What’s a Read-A-Thon (and How Can I Participate?)


Is your giant to-read pile stressing you out? Do you suffer from the terrible affliction of checking out or purchasing a stack of new books despite having a full shelf at home?! You are not alone, my friend, but there might be a way to tackle that mountain of materials. Take your reading to a new level, and challenge yourself with a read-a-thon!

A read-a-thon is a community-driven attempt to read books during a set amount of time. Read-a-thons can last for 24 hours, a few days, a week, a month, or even an entire year. They’re hosted on a social media site like YouTube, Twitter, Goodreads, or Tumblr and never cost or require sign-up. Read-a-thons also may have challenges, sprints, and even contests or giveaways. Participants interact through the internet platform, and some will even post a wrap-up blog or video to showcase their results.

Recently I posted about my experience with the Biannual Bibliothon, and I have taken to exploring online read-a-thons to decrease my ever-flowing TBR pile, prioritize reading, and push my speed. There are so many read-a-thons out there with themes as specified as your reading tastes. You can find a read-a-thon for Harry Potter, science fiction, fantasy, Young Adult literature, graphic novels, classics, and more.

A YouTube creator, LittleBookOwl, has developed an amazing calendar with links to individual read-a-thon websites. Not all read-a-thons have announced their 2018 dates, but many are already scheduled that you can follow.

LittleBookOwl also released a video covering read-a-thons and organized them based on their length.

Interested in participating? All you need to do is find a read-a-thon that interests you, do a little research using the calendar to find the start and end dates and any specific challenges, and you’re set!

Here are a few Read-A-Thon tips:

1. Plan Your Books

Whether it’s a week-long challenge or just 24 hours, definitely go into the read-a-thon with a plan of what you’re going to read. Many read-a-thons have specific challenges that can guide what books to choose so it helps to have an outline of those books and to make sure you have access to them.

2. Prioritize

The read-a-thon is an actual challenge. It forces you to put down your phone, log off Netflix, and actually get to reading. Even with cutting out social media, it still can be hard to find time to read, especially with work, school, or if you’re around children. Before the read-a-thon starts, look ahead to that week in your schedule and plan your reading time. Even if it’s twenty minutes in the day, that’s still a book being read!

3. Audiobooks

Reading doesn’t have to be just for your eyes. It can also be for your ears! Consider the time you spend in the car or bus, the time doing menial tasks like dishes or laundry, or the places you are where reading a book would be difficult. Use that time as listening time, and you’ll bust through a book without even realizing it!

Read-a-thons are an awesome way to connect with other readers and spice up your reading in a new way. The next read-a-thon I’m going to tackle is the week long Read-O-Rama challenge from March 3rd – 9th.

Feel free to join me! I’ll be posting my wrap-up next month to share all the craziness.



Book Review: Everless

Everless by Sara Holland

First line: Most people find the forest frightening, believing the old tales of fairies who will freeze the time in your blood, or witches who can spill your years out over the snow with only a whisper.

Summary: In a world where blood is time and time is currency, resides Jules Ember. She is a young girl determined to save her father’s life by returning to the Everless estate in order to earn more blood irons (the currency that can add days to years onto a persons life). However, when her father dies at the gates of Everless Jules becomes entangled in a mystery about her past and the family she has been serving.

Highlights: The idea of blood being transformed into currency but can also be consumed to add more time to a person’s lifespan is very intriguing. I never would have considered this premise but it is fascinating to think about. I liked the twist at the end. I figured out several pieces but many of them were great details that added to the mystery. This is a typical dystopian YA novel but it still feels fresh and new.

Lowlights: Being a reader of YA I could easily predict several plot points.  There are similarities to books such as Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.

FYI: Book 1 in a series!

Run to the Library!

It’s hard to drive around Derby and not notice the abundance of wide, smooth bike paths that line nearly every street. According to the Derby website, there are over 25 miles of hike & bike paths within city limits!

Derby has an active running community that makes use of these sidewalks. Believe it or not the library can be a resource for runners. We have many books that offer advice and inspiration for the running community.

Runner’s Field Guide by Mark Remy
The Runner’s World magazine columnist offers a humorous guide to running and all the things needed to accomplish your goals.

Train Like a Mother by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea
If you need help getting started, this is an excellent book. It includes beginner advice and training plans from 5K all the way up to a full marathon.

Two Hours by Ed Caesar
Can the 2-hour marathon be broken? This book examines the science behind running and analyzes if and when we will see a human break 2-hours in the marathon.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
In Copper Canyon, Mexico, lives the Tarahumara Indians. They run just to run in barefoot sling shoes. Can they beat the most accomplished ultramarathons of the United States? Writer Chris McDougall travels to Mexico to find out and finds some inspiration for his own fledgling running hobby.

The library also carries Runner’s World magazine in print and electronic form through our RBDigital app.

So lace up your running shoes and come check out some running books at the library. Or take your kids to High Park and have them run fartleks between Storywalk pages as you enjoy the latest book on display. A fartlek is fun to run and fun to say!

Late February new releases

Feb. 20: The French Girl by Lexie Elliott
Six close friends from Oxford spend what they hope will be the perfect summer getaway together in a farm house in France. And it is, until they meet the girl next door — Severine. For Kate, Severine is an unwelcome presence, who undermine’s the groups loyalties. Kate knows that after a huge blow-up on the last night of the the holiday, that things are not ever going to be the same. Some actions are unforgivable and some people are unforgettable, even if they are never seen again. But a decade later, Severine’s body is found. Suspicion begins to swirl around Kate, who finds herself buried in deception and has no one to help her get free.

Feb. 20: The Woman in the Water by Charles Finch
The latest in Charles Finch’s Charles Lenox mystery series takes the reader back to Lenox’s first case in 1850. Lenox is struggling to make a name for himself as a private detective, and Scotland Yard refuses to take him seriously. An anonymous letter sent to the newspaper is from a person who claims to have committed the perfect crime, and in the letter they promise to kill again. Lenox believes this is his chance to prove himself. The killer’s sights end up set on those closest to Lenox, and he ends up in a deadly game of cat and mouse.

Feb. 27: The Serpent’s Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1) by Sayantani DasGupta
Kiranmala is just a normal New Jersey sixth grader when she wakes up on her 12th birthday. Then her parents disappear and a demon blasts through her kitchen trying to eat her alive. Her parents had often told Kiranmala fantastical stories — like that she was really an Indian princess. Then, two swoon-worthy Indian princes show up at her door trying to rescue her. Now she’s sucked into another dimension: one full of magic and mythical creatures and magical maps. She has to solve riddles and avoid demons and try to avoid the things that want to kill her, while trying to find her parents and basically save New Jersey.

Feb. 27: The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus
Typically, the movie comes after the book, but in this case it’s the other way around. The highly rated movie, which is still out in theaters, was released a couple of months ago. Critics have said that director Guillermo del Toro was “at his visually distinctive best” with this film. He has joined forces with author Daniel Kraus to tell this love story in novel form. Elisa Esposito is mute, and works as a janitor in a research center in 1962. One night she sees a creature she isn’t supposed to, and it eventually becomes her sole reason for living. io9 says in its review that the movie and the book tell this spectacular story in two very different ways.

Feb. 27: The Hush by John Hart
This book takes the reader back to the world Hart introduced in The Last Child. But you don’t have to read that book before you read this one. Johnny lives alone, 10 years after the events that changed his life. Books have been written about his exploits, and people are curious, but Johnny works hard to maintain his privacy. His one connection to his past is with his childhood friend, Jack. Jack senses danger in the lands Johnny lives on, but Johnny doesn’t want to discuss it.

Book Review: Tarnished City

Tarnished City by Vic James

*May contain spoilers–see my review of book one, Gilded Cage.*

First line: Jenner reined his horse to a halt, and it stamped and snorted in the long blue-black shadow of the trees.

Summary: In a modern day Great Britain the powerful are called Equals. They have magical powers called Skill. And the common people live their lives just as we do except for each person is required to serve 10 slave years during their lifetime. Many are sent to the slave towns to work in factories but the Hadley family are assigned to work at a home of an Equal. However, when Luke kills the Prime Minister he is condemned and sent to the dreaded prison island for a lifelong punishment. His sister Abigail is determined to rescue her brother. She escapes and tries to find the other rebels who are intent on bringing down the Equal regime and end the slave days. Revolution has begun in Great Britain and it will be a battle to the death.

Highlights: This series reminds me of the Hunger Games. There is lots of action and drama. The characters are really well established. I hate Whittam Jardine almost as much as President Snow. I was deeply saddened by several deaths in the story. I was completely shocked when they happened that I gasped and had to take a minute to recover from them. If a book can make you do that, you know that you are invested in it. I keep having complicated feelings about Silyean. He is an interesting character that I cannot decide if I want to trust or not. When I was nearing the end the whole story sped up and it was like a marathon. I had to finish it and was exhausted at the end. It was great! I cannot wait till the author releases the final book to find out how the story ends, if I can trust Silyean and see if the Hadley’s survive the revolution.

Lowlights: The magical powers of the Equal is called Skill. I felt like the word was over used at times. On several pages, the word is mentioned multiple times. As a reader of the series, we understand what they are doing. It does not have to be pointed out repeatedly.

FYI: Lots of violence.

How do I love books? Let me count the ways . . .

Photo by Michał Grosicki on Unsplash

It’s Valentine’s Day, and as bouquets of flowers are delivered to my co-workers, I’m finding myself sitting at my desk wanting to share my love story — with books. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love books. I remember sitting in second or third grade and being enveloped by stories as my teacher read them out loud. I discovered Nancy Drew when I was in fourth grade and devoured them as quickly as I could get my hands on them. My sixth-grade teacher introduced me to J.R.R. Tolkein when he invited a group of us who were avid readers to read it as a group after school. I’m not completely sure whether it was The Hobbit that was so attractive, or the extra time we’d be allowed to hang out in the reading loft we had in our classroom, but I jumped right in and found a love for fantasy comparable to my love for mystery.

In seventh grade, my English teacher offered up What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw (probably more recognizable as The 4:50 From Paddington) by Agatha Christie. I was utterly enthralled with Dame Agatha’s ability to weave a mystery so completely, and seemingly so effortlessly as I breathlessly reached the end of each of her stories and waited for Miss Marple or Monsieur Poirot to unravel the threads that identified the murderer in their midst. Eighth-grade English introduced me to Ponyboy and Sodapop and Johnny. I learned how important it was to “stay gold.”

 Also around this time a brand new library branch was built just a couple blocks from my house. No more waiting for a bookmobile or being limited to the books in the school library, or bugging my parents to take me to the nearest public library, which was several miles away. A whole new world opened up to me and I would ride my bike down to the library several times a week. The summer between ninth and tenth grades I read 93 novels, thanks to the proximity of that library. My dad hung a hammock in our backyard, and everyone in my family knew that was where to find me that summer after I’d done my daily chores (and sometimes before).

Since that time I have always chosen to read as much as possible. It’s my escape from the everyday. It’s one way that I find happiness. It brings me peace when life gets turbulent.

Books are magic. They transport me to places I’ve never been, to new worlds. They introduce me to characters of all shapes, sizes, colors and temperaments. I can visit the past. I can travel the universe or stay right at home. Because of books, my eyes are opened to possibilities, problems, perspectives, and people I might otherwise never have contact with. I can fall in love over and over and over. I can revisit my favorites places and old friends time and time again.

Maybe some of you feel the same way.

Lit Pairings – Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’ Nan

Perched in the far corner of a run-down New England mall, the Red Lobster hasn’t been making its numbers and headquarters has pulled the plug. But manager Manny DeLeon still needs to navigate a tricky last shift–just four days before Christmas and in the midst of a fierce blizzard–with a near-mutinous staff and the final onslaught of hungry retirees, lunatics, and holiday office parties. All the while, he’s wondering how to handle the waitress he’s still in love with, his pregnant girlfriend, and where to find the present that will make everything better.

I find that most people have serious feelings about Red Lobster. If you grew up when I did, in the late 80’s and the 90’s going to “The Lobster” was a big event! It was probably someone’s birthday or other special occasion, and best believe you were hoping there was an “all you can eat shrimp” situation going down.

However, as I’ve aged my love for The Lobster has waned. Like most food/restaurants we loved as kids it just doesn’t seem to taste as good now. So while reading this book I decided to do a little mini Lobster feast at home. First and foremost you need the Cheddar Bay Biscuits. In my opinion these are just as good if not better then the originals. Next you need to plan your fishy feast. Although not an official Lobster recipe I promise you won’t be disappointed with The Barefoot Contessa’s Baked Shrimp Scampi.

I’d love to know what were your favorite Red Lobster recipes growing up? Do you still enjoy it as an adult?


Book Review: The Woman in the Window

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

First line: Her husband’s almost home.

Summary: Dr. Anna Fox, is a psychologist who lives alone and has not been outside her home in ten months. She spends her days online, drinking LOTS of wine, taking a wide variety of medications and spying on her neighbors. When a new family moves in next-door, she becomes engrossed in their lives but then she sees something one night but no one believes her. Did it really happen?

Highlights: Short chapters are one of my favorite things. The story moves very quickly. Little tidbits are mixed in enlightening the reader about Anna’s background and what made her a recluse. I love that she gives names and narrates the lives of her neighbor. In addition, Anna is a huge movie buff but mainly black and white movies. She quotes lines from old Hitchcock classics. The book gives the feel of Rear Window. I was home sick in bed while reading this one and the cabin fever was starting to set in. It felt like the perfect book for a sick day. While reading you question everything you read. Is Anna a reliable narrator? Can I trust her version of events? I kept coming up with more twisted and complicated scenarios. The book is very hard to put down. Since finishing, I have found a list of the movies mentioned throughout the plot. Now I have a pile of DVDs to watch!

Lowlights: I was able to decipher several of the plot twists since I have started reading much more in this genre. Even with this, I still found the ending satisfying and fun.

FYI: Pair with an old Jimmy Stewart movie!

I Tried Reading Seven Books in Seven Days

Yes, you read the title of this post correctly. I attempted to read seven books in seven days. Spoiler alert: I was super close! The week was insane and besides getting a major head start on my yearly reading goal, I was sleep-deprived, over caffeinated, and incredibly behind on laundry. It was all worth it! How did I do it? I participated in the Winter Biannual Bibliothon.

The internet is filled with read-a-thons, many of which are sponsored through a special sect of video makers on YouTube called Booktubers. From The Reading Quest to Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon, there are so many exciting challenges held every month online and all you have to do to participate is pick a challenge, gather up your books, and start reading!

I’ve always wanted to participate in online read-a-thons and made sure to mark my calendar for the first big challenge of the year, the Winter Biannual Bibliothon. Check out the Bibliothon’s YouTube Channel here!

This week-long read-a-thon is held twice a year by a group of Booktubers and includes seven reading challenges, video challenges, giveaways, twitter reading sprints, and Instagram challenges. Participants can be as active or passive as they want during the read-a-thon and there’s no cost or sign-up to worry about.

Here were the seven reading challenges and my selections for each one:

  1. Read the group book: OTHERWORLD by Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller

Every Biannual Bibliothon, the hosts choose a book that everyone can read together then watch or participate in the Live Show on YouTube to discuss it in a similar fashion as a book club.

  1. Read a sequel

I chose Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger, the second book in the YA Steampunk series, Finishing School.

  1. Read a book you’ve never heard of before

As a librarian, I’ve heard of a lot of books so to really make sure I picked a book blindly, I used a number generator and a blindfold and went randomly into one of our shelves. I chose the book, The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon.

  1. Read a book about mental illness

I chose a book that’s been on my to-read list for years; Ten Days in a Madhouse by Nellie Bly.

  1. Read a book that was mentioned in another book/movie/show, etc.

In the movie, The Jane Austen Book Club, a character recommends the book Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin so I thought I’d give this one a chance.

  1. Read a book under 200 pages

My original intention for this challenge was to read A Room with a View by E.M. Forester, but I ended up reading Library Wars: Love and War by Hiro Arikawa and Kiiro Yumi. More on what happened there in my wrap-up below!

  1. Read a backlist title

This just means to read a book published before 2017 so I picked Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, published twenty years prior in 1997!

How Did It Go? (a.k.a. The Wrap Up)

Day 1 – Saturday, Jan. 20

Fifteen minutes after midnight, I started reading Ten Days in a Madhouse by Nellie Bly. You might not have heard of this book because it was published in 1887! Nellie Bly was an amazing investigative journalist who feigned mental illness for ten days so she would be committed to an asylum. She discovered horrific things while she was there and opened the conversation about quality of care in institutions.

By 1AM, I’d gotten half-way through the book before responsibility took over. I had work in a few hours and needed to sleep! I finished Ten Days on my lunch break and was off to a great start!


96 pages read

1 book finished

Day 2 – Sunday, Jan. 21

A day off from work and I was ready to read! The Left Hand of Darkness seemed like a complex book that would need a lot of attention so I dived right into it the moment I woke up. I immediately realized that I hated this book. I’m so sorry if you’ve read it and liked it, but for me, it was so convoluted and offensive and just ugh. I even had to read chapter summaries BEFORE reading each chapter just so I could understand what was going on.

I wanted to actually read each book I’d picked for the challenges so I crawled through this book to finish it. It took most of the day, but by 7pm, I’d finished Left Hand of Darkness, ranted about it for nearly an hour, then proceeded to throw it on the floor.  It still counts though!

Side note: Hopefully it’s unrelated, but the author Ursula Le Guin actually passed away the following day. It’s totally unrelated…right?


384 pages read

2 books finished

Day 3 – Monday, Jan 22.

After the strain of the day before, I was losing a little steam, but I was excited to start reading The Doldrums, a book I’d never heard of before and went into without expectations. I tried to get a little reading done in the morning, but after working most of the afternoon, I had to read the majority of the book at night. The book was decent, not terrible, but not the best, and I was pretty weary by the end of the day. I finished the book, but the initial thrill of the Bibliothon had gone. Uh-oh!


748 pages read

3 books finished

Day 4 – Tuesday, Jan. 23

Not only was I pretty tired from the past few reading days, but I felt a cold coming on (thanks, Kansas!) and I was super busy all day. With yoga training in the morning and work all afternoon and evening, I didn’t have time to even open up A Room with a View until 9PM. Thank goodness this book was small. I could do it!

By page three, I was falling asleep. The book may have been good, but it was not capturing my attention hard enough to keep me reading. I decided to forgo my hope of reading all seven intended books and picked up another book instead. Library Wars: Love and War was  interesting and quickly paced enough to get me through. While I probably won’t continue the series, it was a really fun story and even more fun to look up the anime and live action movie made in Japan!


934 pages read

4 books finished

Day 5 – Wednesday, Jan. 24

I definitely wasn’t feeling 100% for most of the day. Whether a cold or allergies, my energy was zapped, and I was stressing over my ever-growing to-do list. Thankfully I knew what to expect in terms of pace, character, and content with the sequel challenge. During my lunch break, I read a chapter of Curtsies and Conspiracies, but after getting some bad news about the loss of a friend, I didn’t read again until later that evening. As a motivator to finish the book, I did a few reading sprints (reading as fast as one can within a set amount of time). I managed to get through the book which definitely wasn’t as good as the first in the series. We were coming into a Bibliothon low point.


1244 pages read

5 books finished

Day 6 – Thursday, Jan. 25

I barely read a thing. Besides feeling sick both physically and emotionally, I had so much work to do that reading took a back seat. I managed to read about 10 pages of Otherworld at night before falling asleep with the book on my face.


1254 pages read

5 books finished

Day 7 – Friday, Jan. 26

The last day of the Bibliothon was here, and I came out guns blazing! After my morning meeting, I went home and did nothing but read. Otherworld, while flawed in some ways, was a really quick read and I was able to finish it by 12:30pm. I had to be at my second job by 5pm so with the time I had left, I dived into my seventh book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

The problem for me with Harry Potter, especially the first book, is that I can’t read it fast. I like to savor it and even re-read entire passages while imagining Jo Rowling in her coffee shop, scribbling words on a napkin. I’d gotten through half the book before work, and when I got home, it was 10PM. I had two hours left and eight chapters to go. I tried my best, but when midnight hit, I was on page 244 of a 320 page book. So close and yet so far away!!

Final Stats:

1843 pages read

6 ¾ books finished

Lessons Learned

My experience with the Winter Biannual Bibliothon was a roller coaster, but despite the challenges, it was definitely the most I’d ever read in a single week. I managed to get through 7 books (I finished Harry Potter after midnight of course) and read books that I might not have given a chance otherwise. For future read-a-thons, I would probably consider picking smaller books and picking books that I had more information about. I also have totally learned that it’s okay to stop reading a book if it’s not working for you.

There are so many read-a-thons going on this year online! I’ll make a blog post in the future with a full calendar for you in case you want to participate, and I’ll share my future reading wrap-ups with you. I’ve got my sights set on tackling a 24-Hour read-a-thon next!

Book review: Fallout

Fallout (V.I. Warshawski #18) by Sara Paretsky

3.5 stars. I liked it quite a bit, but I’m not sure I “really liked it.”

First line: “The police say it was drug-related, ma’am. They think August was stealing to deal.”

Summary: Private detective V.I. Warshawski is on the case again, but this time the case takes her to Lawrence, Kansas. When African-American former actress Emerald Ferring and a young African-American filmmaker, August Veriden, disappear after going to Kansas to film Emerald’s life story, Vic is on the case at the request of Bernie. The deeper Vic digs into Emerald and August’s disappearance, the more mysteries she uncovers, and the greater the danger she realizes they, and she, face.

Highlights: This is a tightly written suspense novel, with new information popping up regularly, and when I was in the middle of the book, I wondered how it could all come together. It does, and it does well. There are a cast of characters and even the minor characters are fairly well-developed. I was never quite sure who I could trust, and it seemed like Vic felt the same way throughout the story.

Lowlights (or what could have been better): This book might just require too much of a suspension of disbelief, unless you kind of have an inclination to buy into conspiracy theories.

FYI: If you are from Kansas and familiar with the Lawrence area, you’ll have to recognize right off that this is not the Lawrence you know. Paretsky took liberties in creating landmarks that don’t exist in the area. Roll with it.