Friday Face-Off: The Amulet of a Thief

FFO.jpgTime again 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: A cover featuring an Amulet

The first book to come to mind was The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner.  I read this one as a kid and it’s still a favorite, and a special token features as a major part of the story.  I’m not positive it’s an amulet, but one cover shows it that way, so…we’re going with it.

As an aside, I didn’t realize until some years after I first read it that this was the first book in a series.  I really, really tried to like the second book–I read it twice–and it just didn’t work for me.  The first book, however, I love.

This cover was on the copy I read at the library all those years ago, so I’m sentimentally attached to it…although when I really look at it, it doesn’t fit at all!  If this is the lead character I can’t explain the crown; if it’s the character who might wear a crown, he’s too old!

I like the comparative drama of this one, although it’s a little cartoony for me–and something is weird about the angles.

Here’s the promised amulet!  I like this one a lot, especially the dirt on those hands.  It promises that the person those hands belong to is getting down into the dirt of life, that stealing this amulet is no easy job (and it’s not!)

This foreign cover is my favorite–very similar to the previous one, I like the hint of the secret temple, the amulet looks a bit more how I’d picture it, and it’s just more dramatic and dangerous!

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”

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?

Blog Hop: Time-Travel Book Browsing

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is: If you could travel back in time to purchase the first printing of a specific novel, what book would that be?

Seems to me there’s two ways to approach this…is this a book I’d buy to keep and cherish, or is it an investment?  If we’re looking at it as an investment, than the three that come to mind (although none are actually novels) are the Gutenberg Bible, a Shakespeare First Folio, and Action #1 comic book (the first Superman story).  I think any of those would be a very tidy investment!

Aside: I saw a First Folio once in Stratford, and just for fun I tucked one into the Phantom’s bookshelf in my Phantom trilogy, on the theory that he has a lot of money, and they may have been less sought after 140 years ago anyway.  I don’t call it a First Folio, just mention the title sitting on the shelf in one paragraph–and Hamlet, surprisingly enough, has a bit of a prominent role in the story.  /End Aside.

If we say I can buy the book but not re-sell it, then of course my brain goes towards L. M. Montgomery.  I probably wouldn’t get a first edition Anne of Green Gables (although I do have a “Thirty-Eighth Impression” 1914 copy, which I believe to be in the style of the first edition–$10, I kid you not).  I’d actually rather have a first edition of The Blue Castle, seeing as it’s my favorite.

Truth is, I’m not that enthralled with first editions, though.  I’d much rather have a signed copy of a favorite book than a first edition.  The cheapest L. M. Montgomery signed book I can find online is over $1,000 though, so…not something I’m purchasing!  At least, not right now. 🙂  But if I could time-travel to buy a book, see Montgomery and have it signed…yeah, that would definitely be what I’d do!

I’d also be rather tempted to get pre-first editions–to get a Strand magazine edition of a Sherlock Holmes story, or the original magazine installments of A Princess of Mars or The Phantom of the Opera.  I think that would be great fun!

If you could time-travel to buy a book, what would you get?  Would you sell your purchase, or would you buy something sentimental?

Blog Hop: Studious Reading

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is: Do you take notes about the book you are reading as you read?

In brief, no.  I don’t take notes of any fiction I’m reading, which is a big bulk of my reading.  The closest I come is that I will occasionally flag or underline (in a book I own, of course) a quote that strikes me, often to be written down in my quotes notebook later–but not in the midst of reading.  And even that happens…I don’t know, one book in fifty?  Or even a hundred?

I will note, when the fifth book of Valente’s Fairyland series came out, I reread the previous four with a pencil in hand, and did copious underlining (like, every page…) because they’re that brilliant.  But that’s a vanishingly rare situation.

I also read spiritual books, and for those books I do a lot more flagging or underlining.  I have a spiritual journal as well, and after I read one of my spiritual books I transcribe quotes into my journal.  But again, it’s after I read the book–I don’t stop reading to copy things out.  I tried that and didn’t like it.

Reading is relaxing for me–or it’s a quick snatch in a small space of time.  In either case, it’s not conducive to copying down notes.

Do you take notes while you read?  Or do you flag things to make notes later?