Wednesday, June 30, 2010

So You Want some Deep Wizardry

In an effort both to conserve space and not spoil things, I'm going to go ahead and review the first two books of the Young Wizards series by themselves. Could you imagine how long an entry would be with 8 book reviews in it? Plus, anyone in the middle of the second book would not appreciate reading details in the third. So, without any further adieu, here're my reviews!



So You Want to Be a Wizard
~So You Want to Be a Wizard~
Young Wizards Series
Book 1
By Diane Duane
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

When Nita Callahan scans along a shelf of library books, she can't help but notice one strange title. So You Want to Be a Wizard. You know, those kids reference books that tell about different professions. So You Want to Be a Pilot, an Electrician, a Doctor. But a Wizard?

It's gotta be some sort of joke. At least, that's what she tells herself when she takes it home.

But as she reads more about magic and wizardry, and after reading aloud the Wizard's Oath—

In Life's name, and for Life's sake
I say that I will use the Art for nothing
but the service of that Life.
I will guard growth and ease pain.
I will fight to preserve what grows and lives well in its own way;
and I will change no object or creature unless its growth and life,
or that of the system of which it is part,
are threatened.
To these ends, in the practice of my Art,
I will put aside fear for courage, and death for life,
when it is right to do so—till Universe's end.

—Nita quickly learns just how serious this book is...

Nita soon meets up with another new wizard, a younger boy named Kit, and together they begin testing out their Art. When their first spell results in...complications, they find themselves in the presence of a White Hole named Fred who has some very disturbing news.

Little did they realize how accurate the Oath would be about 'putting aside fear for courage, and death for life' for they're about to be pitted against the Starsnuffer, the Creator of Death, the Lone Power himself!


As far as introductions go, So You Want to Be a Wizard is definitely a worthy kickstart to an extremely inventive series. It has action, it has intrigue, it has humor, and it even has horror and heartbreak. You'd think a first book might want to hold back on some things, but I guess when Entropy is on the line, you don't have the luxury of taking things slowly.

When you first think of wizards and magic, you might think of JK Rowling's breed of Latin spells and potions, or perhaps the more mysterious internal powers that Tolkien created for Gandalf. Duane's magic, however, is much more scientifically based, dealing with calculations, raw materials, and the adage that 'everything comes at a price'. Juxtaposed to this hard science, however, is the lyrical Speech which is spoken and understood by every living and non-living thing. Sometimes 'magic' can happen, simply by using the Speech to persuade something to move or change. And with your trusty manual to guide you, it's a wonder why anyone would want to go study at Hogwarts when practically any answer is only a page away.

But, of course, magic is not an instant solution to one's problems. In fact, more likely than not, things become more complicated with the introduction to magic. ...But that doesn't make it any less exhilarating to experience!

The book itself is very easy to read, despite the complex chapter titles—the theme of which seem to be what one might find in an actual instruction manual. Besides the occasional foreign (as in other-worldly) name—such as Khairelikoblepharehglukumeilichephreidosd'enagouni- quickly shortened to Fred—the language is light and simple. With main characters around 12 or 13, I might suggest the book as low as Middle Grade, but definitely appealing to anyone in the Young Adult crowd as well.

I would recommend this to anyone, young or old, who is intrigued with the idea that magic is acting all around us.

Approximate Reading Time: 4 Hours




Deep Wizardry
~Deep Wizardry~
Young Wizards Series
Book 2
By Diane Duane
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

With their initiation Ordeal behind them, Nita and Kit are ready for some relaxation. Nita's family heads to the coast, taking Kit along for the ride, and there the two wizards resume practicing and experimenting with their Art.

Of course, finding a whale wizard in distress kinda cancels out one's vacation plans. Sure enough, the Powers That Be have another task for the pair. The Lone Power is not at all pleased with the outcome of his last battle. The time has come for another singing of The Song of the Twelve to bind the Dark Lord away again.

Nita and Kit agree to help in any way they can. But what happens when Nita's folks get suspicious of her staying out after dark? Or when some of the whale participants are less than happy about helping? And what's this about Nita and Kit's debt being paid? And SHARKS?!


If the theme of the last book was an instruction manual, this one is songs. Each chapter is a song: Summer Night's Song, Wizards' Song, A Song of Choice, Seniors' Song, etc. I personally found the 'song' too slow at times. There is a lot of description of the undersea landscape, of how it feels to be a whale, of the different species' tones, however I can mostly attribute this to the fact that few (if any) readers have seen these sights, or experienced these wonders. There's a lot to try to get across. So while it may have been on the slow side for me, it was not too much of a distraction or an annoyance on the whole, especially since those overly-descriptive moments were few and far between.

I especially enjoyed the interaction with Nita's family in this book. Every teen knows what it's like to keep a secret from their mom and dad. Maybe you watched a movie you shouldn't have, or went somewhere other than you said you did. Nita and Kit have to struggle with guilt and trust the same as any of us did, and it's an instant connection with the reader.

While reading the first book is certainly helpful, this one could easily stand on its own. They reference and recall events from before, but I think the uninformed reader would merely have their curiosity piqued, rather than spoiled. That being said, I would still recommend picking up So You Want to Be a Wizard before attempting Deep Wizardry, if only because it moves faster throughout and provides the much-needed hook to get you into the series.

As far as language goes, Deep Wizardry is still fairly easy to follow, but I would put it more firmly at the Young Adult level because of the slight increase in vocabulary and a reference to sex (ah, mothers). Name-wise, the whales don't make it any easy on us: S'reee, Aroooon, ed'Rashtekaresket, Areinnye, T!h!ki, and Iniihwit are the most foreign of the bunch, though Hotshot, Roots, Fluke, and Fang are pleasantly simple. We are also introduced to a few untranslated words of the Speech, Dai'stiho (a wizard's greeting) being one that will be repeated throughout the books.

If roaming around a city didn't do it for you last time, the magic of the sea should manage to capture your interest hook, line and sinker.

Approximate Reading Time: 4 hours

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

I know I did a Top Ten Tuesday last week,
and I might still do one later today.

But first here's a pretty spiffy idea from MizB at I Should Be Reading:


Teaser Tuesday
~ Grab your current read ~
~ Open to a random page ~
~ Share a short passage (around 2 sentences) from somewhere on that page ~
~ BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! ~
~ Share the title & author, too ~


High Wizardry
High Wizardry
by Diane Duane
    PASSWORD?
    "Huh," she said to herself, as possibilities flickered through her head. Did Dad have the software encrypted somehow so that Nita and I can't get into it? But why? He wants us to use it. She let out a breath. Maybe it just wants an ID code for the user—there're some programs that do that. She squinted at the screen a moment, then smiled and typed in a private joke: the code name that a certain untrained farm boy used in his fighter run on the Death Star, a name that suited Dairine since she had inherited her mother's red hair. RED FIVE, she typed and hit the carriage return.
    PASSWORD RED FIVE ACCEPTED.
~Pages 48 & 49

Be sure to post or link me to your own teasers in the comments!

And go ahead and spread the word back to MizB on her post.


EDIT:
The Top Ten Tuesday theme is the tried and true
Books You'd Bring When You're Stranded on a Desert Island
I'll pass this week.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fighting Getting Older

I had to laugh at myself last week. Yes, I know it's theoretically a good practice to find something humorous about yourself, but this time I really did have a good laugh at my own expense.

I dislike answering the phone. Partly it's because I often don't know what to say on the phone. Especially with calls coming in. First, the call itself is a surprise. Then, in my room with my ancient Nickelodeon Phone, there's no caller ID to tell you who it is. Thus, I have no no way to prepare. And I like having some semblance of control in my life.

But, I suspect, it's mostly because the calls coming in are never for me. I still live with my mom, and as such, most calls are for her. But, with her being at work at strange(er) hours recently, I've taken to answering the phone and taking messages.

So, last week I get a call from some survey agency that she's signed up with, asking if they could speak with her. Contrary to popular belief, this is a call she actually would want to take. I pause a moment before telling them she's at work. The caller asks if there's a better time to call. I pause then tell them her hours, and that it's probably best to call back the next day before a certain time. I'm thanked, and the call ends.

Now...I don't know if you noticed, but I repeated an action during the above situation...

Found it yet?

I paused. Twice.

Sure, I could be just taking a moment to think things through. Going over my words so they don't come out jumbled. It's perfectly natural, right?

Actually, what I was really doing was...debating if it was okay to tell them my mom was at work. You know when you're little and your parents tell you A) not to answer the door or the phone when they're gone, or B) never to tell people you're home alone? Yeah, I still had that going through my head.

And I'm 22!

In related news, I also had a job interview last week. It was for a position unloading trucks and setting up displays at 4am. Not the best job in the world, sure, but they pay wasn't bad, and the hours would leave me open to relax/write/get another job later in the day.

I was nervous, and I completely missed one of the questions ("Why do you want to work as a [job title here]?"), but I thought the interview went fairly well. I was told I would hear back in the next day or two by phone (meaning YES), or email (meaning NO)...or postcard (meaning NO...but really, wtf?).

I got an email:

Hello
Victoria,

Thank you for taking the time to apply with us. We are unable to offer you a position at this time, but we do appreciate your interest in [Company].
Arg! Was it because I went on vacation this weekend? Was it because I forgot to mention how stoked I was about that specific job? Was it because I'm over-qualified—they first called to inquire if I had supervisory experience (other positions I applied for), but I didn't, so then they asked if I was interested in this job—even though I just want a job? Did the person in front of me get the job?

So many questions. So many possibilities. But only one answer, one reason I'll never hear.

Getting older sucks.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Top Ten Books From Then

Top Ten Tuesday Top Ten Tuesday

A.K.A.
Top Ten Childhood Favorites
But that wasn't nearly as catchy

Adapted from The Broke and the Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday

Since I'm still pretty young, and young at heart,
I'm limiting this to pre-high school reading.

In order of being read:

The Dress Code
1. The Berenstain Bears and the Dress Code ~ Stan & Jan Berenstain — Quite possibly the first book I read by myself and remembered. Also possibly the first book I specifically requested be bought for me. I absolutely loved this book and re-read it more times than I can count.


Ramona The Pest
2. Ramona the Pest ~ Beverly Cleary — Though I've read the entire Ramona series multiple times, I'm pretty sure this one has been re-read the most. I remember reading it shortly after we moved from Indiana to Oregon and realizing that we lived in the same area! Ah, the joys of connecting with books.


Wayside School is Falling Down
3. Wayside School is Falling Down ~ Louis Sachar — I distinctly remember finishing this book and immediately going back and starting at the beginning again. Though, whether that was purely because I enjoyed the book or because it confused the heck outta me, I'm not quite sure.


The Invasion
4. The Invasion ~ K.A. Applegate — The first of the 64 book Animorph series (of which I own 62), how could I not include it? Every month I'd race to the store to buy the latest installment, then, because my parents could see if my bedroom light was on late at night, I would read in the bathroom with the door locked so they couldn't stop me. I think I eventually got to the point where I could finish a book in 4 hours. Then again, they were only 150 pages at the most.
 

The Gentleman Outlaw and Me ~ Eli
5. The Gentleman Outlaw and Me ~ Eli ~ Mary Downing Hahn — This is one that I loved so much as a kid that the story stuck with me long after I'd read it. Years later, when I saw it on the shelf at a used bookstore, I just had to buy it. Of course, the story wasn't exactly as I had remembered it, but it was still enjoyable.


Tangerine
6. Tangerine ~ Edward Bloor — It's hard to explain why this book appealed to me so much. It's really very dark, but...I dunno, you get more out of it the older you are. It has layers, you know? Like ogres.


The Samurai's Tale
7. The Samurai's Tale ~ Erik Christian Haugaard — This one was an assigned book from, quite possibly, the best teacher I ever had, Mr. Wandell. If I ever had a teacher crush, it was on him. This book was accompanied by an in-class Role Play Assignment, where each desk-group was a Japanese Feudal Clan and it was a race to see who would dominate whom. We were the last independent group standing up against the conquerors, and so in a last ditch effort to save our clan, my friends and I performed a skit to earn some more "money" (rice) which involved Monty Python (Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition) and Klingons (don't ask) and nukes (we were Nagasaki, after all)... But yeah, the book is awesome too.


Ella Enchanted
8. Ella Enchanted ~ Gail Carson Levine — Technically, I had this read to me in 4th grade, but I had to leave early for summer vacation (I think for my Aunt's wedding), so I never heard the ending. It took me a while, but I finally picked it back up and fell in love in 7th grade. The movie was okay, but not nearly as fantastic as the book.


Alanna The First Adventure
9. Alanna: The First Adventure ~ Tamora Pierce — The first Tamora Pierce book I read made me a life-long fan. Alanna is a fiery girl who dreams of becoming a knight. When she and her twin are being shipped off to train (her in sorcery, him as a knight), they decide to trade places! And you thought you had it rough? Fantasy, adventure, romance, and strong heroines, who could ask for more?


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
10. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone ~ J.K. Rowling — Last, but certainly not least, is Harry Potter. Technically, the 4th book is my true favorite of the series, but without the 1st, where would I be? I've connected with so many people, gone so many places, learned so many things because of this series. It holds a special place on my mantle, and in my heart.


What were some of your favorites?
Comment below or link me (and The Broke and the Bookish)
to your own blog post!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Contests!

You probably think I'm going insane with all this posting recently. Don't worry, this one isn't too long.

I'm simply pointing out the new "Contests!" list down there on the right...and highlighting the first one there:


Enter To Win FIVE Books:

Nightshade ~ Andrea Cremer (ARC)
Paranormalcy ~ Kiersten White (ARC)
The Eternal Ones ~ Kirsten Miller (ARC)
Halo ~ Alexandra Adornetto (ARC)
Pegasus ~ Robin McKinley (ARC)

AND

FIVE packs of 5 gum:
Zing (Bubble)
Cobalt (Peppermint)
Flare (Cinnamon)
Lush (Tropical)
Rain (Spearmint)


Simply enter at The Undercover Book Lover Blog
HERE

Okay. That's all for now.

Organization Freak

Yes, it seems my worst habits are coming out of the woodwork once more.

I went back to add to my original list of Blogs About Writing and discovered exactly how difficult it was to navigate. So, to make things easier on myself (and, to some extent, my readers), I went ahead and divided the post into 5 separate ones, the product of which can now be seen to the right...

I've also shot myself in the foot as far as reading goes. Without warning, the library decided to order 2 more copies of A Wizard of Mars, making it ready to read NOW. And here I am, still on break and not having started the 1st one.

Ah well, I think each should only take me 4 or 5 hours with help of audiobooks, at least until we get up to #5 and later. A book a day? Yeah, I think it's doable. So, be looking for my reviews coming soon.


Oh, and a belated Happy Fathers Day wish to my dad (who is an invisible reader of my blog)!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hakuna Matata

Last week was quite eventful for my family and me.

First, my sister finally started Summer Vacation on Thursday. YAY FOR HER!

Second, we attended a 60th (Diamond, in case you were wondering) Anniversary celebration for my Great Aunt (sister of my Grandma) and Uncle. YAY FOR THEM!

And Third, we got to go see...


The Lion King

YAY FOR US!



Yes, that's it, notice the picture to the right. This wasn't the movie, this was the Live 'Broadway' version.

I'll allow you a moment to go ahead and drool in jealousy.


Okay, that's enough.

If you haven't heard anything about it, then I advise you to go check out it's official site or these videos. The puppeteering is phenomenal, the vocals are amazing, and it was an experience I'll not soon forget.

That being said, I'm sorry to say I don't have any pictures. Photography was strictly prohibited before and during the show, and because I was with family and had other plans that evening, we didn't stick around after the show (as it was, it took 40 minutes to get out of the parking garage!).

We attended a matinee showing on the 2nd day (most inexpensive tickets *wink wink*), so there were still a couple bugs to work out:
The chorus often overpowered the soloist during songs, specifically in Scar's only song, "Be Prepared". Of course, knowing the songs inside and out helped me get through alright, but my grandparents, who have maybe seen the movie once were often lost. This will no doubt be fixed in the following performances as they become more accustomed to the performance space.

I believe Scar missed one of his lines at the end (or it was obscured by music/chorus) when he blames the hyenas for 'forcing him' to take over the pride. After he's thrown off Pride Rock and is talking with the hyenas, one says, "Oh, really? I thought you said we were the enemy." But...I don't think he did. Oops.

There was also a slight curtain mess-up following the "I Can't Wait To Be King" number, but the actor/puppeteer playing Zazu was able to make a joke of it and go right along with the performance.

Frankly, Zazu and Scar stole the show whenever they were on stage. Zazu was very over-the-top comedic—even more-so than Timon and Pumba!—and Scar played the best villain I've ever seen. Granted, he's one of the best Disney Villains of all time, but the actor pulled off the character as well as the animators did the first time around.

I will admit, I was slightly disappointed by the scale of the show, however I think I can attribute this to 3 things.
  1. We were on the 2nd balcony, which is waaaaay high up, so we could see more of the empty stage than, say, those on floor level. 
  2. I don't think our stage is nearly as big as the venues all the 'preview' videos come from, therefore they just couldn't fit as many people/puppets on stage as, say, on Broadway.
  3. The last productions I saw at that theater were the Singing Christmas Tree and Blast!, which both have minimalistic props and huge casts. The Lion King is pretty much the opposite.
My other complaint had to do with the family in front of us. You'd think being in the 2nd row of the balcony would mean our chances of having jerks in front of us were slim...yet we hit the mother load. I had the mom and her little boy (5 or 6) in front of me. I say both because the kid kept wanting to sit in his mom's lap. This made trying to look down over them a bitch. I quickly decided to move seats (we had an extra one in our row).

After intermission, during which they all left, they came back JUST before the show started, and the mom and kid decided to trade seats, sitting her right in front of me again. When he wasn't in her lap, he was standing up by the railing. And, with maybe only 10 minutes left in the show, he finally got bored and wanted to chatter and jump around. Seriously, lady, control your kid.

I heard afterward that her older kids (seated in front of my mom and grandparents) insisted on clapping with their hands raised above their heads. This wouldn't normally be a problem, except that there was a lot of applauding during the show (following musical numbers and/or excellent puppeteering) which made it a pain to see what was happening next. ESPECIALLY if you were trying to use binoculars. I don't know how many times I got a BLACK BLURRY BLOB in my vision instead of seeing the intricate puppetry going on onstage.

Moral of story: TELL YOUR KIDS HOW TO ACT AT A PERFORMANCE!!!

Now, I don't want to give away too much, but if you do have a chance to see it sometime, I advise you to GO!!!

It's in Portland until July 11th, then it heads up to Vancouver, British Columbia. More locations are available on their official site.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Coupon Addiction Or Disloyalty?

I just got an e-mail.

No, it's not from a friend or loved one.
No, it's not from Facebook or YouTube or Twitter.
No, it's not a reply from a job application (not even a rejection).
No, it's not spam (spam spam spam spammity spam wonderful spam!).

It's from Borders.
And it's a coupon.

Now, this isn't by any means a rare occurrence.
I usually receive a coupon from Borders once or twice a week.

See, I signed up for their free Borders Rewards card,
so I get e-mails with coupons
or events
or promotions
or new releases
at least once a week.

It's really nothing to get excited about.

Except, Borders tends to send out different coupons.

Usually, it's 25% off one item
(not including blah blah blah or blah).

Sometimes you get the occasional 30% off.
Maybe they'll have a week or two where it's 33% off.



But then...







Just when you least expect it...












40% OFF ANY ONE ITEM


And sure enough, I'm scrambling to figure out what I'm getting.

Doesn't matter that I'm unemployed and am low on funds.
Doesn't matter that I could wait and find it used for cheaper.
Doesn't matter that I'm probably buying something I don't need.

It's 40% off.
And it's for two days only.
(Actually, 99% of the time they extend the sale for 3 more days.)
(But what if they don't?!)


Hi everyone. My name is Vicki and I am obsessed with coupons.


Actually, I'm pretty much obsessed with sales in general.

I constantly scan the book section at Goodwill for books that I'm interested in; things I've seen on the shelves at Borders or Powell's. They sell paperbacks for $2, which, honestly, is a steal.

I also love looking around Jan's Paperbacks for good deals. They sell paperbacks for half the cover price plus a quarter ($.25), plus you can bring in some of your own books and get store credit. Finding an older copy of a book (back when they were all $4.99) can save you a lot of money.

Even when I was still in school, I'd order my books off Amazon rather than use the campus bookstore. Sure, you'd have to wait a little while and the condition wasn't always the greatest, but when you're in college every little bit counts. And sometimes having notes in the margins isn't a bad thing.

But recently I read a blog post by THE INTERN about being 'loyal' to the publishing industry.
A few years ago, INTERN read an essay (a rather irate essay, if INTERN recalls correctly) by an author who argued that nobody who doesn't buy new, hardback literary fiction at its full price should be allowed to write literary fiction (or at least, try to get it published). This author set the minimum new hardback purchase quota at something like twelve books per annum. Her reasoning was that authors and publishers of literary fiction rely on hardcover sales to make the whole kerfuffle worth kerfuffling, and that one is simply hypocritical (and a big meanie!) if one wants to see one's name in big letters on a hardcover book but, er, declines to buy them. [link]
Now, I own a total of ten hardcover books. Seven of those are Harry Potter, two others were gifts, and one was bought for IB English.

If you read my review of Bone Crossed, you'll remember my rant about being a Paperback Purist*. I find them bulky, not comfortable, and ultimately, more prone to wear than my paperbacks. ...Strange, eh?

I will admit, I baby my paperbacks quite diligently. I never crack the spines (and don't loan them out to anyone that does) and barring natural disasters (or torrential downpours) I keep them dry and clean.

With hardbacks (specifically my experience with the Harry Potters), I always remove the paper jacket so it doesn't get ripped, folded, or stained, leaving the (often ugly) covered cardboard exposed. The cardboard corners are rarely left unbent; the substance covering the cardboard (sometimes threadlike, sometimes paper-based) becomes stained and/or thins on the bottoms and corners, sometimes revealing the material underneath; in larger books the inner binding isn't always applied well, so the book starts to shift within its cover. Add in that these are only comfortable to hold while resting on a surface (table, bedcovers, armrest, stomach) because of their weight, and you've got an unattractive, bulky nuisance.

But let's say I did decide to change my buying habits and go completely hardcover... I still wouldn't buy at full-price.

As stated before, I shouldn't even be buying $2 books, let alone $24 ones! Don't get me wrong, I have authors I love (a healthy, distant love) and support wholeheartedly when I can. I simply can't get up the gumption to shell out $15 or more for a book when I know I can get a year from now for $6 (with coupon, or $2 if I strike gold at Goodwill). Even with required textbooks, why the heck would you spend $60 when you could get a decent used copy for $30?!

If you think about it, I could buy two paperbacks (with coupons) for the same price as one hardcover. So, if I'm buying twice as many books a year...isn't that better for the publishing industry? And if I review the books and/or recommend them to friends (or strangers) who have funds...isn't that even better?!

As far as, "if you aren't supporting the industry financially, you shouldn't be writing for it" all I can say is...shut the hell up.

You wouldn't tell an impoverished musician, "You can't buy CDs, so you can't sing." The same goes for writing. Just because someone has to rely on their library for all their literary needs, you can't tell them, "You aren't allowed to write."

Do I want to be published?
Hell yes.

Do I want to make money off of it?
Yeah, that would be nice.

Am I going to throw a tantrum if I ever see a copy of my book as 'discounted' or 'used'?
Heck no.
Just means someone else has a chance to read and enjoy it.



* Paperback Purist. I am totally coining that term!© Me!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Write Your A** Off!

Okay, first off, an announcement:

This post is not just about Write Your A** Off.
That information will be located at the end of the post.
Scroll down if you're really that impatient.

Thank you.
Now to other news.


Video Games

Following my rushed reading spree of both the Hitchhikers' series and the Mercy Thompson books (review links located on the right) I decided to take some time off and revisit a video game I've put off for some time.

Now, I'm not very good at video games in general. Anyone who knows me can tell you that. I'm not the greatest with hand-eye coordination, so anything involving timed running/jumping or shooting is right out. And combos? I'm more for button-mashing.

Really, the only games I'm any good at whatsoever are Turn-Based Role-Play Games. Pokemon is always a good mind-numbing game to play while watching TV. I played through the Ace Attorney games bing, bang, boom. Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon was fun while it lasted, but I conquered it pretty quickly.

A friend, upon discovering my enjoyment of RPGs traded me a game he'd fiddled around with, but ultimately found too long and confusing. Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled proved to be right up my alley.

It has a great story and is very immersive. Only complaints I (and many people) have with it is how often the "random encounters" occur. Like Pokemon, when you're walking through the world, creatures/people suddenly attack you. But unlike Pokemon, there's no 'repel' or way to lessen the rate of battles. In fact, they pop up even MORE often than in Pokemon. Main reason I consulted a walk-through -- the battles would make me forget where I'd come from/where I was going.

There are also a couple (documented) glitches in the game. Sometimes you'd walk through a door and it wouldn't let you exit again. Or it'd say you'd acquired an item but it didn't show up in your inventory. There were other times, however, when I'd be walking along and the game would suddenly freeze. And (again, unlike Pokemon) save areas are hard to come by, often resulting in an hour down the drain. >_<

But, after 55+ hours of leveling up, item grabbing, and map-consulting (okay, FAQ-walkthrough consulting), I'm happy to say I finally beat the game! Yay! Another (meaningless) accomplishment checked off my list!


Job Hunting

I've started another round of job applications. I'd like to stay out of retail as much as possible, but I'm starting to concede a little. I've applied for a couple teller positions and some management jobs (my degree has to count for something, right?) in a couple retail stores.

I'm happy with my resume, how it's laid out and what it says. Still no bites, but I'm enthusiastic. Not that a lot of these low jobs even look at resumes. Have you seen some of these online applications? Yeah, some have a slot for uploading your resume, but most just ask you to fill in all the information over again on their page. And the questionnaires are confusing and tedious.

What percentage of politicians statements are true?
Over 50%
Between 30% and 50%
Between 30% and 15%
Between 15% and 5%
Under 5%

...What does that have to do with me gathering carts?


People who know you would describe you as...
Much more enthusiastic than others
Slightly more enthusiastic than others
Equally enthusiastic/reserved as others
Slightly more reserved than others
Much more reserved than others


We were out at dinner tonight and I'd describe our server as very enthusiastic. He was funny, he was personable, and he was certainly memorable (I'm writing about him now, aren't I?). But three events stuck out to make me not want him as my server again:
  • As we were ordering drinks, he didn't have a note pad. When the last person ordered--WHILE he was still ordering, actually--he walked away to get our drinks. When he came back without the last one (his hands were full) he then clarified the order he hadn't heard fully because he was walking away.
  • When he was taking the order for a salad, he kept up a 'friendly' conversation. She wanted a salad consisting of ONLY lettuce, carrots, and sliced (not cherry) tomatoes. I couldn't tell if he was trying to be funny, but when he read it back, he added onions and pickles, which she quickly repeated she didn't want. It took about 2 minutes just to order that salad.
  • When we were ordering pies, he again didn't have a note pad, and AGAIN walked away as the last person ordered, so that we had to YELL ACROSS THE ROOM that we wanted his pie in a to-go box.
Enthusiasm might be a good thing...as is speediness, but I don't think it's an automatic qualification for customer service.

Ah well, not much I can do about it but sit and wait.


Write Your A** Off
Saturday, June 12th

That's right, it's what you been waiting for!

This Saturday, June 12th, the New York Writer's Coalition is hosting a 3000 word writing challenge. Really, it's just an excuse to write. They say there's strength in numbers, so maybe you can get your nagging friend/sibling/spouse/parent off your back long enough to get some words down.

The Official Page offers a sign-up for prizes, plus prompts, chats, workshops, and resources. If you're in New York (you lucky people, you) you can even attend live events!

I've also invited some people to the event via Facebook Event so I'm hoping for some people I know to get involved.

I don't know if I'll hit 3000 words. I'm not even sure I'm going to work all on one thing. I might write a blog post. I might post comments or responses to comments. I might return to my (much neglected) RP site. Or I might actually focus on my story. Eh, I'll see Saturday.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Me in Threes

Yeah, it's silly, but what else am I gonna do?
I have been tagged by Lisa Gail Green to participate in ME IN THREES.
So here goes:

Three names I go by:
Vicki
Stormy
Wolfy

Three jobs I've had:
Courtesy Clerk
Guest Service Representative
Moderator

Three places I've lived:
Indiana
Beaverton
McMinnville

Three places I've been:
Walt Disney World
Medieval Times (Los Angeles)
Terminus Harry Potter Convention (Chicago)

Three favorite movies:
WALL-E
Apollo 13
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Three favorite books authors:
JK Rowling
Patricia Briggs
Tamora Pierce

Three places I'd love to visit:
England
Ireland
Aussieland Australia

Three favorite hobbies:
Writing
Reading
Photomanipulation

Three things I'm looking forward to:
Seeing the results of the Alice in Wonderland Contest on DeviantArt (June 15th)
NaNoWrMo (November)
The 7th Harry Potter Movie release (November 19th)

Now three following bloggers that I don't know enough about:

TAG YOU'RE IT!!
^_^

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fifth Borne

Yeah, that's right, I spent an entire day reading. Not much else to do when you're sick. Not that I used that as an excuse to read. More like an excuse not to do anything but read.

This is assuming you've read everything up through Bone Crossed and know who Mercy picked as a mate. If you haven't, then SPOILER ALERT! Anyway, here's my review of...

Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs
~Silver Borne~
Mercy Thompson Series
Book 5

By Patricia Briggs
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Recap

It's been a couple months since we left off from Bone Crossed and Mercy's still getting the hang of having a mate...and a pack. Since magic of any kind usually acts 'oddly' around her, things aren't going as smoothly as she thought they would. Adam assures her that he'll guide her, but their bond isn't working the way it should, and it's starting to get on her nerves.

Mercy is still living with Samuel in her own trailer. Partly because of the pack's general dislike of having a coyote as their Alpha's mate, and partly because she's still worried about Samuel. He's still holding up, better than he was in Blood Bound, but she can still sense that things aren't quite what they used to be.


Trouble Brewing

With vampires being the star of the last book, the fae and werewolves seem to have gotten a bit jealous.

Mercy receives a phonecall from Tad, Zee's son, asking if she's still got that thing Phin gave her. If you'll think back to Iron Kissed, you'll recall that Mercy borrowed a book of fae stories from Phin when trying to help Zee clear his name. And if you don't, Mercy fills you in anyway.

So Mercy heads out to return the book, but has a little trouble finding Phin. He's not at his house and his shop is closed. Plus, there seem to be a lot of Fae interested in what she has to return. Interested enough for a little threatening.

If the Fae weren't scary enough, it doesn't help that the werewolves are acting a bit less friendly. Apparently some of the pack aren't afraid to act upon their dislike, going so far as to invade her mind and manipulate her actions. Adam is furious and assures her that he will find the culprits and protect her. That's all well and good, but not all her werewolf trouble comes from within the pack.

Samuel has hit the breaking point. After a botched suicide attempt, his wolf-side takes over for self-preservation. Now Mercy's faced with a tough decision. If she tells Adam or the Marrok about Sam's condition, it will mean putting him down. Wolves, without their human counterpart, are more prone to violent rampages. Sam seems to be holding out alright, but how long can he last? And can Mercy really put his life above others? Even her own?


Continuity of Style

This book is slower than the last. Of course, that's to be expected considering the last book had vampires trying to kill her. Still, the action is mostly tame, drawing on the characters' bonds rather than heart-pumping action, until about halfway through. Then the action starts to pick up.

If the other books were mysteries, I'd describe this one as a mystery/romance/thriller. There's really not enough of each aspect to place it in any genre, but there are snippets here and there of all of them: the mystery lies in figuring out about Phin and the fae book; there's more romance between Mercy and Adam; when the action does pick up, there's a slight thrill to the chase. Mostly, it's another urban fantasy book. Oh, and, yes, there is finally a sex scene.

Something new to this novel, however, is Mercy's predominant role as observer. Yes, she's the narrator and ultimately observes the events in all the books, but never before has she been so...passive. Though she was in the middle of all three main conflicts, she really didn't do much, herself, to resolve them. Only involved in two fights? Come on, Mercy!


A Couple Problems

First, my repeated complaint about how the series has gone into hardcover. Again, I'm a paperback purist, so I prefer all my books to be in mass-market paperback (the normal size, not the taller version that they've decided to come out with). Suddenly deciding that they'll make more money with hardcover in addition to paperback just ticks me off. Now I have to wait a year for it to come into my format.

However, I am assured that this is purely the publishing house's decision, not the author's, so I'll just have to live with it.

As you know, I re-read the previous four books before delving into this one. It was mostly because I enjoyed them, but partly because I wanted to make sure I remembered everything. Phin, for instance, probably wouldn't have been remembered so easily.

However, the Mercy series has a sister series called Alpha & Omega, staring Charles Cornick (Samuel's half-brother) and Anna Latham, a rare type of werewolf who exudes a calming presence instead of rage. I own the series (2 books) but haven't had a chance to read them yet.

Thus, I was a little angry that it was revealed that Charles and Anna had mated and married. It is suggested that Anna might be able to help Samuel with his problem, and she is referred to as his sister-in-law. Well, so much for that surprise.


What I Like

I have a tendency to be overly vocal about things I don't like, so I'm going to try my best (even though I'm a bit pessimistic due to illness) to vocalize the positives.

Mercy and the bunch are very true to form. There's nothing out of left-field in their actions or reactions. Sure, there is one convenient coincidence, but it's still believable. Mercy may be more out-of-action than normal, but that doesn't mean she's on the sidelines emotionally. She's invested in everything happening, and brings the reader right into the action. Sure, she may not be getting thrown around or ripped to shreds, but isn't it about time she get some healing done?

The story-flow works. I was a little concerned when I discovered that there were 3 major conflicts instead of just two, but they weave together so well that you don't really notice until it's all over. The fae conflict does take a backseat most of the time. However, it is often the action that causes the reaction in the other disputes. When the fae villain acts, the other conflicts react--forcing Mercy to deal with the aftermath rather than the main cause. Once that's all taken care of, she can then focus on the original problem. It's a bit messy to explain, and I'm sure it was a pain to execute, but it really does work masterfully.

Fans of the series will love the latest installment. Maybe not for its action, but definitely for its characters' journeys. There're a lot of changes made, especially with Mercy, Samuel and Adam, but also with many of the lesser characters. Though, as with all of the books, this one can stand on its own, you're left begging to know what comes next. I don't think February can get here fast enough.


Approximate Reading Time: 8 hours

...


Added Bonus

In addition to the release of this book, which was awesome in and of itself, I also got to meet and hear the author! That's right, I listened to Patricia Briggs read an excerpt from Chapter 4 AND got two of my books signed! And where do you suppose this happened? Yeah, where else, but Powell's?

In addition to reading and signing, she also answered a few questions*:

The Mercy Series will have (at least) 7 books. The next book is called River Marked and is scheduled for release next February.

No, I don't think I'll be doing a cross-over with Mercy and Anna. Mercy's so dominant a character that Anna would fade into the background. They're both in the same universe, so there's always the possibility, but I don't think they'll be meeting anytime soon.


My first book, Masques, is being republished later this year with some much needed revision. So, for those of you who were unfortunate enough to read my first version, I'm sorry, but you'll have some perspective to find this one much better. And for those of you lucky enough to have missed it, I hope you enjoy! It is also being accompanied by a sequel, Wolfsbane.

Some authors have everything planned out down to the last detail before they start writing. Jim Butcher is one of those. Personally, if I know where a book is going, I'm pretty sure my readers, who are much smarter than I am, will figure it out too. My preference is to throw characters together in a room and see what happens. If I don't like it, I'll take one or two out and maybe put a different one in, until I get something that works.


*Paraphrased from what I can remember from 3 months ago.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Called, Bound, Kissed & Crossed

No, I know what you're thinking, and it's not about that. It is, in fact, a review of Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series (books 1-4). I've just finished a stunning re-read, prepping for the latest installment, and am ready to give my reviews.

I will do my best to keep spoilers out. Other than giving away the main character doesn't die, I will be discreet.

~Moon Called~
Mercy Thompson
Book 1
By Patricia Briggs
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

This is the introduction to Mercedes "Mercy" Thompson the VW mechanic and her supernatural world of the Tri-Cities, Washington teeming with werewolves, vampires, and fae. But Mercy isn't just any mechanic. Raised by werewolves, employed by a gremlin, and working on a vampire's car, she's definitely something special.

Mercy is a walker: a Native American/Indian shapeshifter. She isn't "Moon Called", like the werewolves are, but can shift painlessly into a coyote whenever she feels like it.

But being special isn't always safe. When Mercy finds herself in the middle of a strange plot involving the werewolves, she has to employ her wits and abilities to save her friends.


Reading like a paranormal mystery, the book is enticing and addictive. This supernatural world has rules, and Mercy guides you through them with the right amount of sass and humor so that it's never preachy. And Mercy's not the only star in this book (though she is the only narrator). Be it Zee, her former boss and all-time grump of a gremlin, Stefan, the charming vampire with a soft spot for Scooby Doo, or Jessie, the 15-year-old with ever-changing hair colors, you're sure to find somebody to cheer for.

Though the overarching story is definitely a mystery, you might find yourself edging toward romance with co-stars like heartthrob Alpha-wolf, Adam Hauptman and equally appealing Lone-Wolf, Samuel Cornick vying for her affection. But Mercy's headstrong enough to keep them both guessing. And besides, they're in the middle of a crisis!

If I had one gripe about the book, it was the amount of exposition heaped upon us. Yes, there is some hard-thinking and detectiving done, but about the time they hit a dead end, in rush some supporting characters to reveal the next step! Then there's a whole scene of expositional dialog at the end of the book, telling you all the whys and wherefores, rather than Mercy or the other main characters figuring it out. However, the characters, setting, and overall style of the novel help one to overlook that defect, and I assure you that the problem is quickly resolved in the following novels.

Approximate Reading Time: 6 hours



Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs
~Blood Bound~
Mercy Thompson
Book 2
By Patricia Briggs
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

The gang's all back for another adventure in the Tri-Cities. And this time, it looks like there's blood in the forecast. That's right, I hope you enjoyed your taste of vampires, because they're back with a vengeance. Okay, not vengeance really. Just calling for repayment.

It's been a few months since the events in Moon Called, and Mercy's managed to find herself in the middle of another race's troubles. It seems there's a demon-possessed vampire running amok, threatening not only innocent people's lives, but the vampires' secrecy. What starts out as a simple repayment of a favor, turns into a fight for survival, both for Mercy and her friends.


This time the mystery is more of a man-hunt; not so much the who and why, but the where'd-he-go? With help being a bit less trustworthy, and friends getting harder to come by, there's a lot more sleuthing on Mercy's part. And she's all the stronger for it.

My main complaint lies, again, with the ending. There seems to be a solid stopping point 25 pages before the end of the book, yet the story kept going. Much like Lord of the Rings, you started waiting for it to end. The main threat had been neutralized, and now there was a new man-hunt. Knowing what to expect on the re-read, it wasn't as bad making it through. But I can still remember the first time having it send me to sleep. It's almost as if...it was tacked on in order to set up problems in the following book(s)... I mean, it still works, it still follows the same story, but the pacing doesn't quite flow through the final section.

Also, I believe there were 3 or 4 typos. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

BUT, on the whole, it is a worth-while read.

Approximate Reading Time: 7 hours



Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
~Iron Kissed~
Mercy Thompson
Book 3
By Patricia Briggs
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Now Mercy's paying off another debt, this time to the fae, when things (of course) take a turn for the worse. There have been some murders inside the fae reservation, and Mercy's called in to help identify the killer. Her keen nose can come in handy sometimes.

But after she identifies the killer, what seems like an open and shut case turns into a murder charge against her good friend, and former employer, Zee. It's now a race to clear his name before someone decides this is a case best resolved before trial. And they're supposedly the good guys!


Quite possibly my favorite of the series (so far), this time the mystery is a regular whodunnit. Though perhaps not as heart-pumping as the previous stories, there are still unexpected twists and turns and a climactic ending that will have your hands suffering from friction burns as you rush to turn the page.

As the tension rises, the characters soar. One of my favorites (though I won't say who) finally gets his moment to shine at the end, proving once and for all that he's really not as bad as he makes himself out to be. In fact, he even gets to work with Mercy on a side project. Actually, the scene and his revelations were enough to bring me to tears, and I don't cry easily. ...Well, not with fiction. His part is the main reason this book is my favorite (again, so far).

Nothing I hated about this one, though I do have a warning: the romance gets turned up a notch, and there's some 'adult action' taken (though not graphically described). I'll not impose age restrictions or recommendations, but you have been warned...

Approximate Reading Time: 7 hours



Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs
~Bone Crossed~
Mercy Thompson
Book 4
By Patricia Briggs
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Okay, now the vampires are out for vengeance. It seems Mercy hasn't been following all the rules, and the vampires are a little miffed. Miffed enough to starve and mutilate Stefan before plopping him in her living room. And a starved vampire is probably the last thing one would want in their home.

The crossed bones on her garage don't make matters any better. They're a symbol that she's fair game to any and all magical trouble, and she's not the only target. It's a matter of staying alive when everything (vampires, ghosts, elves...) seems to be out to kill her.

And did I mention that her love troubles aren't near being over?


Not so much a mystery this time as much as a paranormal thriller/romance. It's a case of the hunter becoming the hunted, and we're on the run. The feel of a haunted house (not knowing what'll jump out around the next corner) is accentuated by the fact that we actually deal with ghosts haunting a house. And no worries, the romance is by no means overpowering, but it's definitely a lot more intimate in this book. Some of the side-characters we've come to enjoy are noticeably scarce. I think (based on a mental head-count) everyone's accounted for, but some are confined to only one scene/mentioning. Still, if you've been reading this far, you won't be disappointed with the intimacy.

If I have one thing to gripe about, it's the sudden change in formatting. The cover art may be the same, but you can tell from the front cover that something's different. The font-style has lost its buzz. And the spine is even more of a giveaway.

Now, this might not be a huge deal for some, but I'm a bit anal when it comes to my bookshelves. I prefer my books (when possible) to be the same style (same edition, same height, same artwork), unless financial limitations dictate otherwise (my Hitchhiker's series, for example). When a publishing company decides to change printing styles mid-series, it throws things completely out of whack, ascetically speaking.

The inside of the book is also different. The first lines of chapters are in a different font (Verdana, I think) and chapters were now required to start on the right page, instead of the left. Spacers are different as well. It's nothing drastic enough to make me throw it away in disgust, but it does make me a bit miffed, myself.

Though I don't know what caused them to change the format like they did, I think I can offer a guess. This was the first book that was published in hardcover first (which made me wait a year before purchasing in paperback), so there's the possibility that they decided to go with a cheaper printing style. Now, I don't know anything about publishing costs and if one font costs more to print than another, or if law dictates that leaving pages blank in order to start chapters on the right is mandatory in hardbacks, so that gets applied to the paperback as well. All I know is, I wish they'd stuck with how things were.

Story-wise, I have no complaints.

Approximate Reading Time: 7 hours