MotherReader 48 Hr Book Challenge Finish Line

Hours Read/Listened/Blogged: 30.75
Books Finished: 15
MG and YA

More Than This by Patrick Ness (YA, SF, LGBT, death, existentialism) ★★★★★
Greenglass House by Kate Milfold (MG, ghosts, pirates, roamers, folk tales  hidden treasure, maps, mystery, ) ★★★★★
Half a King by Joe Abercrombie (high fantasy) ★★★★☆
The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill (MG, folk/fairy tale, witches, wolves) ★★★★☆

Adult SFF

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (SFF) ★★★★★
My Real Children by Joe Walton (SF, time travel, slice of life) ★★★☆☆

Graphic Novels

Ms Marvel Vol. 1 & 2 by G. Willow Wilson (YA, comic books, superhero, immigration, fitting in) ★★★★☆
Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks (YA, graphic novel, slice of life, ghosts, homeschooling) ★★★★☆
Saga v. 1-4 by Vaughn/Staples (Rated R, SF, Hugo nominee) ★★★★☆
Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol (MG, ghost, fitting in, immigration) ★★★★☆
In Real Life by Doctorow/Wang (YA, graphic novel, video games) ★★★☆☆

Unfinished or abandoned:

The Lost Boy by Greg Ruth (MG, graphic novel, fantasy) **abandoned**
The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood and Co.) by Jonathan Stroud (audiobook) (MG, YA, ghosts, paranormal) **in progress**

My husband, who is playing along, read for 23.5 hours and finished 8 books (and has 2 in progress).

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48HBC: Day 2

Got up and started reading at 5:20 am.

*** First Update: 5.5 hours ***

Saga v. 1-4 by Vaughn/Staples (Rated R, SF, Hugo nominee) ★★★★☆
Thoroughly enjoyable SF-lite comic series. The humor and some of the characters (Lying Cat) make this series stand out above the crowd.

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie (high fantasy) ★★★★☆
Having just read The Goblin Emperor recently, I couldn’t help comparing the two books as I was reading them. Both books center on an unfit, unwanted, reluctant younger son who is forced into kinghood. Both young kings had fathers who did not want them (Maia because he is a half-breed, Yarvi because he has a half-hand). Both young kings are betrayed by a close family member and advisor. There the comparison ends. Yarvi’s betrayal plunges him into slavery and he has to fight his way back to the throne. Classic high fantasy stuff. Good storytelling, a Norse-inspired world, and some unexpected twists make this story an easy pleasure to read and enjoy.
For readers who love: Sea of Trolls, The Ranger’s Apprentice

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood and Co.) by Jonathan Stroud (audiobook) (MG, YA, ghosts, paranormal) **in progress**

*** 2nd Update: 7 hours ***

My Real Children by Joe Walton (SF, time travel, slice of life) ★★★☆☆
Meh. If I wanted to read the story of two people who struggle with everyday problems and issues, I would read more contemporary lit. I want *more* from my SF/F. I want to be taken from my world, not be mired for several hours in a reality that mirrors the struggles of my own. Not my cuppa.

*** Final Update: 14.75 hours ***

I’ve got to get the kiddos ready for camp, but here’s a quick update on the last books I read.

In Real Life by Doctorow/Wang (YA, graphic novel, video games) ★★★☆☆
Both of the boys really loved this one…  I thought it was interesting but too predictable.

The Lost Boy by Greg Ruth (MG, graphic novel, fantasy) ***DNF***
I bounced off of this one.

More Than This by Patrick Ness (YA, SF, LGBT, death, existentialism) ★★★★★
Wow. This is another book that is going to take me some time to process. Absolutely amazing. I couldn’t put this one down.

The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill (MG, folk/fairy tale, witches, wolves) ★★★★☆
A perfect way to end the weekend. A fun, light, fast-paced fairy tale.

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48HBC: Day 1

*** First Update: (~6 hours) ***

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks (YA, graphic novel, slice of life, ghosts, homeschooling) ★★★★☆

Friends With BoysMaggie has a lot of changes in her life: her dad gets a haircut because he’s the chief of police, her twin brother are fighting, her older brother is too busy for her, her mom left, she’s gone from being homeschooled to public school, it’s the first day of HS, and she is haunted by a ghost.
Friends With Boys captures the push-pull dynamic of early teenhood. The need to find yourself by pulling away while simultaneously feeling isolated. The difficulty of holding on to friends who are moving in different directions. The challenges of finding yourself without hurting others.
For readers who love: Telgemeier’s Drama.

Greenglass House by Kate Milfold (MG, ghosts, pirates, roamers, folk tales  hidden treasure, maps, mystery, ) ★★★★★

“A relic is a trace of something — something that survives or reminds us of something that once was. […] anything can be a relic.” [p147]

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an orphan. I grew up on a heady diet of fantasy books and in fantasy books interesting things always happened to orphans. They turned out to be the scions of long-lost kingdoms. Or to have long-awaited magical powers.

“There is a sort of magic called orphan magic […] It is the magic of that-which-remain, of that-which-is -alone. It is in many ways, the magic of desperation, but it is never the magic of chance.” […] It has potential when it is connected to the rest, but when it is sundered away, its potential becomes power.” [93]

Milo is an orphan searching for a connection to his past and a little peace and quiet. At Christmas a handful of strangers show up at his parents’ inn — a mysterious hideaway for pirates and smugglers called the Greenglass House. Each of those strangers carries a secret that ties them to the house and its history.

The unfolding of the story through clues and storytelling is wonderful. This book borders on the superlative. I wish I was reading it in the winter because the writing is atmospheric. The slight touch of magic adds a surreal quality to the world that makes me long to visit it.
For readers who love: Mysterious Benedict Society, Five on a Treasure Island

*** Second Update: (~12 hours) ***

Ms Marvel Vol. 1 & 2 by G. Willow Wilson (YA, comic books, superhero, immigration, fitting in) ★★★★☆
Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol (MG, ghost, fitting in, immigration) ★★★★☆
Both Anya’s Ghost and Ms. Marvel deal finding your place in society and fitting in. Anya is an immigrant from Russia who struggles with her embarassment about her chubby, protective, Orthodox mother and her Russian heritage. Kamala, a Pakistani immigrant, feels traps by her overprotective Muslim parents. Anya is haunted by a ghost that wants to help her but may be more than she says she is. Kamala wishes for superpowers, but find the reality of balancing being a superhero with her already challenging circumstances more than she was ready for.

I was bullied as a kid for being Russian so both of these graphic novels hit really close to home for me. I recognize the desperation to just blend in with wanting to be something more.

City of Stars by Robert Jackson Bennett (SFF) ** in progress **

*** Last Update: (16 hours) ***

City of Stars by Robert Jackson Bennett (SFF) ★★★★★
I’m not sure I’ve wrapped my head enough around this book to be able to review it. City of Stars is stronger than any of the 2015 Hugo finalists for best novel I’ve finished so far and it is a travesty that this was not on that list.
Eventually I will be able to get my head around this book to give it a real review… but for now… if you haven’t read this yet, put down what you’re reading, make a pot of tea, and read this book.

For readers who love: Mistborn, Amber Spyglass

Total Hours: 16

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48 Hr Book Challenge Starting Line

The books stations are set up. The snacks are laid out. Which book to read first…

’Twas the morn’ of the reading challenge and all through the house,
The books were laid out by me and my spouse
We placed snacks in bowls on the table with care
Knowing the start time soon would be here.
The children were nestled all snug with their books
While visions of kings and ghosts danced on their Nooks
And I with my kindle and a book about flowers,
Settled down to begin reading for 48 hours.



Official start time for me, 7am.

Go sign up at MotherReader 48 HBC Starting Line.

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Origins Recap — Small and Quick and Card Games

Gearbox and I registered for one game in each con category (Tabletop, RPG, LARP, & Miniature). We only signed up for games we had never played before and I highly recommend doing that — we expanded our gaming horizons and got to meet some great game designers and interesting people. Games we played that way are marked in bold.

Small & Quick Games (Tabletop)

Trambahm *July 2015* (Mayfair) ♥♥♥♥♥
2 person deck building game. This one is a blast. Just the right mix of strategy, speed, and competition. My only complaint is that we couldn’t get a copy!

Three Cheers for Master *new* ♥♥♥♥ (Daniel Windfeld Schmidt, Atlas Games)
Stack squabbling minions to cheer up the boss. He’s coming back any minute now, so better hurry. Periodically, the squabbling turns violent so better stack your cards carefully… Silly and fun. Enough strategy to be engaging, clever and funny artwork, and plenty of backstabbing to satisfy the teen and tween.

Backstab *new* ♥♥♥♥ (David Stawar, Backstab — US Games)
A quick-playing, competitive card game with a healthy dose of backstabbing and comeuppance. The illustrations are quirky but they get missed a bit because of the quick gameplay. I like games where your luck can change in an instant and in this game the ability to change the order of the trump cards mid-play really adds a level of fun and frustration.

Tiny Epic Kingdom Defender *new* (Gamelyn Games)
Did not playtest well at con but had a ton of potential so rating TBD.

World Championship Russian Roulette *?2016* ♥♥♥ (Tuesday Knight Games)
A quirky, quick playing game for the adult crowd. Gearbox found the finger-gun-to-head gameplay a little unnerving.

Boss Monster 2 *new* ♥♥♥
Gearbox: “Entirely based off of old-style of game looks. It had references to video games. The cards added fun and humor and I like creating my own dungeon.”

Gold Ahoy! *new* (Mayfair) ♥♥
Meh. I did not enjoy this tile-laying game. The scoring was complicated and gameplay slow and frustrating.

Collectible Card Games

Pokemon (Pokemon)
Pickles (my tween) played it for the first time and loved it. It’s a classic. There’s a great new online version that Gearbox loved — too bad it’s not available for iPhone (hint, hint).

Buddy Fight (Bushiroad)
Meh. Yet another CCG. Seems fine but the only thing that stood out was that it came with a mini-manga that set up the scenario and taught the rules.

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Origins Game Review: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Game: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Status: in development            Style: Board/RPG/Miniature?
Publisher: Hampster Press       Author: Chris Engle (Matrix Games)
Ages: 10+ for required patience
Recommended for:Sherlockians, people who like open-ended games and storytelling

Gearbox and I were expecting a traditional, table-top board game… so, in other words, we had no idea what we were getting into.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a Matrix games-based Sherlock scenario. If you’ve never played a Matrix game (and I have to confess I had not even heard of them), they are a loosely-GM’d RPG/miniature hybrid.

The game has a simple setup. The board is a map of London. Various characters (Victorian miniatures) are placed on the map (including Holmes and Watson, of course). A marker is used to denote the location of the current scene.

The gameplay has few rules. We could move the piece that marked the scene location, any of the characters, or even invent characters. Sometimes the GM would give a small clue or name a character, but mostly he sat back and observed. We took turns (in no particular order) speaking dialog and describing actions. A die could be used if someone felt an action/idea didn’t fit… but I think it only got used once.

Our group was a mix — game designers, casual players, and a keen teen. Despite the gulfs in experience between the players, the game worked. It was collaborative and messy. We wrote ourselves into corners. Argued about the next move. We had long moments of silence while we contemplated the clock (which was quickly approached the end of the game), our notes, and the messy storyline we had made. In the end, we wrapped up the story, saved Mr. Smith from the asylum, and sent the bad guys to prison via Lastrade. Gearbox and I left exhausted and buzzing with excitement.

When this system works, it is magic. Ideas feed off of ideas. Players run with good ideas. Dead ends find magical escape hatches. Or get abandoned. And a story gets told that is satisfying and fun. Gearbox and I have not stopped talking about this one.

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10th Annual Mother Reader 48 Hour Book Challenge

It’s almost that time of year again…

Need a break from your life?
Have a TBR pile that is toppling over?
Want to get your Hugo reading done in one go?

Sign up for the 10th Annual Mother Reader 48 Hour Book Challenge!

Gearbox and I are doing it together this year.

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Hugo Award: Related Work

Letters from Gardner by Lou Antonelli

Letters from Antonelli’s editor interspersed with writing advice, anecdotes from Antonelli’s life, and short stories. Self-absorbed and self-congratulatory.

“All the feedback was positive; people said they enjoyed the story, and that I wrote dialogue especially well. That struck a chord and made sense, since as a journalist I interview people all the time. That got the wheels turning upstairs, and I began to think of whether I actually might be able to become a published science fiction author.
The editor who published my first story (“Silvern” in June 2003), Jayme Blashke, commented right off the bat when I first submitted to him, “You seem to have skipped the novice stage of writing.”

Good on ya, mate. Yawn.

Wisdom From My Internet by Michael Z. Williamson

A collection of witticisms from the internet with no context, editorial commentary, or … anything. How is this even a book? Why did anyone think this was one of the 5 most important commentaries on SFF in 2014?

The Mesopotamians designated 40% of grain for beer production. They were also the first great civilization. Coincidence?
Mmmm…schadenfreude! It tastes like someone’s tears!
My parents went to a planet without bilateral symmetry and all I got was this lousy F-shirt.
I can so make fun of reasonable people.
How many reasonable people does it take to change a light-bulb? One.
Unschooling is the theory that kids will figure life out for themselves, just like they did in Lord of the Flies.

“The Hot Equation” by Ken Burnside

Too techy for my taste, but a solid article. Also, eponymous title is eponymous.

“Ignoring thermodynamics is one of the cardinal sins of science fiction authors writing military SF; the same authors who wouldn’t dream of saying that a Colt 1911A fires a .40 caliber bullet will blithely walk into even more galling gaffes through simple ignorance and unquestioned assumptions.”

“Why Science is Never Settled” by Tedd Roberts

A basic introduction to science for non-sciency people. Fine first day of school reading for a middle school or high school science class. XKCD says it more succinctly and entertainingly XKCD: Unscientific and XKCD: The Difference and XKCD: Experimentation (nsfw).

THE HALLMARK OF SCIENCE IS THAT IT IS ALWAYS HYPOTHESIZING, ALWAYS COLLECTING DATA, ALWAYS TESTING, AND ALWAYS REFINING OR LOOKING FOR NEW THEORIES. In fact, the only indication of a good theory is whether one can make valid predictions with the theory. One successful prediction, however, is not enough — after all, just one failed prediction

Transhuman and Subhuman by John C. Wright

“What is wrong is that modern though is caught in the disease of nihilism, the idea that there is no revelation.”

I struggled through the word-salad that is Transhuman and Subhuman. In the end, I skimmed three of the articles, “Transhuman and Subhuman”, “The Golden Compass Points in No Direction”, and “Saving Science Fiction from Strong Female Characters”.

“Transhuman and Subhuman” analyzes magic in SFF. In fantasy magic=miracle, in sci fi magic=scientific miracles (“magic is usually not magic at all, but miracle”). I’m not sure why this distinction is necessary to his argument, but John C. Wright proposes that humans are trying to make better, immortal humans. Who would be devils. And that is wrong.

But I did learn something interesting. “High fantasy has a Roman Catholic flavor to it, whereas Sword-and-Sorcery is somewhat Protestant”. Huh.

“The Golden Compass Points in No Direction”  Did he read the same trilogy that I did?

“Saving Science Fiction from Strong Female Characters”

384450_2644651118579_2027567145_nGirls who do not like love stories are well advised to learn to like them, because such stories deal with the essential and paramount realities on which much or most of that girl’s happiness in life will hinge.”

“when women dress and speak and act like men, some joy is erased from both sexes”

“Women will go insane and go into despair if asked to compete at a male task on male terms with male rules.”

I’m doomed. I can neither deal with the reality of my life nor be the heroine in my own story.

[Yes, I know I should be wearing chaps and a helmet. I put them on before I started bucking up the 10+ fallen maples, I promise.]

Another race for the bottom. Difficult to figure out which was worse, the word-salad that was Transhuman and Subhuman or the not-a-book that was Wisdom From My Internet. In the end, Wright lost because he put words together in a form that can be described as essay and not just random, unrelated scribblings. Neither “The Hot Equation” nor “Why Science is Never Settled” were important enough to rise above No Award, but “The Hot Equation” came closest.

1) No Award
2) “The Hot Equation” by Ken Burnside
3) “Why Science is Never Settled” by Tedd Roberts
4) Letters from Garnder by Lou Antonelli
5) Transhuman and Subhuman by John C. Wright
6) Wisdom From My Internet by Michael Z. Williamson

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Hugo Award: Professional Artist

Julie Dillon, Naiad 2014

Julie Dillon, Naiad 2014

Artist: Julie Dillon (also on Deviant Art)
Learn More: Apex Magazine interview and another interview at the Little Red Reviewer. She also has a couple of posts where you see her artistic process.

Having just spent two weeks digging a bog in my back yard, I was drawn to Dillon’s Slumbering Naiad. I love the subtle greens and blues, the floating aquariums.

Her work is beautiful, ethereal, and evocative.

Artist: Nick Greenwood

Greenwood is versatile artist who draws in a wide variety of styles. I liked some of his pieces but not others. As a fan of Redwall and Mouseguard, I really love Nick’s illustration at Intergalactic Medicine Show.

Artist: Allan Pollack
Pretty stereotypical SFF cover stuff.

Artist: Carter Reid
Learn More: Interview with Carter Reid

Carter Reid did not include any content in the Hugo packet, but his webcomic is easy to find on the internet. He is also up for the Best Graphic Story category so for this category I am just looking at his non-webcomic-artwork.
It is really, really, really not my cuppa. His Reid commercial work is too gory and not as funny as Brian Snoddy’s artwork for Give Me the Brain (Cheapass Games).

Artist: Kirk DouPonce
Learn More: Kirk DouPonce Interview

While Mr. DouPonce is clearly a competent artist, there were stronger entries in the Fan Artist category. His covers look self-published-book quality. While they are not bad, they are not at the same level as the first three artists. And… no need to be condescending towards paying customers (he has a category of covers called Romancy Shmancy).

Julie Dillon stood out as the clear winner in this category.

1) Julie Dillon
2) Nick Greenwood
3) Allan Pollack
4) No Award
5) Carter Reid
6) Kirk DouPonce

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Hugo Awards: Fanzine

I thought a fanzine was a self-published magazine written by fans with narrow subject focus but, like a magazine, containing a wide variety of articles. The Hugo definition is

“[…] anything that is neither professional nor semi-professional and that does not qualify as a Fancast (see below). The publication must also satisfy the rule of a minimum of 4 issues, at least one of which must have appeared in the year of eligibility.”

I had to look up this definition because two of the entrants met my definition of ‘zine but, to my eye, the other two were book blogs.

Of the five nominees, Black Gate withdrew and Elitist Book Reviews didn’t provide any content for the reader packet.

Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Colin Harris, Alissa McKersie
A Dr. Who-themed ‘zine. Contains Who-vian articles, historic covers, reviews, con reports, humor, and art. Looks professionally put together and edited. The articles are well-written.

The Revenge of Hump Day by Uncle Timmy (Tim Bolgeo)
Techy articles re-published from the interets interspersed with political screeds and tired, off-color, and offensive jokes. While the Whovian jokes were eye-roll-inducing for non-Whovians like me, the Hump Day humor was the kind that makes me edge away from someone at a dinner party to find someone else to talk to. Do you think Scientific American knows their article is being re-printed, verbatim, in a magazine that has off-color humor and political screeds? Does this fall under ‘fair use’?

Tangent Online by Dave Truesdale
Photos, historic covers, and reviews of current and historic SciFi. The reviews are interesting, critical, and well written.

Elitist Book Reviews by Steven Diamond
Feels like a traditional book blog — reviews, give-aways, interviews. Unlike the other entrants, Elitist Book Reviews did not put together a Hugo packet so I skimmed several reviews that were written last year. The range of books reviewed is eclectic: from Butcher to Mayberry to Mieville to Middle Grade SFF. It’s an OK blog, but neither witty nor insightful enough to be bookmarked.

To be honest, nothing really grabbed me in this category. I’m not a Whovian so Journey Planet bored me. Tangent seemed well written, but I would not seek out another copy. Elitist Book Reviews fell below No Award because I can think of a half dozen book blogs that have stronger, more interesting reviews. The Revenge of Hump Day fell below No Award because it was a compilation of stuff other people had sent the editor, and not a particularly interesting compilation at that.

1) Journey Planet
2) Tangent Online
3) No Award
4) Elitist Book Reviews
5) The Revenge of Hump Day

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