Book Riot Read Harder 2018: May

Here’s the new Book Riot Read Harder Challenge for 2018! 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. It’s always great to see the new suggestions, and I’m still working on finding the perfect titles.

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

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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 an assigned book you hated or never finished.

The Scarlet Letter; Nathaniel Hawthorne.

I have never left an assigned book unfinished, but I did quite dislike this one. (But not so badly a reread felt too onerous.)

The story of a woman charged with adultery, who refuses to reveal the man who got her pregnant, and raises her child in a town that judges her quite harshly for her sin.

Though this book has a lot to say about society’s attempt to control the individual, the nature of sin, and the importance of living the truest version of your life… I can’t like it. It’s so full of hypocrisy, drama, and unlikable characters. It’s gloomy and dull, and not at all enjoyable. Most importantly, the moralizing, for me, falls short.

Once was enough, twice was more than enough.

  • Read a book in one sitting

The Uncommon Reader; Alan Bennett.

At 120 pages, it was easy enough to read this in one sitting.

A delightful little “what if” story. What if the Queen discovered a traveling library, and then, just to be polite, checked out a book? And then she read it, and decided to get one more… igniting a love of reading with sweeping consequences. Soon enough, others are trying to cope with her reading habits, and it grows into quite an issue. This story explores the possible results of a book obsessed monarch, the ripples spreading outwards to great effect.

It’s a short read, of course, and funny and heartwarming and a bit snarky in places. A great read for a book lover.

  • Read an Oprah book club book.

The Invention of Wings; Sue Monk Kidd.

Oprah book club book for September 2017.

This is about slavery, so you know it will be dark. But it’s also the fictionalized story of two abolitionists, and the people they might have befriended, in some other version of history. (The author’s note talks about them, and how much of the story is based on history.) Told from the pov of slave and slave owner, it offers up the hope that gives you wings in times of suffering. Both women are struggling for freedom, even if only one is in bondage, as white women had very few rights at the time period.

The determination in these characters, and the beautiful writing really made this book.

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Top Ten Tues: Book Worlds

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 29: Bookish Worlds I’d Want to/Never Want to Live In

A lot of book worlds are scary, but some are fascinating.

Want to Live In

  1. Beta. Louis McMaster Bujold. Space! There’s all sorts of cool technology and multiple planets to visit.

2. Discworld. Terry Practhett. There’s so much strange magic there.

3. Expanse. In the time after the big danger has passed–there’s so many world to explore!

4. Tortall. Tamora Pierce. Definitely only in certain kingdoms and times, but it’d be amazing to see all the magic.

5. Pern. Anne McCaffrey. Sure, there’s a killer star dropping Thread on the planet, but… dragons!

Never Want to Live In

6. Hunter. Mercedes Lackey. Lots of monsters, and not so good protection.

7. Illuminae’s various worlds. Amie Kaufmann & Jay Kristoff. Sure, it’s also in space, but there’s so much creepy bureaucracy happening.

8. The Others. Anne Bishop. I would probably get eaten.

9. Ready Player One. Ernest Cline. All the tech in the world can’t sell me on this wasted future Earth.

10. Word$. Gregory Katsoulis. It’s dang expensive, when you’re charged for every word you speak.

Weekend Writing Warriors: 5/26

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!)

Here’s the start of a new WIP–working title “Discovering Gremlins,” because I’ve shared about as much as I can of King Under the Mountain. Looks like urban fantasy so far, though I’m not yet sure where it’s going.

Previous snippet: Gremlins didn’t much resemble their innocuous storybook versions—in fact, they varied in size and shape, and each and every one was absolutely terrifying. Perhaps it’s for the best that they have magical abilities to camouflage themselves, and to blur the memories of those that catch an unlucky glimpse. Because if you see a gremlin—really catch a good look, not a flash of movement and color—you’re doomed.

Seth Montgomery glared at his computer screen. Working in data entry wasn’t particularly exciting, except for when your computer crashed. Then it was horribly dull, but spiced with the adrenaline rush fueled headache of work and time lost. When rebooting his computer and subtly thumping the tower with his foot didn’t work, he sighed, and pushed away from his desk, heading into the IT dungeon.

Down in the basement, the room had no windows, illuminated by flickering florescent lights, several of which were always in need of replacement.

“Harry?” Seth called.

A dark head popped above one of the cubicle walls. Not Harry then, she was blonde.

 

 

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“She’s with the servers,” the man pointed down the hallway to the right, then his chair wheels squeaked over the cement as he retreated.

Seth offered a “thanks,” in return, not certain it was heard, as he got no acknowledgement as he passed cinder block walls punctuated with creatively defaced motivational posters. He strode down a hallway of cubicles to one side, and closed doors to the other, and soon enough, he heard the hum of the servers, a bouquet of flashing lights painting the walls with dots of color.

“Harry?” he called out.

Something crashed a row over, so he rushed towards it, sure to find Harriet Pham there, screwdriver in one hand, energy drink in the other. Another crash followed, and he picked up speed as he rounded the corner of the aisle, concerned.

The polished toe of his shoe caught the raised root cable that had escaped its duct tape restraints, and he banged his head on a cardboard box on the way to the floor. Clutching his head, he groaned, and stayed down, eyes clamped shut against the starburst dancing across his vision until the wave of pain drained. A shadow wavered on the closest server, and he squinted, starburst dancing across his eyes when he tried to sit up.

The shadow wavered, and resolved into the ugliest thing he’d ever seen.

*    *    *

Not entirely sure what this one is about. Scary gremlins, and an office job. Something’s going to happen to Seth Montgomery, for sure.

The Ice Cream Truck Says Hello

There’s an ice cream truck that goes around my neighborhood, which plays the usual simple music, but then the music pauses and a woman’s voice says “Hello?” before the music starts up again. I find it a little creepy, and when I mentioned it to a friend, he suggested the truck might be haunted.

***

Image from WikiMedia by klara from urbana

She only wanted some ice cream. That wasn’t too much to ask, after a long, hot day, where her work’s AC had broken, and the bus ride had been extra long, and packed full of sweaty passengers.

“Hello?”she’d yelled, waving her arms, but the truck had pulled away, still playing that syrupy music.

Jogging after it, she yelled again. She was going to have a popsicle, dang it! She deserved one. Quickly, she scrambled past a hedge, and through a garden bed, clambered over a low fence, and jogged toward the road.

Her foot slipped on some loose gravel, and she fell, arms windmilling.

The music stopped suddenly, and the world went black.

And then, things got a little vague for a time. The next she knew, the music swelled in her ears, and she felt… strange. An empty, echoing feeling in her stomach. She must have hit her head or something, she thought.

The music paused, and she called out, “hello?”

 

 

 

Top Ten Tues: Best Character Names

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 22: Best Character Names (make this as narrow/broad as you’d like)

This is a tough question–separating character from name, but here are my favorites. (Alphabetical by first names, because why not?)

  1. Alexander “Tinker” Graham Bell.

2. Adora “Spike” Belle Dearheart.

3. Bathsheba Everdene.

4. Constance Verity.

5. Dorian Gray.

6. Fitzwilliam Darcy.

7. Hermione Granger.

8. Ichabod Crane.

9. Inigo Montoya.

10. Tyrannus Basilton Grimm Pitch.

 

Weekend Writing Warriors: 5/19

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!)

Here’s the start of a new WIP–working title “Discovering Gremlins,” because I’ve shared about as much as I can of King Under the Mountain. Looks like urban fantasy so far, though I’m not yet sure where it’s going.

 

 

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge

Gremlins didn’t much resemble their innocuous storybook versions—in fact, they varied in size and shape, and each and every one was absolutely terrifying. Perhaps it’s for the best that they have magical abilities to camouflage themselves, and to blur the memories of those that catch an unlucky glimpse. Because if you see a gremlin—really catch a good look, not a flash of movement and color—you’re doomed.

Seth Montgomery glared at his computer screen. Working in data entry wasn’t particularly exciting, except for when your computer crashed. Then it was horribly dull, but spiced with the adrenaline rush fueled headache of work and time lost. When rebooting his computer and subtly thumping the tower with his foot didn’t work, he sighed, and pushed away from his desk, heading into the IT dungeon.

Down in the basement, the room had no windows, illuminated by flickering florescent lights, several of which were always in need of replacement.

“Harry?” Seth called.

A dark head popped above one of the cubicle walls. Not Harry then, she was blonde.

*    *    *

Not entirely sure what this one is about. Scary gremlins, and an office job. Something’s going to happen to Seth Montgomery, for sure.

Book Festival 2018

I went to a Book Festival last month, and used a typeset press to make a “book lender’s curse” for unreturned books, saw a few author readings, and browsed the Indie and college presses in rows outside. The day was cold and windy, but I still had a wonderful time. (Because, books!)

Here’s the press–I did mine myself! (With a little instruction.) And the completed curse. People who don’t return books–or damage them–are not good friends.

Holly Black! She talked about Cruel Prince, which is still waiting on my TBR tower… but it’s a dark fairy tale, with elves and danger–my kind of book. Also, she makes the second YA author with fun hair I’ve gotten a book signed from (Laini Taylor has pink hair.) All I need is a third, and it’s a trend.

A panel on Literary San Antonio, a collection about the city, for its tricentennial. Each of them did a reading, and talked about their inspiration, and how they relate to the city–native or immigrant. It’s always especially amazing to hear Sandra Cisneros read.

I got a book by the man on the end, Cary Clark. (Clowns and Rats Scare Me. Still unread so far. My pile is out of control, but I’ll get there.)

And to top it off, Typewriter Rodeo. They’ll type up a poem for you, on the spot, and subject you suggest. They talked about writing fast, and letting poems go–they never see them again, until they started asking for pictures for their book. And some people sure pick interesting poem subjects! Also, some of the typists have quite the collection of antique typewriters, and now I want one.

Their book is waiting on my TBR, too.

Has anyone been to a book festival recently?

 

 

Top Ten Tues: Disliked but Glad I Read

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 15: Books I Disliked/Hated but Am Really Glad I Read (maybe just for bragging rights).

  1. The Road; Cormac McCarthy. A post-apocalyptic that’s quite grim. But it’s an interesting read.

2. Crime & Punishment; Fyodor Dostoyevsky. A classic! Definitely good for bragging rights.

3. Pride, Prejudice & Zombies; Seth Grahame-Smith. I’ll try pretty much any P&P variant, so I’m glad I gave this one a shot.

4. Tess of the D’Urbervilles; Thomas Hardy. I mean, I had to read it for a class…

5. Death comes to Pemberley; P.D. James. Another P&P variant that was worth a try.

6. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; C.S. Lewis. A book that gets referenced a lot.

7. Beloved; Toni Morrison. This is one of those classics that was just too grim for me.

8. Swann’s Way; Marcel Proust. Another for bragging rights. 🙂

9. Gravity’s Rainbow; Thomas Pynchon. Another highly recommended book.

10. The Color Purple; Alice Walker. An important read, but a terribly sad book.

 

Weekend Writing Warriors: 5/12

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!)

Here’s a WIP from NaNoWriMo 2017, currently titled King Under the Mountain. Set in Casper, Wyoming, in a world where goblins trade in magical goods with humans, traveling from their world to ours through stone circle gates. But if humans aren’t wary in their dealings with goblins, they can find themselves stolen away!

Stephanie and Alix, cousins, are biking home from a party, a bit drunk, and Stephanie vanishes in a ring of toadstools. Alix calls for the King Under the Mountain, and is allowed to try to bring Stephanie back. Day 5: Having gone through a standing stone gate to a new part of the kingdom, Alix struggles to move forward.

Previously: Alix paused in her walking, and the bird immediately began squawking again.

Feeling like an episode of some old t.v. show, she asked, “Am I supposed to go through that one?”

The bird folded its wings, and shook itself, then tucked its head under wing as if sleeping.

“Now I’m not only talking to a bird, I’m taking advice from it,” Alix said, though part of her wasn’t as surprised as she ought to be.  Drawing in a deep breath, she squared her shoulders, resettled her backpack, and strode through the doorway with the bird perched on top. Just before she passed underneath it, the bird emitted another short, rolling, whistle of a cry.

Once again as soon as she moved under the gate stone, the world went strange between one step and another, from a sparse forest bordering the shore, to another place entirely. Taking stock, she studied her surroundings. She now stood in an old growth forest, full of pines, spruces, oaks, and ash, and some trees that resembled elms and walnut trees, though not quite the same. The smell of dirt and leaves and rotting plants filled the air, and over it, a sharp, sweet floral scent she couldn’t place.

 

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The going proved slow, Alix having to retrace her path around impassible thickets, or crumbling dirt hills, or deeply carved rivers. “What are you, some kind of evil forest?”

Off to the right, she heard a snuffling noise, and froze.

“I wasn’t asking you to prove me right,” she hissed, and something crackled through the undergrowth. She stared that direction, frozen, as a dark shape resolved into a black bear with white splashed across its chest.

Alix beat a hasty retreat as its head turned her way, and when she judged she was safe, kept going until she found an open spot to search for the elusive moon.

“Stupid never-ending twisty woods,” she grumbled, and kicked a rock, which ricocheted off a tree, bouncing right back at her, barely missing as she dodged away.

“Maybe don’t do that again,” a female voice said, sounding amused–from up in the topmost branches of the tree, yellow eyes peered out at her, glowing faintly in the leafy shadows.

“Won’t do it again!” Alix squeaked, and resumed walking, trying for nonchalant and aware she was failing miserably, because she couldn’t keep her gaze from darting up to the tree until it was out of sight.

*    *    *

I took inspiration from “The Ballad of Tam Lin,” and Christina Rosetti’s “Goblin Market.” The idea of people being stolen away, and a loved one journeying to get them back (though Tam Lin was stolen by the Queen of the fairies), and the bustling goblin markets with their dangerous fruit from Rosetti’s poem sparked this adventure. Alix and Stephanie are college freshman, 18 and 19 respectively, and cousins sharing a dorm room. They left an off-campus party where they did some drinking, and while biking back to the dorms, Stephanie steps into a fairy circle and is taken to the kingdom under the mountain, where she will stay forever as a goblin unless rescued.

Weekend Writing Warriors: 4/5

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!)

Here’s a WIP from NaNoWriMo 2017, currently titled King Under the Mountain. Set in Casper, Wyoming, in a world where goblins trade in magical goods with humans, traveling from their world to ours through stone circle gates. But if humans aren’t wary in their dealings with goblins, they can find themselves stolen away!

Stephanie and Alix, cousins, are biking home from a party, a bit drunk, and Stephanie vanishes in a ring of toadstools. Alix calls for the King Under the Mountain, and is allowed to try to bring Stephanie back. Day 4: Alix reaches a set of standing stones, and the king of goblins appears to offer her advice, then vanishes–and then the sea bird whose nest she rescued days ago appears.

Previously: “Well, where’s my clue?” Alix asked the sky.

A piercing cry, a rolling ‘keer-reet,’ split the air in response.

Alix searched the horizon, and soon she spotted a familiar gray and white bird winging above the trees. It wheeled, circling, and then swooped down, landing on the lintel of a stone two doorways down from where she sat.

“What are you doing all the way out here?”

It squawked at her in response, beady black eyes fixed on her, wings spread like a dark omen, and stayed on its perch.

“If you’re trying to communicate with me, bird, I don’t know what you’re trying to say.”

It made that rolling, whistling cry again and again, filling the air with noise, otherwise unmoving.

Alix stood, and walked toward the bird.

It fell silent.

 

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge

Alix paused in her walking, and the bird immediately began squawking again.

Feeling like an episode of some old t.v. show, she asked, “Am I supposed to go through that one?”

The bird folded its wings, and shook itself, then tucked its head under wing as if sleeping.

“Now I’m not only talking to a bird, I’m taking advice from it,” Alix said, though part of her wasn’t as surprised as she ought to be.  Drawing in a deep breath, she squared her shoulders, resettled her backpack, and strode through the doorway with the bird perched on top. Just before she passed underneath it, the bird emitted another short, rolling, whistle of a cry.

Once again as soon as she moved under the gate stone, the world went strange between one step and another, from a sparse forest bordering the shore, to another place entirely. Taking stock, she studied her surroundings. She now stood in an old growth forest, full of pines, spruces, oaks, and ash, and some trees that resembled elms and walnut trees, though not quite the same. The smell of dirt and leaves and rotting plants filled the air, and over it, a sharp, sweet floral scent she couldn’t place.

*    *    *

I took inspiration from “The Ballad of Tam Lin,” and Christina Rosetti’s “Goblin Market.” The idea of people being stolen away, and a loved one journeying to get them back (though Tam Lin was stolen by the Queen of the fairies), and the bustling goblin markets with their dangerous fruit from Rosetti’s poem sparked this adventure. Alix and Stephanie are college freshman, 18 and 19 respectively, and cousins sharing a dorm room. They left an off-campus party where they did some drinking, and while biking back to the dorms, Stephanie steps into a fairy circle and is taken to the kingdom under the mountain, where she will stay forever as a goblin unless rescued.