Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Favorite Beginnings and Endings In Books

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish blog with a different top ten list theme (all related to books) every Tuesday (see the full list here).

My Five Favorite Beginnings 

1. Incarceron by Catherine Fischer- this book pulls off two intense and completely different settings, premises, characters, and inciting incidents in the first two chapters. The ending is pretty amazing, too, with a twist that made my eyes about pop. I've read a lot of science fiction this year, but this one tops them all.

2. The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud.  Just thinking about how Bartimaeus, a jinn with an attitude and endless flow of opinions, steps onto the page makes me grin and want to read this story all over again.

3. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman - this beginning is a little weird, but it captivated me: a child who can remember being born and being an infant... and not just any infant but a....well now I think I'll just leave you guessing, there.

4. Across the Universe by Beth Revis - probably one of my most vividly remembered first chapters ever. This chapter was so striking - a family watching each other being cyrogenically frozen - that I read it several times before I even moved on to the rest of the story!

5. The Help by Katherine Stockett - my first four are science fiction and fantasy, but this one is set in 1960's Mississippi, and Aibileen's voice is imprinted in my memory forever, so full of love and bitter sadness at the same time.

My Five Favorite Endings

1. Holes by Louis Sachar.  The sneakers, the peach sploosh, the onions, the yellow-spotted lizards, and even a notebook fished out of a toilet - none of these had anything to do with each other. Until the end. But suddenly all these seemingly unrelated things add up to a multi-faceted pay-off, like puzzle pieces not fitting together individually but only all at once.  

2. Sabriel by Garth Nix. This books packs not one awesome climax, but TWO. Just when you think you've been through the most intense confrontation possible, you have to go through another one! Come to think of it, there's actually three riveting journeys/confrontations Sabriel goes through, each building on each other in tension.

3. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.  How Meg manages to save her brother at the end of the story still makes me shiver in wonder.

4. Fablehaven by Brandon Mull. This ending took off in a surprising direction, some might call it a dues ex machina even, but I loved it.

5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I loved how Katniss and Peeta handled the manipulations at the end of the Games - their choice to stand by each other no matter what. Fist pump!

What's your favorite beginning or ending?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Breaking Glass (review)

If you'd like a version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - YA style, then Breaking Glass, by Lisa Amowitz, is for you. It's not set in Sweden, but it is about a missing girl and complex relationships. Instead of computer hacker goth girl Lisbeth, Susannah is curvy and bronzy and an artist/videographer. Though she's missing,  we get to know her through a series of expertly crafted flashbacks. 

Then there's Jeremy, who is down on his luck (way, way down on his luck) like Mikael Blomkvist and determined to solve the mystery of the missing Susannah. And you've got some really dark history in this story like with the Vanger family in Sweden. 

Susannah's YouTube stop-animation videos are a fascinating touch, and Susannah herself, she's such a vivid character even though she's missing for most of the book (kind of reminds of Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca). But is she missing or is she dead? And if she's dead, as her videos imply, how is she able to send messages to Jeremy from beyond the grave? Wow, this book had some wild elements to it, and some great twists. None of which I can really share, because it would ruin the surprises. 

There are two things that aren't hinted at in the book blurb that are worth knowing and we find these out in the first 50 pages so I think it's okay to bring them up here without hiding them behind spoilers. But first I'm going to share my favorite quotes here, to share a taste of the writing style. Scroll down past the quotes if you want to find out what issues the book deals with. 

Here's a taste of Susannah:
She glanced at me and smiled a darkly shy cat smile, as if she knew she'd just taken permanent possession of my soul.
Love this description:
Dad gives me his sorrowful one-cornered smile, as if there's a tax on using both sides of his mouth. Or maybe they don't work in tandem.
Another impressive description:
...the floor is slanting beneath me, pain peeling away my vision in strips of hot black
One of things I loved about Jeremy is that he's a history buff. Artists are fairly common in YA lit (though Susannah's stop-animation is new to me), but I'm not sure if I've run into a history buff before, and I loved it (his friends bring him the complete set of Ken Burn's Civil War series while he's recovering). 
No one tells a history freak he can't dig up the past.
Marisa is another character worth mentioning; I liked how she developed into the story.

Now, here's the stuff that's borderline spoiler:

Jeremy is in a accident and his leg is so badly damaged that after 3 weeks the doctors decide to amputate it. This, no surprise, drastically worsens Jeremy's alcoholism. At times I felt like Jeremy's severe depression as he deals with these things would drag me down, too, but he's driven (almost saved, in a way) by his determination to solve the mystery of Susannah's disappearance (there's also some interesting manipulation that goes on). Anyway, the few times I was tempted to set the novel aside for a while because it was too depressing, I'm glad I didn't, because these issues were dealt with realistically (I believe) and in an eye-opening way.

 I imagine a teenage boy - a track star, no less - would be suicidal after losing a leg, and Jeremy borders on this for a long time, but the story follows him through different stages of depression and recovery without being too heavy-handed - and it's hard to deal with a heavy subject without getting heavy-handed. So kudos to Breaking Glass for pulling this off. 

I was provided a copy of Breaking Glass by Spencer Hill Press for my honest review.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A strange pattern with names

A character with a
great original name:
Baby names often follow popular trends. When I was a kid, Lisa and Michelle were enormously popular names. About 10 years ago, everywhere I turned there were little girls named McKenzie or Madison and right now Emma is popular.

What's funny is how the same names crop up in recent books too... at least in the young adult titles. I've run into characters with the same names, but enormously different personalities. The different personalities and situations make it easy to adjust to a new character with the same name, but it still amuses me.

This has mostly happened with protagonists (the good guys). I imagine it would be more disconcerting to see a new hero show up with the same name as the antagonist in the previous book!

And you know how we develop negative associations with names? I wanted to name one of my daughters Noelle, but my husband said no because he knew a girl by that name. I have a few names like that too, but haven't run into them in any novels yet. I wonder if it would matter if a protagonist had one of my "do not like" names.

Here's a sampling of common names in recent YA novels:

Anna - The Rules of Disappearing (2013) by Ashley Elston
Anna - Altered (2013) by Jennifer Rush

Trev - Altered (2013) by Jennifer Rush
Trevor - Pivot Point (2013) by Kasie West

Addie - Pivot Point (2013) by Kasie West
Addie - What's Left of Me (2012) by Kat Zhang

Eva - What's Left of Me (2012) by Kat Zhang
Eva - The Lost Girl (2012) by Sangu Mandanna

Seraphina - Seraphina (2012) by Rachel Hartman
Seraphina - The Alchemy of Forever (2012) by Avery Williams

Kai - Cinder (2012) by Marissa Meyer
Kai - For Darkness Shows the Stars (2012), by Diana Peterfreund
Ky - Matched series (2010-2012) by Ally Condie

Zenn - Zenn Scarlett, by Christian Schoon (2013)
Zenn - Possession series, by Elana Johnson (2011-2013)

Scarlet - Scarlet  (2012) by A.C. Gaughen
Scarlet - Scarlet (2013) by Marissa Meyer

Cole - Everneath (2012) by Brodi Ashton
Cole - Linger, Forever (2010, 2011) by Maggie Stiefvator

Lola - Lola and the Boy Next Door (2012) by Stephanie Perkins
Lola - The Secret Ingredient (2013) by Stewart Lewis

And kind of similar:

Olivia - The Secret Ingredient (2013) by Steward Lewis
Oliver - the Art of Wishing (2013) - Lindsay Ribar

Katie - Ink (2013) by
Kate - Die For Me (2011) by Amy Plum

June - The Summer Prince (2013) by Alaya Dawn Johnson
June - Legend (2011) by Marie Lu

Lala - Burning (2013) by Elana K Arnold
Leela - The Binding Stone (2013) by Lisa Gail Green

Liesel - The Book Thief (2006) by Marcus Zusak
Liesl - Liesl and Po (2011)  by Lauren Olivier

Now personally, I like names that aren't very common, and especially names that suggest something other than white American teenagers... not that I have anything against white American teenagers (I was one myself, a long time ago). But the hint of another culture is intriguing, to me. Here's some of my recent favorites:

Karou - Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor
Yukiko - Stormdancer, by Jay Kristoff
Theo - Never Gone, by Laurel Garver
Ismae - Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers
Margo - The Art of Wishing, by Lindsay Ribar (personal bias!)
Elliot - For Darkness Shows the Stars (a girl, her name is a play on Jane Austen's Ann Elliot)
Harry - The Blue Sword (a girl!) by Robin McKinley
Savvy - A Spy Like Me  by Laura Pauling (I just love this name!)

Do fictional names matter to you, or does the character always trump the name?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: My Workspace

I've been interviewed over at the Writing Nut blog today about my writing habits and workspace! Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, especially when talking about yourself (ha) so here is a preview....

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us  and visit other bloggers participating. 

What I’m Reading: Parallel by Lauren Miller and The Time Fetch by Amy Herrick.  Parallel is about Abby trying to keep up with her life as it changes everyday due to choices made by the "parallel" version of herself in parallel universe - taking on big questions like fate and destiny - fascinating!  The Time Fetch I've just started, but it has two odd and vibrant characters - Edward and Feenix, and I'm already hooked by their great voices, and so intrigued by this concept of a time fetch.
What I’m Writing:   I am writing, but I choose to be utterly mysterious about what I'm working on. It's a new idea (okay, a fairytale retelling) that I just started playing with.  
What Else I’ve Been Up To:  recently came back from a camping trip in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming with my whole family plus a dog, five horses, and a nest of baby birds under our trailer hitch that we didn't realize we'd abducted until it was too late. My girls (ages six to eleven) did an awesome job collecting bugs to keep the baby birds alive. And amazingly, everything went smoothly with our horses, and no one (horses or kids) got hurt. We had some trail rides in breathtaking mountains and valleys I will never forget. Here's a picture I took during one of our rides:

What’s Inspiring Me Now:  this is an odd little thing to find inspiration in, but on the Zen Habits blog last week there was a post on Why Fear of Discomfort Might be Ruining Your Life.  Here's how it starts:
Think about the major problems in your life — from anxiety to lack of regular exercise to a bad diet to procrastination and more.Pretty much every one of these problems is caused by a fear of discomfort. Discomfort isn’t intense pain, but just the feeling you get when you’re out of your comfort zone. 
I have a big issue with procrastination because there's some tasks I just don't want to start. But by recognizing my discomfort with starting (for instance, procrastinating writing a new chapter), it kind of neutralizes it, if that makes any sense. The post has some simple but effective advice for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Plus, as a bonus, this week on the blog there's a post on The Art of Tasting Chocolate Mindfully. Yum!

Has there been any inspiration, summer vacations, or chocolate in your life recently? Do tell.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Top Ten Authors Who Deserve More Recognition

When I scanned through my Goodreads books for this list, I purposely only picked books I loved that didn't have many ratings or reviews yet.

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish blog with a different top ten list theme (all related to books) every Tuesday (see the full list here).

1. Jennifer H. Lynne (MG/YA crossover)- Catch Rider - this book just came out and it's the first debut book this year that got a 5 star rating from me, the rating I save only for books that steal my heart and I know I'll want to read again (and again). This is an author I'm already waiting impatiently for more more books from. Yes, it's a horse book, but I think anyone would fall in love with Sidney, the main character. Her voice! Oh my, I absolutely loved her voice, honest and belligerent without being snarky... and a touch redneck! I'll be posting a review on this one soon.

2. Diane Lee Wilson (MG)- I've read two of her books, To Ride the God's Own Stallion (boy main character, set in ancient Assyria) and I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade (girl main character, set in Kublai Khan's Mongolia) and I plan to read all her books. These are both AMAZING historicals, with great characters, intense scenes (races, lion hunts!), and beautiful, heart-felt writing. I cannot believe these books are not more popular. I almost want to go on personal crusade to every book store and library within driving distance to promote these books.

3. Gail Giles (YA) - Right Behind You. This is a riveting book, about a boy who accidentally kills another neighborhood kid, and living with the consequences - it's surprisingly full of hope and a tremendous read. This author has more ratings than the others on my list, but still not as many as I expected. I plan to read more of her books.

4. Jeanette Ingold (YA), The Window. From my review: "The writing in this book is so charged, it's almost electrified."  Another author I want to read more of, and am surprised she has garnered so little attention.

5. Laurel Garver (YA), Never Gone.  An Indie author with a story that tugged at my heart, and impressed me with some of its beautiful and relatable touches. From my review: I've never experienced grief on the level as Dani, but I felt like I was going through her grief with her, her confusion and frustration and yearning - I was drawn that close to her character. "It's like I woke up in another country and all the maps in my head have only made me more lost."

6. Lisa Gail Green (YA), The Binding Stone. Another Indie author with a fast-paced story about djinnis and teenagers with an interesting mix of humor and darkness. From my review: I love present-time and past-time threaded stories. Love, love, love! The Binding Stone weaves the two times together delicately and relentlessly. 

7. Laura Pauling (YA),  A Spy Like Me. Indie author I'll definitely read more of especially since her recent release, Heist, has a time twist in it (love those!) From my review of A Spy Like  Me: "Reminded me of an up-to-date version of a Nancy Drew mystery, but with more complexity, more tension, and - best of all - a great teen voice that kept me smiling through all the adventure, mystery, and French pastries"

8. Karen Hancock (Christian), Arena.  I read this book so long ago it wasn't even on my Goodreads list, but when this Top Ten topic came up I knew I needed to add it (and I plan to read it again). After the first chapter, this book takes you off on a wild ride that I can't even describe. It's sort of like a dystopia, sort like a fantasy, with a feel of the Hunger Games in there, too. I was hoping to see it had more ratings on Goodreads since it's been out now for 10 years, but I was pleased to see it's been repackaged and reprinted! I think this one has potential to become a cult classic.

9. Lynn Hall  (MG) - I've read nearly a dozen of her books: these were staples that I grew up on, mostly published in the 1980's. Her most famous is A Horse Called Dragon, but they are all great kids horse and dog books. I read them over and over. They are just as good as many of Marguerite Henry's famous books like Misty of Chincoteague.

10. Mary O'Hara (MG), My Friend Flicka series. I'm cheating here because My Friend Flicka is justifiably famous with a movie to its name and a remake. But the movies are so not like the book, they don't begin to do it justice. And the rest of the series is sadly neglected, even though I feel the books get even better. These stories are beloved to kids but they have a near mystical quality to them in certain spots, too, plus a lot of deep things to ponder over. I have read them over and over and over and each time I get more out of them.  My absolute favorite books!

What author(s) do you think deserve more recognition?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

If you could visit Harry Potter's world...

Harry Potter Meme

I found this on the Magic Violinist's blog, which is my happiest blog discovery this  month! She also does Quote-a-thons from my favorite movies, like the Princess Bride and Despicable Me.

Would you rather go to prom with Harry, Draco or Ron?
I'm a little old for those three. Really, I'm a little old for prom. But I'd love to go disguised as an owl and sit in the rafters and watch the fun.
Would you rather be sorted into Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin?
Ravenclaw fits me, but I've a bit off Hufflepuff in me too.

Would you rather explore the forbidden forest or the halls of Hogwarts?
Tough one! I'm more of a nature girl, but the high likelihood of monsters makes me hesitate, unless Hagrid was with me. And how could one pass up the chance to explore Hogwarts? I'd let the moving staircases take me off to random places. Too hard to choose!

Would you rather enroll in Potions, Charms, Divination or Defense Against The Dark Arts?
Do they offer a "using magic in your writing" class? 

Would you rather buy an owl, cat, rat or toad?
I'm a cat person, but I think toads don't get the attention they deserve.  Could I have two?

Would you rather have in possession: the elder wand, resurrection stone, or the cloak of invisibility?
Can I pass on these and request Hermione's time turner? The cloak of invisibility is so tempting, but I'm so clumsy I'd give myself away even with it.  The elder wand is too much responsibility. And the resurrection stone is too... again, too much for a mere mortal. 

Would you rather be tutored by Luna Lovegood or Hermione Granger?
My first instinct is to say Luna, even though I love Hermione dearly and she'd probably be much more helpful. But Luna would be more entertaining, and my brain works more like hers than Hermione's.

Would you rather, in the final battle, fight against Nagini (the snake) or Bellatrix?
I'm just going to pass this question (shivers).

Would you rather fight a basilisk or a dragon?
I'm going to change this to which would you rather make friends with, because scary creatures need love too.  A dragon.

Would you rather be a part of the Malfoy family or Weasley family?
... Is this supposed to be a trick question? Weasleys!

Would you rather have a butterbeer or pumpkin juice?

Would you rather fly on a broomstick, Hagrid's motorbike or Buckbeak?
Buckbeak. I'm all about the mythical creatures.

Would you rather have a conversation with Daniel Radcliffe or J.K. Rowling?
Rowling, of course. I'd want all the details on how she got her ideas, because I love hearing stories about how writers got their ideas.

Random tidbits about Harry Potter at our house:

1. My six year old twins for some reason always refer to Harry Potter as Peter Potter. I'm not sure why - some confusion with Peter Pan? Or Peter Rabbit? (hah!) Anyway I'll be sad when they outgrow it.

2. My older daughter had a slip of the tongue and said  Harry Potty the other day and we are having WAY too much with that.

3. Which has in turn inspired frequent refrains of "Poor poor Roddy, flushed down his own potty" (from the movie Flushed Away).

Okay my reading friends, join the Harry potter meme! Consider yourselves all tagged.  I'll add one bonus question:  what's your favorite Harry Potter book, of the seven? (Hah! I can't even answer that one!) (well, if I must, probably the Goblet of Fire). 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Insecure Writers' Support Group: My Great Idea is Already Taken

Good grief I have at least four things I'm insecure about in my little writing world these days.

1.  I picked up an intriguing YA science fiction book not long ago and settled in for a happy read, when in the very first chapter my world fell apart. My Super Awesome Science Fiction Idea that is like the Big Thing in my story Star Tripped- yup! - it's already been thought of. And written about. And just released.  I'm finally over the sobbing stage. I'm hoping maybe my idea is different enough that this won't be a problem. Maybe. Very insecure about it, though. Way too insecure to mention which book just rattled my entire writing world.

2. My family is going camping this weekend up in the mountains. Which means no internet. Yay! And no electricity. Yay - wait! Wait! My laptop battery will only last 3 hours. And then what shall I write upon? It's been so long since I used pen and paper. Can I still do it? Yes, it's pathetic, but this insecurity is making me anxious.

3. I bought a new laptop with Windows 8 on it. Yay for new laptop! Boo for Windows 8! It's very disorienting, and thus, it makes me very insecure. When writing time is a precious commodity, the last thing I need is a weird uncomfortable computer experience. I know I should just buckle down and get used to Windows 8, just like I'm trying to make the transition from Microsoft Word to YWriter (free software, yay! Unfamiliar software, scary!) But writing pushes me out of my comfort zone enough; I don't need to have computer and software issues pushing the zone, too (the apps keep switching on me! The trackpad has developed a will of its own!).  So I think I'm going to exchange the laptop for one with Windows 7. Just so you know, Dell will sell brand new computers with Windows 7, you just have to call and specifically ask for it. (Ssssh, the salesperson admitted he didn't like Windows 8, either). (Or you can become an Apple person and avoid this issue entirely. Tempting. Apple users never seem as stressed as Windows users).

4. I had a sudden inexplicable urge to write a story about Bigfoot (also known as Sasquatch), today.  I suppose because I haven't written anything about mythical creatures in a long time, and mythical creatures are my one of *things*, you know. Sasquatch and I have a long history going back to several traumatic and overly-imaginative childhood events (that's another blog post for someday), so this sudden urge is a little scary and mysterious and potentially insecurity-related.

Thank you, Alex Cavanaugh, our founder, and all the other members of Insecure Writer's Support Group. I feel better now that I have all this off my chest.  I think I will go light a few fireworks to celebrate!

Did I freak you out mentioning Bigfoot? Or Windows 8? Do share.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

My Top Ten Most Intimidating Books

My favorite intimidating character,
Miranda, from The Devil Wears Prada
 (which isn't intimidating to read
at all, by the way)
I broke this list up into books I managed to read, even though they were intimidating, and books I haven't got around to trying yet, because I'm still too intimidated. I read mostly middle grade and young adult books, so intimidation isn't something I usually need to worry about. Especially since modern books are geared fast and sweetly balance details and action and tension to keep our attention.

This week's Top Ten topic made me appreciate all the required reading in high school and college though. I used to grumble that teachers make you read such painful books, but if they hadn't I'd have missed out on a lot of worthwhile literature simply because, on my own, it's too intimidating.

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish blog with a different top ten list theme (all related to books) every Tuesday (see the full list here).

Top 5 Most Intimidating Books I've Read

1.  Out of the Silent Planet, by C.S. Lewis
I put off reading this book (and the rest of its trilogy) for decades, because I'd sampled it briefly while in college and was deeply troubled (being a huge fan of science fiction) that I couldn't wade my way into these books.... yet. I love C.S. Lewis. I admire him even more than Tolkien, and I fully intend to read all of his books (I'm about 2/3rds of the way through the list).  These are really amazing books (the ideas and imagery are mindbending), but they aren't light reading, that's for sure. 

2. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy 
Not nearly as intimidating as War and Peace, but I hesitated to read this one, intimidated by its length. But I loved the 1997 movie version so much, I finally broke down and started reading it, and was actually surprised by how fast moving it was (yes, there were some slow spots), but an absolutely fantastic book. 

3. The Sun Also Rises,  Ernest Hemingway
A few years after Hemingway's the Old Man and the Sea made me all kinds of impressed and sad at the same time, I tried my hand at another Hemingway, and this book seriously intimidated me. I was probably too young to get the characters or the story, kind of like I was with the Great Gatsby in high school. But I muddled my way through it. 

4. The Stranger, Albert Camus
This isn't a long book, but it was intimidating because the main character is so... unrelatable. The book is famous for being such a vivid and harsh example of existentialism; it was required reading but worthwhile because it is such a landmark in literature. 

5. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
I actually picked this one up of my own free will, but after the first chapter I mostly skimmed it, and as a result I don't think I got anything useful out of it at all, which is a shame. Still, not enough of a shame that I've ever been tempted to try to read it again. This is one of those rare cases where Cliff Notes are truly worthwhile.

Top 5 Most intimidating books I haven't read

1. Anything by Charles Dickens
I started  to read a Tale of Two Cities once upon a time, and quickly gave up. I know I should try again, and I feel like a total wus for being so intimidated by Dickens, but I am. I just am. It's not entirely rational. 

2.  Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
Another one I tried to read once, a long, long time ago and my failure was huge that I've never been brave enough to try again.  [later edit: seeing that I adored Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, I might someday give this one a try again. Might.]

3. Anything by Shakespeare
Before you leap across the internet and strangle me, let me defend myself: I did read MacBeth and King Lear in high school, and parts of Romeo and Juliet, and I do love so many quotes from Shakespeare. I could quote him endlessly.  I admire him, absolutely. But his work intimidates me, for all of my admiration. I think it's because I've always struggled to read plays. 

4. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevksy
I really want to read this book. Seriously, if I die not having read this book, I will be ashamed of myself. I will be a sorry excuse for a human being. But I am so intimidated, and for no good reason. It might be just like Anna Karenina: once I finally open the pages, I'll be swept away. But I haven't been brave enough to open the pages yet. 

5. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
I do feel  at times I can't call myself a real reader, a serious reader, not having read any Steinbeck other than Of Mice and Men.  I'm not sure why, but I'd rather read Edward Gibbon's the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and the collected works of Aristotle and Socrates before this one. It's just that intimidating. Someone tell me just to get over myself and read it. 

What's your most intimidating read? 
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