Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Charity Challenge: Hogwarts Running Club

I can't think of a better way to kick off my spotlights for the 2016 Charity Challenge than Harry Potter and real motivation to be healthy! Have you heard of Hogwarts Running Club? Here's the description from their About Page: "Hogwarts Running Club (HRC) is a 501(c)3 charitable organization that organizes virtual running events inspired by the wizarding world designed to promote walking/running, provide unique and awesome medals, and, most importantly, raise money for deserving charities in order to accomplish our mission of changing the muggle-world one mile at a time." Basically, it's awesome. I'm not a runner, but the idea of participating in a Potter-themed virtual 5k with my friends for charity is more than I can resist!

I feel a little bad featuring this run because registration for it is over, but this is the one in which I'm participating first: The "Always" 3.94 Memorial Run. This run is in memory of Alan Rickman (pictured below): the late, great, amazing actor who played Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movies (among many other awesome roles). I've registered and ordered my t-shirt, and I finally took the Pottermore Sorting Quiz to discover my House at Hogwarts--it's Hufflepuff, which I suspected all along!

The official date for the run is Sunday, February 21, and some of the proceeds from the t-shirt sales are going to Debate Mate, one of Rickman's favorite charities while he was alive. But if you missed the registration date for The "Always" Run and are still interested in participating in Hogwarts Running Club, there will be a lot more opportunities this year, starting with The Molly Weasley Ugly Jumper Run! This one has already started and goes through Sunday, February 14 (Valentine's Day!) to support One Warm Coat.

I'm so happy to have discovered Hogwarts Running Club; I think this will be a really fun thing for me to do with my friends and support various charities! And who knows, maybe I'll start jogging regularly and get really healthy? Okay, that's unrealistic, because I'm tired and on my feet all of the time at work for hours. But anyway--fun, friends, motivation, charity! Can't get better than that! Let me know if any of you are planning to do a run, or if you take the Pottermore Sorting Quiz or discover any new charities!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Winter's Respite Read-a-Thon Wrap-Up

A Winter's Respite Read-A-Thon hosted by Seasons of Reading is now over, and I must say I did fairly well! Forcing myself to relax and just read on my days off was a nice break from the constant motion in which I usually find myself, and it's affected my mood for the better overall!

My goals were to read my two waiting short stories for the Deal Me In Challenge, to read a graphic novel, and to finish at least one of the books at which I've been chipping away for a while. I completed all of my goals, so below is the final list of what I finished:
"The Depressed Person" by David Foster Wallace
"Delicate Edible Birds" by Lauren Groff
Invincible, Volume 1: Family Matters by Robert Kirkman, Bill Crabtree, and Cory Walker
The Great Library: Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

Reviews to come soon (and I'll link them back here for your convenience)! I've also made some progress in other books, which I've listed below so you can see what I'm reading now:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Age of Legends: Forest of Ruin by Kelley Armstrong
The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente
What are you all reading now? I'd love to hear about it! And if you want some more ideas of what to pick up next, follow the links at the top of the page to see what everyone else read for this read-a-thon!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Winter's Respite Read-A-Thon 2016

It's read-a-thon time! This week, January 18-24, is A Winter's Respite Read-A-Thon hosted by Seasons of Reading.

I haven't formally participated in a read-a-thon before, so this should be fun. I'm hoping a week will be long enough for me to do some damage. And by damage, I mean reading, of course! ;) My first goal is to read my short stories for last week and this week for the Deal Me In Challenge, because I'm already a little behind. Also, I've had a craving to read a graphic novel lately. I haven't decided which one I'm going to read, but I have a lot of them sitting around waiting for me, so it shouldn't be hard to knock one out. Lastly, I'd like to finish at least one of the books at which I've been chipping away, surely but slowly. I'll list all of these below for your convenience:

"The Depressed Person" by David Foster Wallace
"Delicate Edible Birds" by Lauren Groff
graphic novel
Forest of Ruin by Kelley Armstrong
Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

Honestly, though, if I get a fair amount of reading done this week (on books I'm in the middle of), it will be a win. I've been so slow to start the new year and get motivated to finish my books. I've just been lingering in them, soaking them up slowly but still finding so many more books I'd like to read. I'll try to post a mid-week update in a few days with how I'm doing, and check out some of the other participants' lists for new ideas and fun reading plans!


Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way through Great Books by Cara Nicoletti is about the author's exploration into foods from some of the books that have played a meaningful role in her life. As someone who has studied literature in college and had a variety of jobs in restaurants, bakeries, butcher shops, and more, Nicoletti brings a unique perspective to a topic that has fascinated readers and eaters for centuries.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

Conclusion: This book is brilliant. Absolute genius. With books and food, you already have a good chance with me, but Nicoletti doesn't just let those carry her through on an easy read. Her brilliance is found in her balance of composition. She writes about books that have meant something to her personally, people and moments through which these books reached her, and the food inspired by all of this reading, which brings it all home. Each section with a recipe and prose is about three or four pages long, which feels like just enough. That all being said, I haven't actually tried any of the recipes yet, so that might change my review later. Probably won't be making the White Garlic Soup, but lots of them sound delicious! Definitely coming back to try the Challah Bread, for one.

Recommendation: This book is great for anyone who loves to cook and to read, or even just to read about food and books!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

2016 Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge

The 2016 Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge is hosted by Escape with Dollycas into a Good Book with the purpose of listing an alphabet of titles that I read this year. In order to keep this fun and low-key, my plan is to add book titles to my list as I'm reading them. After I've finished and reviewed them, I'll add the links here so you can see which ones I've completed and which I haven't. Some of the letters might change if I decide not to finish a book or if I read a different one that fits first. It will get more complicated the fuller the list gets, probably, but I haven't done a title challenge for a while--should be fun!

A) Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
B) Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani
C) The Cottage in the Woods by Katherine Coville
D) Dracula by Bram Stoker
F) Forest of Ruin by Kelley Armstrong
G) The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente
H) The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
I) Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
K) The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
L) The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
M) The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
N) North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
P) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
R) Red Rising by Pierce Brown
S) Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis
T) Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
W) Wool by Hugh Howey

2016 Deal Me In Short Story Challenge

Deal Me In is a short story challenge hosted by Bibliophilopolis where each participant makes a list of 52 short stories, one for each week of the year, and assigns each one to a card in a deck of playing cards. I'll randomly select a card each week to determine which story to read and write a short review of them from time-to-time. I decided to assign the cards around a few anthologies that have been sitting around my house unread but left myself a few "wild" story options to shake things up! I don't read short stories very regularly, so I'm curious to see how this will affect my reading plans for 2016.

Hearts: Original Bavarian Folktales: A Schönwerth Selection by Franz Schönwerth
♥A♥– *wild*
♥2♥– "Love, Marriage, and Childbirth"
♥3♥ – "Motherhood, Drudes, and Changelings"
♥4♥ – "Premonitions, Ghosts, and Poor Souls"
♥5♥ – "Witches and their Familiars"
♥6♥"The Elements: Earth I--Fruits of the Earth" (week 5)
♥7♥ – "The Elements: Light--The Sun and the Moon"
♥8♥ – "The Elements: Fire, Wind, and Water" (part I)
♥9♥ – "The Elements: Fire, Wind, and Water" (part II)
♥10♥ – "The Elements: Earth II--Castles, Mountains, Dwarves, Giants, Forests & Forest Creatures" (part I)
♥J♥ – "The Elements: Earth II--Castles, Mountains, Dwarves, Giants, Forests & Forest Creatures" (part II)
♥Q♥  – "The Elements: Earth II--Castles, Mountains, Dwarves, Giants, Forests & Forest Creatures" (part III)
♥K♥ – "The Devil and Death, Heaven and Hell"

Spades: Tales from Missouri and the Heartland by Ross Malone
♠A♠ – *wild*
♠2♠ – "One" through "Eight"
♠3♠ – "Nine" through "Sixteen"
♠4♠ – "Seventeen" through "Twenty-Four"
♠5♠ – "Twenty-Five" through "Thirty-Two"
♠6♠ – "Thirty-Three" through "Forty"
♠7♠ – "Forty-One" through "Forty-Eight"
♠8♠ – "Forty-Nine" through "Fifty-Six"
♠9♠ – "Fifty-Seven" through "Sixty-Four"
♠10♠ – "Sixty-Five" through "Seventy-Three"
♠J♠ – "Seventy-Four" through "Eighty-Two"
♠Q♠ – "Eighty-Three" through "Ninety-One"
♠K♠ – "Ninety-Two" through "One Hundred"

Diamonds: Prize Stories 1999: The O. Henry Awards edited by Larry Dark
♦A♦ –*wild*
♦2♦ – "A Nurse's Story" by Peter Baida
♦3♦ – "Merry-Go-Sorry" by Cary Holladay
♦4♦ – "Save the Reaper" by Alice Munro
♦5♦"The Depressed Person" by David Foster Wallace (week 2)
♦6♦"Cataract" by Pam Houston (week 1)
♦7♦ – "Sea Oak" by George Saunders
♦8♦ – "Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri
♦9♦ – "Nixon Under the Bodhi Tree" by Gerald Reilly
♦10♦ – "Mister Brother" by Michael Cunningham
♦J♦ – "Moon" by Chaim Potok
♦Q♦ – "Burning" by Robert Schirmer
♦K♦ – "Watching Girls Play" by W.D. Wetherell

Clubs: The Best American Short Stories 2010 edited by Richard Russo
♣A♣ – *wild*
♣2♣ – "Donkey Greedy, Donkey Gets Punched" by Steve Almond
♣3♣ – "Into Silence" by Marlin Barton
♣4♣ – "The Cousins" by Charles Baxter
♣5♣ – "Safari" by Jennifer Egan
♣6♣ – "Someone Ought to Tell Her There's Nowhere to Go" by Danielle Evans
♣7♣ – "The Valetudinarian" by Joshua Ferris (week 4)
♣8♣ – "Delicate Edible Birds" by Lauren Groff (week 3)
♣9♣ – "Least Resistance" by Wayne Harrison
♣10♣ – "The Hollow" by James Lasdun
♣J♣ – "Painted Ocean, Painted Ship" by Rebecca Makkai
♣Q♣ – "My Last Attempt to Explain to You What Happened with the Lion Tamer" by Brendan Mathews
♣K♣ – "PS" by Jill McCorkle

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

Felicia Day wrote a memoir, and it's called You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)! For those of you who don't know, Day is a well-known actress and pretty much everything else in the online and "geek" community. I picked this up as soon as it came out but never got around to typing up my review. Anyway, here it is, at long last.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: This is a really fun book so far. Felicia Day is always kind of quirky and cute, and her book is no exception. She's naturally funny, so her humor seems like an effect of the topic rather than purposely intended. Also, she remembers things the way I do, mentioning seemingly random, irrelevant details. Yes, those are velvet hightops. Or, I had a ponytail that day. Little things stand out. I love that she makes a Santa Claus at Build a Bear for herself with a tutu and a lightsaber, and then it becomes a really awkward social situation. And her childhood and young adult years seem very strange to me, but I love that she turned all of it into something positive and is doing what she wants in life.

Conclusion: Felicia Day is someone I've admired for a while, and that was before I knew about all of the anxiety and social issues with which she's had to deal. But she works through her problems and gets the help she needs from others to keep doing what she loves. There are parts of the book that are a bit intense and hard to read. It reveals a bit about the media industry and gender issues, as well as Day's own personal anxiety issues. But mostly, You're Never Weird on the Internet (almost) is honest and funny. I'm sure that Day worked really hard on it, given her tendency to completely devote herself to her projects, but you don't notice any strain in the writing style. The tone is very conversational, and I like that she draws us into her personal world but doesn't feel the need to share a bunch of information about her loved ones. Also, if you're hesitant about the gaming references in the book, don't be. She explains quite a bit so that anyone can tell what she's talking about. And, last but not least, I love her mug quotes and random pictures with words across them! Inspiring, funny, intelligent, and well-formatted--four perfect words to describe this book.

Recommendation: If you're already a fan of Felicia Day, read this book! If not, you might enjoy the book if you like quirky memoirs about weird childhoods and achieving one's dreams.