Friday, August 28, 2015

Undead and Underwater

Undead and Underwater is a collection of three novellas by MaryJanice Davidson.  In it, Davidson has included a crossover story with Queen Betsy and Fred the Mermaid, a grown-up Lara Wyndham, and a character I've never read about before, Hailey Derry.  While I love Queen Betsy and the Undead books, I've been interested in reading something different by Davidson and more about the world of the Wyndham werewolves and Fred the Mermaid.

Super, Girl

Hailey is great (aka It Girl - a name she hates) and has an unusual power. She doesn't wear a cape or have a crafted persona. She just does what's right, what needs to be done.  I love where Hailey works; her office has its own personality. If Davidson ever writes more about Hailey, I feel like she'll need to flush out that company and its CEO a little more. Even with the unanswered questions, I really enjoyed the story.  I felt like we were getting a peak into Hailey's life. I appreciated that Hailey wasn't just a copy of Betsy.  She talked "a mile a minute", but before Linus, she felt like she had no one to talk to.  Unlike Betsy, from the beginning, she puts others first. She has no life except for her Human Resources job and saving people.  She owns her gifts.  She makes excuses at work, but the end is no surprise.  I wish I could know more about Hailey's minions, who love her and want her to be happy.  For a novella, it was good, with just enough mystery that will make readers want more.

Undead and Underwater

Will there be more Betsy and Fred crossover? Because I think I would enjoy that. Betsy has changed the way Fred thinks about the world. With both of these characters, having them change in any way affects how they deal with the problems that come up in their stories. It is Betsy that has kept me reading the Undead series and who influenced me to pick up a trilogy about mermaids. I think Fred is seeing Betsy the way her friends and other strangers don't, maybe because of her unique perspective.

In Undead and Underwater, Betsy and Fred accidentally come together because they were asked to help the same person. At first Fred can't stand Betsy, which is understandable for anyone who's read any of the Undead books, but she sees the way that Betsy is willing to help Madeline, a human and someone she doesn't know. Fred reluctantly gets to know Betsy. You can feel a lot of different things towards the reluctant vampire Queen, she's ditzy but likable, self-centered but fierce. Betsy is often perfectly put together, but in a flash, she can also be covered with someone else's blood. Fred knows that Betsy is someone she never wants to piss off and never wants to lose track of. Those final lines of the Undead and Underwater novella make me think that Fred and Betsy will come together again. There are Undead novels I have yet to read and one or two more yet to be published and I am excited to see what Davidson has in store for them.

Incomer

I really enjoyed Incomer it might be my favorite of the three stories. Incomer is about Lara the daughter of Michael Wyndham and new Pack leader. The story takes place in near the future, when Lara assumes leadership of the Pack. Incomer is about her first day, her first challenge and becoming an adult. I loved her brother, Sean and I loved Jack. It was nice to know what happened to Derik and Sara after Derik's Bane. I appreciate that there wasn't the typical werewolf fight to the death.  Laura, after taking on her father's mantle, is also continuing Michael's new tradition of excepting change. When Lara addresses the challenge in an unusual way, the result is unexpected.  I appreciate the unexpected, especially when using familiar stories, like werewolf fight to the death or challenge for leadership.

I also really liked Davidson's vision of technology in the future.  It's only about 20 years, but foldable iPads sound awesome, though even if our homes get wired to the Cloud, I think some of the young folk will know what iPhones are, because their parents had one. I loved the glimpses of future Queen Betsy and future Fred.  They're the same, but older. They might give Lara a hard time, but they are loyal and seem to have genuine concern for her well-being.  Betsy seems to be at home, still with Sinclair, living life, trying not to turn evil.  Fred is in the Caspian Sea, the seat of power for the Undersea Folk, with kids. How did she end up in the Caspian Sea when she loved Boston?  I think more than Betsy, I have questions about Fred.

I enjoyed getting to be in the Pack and experiencing it through their perspective.  There have only been two Wyndam Werewolves novels, the rest have been short stories, most of which I don't think I've read.  Neither of the novels took place in Cape Cod, where the Wyndhams live.  What is it like there, what has Michael Wyndham had to deal with? What were his children like as teenagers?  How did humans fit into their world?  What was the fallout after Queen Betsy's visit?  Incomer gave me some of that, some of what I've been wanting to read.  But I'd like more.

In the end...

It was a great threesome of novellas.  I enjoyed each story, each character accepting their positions of power, their responsibilities.  It has reminded me how much I enjoy Davidson's writing and I look forward to the next book of hers I pluck off the shelf.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

First Sentences


I recently changed the entire first page of my work-in-progress and that got me thinking of first sentences. The first one that popped into my head was from Pride and Prejudice, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." While I enjoyed Jane Austen's most famous work, part of the reason I thought of this quote was because that line gets a lot of air play. Then I wondered, what were the first sentences of some of my favourite books...

The story had held us, round the fire, sufficiently breathless, but except the obvious remark that it was gruesome, as, on Christmas Eve in an old house, a strange tale should essentially be, I remember no comment uttered till somebody happened to say that it was the only case he had met in which such a visitation had fallen on a child. – The Turn of the Screw, Henry James

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. – David Copperfield, Charles Dickens

We slept in what had once been the gymnasium. – The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. – The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

The servants called them malenchki, little ghosts, because they were the smallest and the youngest, and because they haunted the Duke’s house like giggling phantoms, darting in and out of rooms, hiding in cupboards to eavesdrop, sneaking into the kitchen to steal the last of the summer peaches. – Shadow and Bone, Leigh Bardugo

There was once, in the country of Alifbay, a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad that it had forgotten its name. – Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Salman Rusdie

The day I died started out bad and got worse in a hurry. – Undead and Unwed, MaryJanice Davidson

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed. – The Gunslinger, Stephen King

Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. – Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. – Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

A few years ago it dawned on me that everybody past a certain age – regardless of how they look on the outside – pretty much constantly dreams of being able to escape from their lives. - The Gum Thief, Douglas Coupland

My mother thinks I'm dead. - Legend, Marie Lu

All this happened, more of less. - Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Across genres and eras, the first sentence of a novel is important. It can captures a reader's interest or make them roll their eyes in annoyance. I've learned that not all first lines hold mystery, sometimes it takes the first paragraph or first page. I have a lot of respect though, for writers that can take you away, pull you in, grab and never let go, with that first sentence.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Spin Number is.... 5!

I looked up 5 on my list and it's MacBeth. Why did I put that on my classics list? Because I was an English major, who took a class on Shakespeare, and never read MacBeth. I've never even seen it. I thought, it's one of Shakespeare's most well-known plays, I aught to read it. Looks like that time is now.  So, on October 23rd, look out for my thoughts on MacBeth

Now, do I read it from the giant complete works that I have or do I download and ebook?

First Books In A Series

I think I might make fall First Books Season. I look at my shelves, as I so often do, and I see all these books that are "the first", the first in a series. Often I see the second and third books for sale and I wonder, should I buy the next book? I haven't read the first book yet, what if I don't like it? I don't want to waste my money on buying more books in a series if I don't like the first book. When the books are on for a discount, that makes them so much more tempting.  I know I'm two steps from being a total book hoarder, but I'm resisting those steps.  I'm trying to make smarter choices with my limited space. So, I need to read these first books.  I need to decide if these series are for me.  I need to know which books to spend my money on.

Some firsts I might read this fall:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor
Enclave, by Ann Aguirre
Bloodsucking Fiends, by Christopher Moore
Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
The Diviners, by Libba Bray
A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness
Of Poseidon, by Anna Banks
The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
Omens, by Kelley Armstrong
Partials, by Dan Wells

I think I'll stop here.  I could go on, but it's not like I could even read these 10 in 3 months unless I took some time from my job and family life (I could stop sleeping).  Which one should I start with? They all sound so good!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Mansfield Park

I am just going to assume that people have read Mansfield Park or seen one of the movies....

I am finally finished Mansfield Park. I shouldn't say "finally" like it is a bad thing. I enjoyed Mansfield Park, it just took me longer to read than other books. I was eager for the ending, because I have come to know Jane Austen and I knew in this story, it would be the unrequited love fulfilled. Though, I was eager for the ending, I loved the beginning and middle too. I found it all very interesting. How could one sister have 10 children, another have only 4 and the third have none? (I know how someone could have no children, it was more the 10 to 4 thing.) It sparked an interesting discussion with my husband. Fanny Price's mother had more children than she knew what to do with. Her sister, Lady Bertram, married much more advantageously, and offered to take one of the children. Mrs. Price assumed it would be their oldest boy, William, but instead the sister asked for the oldest girl, Fanny. Mrs. Price, who favours the boys over the girls, was surprised, but sent her off; one less mouth to feed. I think it was kind what Sir Thomas did for his wife's relations. Fanny and William are much better off for having such an uncle, who showed them this kindness, as the Bertrams did help William also. It is Mrs. Norris, the childless sister, who drove me crazy, as I think she was supposed to do. She was so awful to Fanny and I'm glad Sir Thomas finally saw her true colours.

I was really hoping for a little more build up to Fanny and Edmund. I've read the other five main Austen novels and there is always some kind of movement, moments, before we get the final couple. Not with Fanny and Edmund. Instead, it felt as though the Crawfords would get paired, as so much of the novel was spent on those relationships. Thinking back on it, maybe Austen was making sure that we knew how unsuitable these relationships would be. For a minute, I thought Fanny would soften towards Crawford, just enough so that his betrayal would hurt her more, but nope. She was a rigid heroine. I liked her though. I feel like Fanny had a real sense of who was around her and how they all really felt towards her and each other.

I hated Mary Crawford. She was so insipid. She played at friendship. I feel like I've known people like her, who don't make a choice exactly, yet spin things in their favour, but it is something in them that has thoroughly skewed their judgment and they just don't see that they are wrong. I felt a little bad for the Bertram sisters, too much ruled by emotion and not enough by rational though. Crawford was a cad, he was Wickham and Willoughby, but worse. He was an awful "flirt", though I do think he had genuine affection for Fanny. Crawford lacked patience. If he had waited, he (and his sister) might have ended up with the people they desired. I still wish that everyone, especially Edmund could have, could have seen what Fanny saw.

I know Mansfield Park is Austen's least popular and regarded as her most difficult novel (probably why it's the least popular.) It definitely lacked some of the romance and lovable, relateable characters that fill her other books, but the story, the view of English society, was fantastic.  I know I was hesitant to read Mansfield Park and it certainly took me a little while to finish it, but it was fantastic and definitely a book I will re-read one day.  

Yay for Austen in August!! - Check out Austen in August at Roof Beam Reader

Friday, August 21, 2015

Classic Spin #10 (What??)

I just realized that it's been weeks since I posted anything.  What?! Life has just been busy, I guess.  I mentioned on my other blog, which I also have been posting to infrequently, that you think you're going to have all this free time in summer, but nope.  The kids are home, but they need occupation. We have swimming and gymnastics and playdates. Everyone is having a barbecue.  Everyone wants to enjoy the hot weather (except me).  My work life has been pretty busy to, so not a lot of sneaking away to post on the blog.  That's one of the reasons I love the Classics Club Spin, it's inspiring me to carve out a few minutes and post my list.  I'm so excited to find out what I'll be reading.  For the last few spins, I've been using Random.org because I enjoy the randomness of it... and there's a lot less thought.  The list is:

1. Sherlock Holmes #1: A Study In Scarlett, by Arthur Conan Doyle
2. Under The Knife, by H.G. Wells
3. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
4. From the Earth to the Moon, by Jules Verne
5. Macbeth, by William Shakespeare
6. The Raven, by Edgar Allan Poe
7. Tales of Angria, by Charlotte Brontë
8. Three Series, Complete, by Emily Dickinson
9. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
10. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
11. The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins
12. The Weapons Shop, by A.E. van Vogt
13. The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter
14. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
15. Queen Mab/The Daemon of the World, by Percy Bysshe Shelley
16. The Big and The Little, by Isaac Asimov
17. The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton
18. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
19. Medea, by Euripides
20. Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery

(Please don't be 10)

I'm really hoping for 14.  One of the poetry or genre classics would be fun too.  Also 20, it's been decades since I read it.  Maybe it was 7th or 8th grade... maybe earlier.  I should check the publication year on the edition I have.  

Also, I can't believe this is the 10th Classics Club Spin!  I haven't participated in all, but I have in most.  I love the Spin, more than anything else, it really motivates me to keep plugging away at my list.  Thanks, Classics Club!

Saturday, August 08, 2015

The Maze Runner

This will be vaguely spoilery, but I think a lot of people by now have seen The Maze Runner....

Let's experiment on people! Is that a thing with dystopian movies (novels)? I really enjoyed The Maze Runner. It was better than expected, which is always good. I like the way that Thomas, the main character, was introduced into the Maze. Of course, he immediately made friends but also had his detractors. And of course, one of those friends happened to be the most innocent looking of all the boys in the Maze. Immediately I felt that something was going to happen to this kid (Chuck). My hubby looked at me and said, "awe poor Rue." I told him to shut up. There were other aspects of the movie that reminded me of The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner also reminded me of Divergent. The Maze Runner was published two years before Divergent, though, so I feel like it's a bit of a backwards comparison.

I haven't read The Maze Runner novels, but now I want to. I don't need to read every book that's being turned into a movie, right?

I kind of loved how shocked all the boys were to see a girl. Some of them have been in the Maze for over three years. That means seeing only boys for a long time. Not that it looked like these boys needed a girl (or even an adult), but just having one around or more than one, would have made for a different and more diverse three years. Though I suppose the introduction of a girl at the end was representative of the change that the community of boys was about to go through.

One thing I didn't like was that The Maze Runner does not feel finished. At least at the end of other first movies in a series, the film is complete, it is a story in itself. The Maze is over and it does look like the survivors are possibly going to a better place, but that is only from their point of view. We all know as viewers that there are more trials for them in the future. I wonder and kind of suspect that the book ends in a similar way. I don't know if I would have liked that in a book. I like my books and movies, specifically the first and last in the series, to feel like they're done. I think the helicopter bit was fine, it's the part with the doctor that changed it for me. 

I'm glad I finally watched The Maze Runner and I'll be looking out for The Scorch Trials.


Thursday, August 06, 2015

Insatiable

I thought I did not want to read anymore vampire books. I did, however, want to read something by Meg Cabot, who I kept hearing all kinds of wonderful things about.  I see her books everywhere, but for some reason, had never read one.  Then there was that sad thing that happened to a local bookstore.  I found one of her books there and I had to have it.  I knew it was a vampire book when I bought it.  Just look at the cover, there's a stake on it. Insatiable is a vampire book that makes fun of other vampire books though. The main character, Meena, hates vampires in fiction.  She makes fun of the girls that get all swoony, but guess what happens to her? Also, Meena...Meena Harper! Has anyone read Dracula or seen the movie?  Mina Harker is the name of the leading lady in Bram Stoker's classic. Her husband is John Harker.... Insatiable also has a Jon Harper.  Meena's brother. When I realized this, I had a tiny "eww" moment.  But I got over it. Insatiable has a few of the vampire "conventions", but the book is so entertaining

Meena, oh Meena.  She's not just an ordinary girl, or even a girl.  She's a twenty-something woman with a career.  She can also predict people's deaths. Meena had me reading the book, the way that she behaved like a twenty-something, the way she accepted her gift, that she tried, but didn't want people to think she was crazy.  Meena, especially in the end, did not do what was expected.  Lucien, the prince of darkness, he was kind of typical, but when he is perceived by Meena, it makes him different.  I appreciated a lot of the characters.  Alaric did have an annoying side though.  I liked that he wasn't a talker, he was all about business, but he was also very narrow-minded. He learned something and changed. The Señor Sticky thing though, seemed a little out of place for a guy who liked the finer things.

I was hooked by Insatiable.  I love that it is the name of a soap opera series.  The vampires story-line thing was so funny.  I like that people text in this book too.  I was out all night, better text my brother and my friend.  I just haven't noticed it a lot with stories lately, the use of modern technology beyond email.

I am also hooked on Meg Cabot now.  I've already sought out the sequel to Insatiable, Overbite.  She has written so many books though, I feel like it might be my desire to read all of Stephen King's books, it'll either take forever or never happen.  I'll be keeping her in mind though, whenever I head out to a bookstore.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Man Of Steel


I know I'm a little late to the party, but I finally saw Man of Steel. Strange for a nerd like me, but for whatever reason it just didn't happen when everyone else saw it. I heard about the changes, the controversy, the nonstop destruction, and was worried. I loved the old Superman movies with Christopher Reeve as a kid. I enjoyed the Lois and Clark series as a teen. I know things change and have to adapt as we move forward, but I was concerned that I would be disappointed. Maybe I wasn't disappointed because my expectations were not that high. Is that bad to say? I watched Man of Steel knowing that it was good enough to warrant a sequel and that it would not be like any of the previous Superman movies.

I liked it. I like Henry Cavill. He's handsome and strong and brings his own interpretation to the role. I liked that Clark went out into the world to try and find himself. I found this version of Clark Kent a little more realistic. Clark wasn't some 20-something moving to the big city, he was an adult who had life experiences, was a mature and intelligent person. Lois Lane was very much the person I expected her to be, but what really needed to change? She was always an intelligent, independent, strong-willed woman. 

As soon as it happened though, I can see where the controversy came in. Superman is always been held to an ideal and maybe he did not necessarily live up to that in this movie. Would that be really realistic though? How else would Zod have been defeated? There was no kyptonite, there were no more ships, he was as strong and perhaps more skilled than Superman. He was about to murder a defenseless family, what could Superman have done differently? I think also DC is trying to do what Marvel has done, they are trying to place their heroes in the modern world, isn't that what they did with the first Iron Man movie? These heroes are going to have problems we can relate to and have to deal with consequences. Isn't that what Superman v Batman is going to be about, the consequences of Superman in the world and what he means to everything. 

In the end, I enjoyed Man of Steel.  It didn't ramp up my excitement like the first Avengers movie, though I think it was trying to, but I liked the story.  I liked Clark Kent and his parents, all four of them.  I liked Lois Lane, I liked the Colonel and the General.  I really loved the ending.  I'm looking forward to more from the Man of Steel.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Embroideries


Embroideries was hilarious. I couldn't put down Marjane Satrapi's (second) nonfiction graphic novel (graphic memoir?) about these Iranian women sitting down to have a sex talk. The women were so bold and so honest and their stories were just incredible. I loved the grandmother. I loved how she started the book and how she ended it. I loved finding out what "embroideries" actually means.

I don't often read nonfiction but I was intrigued by Embroideries. I had been wanting to read something by Marjane Satrapi and her nonfiction graphic novel came into my possession. I found the idea of a nonfiction graphic novel fascinating. It meant that Satrapi would be drawing real people from her life. Their stories are also represented through her drawings, her interpretation of what they are telling her.  The art is amazing, intriguing and adds another layer to their tales.

There is so much I could talk about with this book. Iranian women, how they are perceived, what they are really like.  That broken hearts are common no matter the culture, so is using a relationship to escape.  In this conversation, the women are so bold and so open. They talked about everything. Marrying certain men have their advantages, like being able to move to Vienna. Keep your jewels safe. How to fake virginity. What happens after divorce. Embroideries.

I love this book. I've read some great books recently and this one might be the best of them. It was funny, heartwarming, emotional and unique.  I look forward reading more from Satrapi and hope to see the films based on her work too.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Ruin and Rising

The Grisha series might now rank among my favourite books.  I loved Ruin and Rising.  There were so many times when Leigh Bardugo surprised me.  I did not expect what happened to Nikolai, not at all.  It was interesting and made sense to the story and definitely left a lasting impression on him and me.  I also didn't expect what happened with Mal and the Firebird.  I thought there would be some kind of thing, like with the Stag or the Seawhip, but nope, something else.  Though I did suspect there was something about Mal.  He was just too good.

There were just so many wonderful moments.  I loved how Bardugo always kept the action going.  The first big bang is pretty close to the beginning, it was the same with Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm, something happens to get your heart racing.  There are so many great fights, that could have finished Alina or the Darkling and the book, but no, they weren't big enough.  They didn't cost enough, break enough hearts or cause enough tears.  I loved the characters.  All of them.  I loved the Darkling, Nikolai, Zoya, Tamar, Tolya, all of them.  Bardugo created people that Alina could count on, but were flawed and had their own motivations.  None of them were the same and they all had distinct personalities.  I loved Tamar and Nadia, unexpected and subtle.  I adored Genya and David's relationship.  I know Zoya was so mean, but she was also very loyal.  I loved the scenes when Alina finds she needs friends, that she can't be separate from everyone from everyone all the time.  It is a brief moment of lightness when Alina gathers her "girlfriends" and brings them to her room to get their opinions on Nikolai's gifts.  I loved when they gathered again to comfort her.  I could see them becoming her "ladies" at court if she married Nikolai.

I feel like I should stop talking about all the things I loved about Ruin and Rising, but honestly, I loved everything about it.  Characters, world-building, scenery, plot, pacing, everything.  I know that one day, I will read the Grisha series again - likely before the first movie comes out.  I've read Leigh Bardugo's novels and all but one of her Grisha short stories and they were all wonderful.  At this point, I will read anything Bardugo writes.  The imagination, the twists, I could not put Ruin and Rising down.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Digital Parent

When I had my first child, I used to write everything down, all her milestones in a red notebook that a friend had given to me.  Not a baby book (though I have of those too), but a book filled with lined paper, writing down all the little details, like a diary or journal entry.  I did it for a long time, until that book was filled.  Then I got a new book, a Dr. Seuss journal, which my Hubby bought me.  I tried to continue to write down all the things that happened, first teeth, steps, funny moments, as my second child was born.

What happened?  Were my hands full with two children now, an infant and a two-year-old?  I was still making notes, but more often they were on my iPad (which my Hubby got me for Christmas the year our son was born).  I think back on it and it's not the same.  Even now, with my children 6 and 4, I don't write things down, tell the story.  I take a multitude of videos and pictures on my phone.  I take pictures and post it to social media with captions for my friends and family to see.

I have all these digital notes, saved and backed up, but I still want those paper to turn through.  I want the book sitting on my shelf, whenever I want to open it.  But I don't have time to write all those notes out.  What I am considering is a bit of a copy and paste project.  I print all those notes, maybe edit them for spelling, and glue them into my Dr. Seuss book.  Then I think I might have what I wanted, though not in the way I intended.

I am left now wondering if this happened because of the "digital age" we not live in, where it is easier to take a picture with smartphone, then a camera and we can transmit it to whoever, wherever we want. Or did it happen because I became busier, I had two little ones who demanded my time, I worked full time, I had projects that needed my attention? Did the smartphone and tablet actually save things that would have been lost 30 years ago? I can message a photo or video to family members who haven't seen the children in a while, instead of handing them a stack of photos or an album filled with months of memories, like my parents used to do.

Am I disappointed I didn't keep up with the notebook?  A little, but I had to balance my time (and sanity). Do I think my cut and paste idea is a bit like cheating?  A little, yes, but if I want it done now instead of in five years, this is how it will happen.  I also like to think that when it is done, I might start writing in it again, since it won't feel like I'm behind anymore.  Also, I'm glad for my smartphone and tablet, always being right there, grabbing all the cute pictures that needed to be taken.

Should I have been working at my day job instead of writing this?  Maybe.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Star Wars Jedi Academy: The Phantom Bully


I really enjoyed Star Wars Jedi Academy: The Phantom Bully (and it's two predecessors).  It is a very cute story, that is light and fun and reminds us how difficult it can be at that age.  Your first feelings for a girl/boy, your first fight with your best friend, dealing with bullies, trying to understand teachers.  Of course, the books are targeted to that age group, I'm just a geek who enjoys Star Wars.

What? It's a Star Wars book.
I think Roan is a relateable main character. He is clever, but awkward. He is new to the school, wants to be cool, but also values good grades.  I like that his artwork is valued and popular with the kids at the school; I think it is important to show that the arts are important.

Though she isn't the star of the story, Gaiana is a great character. She is smart, independent, and loyal. She is shown having her own awkward growing pains, but that doesn't not in any way change how Roan feels about her. I also loved that she comes in first, not Roan or even his best friend, Pasha. Also, the person who was best at sports was the new girl, Lilly.

I also appreciate the subtle diversity of the story, which I didn't pick up on until part way through the book.  Roan's best friend, Pasha, is clearly a person of colour. Roan's last name is Novachez, and it looks as though his father is dark-haired, while his mother has lighter hair.  It's kind of hard to tell, since the book is in black and white.  Most of the rest of Roan's classmates are aliens.  So, they could be whatever colour.  I don't know if that was on purpose or just how Jeffrey Brown saw his own middle school.  There maybe could have been a couple more girls, but it was still pretty good.

I really enjoyed the Jedi Academy series and in a year or two, I will be giving (lending?) the books to my daughter. Brown has also written some adorable children's books, so I'm wondering what his next project will be.

Also, a quick note on his "about the author" bit at the end, it is really cute. Brown has drawn himself in the style of the book, as a Jedi, using the Force to levitate little drawings of all his books.  I really like a fun, quirky, unique about the author blurb.

(Did I just end this post with "blurb"?)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Little Knife, by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo's Grisha folk tales are amazing. Little Knife lived up to all my expectations. Like The Witch of Duva and The Too-Clever Fox, there was more to the story than what first appeared on the surface. Little Knife is the story of a ghost town, Velisyana. There once was a girl, Yeva Luchova, and she was so beautiful that the mid-wife, various nurse-maids, an artist, etc., tried to steal her. Duels were fought for her, but after the second death they were stopped. The Duke, her father, decides to hide her away for the protection of the people. Her response is great, '"Papa,” Yeva said to the Duke. “Why must I be the one to hide?”' Seriously.  It's not her fault, the people need to learn some self-control.

It's described as if it was magic to look upon her face. When a rich man suggests Yeva marry his son, after seeing her for himself, starts fighting with his son for her. Then the colonel, who comes to break up the fight, sees her too for the first time, and starts fighting. After she leaves, and they can no longer see her face, it is as though a spell is broken.  The colonel then suggests that the Duke end all the madness and marry off his daughter.  He puts forth three tasks and the winner gets her.  Again, Yeva has a great response, “Papa, forgive me, but what way is this to choose a husband?" So true, right?  She says it essentially three times, after he sets forth each task. Her father's response is basically, you want the Prince to win, so you can be rich, right? I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter to her if she is rich.

I love the end.  I loved the river.  Little Knife is what the river is called by a poor man vying for Yeva's hand.  Little Knife and Yeva are the real focuses of the story. Yeva is punished for the actions of other, Little Knife is used and not respected. I wish we could know her true name.  I wonder how this story will be mentioned/used in Ruin and Rising.  Is Alina Yeva?  Is the firebird Little Knife?  Or will they just be passing through a deserted town and told to stay close to the group, remembering the legend of Velisyana?  I'm so excited for more Leigh Bardugo and I feel like Little Knife is a story that's going to stay with me for a long time.
 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Iced Tea

Ever tried to make your own Iced Tea at home?  I started a few years ago, when I realized that I was paying A LOT for some something I could make at home for less than a dollar.  You can buy a giant box of tea for what it costs to buy a jug of iced tea that lasts a week.  You also need lemon juice and honey, but not a lot.  Lemons are versatile and the honey will get used to make multiple jugs of iced tea.

To recap, here are your ingredients:

1 teabag
~2 tbsp honey
~3/4oz of lemon juice / half a lemon

This is all to taste.  If you like your tea sweeter, use more honey, if you want a more lemony flavour, use more lemon.  I've made the tea with only honey, having not realized my lemon had gone moldy after already starting the process. It still tasted good, just sweeter than I was used to.

Directions:

Boil a full kettle of water.  My kettle holds 1.8 litres (just under 4pts).  Get a boiling-water-safe container, a glass jug or pot if you don't have one.  Put the teabag in first, poor the water on top. Steep for 10 minutes. White it is steeping, add the honey and lemon juice. Stir. After 10 minutes, take the teabag out. Let the tea cool a bit, then put it in the container you want to use for serving/storing, if it isn't already. The put it in the fridge.

If you want the tea to be consumed sooner, used less boiling water and add ice cubes after steeping.

I don't know if you've noticed, but the jug on the left is a different colour than the one of the right. That is because the jug on the left is raspberry iced tea, which I have only made once, on the above occasion.  How did I do it?  I boiled about a handful... so 1/2 a cup (ish) of raspberries in about one litre of water (2 pts?).  Then I pour that on the teabag, with water from the kettle, to make up the 1.8 litres. I know my stuff, so I eyeballed it. It came out really well, as you can see from the picture.  I was too slow and most of it was gone before I had a chance to document my first raspberry iced tea. All of it was super easy to make and an easy way to save a few dollars at the grocery store.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Promise Of The Witch-King

I loved the ending, everything about it. I liked the epilogue, Jarlaxle secretly planning for his and Entreri's future, and Entreri's encounter with someone he thought an enemy. In Promise of the Witch-King, we follow the stories of former Legend of Drizzt antagonists, making their way across the world. What Artemis Entreri is searching for is unclear. Jarlaxle is searching for power, but hopefully not something like the Crystal Shard, which was very bad for him in Servent of The Shard (which I just realized it's been six years since I read!).  I wonder what R.A. Salvatore has waiting for them in Road of the Patriarch.

A fifth of the way through the novel and I'm reminded about how much I like the way Salvatore writes female characters. Ellery, Calihye and Parissus are all strong and independent. They can handle themselves against any man or monster. They echo the strength and skill we find in Catti-Brie from the Drizzt novels and Danica from The Cleric Quintet. Salvatore makes it a part of his story that within the world of Forgotten Realms women have to fight twice as hard to get the same rank and respect as men, but that doesn't mean that it is impossible. I think it just might be a bit of life in art. 

I recent wrote about the anti-hero.  Of course, I used Deadpool as an example, finding a dark hero, someone who was "bad", but is now "good" or at least "good-ish" I think is relateable.  We all make bad choices sometimes, some more than others, and we sometimes wonder if we can come back from that.  I don't think Jarlaxle is trying to come back from any of his choices.  Having read several books featuring his character, I think he he did the best with the situation given to him, he's a different kind of anti-hero than his friend.  Right now, Jarlaxle's choices seem to be leading him on a good path. Will that last? Entreri also did the best with what he had, but he closed off from his emotions. Now, with perhaps the help of a magic flute, his emotions are opening up and they are definitely affecting his choices, though he still doesn't have a problem with killing people who are in his way.  Promise of the Witch-King was balanced in the best way, action, emotion, dialogue and descriptions of a battle-torn landscape, with a plot that kept moving.  I had a hard time putting down Witch-King.  Even if you haven't read any Drizzt books or any Forgotten Realms stories, I think Promise of the Witch-King might be a fun place to jump in.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Is The Toothfairy Cheap?

My daughter has recently lost her fifth tooth.  (She's getting so big!) She comes into our room the morning after, crawls into bed with us, then hold up the coin she found under her pillow.  A twoonie ($2.00).  After a few minutes, she huffs and says, "Why can't the toothfairy leave bills? They're money too."  I look over at my husband and we stifle our laughs.  What is the going rate for teeth these days?  Is the toothfairy cheap?  My daughter then states that she wants to leave the toothfairy a note (under her pillow) asking her this question.  My hubby tells her that the toothfairy might not get it until the next time she loses a tooth.  We left it at that.  It was time to get up anyway.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Ant-Man

I just got out of Prison, I know how to punch.


This is how you punch. 

When I came out of the theatre yesterday, these were the first things that popped out of my head: Funny. With heart. A good amount of action. Good use of 3D - thanks to the ants. Wasp. Thomas the Tank Engine out a window. Blended families. Redemption. Ant-Man was fill with all those things and more. 

My co-worker emailed me this morning and asked me what I thought of the movie. I thought I'd used some of my reply since it was how I feel about the movie right now. (The rest of the reply had to do with the specific theatre I went to.) The movie was great. It was funny. There’s a mid-credits scene that’s a little obvious but nice, and an end credit scene that is about Captain America 3.  The movie was funny.  I think they did the 3D stuff well, mostly with the flying ants. The fight scenes were good. There were just enough, I think (where in Age of Ultron, I thought there were tons).  Also, they totally made Paul Rudd work out for this movie.  Not as much as Chris Pratt, but it must be some kind of Marvel film rule.  Also, have you ever seen the movie, The American President with Michael Douglas?  If you have, then when you see Ant-Man, you’ll totally know what I’m talking about. There’s some other really awesome stuff, but if you haven’t seen the movie, I don’t want to ruin it for you.

What else is there for me to say?  I thought the trio of Scott Lang's friends were a little ridiculous.  I loved Wasp.  I'm wondering what they're going to do with Hope's character.  One SPOILER thing: I loved Falcon in this movie. He was amazing.  They had just enough Avenger stuff to make sure you knew what Universe it was in, without it being overpowering (in my opinion). SPOILERS DONE. Also, have you seen Drunk History?  Luis's stories totally remind me of that. Also, hey there T.I. And Hayley.  The kid was perfect.  I know my thoughts are all over the place, but this is what I thought of the movie.  

And now, because I enjoy movie posters... Clever marketing, these ones.







Friday, July 17, 2015

Cinderella


I had high expectations for Cinderella. After it was released, all I kept hearing was that it was fantastic, that it had all the magic of the Disney animated classic. So, when I finally saw Cinderella, I expected to be thoroughly entertained. I was more than entertained, I became emotionally invested in the outcome of the story. The live action remake doesn't just focus on Cinderella/Ella, the wicked stepmother and stepsisters, we get Ella's back story, as well as the prince's and a glimpse of Lady Tremaine's. I loved Ella's mother. (Though that might just be because she's Peggy Carter.) I think through meeting the mother, we get to see where Cinderella's kind spirit came from. However, even more than the mother, I appreciated the depth given to the wicked stepmother. You can see in Lady Tremaine's eyes and expression that she is genuinely hurt by Ella's father and he is unaware that he is hurting her. Though she should not have taken that pain out on her stepdaughter, her wickedness didn't come from nowhere.

The costumes were amazing. That dress! I bet there was a lot of pressure to make that dress perfect. I really think it was. It wasn't just a copy of the animated dress, it was something people could respond to now. I loved the little butterfly details. Watching the movie with my sister-in-law, we commented on how hot the dress would be to wear.  There was no cage holding it up, it was all material.  We both remembered on our wedding days, how sweaty we were in our dresses.  I remember feeling the beads of sweat rolling down my back and legs. Cinderella's dress was much thicker, with layers upon layers of crinoline.  My Hubby and his brother then commented about how hideous a lot of the other dresses were.  The step-sisters dresses were a couple of the worst, of course, but a lot of the guests' dresses were not that nice, ranging from dull to awful.  Then we made it a game of picking out the "not bad" ones. The stepmother's dress was nice, though "wicked-looking", but nothing compared to Cinderella's.  I'm sure it was done to make hers stand out even more, with only picky adults (like us) noticing.  It is highly unlikely a child would notice, their eyes glued to that blue dress.  The men's costumes were nice too.  I think they did a good job with the guards, Arch Duke and King, but the Prince, he looked amazing. I'm sure it was also designed to make the actor look that much more handsome and appealing.

The relationship between the Prince and his father was fantastic.  It was sad, but also heartwarming, knowing that the King wanted his son to be happy. Also, can I mention the Prince's eyes?  Bam! Amazing.  Also, the Captain of the Guard was perfect.  I thought he was a great match for the Prince. I liked that he spoke his mind and the Prince appreciated it.  I loved the slight ditziness of the fairy godmother.  She was lovely.  I just think that the characters, the way that they came alive on screen, the way that they were given depth, was fantastic.  I appreciate the happy ending and I'm glad that they didn't mess with it too much.  I like when kindness wins.

Because I love a good movie poster...

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Patternmaster


Patternmaster is the last and first book in the Patternmaster series. It was published first, but it chronologically takes place at the end of the story and has been collected with the other Patternist books in Seed to Harvest. After reading Patternmaster, I can see why Octavia E. Butler felt inspired to write the other three novels. There's so much that happens in Patternmaster, that the events ask for some sort of explanation or history. In passing, a long-lived creator is mentioned, who was killed by his own daughter, and a disease that was brought back by the only ship to ever visit another planet. There was so much involved in creating the Patternist world.

Patternmaster takes place hundreds of years in the future. After finishing it, I realized it was a dystopian novel before dystopian novels were a thing. Without the other three novels, a reader would have the question that they would have after reading so many dystopian novels, that I had after reading The Hunger Games and 1984, how did our society reach this point? Reading Patternmaster I didn't wonder that. I had read Wild Seed, Mind of my Mind and Clay's Ark. I knew exactly who that long-lived creator was, I knew what happened to our society, and I knew where the disease came from.  If I had known the publication order before I started the series, I might have read Patternmaster first and allowed myself to have these questions.  Though, I don't know if I would have been happy ending the series with Clay's Ark.  Maybe one day if I ever reread the Patternist series again that's exactly what I'll do, though I doubt I would ever be able to forget this incredibly intricate story.

Patternmaster is a unique story with interesting and complex characters. I enjoyed getting to know to Teray and Amber. I also liked the antagonist Coransee, he had a Doro kind of vibe, and I appreciated that Iray did not do what I expected her to do. However, after reading the other three novels, I fully expected Rayal's behaviour. Also, I don't know if I am 100% satisfied with that ending. Not that I expect endings to tie up everything, but I like more of a sense of closure. I feel like there is so much more to know about these characters. Though maybe, I have just lived in this world for so long, I am wishing for more Patternmaster books. Patternmaster was exciting and the series was fantastic. It has me excited to read more from Octavia Butler.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Night Eternal


I totally called the ending. About a third of the way through, I looked over at Hubby and said...* well, I won't say hear what I said, because I was right. Every bit of it. I think that is my only problem with the book, about a third of the way through, I predicted the end.  I'm hoping Hubby doesn't remember what I told him when we start watching the second season of the The Strain television series on Sunday, thought the series has not been exactly following the novels.

The characters kept me hooked on The Strain trilogy.  Eph and his son were a unique pair.  I couldn't have predicted what happened to Zack.  Eph wasn't the perfect hero either, he didn't do what we would expect and at the beginning of The Night Eternal we find out what happened with him and Nora.  "The girl" isn't just a damsel either.  She's badass. She kicks ass and will not be left behind. The butter-knife shank is one of my favourite things, and something I'll have to remember in case of the apocalypse.

Minor Spoilers Below...

As I read about how the Master destroyed the possibility for revolt, taking out world leaders, the strong and willful, how he got rid of "the news", took control of the internet, I thought, this is the way to destroy the world.  The ash cloud was one thing, but the Master didn't even bother with trying to subjugate Presidents and Prime Ministers, any royal family, anyone who showed a strong will, he just killed them all. Why waste the time breaking anyone? He had a herd. He had his B- farms, the tastiest of the humans, and then the average person. By giving them the apparent return to normalcy, he could control the herd better.  There were jobs and television, perpetual re-runs were better than blank sets.  People lived in their homes.  There was only a couple hours of sunlight a day and black rain, but they had the shell of the old world. The Master had a great plan.

I wonder how accurate the atmospheric nuclear fallout was. I should look it up.  Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan thanked Dr. Seth Richardson for help with lore, likely in creating the Lumen, but who helped them with the post-nuclear planet?  The biblical lore was interesting (and so was the space station). I wonder how much of that they made up and how much was from the actual story of Sodom and Gomorrah.  I'm going to have to look that one up too. I really connected to the plot of The Night Eternal, it was so unlike anything else I've read lately and different enough from The Strain and The Fall, that I had to know what happened. (Thank you, for the epilogue.) If you want a good, real, horror series, then pick up The Strain series.  The Strain, The Fall and The Night Eternal do not disappoint.


*This is what I basically said, but I didn't want to include it in the rest of the post because SPOILERS. I wanted to write it down though, because I was right - "Everyone is toast. In the end, it'll be Fet and Nora. Everyone, Eph, his kid, all dead.  I mean, other people in the world will be alive, but from the characters, they're all gone but those two."

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Daredevil


I finally finished watching Marvel's Daredevil series on Netflix  It was fantastic.  I know I'm late. Most people probably binge-watched it as soon as it came out. I wanted to do that, but the Hubby and I decided to make it our Walking Dead replacement, and have been watching it together every Sunday night. I could have secretly watched the whole thing ages ago, but I'm a good wife.

I love Charlie Cox, who was the handsome Tristan in Stardust. Matt Murdock is totally the opposite. Matt feels like someone you might know, someone who grew up in darkness, but came out wanting to be a lawyer and trying to change the world. When he explains why he first puts on the black mask, it was so believable, so truthful, it was difficult not to imagine someone actually doing this. I really appreciated the evolution of his suit too.  He didn't come out on day one wearing red leather; he had a basic outfit that changed into something more, when he realized he would need something more.  The horns are a little pointier than I expected them to be, but I like the suit, something that helps define his image while also offering him protection.

I can also see why having Daredevil on Netflix is more appealing than having it on a network. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Agent Carter are great for ABC, but Daredevil could only be what it is as a Netflix series.  It was bloody, there were bad words, I saw bone co,me out of an arm!  A head got smashed by a door!  The shooting style, the cuts and bruises, the grit, it was amazing.

There were so many tense moments, so many times I had to hold my Hubby's hand because I knew something bad was going to happen. The last two episodes had me almost in tears, I could barely hold it together at that funeral. The characters were more than people in cartoon costumes, they were real people with motivations, reasons for the dark and light in their lives.  They had reasons and histories. Fisk and Vanessa, Foggy and Karen, were people that had bad things happen to them, but they also made their choices.  Also, I loved Claire.  I wish we could see more of her, but maybe she will be showing up in Luke Cage.  I can't wait for Jessica Jones (though coming soon to TV date night, The Strain.) If the rest of Marvel's Netflix series are like Daredevil, they are going to be amazing.  

There's so much in this series to connect to, Ben, his wife, what happens to Wesley, Josie, Marcy, wanting to rebuild after "the incident", wanting to make the neighbourhood you grew up in a better place, giving back.  I could talk about how wonderful the show was aesthetically. I could talk about the plot, the twists.  Daredevil's place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and where we might see him in the future.  I appreciate though, that if you have never seen another Marvel film or show, you can watch the Daredevil series and enjoy it.  It alludes to the greater MCU, but it doesn't really effect the show.  You don't ever see Captain America or Iron Man.  Daredevil is given a chance to exist on its own and create its own mark.  Daredevil is for anyone who likes a good action series.