Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Shout-Out: Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popovic

All the women in Iris and Malina’s family have the unique magical ability or “gleam” to manipulate beauty. Iris sees flowers as fractals and turns her kaleidoscope visions into glasswork, while Malina interprets moods as music. But their mother has strict rules to keep their gifts a secret, even in their secluded sea-side town. Iris and Malina are not allowed to share their magic with anyone, and above all, they are forbidden from falling in love.

But when their mother is mysteriously attacked, the sisters will have to unearth the truth behind the quiet lives their mother has built for them. They will discover a wicked curse that haunts their family line—but will they find that the very magic that bonds them together is destined to tear them apart forever?

Wicked Like a Wildfire is the first in a two-book series. Readers will be rapt with anticipation for the sequel.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Book Review: Infinite by Jodi Meadows

This is the third book in the NewSoul trilogy, so this review contains spoilers for the previous books.

Pros: some good twists; complex language

Cons: Ana angered, frustrated, and annoyed me; lots of major and minor irritants towards the end of the book

Severe earthquakes hit Heart and free Deborl and his followers. Ana and Sam call a group together and decide to escape the city and see if they can end Janan and the threat of Soul Night.

The book is quite exciting, with the characters finally meeting several more of the dangerous creatures living around Range. You also learn the answers to more of Ana’s questions about the temple books, sylph, and Janan.

I thought the complexity of the language in the temple books was great. I appreciated that each symbol could mean several things, creating a number of possible interpretations. 

I didn’t like Ana as much in this book. She had a streak of selfishness (thinking of her own emotional needs and ignoring those of others) in the previous books, that stemmed from her emotional abuse at Li’s hands. As the books progressed she seemed to slowly learn how to open up and give emotional support as well as take it. But in this book she makes several decisions that cause deep pain in others later on simply because they help her avoid temporary pain in the moment. She ends up with an overinflated sense of her own importance and stops the reciprocal empathy that friendships and relationships require. I really wanted her to ask the others for advice, to help them through the guilt and sorrow they felt at things she reveals about their past. Basically, I wanted her to show them the love and support they’d given her, welcoming her into their lives, teaching her, guiding her. I mention more about this in the spoiler section below.

While the ending had a lot of twists and turns, by that point I was so frustrated by Ana and so many of the things that were happening that I didn’t really feel emotionally invested anymore. 














***SPOILERS***


Half way through the book, after following her for weeks through snow to find dragons for Ana’s insane plan, Ana leaves her friends behind with only a passive aggressive note telling them how they used to believe in her and now she’s going off on her own, for them to find when they wake up. There’s no acknowledgment of the sacrifices they’ve made or the fact that they FOLLOWED her all that way because they BELIEVED in her. Because it’s all about her at this point. Bare paragraphs later she comments on how the sylph give her the feeling of companionship the others didn’t anymore (because she wasn’t asking for or accepting advice, because she was hiding things from them, because she didn’t want to be burdened with their sorrow or guilt or help them work through it, etc). She strangely comes to the conclusion that she can succeed simply by believing in herself. She doesn’t NEED other people to believe in her, despite that feeling coming because she felt the COMPANIONSHIP of the sylph! Despite the fact that the sylph continue to help her by melting snow and ice so she can walk easier. She ignores the aid her friends gave her to get her to this point, including the large amount of help and protection the sylph provided. It’s only after she cheers herself up that she realizes that the sylph have also felt lonely, and determines she won’t ignore them again. But what about the friends she’s just left? What about their needs and the fact that they’ll wake up and feel even worse because after all their sacrifices for her it wasn’t enough? How much are they expected to give just to make her feel better about herself? When do they get something from this relationship? 

When the group gets back together, once again it’s up to Sam to reconcile things. Which made me think that perhaps his friends are right and having a relationship with Ana’s not the right move. She’s obviously not ready for a romantic relationship. Maybe the best thing to do would be to give her a few years to find herself, grow up a little, see how other - healthy - relationships work and then try again if they both still want to. Going from an abusive mother to an overly loving and caring psudo-boyfriend may be too much of an extreme for her to dealt with.


The last half of the book contained so many irritating things. If the dragons could communicate with humans, why didn’t they? Did Sam use his song against them at some point creating that enmity or were they just unreasonably afraid of him? How big were everyone’s packs? (Apparently they had blankets in addition to their sleeping bags, books, enough clothes for Ana to wear 3 hats, etc when flying.) Why did they wait until Soul Night to attack? Couldn’t they have tried to kill Janan BEFORE the eruptions, etc? (There didn’t seem to be a reason to wait. That’s when Janan would be at his most powerful. And I would have thought stopping the eruptions would be just as important as killing Janan. If he’s dead, then Soul Night isn’t a problem. And if they fail, they have more time to figure something out before Soul Night.) How did Sarit forget why she and Stef left Sam and Ana alone when they hadn’t been gone that long? Why did Stef make the distraction explosions have separate detonation devices instead of tying that into their SEDs (like cellphone triggers)? Why didn’t Sam want his burns treated before they had sex? (It would have made him more comfortable.) How could they have sex at such a time, after such personal tragedies? (They’d have a lot of distracting thoughts, given what they had to do later that night and having just watched their friends die. I’d think it would be hard to get in the mood under such conditions.) Did everyone’s last reincarnation push other newsouls out of the way again? Why did Ana wait until she was in her teens to let Sam know she’d been reborn? (Ok, I know the answer to this one, selfishness. She wanted him to prove he could find her in her new body, like the Masquerade. Because she needed him to prove that he could pick her out of a crowd, or else how would she know he really loved her?). What ultimately happened to Janan? He gave them all one last reincarnation and then … leaves? He spent 1000 years in a prison to become a god and then lets his followers all abandon him?

Sunday, 20 August 2017

3D Metal Puzzle: Airship

I've been doing these metal 3D puzzles for a while now and while they're difficult at times I really enjoy putting them together. They also look fabulous when done.

I bought this airship model off the internet and spent several hours yesterday building it.

First off, the set itself was great, shiny metal with etched details on one side. While the instructions were in Chinese, I've got English ones that I could compare them to to figure out the important notes (which side should be etched, folding the tab over or twisting it). So that was fine.


The first problem came in when I realized that just getting some of the pieces off the sheets was going to be difficult without breaking them. Well, I broke... quite a few pieces. I've had one or two breaks in the past, usually fixed with some crazy glue. Not this time. While some of the breaks aren't really noticeable the others... also aren't noticeable because you don't have a reference photo to compare it to when you're displaying it. Keeping that in mind kept me from becoming too frustrated while making this. In fact, I came up with the narrative that it had just been in a space battle to excuse the parts you could notice didn't look quite right.

Here are some shots of the build in progress.



 Towards the end things got... rather impossible. The front has 2 layers of overlapped metal. To get the front base piece in I'd have had to push down one of those layers to uncover the slot, while somehow slotting the base inside and around to get the tabs into place. There aren't many safe handholds, so this was a challenge. I gave up when the base broke in half. Well, actually I thought I could glue that break and while I was prepping it for glue it broke along another line. Who looks at the underside of a model anyway?

A few pieces broke or broke off and had to be repaired/glued into place. Two side pieces were so impossible to place that I just didn't bother. And attaching the top side layers meant damaging upper work as I tried to crimp the tabs into place.

Definitely a pain in the neck to build and by far the worst in terms of things breaking and fitting together properly. (You can see some of the broken/unused pieces in the photos below.)

But...

Doesn't it look gorgeous? Sometimes we aim for perfection and miss the beauty of what's actually there.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Shout-Out: At the Table of Wolves by Kay Kenyon

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy meets Agent Carter meets X-Men in this classic British espionage story where a young woman must go undercover and use her superpowers to discover a secret Nazi plot and stop an invasion of England. 
In 1936, there are paranormal abilities that have slowly seeped into the world, brought to the surface by the suffering of the Great War. The research to weaponize these abilities in England has lagged behind Germany, but now it’s underway at an ultra-secret site called Monkton Hall. 
Kim Tavistock, a woman with the talent of the spill—drawing out truths that people most wish to hide—is among the test subjects at the facility. When she wins the confidence of caseworker Owen Cherwell, she is recruited to a mission to expose the head of Monkton Hall—who is believed to be a German spy. 
As she infiltrates the upper-crust circles of some of England’s fascist sympathizers, she encounters dangerous opponents, including the charismatic Nazi officer Erich von Ritter, and discovers a plan to invade England. No one believes an invasion of the island nation is possible, not Whitehall, not even England’s Secret Intelligence Service. Unfortunately, they are wrong, and only one woman, without connections or training, wielding her talent of the spill and her gift for espionage, can stop it.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Book Review: Asunder by Jodi Meadows

Pros: interesting plot, fun characters

Cons: relationship waffling

This is book two of the Incarnate series, and as such this review contains spoilers for book one.

Some time has passed since Templedark consigned dozens of souls to a permanent death. Sam and Ana rest away from Heart for a time. A new gift and Menehem’s notebooks indicate that Sylphs may be more intelligent than previously believed. Meanwhile, back in Heart, fears of more newsoul births and an inability to punish Menehem for his actions turns popular anger towards Ana. 

I really enjoyed the plot in this book and the fact that things went in directions I did not predict. You learn answers to some of Ana’s questions, which was great.

The ‘will they won’t they’ aspect of their relationship got frustrating, as after a year of being together Ana seemed to still get defensive a lot and misconstrue things easily, regardless of how open and loving Sam was. While I appreciated the question of whether it’s appropriate for a 5000 year old soul to have a relationship with an 18 year old soul, that’s a question that should have been addressed by Sam much, much earlier. 

Despite their relationship woes, I love Sam and Ana. Ana remains passionate about helping other newsouls and discovering more about how she came to be. 


As with the first book, it was a very quick and enjoyable read.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Movie Review: Kong: Skull Island

Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, 2017
IMDb listing

Pros: gorgeous cinematography, excellent creature effects, interesting characters

Cons: characters make too much noise in the jungle, minor irritants

A team of scientists, accompanied by a squad of Vietnam helicopter pilots, travel to Skull Island for a land survey. But what they find corroborates the crackpot theories of a small government organization: monsters exist.

First off, the cinematography is gorgeous. There are a large number of simply gorgeous shots in this film. The colours are vivid and the scenery lush.

There’s enough set-up for the characters for you to care for them when they reach the island, but not so much (given their number) that you mourn them when some die. I really liked a few of the characters and thought the acting all around was well done.

The creature effects were excellent, with Kong and the other monsters looking real for CGI creations.

The natives seemed to be treated more respectfully than these films generally do, which impressed me. The scene where they first appear is quite impressive and I loved the paintings in their sacred space.

A few minor things bugged me about the film. They make a surprising amount of noise walking through the jungle and on the boat, noise that could attract monster to them. There’s also a scene where the ground is combustable, where it felt like there should have been more explosions and/or fire given what’s going on.



***SPOILERS***










There’s a scene at the end of the film where one of the characters makes the ultimate sacrifice. He takes out a grenade and waits for the monster to eat him, so he can heroically kill it through his own death. But the monster bashes him away and the man dies in a futile gesture. It made me think how war is generally portrayed - heroes, laying down their lives to save their families and countries. But the truth of the matter is that most combatants aren’t doing anything more than throwing their lives away. Yes, there are people and battles that were hugely important in gaining rights and freedoms (Vimy Ridge comes to mind), but I think modern audiences are no longer as enamoured by the fantasy of the war hero and glorifying sacrifices in war.