Tackle Your TBR Read-A-Thon 2016! #TackleTBR

Tackle Your TBR Readathon 2016Last year, I participated in the Tackle Your TBR Read-A-Thon…and this year, I’m doing it again! This challenge takes place from September 12th to 26th.

I have a to-read list as long as…something that is long. Last year, I determined that I had about 311 books on my to-read list. (I’ll update with a current count as soon as possible!)

My previous reading goal was 5 books. I will keep the goal the same this year and see where my books take me.

If you are interested in doing this reading challenge with me, you can sign up here.

Like last year, I will post a review for each book read during this time frame. I’m ready to tackle my to-be-read list again!

Care to join me?

#ReadThemAllThon Book Review: Evensong by Krista Walsh

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Rating: Three out of five stars

TW: Mention of rape

evensongI want to start this review by saying, I very much enjoyed this book. The story was the type of fantasy-adventure I love reading about. I did not want to put the book down and when I did, I was thinking about the next time I would pick it up again.

I docked two stars due to four reasons: a disconnect with the main character, minor sexism, minor grammar errors, and partially predictable circumstances and tropes. However, none of these factors were significant enough to deduct more than two stars. Each of these were minor annoyances that, when they came together, were equivalent to the loss of two stars.

I felt a disconnect with the main character, Jeff Powell. There was nothing special about him other than the fact that he was a writer. Clumsy, and not the brightest, I often found myself wondering how he survived his own adventure. But then again, this worked throughout the novel, showing how normal he truly was. I often found myself agreeing with the other characters whenever they remarked on Jeff’s lack of intelligence.

The book had many amazing female characters who all had their own personalities, and the world’s militia did not focus on gender. In these ways, this book was a great feminist read. The story did, however, include a traditional love triangle, which consisted of sexist elements – including the “getting the girl” trope and male rivalry. There were no major instances of sexism, however, so I considered this to be a minor issue.

One issue that I could not turn a blind eye to was a “romantic” instance of a kiss – the kind where the guy is about to put himself in mortal danger, so he kisses the woman he likes as a final goodbye. This is a trope in and of itself, and though it irritated me that (the man in question) kissed (woman in question) without permission, the main part that got under my skin was the quote immediately after the event:

“Against the warmth of her mouth, he rose above his anger and his fear, and for that one moment he had never been braver or surer of himself. He didn’t give (woman in question – no spoilers!) a chance to fight back or give in – not sure if he could handle knowing which she’d choose to do” (p. 260).

In the above quote, there are seven references to the man and two references to the woman. This kiss was obviously selfish and one-sided as the man only thought of himself as he kissed. Not to mention he “didn’t give (her) a chance to fight back or give in” – which gives off some pretty predatory vibes.

A few major tropes were present – most notably, deus ex machina and unexplained circumstances (How long can someone truly stay alive in a dungeon with an infection on the back of their neck? How do dungeon torches just turn on and off at convenient times? Would a victim of rape talk about the event so casually – even if the follow-up conversation tries to explain?) and characters “just happening” to be at the door right as other characters are talking about them, in which said character either discovers crucial information, or the situation carries the dialogue along. There was one scene in which about three characters enter the conversation in this way, one right after another – how do three characters “just happen” to be standing at the same door within minutes of one another in a large castle, when they supposedly had other stuff to do? This happened multiple times throughout the book. Other minor tropes were references to Alice in Wonderland and some predictable plot points.

The bad guy had no motivation for his own evil plans. This makes the character feel empty, like a plot device. Every character is a plot device in their own right, but characters have thoughts and feelings and motivations behind their decisions. The villain in this story just seemed to want some maniacal fun, without the side effects of being a psychopath.

One minor detail that bothered me was the repetition of the names – most of the names of the characters began with either J or C. This caused me to reread some sentences multiple times to remember who was who.

Throughout the book, there also minor spelling and sentence structure errors, which proved to be distracting. Some details also appeared to be inconsistent.

I know I seemed pretty negative about this book during this review, but I actually did enjoy it enough to purchase the next two books in the series, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the trilogy progresses. I found myself laughing and gasping along with the book, and the writing’s imagery was vivid. I want to read some more of the strong female characters – the sorceress, the warrior, and the black belt!

This review is also on Goodreads.
Picture from Goodreads.

As for the #ReadThemAllThon, I have finished the third book, winning the Marsh Badge! The Marsh Badge was for a book with fantasy or supernatural elements. I’d say a writer getting trapped in the world of his own story is pretty fantastical. Plus there were magic spells!

At 317 pages, my Eevee earned 31 CP! Add 20 for finishing the book, and another 20 for this review, for a total of 71! Add a few more points for various tweets (including the tweet that automatically posts with this blog), and…my Eevee evolved!!!

Since Evensong’s book cover has trees on it (and there were earthly themes within the book), it only makes sense for Eevee to evolve into Leafeon. What a cutie! Here is my updated Trainer Card!

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#ReadThemAllThon Book Review: Sword Art Online: Girls’ Ops by Reki Kawahara

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Rating: Four out of five stars

saogoI have so far loved what I have seen and read of the previous Sword Art Online installments, and this was no exception. I absolutely love that the secondary characters of the aforementioned installments had their time in the spotlight as primary characters! Silica, Liz, and Leafa as characters were fleshed out, finally having their change as protagonists.

For readers not familiar with the Sword Art Online saga, the story begins when characters become trapped in a video game, instantly being immersed in a world of literal life-and-death. Those who perish in the game die in the real world, and those who survived the original world live a life haunted by the memories. This particular manga installment takes place after the initial events, in a much safer game known as Alfheim Online, a world of fairies, cats, and angels.

Sword Art Online: Girls’ Ops is the first in its series: a spin-off that focuses on its female secondary characters. Silica was one of my favorite side characters in the show, so it was lovely seeing this little chibi shine in a leading role. She is concerned for a newcomer, Kuro, and feels the need to protect her in this harmless world. Turns out, it is not the world that is harmful, but the memories that the SAO survivors carry with them. As it turns out, the power of friendship saves the day!

I docked a star from a five-star rating because of fan-service and Kirito name dropping. The fan-service appeared during one of the many fights in which the opponent (slime monsters) shoot acidic poison at the characters, making their clothes disintegrate in convenient places. There is also another scene, when the characters are in the real world, in which they are undressing while getting ready for a PE class. The name dropping of Kirito (the main character in the SAO saga) was overdone, as the multiple references of him sounded as if he should have made an appearance. Some scenes did not pass the Bechdel test in this regard, as he was brought up often in a book that was supposed to feature the perspective of the girls. Though I understand why he was brought up, as it fit the plot.

Overall, I loved this book. I would recommend it to those who are already familiar with the previous events in the Sword Art Online storyline and those who like manga and don’t mind the right-to-left reading format.

As for the #ReadThemAllThon, between the multiple tweets and the points accrued, here is my updated trainer card: (With the Boulder Badge! *Strikes pose*)

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#ReadThemAllThon Book Review: The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen

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Rating: Five out of five stars

littlemermaidMy first book that I read for the Pokemon reading challenge is The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. While the book did not make me cry (oddly enough, the little mermaid herself can’t cry!), it did make my heart quite heavy, and there was certainly enough water mentioned in the book to make up for my lack of tears.

While this version is, on the surface (pun intended), less cheerful than the Disney version, the two are separate stories in their own rights. I can see where Disney borrowed some elements and scaled back on others to make the story more child-friendly, but the original version is a beautiful “tail” in and of itself.

In the Disney version, the little mermaid wants one thing only: to be with the prince. In this version, the little mermaid wants not only the prince, but also what the sacrament of marriage to the prince will give her: a part of his soul, with which she will have a second, immortal life. Heavy on the Christian imagery but not overbearing, The Little Mermaid is a beautiful story of love, sacrifice, and redemption, while wrapping everything up as one would a children’s story.

The imagery was beautiful, though I wish the book had not been written in expository form. Much of it was told rather than shown, though this can be excused since that was the style of writing back then; not to mention that the form is how it would be read to children anyway. Either way, the story flowed seamlessly, and I could imagine it as an entity separate from the Disney movie. My heart was simultaneously heavy and light after reading this story; I am glad to have read it. (Picture from Goodreads.)

According to the rules of the #ReadThemAllThon, my Eevee is now at 71 CP! (Including the +2 CP points for the tweet that will be posted due to the Twitter-WordPress connection.) At 48 pages, Eevee gained 4 CP, plus 20 CP for finishing the book. Add the total count for related tweets, and I’ve updated my trainer card to show the new points and badge! *Strikes Pokemon pose*

TrainerCardCascade

#ReadThemAllThon TBR

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Starting today (technically yesterday) I will be participating in the Pokemon Read-A-Thon hosted by Read at Midnight! Pokemon AND books? Count me in!

The rules are to try to read eight books – one per Pokemon gym badge – from yesterday to September 4th! That’s three weeks of Pokemon-themed marathon reading. Can I do it with my hectic schedule? Let’s find out!

The following TBR list, according to the challenge:

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For the first book, I will be reading Sword Art Online: Girls’ Ops by Reki Kawahara.

240 pages (24 CP)

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Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid might make me cry. At the very least, it features lots of water so at least it’s fitting.

48 pages (4 CP)

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I’ve been meaning to read Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. I’m a big fan of the podcast by the same name and I’ve had the book sitting on my shelf now for quite a few months.

401 pages (40 CP)

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I’ve been meaning to finish the book The Weight of the Sky by Lisa Ann Sandell, which is about high-schooler Sarah spending the summer on a kibbutz in Israel. I started reading the verse novel last year but it remained on my shelf for a time. While it’s 292 pages, I’ve already read 70 pages. To keep it fair, I’ll subtract 70 from 292 for the amount of legitimate points earned from this book.

(292 – 70 = 222 = 22 CP)

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I will be reading Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined by Stephenie Meyer. Simply out of curiosity.

389 pages (38 CP)

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For this badge, I will be reading Evensong by Krista Walsh. This was originally my pick for the first badge, since it’s the first in the series – which also explains why I started reading it yesterday before I changed my mind (at least these pages still count!).

317 pages (31 CP)

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The book The Fierce Reads Anthology has a red cover, and I’ve been wanting to read this for a little while. However, I had to do the math in terms of page numbers, since this Kindle ebook operates on locations. In total, there are 2261 location points, and 182 pages total. Since “Glitches” by Marissa Meyer (the only short story I’ve read before) is the last in the anthology on location 1927, I had to solve for X to determine which page number this story started on. Turns out it starts on page 155. Since I will be reading through the first 154 pages, only these pages will count.

154 pages (15 CP)

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TBD.

CP Points: The Explanation

So what’s up with the CP count? CP stands for Combat Power, which is a figure of power measurement in Pokemon Go. Along the way, points will be gained for the Pokemon of my choice. This pokemon starts at 10 CP, which will increase – to evolve at 150 CP. My chosen pokemon starts at 14 CP, since I tweeted #ReadThemAllThon twice yesterday.

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How CP points are calculated:

  • +2 CP per tweet (maximum 200 points)
  • +5 CP per tweeted picture of chosen book with Pokemon (via Pokemon Go) (maximum 100 points)
  • Page numbers divided by 10 = 100 pages equals 10 CP points
  • +20 CP per book finished
  • +20 CP per related book review posted on this blog

As I progress through reading, my Eevee will grow stronger! What will it evolve into? We’ll find out!

For more information and to sign up for your own Pokemon reading adventure, click here.

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge: Day 15

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Day #15: Who are your book blogging mentors?

Any blog that I read, I keep an eye out for what I like and don’t like – and if I like something, I see how I can implement that aspect on my own blog. However, I will say that I love Chuck Wendig’s advice on blogging and writing in general.

And this concludes the 15 Day Book Blogger Challenge!

This almost makes me want to create my own blogging challenge. Would you sign up for it?

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge: Day 14

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Day #14: Tell us your deal breakers.

I was an English major. My degree is in English: Professional Writing. Basically, if a book has bad grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, lack of characterization and plot development, or next to no fact-checking, I give books a low rating. If it has all of these, it is an immediate one star rating. I rate every book I read on Goodreads, and I tend to give an average of three or four stars. I try to finish every book I start, even if it takes me some time to trudge through it.

I have read books that have mistaken Puritans and pilgrims; I have read historical nonfiction books without citations; I have read a series that was written in a single summer without any editing; I have read books that would probably face copyright issues if certain companies knew their brand was included in certain publications. And* yet, these books are a guilty pleasure for me. I can’t get enough of them. Usually, I tend to read books with a higher standard, but sometimes I can’t resist a terrible book.

* Yes, I’m aware that it is grammatically incorrect to begin a sentence with a conjunction. I do it anyway because I’m a rebel.