Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Book Review of Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs




Buy from Amazon!

A boy with extraordinary powers. An army of deadly monsters. An epic battle for the future of peculiardom.

The adventure that began with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and continued in Hollow City comes to a thrilling conclusion with Library of Souls. As the story opens, sixteen-year-old Jacob discovers a powerful new ability, and soon he’s diving through history to rescue his peculiar companions from a heavily guarded fortress. Accompanying Jacob on his journey are Emma Bloom, a girl with fire at her fingertips, and Addison MacHenry, a dog with a nose for sniffing out lost children.

They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all. Like its predecessors, Library of Souls blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reading experience.


Series: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Book 3)
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Quirk Books; First Edition first Printing edition (September 22, 2015)
Page Count: 464 pages

This is the last book of the Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children series. It was bittersweet reading it. I haven't fallen this in love with a series since the Hunger Games, and it makes me happy and sad to be reading the conclusion to Miss Peregrine's, Jacob's, and Emma's tale. Many times the last book of a series can be the worst of the series, but I can tell you right now, Library of Souls didn't disappoint. 


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Writerly Bundle #21: Confluence, Apotheoisis, and White Gold




Welcome to this week's Writerly Bundle! A post where I hope to inspire you with three of the world's greatest things: music, words, and tea.

When thinking of what to theme this post for I immediately thought of Journey since the game has so many beautiful instances of gold. It's such a gorgeous game, and I hope this post helps you fall in love with it too!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Monthly Summary: June 2016







June has thankfully been a far less eventful month than May. It has been a time where I've tried to recenter myself and find a new normal after the chaos since April. I've been trying to pick up the pieces of myself and get my spiritual and mental health back. The entire car accident affair to my profound relief is finally over and I feel like I can breathe again. Now I can finally be excited about my big Northeast trip next month.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Interview with Ashlyn (Subsapien)!




Ashlyn



Me:
This month's character interview is here! Today I'm interview a side character from my Subsapien series named Ashlyn. If you'd like to get to know her a bit before the interview, you can check out her bio. Thank you to everyone who contributed questions! This really helps me develop my characters. Without further ado, let's get started! *turns to Ashlyn while I'm in an interview-style chair* Hello, Ashlyn.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Writerly Bundle #20: Telluric, The Hidden Valley, & Rivendell + Giveaway!






Welcome to this week's Writerly Bundle! A post where I hope to inspire you with three of the world's greatest things: music, words, and tea.


Since this tea was blended after the Imladris I just had to theme this post after the Hobbit!

The Word:

telluric
adjective
1.) of or relating to the earth; terrestrial.
2.) of or proceeding from the earth or soil.

Example Sentence: Unlike Lothlorien elves, Rivendell culture is far more telluric.


The Song:
"The Hidden Valley"
from the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey soundtrack
by Howard Shore

In the Hobbit soundtracks, much of the music alludes to the original Lord of the Ring's score. This piece very much alludes to "Many Meetings" from the Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack, but this piece has some added sections tying into the Durin music themes. This piece is soothing if not a bit pensive at some points with gorgeous Elvish vocals and strong strings and even some tolling bells. At the end it picks up a bit as the Elves greet the dwarves in the film. This piece would go well for a fantasy for a reverent scene with perhaps an unexpected twist.




The Tea:

Rivendell


Rivendell is a majestic Elven outpost in Middle Earth, filled with lush vegetation, towering waterfalls, and clean, pure air. Our Rivendell blend was inspired by this ethereal place. With a base of top-grade Anxi Ben Shan, roasted cedar leaves, and hand-cut Tahitian vanilla, this tea is the essence of purity.

How I found it: Sara Letourneau introduced me to Whispering Pines Tea Company with this blend actually. Since I love fandom-inspired blends, I knew I had to check out their site. I've bought several teas from them and they've become my second favorite tea company. I love their simply, but quality teas. As a perk, I love that they include inspiring quotes from people such as Winston Churchill and E.E. Cummings with every purchase!

The Tea: I have always enjoyed the scent of cedar. I have a carved cedar box I like to steal a sniff of every once in a while, but I never thought it could be made into a tea! So when I saw this blend was a reality I had to snap it up.

This tea is very visually pleasing. It looks like one just scooped up a handful of a deep wood and decided to brew it into a tea. It's green from the Anxi Ben Shan Oolong with Roasted Cedar Leaves throughout. The tea smells strongly of the Hand-Cut Tahitian Vanilla with a slight fruity scent and a hint of cedar.  Without sugar the oolong stands out prominently with a cedar after taste. If you add sugar, the vanilla flavor comes out more. 

This tea is very refined like the elves of Rivendell. It makes me thing of trees and flowers and luxurious elvish architecture. I believe this tea definitely fits Rivendell well. I could see Elrond or Arwen drinking this.


A satisfying tea.
Serving Recommendations: I brewed this tea at 190 F for three minutes and added a bit of sugar.

How much is it and where can you get it? You can purchase this tea online at the Whispering Pines Tea Company website for $16 USD. However, this tea is limited and only available at certain times, but you can sign up for notifications for when it goes in stock again.

So how good is it? I really enjoyed this tea. It's very unique and very fitting for what it was blended after. Four stars!


Bonus! Since this tea is so limited, I'm going to giveaway some of what I have! Enter below to get a sample of this delicious tea! This is for USA entrants only. Stupid shipping costs.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have you seen or used this word before? Have you heard this piece before? Have you seen or read The Hobbit? Have you tried this tea?


Click here for last week's Writerly Bundle!


If you liked this post, come back every other Tuesday for book reviews; Friday for tags, character interviews, and link-ups; Saturdays for writing advice and life updates; and Sundays for the Writerly Bundle which includes a new soundtrack piece, vocabulary word, and tea review!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Writing Lessons from Movies: Star Trek Into Darkness






I've been a Trekkie for a long time. I watched the original show and the movies back in my teens and despite the corniness I really enjoyed the imagination and characters of the show. Years later when the remakes release, I was so excited and I loved the new cast with better effects and acting. They picked all of the actors perfectly. Though the first movie is very good, I am a bit partial to the second (and it's not just because of Benedict Cumberbatch though he is a better villain than Nero, but I digress). I recently rewatched it and it rekindled my love for the film and inspired me to write this post. With the new Stark Trek film releasing next month, I thought it a good time for this! 

Warning: Contains major spoilers.


You knew I had to use this gif.

1.) Conflict of Personalities - The crew of the Starship Enterprise is a very diverse one. We have crew members from all of the world: the United States, Russia, Scotland ... and off world: Vulcan. They have diverse skills and personalities that often clash, most pointedly Spock and Kirk do this. They are almost complete opposites of each other. Kirk grew up as a farm boy in Oklahoma and is reckless yet passionate. Spock is half Vulcan and grew up on his planet, and he is logical and restrained. But all of this added a very dynamic subplot as these future good friends are struggling to get along.

How this can be applied to writing: Inner conflict among characters because of their personalities can add a lot of interest to your story. Personalities are something we can't help, and often our personalities can rub others the wrong way. This is true with characters too.


2.) Characters Who Learn From One Another - On the flip side of topic, eventually in the film Spock and Kirk learn that perhaps each other's ways of thinking are the best approach. Spock takes the emotional approach saves Kahn's people yet uses the torpedoes they were stored in to attack, and Kirk takes the emotionless approach and sacrifices himself for the crew. Sometimes the other's way is best.

How this can be applied to writing: Having characters learn from one another is a logical thing and can create some interesting dynamics like what happen in Into Darkness. What are your characters strengths compared to each other?


3.) A Villain With Loved Ones - It's easy to forget that villains are people too. Despite Kahn's brutality and cunning, he is still a man with a family and friends. Kahn cares very much about his people to the point that Marcus could use them to manipulate him. Ultimately, Kahn's goal was to free the ones he hold's dear. Talking about them even brought tears to his eyes.

How this can be applied to writing: Your villain wasn't just manifested out of pure evil. Who do they care about? They wife, mother, father, siblings, friends? Who does your villain love or has loved in the past?


4.) Sometimes It Isn't the Death It's the Reaction - Spoiler alert there are two major deaths in this film, one is Captain Pike and one is Captain Kirk (even if it is only temporary). Both of them died brutally, Captain Pike from being shot and Captain Kirk from radiation exposure. But, at least for me, I didn't start getting choked up when they died, I started getting choked up when the characters reacted to their deaths. When Kirk rushes to Pike too late, discovers his beloved mentor has been murdered, he starts whimpering in pain and his face reddens with emotions. This got me. 


But it pales in comparison to when Kirk lay dying in the chamber as it decontaminates from radiation and he's uttering his last words to Spock. They put their hands together on the glass in the Vulcan "live long and prosper" symbol, alluding to the previous film, and Kirk says, "You will always be my friend." As soon as Kirk's hand slides to the ground and the life leaves him, emotion overcomes Spock and he screams in rage and pain, "KAHN!" While I'm writing this just thinking of that utter agony, makes me tear up.




How this can be applied to writing: How do your characters react to death? Some cry, some scream, some are in so much shock they don't even process it until later. How your characters react to the death of loved one can hit your readers to the core. When Katniss starts yelling at Buttercup after Prim's death, I start sobbing. When Frodo is screaming for Gandalf  and Boromir has to carry him away after the wizard plummets into the depths of Moria, my eyes water. Keep in mind of your characters' reactions to death.


5.) Attacking Home - At the climax of the film, Kahn crash lands a starship into the Star Fleet academy and decimates the city around it. A chill courses through your bones as you watch the once familiar terrain obliterated. You know deep down that a place you held dear is gone forever. Attacking home made the fight more personal than just a battle in space, it was attacking a place filled with memory for the crew. It hit them hard.

How this can be applied to writing: Attacking home can be a powerful blow to your characters, and it can add a sense of peril and desperation that your readers can relate to. When home is destroyed, it's like there's a hole in your heart. Your sense of stability is lost.  That place you could return to is gone. 



Conclusion - J.J. Abrams did a great job making a film that really snags your heart. I hope these pointers help better your writing. Thanks for reading!


And I just had to share this gif because it's just too good.
Have you seen Star Trek: Into Darkness? Have you noticed these writing aspects? What movies have you noticed have good writing? Let's geek out together!

You may also like:

If you liked this post, come back every other Tuesday for book reviews; Friday for tags, character interviews, and link-ups; Saturdays for writing advice and life updates; and Sundays for the Writerly Bundle which includes a new soundtrack piece, vocabulary word, and tea review! 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Beautiful People Childhood Edition: Harlowe (Starbloods)





It's time for this month's Beautiful People! Yay! This is a link-up hosted by Paperfury and Further Up and Further In where you answer questions about your characters. I participated in Beautiful People #1#2#3 and the villain special last year. And I've done Beautiful People Author EditionBeautiful People Valentine EditionBeautiful People #7Beautiful People Sibling EditionBeautiful People #9Beautiful People: Parental EditionBeautiful People #11Beautiful People: Friendship EditionBeautiful People #13: CalebBeautiful People #14: Writerly Resolutions and Goals, Beautiful People: Valentine's Edition, Beautiful People #16, and Beautiful People #17This link-up has been just so helpful with character development. 

My Starbloods story doesn't get that much attention mostly because it's on my back burner right now, but one day I do want to actually work on it. XD For now I'm just going to have to do character interviews and BPs with the characters from that story. Today I'm doing Harlowe. He's an antihero shapeshifting sorcerer from my high fantasy story. He's a quirky devil and he's never had an interview or a BP before. I'm a bit scared about unleashing him on the blog. Let's see how this goes. If you'd like to participate in this link-up yourself, check out either Paperfury or Further Up and Further In to see how. Here we go!

Harlowe
1.) What is their first childhood memory?
Harlowe's first memory was his mother playing with him as a toddler. She picked flowers with him and played games with him with acorns.

2.) What were their best and worst childhood experiences?
His worst childhood memory was definitely the death of his parents, and his best memory was his first hunting trip with his father when he was ten. They left their village for days and Harlowe father taught him much about being a man.

3.) What was their childhood home like?
From when he was born to when he was twelve years old, he grew up with his parents in a loving home in the Native American-like country of Melorain. He lived in a wigwam in a mountainous environment and had many friends who were shapeshifters just like him.

After his parents died on his twelfth birthday, a sorceress took him into her custody and he lived in one of her mansions on a snowy mountain. She pretended to be kind to him for the first year of his stay then she steadily got abusive. The sorceress put him in a boarding school of magic in a Mediterranean environment where she pressured him to do well in his classes. Her favoritism of him alienated him from other students. Basically, his childhood started out great and then nose-dived.

4.) What’s something that scared them as child?
The sorceress Vanmoriel whom he stayed with when he was twelve. She punished him severely whenever he did anything wrong and forced him to use forbidden spells that have left permanent damage.

5.) Who did they look up to most?
The chief of his village taught him much about how to use his shapeshifting abilities when he was a child and Harlowe admired his skill and strength.

6.) Favourite and least favourite childhood foods?  
He didn't like squash very much, but he loved candied fruit and flowers.

7.) If they had their childhood again, would they change anything?
He would stop his parents from dying. That day changed his life forever and he wished it never happened.

8.) What kind of child were they? Curious? Wild? Quiet? Devious?
Harlowe was an energetic and enthusiastic child. He would always get into things and be a handful for his parents. He laughed a lot and played until he fell over in exhaustion. He also was hungry all the time. He was very skinny, but was a bottomless pit.

9.) What was their relationship to their parents and siblings like?
Harlowe didn't have any siblings, but he did have a good relationship with his parents, especially his mother. They had a close mother and son bond.

10.) What did they want to be when they grew up, and what did they actually become?
He wanted to become a good father and husband as a child. But because of his circumstances he's become a very powerful sorcerer and believes that former idea of life is nonexistent now.

My drawings of Harlowe
And that's it! If you'd like to know a bit more about Harlowe's story, check out the interviews from his fellow characters below! Thanks for reading!

What do you think of Harlowe? Did you participate in the Beautiful People? Are you planning to? If so let me see your posts in the comments!


You May Also Like:
Beautiful People: Valentine's Edition - Rouyn & Elasa (Starbloods) 
Beautiful People 4: Mordraug 
Interview with Rouyn (Starbloods) 
Interview with Rouyn, Sybra & Meldar (Starbloods)
Interview with Elasa and Silanoc (Starbloods)

If you liked this post, come back every other Tuesday for book reviews; Friday for tags, character interviews, and link-ups; Saturdays for writing advice and life updates; and Sundays for the Writerly Bundle which includes a new soundtrack piece, vocabulary word, and tea review!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Book Review of the Hive by John W. Otte



Buy from Amazon!
ON THE RUN TO SAVE HER BABY

A pregnant cyborg and a teenage boy fight against intergalactic governments to protect the unborn in this novel from a Christy Award-nominated author.

Why is Zain pregnant? She belongs to the Hive, a collective of cyborgs who choose to live apart from the rest of human society. At times, the Hive rent out some of their females to produce tailor-made children for paying couples. But Zain is an engineer, not a breeder. When she finds herself separated from the Hive, she decides to find the person who she thinks ordered the baby. Surely they'll help her find her way home.

Matthew "Scorn" Nelson has spent the better part of his teenage years cracking computer systems, causing mischief and havoc wherever he can. But the night of his greatest triumph turned into a painful memory, one he wants to erase. But that night was also his first step on a road to faith. When Zain arrives on his doorstep, Scorn is horrified. What's he supposed to do with a pregnant teenage cyborg?

Unfortunately, he'll have to answer that question on the run. Zain's people want to reclaim her and terminate her pregnancy. And both the Ministrix and the Praesidium, two intergalactic governments in a constant state of cold war, want Zain's baby for their own reasons. Will their enemies run them down? Or will Zain find a new Hive for both her and her child?


Genre: YA Science-Fiction Space Opera
Publisher:
Enclave Publishing (October 16, 2015)
Page Count: 328

I very much enjoyed John W. Otte's Failstate series, so when I saw the Hive was releasing I know I wanted to read it. The whole concept intrigued me. I ended up receiving this book for my birthday and I finally have gotten to read it. I'm normally not a fan of standalones, but this is a very good story that tackles some hard subjects. 

The Plot: As the synopsis states this book has dual point of views of two very different people faced with very big problems such as crime and a teen pregnancy. This story is full of space travel and fun technology with a lot of suspense. The end is loaded with twists just wow. I was hooked all the way through.


The Characters: Zain is a very interesting main character since she is human but only half so since she's a cyborg. She also is part of the Hive which is a very reclusive group of people who are connected telepathically, so she often struggles with loneliness, dependence, and naivety. Her character arch is so great though. She has to be my favorite character.


Matt is the child of rich parents and he is obsessed with hacking with his implants that allow him to access the virtual world. He also is burdened with regret from the things he's done, but he has the determination to seek for redemption. He also is a budding Christian which is an interesting part of his character as well.

Other characters such as the Revered Hand, Harrison Fowler, the Positon Matriarchs, Jim, Drew, and Trent are also interesting characters. Though the story doesn't have a set antagonist several of the character listed above prove as worthy obstacles for our main characters. I also particularly enjoyed Hopkins, Matt's AI butler. A little Jarvis there. ;)

The Setting:
Since this is a space opera there's a lot of space travel involved much of the characters' time is spent on ships as opposed to the actual planets. The planets weren't anything to write home about, but the intricacy of the ships was very interesting since I got to explore it through the eyes of Zain who is an engineer. 


The coolest setting is the virtual world. I love how Otte interpreted computer lang such as daemons, worms, viruses, and Trojan Horses into visual things. As someone who grew up with a mother who's very good with computers I was elated at this. 
 

Epic Things: Cyborgs with arms that turn into maces is pretty epic.

The Theme: I really liked the theme for this story. I've never seen it addressed in a story before. The theme is about not isolating ourselves from the world, but being salt and light. I know a lot of Christians who have isolated themselves from the rest of the world in fear of being corrupted just like the Hive do. But how can we minister to others if we don't reach out to them? 


"You can't be salt and light if you remain hidden, yes?"
~Zain from the Hive by John W. Otte
Content Cautions: There is some violence and some people threaten to abort Zain's baby or to basically turn her into a prostitute. Matt thinks of Zain a bit sexually at times.

What We Can Take Away For Our Writing:

1.) Having a Character Who Starts Out Not Having a Name Worked -
At the beginning of the story Zain doesn't have a name. She's just a part of the Hive, so for the first few pages she's just referred to as "she." This worked because she was alone and no one else was around. Were other "shes" around this would be more complicated, but Otte does a good job at starting out with a character who has no name and then quickly giving her a name within five pages before anyone else shows up.

How this can be applied to writing: Sometimes one has a character who doesn't have a name be it because she was never given one like Zain or they don't remember their name. This can be tricky to write, but possible. I suggest reading this book for that if you find yourself writing such a character.


2.) Honest Praying Worked - In secular media, most of the time whenever a character prayers it's either the Lord's Prayer (which isn't bad, but also isn't how any Christians I've ever been around pray most of the time) or extremely stiff and awkward (such as in Gordy). Rarely, do I find an exception to that rule (Because of Winn Dixie). Though the Hive is CBA, I'd say that John W. Otte does an exceptionally good job at having his characters pray with honesty even within CBA. His characters pray so sincerely and genuinely and they sound like the prayers I've grown up hearing, not cheesy ones from low budget Christian 90s TV shows. Here's an excerpt:

"God, I don't know what to say. You know what's going on here. I'm at a complete loss. I know I messed up big time, both back when I was in the Hive and now here. I just ... I don't know what to do. I need help. Please." Matt in the Hive by John W. Otte

How this can be applied to writing: If you are writing a Christian character please let them pray authentically. The prayers are so much more powerful that way. If you need more information about writing a Christian character check out my post about it.


3.) Multiple Perspectives on a Subject Worked - Another one of my favorite parts of this book is the four perspectives on religion. Many of the people in the story don't have an opinion about religion. Then there are the extremes such as the Praesdium which through methods such as the Toleration Act wish to suppress religion because they think it's unnecessary and dangerous while on the other hand the Ministrix take religion too far and want to force it on people. Then there are people like Matt who want to be Christians like God intended. All of these different perspectives allow different viewpoints to be exercised.

How this can be applied to writing: It's a natural thing for people to have different viewpoints on a matter. Showing this in a story adds another sense of realism and allows the readers to draw opinions for themselves.


4.) Over-describing Familiar Characters Eh Didn't Work Too Well - There was one spot on page 37 where I feel like I should make a note about. In this section Matt sees his friends for the first time in the book and then proceeds to go into a lengthy description of said friends. He sees these friends often so the long description felt unnecessary. I've been taught that going into too long descriptions of someone so familiar can often feel unnatural and it did in this instance.

How this can be applied to writing: This is a common problem when we really want to describe something. How do we make this more natural? Point out things different on the character that the POV character would notice and that would naturally draw attention to what needs to be described such as a new haircut or a new sticker on a laptop or something of the like.

 
Conclusion: I really enjoyed this book. It had a good theme and a fun concept. Four stars!


About the Author:
John W. Otte leads a double life. By day, he's a Lutheran minister. He graduated from Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a theatre major and then from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. By night, he writes weird stories. He lives in South St. Paul, MN, with his wife and two sons. Find him on his website, Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter!

Other Books by this author I've reviewed:
Failstate: Nemesis

If you liked this post, come back every other Tuesday for book reviews; Friday for tags, character interviews, and link-ups; Saturdays for writing advice and life updates; and Sundays for the Writerly Bundle which includes a new soundtrack piece, vocabulary word, and tea review!