Extra Post: The Bookshelf Tour Tag

Hi, folks! I know I’ve already wrapped up September, but Victoria Howell tagged me for this tag (many thanks, Victoria!), and it looked too fun to not do. So, let’s tour my bookshelf!

1. A short but powerful book: Good question. I think the closest thing to “short and powerful” on my bookshelf is 1984 by George Orwell. But it’s not exactly short. 😛 As far as things I’ve read, A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin was pretty short, and absolutely amazing. (Check out my review here!)

2. A good, long book: The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien. (That may not be the last Tolkien book mentioned in this tag. . . .)

3. Favorite classic (on your shelf): Let’s hear it for The Lord of the Rings! If that doesn’t count because it’s too much of a pop-culture phenomenon, Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott is also good.

4. A relatively obscure book: Dreamlander by K.M. Weiland. This is an amazing book, I’m pretty sure it’s self-published, and it needs to be better known. (Seriously, go look it up right now. Or read my review first, whatever.)

5. An underrated book: See #4. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede could also fall into this category, but I’m pretty sure they have more of a following than Dreamlander does.

6. An overrated book: Hmm. I guess Edge of Oblivion by Joshua A. Johnston, although it’s not very overrated. As I said in my review, I just couldn’t like the characters very much. I’m not sure if a second read will prove me wrong, but for now, it’ll just sit on my shelf.

7. Most reread book: The Lord of the Rings, easy. Also probably the Dragons in our Midst series by Bryan Davis. Both (well, all five) are excellent.

8. A book you haven’t read: There are so many, actually. . . . A few are Othello by William Shakespeare, a translation of Beowulf, and Patriot Games by Tom Clancy.

9. A short story collection: Two: the Great Short Works of Herman Melville and The Rest of the Robots by Isaac Asimov. Both of which could also be answers for #8.

10. A non-fiction book: Hahaha, there are so many of these. I’ll restrict my answers to three: Plant Growth and Development: A Molecular Approach, Power Unseen: How Microbes Rule the World (curiously enough, another answer to #8), and the Outlining Your Novel Workbook by K.M. Weiland. (That last one isn’t actually on the shelf at the moment, since I’ve been using it to work on Circle of Fire. But hey.)

11. A book (physical copy, not the story itself) that has an interesting story behind it: Edge of Oblivion, actually. It’s the only book I’ve ever won in a giveaway. Besides that, Jill Williamson‘s Blood of Kings trilogy is a result of the only time I’ve ever spent $40 worth of gift cards on only three books. (I think the only time I’ve ever spent $40 worth of gift cards, period. But they’re awesome books, so they were worth it.)

Now I’m going to tag some people. There are no rules with this one, so how about three other bloggers?

  1. Olivia @ Story Matters
  2. Maggie @ Maggie’s Musings
  3. Natasha @ Starlit Wanderings

And that’s it for me for today!

Whew! I think I had too many answers to the questions. . . . Well, have you read any of the books I mentioned? Curious about any of them? What would be your answers to some of these questions? (Feel free to take the tag if you want, just link back politely. :)) (Oh, and go check out those blogs I listed as my nominees! And Victoria’s blog, too, if I didn’t say that already.) Anyway . . . tell me in the comments!

 

My Life This September: In Which the Molecules Hijack My Life

A quick word before I begin: I can’t believe it’s September. September is almost over! Can you believe it? (I often marvel at the passage of time; that probably won’t be the last time I express amazement about it on this blog.)

Well, as it is in fact the fourth Saturday in September (!), I am here once again to present to you the roundup of my month. This month, it looks a lot like this:Image result for organic chemistry molymod model kit

 

Image result for organic chemistry jones fleming

Image result for organic chemistry resonance forms

As you may have guessed, fall semester has started (as of August 29th, actually), and with it, my year of organic chemistry. (I don’t technically have to take the whole year, but I am anyway, because . . . well, I guess I’m crazy.)

Organic chemistry is an infamous subject. Presumably, it has made non-doctors out of hordes of pre-med students because they could not tackle this class. Whenever people complain about pre-med requirements (not me–I’m not even close to pre-med), they complain about organic chemistry. Invariably. It’s just a fact of life.

So, this month, my life has been hijacked by molecules. I bought the book in the middle photo with expedited shipping so it could get to my house before the semester started and I could start studying. I have taken profuse notes from the book (which I never do). A little way into the semester, I bought a molecular model kit like the one in the top photo, because a) to help my studying as molecules get increasingly complex and b) why not? Molecule-building is fun. Organic chemistry loses half its daunting air when the student acquires a box full of colorful plastic pieces that can eternally be put together and taken apart–although it is annoying that I don’t have a big enough model kit to put together a strand of DNA (nerd problems). (Seriously, though, my kit doesn’t even have enough nitrogens for one nucleotide. And who thought to put in 12 carbons and only 20 hydrogens? There should totally be 24. But, as usual, I digress.)

Apart from life organic chemistry, I am taking four other classes: organic chemistry lab (it’s its own class with its own lecture worth two of its own credits), Principles of Genetics, and Biotechnology and Society (just for fun). And I have had so many deadlines, molecules, papers, molecules, exams, molecules, quizzes, and molecules flying around already that writing (like for fun, not papers) has quite gotten lost in the mix. I have had time to do little more than coax an introductory hook and some hazy subplots out of Rahara and crew from Circle of Fire, my new project (check out the Beautiful Peoples if you’re curious!). And having released myself from self-imposed deadlines (you have no idea how good it feels), I haven’t worked on Windsong at all, besides letting the characters float around inside my head, which they were always going to do anyway.

That was a very long two paragraphs, and now I have run out of things to say, so it looks like it’s curtains for this blog post! One last note: do come back next month and check out my next guest post from Olivia Hofer! It promises to be a good one. 🙂

So that’s my month in a nutshell! How was yours? Did you go back to school? Are you in college? Any other writers and STEM majors here? (Shout out if you are–the struggle is real!) Anyone else taken organic chemistry? (No? How about chemistry at all?) Anyone else take a break from a project and start “working” on a new one? Tell me in the comments!

What I’m Reading: Nemesis by Isaac Asimov

Image result for nemesis cover isaac asimov

This was one of the books I scooped up at a library sale a couple months ago, and got around to reading it last month. Here are my quick thoughts before I get back to studying!

The Story: In the future, Earth’s population has extended onto “Settlements,” little ships like mini-planets hanging in space in the solar system. Rotor, the first of the Settlements to develop hyper-assistance technology, leaves to orbit a Neighbor Star, Nemesis, discovered by Rotorian astronomer Eugenia Insigna. Why Nemesis? Well, according to calculations, in a few thousand years, Nemesis will pass close enough to the Sun to destroy all life on Earth.

Fast-forward 15 years, and Insigna’s daughter, Marlene (three syllables, not two), is drawn to the “planet” Erythro (actually a sort of moon) in the Nemesian system, which Rotor now orbits. Marlene is not pretty, but has the gift of interpreting everyone’s body language and expressions to essentially read their thoughts. To get down to the surface safely (and figure out exactly why the planet draws her), she has to get past her mother’s objections and Commissioner of Rotor Janus Pitt’s plotting. What she finds when she finally gets there is nothing short of incredible.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Marlene’s father, Crile Fisher, recruits a Settlement scientist, Tessa Wendel, to develop true superluminal flight for his bosses at the Terrestrial Board of Inquiry, who are after Rotor. Crile, however, is after Marlene. What will they find when they blast off?

Clearly, there was no simple way for me to summarize this story. It was not a simple story at all. I have a pretty good memory and was able to keep track of it all, but I can see how it would get confusing.

The Characters: As I got further into this book, I found, to my disappointment, that it is not very character-centric. All the characters (Marlene, Insigna, Pitt, Fisher, Wendel, Genarr) are less people and more vehicles for ideas. I felt that Marlene, the most interesting character, due to her pseudo-mind reading abilities, was under-featured; there was one chapter in her point of view at the beginning and a few more nearer the end. Beyond that, I heard about her mostly from her mother and other characters, which, while an interesting technique, got annoying because I wanted to hear from her directly. Few, if any, of the characters had real arcs within the book; it was mostly about the science and the hypothetical future, which, while I found it interesting, detracted from the story as, well, a story. I can see how Asimov tried to make them relatable and interesting, but I think he either tried too hard or not hard enough and they aren’t quite there.

The Writing: Like I said earlier, the book is less a story and more a hypothesis of how Earth’s future could go and what we might find out there. The most blatant mistake I found was the dialogue. The characters are constantly calling each other by their names and saying contrived things so the reader will get the point. There are also several infodumps about astrophysics so the reader will understand the science. (I was actually somewhat interested by these, but I doubt many non-scientist readers would be.) On the plus side, Asimov definitely doesn’t infodump worldbuilding; he drops you in and gives details later, selectively.

Overall: This was an interesting book, despite somewhat flat characters and bad dialogue. I wouldn’t say it was totally enthralling, but I was interested by the scientific premise at the end. Not the best I’ve ever read, but not the worst either.

What do you think? Have you ever read Asimov? If so, do you agree or disagree with me? Do you think you will try this book now? Tell me in the comments!

Beautiful People September 2016

Hi, everyone! This month, I decided to be very on top of things and post a Beautiful People post before the last week of the month. What is Beautiful People, you ask? Well, it is a character development link-up run by Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further Up and Further In. Every month, they release 10 questions which we blogging writers answer for one of our characters. The idea is to get to know your characters better. So, onward!

For the last couple months, I’ve been blogging about characters from my book Windsong, but despite their popularity, I’ve become so fed up with the project that I’m taking a little break and have decided to shift focus to a new project, which I’m keeping mostly under wraps for now, but which goes under the name Circle of Fire. And unlike Windsong, its setting is Earth (although with a fantasy twist, of course). So today, I am going to post about one of the characters from this project: Brandon Silverman.

Brandon?:
Brandon, age 29, Circle of Fire pilot and Air Force veteran.

 

  1. How did you come up with this character?–When I was working out the main group’s roles, I decided I needed a pilot and a veteran popped into my head. His name was originally Conor, but then I found I had too many guys with similar-sounding names, and he became Brandon.
  2. Have they ever been starving? Why? And what did they eat to break the fast?–Hmm, tough one. I don’t believe he has. He may have been very hungry while on duty in Iraq, if a supply shipment was delayed, though. I’ll have to think about this one. . . .
  3. Do they have a talent or skill that they’re proud of?–Flying. Brandon loves to fly; it’s his passion. He’s also quite smart and proud of his math skills (he has a degree in physics).
  4. List 3 things that would make them lose their temper.–Lists! I love lists. Let’s think. He gets upset when people try to manipulate him, so there’s one. Second would be antiwar protesters; he feels they don’t appreciate the sacrifices he and other veterans have made. And third, when someone snipes at him for no reason, he’s not likely to take it well.
  5. What is their favourite type of weather? Least favorite?–Favorite: sunny and calm; good weather for flying. Least favorite: thunderstorms. They cause turbulence and set him on edge.
  6. What is their Hogwarts house and/or MBTI personality?–He is an INTJ and probably a Gryffindor.
  7. Are they more likely to worry about present problems, or freak out about the unknown future?–Present problems; he takes a “first things first” approach, although he also plans ahead.
  8. What is their favourite thing to drink?–Beer (very occasionally) or chocolate milk.
  9. What is their favourite color? Least favorite?–His favorite is probably orange; least favorite, probably hot pink.
  10. What is a book that changed their life?–Good question. Probably any Terylian book that he read, which made him realize there really was another world out there. (Although that seems like a bad answer, but I really haven’t thought about this one. . . .)

Well, that’s Brandon! Happy September, everyone!

Did you do Beautiful People this month? Are you going to? Put your link in the comments if you have! Are you working on a new project, or taking a break from an older one? Tell me in the comments!

Class Project to Blog Post: A Word on Photosynthesis

Greetings! Once more, it is the second Saturday of the month, and I find myself scrambling to put together a post about science. Fortunately, I’m a genetics student two weeks into her third semester, and need not look too far for interesting topics.

Inspiration comes in various forms. Why shouldn’t it come in the forms of happy little houseplants?

Image result for crassula ovata
A jade plant, Crassula ovata.

I’ve kept jade plants for years. They’re a kind of succulent (a water-conserving plant with fleshy stems and leaves, something between a normal plant and a cactus) which, not surprisingly, grows well even when you forget to water it. Plus, every time a branch breaks off, if you stick it in a pot, you get a new plant. (I keep getting more of them that way.) They look cool, make great bonsai projects, and even flower once in a blue moon. And as this is a science post, not a gardening post, I bet you’ve already guessed that jade plants are also scientifically interesting.

All plants use photosynthesis to “fix” carbon dioxide into glucose, which can then be broken down in respiration to get energy. It’s more or less equivalent to making one’s own food. There are different ways of doing this; the most common is C3 photosynthesis, more or less the “normal” pathway. C4 photosynthesis is found most often in tropical plants, and involves some extras added to the C3 pathway to maximize carbon dioxide uptake in environments where the gas’s availability is limited. In both of these pathways, stomata (small openings in plants’ leaves) allow carbon dioxide into the plant.

Crassulacean acid metabolism, or CAM, photosynthesis adds on further to C4. It is found mostly in desert succulents like cacti and jade plants, and in fact was named after the jade plant’s family, Crassulaceae. In CAM photosynthesis, the stomata open only at night, when the temperature is lower and the water within the plant will evaporate less than it would during the day. The plant then takes in carbon dioxide, fixes it to an intermediate molecule, malate, and stores it to be processed during the day. This cool adaptation helps cacti and succulents survive in their desert environment.

One more note: I haven’t said anything about the first part of the title yet. Well, I’m taking genetics this semester, and I need to do an honors project on a gene that interests me. While poking around for genes involved in drought resistance in plants, I rediscovered CAM photosynthesis, which I learned about a few years ago and thought was really cool. There you are; inspiration from a class project. It really does come from various places.

(My source for this post was The Physiology of Flowering Plants: Their Growth and Development, third edition, by H.E. Street and Helgi Opik.)

Isn’t CAM photosynthesis cool? (If you don’t think so, I totally understand. I know lots of people probably don’t get why I’m a plant nerd.) Have you ever had a jade plant, or a cactus or something similar? If so, what was your experience with it? Tell me in the comments!

Story Starters #1: By Darkness Hid

A short introduction today: You may have noticed that this is not my usual post. Usually, I post about book quotes on the first Saturday of the month, but to be honest, I’ve gotten a bit bored with that, since it’s difficult to find good book quotes that I’m not saying all the same things about as I analyze them. The first paragraphs of books, however, are all different, and I think it will be interesting to look at how different stories start off. Hence “Story Starters.”

Onward to today’s selection!

Achan stumbled through the darkness toward the barn. The morning cold sent shivers through his threadbare orange tunic. He clutched a wooden milking pail at his side and held a flickering torch in front to light his way.

Image result for by darkness hid cover

 

This is the first paragraph of the first book in Jill Williamson’s Blood of Kings trilogy, which I highly encourage you to check out if you haven’t already! We begin following hero of the book Achan on his journey as he heads out to the barn to milk the goats. This beginning is really descriptive, meant to get us into the world of the book and the head of our main character. Let’s go through it sentence by sentence.

  • Achan stumbled through the darkness toward the barn. We start right off with our main character’s name. We know whose point of view we’re in right off the bat, which keeps it clear for us who we’re following. His stumbling hints at his lower rank in society; if Williamson had portrayed him as more confident, striding, perhaps, instead of stumbling, we might have gotten the impression that he was higher up than he is. And lastly, the darkness and the barn give us the first hints of a setting. We get into this more in the next sentence.
  • The morning cold sent shivers through his threadbare orange tunic. This sentence tells us more about the setting. It’s morning, and since we already know from the last sentence that it’s dark, it must be early morning. This, combined with the reference to Achan’s clothing and his discomfort at the cold, confirm that he is some kind of lower servant sent to do a menial task at the crack of dawn.
  • He clutched a wooden milking pail at his side and held a flickering torch in front to light his way. This sentence just gives us more information about what Achan is doing (it later turns out he’s milking goats) and the tools he uses to do it. At this point, the reader has already guessed from the castle-like building on the cover that this will be a medieval-style fantasy, and the primitive tools Achan is using help confirm that. So more details about the setting are conveyed here through what Achan is carrying.

Tell me, have you ever read this book? Did this beginning make you want to read it? What do you think of my new first-Saturday blog posts? Tell me in the comments!