Thursday Thoughts: Readathons

Today’s Thursday Thoughts, as hosted by Ok, Let’s Read, is on the topic of “readathons”.

Have you ever participated in a read-a-thon? If so, which one was it and what was your experience? If not, do you want to participate in one? Do you like the idea of read-a-thons? What’s your strategy going into a read-a-thon or a period of time where you just plan to make yourself read more than normal? Are there any tricks you use to encourage yourself during read-a-thons?

I love doing readathons, actually. I’ve already hosted one hourly challenge for Dewey’s 24-hour Readathon, and I always look forward to that event coming back round. Invariably, I read more than usual on that day, though I’m not quite sure why that does the trick, but planting myself firmly with books just for fun doesn’t (most of the time). I mean, it’s an activity I enjoy, so… brains, who understands ’em?

My problem in recent years has been that between my medication and my anxiety, it’s both hard to stay up and usually inadvisable. Quite often I’ll end up with intrusive thoughts, scared of random noises, etc. So lately I just read until I’m sleepy and then sleep, despite how much I’d like to keep participating.

When we’re talking less concentrated readathons, e.g. the Strange Chem one that’s coming up or ARC August, I… intend very strongly to do it, and then get distracted, usually. I need more intensive poking and prompting to keep to the goal. It helps for a week or two, but then I spot a new shiny and get distracted.

How about anyone else?

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Review – Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Avengers

Cover of Marvel's Guardians of the GalaxyGuardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Avengers, Brian Michael Bendis, Steve McNiven, Sara Pichelli

Hmm. I wanted more from this. I’m excited about the upcoming film, because it’s Marvel and they reliably entertain me (unpopular opinion: I kinda enjoyed Fantastic Four, even after everyone I know dissed it? Might have helped I watched it on my computer at 2x speed). But I’d never heard of Guardians of the Galaxy before the marketing for the film started, and I don’t know much about it.

In a way, this does feel like it tries to be an introductory volume, with little bits talking about some of the characters’ pasts and relationships, but mostly it feels fragmentary and weird. I think this is probably because I know so little about it. I felt like it was supposed to be a gateway drug, using Tony Stark as it does, but I didn’t really get that involved with it. I wasn’t sure how to contextualise it in terms of the other Marvel comics I read. Gotta admit, I would like to know what Peter Quill and Teddy Altman would have to say to each other, with some similar background behind them.

I do like the cast, and it may well be that I’d appreciate it more if I wasn’t totally new to it. I might look at it again after I’ve seen the film. Oh, and I appreciate the heck out of Freyja being the ruler of Asgard. She deserved more than the fridging she got in Thor 2.

Rating: 3/5

What are you reading Wednesday

What have you recently finished reading?
The King of Elfland’s Daughter. It’s bloody beautiful. There were some aspects that annoyed me, but mostly it all came together just right. I wouldn’t approach it as a fantasy novel, though: I would approach it as an inspiration for later fantasy, that’s maybe more at home as an extended fairytale/folktale.

The other thing was The 101 Best Science Fiction Novels 1985-2010, which is an interesting list. No more definitive than any other, I’d say, and prone to the straight white men end of the scale, but some interesting-looking stuff I hadn’t come across elsewhere before.

What are you currently reading?
Still should be focusing on The Vanishing Witch (Karen Maitland), but I’ve started doling that out in little bits instead of devouring it all at once. I feel like I’ve got an idea of the shape of the work now, so I feel less compulsion to push on through.

Mostly, though, today it’s been Michael Moorcock’s Gloriana, or the Unfulfill’d Queen. Aside from the fact that the plot revolves around Gloriana not being able to have orgasms (no, really) and the focus on sex that comes with it, I’m actually quite enjoying the creation of the alternative Elizabethan court, and the way Moorcock writes.

What will you read next?
Probably one of the ARCs I’ve got here to read: after that, I think I’ll terrify myself with non-fiction about rare brain diseases, namely Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan. Should be, uh, fun.

Review – Blood & Guts

Cover of Blood & Guts by Roy PorterBlood & Guts, Roy Porter

This didn’t really work for me as a history of medicine, even a short one. Each chapter treads the same ground, but with a different theme, instead of following the history of medicine through chronologically.

That’s not to say it wasn’t interesting in places, and I liked the inclusion of so many images to go along with the text, but it didn’t feel like there was anything to get my teeth into. I felt like it would have been much better done chronologically, even if it was in broad swathes of time: ‘early societies’, ‘the Classical world’, ‘medieval Europe’, ‘British empire’, etc. Something like that would’ve worked a lot better for me.

Also, I know he says up front that he’s not even going to touch on Eastern medicine, but considering the way we’ve imported alternative medicines as a commodity here, it would actually be relevant to talk about their development and give them some more credit.

Rating: 2/5

Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is “how many books do you own the most from”. I’m gonna be totally unscientific here and just take some wild guesses.

  1. Jo Walton. I own all her books, often in several formats. I think this one’s a safe bet.
  2. Ngaio Marsh. I have all those omnibuses. Omnibii?
  3. Robin Hobb. I’ve been reading everything she writes since I was, uh, thirteen ish?
  4. Guy Gavriel Kay. Again with the multiple formats.
  5. Ursula Le Guin. I don’t own everything she’s done, and I don’t usually have multiple copies, but I think she might still outnumber eveeeryone else. She’s just so good, I’m willing to try anything she’s done.
  6. Steven Brust. This is Jo Walton’s fault. I haven’t even read most of them yet.
  7. Tanya Huff. This is a guess, but I’m pretty sure I’m right. I’ve bought most of her books, though I haven’t read them all yet.
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien. Everything bar the twelve volume history of Middle-earth, I think. Multiple editions.
  9. The Gawain-poet. Whoever he (or she?) was. I own so many translations — probably at least nine?
  10. The Beowulf-poet. I’m not quite as big a fan as I am of the Gawain-poet, but still. I’ve got a facing translation one, Heaney’s, Tolkien’s… the list goes on.

So, what about everyone else? Strangely, Dorothy L. Sayers does not make the cut, because I borrowed my copies to read.

Review – Darwin’s Ghost

Cover of Darwin's Ghost by Steve JonesDarwin’s Ghost, Steve Jones

I really like the idea of Darwin’s Ghost, taking and updating Darwin’s groundbreaking research, and often showing how relevant it still is, how little of it has actually been disproved. Often people who criticise Darwin haven’t actually read On the Origin of Species, and so they have an inaccurate understanding of what he actually said. Steve Jones goes through all of this in quite a lot of detail, giving modern examples and correcting things where Darwin didn’t quite get it right.

That thoroughness does make the book pretty hard going, though. The topic doesn’t have to be — I’ve read another explanation of the early transmission and spread of HIV, for example, which wasn’t boring at all (though it had other faults) — but Jones’ writing ends up feeling rather stodgy. I’m completely fascinated by the subject, and reasonably knowledgeable about it, so if I thought that… I don’t know what other readers would make of it.

The main effect seems to have been to make me really want to read On the Origin of Species; I’m told that Darwin’s prose is quite readable and even interesting, and comparing it to the view of it I got from this book will be interesting.

Rating: 3/5

ARC August

I’m already signed up for one readathon this August, but hey, what’s one more…

ARC August: Hosted by Octavia @ Read Sleep Repeat

I know that there’s a couple I must get to, because they’re being released soon or have already been released.

  1. Carrie Patel, The Buried Life. Mostly I just need to get round to reviewing this, but I do have a bit to finish up and I want to read back over it a bit.
  2. Kameron Hurley, The Mirror Empire. I need to give this one some serious time, I think from what I’m told!
  3. Joe Abercrombie, Half a King. I’m just gonna make an awkward guilty face here, ‘kay?
  4. Karen Maitland, The Vanishing Witch. I may finish this before August, but I do have a busy couple of days ahead.
  5. Thomas Sweterlitsch, Tomorrow and Tomorrow. Ditto.
  6. Felicity Pullman, I, Morgana. Because Arthuriana!
  7. José Alaniz, Death, Disability and the Superhero. I already have this started, but I know I wouldn’t finish it before the start of August. It’s tough going in that it’s very academic.
  8. Jen Williams, The Copper Promise. This is a somewhat random pick from my teetering piles, on the grounds that I’ve seen it around.
  9. Edgar Cantero, The Supernatural Enhancements. Random pick based on it being one of the most recent e-ARCs I’ve received.
  10. W.B.J. Williams, The Garden at the Roof of the World. Because this is the ARC I’ve had longest, and I’ve been finding the look of it somewhat daunting.

I will probably not stick solely to this list, especially since I’m doing Strange Chemistry reading month too and I still have books they gave me to read, but it’s a start. In fact, I’m gonna make this list a to-do goal on HabitRPG, just to give me that bit more of a kick in the butt. (HabitRPG is great. Addiction, I have it. Check it out if gamifying your life, including small tasks, sounds good.)