Category Archives: Challenge

Challenge: Katie Merkle’s Literary Scavenger Hunt: Rounds 2 & 3: Some Favorite Series

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So Katie Merkle created this scavenger hunt to amuse us all during this time of global chaos, and I have taken it and run. Last week I completed the scavenger hunt using only my 12 most recent reads.  I warned then that I had other ideas for this scavenger hunt.

Round 2: Can I complete this scavenger hunt using JUST Rick Riordan’s books? I sure can! I can do it with just his first series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians! Spoilers ahead! Ready? Go!

Categories:

1. A weapon – So this one is easy. The best weapon is Anaklusmos, Riptide, Percy’s pen and sometimes sword that always returns to his pocket because magic.  Or it is the most prominent anyway.  I am actually fascinated by and wish we knew more about the forging of Backbiter.

2. A difficult decision – I think the most difficult decision of the series is Percy’s to sit back, to not be the hero—or to let his inaction rather than his action be heroic.

3. A beautiful setting – I miss the beach. So how about the camp’s beach on Long Island Sound with the fireworks reflecting on the water.

4. A first kiss – The first kiss was shared in Mount St. Helen’s forge, right?

5. A mistake – So, so many mistakes. Though mistakes get hard to define when there’s so much of fate and prophecy in this series. But I think the biggest mistake of the series is trusting that Kronos’ future will be better than the present.

6. A betrayal – I’m going to say that Luke’s betrayal is the hardest.

7. A loss – Beckendorf’s loss was the hardest for me.

8. Best friends – Percy and Grover are the most iconic friends in this series I think.

9. More than two siblings – *laughs in demigod*  But if we’re insisting on full siblings, then there’re the godly children of Kronos and Rhea: Hestia, Hera, Demeter, Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus.

10. A single parent – *laughs harder in demigod* But the best single parent is Sally Jackson. We’re all in agreement on this, yes?

11. A grandparent – Kronos is grandfather to every child of Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, and Demeter. If Hera and Hestia have any demigod children, he’s their grandfather too, but I am fairly sure that they have actually remained celibate.

12. A talking animal – Blackjack is the best talking animal, right? In this series? Followed shortly by pink poodle Gladiola.


Round 3: Can I do it with Harry Potter?  Again, spoilers.

Categories:
1. A weapon – The weapon we have is love.  That’s how the song goes, isn’t it?  But the Deathstick becomes perhaps the most important physical weapon of the series in the end.

2. A difficult decision – Shout-out to the Hat Stalls (which may a cop-out on my part, refusing to decide on a difficult decision to highlight).

3. A beautiful setting – I’ve already used the Burrow once for this.  But you know what other location has grown on me?  The shade beneath the lakeside beech tree with the giant squid’s tentacles skimming the surface.

4. A first kiss – “OI!  There’s a war going on here!”

5. A mistake – It was a mistake to put Hedwig in her cage.

6. A betrayal – I’ve been re-reading Prisoner of Azkaban, and I forgot how painful is the confession wrung from Peter by Sirius and Remus.

7. A loss – Dobby’s was the hardest for me.  I think because of the blood, and because things were just about to be all right—except….

8. Best friends – This has to be Harry and Ron, right?

9. More than two siblings – The Weasleys are my favorite.

10. A single parent – There aren’t a whole lot of single parent households that are mentioned in the text.  There are the Gaunts’ and the Lovegoods’ and Augusta Longbottom seems to be raising her grandson alone.

11. A grandparent – Augusta Longbottom is a pretty awesome grandparent—in the end.

12. A talking animal – “Thanksss, amigo.”

Are there other series or the collected works of other authors that you think you could use to complete this scavenger hunt?  Let me see your answers!  Somewhere out there, I feel, is someone who could do it for almost every author of multiple stand-alone novels.  I would love to see someone do it for, say, Jane Austen, Stephen King, Shakespeare, Georgette Heyer, Agatha Christie, Nora Roberts, Neil Gaiman….

Challenge: Katie Merkel’s Literary Scavenger Hunt

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20200518_134509I first found Olivia Berrier’s answers to Katie Merkel’s original challenge.  I’m still not in the right headspace to give you all serious book reviews, and I am reading fewer books and rereading more favorites during this time anyway.  So I hope you’ll permit me another week of fun challenges:

Rules:
1. Look in books to find something that satisfies each category.
2. A different book must be used for each category.
3. Once you’ve found all twelve categories, share what you found and the books they came from in the comments section.

Both of them seem to answer this challenge with their favorites from their libraries.  And I may do that too.  But you all ought to know by now that I like imposing extra rules on challenges (plus it makes it so that I can use the same challenge more than once, and choosing favorites is so HARD!).

Round 1: Can I complete this scavenger hunt using only the 12 books that I have read most recently? Can I do it in order from the most recent to the less recently?

Categories:
1. A weapon – Endgames by Ru Xu features Crow, a sentient android that controls the Goswing’s murder of flying, heavily armed drones.

2. A difficult decision – Of all the difficult decisions in Diane Duane’s A Wizard Abroad… I’m going to have to give this one to Ronan. For a boy who has always needed to be in control, yielding his self to Another and not knowing what would become of his mind or physical form afterwards took guts.

3. A beautiful setting – The Burrow has always felt like home, gnomes and weeds and chaos of housing a family of nine plus guests and all. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is when we first touchdown in the Burrow’s drive.  It’s beautiful in the way that a clean kitchen is with the kettle steaming on the stove top.

4. A first kiss – It certainly isn’t Monty’s first kiss, but the first kiss between him and the boy he loves does happen during a stolen night away from their chaperone in Paris in Mackenzi Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue.  It’s kind of a big deal for Monty.

5. A mistake – Pig definitely doesn’t mean, I don’t think, to drive the van up the ramp to the broken section of the dam’s wall and then over the wall in Dice Tsutsumi and Robert Kondo’s The Dam Keeper: World Without Darkness.  Poor kid just can’t both see over the dashboard and reach the petals.  And I expect being chased by a frog with a gun is distracting for the best drivers.

6. A betrayal – The biggest betrayal by far in the first book of the series The Dam Keeper is Pig’s father’s abandonment of him, leaving him in charge at such a young age of himself and the dam.  I have feelings about this, and I hope he does turn out to be mad, because I’m not sure I’m going to accept any other explanations.  (Libraries are still closed.  I am still unable to borrow the third and final volume.)

7. A loss – Oof. Yeah, lots of loss in Jennifer A. Nielsen’s The False Prince. I think the loss of the queen of Carthya hits Sage the hardest.

8. Best friends – I don’t want to be cliche, but Jo and Laurie are a pretty iconic duo still in Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo.

9. More than two siblings – Turns out Clay has a whole squadron of blood siblings in the graphic novel of Tui T. Sutherland’s The Dragonet Prophecy.

10. A single parent – This one is harder…. The eponymous wayward children of Every Heart a Doorway are mostly grieved by their parents and sent away to Miss West’s Home to in theory become the children that they were before the “traumatic” experiences that those parents don’t recognize as wonderful adventures in other lands. Most of the children I recall having had both parents, and this is the first book in this list that I don’t have in the house to recheck my memory. So can we go out on a limb and call Eleanor West a parent? She is in loco parentis, and she does a pretty fine job of it considering the task that she has assigned herself.  And Kade is her nephew and is not wanted back by his parents.

11. A grandparent – I haven’t got a copy of Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man with me either, but I don’t recall any grandparents in this volume. The first is more like disjointed short adventures than a continuous plot.  Dog Man may have saved a grandparent at some point… I really don’t recall.

12. A talking animal – I am in luck here! In Kazu Kibuishi’s The Stonekeeper’s Curse, the inhabitants of Kanalis have been becoming slowly more animal as part of a curse. The vulpine Leon Redbeard joins the crew. He’s a bipedal, clothing-wearing, talking fox.

So… kind of almost? To find a grandparent in these 12, I have to go to Endgames where Queen Corazana Lina’s recently deceased grandmother Queen Corazana began a war that Endgames, well, ends. Her portraits make appearances in the text.

If you want a more technically parental single parent, among these 12 the most befitting the title is Emily’s and Navin’s mother from Kibuishi’s Amulet series, though Pig’s father also qualifies, as does Sutherland’s Kestrel, I guess.

Look out for more versions of this game as I have a few more fun ideas for it, and thank you, Katie Merkel for the original hunt!

Challenge: Quarantine 2020 Book Tag

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I needed something lighthearted and fun this week for you all. I was going to play MASH again, which I haven’t done since 2015 and was thinking about again because I am again re-reading Harry Potter (my last round included seven very poorly named children whose names came from The Goblet of Fire).

Then I thought, “There must be some good new book tags about quarantine!” And there are, but the ones that I found are all the type where you answer more serious questions about your reading habits and make book recommendations.

I prefer the sillier book tags where you choose a number of books and the first word on a page becomes your answer to a question.

So I have written a quarantine book tag on my own! This will is the first book tag that I have ever originated. Please join in the fun. Please mention me as the originator.  Use it on whatever platform you like.

All told to answer these you will need the last six books that you read, your current read, and (if not among those seven) the first book that you finished in April and the last book that you finished in March. Good luck!


Quarantine 2020 Book Tag

You are quarantined with the protagonists of the last three books that you finished. Who are you locked in a house with?

I most recently finished Diane Duane’s A Wizard Abroad, fourth in the Young Wizards series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Mackenzi Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, so I am in a house with Nita Callahan, Harry Potter, and Monty Montague.

Where are you in your current read? That’s where you are all holed up.

I’m reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban now, and we’re all quarantining together in the Shrieking Shack.

Did any of those protagonists bring pets to be locked in the house with you?

It looks like our only animal companion is Hedwig, who admittedly is a very useful companion during these odd times. She can get our mail out and back safely and take a bit of weight off the US Postal Service.

What are your house-mates all doing while locked inside? Open the last three books that you finished to a page at random. Each time find the first dynamic verb on the page. Use them to describe what each of them is up to.  (I changed the tenses to make them fit in my new sentences.)

Nita is coexisting with everyone. Just coexisting. She can have a bit of temper, but on the whole she is fairly easy to get along with. Harry doesn’t know what to do. Monty doesn’t say how he feels or what he’s doing. That’s probably extremely accurate.

How are your house-mates all doing while locked inside? Grab the three books you finished most recently. Open each to its first page. Find the first emotive adjective or adverb (you probably don’t want to use words like “small” or “red” here or “swiftly”; continue further than page 1 if you need to do) and use those to describe how they are all feeling.

It’s not easy for Nita. Harry is bored. Monty finds this all disorienting.

Make a grocery list. What favorite foods are you bringing back for each of your protagonist house-mates?

I think I am bringing back a lot of drinks: pumpkin juice, Coke, and booze.

You boldly venture to the grocery store for essentials and see the protagonists of the three books that you finished before that. Those protagonists are wearing masks and keeping a safe six feet distant from you. Give them a socially distanced high five.

I am waving hello to Pig from The Dam Keeper series by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi, Sage from Jennifer A. Nielsen’s The False Prince, and Jo March from Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo’s Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.

The antagonist of the book you most recently finished reading is NOT adhering to the rules and is grabbing up all the toilet paper.

The most recent book that I finished was A Wizard Abroad, so the Lone One in the form of Balor is hoarding the toilet paper.  Sowing chaos and destruction as usual.  Greetings and defiance to you, Lone One.  But you know what… I don’t know that I can stop him.  It took all the wizards of Ireland and the Sidhe to do so in this book, working with three ancient treasures of Ireland.  I am surprised to see Balor fit inside the grocery store at all.

What was the first book you finished in April? Open that book to a random page. The first name on the page is your cashier at the grocery store. Thank them for being there to help you.

The first book that I finished in April was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  Lucius Malfoy surprises me by being my cashier, but he’s here, and he’s following the procedures put in place to keep everyone safe if only to keep his job at the store, so I’ll thank him.

Open it again. The first person on that next page is cleaning the carts for you. Thank them too.

Draco’s cleaning the carts. This is not the staff that I expected to find here.

Safely home (in the Shrieking Shack for me), you join a video chat with the sidekick of the book that finished last in March. What is she or he or they going to do to cheer you up?

That for me was The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, which means Percy Newton and Felicity Montague (they really take turns being helpful to Monty) are there to back me up by video chat.  What are they doing to cheer me up?  Felicity is distracting me with scholarly discussions, I think, and tells me all she has learned about the virus and immune systems in general.  Percy is just being his sweet self.


I hope you are all doing as well as can do in your real-life quarantine situations. I hope you are healthy and sane. I hope you are keeping safe. And I hope you have toilet paper.

Challenge: Get To Know Me: Book Edition

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We’re having a little more fun this week.

A friend posted this on Facebook, and I stole it, but knew I would be saving it to post to my blog one day when I hadn’t anything else prepared instead of posting it directly to Facebook. Some of the original wording of the questions are NSFW. I have censored them because I know there are school age children reading some of these reviews. You’ll all probably still know what they said.

 

1. Book you threw across the room (or wanted to):

I have done this to very few books. The only book that I remember having thrown (against the bed a foot or so away from me) is Cassandra Clare’s City of Glass.

2. If someone reeeeaaaally loves this book, you’ll never be friends:

I’m really struggling with this one, because some of the worst books that I have read have been loved by good friends. And some books that I dislike on principle but have never actually read, like ones in genres that I just am not interested in even trying (sports nonfiction, say, or business books), have been loved by friends too.

I think it pretty safe to say that if a person absolutely adores some of BS books put out by those praising the current US president and tearing down his “enemies,” we likely won’t be more than friendly to each other when see each other in passing and only then if we never start actually discussing politics or worldviews. The cover of Glenn Beck’s latest book (Arguing with Socialists) is disrespectful if not offensive in and of itself, and I’m surprised the publisher let it be printed as such.  But admittedly I have not read any of these books (nor do I intend to do so).

3. Longest read:

I’m going to let Goodreads do some of the work for me on this one… According to Goodreads, the longest individual book that I’ve read since 2012 is George R. R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords, clocking in at 1,177 pages.

4. Book that got you through the bad stuff:

This is absolutely the Harry Potter series for me. I’m rereading it now. For reasons. Things are bad again. Globally.

5a. Scared the s*** out of you:

I tend to avoid books that are likely to frighten me as a rule. So I can’t say that anything has ever “scared the s*** out” of me. BUT I do remember that after reading Frankenstein for school, even though it didn’t seem frightening as I was reading it, I would feel like I was seeing the monster’s shadow in the forest around our house at night, and I would just… go inside and shut the door and sit in a lit room for a bit.

5b. Unsettled the s*** out of you:

One of my most unsettling recent reads has been Vox by Christina Dalcher for the parallels that I saw in this fictional future America to America in the present. But I was severely unsettled long ago by one particular scene or two in Gregory Maguire’s Wicked because small me was not ready for (READ ON AT YOUR OWN PERIL!) multi-creature, drug-spurred, ropes included sex in that brothel or for chains meant to deform the wearer used on a little girl later. For the scarring it left on my psyche, it definitely deserves a mention here. I remember fairly little of the rest of the book, but that one scene in particular is burned into my memory—and I think has effected some of the backstory for my WIP.

6. You laughed your a** off:

I don’t usually “laugh my a** off” at books either. I sometimes give a little giggle or a snort. Sometimes a single bark. Usually at a line that strikes me as funny in an otherwise not wholly funny story. Something I think though I can’t now remember what caused me to bark when I was reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban the other night. It might have been some claim about the Ministry’s competency. I do have books that I read because I think that they are funny and which really haven’t much value besides: Books from the Wayside School collection by Louis Sachar, Roddy Doyle’s The Giggler Treatment, and Meet Mr Mulliner by P. G. Wodehouse.

7: Movie version was also good:

My favorite adaptation (of a book that I’ve read because I’m taking that “also” seriously) is I think actually Ever After, which is a “Cinderella” story.

8: Author(s) that can do no wrong:

This is Rick Riordan right now because he is learning. His first kids’ series was about a biracial family with siblings who don’t look alike, but his second series was rather assumed-white and cis and het. But the third and fourth and fifth have proved more diverse in every way. And though I’ve not enjoyed the most recent series as much for its style, I’ve been proud of some of his bold plot choices. And he has stepped out of the way. He has also started an imprint to uplift other writers with similar styles writing about living mythologies about which they are knowledgeable and he is not.

9: Guilty pleasure read you’re willing to admit:

You know what I feel guiltiest about is re-reading the same few series when I have so many new friends waiting in the house to be discovered….

10: Best smut:

I’m asexual and probably not the one to judge. I used to read some of Nora Roberts’ more fantastical series because friends were reading them and I enjoyed the characters and the plots and the romantic side of the relationships if not the scenes where things were more physical (which are usually in hers only a few pages per book anyway). Three Sisters’ Island was my favorite trilogy, mostly because I aspired to the bookstore/cafe that the protagonists co-own. Once upon a time, those friends alongside whom I was reading those books and I thought that such a shop was our destiny too. I’ve not entirely given up the dream.

11: True Crime:

Not my genre. I don’t think I have ever read one.

12. Kids Book:

I’m going to interpret this more specifically as a picture book because most of my answers to these questions have already been kids’ books. And my favorite picture book right now is Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima.

13: If someone wants to know you, read:

I feel like this has to be Harry Potter again because it was so foundational to my childhood and teen years.

14: Life can neatly be divided into before this book and after this book:

…Ah, still probably Harry Potter.

15: Eye-opening true story:

I read so few nonfiction books… and most that I do read are mythology collections and studies…. So we’re going to reach way back and call up the ghost of a class on children’s literature and a book called From Instruction to Delight, which traces the evolution of society’s way of thinking about children and childhood through the books that are written for that age beginning in the 1500s and going up through 1850. I hadn’t really realized how recent childhood is as a concept.

16: Book you’ve tried to read at least three times:

Though I am ashamed to admit it, Andrew Peterson’s final book in The Wingfeather Saga, The Warden and the Wolf King has made it from my bookshelves to my bedside table at least three times since its release in 2014 without my having finished it yet—not because it is a bad book. It doesn’t seem to be, and I enjoy it whenever I pick it up again (though I do have my quibbles), but I am still only 45% of the way through it. Something else always comes along and distracts me. It’s on my bedside table again now, but I haven’t actually read any of it since December 2018, and it really ought already to be back on the bookshelf, awaiting a time when I decide to try again to defeat Gnag the Nameless.

17: Worst book recommendation anyone ever gave you:

Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger.

18: Popular author with hidden depths:

I feel like this has got to be Rick Riordan again. You think you’re buying an action-adventure story based on Norse mythology. What you don’t expect is the crash course on what it’s like to be homeless in Boston in the winter or on what it means to fast for Ramadan or what it means to identify as genderfluid or the few words of ASL that Riordan describes well enough to be tried.

19: Best book you studied in school:

There’re actually a few to narrow down: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Odyssey, Little Women, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, Beloved, As I Lay Dying, Virginia Hamilton’s collection The People Could Fly, Maria Tatar’s The Classic Fairy Tales, ha! I technically did take a class that required Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

By the time Harry Potter was required, I cut myself some slack and relied on previous readings rather than reading it for class, and it had already influenced me (and I recognize that it is not the best written among that set). I think To Kill a Mockingbird had the most profound influence on me as a book that I was reading first for class. The book that I read for class that I’m proudest to have finished is the full translation of The Odyssey by Robert Fitzgerald. That’s my brag book.  Partially because I attended a different high school my freshman year than I did sophomore-senior year, and the first school that I attended read the full translation, while at the second freshmen only read a few short selections from a textbook, so it did feel like something that I could brag about, something that I had done that the my peers had not.  But I also enjoyed it, and I enjoy having the knowledge of it now.

20: Fave short story:

My favorite short story may actually be “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” (that’s it; that’s the entirety of the text) because of what it is able to accomplish in SO little and because of the challenge that it issues. The story is often attributed to Ernest Hemingway, but it seems that the idea of this ad as a story predates him.

If we’re refusing to allow flash fiction, then my favorite short story is probably Patrick Rothfuss’ “The Lightning Tree” which was published in the anthology Rogues edited by George R. R. Martin. I like it because I like being in that world and that town and I like the focus on the children who are absolutely invisible in the larger novels of Rothfuss’ once Kvothe matures out of childhood himself, but I love it because of my memories of a being on a beach with two friends while one of them read it aloud to the other two of us, of playing in the ocean between sections, and of wandering down the boardwalk, trying to escape the sun and the heat.

21: Most beautiful writing:

I aspire to write like Patrick Rothfuss.

22: Favorite novel:

I may just have to choose Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix here. It’s my favorite of those 7.

23: Favorite short story collection:

Maria Tatar’s The Classic Fairy Tales is a fantastically put together collection of fairy tales organized by tale type so that stories resembling, say, “Cinderella” or “Bluebeard” are side by side despite their countries of origin, allowing for an easy comparison of cultures and tales of the same type with introductions to each tale type by Tatar. This collection includes folktales with and without known attribution, a wide collection from different countries, and includes a few modern retellings by authors like Roald Dahl and Margaret Atwood.

 

Please feel free to take this questionnaire and format it for whatever social media platform you use. I’m afraid I don’t know who to credit with its origin.  Ping back to me if you do fill one of these out.  I would love to read some more.

Challenge: 777, Another Excerpt from My WIP

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Aimlessly scrolling through old challenges on this blog, I found this one.  I first did this challenge in April 2015.  The challenge is this:

  • Go to your current work in progress
  • Scroll to page 7
  • Count 7 sentences
  • Share the next 7 sentences after that
  • And of course, tag people to do the same. You can even tag 7 people if you want to really get into the number theme.

Since 2015… I don’t know how many more false starts I’ve written (4 or 5 I think).  But I am still doggedly working on the same novel that I begun in 2006.  This hopefully-not-false start I have been working on since November 2017.  Fingers crossed, all.  This draft is currently 59 pages of size 10 Verdana, single space, with a line between paragraphs.

The man grabbed Veil by the shirtfront and pulled him down nearer.

Veil shivered.

“Take it,” the man croaked.  “Tvorec, I need you to take it.  I can’t.”

“You’re—you’re going to be fine.”  Veil was far from sure that the man would be fine, but he knew that he had to—

Looks as though I have shortened the beginning of this novel since 2015.  This is a little later in the plot than that excerpt from 2015.

I like this challenge being my first post of 2019.  (TWENTY NINETEEN, ALL!  We made it this far!)  I feel like I have been spending a lot of time recently with my novel–since this past NaNoWriMo.  I hope that is a good sign.  I am getting into the excitement and frustration of new scenes, new ideas, new backstory, new rules of operation.  I hope this trend will continue into 2019.  I would like 2019 to be a year for writing.  But who knows what curveballs this new year has in store for me–for all of us?

Anyone I know with a blog and a WIP want to take up this challenge?  My followers, do you have WIPs?  I would love to know.  I would love to know who and what books to look out for in the new year or the next or the next or….

I went looking through the pingbacks from Olivia Berrier’s original challenge, and found that Gwen added a further piece to this challenge: the 777th word in my current draft is “Glenys,” a recent name change for an important secondary character.  It only took her 12 years to outgrow her original name.  I’m pretty sure until now she had been using her original name, chosen then because it meant “old.”  Her new name means “pure, clean, holy.”

Just for fun, the 2019th word in this WIP is “nearest.”

Challenge: The Joy of Christmas Book Tag

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I found this book tag on Adventures of a Bibliophile, who found it on The Terror of Knowing, who found it on Thrice Read, who found it on Macsbooks, who found it on the Booktubers Wikia, which I also didn’t know existed and am excited to find.  This tag originated with Samantha at Sam’s Nonsense.

Anticipation: The Christmas excitement is real, what book release(s) are you most anticipating?

I know what I want! I want that first book in the new sequel series to Maggie Steifvater’s The Raven Cycle, a series all about Ronan Lynch! I hear a draft has been edited—and did I hear that it has been turned into the publisher? Did I dream that?

Christmas Songs & Carols: What book or author can you not help but sing its praises?

Rick Riordan is amazing. He is so excellently including blacker, browner, queerer characters in his mainstream middle grade fiction, and he is too popular and too well respected for most people to complain. He was so smart, writing a whiter, more heteronormative series first, and then learning from his fans. He learns from his fans—and that is the best. He is turning out books quickly and keeping himself relevant.

Gingerbread Houses: What book or series has wonderful world building?

One of the most expansive, deepest worlds that I’ve entered is Patrick Rothfuss’ Temerant—specifically the Four Corners of Civilization where the story he is now telling in The Kingkiller Chronicles take place. There are multiple, distinct cultures with their own traditions, beliefs, histories and folklore, governments, dress, and language. There are several sentient races. No one else that I know has a board game that can be bought in stores with its own history and multiple variations based on who is playing and when and where in the world they are playing. No one else I know knows the history and exchange rates of several currencies within his world.

A Christmas Carol: Favorite classic or one that you want to read?

I am currently reading Stanley Lombardo’s translation of Virgil’s Aeneid. I’ve read parts of it for a class before, but I have never read it in full—but more than Aeneid, I want to read Emily Wilson’s translation of Homer’s Odyssey. I’ve read several other translations, but hers is the first published by a woman, and I’ve heard that she’s erased some patriarchal mistranslations.

Odyssey is my favorite of the classics that I’ve read—specifically I’ve liked Robert Fitzgerald’s translation the best yet.

That is what you meant by “classic,” right?

Christmas Sweets: What book would you love to receive for Christmas?

This is not a short list—and I am sure there are more on there that I don’t yet know about. But I have had my eye on the illustrated Harry Potter books, which I can’t justify buying for myself—or just anything that I’ve been wanting. I’m missing a book of Riordan’s. I’m missing all of the Rick Riordan Presents. There are other books I am waiting to buy. I need a copy of Chainbreaker by Tara Sim. I want to read Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger. I like picture books, but I can’t justify spending money on them myself. There are graphic novels I would love to own: the whole Avatar: The Last Airbender set, Craig Thompson’s—but don’t own for the same reason that I so rarely buy myself picture books; it’s a lot of money for a few hours’ enjoyment.

What I got was a signed copy of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London, and I am not at all displeased.

Candles in the Window: What book gives you that warm fuzzy feeling?

I have a hard time finding books that give me warm fuzzies—because generally that’s not what I’m looking for in a novel. Most recently though? I was given very warm fuzzies from the budding romance between Colton and Danny in Tara Sim’s Timekeeper. Those were warmer, fuzzier feelings even than I am getting from the sword and sorcery romance series that I am rereading.

Christmas Trees & Decorations: What are some of your favorite book covers?

I work in a bookstore. I see good covers all the time. ALL THE TIME. And very few of the books behind those covers have I ever—will I ever—read. As I look around my room I see more books that I’ve brought home because the cover and the jacket blurb convinced me. Books like Adam Gidwitz’s The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog (Hatem Aly), like Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Secret Keepers (Diana Sudyka), like Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone (Rich Deas), which I am actually very slowly reading now because I am not ready for that level of emotion.

 

Of the books that I’ve read, I think that John Rocco did a wonderful job with Riordan’s books, particularly for The Heroes of Olympus, particularly The Son of Neptune and The House of Hades, but also on The Kane Chronicles, particularly The Serpent’s Shadow. I think Mary GrandPré did a great job with the Harry Potter covers, particularly for The Order of the Phoenix and The Deathly Hallows but recognize that I like those perhaps more for their nostalgia than for their merit alone (a poster of The Deathly Hallows hung in my bedroom for several years), but I like Jonny Duddle’s covers for The Philosopher’s Stone and for The Deathly Hallows best of all of the English-language versions yet.

 

 

Some special mention needs to be made for Morgan Rhodes’ Rebel Spring (Shane Rebenschied) and Shannon Messenger’s Flashback (Jason Chan) for having amazing covers which almost alone are the reasons I want to read these series—though I’ve not started either. I guess the way to draw me in is to threaten or attack me with a shiny, pointed weapon.

 

Looking at these all side by side, I think that I like jewel tones too, emotional faces of realistically painted heroes and heroines, lots of detail.

Christmas Joy: What are some of your favorite things about Christmas And/Or some of your favorite Christmas memories?

I want to change this one, because this question does not seem appropriately bookish. So let me pose this question instead: What is your favorite Christmastime scene from a book? You don’t come here to learn about my memories—or you shouldn’t do, because that isn’t what I’m here to share—you are here to learn about books!

I think the Christmas scene that gives me the warmest fuzzies is Will Stanton and Merriman singing parts of “Good King Wenceslas” in The Dark Is Rising on Christmas Eve to open the magical portal to the room that holds the book that teaches Will EVERYTHING. But young Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint in the film version of The Sorcerer’s Stone exchanging “Happy Christmas, Harry” and “Happy Christmas, Ron” and Daniel’s astonished “I have presents?” warm my heart more than most anything could do.

Merry Christmas, my readers, whatever you may be doing today, whether you are celebrating or not.  And hey! if you complete this book tag, let me know; I’d love to read about some of your favorites.  Cheers!

Challenge: Zombpocalypse Book Tag

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I just really like using the word zombpocalypse.  But officially, this is known as:

The Zombie Outbreak Survival Team Book Tag:

Step 1: Choose six books from your shelves: two with titles that contain your first initial, two with titles that contain your second initial, and two with titles that contain your last initial.

I cheated a bit. I had a really hard time finding any books that even included a word in the title that began with J that I remembered well enough to know who these characters were. I guess I have some rereading to do. I did have three books I could I knew really well with titles beginning with K, so… 3 Ks, 1 J, and 2 Es. I mean. I didn’t cheat a lot. And these are much more fun when you remember the characters.

Step 2: Draw the names of those six books out of a hat in random order then answer the following questions:

Open your first book to a random page. The character whose name you see first just dragged you out from whatever hiding place you’ve holed up in (let’s just face it – we’d all start out under the bed). This character probably just saved your life, and is destined to become your best friend before all this is over. Also, s/he is the leader of the EZFBKs. (Don’t get jealous. You thought you would be invisible so long as your head was covered by your lucky ducky blanket.)

1777211Book 1: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin

And Vetch is the first name I see. I love Vetch. Yeah, he could lead EZFBK, and I’d love to be his bestie. He’s an excellent bestie.

Open your second book to a random page. The character whose name you see first is your weapons supplier. What sort of weapons does s/he have stashed in the basement?

Book 2: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee mockinbird

All of these fantasy books, and I get the one realistic, historical fiction. Jem’s gonna be supplying our weapons. So… guns, knives, slingshots, rope. All very practical. Probably less likely than the magical or sci-fi weapons to backfire on us or die because there’s no more electricity available due to the plague. I guess. But I was kind of hoping for some magical or at least high-tech weapons.

Open your third book to a random page. The character whose name you see first just died in front of you. This apocalypse just got getting serious.

9780756404741MBook 3: The Kingkiller Chronicles, Book 1: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Fela. Fela just died. Not sweet, loyal, intelligent Fela, who knows the Name of Stone.  She was probably doing something idiotically heroic.  She’s probably one of the last people who should have died of this group.

Open your fourth book to a random page. The character whose name you see first is your vehicle specialist. I hope s/he has a fast ride…

Book 4: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kiplingjungle

There’s a lot of irony in this book tag…. “By the broken lock that freed me, I am sure, Little Brother.” Little Brother here is Mowgli. I think we’ll be riding whatever wild animals Mowgli can convince to let us ride on their backs. I mean… could be worse?

Open your fifth book to a random page. The character whose name you see first is your medic.

enderBook 5: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Bonzo. This team gets worse and worse…. I’d rather avoid Bonzo entirely.

Open your sixth book to a random page. The character whose name you see first is… well, you’re honestly not sure how this person ended up on your team, or how s/he is still alive. But every team you’ve ever seen has one of these Resident Idiots, so maybe they’re good luck.

Book 6: The Kane Chronicles, Book 1: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordanpyramid

Ha! Carter and Sadie’s British Gran, Catherine Faust, is… why is she here?

 

All right… recap….

Vetch saved me, pulling me out from under the bed and taking me with him and his team on the run. Time to smash some zombie heads! Vetch I’m excited to see. He has magic. He’s a good friend. He’ll get me through this somehow. EXCEPT the only weapons that Jem can find are those available in the early 1930s in rural Alabama. So, you know, at least they’re not likely to run on electricity, which might be scarce. Mowgli has convinced several of his animal friends to help us, but they get tired too, and we’re heavy loads for most of them. At least we won’t run out of fuel, though they will have to stop to hunt or graze. Sweet Fela dies in front of me, and that breaks all our hearts. Bonzo is not the person I’d most trust to be our medic. Vetch would be better, but Vetch is too busy leading to also be medic. At least Bonzo’s trained for war. I just don’t like him. Gran’s here too. I hope she’s not our cook, or we’ll be eating a lot of burnt biscuits. She’s tougher than she looks though, and maybe a zombpocalypse will convince her to unleash some Egyptian magic—though that’s not likely.

You know, actually, we just might make it, our low-tech team, led by a kind-hearted wizard, with our battle-trained medic who you know will try to wrest power, and with our Gran who might just cave to the magic in her veins too.  Yeah, I might read that novel.

I think this book tag originated with Gwen over at Apprentice, Never Master. Anyway, that’s where I found it. Thanks, Gwen, for a fun, relaxing blog post for my fuzzy, sickly brain. I really enjoyed that way of choosing books—very unique—even if it was a little hard. (It’d’ve been easier if my memory was better.)

Challenge: Happy Stories in 3 Words

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A friend of mine challenged me to write a happy story in three words. This challenge snowballed.

  1. She said yes.
  2. It’s a girl!
  3. I graduated college!
  4. It is done.
  5. This is fun!
  6. Let’s go home.
  7. Come here, boy!
  8. Let’s do lunch.
  9. It is finished.

What happy stories can you write in three words? What’s the least cliché, happy story that you can write in three words? I’m curious: What stories do these three-word stories of mine evoke for you?

Highlight below to find out what I was imagining when I wrote these.

  1. A proposal is accepted, probably a marriage proposal or a request for a date.
  2. A baby is born.
  3. A relieved college student has graduated, just received the notification that she has passed all of her classes and will be allowed to graduate perhaps, or perhaps has walked and now has the ceremony and diploma to prove it.
  4. Someone has completed a long project.
  5. Something someone is doing is fun.
  6. Someone is finally going home.
  7. A pet is found.
  8. Someone’s either going to meet someone for lunch (a happy conclusion on its own) or is perhaps about to have an exciting business meeting.
  9. That’s the Christ story.

Challenge: Silencing Half of the World to See Who Is Still Heard

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The inspiration for today’s blog post has come from Loganberry Books in Shaker Heights, OH, who for part of the month of March, Women’s History Month, turned around the books in their store written by male authors so that their spines, where are the names of the authors and the titles, were hidden.  The pictures from their store are stunning.

Before I even begin to discuss this display and my attempt to recreate it, I want to acknowledge that this social experiment is flawed in one glaring way:  This experiment relies on a binary gender system, erasing transgender, genderqueer, or nonbinary identities.

When I was uncertain of an author’s gender I relied first on the names and decided not to dig deeper if the name sounded stereotypically masculine or feminine (that’s laziness on my part, which I acknowledge too, but there are a lot of books and lot of authors in our house).  If I was still uncertain I went to the author’s bio and looked for gendered pronouns–a better clue to an author’s gender; I hope that most author’s bios use their preferred pronoun, but I cannot guarantee it, not in this day and age.

Recreating their experiment on the shelves in my home is not as stunning.

All of these pictures I’ve cropped quite fiercely because I really wanted to highlight the books, the spines and not the photograph itself.

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With picture books, I decided that if a book was authored by a man but illustrated by a woman–or vice versa–it could remain spine-out, which means that all of the books that you see turned around at the right of the bottom-most shelf in this image are written and illustrated by men and that some of those that have their spines facing out still make room for men’s words–or for men’s illustrations.

The bookcases in my home are curated.  They consist only of books on which I or my roommate have spent money or one of us has deemed worthy to adopt–and only those that we deemed worthy of keeping.  We are both cisgendered women.  We both graduated from a women’s university.  We both consider ourselves feminists.  And we’re both writers.  That means some voices won’t be represented on our shelves.  Our collection ranges from Gilgamesh to books released just days ago, but I would guess that the majority of our books were all published within the last 30-40 years, a time when being an author was not an unacceptable choice for a woman of any means, though a time during which publishers still worried and possibly worry that a woman’s book about a boy won’t be read as widely as a man’s book about a boy (as in J. K. Rowling’s case.  She uses a gender neutral pen name rather than any combination of the feminine sounding Joanne Kathleen, and that’s the reason I’ve heard given for that choice).  I know that I have a penchant for books with “strong” (three-dimensional) women–which is not to say that one-dimensional women are absent from my shelves; that’s not the case, and I know it–I’m looking at you, Mr. Bradbury–and not to say that my shelves are devoid of books where women are a mere prize, a sidequest if you will (though admittedly, I’m having a harder time thinking of any book that might be on my shelves where that is the case at the moment).  I think it might be fair to say that one-dimensional female characters are less likely in women’s writing.

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This is the most fiercely curated of my shelves.  It’s the only one that lives in my bedroom and consists only of favorite books of mine or (but mostly and) the ones I’m mostly likely to want to reach for at any given time to visit the characters, the world, a scene, a line.  That bookcase in particular features really only a few authors.  10 authors got turned around.  10 remained spine-out (myself excluded; the bottom right are photo albums)–Olivia Berrier, Cressida Cowell, Diane Duane, Eva Ibbotson, Ursula K. LeGuin, Jennifer Nielsen, J. K. Rowling, Sharon Shinn, Jo Walton, and Patricia C. Wrede.

Our shelves are not organized (particularly) by genre (the picture and board books are all shelved together, and nonfiction and poetry each have their own sections, not shown here).  I think performing this experiment on shelves divided by genre would be an interesting and probably enlightening twist.  As Cassandra Claire in her Draco Trilogy once pointed out, men aren’t expected to write those mass market romances, and I expect there is some discrimination against men who try to break into that market–or that there may be men writing romances under feminine pen names.  Science fiction and fantasy were for a long time a genre written primarily by and for men, and I think some of that prejudice against female writers still lingers–at least in epics and fantasy and science fiction written for adults.  I would be interested to see how children’s literature breaks up.  More picture books than I would have expected got turned around on my shelves, even allowing for women’s illustrations to counter the male authors.  Books shelved by the age of the intended audience would be another interesting twist.

It was very interesting to me see what did and didn’t get turned.

I was surprised that all of the manga my roommate owns (three series surveyed here) are written by women.  I was surprised that the American graphic novels (two series, one of which is a graphic novel series for the TV show Charmed, and a stand-alone) all got turned around, save one–and that is an older series that started in the late 70s, Elfquest, created by the husband and wife pair, Wendy and Richard Pini.

I noticed a lot of the swaths of white in our shelves were created by series–or by multiple books by the same author.  I think that’s true too of the swaths of color.  It seems once we find someone or something we like, we stick it out.  I know it’s true of the bookcase in my room, where 13 of the turned books belong to one author, and 11 of the spine-out books belong to J. K. Rowling.  It happened again in the case that has only two shelves.  One male author accounts for nine of those books, one accounts for five books, and another two have four books each turned around.  Meanwhile Diana Gabaldon accounts for six of the spine-out books.

I also just got a good laugh–a somewhat sad laugh–realizing that if J. K. Rowling was left out of the these pictures–or if she was only allowed to be represented with each book only once (13 individual titles), the shelves would look a lot whiter.  I know she’s the voice of our generation but between the two of us we own 29 of her books (most of that onus is admittedly on me.  Oops).  But then she is not the only writer from whom we own together more than one copy of a title, and I don’t know that that phenomenon disproportionately effected women.  In fact, it happened with 17 male authors but with only 14 female authors: Louisa May Alcott, Olivia Berrier, Suzanne Collins, Susan Cooper, Diane Duane, Cornelia Funke, Ellen Kushner, Madeleine L’Engle, Anne McCaffrey, Robin McKinley, Stephenie Meyer, Tamora Pierce, J. K. Rowling, and Patricia C. Wrede.  Though Rowling is the only author from whom we own four copies of one title.

These photos don’t represent all of our bookcases, just a sampling really (excluded are the ones for which getting a clear shot of the shelves in their entirety meant moving furniture and one the top of which was just too cluttered and messy for me to want to show the Internet).

All photos are my own.  Click to embiggen.

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