Friday, May 25, 2012

My Creativity Conundrum

I've been having a bit of trouble posting as of late. Like you hadn't noticed.

Firstly, my sleep schedule is waaaaaay off the normal rotation. Seems living in a cave (my bedroom is underground and has no windows) allows for sleeping during daylight hours a little too easily. Case in point, yesterday I slept from 10am to 5pm.

As you may guess, sleeping during the day doesn't bode well for functioning during that time. It's a little hard to drive your sister somewhere when you're going through REM. So I've been attempting to get to sleep earlier so I can wake up earlier (waking up is the hardest part of my 'day').

Unfortunately, my brain has decided that lying in bed trying to go to sleep is the BEST time to start coming up with ideas. Of course, I can't guarantee they're great ideas—my brain is starting to 'shut down,' after all. But whether it's my subconscious coming to the forefront, my inhibition/critique center shutting down, or the universe conspiring against me, I don't tend to get a lot of my ideas posted.

Because I'm trying to go to sleep, and it sorta defeats the purpose if I get up and write out (or draw or whatever) what I think of. Again, perhaps that's a good thing since a tired brain isn't known to make the greatest decisions. Plus I've noticed that my language gets pretty convoluted when I'm tired—my internal thesaurus/dictionary is downright horrible.

But here's a few of my sleep-deprived ideas:
A review of House M.D. (and why I stopped watching)
A review of the movie Dragon Hunters (mostly focusing on character stories)
A list of Pokemon teams based on Disney movies (...)
Pottermore OC comics
This post...
So that's my conundrum. Should I get up and act upon my ideas, even if it means staying awake longer? Should I ignore my exhausted brain's ramblings completely? Or should I try sleeping pills in an attempt to recalibrate my schedule back to normalcy? Decisions, decisions...

And a bit more randomness to finish off:
Thank you McDonald's toys!
Just let the awesomeness soak in...
Too bad Disney owns Marvel instead of DC, eh?

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Non-Bookish Sites

Top Ten Tuesday
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

So I tend to focus on mainly bookish things here. Even my last post, which was art related, stemmed from Harry Potter. But what kinds of sites do I read that aren't book related? Here's my top ten:

10. Pottermore
Sorta cheating here, but I do enjoy the games/activities on Pottermore. Sure, it's a site based around a book, but it's not just about reading, right?

9. Etsy
Partly business, and partly just browsing. Perusing the site for the latest and greatest handmade goodies is just so much fun! Seeing the prices on said goodies...well, not so much. When I win the lottery...

8. The Daily Show
This one I mostly go in spurts. I see a little on TV and then go watch 5 episodes (or extended interviews) straight. Jon Stewart is awesome.

7. Hellfire Commentaries
That's right - I have a video game addiction. But I'm lousy at playing games, so I settle for watching other people play them instead. It keeps me up-to-date on pop culture, while entertaining me with the commentators' witty rapport. And gotta love NTom's British accent.

6. That Guy With the Glasses
A fairly recent find, but I absolutely love watching CR, The Nostalgia Critic or Nostalgia Chick rip into my childhood favorites. Whether it be Disney, TV shows of olde or not so olde, these guys are masters of hilarity. I find myself cracking up even while they're bashing movies I absolutely loved.

5. XKCD
A comic that may not look pretty, but consistently delivers great punchlines, touching moments, or witty insights.

4. ...With Sprinkles
A web-comic/blog created by one of my college friends. I always look forward to Mondays knowing I'll get a good laugh - even if it does usually come from her misfortune. ...Does that make me a bad person?

3. TV Line
I wouldn't say I'm an American Idol addict...but I love reading/watching Michael Slezak's recaps, insights, interviews and predictions each season. And when he's not reporting, I sometimes look for the latest spoilers for my fave shows. TV spoilers = okay. Book spoilers = I kill you.

2. YouTube
I'm tempted to put this as number one, but since this is purely entertainment/distraction, I guess it gets lowered a peg. Whether it's watching a line of related videos for 3 hours more than anticipated, or checking out my favorite channels (SSoHPKC, ApprenticeA, CardGamesFTW, ItsJustSomeRandomGuy, HISHEdotcom, and TheCreatureHub to name a few), YouTube never ceases to entertain.

1. deviantART
Another site all too easy to spend unaccounted hours at, deviantART is probably where I spend the most non-bookish time. Between reposting my reviews, browsing random art, managing the SmilingMoonCreations account, browsing more art, checking in on my groups, uploading photos, and browsing the latest art my favorite artists have posted, it's a busy busy site.

Honorable Mentions:
Pandora
Library's Site
Ctrl+Alt+Del
Various Manga sites
Facebook


Yeah, a lot of my sites revolve around movies, video games, and art.
Can you tell I like distractions?
Which sites are on your list? Let me hear you howl!

Monday, May 21, 2012

No Shortcuts

Ever since I joined Pottermore and was sorted into Hufflepuff, much to my initial surprise and disappointment, (I've since come to terms with my placement and embraced it) I've wanted to make a comic about it. I mean, what better premise than a girl who hates sunshine, plants, and yellow who is thrown into an environment filled with all three?

Unfortunately, I was not blessed with the artistic bug - at least not visually - and my sister, the artist of the family, is busy with her own projects, so mine fell by the wayside.

Until last week when I decided I'd give it a shot. Hence my absence...

I mapped out the first comic completely. So it was on the back of a library receipt, it didn't have to be perfect, right? Here's basically what the first panel looked like.


Then I took it to paper.


I figured I should be able to sketch out my comic then photograph/scan it in and do only minor tweaking. Thing is, I'm a little too much of a perfectionist and my 'minor tweaking' turned into completely re-tracing it. Which would be fine, if I had a tablet or something, but no, I just have a standard mouse.


So there I was, panel one completed, except for the text. It had only taken 8 hours.

Yeah, 8 hours.

UGH! At that rate, it was going to take forever. Might as well scrap it.

But then I thought, maybe I could streamline everything, just use the line and circle tools to cut out some of the steps. And then I'd be ahead of the next panel through the magic of copy/paste.

So I started over and came up with this.


Not very pretty. And the real kicker is that it took me just as long to do! And I'm still not happy with it.

Serves me right for looking for shortcuts and still expecting quality work.

Now I just have to decide if I'm still willing to put the effort in, or if I should scrap it and leave it scrapped. Why does XKCD make it look so easy?!

Monday, May 14, 2012

You're A Traitor, Just Like Your Father

Traitor's Son
~Traitor's Son~
The Raven Duet
Book 2
By Hilari Bell
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

"If you're willing to kill me,
I'd really be an idiot to tell you where I am."

When Jason catches the small bag the girl throws to him at the Canadian/Alaskan border during a gunfight, all he can think is that the bag must contain drugs. But if the small brown powder is some sort of illegal substance, it's certainly nothing he's ever seen before.

Jason is half right. He's never seen this stuff before, but it's not drugs. The bag contains magical dust, a substance so powerful it can heal the earth.

So powerful, certain creatures think nothing of killing him to get it.



Firstly, I think I need to present a little background on my experience. I typically like to re-read series before tackling the latest release—it serves as a refresher and helps me zone-in before I start reading the new one. So before picking up Traitor's Son, I revisited and reconnected with Kelsa and Raven in Trickster's Girl. Unfortunately, I think that was a mistake.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Majorly Undecided

Since I'm in the process of re-reading Trickster's Girl before moving on to reading and reviewing its sequel, Traitor's Son, here's a bit of fun I ran into today while visiting one of my favorite comics, xkcd.

First, here's a video that should help provide context for the comic below:


Ah, good olde musicals.
If you're in for another tongue-twisting song, check out It Really Doesn't Matter.

I'm sure most college students have felt pretty confused at one point or another, especially when it comes to declaring their major. I didn't declare my major (Creative Writing) until the last minute (Junior year), even though I knew when I applied that's what I wanted.

And now, with the recession, I'm sure many kids that age are wondering exactly what to do. I can't offer much advice, seeing as every person and situation's different, but here's a comic that may make you smile:

Someday I'll be the first to get a Ph.D in 'Undeclared'.

Hope you enjoyed.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

NetGalley Reading Challenge 2012

NetGalley Challenge
Hosted by Red House Books

Though my relationship with NetGalley didn't get off to a great start, I've picked up and improved my practices this year. So why not give myself another challenge?

I'll be aiming for the Green Star level of previewing 11-20 books this year.

Some options I'm planning on picking up (or have done so already):

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
Her Majesty's Will by David Blixt
The Moonstone Series by Marilee Brothers

Anything available that you think I should request? Leave a comment below, and wish me luck!

Keep track of my progress on my Reading Challenges page.

Monday, May 7, 2012

"What Is A Werewolf?"

Bonds of Fenris

Talia Thornwood's life ended one year ago, when she became a werewolf. She survived the attack, and the horrifying transformation a month later, but the life she has now is barely worth living. She lurks about in a filthy, run-down house, with too many werewolves crammed into too small a space. Every day is a struggle against the stress of human contact, the romantic prodding of her obnoxious packmate Pierce, and the gnawing hunger for flesh in her soul.

She's all but resigned herself to a dreary existence on the margins of society when she meets Corwin. Corwin is a werewolf like none other. He walks among humans as if it was nothing, and can keep his wolf under control even when the moon is full. Talia's mind is suddenly opened to the possibilities before her, and the realization of how little she really knows about lycanthropy.

Corwin claims that he can teach her how to cope as he does, even how to transcend her affliction. But it will not be easy. It is a hard education that requires her to question everything her pack taught her, and confront exactly what she has become. And, more amazingly, what she never stopped being.



If the whole theme of this blog wasn't evidence enough, I'm a bit of a wolf lover. That affection also extends easily to werewolves. And yet, surprisingly enough, the only 'werewolf' books I've reviewed thus far were the Mercy Thompson series. So when Mr. Bell offered his soon-to-be-released werewolf story up for review, I was thrilled to accept. And look at that, our color schemes match perfectly!

Anyone reading popular fiction these days will have no doubt noticed the romanticizing that our favorite movie monsters have received lately. Vampires are tortured souls looking for love, zombies are starting to fight for equal rights among the intellectual community, and werewolves are hot body-builders with super strength and super senses who happen to get extra hairy when they get ticked off. You may be into that sort of thing, but I was happy for a return to the days of olde, where turning into a monster was actually...well, bad.

Talia and her pack may have been werewolves for a while, but they're far from happy with their situation. Being part wolf isn't just a once-a-month thing, it's a constant strain on their psyches as they try to keep their inner wolves at bay. Cause, you know, trying to eat your friends, family, or random passersby isn't something anyone wants to explain to the authorities. They hope that as a pack they can rely on each other to get through the hard times, but after a year for Talia (and longer for the others), their hope for better times has started to wane.

But then Corwin shows up. Now, to be honest, my very first impression of this guy was, "OMG, he's a Mary Sue (Gary Stu)*!" And really, he did have a couple Mary Sue-ish moments in the story, but he got better. He's the obvious romantic interest in the story, and he plays that part to a T, but to his credit, he's not completely perfect. He's often unsure about his actions and struggles with whether the end justifies the means, he's not in your face about being the romantic interest, and he does get the snot beat out of him a couple times. He was a little dry for my personal tastes, but he was fairly well balanced otherwise, so overall he gets my romantic seal of approval.

Which brings me to Talia, our main character and narrator. She grew on me. At first, I didn't get a clear sense of who she was, just that she was depressed and desperate. She's in a really crappy situation and is practically on the edge of losing it, so I sorta understand not having much personality there, but it's not conveyed in the best way (more on that later). Once she gets calmed down and gets a little control back over her life—which unfortunately was about halfway through the book—she turns out to be very outgoing, a little witty and snarky at times, and extremely loyal. Not my preferred kick-ass heroine, but not a bad character.

The supporting cast was fun to follow, but I wished they'd had some more focus and fleshing out. Leroy led the pack without actually leading the pack. He didn't need no stinkin' badge or fancy title to command authority, he simply was. But beyond that, he didn't impact me as much as I thought he should. Bo was the typical strong but dim guy. There were hints of him vying for Talia's affections, but that story was dropped fairly early, leaving him in the background. Marlene was pretty bitchy throughout, and though I grew to like her as a character further down the line, she never made it easy. Yet another case of females threatening each other rather than banding together—it's starting to get old.

And then there's Pierce. By far the most complex and interesting character in the entire book, and he's delegated to the semi-villain of the piece. I never knew if I was going to love or hate Pierce. At moments he was more obnoxious and horny than I could stand, but at other times he was that snide, wise-cracking, goof-off that I usually end up crushing on. Unfortunately, his persistence tended toward the first side, so I don't know that many will sympathize with him as much as the book calls for. Still, I thought his backstory and subsequent issues were well handled and made for great conflict throughout the story. If a prequel or sequel were ever in the works, he'd be my choice for star, no contest.

Though I'm very supportive of seeing more from Mr. Bell, I won't say this book was without its flaws. My main complaint was never feeling connected to the narrator. Here are a few examples of problems I found:
"A hard stone floor makes a distinctly suboptimal mattress."
"Only the moon, thick and gibbous, provided the barest natural light."
"[...]'and of course some unknown miscreant brought beer.'"
"'Seems a rather petulant attitude.'"
"When I heard Corwin had taken off after a potentially disturbed individual, it chased all other thoughts from my mind."
I'm sorry, but does that sound like a typical college student? That last one didn't even sound human. In addition to popping me out of the story, lines like these were so unlike the Talia/narrator I'd already read that I began questioning my impression of her. And when you're constantly analyzing and re-analyzing a person, it's really hard to feel connected to them.

I was also confused by some of the time shifts that the narration took. Yes, the story is in past-tense, so the narrator does know what's going to happen before any of the rest of us, but it's not always the best option to flaunt it. There are a couple points where Talia throws down some foreshadowing spoilers that, again, pop me clean out of the story. She doesn't add any insight to the moment, she flat out tells us that something bad is gonna go down. So keep reading, wink wink.

And then there's my main head-desk moment. It's nearing the end of the book when suddenly, we're reading a conversation that Talia isn't present for. That's right, she's merely relaying a conversation that she had to be told after the fact. Not only that, but it had to be told in two parts!
"That was all Corwin told me of their conversation. But some time later, when he and I were on better terms, Pierce told me the rest."
Wai-What?! If you're going to have a story focus on, and be told by one character for the entire time, why would you not include her in what is apparently an essential conversation? Well, essential enough to be included in the story. Reading the conversation, I understand why the author wanted to include it—it's really a very nice resolution to the characters involved—BUT if Talia's going to learn about it anyway, why not have her intentionally or accidentally overhear it from outside? Frankly, I found the whole time-jumping thing overly complicated and completely unnecessary.

But once you get past all that, the story really is wonderfully intricate and philosophical. Yes, I said philosophical. I know I said the werewolves weren't romanticized here, and I'm sticking by that. They're not bitten and then instantly gorgeous, super strong, and bound to their packmates. But—here's where some werewolf fans might be turned off—these werewolves aren't bloodthirsty beasts as much as they're people trying to fight against themselves. They're humans trying to do their best to stay human, even when they're obviously not.

And therein lies the main conflict of this story. This is a tale of self-discovery that happens to feature lycanthropy. It also had strong elements of philosophy, psychology, and teaching/learning principles, which I found to be unique and welcome additions to the werewolf genre. At the same time, I understand if 'hardcore' werewolf fans passed this book into the categories of shapeshifters or skinwalkers. Bottomline, this isn't a hack and slash book, but it is an interesting study of what a modern werewolf might struggle with.

Overall, I deeply enjoyed Bonds of Fenris. It has some polishing issues here and there, but I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a new take on werewolves who doesn't mind a bit of romance and philosophizing. It would probably hit home better with college-aged and older because of the situations and themes tackled. There are a couple fights and quite a few references to sex, though nothing is ever described, and language is non-existent, so probably no younger than high school. If you never thought the subject of werewolves could be thought-provoking, I'd give Bonds of Fenris a shot. It might just prove you wrong.

Approximate Reading Time: 6 hours

*Mary Sue/Gary Stu most commonly refers to a character inserted into a fan-fiction to instantly woo the main character. They are often the most attractive, most powerful, and most talented character of all, with few-to-no faults.

Disclaimer: I received this ARC from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Books...In...Space...


You might want to hit the More Info button for a neat link...

As part of his April 14th publication, Kevin McGill built a high altitude balloon system equipped with an HD GoPro camera, and a mount for the book. He sent it 100,000 feet up, which is considered near space. The near space area is between 65,000 and 350,000 feet.

Kevin explains:
"I wanted to show teens where a book could truly take them.
See, in the near future, fourteen-year-old hero, Nikolas, discovers that our moon is the cradle of all magical civilization. In order to travel there, Nikolas and company have to launch and ride a shuttle to Moon. When they read, they can go 100,000 feet above the Earth's surface, and more!"
Pretty cool, huh?

And besides giving us stunning visuals and a great adventure, Kevin is also offering a free Kindle Fire as the prize for the person who can correctly (or closely) guess the distance between the launch site and the landing site (not including the height of the tree).

Click HERE to enter.
But hurry—the contest ends this Saturday, May 5th!

But here's what all the fuss is really about:

Nikolas and Company: The Merman and The Moon Forgotten~The Merman and The Moon Forgotten~
Nikolas & Company
Book 1
By Kevin McGill
Amazon

Nick lives in a time when one can extend their life indefinitely through cerebral downloads, zip from country to country in hovercars, and have every whim taken care of by the ever faithful nannydrones.

Nick hates it.

Aside from the refugee camps, overpopulation, and unchecked consumerism filling every city across the globe, Nick just doesn’t belong. That is when he hears the voice of a woman:

“The Rones lie about their true intent. They enter the city of Huron at the peril of us all.”

Shortly after, his slightly crazed grandfather reveals to him:

“All you’ve ever heard about the Moon is a lie, my dear Nikolas. He was not always a mere satellite, a ghost wandering the stars. In an age before our own, Moon was our twin, and in him bore the whole of magical life. The cradle of this magical civilization was a fantastic metropolis filled with fire-breathing winged lions, volcano-born nymphs, automaton-legged mermaids, and so much magic you can smell it. We called this city Huron, and you, Nikolas, are her steward.”

Meanwhile on the moon, the senior stagecoach driver Yeri Willrow thought he was performing a simple drive and drop for his mysterious passengers, until they are attacked by foul-breath red-eyed creatures. He soon learns that his passengers are a family of automaton-legged merfolk, and he is their only hope. Yeri suddenly finds himself tasked with saving the merfolk or they will fall to the peril of the creature most foul.


Oh, and just in case you were wondering, you should have read this post's title like this beloved Muppet Show intro:

Ah, the good old days...

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'd Like Made Into Movies

Top Ten Tuesday
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

Ever read something that you just wish you could see? (I actually feel that way with most manga.) Well, this week we're listing our Top Ten picks for movies we want Hollywood to tackle.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies10. Seth Grahame-Smith & Jane Austen's
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

I've heard this one's already been picked up by somebody, but I'm still waiting to hear anything definite. I'm not really a horror movie person, so I'm banking on more comedy than gore coming out of this.


The Neverending Story9. Michael Ende's The Neverending Story
Okay, so this one already has a movie. And don't get me wrong, I love the movie(s), but I think it'd be neat to see what modern special effects might be able to do. Or heck, what about computer animation? Or what if Burton got his hands on this? If they're gonna reboot a movie, you might as well try something you could actually improve upon. Leave poor Willy Wonka alone.

Ender's Game8. Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game
This is another one that was supposedly in the mix. In fact, my scripts class in high school picked up the book just because the movie was in the works. And yet I haven't heard anything since! What happened? We've seen kids killing each other in The Hunger Games, why not battling in zero gravity? Come on Hollywood, make it happen!

His Dark Materials7. Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy
They tried to make this one, and apparently failed. I know I've seen it (I might even own it), but I honestly can't remember much about it. Oh, other than the polar bear's jaw flying off. Really? Come on, refocus on what's already there and let's get these babies made right! Please?


Hex Hall6. Rachel Hawkins' Hex Hall Trilogy
I don't know why this is on my list - the books are already amazing, and I don't know that anyone can truly match the awesomeness that is Sophie Mercer...but if it could be done and done well, I think this series would be pretty fun to experiment with.


Dealing With Dragons5. Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles
This one would probably be better off as an animated film. Computer or traditional, I don't care. But please don't throw in CGI dragons with real actors. It didn't work in Eragon (though I actually liked the movie), it won't work here. But this series has awesome characters and (gasp!) great female role models. Kids getting something not mind-numbing and with awesome characters? Sorry, my mistake.

4. Kristin Cashore's Fire or Graceling
FireGraceling
Though I favor Fire as a character and a story, I'm a little more apprehensive about seeing it on the big screen. Knowing Hollywood, they'll focus on the big-budget battle scenes at the expense of the beautiful Monsters. Graceling doesn't have a huge war going on, but where a book can capture invisible gifts, it might not translate to screen as well. Still, if they could be done well, I'd love to see what's possible with these.

Artemis Fowl3. Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl Series
Artemis Fowl is another awesome kids series that really should be tried for movies. Again, I'm kinda leaning towards animated just because I don't think it could get a LotR type budget for makeup, and I DON'T want to see a CGI Holly. Heck, it's published by Disney's Hyperion, just give it a Narnia budget and I'd be happy.

So You Want To Be A Wizard2. Diane Duane's Young Wizards Books
I don't think this series will ever get its true due, but it's always fun to dream. The characters are great, the magic is well-imagined, and the worlds are spectacular. Unfortunately, so much of the magic of this series lies in its subtlety. They don't cast huge, flashy spells because they're trying to work under the radar in the real world. They don't have a huge school to go away to, all they have is their own backyards (or alternate universes they accidentally fall into). If I ever do hear anything about this, you can bet I'll be first in line for tickets.

1. Any & All Tamora Pierce Series
Alanna: The First AdventureWild MagicFirst TestTrickster's ChoiceTerrierSandry's Book
Would you expect anything else from me?

Again, I attribute this mostly to budgets and popularity. For the medieval costumes, sets, training and any special effects they'd need, it'd be too much of a gamble for the (comparatively) small fan-base these books have. But dang it! I want to see Alanna! And really, they could choose any of the Tortall series to start with (...except maybe Aly's) and build forward or backward later.

With Emelan, they're kind of stuck with Sandry's book as the starting point. They could possibly combine books 1 & 2 together, then having a movie each for books 3 and 4. It's tricky to figure out, but I still think it's doable.

ParanormalcyHonorable Mentions:
Kiersten White's Paranormalcy (pictured left)
K.A. Applegate's Everworld Series
Brian Jacques's Redwall Books
Julie Kagawa's Blood of Eden Trilogy
Patricia Briggs's Mercy Thompson Series
Andrea Cremer's Nightshade Trilogy

Will you pick your favorites, hoping for the best?
Or has Hollywood already massacred enough literature?
Which movies are on your list? Let me hear you howl!