Monday, June 30, 2014

The Return of Korra! Plus, Giveaway Winner

Return of Korra

Right from the trailer, I knew Book 3: Change had the potential to be the best Legend of Korra season yet. But now it might actually be true.

Reason #1 -
I have, and always will be, a Zuko fangirl.

Reason #2 -In the first three episodes we've already seen some much-needed character interactions and reactions. Asami's role has returned to a more central point; I have my fingers crossed she won't get pushed into the background again. She and Korra have had some bonding time, which I really needed to see. Ever since Mako's switch from Asami to Korra, the two gal pals haven't had much screen time, and I wasn't sure how their friendship was going to play out.
Which brings us to Mako. Awkward, awkward Mako. I really needed this one. All my disapproval and disappointment of Mako's poor way of handling things essentially evaporated when he couldn't put two words together in front of the girls. (Also, Korra and Asami having a little laugh at his expense is icing on the proverbial cake.)
This friendly understanding is so much better than over-extended relationship drama, so I'm glad Bryke handled it this way.

Reason #3 -AIRBENDING. Like, seriously. Random airbenders popping up all over the world. People who have the chance to restore an entire civilization. People who, of course, have their own lives to be concerned about. I love this blessing/complication because it's so messy and intriguing. As always, Bryke have managed to twist a great storyline with genuine adversities.
Plus, the fact that Bumi is now an airbender... *squee!*

Reason #4 -I'm loving the ATLA nostalgia poured into these first three episodes. The Avatar and her team off on a globe-trotting adventure, a dangerous conspiracy in Ba Sing Se, the Dai Li (Dai Li! Dai Li! Dai Li!), and pretty soon the Avatar is going to be helping out the less fortunate along her travels. (The gang of outlaws? They're totally going to teach Korra to ride those motorcycles. Mark my words.)
I've loved LoK because it has such a different feel and formula than ATLA. It's unique. I've enjoyed staying in one place for whole season, to get a better taste for them, for a little in-depth exploration. But as much as I love Republic City, curiosity about what the rest of the world looks like in the future has been killing me.

I still have questions about where this season is going. Who are the mysterious convicts from different corners of the world? What is their goal?
What about the spirits? Are they only in Republic City, or are they now roaming the entire world? Other than the return of airbenders, how will the joined realms effect the world? Will Team Avatar get a spirit memeber?
And why does the Internet seem to hate Kai? Personally, I love this kid. He's a cocky scamp  who needs guidance and, while Bolin has designated himself 'big brother', I have a feeling Kai is mostly going to fall under Mako. I cannot wait to see this develop. ^_^

So, yeah. 'Change' might be the best Legend of Korra season yet.

Giveaway Winner

Now on to what you've all been waiting for -the winner of the Silver Series Mass Book Giveaway!

Drum roll, please... 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations, Mark. I've already sent you an email about your winnings. Enjoy!

Thanks, everyone, for entering and making this giveaway a success. Don't forget: you can still get a copy of Silver by Cheree Alsop, the first book of the series, for free at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, June 27, 2014

My Week in Review: The Joys of ReReading

The Joys of ReReading

Currently, I'm rereading Shelby Bach's The Ever Afters in preparation for the recently released epic third volume, Of Sorcery and Snow. To date, this is the only series I've reread every year in honor of the newest book, and every year my thought process is pretty much the same.

Year One:

"Ohmygosh, this book is amazing! I just want to relive it for awhile. Wait, it's three am?"

Year Two:  

"They're just as good as the first read. I didn't even skim. I usually skim rereads to get to the good parts. This is all good parts! I will never pick up this book and NOT be happy! This series is incredible. Why isn't everyone reading this? Wait, it's five am already?!"

Year Three: 

"EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS. I will start by making everyone I know read it and soon this series will rule the literary world! ...No, no, it can't be two am. I'm not finished yet."

You can check out my video reviews for Of Giants and Ice and Of Witches and Wind, but what you really want to know is that they each have five stars from me and a big 'To Read' sticker.

Seriously, why aren't you reading this yet?

The Writing Corner

Just a quick writing update, but I am officially halfway through revising my novel. Yeehaw! The pages may bleed volumes of red ink, but I know it's a worthy sacrifice. My pace is slower than I would like of late, so I'm going to kick it up next week. *crosses fingers*

Monday, June 23, 2014

Adventures in Cooking!

Cooking is not a skill I sharpen much, let alone wield. (It seems to be a side effect when you live with three cooks.) One of my goals this year is to actually spend some time in the kitchen and learn a few recipes.

Yesterday was quite a first step in this new adventure. It started out with the pizza. My dad and I made a margarita pizza -from scratch, I might add. Kneading dough is actually pretty fun. I thought I would have a problem with the texture, but it was a lot like playing with Play-doh. To which my Dad answered, 'That's why they call it play dough.'

I don't have any pictures of the pizza, but this is the chana masala I made with a friend last night. It turned out really, really well, which made me very happy. ^_^

And it was delicious!
I think I might like this cooking thing.

Friday, June 20, 2014

My Week in Review: Korra Trailer and Ninja Librarians

The Trailer

That's right, not just any old trailer, but THE trailer. The biggest thing to happen in my own little universe was probably the reveal of this 2-minute, freakishly epic sneak peek at book 3 of The Legend of Korra.

Please join me for a few moments of complete and utter awe.

All words but one fail me. ZUKO!!!

I have to admit, I had my own issues with book 2, but this upcoming season looks AMAZING. Maybe even better than the first.

The Writing Corner

This week I feel triumphant. I've been editing/revising a chapter a day and, with a little push, it looks like I could reach my goal of finishing this edit by the end of the month. *crosses fingers*
Assuming, of course, that I can pull myself away from the Korra trailer and the urges of fanfiction it stirs within me.

To Read or Not to Read?

  • Bone, vol 1: Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith. I have a friend who's been trying to get me to read more comics and graphic novels, and so far this is the first I've managed to pick up. (Sorry it took so long, Felipe.) I really did enjoy this, and I'll be getting the next volume soon. My experience with comics lies on one side with Calvin and Hobbes and Japanese manga on the other. Bone feels like the perfect in-between. Just as creative as manga, with drawings more akin to Calvin, throw in a big plot, some great characters, and a mysterious villain, and I'm hooked. This gets four stars, and I'd definitely say this is a To Read.

  • The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand by Jen Swann Downey. This middle-grade adventure book was top of the line. It pulled together a few of my favorite things and worked them magnificently as a whole. Did I say a few? I meant all. We're talking librarians (ninja, as well as other varieties), swords, people obsessed with swords, undercover spies, history, time travel, magic powers, deep characters, Star Wars references, kids who save the fate of the world, and the first book mentioned is The Princess Bride. Like, seriously, why haven't you read this yet? Five big bright stars, a commendation for the brilliant Jen Downey, and a Must Read.

Th-th-that's all for this week, folks!

    Monday, June 16, 2014

    Silver Series Mass Book GIVEAWAY!

    To celebrate the release of Cheree Alsop's Silver Moon, the seventh and final book in her Silver series, I'm having a mass book giveaway! You're not just entering to win one book, but a complete set of the ENTIRE series.

    That's right. Six books*. One whole series. Two lucky winners.

    One giveaway will kick off right here with the Rafflecopter below. A second giveaway will be begin at my YouTube channel -To Read or Not to Read?- later this week, and you can enter both.

    (For those of you who haven't used Rafflecopter widgets before, here's a quick how-to video.)

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    To pique your interest, here's a character blurb about the book from Jaze Curso:
    “Werewolves hide among you; it’s a secret we have fought for centuries to keep. We were almost wiped out once, and know better than to let the secret out again. But just like humans, werewolves are impulsive and sometimes uncontrollable. That’s where I come in. My job is to protect the werewolves and help them live full and happy lives. There are Hunters and others who don’t believe werewolves have rights and should be hunted and exterminated like animals. I’ve done what I can to smooth Hunter-werewolf relations, but extremists, fighting rings, and covert agencies feel that the fate of werewolves should be to die, be forced to fight for the entertainment of humans who watch the mutilation and bloodshed like it’s a sport, or be experimented upon to unlock the secrets of our superior strength and increased healing capabilities.

    I have seen things that would break me if I didn’t remember what I was fighting for. I found my father hacked apart by Hunters, and have rescued friends and comrades from fates worse than death. I feel a noose closing in as though those I care about are in danger, but I can’t find the source of it quickly enough to save them. There are so many werewolves in trouble, and though my team and the Hunters and werewolves that make up what some consider my private army work night and day to rescue them, it’s not enough. We need to do more, and so I am creating a team strong enough and smart enough to stop the threats hurled against us by ignorant humans who fear what they don’t understand.
    I am a high school student, and my attempt to live a normal life is shadowed by the werewolves who need my help. Charts of recent werewolf activity hang from my bedroom walls in place of posters. A computer tracking the rogue packs that intimidate the local wolves and endanger innocent humans sits by my bed. In place of text books, pens, and paper, my backpack is filled with guns, knives, and the occasional bag of beef jerky (you don’t want to mess with a hungry werewolf). Instead of studying for classes, my friends spend their days creating high-tech monitoring devices and tracking down the locations of fighting rings, torture chambers, and laboratories.
    I have loved with all of my heart, which is the way of the wolf. I have tracked through fields lit by the light of the full moon as it rested upon my shoulders like a cloak of strength. I have suffered to see the pains other werewolves have gone through, and almost died saving a human girl who stole my heart and gave me my life back. I live in the hopes of avenging my father’s death by saving those in pain, and I give every day-”
    A sound reverberated through the room. Jaze Carso set down his pen and a smile spread across his face. The curtains to either side of the open window swayed gently in the breeze to create dancing trails of moonlight across the page. Jaze opened his hand and let it play across his palm. A welcome shudder ran through his body. He stood as the howl sounded again, more persistent this time. He took off his clothes and didn’t fight the phase. His joints shifted, pulling him onto his hands and knees. His ears elongated and moved to higher points on his head while his muzzle grew and sharp canines lengthened. Jet black fur ran up his arms and down his body, covering his shoulders and back in a soft undercoat followed by the thick, longer guard hairs. It felt good to be in wolf form again, like putting on a pair of worn shoes molded by time to fit only the wearer’s feet. Jaze shook to settle into his wolf form, then stretched.

    Another howl rose and other voices joined it. The notes took on the warm, rounded tones of his pack ready for a night run beneath the welcome embrace of the full moon. Jaze pushed aside the curtain with his muzzle and the moonlight cast his brown eyes with a golden glow. Stars glittered within the inky blanket of night and the full orb above washed the city in an other-worldly glow. Eyes watched him from below, one pair dark blue, another deep crimson red, one set violet, and the last golden and deep with the secrets of the wild. Jaze gave a wolfish grin and leaped from the window.

    Cheree Alsop is writing several supernatural series for young adults. You can find her all over the web: Website | Facebook | Twitter |
    You can also find her books at Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Smashwords |

    *Book 1 of the Silver series -Silver- is already available for free at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords in ebook form.

    Friday, June 13, 2014

    Week in Review: Why I Am Now Willing to Re-Read 'The Fault in Our Stars'

    Why I'm Now Willing to Re-Read 'The Fault in Our Stars'

    In my mini-review of The Fault in Our Stars, I said I had no desire to read this book again. I cannot argue that it isn’t a good book –it is– but I found their philosophical debates over the oblivion of death, how humanity will eventually decay into nothing and cease to exist, downright depressing. This isn’t a view that I agree with, but it nevertheless gave me a feeling of despair, because I realize that people do actually accept this as their fate.

    However, James Duckett, a friend of mine, recently did a few gush posts about the book and its movie release. Instead of focusing on the depressing philosophical points, he took away a completely different view. Life and love in spite of death. We all die, eventually, and we have to consciously make the decision of whether or not it’s worth the inevitable heartache to love someone who may pass before us. We have to decide whether we will love and endure death, or whether we shy away from the pain it could (and probably will) cause.

    This part of the story didn’t pass me by completely. I was conscious of it, but it wasn’t what I had focused on through most of the book. This, to me, is a much deeper, more moving aspect of the storyline. I can see it now, in hindsight, but I feel the need to watch it unfold through another reading.

    So thanks, James, because someday I will re-read The Fault in Our Stars.

    The Writing Corner

    I'm pleased to announce that this was a successful writing week. Other than a second read-through and a few changes concerning character and consistency, I'll be done fixing up this subplot.

    Next week: Adding details to the main plot.

    To Read or Not to Read?

    I finished two books this week:

    • The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani. This is a fun fairy tale read. My favorite thing about this book was how the story carried into both Good and Evil, and I grew attached to both sides of characters. Though the Evil characters are, well, evil, they were fun and human as well. The story also shows that friendships can be more important than romance, and I liked that angle. This book gets four stars, though I'll have to see where the series leads before I can confidently recommend it to someone.
    • The Misadventures of Edgar and Allan Poe: The Tell-Tale Start by Gordan McAlpine. This short and sweet kids' novel is brilliant. A most appropriate book to finish on Friday the 13th. Full of literary references (mainly Poe, but some others), high adventure, ghosts, and clever shenanigans, I can't praise this story enough. This one gets five stars, and it's definitely a To Read.

    Last but not least, my booktube video this week was my TBR Shame, in which I count up all the books I own but have never read and feel a good douse of guilt.

    Monday, June 9, 2014

    The One with the Dinosaurs

    When my grandparents bought their house a few years back, the fact that there was no medicine cabinet in the second bathroom was a bone of contention. Completely unacceptable. A reason they almost did not purchase the house. So they had one specially installed.

    Which they never wound up using.

    My mom wanted to surreptitiously fill this medicine cabinet with ping-pong balls and hope they'd open it eventually.

    Great minds think alike, apparently, because my aunt beat her to it. She filled the cabinet, not with ping-pong balls, but plastic dinosaur toys of primary colors. I lost count of the weeks we waited for my grandparents to make the discovery. Eventually we got sick of waiting and began dropping heavy hints, until we finally told them to look in the cabinet.

    Since then, the dinosaurs have been slowly encroaching on the rest of the bathroom. First it was one on the counter. Another hiding in the closet. Two perched on an unused towel rack. My aunt used them as her playthings, arranging them and rearranging them every week, until they exploded all over the shower. It's become what's known as a Thing.

    But this week, my grandmother finally had her say.

    Beware, all dinosaurs who enter here.

    Proof that my family is in fact crazy awesome.

    Maybe this helps to explain my, er, unique habit of adding sound effects to daily life. Exhibit A, my June TBR and Book Haul:

    Friday, June 6, 2014

    My Week in Review: Ink Stain Contemplations

    Ink-stained fingers. For most of the summer, I predict that my fingertips will carry this mark of Summer Reading. I don't mind. Even if it clashes with my outfit.

    Growing up, Summer Reading was my favorite time of year. Nothing could really beat this. You're encouraged (aka 'bribed') into reading with some really awesome prizes. This reading program is one of the main reasons that I love reading as much as I do.

    I remember one year my sister and I decided to be the first ones to read 24 hours. We read every waking moment. Literally. My dad was out of town, so we found a series to read with my mom. She and I took off turns reading out loud while we did other necessary things (like cook and run a business). For eating, there were always audiobooks.

    You should have seen the face of the librarian when we marched in the next day to collect our 24-hour prize. She didn't believe us at first. Not because we didn't look trustworthy, but because she was certain 24 hours hadn't actually passed since our sign up.

    This is only one fond memory of hundreds related to Summer Reading. I met most of my friends during the activities of this program. (Our children's librarian had an awesome way of 'matchmaking' friends, and she did an excellent job.) I still have a lot of the crafts I made. But most importantly, I've retained an intense love of reading.

    These ink-stains remind me of all of this. But as I stamp the kids' reading logs everyday and hand out their prizes, I love being the librarian telling them to have fun and keep reading.

    The Writing Corner

    My dad, who is also a writer, read something interesting this week. For first drafts, apparently it's better to cover your screen with a sheet or blanket. This leaves you solely to write, instead of looking over what you've written. Backtracking will often mess with the flow of writing. I know I can get distracted but jumping back three sentences and trying to word it Just Right. (Definitely a final draft kind of edit.)

    I might have to try this.

    Writing this week:
    •  Halfway through rewriting one chapter.
    It doesn't sound like much, but it involves a lot of red ink.

    The Reading Nook

    I have no finished books to report, though I'm enjoying both my current reads, The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani and Star Wars: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn. I'm also slowly working through the Ever After High prequels by Shannon Hale. My niece is currently reading this book and her mom keeps bugging me to read it.

    You can check out mini-reviews for all the books I read in May -including The Fault in Our Stars, The Book Thief, and The Crystal Bridge- in the video below.


    Monday, June 2, 2014

    Doctor Who: The Problem With Clara

    It has long been a thorn in my side that I've never been up to date on Doctor Who episodes. Now finally (finally!) I am but one episode behind and there's really nothing left for the Internet to spoil. (Yes, thank you for telling me all about Gallifrey and River Song. Truly.)

    Ever since Amy and Rory departed, something has been bugging me about the show. Like a punch line I know I should understand, but continues to evade me. Watching the 50th Anniversary special, I finally realized what it was.

    Season 7 part 2 hasn't been as good as episodes in the past, and it's all because of Clara.

    Don't get me wrong. I love Clara. She's spunky, has great personality, and will forever be immortalized in my mind as the girl who said 'It's smaller on the outside.' 

    She's a terrific character, but she's just kind of ...there.

    Despite all her wonderful attributes, she is a flat character. I have yet to connect with her to the extent of any of the other companions. I feel the writers of this season have failed me in that they have told me much more about Clara than they have shown me.

    Think back to every episode with Clara Oswin Oswald. She has no set goal or motivation. She wants to travel but, now that she is traveling and through space and time no less, it doesn't seem to be developing her character. She was the Impossible Girl but, as crazy as it sounds, this was the Doctor's story more than it was Clara's. That was obvious in how the story was told. When Clara finally stepped into the spotlight in the climactic finale of the storyline -The Name of the Doctor- it was over almost before it began.

    In short, Clara doesn't have a story yet. She's merely a character in the Doctor's. I hope to see much more involvement from her in the future season. There are so many possibilities. Now that she isn't the Impossible Girl anymore, perhaps she can just be Clara, because Clara has the potential to be my favorite companion yet.