Spirit Embers: Cinderella Necromancer Pt 3

Here’s a link to part 1, and part 2. And summary below.

Bella’s story begins as usual–her mother dies, her father remarries. Then her father dies mysteriously, and the stepmother poisons Bella and has her daughters bury Bella in the woods. But Bella comes back as a powerful necromancer, and uses her powers, with the guidance of her mother’s ghost, to sneak into the ball to meet the prince. She dances with him, and raises and envoy to prevent a war, and the prince rewards her with a position as a queen’s lady in waiting.

My chance to win over the prince, when it came, was offered freely. I did not have to creep about to find it.

“I ride to battle,” the prince said early one morning, having called me to a room full of his generals and a few aides. “You spoke of being my mage. Will you ride with me?”

“I am no fighter, but if I can be of use, I will come.”

“The men will not fight, if you mean their corpses to be puppets,” a general said, nervously. 

“Oh, no!” I waved my hands. “There is my army.” I pointed out the tent, and brought my wolves closer, so he could see their eyes catch the torchlight brightening the pre-dawn gray of the sky. There were many now.

He swore.

“I do not count a human life so cheap, or their death, I promise you. I would not be a monster.”

“So these wolves, they will fight for you? That is all you offer?”

“I… I can do more, but it is not honorable.” I thought of my dealing with my stepmother, which could be useful here.

“War rarely is. Tell us.”

“I can send rats to spoil their supplies. Foul their food and chew holes in their water barrels. Rip their clothes and gnaw their shoes….”

“It is not just our soldiers’ lives saved if they surrender, but theirs, too. Do it.”

“Tell them to focus on the food and water, but leave the rest, except they should target the saddles and tack.” The general said.

“And the pikes,” an aide added. “It is time consuming to replace the shafts.”

We rode out to the army encamped on our land, and set up camp of our own. That night, I sent my minions at their utmost stealth, nibbling away at those supplies hidden from sight. That took two nights, and on the third, I sent them to attack the rest. As soon as they were caught at their sabotage, I stirred them into a frenzy. Every supply ruined was the hope of safety for our people. Eventually, the soldiers destroyed them—my dead are hardly, but not indestructible.

“It is done,” I said. My saboteurs had taken two-thirds of the enemy’s supplies, before they were done.

The general nodded grimly. “An army marches on their stomach. This is a deciding blow.”

“Send your wolves to guard the camp,” the prince said. “We will have to be wary of raiders. There are farms and villages not far from here.”

“Should I…” I paused. “They saw my rats, they know what they face. Should I let them feel the presence of my wolves? Or do you wish to catch the raiders unawares?”

“This one has a sound strategic mind,” one general said.

I disliked being spoken of as if I wasn’t there, but I said nothing.

“Yes, do that,” the prince agreed. “We will try to capture them, to be ransomed later.”

I nodded.

It wasn’t easy to keep the enemy alive, when they were trying to kill you—even when your fighters were dead who didn’t feel pain. Of the seven invaders who snuck out of camp, one died fighting, and another died of their wounds after.

I apologized to the prince for the loss, though he said I had done well.

One of the aides suggested raising the dead enemies, and I shook my head fiercely.

“I won’t do such a thing. It will destroy our hopes for peace at the end of this. Imagine if they raised our dead.”

The aide’s hands clenched in anger, face flushing, and then he deflated, and nodded. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

After the conversation had moved on, I sidled over to the prince. “Highness, you should keep an eye on that one.”

“Him? Why? He’s harmless.”

“He doesn’t see the other side as people. Anyone who’s capable of such a feat can apply it to any person not like them, and use it to excuse many terrible acts, given time and reason.”

“You look very sad,” he said.

“My stepmother and her daughters didn’t see me as a person, towards the end. I saw it happen, my very selfhood dwindle in their eyes until there was nothing left but an inconvenience.”

He nodded, and I saw him studying the aide thoughtfully, which was enough for now. I’d made note of the man as well, and would offer some advice in the ears of friends I’d made. He’d be watched, one way or another.

Their raiding failed, the enemy instead rallied their troops, and attacked at first light. I would have felt sorry for them, were it not my home they were trying to destroy. I sent my army–mostly wolves, some large cats, boars, and even a bear–to pick them off at the edges. They knocked them unconscious if possible, and dragged them away.

Our lines of prisoners grew steadily. 

My smaller minions, I sent to check the wounded. Those might survive, my wolves carried to our battle healers. 

“They keep bringing us to the enemy wounded, too,” a healer complained to me. “Can’t they tell the difference?”

” Can we not ransom the wounded, as well?”

“Well, yes, if they live.” He frowned, “Oh, very well.”

“I can tell them to leave the enemy,” I pressed, as his face was twisted in a scowl

“You’re a bleeding heart for a dead mage. No, no, as you were.” He strode off.

His discourtesy stung, but I had weathered worse, so I focused on my tasks. The dead could follow simple commands, but the tasks I’d set them to weren’t terribly simple, so many of them needed guidance. It kept me quite busy.

“Lady,” a voice said, loudly. 

I blinked and looked up into the face of the prince. “My apologies, I…”

“You’re doing too much, aren’t you? You mustn’t exhaust yourself, we may have need of you for a vital part of our defense.”

“I am fine, your highness, I won’t let us down.”

“You must rest. Leave off all but your rescue efforts. I command it.” He waited.

I bowed, giving the rest of my army a simple task–withdraw, hide, or harry. Lifting my scattered focus did feel better. Less stretched-thin and dizzy.

“Better?”

“Yes, my apologies for wasting—”

“No, no apologies. You’re not single handedly winning this war, though you are putting in a good effort. Did you know one of your wolves is ripping the seat out of the pants of every enemy soldier he captures? They’re a sorry lot, wounded in their dignity.”

“I…” I covered my mouth, pressing my fingers over my lips, trying to keep the laughter that bubbled up from escaping.

He waited, and when it was clear I couldn’t answer, said “No matter. I see you are less pale. Good.”

“It can be difficult to balance serving and overworking myself,” I acknowledged. “Thank you for your reminder.”

“Do not forget, your value is not only in your magic,” he said, nodding and striding away.

What casual kindness, I thought, warmed, and kept my attention on shepherding the wounded to safety.

Eventually, the enemy was forced to surrender, after a group made a push to flee, and ran into our reinforcements instead.

We gathered up the prisoners, and secured them, with healers and guards. I did my part with my animals, wolves patrolling the outside, though my mice and rats did the better job of keeping them contained. I caught more than one plot before it had fully developed, and reported them without hesitation.

Soon, they’d been ransomed back, the money going a long way to refilling war ravaged coffers—though much of it left as soon as it entered, to pay our soldiers, purchase food, and help a few villages the invaders had pillaged on their way to battle.

Because of my efforts, I did get a place among the prince’s advisors, as well as a reward I had not expected.

An offer of marriage.

I sputtered in shock when the prince offered his hand one evening, two years past the ball where we’d met.

He smiled at my surprise. “Lady, we get along well, and I am in need of an heir. You’re well respected, and it’s to be hoped your children might inherit your skills.”

I hoped not, as I’d learned from my mother that a true necromancer had to die to gain the ability to raise the dead, and not merely speak with them.

“I will have no pampered lady to rule beside me, and none of our allies have an unmarried daughter of age. We suit each other, do we not? Think on it, and give me your answer when you are ready.” He captured my hand and brushed a kiss across the back. “I wish you a pleasant day, lady.”

Stunned, I stood there for a long moment, and then retreated from the gathering. I needed to think—and to talk to my mother.

After I found a quiet place, I summoned her spirit to me, and explained what had happened.

“You should marry him,” she said, “if you like and respect him. You will be protected and can do much for others with your power.”

I nodded. “If I have your blessing, then I shall marry.”

And so I did, becoming a princess, and a queen in time.

Being queen wasn’t always easy. We had other wars, and I marched my army of dead alongside the living. I sent them out into our kingdom, as spies, and caught an enemy attempting to infiltrate us more than once. Another necromancer tried to kill me, along with a few less magical attempts.

My guards were loyal, and my people loved me. My children, too, had their father’s charm. And though I’d prayed for it not to happen, my son fell into a river, and had a terrible fever after. He rose a true necromancer like me, taught by myself and his grandmother’s spirit.

My stepmother never remarried, though one of my stepsisters did marry a man who was much less wealthy than she must have hoped. Letting them live small, stingy lives, without the wealth and privilege they’d craved was satisfying. My happiness–with my kind, thoughtful husband, and my three wonderful children–was the best revenge by far.

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Top Ten Tues: All Mine

Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, feature lists related to all things bookish–characters, authors, titles, and favorites. They’re an excellent way to find new interesting books on a variety of topics, and to find bloggers that love the books you do.

Check out their blog for their top ten and lists by other bloggers!

May 21: Books That I Refuse to Let Anyone Touch (too special/valuable, perhaps?) (submitted by Savannah Grace @ Scattered Scribblings)

This is a tough one! Most of my books are bought used, and beat up a bit over time. But here’s some I wouldn’t lend unless someone promised to take excellent care of them.

  1. S. (Ship of Thesus); J.J. Abrams. There are several notes stuck in between the pages, and losing their places would be very unhelpful.

2. Night Shift; Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh. I won this ARC at a book signing, and had it signed. Exciting!

3. As You Wish; Cary Elwes. I saw Cary Elwes do an interview after a showing of The Princes Bride. He jumped off the stage to answer a little girl’s question, and then couldn’t find the stairs back up.

4. Welcome to Night Vale; Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor. It was nice to find out that the writers are just as weird and funny as they seemed like they must be.

5. Stranger in a Strange Land; Robert Heinlein. I have a beat up hardcover missing its dust jacket, an old gift from my uncle.

6. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened; Jenny Lawson. I’m seriously lucky to live near this author, so I’ve seen her more than once, but this was the first time.

7. Mort; Terry Pratchett. The start of my favorite series, in a gorgeous cloth-bound edition. This picture doesn’t show it, but parts of it are shiny. Another well loved gift.

8. A Light in the Attic; Shel Silverstein. A treasured childhood gift from my dad.

9. The Scorpio Races; Maggie Stiefvater. I heard her play bagpipes at this talk. Who brings bagpipes to a book festival? Maggie Stiefvater, that’s who!

10. All Systems Red; Martha Wells. It’s Murderbot. Enough said.

Spirit Embers: Cinderella Necromancer Pt 2

Here’s a link to part 1, and summary in case you need a refresher/don’t feel like reading it.

Bella’s story begins as usual–her mother dies, her father remarries, and her stepmother and two stepsisters make her life miserable. And then her father dies mysteriously, and the stepmother poisons Bella and has her daughters bury Bella in the woods. But Bella could communicate with the dead, and comes back as a powerful necromancer. She uses her powers, with the guidance of her mother’s ghost, to mess with her killers and sneak into the ball to meet the prince.

The prince shifted from where he stood at the edge of the dance floor, jaw clamping as he smothered a yawn, and surveyed the door.

Perfect.

I stepped into sight, meeting his eyes before I glanced demurely down. I’d be approaching him later, if I couldn’t get him to come to me.

But first, my stepmother and stepsisters. They hadn’t spread the story of my ‘running away,’ but when they did, the damage to my reputation would be difficult to repair. So I spoke to several women, who I used thin pretexts to claim we knew each other.

I told them that I’d been kept from society by a boarding school that had trained my unexpected magical ability. Having graduated, I’d returned early to surprise my guardian.

Much of the court were avid gossips, and their eyes gleamed with avarice at my story. Of course they promised to keep my surprise a secret. It wouldn’t last, but I needed just long enough.

When I judged enough people had heard my lie, I targeted the monsters that had made my life a misery.

I stepped forward to greet them, smile bright. “Surprise! I’ve returned early!” I paused, not long enough for them to recover, and giggled, hiding my mouth with my fan.

“Oh, your faces! I mentioned nothing in my last letter, I know—I was not sure the headmistress would allow it! But my studies went well. I hope I’ve made you proud.”

I lowered my gaze demurely, as the strains of music started. “Oh! I promised the first dance, and I’m sure you have also. We’ll speak more later!”

Then I whisked away to find my partner—the son of one of the gossips. My card was quite full already, and more men approached for introductions and a dance when I took a break.

Finally, I caught the prince’s eye, and he approached me with one of the gossips to introduce us. She babbled the story I’d told, slightly warped, and I curtseyed deeply.

We danced, and it took all my focus to be graceful, and smile, and make small talk, and above all, not show the effort all of this took, that I didn’t enjoy myself at all.

I hinted at a secret, in that small talk, and soon he led me into a smaller room, with only a few people chatting there. A significant stare from the prince, and they drifted off to one side, giving us as much privacy as was proper.

Quickly, I spilled out my tale, letting tears shine my eyes and quaver in my voice, as I recounted my mother’s death, father’s remarriage, then his death, and my mistreatment.

Just as I was about to speak of the poisoning, a courtier interrupted, greeting the prince and offering a few veiled words that clearly had some significance.

When the prince turned back to me, I could tell my woes hadn’t made much of an impression.  I smiled warmly, hoping I could do better with the rest. If I couldn’t get him on my side, my plan failed.

“You’re different from the others here, aren’t you?” he asked.

“I suppose I am.” I glanced out the door to the glittering crowd, seeing the masks of gaiety, and the maneuvering as some partners were avoided and others pursued.

“You’re a beautiful woman. I would like to see you again,” the prince said.

“Yes, of course, as you wish, your highness. But I have to tell you—”

“Now isn’t the time, we can talk later, I—” The prince interrupted, but was interrupted in turn.

“Your highness!” A guard gasped, hurrying up. “Terrible news! The envoy has died! There’ll surely be war!”

I clasped the prince’s arm. “Take me to him, please. I can help.”

His handsome face twisted in puzzlement, but he did as I asked. Soon I was standing over the envoy’s dead body, and then he was rising, face slack and gray. Bit by bit, color and animation crept into the envoy’s face, until he seemed alive again.

“What happened?” he patted himself, confused.

“You were very ill,” I told him gravely, “The royal healers treated you, but you crept away from your bed, and succumbed to sleep here. Be gentle with yourself, you are still recovering.”

He nodded, and let himself be fussed over, as I slid away to the prince’s side.

“He doesn’t know he is dead—he’ll have lost some memory—but he’ll realize it eventually. His body will heal from a mortal injury, and he will not age. If his death here will start a war, I respectfully recommend you arrange for him to be gone.”

“But then he will learn the truth, in time. What profits that?” the prince asked.

I shook my head. “My apologies, I wasn’t clear. What I give, I can take back. And I can control him, which won’t reveal the truth, if it’s the last thing he does. Perhaps a stumble into a river? I’m uncertain what would serve, but I’m sure better minds can plot an accident.”

“An accident,” he repeated.

“I’ve taken no lives, and only raised a second life,” I said, “But I imagine that is not true of all your advisors.”

As if I’d summoned them, an advisor joined us, and then another, until we stood in a half-circle of serious-eyed nobles. One of them, a woman with silver barely visible among her pale blonde hair, asked me what had happened, and with a few questions got the whole story from me.

The rest listened in silence.

“And how do we know we can trust you?” A man with a scar on his chin asked.

“I am loyal. I could have far more easily kept silent, after all.” I met his eyes until he nodded. Then I turned to the prince. “But, your highness, if you do choose to reward me for my small part, you could rescue me.”

“Rescue you?”

Picking up my interrupted tale, I explained how I’d had to offer a story to cover the truth—the later, worse years of imprisonment and abuse. “If you would send a lawyer, and when he sees how she mistreated me, have her evicted from my home, and forbidden from returning, on pain of losing her allowance. Then I will be safe, and owe that safety to you.”

“It isn’t enough,” the advisor began, but the prince shook his head.

“No, twice now she’s offered aid without asking for reward. A little trust in return is a reasonable price. See to her situation.”

The advisor bowed, and left, his stiff stride the only sign of his irritation.

“You are lucky they didn’t try more permanent ills,” he said.

“They did, but I didn’t eat much of my dinner,” I lied. “I was sick, before I fell asleep, and sick again, when I woke in the woods that night.”

“Ah,” he fell silent, thinking. “You can’t return there. You will stay with one of the queen’s ladies tonight. On the morrow, guards will roust the murderess.”

“But I wasn’t….” I lied again.

“Only luck. I’m sure she measured a killing dose.” He shook his head, grim. “You asked to be kept safe. Let me do so.” 

I bowed my head. My hopes were progressing nicely.

My stepmother and stepsisters were cast out, and she lost her stipend for her neglect of me. I sent mice and birds to their meager new home, to trouble and bedevil them in small ways. What larger revenge they deserved, I could not decide.

The prince had me appointed to the queen’s ladies, another reward, and, I knew, to keep an eye on me. I raised a favorite of the prince’s hunting dogs after an accident, and arranged the envoy to go overboard on a ship, one stormy night.

My winged and four-legged companions allowed me to find the prince when he was alone. Not too often, lest he get suspicious, or sick of the sight of me. I made myself agreeable, and waited for the opportunity to be useful.

When we heard word of a group of spies, I modestly offered a pack of wolves I had built over these months, to track the spies down. I led the guards right to the intruders, and ringed by thirteen eerily silent wolves, they surrendered. 

“You keep appearing at a crisis, why is that?” the prince asked.

I blushed. “I must admit, I thought perhaps, if I could prove myself, I might become one of your mages.”

Any royal worth his salt employed a mage or three—the king had one with healing magic, and another who could control the weather. The prince had a weak plant mage, who could encourage crops and draw out the properties of medicinal herbs.

“You could easily work for a king.”

“Forgive me, your highness, for my frankness, but not all those in power keep their word. I know you value yours, even to someone as poor as I.”

As I’d proved myself at least partly trustworthy, I was given several books on necromancy, which were helpful, though my mother’s ghost, who I could now call to me, was as helpful as the dusty tomes.

I learned, and waited for an opportunity to win the prince over completely.

Top Ten Tues: Page to Screen

Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, feature lists related to all things bookish–characters, authors, titles, and favorites. They’re an excellent way to find new interesting books on a variety of topics, and to find bloggers that love the books you do.

Check out their blog for their top ten and lists by other bloggers!

May 14: Page to Screen Freebie (Books that became movies/TV shows, movies that became books, great adaptations, bad ones, books you need to read before watching their movie/TV show, movies you loved based on books you hated or vice versa, books you want to read because you saw the movie or vice versa, etc.)

Books and Movies that are Both Worth Your Time

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda; Becky Albertialli. Both super cute romances with an awkward protagonist.

Ready Player One; Ernest Cline. So the book has a million references the movie couldn’t have, but the special effects make up for it.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe; Fannie Flagg. The movie isn’t perfect, but it still has the heart the book does.

Howl’s Moving Castle; Diana Wynne Jones. The movie lets Sophie down a bit, but the visuals are stunning, and there’s plenty of great lines.

Crazy Rich Asians; Kevin Kwan. Things happen a little more R-rated in the book, but only once or twice. A spectacle in both mediums.

Annihilation; Jeff Vandermeer. Book is weird, movie is weird. The story is pretty different, but the sense of confusion remains the same.

The Martian; Andy Weir. Action, science! and humor. The story works very well as a movie.

Spirit Embers: Cinderella as Necromancer, Pt. 1

Image from WikiMedia, by Alexander P Kapp

My story began on my mother’s grave. Weeping over her headstone, alone, my father too gone in his grief to stand the sight of her graven name, I heard the faintest whisper.

I choked back my sobs, sniffled, and listened. There, again, a whisper, that might be–yes, it was! It was my name, Bella, soft and familiar–my mother’s voice. I rubbed my eyes, and smiled tearfully. She was still with me, and I found some happiness in that.

That happiness was tried a bare four months later, when my father remarried a younger woman with two girls of her own. At the tender age of seven, he said I needed a mother, though I thought a nanny would have done better.

My new stepsisters were twins, six years old, and hated me on sight, and they hid it cleverly from Father. In front of him, smiles and offers to play, but behind his back they pinched and stole. They had a skill for weeping, and I soon learned it was pointless to complain of their abuses. My only consolation was the whispers I heard, visiting my mother’s grave.

Then my father sickened, and died weeks past their first anniversary. For a time, I was lost in a haze of grief. I couldn’t even visit his grave, because he’d not been put in the family plot, but a farther away cemetery my stepmother deemed proper.

Things changed, but I hardly cared. Toys and fine dresses hadn’t kept my parents with me. Losing my bedroom, which held so many happy memories, hurt. But the cot I sewed of scraps softened the stone floor, and the fireplace was warm.

I muddled along until I was thirteen, when my stepmother went on a trip, and returned furious.

Having learned the value of information, I crept up to listen. “He gave me an allowance, for life. A pittance! It’s all left to her, on her twentieth birthday. That useless girl. How dare he!”

She treated me no differently, though her eyes were even colder. The years trudged by in misery, and as I reached sixteen years, she finally grew crueler. Inventive, spurring her daughters to new heights as well. As a horrifying example, she had the tree I’d tended on my mother’s grave cut down, and tossed the green branches, with their leaves still on, into the fire in front of me. That backfired, as the room filled with smoke, and I had the small comfort of watching her flee the room, coughing.

Eavesdropping one night, I heard her complain that I showed no signs of running away. She meant to drive me out, and steal my inheritance, I realized. Well, she would not take any more from me. With my mother’s ghostly support, I would endure.

Foolish of me.

One evening, I ate the scraps for my dinner and went to sleep. The next thing I knew, I woke to smothering darkness, my stomach churning. I thrashed and flailed, and a crack of light appeared. Though weak, I doubled my efforts, and crawled out of the hole I was in. No, a grave, I realized, and I vomited beside the upturned dirt. Luckily, a shallow one, or I might not be here.

I crawled to the river I could hear nearby, and cleaned myself as best I could. Then I waited for the first light of dawn, and crept homeward. Not to the house, but the graveyard. It was set back, and secluded, screened by trees. I could pray, and be safe for a while.

As soon as I stepped past the low stone wall, I felt something. Cool, creeping energy, which filled me up with a sense of well-being. I pressed on, and knelt on my mother’s grave. A wisp of smoke drifted up from the grave, shimmering and solidifying into a familiar, beloved face.

“Oh, my daughter! She has killed you!”

“I’m not dead,” I protested, pressing my hands to my thumping heart.

“Your power brought you back. I never wished this for you, my darling. But now that it is done, you must master this power.”

“What do you mean?”

“You have power over the dead. You are a necromancer.”

She had much to teach me, and I was eager to learn. I filched fruit from the orchards, more filling a meal than I’d had in years, and hung on her every word.

Very early the next morning, I crept to the house to listen. To my surprise, I heard crying.

“Oh, shut up. I procured the poison, the least you two useless girls could do was dispose of the mess.”

“It was so gross,” Eudora wailed. “Cold and stiff, and… smelly.”

The familiar crack of a slap. “Never speak of it again. Your sister has run off, and we will search for her. She has always been rebellious and ungrateful, so we must hope we find her before she comes to a bad end.”

Not much worse an end possible than a shallow grave at the hands of my beloved family, I thought. So she planned to claim I’d run away, did she? Well, I’d ruin that plan. I had the tools at my disposal–and the ball was tomorrow, the perfect opportunity. 

I took my mother’s lessons into the woods, and hunted for newly dead things. I found several birds, which I filled with my power. I was pleased to note that they looked just like life, restored perfectly. I found a dog, too, and raised it, along with more birds, a fox, and owl, and various mice, each animal under my command making me feel stronger. A rare few resisted my power, and I let them sleep, but most leapt eagerly back to life.

Near the house, I gathered an abundance of rats poisoned by my stepmother. With a smile, I set them to spoiling food supplies that wouldn’t be noticed immediately and chewing holes hid in the full skirts of their nicest dresses.

My tiny spies hid everywhere, watching my killers from mouse holes, trees branches, and the sky. They pilfered money, enough for a gown, which I took care to purchase far from my stepmother’s usual haunts. And they took my stepmother’s favorite necklace, burying it in the tangle of disused and broken fripperies at the bottom of Philippa’s jewelry box. A bracelet stolen from Eudora soon joined it.

On the night of the ball, stepmother noticed the missing necklace, and turned over the house, finding it in Philippa’s room. Her squeaks of innocence fell on deaf ears, especially when Eudora found the missing bracelet–and a pair of ear bobs I hadn’t pilfered.

Despite the argument that followed, they made it to the ball on time. I chose my arrival time carefully–not too early or too late, my furred and feathered spies monitoring the Prince for the first hint of boredom.

Top Ten Tues: Remind Me

Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, feature lists related to all things bookish–characters, authors, titles, and favorites. They’re an excellent way to find new interesting books on a variety of topics, and to find bloggers that love the books you do.

Check out their blog for their top ten and lists by other bloggers!

May 7: Characters That Remind Me of Myself

This was a tough one!

  1. Elizabeth Bennett; Jane Austen. I have a bit of her biting sense of humor, and love of long walks.

2. Matilda; Roald Dahl. Though I don’t have her fondness for pranks, my childhood was an ocean of books like hers.

3. Susan Sto Helit; Terry Pratchett. I could only wish to be as bad@ss as Susan, but I like to think I have some of her spine.

4. Cath; Rainbow Rowell. I’m just as in love with some books as Cath, and I’m not so good with people.

5. Hermione; J.K. Rowling. I only correct people’s pronunciation out of love, I swear.

6. Kaylee; Joss Whedon. I don’t have her mechanical aptitude, but I strive for her bubbly optimism.

Read Harder 2019: April

Here’s the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge for 2019! There’s 24 prompts to encourage you to read harder (you can combine them, too), and I urge you to check it out if you want to get outside your comfort zone. It’s always great to see the new suggestions, and finding the perfect title is fun.

(Click the link to see the challenge, and to download a PDF of the challenge list.)

To quote the article: “We encourage you to push yourself, to take advantage of this challenge as a way to explore topics or formats or genres that you otherwise wouldn’t try. But this isn’t a test. […] We like books because they allow us to see the world from a new perspective, and sometimes we all need help to even know which perspectives to try.

  • Read a Comic with a LGBTQIA Creator.

Skim; Mariko Tamaki.

I found several articles referencing Tamaki as a queer author, and she wrote this comic.

CW: suicide
At an all-girl’s school, one student’s boy friend kills himself. The school is plunged into a frenzy of dramatic grief and elaborate efforts to prevent any possible future attempts. Kim “Skim” sees the hypocrisy, but is caught up in struggles of her own–her goth fashion makes her an outcast, she’s drifting apart from her friend, and falling in love.

The art style is disturbingly dream-like and haunting, which supports the dark tone of the story. But it feels unresolved, especially in the final panel

  • Read a Humor Book.

Funny in Farsi; Firoozeh Dumas.

A humorous memoir.

Firoozeh has had an interesting immigrant experience, spending two years in the US before Americans knew much about Iran, and were perfectly friendly to her for her origins–and after most people knew of Iran, and many unfairly considered the whole population terrorists.

Parts of the story are funny, with family misadventures, culture clash, and the experience of growing up as someone different. Of course, there are sad moments too, especially in relation to bigotry. It’s a quick, light read overall.

  • Read a Book about Business

Start-Up Nation: Dan Senor & Saul Singer

The book explores how Israel created an environment to support so many start-up businesses.

Overall, this story was a bit dry, piles of facts and statistics. But it did have some interesting, personal stories in there that caught my attention–like the example of problem-solving by IDF soldiers to fix back pain caused by a helicopter chair. That a small, often embattled country grew so quickly in the face of adversity, and continues to embrace change and entrepreneurial risk is admirable, and an interesting read, even if some parts were less engaging a read.

Someone who’s specifically interested in economics or Israel would probably get more out of this, but it’s still an easy, understandable read for the layperson.

Top Ten Tues: Quotable

Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, feature lists related to all things bookish–characters, authors, titles, and favorites. They’re an excellent way to find new interesting books on a variety of topics, and to find bloggers that love the books you do.

Check out their blog for their top ten and lists by other bloggers!

April 30: Inspirational/Thought-Provoking Book Quotes

1.“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” –Douglas Adams; Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul

2. “If the sky could dream, it would dream of dragons.” ―Ilona Andrews; Fate’s Edge

3. “My mother once told me that you had to trust that the first thing out of a person’s mouth was truth. After they have a chance to think about it, they’ll change what they say to be more socially acceptable, something they think you’ll be happier with, something that will get the results they want.” ― Patricia Briggs, Moon Called

4. “Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and adventures are the shadow truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes and forgotten.” –Neil Gaiman, Sandman

5. “Sometimes we win with greater firepower, through sheer numbers or more powerful weapons, but for the most part it’s knowledge that defines our victories.” ― Tanya Huff, Blood Price

6. “Art is something you choose to make… it’s a bringing together of… of everything around you into something that makes you more human, more khepri, whatever. More of a person.” ―China Miéville, Perdido Street Station

“7. I am not wise, but I can always learn.” ― Tamora Pierce, The Woman Who Rides Like a Man

8. “The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.” –Terry Pratchett, Truckers

9. “The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherf#@king shit out of it.” –Cheryl Strayed; Tiny Beautiful Things

10. “I guess you could call it a “failure”, but I prefer the term “learning experience”.” ― Andy Weir, The Martian

Read Harder 2019: March

Here’s the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge for 2019! There’s 24 prompts to encourage you to read harder (you can combine them, too), and I urge you to check it out if you want to get outside your comfort zone. It’s always great to see the new suggestions, and finding the perfect title is fun.

(Click the link to see the challenge, and to download a PDF of the challenge list.)

book riot

To quote the article: “We encourage you to push yourself, to take advantage of this challenge as a way to explore topics or formats or genres that you otherwise wouldn’t try. But this isn’t a test. […] We like books because they allow us to see the world from a new perspective, and sometimes we all need help to even know which perspectives to try.

  • Read a Collection of Poetry Published since 2014.

When I Grow Up I Want to be a List of Further Possibilities; Chen Chen.

Published April 2017, so after 2014.

The thing about poetry is that it’s especially emotional. You connect, or you don’t. This collection of prose (some broken into stanzas, others paragraphs) has themes I can relate to, such as alienation, family arguments, the search for self. Though I found gems of lines scattered throughout, the whole of it left me unmoved. It’s interesting, and well-crafted, however, so worth a try.

  • Read a Book on Nonviolent True Crime.

Kingpin; Kevin Poulsen.

The true crime is this book involves hacking, there is no violence.

The story follows one man (and his associates) as the falls into a life of crime, beginning by working on the right side of the law, making mistakes, and then jail sentences and more mistakes after his release.

You get the sense that the system let him down, with a harsh sentence early on ruining his chances at finding work. Also, there’s a barely touched on bipolar diagnosis. The whole thing is a bit sad, as he often seems to be trying to do the right thing. Deals get made, criminals and law enforcement squabble over who’s an informant, money is stolen, people go to jail, and the cycle continues.

  • Read a Book by a Woman or AOC, that Won a Literary Award in 2018.

The Poet X; Elizabeth Acevedo.

The author is both a woman, and a person of color. The book won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (2018), among others.

A story told in poems, but still remarkably detailed. You don’t feel like something is left out, as Xiomara spills her feelings into a journal-like collection. She talks about the way people treat her for her curves, her relationship with her parents and twin brother, worries over school, wanting to share her poetry, her crush on a boy, religion… The book nicely captures the complexities of a teenager trying to figure themselves out. It’s beautifully, lyrically done. Well worth a read.

Read Harder 2019: January and February

Here’s the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge for 2019! There’s 24 prompts to encourage you to read harder (you can combine them, too), and I urge you to check it out if you want to get outside your comfort zone. It’s always great to see the new suggestions, and finding the perfect title is fun.

(Click the link to see the challenge, and to download a PDF of the challenge list.)

To quote the article: “We encourage you to push yourself, to take advantage of this challenge as a way to explore topics or formats or genres that you otherwise wouldn’t try. But this isn’t a test. […] We like books because they allow us to see the world from a new perspective, and sometimes we all need help to even know which perspectives to try.

I got horribly behind on blogging about these, so here’s a combo before I fall farther behind!

January

#11) Read a manga.

I Hear the Sunspot; Yuki Fumino.

Nice and easy. This is a manga. 🙂

A cute, slow romance, where two college students gradually realize they have feelings for each other. One is hard of hearing, and it deals with that disability, and communication problems. Much of the struggle is how people treat him once they know. Not much happens, relationship wise, but though this was originally a one shot, they added a sequel. I recommend getting both.

#12) Read a book with an animal or inanimate object POV character.

Fox 8; George Saunders.

Narrated by a fox.

A very short story/letter, narrated by a fox. His spelling is a bit off, but for a fox, it’s pretty impressive. And it’s readable, with cute illustrations scattered around. The story itself is a bit sad, as animals who run into humans tend to be. But there’s some humor and lightness to balance it out.

#9) Read a book published prior to 1/1/2019, with less than 100 reviews on Goodreads.

The Fourth R; George O. Smith

This book had 67 ratings, and 12 reviews when I read it.

I liked the start and the end, but it got a bit preachy towards the climax. James Holden is the possessor of information that holds a great deal of power and potential–but he’s five years old, and in the power of his parents’ killer. The deck is stacked against him, but he’s a very educated boy, and watching him plot his way around his obstacles is entertaining.

He’s not terribly likable, and I wish justice had been served, but this is overall an interesting exercise on the power of learning in all its forms.

February

#14) Read a cozy mystery.

Books Can Be Deceiving; Jenn McKinlay.

276 Goodreads people labeled this a cozy, and it downplays violence and takes place in a small tight-knit community, as cozies are defined as doing.

A quick read, along familiar cozy lines. A friend is suspected of murder, so Lindsey Norris needs to find proof to save her. There’s some fun characters (though there are also some stereotypes that defy logic), plenty of bookish references, and crafting, too. A sweet start to a series, and a fun read. A pretty setting, and set up for some romance, too. You get exactly what you expect from the description, which is nice.

#23) Read a self-published book.

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo; Zen Cho.

Published by the author

Short, told diary style. Humorous, telling about a stretch of life of a woman, with plenty of disasters–but also plenty of good moments. Snarky. I wished there was more.

#1) Read an epistolary novel/ collection of letters.

84, Charing Cross Road: Helene Hanff.

This is a collection of letters by Helene Hanff to a bookseller (and a few related people.)

This book serves best as an introduction to Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. It’s a collection of letters between a book buyer and a book shop, and full of affection over that shared love of literature.

It’s a fun read for book lovers, with plenty of humor, and book references. It’s quite short, as it’s a collection of letters. And the end is a bit sad–as the description says, they never meet. But Duchess has the author actually traveling to England.

#2) Read an alternate history novel.

Making History; Stephen Fry.

This book describes a world in which Hitler was not born.

I liked the concept–what if you made sure Hitler was never born? Not by murder, but by contraception. How would it change the world?
Of course, wars, for all their horrors, also come with social and technological changes for the good. And they hinge on such large issues, the real question becomes what really changes?
My big issue is that I didn’t like the protagonist. He was flat and whiny, and the start was slow. Other povs were more interesting, and the interjection of play script sections lightened the dull moments, but not enough for me to really enjoy it overall.

#5) Read a book by a journalist/ about journalism.

Abbott; Saladin Ahmed.

The main character is a journalist, the story focuses on her efforts to report stories others would like covered up.

Abbott is a reporter, one who doesn’t let racism get swept under the rug. And she’s constantly being attacked for it, her job in jeopardy. Even her allies don’t stand with her very well. But she’s focused and determined–which doesn’t always help against the dark magic attacking the city, which seems to be focused on POC victims, which the police don’t care as much about.

I was hoping for a more positive solution, and the overall tone was quite dark. Still, there’s some kind of hope. This is a gritty sort of mystery, realistic despite the magic involved.