Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Heist: Building the Perfect Team

I enjoy books with a heist, or something where characters come together as a team and pull off something grand and clever all rolled into one package. I recently read Six of Crows and that heist was kind of awesome.

Now I'm not nearly clever enough to pull one of those off, but if I needed one done, I'd have to build the perfect team. And so today I bring you my ideal heist team, culled from characters from books who fit the roles I'd need.

I feel like I'd be cheating if I said Kaz from Six of Crows. That boy knows how to pull off a theft, or a con, or whatever shady business he does. But a runner-up would be Sage/Jaron, from the False Prince trilogy. I swear that boy was beautifully clever, and hilariously witty. His planning got the job done, especially when I usually had no idea what he was going to do (even in first person his plans were elusive!).

I'll need an expert with technology to help with this heist, someone who can work security systems and keep an eye on the team from the cameras, as well as hook them up with sleek and shiny gadgetry. For this person, I choose Cress, from the Lunar Chronicles. She's a wizard in her own right with a computer, and she'd be able to get the team in an out of there without triggering security.

Cress and Celaena, basically.

My team will likely need weapons to defend themselves. Amani from Rebel of the Sands could be an excellent weapons supplier, and teacher. She's an expert sharpshooter. Celaena from the Throne of Glass series would be another, for more quiet weapons. But we'd have to make a rule: no killing. Celaena will need to learn that one.

To get in close to their target, the team may have to do some undercover work. That means disguises and false identities. I would choose Cinna, from the Hunger Games. He turned Katniss into the Capital's star. A girl from a mining town became a glittering jewel of the sleek and shining city. He'd create the right disguises and roles my team need to sneak in unnoticed.

Every good heist needs sustenance. Planning takes a lot of brain power. Sebastian from the Black Butler series would be perfect. He's a superb cook, and would make plenty of healthy meals and tasty treats for the team, and be incredibly polite and sophisticated while doing it (for a demon). Also, he'd be good for more than snacks if his abilities were needed.

.:Magic Specialist:.
With my team's luck, they'll probably run into something magical, or something that can only be dealt with via magic. So they'll need someone who's an expert with magic. Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series is their girl. She's smart, clever, and knows her way around a magic spell. She'll keep the team from setting off magical booby traps.

.:The Newbie:.
Everybody starts somewhere. So maybe my team has a newcomer just testing the waters, or maybe they're just the baby of the family, and offers sufficient backup to anybody who might need it. Honestly, I feel like this would also be Cress. She is smol and precious and even though she's feisty in her own way, she's probably still a bit new to heist business. Cress may be the reason we have the backup-planner.

.:Back-up Planner:.
We all know that the first plan is just gonna go up in flames. So the mastermind will need help to come up with Plan B (because he's focused on Plan A). My back-up planner would be Scipio, from the Thief Lord. His cool and collected personality would balance Sage's pretty well, and he'd be grounded enough to prepare a back-up. Because let's face it, that first plan is gonna go up in flames.

The team will probably need money to prepare for the heist, and know how to distribute funds. And also somebody to keep track of their loot and stuff in general (and keep sticky gingers out of it). For this position, Bilbo Baggins would be ideal. He would also remember to portion funds for food, which is good for the team's snack-supervisor. Plus he's already a veteran burglar, so he'd be handy for more than keeping track of their resources. Just in case the team get in a bit of trouble.

The teen may need a bit of muscle to shoulder their way past difficult security guards, or maybe just a skilled fighter. While the weapons experts of this team are probably the ones for the job, Sam Miracle is my pick here. Besides being another expert sharpshooter, his own arms are weapons. With live rattlesnakes grafted into his arms, they become faster than any human arm. Just in case the team needs a quick knock-out punch or something.

.:Getaway Driver:.
No heist could be pulled off without a getaway plan. My team will need a exit strategy to get them out fast with whatever they're thieving. I choose Elle from Geekerella. Now it's not fantastic (I already used Lunar Chronicles twice, so I didn't want to choose Thorn. ;) ), but who's gonna think to look for the team in a big, pumpkin-orange vegan food truck? Nah, they're gonna target the fast cars or airships. My team will be safely stowed in a food truck cruising away to safety.

There's my team. I think we'd have a fair shot, though I'm sure this team would have a lot of inner difficulties (because Sage is a snarky brat and I'm fairly certain some of the team would try to strangle him). BUT, they could get the job done. And probably blow stuff up. Accidentally of course.

Your turn! :D You have a heist to pull off, so you need a crack team. Who do you choose? What other roles do you think a heist needs? Or what roles here probably aren't needed? Tell me all! Let's chat!

Friday, April 6, 2018

Book Review: The Day the Angels Fell (Shawn Smucker)

The day the lightning took Sam's mother was the day the Tree of Life returned.

Yes, the tree in the story of Creation. And the two angels who stood guard over it? They're after it. One wants its power. The other must destroy it. And Sam's in the middle of it all. But the question is what he will do.

This story reminded me of A Monster Calls (the film, mind. I've yet to read the book), with a writing voice similar to N.D. Wilson. Sam's mother is gone, and to a kid barely into his teens, has the chance to bring her back with the Tree of Life. He's grieving, and he doesn't quite find the best ways to release the emotions, and it sometimes puts others at risk.

I liked how at first I couldn't quite identify who the good guy was and who the bad guy was. I was wary of both parties for a bit. I also liked seeing Sam struggle to make choices, and the direction he chooses to follow.

Also, the story of the Tree of Life was awesome. There's the "origin" story, the story we see in Genesis in the Bible: Creation, the Fall, and God setting the two cherubim to watch the Tree of Life.

But the author adds to the story, after Adam and Eve leave the garden. He weaves it in so well that it makes his addition seem like it could be something that happened. Who can know? But it's really neat to imagine: What if the author's addition really did happen?

Violence/gore: Some, but it's not in detail. A character dies (but we're aware of the event before it happens), and characters fight.

Sexual content: None

Profanity: None that I recall (if any, it's minor).

Other: Nothing I can remember.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Book Review: The Tomb of the Sea-Witch (Kyle Robert Shultz)

After the madness of The Beast of Talesend, Nick Beasley still has some work to do. I mean, he's still a hulking mass of fur and claws and canine teeth.

But now on the run, Cordelia takes them to an island where magic is practiced and honed, Nick will need to blend in... when he has no magic. But his problems don't stop there (because that would be no fun), and troubles arise as they realize the legend of the little mermaid went quite a bit differently than you or I remember...

Another adorable Beaumont and Beasley installment. Nick's sarcastic, 75%-done-with-everything attitude makes me smile nearly every time. And Crispin finds love! It felt a little cheesy, but I love Crispin so XD Also, Crispin's increase of pets was awesome, and had me (and probably Nick) going "how is he getting all of these?" XD The kid has skills, guys. I envy them.

I liked the twist on the Little Mermaid story. It really did get twisted (pun intended), and kept the characters on their toes to keep up with the antagonist. The climax was probably my favorite, like the first book. It was intense and I feared for everyone o.o

The school was interesting, and the Mythfits were hilarious and I loved them. I also really loved his teaching style and I need more of it. XD He snarks and acts gruff and to the point and the Mythfits are just alarmed and so not cool with this new teacher. That class was beautiful to watch.

The antagonist, while we don't actually see them in particular, but them through another character (spoilers ;) ), was intriguing, though it would have been neat to see them physically (maybe another time???).

Malcolm, the school headmaster, was brilliant. He too has an attitude of "done-ness" like Nick, but he's also a dragon, so people tend to avoid pushing his buttons. We also learn a bit more about Cordelia (and we get a little more of their potential looove P) ), and her backstory, which left me with questions.

I still have a lot of questions. O_O

But book three is out, so I'll probably have to snag that one. :3 Gotta make sure the favorites live, right?

Violence/gore: Not much. Skeletons attack. There are fighting scenes and injuries inflicted, but nothing is deeply detailed that I remember.

Profanity: None

Sexual content: Two of the cast share a few light kisses.

Other:Nothing that comes to mind

Sunday, December 31, 2017

What Happened: 2017

The year ends tomorrow (for me, anyhow). Usually this doesn't mean much for me. New year, whee. I watch the ball drop, I go to bed, and wake up to the first day of the new year.

Is 2018 gonna be like that?

Haha of course not

This girl's goin' to Peru.

For two months. My first time traveling by plane (the time when I was a baby doesn't really count?) and internationally.

Basically there are no baby steps here. This is really new to me and right now I'm trying to figure out what the cookie tin I was thinking. XD But also I'm kind of excited. I'll be volunteering at an orphanage, so I'll be hanging out with kids of all ages. No idea what all I'll encounter, but it'll be an adventure nevertheless.

Similarly, 2017 has been a bit of an adventure? Outside my own circles of life, a lot of political and other stuff happened that I'd rather not go into. BUT, I want to summarize things that happened to me personally. :3 Might be boring for some, but it's a thing people do, yeah?

Things happened, guys. I FINALLY finished the draft of my fantasy novel, Empire of Blood and Shadow. I got it revised/edited enough to send it to alpha readers for real. That was really fun, actually. I sent it to a handful of fellow writers, including two guys who write, since I have a guy POV and needed to make sure he was, well, being a guy. XD

I've gotten really great feedback. Besides myself, nobody else has read EOBAS, and it was exciting to see what others thought. They've loved it, and they've offered awesome critiques too. I found the majority of my alphas in the Twitter community*, and they've all been so awesome and I'm so appreciative of them for reading, especially when I gave them a 5-million-word** mammoth to read during the school months. XD I'm so grateful they agreed to read and didn't run in terror. Cookies for them all!

*And also the writing community on Twitter is just really great, guys. There're so many friendly people, and I'm grateful for the ones I've met. Even though I may not know them well and may seem like I'm lurking to them XD

**Okay I exaggerate, but it's a TON of words, guys. I have a problem

I also finished another story on Wattpad. :D The sequel to The Empire Thief was finished this year. Both stories were super fun to write. Sometimes they were a mess because I failed to make sure I addressed major things, BUT I made it and it's lovely and I like it. :3

But then after that I've been in a funky writing slump, and I swear it's driving me insane. I hit walls in brainstorming, or I lose the drive to write a story. I did my third NaNo this year too, and even that story was flopping like a beached fish. It was pretty bad.

I'm still kind of in that fog, but I'm organized the feedback from EOBAS that I have thus far, and I'm hoping editing will bring back that spark. Here's hoping.

I've also been exploring the reasons behind why I write. I wrote another post about that. I want to glorify God with my stories, and bring His truths to readers. Even if my stories don't have directly religious elements (themes, characters, etc.). God-willing, the truths they do communicate will spark curiosity and lead them to God. It's been really good to further develop this mindset, and I hope to understand it better in the year to come.

I read a total of 47 books this year, according to Goodreads. I'm quite proud of myself, even though I didn't hit the 50 goal XD But that doesn't matter. I read a lot of really awesome stories. I listened to a bunch of audiobooks (binged The Lunar Chronicles), read a couple mangas and a graphic novel, and a really cool book that was made to look like an old library book, in which fictional character have written in its margins that tell another story. So it's like two stories in one book. It's a thick read, but it's really fun. :D

I started the reading year by basically binging the Throne of Glass series. Which, in hindsight, may have been a poor choice, but I really enjoyed them regardless of how exhausted my brain was. XD I'm fairly pleased with the majority of the books I read. I tried a few contemporary novels, which left me with mixed feelings, but meh. I have plenty of other fun stories to continue reading.

I've also been reading a few fun Wattpad stories from Twitter friends. :D Here's a few I would HIGHLY recommend:
The Pursuit of Merriment (technically written before 2017, but you'll need this for the following short stories)
Where the Ghosts Lie
The Broken City of Crows (ongoing)

All of those are really fun. So if you don't yet know what to start reading in the coming year, I would recommend these. :3

And a random mishmash of things :3

I got my first job of ever.
I worked about ten months at a Walmart, in the Lawn & Garden section. Overall, I'm incredibly grateful for the experience. There were days when I never wanted to come back. Other days were actually a little fun. But it was a good experience. I survived the heat of summer, even! XD I quit just before the holiday madness in November, partly because trying to juggle holidays, work, and Peru prep was something this introvert didn't want to deal with, no sir.

I have a nephew!
And he is the cutest little man of ever and I love him. And also my niece, who had her first birthday this year and that was precious.

Volunteered to work at an orphanage in Peru.
I'm beginning to feel a little nervous, a few days before I leave. XD But it'll be a good experience. I've been learning Spanish, and I have the important words down. It's been kind of fun. The translations get a little weird and amusing. Luis wants a pink spider, and he eats soap. I am concerned for Luis.

Started learning a new language!
Just don't ask me to identify whether I'm talking about myself or you or Bob. Because I still don't know.

What were you all up to this year? :D

Friday, December 29, 2017

Book Review: Dreamlander (K.M. Weiland)

This is my second KM Weiland fiction book, and I really loved this one too. It's a long book, but so packed with activity it doesn't really feel long. Things get more and more complicated, and Chris and Allara have to make a lot of hard choices. Concerning the plot, and concerning each other.

I really liked how they both had a lot of inner demons they needed to deal with, and that those demons affected the plot, too. Chris is dealing with his guilt, and with his relationships back on Earth. Allara's dealing with learning to trust, to have a bit of faith. They spark change in each other. Love isn't a major plotline, I don't think, and I really like that simply as companions in the craziness, they change each other.

Chris is a precious bean who gets into way more than trouble than he probably ought, but I really liked how he has to face the consequences of his actions throughout the book, and not simply deal with the guilt early on and continue on as normal. Consequences don't always show up right away, and I appreciated how Chris had to deal with his actions throughout his story, both in Lael and on Earth.

Mactalde was an interesting villain. His goals weren't complex, really, but rather simple. They were ones I could totally understand (even though he's still a murdering scumbag). But the simplicity of his wants and goals was interesting. He just wants one thing, something that, at the base of it, is something that wouldn't really be a villainous desire. But he tacks on revenge, and that's when he becomes evil.

The worldbuilding made Lael feel both new yet familiar at once. There were new names for different kinds of plants, animals, and foods, but at the same time something about the world was familiar? Or it didn't feel too strange in some ways, which I liked. I wasn't drowning in so much newness that I didn't know my right from my left. Lael firearms were a really cool concept too, using moisture to power them. It and the sky cars kind of gave the fantasy world a little bit of a steampunk/modern feel? Maybe that's where the familiarity stems from.

I was a little confused by how the dreaming/the Orimere worked. At first I thought Chris was holding the Orimere all the time to go between worlds, but then apparently he doesn't, unless he wants to bring something to/from the worlds. So that aspect was a little confusing sometimes, but usually I didn't need to fully understand it most of the time.

I liked the themes and messages in this, too. They're skillfully woven in, but still visible as the characters have their arcs to face and overcome. It their center, it has a very Christian feel, but never states it as such. But that actually makes me like the themes even more, really. God is at the center, but it's not obvious. And I really appreciated K.M. Weiland's skill in this. As a Christian, it was fun to see the themes, but also realize that God is at the center. Redemption is a major theme, I think, and I love how it was explored, even if sometimes it wasn't how I expected.

And, lastly, my favorite character: Orias. I loved this man. I really liked the worldbuilding that surrounded his race, but him in particular I loved. He, like Chris and Allara, is forced to make choices. Sometimes they aren't good choices. But he resigns himself to it. He just needs a lot of hugs and love. I was always looking forward to Orias POVs. XD

Violence/gore: There is a lot of violence (seeing as how Chris lands himself in a war), and it gets bloody, but it's not described in excessive detail.

Profanity: If there was any, it was only referenced.

Sexual content: Two characters share a few light kisses.

Other: Chris' father is a drunk. Wine is consumed by some characters.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

For Even the Smallest

Did you know one of Jesus' ancestors sold his little brother into slavery?

Did you know that one of His ancestors had been a prostitute?

Both are true. Rahab was a prostitute. She lived in Jericho just as Joshua and the Israelites arrived to take possession of the lands God had promised. Joshua sent spies to Jericho, and there Rahab protected them from harm. In return, they spared the lives of her and her family. And, ultimately, God put her in the line of Jesus.

Judah, the son of Israel, sold his brother Joseph into slavery, because he and his brothers were jealous of Joseph being their father's favorite. But in the end, God used Judah and his brothers' mistake to save their people, and the people of Egypt, from famine. And, ultimately, God used Judah as the line of Jesus.

See what I'm getting at? God can take people who seem to be at ground zero, who don't seem to have much going for them. He used them in His master plan: Sending His Son Jesus as a Savior to His chosen people. God used people like Judah and Rahab to, eventually, bring about the birth of Jesus. God, the One who commands the stars and knows them all by name, who orders the wind to turn where it will, orders your and my lungs to push air in and back out, used people like these two in the line of Jesus Christ.

So you can bet your left sock that He's got a plan for you.

God can take the most insignificant, smallest person and use them for His ultimate plan. He can take people who fight Him at every corner, like Paul once had, and change them so drastically to be used for His purposes, to make them someone who spreads God's Word, instead of fights it.

So God can use you, too, for His plan. He's got one for you just as much as He did for Judah, Rahab, and Paul. Life might suck. Things might not be going well. School might be poor, or life at home a miserable situation. Whatever the case, know God has a plan for you. In this world of people, animals, events and activity, He's not forgotten you. You're His creation, and He knows His creation by name, be they stars, sparrows, or you or me.

We just need to be brave enough to take a plunge into faith. Rahab took that plunge. She rescued two spies out of the hands of her city because she saw a chance to save her family. She had faith, and God rewarded that faith.

God's plan for you might not be as grand as it is for others, but He's still got one for you. He sent His Son on Earth for you. Jesus was born in a cave, with a little trough that would hold water for the flocks. The Prince of Peace was cradled in a sheep's water trough. His first visitors were shepherds. And He came to die for sinners like you and me. He left His Heavenly Father's side for God's children. For people that might be in similar situations to Rahab's, or Paul's, if only they will turn to Him in repentance.

Don't you think that God's got a plan for you, too? He orchestrated Judah and Rahab into Jesus' line. He's got plans for you too. The big step is to let Him lead the way, and trust He's got this. The God who controls every snowflake, the God who created Neptune, Pluto, and Mars... He created you. You're a part of His plan. He's writing your story.

I hope you have a super awesome Christmas. As you celebrate, remember that God sent Jesus for you. And have faith to let Him take the lead, and show you His plan. He's got everything under control, and everything that happens is part of His plan. And so are you. He's not forgotten you. All it takes is a repentant heart, and a willingness to let God show you the way.

Merry Christmas!!!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Book Review: Beast of Talesend (Kyle Robert Shultz)

A new, quirky and charming spin on a tale as old as time. Nick Beasley's a man who debunks magic: people come to him with magical problems, he proves it to be simply normal, everyday explanations. Magic isn't real.

That is, until Lady Cordelia Beaumont arrives. Then everything gets crazy, Nick becomes big and furry (not the furry thing in the photo, though), and magic becomes very, very real.

This was a fun read. I liked the fairytale aspect behind the world. It has a familiar atmosphere at first, but we realize soon that the fairytales we know actually happened, they were real. And sometimes, they're not as bright as we've been told. I do wish I'd gotten a more fleshed-out view of the setting and the worldbuilding, though, to add to the charm of the fairytales.

Nick Beasley was hilarious in a good way. His attitude, while matter-of-fact, also gave me the impression that he's just 75% done with everything. XD He gets thrown into situations he didn't think possible, and it was fun watching him try to understand it all.

Cordelia was a whirlwind of a girl on our first meeting. I honestly didn't expect that kind of behavior from her at first, but I liked her personality. She's spunky and seems a little wobbly with her magic sometimes, but she knows when to be serious. She and Nick made quite a pair. It's a miracle they didn't kill each other. XD

There were occasions where the dialogue felt a little bit bumpy, but often it amused me. Nick and Cripsin were awesome in their banter. XD I really liked their brotherly relationship. And the backstory hit me in the feels, man.

SPEAKING OF. Crispin is a precious puppy who needs protecting and so help me if he ends up DYING or SOMETHING, there will be riots.* He's young and mildly naive and his role expanded more than I expected, and I just really need to see him safe okay? Pretty sure Nick agrees.

*(Also that prophecy has me way too many levels of worried. I don't think it's as straightforward as it seems, which worries me. A lot.)

The climax seemed a little quiet, but I think that was because this book is kind of a setup for the next books? I'm eager to see where this story goes, and how they all fair. :3 I needed answers (like the end of the mirror scene????? Whaaaaaat???), and I need them nowwwww.

I also want to know how Kyle works in other fairytales, and how it works with the world and with magic. It intrigues me, and I liked how some of the stories tended to take a darker twist. Though maybe that should worry me...?


Violence/gore: Fairly mild. Nothing is detailed, really. Though a character's human body bursts apart.

Sexual content: Nick and Mirrordelia kiss.

Profanity: Only referenced.

Other: We're told very briefly that some minor characters are naked (after a broken spell).