Readathon Hour 10 Mini-Challenge: Mad Libs!

Hellooooo, everybody! Welcome to the Hour 10 Mini-Challenge! We – Mia and Jessica – are super excited to host you as we continue on our collective reading journey! We know it’s getting rough out there for a lot of you (and us too), so how about some Read-a-Thon style mad libs to keep our brains awake?

Here’s what you’re gonna do:
1) pick a paragraph (not too long) from the book you’re reading
2) remove some of the words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and more), and either
3a) get a friend (in person, over the phone, over the internet–whatever!) to fill in the words for you mad-libs style or
3b) fill them in yourself from the spoiler-texted word list below
4) post your hilarious paragraph on your blog and link us to it or leave it in a comment here!

Easy, right? Here’s an example. I (Mia) started with this paragraph from 70s feminist short science fiction, Millenial Women:

Late in the afternoon the stranger woke: Amanda looked up from her loom to find him staring silently at her face. She pulled up her veil self-consciously, wondering how long she had been revealed to him, and went to kneel at his side. He tried to speak, a raw noise caught in his throat; she gave him water and he drank, gratefully.

“Where…where am I?” The words were thick, like his swollen tongue.

“You are in my house.” Habitually, she answered what a man asked, and no more.

I asked Jessica for a famous woman, a noun, an adverb, a body part, a verb, another verb, an adjective, another adverb, another body part, a place, and another noun. After plugging everything in, I got:

Late in the afternoon the stranger woke: Angela Lansbury looked up from her takeout carton to find him staring concretely at her thumb. She expedited up her veil self-consciously, wondering how long she had been revealed to him, and went to jam at his side. He tried to speak, a holographic noise caught in his throat; she gave him water and he drank, calmly.

“Where…where am I?” The words were thick, like his swollen knee.

“You are under the boardwalk.” Habitually, she answered what a DVD asked, and no more.

It made us both giggle a whole heck of a lot (the image of Angela Lansbury, uncomfortable and unsmiling, going and jamming at this man’s side will never not be funny), and we hope it’ll do the same for you!

Here’s the promised list of words if you can’t or don’t want to bother someone (please adapt as necessary, e.g. making nouns plural or changing verb tense):

1. sparse
2. flaming
3. fashionable
4. proud
5. ghostly
6. spunky
7. creamy
8. casual

1. virtuosically
2. frantically
3. dreamily
4. euphemistically
5. staggeringly
6. conspicuously
7. gravely
8. hauntingly

1. earthquake
2. tamales
3. itch
4. paranoia
5. coin purse
6. fountain pen
7. hammock
8. sorcerer

1. crochet
2. vibrate
3. curtsy
4. exsanguinate
5. lounge
6. hover
7. possess
8. cuddle

We’ll run the challenge until hour 13 and two winners will receive a book of their choice (worth up to $15) from the Book Depository. Go ahead, and get libbing!


Readathon Intro Meme: Mia’s Turn

Hour 0 – Opening Meme

Ha-HA, it’s my turn to fill this out while Jessica’s in the shower! I haven’t been Readathonning as long as Jessica has, but I’m so glad that she invited me to join her that first time…howevermany years ago it was. Memory isn’t my strong suit, but I love the traditions that Jessica and I have made in doing the Readathon together. We read funny passages to each other, team up in the mini-challenges, and have an amazing time!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Jessica’s place in California. I flew down just for this as a special occasion, now that I live several states away!
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? My stack is small because I was limited in my carryon space (and weight!) but it’s full of good things:


I’m actually most excited about a book on my Kindle, though: Fledgling, by Octavia Butler. I started to read it the other day and then thought, I’m going to save this for Readathon! So I’ve been eagerly awaiting it ever since.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? We went out to dinner with a bunch of friends last night and there’s leftover lamb tikka masala in the fridge that I’ve got my eye on…
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I too am hungry. Jessica, let’s go eat.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? The big difference this year is that I’m going to have to hustle when Readathon is over, because I have a flight to catch back to Washington Sunday afternoon! Better read while there’s time!

Read-a-Thon Fall 2015 Closing Survey

Wow, okay! Mia here again. It’s five or six hours after the Read-a-Thon ended and I have a little bit of a reading hangover. (Time for some hair of the dog, maybe?) I petered out near the end, as is traditional, but overall this fall’s reading felt pretty solid! Let’s do the closing survey.

Which hour was most daunting for you?

It’s all kind of a blur, honestly, but around 9:00pm here we were getting close to the end of reading our New Kids on the Block novel out loud and I was definitely struggling, voice-wise and otherwise.

Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

I think Zilpha Keatley Snyder is always a good choice–her books move along with great pacing and her characters all feel extremely human. She writes with such humor and compassion.

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

Nothing really comes to mind at the moment. I know how to improve my own experience, but this part was 100% on me. See, I didn’t participate in any mini-challenges this year because I wanted to make up for the lost reading time I accrued when I took a four-hour break for another activity early on, and I think in retrospect I would’ve enjoyed doing at least one or two. I got a fair amount of reading done but didn’t let myself enjoy the social media aspects of the event!

What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

Things seemed to go pretty smoothly. Again, I didn’t engage with the Read-a-thon itself as much this time as in the past, but I’m sure everyone did a great job. They always work so hard.

How many books did you read?

Six? Six. Most of them were very short.

What were the names of the books you read?

In order of reading: The Headless Cupid, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder; The Gecko and the Three Grave Robbers, a short comic by Cheez Hayama; New Kids on the Block: The Novels: Backstage Surprise, by Seth McEvoy and Laure Smith; Suicide Forest, a short horror comic by Dave Baker and Nicole Goux; Carrie, by Stephen King; and Goosebumps #9: Welcome to Camp Nightmare, by R.L. Stine.

Which book did you enjoy most?

“Enjoy” is a complicated word. I think I straight-up enjoyed The Headless Cupid the most, for the reasons listed above about how ZKS is a wonderful treasure–I’m sad she’s moved on from this world but I’m glad she left such a legacy of books behind. Jessica and I certainly bonded over NKOTB: TN: BS, which we read aloud to each other in its entirety. Please note that at 133 pages, reading the whole book aloud still took approximately three hours. (Then again, we had to keep stopping to laugh or dispute some highly unlikely plot points.)

Which did you enjoy least?

I didn’t get as much of a laugh out of the Goosebumps book as I thought I would! I mean, it was weird and goofy, but it was hard to top that NKOTB book. I mean, DANNY WOOD JUMPED ONTO A MOVING ROLLER COASTER AND CLIMBED ALONG THE OUTSIDE AS IF THIS WERE A TRAIN CAPER. I can’t.

If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?

Not applicable, but we got some good cheering from Jessica’s brother! I think letting Cheerleaders strategically target people who wanted/needed cheering was a good idea–was that a thing before?

How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

Oh, you know I’m there. I think Jessica and I would like to host the Mad Libs mini-challenge until Earth’s orbit decays and the sun burns out.

Jessica’s turn, if she’s so inclined!

Which hour was most daunting for you? I think I’ll agree with Mia about the hour near the end of the NKotB book. There were still really hilarious moments, but it just took a long time and, in particular, some of the scenes were Too Long. I also really struggled around Hours 21-22, pretty close to when I went to bed. Just plain ol’ tiredness!
Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? I always say that graphic novels are great! I especially recommend Astro City for people who like superhero comics AND people who don’t.
Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? As always, I do think there would be value in shifting the starting times.
What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? Everything seemed to run pretty smoothly!
How many books did you read? I finished four and read parts of 4 others.
What were the names of the books you read? I finished: New Kids on the Block: Backstage Surprise, Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Lost Adventures, Ms Marvel Volume 3: Crushed, Astro City. I did not finish: Shutter, The Invention of Murder, What Matters in Jane Austen, Frankenstein.
Which book did you enjoy most? Hmmm, that’s a good question. As Mia said, we bonded, with MUCH laughter and incredulity, over the NKotB book. I reread Astro City, which has long been one of my favorite comics and that was like returning to an old friend. Shutter was fun and action-y.
Which did you enjoy least? I honestly liked everything, but only got maybe 10% of the way into Frankenstein and haven’t quite gotten into the story yet.
If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? N/A
How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? Like Mia said, I’m in. As a reader and mad libs host!

Thanks for the great read-a-thon, guys! We love it. We love you. <3

Read-a-Thon Fall 2015 Introductory Meme

Yes, friends, it’s that time again: that time when Nisaba Be Praised clutters up your feed reader with a marathon of blog posts about reading and reading-related activities. I know–I, Mia, am excited too. I’ll go first for the intro meme.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

As is traditional, I’m reading from Jessica’s house in the East Bay. It just might rain here today, which is very thrilling for we dehydrated Californians.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Please admire said stack. It is very beautiful.


I might be most jazzed about New Kids on the Block: Backstage Surprise, if only because I’ve already read part of it, and it is exactly as good as you would expect. I think we’re going to have a wild time reading it out loud to one another.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Oh man, we stocked up on so many good snacks yesterday! Sweet potato tortilla chips and bean dip, those South-African-spiced chips that TJ’s has, crackers and cranberry goat cheese. Jessica also has a subscription box of snacks from around the world, and this month’s was from the Netherlands; in particular, there are these little wafer cookies that, instead of being strawberry or vanilla or whatever, are gouda-flavored. They sound really weird but I LOVE THEM. Come to me, gouda wafers.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I am Mia; my feet are cold; and I have never, ever heard a NKOTB song.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

One difference between this year and previous readathons is that I’ll be taking a break in a couple hours to go have brunch and do a clothing swap with some other friends. Events just kind of snowballed this weekend so I’m doing my best to have my cake and eat it too. Or, in this case, my quiche.


1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?  My house in the grand ol’ area of the Bay.
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Hmm, I think I have a pretty great stack up there, but I might most be looking forward to Frankenstein, which is living on my Kindle.
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Cranberry goat cheese and crackers! I always look forward to that coming back to Trader Joe’s.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I am a big soccer fan (go Quakes!) and went to a game yesterday!
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? I’m not planning on doing much differently, but I do have more comics in my stack than usual and I think that’s a good thing!

Bellweather Rhapsody, by Kate Racculia

Bellweather Rhapsody

by Kate Racculia

“A high school music festival goes awry when a young prodigy disappears from the most infamous room in the Bellweather Hotel, in a whip-smart novel sparkling with dark and giddy humor.

Fifteen years ago, a murder-suicide in room 712 rocked the grand old Bellweather Hotel and the young bridesmaid who witnessed it, Minnie Graves. Now hundreds of high school musicians, including quiet bassoonist Rabbit Hatmaker and his brassy diva twin, Alice, have gathered in its cavernous, crumbling halls for the annual Statewide festival; Minnie has returned to face her demons; and a colossal snowstorm is threatening to trap them all in the hotel. Then Alice’s roommate goes missing–from room 712. The search for her entwines an eccentric cast of characters: conductors and caretakers, failures and stars, teenagers on the verge and adults trapped in memories. For everyone has come to the Bellweather with a secret, and everyone is haunted.

Bellweather Rhapsody is a genre-bending page-turner, full of knowing nods to pop culture classics from The Shining to Agatha Christie to Glee. But its pleasures are beautifully deepened by Kate Racculia’s skill with her characters, her melancholy, affecting writing about music, and her fearlessness about the loss and darkness that underline the truest humor. This is a wholly winning new novel from a writer to watch.” (via Indiebound, minor edits for readability)


Good Things: One of the things I liked best about Bellweather Rhapsody was how it covers a lot of literary ground without ever feeling spread too thin. It’s a murder mystery, it’s a study of grief and pain, it’s a coming-of-age story. It travels through the ensemble cast and makes them all important and worth caring about; the Hatmaker twins and Minnie were my favorites, no doubt, but I never resented spending time with Fisher or Natalie or Hastings, which usually happens when I’m reading a novel with so many characters involved. There’s a lot of drama and theatrically big emotions, many tense sequences, and plenty of personal secrets to go around, and I was in just the right mood to fall into it all happily and ride the drama waves with everyone in the story.

Besides, for all the big feelings and big moments, there are little nuggets of truth about people that can pop up on you when you aren’t expecting them: Minnie’s coping mechanisms, and Alice’s true self under all her flashiness, and Rabbit’s surprising moments of confidence. Those pieces are going to stick with me past everything else, I think, and bring me back to read it and feel understood in the future.

Also, the bit about the middle section of “Jupiter” from The Planets is absolutely real and true and maybe the best thing I’ve ever read about it:

He knows that “Jupiter” is divided into three sections–the first and third are quick and cheerful, allegro giocoso, the essence of jollity (which Fisher finds hard to believe is actually a word). The middle is not silly. The middle is not syncopated. After some leftover tootling in the winds, the middle begins with strings moving together as one sonorous beast, slowly, majestically. The theme is restated, picking up winds and brass and percussion. It soars higher and higher until all the orchestra is reaching the same climactic phrase, released from gravity for only a moment, and gently falling back to earth.

It is a hymn, a prayer.

It’s the sound of several dozen souls singing the same song, and Fisher isn’t leading them. Fisher is one of them, his skinny arms swooping of their own accord. The middle doesn’t end so much as pause thoughtfully; more ridiculous merry bullshit is coming, but this feeling, this true joy, is always there. [loc 3360-3368]

Bad Things: I can’t call anything in this book bad–there were a few things that tugged at the edge of my attention, but nothing that ever dragged it away entirely. The theatricality of the characters’ inner lives works best with the younger players, I think; it makes sense that Alice and Rabbit would be full of big feelings, but equally big feelings coming from Natalie and Fisher, who are supposed to be the adults in this scenario, do feel a little inappropriate. Of course, that’s not to say that this wasn’t intentional. After all, they both experienced some messy things in their childhoods that affected their core beliefs about themselves, and emotional immaturity is hardly restricted to the young. Still, I felt a little bad when Viola Fabian, the clearest villain of the story, told Natalie to get over herself and I caught myself thinking, yeah, seriously.

Speaking of Viola: there are obviously sociopaths in real life, but Viola felt a little flat to me, especially among the wonderfully-realized other characters. A little mustache-twirly, if you will. At times her actions felt more like a plot device to bring the other characters together, rather than the believable decisions of a real (if screwed-up) character in her own right.

Overall: I know some folks use the word “romp” to backhandedly compliment media, but I am not one of those people. This book is rompy and a little silly and a little serious, and I loved it. I’m already looking forward to reading it again in a year or two.

Full Disclosure: The author is an internet friend of mine. Nevertheless, I paid for my copy of the book with my own money (albeit on sale), and I told her in advance that I’d be objective in my review.

Hour 14 Mini-Challenge: Color Cover

Hey, readers and reader groupies! (Are there Read-a-thon groupies? Probably not.) Mia here. Are we really over halfway through already? Jessica and Brian and I missed the first few hours, but even so–woof! How are y’all doing? I won a door prize too! Excuse my victory dance.

I decided to take a quick break from reading to do Wishful Endings‘ color-cover mini-challenge; I was inspired by a very good and very HOT PINK book that I finished right before the Read-a-thon, Alice + Freda Forever by Alexis Coe. (I highly recommend it!) However, since my own library isn’t at my disposal, I decided to make it an internet search instead of IRL. Here’s what I ended up with:


Okay, so they’re not all the same shade of pink, but close enough for horseshoes. Truthfully, I’ve only read the first two, but I’ve heard good things about Hot Pink, and Polina looks like a lovely, expressive comic of the type that the French are so good at.

So! There you go. Four pink covers. Go read Alice + Freda Forever. End transmission.

The Secret Daughter of the Tsar Giveaway Winner!

It’s that time, folks–time to announce the winner of the giveaway for a signed copy of Jennifer Laam’s The Secret Daughter of the Tsar. Can’t you just feel the excitement coursing through the air? Or maybe that’s Febreze.

ANYWAY, drumroll please!

Close enough.

And the winner is:


Alex! Congratulations, Alex! We’ll be in touch for your address so that The Secret Daughter of the Tsar can find its way to you.

Thanks to everybody who entered–even if you didn’t win, I recommend checking it out if you’re even the slightest bit interested in mystery, history, or…*checks rhyming dictionary* blistery?

Well, maybe not that last one, but the first two, definitely.