It went like this:
I haul myself out of bed at 4:45, deeply regretting how late I stayed up the night before. Wash my face, make a cup of coffee and some toast, and settle in on the couch to read. I'd planned on starting with Muse of Nightmares, but I am so bleary that I decide to start with one of my "easy" books--the graphic novel Check Please! that I'd picked up the night before when I was at Powell's seeing Laini Taylor and getting Muse autographed. So at 5:00 am local time, I got started.
Check Please! is adorable. The protagonist is a vlogging, baking, figure-skating southern boy who's starting college in the northeast as a hockey player. His teammates are crass and crude frat bros who are also smart, kind, and funny. I was a little sad to see them tossing "p*ssy" around, because I'd gotten the book for my classroom, and it just seemed a little over-the-top for middle school, especially since it's used by non-evil characters. On the other hand, when Bitty finally gets up the nerve to come out to a teammate, this dude's unflappable acceptance of him is lovely--and the whole team shares his attitude.
By the time I'd finished, it was 7:00 am, and I was feeling awake and energized, so I dove into Muse of Nightmares. I'd gotten it signed the night before, as I mentioned (and yes, there's a blog post coming about that--notably, that I sat next to Laini's mom, who was lovely). I'd run out of time to do a full re-read of Strange the Dreamer, but in the previous week I'd re-read the first several chapters, read a couple of recaps, and re-read the last several chapters, so I was fully engaged with the characters and story. Technically I actually started the book while waiting in the signing line, but I went ahead and counted the whole book as a read-a-thon activity. Sue me.
At some point in there, my husband got up, and then left for a day at a bridge tournament, and my daughter got up and quietly snuck into the TV room. I kept reading. Later, my daughter re-emerged and heated us both up some spaghetti. I will admit that I had already plowed through my favorite read-a-thon treat by noon, and was definitely ready for some actual protein and nutrition.
I loved Muse of Nightmares . There were several points at which I though the story could have started wrapping up, but there'd be a lot more book left, so I realized she was not going to take any easy ways out. After all the care she's put into creating the world of Weep, she suddenly takes you flying through the multiverse, and it's amazing stuff. It was also very satisfying to get answers to questions from Strange the Dreamer (Why is Laszlo godspawn? What happened to the other babies?) as well as seeing "knowns" be turned upside down (hint: Ellens).
I finished up around 1:00. I'd given my eyes two breaks: once for a quick nap, and once to tidy up the kitchen a bit. At this point I went ahead and did the dishes fully, again trying to let my eyes relax. Having read my top priority book, I looked over my stack and decided to try a book I keep recommending to kids without having actually read, Dusti Bowling's Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus. For this book, I moved off the couch and went to the recliner in the window in our new office area upstairs. The sun was shining in nicely, which helps my poor elderly eyes. I brought up a glass of apple cider and my Trader Joe's caramels and settled in.
The book was a quick read--about two hours--and while I will definitely keep recommending it to kids, it has that middle grade sweetness that as an adult, I don't quite buy. Aven is a great narrator, charming, feisty, and self-aware. She was born without arms, and from kindergarten to 8th grade attends a small school where the other kids are long over being surprised or weirded out by that. But when her family moves to Arizona a month into her 8th grade year, she has to deal with middle schoolers' unwillingness to be associated with anyone or anything odd. This part of the book was really strong, as is her friendship with Connor, a boy whose Tourette's manifests itself mostly in barking. The after-thought add-on of a fat friend and the rather contrived mystery element were what kept me from giving it five stars. (I wouldn't have taken the star off for being too sweet for grownups, mind you, since the intended audience is actual middle grade kids.)
Happy with my progress so far, I launched into another book I've pushed on kids but still needed to read. The Poet X is a fierce novel in verse that I will continue to recommend, but like Insignificant Events, it wasn't quite the book for me. There's a whole subgenre of "first generation blues" novels, often set in NYC, in which the protagonist struggles with living in modern American society while their parents try to keep them following the mores and morals of their home country. I do have a lot of first and second generation immigrants in my classrooms, and I think many of them will find that these books resonate. But honestly, as the parent of a 12 and a 14 year old, and as someone whose own parents have both died, it's hard for me to read "my mom sucks" books in the same way I used to.
By this time it was 5:00 pm, and read-a-thon was halfway over. I lay down for a half hour nap that became a 90 minute nap, then took a shower and freshened up overall. A new cup of coffee, some leftovers, and I was ready for my evening push by 7 pm.
I'd been dying to read Victoria Schwab's first middle grade novel, City of Ghosts, but one of my students was reading it. Luckily, Thursday I got my Scholastic book order at school, which included two more copies in case kids want to use it for lit circles. So I finally dove into it--and it was okay. The ol' Schwab darkness was notably toned down, what with it being a MG book. I feel like the series might improve--she set up some interesting aspects. The parents seemed somewhat one-note, the MC was constantly flummoxed by common Britishisms despite being a Harry Potter fan, and the spooky cat on the cover was just a regular ol' pet cat. The creepy parts were pretty creepy though, and I like her ghost buddy quite a bit.
Around 8:30 my husband came home, and when he asked if I wanted to come watch Netflix with him I stared at him in shock and said, "It's READ-A-THON," and he crept away in shame. So when I finished COG around 9 pm, I emerged from the reading zone and hung out with him for a half hour or so. Then I picked up what turned out to be my last book of the event, although if I'd realized that, I may have chosen more carefully.
Lizzie is a modern re-telling of the Lizzie Borden story. I grabbed it at the library awhile ago, thinking I could preview it for my classroom, as kids always ask for scary and horror books. I loved the way she brought the story into modern times, and that the whispers and rumors of Lizzie's sexuality are here brought to the forefront, with a female love interest. Lizzie's mental health is still left in the nineteenth century realm of "female madness," which I found frustrating. By the time you get to the inevitable murders, you are certainly convinced they deserve it (though nobody, of course, deserves to be murdered), but you still don't really get what it is that Lizzie is struggling with mentally. Also, the twist telegraphs itself from the first chapter.
I really wanted to get a few more hours out of the event, either before sleeping, or by waking up early, but it was midnight, I was dead tired, and I can't slay my body over the weekend and expect to function during the week, so I called it good and went to bed. I feel like it was a terrific success overall. I participated in the beginning, middle, and end check-ins and did maybe 2 of the mini-challenges, which is enough to make me feel like a participant but not so much that it takes away from the reading. I got to finish the Weep duology, discover a fantastic graphic novelist, and create time to read three of my classroom library books. I didn't have to run any errands, nor did I get sick, two things that have affected previous attempts. Now I just have to wait until next April!