Monday, October 31, 2011

October 2011 Recap

I'm writing to you from my sofa on Halloween.  I should be having to frequently sigh & put my netbook on the coffee table to get up to answer the door for trick-or-treaters but we haven't had a single person ring our bell.  NOT A SINGLE PERSON.  Good thing we bought all that candy.  And good thing I dressed Penny up for the night.

Anyway.  Enough of my bitterness.

October has now come and gone and I've done pretty decently this month.  Let's recap, shall we?

I started out the month in Vienna with EDP & a friend of his who is currently living in Germany.  While we were in Vienna, we visited the Schönbrunn zoo.  That took care of going to the zoo.  Next to be crossed off the list was making 10 microloans.  I made my 10th loan in October, completely funded by repayments from other loans I made earlier.  I'm really enjoying lending money through Kiva and I'm looking forward to making many more loans.  After that, my 24 hour read-a-thon was up.  I amazed myself by being able to stay up for the ENTIRE night, though, it was hard to stay awake and I didn't get as much read as I expected.  It was a fun experience and I'm probably going to participate in the next one.  And finally, I completed my 50 Book Pledge, finishing off my 50th book this year.

Beyond that, I made progress on a few of my other ongoing Things.

  • I finished listening to The Lost City of Z, one of my 12 books that was recommended by Sarah of Stuff You Missed In History Class - it was pretty good and definitely something anyone interested in lost cities, the Amazon, explorers or similar topics should add to their list of books to read.
  • I sent a few postcards from Vienna, covering off my handwritten letter for the month
  • I'm continuing to take the drums, which are flipping awesome.
  • My debt and my TFSA are still trending downwards.  Sigh.
  • Penny and I have walked 93.82 km, including a delightful walk on Sunday morning to see some of the post-Halloween walk-of-shamers (we only saw a slutty soccer player, who may have actually just been a soccer player heading to practice.  It's hard to tell sometimes.)
  • My TBR pile is growing and is sitting at 51.  It's not my fault, my book club picked a few more titles.  
  • I tried 3 new recipes - or at least, 3 that were good enough that I still remember them - making it 14 new recipes that I've tried.
  • My orchid is still alive after 4 months!
  • I've donated 29,700 grains of rice and read 68 Wikipedia articles
  • I saw my Gran at Thanksgiving.  And I'm seeing her in two weeks.  I wonder if she's going to start pretending she's not home when I show up.
  • I've read about 15 pages of that book on how to use my Mac.
  • I remembered to vote.
  • I'm on track with saving $25 for each of my finished Things.  
I don't have anything planned for November so I'll have to really focus on making progress on the stuff I've got in progress.  I haven't really shortened the time frame I need to be finishing things in so I'll have to find a couple of Things to finish off, too.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

My 50 Book Pledge is done

Last night, I finished my 50th book this year.  That means I'm done the 50 Book Pledge challenge that Savvy Reader put forth at the beginning of the year.  50 books in a year is just over 4 books a month.  50 books in 10 months is about 5 books a month, which is about average for me.  The 50 books I read works out to 14,570 pages, or just over 48 pages a day.  So what were some of the highlights of what I read this year?

On the serious fiction front, I read Chris Cleeve's Little Bee, which was excellent.  I also really enjoyed Secret Daughter by Shilpi Gowda, though my book club & I agreed that there were some parts were really implausible.  Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay was also excellent, though dealt with a really challenging subject.  I also read and adored The Help by Kathryn Stockett and so far, it's my best read this year.  I also read Terry Fallis' The Best Laid Plans and The High Road, which convinced me that not all CanLit is boring and that politics can make for an interesting fiction book.

On the non-fiction front, I found Ivory Tower Blues by James Cote & Anton Allahar to be absolutely fascinating.  It looked at the decline of student engagement and the grade compression in the Canadian university system.  Absolutely fantastic book.  Jane Austen & the Fiction of Culture by Richard Handler & Daniel Segal was also great for any Jane Austen fan.  And I knew going in that I'd enjoy What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell - he has such a unique perspective and writes about the most fascinating things!

On the fluffy front...  Well, pretty much everything in this category would make it onto my highlights list. That would include Christopher Moore's Bite Me, Sophie Kinsella's Twenties Girl, Pretty in Plaid by Jen Lancaster (which is technically non-fiction but it's pretty fluffy), Janet Evanovich's Smokin' Seventeen, Tina Fey's Bossypants (also fluffy non-fiction), Betty White's If You Ask Me (ditto), Ellen DeGeneres' Seriously...  I'm Kidding (ditto again), Jen Lancaster's If You Were Here (her first foray into fiction), and Karyn Bosnak's What's Your Number?  All great books and I'd recommend them all.  But by far, the best fluff I read this year was Lindsey Kelk's The Single Girl's To-Do List.  This is now in my top 5 chick lit books of all time - right up there with Bridget Jones's Diary and Can You Keep a Secret?  If you like chick lit, add it to your list.

Anyway.  Point is, my 50 Book Pledge is done, with two months to spare.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Read-a-thon Round-Up

The read-a-thon is now well behind me and I'm pretty sure I'm caught up on my sleep now.  In a nutshell, the read-a-thon was great, I did manage to stay up for the full 24 hours and I would participate again.

Let's look at these a little closer, shall we?

The read-a-thon was great
Well, it was.  There were a TONNE of people and lots of blogs to check out and book titles to investigate.  There were about 400 people signed up for the read-a-thon but based on the intro meme, about 250 people started the read-a-thon (or at least checked in at the start) and around 170 were awake when it ended to check in at the end.  Pretty impressive numbers.  The mini-challenges were also fun, I really liked the one where you had to construct a sentence out of book titles in your house.  That one took a while!  The whole thing was so well organized - there was a host that posted every hour with songs & fun pictures & stuff to put a smile on your face, there were cheerleaders who visited people's blogs or tweeted to encourage the readers, there were the mini-challenges.  There was a lot going on so even though I was reading by myself, I didn't feel like I was out in the middle of nowhere with things.

I did manage to stay up for the full 24 hours
This is evidenced by my hourly posts.  You can tell I was actually writing them throughout the evening as they got progressively more boring and focused on how much I wanted to sleep as the night went on.  Had I written in advance & scheduled the posts to go up each hour, you can bet I would have been more entertaining at 4 am.

I would participate again
Yeah, for sure.  But with a few tweaks...  I wouldn't blog every hour and I wouldn't check the mini-challenges every hour.  I'd do that every few hours.  If I was doing it on my own, I'd plan for a couple of naps, too - or just full-out quit when I got tired.  If I had a buddy, I'd try for the full 24 hours again.  I'd also start with a book that I was already half-way done reading so that I had a finished book early on in the game - it kinda sucked that it was sixteen hours before I finished anything.  And I'd keep better track of the number of pages I read and try to track the number of minutes I read.  The next read-a-thon is April 21.  I've put the date in my calendar and I'm pretty sure I'll participate in it, even just to see if my tweaks are effective.

In the end, I ended up finishing 2 books and making good progress on 2 more.  I had been hoping for 5 books so that I could finish off my 50 Book Pledge at the same time but no dice.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Twenty four hours done


Twenty three hours done, one hour to go

I've given up on a paper book and am listening to The High Road now.  I'm longing for some sleep.  I'm watching the clock like a hawk now and as soon as it clicks over to 8am, I'll be bee lining for my bed.

Last hour's mini-challenge has gone up but I don't have the brain power for it.  It's being hosted by Roof Beam Reader and is looking for the five books you'd pick for a posterity library, along with why you'd pick it.  Definitely an interesting challenge but at this late stage in the game, I can't think at all :P

This hour's mini-challenge is an end-of-event meme.  Since I'm looking to be asleep by 8:02, I'm going to answer the questions now and then head off upstairs to put on some pajamas and listen to The High Road.  So here it goes...

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
I think 6am-7am.  I had to give up on reading my paperbook and keep my fingers crossed I didn't fall asleep while listening to my audio book.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
I think that is really personal preference - I was really engaged with a non-fiction book about the decline of student engagement in the Canadian university system, so...

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Towards the end, the mini-challenges didn't seem to be posted anywhere close to the hour.  Sometimes the read-a-thon website would be a bit slow in posting the hourly update but the mini-challenges were often well into the hour.  That was frustrating.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
The first half of the read-a-thon was awesome - the hourly updates were posted right on the dot and the mini-challenges were up quickly.  I also really appreciated the cheerleaders.

5. How many books did you read?
I finished 2 and made great progress on 2 others.

6. What were the names of the books you read?
The books I finished were Eat, Pray, Love and Ivory Tower Blues.  The books I made progress on were The Corrections and The High Road.

7. Which book did you enjoy most?
Eat, Pray, Love

8. Which did you enjoy least?
The Corrections

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 would seriously consider participating again.  I'd read again, if I had the whole day free, or I'd be a cheerleader if I only had a few hours.

Twenty two hours done, two to go

I'm slowing down considerably.  I've gone back to The Corrections, which I'll probably keeping reading until the end of the read-a-thon now.

Last hour's mini-challenge was hosted by Kimberly at Fancy Terrible and it was to get up and dance to three songs.  I skipped out on this one, though, I probably should have participate.  I did get up and move around, though.

Twenty one hours done, three to go

This hour, I finished up Ivory Tower Blues and listened a bit more to The High Road.  Now there are only three hours left and I'm switching back to The Corrections to try to get as much of it done as I can.  

Last hour's mini-challenge, hosted by Tasha at Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Books, was to zombify a book.  Not quite up my alley so I've skipped that one.  This hour's mini-challenge isn't up yet so I'll have to catch that one in a bit.

Twenty hours done, four to go

It's 4am.  I'm pretty sure the last time I saw 4am, I was in school.  Fittingly, I've been continuing with Ivory Tower Blues, though I got a bit of The High Road in when I was relaxing in child's pose.  It felt awesome and I can feel my lower back tightening up so I might be spending a bit more time in that position.  The last four hours have gone by so much slower than the first ten did.  My eyes are heavy and I'm yawning a lot.  It's times like these where I wish I could tolerate caffeine.  However, enough whining.

This hour's mini-challenge isn't up yet so I'll catch up on it later.  In the meantime, let's hope the eyes stay open.

Nineteen hours done, five to go

I continued with Ivory Tower Blues this hour, but also turned on The High Road again when Penelope decided she'd had enough of sleeping and wanted to go for a walk.  It seems like all that sleeping today has made her less sleepy than one would like at this hour.

This hour's mini-challenge is hosted by Jehara at Quirky Girls Read and it's a yoga challenge.  I'm not keen on digging out the yoga mat right now so I'm just going to do a bit of child's pose to stretch out my back a bit while I keep listening to The High Road.

Eighteen hours done, six to go

Wow - eighteen hours done?  I honestly didn't think I would still be awake at this point.  Normally, by this hour, I'm halfway through my eight-hour sleep.  I've been reading Ivory Tower Blues this hour and if things go well, I might be done it by the time the next hour rolls around.

This hour's mini-challenge is hosted by A Buckeye Girl Reads and it's about one of my favourite things - my pet.  Penny has spent almost the entire read-a-thon with me, snoozing on my lap or by my side.  She did take a trip to the dog park this morning and that seems to have tired her right out.  She does make it difficult to balance the laptop close enough to type but aside from that, it's been nice having her so close.  She did abandon me for about 45 minutes to go sleep with EDP in bed but she got kicked out and has been snuggled up again with me since that happened.  I've posted two pictures of her - one is from about 35 seconds ago and the other is on our way home from somewhere one day so that you can see her cute face :)

Seventeen hours done, seven to go

I think I just got a second wind.  I'm not yawning everything three minutes anymore and my brain seems to be taking in the words on the page.  I'm back to Ivory Tower Blues now.  I'm finding it fascinating so I'm going to stick with it until it starts putting me to sleep or I finish it.

This hour's mini-challenge is for people reading for charity, which I'm not doing so it's back to the books for me!

Sixteen hours done, eight to go

And I've just finished my first book - Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  With one book under my belt, I won't feel as bad if I end up falling asleep and slumbering through the finish line.  My canine companion, who has been sleeping on me all day, has abandoned me in favour of EDP - he's asleep in the bed upstairs and she joined him about 45 minutes ago.

I'm starting to feel really sleepy but I think I'll be able to power through for a bit longer.  Last hour's mini-challenge is about rereading, hosted by Jessica at The Blue Stocking.  She wants to know what my top favourite rereads are of all time, which is easy.  Harry Potter and Pride & Prejudice.  I feel so relaxed when I pick up either of these.  They are like the old friend that you haven't seen in years but can fall right back into conversation with like you just saw each other yesterday.

This hour's mini-challenge, hosted by India of Taiwandering is to post a song that represents you, your people or your country.  The obvious answer for me is Classified's Oh Canada.  And yes, it's the obvious answer but all my brain is capable of thinking of right now.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fifteen hours done, nine to go

And I'm really starting to get tired.  Penny is snoozing on my lap, EDP has gone to bed.  I'm still plugging away at Eat, Pray, Love and I really think this is the hour I'll finish it (assuming I don't fall asleep, first.)

This hour's mini-challenge isn't up so I'm going to head back to the book and try to get it finished before midnight rolls around.  Fingers crossed I don't need to "rest my eyes for a few minutes."

Fourteen hours done, ten to go

I'm still working on Eat, Pray, Love...  I might end up with it finished in the next hour, we'll see.

There are two mini-challenges this hour after last hour's didn't seem to materialize.  The mini-challenge I was expected for the last hour, hosted by Kimberly at Fancy Terrible, is instructing me to go have a snack.  That is something I can get on board with so I'm going to be heading in that direction in a minute to make some hot chocolate and maybe cut up some pineapple.  The mini-challenge for this hour, hosted by Li at A World of Paper Hearts, is about a moment in a book when a friendship is forged.  This would require more thought on my part than I'm able to put in right now, since the obvious answer was the example (Anne & Diana in Anne of Green Gables...  They aren't just friends, they are kindred spirits.)  So I'm skipping that one.

Okay, time for a snack...

Thirteen hours done, eleven to go

I'm back home and reading Eat, Pray, Love again.  I think that's all I really have to say right now.  The mini-challenge for this hour hasn't been posted yet so I'll check it out next hour.

Midway point mini-challenge

So the mini-challenge was posted while I was out for my walk with the dog but it's up now so I'm going to get it completed.  This one is pretty easy - just answering some questions posted on the read-a-thon website.  No point in waiting...  Here we go...

1. What are you reading right now?
I'm reading four books right now - Eat, Pray, Love; The Corrections, Ivory Tower Blues and The High Road

2. How many books have you read so far?
None.  Just made progress on the four above

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
I'm really enjoying Eat, Pray, Love - I'm going to keep going with that one until I finish it.

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?
Not really - I just didn't make any other plans for the day.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
No major interruptions, just the annoyance of someone trying to initiate a conversation while I'm trying to read.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
My progress is slower than I expected - I'm spending more time on the mini-challenges and blogging every hour and checking out other people's blogs than I expected.

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
No, I don't think so...  It's been pretty great so far.

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?
I don't think anything really - while my progress has been slower than expected, I've been happy with how my day has gone.

9. Are you getting tired yet?
Yes.  It's time to get going with the sugar!

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?
I think not being in my pajamas is helping.  And I'm changing up what I'm reading fairly frequently so that I don't get bored.

Twelve hours done, twelve hours to go

Halfway done?  Seriously?  How did I get here?  Why haven't I finished anything yet?

I've read about 225 pages of The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.  I've ready about 70 pages of Ivory Tower Blues by James Cote & Anton Allahar.  I've read about 165 pages of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I've listened to two chapters of The High Road by Terry Fallis.  All in all, I'm pretty happy.  My goal for the read-a-thon was 5 books finished so that I could also complete my 50 Book Pledge at the same time but I'm pretty sure that's not going to happen.  I'll be happy with finishing two books.

I've made some good progress and I'm happy with that.  I'm finding it hard to believe I'm at the halfway mark.  I am a bit tired but I'm about to pop The High Road back on and take Penelope for a walk.  BTW, she has slept pretty much the ENTIRE day.  EDP took her over to the dog park around 9 this morning and she's been asleep since she got home.  Lazy dog.

The mini-challenge for this hour isn't up yet so I'll have to catch up with it next hour.  In the meantime, it's time for some fresh air.

Eleven hours done, thirteen to go

The first signs of fatigue are starting to set in.  I've started yawning and I'm jealous of the sleeping dog on my lap.  She's been sleeping ALL day, save for the few minutes it took her to eat her dinner.  I've finished up the Italy section of Eat, Pray, Love and am about to embark on India.  This is a really lovely book, though I'd be lying if I said I wasn't cranky about how Gilbert felt about Venice.  Anyway...

This hour's mini-challenge is to write a series synopsis based on three items Erin at Erin Reads outlined.  It's not really my thing so I'm going to pass on this one but I'll be heading back over there to see what some people have come up with.

Ten hours done, fourteen to go

I started this hour with a snack so my reading has been slow.  I'm working on Eat, Pray, Love right now and I'm thinking I might stick with it until I finish it.  It's an easy, light read and I want to finish at least one book during the read-a-thon.

This is another hour I'm going to skip the mini-challenge.  It's a book trailer challenge hosted by Jehara at Quirky Girls Read but I'd rather keep going with Eat, Pray, Love.

Nine hours done, fifteen to go

Another hour gone?  Time is FLYING!  This hour, I listened a bit more to The High Road and then got started on Eat, Pray, Love (another book club book.)  This is definitely a faster read than The Corrections - in about a half hour, I made it to page 38 already.  So I'm going to stick with this one for a bit.

I'm really enjoying the hourly posts from the read-a-thon website.  The hosts are posting fantastic videos and pictures that are making it so easy to make it from one hour to the next.  Though, we'll see if I still think this when it gets to be night time.  This hour's mini challenge is posted but I'm going to skip it in favour of making a cup of tea and finding a snack.  I think I've earned it.

Eight hours done, sixteen to go

The 1/3 mark!  Feels like I've only been at this for a couple of hours but I imagine that feeling will start to change once it gets dark out.  This hour, I've been taking care of laundry so I've had an audio version of The High Road by Terry Fallis going.  This one is turning out to be as good as The Best Laid Plans so I'm really enjoying having this on.

This hour's mini-challenge is hosted by Kate at Midnight Book Girl and it has piqued my interest.  The challenge is to make a sentence out of books you have in your house.  Happily, I have a LOT of books to pick from.  So here is my sentence...

The Accidental Billionaires bite me if you payback the undomestic goddess

Seven hours done, seventeen to go

I think I'm getting into the swing of things now.  Another hour has gone by and I've been happy with my progress again.  I've spent this hour with The Corrections again and happily, the book is keeping me more interested.  I'll be putting down the paper books for a little while and switching to audios.  There's some laundry that needs my attention so I'll be turning on The High Road by Terry Fallis.  I'm enjoying this book so much that it's going to be very tempting to keep listening until it's done but I've got another five hours to go so I'd better not!

The mini-challenge for this hour is being hosted by Skeiron at White Ink Drops.  The challenge is to think about a couple of book/music questions to help you pick a song that you connect with a book, listen to the song you pick once or twice and then let Skeiron know what you've listened to.

So the book I've picked is Pride and Prejudice, which is my favourite book.  And it took me a while to figure out a song that I felt connected to the story but I've settled on the hidden track from Dido's Life for Rent (which is apparently called Closer.)  It reminds me mostly of Jane and Mr. Bingley but I can see a bit of Elizabeth and Darcy in it, too.

Six hours done, eighteen to go

The read-a-thon is a quarter finished already.  I have completed no books but am starting to be pleased with how much progress I've made.  I'm back to The Corrections and have moved into a new section that I'm not finding quite as tedious as the last section.  It's not looking like I'll finish anything soon, though.

This is another hour I'll be skipping the mini-challenge.  Not so much because I want to but because the author pseudonym challenge hosted by Vicki at I'd Rather Be At The Beach is beyond my abilities.  I don't know ANY of the answers.  Instead, I'm posting a picture of my reading space.  FancyTerribleReviews over on Twitter started this with a picture of her reading space so here is mine!

Five hours done, nineteen to go

Five hours gone already?!  Where has the morning gone?  I'm happy with my progress again this hour.  I've now put a good dent in Ivory Tower Blues (which is by a couple of profs from Western, not U of T like I've been claiming) so I'm going to switch back to The Corrections this hour.

I'm skipping this hour's mini-challenge, hosted by Lisa at Lisa's World of Books.  I'm not really sure what five books I'm looking forward to but I'm going to pop by later to get some ideas :)

Four hours done, twenty to go

Last hour, I complained that I wasn't really happy with my progress.  I'm much happier with how much I got read this hour - still not a lot, page-wise, but I've switched to a denser, non-fiction book and got through about 40 or so pages.  My goal for this book was only to make some good progress, not necessarily finish it so now I feel like I'm accomplishing something.  I think not participating in the mini-challenge this hour helped that so instead of trying to participate in every single challenge I possibly can, I'm going to only participate in those that really interest me.  

This hour's mini-challenge was hosted by Tami & Dave at Just One More Thing and was to post a comment with how you like to share your love of reading.  It was a great chance to me to mention the 50 Book Pledge, which I've really enjoyed participating in this year!

Three hours done, twenty one to go

I'm now three hours into the read-a-thon and have switched books for a short spell.  I've moved on to Ivory Tower Blues, which is the book title I was going for with the Book Puzzle challenge.  I'm not really that pleased with my progress so far - part of why I switched to another book.  I had hoped that by the time I was heading into hour four, I'd have made a significant dent in The Corrections.  I haven't, I've only read about 45 pages of it.  Hmph.  So it's onto a new book.

And with the new hour, a new mini-challenge is out but I'm skipping this one.  Partly so that I can really focus on reading this hour and partly because there's no way I can think of three books that are good representations of the US states they take place in.

Two hours done, twenty two to go

And now it's on to the next mini-challenge, which though I'm not eligible for a prize, I think is really fun and am doing anyway.  I just switched from the Corrections to a different book so it's perfect timing.  It's non-fiction and it's Canadian-focused and even if there are Canadians looking at the pictures, it's such a niche topic that I doubt anyone has heard of the book.  Anyway...  The Book Puzzle challenge is being hosted by Melissa at One Librarian's Book Reviews and is to put together pictures or graphics that describe the title of your book.  It was easy to get pictures for this title so here it goes...

One hour done, twenty three to go

My first hour of the read-a-thon is done.  I participated in the introduction meme, checked out a few responses from other people for the meme and read The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.  I read about 28 pages this hour so there's still a long way to go for me to read my lofty goal of finishing five books.

So onto the mini-challenge for this hour, hosted by Alyce of at home with books.  The challenge was to take a picture of something that represents a character in one of the books I'm reading.  My current book doesn't really lend well to this - it would appear that the character that the story is focusing on now is about to enter the world of internet fraud and I don't have anything around the house for that.  So I'm going to use the title, since the book is themed around the breakdown of a family and so far, the mother seems to have some strong views on how the misbehavior of her children could be corrected.  So I've taken the last sentence I've read and written it out with some errors that I then corrected.  I feel so clever.

Read-a-thon Introduction

1)Where are you reading from today?
My house in Guelph, Ontario, Canada

2)Three random facts about me…
I'm doing this as part of my 101 Things in 1001 Days project, I can't really have caffeine so I'm worried about how I'll manage to stay up for 24 hours, and my favourite book of all time is Pride & Prejudice.

3)How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
9.  7 paper books, 2 audio books.  I blogged about them, though I did finish one of the audios and have another on back-up, now.

4)Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
I'd like to finish 5 books so that I can also finish my 50 Book Pledge.  It would also be amazing if I could manage to stay up for the full 24 hours.

5)If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time?
Newbie here, will look forward to reading the advice.

And I'm off!

In two minutes, anyway...

The read-a-thon is about to start and I'm going to blogging here and tweeting here.

So it's off to go start on The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.

Happy reading!

Friday, October 21, 2011

It's just around the corner...

The read-a-thon is almost here!  I've got books, I've got snacks, I'm planning on getting a good sleep, and I'm not reading at all tonight.  I still don't think that I'll make it the full 24 hours without falling asleep but I'm going to give it my best shot.  I think having the audio books and heading out for a walk or something when I'm feeling sleep will really help.  Oh, but speaking of audio books...  Tonight, we had dinner with Bry & Lynne, who both seemed to doubt that audio books would count in a read-a-thon.  So I've double-checked and yes, they do count.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thing 1's Book 3: The Lost City of Z

Book 3 for Thing 1 was recommended by Sarah Dowdy from the Stuff You Missed in History podcast.  Before I delve into the book, I want to encourage you to check out Stuff You Missed in History if you don't already know about it.  It's a podcast from about, well, stuff you probably didn't learn about in history class.  It's always interesting, often funny, and you'll probably learn something.  What else could you ask for?

Anyway.  The Lost City of Z came from Sarah. By David Grann, it recounts the story of Colonel Fawcett.  Fawcett believed there was an ancient city deep in the heart of the Amazon and he wanted to find it.  Eventually, he went on an expedition to find Z and never returned.  David Grann wanted to find out what happened to Fawcett.  He returned.

So what did I think?  Well, it was good.  I was happy I had read The Lost World before I read this since Fawcett's story partly inspired Conan Doyle.  It made the Lost City of Z seem somewhat familiar to me.  Fawcett was an interesting character and was fascinating to learn about.  Grann did well in breaking up Fawcett's story with his own to keep things moving.  His writing was also good, it kept me engaged in the story.

My only problem with the book was that I often found it hard to keep everything straight.  I gave up trying to keep it all together after a short while and just enjoyed the book.  I'm not sure if I would have enjoyed it more or gotten more from it if I had everything sorted out or not.  There was a lot going on and a lot of names and tribes to keep track off.  Oh, and sometimes, Grann went a little further than I would have liked in describing some of the health issues the explorers faced.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Getting ready for my read-a-thon...

This Saturday, starting at 8 am, I'm spending 24 straight hours reading as part of the Dewey 24-hour Read-A-Thon. I believe we've already discussed why this is a bad idea.

Anyway. Today, I sat down and started stacking up the books that I'm going to be reading. I'm not sure how many books I should be expecting to read.  If I can finish 6 books, I'll also end up finishing my 50 Book Pledge at the same time.  Right now, I'm sitting at 43 books read.  I know I'll finish at least one more this week, putting me at 44 when the read-a-thon starts.  A book every four hours doesn't seem too bad but I know I won't actually log 24 hours of reading time.  Why not?  Well, there's more to this read-a-thon than just reading.  There are also mini-challenges to participate in and they also encourage people to blog throughout the 24 hours.  I'm also really likely to fall asleep at some point.  So can I still finish 6 books in that time frame?  I'm not too sure.

But back to that stack of books...  I've got 9 books ready for me.  7 of them are physical books, 2 are audio.

The audios are for when I'm doing things that are harder to do when reading a physical book, like walking Penny or showering.  They aren't going to be the focus of my reading but I will turn them on when a physical book just isn't cutting it.  They are The Lost City of Z by David Grann and The High Road by Terry Fallis.  The Lost City of Z is also one of the books from Thing 1, which is nice.  I might end up finishing it before the read-a-thon starts since I only have about 4 hours left in it and I'm out of podcasts for my drive to work right now.  The High Road is the sequel the The Best Laid Plans, which some of you may recall won Canada Reads last year.  I finished The Best Laid Plans maybe a week or so ago and loved it so finding out there was a sequel made me really happy!  BTW, if you are interested in either book, both are offered in their entirety as a free podcast through iTunes.

The physical books will be the focus for my reading time.  I'm not planning on sitting and reading one after another but rather reading what I feel like whenever I feel like it.  If I need a break or my mood changes, I'll just pick something else up.  So there is a chance I won't finish anything during the entire 24 hours.  But I'm hoping that's not the case - I've picked my books carefully.  And what are they?  Well...

The top two are my book club books that I should have already finished but haven't.  I'm part-way through the Corrections by Jonathan Franzen and I haven't started Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert at all.  The next book is Ivory Tower Blues by James Cote and Anton Allahar, a couple of guys from U of T who wrote this book to reflect on how the university system in Canada is in crisis with rapidly declining quality.  I'm part-way through this one, as well, and it's REALLY interesting but I just haven't had one of those sessions with it where I get right into it and can't put it down.  I'm hoping that I can get one or two chapters of it done during the read-a-thon.  The next is another book that I've already started - the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  I've actually been reading it on my Kobo instead of the paper copy that I have.  I'm undecided on whether or not I'll continue to read it on the Kobo or switch to the paper copy for the read-a-thon.  Probably the Kobo so that I can change things up a bit.  This is another one I don't expect to finish but would rather just see some decent progress on.  The last three are books I haven't started yet - Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz, the Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, and What's Your Number? By Karyn Bosnak.  The first two are books I got for my birthday and the third is a book that has recently landed on my TBR pile.  All three of these will be relatively light reads for me - I think there's a good chance that I'll get at least one, if not two, done.  I'm counting on them for lighter reading when I'm starting to get tired or need a break from some of my in-progress books.

So that's the plan.  If anyone's done a read-a-thon and has tips, I'm happy to hear them.  And, it's not too late for people to sign up.

A whole bunch of people owe me money

Yesterday morning, I made my 10th micro loan through Kiva to Piv from Cambodia.

I've made more loans in the six months or so that I've been on Kiva than the average Kiva user and that makes me rather happy.  I've really enjoyed searching through the loans for something that interests me, expanding the number of countries I've made an impact in, and watching my repayments roll in each month.  You can see all the loans I've made along with some fascinatingly colourful pie charts on my lender page.

I ended up making all of my loans through Kiva, though I didn't set out with that intention for this Thing.  It ended up being so easy and straightforward that I never looked for another organization.  I also knew that Kiva was a reputable website when I started using it - it has the highest rating from Charity Navigator, a group that evaluates not-for-profit organizations for how well they use the funds they raise and that sort of thing. I had planned on doing some education-related loans, which Kiva doesn't really do but I just never sat down and took the time to do the research.

However, I've had really good luck with Kiva.  One of my loans has already been paid back in full.  That particular loan was delinquent last month, having not made the full payment for the month.  This month, however, the rest of last month's payment and this month's came through and the loan is now fully repaid.

I'm definitely going to continue making loans through Kiva.  I have just under $200 in outstanding loans right now and I'm going to just keep reloaning that money as it's repaid.

Anyone interested in joining me as I continue to participate in micro lending?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thing 1's Book 6: I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell

Book 6 for Thing 1 was recommended by Stacey, one of the smartest people I know.  She'll try to claim otherwise but she's got two undergrads, a masters, is almost done her PhD and is halfway through law school.  Her suggestion was I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max.

All I can really say about this is that I can tell this guy is funny but the topic wasn't for me.  I would love to read something fictional he writes around the age of 45.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I went to the zoo, zoo, zoo

How about you, you, you?

When I put going to the zoo on my list, I had the Toronto Zoo in mind.  It's close, it's got animals, it seemed like it would be easy and fun to do.  Then we planned a trip to Vienna - and during this planning, I learned that the oldest zoo in Europe and the only zoo in Europe with giant pandas was in Schönbrunn Palace, where we were planning to go.  Since then, going to the zoo was the top thing on my list to do in Vienna.

On Saturday, we spent a good portion of our day at Schönbrunn, including the zoo.  The zoo was smaller than I expected but had some great animals to see.  Lots of penguins and giraffes and elephants and hippos.  The pandas were smaller than I expected, but it was neat to see them.  Probably the most entertaining thing of the day was when we heard some howling and went off to find what it was and discovered it was one of the seals - he was spending his day howling in the sun.

Overall, it was a really good couple of hours.  It certainly qualifies for going to the zoo so I can cross this one off.  Now, I have to take a look at the balance in that savings account because I think I'm a behind a bit on my $25 for each thing completed.