"I Dare You" Book Tag

I have a train to catch at 6:40 tomorrow morning for a trip that I haven't packed for yet.  But I procrastinated by checking my email (as one does) and then was caught up in the entertainment that is Cait from Paper Fury. Check her blog out.  She has all the awesome, and you will not be sorry.  She did the "I Dare You" book tag, and of course, I feel the need to be writing this blog post instead of, you know, doing what I am supposed to be doing.  See how daring I am?!  

I am not sure of the origin of the tag.  My VPN isn't working so I can't Google, and Bing IS NOT THE SAME.  If anyone knows, please tell me so I can credit. Cite your sources, Tara.

1. What book has been on your shelves the longest?

This is an interesting question because when I went overseas, I basically gave up all of my physical books for my Kindle.  OMG, that was expensive.  And frustrating because it has taken me YEARS to build my collection backlog back up.  So, either we agree that the three boxes of books that I still have in my mother's attic (I have slowly been getting rid of them over the years. Three is an accomplishment!) But honestly, my kindle.

And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga, #1)  by Kiersten White cover

2. What is your current read, your last read, and the book you’ll read next?

Current read: And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga, #1) by Kiersten White
Last Read: The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore
Next Read: The Crown's Game (The Crown's Game, #1) by Evelyn Skye
I just realized, all of these books are recommendations from Cait.  What can I say? She knows her stuff. We have similar enough tastes that I usually pick up any book she has raved about.  

Caraval (Caraval, #1) by Stephanie Garber cover

3. What book did everyone like, but you hated?

Recently, Caraval (Caraval, #1) 
by Stephanie Garber and Into Shadow.  They both have overwhelmingly positive reviews but I DNF both of them.  Which is weird for me.  Did not like.

I don't own this book but you get the point

I don't own this book but you get the point

4. What book do you keep telling yourself you’ll read, but you probably won’t?

All of my language textbooks which I have sadly abandoned but keep telling myself that I will get to.  Eventually.  Someday. Listen, I plan to be multi-lingual and will have to hit the books at some point.

Swann's Way (In Search of Lost Time, #1)  by Marcel Proust cover

5. Which book are you saving for retirement?

Swann's Way (In Search of Lost Time, #1) 
by Marcel Proust. Because at this point in my life I don't have time for a twenty-two page first sentence.  But I also have aspirations of being an intellectual someday.  So, I have it on my list to read but am going to put it off as long as humanly possible.

6. Last Page: read it first, or wait until the end?

OMG, that's not how reading even works!  You start at the beginning, and when you get to the end, you stop.  Sometimes you start over, but you never start at the end. Never, do you hear!

7. Acknowledgment: waste of paper and ink, or interesting aside?

I love them.  I can think of some books where I actually liked the acknowledgments more than the book itself.  There are so few chances in life to be genuinely happy and excited about something without irony, cynicism, or an attempt to be cool..  Acknowledgments and Lin-Manuel Miranda are two of the last holdouts.  

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)  by J.K. Rowling cover

8. Which book character would you switch places with?

Hermione.  There is no question.  Maybe Blue but she has a bit too much unfocused hostility.  Hermione has herself put together in a way that I aspire to. Yup, I am totally successful at this whole adult thing.

Oh, yes this was the cover.  Obsessed I tell you!

Oh, yes this was the cover.  Obsessed I tell you!

9. Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life (a person, a place, a time)?

Harry Potter reminds me of my friend Gabrielle because we often talk about them.  The Babysitter Club and especially the first Super Special, Babysitters on Board (the fact that I know this off the top of my head makes me want to roll my eyes at myself) make me think of being seven, getting a library card of my own for the first time, and of my childhood best friend, Virginia.  We were so obsessed.  The book Beauty makes me think of my middle school library where I checked out the book Beauty.  I was in seventh grade, and I have read it at least once a year ever since.

Awesome book if this is your thing.

Awesome book if this is your thing.

10. Name a book that you acquired in an interesting way.

Well, I was at a literacy conference in Thailand last month.  All the speakers there were authors.  Mostly, of nonfiction how to teach reading and writing correctly, dammit.  I won a book by one of the authors who then signed it for me.  Yay!  We then went on a river cruise (well, like 70 of us) and I ended up sitting next to another author on the bus who asked to see the book and then mocked the books author for his generic inscription.  The first author took up the challenge, and we all went out carousing on the town.  Yes, I did just make a short and interesting story long and boring.  Sorry.

I should do tags more often. They are very fun. What do you think?  Am I am daring as I think?

The Essential Sights of Beijing

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You could spend the rest of your life just exploring Beijing.  It is an ancient city of 22 million people. You aren't going to be coming to the end of it anytime soon.  Unfortunately, you are probably on a limited schedule when you come to visit. Here are my picks as to the best highlights to maximize your use of time.

Essential Beijing Experiences

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The Temple of Heaven

I think that the Temple of Heaven is one of the most beautiful places in Beijing and that the Hall of Good Harvest is a gorgeous building in the world.  What you start to notice when you visit Beijing is how little about China you know.  China's history is so rarely brought up in schools in the west even if you do massive amounts of reading and studying beforehand; you will be constantly amazed.  There is the main track leading through the site but don't forget to peel off after or before to enjoy the gardens, pavilions,  and the outlying buildings.



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The Great Wall

You cannot come to Beijing-Especially as a first timer- and not go and see the wall. It is not optional and for excellent reasons.  It is just that spectacular.  You can improve your experience immensely with just a little planning of where and when to go.  Do not just go to just any location.  There are four main places to see the wall within a reasonable distance from Beijing's city center.  
Badaling is far too close and crowded.  All day every day.  And the wall isn't somewhere that a crowd will enhance. This part of the wall is where most of the Chinese tour groups get taken.  It is intense.   
Mutianyu is slightly farther away.  It tends to be where foreigners are told to go.  Hotels have tour groups that come and because there is a bus from the city lots of backpackers.    It is crowded, and I don't like how overly restored it is.  The wall there feels a bit like a Disneyland version of the wall. Badaling has this same issue TBH.  There is, however, a terrifying toboggan ride down if that is your sort of thing. 
Jinshanling is okay.  It isn't set up as well as the other places, but if you go during the week, the site isn't oppressively stuffed with your fellow humanity.  There are way more stairs on the wall itself here, and the view isn't as good as in other places.  

The wall there feels a bit like a Disneyland version of the wall.

Simatai is my favorite.  It isn't more than a few more minutes a total drive time than Jinshanling.  It took two hours the last time I went there from Sanlitun, but it has taken as much as four and a half depending on traffic.  There is a Watertown at the base of the mountain.  It is completely fake and made for the tourists, but it is brand new and clean.  It is again a Disneyfied version of China.  my father enjoyed it when he came to visit. It takes about an hour to walk through to the lifts up to the wall itself.   You can, however, choose to completely bypass it and take a shuttle bus to the cable cars.  If you go during the week, you can be lucky and have the wall completely to yourself.  I think that the view from Simatai is the best as the mountain falls away from the wall itself dramatically.  There used to be a hike that you could take from Simatai to Jinshanling, but I have been there four times, and the wall has never been open in that direction.  If you are super into hiking, I would suggest looking into the parts of the wall that are not restored.  TL/DR- Weekday Simatai is your best bet. Ignore the fact that there is a woman next to you dressed in a ballgown and wear clothes you are comfortable hiking in.

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This is an art district and the center of Chinese hipsterdom. It is one of those places that is improved by the bustling crowd so plan on going on the weekend.  There are endless galleries, art "museums", art exhibitions, shops, and restaurants (the coffee is good but none of the food has impressed me yet).  

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The Summer Palace

One of my favorite places in Beijing.  It is beautiful even in the winter but at it's most spectacular in April.  Definitely, go on a weekday.  It is a whole day affair.  Spring for the audio guide.  When they are offered, they are quite worth it.  Do yourself a favor and wear comfortable shoes


Houhai Lake and NLGX

Do you like crowds? Let me tell you that there is nowhere on earth better for people watching than China. This is an outing better done on the weekend.  If you walk around the lake and then swing around to NLGX a gentrified and commercialized houtong nearby you will see modern Beijing at it's most authentic.  My favorite shops are Plastered 8, which has really cool Beijing t-shirts and merchandise and the store that makes jewelry out of ancient broken porcelain (beware: it is very very expensive, and you will want it all)

Drum and Bell Towers

This is the Chinese equivalent of a clock tower. You might not think that you are interested in historical Chinese methods of keeping time but you would be wrong, my friend.  The view alone is worth it. Warning: if you can't do stairs then this is not a place you want to waste your time on.  Both towers have very steep six-story staircases (without a break) Make sure that you go on a clear day and that you stay for the regular drum show.

Make sure that you go on a clear day and that you stay for the regular drum show.
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The Forbidden City/ Tiananmen Square

This is a whole day thing.  Really.  You are going to be here all day.  Accept it.  There is so much to see.  Tiananmen Square doesn't take that long.  Maybe an hour.   Has anyone been to the sunrise flag raising?  I have lived here for three years and have not been to it yet.  Is it worth it?  If you can figure it out (it isn't that difficult, honestly) take the subway. 
 Taxis can't drop you off in front of the city, and you will be wandering for awhile.  How is possible to lose a city?!  Not that that has ever happened to me.  At all.  Get the through pass.  Actually, if there is an option for a through pass anywhere in Beijing get it.  It isn't that much more, and it will save you SO much hassle and get you in some of the hidden places of the city.  In the Forbidden City, the Hall of Clocks is particularly impressive.  Be prepared to mix up your dynasties.  If you wanted to extend your day you can visit Mao's Mausoleum in the center of the Square and the park across the street of the exit of the Forbidden City.  If you clim to the Pagoda on the hill in the park you get an unparralled view of the scope of the city and the square.

What even is this?

What even is this?

Acrobatic Show

I think that there might be a couple but I have always gone to the one at the Chaoyang Theater in the Central Business District.  There are several performances a day and the tickets are easily bought on line through the website or through trip advisor.  The tickets aren't as cheap as you might expect. About 40$ a person for an hour show.  But holy crap your mind is going to be blown.  Think of Cirque du Solei.  Then amp that up to 11.  If acrobatics has a box, then this group laughs at it and then uses that box to juggle motorcycles.  The first four rows are cheaper and worth getting.

Things that you could skip:

The Olympic Park: It is huge, kind of empty and honestly a little depressing since the stadiums fell into disrepair almost immediately.
Prince Gong's Mansion: If you have seen the Forbidden City and The Temple of Heaven the palace doesn't have much more to offer and it is always FULL OF PEOPLE.  I think that it is on a tourist route, but there is just not enough room for everyone
The CBD: Drive through it once.  There are the buildings.  Yes, super impressive.  Job done.

Have you visited Beijing?  What are your essentials hot spots?

Ew, No: Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly NOT Want To Read A Book

Top ten Tuesday is an awesome meme hosted by those great ladies at the Broke and the Bookish.

Top ten Tuesday is an awesome meme hosted by those great ladies at the Broke and the Bookish.

Ah, that moment that you are going through Goodreads and come across a book that your entire being rejects. I read a lot so I tend to know what I like and what is going to annoy me.  Here are the things that I  automatically pass over when adding to the mountain that is my TBR pile. 

 I am writing this list but, of course, there are always exceptions... mostly due to an author that I love using one of these tropes.




Unless you have something pretty frickin' different to sell me (doubtful), I am bored as hell with this genre. Oh, yes, the world seems creepily perfect, but with some horrifying secret underneath. What's this? Is it possibly a parallel with modern life!? Shocking!

Biker Gangs

Am I supposed to be overlooking the rampant misogyny? Yeah, no. I am not cool with the illegal biker gang thing, and even the legal ones aren't all that interesting to me. Maybe there is something about freedom or community? Not for me.

The MC is a Middle Aged or Older White Man

Possibly he is a literature professor and contemplating cheating on his wife. He is boring, and I have better things to do with my time. 


Southern Belle

Nope. I hated pretty much everything about and associated with this trope. OMG: I do not care about your racist family and their slow decline into gentile poverty after the civil war and how that makes it so hard to be you. Related-ish: Beauty pageants. Both boring and creepy to reading about.

Translated Books

This one kills me. I WANT to like translated books. They should be some of my favorites. Finally books from interesting  places by awesome people who live there. But then I get hung on on the awkwardness of the phrasing (which you know doesn't exist in the original language) I don't want to read a translated work. I want the skills to read them all in their original languages. This leads me to a pouting spiral about my lack of multilingual skills. (I SHOULD speak seven languages- I actually speak one and three-quarters with the lamest amount of five other languages. It is embarrassing). Petition for language implants because I have no linguistic talents.

Problematic Books

I am not as good at picking these out from the blurb as I would like to be. I think I need to pay attention to feeling weird about a book. I have noticed that when I am uneasy reading a blurb often someone much more in tune with the issues has already articulated the problem. If I am able to notice problematic elements (or have them pointed out to me), I will pass on the book. There are more than enough great books in the world that I won't miss it.


I have yet to read a novel that focuses on sports that I have enjoyed. Either the sports itself is pretty much ignored, or the story/character development is completely overlooked. Do not like. And since I have very little emotional attachment to sports I am not naturally drawn to them. 

Someone on the Cover is Wearing a Cowboy Hat

Country fine, small town is fine, rural is fine. Lazy stereotyping is not. These are often the kind of books that use phrases like, "rootin' tootin' good," and other such nonsense. I will be giving these a hard pass. Related: ANYTHING having to do with country music.

Love Triangles

"If one hot guy is good then two hot guys will be twice as good!"  Um, no. I am not alone in this, I know, but if there is even a hint of a love triangle in a book, then I am 100% done with it.  There is no coming back from that.  

I think that authors do this to show us how desirable and awesome the character is but it always makes them seem manipulative and untrustworthy to me.

The Main Character or Love Interest is Famous

No. No. No. This could be because fame in and of itself is what I imagine that one of the lower circles of hell would be like. But anything, where there is the potential for the character to be surrounded and mauled by fangirls/guys, is not going to be something that I pick up.

Do you have hard and fast rules about what you will or will not read?

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