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).

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Writing: A (Hopefully) Useful Starter Kit

This blog has reached 200 posts! :3 Probably not terribly exciting, but it's kinda cool. The Story Weaver started, like, three years ago with a young, not very well-outlined story. XD I've not been consistent in posting, or I flood the place with a backup of reviews (which happened recently, my bad!), but I'm learning. Learning what I want to post, when to post, and all that. I hope to learn more, and make this place a little more... not quite professional, but also something that's not just a place in the internet, if that makes sense.

I don't have a big celebratory post or event. Honestly I didn't realize I had 200 posts until I opened up the doc to write this post. So maybe this is kind of in celebration of 200 posts? Ish?

I don't really have anything deep to say, or anything super clever about writing. But I'm beginning to learn that it's okay to not have clever things to say about writing. I admire the people who can find things like that to say, and I love gleaning advice from it.

I wanted to be like that. To offer something to writers that was helpful and interesting. But everything seemed to have been already said, either in tweets or blog posts or plotting structures the writer came up with. I didn't feel I had anything to share on that level.

But I'm realizing that's okay. I'm (slowly) beginning to realize that I don't need to match their wit. I probably can't.

However, what I can do is offer advice that's been told before, but in my words. There are writers out there who're just starting out, looking for a launching pad. Maybe I can help. Maybe I can offer them a launch pad. With my own experiences, with things I'm still learning even today.

So I might try it out (and I'm totally open to advice on how to offer advice). Instead of wishing I was clever enough to offer advice to people already well on their way in their writing career, I want to try to offer advice to the ones just starting out. Help them pick their first Pokemon, if you will. ;)

So today, I'd like to give you a small "starter kit," if you will, of a few of the basic writing elements. Disclaimer: It will be far from perfect, as I'm still learning them myself, but hopefully if you're feeling a bit lost in this forest of words, this post will help give you a foothold.*

*Please, do remember to take anything I say with a grain of salt. I just want to share what I've learned with you. ;)

We'll start with the basics.

  • Plot
This is at it's simplest the story. The timeline, if you will, that your cast of characters will follow. Your main character (or MC) wants something. Maybe he wants to save his little sister, or he just wants to get out of the ranks of a rebellion (or win the rebellion). But the bottom line is, there's something he wants.

But its your job to make him go through ALL the hoops to get it. Maybe even then he doesn't get it, and finds instead something he needed rather than what he wanted. But the plot follows your MC's journey, his search for the thing he wants (or thinks he wants). That includes all of the obstacles he faces, people or otherwise. Usually there'll be an antagonist (the villain) who stands in his or her way (think Captain Hook from Peter Pan or the White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia). The villain wants something too, and the plot will help you (and readers) follow what happens when these two forces collide.

Spoiler: A (hopefully) exciting story happens. ;)

Usually, stories follow a character-driven plot, or it's simply plot-driven. Character-driven stories, while they should have an external plot, tend to focus in the inner workings of the MC and follow her development, the way she changes over the course of a story (this is called a character arc).

Plot-driven stories are usually when the plot keeps the character moving. Trouble will find the MC, and the MC follows along while struggling to stay on top of things. In this type, there's sometimes not much of a character arc. The world around the MC changes, while the MC may not change much.

Sometimes stories have a bit of both types, which would make for even more complex stories, which I find could be rather interesting. ;) In either case, the plot is the track for your story, complete with all sorts of obstacles that need hurdled.

  • Character
Characters are the people who populate your novel. Without them, we would probably have just scenic nature footage. Exciting for some, but it doesn't really work for a book, especially when you have lots of intense ideas to explore.

So you need people. I'll break it down to three general "groups." It gets a little deeper than what I'm going to describe, and I'm happy to try delving deeper into them if you all want. But for now, we'll divide your cast into three fairly easy groups for you to organize: main characters, antagonists, and supporters.

You probably recognize those first two. The main character is who readers will usually follow in the course of the story. They're the ones your readers will root for. They have a desire, and they're going after it. Remember to make them active in their desire. They need to be the primary force driving the plot. Sometimes the plot drives the character, and that's okay, but remember to keep your MC on track. Maybe she reacts to events up until a certain point before she realizes she needs to start taking responsibility and acting, but give her some active-ness, even when she's just reacting for a portion of the time.

Don't be afraid to give your MC flaws. Your story's hero doesn't, and probably shouldn't, be totally perfect. Maybe he or she has weaknesses that affect their journey. Give your MC layers: interests, dreams, fears, flaws, strengths, complicated relationships, etc. Stuff that make humans human (even if your character might be a dragon ;) ). Your hero can be strongly righteous, and that's good too. But giving him or her a flaw or two can't hurt. ;) Your hero should get knocked back from reaching his goal (whether by external forces, or his own shortcomings), but he needs to keep getting back up, learn (eventually), and try again.

We're going to say the antagonist is also human (or dragon) for now, because usually antagonists are. Sometimes they're simply other, non-sentient forces (weather, sickness, etc). Those can be excellent antagonists for character-driven plots. Human villains can supply the antag-position in both character- and plot-driven stories. For villains, they too have a want, a certain desire. But, often, it tends to rub against the MC's desire the wrong way. They get in the way of each other. The MC might be working to stop the villain, or vice versa. Or they're both trying to stop each other at once.

The villain's desires are, usually, bad. Maybe it's their goal that's bad, or their methods. Or maybe it's both. That's basically how stories go. But just saying that they're evil isn't quite enough. Maybe they really do just want to halt the MC in his tracks. But ask yourself why. Why this hatred for the MC? Explore their character. Villains are human too. Maybe their motives aren't entirely bad (though their methods might be). Maybe they have a few traits that make them seem a little less 100% evil and more human. Do they love playing a certain game? Do they love and dote on their newborn daughter? Give your villains depth like you would your heroes. Make them and their desires complex. It's interesting, sometimes, when we get a villain who we despise and who does awful things, but on the other side of the coin we kind of understand where they're coming from.

Just make sure it doesn't turn them into a good guy, unless that's your intent (redemption arcs, whoo!). Villains shouldn't necessarily be portrayed as good. They might be motives we get, but the way they go about them can be where we draw the line and say "ahh, no, that's bad." Evil shouldn't really get away with being evil. At least, sooner or later the consequences should maybe catch up to them.

The last grouping is the supporting cast. These are the people who team up with the hero. Or perhaps the villain (or maybe both). These people can come in as a wide variety of personalities and backgrounds as your MC and villain can. And they have their own desires and dreams, fears and flaws. Supporting characters can make great companions to the hero. Maybe he needs a mentor to guide him through using magic. Or perhaps your heroine needs a hero to help her through her arc. Or perhaps they simply need a best friend, or parents/siblings. Supporting characters can be very nearly anyone. They flesh out the world. Sometimes they show up only once, or they're a close partner to your hero.

Remember to give your supporting characters layers too. Give them their own desires to pursue. They tend to think the story's about them. ;) What do they want? Does it interfere with the MC? How well does the MC get along with them? This complexity will make them feel as real as the antag and MC. They're people too. Let them act like it, and not just be part of the backdrop. Just remember that these characters need a role that is relevant to the plot or your MC's arc. If they're just there for the show, they may need to go.

  • Setting
Setting is where you're story takes place. This is could literally be anywhere. In space? 1776 in America? In a world populated by dragons and selkies? In an apartment complex in Chicago?

You get the idea.

Setting, in a way, can be its own character. Your story world will likely have its own culture. How does this affect the MC's beliefs? How does this affect the way the villain acts? You might need to do some research depending on where or when you want your story to take place (especially if it's set in America in 1776, for example).

Worldbuilding is a tool you can use in your setting. I tend to see it as a tool most often used in fantasy or science-fiction. Worldbuilding is, basically, building a world. You create the world, instead of using the one around you. However, you draw from the world around you too, so it can't hurt to research for fantasy or sci-fi cultures anyway. You use it to develop magic systems, or technology, or lots of things that might need an additional creative spark. ;)

If you like, I have a Pinterest board of worldbuilding stuff that might be helpful to you. ^_^

  • Themes
Themes can be what you want to say in your story. Usually, stories have a point, something the writer wants to communicate. However, you need a delicate balance between story and theme. Too much theme, and it bogs down the story and feels preachy. Too little, and readers might miss the point, or misidentify it.

Sometimes your story might call for theme to be a little more noticeable, other times maybe not. Play around with it. Theme can be a fussy thing. It needs a good balance to weave seamlessly into the narrative without making bumps in the road that go "here I am!", but also strong enough that it doesn't fade out of sight and sound.

Experiment. Play around with words, or make a list of possible themes. As writers, we need to communicate truths. Those truths come from God and His Word. We need to make sure our stories don't give the impression that we support things God has said are not good. And theme is an excellent place to start: it will help set the tone for your novel's smaller messages or sub-themes that might be woven into it too.

So what do you want to say? What has God put in your heart that he wants you to say?

There's tons more elements to writing, I'm sure. There are sub-topics for each of the ones we've discussed, and sub-topics for the sub-topics. But hopefully this gets you started. :D It sounds complicated, maybe, but be patient with yourself and with your writing. You will get there. It's gonna be hard, there might be tears or doubts (even I still have those!). In between the satisfaction of smooth sentences and deep characters, there's going to be frustrations. It's part of the learning process.

But you know what?

You've been given a gift. The Master Storyteller's given you a skill to use for His glory. He's given you a mind for stories and telling them. Pray about it, too. Ask Him to show you how He wants you to use the written word. Be willing to learn and change and grow. You are God's story, living in a world He built. Learn from it. :) Explore the stories He's telling, the world He made, and borrow from it. Maybe it's His will that you become a storyteller, that it's where He's calling you. If it is, that's awesome. Follow His lead.

You've got this. Play with the words. Mix and match. Break grammar rules or follow them, or both. Read books on writing, or blogs, or podcasts or YouTube videos. Study the story-lines of movies, TV shows, or video games. Play with the words again. Play and experiment and explore.

And don't give up.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Book Review: The Star-Touched Queen (Roshani Chokshi)

Maya's life has essentially been shadowed by her horoscope. A sign from the stars that tells of her union with death and destruction. Naturally, eligible bachelors aren't keen on courting this doomed princess. And Maya's alright with that. She'd much prefer to watch and learn from the political proceedings of her father, and collect old folktales and legends for her little sister.

But that changes when her father forces Maya into a corner she finds no escape from.

Until she meets a strange man with an even stranger kingdom, whose answers she can't have until the new moon.

The plot of The Star-Touched Queen is a little slow, and not quite as punchy as other novels might be, but that helped make it feel like its own legend or myth. But this one, we "zoom in," in a way, on the heroine, and see her thoughts and struggles. The plot gets a slow start, but halfway is when Maya's life starts to go even more nuts than it has been. ;) That's when things unravel and left me like "HOLD UP WHAT."

But my favorite part of the book was the writing. Oh my gosh, I was in love with the gorgeous descriptions, and the worldbuilding. The settings were so magical and rich and gorgeous, and I loved the imagery. It all came together in my mind easily, and it was just beautiful. :3 The worldbuilding was fascinating, too, with the Night Bazaar and Amar's peculiar castle. Honestly, I could've read a whole book just exploring the bazaar and castle alone.The culture (both the human world and the more "magical," other world) was beautiful, and fun to explore.

The setting was its own character, in a way, and it helped convey the mood. There were two moments in the Night Bazaar that really pointed this out to me. One was when the bazaar was bright, magical, wonder-filled, a little dark and weird. The other was when things were dull, lifeless, dead. It was a striking contrast, and it helped instill the proper mood of the story. Yet another reason I fell in love with the writing.

Maya's character was interesting to me, in that she seemed like a much quieter heroine. She wasn't very bold (though she does have her moments), and often isn't sure of herself, though she does know what she wants. Her arc, while I liked it and made her feel more whole, seemed a little unclear sometimes. I wasn't sure where these flaws were coming from, though eventually I could kind of see?

Amar was interesting, but his character was simple, though shrouded in a lot of mystery (and that twist though just had me kind of reeling XD). It's similar to Maya, maybe, but that also lends itself to its legend-feel. It's not necessarily supposed to have a big, complex plot or development.

I liked the banter between Maya and Amar. It wasn't like Maya's and Kamala's (a sassy talking horse), where it made me laugh. Maya and Amar were clever with their words, kind of playing with them. I liked it (but I'm also glad Kamala added the funny banter XD). Their relationship was a little odd at first (we're as much in the dark as Maya is), but I really liked it when they connected. It was sweet.

And dang, Amar knows how to say beautiful things. I was taken by him. XD

The plot developments were good, too. I really liked Nritti's involvement, and how that played out, and how things got deeper the more I understood past events (again, it's more of a legend in feel, so it works somehow). It was a good development. B) In some ways, the story reminded me a little of Beauty and the Beast (though vaguely) and Howl's Moving Castle, which made me enjoy it even more.

Violence/gore: Fighting breaks out when Maya is to pick a husband. There's a lot of fighting, and blood, it usually any gore isn't described in detail. Maya tells a story that gets gory at the end (but again, it's not detailed). She witnesses the dead walking, and she sees their death wounds. Their are monsters who fight amongst themselves, and it can get a little bloody in places.

Profanity: Nothing I can recall.

Sexual content: Maya says it's better to spread ideas than legs. The harem wives imply painful intercourse on a girl's wedding night. Maya and Amar share several kisses.

Other: Kamala (a demon horse) pees on Maya's half-brother. The religion/philosophy in may not agree with all readers (I think of Christian readers, in particular).

Monday, October 16, 2017

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Laini Taylor)

Karou lives two lives: An art student on the one hand, and on the other, a collector of teeth for a chimaera called the Wishmonger. But of course that all changes when Karou's cut off from one part of her life, and an angel takes a strange fascination with her...

One thing I liked about Karou's character was how she was so utterly chill about going to and from the two sides of her life. She has to keep Brimstone (the Wishmonger) and the teeth and all that secret from everybody else, and her mannerisms, blue hair, and her peculiar artwork draw questions, so do her sudden disappearances whenever Brimstone sends her off on errands. But whenever questions from humans come up, she basically gives them the truth. But she adds a funny little smile that makes people disbelieve her. It was an amusing trait, which I liked seeing, instead of her trying to evade questions awkwardly or somesuch.

The plot was pretty intense, with chaos and trouble snowballing bigger and bigger with Karou struggling to find footing. But then it kind of slams to a slower pace as her relationship with Akiva, a seraph (angel) who feels as drawn to her as she to him. It was good to see things between them unfold and become explained (which explain a LOT of the insta-love feel I'd been getting watching him go on about the "pull" to each other), but I was antsy to get back into the main plot and get that ball rolling again.

It didn't, unfortunately, but the flashbacks provided a lot of information we needed. It also afforded me a grand view of Akiva and Brimstone's world of Eretz, and the war raging there. The worldbuilding was amazing and complex and fascinating, especially as I got answers to things I needed answers to. It was really neat to explore that world. I also loved the descriptions of Earth-side settings (Prague's descriptions were freaking gorgeous), but I loved especially the worldbuilding of Eretz.

Those flashbacks also crushed my heart when I didn't expect it to. So there's that. XD

The romance, while it was sweet, felt insta-lovey to me. Before things started unfolding I didn't know why the heck Karou and Akiva were going on about how they felt "pulled" to each other, or how his eyes always burned or how her water looked like a river (that sort of description has always felt over-dramatic to me, though, so it might be just me). Afterward stuff made a lot more sense, but even then some things felt too romantic way too fast. I dunno.

My favorite character was Brimstone. He seemed like a mentor kind of character, which I tend to love a lot. XD At first I was a little conflicted about him, unsure where he stood on things, but later I loved him again. He is precious grump. He had a lot of good bits of advice for Karou, too, which is what first drew me to him.

So basically give me a mentor-figure character who is fatherly but also part-grump and I'm kind of sold. XD


Violence/gore: There's a lot of violence, but nothing it described in great detail. Karou has to fight several enemies, and can get rather ruthless. A character leaps to their death off a rooftop. There's a war between seraph and chimaera, and both sides suffer losses. Akiva is wounded in one battle flashback. A character is tortured in another scene.

Profanity: A**/jack***/a**hole, b******, hell, and d*** are used. God's name is misused.

Sexual content: No sex "on screen," but it tends to be implied or referenced to in dialogue or narrative. Kaz does appear nude at the beginning of the book. Characters having had sex is implied. But there is nothing explicit shown or told to us.

Other: Characters smoke. Brimstone and the other chimaera may be seen as demons, working with witchcraft, since they're creatures fighting angels; however, Laini Taylor's angels are NOT God's angels. Karou steals wishes from other people, and seems to show no regret or guilt for it.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Beautiful Books - NaNoWriMo 2017 - Cowboys and Dragons

National Novel Writing Month is right around the corner (!!!), and once more, Cait and Sky are hosting a link-up so we writers can flail about our projects, about how unprepared we might be, or how pumped we are regardless.

This will be my third year participating in NaNo, and I'm doing a story that I actually had considered doing for my very first year, but got bumped for the steampunk murder mystery.

But this year, I'm doing what I hope will be super fun and super hilarious. It takes a ton of cliches/tropes of two genres and mashes them up, with a few original twists to keep it fresh. ;) I don't have many pictures, as I've done very little searching for character references. Sorry. XD

1. What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?
I'm not sure what exactly inspired this project. Maybe I just wanted to see what fairytales and the Wild West would do when mashed up. XD I've had this idea for at least two years, but I've had so many other projects going on it's always been pushed to the backburner.

2. Describe what your novel is about!
Once Upon a Time at High Noon

Hiko is a knight in shining armor whose armor has yet to be truly tested, but he gets the chance to when Princess Jia has been kidnapped by a fire-breathing, gold-hoarding dragon. Mason Thomas is a loner who wanders into the town of Rebirth, where he finds a gang of bandits exploiting the town's resources and their leader taking a fancy to the undertaker's daughter, Paisley Burnn.

Both men decide to take action. But when they're suddenly transported into each other's shoes, they have to cope with an environment not their own, and enemies they don't have a clue how to fight.

3. What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

Pretty much sums it up. Dunno 'bout you but I'm pumped.

4. Introduce us to each of your characters!
(Bear with me. I don't know much about these people yet XD)

Our leading gentlemen!
Hiko: A knight who desperately wants to prove himself, and rescue the woman he loves. Before someone else snatches her away forever...
Thomas: A loner, and bit gruff. He's practical, and has a good sense of justice. He's a well-behaved gentleman, though he has his faults (don't let him be at the tavern too long). But he prefers to mind his own business.

The leading ladies!
Princess Jia: A lady who is a damsel in distress, but may not be as weak as most of her suitors thinks her to be. She's been kidnapped by a dragon, but she's not going to wait around for her knight in shining armor. Swordplay is preferred over singing or art, and it may just give her the upper hand.
Paisley: A spunky girl who longs for more than helping her father measure coffin sizes. Despite her sometimes morbid sense of humor (she blames her father), Paisley is kind, and cares fiercely for her town and will fight for it until her guns are empty and her blood runs dry.

And our villains!
Ren and the dragon: Are they in cahoots? Who's calling the shots? Are they the same? Are they two separate villains with their own agendas? Who knows?
Duke: Intimidating leader of the bandits that essentially run the town of Rebirth. He's stern, doesn't like people disobeying his rules or even questioning them (anybody who does either will likely get shot). He's also got an eye for the undertaker's daughter.

5. How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)
Usually, I do some brainstorming to find ideas and a direction, and work out character personalities or any arcs. Then once stuff gets clear in my head, I'll probably make a light outline (K.M. Weiland's resources our outlining have been excellent).

I did a little bit of research, to find lot of cliches/tropes for the two genres, since those will be playing a big part of the novel (but in a humorous way). Though that was pretty easy.

Any snacks will come to me as I acquire them, I suppose. XD

6. What are you most looking forward to about this novel?
Probably watching Hiko and Mason interact with the world of the other. It'll be really hilarious to watch Hiko learn to shoot, and Mason being confused by medieval times. XD

It's gonna be awesome, guys.

7. List 3 things about your novel’s setting.
Dragon lairs
Train tracks

8. What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?
Hiko must rescue the princess. A dragon and an evil wizard wants the princess too. But now, he's stuck helping a town in the middle of nowhere with gun-wielding bandits.

Mason wanders into town and is challenged by Paisley to do the right thing. Before he can decide, he now has to decide whether or not to rescue a princess he's never even seen before.

9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
Uhh.... unsure yet. I think, though Hiko will become more confident and sure of himself, and Mason may open up more, and give more of himself.

10. What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?
Uhh.... unsure on those right now too. XD Perhaps giving of yourself...? I haven't explored themes yet.

What about you? :D Tell me about your NaNo projects! Or if you're not doing NaNo this year, what projects are you working on? :D What themes do they have?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Book Review: Rebel of the Sands (Alwyn Hamilton)

Middle Eastern-esque fantasy with a Wild West vibe. A scrappy sharpshooter of a girl. A rebel prince leading a bunch of magical misfits.

Yea, it's about as cool as it sounds.

When I first jumped into this, it was a little confusing. The worldbuilding is still a little confusing for me, with a few terms of objects I'm not sure how to imagine, but I still loved the world. Its desert/wild west feel was a unique flavor. At first glance it appears magic-less, but then you learn about different creatures that obviously have a magical quality about them.

Another thing about the worldbuilding is that there were several different countries, and it was interesting to see how they all had such different beliefs on the creation of the world. I dunno why that stood out, but it was neat. I do wish, though, I had a map. The world felt so complex and vast that I wanted a map to orient myself in it.

Amina was a fun character. She's scrappy, and doesn't let her world's social norms keep her down (her world is very sexist). I loved her and Jinn as a combat duo. They worked together so well, and I loved their banter (so much sass). So I could have done without the romance, but it's sweet too, and I like the initial hurdles they had. It felt natural and expected, and their responses to it at first felt natural too.

The Rebel Prince, however, is where my heart is (Amina can have Jinn!). I thought his reasons for his rebellion felt unique to others I'd seen, and I just loved the atmosphere he tended to give off. He was a source of calm, usually. I like him. :3

I'm interested to see where the story goes. And see where this new plot development goes, too. o.o Amina's got a lot ahead of her, methinks.

Violence/gore: Character take part in fights. A character's wrist is broken, another's leg is shot. Amina is beaten a little. People are shot/injured often, but usually there's not a lot of detailed description.

Profanity: Instances of hell, d***/g**d*****, b****, and p***.

Sexual content: Usually, it's mostly implied references to sexual situations (often having happened in the past). Amina and Jinn kiss. Twin characters, who are shapeshifters, are naked in human form, and no one seems to have an issue with it. Women in this world are seen only as objects, for marriage and childbearing.
      Trigger warning: There are some instances where rape is implied. Nothing "on-screen." It's mostly just narrative about past events.

Other: Lots of drinking. Gambling occurs. Amina's uncle has many wives (that seems to be a common thing in Amina's world). A character, a half-Djinn, is a shapeshifter, and can take both male and female forms, and is called male or female depending on the form (might not be a big deal to some readers, but just in case).

Monday, October 9, 2017

Book Review: Rules for a Knight (Ethan Hawke)

Basically, this is a book from a knight to his kids, full of nuggets of advice for life. And it's actually pretty good advice for anybody today to follow. It covers topics from bravery, gratefulness, chivalry, general kindness, and other bits of simply good advice. Sometimes the narrator explains his points, but often he has a story to illustrate, about his mentor, an old knight full of the wisdom the narrator imparts to his children.

I enjoyed the little stories the narrator used to illustrate his points. His grandfather (his mentor) was a nice character to read about. He was very wise, but he also had a sense of humor that made me smile. Like when he was offered a religious position but declined it. Do you know what one of his reasons was?

"I've never known a funny bishop."

I swear I'm adopting this man as honorary grandfather.

The book was also useful to me as a writer, because I've got a character who is a knight (a lady-knight, but still), so it was kind of fun to read this from the POV of a knight, and his receiving all of this advice. Pretty sure this would be a book she would read. ;)

So if you want a book full of nuggets of wisdom in a medieval setting, might I suggest this book? ;) It doesn't replace the Bible's wisdom, of course, but Rules for a Knight offers its own set of advice that's pretty common sense for being a good person overall. ;)

Since this was kind of written like a "nonfiction" book, there's not much that's questionable, from what I recall. :) There are some characters who fight, and many of them the narrator reports to have died, but nothing is described. There might be mention of drinking, but even then I don't recall anything specific. It's a pretty clean read.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Book Review: Legend (Marie Lu)

Day and June lead very different lives. June's a prodigy, excelling in school and creating a promising future for herself. Day is a famous thief, hunted by everyone and evading everyone.

Day never kills.

Until the day a heist-gone-wrong leaves a body in Day's wake. June is assigned to hunt him down.

I really loved this book. I loved Day, I loved June. June is a scrappy girl, and keeps her cool under pressure, which I could not do. She knows what to say to please the people she's interacting with. Day is a clever mischief-maker who wields the same sort of ability to say the right things, but June used it more often.

I tended to like Day's POV more. He was a precious boy and I love him. He's determined and a bit too cocky, but he's also caring. I loved his relationship with Tess. They're a good team, and almost like a brother-sister duo. At first I thought they were related (which would have been kinda cool), but I liked Day's looking after her.

The romance was... meh, I could've done without it. It felt cheesy and a bit over dramatic with June's descriptions of Day. Day was also guilty of this, but I tended to see it more from June. It was just... too mushy? XD I like their relationship, and I hope there's some conflict in the future to help them grow. :3

Speaking of conflict: THAT PLOT THOUGH. Things happened that had me struggling to breathe and remind my heart to do its job. O.O Some elements reminded me of the Divergent trilogy, but I loved the directions this book went in. It drops a lot of shocking bombshells that left me reeling. XD

Also, the worldbuilding was intriguing, and I want to know more. What exactly happens during the Trials? I'm eager to learn more about the Colonies, and I really enjoyed seeing the culture of the "slums," and how that all works.

Did I mention I loved Day?

Violence/gore: There is some, but it's not really described in detail. June gets into a fight, and Day's thieving attempt lands him with injuries. Characters are murdered, and some are tortured.

Profanity: Very little. Some uses of hell, p***, d***, and misusing God's name. "Goddy" is a slang word (I assume created for the book), but I don't know what it means.

Sexual content: Two major characters share a few kisses. Another character gives June an unwelcome kiss.

Other: Gambling and drinking occurs. Day is, obviously, a thief.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Book Review: The Door Before (N.D. Wilson)

TWO N.D. Wilson books????

In the same YEAR??

My heart is in heaven.

I loved Glory and Ghost, but I'd been dying to get my hands on this beautiful thing for MONTHS. A prequel to Wilson's 100 Cupboards and Ashtown Burials.


It's when Henry's mom and Cyrus' dad are kids.

Henry and Cyrus are cousins.

My heart cannot handle.

The storyline points more toward the 100 Cupboards storyline, but Ashtown definitely plays a part. The story centers on Hyacinth Smith (isn't her name just so pretty?), and her discovery of two boys who stumbled into her world through a portal.

And a familiar villain follows right on their heels.

Nimiane has arrived to claim Hyacinth's world as her own, and she has an army of mushroom men. Which are really creepy and actually made me squirm. If they bite you, you get little fungal teeth growing out of you, which is disgusting. Imagine tough little rubbery fungus stuff pushing through your shoulder. You're welcome.

But anyhow, Nimiane. She's powerful and pretty confident in herself (almost too confident), but she's also careful. She doesn't give up easy. I really liked that about her. She's confident, but knows, usually, when not to be stupid even though she's sure as heck that nobody can stop her.

But Hyacinth doesn't give up easy either. She struck me as a sort of reluctant hero (kind of like her son? ;)), but she does what's needed anyway. I liked how she doesn't let Mordecai feel sorry for himself. Even though I think she was a little bit mistaken, I loved how she told him off for giving up. She's no-nonsense, and she'll put people in their place if she needs to. She's not a skilled fighter, but she makes up for it with her cunning.

Ashtown comes into play as the backdrop for Hyacinth's parents. They're both part of the Order, and it plays into where Hyacinth and her siblings all end up. It was so, so cool to see so many 100 Cupboards and Ashtown references. The fangirl in me was greatly pleased.

Especially when Mordecai and Caleb arrived. I might have freaked out.... a little. Caleb actually had a funny sense of humor, which I didn't remember in 100 Cupboards, but I loved his cheeky attitude. And Mordecai was a precious bean. I loved seeing his powers closer, and the imagery was really beautiful whenever he used it.

The imagery overall was amazing. Between the vibrancy of Mordecai's magic and the nasty little mushroom-stinkers that made me squirm, it was all so gorgeous and I could talk about it forever.

To be honest I got worried when I was getting closer to the end of the book. There seemed too much still to wrap up and not enough pages. I was maybe panicking. XD

BUT. It was all fine. It came to a solid, extremely satisfying close for me. It set things up for 100 Cupboards quite well. You could probably read this before 100 Cupboards, honestly, and not feel too lost. To me, seeing so many elements I recognized felt like coming home.

So in sum: Pretty sure this book hit the top of my favorites of 2017. Just saying.

You should read it.

And then come back and fangirl with me. ;)

Violence/gore: There is some, but it's not really detailed. It probably only gets really gross when mushroom men are pulled apart.

Profanity: None (if any, it's only referenced).

Sexual content: None

Other: Nothing of note that I can remember. The villains do use bad/wicked magic, and one of Nimiane's spells requires blood.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Book Review: Everything, Everything (Nicola Yoon)

Maddy is sick. Like, super sick. Anything and everything (hehe) could trigger her sickness and potentially kill her. So she lives in a super-sterile home with her mom and nurse.

That is, until a curious boy moves in next door and kind of flips her world upside down.

My first foray into contemporary YA. I had some issues with it, but I enjoyed the story. :3 Maddy and Olly are super sweet and adorable, and Olly's hilarious (pretty sure he won me over with that Bundt montage). I swear, I could read a whole book just of their texts, which were one of my favorite parts.

I liked how Maddy and Olly's relationship was gradual. There was a interest in each other, but it didn't really feel like insta-love? I dunno. It was gradual. They kept to their own sides of the room when they finally took that step, and they were hesitant to touch (though the hesitancy dissolved after that first time).

Honestly, everything up until Maddy runs away from home was my favorite. I liked seeing her interact in that setting, and her interactions with Olly in that situation. When she ran off, she kind of become stupidly reckless. I totally understand the need to live, to experience life and not be afraid.

But... let's slow down, girl friend, and not go jumping off the deep end and die before you've had a chance to experience things? Like... let's take things nice and slow, and work your way into everything exciting and new and magical.

Could be just me.

Which also leads me to another scene during her escape to freedom. It was a sex scene (nothing explicit, though clothes are removed), but through the whole thing I'm just like "Oh yes, this is a good idea. Let's have sex when literally ANYTHING could trigger your sickness. Solid plan." Of all people, I'd think Olly would be on the side of reason. He believes she has medicine to keep the sickness at bay, but like... sex is taking it too far. It just isn't smart.

The philosophy/themes of the story were meh to me, but that's probably just a difference of worldview. I got the impression that Everything, Everything communicated that, sometimes, you have to leave the ones you love. But... not in the way that's usual for one's children to do as they grow up. I got the feeling it meant more like leaving the relationship with loved ones. I don't know. Just wasn't my thing. :)

I did enjoy the storyline, though. It was sweet and funny. Maddy and Ollie are precious puppies who need so much love. XD Especially Olly. That boy gave me feels, guys. I needed to take him someplace safe and keep him there.

I also liked the variety of chapters "styles." Sometimes they were narrative, other times they were texts or only one paragraph. Sometimes they were pictures. It was a fresh mix of styles, and it made the story read faster. It was fun to see the different approaches to chapters, and the illustrations sprinkled out overall.

The ending wasn't quite satisfying for me, either. It left things weird between a few characters, and it didn't leave me with a good impression of Maddy. I understand the situation, but I just didn't like the way Maddy left a particular relationship, especially with the circumstances they were left in. It's hard to say more without spoilers.

Overall, it was fine read. Not my cup of tea, but perhaps some of you would enjoy it. :D

Violence/gore: Olly's dad seems to be an abusive husband and father, usually when drunk.

Profanity: There's not a lot, really. P***, g**d***, s***, and a**h*** are used once or twice, and God's name is taken in vain once.

Sexual content: Maddy and Olly share a couple kisses, and there is a sex scene, but the actual sex is implied (though it does get a bit steamy beforehand, and Ollie walks around naked afterward briefly). There is a very minor homosexual character (and to be honest, I'm not sure why he was there at all?).

Other: Olly's sister smokes. The philosophy Olly has may be questionable to some.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Book Review: The Song of Glory & Ghost (N.D. Wilson)

After a whirlwind adventure in the first Outlaws of Time book, Sam and his team work to find the Vulture and put an end to him.

But then the youngest version of their priest goes missing.

And Glory sees ghosts.

And water dragon serpent things.

And more time travel that still has my head spinning.

Y'all are in for a good one, guys.

Sam's taking a backseat in this adventure, and it's Glory's turn to step up. They have only so much time to rescue their friend, and let me tell you it's a rush of action and events start to finish that make it, well, a miracle some people actually make it through them (no spoilers ;)).

At first I was a little confused by the plot, and I wasn't seeing very much of what I had read on the jacket flap. But it did, eventually, all tie in, just not in ways I expected. Also, as the story went on I began to wonder if this wasn't the last book? I thought there were more??* But I still enjoyed the storyline, and the intense action and rushing to stay one step ahead of the bad guys (which is not easy to do). Sam is still learning to control his snakes, and Glory is still learning to help her friends travel through time.

And so naturally, a wise Ghost gifts her with even more (or at least with the knowledge that she can do so much more).

*There is more. I was mistaken.

The imagery was really pretty in some scenes, and I loved that. Glory and Ghost didn't have as much philosophical dialogue as the first book (for which I was grateful; it gave the action more screen time), but the dialogue that did get deep was freaking beautiful. It's kinda one of the things that makes N.D. Wilson my favorite author. That and his fresh imagery. It's a really beautiful mix.

The characters have kind of settled into a routine of things (at least until everything blows up again), and I loved seeing that Lost Boys vibe with Sam's crew of boys from SADDYR. Sam's sister Milly has essentially become the squad mother, and her word is law. Glory is as spunky and bold as ever, and I liked seeing her character get fleshed out, and see her struggle to rein in her abilities.

But boy, do the villains ever get a boost in power. El Buitre (forgive me if I butcher the spelling, I left the book upstairs) is dabbling in a kind of Underworld of rather dark and demented beings (spirits or creatures, I can't tell) and they have their sights set on Peter, the youngest version of Father Tiempo. This "enlarging" of the Vulture's allies was cool, and it kind of set up, too, for the next book (though I didn't realize it at first). The two "side" villains were creepy and evil, and I got the feeling they were more of the puppet masters than the Vulture was. It makes you quite aware that there's a lot more going on than just El Buitre vs. Sam Miracle.

I'm not sure what else to say that won't spoil, so go read for yourself. ;) And DO come back so we can talk about that climax, yes?


Violence/gore: There is a lot of this, but nothing is described in a brutally detailed way.

Profanity: None (if any, it was merely referenced).

Sexual content: None.

Other: I failed to write up this review right after reading the book, so I'm afraid I don't recall anything else. But I don't believe there was anything of real note, so you're good. ;)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Book Review: Fairest (Marissa Meyer)

What I expected: A feelsy tale about Levana falling in love, having a happy relationship, but the love of her life dying in some really feelsy way and I would somehow sympathize with Levana.

What I got: Not that.

Holy gold nuggets, my expectations were so far off it's not even funny. o.O I just... whoa.

First off, I loved seeing more of the Lunar worldbuilding. It has such a complex culture and environment, and it was cool to really see it, especially through the eyes of a character who lives and breathes it. Even though Levana's worldview is a bit twisted and morbid.

Her family is not a loving one. Nobody seems to love each other. Marriages are for alliances and producing heirs only, it seems. Levana's sister Channery basically has every suitor wrapped around her finger. Levana does not. She's unsure of herself, though she tries to act strong. She struggles to figure out who she is in this complicated mess of Lunar politics.

Her love life is just as messed up.

I did not expect the amount of lust Levana had for Everett. I didn't expect the lengths she'd go to for him. At the end I didn't sympathize with her. I pitied her. I was deeply concerned for her mental state. Levana's not in her right mind, guys. That's what I didn't expect.

It kind of unnerved me. It was interesting to fully understand her character, but at the same time it was also disturbing. Everret, the precious man, was so strong through it all. He can't do much to call out her issues (though he does try), but just... wahhh I felt so bad for him. :( Levana is as twisted and messed up in Fairest as she is in the main series. I loved Everett though. He and Winter's interactions are so precious and pure... and the love for his first wife was too, and I just... I wanted to take him away from all that pain. :<

The way this book made me feel more disturbed makes me wary of the book overall. I like that I understand this villain's character, but... I'm not 100% sure we needed a full novel on just how messed up she is, and what lengths she's willing to go to for her personal pleasure and desires. I felt uncomfortable in her POV, and several times I was desperately wanting to drag her off to find her the help she needs before she could hurt anybody else, or herself.

Granted, her childhood was far from healthy, but... it doesn't give me very much sympathy for her. Some, but not as much as I had for Everett. The concern I had for her kind of took away my enjoyment in the story, and it left me horrified by nearly every scene. But it is interesting to have a villain that we can't really sympathize with.

Violence/gore: There's a lot, though it's not described. Levana is burned in her childhood, and she burns Selene and her nursemaid alive. Levana commits a lot of brutal acts.

Sexual content: Levana lusts after Everett very, very much. To the point where she uses her Lunar gift to coerce him into bed with her for sex (none shown, only implied). I get the feeling it happens a few times.

Profanity: Nothing I can think of, really. If anything, it's only referenced.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Book Review: Geekerella (Ashley Poston)

Basically: A super geeky, fandom-filled modern-day retelling of Cinderella.

And I loved it.

Elle's passion is Starfield, an old TV show her father and mother both loved (from whom she inherited her love of it). It has a bit of a Star Trek vibe, I think. When Elle finds out that the movie reboot will be starring an actor from some sappy romance show, she's more than ticked.

On the other end of the spectrum, Darien is also a die-hard Starfield fan, but most people don't know it (like Elle). They see him only as the character from the sappy romance show. He struggles with wondering whether or not he's the right fit to do this show justice with the main role, to be the one to give the fans what they deserve.

When Darien and Elle, unaware of the other's real identity, start texting, adorable dorky-ness ensues. Because that's literally what these two are together and I loved it. Their relationship isn't built on knowing what the other looks like, or what their background is. It kind of takes "don't judge a book by its cover" as a theme. And it's kind of true.

I loved the whole fandom feel to this book. A lot of the fandoms mentioned I'm not in, but know of, and it was cool to see that community. I loved seeing Elle and Darien's relationship develop, and watching their arcs. They're both different, yet also kind of parallel. They both grow and become more sure of themselves, and it's lovely. :3

I think I liked Darien's POV best. I really liked his arc, with his struggles to be the Amandor the fans deserved, and the Amandor he needed. I loved how Starfield impacted his childhood, and how that influences the way he plays the role. It was neat too to see the "behind the scenes" of film-making.

There were some elements I felt had been just kind of put in there just to have them, or to just give the characters a "happy ending," but apart from that, I rather enjoyed this book. :D It was a light, fun read, and with so many fandoms, it felt like something I could relate to. I have my own fandoms, so I felt right at home with Geekerella. ;)

Violence/gore: Two character have a pretty nasty brawl near the end of the book, where both end up bruised and bloody. Elle is slapped by her stepmother.

Profanity: A**/a**hole is used a couple times, hell is used a few times. D***, p***, and b***s*** are used. But it really is far and few between.

Sexual content: There is a handful of light/brief sexual reference (characters getting handsy, characters in sexy clothing, brief telling of past events). Darien is attacked with a kiss by a fan. There are a few homosexual characters, and some homosexual references. But overall the sexual content isn't heavy at all.

Other: Elle's stepmom is abusive, treating her like a servant. Darien's privates are referred to in couple of times, but not in a sexual way (those instances too are brief).

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Book Review: Eliza and Her Monsters (Frencesca Zappia)

Eliza prefers the online world to her real one. She's created an amazing online presence for herself, and enjoys her online community, the friends she's made through it, and the fans who love her webcomic, Monstrous Sea (called MS for short). However

Nobody knows who she is. In all the world, only six people know she is the creator. Four of them are her family.

When she meets Wallace, a popular fanfiction writer of her very own brainchild, she begins to venture out into real life, coaxing her from her computer screen.

That, until her secret's out.

Then it all goes to heck for some reason I'm not entirely sure.

I don't like giving negative reviews. I feel bad. But... I really didn't like this book. I did like some parts of it. I loved the online community Eliza had created for herself. I liked the feel of it, the feel of her being immersed in her story. I could relate to Eliza and Wallace when it came to that, to their storytelling, to interesting with online friends. I do that too. I enjoyed seeing it, and the ART, guys. The art is really cool, sprinkled through the story. There's not much, but what's in it is pretty neat.

Isn't this so cool???


I also hated Eliza. I'm sorry, but she irritated me nearly from beginning to end. I had hoped her annoying behavior would be part of her arc, that she would improve. But not really. Eliza, while she has a friendly online persona, her attitude in real life was horrible. She's glued to her computer when she's not at school (and glued to her phone when she is), and I got the feeling she thinks school is a total waste of her time. That friends outside of online ones aren't worth pursuing.

She was also rather rude and disrespectful to her parents. She brushes them off and it makes them seem like they know nothing. Which, I suppose, they might not, but at least twice her parents express a desire to understand, to learn more about Eliza's interests. And she basically shrugs and continues to act like she's not understood. Eliza was bordering on arrogant and childish for me in some cases, and it was infuriating. Her parents were made out to be the villains, which.... just why? I get they didn't understand her desire for anonymity, but.... do the kids have to have an intervention???? What?

Just... why? Yes, they made a mistake, but they asked Eliza to help them understand. I understand they could have done their own research, but they wanted their daughter to show them. They were specifically asking Eliza to show them how to best interact with her. She brushed them off. I didn't like how this book seems to portray family and real life responsibilities as unimportant.

I get Eliza's love for her online community. I do. I have one, and I love it. I've made friends through it. I don't mean to say that online friends aren't real ones. They can be for sure! But Eliza neglected the friendships she could have had with her family, which could have helped prevent the disaster to follow. She could have prevented that fiasco and all of that mental pain and anxiety.

HOWEVER, I wanna talk about Wallace (bless your heart if you've stuck with me thus far). I don't have as much to say about him as Eliza, and though he does have aspects that also are like "...what?", I loved this boy. I didn't understand his refusing to talk. To Anyone. He prefers to text the person he's standing right in front of, and it annoyed me. But things were explained, which helped a LOT.

Wallace is just a precious bean, guys. I LOVED how he kind of unknowingly drew Eliza out of her shell. I loved his caring personality. He's shy, but get him to open up, and he's pretty dang funny sometimes (can we talk about that pie montage? XD XD). He's the writer of the duo, so I kind of gravitated toward him more, being a writer myself. I could relate to a lot of his feelings on writing.

I also loved Eliza's convos with Max and Emmy. That was precious gems of adorable. XD Max is hilarious. I liked how they each kind of had their own little plotlines too, and their own issues to overcome and work through. Everybody grew by the end of the book. :3

I didn't quite understand the anxiety Eliza had over her identity as MS's creator being revealed, or the extreme depression she fell into. Maybe it's because I don't quite understand all of the facets of depression (which is entirely possible!), or it was just a buildup of other things and everything finally burst. But I didn't quite understand why she reacted so severely.

But I did appreciate the ending. For all I didn't like about Eliza, the ending was satisfying. I won't say what exactly I liked about it, because spoilers, but I'll just say I appreciated the way it ended, and I'm glad that it ended the way it did. I'm not sure if I'd recommend the book, but if you enjoy writing, or webcomics (either reading them or making them), then you might enjoy this. :)

Violence/gore: None? Besides maybe references to Monstrous Sea or any video games played.

Profanity: Oh, boy.... there is quite a fair amount of swearing in this book, though with the book's length, the words are sometimes spread throughout, so you don't feel bombarded. B*****d, d**m,/g**d****m, a**/a**h***, hell, s**t/b***s***, and d**k are used, as well as 14(?!?!) F-bombs. There is a lot of language.

Sexual content: Nothing onscreen besides Eliza and Wallace cuddling and kissing a little. There are some homosexual references, and Eliza's mother assumes Eliza and Wallace are doing sexual things, so she takes Eliza to some kind of doctor's visit. Wallace makes a crude joke about their teacher's earrings.

Other: Eliza and Will are bullied by a few of her classmates. Like I said earlier, Eliza seems disrespectful of her parents, and seems to lie/conceal things from them.

Tell me what you guys think. Is there something about Eliza (or even her depression) that I'm just missing? Or is it just a difference of beliefs/worldviews? I'm totally open to discussion here! :D Help me understand if there's something I'm missing!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Book Review: Stars Above (Marissa Meyer)

Stars Above is a collection of novellas that mostly take place before or at the very start of the events of Cinder. They're mostly backstories of the squad, from Cinder to Wolf to Cress. We've heard them all in more or less detail in the series, but we get a closer look here.

Because I'd heard most of these stories before, from what was told in the Lunar Chronicles, I enjoyed them, but not as much as I enjoyed the main series. It was fun to see the Cinder squad all little and fairly innocent. though (Wolf and Thorne are probably the exceptions XD).

Wolf's story was my favorite. I needed to hug the precious boy and take him away from all of that cruelty. HE DOESN'T DESERVE IT I TELL YOU.

I am calm.

Winter's story was probably among my favorites, too. It was a bit dark, as Levana's presence is there (and she's just a horror by herself), and I just needed to hug Winter and keep her safe too. After seeing how much she's gone through, and to see her still so calm and kind... I admire her.

I basically want to keep the whole Cinder squad safe, okay?

I also loved, loved the last story: the wedding. I won't tell you who's it is, but it's ADORABLE and you guys need to read it. I loved getting back with the Rampion crew (their present ages this time), and seeing them all as such an adorable little slightly dysfunctional family. I swear they're all just precious puppies and kittens, guys. They've got each other's backs, even when there's no danger, and it's just them at home, safe and sound as they should be.

"We had a disagreement with the bookshelf." (Kai, prince of sass and dorky adorableness)

But seriously I could gush forever about that wedding novella. It was the hightlight of this book for me. X3

The only story I was kinda confused by was The Little Android. It's only tie to the series was the MC meeting with Cinder for a scene, but after that it was just it's own story in the TLC universe. It was bittersweet and cute, but it also felt a little odd stuck in with so many stories about Cinder and the rest.

BUT THAT WEDDING STORY, YOU GUYS. I can't stop squealing about it. XD Tell me if you've read it so we can squeal together! :D

Violence/gore: There is some in most of the stories, but it's not very detailed. The most violence is likely in Wolf's novella (not surprising).

Profanity: Nothing major, that I can recall (possibly just referenced swearing).

Sexual content: Cinder and Kai share a kiss, and end up snuggling in bed (no sex, just them talking). Romance is sprinkled in some of the stories, but it's very light.

Other: The Lunar gift is used, which is invasive of both mind and body. Thorne is, unsurprisingly, a dishonest boy, scheming people out of their money, or attempting to steal.