Sara's Halloween Costume
New Year, New Challenge!
So, my friends are epic and they make art. And Jill's most recent piece of art is so epic that it has inspired a new challenge! You guys are so good about completing challenges, so I'm sure you'll jump right in! (note the sarcasm)
There's the picture. As you can see, it is a fantabulous crossover of things I (and to a certain extent we) love! Your challenge is to write a story about how such a scene would come to be. It can be as long as you want, from whatever perspective(s) you want. Just go with it. Or don't. But I think the results could be hilarious.
Oh, and in case you can't read the text by the London Eye, it says:
-Of course I'll marry you, Michael Aranda!
-Liam and Sara, sitting in a tree!
-Oh, you're so adorable!
29. I, Claudius, by Robert Graves
I saved this one until nearly last because, well...gross. I think several of you remember the fiasco that was Not without my Book! Club's initial attempt at reading I, Claudius. I didn't even make it halfway through, and I think a lot of people gave up a lot sooner. So, naturally, I was not looking forward to attempting to conquer this particular member of the list, but it wasn't actually all that bad. Maybe it was just too advanced for my senior self, or maybe because the last half was done with the confusing and chaotic attempt to describe the geneology of this twisted Roman family, but the rest of the book was both somewhat enjoyable and not too difficult to read. Basically, almost every one of Claudius's family members, plus countless other affluent members of Roman politics, was either tried on some ridiculous charge and then killed, or possibly banished and then killed, or secretly poisoned by sweet grandmother Livia, or murdered outright. And of course, this was in between numerous other political scandals and hushed up crimes, chief among them incest. Seriously, ew. And so, ultimately and out of nowhere, Claudius finally becomes emperor himself, and then the book ends. It was certainly an interesting look into the inner workings of ancient Rome, though I didn't really look into how much of this was based on historical documents and actual things and how much is mere speculation and ficional liberty. I actually think that Jill, after her Roman City and Latin classes, might be able to appreciate the premise of the book a little more, though I completely understand if she doesn't feel like attempting it :)
30. A Patriot's History of the United States, by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen
I've been working on this one off and on since the beginning of this challenge. I think I've mentioned before that- at over 800 pages of small font with long chapters and no pictures- this particular history book was more daunting than any textbook I've had to read (and that's including AP World). But I've finally finished! and, overall, it wasn't too bad. As you may be able to guess, in summary, the book is basically a history of the United States, going back to the earliest settlers from Europe and such and covering all the way up to 2004, when I presume the book was completed. Parts of it were actually pretty interesting, talking about the backgrounds of various presidents and other important historical figures, and explaining why they did or did not get along with each other. But then it would start going into great detail about politics and wars and other things that really just don't interest me. Also of note, this book was intending to balance out a lot of more liberal historical accounts of the country, so on one hand, it was interesting to see a different perspective about causes and correlations and outcomes and such. On the other hand, though, the conservative bias became increasingly evident as the timeline progressed to the most recent century or so. Once again, it was interesting to see the contrast in perspective, but the author was also kind of mean to some of the liberals mentioned during this time period.
And so with that...
That is all :)
28. Inheritance, by Christopher Paolini
If you're not familiar with the Inheritance cycle, it's about a poor farmer boy named Eragon living in the land of Alagaesia. He finds a huge blue stone in the mountain range near his village, The Spine, which turns out to be a dragon egg that hatches into his dragon, Saphira. From that point, he has to battle the evil forces of the land, namely the evil King Galbatorix, who has controlled the land ever since he overthrew the Dragon Riders, nearly causing the Dragons themselves to go extinct, over 100 years ago. So, in this last book of the cycle, Eragon and Saphira are travelling with the army of the Varden, which is marching toward the capital of Uru Baen in order to attempt to kill Galbatorix and restore the land to its previous state of freedom.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. I waited this long in the hope that I'd have time to reread the first three books first, but that was never going to happen, and there was a summary of them at the beginning, so it wasn't too bad. One thing that did surprise me was that the climax of the book came so early. I mean, it wasn't at the very beginning or anything, but there were over 100 pages left to the deneoument, leaving me a little confused at first. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised- Paolini tends to be exceedingly detailed. I mean, I was 200 pages in and there had only been a couple of battles and some training. But anyway, it was an interesting end to the series, and I was surprised by a lot of it. That may be due to my not having read the prequels very recently, but anyway, that's 28 down!
26 & 27
26. Pendragon 8: The Pilgrims of Rayne, by D.J. MacHale
So this book concludes the Pendragon portion of my list. This story takes Bobby to the territory of Ibara, where he is hoping to defeat the evil Saint Dane once and for all, but he finds some very unfortunate surprises in store for him. Saint Dane has been demonstrating his eagerness to mix items, lifeforms, and even people between the territories in the past several battles, but they are getting even more intense here on Ibara, and Bobby is in for even more sadness when he realizes that this territory is even more familiar than he first thought. Meanwhile, Bobby's friend Mark has disappeared somewhere on First Earth under the influence of Saint Dane, and Bobby has left Courtney there to try and find him, though he soon finds out that success or failure in finding their lost friend may have even more serious repurcussions than just a single life.
Overall, I liked the book, and I'll probably go and read the last two next year. Even though I sort of spoiled myself a bit on Wikipedia...
27. Inkdeath, by Cornelia Funke
This is the final installment of the Inkheart series. Not sure if any of you have read it? They made a movie out of the first book, but I don't really remember much about it except they chose Brendan Frasier to play the dad, and it really wasn't his kind of part...
Anyway, the series is about Mo Folchart and his daughter, Meggie. Mo is a book doctor- he travels around with his daughter to fix books that are aging, peeling, falling apart, and generally displaying unpleasant adjectives that their owners would like to remedy. You soon discover, however, that Mo has another talent- when he reads aloud, he can bring the subjects and stories on the pages to life. He learned this the hard way when reading aloud from Inkheart caused several characters to be released into the real world, while his wife Resa was lost in the world of the book. In the first book, Mo has to deal with the villain Capricorn whom he so unwittingly released on the world, as well as the sad Dustfinger, who just wants to return to his story and family. By this third and final installment of the series, Mo and Meggie are in the story world themselves. They have been reunited with Resa, returned Dustfinger to his family, and defeated Capricorn, but the story no longer seems to be following the path set out for it by its author, Fenoglio, who has also been read into the story. Mo, in the form of the legendary Bluejay that Fenoglio has written songs and poems about, must vanquish a new host of villains that have arisen, or else risk losing his and his daughter's life to Death and her pale daughters.
Not sure if any of that made sense to someone unfamiliar with the series, so... sorry. I really like this last book, though. The author switches perspectives with each chapter, sometimes telling the story from Meggie's eyes, others from Mo's, Resa's, and even from some of the minor and bad characters. Once the story starts branching off, this means that the several different parts come in pieces that the reader gradually puts together, which is pretty cool. I spent most of the book trying to figure out how they were going to write the ending to this story, and whether it would be a completely happy one- the storyline leaves you in doubt of that right up to the end. I also thought it was interesting that the reader didn't have all the answers by the end of the book- there were still several loose ends left to speculation, though not so much as to be irritating. The major questions were answered, and enough else was solved, or at least insinuated, that I was pleased :)
23. Pendragon 5, Black Water, by J.D. MacHale
So I started this series back in, like, Middle School, and I've been meaning to continue it for awhile, hence the presence of 4 books on the list. If you don't know, the basic premise of the Pendragon series is that Bobby Pendragon learns from his Uncle Press that he is a Traveler, which means he can go through these magical tunnels called flumes to any of the ten territories that make up Halla, or basically everything. We, for example, live on Second Earth (there are three in total, cause Earth is awesome). Which is cool and all, but in his travels, Bobby and the other Travellers have to stop the evil Saint Dane. He's basically a Traveller gone bad- he goes to each of the territories as they are reaching a major turning point in their history and tries to sneakily push them in the wrong direction and create chaos. Meanwhile, the Travellers are trying to figure out what he's up to and counteract it, stopping whatever plan he has going.
So, in Black Water, Bobby travels to Eelong, a territory that turns out to be inhabited by intelligent cat people. Which is all well and good, except that there are also humans, called gars. They have been enslaved by the cats, who think the gars are beneath them and use them for menial jobs and pets and things. The gars, however, are a lot smarter than they're given credit for, and tension is building. Saint Dane wants to convince the cats (I can't remember what they're called...) to poison the gars and rid them from the territory- basically commit genocide. It's up to Bobby and company to stop Saint Dane and help ameliorate the tense relations between the two species.
24. Pendragon 6, The Rivers of Zadaa, by J.D. MacHale
In this next book, there is also a battle between two different groups, though these are both humans- the Batu live on the surface of this desert planet and are dark-skinned, while the Rokador live underground and are resultantly pale skinned. For generations, the Batu have been the warriors, protecting the people from the primitive, cannibalistic tribes that also roam the territory, while the Rokador control the underground river system to provide water. But now the water has dried up, and the Batu are not sure if it is a result of drought, or if the Rokador are intentionally trying to kill off the Batu. Bobby and Loor, the Zadaa Traveller, have to work together to figure out what is going on and stop a potentially devastating war between the two tribes.
25. Pendragon 7, The Quillan Games, by J.D. MacHale
This story takes place on Quillan, a civilization advanced beyond even Second Earth that has been taken over by a company, Blok. They own pretty much the entire planet, subjugating the majority of the population and generally making everyone miserable. To make matters worse, for entertainment, people are chosen throughout the territory to compete in Games (involuntarily). These games are often brutal, pitting challenger against challenger in a life or death battle. Once someone is chosen to become a challenger, they are treated like royalty, but there is no escape- they play until they die. In order to try and save this territory, then, Bobby must himself become a challenger and compete in this brutal competition to try and inspire the people to free themselves from the tyranny of Blok.
So, overall, I really like the series and would like to finish it, but I also have to admit that I'm kind of a wuss... Bobby and the other characters get in some pretty dangerous situations, what with the fate of all the universe being in their hands and all. Maybe I'm just too empathetic or something, because I find myself on edge pretty much the whole time I'm reading, trying to figure out who can and can't be trusted, who Saint Dane might be posing as (he can shapeshift), whether Bobby is making the right move or is playing right into Saint Dane's plan, etc. I just get so worried about whether things are going to turn out ok, even though I know that surely the author can't let the bad guy win in the end and, moreover, it's just a story. Maybe it's knowing that, just because overall things might turn out ok, that doesn't mean the book itself will end on a high note. Book 4, for example, ended up with Saint Dane winning. Maybe that's why I stopped reading. I just couldn't take it! Anyway, that's me putting too much stock in the wellbeing of fictional characters and civilizations. I have one more Pendragon book to read, and only five more total, so that's awesome!
22. Peter and the Sword of Mercy, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
This book is the fourth in a series about (you guessed it!) Peter Pan. It's mostly a prequel type thing, explaining how Peter came to live in Neverland and why he never grows up and such. In the books, he and a group call the Starcatchers seek to protect starstuff, which falls from the sky and is immensely powerful, from the Others, who would use it for ill. In the third book, they thought they had defeated the Others for good, but now it would appear that their shadowy leader, Ombra, has returned and is controlling the King of England in order to try and get at the starstuff once again and take over the world and such. Molly and George Darling, along with many of the other former Starcatchers, have been captured, so it is up to young Wendy to bring Peter back to London and enlist his help in saving the day.
It's been awhile since I read the first three books, so I was a little confused at the beginning- characters, events, and places that should have been familiar weren't. But my memory eventually jogged enough to understand what was going on and enjoy the book. I love stories about Peter Pan, despite the underlying sadness that Peter will never be able to grow up. So that's 22 down! Hopefully I can make some better progress over break :)
21. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte
This classic is about a man who moves into a secluded area and begins to learn the history of his landlord and the others who have occupied the two houses, Wuthering Heights and The Grange. He learns about Heathcliff, with his unknown background, who was adopted into the Earnshaw family to grow up with Caroline and her older brother. Basically, he and Catherine were in love, but he was beneath her, so she married someone else. He ran away and somehow amassed a great fortune, then came back and decided to ruin everyone's lives because he could not have Catherine. It's a pretty dark story, and a lot of the stuff that Heathcliff did just would not work with today's justice system, but things get better at the end.
18. Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian, by Eoin Colfer
I finally let myself read the LAST of the Artemis Fowl series. In this one, Artemis is cured of his Atlantis Complex (onset in the previous book) just in time to help the LEP tackle Opal Koboi's newest scheme to take over the world. Only this time, she's going farther than she's ever dared before. I don't really want to get into details, since I know some of you read this series and probably haven't gotten to this one yet, but just know: if you thought Opal was crazy before, you haven't seen the half of it. So, as usual, the gang is dealing with explosions, trickery, and general saving the world, but this time pretty much everything is at stake, and the final battle is taking place in Artemis's very own backyard (literally). As if Opal weren't enough, he also has to deal with his possessed little brothers and antagonistic crickets. The last book is, in my opinion, just as brilliant as the others, but I'm kind of back and forth on whether I like the way Colfer ended the series. For one thing, the events of the book are such that they are completely inconsistent with the actual condition of the planet (idk if that makes sense, but I don't want to spoil anything- read it!!!), so I can't really pretend that the faeries and centaurs and other characters really do exist deep under the earth. The story is now most definitely fictional :/ Plus what happens with Arty, while further evidence of his sheer genius and providing a brilliant way to bring the whole series back full circle, still makes me a little sad and wishing it could have gone differently (you might think you get what I mean, but you probably don't- again I say, READ IT!!!!!). So, that's my muddled and conflicted thoughts on the end of the Fowl series. Hopefully I leaned more on the vague side than the spoily side.
19. The Wizard Heir, by Cinda Williams Chima
I'm pretty sure this was the second book in a series I haven't read the first of, so I was worried at first that I'd be confused or missing out on some major plot points, but I think I managed alright. I may change my mind if I ever read the start of the series, but currently I'm not seeing much loss of understanding for starting out of order. Anyway, as far as the actual story goes, Seph (short for Joseph) is a teenage Wizard, one of five Weir guilds that exist. The other four are Sorcerers, Enchanters, Seers, and Warriors. In the Weir world, kept secret from the Anaweir (normal people, rest of the population), Wizards have always dominated over the other four guilds, because while each of the other guilds has specialized powers (enchanters have power over the mind, warriors over physical aspects, etc.), the Wizards have generalized skills that encompass those of the other guilds. But Seph is special, because not only is he super powerful, but he has grown up away from the Weir world. He doesn't know who his parents are, and he has never had anyone to instruct him in how to control and use his magic, so it tends to get him into trouble a lot, so much so that he's lost count of how many schools he's been expelled from. Finally, he ends up at a remote private school called the Hastings, and he thinks he will finally get the training he has been searching for. But something is wrong here.If Seph agrees to the headmaster's conditions, he may be in for more than he can handle. But how long can he hold out against the onslaught of nightmares and hallucinations that he suddenly starts having, especially when his attempts to contact the outside world and escape this prison are being blocked. Seph eventually manages to get away from the school, but soon enough the headmaster is after him again, his sinister plan still in place, and Seph could play a crucial role in putting a stop to it and saving the Weir world.
So, overall, it was an interesting story. I was a little confused at first, but that may just be because I jumped into the middle of the series. Things started making more sense pretty fast, anyway. I don't know if I'd want to read the rest of the series, not that it's badly written or anything, just that it was kind of dark for my tastes. It kind of jumped in almost immediately to life threatening, everybody's dying mode and stayed there quite a lot. Not really my preference, but otherwise a good read.
20. The Science of Harry Potter, by Roger Highfield
As you may have guessed by the title, this book takes the magical events and items in the Harry Potter books and considers them in terms of their real world equivalents and possibilities. For example, the author talks about broomsticks and how magnetic fields and aerodynamics could make something like flying on a broomstick possible eventually, and how certain drugs can make people think they're flying. The book covers quite a variety of scientific fields, from biology and the possibility of the variety of magical animals that exist in the wizarding world, to psychology and the origins of people's belief in magic and superstitions. Some topics I found more interesting than others, and it was kind of cool relating what the book talked about to things I already knew from class or from SciShow or something (I think chimeras were briefly mentioned). Overall, though, the point of the book was to use Harry Potter as a way to pull the audience into topics of science, and the comparisons between the two were often tenuous at best. Most of the potential explanations for the events and objects in JKR's books went off on tangents that were completely unrelated, and I, for one, prefer the fiction to the attempts at factualizing it. That's probably just me, though; reading non-fiction has never been something that really excites me, so I mostly found myself criticizing the author's interpretations of the Harry Potter books and trying to muddle through the overload of scientist and university names that kept coming up.
#1 NoShaNoWriMo: November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and No Shave November, so let's combine them! No Shave Novel Writing Month!
Just kidding, you can shave. But you should try to write a novel. Just try. It's fun!
This website explains a bit more, but basically you just try to write a novel from scratch in a month.
#2 2012 Words About 2012: This one is my idea, not a national thing. The challenge is simply to write literally, exactly 2012 words about this year, 2012. Like I said in my picture worth a thousand words challenge (ahem, that no one did), it can be in any form. You can write an essay, a summary, an epic poem, a list of words that describe your year, or just a thing. I write a lot of things. Your writing doesn't have to fall into a category. Just make it exactly 2012 words. I'd really, really like it if you would all complete this challenge. The deadline is New Year's Eve...and wouldn't it be fun to share these, perhaps at a New Year's party...maybe with fire...and prizes for people who write things. *Hint, hint* :)
Sometimes (approximately once a week) you feel like blogging. But what about those other times when you feel like writing a poem, drawing a picture, or making a list? Well, now that goes here!