Book Review: Level Up Your Life

I’ve had Level Up Your Life by Steve Kamb on my to-read list for many months.  January is always a good time to read books about goals and intentions, so I finally picked this one up.  And I’m so glad I did, because it was an excellent start to the year!

Level Up Your Life approaches life transformation from a video game, geek perspective.  Kamb tells his own story throughout, about his love of video games when he was young (and still), and how he used the game mechanics of video games, with a little guidance from the Hero’s Journey classic story arc, to transform his life into something far more epic.  Basically, he set audacious goals, assigned experience points for completing tasks and quests, and has set his sights on “leveling-up” to Level 50, which would mean living his best life, as his best self.

I feel like this is a great book for a person with a certain mindset–one shared by probably most people I know.  It would help to have some sci fi interests, as he draws heavily from superheroes, movies and video games for his examples.  I knew the movies, and even for the video games I only knew by name, it was easy to follow the points he was making.  You also have to like the idea of approaching your life and completing your goals as something you can keep score on and continuously improve.  Which I found to be a pretty cool idea, actually! Continue reading “Book Review: Level Up Your Life”

Friday Face-Off: Good Queen Bess

Time for the Friday Face-Off meme, created by Books by Proxy, with weekly topics hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog.  The idea is to put up different covers for one book, and select a favorite.

This week’s theme is: ‘I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king’ – A cover that depicts a novel set in the Tudor period

The first novel that came to mind seemed fitting, since it’s about Elizabeth I, the source for this week’s quote: Legacy by Susan Kay, about the life of Elizabeth I.  This author is better known (I think) for her Phantom novel, referred to always as Susan Kay’s Phantom, and one my absolute favorite books.  I mean, we’re talking top 5 here.  Legacy, though in some ways similar (a sweeping exploration of one person’s life, through the points of view of different people surrounding them) is…well, not an absolute favorite.  Too much politicking!  But still a good read, with a few different covers. Continue reading “Friday Face-Off: Good Queen Bess”

Writing Wednesday: On Faces and Masks

There are many complexities and layers to my particular take on the Phantom—to the story, but also the character.  One of the most important aspects of the Phantom (or rather, Erik) that I can explain most succinctly is: Erik’s biggest problem is not that he’s so ugly no one can love him; it’s that he believes he’s so ugly no one can love him.  That’s not how it is in every version, as some put a lot of emphasis on the horrors of the Phantom’s appearance.

I’m frankly not that interested in the Phantom’s face, and whether it is or isn’t truly terrible.  Past negative reactions to his face and how that has twisted up his ideas about people, the world, and what life is possible for him, however, is fascinating.

So in Book Two of my trilogy, now that Erik and Meg are talking quite a lot, they don’t talk much about his face or even his mask.  But they do at least once, in a scene I was working on this week, when Erik realizes after quite a few months that Meg has known what he looks like all along.  His conclusion is—well, very true to my version of the character, I think!

***************

There didn’t seem to be anything more to say.  So she knew.  She knew what he looked like, knew that he was not like other men, could never be like other men.

And yet—she was still here.  She had known all along.  It had been 192 days, fourteen hours since she had left, so Meg must have known all that time.  And she had still decided to become friends with him.  It was almost like she…didn’t care what he looked like?

Maybe she hadn’t really had a proper view.  Or maybe that moment, when the chandelier fell and he tore his mask off, had been too emotionally-charged for an adequate assessment.

2019 Reading Challenges

Now that I finished my 2018 challenges update, and my reading round-up, I’m finally ready to be thinking about what I want to read in 2019.  I’m going a little gentler on the number goals, and trying to both play to the strengths of where my reading seems to have gone, and get back to a few areas I realized I missed!

Nonfiction Reading Challenge
Host: Doing Dewey
Goal: 12 Nonfiction Books

This one is playing to my strengths, because I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction in recent months.  (And may I just say as an aside that teenage me, who read nothing but fiction, would be shocked by this?  But she was stuck reading a lot of nonfiction she didn’t like for school, so…)  I expect this to be largely comprised of spiritual books, since that’s still my primary focus in my nonfiction–but I am rather tempted by the suggestion to read a book from each century of the Dewey Decimal system.  We’ll see how the year goes! Continue reading “2019 Reading Challenges”

2018 Reading Round-Up

It’s that time of year again–or actually, a few days past.  Time to look at the best, the worst and sometimes weird of my 2018 reading.  In this past year I read 101 books.  I know that’s a lot when the average is more like 12, but it’s also a big drop for me–I’m usually somewhere approaching 200.  I blame this fully on getting married, and you know, seeing as there are also compensations to that, I can’t complain too much.  But I do hope to bring that number up next year–barring other major life changes, of course!

In that 101 books, there were a lot of nonfiction ones, a lot of audiobooks, and a lot of Newbery Medal winners.  So it’s been kind of a departure of a year in a lot of ways!  But there were still good books in there, so let’s see how it looks.

1) Best of…
I’ve been splitting my “Best of” books for the past few years, so that I can highlight the ones that were best in very specific ways.

1A) Best Premise: The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – This was an amazing short story collection from a variety of authors (including Stephen King and Neil Gaimain!) with original Holmes and Watson stories…which may or may not be fantastical.  I have seen authors mostly fail to accurately portray Sherlock Holmes, so it was an especial delight to find a whole collection of authors who (for the most part) got it right, and the fantasy element was an extra awesome element.

1B) Best World Building: Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore – This was the most beautifully crafted book I read this year, so I’m calling that world building.  A series of alternate paths for the main character, each with its own genre, each independent and yet consistent and building on each other…this was a gorgeously crafted book.

1C) Best Romance: I find myself with a very strange dearth of options for this category this year!  I think this is what happens when you read a lot of Newbery Medal winners and nonfiction books.  I’m going to have to set a goal to read more romances in 2019, I think.

1D) Best Hero(ines): The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss – I’m giving this one to a group, the amazing women of the Athena Club, each one a product of a mad scientist’s experiment, banding together to forge their own lives and fight evil in the process.  This one could have taken best premise too, but we’ll put it here for its awesome heroines. Continue reading “2018 Reading Round-Up”

2018 Goals – Year-End Update

It’s been a strange year for goals–so maybe it’s fitting I’m running a day or two late from normal on this report!  I mixed together life goals and reading challenges this year, so the updates have been a little varied from usual.  And the timing has been a little strange all through.

Getting married was my biggest goal this year, accomplished on May 12th.  I put a lot of focus on the Newbery Medal reading challenge, and completed that at the end of August, so I already reported on that in my last update.

My second reading challenge was (for the third year in a row) to try to read more books with minority hero(ines).  Well, I’m still getting used to reading while married (totally different daily routine!) and I frankly didn’t think about this goal in the last three months.  So, not surprisingly, I’m sneaking in one fantasy re-read but otherwise, no progress here.  With the usual rather sad observation that it’s not easy to stumble accidentally into minority-led books–which says rather a lot.

  1. North of Happy by Adi Alsaid (Mexican)
  2. Amos Fortune: Free Man by Elizabeth Yates (African-American)
  3. Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji (Indian)
  4. Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska (Spanish)
  5. Waterless Mountain by Laura Adams Armer (Navajo)
  6. Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly (Japanese and Filipino)
  7. Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark (Incan)
  8. Street Magic by Tamora Pierce (vaguely Arab, in a fantasy world)

On writing goals, I wanted to write three short stories, which I finished by September.  On my last update I was still working on the first book of my Phantom trilogy.  I’m very happy to report that’s completed–at least barring any tweaks required based on revising the later books.  But that should be minor at most!

I also intended to get the second installment of the trilogy to beta-readers by the end of the year.  Well, it’s January 2nd and I’m still working on it.  But the end is actually in sight, and I’m hoping to get it off by mid-January, so only about two weeks behind the original goal.  And honestly, that’s better than I expected most of the time, so we’ll call that good!

So, not quite a perfect score on reaching all my goals–but I had more ambitious, more complicated goals than usual, and 2018 was one of the most life-altering years I’ve ever had–so I’m going to feel good about how it all turned out.

Did you have reading or other goals for the year?  How did they turn out for you?

Friday Face-Off Freebie: The Blue Castle

Today is a free day on the Friday Face-Off meme, created by Books by Proxy, with weekly topics hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog.  The idea is to put up different covers for one book, and select a favorite.

This week’s theme is “choose your own favorite” so I’ve selected one of my favorite books, my favorite L. M. Montgomery novel, The Blue Castle.

      

These two are much the same, both capturing the pastoral setting and suggesting the romance by putting a couple on the cover…though they don’t evoke the title at all, and there’s some questionable clothing choices going on in that right-hand cover! Continue reading “Friday Face-Off Freebie: The Blue Castle”