Cheer-Up Tuesday 30/08/2016

It’s Tuesday, work is over, it’s been gloriously sunny down here, and it’s time for some cheerful news. 🙂

This children’s hospital was very excited to get a visit from the real-life Thor and Loki!

And I love this video of people on the beach helping a tiny hermit crab pick out a new shell.  I never knew hermit crabs could be so adorable!

Finally, as if one story with children and one story with animals wasn’t adorable enough, here’s a rot-your-teeth sweet story about children and animals: children practise reading to shy dogs at an animal shelter.

PHOTO: Ryan Huntebrinker, left, Norah Huntebrinker and Makenna Klepacki read holiday stories to a Humane Society of Missouri shelter dog during the Deck the Howls event for the Shelter Buddies Reading Program.

World War Z

Read if you like: Darren Shan, epistolary style, zombies

I just want to go into this on one important detail: I don’t like zombies.  I don’t mean I’m scared of them–far from it.  I find zombies boring.  I couldn’t get through The Girl With All the Gifts, was never interested in The Walking Dead, and when I saw the World War Z movie, I shrugged it off as ‘okay’.

But this book?  Is goddamn amazing.

A far cry from the somewhat generic action movie (which, essentially, shared nothing with the book besides its name), the novel World War Z had me gripping the pages, white-knuckled and wide-eyed, utterly engrossed.  It’s written as a report, set after the zombie war, as a reporter travels the world to interview a variety of people about their experiences.  Delving into everything from politics to military strategy to religion to refugee life … and all of this across the world.  China, America, Great Britain, South Africa, Japan, North and South Korea, and Russia all feature.  This is an intelligent book.  About zombies.

Just … read it.  Please.

Red flags:
(This may not be for you if you avoid the following)

  • Heavy going: it surprised me, but some of the political chapters were pretty hard going, and my geography was tested (and found wanting) as the stories crossed continents.
  • Gore: it is a story about zombies, what did you expect?

What If?

what if

Read if you like: xkcd comics, science, Mythbusters

Randall Munroe is best known for writing the webcomic xkcd, where he playfully talks about maths, science and current events, using surprisingly expressive stickmen.  There are, in fact, so many xkcd comics, on so many subjects, it’s now a running gag on Reddit that there’s ‘an xkcd for everything’.

In What If?, Randall Munroe takes bizarre and sometimes terrifying questions from his readers, and guves them answers with serious scientific thought.  Ever wondered what would actually happen if everyone on Earth jumped at the same time, in the same spot?  Or whether you could survive a swim in a nuclear pool in a power plant?  Or whether you could build a jetpack from downward-firing machine guns?  Here’s your answer.

What If? is downright hilarious, which is massively impressive considering it also feels so darn educational.  Sure, it’s educating you about the wierdest topics you can imagine, but still.

Red flags:
(This book may not be for you if you avoid the following)

  • No plot: at all.  Ever.  I mean.  Duh.  It’s nonfiction.
  • Requires concentration: very occasionally (usually when reading before bed), I found myself going a little cross-eyed over the science and maths.  The answers to each question are long–several pages each–and go into a lot of detail about different scenarios.  It’s not brain-breaking, or hard reading in the way a classic might be, but it’s not exactly easy reading either!

Cheer-Up Tuesday 16/08/2016

Oh my gosh, it’s Tuesday already, so time for more cheerfulness!

This article placing bets on who’s going to win 2016’s Great British Bake-Off had me cracking up all the way through.

I love this picture from ghost159357 on Reddit: the symbols for each sport in the Rio Olympics, with some … imaginative takes on what they represent.

(Bee twatting just about killed me.)

And, speaking of the Rio Olympics, this photo’s been flying round the Internet so hard I’ll be surprised if you haven’t seen it already!  Gymnasts Lee Eun-Ju of South Korea and Hong Un-Jong of North Korea smiling for a selfie despite their countries’ political differences.

I hope everyone had a lovely week, and if not, I hope Cheer-Up Tuesday has made you feel a little better about the state of the world! 🙂

The Last Unicorn

the last unicorn

Read if you like: The Lord of the Rings, fairy tales, meta fiction

This is an obscure one, I admit.  If you’ve ever heard of The Last Unicorn at all, it’s probably in the context of that weird (albeit entertaining) 80’s cartoon with the soundtrack by America.  Almost no one I speak to even realised the film was based on a book, which is a crying shame.  Because The Last Unicorn is my favourite book, ever.  I feel a twinge of guilt from the Terry Pratchett fangirl in me for saying so, but still.  I freaking adore this book.  Every line on every page reads like poetry.  It’s funny and heartbreaking and poignant and silly, and all in the space of less than 300 pages.

A unicorn lives peacefully alone in her wood, she learns the rest of her kind have disappeared.  Spurred on by tales of a Red Bull driving the unicorns away, she sets out to find them, accompanied by the inept and immortal magician Schmendrick, and the outlaw Molly Grue.  Throughout the story, Peter Beagle playfully picks on fairy tales (Schmendrick points to the unicorn that rhinoceri are ‘where the whole silly myth got started in the first place’), while at the same time spinning his own.  The borderline meta works with the traditional story in a fanciful, beautiful and ultimately funny combination.

Just please, please read it.  I need more fans of Peter Beagle in the world.

Red flags:
(This story may not be for you if you avoid the following)

  • Slow Plot: although the text is beautiful, it doesn’t exactly go a-mile-a-minute.  When I first tried to read this (age 15 or so), I struggled because I was used to really fast pacing.
  • Bittersweet Ending: no spoilers, but some of the characters don’t quite get the fairy tale happily-ever-after they hoped for (although they do win the consolation prize: ‘…she will remember [you] when men are fairy tales in books written by rabbits.’).

Cheer Up Tuesday 09/08/2016

Say hello to another Cheer Up Tuesday, the day of the week where I share happy and positive things to remind me that everything isn’t awful.

First up, this picture from Literati Bookstore really made me chuckle:

Photo by Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Which one are you?  I like to think I’m The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but really I think I’m probably The Joy of LeavingYour Sh*t All Over the Place.

Next, this anti-alcoholism PSA from Thailand is as hilarious as it is bizarrely motivational.  I suddenly feel compelled to run out and furiously throw water over crops.

And one more video today (sorry, people with slow wifi!).  I defy you not to ‘aww’ at this dog being reunited with her puppies.

The Dumbest Submission Ever

Remembering that United Agents are holding open submissions days this month, I spent the weekend frantically polishing the first three chapters of Ars Moriendi (again, haha) to send it in for the Children’s/YA day.

Today, I converted my proud work to PDF and sent it on its merry way … then opened WordPress to blog about it and realised.

Today isn’t Children’s/YA day.

That was last week.

aragorn internally screaming

I don’t know how I got it this wrong.  I have it written in my calendar and my diary and everything.  Big, excited letters yelling ‘OPEN HOUSE DAY!’ decorated with stars and smiley faces.  On the 8th August.

But now it’s too late.  Emails that have been thrown out into the void are like messenger pigeons tossed into the air in a WWI battlefield.  I can’t call it back.  I can just sit here and sort of hope a German soldier shoots it out of the sky.  Or a Gmail virus.  Either way.

I’m going to spend the rest of the day screaming into a pillow.  Please, commiserate me with stories of emails you wish you could take back.