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Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography is the 'Memoir by someone who identifies as LGBTQIA' selection for my 2016 (Blended) Reading Challenge.


NPH: Choose Your Own Autobiography


I've always liked NPH. I'll admit that I'm probably one of those “Neil Patrick Harris was in that?” people, but I've always enjoyed everything I've seen him in and find him immensely talented. I didn't really get into HIMYM, but I remember watching Doogie Houser as a kid and being pleasantly surprised that he grew up to be so amazingly awesome. NPH is just fun. When I heard the title of this autobiography, I immediately preordered it. I looooved Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid and, yes, NPH made it extremely fun.

Once more I'm pleasantly surprised, because even though I've come to appreciate his all-around awesomeness, I found myself incredibly moved by his extraordinary insight, intelligence, self-awareness, and really just goodness. The stories were fun and funny as hell, but they were also very frank and often poignant. If he wrote it without the use of a ghostwriter, which wouldn't surprise me, then he's an amazing writer as well as every other single thing possible. The book flowed together well as both an autobiography and a Choose Your Own Adventure book, and the additions of cocktail recipes, magic tricks, puzzles, and celebrity gossip (plus theater-, magic-, & Disney-geek fun) added something special and helped the pacing no matter which route you take on the adventure. It's a great book for picking up when you have a few minutes here or there and still get a complete story - usually one that made me laugh aloud several times.

Mid-Event Survey for Dewey's Read-a-thon

1. What are you reading right now?

I just finished The Walking Dead: Compendium One (again) and am about to start on Choose Your Own Autobiography, by Neil Patrick Harris.

2. How many books have you read so far?

Two! I also finished Being Human, by Eliza Green. To be transparent, I have been working on both of those already this week.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

NPH's book. I've been meaning to read it for a long time and keep putting it off.

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

Oh yes. I have kids. I try to give them attention as they need it, but they do know this is mommy's reading day. The oldest two (13 & 10) were going to join me and decided instead that Saturdays are for doing absolutely nothing, including duties asked to cover for mom.

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

I'm not really getting a lot of new friends or camaraderie this year, which is kind of surprising. Maybe because I'm not on a twitter team this time around. But it's not over yet, so hopefully I'll make some great connections again this year!

Heading outside for a hammock & roasted marshmallows! Way to get over that midway hump.

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The Walking Dead: Compendium One

The Walking Dead: Compendium One, by Robert Kirkman, is a 'To Be Read' book for my 2016 (Blended) Reading Challenge. I've read this many times over the years, and I owe it a review.


TWD comp 1


This book is much darker than the show and should probably have all sorts of trigger warnings. The grammar has serious issues, even outside of zombies a lot of things are a big stretch, there's a definite waft of misogyny sweeping throughout (although less than in the show, honestly. Andrea and Michonne are awesome here.), a bit of racism (not as much as the show)...honestly, I probably shouldn't like this book/series so damned much.

But I do.

I'm not sure why, really. It's compelling. Yeah, a lot of stuff gets dark and nasty, but, very sadly, that's likely the most realistic aspect of this milieu. People are dicks, and they are dangerous. The artwork is pretty good, though I do wish they made the full panels color.

It's not for everyone. It's not even for everyone who likes the show. But if you're in a good place for a dark, interesting, and easy read, this is one.

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Becoming Human, by Eliza Green

Becoming Human, by Eliza Green, is my 'Post-Apocalyptic novel written by a woman' choice for my 2016 (Blended) Reading Challenge. In theory, because while dystopian, it wasn't really post- (more mid-), nor was it really apocalyptic. Kind of a slow burning out of earth rather than cataclysm & destruction. Irked me to be publicized as such, and it seems a trick for SEM. EDITED TO ADD: The author has pointed out that it's apocalyptic from the Indigene's point of view. I'd neglected to consider that since I was thinking of the 'ruined Earth' description, but that's absolutely true.


Becoming Human


I'm kind of sitting at 2.5-3 stars for this. It was disappointing and I nearly DNF several times, but the writer clearly has some skill (for all that she seriously needs an editor). 'Good for a self-pub' doesn't seem star-worthy.

The idea is intriguing, and one I favor: Earth is dying off, and humans need to relocate to another planet. We open with terraforming chemicals wreaking havoc on the Indigenes, forcing them undergound and starting a chain reaction of both Indigenes and humans trying to figure out WTF is going on. While obviously thought out and working with known science, it was still hard to believe all these technological changes (including FTL travel) being plausible in the next 150 years, let alone while simultaneously killing off much of the entire planet.

I think it could have been a 4-5 star book with editing. As it is, the descriptions are often overwrought and occasionally hard to follow – a whole paragraph describing various hand movements when she could have said “He spun through the images and enlarged section yadda yadda...”, for example. There's a lot of very amateur character descriptions akin to 'This is Bill, who has grey-flaked hair, average height, and a pot belly' and 'Dr. Whatsit, whose black hair was slicked back in a tight bun, her green eyes flashing, and genetic mods taking a good 20 years off her face'. For EVERY character. Lots of info-dumping, including the verboten dialogue dump that starts with 'As you know/As you are aware...' Repetition that could have been cut. Etc. Editors! A self-pub must!

There are also a number of grammar issues that pulled me from the story, and these weren't any kind of confusion between British & American English (for all that regional word choices in characters from other regions stood out). These were like quick vs. quickly and, one of my huge peeves, using 'peaked' instead of 'piqued'.

There seems to be, for me, an uncomfortable level of misogyny as well. First I thought it was maybe just the one character, and I was supposed to dislike him, but no, many characters, including female characters, had to pontificate over stereotypes in the gender binary and denigrate women in their personal musings.

Okay, I guess that despite all the promise – or maybe because of it – I'm now leaning closer to the 2-star side rather than 3. I did finish it, and I was pleased that it picked up in the back half, but it lost my goodwill with an unsatisfactory ending. They cleared up -one- question that I had held in there for (and, yes, I had called it super-early, like back in chapter 3 or 4), but then it just cut off abruptly. To set up for book 2, of course. Had this one been executed just a little bit better, I'd probably go on to the next book, but it just seemed like too much work for too little pay off. It's got tons of gushing 4- and 5-star reviews though, so maybe I'm too picky. Check it out if the concept appeals to you, and let me know what you think.

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My Bookish Childhood: Top 5

For hour 2 mini-challenge, we're supposed to list our top 5 people/book moments from childhood. I know my mother must have read to me and taught me to read, because she was quite the book fan, but I don't actually ever remember her reading to me. Since I was 4 or 5, I've been reading on my own. As I got older, some of my memories aren't so good (abusive stepdad liked to ruin passions), so I'll do my best to find some good ones so as not to bum you out.

1. Mrs. Moore from Shamock Gardens Elementary School, Charlotte, NC! Definitely my top childhood bookish memory. Mrs. Moore was my 2nd grade teacher, and she was amazing. She lit up my childhood. Besides the amazing Willow/Faerie Tale Theater Fridays with those little ice cream cups, she was the person who told me my writing was wonderful and that I should be a writer. She even stole (I found out later, but I cried when it went missing) a short story I had written and given it to an editor friend to publish in her magazine. Because of her, I was published at 7 and have spent many of my happiest moments writing and reveling in books!

2. Babysitter's Club/Sweet Valley High &/or College/RL Stine (not Goosebumps; never got into those)/Choose You Own Adventure – These were my favorite kid reads! I was really anal and had to read a series in order, so I put off Babysitter's Club for like 3 years because I couldn't find book 1. Ha!

3. The Hobbit – This was my segue into adult reading when I was 10. I read pretty much mostly adult after that, with the exception of the above-mentioned books, but I could knock out multiples of those in a day.

4. Clan of the Cavebear/Earth's Children – My very first fandom! I was all about this series as a kid (Valley of Horses is actually my favorite). This book probably really influenced the fact that I'm into survivalism and ASL, actually. And back in the wee early days of internet fanfiction, these were the first stories/RPGs I did.

5. I'd like to give a shout-out to Scholastic Book Fairs for being the highlight of my school experience.

Hello, Read-a-Thon!

Today is the day! Dewey's 24 hr Read-a-thon starts at the top of the hour! (7 am Central) This will be my third read-a-thon. I'm so excited.

As usual, I will be posting any reviews both here and at Goodreads. Assuming I finish any full books this time. I'm a speculative fiction lover, and I'm always looking for like-reading friends on GR!

Pre-Event Meme:


1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

The Grateful Stead, Missouri, USA

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Neal Patrick Harris's Choose Your Own Autobiography. This was on my list last time, and I never got to it.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Chips & salsa, if I can get off my bum and make any salsa today. I didn't quite prep as much as planned yesterday. If not: booze!

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I'm a homesteading, home/unschooling, attachment parenting momma of three girls, Reiki Master, speculative fiction writer, birth doula, NaNoWriMo ML, deadhead, and budding survivalist.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I will spend way less time on the comp talking to you fine folk, no offense. I did more blog posts & challenges than reading last time, and this time I have a reading challenge to catch up and my pride to salvage.

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The Martian, by Andy Weir

I'm fudging a bit with The Martian, by Andy Weir, for my 2016 (Blended) Reading Challenge. It's going in my 'TBR' (to be read) section even though it's not a 'book I already owned'. It is, however, a book I checked out from the library e-loans a long time ago as my 'book that became a movie' choice for last year's 50 Book Challenge, barely started, and had to wait in queue for like 6 months for another chance.


The Martian


I'll disclose up front that I am not a hard sci-fi fan. I can appreciate when it's well done (and it is), but it's not really my thing. I do, however, love a well-done epistolary novel, so I figure they cancel each other out as far as enjoyment and star-rating consideration.

I quite enjoyed this book, but I'm a bit of a nerd myself and mostly enjoyed Mark Watney's sense of humor, which seems to be the dividing force between people who love the book and those who hate it. He was fun to read, even when he was talking about math and science. Everything in the book seemed plausible and rooted in fact about Mars, even if he did manage to keep some things together through sheer ingenuity and duct tape. That's what makes it a fun, fictional read. He was the sole character for a good portion of the book, and that didn't hurt the story at all, which is pretty impressive. It's also impressive that the author designed his own NASA-esque software to actually figure out trajectories and velocities and whatnot, but that's the stuff I tend to glaze over with an 'if you say so' and not stop to work out/fact check.

I liked it, it was admittedly well done and a very enjoyable read, so why can't I bring myself to give it five stars? I'm not entirely sure myself, but it just didn't wow me in a five star way, or even on the level that it seems to wow most people. I didn't even get past page 10 or so the first time I tried to read it, so despite a premise I'm usually all about (and an admittedly great opening hook), it still didn't seem to really hook me. Even once I resolved to read it through for real this time, I wasn't actually 'hooked' and propelling myself forward to find out what happened until well into the second half of the book. I'd pick it up in a waiting room or while riding shotgun, but otherwise I just wasn't that into or overly concerned about it.

A few things came off a bit distasteful with hints of misogyny and homophobia ('gay probe' joke wasn't funny). Not much, and I guess (sadly) not wholly unexpected in a book about a cis straight white guy written by a (presumably, from what I've seen & read) a cis straight white guy. And really, after reading some of the other reviews that helped me figure out just what bothered me, I think most of it actually comes down to emotional realism. Science and math that didn't completely bore, realistic-yet-speculative setting, plausible obstacles to overcome with fun and interesting approaches to, a voice/sense of humor that I generally dig...but the dude was on Mars for something like two years, and besides the occasional “well, f---”, there's no real emotional depth or substance regarding his emotional and mental plight. Isolation is one of the hardest obstacles astronauts (or any survivalists) face, and yet it wasn't really even dealt with. I know he was chosen for a great personality, but especially after losing a chance at communication, I would have liked to see some real inner obstacles faced and grappled with as opposed to more whining about disco or Three's Company.

I also felt that both the switch to third person and the ending were pretty abrupt. The hopping between first person logs and third person narrative was well done, even if the other characters were really superficial (Commander astronaut, foreign-sounding astronaut, suave minority astronaut, female astronaut, NASA guy in charge, satellite picture watcher, press gal...), but I think maybe it should have been done much earlier in the book. At least move some of the chapters from Mark's crew's POV up to the beginning, because it was very jarring to go through so much Mark/1st person logs and then suddenly switch deeper into the book.

Still, an overall great read and impressive book. I'm looking forward to watching the movie now that I've read it, and I'll definitely read more sci-fi by Weir if I come across it.
A Briefer History of Time, by Stephen Hawking & Leonard Mlodinow, is my 'non-fiction book about science' choice for my 2016 (Blended) Reading Challenge.


A Briefer History of Time


I meant to get Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, but the library only had the Briefer version, so I've not read the first to compare. This one was fabulous, though. I love science, and especially physics, but I've never been very good at it. As a sci-fi writer, I view that as a huge personal flaw. I've tried. I've tried with classes, with documentaries, with books, wikipedia, Idiot's Guides...but physics has always pretty much been way over my head. I'll grasp a glimmer every now and then, but never a really great view of our Universe. This book single-handedly clarified for me what years of self-study couldn't, and so, of course, I very highly recommend it!

I still can't claim to grasp it all, and especially some of the more abstract (or newer and still developing) theories, but this book definitely helped me. They start with some review of basic laws and theories that we all learned in our childhood science classes. Still, a very obvious enthusiasm for and humor regarding the subject matter imparted quite a bit of new info for me. From scientist vs. scientist gossip, theory suppression, scientific puns (science puns!), and Marilyn Monroe pics to illustrate gravitational attraction, the book put a new spin on old knowledge and an accessible, easily understandable spin on new knowledge.

Hawking's excitement about science sweeps you up with it, and while I was at first intimidated by his renowned genius, he brilliantly cuts to the meat of the matter in simple and succinct ways. Reading this book was like sitting around squeeing & giggling with a friend about their favorite fandom, and you come away feeling a part of it and wanting to immediately jump in more. I homeschool my kiddos, who are not yet high school level, and I plan to encourage them to read it as well – with faith that they'll grasp most, if not all, of it themselves.

Outstanding book and a surprisingly fun read. I hear that it's basically a very edited version of the Brief History, but once this has percolated a bit, I think I'll go back and read the source book. Either way, I can tell this is one that I'll benefit from and still enjoy subsequent readings.
x-posted

Title: What We Become: A Supernatural/Walking Dead Crossover

Chapter 13: Fear the Hunters

Author: Ahavah

Fandoms: Supernatural/The Walking Dead (TV and comics). Cameos from Being Human (US) main characters.

Rating: Mature

Warnings: Spoilers for TWD through Season 4 and SPN through Season 6. This chapter also includes brief mentions of the BH(US) characters' backstories (S1 & S2), following an alternate Season 3+.

Pairings: Nora/Josh, BH(US); Sam Winchester/Sasha Williams

Summary: (This Ch:) Sam struggles with memory loss after the return of his soul, while the group investigates two cases.


Chapter 1 I Chapter 2 I Chapter 3 I Chapter 4 I Chapter 5 I Chapter 6 I Chapter 7 I Chapter 8 I Chapter 9 I Chapter 10 I Chapter 11 I Chapter 12 I Chapter 13

Dracula, by Bram Stoker

I chose Dracula as my horror book (combining w/'Read a book adapted into a movie. Watch the movie. Debate which is better.') for my 2016 (Blended) Reading Challenge. This also counts as a TBR book (to be read – a book I already own but haven't read), and since I never finished my 50 Book Challenge for last year, I'm totally double-dipping and counting this as the 'book more than 100 years old'.


Dracula


Once again, I find myself looking at all the 5-star reviews a 'classic' has gained and wondering why? I've realized that when it comes to classics, I'm like those people who don't 'get' The Beatles and wonder why everyone else in the world screams & swoons over them. (Disclaimer: Of course I absolutely adore The Beatles, but now I get how those odd, random non-fans feel.) I should also share that since I am actively working on one epistolary novel with a vampire character and have an idea for a different vampire-centric novel, I was especially interested in this most famous, defining, & beloved vampire novel. I took mental notes. I paid extra attention. I still came away with an overwhelming feeling of Meh.

The first half of the novel just dragged on so very slowly for me. I mean, it took me a full month to read this book, and the last half (where it finally picked up for me) in only two or three days. It just didn't hook me at all, and had I not already known of its infamy and had active reasons to study the novel, I probably wouldn't have even bothered finishing it. The setting was described well and fully conveyed the imposing, gothic enigma of a castle; I have a personal soft-spot for epistolaries; I've been studying vampires and wanted to learn all I could about the original novel & movie sources; questions were brought up to which I really wanted answers.

But it was a surprising bore. The pacing was too slow, the male characters all sounded the same unless steeped in stereotyped dialects &/or clichés (similarly, everyone described Dracula/Lucy/Mina using the exact same terms), it was heavy-handed with sexism (I give a reluctant 'pass' for the time frame and the strength that the character Mina was written with, “man-brain” and all -cringe-). For me, it finally picked up once people actually started being victimized/dying, and that was really the highlight of the whole thing. And really, it was more the descriptions of the vampiric feeding on others, or what they looked like at various times, that were the stand-outs of the book.

Towards the end, a lot of tension is built up and just...goes absolutely nowhere. I'm trying to recall if I've ever read a book with so much lead-up and so little follow-through. How to avoid spoilers? Tension...tension...tension...look at all this foreshadowing...overwhelming evil & strength...just kidding, let's go home.

Two stars given for endurance and sparking a huge and awesome genre, and an extra star given for the vivid descriptions and well-done epistolary timeline. IMO, that's pretty generous.

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