Top Ten Tues: Learning

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!

August 28: Back to School/Learning Freebie (in honor of school starting back up soon, come up with your own topic that fits the theme of school or learning! Books that take place at school/boarding school/during study abroad, books you read in school, textbooks you liked/didn’t like, non-fiction books you loved or want to read, etc.)

Here’s some of my favorite educational books. Not all are nonfiction, but they all have something to offer. Never stop learning!

  1. Kitchen Confidential; Anthony Bourdain. Maybe more than you want to know about the restaurant business.

2. Short History of Nearly Everything; Bill Bryson. What’s on the label.

3. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race; Reni Eddo-Lodge. Includes a well researched section on the history of racism in England, among other eye-openers.

4. Star of the North; D.B. John. Though fictional, this seems as well researched as it can be.

5. Darius the Great is Not Okay; Adib Khorram. A lot of information about Farsi, Iran, and depression.

6. Genius in Disguise; Thomas Kunkel. A lot about the Ross and The New Yorker, but also about the publishing business.

7. The Best American Essays; Joyce Carol Oates. Though I didn’t like all of the essays, several were slices of the past, informative and impactful.

8. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry; Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. A brief overview of a complicated topic.

 

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Weekend Writing Warriors: 8/22

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 new WIP–“Discovering Gremlins.” Seth had a bad day at work–hit his head and saw a monster, which he dismissed as his imagination, despite a shadow following him home. The next day, he breaks his phone screen, his shower sprays water everywhere, the subway car he’s on is delayed more than an hour–after lunch Harry (she of I.T. fame) pushes him into her office and tells him she can fix his gremlin problem.

Previous snippet: Harry flopped into a rolling chair with a sigh, the wheels squeaking across the linoleum. “So, Seth, how did you tick off the gremlins?”

He frowned at her, then asked, “What?”

“Ugly tech monsters? Making everything around you break?” she prompted in the patient tone of a teacher with an exceptionally slow pupil.

“I didn’t—it wasn’t real,” Seth said. “That thing with the teeth, and the spikes, and the claws can’t have been real.”

Harry’s lips pressed into a grim line, “Yeah, it was real, and we need to get them off your back, before they kill you.”

“Before they—what?”

“Don’t worry,” Harry told him,.“I know what to do.”

 

 

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge

She pulled out a notepad, and started scribbling on it, “You need something big–something flashy. Here’s the address, and the specs you need.”

Harry paused in her writing, and jabbed the end of her pen at him, “Don’t skimp. They know the difference, and if you offend them with your apology, you don’t get a second chance.” She wrote a few more words, then tore the page off the pad, holding it out to him.

He took it, bemused.

“Say you’re sick, lunch didn’t agree with you. Buy this, take it home, but don’t go inside until I show up.”

“What are you talking about?” Seth burst out, feeling ready to rip his hair out, or shake Harry until she started making sense.

*    *    *

Gremlins have camouflage magic, and a way of making people who catch just a glimpse forget them. This is good for humanity, because they’re powerfully ugly, and react violently to being discovered. But when Seth hits his head and lands on the floor right next to a gremlin, he sees it… and it notices that he’s done so. Things are about to go downhill for Seth.

Complete: Attack at Dawn

My complete (four part) writing group snippet. Updated in chunks–divided by asterisks, so skip to whichever section you’re up to, if you’ve already read some. This got post-apocalyptic and a bit grim, fair warning!

Image in the public domain. From WikiMedia, by Sarang.

*  *  *

The children attacked at dawn. The town expected—dreaded—an early assault, as the children were often awake before the sun rose completely, shrieking and sharpening their stick spears for blood. So two lookouts protected the populace.

The east tower faced the caves where the children lived, surrounded by piles of broken toys and the gnawed-clean bones of their victims. Often the stick-thin children could be spotted prowling around, hunting for some morsel to appease their hunger. The west tower faced the forest, blighted from some attack by the Before People. The trees grew gnarled and twisted, half dead, branches clawing toward the sunlight. Coyotes lurked in the meager shade, and denned in the tangled roots.

The lookout in the east tower spotted the mob first, pouring out of their caves, screaming and brandishing spears and bludgeons. Quickly, the lookout blew the warning horn, two long, deep blasts, to warn of the coming danger at the wall.

Shutters and doors slammed as non-combatants barricaded themselves inside their homes, hastily abandoning morning chores. The hollow thuds of fear were punctuated with the lighter drum of running feet as every able body rushed to the defenses. Each person had their part. No gaps could be left without dire consequences.

And then the lookout to the west blew their horn—a brighter tenor, in two long notes. The children had learned misdirection.

Everyone defended the far side, facing down invaders—looking death in its small, red face, with snarls of hair haloing angry eyes and sharp teeth. So the lone child met no resistance when they tossed a knotted rope over the barricade, a hook of rusted metal biting deep into the wood. They swarmed over the wall with ease, and dropped to the other side.

**     **     **

The scrawny child, around eight years old and of indeterminate sex, straightened from their crouch. They raced down one road, turning right, right again, and then left. The skin exposed by the rags bore the faint scars of the illness that, almost a year ago, had attacked those under the age of twelve. The ill had raved and thrashed and bit in their fever, desperate to escape the fire consuming their bodies. Some had gone still forever, and others found the lesser still of sleep. Those parents with surviving offspring felt a toxic mix of triumph and relief–which, some whispered, had earned the punishment that followed.

Because some children had woken weak, and taken months to recover. Others had seemed to slip back into that violent fever, but their bodies healed quickly, the purple tinged rash evaporating as their tempers worsened. Many fled–and a few, it must be said, were let go. The changed children hovered around the town, stealing toys and food. As the days passed, the town fortified, building by building, and the thefts grew less successful. Then, three children, confronted by an elderly man, attacked him and dragged his body into a cave a short distance from town.

By the time anyone realized he was missing, they’d already consumed his tenderest parts.

What the children recalled served as a contentious, oft-repeated source of argument among the adults, which flared up like a peat fire, always smoldering beneath the surface. If the diminutive cannibals remembered little, however, it would be impossible that this eight-year-old invader walked a few houses after that final left turn, and peeled back a piece of board half-concealed by a small vegetable garden. The dark, greasy-haired head ducked as the child crouched and slid through the opening, into the backyard of the house the wall should have protected.

The board, settling back in place, made a muffled noise too quiet to be heard above the martial music of attack and defense.

***     ***     ***

Once in the yard, the child made a beeline for the shed tucked into the back corner. They jiggled the shed’s door, eyes intent, tongue poking out from cracked lips. After a few shifts, the latch, set higher than the child could reach, clicked open, and they vanished inside. The latch rattled for a moment more as the door flexed, then dropped into place, leaving no sign of the terror lurking inside.

The lookout had seen the child breech the barricade, of course, but lost track of their fast movements between the buildings. People searched, at first just a few who could be spared from the defenses. But after the children had been repulsed–with one casualty for the attackers, a small body left lying on the ground, eyes staring accusingly at the sky–they performed a grid search, checking doors and latches, hunting for any place a child might hide.

A searcher even shook the door of one particular shed, but finding it latched properly from the outside, moved on. In the darkness of the shed, weakly pierced by light filtering through hairline gaps, the child waited, head cocked, breathing shallowly through their mouth. When the noise outside moved away, the child curled up and napped fitfully.

Eventually the searchers gave up. Repairs were made, and life in its bustle of daily tasks and work to be done, settled in. As dusk crept over the town, a well-armed group of adults ventured out with shovels, and interred the diminutive casualty in the graveyard outside of town. One woman, weeping, carved a name into the horizontal broken piece of board forming a cross on the mound, as the rest piled the mound with rocks as large as they could carry, or stood watch.

Task complete, they hustled back inside. Lights flickered in windows as the day darkened further, as people gathered around small tasks in the firelight, and tucked their rare, safe offspring into their beds. Parents checked foreheads for a hint of fever, and shutter latches against the threats outside.

Silence, finally. A candle flickered where a woman toiled to finish repairs on ripped trousers, a man lay awake in bed, and a child whimpered in a warm, close room. But no one heard the shed door tapping against the frame as it flexed, or the latch rattle and click open. The well-oiled hinges made no sound at all.

****        ****      ****

The dark-haired invader oozed out of the shed, latching the door behind them. Ghosting across the yard, back out the hidden opening in the fence, the child retraced their steps to the barricade.

Up in the towers, the lookouts dozed.

No one saw the child unbar and open the main gate a sliver, peer out, then rejoin four others standing in the shadows of the wall. All of the children were older survivors as well, emaciated and splattered with fresh blood.

They exchanged nods, and two of the children hefted a litter constructed of sticks and patched together clothing, a tattered rag draped over the top. It clung, wetly, to the contents it concealed, dark spots blooming in the uncertain moonlight.

The five crept through the gate, closing and barring it behind them, then walked to the church at the center or town. This time, the west lookout spotted them, but not before they’d gained the church. The litter was abandoned outside as they scurried in to the sound of the warning horn blowing, loudly, but without the pattern to indicate which wall the attack came from.

The adults, woken from sleep, rushed out, half dressed and clutching weapons. Disoriented, they milled around.

“The church!” The lookout cried. “They’re in the chapel!”

Suddenly, the church’s bell intoned, gonging loudly as someone slammed it over and over. The percussion drowned out speech, and nearly thought. When the last peal faded into silence, most of the town had gathered in front of the small building–carefully tended, whitewashed, with flowers blooming in slender beds framing the wide doors.

Their colors washed out by the moonlight, they still lifted cheerful blooms to any wandering moths or bats, eternally hopeful. The rag-covered litter between them held no such hope, only fear.

Finally, one of the townspeople, a burly man with a bald patch almost as wide as his mustache, gathered the courage to flip back the covering with his pitchfork.

Neatly stacked in a pyramid three high, children’s heads filled the litter. Recently severed from their owners, still seeping darkly, though efforts had been made to clean them up and close their eyes. Each face remained gray with ground in filth, and gaunt from malnutrition, so those efforts achieved little.

The group stared. A man fainted. A woman screamed, cut off abruptly.

The bell chimed, quieter, as if gently tapped.

A high, think voice floated from the bell-tower. “We’re sorry. We want to come home.”

 

Top Ten Tues: Books to End a Slump

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!

August 21: Books to Pull You Out of a Reading Slump

This is so different for everyone, so these are books that pull *me* out of a slump. When nothing appeals to me, I turn to old favorites that make me smile/laugh or evoke a warm fuzzy feeling.

Matilda; Roald Dahl. She’s my hero. And children’s books are great to break a slump, because they’re shorter.

Complete Works; Emily DIckinson. Assuming you like poetry, she has some wonderfully defiant poems, or quiet hopeful poems.

Mine Till Midnight; Lisa Kleypas. With books I’ve read a bunch of times, I might just read a favorite section–like a sweet declaration of love.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened; Jenny Lawson. Every since a friend directed me to The Bloggess, her irreverent humor has always lifted my mood with her weird hobbies, strange conversations, and willingness to fight a body and brain chemistry that is unkind.

Hogfather; Terry Pratchett. There’s a lot of life triumphing against entropy in all Pratchett, but this happens to be one of my favorites, because it has Susan Sto Helit and Christmas in it.

Brave Enough; Cheryl Strayed. Short, heartfelt snippets of wisdom and hope.

Weekend Writing Warriors: 8/18

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 new WIP–“Discovering Gremlins.” Seth had a bad day at work–hit his head and saw a monster, which he dismissed as his imagination, despite a shadow following him home. The next day, he breaks his phone screen, his shower sprays water everywhere, the subway car he’s on is delayed more than an hour–after lunch Harry (she of I.T. fame) pushes him into her office.

Previous snippet: Biting back some choice words, Seth held down the power button on his cell, and waited–nothing.

“Here, let me see,” Harry gently tugged the phone out of his hands, and slid open the back, peering inside the device.

She prodded something with a miniature screwdriver she’d produced from one of her many pockets, and then stared up at him, dark eyes intently focused for just long enough for Seth to start to feel uncomfortable, before returning her attention to his phone.

The screwdriver danced in her fingers, and she let out a triumphant, “Ah.”

“What?” he asked, patience fraying.

She wordlessly handed him his phone, which displayed the lock screen, and put her screwdriver away just as the server began setting down their plates. She mostly focused on her food, answering questions tossed her way, but asking none of her own.

Seth couldn’t muster the energy to care about her strange behavior.

As they were heading back into their building, she tapped his shoulder. “Hey, I have something to show you–let’s stop by my office.”

 

 

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge

Harry flopped into a rolling chair with a sigh, the wheels squeaking across the linoleum. “So, Seth, how did you tick off the gremlins?”

He frowned at her, then asked, “What?”

“Ugly tech monsters? Making everything around you break?” she prompted in the patient tone of a teacher with an exceptionally slow pupil.

“I didn’t—it wasn’t real,” Seth said. “That thing with the teeth, and the spikes, and the claws can’t have been real.”

Harry’s lips pressed into a grim line, “Yeah, it was real, and we need to get them off your back, before they kill you.”

“Before they—what?”

“Don’t worry,” Harry told him,.“I know what to do.”

*    *    *

Gremlins have camouflage magic, and a way of making people who catch just a glimpse forget them. This is good for humanity, because they’re powerfully ugly, and react violently to being discovered. But when Seth hits his head and lands on the floor right next to a gremlin, he sees it… and it notices that he’s done so. Things are about to go downhill for Seth.

Weekend Writing Warriors: 8/11

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 new WIP–“Discovering Gremlins.” Seth had a bad day at work–hit his head and saw a monster, which he dismissed as his imagination, despite a shadow following him home. The next day, he breaks his phone screen, his shower sprays water everywhere, the subway car he’s on is delayed more than an hour–and he join his coworkers for lunch, talking with Harry (she of I.T. fame) as his cell phone dies.

Previous snippet:  “You seem a bit stressed,” Harry asked, while Seth was still staring, puzzled, at the stretch of inauthentic tin ceiling tiles.

“Oh, yeah, just stuff,” Seth stabbed at his potatoes, thunking the fork tines into the plate underneath.

Harry made an inquiring noise, and when he didn’t elaborate, said, “My AC was out over the weekend, so I was almost glad to go back to work yesterday.”

“How long did it take to repair?”

“It broke Friday, while I was at work, but my guy couldn’t fit me in until Sunday,” she said.

“My water’s probably going to be out for days,” Seth remembered glumly.

“That’s rough,” Harry patted him on the shoulder. “Do you have a friend whose shower you can borrow?”

“Should,” Seth pulled out his phone, growled at the cracks on the surface, which had multiplied like rabbits, and texted a friend who lived on the same floor as him.

His phone screen went black.

 

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge

Biting back some choice words, Seth held down the power button on his cell, and waited–nothing.

“Here, let me see,” Harry gently tugged the phone out of his hands, and slid open the back, peering inside the device.

She prodded something with a miniature screwdriver she’d produced from one of her many pockets, and then stared up at him, dark eyes intently focused for just long enough for Seth to start to feel uncomfortable, before returning her attention to his phone.

The screwdriver danced in her fingers, and she let out a triumphant, “Ah.”

“What?” he asked, patience fraying.

She wordlessly handed him his phone, which displayed the lock screen, and put her screwdriver away just as the server began setting down their plates. She mostly focused on her food, answering questions tossed her way, but asking none of her own.

Seth couldn’t muster the energy to care about her strange behavior.

As they were heading back into their building, she tapped his shoulder. “Hey, I have something to show you–let’s stop by my office.”

*    *    *

Gremlins have camouflage magic, and a way of making people who catch just a glimpse forget them. This is good for humanity, because they’re powerfully ugly, and react violently to being discovered. But when Seth hits his head and lands on the floor right next to a gremlin, he sees it… and it notices that he’s done so. Things are about to go downhill for Seth.

Snippet 3: Attack at Dawn

I’ve expanded this writing group snippet. Updating in chunks–divided by asterisks, so skip to the last section if you’re up to date. This got post-apocalyptic and a bit grim, fair warning!

Image in the public domain. From WikiMedia, by Sarang.

*  *  *

The children attacked at dawn. The town expected—dreaded—an early assault, as the children were often awake before the sun rose completely, shrieking and sharpening their spears for blood. So two lookouts protected the populace.

The east tower faced the caves where the children lived, surrounded by piles of broken toys and the gnawed-clean bones of their victims. Often the children could be spotted prowling around, wrapped in rags to protect their skin, hair filthy and hacked short. The west tower faced the forest, blighted from some attack from the Before People. The trees grew gnarled and twisted, half dead, branches clawing toward the sunlight. Coyotes lurked in the meager shade, and denned in the tangled branches.

The lookout in the east tower spotted the mob first, pouring out of their caves, screaming and brandishing spears and bludgeons. Quickly, the lookout blew the warning horn, two long, deep blasts, to warn of the coming danger.

Shutters and doors slammed as the non-combatants barricaded themselves inside their homes, hastily abandoning morning chores. The sound of fear, hollow thuds, was punctuated with the lighter drum of running feet as every able body rushed to the defenses. Each person had their part. No gaps could be left, without dire consequences.

And then the lookout to the west blew their horn—a brighter tenor, in two long notes. The children had learned misdirection.

Everyone defended the far side, facing down invaders—looking death in its small, chubby cheeked face, with snarls of hair haloing angry eyes and sharp teeth. So the lone child met no resistance when they tossed a knotted rope over the barricade, a hook of rusted metal biting deep into the wood. They swarmed over the barricade with ease, and landed on the other side.

***     ***     ***

The child, scrawny and dirty, around eight years old, straightened from their crouch, and raced down one road, turning right, right again, and then left. They bore the faint scars of the illness that had attacked most people under the age of twelve. The ill had raved and thrashed and bit in their fever, desperate to escape the fire consuming their bodies. Some had gone still forever, and others the lesser still of sleep. Those with surviving offspring felt a toxic mix of triumph and relief–which, some whispered, had earned the punishment that followed.

Because some children had woken weak, and taken months to recover. Others had seemed to slip back into that violent fever, but their bodies recovered quickly, the purple tinged rash evaporating as their tempers worsened. Many fled–and a few, it must be said, were let go. The changed children hovered around the town, stealing toys and food. Then, three of them, confronted in a theft by an elderly man, attacked him and dragged his body into a cave a short distance from town.

By the time anyone realized he was missing, they’d already consumed his tenderest parts.

What the children recalled served as a contentious, oft-repeated source of argument among the adults, which flared up like a peat fire, always smoldering beneath the surface. If the diminutive cannibals remembered little, however, it would be impossible that this eight-year-old invader walked a few houses after that final left turn, and peeled back a piece of board half-concealed by a small vegetable garden. The dark, greasy-haired head ducked as the child crouched and slid through the opening in the wall, into the backyard of the house the barrier should have protected.

The board, settled back in place, made a muffled noise too quiet to be heard above the martial music of attack and defense.

***     ***     ***

Once in the yard, the child made a beeline for the small shed tucked into the back corner. They jiggled the shed’s latch, eye intent, tongue poking out from cracked lips. After a few shifts with prodding fingers, the latch clicked open, and the child vanished inside. The latch rattled for a moment more as the door flexed, then dropped into place, leaving no sign of the terror lurking inside.

The look out had seen the child breech the wall, of course, but lost track of their fast movements between the buildings. People searched, at first just a few who could be spared from the defenses. But after the children had been repulsed–one casualty for the attackers, a small body left lying on the ground, eyes staring accusingly at the sky–they performed a grid search, checking door and latches, hunting for any place a child might hide.

A searcher even shook the door of one particular shed, but finding it latched properly from the outside, moved on. In the darkness of the shed, barely pierced by light filtering through hairline gaps, the child waited, head cocked, breathing shallowly through their mouth. When the noise outside moved away, the child curled up and napped fitfully.

Eventually the searchers gave up. Repairs were made, and life in its bustle of daily tasks and work to be done, settled in. As dusk crept over the town, a well-armed group of adults ventured out with shovels, and interred the small casualty in the graveyard outside of town. One woman, weeping, cut a name into the horizontal broken piece of board forming a cross on the mound, as the rest covered the mound with rocks as large as they could carry, or stood watch.

Task complete, they hustled back inside. Lights flickered in windows as the day darkened further, people gathered around small tasks in the firelight, and tucked their rare, safe offspring into their beds. Parents checked foreheads for a hint of fever, and shutter latches despite any protests of a stuffy, warm night.

Silence, finally. A candle flickered where a woman toiled to finish repairs on ripped trousers, a man lay awake in bed, a child whimpered in a warm, close room. But no one heard the shed door tapping against the frame as it flexed, or the latch rattle and click open. The well-oiled hinges made no sound at all.

 

Top Ten Tues: Mash Up

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!

August 7: Books You’d Mash Together (pick two books you think would make an epic story if combined)

This is a tough one!  Order is random.

1 & 2) Elon Musk; Ashlee Vance & The Martian; Andy Weir. I think Elon Musk on Mars, trapped with Mark would either end in disaster… or spectacularly well. If this was a strictly fictional version of the real person, I would watch that.

3 & 4) The Hogfather; Terry Pratchett & The Girl in the Green Silk Gown; Seanan McGuire. I want to see Susan and Rose take on the world. And Death’s granddaughter and a ghost make a sensible team.

5 & 6) Lumberjanes; Shannon Watters & Furiously Happy; Jenny Lawson. I want Jenny to run the camp for a day. It would be amazing. She could roll with the weirdness, and organize an awesome craft.

7 & 8) The Plastic Magician; Charlie Holmberg & Wildfire; Ilona Andrews. I’m not sure if Alvie and Nevada (and their respective partners) would kill each other or not. But if they survived their encounter, these two mixed magic and science worlds meeting would be fascinating.

9& 10) Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen; Lois McMaster Bujold & Honor Among Thieves; Rachel Caine, Ann Aguirre. Zara and Cordelia’s worlds have some thing in common, and enough differences to create an interesting story.

Weekend Writing Warriors: 8/4

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 new WIP–“Discovering Gremlins.” Seth had a bad day at work–hit his head and saw a monster, which he dismissed as his imagination, despite a shadow following him home. The next day, he breaks his phone screen, his shower sprays water everywhere, the subway car he’s on is delayed more than an hour–and he join his coworkers for lunch, noticing that Harry (she of I.T. fame) is staring at something on the ceiling that he doesn’t see.

Previous snippet:  Seth got to the elevator just as the door was closing, and saw Robert reach out his hand to stop it. But instead of bouncing off his palm, it kept closing, and Robert jerked his hand back, eyes wide, just before the metal edges slammed shut.

HE muttered obscenities down all three flights of stairs, and emerged from the stairwell, red-faced and out of breath, to find everyone waiting for him.

“You okay there, buddy?” Paula asked.

“Yeah, fine. Let’s go.”

A few minutes after they sat down, the restaurant’s lights began to flicker. People around them groaned, but the power didn’t go out. He noticed Harry staring intently up at the ceiling right after they’d ordered, and lifted his gaze as well.

Nothing there.

 

 

 

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge

 

“You seem a bit stressed,” Harry asked, while Seth was still staring, puzzled, at the stretch of inauthentic tin ceiling tiles.

“Oh, yeah, just stuff,” Seth stabbed at his potatoes, thunking the fork tines into the plate underneath.

Harry made an inquiring noise, and when he didn’t elaborate, said, “My AC was out over the weekend, so I was almost glad to go back to work yesterday.”

“How long did it take to repair?”

“It broke Friday, while I was at work, but my guy couldn’t fit me in until Sunday,” she said.

“My water’s probably going to be out for days,” Seth remembered glumly.

“That’s rough,” Harry patted him on the shoulder. “Do you have a friend whose shower you can borrow?”

“Should,” Seth pulled out his phone, growled at the cracks on the surface, which had multiplied like rabbits, and texted a friend who lived on the same floor as him.

His phone screen went black.

*    *    *

Gremlins have camouflage magic, and a way of making people who catch just a glimpse forget them. This is good for humanity, because they’re powerfully ugly, and react violently to being discovered. But when Seth hits his head and lands on the floor right next to a gremlin, he sees it… and it notices that he’s done so. Things are about to go downhill for Seth.

Book Riot Read Harder 2018: July

Here’s the 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.)

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 book with a female protagonist over 60 years old.

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax: Dorothy Gilman.

Mrs. Pollifax is described as a sixty-something widow.

There’s something very comforting about an ordinary protagonist doing extraordinary things. Mrs. Pollifax, a widow in her mid-sixties, is no Chosen One–though, of course, she has some outstanding qualities that help her through the book. Generally charming and enjoyable to read about, in a quirky sort of way, Mrs. Pollifax keeps the grim moments from being too dark. This isn’t an edgy thriller, though it isn’t an entirely fluffy read, either.

The premise that Mrs. Pollifax could be a spy, and some of the events within the story are implausible, but wonderfully so, in the way a book invites you in on the joke. Don’t take it too seriously, Dorothy Gilman’s message hovers between the lines. The result is a mix of disaster and humor.

I set the book down feeling a bit happy, and that’s one of the best recommendations I can give a book.

  • Read a book with a cover you hate.

The Mexican Flyboy; Alfredo Vea.

Hate is a strong word, but this cover is ugly. The fact that it makes sense once you’ve read the book doesn’t redeem it to me.

CW: Every kind of violence people can do to each other is referenced in this book.

The Mexican Flyboy is a weird book to rate–and difficult to describe. It’s about a time traveler lifting people who suffered cruel, unnecessary deaths from that death, to live the rest of their lives together in a paradise in Florida. (But they also still die, and remember dying. History is unchanged.)

Are these rescues really happening? Difficult to say, as this magical realism doesn’t explain at all. There are a lot of hints that could go either way. It’s magic or delusion, you decide. Who hasn’t wished they could right some tragedy of their past, though? Or dreamed they could save a person they never met, but whose suffering hurt their soul?

With a slow start, and plenty of jumps around in the timeline, and a variety of POVs, this isn’t an easy book to understand. But it’s unique, and rather hopeful, despite all the suffering it contains, because it rejects that pain entirely.

  • Read an essay anthology.

The Best American Essays of the Century: Joyce Carol Oates.

The description reads, in part, that this is a “political, spiritual, and intensely personal record of America’s tumultuous modern age, as experienced by our foremost critics, commentators, activists, and artists.”

Many of these essays have heavy themes, and several are very similar–racism, violence… basically, the many ways people can be cruel, especially to people who can’t fight back. And, as the description reads, they are often intensely personal experiences, so there’s a big punch of emotion within the essays.

I would have liked it better if I could have spaced out the reading more, but as it is, the essays felt important, but like an anchor dragging my mood down.