Bookstores — Missoula, Montana

So Cheri wrote a post about Hawaii, where we live, not having any bookstores (and then she went off on a tangent).

IMAG0275I recently went on a trip to Missoula, Montana to visit a friend and my two requirements were one, that we eat a ton of donuts, and two, that we go to a bunch of independent bookstores. Requirement one, unfortunately, went unfulfilled, but we did go to bunch of bookstores which was like ascending to heaven for me. There were new books and used books and both at some of the stores. It was a revelation because the business model hadn’t occurred to me that you would be able to sell new books for cheaper. Cheaper is always appealing to me.

The first bookstore we went to was…closed. And I was worried how this is how the rest of the trip would go. Luckily, it was not a precursor of what was going to happen. After spending the day meandering around town, when headed back we popped into Fact and Fiction books where they sold an amazing amount of local books. The entire front half of the store held books solely from Missoula authors as well as literary magazines from a collection cultivated by the undergraduates at the local college all the way to the pacific. The one curated by the undergraduates is called The Oval (  and held a few interesting pieces that shed some light on the culture in the area that I was unaware of (Native American mainly).

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OKPotato April Book Giveaway!

Hey, readers. For the month of April we will be giving away two of the books we’ll also be reviewing later this month:

2The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (Feb. 2015)

The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers. To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change. Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control. But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

(Chebk will be reviewing this title.)

None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio (April 2015)

A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she was born intersex . . . and what happens when her secret is revealed to the entire school. Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.

(Cheri will be reviewing this title.)


Leave a comment on this post with either book title or “either”  and you will automatically be entered in the giveaway drawing pool. We will be using a random generator to decide winners for both books. You must be willing to give us your mailing address to receive your prize. (Unfortunately we are shipping only to people in the United States.) The winners will be announced April 30, 2015.

(NOTE: Winners from February are not eligible to re-enter to win the following giveaway. You may re-enter in the giveaway after this.)

Good luck, everyone, and happy reading!

Divergent: The Sane Review (Diversity and Fallacious World-Building)

As Chebk discussed in her last blog, she and I decided to tackle Veronica Roth’s Divergent  trilogy this month, what with the release of the second movie, Insurgent, starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James. Obviously Chebk will not be reviewing the rest of the series after her angry breakdown trying to get through the first book, so it looks like it’s up to me to review the rest of the series.

Divergent, Roth’s debut novel, describes a post-apocalyptic Chicago where society has been divided into five factions: Abnegation (selfless political leaders), Dauntless (brave soldiers), Erudite (the crafty intelligentsia), Amity (basically hippie farmers), and Candor (honest lawyers and the like, which, okay). At the center of it all is Beatrice “Tris” Prior, who, at sixteen, tests out as “Divergent,” which means she possesses multiple traits and is considered dangerous to the societal structure. To keep her results secret, she chooses Dauntless where she enters a star-crossed romance with her trainer, Four, and meets a lot of dangerous, crazy people. Also, she comes across an Erudite plan to start a war against Abnegation.

The premise is reminiscent of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World in the segregated factions of society, the sterility (if not necessarily the well-described structure) of 1984, the stark societal monotony of The Giver, and especially the tension and challenge of The Hunger Games, as we watch Tris start out on an important day of decision, then train and fight, much like Katniss Everdeen. Roth has stated that she was initially inspired by exposure therapy used in psychology to treat phobias and anxiety (namely forcing a person to literally face their fears), and group divisions (e.g. Hogwarts houses, armies in Ender’s Game, pleasure houses in Kushiel’s Dart, etc.)

The five factions in Divergent.

Diversity, in this first book at least, is pretty thin. Tris, Four, and most of the families, friends, and faction members are undeniably white. There is Asian tattoo artist, Tori (played by Maggie Q in the movies; awesome), and Tris’s Dauntless friend, Christina (played by Zoe Kravitz; also awesome), but they are dots of color in a sea of white, straight, able-bodied people. (Okay, granted, someone does get stabbed in the eye, but we never see him again.) I found it ironic that in a world that Roth wants to stress the point of diversity, she doesn’t actually have the guts to play out how diverse characters would actually struggle within the system.

Since Chebk was actually supposed to write a single, coherent post on this book, I jotted down some notes as I read for her to pick from to make up a small section of her own post. That post did, however, devolve into some exquisite ranting, (which I applaud forever), but since I am supposed to provide the sane perspective, here are some of my notes on the first book:

The Good:

-Roth writes her action scenes very well. They move smoothly and are genuinely exciting (unless when they are very silly, more on that in the other section).

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Bout of Books 12: Day 7 Finale

Hi guys. Sorry this post is a bit later than normal, but life, eh?

Today had two challenges. First was to create a (dysfunctional) Book Family hosted by: AuggieTalk and #insixwords hosted by: FallingDownTheBookHole.

(Dysfunctional) Book Family Challenge:

I’m to choose characters from all the books I’ve ever known or read and give them a family title, say why, and then tell why it would be a dysfunctional family.

I’ve always wanted Bean from Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card as a sibling, probably an older brother. My mom would be Phedre from the Kushiel Trilogy by Jacqueline Carey. For my father, I’m choosing (off the top of my head) the dad from Carbide Tipped Pens the Hard Sci-Fi anthology edited by Ben Bova and Eric Choi. The story the dad is from would be the first story in the anthology titled: The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever by Daniel H. Wilson.

Julian (Bean) Delphiki

Bean is this super intelligent little kid who eventually grows exponentially due to some genetic happenstance. He is inherently logical and often fears that he’s missing something within him that separates him from being human.


Phedre is an anguisette and has been touched by one of her gods who has chosen her to bear a special burden. She is a prostitute in a land whose motto is Love as Thou Wilt. She has saved her country many times by being who she is: a spy.

father daughter gif

The father from The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever is similar to Bean in that he also sees everything through the rigid form of logic. He is able to love, though, and holds a great love for his daughter, who he runs to when he and only a few others know that the end of the world is imminent.

I think it’s pretty self-explanatory why this family would be dysfunctional. Throw a trouble-making self-important youngest child into the mix, and you’ve got a family who probably has an odd time living together.


#insixwords Challenge:

I am to choose two to three books and summarize/share thoughts or feelings about the book in six words.

The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women Edited by Alex Dally MacFarlane #insixwords Women doing it like the classics.

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner #insixwords Run. Burn. Here we go again.

Bout of Books 12 is at an end and my participation has continued in it’s downward trend. I am determined to make it a lucky number 13 and blow any other failures out with the next round.

I am no further in The Scorch Trials and only a few more stories into The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women. Ah, but it is what it is. I have participated in half the challenges and feel inordinately proud to have completed them by blogging.

Since Bout of Books, we have nearly doubled in followers so I wanted to remind everyone that we are doing a book giveaway with the two series that Cheri and I have reviewed so far (seen HERE).

How did your bout of books go? What kinds of book/writing-a-thons do you wish there were? Let us know in the comments and keep on keeping on!

Bout of Books 12: Day 5 – Describe Book in Pictures

Chebk presents:

The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women Edited by Alex Dally MacFarlane

calvin and hobbes writing essay
Sofia Samatar’s “Girl Hours”
Darth Vader unicorn gif
Kristin Mandigma’s “Excerpt from a Letter by a Social-realist Aswang”
Ganesha optical illusion
Vandana Singh’s “Somadeva: A Sky River Sutra”
Lucy Sussex’s “The Queen of Erewhon”

How’s that for a book in pictures? I kind of cheated because mine is an anthology, but the content is all there!

I got further into the book thanks to a slow day at work (training today was more cold than anything). I guess I should explain the pictures a little bit.

  1. Sofia Samatar — Girl Hours: This was a story in poem form and I do not understand poems so the beauty and intricacies of the piece went way over my head.
  2. Kristin Mandigma — Excerpt from a Letter by a Social-realist Aswang: Talked overtly about the lack of Filipino presence in Sci-fi, which was great, but the format for me was a bit confusing. Another one that went over my head.
  3. Vandana Singh — Somadeva: A Sky River Sutra: Now, this one I understood. I really enjoyed the story once I got to the end, but the format was, understandably, a bit difficult to wade through. Once I did, I could follow it much easier and in such a small space, Singh was able to completely immerse me in a story within a story better than Inception: The Movie.
  4. Lucy Sussex — The Queen of Erewhon: Closest to my favorite so far. It was written in a way that cut back and forth to present and past, but in a much more action oriented fashion which suits my reading style better. It was about different cultures and breaking rules. I enjoyed the story, but got a little lost towards the end.

I’m reading quite a bit slower than normal. Mostly because a work environment is not conducive to reading, but also because a lot of the stories are more introspective, playing on some sort of thought process, which is not something I usually read. I know that it is truly a mammoth anthology and I look forward to getting through more of it and finding some real favorites and new favorite authors.

I hope to finish at least one, but I’m reaching towards finishing two books over the weekend! Wish me luck!

Is there a type of writing that you always seem to engage with? How about the opposite? Let us know in the comments below!

Bout of Books 12: Day 3 — Character Coupling

As it happens to turn out, this Bout of Books has given me a bout of something.

Regular followers are well aware that I have just started a new job and, let’s just say, it has significantly cut into my reading time (previously was all day living as a NEET [look it up]). In addition to that, I seem to have contracted some sort of plague. People have been telling me things like:

“Chebk, stop overreacting, it’s just a rash,” and “Chebk, stop being ridiculous,” but who are they to say what is the plague or not. My doctors.

princess bride i do not think it means what you think it means
Indigo Montoya here to chastise me too, I guess.

Anyway, I have managed to inch half-way into The Scorch Trials and a few more stories into the sci-fi anthology I’ve been reading.

Today’s challenge is hosted by: Writingmyownfairytale

It has been dubbed: Character Coupling Challenge and I am to find two characters from two different books and put them together in a relationship and why.

I chose Minho from The Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner and Primrose Everdeen from The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

prim and minho
Minho and Primrose Everdeen

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Best Online Writing Communities (that I’ve been a part of)

As Cheri mentioned yesterday, it is best that the writing process not be tackled alone for the uninitiated and unprepared.

However, I found myself in that exact situation exactly a year and four months ago…

cupcake dog war flashbacks
FLASHBACK to horrible times.

It all started when a goof of a friend (hereafter referred to as Friend) was working on her master’s thesis and was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and we, as awful friends, finally noticed.

We read her work after much cajoling and realized that it reflected her weird logic. The initial conversation amongst ourselves, dubbed ‘alpha readers’ by me, was one that was full of defensive Friend and concerned and confused readers.

Angel - never be alone again
Angel will never leave Friend alone again.

I tend to like to understand situations before making judgements about them and I worried about how Friend was taking the critique. So my brilliant misguided solution was to host a writing contest amongst the alpha readers.

Now, for some background information on my competition: both are published and had English heavily influence their respective degrees. I am a college dropout that had no idea what an adverb was (and never used them — not in the cool Hemingway way — but rather for lack of skills). What I have going for me is a huge imagination and a history of telling stories.

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