Friday, July 7, 2017

The Miraculous Math of 50 Pages A Day + Summer Reading Update

Woohoo!! It's time for my Summer Reading Update!

For those of you who don't know, I'm kind of terrible at getting through set TBRs and reading challenges. May I present Exhibit A, The Take Control TBR Challenge hosted by Caffienated Book Reviewer back in March and my own EPIC FAIL: or, The Take Control Extension I tried in April (which, sadly, also turned out to be an epic fail). At the same time, I can't resist these lists, because wouldn't my reading life be so much more rewarding and fulfilling if I could actually get through all those books in that set time frame?! The answer is 'yes.'

So how am I doing so far on that Summer Reading List 2017? Of the titles I set for myself I have so far read...

Brace yourselves, people.

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold by Iain Reading
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
The Best Blades (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

And I'm currently reading:
Specter of the Past by Timothy Zahn (Star Wars)
Battlefront: Twilight Company by Anthony Freed (Star Wars)
I have to be honest. I'm impressed with myself for finishing four books in June. I know that might not sound like much, but it actually is for me nowadays. I used to be a monstrous-fast reader but I'm just...not anymore. More on this in a minute.

But I'm even MORE impressed that most of these books are straight off my list! If you haven't noticed, I tend to 'add' books to my set TBRs and assure myself that, oh no, I've got plenty time for all of these, and then invariably wind up failing to read most, or any, of the books I actually put on the list. Of these books, the only title not on my Summer Reading TBR is Kitty Hawk, but I had a deadline for it.

Here's what I'm left with:
Randoms and Rebels by David Liss
The Night Watchman by Mark Mynheir
The Last Policeman by Ben Winters
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles
Hearts & Other Body Parts by Ira Bloom
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
*Bonus* My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

That's 9 books to read before the end of summer and already I'm clutching my heart in dismay.
There's no way I can read 9 BOOKS by then!

Okay, stop; don't panic. Let's think about this logically, Amanda. First, we need to give ourselves a deadline. When does summer specifically end?

According to Google, mankind's ultimate source of irrefutable knowledge and information, summer ends on September 22, which seems pretty far out there considering everyone will be back in school by August, but I'm making an executive decision that my Summer Reading list should of course constitute all of summer and conveniently ignore the fact that technically summer didn't even start until June 20. This leaves me with 79 days to read 9 books.

This sounds completely doable, right?

But no, actually, because my reading routine is like this: I read before bed. I switch on my lamp, crack open a book, snuggle into the covers -and inevitably doze after four pages or so.

Some ravenous reader I am. Long gone are those monstrous-fast reading days of my youth, when I had nothing better to do than read seven or eight books in a week. Dang it, I miss those days.

But there's got to be a solution here somewhere, and this is where my loathsome though occasionally useful antagonist Math will enter the equation. At four pages a night, for 79 nights, I will have read a whole whopping 316 pages.

That is maybe one average-sized novel in two and a half months.

Go ahead and let the full, absolute horror of that calculation sink in. I know I did.

With that horror, a sudden understanding also came to me, because all of my reading frustrations were suddenly explained. No wonder I haven't been getting through the stacks of books around my room! No wonder I can't finish any challenges or TBR lists! No wonder I get so frustrated with my small and pathetic 'books I've read this year' lists.

And what does a book dragon do when suddenly faced with the truth of her supposedly 'voracious' reading habits? This, ladies and gentlemen, is the part of the show where I pull a trick out of my magic hat.
My current read, Specter of the Past, is 386 pages, and when I realized it would take me more than three months to read it, I knew that was not happening.

I'm working my way toward the New Jedi Order series -which is somewhere around 26 books long- and Specter of the Past is serving as my re-entry into the Star Wars EU. I want to read it and I want to read it fast, because I don't even want to know how long it would take me to read a 26-book series at 4 pages a day. I refuse -absolutely refuse!- to do that math.

My solution? I'm forcing myself to read 50 pages a night before bed.

Forcing, she says. Forcing herself to read.

It sounds dramatic but, guys, it's actually true. I don't know if this is the longest reading slump in my life or if I've merely trained myself to go to sleep after reading four measly pages, but that is what my reading habits look like. Or, should I say, looked like.

Right now, I'm killing it with this 50 pages a day thing. In 4 days I've read 246 pages; I'm already halfway done with the book! I'm ridiculously proud of myself right now. You can laugh if you want; even writing this I know it all sounds kind of stupid, but this is why I fail the reading lists and challenges I set up for myself. I don't read enough anymore and I have not become consciously aware of it until writing this post.

So let's go back to that Math:
50 pages a day for 79 days
3,950 pages

Holy sanctified bovine.

Even I wasn't expecting that number to be so high. That's... That's enough time to read both The Count of Monte Cristo and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrel. TWICE.

That's more than enough to get through 9 books! Why on earth haven't I done this math before?! If I read 50 pages a day all year that's 18,250 pages. 18,250!

My gosh. I feel liberated and idiotic at the same time. Look, even Boromir is speechless!
Do you have any idea how many books that is!? Neither do I! But suddenly, at 50 pages a day, this seems like a totally realistic to me.

Right. 18,000 pages in a year just became my new life goal. But before I head off to read my 50 pages for the day, I want to know:
On average, how much do you read a day?
Do you apply slick and suave Mathematics to realize you could actually read your supposedly 'endless' TBR during your lifetime?
How are your summer reading goals going?

Monday, July 3, 2017

Sunday Post 012 | IMWAYR

Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog and showcase books and things we have received. Share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme

 Corny Joke Monday 

 Last (Two) Week(s) on the Blog 

 This Week on the Blog 

Update on Summer Reading 2017!

 What I'm Reading: 

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and
share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. 

Specter of the Past by Timothy Zahn Star Wars
I LOVE ZAHN'S STAR WARS BOOKS! Seriously, he's the one who really got me into reading Star Wars books and now that I'm reading another of his (finally!) I remember how much I love him. I mean, who else is going to talk about the 'psychological presence of TIE fighters' and give Luke a moral debate on whether or not becoming too powerful in the Force is another path leading to the Dark Side?!

Battlefront: Twilight Company by Anthony Freed Star Wars (audio)

Still enjoying this, and almost finished too. *fist pump*

 What I Read: 

The Best Blades Star Wars: Clone Wars, vol 5
One thing I love about the Clone Wars -in all of its incarnations- is the variety of stories, characters, and genres. This one has a lot more stories about shady politics and the Jedi morals in the face of the war, which I found pretty interesting. The shady politics aspect of the Star Wars universe works a lot better in small doses like this, in my humble opinion. I may be misremembering, but I recall a lot of politics in the prequels, and a lot that I had a hard time grasping when I was younger.

Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
Interesting book of essays from 1984 about Postman's observations and predictions on how television will effect us, our society, our thought processes, education, and the way the world works in general.

Nothing Left to Lose by Dan Wells John Cleaver #6
One of my Most Anticipated Books of 2017, this book is wonderful, creepy, amazing, and the perfect ending to a series but I can't really talk about it because I decided (a long time ago) that these reviews would be my comeback video reviews so I've been saving them. Now that that time is drawing closer, I can't back out of that plan now, can I?!

 Internet Shenanigans 

Last week (I think it was Friday) the Google doodle of the day was a celebration of Victor Hugo, which was a bit of a coincidence for me, because just the night before I discovered a cover of 'Hellfire' from the Disney adaptation I hadn't seen before.

Okay, to call it a 'cover' is a bit of a stretch. It was 'Google Translate Sings: Hellfire' from Malinda Kathleen Reese's channel, featuring Jonathan Young. Now, I'm a big Jonathan Young fan, which I may have mentioned; I love his Disney covers, but his (serious) cover of 'Hellfire' is one of his best and definitely THE best version of the song I've heard. Go listen to it. Right now. And then come back.

So of course I had to watch the Google Translate version. It did not disappoint.

Back to the Victor Hugo Google doodle. (whew. Say that ten times fast.) I jumped over to the 'learn more' section Google provided and discovered that Victor Huge lived on -and loved!- Guernsey! Of all places, Guernsey island! Of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society fame!

The things you learn. The things you discover.

 In Real Life 

I've been talking about how I'm going to start my YouTube channel back up again and, well, that's still the plan. And it just kicked into overdrive -in a slightly different direction.

I've just signed up for Jumpcut Academy to learn more about how to successfully use YouTube!

I'm very excited about this! And nervous. I'm both. Definitely. I'm really happy to get back into YouTube, but even happier having a resource now that will help me understand it all better. I don't know how this will effect my plan to start posting videos by August, so that's in limbo for the moment. This is going to be a huge commitment on my part, but the goal is to NOT let the blog suffer for it. I'll still be posting at least once a week here, more when I can.

I can't wait to see where this takes me! ^_^


This is the most I've written in such a short span of time in a very long time! And so far, I love the progress I'm making story-wise too. <3 I'm only writing every other day, so hopefully I can keep up the pace!

  What's new with you? 

Friday, June 30, 2017

TTT: Best Books of 2017 So Far

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly blog meme put on by The Broke and the Bookish
As my parents always say: Better late than never! A few days shy of Top Ten Tuesday, this was too fun of a list to miss out on. I didn't even realize how many great books I had read this year until I started sifting through my Goodreads! My goodness, how did I keep track of this treasure trove before Goodreads?

Nothing Left to Lose by Dan Wells
While this list is in no particular order, Nothing Left to Lose still comes out on top. The sixth and final (at least, so far) book in Wells' John Cleaver series, while not the best book in the series, still gets 5 stars from me and it wraps up the story in a fantastic and unexpected way. I love it.

Heartstone by Elle Katharine White
This was an unexpected read; I only found it while browsing Barnes & Noble with a friend a few months back. But White's vivid retelling of Pride & Prejudice as a fantasy novel deserves enough fanfare and praise to get its own display at aforementioned bookstore. Among other fantastic qualities, Darcy is a dragon rider. I repeat: DRAGON RIDER. White has recently been contracted to write two more books in the series, so there's plenty to look forward to.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
It took me years to get to this book, but I really loved it. Maas has created a cruel fantasy world with great characters and some interesting uses of magic. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
My review
This book is amazing. While it consists of actual letters between American Helene Hanff and the employees of the British bookstore she insists on doing business with, it reads very much like a love letter to books that any reader can appreciate. The dry humor and witty banter between the writers is an added bonus, and written from post-WWII 1940s to the 1960s, it offers an interesting frontline view to the period.

The Blacklist: The Gambler by Nicole Phillips
My review
As a Blacklist fangirl AND a fairly picky reader, this one tickled me pink. Between great stories and spot on characterizations of their on-screen personas, this tie-in graphic novel did everything right.

Howl's Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones
Yes, you may gasp in shock and dismay when you realize I had never read Howl's Moving Castle before. Heaven knows all my librarian friends did. And now that I've read it, I have to say they were in the right. This book is pretty spectacular. It's funny and clever and full of magic; it reminds me both of Lloyd Alexander's work and the delightful children's fantasies I loved growing up, like Half Magic by Edward Eager and Five Children and It by E. Nesbit.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
This is the second V.E. Schwab I've read and I've got to admit:
I'm kind of a fan. She has a way of working with magic that makes it interesting and a little on the dark side, but it's her characters that really take the cake.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
My review
A fantastic mesh of historical fiction, folk lore, and fantasy that brings old Russia to life. I love the clash here between the magic of the old country and the religion of the more 'modern' age, but you can read more about that in my review. Arden also has two more books in the works!

The W.H.O. Files: Potions in the Pizza by Mikey Brooks
My review
A fun and fantastic kids book with larger than life characters, delicious pizza, and witch hunters. What else does a book need?

Tricked by Jen Calonita
My review
While this series is for younger readers, I absolutely love it. It's a fun romp, with some really interesting tweaks to the lives of traditional fairy tale characters after their tales are done. I especially like that Calonita has pulled out a handful of the villains to create a reform school for misbehaving children.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars by various
I'm currently only halfway through this graphic novel series, and already it's a favorite. The prequel trilogy of Star Wars never dug into the specifics of the Clone Wars and more's the pity for it, because it really changes the way I view a lot of the characters and the events. It's also interesting to compare the differences between these graphic novels and the television show of the same name, because these do not tell the same stories at all.

And those are my best book of 2017 so far! What amazing titles have you read this year?

And how did you keep track of your books before Goodreads?
I remember using those handy reading logs during summer reading, but other than that, I really think I just relied on my memory. Oh to be young again...

Friday, June 23, 2017

REVIEW: As Old As Time by Liz Braswell (Twisted Tale #3)

As Old As Time
Author: Liz Braswell
Publisher: Disney Press
Genre: YA Fantasy

2/5 stars
PG: for some violence, some disturbing images, and for politics that turn people violently against a specific class of people

What if Belle's mother cursed the Beast?

Belle is a lot of things: smart, resourceful, restless. She longs to escape her poor provincial town for good. She wants to explore the world, despite her father's reluctance to leave their little cottage in case Belle's mother returns—a mother she barely remembers. Belle also happens to be the captive of a terrifying, angry beast. And that is her primary concern.

But Belle touches the Beast's enchanted rose, intriguing images flood her mind—images of the mother she believed she would never see again. Stranger still, she sees that her mother is none other than the beautiful Enchantress who cursed the Beast, his castle, and all its inhabitants. Shocked and confused, Belle and the Beast must work together to unravel a dark mystery about their families that is twenty-one years in the making.

The Review:
What sounded great in concept was disappointing in execution. The 'what if' twist of this tale wound up throwing off the entire chemistry of the story, without infusing it with enough chemistry of its own to carry itself.

As Old As Time did not work for four big reasons:

1. At its core, this is not a Beauty and the Beast story -twisted, retelling, or otherwise. This is Beauty and the Enchantress. The ‘what if’ twist of this story puts Belle’s mother as the Enchantress, which is an interesting idea and could be a very good story on its own, but it completely changes the dynamic of what is supposed to be a Beauty and the Beast story. Belle’s entire focus in this version is learning about her mother while the Beast is just ...there. He is ultimately a clue in the mystery of the Enchantress for Belle and serves little other purpose.

2. There is very little chemistry between Belle and the Beast, and what chemistry there is fairly screams ‘besties’, not romantic interest. This is in no way a love story, even though the characters somehow wind up falling in love somewhere along the way. I also felt both of them -and a lot of the other characters- were portrayed uncharacteristically.

3. Braswell tries too hard to fit this into a real world context, rather than letting the Disney version of the story exist in its own world. She did the same thing with Once Upon A Dream, which I had very mixed feelings about there, but it’s much more pronounced here and it really does not work for me. The story necessitates explaining magic plausibly in a historical context long after belief in magic had largely faded; an Enchantress who can go around cursing castles and princes; and why that magic is no longer the norm in Belle's world -all within a very short time frame. If this had been an original story by Braswell I would have liked it more, because I did find the changes she made interesting, but I didn't like them in the context of the existing tale or the time period it resides in.

4. Braswell at once tried to keep almost religiously true to the original while doing something completely different at the same time. What is left is a weird mesh of original content that gives way to conversations and situations pulled directly from the film, duplicated almost word-for-word and then peppered with inexplicable inconsistencies as Braswell tries to fit them into the context of her story.
For example, when Belle feigns interest in the library to slip past Lumiere and Cogsworth to investigate the West Wing: in the movie, they're merrily fooled into thinking she's right behind them; in the book, Cogsworth and Lumiere see right through her deception, but nothing in the situation changes to excuse the inconsistency. The moment is exactly the same as in the movie, but the characters' reactions change regardless.
Maybe I'm being nit-picky, but this happens continually throughout the story. It really bugged me. It feels like Braswell twisted her retelling into knots trying to fit it into the mold of the original, instead of vice versa, and the result is very unnatural and jarring. Much of the story feels forced, most of the character interactions are awkward, and the story takes on the darker flavor of a tragedy that pushes the light-hearted tone of these beloved characters completely off kilter.

In the end, it's one redeeming quality is in creating an interesting character in Rosalind, Belle's mother, but I felt that she too fell victim to the forced nature of the story; again, if this had been an original story -or even a Twisted Tale that took more liberties- I probably would have liked it better.

Unfortunately, I think this will prove to be my last foray into Braswell's Twisted Tales. I've read all three for intriguing twists and -while Once Upon A Dream was the best of the bunch, and a story I still think Braswell did a pretty good job with- the series as a whole has been mostly disappointing so far.

Check out my reviews for the rest of the series!
#2 Once Upon A Dream 

Have you read any of the Twisted Tales?

Monday, June 19, 2017

TTT: Series I've Been Meaning To Start But Haven't

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly blog meme put on by The Broke and the Bookish
Yikes! This one was a lot harder than I'd thought it would be. Apparently I love to read the first book in a series and then stop. Sure, I tell myself I'll go back and read the rest -eventually- but so far I don't seem to have a very good track record. Now, if I were to do a list of Series You Want to Finish That You've Read the First Book Of, I' d probably win a gold medal there.

New Jedi Order by various authors
By far, the most important one on the list. I've been wanting to read this series forever and -barring natural and reading disasters- this is the year I'm going to start.

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
Book 1 is on my Summer Reading List, if you're so inclined to check it out.

Castle Glower by Jessica Day George
I've loved every book of George's that I've read, but this series comes with the bonus of being recommended by my niece. Awwwww...

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

The Lotus War by Jay Kristoff

Once Upon a Time by various authors
Especially the ones by Cameron Dokey; I've got a friend who adores them.

Oracles of Fire by Bryan Davis
This is a branch off series of Dragons In Our Midst, which I loved as a teenager. I always meant to read through these, but still haven't gotten around to it. I wonder if I'd still enjoy them. I ought re-read the original series and see!

The Hollow Kingdom by Claire Dunkel
I have two friends who are as obsessed with this series as they are with Labyrinth and Jareth. Go figure. I started this once a while back and -to their utter horror and disbelief- didn't finish it. Then again, I never really did get into Labyrinth.

The Shoe Books by Noel Streatfield
You've Got Mail is one of my mom's favorite movies so it's not a real surprise that she went searching for these books after it first released. (Lucky for us, Skating Shoes is back in print!) She's is completely in love with them.  After trying and failing to get my sister and I to read them, she's been sending copies to grandkids, in they hope she can finally convert somebody to Shoe Book fans. A few years back, I found the movie of Ballet Shoes and gave it to her for her birthday and I totally loved it. I've been meaning to give the series another try ever since.

The Selection by Kiera Cass

Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia

Anna by Kendare Blake

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas
I finally read Throne of Glass this year and loved it. I want to read all of Maas' stuff, but a friend has ordered I not start ACOTAR until after I finish the Throne of Glass series.

King Raven by Stephen R. Lawhead
A retelling of Robin Hood steeped in Celtic mythology. I tried to read these back when I was a teenager, but I was far too impatient to read them. I recall this being a thick book, with lots of Briton history (back in the days of the Angels and Saxons) -a portion of history I'm currently very intrigued by.

There are a LOT more of these than I realized and now I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. I didn't even get half way through my to-read shelf on Goodreads! GAH!!!

There is a lot of reading in my future, that's all I've got to say.

Have you read any of these?
What are some series you've been meaning to read?