Saturday, September 16, 2017

Footnotes // humor & september aesthetic

Do you recall Starting Sparks? It was a link-up by Emily @ Ink, Inc. and Ashley @ [oddly novel title] that I participated in a few times last year. It has since closed down, but now the dynamic duo is back with a new monthly thingamajig called Footnotes! And it's quote themed! (Click on either one of their names to go to their latest Footnotes posts.) Each month, they provide a prompt, and bloggers link up with their posts about a quote related to the prompt.


This month's prompt: a quotation that makes you laugh.


Mr. Gilmer asked him one more question. "About your writing with your left hand, are you ambidextrous, Mr. Ewell?"

"I most positively am not, I can use one hand as good as the other. One hand as good as the other," he added, glaring at the defense table.

--from To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee


I had a grand old time reading TKAM a couple years back, and this is just one of the sections that made me laugh out loud! (Another one involved Scout building a snowman and making some comments that nowadays would be considered racist, but at the time were pretty innocent.)

Speaking of laughing, lately I've been inwardly chuckling at my teachers. Not that they're all comedians (only one of them is of a consistently humorous personality), but after sitting under their tutelage for a couple of weeks, I'm starting to find humor in their various quirks. Like how one nice older lady calls everyone sweetie and has difficulty enlarging YouTube videos to full screen, or how my math and economics teacher pronounces subtraction as "substraction."

In other mundane and unrelated news, autumn has swept in with chilly winds and drizzly skies, making hot tea even more wonderful than it usually is. So here's some pretty fall aesthetic I've been staring at on Pinterest lately.

I think that is one of the best photos I have seen
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Apparently I love foxes. And trees. And books. But what else is new?


Apologies for the brevity of today's post. Next Saturday, I've got something extra special coming your way--it may involve superheroes, but you didn't hear that from me!


So what's making YOU laugh these days? Before I hit publish, here's one last bonus quote that makes me snicker:


The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.
--Albert Einstein

Saturday, September 9, 2017

hey dreamer



hey dreamer
when did your dream become a to-do list?
a series of boxes to be checked?
when did that big, airy wonder
shrivel down to a sheet of paper?


hey dreamer
when did your dream become a memory?
an old photograph?
a distant crackle on the radio
reminding you of long-gone days?


hey dreamer
when did it become a mirage?
a trick of the light?
a shimmer of bitter possibility
in a strangely cold desert of reality?


hey dreamer
when did it become a burden?
a ten-ton weight laid across your shoulders?
a crushing suffocation
measuring your spine and timing your steps?


hey dreamer
when did it become a secret?
a well-worn hideaway?
a crumpled little trinket
you keep in a box hidden under the bed?


hey dreamer


when did the fire in your heart become the fire at your heels?
when did now lose its luster to back then?
when did someday become maybe become never?
when did summer-light wings turn to lead?
when did your banner fray and fade?


hey dreamer


can you tell me when?
tell me why?


i wish you'd remember
recall
recollect
gather up
stir up
cradle close to your chest:


the joy


the joy of the dream that once put a sword in your hand and the stars in your eyes
the wonder of the thing that pulled you around every expectant corner
the beat in your chest so loud and so hard some days that the joy of it all just hurt


hey dreamer . . .
it's still there, you know
you can find it again

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Subplots and Storylines - August 2017



I think I'm stuck in a Donkey Kong game.


You know, where he hops into a barrel cannon, and it shoots him into the next cannon, and that shoots him into the next? That is Donkey Kong, right? (Correct me if I'm wrong.) This whole year has been a series of cannons--all very good ones, though not necessarily all easy--and despite feeling full to the brim, 2017 is only two-thirds done.*


*Pshh, "only." I feel like it should still be April, thank you very much.


But for the most part, August gave me a chance to catch my breath. The day after I returned from Realm Makers, my family and I packed up and headed south of the border again for a week of much-needed vacation at a cabin! It was so, so good to not have anywhere to be, anything to write, or any deadlines to meet. Just wide open hours to swim and kayak in the lake, soak in the sunshine, devour books, eat too much food, stay up too late, and sleep in every morning. Just amazing. And I loved spending all that time with my family!













The next couple weeks were the steady as she goes kind, during which I:


  • tried (and failed) to clean my room
  • took my youngest sister out for fun stuff like riding a tandem bike for the first time ever (we didn't die! and it was so much fun!)
  • had a video chat with a dear friend who lives miles away
  • went to orientation day for college
  • had a campfire with another friend who lives a lot closer but is leaving for university
  • ate fresh corn on the cob from the garden
  • met yet another friend for root beer and a catching up


And now summer feels like it's officially easing into autumn. The days are getting a little cooler already and parts of the garden are being harvested, but the biggest indication that summer is over is this:


I started college this week!


Which is kind of a big deal. I'm adjusting to a new schedule, figuring out how to stuff as much homework as possible into the nooks and crannies of my days, getting to know my teachers, and finally experiencing a public school classroom.*


*Some classes are great. Others feel like a waste of time because hi, I was homeschooled, and I'm used to just reading textbooks for myself, no need to read it to me, thank you, good-bye. Okay, it's not all that bad. Besides, it means less school reading at home later.


Oh, yes, I suppose I should mention this is for a two-year business admin diploma! I sincerely hope to keep up with Adventure Awaits in the meantime. That may mean shorter posts sometimes, or even some Sunday posts instead of Saturdays, but I'll try to keep things as normal and scheduled here as possible.


Subplots on Screen



Mostly rewatches this month!


The Flash season 2 - rewatched three episodes
My family was watching it while at the cabin, so hey, why not join them? I was missing Barry Allen and Co.


Once Upon a Time - rewatched some of season 2 + 3 and finished season 5
My siblings and I are almost through season 2, and with my parents we're well into season 3. But my two sisters and I FINISHED SEASON 5. IT BASICALLY BROKE MY HEART AND PUT IT BACK TOGETHER.


Avatar: The Last Airbender
My sisters pulled me into it, and so far I'm only three or so episodes in. Aang is cute and the episodes are nice and short.


The Maze Runner - rewatch
Also a holiday movie. My sisters had never seen it before, so it was super fun to see it with them and my brother.


Storylines on the Page



books read on holidays


August was a great reading month for me, thanks to vacation!




Ink and Bone // Rachel Caine

Ink and Bone is . . . how to describe it? Aesthetic. Rich. Colorful. Raw. It feels like dusty old books and hot Alexandrian sun and rattling trains and bloody, muddy war. It wasn't the fastest read, but that was okay because I wanted to be immersed like that!


I loved the vaguely steampunk setting, the school aspect, and the way Jess is the son of a black market book smuggler. Instant cool points! Wolfe, the ruthless teacher, was someone I hated at first, then slowly grew to love. I also loved the premise of the library of Alexandria still being around!


Unfortunately, there was a bit of language and one homosexual subplot off to the side that I didn't care for.


Still, I gave the book 4.5 stars! Read my full review on Goodreads HERE.




The Penderwicks // Jeanne Birdsall


This book came highly recommended by several friends, and it did not disappoint!


Think back to your fondest childhood summer, sprinkle it with imagination and adventure, and mix it with a dash of humor and buckets of warm fuzzies. That's pretty much The Penderwicks. Like Peter Pan did for me last summer, it transported me back to childhood in a way that made me smile and want to live at Arundel with these kids just a little longer. Seriously, if you haven't read this yet, GO DO IT.


5 stars! Read my full review on Goodreads HERE.




The Fatal Tree // Stephen Lawhead


The Fatal Tree ended the Bright Empires series differently than I expected, but it was still really, really good. I can say very little without plunging straight into spoiler territory, but suffice it to say that:


a) I love the crew, especially Kit, Cass, Mina, Etzel (dear, dear Etzel!), and Gianni.
b) I am endlessly fascinated by this multiverse of ley lines and by the topics this series has examined, such as time, the humongous effect everything and everybody has on everything and everybody else, redemption, human will, and WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE UNIVERSE STARTS TO SHRINK.
c) That beautiful cover.


5 stars! Read my full review on Goodreads HERE.




Some Kind of Happiness // Claire Legrand


I bought this on a whim, and by the time I finished I was a small mess of feelings. Which may have been the point of the whole story. Despite it's title, Some Kind of Happiness deals with a lot of sad topics: depression, cancer, broken families, secrets. (It's labeled MG, but I probably wouldn't give it to a reader that young.) However, it was a powerful, beautifully written story packed with my favorite kind of imagery and grand adventures shared by a pack of rambunctious cousins and their friends.


But to back up a little--the whole premise of this book is amazing. 11-year-old Finley deals with her sadness by writing stories about a place called the Everwood, stories that mirror her own struggles. So it was cathartic and affirming to see how her life inspired her writing, and how her writing, in turn, helped her real life!


4 stars! Read my full review (including my favorite quote from the book) on Goodreads HERE.




The Five Times I Met Myself // James L. Rubart


I actually met Jim Rubart at Realm Makers, and he is one of the kindest, most encouraging authors I've talked to!


The Five Times I Met Myself is a trippy, introspective book dealing with regret and second (and third and fourth and fifth) chances. At first, the concept of Brock's lucid dreaming and actually talking to his younger self was a bit hard to believe, but the concept was so interesting that pretty soon I didn't care. Especially when Brock's attempts to improve his life by getting his younger self to make different decisions start making everything worse.


4.5 stars! Read my full review on Goodreads HERE.


The Beast of Talesend // Kyle Robert Schultz


Another author I met at Realm Makers. You might recognize his name from the Silmarillion Awards this summer, because he hosted the award for Most Incompetent Henchman!


I'd heard great things about The Beast of Talesend as well, the highlight of my friends' reviews definitely being the humor. And it was quite an amusing tale! The dialogue is one of this novella's greatest strengths for sure. I also really liked the 1920's alternate history setting, where fairy tales actually happened long ago, but magic has since faded into obscurity. Except for instances like this one, where Detective Nick Beasley happens to turn into a beast . . . despite the fact he's spent his whole career disproving magic! His brother, Crispin, and the unstoppable Lady Cordelia prove to be entertaining sidekicks on their little quest.


My only quibble would be the writing. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't particularly arresting either, and I found the sentence structure repetitive now and then. Nevertheless, this was a good, quick read! Kind of a fluffy cupcake sort of thing, and--oddly enough--something that reminded me of Adventures in Odyssey radio dramas (even though the two aren't related in the slightest).


3.5 stars! (As of right now, I haven't reviewed this on Goodreads yet.)

Subplots on the Writing Desk



After the intensity of May-July, followed by no writing during vacation, I've been taking it easy in this department. I received an amazing, thought-provoking critique of The Brightest Thread's first chapter at Realm Makers, so I spent my writing time this month brainstorming ways to incorporate that feedback.


I ended up experimenting with chapter one and trying different approaches. My first attempt flopped halfway through. With tea and prayer, I tried again, and it went a lot better . . . though that version of chapter one is really long. Then I wrote yet another version, which was much shorter. I haven't yet decided which approach is best.


But TBT is currently in the hands of betas, so I'll see what they say!


Oh, and I updated my Writings page here on the blog! That was a long overdue change.


I had planned to brainstorm a novella for Five Poisoned Apples in August, but that didn't happen. Hopefully this month! There are only four months left of the contest--yikes.


What about you, valiant adventurers? How was your August? Are you going back to school? What was your best summer memory?

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Book Review: Reapers by Bryan Davis

Reapers.



The word conjures images of hoods, scythes, and shadows. Death, ghosts, and the veil between here and eternity.


Reapers by Bryan Davis delivered on pretty much all of the above, minus the scythes. We've got an urban setting, wandering souls, dark alleyways, grit, ethical dilemmas, futuristic tech, and the big dystopian staple: untrustworthy power figures.




Find it on Goodreads // Amazon // author's website
Read chapter one for free HERE.
Two teenagers, Phoenix and Singapore, male and female Reapers, collect the souls of the dead and transport them to the Gateway where they will travel to their final destination . . . or so they are told.


A small note: I read this book back in July (a.k.a the mad rush to finish The Brightest Thread in time for Realm Makers), so it took me longer than usual to finish. I don't like when that happens, because I think it can distort my opinion on the book's pacing.


Reapers started out super interesting, don't get me wrong! (And it's actually funny how I've nearly memorized the first paragraph from all the times I've read it in Bryan Davis's writing how-to blog posts.) We get an engaging first look into Phoenix's everyday world--a mostly solitary life of watching over his Chicago district, collecting souls, and smuggling medicine to the sick and dying in his neighborhood.


But after the first bit, it felt like the story slowed down. We spend four or five chapters following Phoenix, Singapore, and two other Reapers all the way to a Gateway depot and back. Which isn't all bad, because although it was thoroughly detailed, it was necessary detail. Without getting the process of reaping clear in my mind, I think I would've floundered later on in the story. But because everything was meticulously laid out right away, big explanations weren't needed later. So really, I have just a small quibble with that pacing issue.


Once I hit the midway point, the pace really picked up! Big plans, sneaking around, action, danger--yes! I positively sped through the second half of the book. The stakes keep rising, trust issues between characters get shakier, and the tension just all-around builds.


And can we just talk about the concept of reaping for a minute? Because it's a really sad job to have. I wouldn't want to be the one called to every deathbed, the one to sweet-talk confused and wandering ghosts into trusting me, the one to carry the burden of all these souls to the Gateway. Some of these Reapers are pretty epic heroes for doing all that!


Characters



Phoenix: He was great! I'm used to Bryan Davis's noble, heroic protagonists like Billy from Dragons in Our Midst or Adrian Masters from Dragons of Starlight. And Phoenix is noble and heroic. But he's got a grittier side to him as well. It's hard to describe, because it's not as if he runs around making horrible choices . . . He just feels a shade or two darker than the abovementioned characters. But I loved being in his head.


Singapore: Ah, Sing, should I trust you? I couldn't answer that question till I was partway through the book, and that answer wasn't quite what I was expecting. She's a bit of a wild card, that one. Frustratingly inconsistent. Timid and unsure one moment, brash the next. But not to worry, it all makes sense later on! My uncertainty about her added to the tension for sure.


Shanghai: She's kind of incredible. No-nonsense, but still kind. Hugely capable and confident, and pretty much one the best at her job.


Alex: I hate her. But she's the villain, so that's a good thing! She's conniving, clever, and manipulative. Every time Phoenix thought he had her outwitted, she revealed another layer of her plan. And have I mentioned she's ruthless? Seriously, somebody needs to put her away.


Crandyke: Phoenix carries this guy's soul around in his cloak, much to Crandyke's displeasure. He's cranky, sarcastic, but very knowledgeable--so Phoenix isn't too eager to get rid of him right away. Crandyke's witty complaints made for quite a few smirks throughout the story, and it was great to have that dose of humor.


Everyone else lives in Spoiler Land, pretty much, otherwise I'd discuss them too!


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Themes



Going into this book, I was interested to see how a Christian author would deal with the element of "Grim Reapers" and the afterlife. Bryan Davis handled it really well! Reapers lands in mainstream territory, so God isn't talked about, but everything was written tastefully. One question this book asks is, "What if souls didn't go to their eternal destination immediately, but had to be delivered there?" That's the role of the Reapers, but as the plot unfolds, we get the sense that this Gateway the souls go through is not what it seems. That perhaps the public is being fed lies, and perhaps the Gatekeeper is not as virtuous as he makes himself out to be. So now I'm even more curious to see where the next two books take that idea!


In the meantime, Reapers offers solid themes on the value of human life, defending the defenseless, trust, honesty, and the kind of teamwork I've come to expect from a cast of Bryan Davis characters. Again, I sense that this novel is setting things up for fantastic character arcs in the rest of the trilogy!


And unlike many dystopians, this narrative had a thread of hope woven throughout.


Random Things



  • Some of the futuristic tech reminded me of Bryan Davis's The Candlestone! Especially the setup of three special pedestals . . . (Anybody else remember that book?)
  • At times I also got a Hunger Games vibe. I remember noting it, but now I can't remember what exactly made me think of that. Dystopian, teens, themes dealing with death, a villain who's always one step ahead . . . ? I don't know, but it was cool.
  • It was fascinating how bold Phoenix was towards Alex. He basically tells her what he's going to do, stating some of his plans to her face. Considering that most people lie to cover up their plans, I thought it was really interesting to watch this approach play out. You'd think it would be a stupid move, but surprisingly it wasn't. I won't spoil anything, though. You need to read it for yourself!


4.5 stars!



I whittled down half a star because the beginning did move a little slow--but again, that could've been partially my fault for being so busy.


(A note on the content: based on a few grisly moments, several sad/callous deaths, and some romantic tension, I would recommend this for 16 and up, probably.)


Overall, however, Reapers is a shadowy tale uncovering the dark underbelly of a once-trusted institution. It's a tale of risk, a tale of taking a stand when all around everyone else is turning a blind eye. It's got humor, it's got heart, and once you get going, it's a hold-your-breath, edge-of-your-seat kind of ride!


If you're looking for that kind of book, go get yourself a copy of Reapers right this minute! And if you've already read this one, I'll race you to book 2, Beyond the Gateway!