Thursday, February 26, 2015

REVIEW: Loki, Agent of Asgard: Trust Me


Loki, Agent of Asgard: Trust Me
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Lee Garbett
4 stars

Loki, with all his villainous deeds and dastardly schemes through the centuries, has gone from being the God of Mischief to being the God of Evil.

So what happens when Loki decides he doesn't want to be evil, anymore?

Loki wants to go back being good old classic Loki again, the trickster, the wizard, the mischief maker -but that's no easy fix. There's a cycle in place now that can't be broken, a role that must be filled, prophecies spoken that must come true. But this is Loki we're talking about. In his greatest scheme of all, Loki has figured out a way to give himself a second chance and maybe even cheat Fate. So with a newer, younger version of himself, Loki sets out to complete missions for Asgard's ruling All-Mother in return for erasing the misdeeds of his past self, with his goal ultimately set on changing his destiny.

Three reasons you need to read Trust Me:
  • Loki (obviously)
  • He personalizes Wicked lyrics

This graphic novel is pure fun. Loki is sly and mischievous and I can't quite decide if he's being upfront but I'm totally rooting for him. I really like seeing Loki as a (mostly, maybe, almost) good guy. Don't get me wrong; Loki by no means steps into a hero's role. He's working on his own agenda, and he does it with all the class and style you'd expect from Loki.  

There's something truly magical going on with this story. It's the kind of tale I've always dreamed of reading, one where I root for the character so hard, I'm almost afraid to get to the end, in case they disappoint me. (Don't you dare disappoint me, Loki; don't you dare make this Dark World all over again.) But there's so much to love between now and then. Just think Loki in Dark World, then multiply that by about a thousand, add in some Princess Bride references, and the fact that Loki's at least trying to be a good guy.

Trust Me gets four stars and this story was like candy. Highly addictive, giddiness inducing, green and gold candy.

Get it. Now.


Monday, February 23, 2015

AUDIO GIVEAWAY! Emityon: Evolve by S.J. Saunders

Do you know what's surreal? Well, lots of things, but specifically the realization that I have nearly hit 350 subscribers on YouTube. I'm at 342 right now, which ends in 42, which is the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything, so that's got to be a milestone itself, right?

Partly in celebration, and partly because I like gifting people things, I'm hosting a giveaway for the downloadable audiobook version of Emityon: Evolve, ever graciously provided by it's author S.J. Saunders.

If you don't remember, I did a review for Saunders' book Taovan: Awaken.


So if you want a taste of science and magic and melodramatic villains, step right up!

"A new threat emerges, and the darkness can no longer be contained.
Under the command of its bloodthirsty general, the Supremacy joins forces with a deadly new ally, unleashing carnage with fanatical precision. With war spreading to all corners of Atala, Nadon undergoes a dark metamorphosis; one that threatens to fracture the already-cracking continent and to undermine Nadon's very humanity.
As he alienates those around him and more earth-shattering secrets are revealed, Nadon fights to overcome the darkness inside and to stem the tide of annihilation. In the end, however, there is only one choice to be made, and Nadon must decide what matters to him most-survival or victory."

Don't stop now! Enter the giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And don't forget it's Corny Joke Monday 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

It's Just Ambiance: A Tale of Disneyland and Teaching My Nephew a Freakishly Big Word

The jungle presses in around me, the pounding sun held at bay by its thick canopy.

Wood creaks.

Scratchy music from an old-time radio filters through the air.

Crumbling stone is underfoot. Fading statues stand sentries of a glorious era long passed.

The temple is nearly excavated, but as I duck inside the cool building I see the wooden scaffolds barring precarious sections, planks holding up unstable pieces. Deeper in, lights are strung up, flickering and dimming with the cough and sputter of an unreliable generator.

Colorful paintings of archaic splendor soar across the domed ceiling, in the half-light and dancing shadows still mysterious and grand. 

Ancient booby traps have been triggered, then stabilized with lengths of bamboo. It's a dangerous place -evidenced by the skeletons of the less fortunate- but safe for us to pass, thanks to the ingenious excavators.

Bats scratch and squeak in a cavern. We keep our voices low, praying they won't swarm. Signs of 'DANGER!', 'DON'T TOUCH!', and 'KEEP QUIET' line our passing, but most of our crowd ignores them, pointing and chatting and snapping photographs. In a corridor lined with six-foot spikes, a reckless teenager yanks at the bamboo pole holding the trap's trigger at bay. A crash. The rumbling of moving stone. Someone screams as the ceiling sinks down...

But don't worry. This isn't some archaeological site or the beginning of a horror movie. It's just ambiance.

Ambiance = The character and atmosphere of a place

Disneyland is one of my favorite vacation places, for many reasons. But one of the things that never ceases to amaze me about the Happiest Place on Earth is the incredible attention to detail. As soon as you step into the queue for the Indiana Jones ride, you suddenly feel transported into a 1940s expedition site in the heart of a tropic jungle.

"This never gets old," I tell my dad, who appreciates Disneyland just as much as me. "There's so much ambiance!"

I feel a tugging on my hand. My nephew looks up at me, nose scrunched. "Aunt Manda-Panda," he says, using only the most awesome nickname ever bestowed upon an aunt, "What's ambi- ambu- ...what's that word you just used?"

Yikes. I've stepped in it now. My nephew is five, and I stare back at him with a look of such intense contemplation he giggles at me. How in the world do I explain a word like 'ambiance' to a five-year-old?

By example, I realize. After all, what better place to explain such a concept than Disneyland, which steps into the lands of Tomorrow, Yesterday, and Fantasy?

"Ambiance is the feel of a place," I tell him. "Right now, don't you feel like you're in an actual jungle?"

He nods.

"That's ambiance!" I'm excited now. This is an aunty thing to do. Not only an aunty thing, but an Aunt Manda-Panda thing. I point at the flickering lights, the tents, the old jeep, the speakers warbling out the jazzy music. "See all this stuff? It makes it seem like we're in an old campsite, right? Sounds, smells, feels -that's all ambiance, and here, they manipulate the ambiance to make you feel like you're in a different place. Like you're really there. That's part of why Disneyland is so fun!"

Okay, maybe I'm over-excited. Half of that probably went over his head, but he nods. "Oh. Okay." And that's that. We get on the ride, we have a blast, we get off, we move on.

A day later, we have a 60-minute wait time at Tower of Terror. The kids are getting antsy and we've finally stepped into the hotel's lobby, so the running around thing that worked outside won't do here. Again, I'm struck with the incredible attention to detail (not an uncommon occurrence for me). Fake dust and giant cobwebs coat everything. Sections of the walls are damaged and peeling, revealing the brick and woodwork beyond. The fixtures flicker, the furniture is faded, and the ride attendants are in bellhop uniforms. It often irks me how many people ignore the incredible work and effort of the setting in favor of their cell phones so, with my nephew in one hand, and my niece in the other, I point to a dusty table.

"Look at that! Somebody was in the middle of a card game and...they just left it."

Their hands tighten around mine and I realize, Right. Tone back the creepy. I turn to my niece, who has been easily frightened by some of the rides, and assure her, "It's not real. Everything in here just matches up with the story the ride tells."

A tug on my other hand. "Aunt Manda-Panda, is this all ambiance, too?"

I swear to high heaven an astronaut could have seen my proud glow. "This is ambiance exactly!"

This is the floor inside the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique,
made to look like wooden boards with wildflowers
growing in between.
Who says a five-year-old can't use 'ambiance' in casual conversation? (He used it at least three times that week. *squee!*) Who says kids aren't smart? By george, not me! This was my single proudest moment as an aunt, to date, and I'm going to teach my niblings all the big words I can muster.

Is this presumptuous? Probably. Ridiculous? Most definitely. Do I honestly expect these kids to drop words like 'ubiquitous' or 'prepossessing' on the playground? Of course not.

On the other hand, where else will they learn these things if not from their big-word-loving Aunt Manda-Panda?

You can hear more about my trip in my vlog post:

Monday, February 16, 2015

REVIEW: Benny and Omar by Eoin Colfer,204,203,200_.jpg
Benny and Omar
by Eoin Colfer
Audiobook version
4 stars

2015 Reading Challenge Success! 
 A book from an author you love 
that you haven't read yet



By now, you probably know where Eoin Colfer stands on my list of favorite authors, inspiring authors, and epically cool authors. (Hint: He's at the top of all three.) I have adored his books for years. It's not uncommon for me to devote an entire reading month to him. I even met him once, and I've been known to celebrate the anniversary of that day (in a completely sane, non-creepy way, of course).

Suffice to say, I am an Eoin Colfer fan.

But I have a confession to make. There are some Eoin Colfer novels I've never read before.

I know. You didn't think there could possibly be any, did you?

After nearly a decade of hemming and hawing and somedaying this book, I finally made myself listen to Benny and Omar, Eoin Colfer's very first novel.

In hindsight, I don't know why it took me so long. I loved this book.

Benny and Omar had all the humor and trademarks of a Colfer story, with some good gut-punching emotion on top of it.

On the surface, it's the story of an Irish boy suddenly uprooted to Tunisia, of all places, forced to adjust to a new culture and country while trying to keep his same simple life from back home.

On a deeper level, this is a coming-of-age story, a boy just on the brink of realizing that the world doesn't revolve around him and that hurling isn't an integral part of existence.

Benny is a sarcastic but funny and likable character. He definitely has his flaws. He's self-absorbed and nothing is more important than his precious sport of hurling. He strikes up an unlikely friendship with a local named Omar, who speaks English only in show quotes and TV ads.

Watching Benny's journey from self-centered boy to more-considerate older brother is enjoyable and satisfying. Two thumbs up for good character development, and aside from that, the books is filled with madcap adventure and humor, from mischievous scrapes to Omar's 'TV English'. On the whole, the book is upbeat, though there are some bleak moments when Benny comes face to face with the Tunisia outside of his 'European' neighborhood.

If you're in need of a good book for a boy, Benny and Omar is a shoe-in. But hey, I'm a fan of giving a good book to any reader, so don't keep it away from the girls by any means.

In short, this had everything I'd expect from Eoin Colfer.

As for the audio version, I could listen to that Irish accent all day. ^_^

Monday, February 2, 2015

My Reading Challenge List

I know I've already talked about my Reading Goals for this year, but I just recently came across this epic challenge over on and I can't resist. This list will push me to read a little outside my comfort zone, but won't be so specific as to be, well, bleh.

The best part is, a lot of the books I already planned to read will fit nicely into one niche or another. I'm going to try to find one book for each challenge, but I might not succeed. There are 50 challenges here, and I only have a goal of hitting 75 books this year, including as many Star Wars books as I can possibly cram in. Because Episode VII, baby!

I already have several books selected and some of these (like a book made into a movie or a book with magic) will be easy to come up with. But there are a few -like a book originally written in another language or a book with bad reviews- that might take a little more brain power. I mean, every book has bad reviews, right? So is there a certain ratio of bad-to-good reviews we should be looking at here? Where does one find a book everyone hated? Maybe there's a Goodreads list for that...

A book your Mom loves = Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
A banned book = To Kill a Mockingbird by Lee Harper
A Pulitzer Prize-Winning Book = The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
A book more than 500 pages = [insert correct Brandon Sanderson title here]
A book a friend recommended = The Hollow Kingdom by Claire Dunkle
A book I started but never finished =The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson
A book that takes place in your hometown = Nightingale by David Farland
A book that takes place in high school = Skinny by Donna Cooner

Personally, I'm looking forward to finding one written by an author with my same initials (if anybody sees an A.T. author, please share!) and picking a book based on its cover. Muahaha.

Have you set any reading goals or challenges for this year? Share, share!