paoli Bacigalupi – The Windup Girl and read the very long first chapter. The print is tiny, so it was only 28 pages or so.

In conclusion to this read-a-thon, I can say that it was a nice experience to really sit down and just read for hours and hours. However, I expected more from the mini-challenges and just different things altogether. The interaction with other bloggers was okay but again, I probably expected too much. It was fun and nice to be a part of. But I doubt I’ll be participating in this read-a-thon next year. Too much stress and not enough pay-off.

Top Ten Tuesday – Top 10 Creepy Books

It’s October and Halloween is approaching. We don’t celebrate this holiday here in Austria, but during the last few years, it has become more popular. Kids actually dress up twice a year now (the other occasion being Fasching in February) and I’ve had one Halloween where they rang my bell asking for sweets – as a student, I had lots at home and felt generous, so they got some chocolate. Halloween doesn’t mean anything to me personally, but I always welcome a good excuse to read a particular type of books. And being creeped out by scary books and movies is a pleasure I indulge in way too rarely.

So here are my

top ten favorite creepy, scary, nightmare-inducing books.

10. Sebastian Fitzek – Therapy

German author Sebastian Fitzek writes straight up psychological thrillers. They are pulpy, they have flat characters, but they are such page turners! Every once in a while, I want to sit down with a Fitzek novel and just read it. Most of his books can be read in one sitting – have to, in fact, because they are impossible to put down. Therapy made it on this list because it has the most atmosphere and the most convoluted and scary plot. Also, it’s worth reading just for the twist at the end (there always is one, isn’t there?) and the solution to all the weirdness that is going on in this book.

9. Katherine A. Applegate – Everworld (series)

I don’t know how I would feel about these books now, as a grown-up. But when I first read these 12 books, I was surprised by how creepy they were. Taking place in a parallel universe where all the gods and mythological critters went when humans stopped believing in them, four teenagers are stranded and just try to survive and figure out a way back home. They encounter giant gods, hell hounds, trolls, speaking boar, fairies and all sorts of other folk – almost all of them out to kill them. Book 2 in particular remains in my memory as extremely scary. Action-packed and full of humor, these are a great mix for young adults who want a bit of creepiness in their reading life.

8. Richard Matheson – I Am Legend

I didn’t expect this one to be so scary. There are plenty of creepy creatures in I Am Legend but I don’t get scared by them so much as by things that could actually happen. In this case it was the oppressive loneliness Robert Neville suffers. The thought of being utterly alone in the world – for all we know, at least – really got to me. I was hoping for him to find another human being that is not infected and has turned into a vampire/zombie. At the same time, I knew how hopeless it was. This is a very short book and you can easily read it in one night. I recommended it in my review and I’m recommending it again here.

7. Stephen King – IT

You knew it was going to feature in this list, didn’t you? As I’ve said in my review, it wasn’t necessarily Pennywise or his many manifestations that scared the living daylight out of me. It was the horror that came from humans, without supernatural help. Once scenen in particular stuck to my memory where a child tortures small animals for pleasure. Stephen King’s vivid, dense style makes this even worse. I was horrified and ended up crying. And the worst thing is – this is a horror that is quite possibly really happening in the world.

6. Régis Loisel – Peter Pan

What’s that, you say? A children’s fairy tale on a creepy books list? And didn’t I get the author wrong. No and no. This is the comic book adaptation by French writer and artist Régis Loisel who is a genius in bringing the beloved childhood tale to life in this gritty, very adult version. While Neverland is recognisable in this 6-book series, a lot of things are different. It’s dark, it’s bloody, there is sex and violence and awful things happening. I wouldn’t give this to children to read. But it’s perfect if you want a bit of magic with your horror. Here’s my review.

5. Neil Gaiman – Neverwhere

Any Gaiman would be a great pick for this list. I chose Neverwhere because it features two of the scariest villains I have ever read about. Their cold-hearted approach to reach their own ends was extremely creepy to read. At the same time, it’s so satisfying to have such wonderfully hateable evil guys. Sometimes you just need someone utterly devoid of feelings and mercy. This isn’t my favorite Gaiman by far, but Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar still creep me out.

4. Amélie Nothomb – Cosmétique de l’ennemi

I couldn’t find an English translation of this but a book that contains barely 100 pages and manages to make me want to sleep with the lights on is surely worth mentioning here. A man is stuck on the airport, waiting for a delayed flight, when a stranger comes up and starts talking to him. The stranger will not be shaken off and soon, he tells the protagonist things that will give you nightmares. And the ending offers one of the coolest plot twists I remember. Nicely written and, again, you can read this in one sitting. If you’re new to Belgian author Nothomb, I recommend her older books. They are all bite-sized and have a specific strangeness about them that will either turn you into an instant fan or make you hate her.

3. Chuck Palahniuk – Haunted

In this fix-up novel, there are many scary stories interwoven to fit into one bigger story. Some of them are more disgusting than creepy, others are even funny. But they all have one thing in common, that special kind of weird that Chuck brings to his writing, that shows us a side of humanity we’d really rather not know about. If you like your frightening novels more disturbingly shocking than monster-scare-moment shocking, this is the book for you. Also, if you’ve never read Chuck Palahniuk, do so now! Choke and Fight Club are good starter novels but if you want to go in all the way right now, pick up Haunted. Whether you love it or hate it (I don’t think there’s an in between) you’ll never forget it.

2. George Orwell – 1984

Yup, this one fits right into this list. I said it already in my review, if you haven’t read this book, no matter who you are or where you live or what you believe in, if your teachers haven’t already forced it on you, read it. There is a reason Orwell’s classic is on every Best Books list, every school at least talks about it (if it’s not required reading), and I was surprised myself at how readable it is. The scary factor here is not monsters or a plot reminiscent of thrillers. It is simply the world the story is set in. Reading about it is scary enough but if you think about it and look at where we are now in our own world, it becomes all the scarier – because we’re really not that different from Orwell’s chilling vision of the future.

1. Bret Easton Ellis – American Psycho

By now, you should have figured out the pattern. This book is entirely monster-free, unless you count Patrick Bateman, and he would definitely qualify. A serial killer, yuppy New York stock broker who spends his entire life judging other people’s clothing, hair, and body, banging girls, prostitutes, his girlfriends, and going on the occasional killing spree. This is by far the most disturbing novel I have ever read. Nothing comes close to it and the movie adaptation is cotton candy compared to its literary counterpart. You need a good stomach for this book and you need to plough through a lot of pages of descriptions of clothing and accesories, with labels and brands and the price attached. But it’s worth it. Seriously, what comes out of Ellis’ mind is scary shit!

Also, if you’re interested in winning a bundle of YA Halloween reads, head over to Underwords and enter for a chance to win. There’s also a link to Neil Gaiman’s wonderful explanation of the All Hallow’s Read.

Upcomping movies based on books that I really want to see

2012 seems to be the year for book adaptations. There is a number of movies that I really look forward to, and that’s not even counting The Hobbit. I’ll include a link to movie homepages and the trailers, of course. If you’re like me and sometimes need a little visual pleasure to get into the mood, look no further. Note: If some of these movies are out already where you live, remember that everything takes a lot longer to come to theaters in Austria. Little backwater of Europe that we are…

Here’s my list of most highly anticipated movies based on books (and whether I’ve read them):

Cloud Atlas (trailer) (book review)

I’ve read and reviewed the David Mitchell book only last month, in preparation of the movie. While the idea has always intrigued me and the book has been waiting on my TBR for years, it was the amazing and visually stunning trailer that gave me the last nudge needed to finally dive into the book. I enjoyed the intertwining storylines and the structure of the novel but I believe the translation to a movie screen will only benefit the story. Especially Sonmi-451’s story looks incredible in the trailer and while the dystopian corpocracy came across really well in the novel, I look forward to seeing all of these images on screen. Also, from what we see in the trailer, I get the suspicien that my least favorite story in the book will be much better in the movie. Then again, the Luisa Rey mystery does not look so much up my alley.

That said, I look forward to this a lot.

Les Misérables (trailer)

First and foremost, I have not read this book. I own a three-volume edition in French as well a five-part version on my Kobo. But I’m too proud to read a translation (I do speak decent French, after all) and the sheer size of the story has been too daunting for me to actually start reading. Some day though…
I have, however, seen the musical and it remails my favorite musical to this day. Not only is the story heartbreaking and surprisingly interesting (one always suspects a lot of dry history) but the music is simply wonderful. It’s the kind of music I can lose myself in and if I ever do pick up the novel(s) I’ll listen to the soundtrack to get me in the mood.
The trailer looks promising, although I’m really not sure about the actors’ singing voices. Anne Hathaway, as much as I love her, does not convince me with her “I Dreamed A Dream” and I’m afraid no Éponine on the planet can hold a candle to Lea Salonga. But again, we’ll see.

The story is so beautiful, I suppose I’ll overlook any flaws and love it anyways.

Anna Karenina (trailer)

Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina? With Keira, it’s always a hit-and-miss. Sometimes, she’s stunningly beautiful, other times I can’t help but stare at her enormous man-jaw. Depending on the role she plays, that can be a good or a bad thing. Either way, she is a great actress and I’m sure she’ll be a fantastic love-stricken, tormented Anna.
I’ve read about half of the Leo Tolstoy novel and loved every page. Why did I stop? Well, you know. Life gets in the way, you put the book aside, then you don’t really remember all the details and feel you have to start all over. Well, that’s where I am. But I look forward to re-reading the first half and reading the second half for the first time. The story is gripping and surprisingly readable.
I believe it will translate beautifully to the screen and the trailer raises my hopes even more. It has a musical quality to it, with brilliant costumes, a lot of atmosphere, and – let’s say it right now – an incredible cast. Lots of my favorites in this movie. I think this will be a hit, at least with me.

Life of Pi (trailer) (book review)

I am currently reading this book, mainly because the trailer put me in the right mood. Directed by Ang Lee, the stunning visuals made me all giddy with excitement. While parts of the trailer are incredibly cheesy and the colors are maybe too intense, there is something appealing in the stark width of the sea with just this little lifeboat containing Pi and a bengal tiger right in the middle.
I’m on the fence about the book. It is dealing with religion and as a non-religious person, I’m having trouble sympathising with Piscine Patel. I’m also still waiting for the actualy story to take place. You know, the lifeboat part? The style is fluent and poignant, though, so I will keep reading and hopefully finish the novel before the movie hits theaters here.

UPDATE: I have now read the book and the excitement factor has gone up a lot. I really can’t wait for this one.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (trailer)

I’ve fought battles with YA literature lately that make me shrink away whenever somebody so much as mentions a coming-of-age story. But this book being a long-loved classic of YA literature and the trailer being as charming and sweet as it is, I will definitely read the book after all.
Maybe this makes me weird, but I was never unpopular at school, despite being a geek. I love stories about underdogs and wallflowers, though, especially if they have a small group of tight-knit friends who understand each other implicitly. And that’s what this trailer made me expect. I’m especially curious about Emma Watson. We all loved her as the book-smart witch Hermione Granger but the two other movies with her that I’ve seen made me lose faith in her acting abilities. In Ballet Shoes she was ok, in My Week With Marilyn she was painfully unbelievable. In this trailer, she seems to have grown into the role and I will watch the movie with my hopes very, very high. I’ll probably fit this slim volume into my reading schedule very soon.

Curiosity factor: Has Emma Watson’s acting (other than as Hermione) improved?

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (trailer)

I’m still not sure how I feel about the “Hobbit trilogy” because the story is short enough to go into one feature length movie. On the other hand, I love the Lord of the Rings movies and there can’t really be too much Middle Earth backstory. Peter Jackson is a genius when it comes to bringing Tolkien to life on the big screen. And I’ve always wanted to know just what Gandalf does when he pisses off in the middle of the story. Having been too lazy to read the Histories of Middle Earth or even the Silmarillion, I expect great things from the movies. Although the part where we have to wait an entire year for the next instalment again is pissing me off already…

Also: Martin Freeman? The perfect Bilbo. You just got to love him.

Carrie (teaser)

It wasn’t my first Stephen King but I have read it and it was, as most of his books are, excellent. I can only “judge” the movie by its poster so far and a few backstage pictures, kindly provided by the internets. So on what little information we have, I’m going to say, I really like Carrie’s look. The actress – at least on photographs – looks like a perfect Carrie and I can’t wait to watch this remake of the classic movie.
For any Stephen King doubters out there, Carrie is a great place to start. It’s one of King’s slimmer novels and gives you a feel for his writing without having to commit to 1000 pages of it.

What movies do you look forward to the most? Are you a Stephanie Meyer follower and eagerly awaiting the last Twilight part and The Host (not having read the latter and definitely not being a Twilight fan, I have to admit the trailer for The Host looks rather interesting)? Or is it Jack Kerouac’s On the Road you can’t wait for? Did I miss any essential movies? Let me know. Also, if you live in the US and have actually seen any of these movies, tell me how you liked them. Are they worth buying a ticket for or should I just wait for the DVD?

A New Look

As you may have noticed, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Review has a new look. *does happy dance*

It’s not so much that I was bored with the old design but I felt that it lacked in readability. Reading grey on nearly-black is not exactly easy on the eyes and certain things were a bitch to format. I find this theme much easier on the eyes and the color scheme is totally up my alley. What do you think?

If you find anything that still looks weird, let me know – I’m working hard on fixing formatting mistakes and trying to make everything look as nice as possible.

The theme I am now using is called Retro-Fitted and it won me over for a lot of reasons:

  • black writing on white background
  • cool font type for headers and titles
  • quotes show up more clearly and I adore the little quotation mark on the left

See what I mean?

Isn’t that absolutely adorable?

  • This more conventional blog type shows the entire post instead of a featured image and just the first few lines. No more “click to continue reading” for you. I’m actually on the fence about that one and would appreciate some feedback. Do you guys prefer picking the posts you want to read from a list or a set of images? Or do you like this style better?
  • My pages are now on the top which is probably a matter of personal taste – but I like it
  • only one sidebar. I have a tendency to overload my blog and this will make sure I stick to the essentials
  • sample images and illustrations. Again, the white background won me over. Now pictures look so much nicer and cleaner than they used to.

All things considered, I am very happy with the new style so far. And maybe I’ll even play around with the css a little and customize it some more (if I ever get off my ass and learn how that works…).
Now I want to know what you think of the design. Let me know in the comment section below (ooh, that reminds me, I haven’t checked out what that looks like now) or send me an e-mail to fantasybuchreviews@gmail.com .