Book Challenges- Week 10

Popsugar Challenge

(8/50) One of last week’s books, YOU Are a Badass should actually have been under this heading, as “A book recommended by someone else doing the Popsugar Reading Challenge.”


A book set on another planet: Artemis, by Andy Weir: I know the moon is not a planet! But I feel like this book captures the spirit of the category, if it doesn’t follow the letter of the law. Andy Weir himself would probably object, to be honest.

Anyhow… I really loved this book, 5 stars on Goodreads! Jasmine was a fun character, and I really enjoyed spending several hundred pages with her. I didn’t always agree with the choices she made, but she was well-written so I understood where she was coming from. I read that she wasn’t supposed to be the main character, and when Andy Weir was trying to write the book, she kept dominating her scenes so he just made it her story, and I see why. It is an otherwise male-dominated cast of characters, but it worked. They were all pretty well fleshed out for the time they were “onscreen.”

I admit I skimmed many of the more science-heavy parts, but there were large parts that made sense and were accessible to someone with my limited science skills. This book had everything I liked about The Martian. You know how some authors seem to write the same book and characters over and over? This wasn’t that. It was like The Martian while at the same time being its own thing. I loved the civilization he set up on the moon. It’s clear that the man does his homework!

While I Was Reading Challenge

(4/12) 33% done, Woo hoo!


An audiobook with multiple narrators: One More Thing, by BJ Novak: The stories in this book were quite funny, though they varied widely in quality. I loved many of them, while others were just meh. It’s narrated by a whole cast of characters, including BJ Novak himself, Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, Mindy Kaling, Katy Perry, and others. In this particular case, the narration definitely added to the stories. The comic timing of the narrators made stories funnier and added a layer of nuance I might have missed if I were just reading them.

The Unread Shelf

Running Total: 3

5 Classic Books

(0/5) No progress

Miscellaneous Reading

None this week


The Boy Meets Girl Massacre, by Ainslie Hogarth: I really, really, really, really wanted to love this. The premise seemed like fun. But on page 1, I was already a little skeptical. It’s not that the writing is bad; it isn’t. Just something told me maybe this book wasn’t a good fit for me. But I pushed on. I ended up really enjoying it for awhile. The premise is that a filmmaker is looking to make a movie out of the events portrayed in Noelle’s diary. Noelle works in the Boy Meets Girl hotel, and writes about the events leading up to a slaughter.

There are some gruesome details early on, which I don’t love but can put up with. It’s about a massacre, so although I prefer psychological horror, I can deal with gore if it serves a purpose. As the book went on, the grossness escalated, and honestly, seemed unnecessary.

I have a friend, who once when with me to a haunted house. I thought the haunted house was lame, but just a few minutes in, she was actually crying. She later told me that she even though she knows it’s not real, her brain can’t separate it in the moment.

I have a thing like that. For me, it’s animal cruelty. I can deal with brief, off-screen mentions. But anymore than that, and I nope out.

So I was already not into this book when we got to the scene where the main character kills, or at least seriously injures, a cat. I’m not sure what happened. It’s sort of dreamlike and I skimmed it to see if I could skip it and move on. But then I thought about it, decided that what the author was trying to accomplish (showing the worsening mental state of the main character) could have happened in other ways, and I decided that I don’t want to read this book. So… I’m out.

tl;dr: Unnecessary grossness + animal cruelty = not for me.

2018 Running Total: 25

Have you made any progress on your TBR or book challenges?

W is for Wanderer/ Wanda

Hello, and welcome to Blogging A to Z 2017! Thanks for stopping by. Fellow A to Z-ers, please make sure to leave a link to your blog in the comments.

My theme this month is 26 of the Best Characters in Fiction.

IMG_8465.JPGWanderer, later called Wanda, is the main character of The Host by Stephanie Meyer. Yes, that Stephanie Meyer.

It’s a light science fiction book about a race of parasites that go to various planets and inhabit the host species. The parasites are motivated by altruism. On Earth, they felt that humans were destroying the planet, and that they could do better.

These parasites (they call themselves “souls,” but they fit the definition of parasites) take over human bodies, and the consciousness of the human vessel is supposed to vanish. This is just what they do on all the planets they inhabit, and they don’t think anything negative about it.

Wanderer inhabits the body of Melanie, but Melanie won’t give up her consciousness. Wanderer eventually goes in search of Melanie’s brother and her boyfriend, who are living in a small, hidden camp of human survivors.

At first, the humans are understandably vicious to Wanderer. She doesn’t tell them that she and Melanie are still sharing the body because she figures they wouldn’t believe her.

But as time goes on, Wanderer is accepted into the group of humans. No matter what happens to her, she’s kind and gentle. Eventually, she realizes that maybe the humans have a right to be so angry.

She’s called Wanderer because she’s lived on many planets, never finding one that was home, and never settling down. But she grows to love Earth and her human family.

I love Wanderer because she’s relentlessly positive. She believes the best about people, is hard working, loving, and best of all… isn’t afraid to change her mind.

The movie was fine, but nowhere near as good as the book. This is one of those cases where they really couldn’t have matched it, because part of what made it so great was the internal arguments between Melanie and Wanderer.

So, have you read it or seen the movie?


M is for Mark Watney

Hello, and welcome to Blogging A to Z 2017! Thanks for stopping by. Fellow A to Z-ers, please make sure to leave a link to your blog in the comments.

My theme this month is 26 of the Best Characters in Fiction.

IMG_8378.JPGMark Watney is the main character of The Martian, by Andy Weir. It’s technically a science fiction book, and people who know science fiction said that the science is mostly realistic. Even though natural sciences aren’t my thing, I do think it’s important for the science to be accurate. If I can spot the science problems, it takes me right out of the story.

Even though this is science fiction, for me it was much more about the psychological struggle of a man deserted on a planet where he knows he will probably die.

Mark is part of a team of astronauts who landed on Mars. When an unexpected storm happens, Mark is blown away from the rest of the team and presumed dead. When he wakes, and realizes what happened, he goes through the predictable stages, even contemplating suicide at one point.

But, of course, he doesn’t give up. He’s the botanist and the engineer, but he was also chosen for the mission because of his optimistic nature and his sense of humor. Those features really shine through throughout the book.

It could have been just a book about a guy surviving. But instead, Mark is a guy who’s doing his best to live. He complains about being stuck with only disco music (his commander’s personal items were left behind), and laughs at himself when he screws up.

There’s a reason why solitary confinement is considered the worst of the worst punishments for human beings. Being alone does wear on Mark, but his sense of humor is a constant. Even though he expects to die, he never gives up home.

I’m sure some people loved this book for the marooned on Mars aspect of it, and yeah, that was great. But I loved the human aspect of it. It’s not touchy-feely, hitting the reader over the head with what a great guy Mark is or showing him lamenting all the things he left behind (as I think some authors would have been tempted to do). Instead, Mark leaps off the page with every problem he solves and the way he interacts with others.

Oh, and the movie was good too.

Did you read the book or see the movie? What did you think?

K is for Dean Koontz

Unknown-4.Anyone who knows me, knows that Dean Koontz had to show up in this list.

I read my first Koontz book when I was 12.  I happened to pick up Watchers off the rack in some store, probably K-mart or the grocery store.  The book amazed me.  It had everything I could have imagined wanting in a book: romance, a dog who could communicate with people, science-fiction, and horror, with undercurrents of philosophy.

From then on, I was hooked.  I read everything I could by him, and bought his hardbacks when they were released every November.  I praised them and recommended them to anyone who’d listen.

Koontz was the first author I’d read who blended genres.  He was considered a horror author, but he really wasn’t.  His stories did evoke fear and dread at times, but there was almost always some sort of happy ending.

Koontz usually has multiple “parts” to his books, and starts them with a quote or a short poem.  While I loved all those quotes, my favorite was when he’d quote The Book of Counted Sorrows.  In the pre-internet days, I drove myself crazy trying to find that book.  In 1992, Koontz publicly explained the the book didn’t exist, but I didn’t hear about it until many years later.

Searching for this non-existent book was something I didn’t give up on.  Oh, I didn’t think about it every day or anything, but it popped back into my consciousness with regularity.  When I finally found out it wasn’t real, I felt let down, like I’d lost a friend.

I moved on, and through the magic of the internet, was able to find the collected quotes from the books.

I’ve wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember.  But Koontz helped me figure out what kind of writer I wanted to be.

I want to be someone who writes uplifting stories, sometimes about dark and strange topics.  I want to write across genres.  But mostly, I just want to tell a good story.

“Not one day in anyone’s life is an uneventful day, no day without profound meaning, no matter how dull and boring it might seem… Because in every day of your life, there are opportunities to perform little kindnesses for others, both by conscious acts of will and unconscious example. Each smallest act of kindness… reverberates across great distances and spans of time… because kindness is passed on and grows each time it’s passed, until a simple courtesy becomes an act of selfless courage years later and far away.”

-Dean Koontz, from


I is for In Death

Unknown-2JD Robb has written 53 books in the In Death series in the past 21 years.  That’s a huge number of books.  (Some of these are novellas that appear in anthologies, but it’s still impressive.)

The books center around Eve Dallas, a police lieutenant in the New York Police Department, and her husband Roarke, multi-billionare businessman and former criminal. There are also multiple supporting characters that make regular appearances.

Each book centers around one or more murder that Dallas must solve.  As the series has continued, Roarke assists her more and more often.

I love reading these books, but I’ve also started studying them from a writer’s perspective.  If you’d ask me, I would have told you I didn’t think that a character arc could span over 53+ books, but I would have been wrong.

Dallas and Roarke have continued to develop, as a couple and as individuals.  Though the focus tends to be on them and their relationship, the other characters in the universe are interesting and often experience character growth of their own.  I love the fact that a married couple can continue to be the subject of a series; too often the curtain drops just after the wedding, but that’s not real life.  They argue, they compromise, they have past lovers, and yet they navigate it together.

Each story shares characteristics, but they’re not formulaic.   There are multiple series subplots, like Dallas’s past, and information about these is doled out over time.  It’s masterful the way Robb keeps my interest in these subplots.  She drags them out for just the right amount of time so that they never get stale, but also never turn into an info dump.

The books are thrillers with elements of romance and science fiction, and while the science fiction might not please hard-core sci-fi fans, they’re always a good story.

More than anything, I want the stories I tell to be compelling and interesting.  I think that’s the best rule for any author: tell a good story.

“Life is never as long as we want it to be, and wasted time can never be recovered.”
― J.D. Robb

In Death, a Review

On Throwback Thursdays, I review older books.

The first “In Death” book was published in 1995, and #41 is scheduled to be released this fall.

Naked in Death is the first in the series, and it introduces Eve Dallas, a hard edged “murder cop” in New York City, circa 2058.  Dallas is the main character throughout the series.  Each book has her conducting at least one investigation into a murder.  In this first book, she must investigate the murder of a senator’s granddaughter.  She also meets Roarke, an Irish gazillionare with a secretive past.

The books have a little bit of everything: romance, mystery, intrigue.  Amazingly, JD Robb has not repeated the same story twice.  They’re new and interesting.

One of my favorite things about this series is that Dallas and Roarke get together over the course of several books and (spoiler alert) eventually marry.  However, we’re not left with a happily-ever-after romance book ending romance.  They argue like real married people, have conflicts, and continue to learn more and more about one another.

Dallas develops friendships and builds relationships, and some of these people stay a part of the world.  Her relationships with others are complex and interesting.  While you could pick up any book in the series and enjoy it, I think they’re much more enjoyable as part of a series.  The people within the pages of this book have become my friends; people I can root for and really enjoy seeing triumph.

Don’t get me wrong; all the characters have flaws.  But that makes them even more real and endearing to me.

If you like a little bit of everything, mixed up and tied together with a good murder mystery, this may be the series for you.


Skagway, Alaska Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Skagway, Alaska
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Since I was a little girl, I’ve believed in magic. My understanding of it has changed over time, but my belief in it has persisited. When I was a child, I called that magic “Santa Claus,” “Easter Bunny,” “mom,” and “dad.” As I’ve grown up, I’ve learned other names for it, like “love” and “friendship.” Some magic I’ve learned about can’t be named, only felt. I feel magic in certain secret places in the woods, near water. I feel it brush along my skin when I hear poems that speak to my soul.  I feel it in the warmth of bonfires and in the coolness of an autumn evening.  I see it in the white fur on my dog’s face, white fur that wasn’t there before.  I taste it when a new flavor melts on my tongue.  I hear it in my grandfather’s voice, long gone, but not forgotten.

One type of magic that has never changed for me is that magic of books.  Before I continue, I want to be clear that I’m not talking in metaphors here.  I literally mean magic, which is defined as “1.  Of, relating to, or invoking the supernatural. 2.  Possessing distinctive qualities that produce unaccountable or baffling effects.”

Science fiction talks about transporters and tardises, of teleportation and apparation, but only books transport you somewhere else, somewhere you can really feel the wind on your face, the sun on your skin.  I’ve smelled smoke and caramel.  I’ve heard birds sing and voices speak to me.  When I finish a book that really means something to me, I can tell that I’ve changed.  The magic that is contained within the pages is hard to describe to someone who’s never felt it.  To some people, books are just books, and words are just words.

I’ll admit that not every book contains magic.  I’ve read some where the spell flickers and fizzles, and some where I never even get a whiff of any magic at all.  It can be hard to tell which ones will have magic by the cover.  Sometimes a book I thought would be utterly ordinary weaves a spell so intricate that it never quite lets go.  And other times, a book I was convinced would show me new things was merely a bunch of pages and words after all.

That’s why I write.  I feel the magic in my fingertips at times, and can almost capture the feelings of prisms in my brain.  There are times when I write that I’m transported and transformed at the same time.  There are times when I hear music in my head, and my senses are on hyper alert.  And there are other times when everything fades so completely into the background that I’m not really sure where my body is anymore.

Because I pay attention and believe, I sometimes find magic in surprising places.  That doesn’t mean that it isn’t there for everyone, just that we all have choices on what to see and what not to.  Magic is easy to ignore, and if you ignore it, sometimes you start to believe it’s no longer there.

My understanding of magic has changed, but luckily, just as much continues to be a mystery.  Magic should never be separated from mystery.

Where do you find magic?

Metal Hurlant?

thThis is an anthology series in which each episode is a self-contained story set in a different world, with all stories linked together by an asteroid called the Metal Hurlant, which is passing close to the planet that is the focus of the current episode.
This is a weird little show that vaguely reminds me of what would happen if Night Gallery were to meet Twilight Zone, if that reference is applicable at all anymore. It is foreign and some of the voice work is dubbed and well that is odd when other characters are speaking English and then some secondary character is speaking and the words are not matching up.
The stories are fun to watch because each story is different and as a viewer you are never quite sure where it is going. I have to say in this age of rather obvious television this is just foreign and weird enough to keep me watching. So if you are looking for something quite a bit different, this may be just what you have been looking for. The folks over at Syfy are really doing their due diligence to keep the fans happy. It is finishing up its second season Monday night but it is available On Demand and on the Internet.

The Word “Genre” Gives Me a Headache

I can't figure out her genre either.

I can’t figure out her genre either.

Actually, not only does the word give me a headache, but it also kind of makes me want to cry.  Normally, I just call my book “Young Adult” and move on, but it’s not quite YA.  The main characters are 18 and 20, a little older than the typical YA characters.  I supposed I could just chop two years off their ages, but it seems a little contrived.

My next pick for genre would be science fiction.  Only, it’s not heavy into the science.  The science is there.  And it’s set in 2073.  But science isn’t the main thing, and I wouldn’t want to mislead people who are looking for Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard or Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.

There’s also some fantasy.  Just a little, but it’s there.  Oh yeah, and there’s romance.

So where does it fall?  I’ve looked everywhere, and Google has tried hard to help, but it’s fallen short, and I’m not finding any real answers.  Maybe because there aren’t any?

I get why books should be classified by genre.  Readers need to know what they’re getting into so that they can assess if they’re going to like the thing or not.  And since I read YA and like YA, I can honestly say it’s most similar to YA.

But… what if the people I’m submitting it to don’t agree.  (I am in no way comparing myself to Dean Koontz with this next comment.)  Dean Koontz said that when he was just starting off as an author, he drove editors crazy with his mixed genre books, because they were a little of everything.  I get it.  Life is a mixed genre, which is why I write that way.

During my search of 4,981 blogs and articles, I think what it boils down to is that genre should be the closest match to what readers of similar books will enjoy.  People who read the The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare and Divergent by Veronica Roth would probably be the ones who’d like my book, so Young Adult it is.  Did you see how I went in a giant circle just to get back where I started?

Why all the hubbub, you ask?  Well, I’m entering Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award.  Stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted.  Cross your fingers that I make it past the first round.  Now that I’ve gotten my genre picked out, I need to write a pitch.  How do I feel about pitches?

This isn't anyone I know... Thank you, Internet, for the picture of the random man.

This isn’t anyone I know… Thank you, Internet, for the picture of the random cranky man.


by The TV Guy

UnknownThe folks at Marvel comics have brought the world of comics to primetime television. The Marvel comics Agents of Shield is currently on ABC and follows the character of Phil Coulson played by Clark Gregg from the Ironman series. The show picks up him after the alien attack of New York City under the premise that the world is changed and that this band of agents are part of a new defense of the world.

The character Phil Colson was dead at the end of the Ironman series. This was an interesting sort of twist of realities in the bending of one storyline to fit another storyline. If you get beyond that and you have a gap of time in which the show of this caliber can be viewed, then this is definitely something you might want to give a look.

The basic premise of the show is that Phil Coulson puts together a team of Shield agents to handle strange new cases.

The characters are a rather standard.  There is a computer hacker, a military strongman, a woman who knows karate… pretty standard stuff.  Despite the cliché of the team, the stories themselves are quite interesting and actually give the viewer a hour of compelling television.

While I’m not much for this particular genre of movies or television, the show is geared towards a more mainstream viewer. Although each of the members of the team possesses certain skill sets, unlike Ironman or the Hulk, they are not superhuman.

So what it comes down to is if you are a fan of this particular genre, you may find this to be not quite up to your standards. If this is not your genre you may find this to be just watchable enough that you can sit through a few episodes and find to be enjoyable.

Overall I give this show is 7/10.  It’s not great but at the same time, it’s not horrible. So if this interests you in the least give this one look.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.