Darth Pony

Ruling the galaxy is so overrated.

24 Festive Tasks Door 12: Saint Andrew's Day


Task 1: Nominate someone for sainthood.  Who?  Why?


I don't really get the whole saint thing (or Catholicism in general), so I hope believers will forgive me for being a teensy bit flippant on this task.




I hereby nominate my mother-in-law for sainthood. She MUST be some kind of saint to have put up with my father-in-law and my husband for all these years without being driven to murder. That she hasn't killed them yet surely qualifies as a miracle.

Incoming Festive Post Wave


I got my Merry Christmas Virus early this year, and between that and the usual holiday family/social obligations my Festive Task ambition sort of evaporated. BUT! I still want to complete at least one task per door, and my goal for today is to get as much of them done as I can. It might be more of an intermittent drip than a wave, but I really wanted to use the surfing Santa gif. XD

24 Festive Tasks Door 18: Solstice/Yuletide


Task 1: Bibliomancy: Grab one of your larger books and flip to the indicated page and line number to answer the following questions - then post those answers for us:


Moby Dick was the nearest book to hand with 459+ pages. Tell me, O Ishmael, what the future holds!


A. Will I read all the books on my TBR? (page 378, line 29)

murder us all, and pocket the proceeds, do ye?"

I'm hoping this means someone's going to pay me to read all the hundreds of unread books in my TBR and I'll absolutely KILL it! Or I'll somehow read them all and be deeply intellectually enriched through the process. Neither is terribly likely, to be honest, unless I get trapped on the event horizon of a black hole with my entire TBR. It can't mean I'll sell my unread books to one of those wonderful/horrible people who make book art. That's just ludicrous.


B. Will any of my 2019 reads be 5 stars? (page 227, line 31)

he sanely brought to bear upon any one reasonable object.

So . . . yes? I'm taking that as a yes.


C. Will I discover a new favorite book / author / series? (page 309, line 23)

if I seem to press.'

Hrmmm. So maybe if I go looking for a new favorite? Or is Ishmael being coy? I do plan to read Moby Dick in 2019, after all . . .


D. Will I discover that a major twist (hopefully, for the [even] better) has occurred in one of my favorite series? (page 459, line 16)

all cases.

I'm taking this to mean they'll ALL have major twists. Hoo boy!


E. Will I finish all of my reading challenges in 2019? (page 69, line 7)

ship," the angel seemed to say, "beat on, beat on, thou noble ship,

So if I don't finish, it won't be for lack of trying!


F. Will I stay within my book budget in 2019? (page 98, line 5)

plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being

I'm going out on a limb and saying this means I'll buy lots of books, and then buy some more, budget shmudget. I'm always hungry for a plentifully-seasoned TBR. 

The Sword and the Spirits

The Sword and the Spirits - Robert Denton III

What happens when a company renowned for its tabletop and card games decides to publish novellas based on one of those card games and releases the hardcovers with bonus promo cards? My husband gets suckered into buying them, that’s what.



I have played Legend of the Five Rings (the new version, not the old version). It’s okay, but I like Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn better and I think they’re similar enough that owning both is redundant. My husband disagrees, and *coughsplutter* dollars later we have a vast array of L5R cluttering our house. (Apparently spreading the cards out all over the place is vital to the deck building process.) At the tail end of his card-buying frenzy (please, God, let it be the tail end), he discovered the existence of new L5R novellas featuring the various clans you can play as, and here we are.


The Sword and the Spirits is a decent story and the cover art is pretty, and that’s the best praise I can give it. Either the author assumed anyone reading it would have read the short stories and other supplemental material included with the game and clan decks and expansions (a fair assumption as he’s writing for a very niche market), or he isn’t very good at introductions and exposition. The quality of writing is about what you’d expect from someone used to writing backstory and flavor text for game manuals and cards. It’s serviceable, but also full of awkward phrasing and questionable word choice and jarring transitions. There are a whole lot of instances of random details being inserted for no discernable reason. An attempt at evoking ambiance? Or inflating the word count past short story length? Whatever the reason, there’s a bunch of stuff like this where the prose suddenly verges on purple to no good effect:


Tadaka’s eyes fell to the back of the room, where his candle revealed an altar with a lidless lacquered box. His prayer beads were like a windswept porch swing.



Suffice it to say, whatever editing process this book went through was inadequate. Novels and manuals are different beasts, and if Fantasy Flight used their in-house editors for this project, it would explain a lot.


If you’re a fan of the game and you’re not a picky, pedantic lit-snob like me, you might like this book. If you just think the game is okay-ish and you talked yourself into reading this book because you’re not sure your husband ever will and you can’t stand the thought of him paying all that money just for a few promo cards, have another conversation with yourself. Try to talk yourself out of it, if you can. And if you’ve never heard of the game and this book somehow caught your eye, walk on by. There must be far better Japanese-inspired fantasies out there.

The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

I’m pretty sure this book is supposed to make me feel a certain way, but I got nothin’. Maybe the relentless news cycle for the past several years has left me numb. Maybe I can’t look at this type of dystopian fiction objectively since seeing it described as white people being treated the same way we’ve treated people of color throughout history. Maybe it’s the narrative style, which is not one of my favorites. Maybe I’m just really grumpy lately. Whatever the reason, I’ll be the odd one out among my bookish circles as the one person who didn’t love this book.


On a side note, my Kindle edition threw the Rate This pop-up at me when I got to the Historical Note, and I wonder how many people stopped there and never realized the story wasn’t over. Heh.

The Oracle Glass

The Oracle Glass - Judith Merkle Riley

Before France had the Revolution, they had the Affair of the Poisons. If you don’t know anything about it, look it up. It is wild. Lovers poisoning potential rivals, heirs poisoning their heads of family, wives poisoning their husbands, husbands poisoning their wives, and everyone and their second cousin dabbling in Satanism to make them lucky in love/politics/business/gambling/whatever. It’s entirely possible that if no one had intervened, the Revolution would have been moot as the entire French aristocracy would quite probably have poisoned each other to near extinction.


Riley shows us her meticulously researched version of the Affair through the eyes of Genevieve Pasquier, who takes up fortunetelling under a pseudonym to support herself after super cliché events involving murder, a missing inheritance, and rape force her to leave home. At the tender age of fifteen, she apprentices to the Shadow Queen, the foremost witch in Paris, and becomes the Marquise de Morville, an alleged 150-year-old victim of alchemical experimentation who reads fortunes in an oracle glass.


She’s so good at playing an old woman that it’s easy to forget she’s a teenager—until she abandons her maturity and independence to throw herself at a man, ignoring her own common sense and the advice of others in favor of following her heart (and by “heart” I mean “hormones”). And that’s fine and dandy and makes sense and all, but I just cringed all the way through her love affairs. I’m a hard sell on romance, and in this case I wasn’t inclined to buy.


The best/worst part of this book is all that meticulous research that went into it. It’s the best because almost all the details feel authentic. It’s the worst because it seems Riley was intent on not leaving anything out, and some of those authentic details didn’t really add to the story. The story itself drags, as Genevieve seems to forget she’s doing it all for revenge against her horrible family and has to remind herself and the reader what her motivations are.


TL;DR, it’s not bad but it’s not quite my cuppa. Not being much of a romantic, I thought there was too much pining and not enough actual poisoning in this particular Affair of the Poisons.

24 Festive Tasks Door 11: Russian Mother’s Day

Tasks 1, 2, and 3 completed. Points = 3


Task 1:  Tell us: What is the mother of all writerly sins in your book (tropes, grammar mistakes, telling instead of showing, etc.)?


The mother of all writerly sins in my book is not caring about the craft. This encompasses a multitude of slightly lesser sins and is quite possibly the root of all writerly evil. Nothing (bookishly speaking) irritates me more than bad writers who think they have nothing to learn.


Task 2: Do you have a favorite Mothers’ Day memory that you are happy to share? Photos welcome but optional.


This may be only tangentially Mother's Day related, but I used to work retail, and one of my favorite days to work was the day before Mother's Day when the store was flooded with clueless dads and their excited kids looking for the perfect last-minute gift for Mom.


Task 3: Perhaps the best-known scene in the James Bond novel and film From Russia With Love is 007 being poisoned by Russian agent Rosa Klebb with a venom-laced blade hidden in her shoe. Tell us: Have you ever owned any particular / outrageous / funny / best-beloved or otherwise special pair of shoes? Post a photo if you should still own them.


When I was about 10 I got my first pair of novelty slippers. They were officially bear feet slippers, but I thought of them as Wookiee feet slippers (though I was terribly short for a Wookiee). I loved them to pieces and wore them to death and only gave them up when the soles completely wore out. They looked a lot like this:



Task 4: Make a traditional Russian dish like borscht, blintzes, pirogi or solyanka soup, and share a picture with us. Find recipe suggestions here: https://www.expatica.com/ru/about/Top-10-Russian-foods-and-recipes_108678.html


Though I'd like to try borscht and beets are plentiful in Australia, I'll probably skip this one.


Book: Read a book set in Russia, or involving a story within a story / play within a play (like the Russian matryoshka dolls stuck inside each other), or where a key character (not necessarily the protagonist) is a mother.

Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad

Battlefront II: Inferno Squad (Star Wars) - Christie Golden

In which the Empire sends a bunch of operatives who have no experience with deep cover missions into a super dangerous deep cover mission. Hilarity ensues. And by hilarity, I mean none of these people should have made it out alive.


This is sort of an intro to the members of Inferno Squad, which is featured in the Battlefront II game’s story mode, the most prominent member being Iden Versio. It’s all right for what it is, but sometimes I felt like logic was being abandoned to facilitate the plot.


Iden is well-known in Imperial circles. She’s the daughter of a high-ranking military man, an ace TIE fighter pilot, survivor of the destruction of the Death Star, and all-around darling of the Empire. Her father gets the idea that if she suffers some sort of fall from grace, the desperate remnants of Saw Gerrera’s partisans will snatch her up as their new figurehead, and then she and the rest of Inferno Squad can take them down from the inside.


As unlikely as that sounds to me, that’s exactly what happens. After being reported for voicing some mildly seditious thoughts to a fellow officer, Iden goes through a mock court marshal and is put under house arrest, during which she is abducted by the partisans to be their new figurehead. Because becoming a violent radical is the obvious next step after mild sedition. Or something.


If you can get past the progression of events being slightly unbelievable, it’s a decent story and serves as an okay set-up for the game’s story mode. I haven’t played it, but I’ve seen the cutscenes, and knowing the backstories of the squad and their history together helped put things in a broader context. As for the writing, Golden did all right, but she’s no Claudia Gray. Gray did a much better job at showing things from an Imperial perspective.

24 Festive Tasks Door 10: Bon Om Touk

Tasks 2, 3, 4 completed. Points = 3


Task 1:  Make a paper boat and post a picture of it.   Instructions, if needed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiAWx8odStA


Maybe later.


Task 2: If you’ve ever attended a procession or an event involving festively decked out boats, post a picture and tell us about it.


A few years ago, my husband and I went to a New Year's Eve party on a houseboat on the Murray River. We had a good enough spot that we could see the fireworks and some of the houseboats decked out in lights, but not a single one of my pictures came out. So here's a picture I stole off the internet of a similar event on the river. It looked kind of like this:



Task 3: Bon Om Touk celebrates the end of the rainy season. Tell us: What’s your favorite type of rainy day book – and do you have a favorite drink or snack to go with your rainy day reading? Photos welcome!


It's totally a tactile thing, but my favorite type of rainy day book is a big fat hardcover. Genre doesn't matter. I just love the weight of it in my lap, the thickness of the pages, and the mingling smells of rain and lignin. One of my favorite rainy day reading snacks is a cup of hot green tea and ginger cookies. I'll drink/eat that any day, rain or shine, but the added warmth of the tea and the ginger are extra nice on rainy days.


Task 4: Which are your 3 favorite books where a key character is “moonlighting”?


I might be stretching the definition of "moonlighting" a bit, but oh well!


The Hobbit: Bilbo Baggins, respectable hobbit, moonlights as an adventuring thief.

The Scarlet Pimpernel: Sir Percy Blakeney, English Gentleman, moonlights as a top secret British operative specializing in infiltration and extraction and James Bond can eat his heart out because 007 could never top Sir Percy's record.

Bunnicula: Chester and Harold, professional house pets, moonlight as paranormal detectives.


Book: Read a book that takes place at sea or on a river OR with water on the cover OR where the plot involves a festival or the moon plays a pivotal role in the plot.

24 Festive Tasks Door 9: Thanksgiving Day

Tasks 1, 2, and 3 completed. Book read. Points = 4


Task 1:  List the 3 books you’ve read this year you’re most “thankful” for (your favs) or the one book you’ve ever read that changed your life for the better.


The three books I five-starred this year (excepting re-reads) in the order I read them:


1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Everyone should read this. It should be taught in American classrooms instead of To Kill a Mockingbird.

2. Boy's Life by Robert R. McCammon. Quite possibly the best coming of age novel I've ever read. I've still got boot prints where it kicked me in the feels.

3. The Eye of Argon by Jim Theis. This is one of those "so bad it's good" things. Highly recommended for aspiring writers, seasoned writers, or fans of The Room.


Task 2:  Describe your perfect meal.  What would you cook for the perfect celebration, or, what would you have your imaginary personal chef cook for you?


My perfect meal is beyond my capabilities, so my imaginary chef will be called upon to prepare me a sushi and sashimi feast.



Task 3:  Name a book you’ve read this year that you thought was full of “stuffing”.


Though I enjoyed it, I'd have to say James Luceno's Darth Plagueis is full of "stuffing". It is so stuffed with Extended Universe references and midichlorian musings that the meat-to-stuffing ratio is all out of whack and the cooking time adversely affected.


Task 4:  Show us your 2018 book “harvest” – the books you newly acquired this year, regardless whether bought, received as gift or in whichever other way.


In order to do this, I would have to confront my book-buying habits and just how much money I've spent, and I'm simply not mentally equipped to handle the consequences. So that's a big old SKIP!!! for my own peace of mind. :P


Book:  Autumnal covers, set in New England, or a turkey shows up in the story.


Book read: The Handmaid's Tale (set in New England)

24 Festive Tasks Door 8: Penance Day

Tasks 1, 2, 3, and 4 completed. Points = 4


Task 1:  “Confess” your book habits.  Dog-earring?  Laying books face down?  Bending back the spines? Skimming?  OR: Confess your guilty reading pleasure, or comfort reads.


The book "habits" listed are book CRIMES in my opinion, so I'll go with confessing my guilty reading pleasure.


Currently, my guilty reading pleasure isn't books. It's book blogs. Specifically book blogs that spork books I read and didn't like, and books I will likely never read. I especially love blogs that spork bad erotica like 50 Shades and the Crossfire series. I read these sporkings when I'm sick/having trouble concentrating, and the bite-sized bits of literary scorn invariably cheer me up. I know these books are beloved by some, so I feel a little bit guilty for cackling over snippets of dialogue and repetitive sex scenes, and I'm not sure if there's a non-awkward way to explain to people I'm crying with tears of laughter because a guy named Gideon Cross in a super popular novel describes his own semen as creamy and seems obsessed with it, so I tend to read these blogs when I'm alone.


Task 2:  It’s “Pennants” day according to MbD’s husband:  post a picture of your favorite team’s logo / mascot and the last time they’ve won a championship (or not).


I'm not much of a sports fan, but I suppose my favorite team is the Gryffindor House quidditch team, and as far as I can tell from movie stills, their emblem is just the House crest. To my knowledge, they last won the House Cup in 1997.



Task 3: In centuries gone by, penance would often end up in what might be described as a very extended bad hair day (complete with sackcloth and ashes). Tell us: What’s a bad hair day to you – and what (if anything) do you do about it?


Hah! Nice twist on this one. My bad hair days are the days I wash my hair. I only do that two or three times a week. It feels lovely and soft when I wash it, but it also becomes completely unmanageable until my scalp gets a chance to produce more oil. I don't like putting product in my hair, so remedies are restricted to sloppy buns, scraggly braids, and total denial.


Task 4: Early Christian spiritualists would sometimes do penance by spending time in the desert. If you’ve ever visited a desert region (or even live there), post a picture and tell us about it. Alternatively, post a picture of sand dunes (NOT with water in the background!).


I grew up in Utah, a large portion of which is arid desert. Some of it is pretty spectacular, like Arches National Park and Bryce Canyon. This is a picture of Goblin Valley, which doubled as an alien planet in Galaxy Quest, which is one of my favorite movies of all time.



Book:  Read any book concerning a man / woman of the cloth, a book about a character hiding a guilty secret or searching for absolution.

24 Festive Tasks Door 7: Mawlid

Tasks 1, 2, and 3 completed. Book read. Points = 4


Task 1:  Make two “prophesies” you think will come to fruition in 2019 in your personal or reading life.


1. I will finally read Moby Dick. I've been predicting this every year since I managed not to read it in high school, but I actually own a copy now so it's got a good chance of coming true this next year. Bring on the eye-drying whaling facts!

2. When it comes to books, I will buy less and borrow more. This has less chance than #1 of coming true, but I do want to patronize/support my local library more, and I'm sure my wallet would thank me.


Task 2: The Five Pillars of Islam include almsgiving and the pilgrimage to Mekka. Tell us: Have you ever donated books or rescued them from (horror of horrors) being trashed? Alternatively: Is there a book-related place that is a place of pilgrimage to you?


I've donated books to charities and classrooms, and I've also saved books from being trashed. Since moving to a rural tourist town, going to any city with bookstores bigger than a shoe box feels like a pilgrimage to Mekka, but my only personal book Mekka went out of business years ago (RIP Borders in my hometown . . . and everywhere, I guess) and I haven't found a new one.


Task 3: Prophets are messengers. Tell us: Which book characters are your favorite messengers (no matter whether humans, angels, (demi)gods, etc.)?


I can't possibly top Moonlight's tribute to Sam Gamgee, so I'm just going to lazily list a few of my favorites off the top of my head: Bartimaeus from Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy. Death from Markus Zusak's The Book Thief. Agnes Nutter from Good Omens (though we never get to meet her, she was one heck of a prophet!).


Task 4: Muhammad was a merchant before becoming a religious leader. List 5 books on your shelves in which a key character makes / undergoes a radical career change.


Skipping for now. Might come back if I can think of any.


Book:  If you can find a copy, read Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet.  Or read any book about a leader of a movement, nation, religion or large group, OR read a book with a green cover OR with a half moon on the cover.


Book read: I'm retroactively claiming Rules for a Knight for this one.

24 Festive Tasks Door 6: International Day for Tolerance

Task 1 completed. Book read. Points = 2


Task 1:  Find some redeeming quality in the book you liked least this year and post about it.


I'm going to have trouble keeping up the festive spirit of these tasks if y'all keep making me think about The Law of Nines. Ugh! Okay. Um . . . It makes a decent doorstop. Is that not what you meant? Not really? Hmm. How about this: It could be used as part of a homemade flower press! No? Okay, okay . . . Wait! I got it!  It made me appreciate how hard it must be to run a gallery in an upscale mall and have to deal with Real Artists™ who think that general societal artistic ignorance perpetuated by gallery owners is the reason their Real Art™ isn't selling.


Task 2: Tell us: What are the tropes (up to 5) that you are not willing to live with in any book (i.e., which are absolutely beyond your capacity for tolerance) and which make that book an automatic DNF for you? (Insta-love? Love triangles? First person present narrative voice? Talking animals? The dog dies? What else?)


I think I'll have to skip this one. There are tropes that annoy me, but as evidenced by the single-digit number of books on my DNF shelf, none of them rate an automatic DNF. The only things that do aren't tropes (terrible writing and/or poor grammar and/or bad formatting, etc.). I guess I'm too tolerant. Or I'm one of those stubborn "This book will not best me!" types who has trouble letting go. :p 


Task 3: The International Day for Tolerance is a holiday declared by an international organization (UNESCO). Create a charter (humorous, serious, whatever strikes your fancy) for an international organization of readers.


Eh. Pass.


Task 4: UNESCO is based in Paris. Paris is known for its pastries and its breads: Either find a baker that specializes in pastries and bring home an assortment for your family, or make your own pastries using real butter and share a photo with us.


I might come back to this one.


Book:  Read any fiction/non-fiction about tolerance or a book that’s outside your normal comfort zone.  (Tolerance can encompass anything you generally struggle with, be it sentient or not.) OR Read a book set in Paris.


Book read: The Oracle Glass (Read a book set in Paris)

William Shakespeare's The Force Doth Awaken: Star Wars Part the Seventh

William Shakespeare's The Force Doth Awaken: Star Wars Part the Seventh (William Shakespeare's Star Wars) - Ian Doescher

It’s been a while since I last visited William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. When I read the Dramatis Personae and the rathtars were described as “jolly monsters” it felt like coming home. (And that was even before they started singing.)


Diving into one of these is always an adventure on multiple levels. How will Doescher Shakeaspeareanize this movie? What nerdy Easter eggs will he hide in the text? Do the rathtars have good singing voices? (The answers are: 1. Pretty damn well. 2. So many nerdy Easter eggs! 3. In my head they sounded an awful lot like the Three Tenors. It was magical.)


This is one of those books you may want to read at least twice. Once for the hell of it, and once more to see if you can find all those Easter eggs that Doescher teases in his afterword. I had to flip back through it right away to decipher BB-8’s dialog, which I’d been skipping over because it is not easy on the eye:


Zzwaflit blee roohblic bleeflib zilf blikflii,

Blox flirzooz blis blox flitblic bloozood flir

Reej zoodreej blee reej flirblip zzwaflit flirr

Bluuflir zoonflii flew blavrooq bleeflit blis!


Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like R2’s dialog, but when you realize what’s going on, it’s freaking brilliant.


Overall, this is a worthy addition to the series. It’s seriously Shakespearean Star Wars that doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s remarkably easy to picture the likes of Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver delivering these lines in classic theatrical fashion, but lest you forget it’s parody, there are the likes of the singing rathtars to remind you. I got a particularly good laugh out of the two Stormtroopers discussing the plot similarities to the original trilogy.


But I’ve gushed enough, and if I keep going I’ll start quoting entire scenes, so I’ll leave you with this bit of stage direction:


[Finn] salutes BB-8, who salutes in return using his droidly implements.



Reading progress update: I've read 168 out of 168 pages.

William Shakespeare's The Force Doth Awaken: Star Wars Part the Seventh (William Shakespeare's Star Wars) - Ian Doescher

Screw you, four-day migraine! I finished a book anyway! And it was good! And I'm counting it for the Festivus door!

24 Festive Tasks Door 5: Veterans/Armistice Day

Tasks 2 and 3 completed. Book read. Points = 3


Task 1:  Using book covers (real or virtual), create a close approximation of your country’s flag (either of residence or birth), OR a close approximation of a poppy.  Take a pic of your efforts and post.


Ehhhh. I think I'm gonna shove this one straight into the Too Hard basket. Mega kudos to anyone who attempts this. I'm still half blind from that Diwali cover task.


Task 2: Make an offer of peace (letter, gift, whatever) to a book character who has particularly annoyed you this year.


Dear Jace Wayland,

Though I hate you with the intensity of a supernova, 'tis the season to make peace with annoying assholes book characters. In that spirit, please accept this gift of a Costco-sized box of DNA testing kits so you never again have to angst over what kind of monster you are or whether that girl you want to pork is your sister.


Sincerely (sort of),



Task 3: Tell us: What author’s books would you consider yourself a veteran of (i.e., by which author have you read particularly many books – or maybe even all of them)?


After some thought, I'd have to say I'm a veteran of Ann M. Martin. Before I outgrew Kristy and Claudia and Mary Anne and Stacey and Dawn and Mallory and Jessi, I'd read 50+ Baby-Sitters Club books and at least four of the Super Specials. I don't think I've ever topped that in reading books by a single author/pen name.


Task 4: Treat yourself to a slice of poppy seedcake and post a photo. If you want to make it yourself, try out this recipe: https://tastesbetterfromscratch.com/poppy-seed-cake/ … or this one: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1629633/lemon-and-poppy-seed-cake ~Hmm. I'm tempted. We'll see.


Book:  Read any book involving wars, battles, where characters are active military or veterans, or with poppies on the cover.


Book read: Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad (characters are active military)

Currently reading

Moby-Dick (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) by Herman Melville
Progress: 258/752pages