Readathon Update :: Completed Books

I Read Past My BedtimeWe’re counting down the hours in this 24 Hour Readathon of Spring 2014, so I thought it best to make one more update here on the blog for those who haven’t been following along on Twitter.

This has been my most successful readathon as far as completed books are concerned, yet I haven’t tallied that much more reading time than past events. Interesting. I know this is due to my better title choices — read: shorter — and that has made all the difference in keeping me engaged. Wiser selections make for satisfied reading! So, without further introduction, here’s where I stand in Hour 22.

Currently Reading: Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan
Total Pages Read: 720 and counting (I’m amazed at that number compared to years past!)
Time Spent Reading: 8.5 hours and counting (but I’ve been participating for 21.5 hours!)

Completed Books:
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo        A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness        The Dinner by Herman Koch

There will be one last update later today to wrap up this incredible reading event, so be sure to check back for final tallies on all things Spring Readathon 2014!

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Readathon :: Mid-Event Survey

24 Hour Readathon

We’re in the midst of Hour 12 for the 24-Hour Readathon, which means it’s time for the official check-in!

Mid-Event Survey

  1. What are you reading right now? I just took a quick audiobook break for another chapter of Allegiant, and next it’s time to begin The Dinner by Herman Koch. I’ve been looking forward to starting that one all day!
  2. How many books have you read so far? I’ve completed 2 books so far, which is more than ever at this point of the event!
  3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? I’ve got high hopes to finish The Dinner and The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell. But I’ve also got Gentle Persuasion on standby if anything gets too heavy. It was written by my best good friend, Cerella Sechrist, so… shout out to my girl!
  4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? I had to get a weekend pass from the place I’m staying! It’s a first for me, but it was my highest priority to be available the entire 24 hours. So happy it all worked out!
  5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? Because I’m technically homeless right now, I had to crash at my parents’ RV where, unfortunately, my mom is recovering from knee replacement surgery and my dad is playing nurse. You can imagine how busy that’s been in 35 feet of space! But it’ll just be me and the lamplight in just a few hours, so yay!
  6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? I’ve been so very impressed with all the new names I’m seeing in the participants list. So cool to find new readers and new bloggers! I look forward to visiting some of them after the event ends.
  7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? I never have many suggestions here, but I do want to give praise to the organizers and the cheerleaders who’ve been working so hard these past few months, weeks, hours. I’m especially loving the website redesign! So good, you guys!
  8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? I’m still wanting to be a cheerleader again, so I’m hoping my personal life challenges are cleared up by October and I can jump back into that incredibly fun role.
  9. Are you getting tired yet? Nah. These are my best hours of readathon! Night owls unite!
  10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? I’m sure everyone has “discovered” this but I’ve finally found my groove with readathon by selecting shorter books that can be finished in a couple hours or less. I was able to compile a great list for the library based on Shannon’s recommendations, and that has made all the difference in feeling successful and engaged. Short fiction is definitely the way to go, for me!

So there it is: my progress, thus far. Now… back to the reading!

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24 Hour Readathon :: Away We Go!

24 hour readathonAnd here we are again! Despite the lack of movement on this here blog, life is happening offline, and today is one of my favorite days of the year. It’s Readathon time again!

For the next 24 hours (give or take), I’ll be reading and participating in this biannual event that spans the globe. This is my 8th time to participate, and I’ve found that the devoted reading time – while truly awesome – is only a small part of what makes this event so much fun. Rather, it’s the community of readers who are joining me. From now until 7:00 Sunday morning (Texas time), hundreds of us will be sharing our thoughts about chosen titles on blogs and Twitter and Facebook and YouTube (BookTubers are awesome!). We’ll be sharing the experience in a public way, partly as a testament to the power of reading and partly as a celebration of community. It’s an incredible experience to read along with others, and these 24 hours are always full of joy and friendship. No matter what else is happening in my challenging life, I always make time for Readathon.

Today you can follow me on Twitter @phreneticmind (note the new username), where I’ll post updates as I read, and here on phrenetical, where I’ll make the occasional post for readathon challenges. It’s a day of celebration, people! Can you join us? Check out Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon to share in the frivolity. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

Introduction Survey

  1. What fine part of the world are you reading from today? I’m settled into my parents’ RV again this time, but back at home base in McKinney, Texas
  2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? This is always a tough one, and this time I picked up a stack from the library specifically for readathon. But I’ve been thinking a lot about The Dinner by Herman Koch, so that’s probably the one I’ll definitely make time for today.
  3. Which snack are you most looking forward to? I never do well on snacks, but I did plan ahead a little and picked up a favorite rice cracker mix. It’s great for long-term munching!
  4. Tell us a little something about yourself! I’m a lover of TV crime shows, simple literature, flavored potato chips, and Coca-Cola. I also dig movies. Or haven’t you heard? ;-)
  5. If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? I got a little smarter this time (I hope) and selected a stack of shorter books for this readathon. In the past I tackled one longer novel and spent all my reading hours on that one title. I’m hoping the choice of shorter books will help me tally more time (and pages!) and will keep me more engaged in the wee hours of the 20s. Thanks so much to Shannon for her suggestions!

Alrighty then! Here we go!

Readathon Stack 2014

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there’s slow blogging… and then there’s me

When I first heard about slow blogging I was excited at the possibilities. Fewer posts per month meant extra time to write and curate great content, along with a relaxed pace that keeps readers engaged despite non-daily postings. Brilliant!

What I never dreamed is that my desire to join that slow blogging tribe would come to a screeching halt before I even got started. I also never dreamed that my life would be such a broken record with so much of the same happening.

There’s slow blogging… and then there’s no blogging.

I’ve become a poster child for what not to do.

pencil and notebook

photo credit: Rennett Stowe via Compfight cc

Time To Reboot

Though I’ve said it again and again over the years, I really do believe I can revive this blog o’ mine, and I aim to do just that in 2014. Over the next few weeks I hope to make some key changes to phrenetical, including a new site design, better categories, and an all-around sharper focus for my content.

I’ll continue to share plenty of life stories and personal photos, as well as movie commentary and book thoughts. These are my passions. But I’m also brainstorming ways to better weave my faith into the content. And I want this to be a community of encouragement for single adults, to share the many ways we can find fulfillment in the absence of spouses and significant others.

I do hope you’ll join me this year! Though my pace will be slower than some, I look forward to sharing my heart and engaging with you in the months to come.

What Do You Say?

What do you like most about phrenetical? Is there anything you’d like to see more (or less) of? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. I’ll be back soon!

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book thoughts :: ADMIT ONE: MY LIFE IN FILM by Emmett James
It was very difficult for me to watch a black-and-white movie as a child. They were just rather dull in every sense of the word. Movies were a way for me to escape into different galaxies and adventures. Nowhere in my wildest dreams did I ever want to enter a black-and-white universe; it would have completely shattered the whole fantasy aspect. – Emmett James, Admit One: My Life in Film

You never know when you’ll find a free ebook to be worth your time, so I tend to download anything that might, just possibly, in the exact right mood, be worth reading. Friends and family are also looking out for me and sending possible reading suggestions from time to time. Such is the case with Admit One: My Life in Film by Emmett James. My initial impression was a collection of stories about films that influenced the author’s life or, perhaps, a series of personal commentaries on the movies that marked life milestones. Unfortunately, Admit One is just a memoir in which the author selected random movies to force some kind of link with the personal stories he wanted to tell.

The book begins well enough, with James establishing himself with a witty, self-deprecating voice, and the first stories are influenced by the films each chapter highlights. Because he and I are of the same generation (children of the 70s), we share the same catalogue of movies from our lifetimes. But as the book continues, it becomes much more about the experiences of the author instead of the movies he tries to reference. One chapter is titled Honeymoon in Vegas, for example, but the only mention of that movie comes when James reveals that he dreamed of it one night after taking a job to digitally alter the first tabloid photo of Nicolas Cage and Lisa Marie Presley’s private wedding ceremony. The chapter is a good read – I’ve noted it below – but the only connection to the movie is that both relate to Nic Cage. And the book continues in this vein for most of the later chapters, becoming less about film and more about James’s personal history.

Still, Admit One is not a bad book. Emmett James has led a fascinating life, especially when he relocated from London to Hollywood to pursue an acting career. As one might expect, acting jobs were few and far between, so many of his stories relate to alternate jobs, including work as an extra, an unexpected (and, at first, unknowing) appearance in a porn flick, and the aforementioned photo enhancement “career.” James’s tale is filled with outrageous anecdotes of trying to make ends meet until he is finally given his big break: a small role in James Cameron’s epic Titanic. While his post-Titanic career may not have blown up like the film’s stars, his experiences do make for an interesting behind-the-scenes tale.

Although I expected this book to be more about the movies and less about the author himself, I did read it all the way through. Too often it felt like James was name-dropping in an effort to lend his memoir a greater Hollywood connection, and I wasn’t always interested in every story he shared, but it was a somewhat interesting look into the life of a struggling actor and the periphery of Hollywood. Some readers will find great enjoyment in this.


   Undoubtedly, the Star Wars Trilogy would be in my top five best-of-the-best movie list. To separate the movies from one another would be virtually impossible for any and every schoolboy. Why? For precisely two reasons:
   1. Because the movies would take up more than half of the top five and that would just be… silly.
   2. Because the movies became such a cultural part of my generation, influencing every viewer’s adolescence in such a way that splitting them would just be… wrong.

   The supposed age restrictions cinemas try to enforce to keep children out of public showings of horror films in fact only serve to [screw] kids up even more. It’s a FACT. Children, if told by any form of authority not to watch something, will soon become overwhelmed with the desire to watch the now-forbidden spectacle. Instead of watching cinematic horrors safely surrounded by numerous people from within the confines of the comforting cinema walls, children are reduced to watching them with a brave accomplice at a late-night viewing at a mate’s house. Very much alone. The slightest movement and ensuing sounds from the house would cause heads to snap violently and simultaneously in the direction of the eerie noise.

   Movie stars, as presented to us by the media conglomerates representing them, really are a part of the huge facade that is Hollywood. Nobody can look that perfect all the time, and believe me, nobody ever really does. I spent many countless days when auditions were few and far between being honestly employed in another field courtesy of the film studios. Hollywood’s digital beautification service industry, or more commonly known as computer retouching.
I was paid ridiculous amounts of money for my specialist skill. This entailed digitally touching-up the Hollywood elite known to us all as movie stars, thus perpetuating the public’s desire for human perfection. The raw, and I do mean absolutely raw, photographic shots of Hollywood’s top players would be delivered to me for routine refining. Subsequently, they would each leave my computer screen with sparkly white and straight teeth. Bags and lines would be removed from around their eyes at the touch of a button. Signs of nights spent boozing were erased, and, naturally, inches were taken from their newly sculpted calves and bums. Heaven forbid the public should ever see them as real, flawed people.

   Nicolas Cage and Lisa Marie Presley had arranged a very secluded ceremony, far from the lenses of the paparazzi and prying public scrutiny. Was I really going to taint their special romantic day with a fraudulent matrimonial picture? Don’t be silly—for $5,000, of course I was. I needed to move quickly, time was ticking.
I worked feverishly through the night, trying not to dwell on my nagging, debilitating conscience. I gathered as many Nicolas Cage and Lisa Marie Presley shots as I could from previous public events. I would at least have a truthful, yet corrupt, starting point for my work. A wedding dress was taken, or I should say “borrowed,” from a picture of Slash’s nuptials from Guns and Roses that I stumbled upon. His wedding had also taken place somewhere tropical, so the light and scenery nearly matched perfectly. I snatched a bouquet from another random wedding shot, Lisa Marie’s head from a red-carpet event where she had been conveniently photographed in profile, and gradually built up the tropical skyline.
The only real problem I encountered was Nicolas Cage’s noggin. I couldn’t for the life of me track down a suitable image of him where he wasn’t wearing sunglasses. I wouldn’t dare have him look so casual in his wedding photograph. This was a serious event after all, not a dodgy movie premiere. What do I do? Did I have any conscience left? Well yes, but it was also nearly 4 a.m., [screw it] — sunglasses it was.
The wedding photograph was finally composed and completed. Nicolas Cage and Lisa Marie Presley’s images, to be fair, were certainly used in the making of it. That night, though, I single-handedly proved the saying the camera never lies to be an outright, bold-faced lie. I felt great about my handiwork and the effect of the final produced portrait, but I had sold my soul to the devils at the supermarket tabloids to produce it. How absolutely disgusting.
To my utter and complete horror, my night’s work was displayed on every channel I flipped to. News channels, music stations—even fashion television. I couldn’t get away from my lie. Specialist commentators were being brought in to critique Mrs. Cage’s dress, bouquet, and general wedding grandeur. The ensuing discussions commented on the posture of Nicolas Cage and the location and the weather conditions, to which nobody was any the wiser.
The power of the media showed its true strength to me that morning. Something I had pieced together four and a half hours ago in my bedroom was now in millions of peoples’ homes being force-fed to them for breakfast. Instantly. It was a discussion point. A pictorial, recorded fact presented to the unsuspecting public. Weeks’ worth of fodder for the masses of trickle-down entertainment programming. I felt absolutely terrible. Whenever the design for the wedding dress was discussed, I felt as though the fraud squad would soon be kicking down my door, led by a furious, gun-toting Vera Wang and her fellow posse of outlaw designers.

   Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Victor Garber, Frances Fisher, and I packed into the van and did our best to avoid getting our costumes wet from the light sprinkle of rain. This all seems a little ironic now when looking back on and considering the scene we were about to film. We were escorted to the foot of Titanic’s grand staircase where James Cameron greeted us with his usual infectious enthusiasm.
The director was brilliant. An articulate, astute, fascinating genius; one of the most exceptional people I’ve ever met to this day. Cameron went into what was going on in my scenes both emotionally and logistically by giving me as much personal attention as he did the stars surrounding me. To throw an actor into a scene in a film doesn’t take a genius. For a director to have mapped out logistically the position of every steward and key passenger on the boat at any given moment falls dangerously into Rainman territory. He literally knew which part of the ship my character had come from, how long it had taken me, the velocity I would have had to have been traveling, and he could dissect whose path I could have crossed and who I could have spoken to while ascertaining information on my travels. And here I was struggling to merely remember where the bathroom was that I visited every day. It was inspiring and intimidating in one fell swoop.
Cameron was a perfectionist and everyone knew he could do any job at any given moment on the set as well as if not better than any of us he had employed. For every actor and actress on the production, filming was a unique and arduous experience. This was the type of film on an epic scale witnessed by not even the most seasoned of thespians. It was as if this common bond united us in a long battle together and we were all comrades trying to make it through alive.
The next time I would talk to James Cameron would be at the Titanic premiere. This was a baby he had reared for years under harsh public scrutiny but was now ready to let the public have their judgment. In 1977, after seeing Star Wars, Cameron quit his job as a truck driver to enter the film industry. With Titanic he now would become the newly appointed king of the film world, the ruler of his own unique, watery galaxy surpassing his inspiration on multiple levels. I approached him at the after party extending my hand, still amazed from the film I had just witnessed as if I were conversing in a dream state. “I didn’t think they made films like this anymore, James,” I said. To which he paused, and with his usual dry delivery said, “They don’t, Emmett.”

31 days of blogging catch-up at
Throughout this month I’m participating in 31 Days, a challenge issued by The Nester to post on your blog each day in October. If you’ve missed any of my 31-day Blogging Catch-Up, you can see a list of the posts on this index page. You can also receive new posts via email by completing the form below.


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