Tuesday, July 4, 2017

trace all my books [2017 pt. 1]

Hello everyone!

I've read some great books the past six months and thought I'd make a little video talking about them. Only problem is...this video is so boring. It is 15 minutes of uninteresting blather about books, which is too bad because they're books I like and want you to like too (I guess).

Good news about the video: I look pretty nice. So you can watch it for a couple minutes and relish my face for a bit. Once you get to the part where I couldn't figure out how to edit it you can stop.

Because here's other good news about the video: I'll summarize it in this blog post! You'll still get all the information you otherwise would.

Most of the books I read fall under the categories of fantasy, teen romance, fairytale adaptations, and ... other. Here's the books in each category that I've thought were worth mentioning:

Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner: I've already blogged about this one.
The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst: Girls with magical skills have the opportunity to go to academy to learn to hone their talents. If they're really, really good, they might become heirs to the queen. The main character comes to the academy, determined. But she's actually a really bad student. So is she gonna fail out of the academy or is she going to be queen? Or something else?
A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi: A princess who's done what she's had to do to protect her kingdom and a prince who's never been allowed to do anything in his empire are partnered in a supernatural tournament where the prize is a wish. The writing in this one is beautiful.

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein: Prequel to Code Name Verity. Julie's last summer at her grandfather's estate.
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald: Sara has come all the way from Sweden to visit her elderly penpal in Broken Wheel, Iowa. She arrives in a ghost town...but actually everybody's at the old lady's funeral. Sara stays at her house...and the town concocts a marriage scheme to get her to stay forever.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: If you don't know what this book is about, you might want to look it up before you decide whether to pick it up.

Rose & Thorn by Sarah Prineas: A fractured Sleeping Beauty retelling, sequel to Ash & Bramble. It was really enjoyable.
Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison: Second in the Tyme series, a fun adaptation.
Frogkisser! by Garth Nix: A fun fairytale thing. I love fairytale adaptations.
Hunted by Meagan Spooner: Probably the best book of the year so far. I did nothing but read this book. It's Beauty and the Beast but also Russian fairytales.

Guitar Notes by Mary Amato: They schedule the same practice room and start writing notes to each other. Music! Epistolary! Pretty good.
Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett: Mink (or, as she's known IRL, Bailey) just moved to the same town as Alex, her online friend who keeps inviting her to his town for the film festival. But she just...won't tell him. She wants to find him first, to hedge her bets. Meanwhile there's this super annoying guy at work....I really liked this one.
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon: Dimple can't believe her parents are letting her go to coding camp without getting on her case about finding a nice boy. Rishi can't believe that he came all the way to coding camp to meet his future wife (according to their parents it's basically a done deal) and she a) didn't know who he was and b) hates him. I love it.
Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley: Rachel's moving back to the city after living on the coast with her family for three years. But she can't be around the ocean anymore. The only issue with the city is it's where Henry lives. He was her best friend...but not anymore. I just read this one today.

That's it! That's about how the video went. Except not as interesting. If you thought this summary interesting. Happy Independence Day!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

inside the labyrinth walls

It's been a heady, exciting week. You know, I'd almost forgotten what it's like to get a New Book and excitedly read it and discuss with other people who are excited about the New Book and venture outside my comfort zone. But that's what the past week has been!

Last Tuesday I dressed with extra care. I thought my hair had a nice little Queen of Attolia vibe. My lipstick was on point. Fashion was, once again, my armor against anxiety. Why was I anxious, you ask? Because many, many months ago I decided that if I ever bought a book, I would go to the local indie bookstore to do it. (It's called The King's English, by the way, and it's a nice place.) And then the news of the New Book came out and I knew I'd have to buy it. Even though I don't believe in buying books in general (I mean, libraries exist).

Everyone at the bookstore was very nice but it was still very anxiety-inducing (I stood at the shelf for 5 minutes, holding the paperbacks of the rest of the Queen's Thief series, until I got up the courage to ask someone where the new book was).

Anyway, success was mine, I made it out of the store with all five books in the series. I set them in my lap so that on the drive home (which was HORRENDOUS, I live very close to the bookstore and it took me forever to get home) I could give them little hugs every once in a while. I do that with long-awaited library books too. Books deserve hugs too.

And then I took pictures of them and set them on the table for the next few hours while I spackled the walls. Here's the picture:

Almost certainly filtered. It's on Instagram.
Is now a good time to talk about the Queen's Thief series? I don't think I've straight-up ever mentioned that they're the books I'm talking about. They are one of my most favorite series of all time. And it is impossible to talk about them because everything is a spoiler. Gen is a thief and he does things and things happen to him? That's the best I can do.

I stayed up WAY too late reading Thick as Thieves (the newest one), couldn't finish because I started way too late at night. And I made the righteous choice and didn't bring it to work to read "during lunch" because I've learned by now that means I read it "all the time" and sometimes it's nice to actually work.

And then I couldn't even get back to it until late Wednesday night! Two late nights in a row! It was like those previous times in my life when the company of a boy was more scintillating than the idea of sleep. It was just like that! Except it was a book. There were boys in the book. Not quite the same though.

(My review: I hope eventually I'll like it better. I like it fine but I don't love it like I love the others. But that is a usual feeling for me, it's happened with all the other books because they're all so very different. So the outlook is promising.)

Then I decided to get active in the online community of Queen's Thief fans. I made a post that, as of today, has 71 comments on it discussing my insights and questions (and a fair amount of off-topic rambling, I guess that's normal). This is a series that is great for discussing.

I also immediately started rereading Thick as Thieves, in hopes that further exposure will help me love it sooner. Time will tell.

Saturday night! Saturday night I made a big huge leap and decided to go BACK to the bookstore because the author herself, Megan Whalen Turner, was going to be there and so would Shannon Hale (who is great. I love her. I love them both!). When traffic isn't horrendous it turns out the bookstore is only 10 minutes away, then I spent another 10 minutes looking for parking. And then I found the place it would be held and discovered that 15 minutes early is not early enough to get in the front.
I'm going to add pictures from my Snap story to this post for those few that don't check my Snap story. Weird.

I ended up sitting next to a girl from the same online community as me (though of course we don't know each other), so that was kind of fun! And just look at how many people love MWT and the Queen's Thief (and maybe also Shannon Hale)!
I stole this from Shannon's twitter. I am visible in this picture. x
Everyone was pretty excited. It was a good energy (and a beautiful night). I took some bad quality pictures the first few minutes (the only kind my phone knows how to take) and then remembered that I can also take video, so I recorded the rest of the evening. I don't know if that was gauche or not. I wasn't the only one.
There they are!!! So exciting! They're telling us they're not going to talk about children.

Pixelated authors
I am ashamed of myself for laughing as loud as I did when Shannon made that quip.
Anyway after that was when I started the video. It is a 45-min video. The video quality is not good but the audio is sufficient. And I've just listened to it again and it's entertaining! So you can watch if you want. (I thought about just clipping out parts that I thought might be more widely enjoyed, but it's hard for me to know. Lots of bantering and talking about YALLWEST and also no spoilers about the books.)

After we finished we all joined the signing line. There was a little something on the event that said people who bought their books from The King's English would have priority, but that wasn't true. It was fine though. The line was extremely long (I have some pictures of the line but they are not all that interesting).

I finally got to the table and awkwardly (as is my wont) put all my books down on the table, jostling it right as she was about to sign my hardcover. I forgot to mention that I brought all the Queen's Thief books I own (except for The Thief, which I lent out). I didn't want her to sign them all, just touch them. Because I feel like I can have cred when I tell people "The author touched this book. You'll enjoy it." So she did. She thought I was weird but she did it anyway. What a good egg.

This is the first time this has ever happened to me. And probably the last.
Yep, here's the rest of my books. Yep, I toted these around all night while looking for parking and walking from parking and standing in that super long line.
It was a great experience! I don't usually want to go to new scary places by myself but I did and I had a good time. It helped that I really, really wanted to do this. And that none of my friends invited me to do anything that would conflict. I'm glad I went.

Monday, May 22, 2017

followers of my faith [Mormon Monday 99]

About a month ago, I took my cousin Megan on a field trip with my department to...a place...one which will remain unnamed but where it was reasonable to have the theme be "In His Footsteps" (His, of course, referring to Christ).

We spent a few hours wandering and finished the day with a keynote address related to the theme. My notes on the address are below.
Here we are, getting ready to listen to the keynote. We are not any place in particular.
"Come, follow me," the Savior said. Then let us in His footsteps tread.

When we think about following in people's footsteps, the image that comes to mind is of trying to fit your boots in the prints left behind in deep snow. But the problem with that image is that it implies that everyone follows the same path in emulating the Savior. And that's not how it actually works.

Take this scene from the New Testament, where Jesus and His apostles are enjoying a meal together. They've finished eating and Christ asks Simon Peter three times, "Lovest thou me? Feed my sheep." You know.

Then while Peter's still dealing with those implications, he turns around and notices Jesus and John the Beloved are having their own conversation. "Hey so what's John gonna do?" Peter asks.

And Jesus basically says, "Does that matter? Follow thou me."

Peter and John were (are? If John is tarrying till Christ come, he might be kicking around somewhere still) important parts of building the Kingdom of God. They had/have their own roles to fill in the way Christ asked.

So, too, do we have our own roles in the Kingdom of God. It doesn't matter what other people are doing. Everyone's path is different, but that doesn't mean we're not treading in Christ's footsteps.

We all have our own trials and tests. President Boyd K. Packer said:
Our lives are made up of thousands of everyday choices. Over the years these little choices will be bundled together and show clearly what we value.

The crucial test of life, I repeat, does not center in the choice between fame and obscurity, nor between wealth and poverty. The greatest decision of life is between good and evil.

We may foolishly bring unhappiness and trouble, even suffering upon ourselves. These are not always to be regarded as penalties imposed by a displeased Creator. They are part of the lessons of life, part of the test.

Some are tested by poor health, some by a body that is deformed or homely. Others are tested by handsome and healthy bodies; some by the passion of youth; others by the erosions of age.

Some suffer disappointment in marriage, family problems; others live in poverty and obscurity. Some (perhaps this is the hardest test) find ease and luxury.

All are part of the test, and there is more equality in this testing than sometimes we suspect ("The Choice," Boyd K. Packer, General Conference Oct. 1980).
The speaker also shared this story from Elder Holland, but I don't remember how it related. But it's a good story! Maybe you can come up with a connection?
Katie Lewis is my neighbor. Her father, Randy, is my bishop; her mother, Melanie, is a saint. And her older brother, Jimmie, is battling leukemia.

Sister Lewis recently recounted for me the unspeakable fear and grief that came to their family when Jimmie’s illness was diagnosed. She spoke of the tears and the waves of sorrow that any mother would experience with a prognosis as grim as Jimmie’s was. But like the faithful Latter-day Saints they are, the Lewises turned to God with urgency and with faith and with hope. They fasted and prayed, prayed and fasted. And they went again and again to the temple.

One day Sister Lewis came home from a temple session weary and worried, feeling the impact of so many days—and nights—of fear being held at bay only by monumental faith.

As she entered her home, four-year-old Katie ran up to her with love in her eyes and a crumpled sheaf of papers in her hand. Holding the papers out to her mother, she said enthusiastically, “Mommy, do you know what these are?”

Sister Lewis said frankly her first impulse was to deflect Katie’s zeal and say she didn’t feel like playing just then. But she thought of her children—all her children—and the possible regret of missed opportunities and little lives that pass too swiftly. So she smiled through her sorrow and said, “No, Katie. I don’t know what they are. Please tell me.”

“They are the scriptures,” Katie beamed back, “and do you know what they say?”

Sister Lewis stopped smiling, gazed deeply at this little child, knelt down to her level, and said, “Tell me, Katie. What do the scriptures say?”

“They say, ‘Trust Jesus.’” And then she was gone.

Sister Lewis said that as she stood back up, holding a fistful of her four-year-old’s scribbling, she felt near-tangible arms of peace encircle her weary soul and a divine stillness calm her troubled heart ("Look to God and Live," Jeffrey R. Holland, General Conference Oct. 1993).
Perhaps it is just the idea that when trials and troubles come, in all their varied ways, we can "Trust Jesus." And follow Him.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

and the words, they're everything [wwis 15]

The main theme of this WWIS post is "Getting Ready for the Day."
My most basic instinct.
Yeah I don't have to do that anymore.
I've actually grown pretty fond of my bed in recent years. It has its quirks (the squeaky springs very likely keep my neighbors awake as I habitually toss and turn) but I'm still loath to leave it.
My feet honestly hurt worse after a day of flat-wearing than heel-wearing. How do you keep them on???
All any of us can do.

And a bonus "political" tweet (oh the halcyon days when I only got angry about grammar mistakes).
I quash this reaction all day erry day. Nobody knows what I really think, except sometimes my Twitter followers.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

i have a prophecy

I've decided it's time for a Harry Potter opinion, and here it is: Harry was the only one the Prophecy could ever have referred to.

Here's the prophecy as Miss Trelawney spoke it:

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches...Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies...and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not...and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives....The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies....
So let's get into it a moment. Okay, here's what we know:

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches -- This is the subject of the prophecy. The thesis statement, if you will. What follow are the characteristics of this person:
+Born to those who have thrice defied him -- So, we know that both Neville and Harry fit this bill. Somehow. Go Frank and Alice! Go James and Lily! Fighting for what's right.
+Born as the seventh month dies -- also Neville and Harry. Dumbledore backs us up on these first two points:
"The odd thing is, Harry," [Dumbledore] said softly, "that it may not have meant you at all. Sybill's prophecy could have applied to two wizard boys, both born at the end of July that year, both of whom had parents in the Order of the Phoenix, both sets of parents having narrowly escaped Voldemort three times. One, of course, was you. The other was Neville Longbottom."

I actually disagree with Dumbledore on the fundamental conclusion (that Neville could ever have been the one the prophecy referred to), but that's the point of this post. We'll get there.
+the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal -- okay, stop. It is universally acknowledged that the "mark" is Harry's scar. How did he get that scar, anyway? The AK curse (as it is colloquially known in Auror circles, of course) doesn't leave a mark. Is it possible that the mark is the sign of the accidental Horcrux? Debatable, but that's also not the point. The point is: In one way or another, the scar is the sign that Harry's the one that can defeat You-Know-Who. And how did he get that scar?

Because Lily died for him, when she didn't have to. Voldemort gave her ample chances to get out of the way, but when she wouldn't, that's when she died. And that's when her protection over Harry came into force. That's why the curse rebounded. That's how he got the scar.

I don't really understand why Voldemort was willing to spare this Muggleborn girl who had narrowly escaped him three times, just because Snape asked. Maybe he wanted to reward him for overhearing the prophecy. Or maybe he just felt like it was a request he was willing to entertain until it became way too inconvenient. Either way: pretty sure he was only willing to spare her because Snape asked. Because Snape was obsessed with Lily. Hashtag #getoverit.

And I really do not believe that Voldemort would have spared either of the Longbottom parents. It would've been bam-bam-bam, end of the Longbottoms. :(

That's why Harry was the only one the prophecy ever could have referred to; it was only Lily's sacrifice that protected him and caused him to become an accidental Horcrux, which was how he had the power to vanquish the Dark Lord. Neville never could have, because Snape wasn't obsessed with either of his parents (as far as we know).

Here's Harry doing some wishful thinking, totally forgetting that he/his parents would probably be dead if Voldemort were still in power:
Neville's childhood had been blighted by Voldemort just as much as Harry's had, but Neville had no idea how close he had come to having Harry's destiny. The prophecy could have referred to either of them, yet, for his own inscrutable reasons, Voldemort had chosen to believe that Harry was the one meant.
Had Voldemort chosen Neville, it would be Neville sitting opposite Harry bearing the lightning-shaped scar and the weight of the prophecy....Or would it? Would Neville's mother have died to save him, as Lily had died for Harry? Surely she would....But what if she had been unable to stand between her son and Voldemort? Would there then have been no "Chosen One" at all? An empty seat where Neville now sat and a scarless Harry who would have been kissed good-bye by his own mother, not Ron's?

He's so close to working it out, he just doesn't have all the facts (like the small fact that his terrible professor was obsessed with his mom). Also, I have such a hard time conceiving of a "scarless Harry" -- to me, the boy and the scar are inextricably linked...and it couldn't have happened any other way.

P.S.: Even though it really couldn't have happened, I still like this alternate universe where Neville was the Chosen One: boy with a scar (chapters 1 and 2 are Neville-as-Chosen-One what-ifs. Chapter 3 is a bleak "what if both Neville and Harry got murdered" and Chapter 4 doesn't have anything to do with them). (Also it doesn't contain adult content)
P.P.S.: all the images came from google image search. I heard people don't read blog posts without pictures anymore so I peppered some in.