Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey: A Review

For a book with an animal in the title – prompt #26 on the 2018 Reading Challenge – I chose to read Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey. I have been a fan of fantasy fiction for a really long time, yet somehow I’ve never read a book by Anne McCaffrey. I decided it was beyond time I read the work of this master of the genre.

In Dragonflight, McCaffrey first introduced readers to the world of Pern. A world where dragons are real and magical occurrences are possible. It’s the story of Lessa, the disenfranchised heir of her mountain realm. She has worked against the usurpers for years and when dragon riders arrive at her home, she sees an opportunity to reclaim what is rightfully hers. It turns out, however, that Lessa is destined for far more than ruling over a single region. She is chosen by the dragon riders for the chance to become a dragon rider herself – to ride a queen.

In this book, the dragon riders of Pern are in crisis. All but one of the dragon weyrs have been empty for centuries and the numbers within the remaining one are dwindling. It falls to Lessa and F’lar, the weyrleader, find a way to save Pern.

First published in 1968, the relationships between men and women and the roles each play in their society feels antiquated, and more than a little skewed toward male dominance. Despite her seemingly important role as rider of the queen dragon, a weyrwoman’s role in the every day functions of the weyr is limited to looking after the weyrleader, who is always a man. In fact, except for the rare queen, all dragon riders are male.

Despite all that, I enjoyed the book. I love McCaffrey’s creative mix of fantasy and science fiction elements. I’m looking forward to finishing the series.

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Unlock the Muse – January 15, 2019

This week I began reading the book There There, by Tommy Orange. This book is receiving a lot of attention, and I can understand why. It is very well written. This is a book I may need to reread at some point – after I’ve read it simply for the sake of reading a good book – and dissect it to see just what makes it so good.

Writers read. It’s part of the job description. Reading helps us strengthen our own craft. Reading fosters empathy and a greater understanding of the human nature – which is what we’re writing about, after all. Reading can also refresh your mind and spirit. When you’re own writing stalls, immerse yourself in the words of someone else for awhile.

Inspire
Your writing prompt for this week is:

If you had to compare yourself to the elements (earth, wind, fire, and water), which would you be? Write about why you chose the one you did.

Think about the properties of each of these four elements. Which one do you most relate to? Try this exercise with your main character(s) and see which one they would choose for themselves.

Encourage
Because I enjoyed the vocabulary sessions, I’ve decided to keep this bit from the old Unlock the Muse posts. So, I will take a look at this month’s theme word: Refresh.

re·fresh
/rəˈfreSH/

verb
Give new strength or energy to; reinvigorate.

Synonyms: reinvigorate, revitalize, revive, restore, brace, fortify, strengthen, enliven, stimulate, freshen, energize, exhilarate, reanimate, resuscitate, revivify, rejuvenate, regenerate, renew.

According to etymonline, the word refresh derives from the 14c Old French word refreschier, meaning to refresh or renew. To break it down further, the word comes from the prefix re-, meaning “again” and fresche, which means “fresh.” Therefore, to refresh means to “make fresh again.”

Happy writing!

Go and find new strength or energy for your writing!

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte: A Review

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë is one of those books that hits nearly all the “must read” lists. I figured I needed to read it. Someday. Well, “someday” came in 2018 when I was determined to read books by women authors and I needed a book about a villain or anti-hero for the 2018 Reading Challenge.

I’ll be honest. I dreaded this book. But it turned out, I enjoyed it far more than I expected. Brontë’s writing is excellent and compelling. I was drawn into the story in spite of myself. I’m glad I finally read this book.

Primarily the tragic story of Catherine and Heathcliff, I’m not sure this book includes a single redeemable character. Catherine could perhaps be excused to some extent given the demands of her society on young women. Heathcliff however, and nearly any man associated with him, is truly despicable. But it is this very disagreeableness that makes the story so compelling.

Bronte wrote this book in a style that I’ve seen before in other novels of her time. The narrator is relating the story as it was told to him, a retelling of a recollection. So the reader is a step removed from the action at all times, hearing everything at least second-hand rather than witnessing events as they unfold. Personally, I don’t care for this style.

Even so, I enjoyed this book in the end. It had it’s moments where I was ready to toss it aside, but overall, it is a great book, well deserving of its status as a classic.

The Queue, by Basma Abdel Aziz: A Review

Prompt #46 on the 2018 Reading Challenge was to read an allegory. Since I had the goal to read books written by women, I had some difficulty in finding a book that qualified. The usual suspects – The Chronicles of Narnia or Animal Farm – weren’t going to work for me. So I did some searching and found The Queue, by Basma Abdel Aziz on a list of books claiming to be allegories. I had previously run across this author when I was searching for women authors from all over the world.

The Queue primarily tells the story of Yehya who must get permission from The Gate for a critical medical procedure. The Gate is the symbol for the authoritarian government where Yehya lives. The line of people waiting outside for one reason or another grows and grows, yet The Gate never opens.

Abdel Aziz presents Yehya’s story through various side characters, each with their own connections to Yehya. Some, like Amani and Nagy, have a close, personal relationship with Yehya. They are outside the Queue, trying to help Yehya get what he needs. Other characters have a rather tenuous connection to Yehya. They are seeking their own help from the Queue, or they are trying to avoid entanglement with the Queue. But through all of them, this story is drawn to its inevitable conclusion.

Yehya would never admit that he was just a single, powerless man in a society where rules and restrictions were stronger than everything else, stronger than the ruler himself, stronger than the Booth and even the Gate.

This book presents a terrifyingly real look at how a totalitarian government can and will manipulate its citizens through fear, force, greed, even promises (though these last are usually left dangling and unfulfilled). And how such a government is capable of rearranging the truth to its own benefit.

Unlock the Muse – January 8, 2019

This morning as I drove to work, the sunrise lit the sky with gorgeous pink and yellow light. A smattering of winter-darkened clouds crossed the pale blue backdrop. It was a beautiful morning, refreshing after a weekend of rain and high winds. 

Like the weather, your writing will have seasons of storms and volatility followed by calm and colorful sunrises. Our goal as writers should be to learn how to flow through these seasons and make the most of the unique opportunities each one presents.

Inspire
This week’s writing prompt is:

Why do you think writing can be so difficult? Try to articulate the complexity that make the process of writing a hard one.

Writing is difficult sometimes. Whether it’s finding the time, the will or the words, sometimes the struggle is real. Write about this struggle in a journal entry, or a letter to a favorite relative. Don’t allow yourself to get whiny (or maybe just a little bit), but try to seriously examine the reasons behind the struggle. Now, turn your musings into a poem, an essay or a short story.

Encourage
Just a little reminder…

refresh quote

Happy writing!

What are your greatest writing struggles? How do you refresh your muse?

The Year of Finishing: 2019 Reading Challenge List, Part Two

Though the ATY Reading Challenge caught my attention for 2019, the Popsugar Reading Challenge captured by interest first. And so, I couldn’t set it aside completely in favor of the ATY. As it turns out, the two lists work pretty well together in helping me to complete or continue several of the book series I’ve started in recent years. Between the two, I will be able to read many books I’ve been looking forward to for awhile.

Here is my mostly complete list for the 2019 Popsugar Reading Challenge:

A book becoming a movie in 2019: Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer
A book that makes you nostalgic: The Black Stallion, by Walter Farley
A book written by a musician: The Reptile Room, by Lemony Snicket
A book you think should be made into a movie: Firefight, by Brandon Sanderson
A book with at least one million ratings on Goodreads: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J. K. Rowling
A book with a plant in the title or on the cover: The Witchwood Crown, by Tad Williams
A reread of a favorite book: The Dragonbone Chair, by Tad Williams
A book about a hobby: Otherland: City of Golden Shadow, by Tad Williams
A book you meant to read in 2018: Ship of Magic, by Robin Hobb
A book with “pop,” “sugar,” or “challenge” in the title: Pawn of Prophecy, by David Eddings
A book with an item of clothing or an accessory on the cover: Scarlet, by Marissa Meyer
A book inspired by mythology, legend or folklore: Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth, by Rick Riordan
A book published posthumously: The Girl Who Played With Fire, by Steig Larsson
A book you see someone reading on TV or in a movie:
A retelling of a classic: Second Star, by J. M. Sullivan
A book with a question in the title: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick
A book set on a college or university campus: A Slow Regard of Silent Things, by Patrick Rothfuss
A book about someone with a superpower: Calamity, by Brandon Sanderson or Wonder Woman: Warbringer, by Leigh Bardugo
A book told from multiple character POVs: A Storm of Swords, by George R. R. Martin
A book set in space: A Soldier’s Duty, by Jean Johnson or Better Part of Valor, by Tanya Huff
A book by two female authors: Marked, by P. C. Cast and Kristin Cast
A book with a title that contains “sweet,” “bitter,” “salty,” or “spicy”: Sweet Myth-tery of Life, by Robert Aspirin
A book set in Scandinavia: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, by Steig Larsson
A book that takes place in a single day: The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon
A debut novel: Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson
A book that’s published in 2019: Bloodwitch, by Susan Dennard
A book featuring an extinct or imaginary creature: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J. K. Rowling
A book recommended by a celebrity you admire: Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh
A book with “love” in the title: Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech
A book featuring an amateur detective: The Mystery of Ghost Island, Paul Moxham
A book about a family: A Dance with Dragons, by George R. R. Martin
A book written by an author from Asia, Africa or South America: Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A book with a Zodiac sign or astrology term in the title: The Well of Ascension, by Brandon Sanderson
A book that includes a wedding: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J. K. Rowling
A book by an author whose first and last names start with the same letter: Cress, by Marissa Meyer
A ghost story: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J. K. Rowling
A book with a two word title: Grave Peril, by Jim Butcher
A novel based on a true story: A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
A book revolving around a puzzle or a game: Warcross, by Marie Lu
Your favorite prompt from a past PS Reading Challenge – 2015: A book with magic: Legacy of Kings, by C. S. Friedman
Y
our favorite prompt from a past PS Reading Challenge – 2016: A book that’s more than 600 pages: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J. K. Rowling
Your favorite prompt from a past PS Reading Challenge – 2017: A book with a red spine: Mad Ship, by Robin Hobb
Your favorite prompt from a past PS Reading Challenge – 2018: A book set at sea: Ship of Destiny, by Robin Hobb
A “cli-fi” book: Parable of the Talents, by Octavia Butler
A “choose your own adventure” book: Space and Beyond, by R. A. Montgomery
An “own voices” book: Aru Shah and the End of Time, by Roshani Chokshi
Read a book in the season it is set in: Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik
A LitRPG book: Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
A book with no chapters / unusual chapter headings / unconventionally numbered chapters: Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman
Two books that share the same title: The Gunslinger, by Stephen King and Gunslinger Girl, by Lindsay Ely
A book that has inspired a common phrase or idiom: A Clash of Kings, by George R. R. Martin
A book set in an abbey, cloister, monastery, vicarage or convent: The Red Sister, by Mark Lawrence

The Year of Finishing: 2019 Reading Challenge List, Part One

The Popsugar Reading Challenge grabbed my attention toward the end of 2017 as I was finishing up my second year of reading challenges. I decided to give it a go and had a blast with it in 2018. So, when the time approached for the new list of prompts to be released, I waited anxiously along with thousands of other readers who follow the Popsugar group on Goodreads. I didn’t wait patiently, however, and I got drawn away by the 2019 Around the Year in 52 Books (ATY) reading list that had already been released. I told myself I would just take a look, see what the fuss is about. Well, I didn’t “just take a look” and I ended up signing on to do both reading challenges in 2019.

Here then, is the list of books I plan to read for the 2019 ATY Reading Challenge:

A book that was nominated for, or won an award in a genre you enjoy: The Amber Spyglass, by Philip Pullman
A book with one of the 5 W’s in the title: The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill
A book with an author whose name contains A, T and Y: Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi
A book with a criminal character: The Hero of Ages, by Brandon Sanderson
A book written or inspired by Shakespeare: The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt
A book with a dual time line: Dragon’s Triangle, by Christine Kling
Two books related to the same topic, genre or theme: Shadowrise and Shadowheart, by Tad Williams
A book from one of the top 5 money making genres: The Subtle Knife, by Philip Pullman
A book featuring a historical figure:
A book related to one of the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals: Eragon, by Christopher Paolini
A book about reading, books or an author/writer: The Clinic, by Jonathan Kellerman
A book from a New York Public Library’s Staff Picks list: The God of Small Things, by Arundati Roy
A book with a title, subtitle or cover related to an astronomical term: Time and Stars, by Poul Anderson
A book set in or by an author from a Mediterranean country: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne
A book told from multiple perspectives: The Stone of Farewell, by Tad Williams
A speculative fiction: Otherland: River of Blue Fire, by Tad Williams
A book related to one of the elements on the periodic table of elements: Iron Gold, by Pierce Brown
A book by an author who has more than one book on your TBR: Otherland: Mountain of Black Glass, by Tad Williams
A book featuring indigenous people: Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor
A book for a suggestion from the ATY 2019 polls that was polarizing or a close call – A book where the protagonist enters another world: Otherland: Sea of Silver Light, by Tad Williams
A book with a number in the title or on the cover: Four, by Veronica Roth
A book inspired by the wedding rhyme #1 – something old: The Secret of the Old Clock, by Carolyn Keane
A book inspired by the wedding rhyme #2 – something new: New Spring, by Robert Jordan
A book inspired by the wedding rhyme #3 – something borrowed: The Borrowers, by Mary Norton
A book inspired by the wedding rhyme #4 – something blue: Something Blue, by Emily Griffin
A book from the 1001 books to read before you die list: War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
A book related to something cold: Winter, by Marissa Meyer
A book published before 1950: The Aeneid, by Virgil
A book featuring an elderly character: Gallow’s Hill, by Charles F. French
A children’s classic you’ve never read: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry! by Mildred D. Taylor
A book with more than 500 pages: To Green Angel Tower, by Tad Williams
A book you’ve owned for at least a year but haven’t read: Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse, by Rick Riordan
A book with a person’s name in the title: Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine
A psychological thriller: Twisted, by Jonathan Kellerman
A book featured on the NPR Best Books of the Year list: Behold the Dreamers, by Imbolo Mbue
A book set in school or university: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J. K. Rowling
A book not written in traditional novel format: A Joyful Noise, by Paul Fleischman
A book with a strong sense of place or where the author brings the location/setting to life: The Rose and the Dagger, by Renee Ahdieh
A book you stumbled upon: The Tombs of Atuan, by Ursula K. LeGuin
A book from the 2018 Goodreads Choice Awards: The Martian, by Andy Weir
A book with a monster or monstrous character: Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters, by Rick Riordan
A book related to S.T.E.M.: I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
A book related in some way to a TV show/series or movie you enjoyed: The Black Panther Epic Collection, by Don McGregor
A multi-generational saga: There, There, by Tommy Orange
A book with a (mostly) black cover: Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian, by Rick Riordan
A book related to food: A Feast for Crows, by George R. R. Martin
A National Book Award finalist or winner from any year: Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
A book written by a Far East Asian author or set in a Far East Asian country: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See
A book that includes a journey: Around the World in 80 Days, by Jules Verne
A book published in 2019: The Empire of Grass, by Tad Williams
A book with a weird or intriguing title: The Last Innocent Man, Phillip Margolin