Book Riot Read Harder: May

And the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge is here again! There’s 24 prompts to encourage you to read harder, and I urge you to check it out if you want to get outside your comfort zone. 🙂

(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 out.”

  • Read a book about war.

When Books Went to War; Molly Manning.

The story of books provided to the military during WWII, included special editions printed to fit in the pocket.

This book, like a lot of books about real events, is a mix of tragic and hopeful. During WWII, 100 million books were burned, and many people, military and civilian, died. But the US also worked together to send 120 million special lightweight paperbacks to the troops. And those books saved and changed lives, as well as having a sweeping effect on the publishing world. A little piece of home, a reminder of what they fought for, an escape from battle conditions–the books that went to war were a lot of things, as good books are.

A short, but thorough read, the books covers a lot of details, including a list of every title published at the end. Sadly, there’s more than a little in-fighting and blame shifting going on, but overall, the country did fairly well with these portable and tough little books (though they did suffer quite a lot of abuse). And reading the results afterwards, when all these men took that new love of reading home, often to further their educations, is uplifting to any reader.

  • Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author.

The House of Spirits; Isabel Allende.

Allende is from Chile, and the book is set in “an unnamed South American country.”

This is a complicated one–it’s about three generations of a family, focusing on Esteban Trueba, his wife Clara, their children, and grandchildren, as well as Trueba’s illegitimate offspring. Trueba builds a grand house for his family, and works his land, and to some degree takes care of the people who work for him–there’s love and war as time goes on, and the things he builds fall apart. Trueba speaks for himself, often in flashbacks, telling how his story ends–and he does a lot of excusing his behavior, and claiming his goodness, which got on my nerves. He isn’t, in my opinion, all that good, but some of the people around him are. The story is lyrical and complex, and at times a difficult read, but others quite fascinating if you have the patience for a slow book.

I didn’t like this one as much as I hoped, mostly because I didn’t like Trueba, and because of the way it’s told–with plenty of foreshadowing–I knew bad things would happen to good people, and nothing much to bad people. But it’s a lovely book, so your mileage may vary!

Top Ten Tues: Second Half 2017

Top Ten Tuesdays are hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, and 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 of other bloggers who participate.

May 30: Top Ten Most Anticipated Books For The Second Half of 2017

These are books I most look forward to out of the ones I plan to read in the second half of the year.

1. White Hot; Ilona Andrews. Can’t wait to see more of Nevada and Rogan’s relationship. The authors do a great job of developing a believable and touching romance, every time.

2. City of Miracles; Robert Jackson Bennett. The end of a trilogy of a war waged against the gods, with some truly stunning characters.

3. Ash & Quill; Rachel Caine. Books about books (libraries, writers, bookstores) are always my favorites.

4. The Boy on the Bridge; M.R. Carey. More thought provoking zombie books, please! The Girl with all the Gifts was the perfect amount of creepy, so I need to read this, too.

5. A Peace Divided; Tanya Huff. There is no such thing as too much Torin Kerr.

6. Godsgrave; Jay Kristoff. The first book in this series really hooked me, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

7. The Brightest Fell; Seanan McGuire. A great urban fantasy series. Love Toby and all her crew so much.

8. All the Crooked Saints; Maggie Stiefvater. There’s nothing by this author I disliked–and plenty of books I loved.

9. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them; (screenplay) J.K. Rowling. How is it that I haven’t read this yet?

10. Artemis; Andrew Weir. I really enjoyed The Martian, so I’m curious to see what he comes up with next.

Weekend Writing Warriors: 5/27

This 8-10 sentence blog hop is hosted by The Weekend Writing Warriors. (Click the link for the list of participants, or rules if you want to join!)

This is a WIP, NaNoWriMo 2016, currently called River, Tree, Mountain. It’s science fiction, set on a colony planet, six generations in–with about 10% of the population born “marvels,” who have special abilities like dowsing, healing, or creating fire. The protagonist, Rekka, is a spark (fire), signed a contract with Brenton to provide him a child, and traveled to be met with an empty apartment and a message saying he’s away on business–a few days later he returns, makes breakfast, and after work takes her to the testing center, where he kisses her briefly then less briefly, then Rekka begins the test.

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They moved to the frame didn’t have targets, but a large stretch of wood strips, squeezed tightly side by side to form a square.

“I’m sure you know how to use this, but just a reminder, if you’ll humor me–concentrate, visualize, create,” the test guide, Ruby, said, “and let the energy flow out of you until I say ‘stop.’”

“Understood,” Rekka said, and closed her eyes obediently. In her thoughts, she constructed her favorite image—a field of grass, long and gently waving, stretching out of her field of view, and on the end of each blade of grass, a cheerfully bright firefly. Blanketing the air above the glowing grass, wave upon wave of fireflies flickering against the darkness, a sea of stars.

“Igniting,” she said, opening her eyes, aware that Ruby would be starting a timer, but not letting the thought distract her from casting her sea of fireflies out into the world. A whole swarm of them, twinkling into view as sparks over the target, more and more winking into view until Ruby said, “Stop.”

Rekka let the power go.

The sparks drifted downward, scorching the wood, and Ruby flicked a switch, sending a fine mist arching across the wood before it could catch fire and burn away the scorch marks.

“Under the table behind you, there’s a cooler with some snacks,” Ruby said, pulling over a step ladder to the square, and holding her tablet over the wood frame to scan and total the scorch marks.

*    *    *

Life on the colony planet of Kaibou was going uneventfully until the second generation of colonists was born on the planet, at some, at a young age, began showing various psychic abilities. When those people, called marvels, grew up, many of them formed companies, building compounds to live in and raise their children.  Due to population diversity issues, many colonists have children using genetic bank material, or choose a succession of partners. Now on the seventh generation, marvels are born both within and without company walls, and all must work together to use their gifts and make a living on a still wild land. Some of these outsider marvels sign contracts with company marvels, agreeing to give them a child raised within the company, in return for a permanent home in the company compound, a stipend, and other concessions.

Top Ten Tues: Summer

Top Ten Tuesdays are hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, and 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 of other bloggers who participate.

May 23: Summer Reads Freebie: In preparation for Memorial Day (which is always the unofficial summer kickoff for me), let’s rec some summer/beach reads: books to go in your beach bag, best books set in summer, books with summer-y covers, best beach reads for people who don’t enjoy contemporary/realistic reads, best beach reads for fans of X genre, etc. etc.

I like beaches in a “whole bunch of sunscreen and shade” sort of way, so here’s some beachy/vacation reads. Which I consider happier reads–romance, humor, and adventure.

1. Bossypants; Tina Fey. Humorous memoirs are great for a short reading times, or a long relaxing time.

2. Stardust; Neil Gaiman. A traveling story for when you travel.

3. On the Island; Tracey Garvis-Graves. You have to have an island romance on the beach, right?

4. Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow; Jessica Day George. To cool off on a hot day.

5. Howl’s Moving Castle; Diana Wynne Jones. A little magic on the beach.

6. Ella Enchanted; Gail Carson Levine. A nice, fairly short fantasy adventure feels beachy to me.

7. Uprooted; Naomi Novik. A great adventure, magic, and a bit of romance.

8. Anna and the French Kiss; Stephanie Perkins. Light romances are great vacation reads.

9. Going Postal; Terry Pratchett. Humor is a great mood lifter for holidays.

10. Troubled Waters; Sharon Shinn. Some more magic and romance.

 

Weekend Writing Warriors: 5/20

This 8-10 sentence blog hop is hosted by The Weekend Writing Warriors. (Click the link for the list of participants, or rules if you want to join!)

This is a WIP, NaNoWriMo 2016, currently called River, Tree, Mountain. It’s science fiction, set on a colony planet, six generations in–with about 10% of the population born “marvels,” who have special abilities like dowsing, healing, or creating fire. The protagonist, Rekka, is a spark (fire), signed a contract with Brenton to provide him a child, and traveled to be met with an empty apartment and a message saying he’s away on business–a few days later he returns, makes breakfast, and after work takes her to the testing center, where he gives her a kiss and tells her it’s a “promise for later.”

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“If that kiss wasn’t meant as reassurance, it was a terrible kiss,” Rekka said.

“Terrible?” Brenton pulled her into the corner of the building, crowding her against the wall, his shoulders blocking most of her view.

“Terrible?” he repeated, and kissed her again, thoroughly, teasing her lips open to sweep his tongue inside, drawing back and deepening the kiss in a scorching dance that made it quite clear he knew what he was doing. One of his hands cupped the back of her head, just under the twist of her hair, and the other pressed against her hip, drawing her closer.

After a few long, enjoyable moments, he released her, “And that, was it terrible?”

“That was an excellent promise, and now I have something to look forward to after dinner,” Rekka reclaimed his hand and started toward the door.

“You’re in no rush, I see.”

“If you’re making promises you can keep on an empty stomach, I don’t know what to say,” Rekka teased.

Brenton laughed, “You make a brilliant point, my dear.”

*    *    *

Life on the colony planet of Kaibou was going uneventfully until the second generation of colonists was born on the planet, at some, at a young age, began showing various psychic abilities. When those people, called marvels, grew up, many of them formed companies, building compounds to live in and raise their children.  Due to population diversity issues, many colonists have children using genetic bank material, or choose a succession of partners. Now on the seventh generation, marvels are born both within and without company walls, and all must work together to use their gifts and make a living on a still wild land. Some of these outsider marvels sign contracts with company marvels, agreeing to give them a child raised within the company, in return for a permanent home in the company compound, a stipend, and other concessions.

Daisy Gets a Bath

A little extra scene for one of my favorite characters, Daisy the Jabberwock. She comes from this short story.

Daisy is considerably cuter than this–but just as terrifying.

*          *          *

Three years later, and Magnus the Magnificent was still well pleased with the guardian of his treasure. The Jabberwock he’d hired proved an excellent deterrent against thieves, and dispatched the more aggressive marauders–or the occasional assassin–efficiently, with only the odd indigestible pieces of weaponry or armor left behind. With her razor sharp claws, and strong jaws, there wasn’t much that could give Daisy pause.

Not until the pack of Cerberus moved into the area. They attacked Magnus’ cattle, killing their guards with a well organized sneak attack, then slaughtering and dragging away several animals.

Afterward, Daisy picked her way through the carnage, dipping her head down to sniff at the neat line of bodies on the side of the field, and the ripped and bloody grass where the fight had occurred.

Shaken, one of the surviving guards–only those patrolling the field had been killed–watched the Jabberwock examine every inch of the field, the break in the fence, and the drag marks into the trees.

“What’s the beast doing, sir?”

“Daisy’s quite cunning. She’s tracked thieves before, and whatever these killers are, she’ll track them, too,” Magnus said, determined to do a bit of scrying of his own as soon as he’d finished here. Whatever had torn through here had been cunning, too, avoiding outside perimeter guards, as well as the metal constructs that were considerably more difficult to destroy.

At the edge of the woods, Daisy snorted, and then tensed her long legs, going from a slow-moving mountain of muscle to a terrifyingly fast muscle-powered juggernaut, gallumphing out of sight in moments. The trees shook as she moved through them, and then she was out of sight completely.

“Let me know what else you need for the arrangements,” Magnus stepped toward his tower. “I want to monitor Daisy to ensure she succeeds in taking out this threat before it claims any more lives.”

“Of course, sir,” the guard said, adding some sort of reassurance that Magnus didn’t register, already thinking through the items he would need to scry after Daisy. Up in his tower, he hastily put together the simple spell, checked it to ensure he hadn’t mislaid anything, and cast it. The water in the large, flat bowl rippled, going dark for a moment, swallowing all the light, before an image appeared in its center.

Daisy, racing through the trees, stopping abruptly in a clearing filled with dark shapes surrounding the half-eaten carcasses of two cattle. The shapes spilled away from their prizes, snarling, and resolved into enormous three-headed dogs. Cerberi, a pack of them, four strong–the monstrous animals the size of a horse, though dwarfed by Daisy’s bulk. It wasn’t their size, but their numbers that concerned Magnus, as they fanned out, flanking the Jabberwock.

He could imagine the snarls pouring through those bared teeth, long and sharp, made for rending flesh and crunching bones. Daisy’s head swung back and forth as she tried to keep all four canines in sight, and then her mouth opened wide, showing off her own pointed teeth in what, Magnus knew from experience, was a painfully loud roar. It shook the Cerberi, too, the monsters hesitating before leaping, and she swung out with her tail, flinging one into a tree, while slicing down with her claws at another.

The ensuing fight was bloody, but mercifully short. Daisy stood, triumphant, bleeding from several injuries, and splashed with blood. She shook her head, sniffed at the half-eaten cattle carcasses, and then dipped her head over the nearest dead canine. Her teeth flashed in the image, and Magnus dipped his fingers in it to interrupt it. He might value Daisy highly, but her table manners left something to be desired.

He was waiting outside his tower when she returned, moving slower, but still carrying her head high, crimson eyes bright.

She burbled inquiringly at him, noting the brushes and bucket in his hand.

“Come with me, Daisy,” he said, leading her to a wide, shallow part of the nearby river, a handful of his hawk constructs following overhead, each clutching a bucket of their own in their metal talons.

Magnus indicated the water, and Daisy waded in until he motioned her to stop, the water lapping at her legs, and up to his hips. He pulled out some soap enchanted for cleansing and healing properties, having determined that none of the cuts were too severe. Most had ceased bleeding already, and those that still bled did so sluggishly. Working the soap into a froth, he directed the constructs to dip up water and pour it over Daisy, their wings glinting in the light as they wheeled and dipped.

Daisy burbled with delight, shaking herself and sending water everywhere. It splashed against the shield Magnus hastily erected. “Hold still,” he scolded, raising the long handled brush to scrub as gently as he could at one of the cuts.

She craned her head to watch him, her claws sinking into the sand of the riverbed as he moved from one injury to the other, but she didn’t complain, or move again. Finished, he directed the constructs to sluice her clean, and pulled the healing crystal he’d brought from his pocket.

It glowed as he directed it toward her injuries, the breaks in her tough hide narrowing, the shallow ones vanishing into unbroken scales. He lowered the crystal, its stored power nearly spent, when he was satisfied with the results.

Crimson eyes sparkling, Daisy examined herself intently, then bobbed her head at him in thanks.

Magnus nodded back, tucking away the crystal and neatening up the cleaning supplies to carry back, sending the constructs ahead of them. As he stepped onto dry land, he used a spell to shuck the water from his clothes.

Behind him, Daisy chortled, and he turned, just in time to catch the spray from a second, more vigorous shaking right in the face, having taken down his shield too soon.

“Daisy!”

Unrepentant, she chortled with amusement again, and went gallumphing out of the river, spraying more water everywhere before vanishing into the trees.

Magnus pushed a sodden piece of hair out of his eyes, sighed, and repeated the drying spell, before following at a safe distance.

 

 

Top Ten Tues: Mothers

Top Ten Tuesdays are hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, and 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 of other bloggers who participate.

May 16:  Mother’s Day related Freebie: favorite moms in literature, books about motherhood, best mother/daughter or son relationships, books to buy your mom, worst moms in literature, etc. etc.

Top Ten Book Moms

1. Pride and Prejudice; Jane Austen. Mrs. Bennett is a silly, gossipy woman–but she really cares about her daughters’ future.

2. The Princess Diaries; Meg Cabot. Featuring a nice, rather weird mom and a crazy and mean grandmother (who happens to be royalty.)

3. Polgara the Sorceress; David & Leigh Eddings. A serial foster mom with magic.

4. One For the Money; Janet Evanovich. Even when her daughter blows up cars, gets shot at, or falls into some other disaster, Stephanie’s mom has dinner on time.

5. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe; Fannie Flagg. Several strong, mothering women in this book.

6. The Secret Life of Bees; Sue Monk Kidd. Not all family is blood.

7. Furiously Happy; Jenny Lawson. One of my favorite real world moms.

8. Witches Abroad; Terry Pratchett. Featuring possibly the most inappropriate grandmother ever, Nanny Ogg, and two other witch godmothers.

9. Under a Graveyard Sky; John Ringo. A mom who can keep her family together during a zombie apocalypse is a keeper.

10. The Glass Castle; Jeanette Walls. Dysfunctional moms still count.

Weekend Writing Warriors: 5/13

This 8-10 sentence blog hop is hosted by The Weekend Writing Warriors. (Click the link for the list of participants, or rules if you want to join!)

This is a WIP, NaNoWriMo 2016, currently called River, Tree, Mountain. It’s science fiction, set on a colony planet, six generations in–with about 10% of the population born “marvels,” who have special abilities like dowsing, healing, or creating fire. The protagonist, Rekka, is a spark (fire), signed a contract with Brenton to provide him a child, and traveled to be met with an empty apartment and a message saying he’s away on business–a few days later he returns, makes breakfast, and after work takes her to the testing center.

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge

 

“Are you still nervous?” Brenton asked.

“A little.”

“Try not to be, if you can,” he lifted her chin to look into her eyes, and then bent to kiss her, lingering just a little, the kiss more like a string of kisses, but still soft and sweet.

Then he tucked her hand in his, and tugged her into motion. Rekka glanced up at him as they walked, unable to stop a smile from curving her lips.

“What is it?” he asked.

“It was very nice of you to try and distract me.”

“That wasn’t a distraction, my dear.” His winter blue eyes touched on her lips, then slid down her body before returning to meet her gaze, “that was a promise for later.”

*    *    *

Life on the colony planet of Kaibou was going uneventfully until the second generation of colonists was born on the planet, at some, at a young age, began showing various psychic abilities. When those people, called marvels, grew up, many of them formed companies, building compounds to live in and raise their children.  Due to population diversity issues, many colonists have children using genetic bank material, or choose a succession of partners. Now on the seventh generation, marvels are born both within and without company walls, and all must work together to use their gifts and make a living on a still wild land. Some of these outsider marvels sign contracts with company marvels, agreeing to give them a child raised within the company, in return for a permanent home in the company compound, a stipend, and other concessions.

Stories and Lies: Review of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Stories about writing, books, bookstores, etc. are a favorite of mine. This one has a writer, plenty of books, and a bookstore.

This is the story of Vida Winter, a writer, who lied to every single person who asked about her past. Now old and dying, she finally decides to tell the truth to Margaret Lea, a bookseller’s daughter and sometime biographer. The story is, it turns out, a bit dark and quite strange, with twists and turns–a bit like the stories Winter got so famous for. But this really happened, and holds a secret that Winter isn’t willing to give up until the end.

Winter tells her story from start to finish–in fact she insists on it–but somehow still manages to leave you guessing. Lea’s quieter life with her father forms a frame for the story she’s recording, and draws out the mystery. It’s a quiet, thoughtful, reflective sort of book, that asks questions about family, and love, and the value of truth. A great read for fans of bookish things.

Top Ten Tues: Wishlist

Top Ten Tuesdays are hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, and 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 of other bloggers who participate.

May 9: Ten Things On Our Reading Wish list (topic originally done January 2014) — things you want to see more of in books — tropes, a time period, a specific type of character, an issue tackled, a certain plot, etc. All those things that make you think I WANT MORE OF THIS IN BOOKS!

1. Anti-heroes. Not the revenge-crazy or the unlikable, but just a bit wicked.

2. Diverse re-tellings. Make the prince a princess, or have the princess rescue herself, or change up the characters’ race, etc.

3. Female leads without a romance. Love is nice, but a lady can kick butt and take names without it!

4. Fun and action. I love protagonists that can fight and toss off a snappy comment, or plots that have moments of humor among the serious ones.

5. Mermaids. Not ones who sigh after humans–dangerous ones, like sharks.

6. Scholarly protagonists. Fight with your brain!

7. Steampunk. A time period with a twist, and usually a funny genre–that meshes well with others.

8. Unusual supernatural beings. Venturing beyond vampires and werewolves makes for a different kind of story.

9. Urban Fantasy. I love the idea of magic in the real world.

10. Weird fiction. The newer works in the genre, like the works of China Mieville.