Monday, June 19, 2017

TTT: Series I've Been Meaning To Start But Haven't

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly blog meme put on by The Broke and the Bookish
Yikes! This one was a lot harder than I'd thought it would be. Apparently I love to read the first book in a series and then stop. Sure, I tell myself I'll go back and read the rest -eventually- but so far I don't seem to have a very good track record. Now, if I were to do a list of Series You Want to Finish That You've Read the First Book Of, I' d probably win a gold medal there.

New Jedi Order by various authors
By far, the most important one on the list. I've been wanting to read this series forever and -barring natural and reading disasters- this is the year I'm going to start.

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
Book 1 is on my Summer Reading List, if you're so inclined to check it out.

Castle Glower by Jessica Day George
I've loved every book of George's that I've read, but this series comes with the bonus of being recommended by my niece. Awwwww...

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

The Lotus War by Jay Kristoff

Once Upon a Time by various authors
Especially the ones by Cameron Dokey; I've got a friend who adores them.

Oracles of Fire by Bryan Davis
This is a branch off series of Dragons In Our Midst, which I loved as a teenager. I always meant to read through these, but still haven't gotten around to it. I wonder if I'd still enjoy them. I ought re-read the original series and see!

The Hollow Kingdom by Claire Dunkel
I have two friends who are as obsessed with this series as they are with Labyrinth and Jareth. Go figure. I started this once a while back and -to their utter horror and disbelief- didn't finish it. Then again, I never really did get into Labyrinth.

The Shoe Books by Noel Streatfield
You've Got Mail is one of my mom's favorite movies so it's not a real surprise that she went searching for these books after it first released. (Lucky for us, Skating Shoes is back in print!) She's is completely in love with them.  After trying and failing to get my sister and I to read them, she's been sending copies to grandkids, in they hope she can finally convert somebody to Shoe Book fans. A few years back, I found the movie of Ballet Shoes and gave it to her for her birthday and I totally loved it. I've been meaning to give the series another try ever since.

The Selection by Kiera Cass

Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia

Anna by Kendare Blake

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas
I finally read Throne of Glass this year and loved it. I want to read all of Maas' stuff, but a friend has ordered I not start ACOTAR until after I finish the Throne of Glass series.

King Raven by Stephen R. Lawhead
A retelling of Robin Hood steeped in Celtic mythology. I tried to read these back when I was a teenager, but I was far too impatient to read them. I recall this being a thick book, with lots of Briton history (back in the days of the Angels and Saxons) -a portion of history I'm currently very intrigued by.



HOLY NEVER ENDING TBR, BATMAN!!!
There are a LOT more of these than I realized and now I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. I didn't even get half way through my to-read shelf on Goodreads! GAH!!!

There is a lot of reading in my future, that's all I've got to say.

Have you read any of these?
What are some series you've been meaning to read?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

REVIEW: Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold by Iain Reading

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold
Author: Iain Reading
Series: Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency #1
Genre: Adventure

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the author and Book Publicity Services in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
3.5/5 stars
PG-13 for mild language throughout
Recommend to readers looking for realistic, historical adventure stories. Also for fans of strong heroines and little to no romance.

Summary (via Goodreads)
After leaving her home in the western Canadian fishing village of Tofino to spend the summer in Alaska studying humpback whales Kitty finds herself caught up in an unforgettable adventure involving stolen gold, devious criminals, ghostly shipwrecks, and bone-chilling curses. Kitty's adventure begins with the lingering mystery of a sunken ship called the Clara Nevada and as the plot continues to unfold this spirited story will have armchair explorers and amateur detectives alike anxiously following every twist and turn as they are swept along through the history of the Klondike Gold Rush to a suspenseful final climatic chase across the rugged terrain of Canada's Yukon, the harsh land made famous in the stories and poems of such writers as Jack London, Robert Service and Pierre Berton. It is a riveting tale that brings to glorious life the landscape and history of Alaska's inside passage and Canada's Yukon, as Kitty is caught up in an epic mystery set against the backdrop of the scenery of the Klondike Gold Rush.


The Review

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold is a fun adventure with plenty of history and daring, featuring a great and capable heroine, but a little heavy-handed on facts and details.

What initially struck me about this book is the great voice of the main character, 19-year-old adventurer Kitty Hawk. This girl has spunk and energy and Reading does a fantastic job showing that through this first person narration. Readers will appreciate Kitty's humor, sarcasm, determination, and smarts. She's capable and clever and, best of all, she doesn't make those face-palming, stupid decisions so many YA characters seem to make. In addition to her strong personality, Kitty is a licensed pilot and the owner of a De Havilland Beaver, in full possession of the empowering quality of figuring out what she wants and going for it, no matter what; she is definitely the best thing about this book.  Part Nancy Drew, part Amelia Earhart, Kitty Hawk is a good role model for girls; she reminded me particularly of my beloved Vesper Holly, Lloyd Alexander's adventure heroine from his series of the same name.

While Kitty's voice in the prologue hooked my attention, the book does have a slow start after that, detailing a lot of Kitty's background and childhood, the technical specifics of flying a plane, a lot of her whale research, and quite a history lesson into the Klondike Gold Rush. I skimmed a good deal of this, because I found it rather dry. It wasn't until after 80 pages before I really got into it, but once the adventure gets under way, the reading went pretty fast.

The story itself was rather unexpected; it took a much different direction than I thought it would and I actually kind of loved it. This is much more of an adventure story than a traditional mystery, because Kitty isn't Nancy Drew sneaking clues to solve something; she's more of an Indiana Jones, setting off on a mission, but stumbling into an adventure along the way. There's even a pretty good Indiana Jones moment in the story; don't worry, you'll know it when you read it.

This delves deep into the history of Alaska and the Klondike, which I really love, and it has a strong sense of place, from the coast of Alaska to its fierce wilderness. Unfortunately, a lot of the information is conveyed through off-putting info dumps; even when another character is telling Kitty a story it feels more like reading a Wikipedia page than a conversation. I skipped over a lot of the history and technical information because it was too dry for my taste.

Interesting, fun, and educational, I wound up loving the adventure, the concept, and the characters. I would love to see some of these characters (specifically one) pop up in the other books, because I liked Kitty's chemistry with them (him). Outside of Kitty's great voice I had a hard time with the writing style, though Reading does paint some gorgeous and poetic landscapes.

Overall, I enjoyed it enough that I plan on checking out the rest of the series someday.

Realistic adventure fiction is a hard genre to come by.
Have you read any good ones?

Monday, June 12, 2017

SUMMER READING LIST 2017

I love summer reading. I have ever since I was a kid. All reading, all the time, and prizes to boot! What could be better than that?!

Now that I'm an adult with responsibilities (if not an actual responsible adult) I can't exactly read 15-20 hours a day. (Yes; you read that right. As teenagers, my sister and I would read 15-20 hours A DAY during the summer. We were basically rock stars at our library. Dang, I miss those days!) I've made it a summer tradition to pick out 10 or so books that I've been DYING to read but putting off for whatever reasons or newer books that got shoved to the bottom of my TBR because of all the other books I've been putting off. I usually don't read most of them, because I'm kind of terrible with lists, and I don't always account for real-life stuff and required reading like ARCS. (Seriously, you don't want to look at my To Do list. It's horrifying.) Yet I keep trying.

This year is no different.


SUMMER READING LINEUP

Randoms and Rebels by David Liss
You might remember my review for Randoms from a few years back. I certainly remember it because I fangirled all over the place about all things sci-fi and it's still one of my favorite video reviews to date. I've been waiting and anticipating the sequel ever since and yet somehow completely missed the publication for Rebels last year. I know! I'm still kicking myself for it!
If you haven't seen it, check out my review for Randoms!


The Night Watchman by Mark Mynheir
I am always on the lookout for good, gritty mysteries, but it's really hard to find titles that are mostly clean, too. I've been trying to squeeze this into my reading schedule for about four months now.

Battlefront: Twilight Company by Anthony Freed (Star Wars)
This is an audio that's been hanging out on my MP3 player for the better part of a year and my current listen. I'm really enjoying it. It's a very different Star Wars story than I'm used to, since it doesn't focus on any of the familiar characters and so far only makes passing references to them.

The Last Policeman by Ben Winters
This one has probably been on the TBR the longest, which makes me really sad. I'm very intrigued by this idea. Another mystery (possibly gritty) about a policeman determined to find the truth about a suspicious suicide that no one else cares about because THE EARTH IS GOING TO BE DESTROYED BY AN ASTEROID. I'm hoping this will be a great character-driven piece because, seriously, what's driving this guy to solve a case when everyone else is living their last months to the fullest? What makes him choose to be -dun dun DUN!- The Last Policeman?

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
I was all set to avoid this book because it sounded depressing but unbeknownst to me I've suddenly started loving stories with sad endings, like West Side Story and a certain box office hit I need to see for at least the sixth time. That, coupled with this review/love letter over at OUR FAMILIARIUM sold me on adding it.

NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE BY DAN WELLS
This one gets all caps because I LOVE THIS SERIES and I HAVEN'T TALKED ABOUT IT virtually at all. I've been saving reviews for this series for videos (which will be starting again late summer/early fall!) because I need to VOCALIZE my COMPLETE ADORATION of this series.
*achem*
This is the last book of the John Cleaver series, the first of which you've probably heard of: I Am Not a Serial Killer. It's also the newest release on the list, since it only came out June 6. I can't wait to read the conclusion, which is obviously going to be EPIC, but I'm nervous about how it's going to end too.

The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles
Another new release that I don't want to wait to read. All I know is there's basically a bounty hunter from Hell (as in, the pit-of-fire-where-bad-souls-go Hell) whose job is to take the souls of evil people. I have high hopes, so we'll see.

Hearts & Other Body Parts by Ira Bloom
I was really happy to win this title in a Goodreads giveaway earlier this year and it's been sitting in my To Read stack for months, staring at me, judging me, and begging me to read it.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
This is the second-oldest TBR title on the list. My good friend The Library Ninja recommended this way back when and I haven't been able to read it yet. THIS SUMMER. I will read it THIS SUMMER.

Specter of the Past by Timothy Zahn (Star Wars)
My next, huge TBR project is to read through the New Jedi Order series, but first I have to read Zahn's Thrawn duology. Because Thrawn. And Zahn. Hello.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
I really had no interest in this historical title until I found out it's a historical fantasy and one the characters spends his day as a horse. This is the lowest on the list, however, because it's the most recent.

Last but not least, I still have book club through the summer! So add two more titles to the list, one blank for July, and one for my June read, Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman, which I really should start soon...

Voila! My considerably trimmed down Summer Reading List!

What's on your list for the summer?
What new releases are you anticipating?

Friday, June 9, 2017

REVIEW: Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Geekerella
Author: Ashley Poston
Publisher: Quirk Books
Genre: Contemporary YA

I received this eBook via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Ratings:
3/5 stars
PG-13 for some swearing
Recommend to geeks, nerds, and GEEKS, although more conservative readers should know there are several homosexual characters and references throughout.

Summary via Goodreads
When geek girl Elle Wittimer sees a cosplay contest sponsored by the producers of Starfield, she has to enter. First prize is an invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. Elle’s been scraping together tips from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck behind her stepmother’s back, and winning this contest could be her ticket out once and for all—not to mention a fangirl’s dream come true.

Teen actor Darien Freeman is less than thrilled about this year’s ExcelsiCon. He used to live for conventions, but now they’re nothing but jaw-aching photo sessions and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Federation Prince Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the diehard Starfield fandom has already dismissed him as just another heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, closet nerd Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.


The Review:

Geekerella is a believable and lovely Cinderella-style story for those of us who love to attend (or mourn our inability to attend) those cons every year, who write detailed analyses of television shows and fictional characters, or pan poorly-done reboots.

When I decided to request this book, I wasn't expecting a whole lot. I figured this would be a fairly cheesy, modern Cinderella adaptation, like so many of those made-for-TV movies, only instead of having a singing competition or a dance-off, it would be set against a super geeky backdrop. I got way more than that.

A lot about Geekerella was pleasantly surprising. It boasts two great, fleshed out stories with a fully developed hero and heroine who both live and breathe the 'geek life' through a pretty fantastic (and sadly, fictional) cult classic show 'Starfield' -and, being a geek myself, I loved that. Geekerella also handles the love story well; I loved the relationship that Elle and Darien unwittingly stumble into and I love that it's born of relating to one another's life problems, hopes and dreams, and how their shared love of the Starfield fandom has seen them through the best and the worst.

My favorite character had to be Darien Freeman. I maybe fell a little hard for the closet geek, pretty boy actor who just landed the role of a lifetime. I loved everything about him. He has a good 'tragic' story in his past that makes his flaw of distrust reasonable. His favorite expletive is also "Holy [insert appropriate remark here], Batman!" which I absolutely adored, and I liked watching him shuffle between his public and personal personas and trying (and kind of failing) to find a balance between who manager Mark thinks 'Darien Freeman!' should be and who Darien Freeman actually is.

As for Elle, her best quality, I think, is her die-hard devotion to the Starfield fandom and everything it represents to her. What it doesn't tell you in the summary is that she runs a Starfield blog that hits it big overnight when she tears into Darien Freeman as being just a heart throb actor unworthy of donning the crown of her beloved Federation Prince. When she's in her element -anything to do with Starfield- she's a strong, capable character and definitely a heroine geeks can relate to. Outside of the Starfield fandom, I did get a little frustrated with just how helpless Elle seems under the thumb of her stepmother. Granted, this is a Cinderella trait, but I would have liked to see a bigger moment when she stands up for herself in her real life and manages to make a difference, rather than someone else stepping in to help her.

More than the good characters, the story has depth and insight for real life drama, tragedy, and love, all with a heavy geek culture influence that makes it a pleasure to read. This is a 5-star story set with a great hero and heroine.

So why did I only give it 3 stars? I've got to be honest. I was all set to run out and buy a copy of Geekerella, but about halfway through the book it revealed that two of the characters are homosexuals and that killed a lot of the enjoyment for me, so this one proved to be a tough rating. Geekerella definitely has a 5-star plot, maybe 4-star hero/heroine, but here on the blog I mostly rate books on personal enjoyment, so that lands it closer to a 3.

What TV show would you most like to see rebooted in film?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

COMIC REVIEW: Champions of Justice (Lone Ranger/Green Hornet)

Lone Ranger/Green Hornet: Champions of Justice
Author: Michael Uslan
Illustrator: Giovanni Timpano
Publisher: Dynamite
I'd like to thank NetGalley for providing me with an ebook copy in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
3/5 stars
PG-13 for action/violence
Recommend to fans of the Lone Ranger or the Green Hornet (obviously); also to those who like stories spanning different eras and important historical figures randomly popping in.

Summary via Goodreads
A tale of super-heroics and family that has taken eighty years to be told, uncovering The Lone Ranger's familial link to the emergence of The Green Hornet! What is the blood connection that unites two masked heroes, separated by generations? What intense rift tears a family apart just when America desperately needs a great champion of justice?

The Review
First of all -how have I gone my entire life not knowing that the Green Hornet and the Lone Ranger were RELATED?!? Seriously? If you didn't know that either, the good news is, Champions of Justice covers their connection in full. We even get to see them battle evil side by side.

I not only love this connection between two iconic characters, but also the depth it adds to the histories and differences of the dual stories told. In fact, I was so wrapped up in the characters, in Britt and John's disagreements over the Lone Ranger ideal, and all the flashbacks, that I kept forgetting what the real story line was.

Spanning two distinct eras -the Wild West and the 1940s- this 6-issue adventure has a great mesh of the worlds of the Green Hornet and the Lone Ranger and an even greater team-up with Britt Reid and his great-uncle John Reid. I loved the contradictions and differences between these two. John Reid, a vigilante who sees things mostly in black and white, as right or wrong, settling most of his battles with a good knockout punch, and Britt Reid, who's of a newer generation, who likes technology to help him fight his battles, who sees every conflict with its more complicated gray areas, who knows he can't just haul back and punch the bad guys anymore. Watching these two debate and interact was the best thing about this series, because it was so on point. I would love to see more of that. I don't even care if there's a villain in such a story; just give me Britt and John palling around, debating the philosophy and morality of their alter egos, maybe taking down the odd purse snatcher or something.

The story itself could have been done better. It has an interesting idea and I love how it dips into The Lone Ranger's past so I could see some wonderful flashbacks, but it was a little too convoluted for such a short series and it didn't work great with the arc of the characters because, like I said, I kept forgetting what the story was actually about because I was too wrapped up in the characters' personal drama.

Much as I loved the meshing of stories, timelines, and personalities, there was one thing in this that I really, really hated. It's a finale spoiler, so I won't go into details, but there is a moment earlier on where Britt and John are forced to decide whether or not to sacrifice something to keep to the Lone Ranger ideal they've vowed to uphold. My problem with this is that in the finale one of them makes a complete 180 turn in a similar scenario which makes the prior incident become basically meaningless and it's not even addressed in story, by any character.

While the 5-star characters make this one a worthy To Read, that underwhelming plot and 180 turn at the finale drove down my rating.

Are you more of a Lone Ranger or Green Hornet fan?

Monday, June 5, 2017

Sunday Post 011 | IMWAYR

Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog and showcase books and things we have received. Share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme


 Corny Joke Monday 




 Last Week on the Blog 


 This Week on the Blog 


Lone Ranger/Green Hornet: Champions of Justice Comic Review

Geekerella by Ashley Poston Review



It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and
share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. 


 What I'm Reading: 


Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold by Iain Reading

Battlefront: Twilight Company by Alexander Freed (audio)


 What I Read: 


Star Wars: Clone Wars vol 3, Last Stand on Jabiim

Star Wars: Clone Wars vol 4, Light and Dark

 What I'm Watching 


I FINALLY have Star Wars: Rebels S2 to watch!

Also, I've been binge-watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which has been amazing. It's been a few years since I've read the managa so I don't remember quite everything, but the best part is my deeper appreciation for the fantastic, complicated characters in here and the phenomenal worldbuilding and magic system. This one is a 5-star story, no doubt!

 In Real Life 


Last month was crazy! I usually see my siblings once, maybe twice a year, and throughout last month I wound up visiting/being visited independently by four of them. Now that the routine is settling back into normal, I'm ready to get back to business!


 New Additions 


Thanks to my local thrift store:
  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • The Magical Worlds of The Lord of the Rings by David Colbert
Thanks to Barnes and Noble:
  • Old Ways, Old Secrets: Pagan Ireland by Jo Kerrigan
  • Celtic Myths and Legends by Peter Berresford Ellis
  • Heartstone by Elle Katherine White <3

I've been going a little book store crazy. I need to tone it down a few notches...

 Random 


This is as good a place as any to talk about my latest obsession:

Yondu Udonta
If you haven't seen Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 yet, you should really consider it. I've seen it four (five?) times already, which is more than I saw either Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Fantastic Beasts in theater, and I'm still ready to see it a few more times.

It's a great movie -despite an increase in the crude humor- and Yondu totally steals the show, in my humble opinion. I've always liked this grouchy, blue-skinned Ravager, but I am now an officially devoted fangirl. He has a great story and arc in this film, and James Gunn did a magnificent job weaving it together with everything else going on. I not only love this film, I have serious respect for the writing and execution of it. <3

  What's new with you? 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Dear Anakin: A Star Wars Love Letter

***This post contains some spoilers for Star Wars: The Clone Wars***

Dear Anakin,

We've known each other for a long time, but I can't say I was ever truly...fond of you.

We were so young when we met, that summer of '99 but, let's face it, I only had eyes for Qui Gon Jinn. (He was way cool.) A young pod-racer might have become an idolized hero to me at that age, but now that Star Wars and I had been formally introduced, I skipped straight to the next generation. You drifted out of sight while I fell pretty hard for Luke Skywalker, spending my days in a fake Jedi robe, pretending to use the Force.


As the time drew near for our second meeting, I might have been more curious about your youth, but you were no longer a slightly-naive, adorable child mechanical-genius; you were a moody teenager. And oh, those teenage years were the worst. You were a whiny, cranky, arrogant brat and I couldn't stand you, Anakin.

And our third meeting? I honestly couldn't see how anyone could be devoted to you because your horrible teenage attitude only grew more angry and self-absorbed.
We remained for years in this frustrating rut, when I knew that I should have more respect for you then I ever could, when I had more respect for the vilified Darth Vader persona than I ever did of you, when I knew that you, Anakin, corrupted for me what should have been a profound arc for Darth Vader. In fact, I despised you so much in your younger years, that I actually came to think of your final moments as Darth Vader's redemption arc -not yours.

That's how it's always been for me, like a line divided in the sand. 'Darth Vader' vs 'Anakin'. The two have never truly morphed into one person in my mind. They are two wholly separate individuals. One of them is an epic, heartless, hardcore, take-no-prisoners, terrifying villain -who turns out to have heart. And the other, this ridiculous crybaby who's supposed to have been a renowned war hero. I couldn't take you seriously, much less mourn your downfall.

So while I had eternal respect for Darth Vader, you, Anakin, just weren't the same guy. And there we were; you, trying to be the sympathetic fallen hero and me, trying my hardest to forget you ever existed. We might have been stuck here, indefinitely at odds, as the character who might have been and the girl who could have loved you.

And then came The Clone Wars.
The show showed us the good in you. Despite its starting clunky animation, some juvenile slants, and even some downright terrible episodes, Star Wars: The Clone Wars gave us the Anakin Skywalker we all needed. That I needed.

Through The Clone Wars, I witnessed your iron will and epic heroism. I witnessed, rather than heard, that you were the best star pilot in the galaxy and a cunning warrior, rather than a straight-up reckless hothead who can't listen to common sense. Most of all, it showed me that you were a good friend to Obi-Wan. Rather than a belligerent teenager being told what to do or a jealous man overshadowed by Obi-Wan's strengths, The Clone Wars showed me an Anakin who respects and loves his master -as a friend, a brother, and even a father-figure. You disagreed on many things and you caused Obi-Wan a lot of aggravation, but in the end you usually found a way to reconcile.
I saw, too, your firm and clear stance on justice -and your complete intolerance of injustice. This made you a stronger hero in my eyes, but a tortured one, because you always had difficulty aligning yourself with decisions of the Jedi Council you deemed unfair and unjust, which adds layer and depth to your personality completely unseen before. It is at once a strength -because it made you a hero of heroes- and a weakness -because Palpatine recognized your blindness when it came to such injustices and he used them against you. He used the good in you to corrupt you. And rather than despise you for it, I love you for it.
The Clone Wars showed me your dark side, too (pun intended), but it showed me how so much of that dark side was born of the fundamental differences between lofty Jedi ideals and your own brutal experiences with injustice. While the Jedi became generals out of necessity, in order to maintain peace, you were a warrior and fighter. You always have been. You have always stood against oppression and tyranny, because you lived through it, and The Clone Wars gave me so many instances where these differences between you and the Jedi stood out, for good and for ill. When you were faced with worlds oppressed by Separatists or citizens pressed into slavery, your stance was always firmly in favor of freeing them, no matter the red tape or the consequences for the Republic. And how can I blame you for that? How can any of us? More often then not, when the Jedi would decide to bow out of such heroics for the 'greater good', you weren't the only one burning with anger and contempt, Anakin.

I saw your insanely jealous side, when you let your emotions stray too far, whenever your loved ones were threatened or, because I'm also recognizing your flaws here, whenever your relationship with a loved one was threatened. Like those times Padme's ex-boyfriend came on the scene. I saw, too, your rock solid devotion, not only to Padme, but to Ahsoka, Obi-Wan, the clones under your command, and even Palpatine (though I think everyone in the galaxy but you saw that it was a bad idea).

Maybe I didn't get to see you as a father, Anakin, but you were close enough to that as a Jedi Master to Ahsoka. Like the best of relationships, you pushed, taught, and tested each other, as iron sharpens iron. From you, Ahsoka learned to trust her instincts, to never give up, and to always fight, even when it's hopeless. And from her, you learned patience and trust. You learned, too, that the universe isn't always so black and white as you like to think.

Anakin, when you wanted to throw everyone you knew and cared about under the bus to save Padme from a vision of death in Revenge of the Sith, I wanted to throttle you until you saw sense. But in The Clone Wars, when Ahsoka is kidnapped and missing, and the Jedi tell you it is the way of the Force and you must let her go, you vehemently refused. You were determined to have faith in Ahsoka, no matter what, even if it broke you. I loved you then, too. And even though I still have trouble with your single-minded and bull-headed angst in Revenge of the Sith, this moment that you almost lose Ahsoka -someone you love and vowed to protect- offers more substance to an otherwise rather poorly written catalyst.

In the end, you do lose Ahsoka, and in a way far worse than a death in battle, because the Jedi who you have devoted your life to, who you have spent all of your energy and power defending, turn their back on your padawan and force you to abandon her. And for what? Not justice. For politics. For 'the greater good.' Anakin, you couldn't abandon her for long -which, again, I love you for- but there was a time, however short, that you did. And while the show was unfortunately cancelled before I was able to witness any of the repercussions you suffered for this, I know you would have blamed yourself. I know, too, you would have blamed the Jedi Council even more. This moment, this loss, and this betrayal -all for the 'greater good'- I think is one of the greatest and most significant steps into your downfall. It foreshadows all of your fears and suspicions in Revenge of the Sith, when you are faced with the possibility of losing Padme, when you are forced to decide whether to abandon her to her fate for the 'greater good', or to step up and do whatever you can to save her. And that is powerful.

My one disappointment with The Clone Wars was not being able to see your true Fall come about in this show. But even left with the rather lukewarm Revenge of the Sith, all of your trials, developments, and growth provide greater depth and understanding to your Fall. You come so close to crossing over in so many different situations throughout the run of The Clone Wars, and always in a misguided attempt to save people.

With this background, now I know that when you turned to the Dark Side, it was a much more complicated desire than Power or Strength. It was more complicated than one moment, one trial, one base fear, as seen in the prequels, because The Clone Wars showed us so many more moments when you were tempted by the power of the Dark Side. Some moments you won. Some moments you lost. And each of those moments stayed with you, rooting you deeper and deeper in your goal to save the galaxy, no matter what.

In short, Anakin, The Clone Wars took me far beyond the floundering kid and the broody, infuriating teenager and showed me a you that I could like. More than like. Love.


You're not arrogant. You're cocky. But you're cocky because you have skill and confidence and you're blatantly cocky in the face of the enemy, when the odds are insurmountable. It's endearing. It's also one of your greatest traits.
You're funny. You're sarcastic. You have absolutely no patience for red tape or sensitive politics.

You're loyal. You're courageous and you care about your soldiers. You care about individuals, not just planets and sectors and the pawns in a grand scheme for the 'greater good'.

Anakin, you may very well have been the greatest hero in the whole of the Star Wars universe -and if not for The Clone Wars, I never would have believed it. I see Darth Vader in you, and I see you in Darth Vader. Now, finally, your rise, fall, and redemption has lived up to some of its beautiful and heartbreaking potential.

Now, finally, I can actually mourn your Fall.

Forever yours,
Amanda, Fan Girl

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

REVIEW: The Kingdom of Oceana by Mitchell Charles

Author: Mitchell Charles
Publisher: Butterhouse Publishing
Genre: Fantasy
I received a copy of this book courtesy of the author and Book Publicity Services in exchange for an honest review.

Ratings
3/5 stars
PG for some violence
Recommend to anyone interested in a magic + Hawaii team up (hello, Moana!) and advanced middle grade readers looking for a fun summer read.

Summary:
[I am not including the full summary due to what I consider spoilers. You can read it in full here, otherwise here's the excerpt that caught my eye.]

SURFER. SHARK TAMER. FIRE WALKER. EXPLORER. TEENAGER. HERO.
Five Centuries Ago, On the Island Now Called Hawaii, There was a Kingdom Filled with Adventure, Beauty, and Magic.

The Review:
As I tumbled through the sky there was one thing I knew. I didn't want to die. Not then, not that way, and surely not at my brother's hands.
The opening line was fantastic. It immediately caught my attention, and (bonus!) it doesn't backtrack days or weeks to lead us back to this intriguing moment. It takes us back only a few hours, to explain why Ailani and his brother Nahoa are there -to see if they can catch a glimpse of the rumored ghost haunting an ancient temple, no less- and we've read the resolution to this moment and moved on before the chapter was through, which was a relief for me. I get rather annoyed with the stories that start at the climax, then haul you back to the beginning.

From the fantastic hook, it leads into a great description of the ancient Hawaiian-like culture and its magic elements, introducing a little at a time and strategically dispersing it between events and dialogue, which made learning about the world interesting and enjoyable. Unfortunately, while there's some interesting stuff going on, the punch from the awesome opening doesn't last long and the story moved pretty slowly from this point on.

By far my favorite part of this book were the descriptions. From me, that's saying a lot, because I'm generally impatient with descriptions, but Charles has a beautiful way of describing the tropical islands and the sea -and I couldn't get enough of it! The worldbuilding, too, is fascinating, because it takes Hawaiian myth and mixes it with magic and it's GORGEOUS. Spirit animals, sorcerers, and zombie eels. Tell me you're not intrigued by that!

But let's talk characters. My favorite is the Kahuna -which, I learned, is a Hawaiian word that actually means 'wise man or shaman'. Charles uses a lot of Hawaiian words throughout, but in addition to the glossary in back, he tags initial uses with handy footnote translations so there's no need to flip back and forth. This Kahuna is a straight-up awesome magician who catches lightning bolts, communicates telepathically, and understands the structure of the universe. He is wise and acts as mentor for our main character, Prince Ailani, who gets seriously annoyed with his telepathy.

I liked Ailani, too; he's an unlikely hero, dealing with some relatable teen issues like where he fits into the world, sibling rivalry with his arrogant and short-tempered brother Nahoa, and parental favoritism, as well as the weighty responsibilities that come with being a Prince. One thing that bugged me about Ailani -and let me preface this by saying I'm really, really picky about characters- is that he is a very reactionary character. He rarely acts on his own, instead prompted by events to react or is instructed by the Kahuna on what to do. I don't feel like Ailani came into his own or had a successful arc, which is something for which I'm always on the lookout. Of course, Charles may very well be saving this for his next book.

Like Ailani, most of the characters have decent characterization, but they lacked great depth.

The plot itself had a lot of really interesting facets; it deals with politics, the rocky relationship of the royal brothers, and the looming presence of impending technology threatening to change the magic of their world. However, it feels a little unfocused, because it keeps switching primary villains, building one up with its story line, only to replace it with another, and then alternating between the various established antagonists. There was just a lot going on. There was a really good twist at the end that caught me off-guard and I really enjoyed, but most of the climax was fairly predictable.

I hope Charles continues to explore his fascinating magic system and characters in more depth as the series continues, because this has some amazing potential.

About the Author

Mitchell Charles’ love of the ocean and its miraculous creatures began at the age of 12 when his father taught him to SCUBA dive. From his first adventure 50 feet (15 meters) beneath the Caribbean Sea he was hooked. He has been involved in the Oceanic Society, America’s first non-profit organization dedicated to ocean conservation, established in 1969.

These days, Mitchell divides his time between Southern California and Hawaii. He has two teenage children and a dog named Magic.

He is currently working on the second book in the Kingdom of Oceana series, The Legend of the Nine Sacred Pearls.


For more information, visit http://kingdomofoceana.com/

Monday, May 1, 2017

Sunday Post 010 | IMWAYR

Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog and showcase books and things we have received. Share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme


 Corny Joke Monday 


Why did the lion eat the tightrope walker?
He wanted a well-balanced meal.

 Last Week on the Blog 


 This Week on the Blog 


Dear Anakin... Star Wars
Requiem,  The Blacklist 4x17 Worth Watching

EDIT: Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, I have to postpone these. I'm taking a short hiatus for the next week or so. Sorry, everyone! See you when I get back. Until then, keep reading! ^_^


 What I'm Reading: 


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and
share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. 

Heartstone by Elle Katherine White
I am loving this. I just haven't been taking time to actually read it. :P

The Wonder by Emily Donoghue (audio)
This one is going so slow I might move on to something else for a while. It's interesting, I'm just not in the mood for it.

Star Wars: Clone Wars Vol 2: Victories and Sacrifices (comic)

 What I Read: 

Not going to lie. It's been a slow-going reading week for me. :P

Star Wars: Clone Wars Vol 1: In Defense of Kamino
Marvel's Civil War

 Internet Shenanigans 


So I finally finished Sherlock Season 4. I say 'finished' because I actually watched the first episode pretty soon after it aired on PBS. AND I COULDN'T GO ON. I was so broken-hearted after that episode, I just couldn't move on to the next one. It was so sad and depressing and John was angry at Sherlock and... and...

But I finally moved on and I'm SO GLAD I did, because those last two episodes were absolutely amazing, story-wise, character-wise, but especially in further developing John and Sherlock's complicated and amazing relationship. Even better, the rest of the season also fleshed out and relieved some of the pangs from that first episode heartbreak so, while I'm still not totally over it, the show has at least saved itself from my everlasting ire.

It was absolutely amazing.

If YOU'RE a Sherlock fan, than you definitely need to check out Sherlock Season 4 Thoughts (Spoilers) over on my friend September C. Fawkes' blog. It is such a fangirl-fueled post, but she's one of the best I know at intelligent fangirling, gushing about developing relationships, subtext, character, and foreshadowing. Seriously. Check it out right now, because her fangirling only ever deepens my love and appreciation for shows I like. ^_^

 In Real Life 


I finished my Camp NaNo goal of 15,000 words!

And you know what? It didn't help me get back into a regular writing routine at all. I kept procrastinating the actual writing part until the last minute and wound up battling for my last 3k a few hours before Camp ended last night. Which is not what I was going for at all.

So this next month I'm not giving myself a word count goal. Apparently that's not really helping to motivate me at all right now. Instead, I'm going to make myself for an hour every day. No matter how much or how little I write, I'm going to write -with no plotting, researching, or outlining- for at least one hour every day.

Because that last 3k I crammed in last night? It was horrible. But it was first draft stuff, so the important part is I wrote down 3k that wasn't actually a waste, that actually has good content and momentum, it just needs to be reworked. But because it wasn't perfect, because I didn't love it, I felt like a failure, and I battled with the sick dread that failure brings on for several hours last night. That's always fun. It made me realize that I have lost a step and gone back into the unhealthy place of being uncomfortable with first draft material, and that needs to stop. Right now.

So hopefully, the far side of next month, I will have written so much crappy first draft material, I will be comfortable with that phase of writing again.

Also, MY JAZZ ARE MOVING TO ROUND TWO IN THE PLAYOFFS!

  What's new with you? 

Dembe Zuma (No 10), The Blacklist 4x16 (Worth Watching)

MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
This is all my hysterical, deliriously happy, evil laughter, because THE BLACKLIST IS BACK IN TOP BLACKLIST FORM!!!

So let's just start at the beginning, yeah?


Episode 4x16 -Dembe Zuma (No. 10)


My first thought was literally "Aram -what the crap?!" I mean, for a guy who's been lamenting his destructive taste in women and relationship woes, this second relationship with spy/traitor/betrayer Janet went from 0 to 60 really fast, especially considering he backed out of the opportunity of a date with long-time crush Navabi because she lied to him. I mean, from where I'm sitting, Janet lied and then some, least of which was, you know, trying to kill him.

Also, there's the timing, considering at least we the viewer know Navabi turned down her own long-time flame because she realized she's in love 'with someone else', and that Aram himself knows that Navabi is definitely becoming interested. This immediately puts Janet into the 'stock love interest' category, those doe-eyed women and near-perfect men doomed to heartache because their only purpose seems to be separating and then ultimately indirectly uniting that most prominent will they/won't they couple. *cough*TROPE*cough*

And even as I was jotting down a mini-rant about how Janet completely betrayed Aram and crushed his heart and put him into a downward spiral of doubt and... and... I realized something. I kind of like Janet for Aram. When I realized that, I actually got a little miffed because this relationship probably won't wind up going any where, as per 'stock love interest' policy. But I'm going to come back to this later, because I don't want my Aram love getting in the way of my
DEMBE LOVE!!!

I seriously love this man. I have always loved Dembe and his supposed betrayal in The Apothecary broke my heart and I really, truly thought it was just a hopeless fangirl fantasy that he could really be exonerated and I AM SO HAPPY RIGHT NOW!!!

And I have to point out, when Red, Harold, and Liz are discussing the unsuccessful hunt for Dembe, can we just appreciate the pride and awe in Red's voice when he describes all of Dembe's skills and attributes? Even when he was convinced Dembe had betrayed him, he still couldn't bring himself to hate him. I absolutely love the bond these two share. ^_^

The best part -and I mean the BEST PART- about this entire Dembe story line is that the writers got me to swallow it, hook, line, and sinker. I mean, I've talked before about cliches in shows and not falling for them, but the writers of The Blacklist basically have me second-guessing everything that unfolds and most of this is because of that season 3 finale. I knew that Liz wasn't dead; I knew it! I even figured out Kaplan was the one to plan it all out. But the show spent so long grieving over her death and hiding it from us that I actually began to doubt. I had just begun to accept Liz was actually dead and to fret about how the show would fare from then on out when they finally revealed the truth. And that's one thing I adore about this show -they write the story so well that I begin to believe everything they want me to, whether I want to or not.

But back to Dembe. Because that look on his face when Aram tells him he can't figure out who stole Reddington's stuff. That utter defeat as he slides to the ground in a dejected, lovable pile of heartache! Awwwwwww! He's so disappointed because he can't help Red! How many times must I express my love for their friendship?! And when he tells Aram: "I have three people in my life: my daughter, my granddaughter, and Raymond." MY HEART ABSOLUTELY MELTED. I love you, Dembe, and I'm so glad you didn't try to murder Red and how could I ever doubt you?!?!

And now we get to switch back to my other character crush, Aram! I absolutely loved the way he handled Dembe in this episode because, before he realized Dembe wasn't really a traitor, he straight up said he'd rather die than help him hurt Mr. Reddington. I love this about Aram, that he will stick to his principles in the face of sheer terror; I love this fierce loyalty he has to Red (though I hope it won't bite him too hard in the backside some day); I love that he always calls Red 'Mr. Reddington'; I love, love, love that he recognized Dembe's utter defeat for what it was. I love that Aram has so much confidence and optimism about the good in people that he was willing to give Dembe the benefit of the doubt and believe that he had nothing to do with the assassination attempt on Red. I love that Aram trusts so much in this good side of people that he was willing to break into a secure database and then ensure Dembe's escape from Ressler and Navabi -because, face it, none of them have a great track record with believing or handling traitors. And I love that Aram has all this faith and trust in people, but he's not so naive that he doesn't stop every few minutes, scrutinizes Dembe and says, "To help Mr. Reddington. Right?"

Can we have more Aram and Dembe team-ups in the future? Pretty, pretty please? A little bit of Agent Mojtabai and Agent Zuma action every once in a while would be perfect. I mean, look how much they get accomplished together!
And you know Aram just loved playing boss.
"Sorry, sir."
They managed to find the name of the person causing Red so much misery -Katheryn Nemec- although Dembe did run out before explaining any of it to Aram to go chase down proof all by his lonesome, which is never, ever a doomed of life-threatening endeavor in a TV show, right?

I will be honest. I was a little disappointed that it turned out to be Mr. Kaplan all along. I felt a little cheated, just because I discounted that option a long time ago because, among other reasons, I thought it was too obvious. However, the next episode Requiem changed everything, so stay tuned for that recap.

Back on the hunt for Dembe, Liz is meeting Glenn for the first time. Now, I gotta admit, Glenn is one of my least favorite of Red's associates. I find him less funny than he is crude and annoying as all get out, but even I have to say he proves an interesting foil to Red's generally cool, threatening demeanor. Of all people, Glenn seems to have absolutely no fear of Red (I wonder if that's ever going to prove his downfall) and he loves -I mean, loves- to push Red's buttons and pull his chain. So I loved watching Liz meet this guy for the first time and seeing how he treats Red and how Red takes it. Every time Glenn said something irksome, her eyebrows went straight up and she glanced over at Red, like "Are you seriously going to let him talk to you like that?" Plus, Glenn's completely shameless habit of taking advantage of his work perks amuses me. Seriously, using a student driver as a chauffeur for an emergency info hand-off with the wanted and at large head of a massive criminal enterprise? But it's okay, because said student driver doesn't speak English. XD

One of my favorite lines from this episode came from Red, right after Liz tells him that Aram swears Dembe is innocent.
"You can afford to hope for the best, but to survive in my world, I have to assume the worst."
It speaks volumes as to what he lives with every day and the burdens he must carry. I'm glad he still has Dembe to count on through his trials.

I was so proud of Red when he finally tracked down Dembe's daughter that he didn't show the slightest bit of anger or aggression, but I'm also glad Liz was with him, because when Isabella realized that her dad ran away from Red, she looked downright terrified. At least we know Liz wouldn't let Red do anything. (Right?)

But I think there's more to his calm than just getting what he needs, because when Red does get hold of Dembe on the phone, there is clear hope in that conversation: "What are you doing, Dembe? Because everything you seem to be doing is making you look guilty."

Despite what Red told Liz about having to assume the worst, I don't think he could entirely crush out that flower of hope that one of his dearest and oldest companions could so completely betray him and, lucky for Red, that hope is going to pay off, because Dembe says just enough -before getting attacked and cut off- that Red gets a nagging suspicion of what's really going on. And after a quick phone call with Aram, the truth comes out. It's Mr. Kaplan and she's out for blood and revenge.

Interestingly, hearing Kaplan is alive and Red's own confession as to the actual act of 'killing' of her, Liz shows some of her first genuine emotion all episode, but I really can't tell whether it's for Kaplan -the  woman who up to now Liz thought had given her life to save Agnes- or for Red. I'm having a really hard time reading her, because her interactions with others -especially with Red- are not what they used to be. There's not a lot of emotion or depth or content in most of her conversations right now, which I've talked about before, and it's starting to frustrate me. Liz is present and hanging out in these more recent episodes; she's here, but she's not really contributing.

If there was one thing I did not expect in this episode it was the return of the CREEPY HUNTER DUDE! And bam! He makes a surprise appearance following an arrow in Dembe's leg and he starts taunting Dembe and praising Kate. I mean, I got that he was impressed with her, but it seems a little like he's obsessed with her. Of course, Dembe takes the inevitable villain monologue as an opportunity to lure the Creepy Hunter Dude closer -so he can yank out the arrow from his own leg and stab him with it! Man, I love this guy!

Red and Liz arrive just in time to scoop up Dembe, hobbling back to his car. The reunion between Red and Dembe is brief -considering the one is bleeding out and the other is rattled that Kate's alive and apparently has an assassin lurking nearby- but I'm hoping for a good moment between those two in episode 18. *crosses fingers*

While Red sends Liz off to get Dembe to the hospital, Baz -who, adorably, has been playing Dembe's stand in as chauffuer and bodyguard- and Red head off into the woods to do battle with Creepy Hunter Dude. They manage to draw him out with a little bit of trickery, at the cost of an arrow wound for Baz, but at least now we know Baz looks just as good in Red's hat as Red does in a knit beanie cap. (Seriously.)
Now we come to the part of the show where Aram realizes that his long-term crush just found out he's been dating his traitor ex-girlfriend again. Yay. I kind of skipped over the part where Janet suggests to Navabi they discuss the fact that they both like Aram because my only note from that was 'Suck it up, Navabi.' I'm really having serious issues with her. So we're going to skip over this right to the part where Aram apologizes to Navabi.

First of all, Aram apologizes to Navabi because he didn't forewarn her that he was dating Janet again. This tells a lot about Aram's character, that he's maybe too nice for his own good, he's a decent guy, and he genuinely still cares for Navabi. I think he takes a very big step in treating Navabi as a real person rather than an idolized crush when he is blatantly honest and tells her that one of the things he admires about her is her intensity but it's also something that terrifies him, especially in a potential relationship aspect.

And Navabi says: "How's this for terrifying? I couldn't care less what you admire."

And the note I jotted down there was: Now I really hate you, Navabi ['really' is underlined about 8 times] and I hope you never get Aram YOU DON'T DESERVE HIM. Seriously, you've had your chances, and so many times Aram tries to be honest and mature about his feelings for you, you not only shut him down, you hurt him out of spite and I abhor that about you. You're becoming a very unlikable character and your good traits are drying up by the episode.

Okay. Trying to be unbiased for a moment, I get that she's upset and frustrated and angry right now. She didn't want to hear what Aram wanted to say and I get that hearing Aram tell her what he admires about her probably just made her angrier. But when Navabi gets angry, she tends to get cruel. I don't like that about her. I don't like that this is not the first time she has taken an olive branch offered out by Aram and broken it over her knee. I don't like the way she treats him, especially when he's being sincere; I don't like the way she takes his words and crams them back down his throat.

So here's the thing with show relationships. I'm not huge into 'shipping', except in extreme scenarios; I'm generally willing to go along with whatever the show seems to be pushing. So it was with Aram and Navabi. The first time he sees her, he is smitten. Everybody knows it; they even joke about it on occasion. Navabi, too, seems to find great amusement with Aram's infatuation and teases him a little. At first, I thought this was cute. If any relationship in the show worked out, I wanted it to be this one, because it was so darn cute. But as time goes on and nothing comes of it -and especially when Navabi slept with Ressler back in season 3, I mean, seriously, what was up with that?!- her behavior towards Aram goes from being cute with him to toying with him and sometimes being just downright cruel.

I'll admit, I'm a little biased against Navabi currently; the more I learn about her character, her personality, her opinions, and, as Aram put it, her intensity, the less and less I like her, but the less suited I think she is for Aram too. Which is why I hope, if Aram winds up in any lasting relationship in the show, that it isn't with Navabi. At this point, I don't really care who he winds up with as long as it isn't Navabi.

So. There's my strong opinion about that.

Moving on.

The final acts of this episode are appropriately dramatic. Red and Baz interrogate Creepy Hunter Dude for Kate's whereabouts and Creepy Hunter Dude is surprisingly and vehemently loyal to the woman he held captive for a few days in his shack in the middle of nowhere.

So loyal, in fact, he tricks Red into dialing the number that sets off the bomb he's rigged in the basement.

Red and Baz run for their lives as the cabin explodes, taking Creepy Hunter Dude with it, although leaving his foreboding last words behind:
Creepy Hunter Dude: She said you'd do this.
RED: She said I'd do what exactly?
CHD: Underestimate her. 
And the episode ends with a shot of Kate, listening to the more foreboding phone message her backwoods admirer left: "...If this is the last time you hear my voice, know that I didn’t give you up. And I didn’t go down without a fight. You told me, if he ever figured out you’re still alive, he’d come at you full bore. Well, lock and load, Katie. Your war has come."

Guess it turns out the cleaner really is quite the strategist, ain't she, Red?


I've been a little worried about how this come-back would fare, but I think The Blacklist is back in top form.
Do you think so?
What was your favorite part?