Friday, November 6, 2015

NaNo time again!

Once again I'm participating in the writing torture known as NaNoWriMo. But this time I've done something I never tried before. I plotted. I liked the idea of being a pantser, but alas I'm plodding, planning, pantser. Now, with outline in hand, I've started to make real progress on the cozy mystery I've threatened to write for three years. I have almost three chapters. Well, first draft chapters because first rule of NaNo is no editing. You just keep writing until you're done. Editing happens after you have a completed first draft, which a point I haven't yet reached. So I'll try to keep a running total of my work, for better or worse.

Here's where I am right now:

2842 / 50000 words. 6% done!

Yep, already a bit behind but if I can manage 1887 words a day instead of the usual 1667, I can cross the finish line on time with 50k words. Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Review: The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was exactly what I needed to inspire me before starting NaNoWriMo this year. Pressfield has great way of cutting through the nonsense and getting straight to the point. He explains the how and why of creative Resistance and the best ways to overcome that nasty inner critic we all have. The book ends on the right note to make anyone ready to jump right in with both feet and create and innovate no matter the struggles it took to get to that point. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to do more with their lives but have let negative habits take control instead.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review: Pagan Visions for a Sustainable Future

Pagan Visions for a Sustainable Future Pagan Visions for a Sustainable Future by Ly de Angeles
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

UGH! No wonder it took me so long to finish this (over two years).

Maybe it was my preconceived notions about the book but I was underwhelmed. I was expecting...umm, what's the word here? Oh, right! Practical information on being Pagan and working towards sustainability. What it turned out to be was basic attitudes a Pagan should have toward the world we live in, also without any practical suggestions. I already knew that a deep connection with nature, the need to live as green as possible, and trying to get along with and embrace different cultures were important. The problem I, and other Pagans I know, run into is how to accomplish the high-minded ideals (or something close to them) expressed in many of the essays while living in a capitalistic society on a tiny budget.

Basically, I would've been better off simply reading Starhawk's works and skipping this book altogether. Her name on the cover was my primary reason for buying the book in the first place. I'm going to try David Suzuki's "The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature" and hope for more helpful information.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Book Review - Armada by Ernest Cline

**There may be mild spoilers ahead but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum.**

Having never read Ernest Cline’s first novel, Ready Player One, I seem to have approached his second book without the preconceived notions I’ve read in most other reviews whining that it was just a rehash. I got to enjoy the sci-fi/fantasy book, movie, TV show, and video game nostalgia of my childhood unfettered of expectations.

Armada, the story of a high school kid turned galactic hero, lets you know early on that it’s a mash-up of Ender’s Game, The Last Starfighter, and a few others. And yet it worked. Zack Lightman, the main protagonist of the story, was for me a refreshing change from the special snowflakes that seem to inhabit a lot of stories these days, all of the chosen ones destined for greatness from birth. Zack is one of many talented people capable of saving the day because they were trained to do so. He’s smart but not smarter than all the grown-ups around him. He has anger management issues. He disobeys orders. He’s an average teenager thrown into an extreme situation and responds as I’d expected the teens of today to react; with skepticism, sarcasm, and hidden awe. I especially enjoyed his relationship with his totally cool mom.

The biggest issue most have with Armada is the name-dropping, or as one reviewer called it, the “cheap pops” of all the 70s and 80s cultural references. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it until I got to the end, to see what direction Cline would go with the conclusion. In the end, they were more than just “an attempt at cleverness” as suggested by A.V. Club’s review. Or trying to be cool or flashing sci-fi “street cred.” I thoroughly enjoyed how the pop culture was part of the plot, how all of our years of consuming the culture were simply preparing the human race to not freak out when aliens do actually show up, like in the many scenes of panic in Independence Day (also referenced in Armada). Cline taps into the language of sci-fi pop culture. Not the obvious quotes that anyone could google, but the minutiae that only true fans obsess over with lines like:

When Zack is contemplating why an alien ship would be in his small town, he thinks, “If there was a bright center to the universe, I was on the planet it was farthest from. Please pass the blue milk, Aunt Beru.”

“And now, like my father before me, I was paying the price for my lack of vision.” In reference to Zack thinking about how he wasted his time playing video games to the point he though he was hallucinating them.

Those aren’t just quotes from Star Wars. They are an immersion into the story and reflecting it into real life as “nerd” culture does. We have our own language and he uses it well to tell this story, like when Zack’s best friends “the Mikes” are debating the merits of Bilbo’s sword Sting versus Thor’s Mjolnir. They are personally invested in the outcome. I also liked how Zack doesn’t blindly trust in how things ended. He has his father’s gift of skepticism in the face of a supposed Utopia.

While the characters all acted as you'd expect of gamers and sci-fi nerds, they were believable, likable, and very diverse in age, race, and gender. I’d definitely recommend this to any sci-fi fan and all of my sci-fi customers at Half Price Books. And I think I’ll need to read it more than once to pick up on things I might’ve missed the first go-round.

Oh, and I almost forgot one more thing. I’ve read several reviews about how it isn’t really a young adult novel because they wouldn’t necessarily get the references. That’s because it wasn’t written to be a YA novel. Just because the protagonist is eighteen does NOT mean it’s YA fiction. “Perks of Being a Wallflower” has a teenage protagonist but that isn’t YA either. It’s literature. You know, like the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or To Kill a Mockingbird. 

**I did receive a copy of the book from Crown Publishers (Penguin/Random House) through the Blogging for Books program for an honest review.**

This review will also be posted on my Goodreads account.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

More Reading Challenge Stuff

 and a new book for review! I recently signed up for Blogging for Books through Crown Publishing Group and my first free book, Armada by Ernest Cline, arrived two days ago. A review should show up in the next few days as I'm thoroughly enjoying the book so far (only up to pg 71). One unexpected and totally amazing thing turned up before I'd gotten past the first chapter. I tend to remove the dust jacket from my books as I read so as not to damage it. I know, I know. The point of a dust jacket is to protect the book. What can I say? I'm weird. I like it to look beautiful sitting on my shelf, dust jacket intact and pristine. Anyway, the point of that book ramble is that when you remove the dust jacket, it looks like this:
Picture borrowed from the Blogging Bookshop

As soon as I've finished, I'll let you know just how amazing it is with some quotes, some nerd info, and maybe a bit of squeeing. Then I'm going to acquire Cline's first book Ready Player One and repeat the process. How can I be so sure that the books will be awesome? They got Wil Wheaton to read the audio version! So, yeah. Kind of a duh for me. :)

As far as the reading challenge stuff, I've finished three more books on my list. They are as follows:
  • Secret of the Haunted Mirror (Three Investigators Series) by M.V. Carey for the category of book from my childhood
  • Paper Towns by John Green for book that became a movie (which I totally want to see)
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a book that got bad reviews, which still amazes me
When I first started reading Gatsby, I was annoyed by the shallow characters and their vapid lifestyles. I came close to putting it down and moving on to the next book on my list. I'm glad I didn't. The whole point of the book was to illustrate just how shallow and vapid those people were, how having money made them into pretty much horrible human beings. Only Jay Gatsby, and to a lesser extent Nick, had any redeeming qualities, any humanity at all. Even now it's very timely and indicative of how the current ruling corporate class feels about the rest of us. I plan to check out the Baz Lurhmann adaptation of the book as I hear it is well worth watching and captures the spirit of the story if not the exact details.

My next book for the challenge will be either Looking for Alaska by John Green or one of the Bronte classics. I'll be using Armada for my book that came out this year instead of Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee as I've heard lots of negative feedback that make me hesitate to read it. Apparently the representation of Atticus Finch in the sequel isn't very flattering and I don't want to ruin a story I love by tarnishing the image of the hero. And I really can't invest time in a book that is sure to piss me off by making said hero into a racist, especially after what made him a hero was to stand up against societal pressure of the time, to not be a bigot like his friends and neighbors. No thanks. I get enough disgusting racism and hate in the news and on social media without putting it in my relaxation time too. Okay, rambling done for now. I'll be back very soon with a new Cozy Mystery Monday review and the review for Armada. I'm also sorely lacking in reviews for all the great stuff I got from NetGalley in exchange for an honest opinion. Off to read lots!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Reading Challenge Update

Earlier this year I posted about trying a reading challenge with specific categories. I took the challenge to read fifty books with ideas ranging from "Friend Favorite" to "Written over 100 years ago" by the end of 2015 to coincide with my Goodreads challenge to simply read 50 books in a year. I'm on track with the Goodreads count (24 of the 50) but not so much on the other one. With CampNaNo coming in a couple of days, reading time will be severely limited. Then the new semester starts in September where my instructors choose most of my reading until December. As it is, I've completed only these seven categories:
  • Number in the title - One of Chuck Wendig's writing guides
  • Female Author - The Whole Cat and Caboodle by Sofie Ryan
  • Short Stories - Best Japanese Science Fiction Stories (a cool anthology from the '80s)
  • Story with Magick - Spell Booked by the Lavenes (see review on this site)
  • New-to-you Author - If You've Got it Haunt It by Rose Pressey (CMM review coming soon)
  • Book you can finish in a day - Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (FABULOUS BOOK)
  • Recommended by a friend - Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (MUST READ for everyone)
As you may have noticed, I have several cozies on the list so far. They're quick and easy to read so they fill the list better than more serious fiction. I plan to read only two more cozies (the latest two Magical Cats mysteries by Sofie Kelly). The rest will take me out of my comfort zone to include several literary titles I should've already read and lots of things I'd never heard of or considered. Since I've completed so few I'll just continue reading until I've read them all, challenge or not. Next on my list? A book that got bad reviews - The Great Gatsby. This fact surprised me quite a bit. A literary classic on pretty much every school reading across the country got bad reviews. But then so did To Kill a Mockingbird. I loved To Kill a Mockingbird and can't wait for the sequel in July (filling the category of book published this year). It just goes to show you shouldn't always buy into the reviews (mine included) if something sounds good to you.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

New Altar

I finally got the new shelf for a small wall altar. Keeping my felines out of my magick should be a bit easier now. It has a dreams candle and my "wishes & dreams" jar with focus elements for learning genealogy professionally and writing. The incense is for meditation to put me in the right frame of mind to accomplish my goals. The bracelet was created by a dear friend who always encouraged me to do my best. I'll keep you posted on the results. :)