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.