Reading Challenge #3 Complete!

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This section of my yearly reading challenge centred mainly around the works of Jodi Taylor, Terry Pratchett and Alan Dean Foster. I’m still working my way through The Chronicles of St Marys, Discworld and Alien series bit by bit.

You can see the previous sections of my reading challenge Here (Part 1) and here (part 2)

So here’s what I’ve read:

36. Pyramids – Terry Pratchett
37. Guards! Guards! – Terry Pratchett
38. A Symphony of Echoes – Jodi Taylor
39. Alien: Covenant Origins – Alan Dean Foster
40. When a Child is Born – Jodi Taylor
41. A Second Chance – Jodi Taylor
42. Star Wars: Cloak of Deception – James Luceno
43. Roman Holiday – Jodi Taylor
44. Unseen Academicals – Terry Pratchett
45. Alien: Covenant – Alan Dean Foster
46. Star Wars: Episode 1 – Terry Brooks
47. Knightmare Arcanist – Shami Stovall
48. Alien – Alan Dean Foster
49. Christmas Present – Jodi Taylor
50. My Best Friend Runs Venus – Katrina S. Forest

I think my favourite of the selection was probably Knightmare Arcanist by Shami Stovall (you can read my very short review here.)

It didn’t take long to complete this portion, so I’ve upped the book count to 25 for the next 2 sections. So up next is:

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NetGalley Review: Knightmare Arcanist (Shami Stovall)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

TL;DR – A superb start to what I’m sure will be a spectacular series!

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Ragdoll Rating: 5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Anyone who loves an easy-to-read tale of magic and heroism

About the Book…

Knightmare Arcanist is the first book in the Frith Chronicles series. It follows a Volke, a gravediggers apprentice who yearns to be an arcanist – a magician paired for life to a magical creature, capable of amazing feats. But the circumstances of his birth make this dream unlikely, until one day everything changes.

What follows is a tale of magic, mystery and heroism where friends can become enemies and enemies can become friends.

What I thought…

I absolutely loved this book. Stovall has created an engaging and wonderful world, filled with magic and wonder and well thought out characters abound.

I love the magic system. The idea of being paired with a mystical creature whose magic influences your own is a wonderful idea and I really enjoyed seeing how each magical creature approached problems in their own unique ways. I also particularly love Nicholin the rizzel (a magical creature). He’s cheeky and adorable and quite frankly, I NEED one.

Another thing I loved about this book was the way the characters interacted. The book starts on an island with Volke and his adopted sister paired against Zaxis and Atty, the islands snobby to-good-for-the-likes-of-you favourites. But it isn’t long before this dynamic starts to change in interesting and unexpected ways, and I can’t wait to find out where it goes.

This book was also incredibly easy to read. It was well paced and engaging throughout. I didn’t want to put it down and before I knew it, the book was finished!

Final Thoughts…

I didn’t want this book to end, and I will be eagerly awaiting the next instalment. In the meantime, I plan to get hold of Stovall’s other books Star Marque Rising and The Ethereal Squadron as soon as I am able!

Definitly give this book a go.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Ragdoll Learns Japanese!

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This week my mind has been absolutely blown. I’m 2 weeks in, and I think I’m more or less back to where I was when I stopped studying the last bunch of times – which means that a considerable amount more knowledge than I ever realised was still packed away in my head. Which is obviously awesome.

I said I was gonna quick-review some resources during these posts, and I’m going to. This week, the review spot goes to 2 resources for reasons that will become obvious in a moment.

First up is the globally known DuoLingo.

If you’re reading this, you probably know about DuoLingo already. It’s a website that teaches a number of languages by making you learn words, then sentences over and over until you know them by heart.

DL is  – or at least *used* to be – squarely in the “because we say so” style of teaching. What this means is that you would learn a sentence, probably with some new piece of grammar, and you’d say “Cool! Thanks Duo – now why does it work like this?” and DL would always respond “Because we say so”.

Seriously, there was almost no explanation apart from in the user discussion areas about any of the content provided. You just learned it by rote and hope to god there were no nasty exceptions waiting to mess you up (which of course there were!)

I’m thrilled to see this is changing somewhat. Not a great deal, but each section does at least have an extremely brief explanation as to what is going on. It’s not much, it certainly doesn’t answer many questions, but it’s better than it used to be. Plus the user discussion sections are flooded with questions and answers from other users.

What is it good for? 

Memory. I’m just over half way down the tree so far – which I hasten to remind you is waaaaaaay further than most people will get in 2 weeks, I just have lots and lots of prior study to back me up. I’m definitely remembering the material well. It’s sinking in, and when I’m not lazy or clumsy I get lots of answers right. It certainly feels like I know a whole bunch! Way more than I felt like I knew the last bunch of times I’ve tried to learn.

Reading. I’ve actually been quite impressed with the way DL handles the written language. It introduces hiragana immediately, bringing in easy-to-read vocab and sentences and building up until you can read it. Then it introduces katakana, and continues with the vocab. Finally, it starts introducing kanji VERY slowly. Some of them it introduces directly, others just appear at random and I have found myself on several occasions staring at a multiple choice list of words to build a sentence and thinking “I wonder if that’s the right kanji to use here”. I don’t know how useful that is to absolute beginners, but to me, that was a really nice way to do things.

Anything bad about it?

I’m not sure how much I can remember independently. If you asked me right now to come out with some of the sentences Duo quizzes me about I’m not completely sure I could get them all right, even if I could on the app. I don’t know why this is.

Gamification. Seriously, some people find this helpful, but to me this nearly destroyed my mental health. Every user gets stuck on a leaderboard, the top 15 or so getting promoted to the next level. I was #1 in the bronze league and got put in silver, where I shot up to #1 again. Then a few hours later, I get a notification. “You have lost your #1 spot”. I wasn’t having that. It’s only a few dozen XP difference after all. So I did some more. Me and this other user went back-and-forth like this for 3 days before I realised that firstly it wasn’t helping me learn and second it was upsetting me…really messing with my peace of mind. Studying wasn’t fun anymore, it was a competition, and that SUCKED. So stopped, and finished in the #2 spot. I’m not in the gold bracket, and I’m going to study however much I want to, and try and ignore it. It’s not worth the hassle.

How do you rate it?

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It’s a great app, definitely useful and definitely helps me feel like I’m understanding – I’m just not sure that I do. No, scrap that, I KNOW I don’t understand it fully, but as far as DL goes, that’s the point. It wants you to USE the language, rather than trying to dissect it.

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I was going to review TextFugu today instead of DuoLingo, but I can’t and I’ll tell you why. Back in the day, TextFugu was new and fun and offered a different approach to learning Japanese. Simple explanations, humour, and most importantly, it linked to FREE RESOURCES to help you study. The main one being ANKI, a piece of flashcard software. It was pretty cool.

So why am I not reviewing Textfugu? For 2 reasons:

  1. It’s not been updated in *literally* years
  2. ANKI *has* been updated constantly

What this means is that every single ANKI list in Textfugu is now COMPLETELY INCOMPATIBLE with the current build in ANKI. That means every piece of vocab, every example sentence, every SINGLY kanji list provided by Textfugu cannot be used anymore. So you can’t actually study it without remaking the whole list. It SUCKS.

So now I have to use something else to teach me the nuts and bolts! Woo…

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So there. Another week gone, and my brain is feeling stronk!

 

Reading Challenge #2 Complete!

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OK, so maaaan did I ever low-ball my goal for challenge #2. 35 books? Total?! When I set this goal, 35 books looked impossible, but apparently, I’m just reading like crazy right now (thank you *very* much audiobooks!)

You can check out the first part of the challenge here: Reading Challenge #1 Complete!

So what did I read to bring my total to 35?

25. Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers – Grant Naylor
26. Jakob Kayne #1: La Isabela – Sylvain Runberg
27. Star Wars: Master and Apprentice – Claudia Gray
28. Making Money – Terry Pratchett
29. Amelia Fang and the Half-Moon Holiday – Laura Ellen Anderson
30. Star Wars: Dooku: Jedi Lost – Cavan Scott
31. Star Wars: Darth Plagueis – James Luceno
32. Just One Damned Thing After Another – Jodi Taylor
33. The Inimitable Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse
34. Red Dwarf : Better Than Life – Grant Naylor
35. Star Wars: Maul: Lockdown – Joe Schreiber

Best book of the lot I reckon was probably Star Wars: Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray. A brilliant book in its own right, but the audiobook production was superb. I mean, Johnathon Davis is a wonderful narrator, and he even does the voices!

My current reads are:

Alien Covenant: Origins – Alan Dean Foster
Unseen Academicals – Terry Pratchett
Pyramids – Terry Pratchett

Next challenge:

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If you’re keeping score, that’s another 15 books I need to read by the end of the year, which quite frankly seems pretty much laughable now. But saying that, I am moving out for the first time in the next few months so who knows how much reading I’ll get done after that.

 

Ragdoll Learns Japanese

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Woah. So it’s been one hell of a 6-day week. I no longer have any money because I am a chump, but a potentially learned chump.

After considerable (read, sporadic, random and shallow) research into the best materials to use I have at last settled on the pieces I plan to use.

First in the batting order is Textfugu.

Textfugu is an online textbook that claims to be like no other, and if I’m honest it really is quite unique. It uses humour to break up the study and works under a ‘Japanese learning re-imagined’ ethos. It’s pretty sweet. Oh, and the first section is free apparently, so check it out.

Next up is WaniKani.

WaniKani, from the makers of Textfugu, is Kanji learning re-imagined. It’s easy to use, even if the method seems a little alien and at times tricky. But heck, it works.

Then we have Skritter.

I’ve already stated that this is my best guess for learning to write in Japanese or Chinese – at least if you learn like me. Repeated writing *works* for me, I learn really well that way, with the added bonus that I also know how to write Japanese, not just read it.

Bringing up the rear we have Duolingo.

Duolingo is almost certainly the most well-known piece of software on this list. Pretty much everyone will have seen memes floating around about the sinister owl and the extreme measures it takes to get you to study.

Finally, we have LingoDeer and its sister app, LingoDeer+.

This is a new app which I’ve heard called ‘Duolingo done right’. I’ve only been using it a couple of days, so I can’t say if that epithet is justified, but I *can* say that the app itself is pretty swanky.

I’ll probably get around to doing full reviews of some of these apps when I’ve got used to using them all again.

Honourable Mentions:

Anki – Simple but powerful and customizable flashcard software

Usagi-Chan’s Genki Resources – Learning games

Real Kana – kana practice games

 

It’s been a crazy week though. I seem to remember shed loads from the last time I studied, which is both promising and a massive relief. Makes life so much easier, and will almost make hitting the wall that much harder…oh well, I just have to smash through it.

New Thing: Ragdoll Learns Japanese (Again)

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I can’t believe it but here I am again. I’m learning Japanese. I’ve tried several times in the past, and several other languages too and never really got anywhere, but I’ve got a good feeling about this time around. This year is going well, so why shouldn’t this be the year I finally get to grips with the language?!

I’m gonna keep a bit of a log of my studies, as much for my own interest as anybody else’s. Helps to keep me focussed and see how far I’ve come.

I started again yesterday – I’ve signed back up to several of the websites I used to use, WaniKani, Skritter* and Duolingo mainly.

*This is a referral link – sign up to Skritter (the best app I know for learning to write Japanese and Chinese) and we BOTH get 2 weeks free!!

I’m thrilled to see I can still read hiragana and katakana, and write most of it. I also have a bunch of vocab in the back of my head that keeps filtering to the surface, which is obviously fantastically awesome!

I’m going to be working through TextFugu, an online textbook I used to try and use, and probably some others – every time I go into languages I read EVERYTHING so I’ll probably wind up reviewing resources too.

So yeah, super excited.

Kwik Review: Amelia Fang and the Half-Moon Holiday (Laura Ellen Anderson)

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Goodreads Link | Author Website

The wonderful fourth installment of my favourite kids series.

TL;DR – A wonderful new adventure featuring wonderful characters and even more wonderful illustrations!5Button

RAGDOLL RATING: 5/5 BUTTONS

What I thought…

Amelia Fang and the Half-Moon Holiday is the fourth instalment of the wonderful Amelia Fang series. I have totally loved the three previous books and this on did not disappoint on any level.

Amelia and the Gang have joined the Rainbow Rangers and are off on their first big expedition – but after Tangine (because who else would cause all the problems) throws a bit of a wobbly and storms off in search of a restaurant Amelia and her friends find themselves shrunk to a tiny size, and that’s just the first of their problems…

The story is hugely entertaining, as expected. It’s funny and cute and gross, and all the other good stuff I’ve come to expect from this series. But my favourite thing – the thing I can never stop praising enough is the artwork that adorns every page. It’s wonderful. Laura Ellen Anderson is a superb, and wonderful artist and even if you (somehow) didn’t like the story, this book is worth owning just for the pictures.

Definitely worth buying this book. I’m SO excited for book 5 in October!!

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Reading Challenge #1 Complete!

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Despite a majorly slow start to the year, I have managed to complete my first reading challenge of the year! 24 books in total!!

I couldn’t have done this without the revelation that audiobooks and absolutely the bee’s knees, the cat’s pyjamas and the dog’s whatsits! I listen to them all the time now, and it’s been brilliant. I’m particularly loving the Star Wars audiobooks as the production value is awesome, what with sound effects, background music and some mostly spot-on impersonations of well-loved characters.

So without further ado, here is the full list of books I’ve read for this challenge:

1. Descendant of the Crane – Joan He
2. The Light Fantastic – Terry Pratchett
3. The Wee Free Men – Terry Pratchett
4. Monstrous Regiment – Terry Pratchett
5. Equal Rites – Terry Pratchett
6. A Hat Full of Sky – Terry Pratchett
7. Mort – Terry Pratchett
8 Going Postal – Terry Pratchett
9. Kids Write Jokes – Various
10. Business Cat: Hostile Takeovers – Tom Fonder
11. Rolled & Told Vol. 1 – E. L. Thomas
12. Thud! – Terry Pratchett
13. Sourcery – Terry Pratchett
14. The Ultimate Cartoon Book of Book Cartoons – Various
15. Tamamo the Fox Maiden and Other Asian Stories – Various
16. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
17. Wintersmith – Terry Pratchett
18. Little Witches: Magic in Concord – Leigh Dragoon
19. Darkwood – Gabby Hutchinson Crouch
20. Wyrd Sisters – Terry Pratchett
21. Emiline: Knight in Training – Kimberli Johnson
22. The Very First Damn Thing: A Short Story – Jodi Taylor
23. Star Wars: Tarkin – James Luceno
24. Star Wars: Ashoka – E. K. Johnston

You may notice there are a lot of Terry Pratchett books included in this list. I’m trying to finish the series on my kindle, and restart the series on audiobook. What can I say, I adore the Discworld.

My favourite book in this list was probably Star Wars: Tarkin by James Luceno. You can find a quick review of this book here!

Next up on my reading list:

1. Star Wars: Dooku, Jedi Lost – Cavan Scott
2. Just One Damn Thing After Another – Jodi Taylor
3. Pyramids – Terry Pratchett
4. Making Money – Terry Pratchett

Next target is set at 35 books! Can I get there before my birthday? (17th July) Who knows!

Star Wars: Tarkin (James Luceno)

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Goodreads Link

Even better than I had hoped!

TL;DR – The story of Grand Moff Tarkin’s rise to power. An awesome tale and a must-read for Star Wars fans.

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RAGDOLL RATING: Exceptional

What I thought…

I’ve never read a Star Wars book before, and I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’d heard people talking about Tarkin on twitter, and since I love the character I thought I’d give it a go. Best. Decision. Ever.

So, Tarkin chronicles the life of one of the most powerful men in the Empire, from his childhood to his rise to the position of Grand Moff, and oh boy is it exciting. James Luceno did a marvellous job of bringing the character to life.

I read the audiobook version of this book, and dang the production quality is superb. Sound effects and occasional music and everything. BEAUTIFUL. But I guess you’d expect that from a Star Wars book – they can afford not to cheap out on that stuff.

Anyway, well worth a read or a listen.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book of the Month(s) (Jan-Apr)

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This just in!!

OK, so I didn’t do a lot of reading for the first four months of the year, so I’m just gonna go and pick my favourite book of the last four months and pretend that everything is normal!

The Ragdoll Reads Book of the Month pick for The First Chunk of 2019 is:

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Going Postal

by Terry Pratchett (2004)

See the full Book of the Month list here: Book of the Month

I never actually reviewed this book and I don’t intend to. Just trust me, it’s hilarious, as indeed all Terry Pratchett’s work is.