Challenges Update: The Final Weeks of Short and Sweet & 1000+ Pages of Epic Fantasy

Yellow my youthful, yarely Bookbaggers!

Welcome to the really belated 11th (and probably final) update of Short and Sweet and 1000+ Pages of Epic Fantasy, in which I tell you the outrageous amount of stuff that has happened since my last update just before semester break that I have been itching to tell you!

I am determined to finally fill you in on the challenges, since in essence I have now polished them both off, however, I don’t want to bore my beloved Bookbaggers, old and new (I was flabbergasted that I gained a few new followers while I have been virtually silent, so thanks and welcome to the Bookbagger newbies 🙂 ) so I will keep it as short as my rambling mind and wandering fingers can manage, utilising the Mighty Numbered List and keeping to challenge-based stuff…mostly 😛

Ok, lets kick off the epic, shall we?

Short and Sweet challenge badgeThe MNL (Mighty Numbered List) will be getting a workout with this update, as in the four six weeks since my last update (jeez I had to check to confirm it had been that long!) I have finished all the remaining books in the challenge, a few of the short stories from my zombie anthology, and have tweaked something related to the challenge:

  1. I started Horn by Peter M Ball the weekend after my last update (along with Deadly Beloved by Max Allan Collins and The Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman) and by the time I fell sick on Wednesday I had read the majority of it. Then from Thursday to Sunday I was at home with nothing to do but drink lots of fluids and feel sorry for myself, so I of course read the shit out of everything and by Friday I had already polished off Horn and Deadly Beloved. Horn was another novella centered around cop-turned-murderer-turned-private-dick Miriam Aster, who I was introduced to in Bleed, and while I didn’t enjoy it as much (perhaps because I read Bleed first or perhaps because I had the order backwards, as while they’re not technically a series Horn was published a year or two before) but it was still a fun, exciting read that gave me some more insight into the character and Ball’s version of the Fey. If he writes more in this world following Aster, I will be a happy chicken 🙂 horn
  2. I had also been reading a lot of Deadly Beloved by Max Allan Collins before catching the bug, as It was a surprisingly witty and interesting pulpy-noir-style mystery with some funny, smart characterisation (especially the star of the show Ms Tree who takes shit from no one, has a fire-arm ready at all times, is unashamed of her sexuality and won’t shy away from confronting colleagues, lovers and crooks alike) and a solid story that kept me guessing. I actually enjoyed it more than many of the crime books I have read previously, including some which were “proper” crime noir published in the 1940’s, so not bad for a book I picked up at Coles for five bucks! I have since passed it on to my friend Scott, who has read the comic book series it’s based on, so I hope he enjoys it as much as I did 🙂 deadly beloved
  3. Since there was only one book left in the challenge – The Illustrated Eric by Terry Pratchett (writer) and Josh Kirby (artist) – I got stuck into that pretty much right away, and I finished it the next weekend. Being a Discworld novel it was of course hilarious, bursting with strange magics and altered laws of nature, but as this was a special illustrated novella it was also quite fast-paced and Josh Kirby’s colourful, mad-cap illustrations spilled from their usual place on the outside covers and popped up throughout the text or in stunning two-page spreads. After the last two Discworld novels (Pyramids and Guards! Guards!) it was nice to catch-up with the bumbling wizard Rincewind and his menacing walking Luggage, which were the stars of several of the earlier books. I also liked that the usual sinister bureaucracy of the wizards was mostly absent in this instalment, replaced by a sinister bureaucratic King of Hell who has forced his underlings to move away from the fire-and-brimstone style of damnation and onto the method of torture by mind-numbing boredom. eric
  4. Since Eric was the only under-200 pages contender left, when I finished Deadly Beloved I was back to picking from one of my original piles (one of two Books-I-Own-But-Have-Yet-To-Read piles as I already had a couple of Borrowed-From-Others and a library book on the go) so I asked my mum to do the honours and she chose Un Lun Dun by China Miéville 😀 I started it early the following week and have been loving it ever since! Unlike Kraken – which is the only Miéville novel I’ve read previously – Un Lun Dun is YA, so not quite as mind-bending, yet it is full to bursting with Miéville’s highly imaginative creations, enhanced by his quirky, detailed illustrations which are scattered through the text. Before I even reached the half-way point I had already pre-emptively put it on my list of Top 10 Books of 2014, so expect more blabbing on about it in the near future!ChinaMieville-UnLunDun
  5. Then when I finished Eric I picked another book from one of the Books-I-Own-But-Have-Yet-To-Read pile – one with books I’ve been meaning to read for ages, since Un Lun Dun came from the newer acquisitions pile – which was Dead in the Family (Book 10 of the Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood/Southern Vampire Mysteries series) by Charlaine Harris! I was pleased about the choice because I read the last book way back in 2012 and even though I have heard from fans that the latter books have lost their glow a little, I enjoyed Book 9 and either way I am determined to finish the series now I’m so close! So far I am about half-way through and I am enjoying it still – they aren’t the highest form of literature, but Charlaine Harris can weave an interesting supernatural tale with plenty of funny bits as well as some mystery, which occasionally is all I want (especially after reading A Clockwork Orange and I Am Legend recently)$2 plus $6.95 p&h!!! Gotta love eBay :)
  6. Finally, since the last update I have read 3 more stories out of the The Living Dead zombie anthology: “In Beauty, Like the Night” by Norman Partridge, which was about a media mogul similar to Hugh Hefner who hides away on his private island when the zombie plague hits, obsessively watching the zombified girls from his calendar shoot which became stranded/infected on the island; “Prairie” by Brian Evenson, which was only 4 pages long but was a really disturbing and unsettling tale of an expedition across the prairie during a zombie infection; and “Everything is Better With Zombies” by Hannah Wolf Bowen, which didn’t feature actual zombies, but was a touching story of friendship between a girl and a boy approaching adolescence and their game of chasing imagined zombies through the local cemetery. I read the last one the weekend before last and then I haven’t dived back into zombies since because I’ve been so caught up with my other reads, but I may read a story or two this weekendA bunch of different zombie stories by different authors? What's not to love?
  7. Lastly, I realised when approaching the end of the challenge that I didn’t have any more books under 200 pages to contribute, but I did have a fair amount of short story collections in various piles, so I’ve decided to make a completely new pile and when I finish The Living Dead I’ll pick a new collection 🙂 This means the Short and Sweet challenge still has some life in it, but it will be more like my Comic Companions challenge of last year, so won’t be updated once a week. Since I don’t want this post to be too epically long and boring I won’t list all the collections in the pile, but will save that for its own post sometime before I finish The Living Dead

Now onto the other challenge which also had major action:

1000+ pages of epic fantasy challenge badgeWhile I was sick and during my holidays I got fully sucked into the end of Brisingr leading to this happy result:

The Sending:

Maruman on the cover of The Sending0 Pages – Finished 😀

Pages remaining: 0

Brisingr:

Brisingr197 Pages
(67 pages one week; the remaining 128 the next)

Pages remaining: 0! 😀

Total:

197 Pages

Pages remaining: 0

I now know why my bro was so insistent I read this book as Paolini’s skill as a writer has improved immensely from the first book – and even from the second – and I found myself hunched in my seat gripping the book, eyes wide, while gasps and yes, even tears burst forth from me inexplicably at various points. I know that if I hadn’t done this challenge I likely would’ve been even slower with this huge fantasy epic (as it was I still had it on the go for over 8 months!) so I am very happy I challenged myself.

I was then finally able to pick a new book from the Borrowed-From-Others pile and I picked one that I borrowed from Sarah a while back and have been wanting to read ever since she told me about it – Black Feathers by Joseph D’Lacey. I started it around the same time as Un Lun Dun and I have been loving it just as much. In fact it also got pre-emptively added to the Top 10 Books of 2014 list before I was even half-way, so I really have some great books on the go at the moment 😀

BlackFeathers

I think I’ll leave it there Bookbaggers so I can finally post this really belated update! I also read a few comics, but I’ll save that for another post and leave you with a few words.

Like many of you, this week I have been trying to come to terms with the shocking death of Robin Williams. As I’m 27, Robin was a pivotal figure in memorable films from my childhood, such as Mrs Doubtfire, Jumanji, Hook, Patch Adams, and Aladdin and it has been hard even fathoming that he is no longer in this world. I have tried to stay positive (as I usually try to do in most situations anyway) and think that at least where ever he may be he is no longer suffering and perhaps his death helped others contemplating suicide or suffering silently from depression.

This is not a cheery way to end the long-awaited update, but I couldn’t put something up this week without saying something and sharing with you a video which not only shows Robin’s talent, but pays tribute to him in a positive way:

Robin – we never have had a friend like you before and probably never will again. You will be truly missed by a big percentage of the world, and I hope that you are at peace.

On that note its goodbye for now Bookbaggers – until next time:

genie and carpet

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Challenges update # 4 + the only upside to being sick

Hello to all my patient and gorgeous Bookbaggers!

You may have noticed I’ve been a bit absent of late, which is mainly due to a horrendous snot monster invading my head for most of last week. It has now been banished thanks to my fearsome weapons (the Blade of Lemon and Honey, the Mighty Twin Swords of Paracetamol and Phenylephrine Hydrochloride, and the Swift Arrows of Rest and Plentiful Liquids) and I am back to my normal schedule 🙂

While being home sick is generally the pits, I did encounter one upside – I had plenty of time to read, and not much energy to do anything else, so I actually have quite a bit to tell you in this update!

poe.my.god challenge badge

Since my last update I have read 4 more stories: The Unparalleled Adventure of one Hans Pfaall (a somewhat interesting and amusing tale of a man who escapes dept collectors by attempting to travel to the moon in a gas-propelled balloon) which I read the Sunday before the Snot Monster invaded;  The Pit and the Pendulum (one of Poe’s most famous and darkest tales, of a prisoner which wakes up in a torture chamber complete with a deep pit and fearsome swinging blade which gradually descends upon him) which I read while I was sick; The Domain of Arnheim (a story about a man’s quest to create an elaborate and gargantuan garden after he receives a huge inheritance, which was wonderfully descriptive, but a tad dull in parts); and Landor’s Cottage (a companion/follow-on to The Domain of Arnheim where a traveller stumbles upon the massive man-made wilderness and eventually the cottage of its only inhabitants…presumably. Also a bit long-winded and dull in parts, but the descriptions are very rich), both of which I read last weekend.

I now have 10 stories to go, and 3 more weeks left of the challenge, so if I read 3-4 stories each week I should be set 🙂

comiccompanions-badgeAs I said, being sick enabled me to read a lot, which meant I finished 2 of my current reads, started 2 new ones, and read 3 graphic novels 😀

Firstly I really got into Among Others by Jo Walton among others

which I had started previously, but was less than 100 pages into when the sickness descended. I don’t know why exactly, but this was the perfect sickie read (maybe because it was easy to read and the subject matter wasn’t too heavy?) and by my third day off work I had finished it. I of course immediately spread out all 13 books on my Books-I-Own-And-Have-Yet-To-Read pile – which is destined to keep growing for all eternity due to my insatiable urge to buy books – and went through the long process of choosing a new read. I was tickled pink when my convoluted and sometimes flawed system of choosing reads resulted in one I had been looking forward to for a while: The Sending by Isobelle Carmody!! 😀

The Sending

Because it’s such an ample volume (weighing in at 756 pages) I thought it fitting to choose 2 Comic Companions rather than a lone one, and since they were already a neatly matched pair I chose:

4b_162581_0_BuffytheVampireSlayerTheOrigin

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Origin by Dan Brereton and Christopher Golden (writers), Joe Bennett (penciler) , Rick Ketcham (inker), Guy MajorJeromy Cox (colourists), and Ken Bruzenak (letterer) – which was a great re-telling of Joss Whedon’s original screenplay, doing it justice way better than the film version.

And:

the-killing-joke-deluxe-front-cover1

Batman: The Killing Joke: The Deluxe Edition by Alan Moore (writer), Brian Bolland (artist, colorist, writer), Ellie De Ville and Richard Starkings (letterers) – which was wonderfully chilling, bizarre and stunningly illustrated with some possible insight into the origin of Batman’s greatest nemesis (and I only just realised both were origin stories! Slow on the uptake much?)

A couple of days later I finished another current read – The Diviner’s Son by Gary Crew – which I had been further into before my sickness:

gary-crew-diviners-son-1and started reading City of Ghosts by Stacia Kane (which I had to get via a SLWA interlibrary loan, and so skipped my usual choosing process so it can go back to its home library before the due date)

city of ghostsand from the 4 graphic novels that I borrowed from work I chose a new Comic Companion:

the unwritten vol 1 The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity (The Unwritten, Volume # 1) by Mike Carey (writer), Peter Gross (artist), Chris Chuckry and Jeanne McGee (colourists) and Todd Klein (letterer) –  which was absolutely brilliant! A really unique story, very gripping and beautifully drawn and inked/coloured. I loved it so much that I immediately went on Book Depository and bought the next 2 volumes because I had to know what happened!!

That’s it for now 🙂

I will try to make up for my absence by posting a few new things I have up my sleeves (some Notable Quotables, a couple of Collective Nounitude‘s and Adventures in Etymology, the next couple of installments of The Micro Reviews From Planet Procrastination, and an update on where the hell my full-length reviews and Top 10 lists have gone) in the days and weeks to come, and hopefully you will continue to find my disorderly schedule endearing 😀

Until then:

Happy Reading!