(Not So) Quick Review – Echo Volume 3: The Dialectic of Agony

Echo Volume 3: The Dialectic of Agony by Kent Wayne

34114908While Crusader Kischan Atriya fights to keep his life and sanity, his mentor Chrysalis Verus undertakes a perilous journey across the wilds of Echo. Their separate paths intertwine in the unlikeliest of places and across all borders, both psychic and physical.
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REVIEW: Glorious mech and “magic” | ★★★★☆

This third installment is a more in-depth exploration of the world of Echo as well as the psyche of our broken hero Atriya and his enlightened mentor Verus. Both the sci-fi and supernatural elements in this were enjoyable to read, most especially the intense action. A few philosophical elements were also inserted here, and I especially enjoyed Verus’ interaction with the “Flow-riders” as well as Atriya’s conversation with the Regent.

Verus’ journey in the desert was a change of perspective and change of pace from the previous book’s fast-paced action which centered on Atriya. She does eventually encounter some action herself, this time with manipulation of Kaia (which is somewhat akin to magic) rather than advanced military tech like Atriya. Gribbles the Tokage lizard added a little bit of quirk, and that scene with Gribbles and Atriya was completely unexpected but enjoyable to read nonetheless. I’ve seen documentaries about dolphins and orcas lifestyles and intelligence, which really fascinated me, so a particular scene with the dolphins was quite endearing.

Intriguing as Verus was, the highlights of this book, though, were definitely Atriya’s scenes. From him sleeping in such a horrible apartment to his epic battle in the Wastes with his Exo, I was with him in both slow scenes and intense scenes. I was genuinely full of dread when I came across the term Enhancile (what? again?? now???), and was internally screaming for him to stop boosting when he kept doing so (have you not learned from Cityscape 87?!). The world-building continues to be excellent and the way Atriya navigates it is thought-provoking. The sci-fi elements and military jargon are so cool to read as well and I especially like the terms Judge, Jury, Enhanciles, Enforcers, Crusaders, Specters, Harvesters, Orbital, Ascension, Regent, Dissident, Kaia, “approaching shatter”, and how they are used within this world (“Wraiths” not so much, but we’ll see). The epilogue in the hospital was especially heartbreaking because I know a lot of people are suffering that way in the real world.

It’s so ironic that Verus considers Atriya as someone incredibly important, while Atriya himself is questioning his own purpose and survival.

(Some things I didn’t like were when the narration gives descriptions of specific real-world things which are not part of the current timeline of Echo because it takes me out of the story and reminds me that I’m reading a book where apparently the author is a fan of this and that. It makes me think of the author rather than the story, and therefore takes me out of the story. Like maybe describe a pose as something cool or majestic rather than saying she looks like a samurai; or describe the music as something empowering or energizing rather than saying it came from Pacific Rim, “an Old Earth classic”. Basically I’m not fond of these Old Earth references, although I do like that Atriya is old-fashioned, with his revolver and such. Note that I love Pacific Rim and the soundtrack, but some of my friends did not, and it didn’t do as well as it should have in the box office so I don’t think it will be a “classic”… see? I’m thinking these things when I really didn’t need to when reading this story. Good thing there were no references to Evangelion or Gundam or anything like that, then my mind will go to emo fifteen-year-olds piloting mech LOL. This also goes for directly naming the specific martial arts styles that Verus uses as the fight is still ongoing. It is impressive indeed but you can’t be thinking of the specific name of the fighting style your friend is using while you are in a life-and-death situation. That only happens in anime! But then, I’ve never been in a life-and-death situation so what do I know? The phrase “spooky action at a distance” also took me out of it because that’s what Einstein called quantum entanglement, and I felt that it wouldn’t take me so much out of it if the narration had just mentioned “quantum entanglement” instead. My brain got interrupted in the middle of the story because it reminded me that Einstein was wrong about quantum entanglement. I can’t be thinking about Einstein while reading a book that had nothing to do with Einstein. But anyway, this is just me. Other readers might love all these references. And with that, I’ll end my nitpicking. Also, sorry for nitpicking.)

Overall, definitely a compelling read. On to the next one!

Review originally posted on Amazon.

Quick Review – Echo Volume 2: The Taste of Ashes

Echo Volume 2: The Taste of Ashes by Kent Wayne

51t2xvzk2bcl._sy346_Most of us change gradually—over the course of decades. For Crusader Atriya, it will happen in a single, agonizing day. On the edge of a decaying cityscape, Atriya struggles to hold onto his identity as he faces death from both enemies and allies alike. In the process, his old self is torn away, and he catches a glimpse of what he may one day become.

Twelve hundred years ago, humanity left Earth to settle on Echo. Despite hopes for a golden age, an era of darkness fell. Government and corporations merged into the Regime. The military and police merged into the Department of Enforcement. Over half the planet is covered by crumbling cityscapes and the elite live high above, removed and remote from the greater populace on the moon-city of Ascension. Hope lies in Atriya, but before he can break the cycle of darkness and ignorance on Echo, he has to do it within himself.

 

REVIEW: A thrill to read! | ★★★★★

Whew! I actually finished this right after reading the first book (Echo Volume I: Approaching Shatter) and it actually felt like a complete package like that. In any case, this entire second book is action packed and such a thrill to read, from start to finish. Can’t wait to read the next installment! Hang in there, Atriya!

Review originally posted on Amazon.

 

Quick Review – Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter

Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter by Kent Wayne

26308563In the late 21st century, humanity left Earth due to multiple resource shortcomings aggravated by an acceleration in climate change. They settled Echo, a planet that was nearly a carbon copy of Earth except for being devoid of all but the most basic life forms. Fast forward 1200 years later. Echo has endured over a thousand years of dark age. Corporations and government merged early on, becoming the oppressive authority known as the Regime. Military and police merged into the Department of Enforcement, their only mission to crush the huge network of rebels known as the Dissidents. Over half the planet is covered by decaying cityscapes and the elite live high above, removed and remote from the greater populace on the moon-city of Ascension. Hope lies in one man, a former Enforcer named Atriya. But before he can break the cycle of darkness and ignorance on Echo, he has to do it within himself.

 

REVIEW: Intriguing but unresolved | ★★★☆☆

The story in this novel is unresolved which caught me off-guard. I’m glad the author included the first three chapters of the next book because this one ended where it was getting more intriguing. I bought the next book immediately.

I do like the world-building, but I wish there were more showing than telling because the first half of the book was too much descriptions and background that it couldn’t hold my interest and several times I had to put it down.

I was very much engaged during the second half, though – Atriya being a character I enjoyed following, and the author’s writing style to my liking – that by the time the novel ended, I was ready to dive into the next book.

Atriya has a lot to overcome, both physical danger and mental distress, and from what I’ve read from the next book, it seems like it’s gonna be a thrill ride and I can’t wait.

Review originally posted on Amazon.

 

Straws and Turtles

img_6396Among the gifts that I received for Christmas was a thin metal straw from my sister Mai and her boyfriend Quint who both love animals. On the tag it said “save the turtles!”

img_6474Plastic has been such a huge problem in the world and for quite some time now, there’s been a movement to reduce on plastic – especially single-use plastic, such as straws. So having metal straws really help especially if you drink beverages a lot in restaurants. You can carry it with you and it’s reusable. However, be sure to carry some wipes for it too or wash it before and after (restaurants typically have rest rooms with sinks), and of course tell the server beforehand that you will not be needing a straw for your drink (if it typically comes with one).

img_6462Another option is bamboo straws. I got one from a pearl shake kiosk named Zagu in the Philippines. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they sell bamboo straws, both a thin one and a bigger one to drink the pearls with. (Pearl shakes are like shakes that comes in different flavors but with “pearls” in them – little sago balls like in bubble tea.) I purchased the bigger one since I already have the thinner metal one.

So why “save the turtles”? Turtles eat jellyfishes and can easily mistake plastic for jellyfish, which of course is toxic. Turtles die because of this. It’s horrible. There’s cringe-worthy footage of scientists trying to pull out a straw stuck in an olive ridley sea turtle in Costa Rica. Ugh.

Thanks to Quint and my beloved sister Mai for the thoughtful gift :)

So anyway I posted about the straws with the hashtag #savetheturtles on my social media and discovered some online shops, if you are interested to get some for yourself (note that I am not sponsored):

And here’s an online accessory shop that donates 10% of profit to turtles:

In relation to this, the day after Christmas Day, we went to Apo Island – a small island located off the southeastern tip of Negros Island, which is a big island in the Visayas Region in the Philippines.

Okay, we didn’t actually go to the island itself, but we went snorkelling around the island where we were able to meet… turtles! They may be slow on land, but they’re very graceful in the water. I came close to some of them but didn’t touch any of them because the guide had told us not to touch them, so I was well-behaved.

I would like to point out though, that I encountered several small jellyfishes as well – I hate jellyfishes, they make me itchy, though according to my 8-year-old nephew, these were relatively harmless. I guess the turtles weren’t too hungry at that time of day.

Here are some still photos (that I took from some of our GoPro videos) of them:

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Here’s a video of my nephew trying to swim after a turtle and me telling him (if you can understand it through the snorkel) not to touch the turtles:

 

Here’s a video of Mai and Quint exploring the coral area down below and a sighting of a turtle off to the side:

 

I am so envious of Mai and Quint for being able to free dive so deep like that. Here’s a video of me trying to dive down and then just giving up:

*I wasn’t using flippers that time, but I tried with flippers too and still didn’t work =/

Thanks to my fiancé Elias for holding the GoPro almost the entire time.

Do you have a metal or bamboo (or paper) straw? Are you planning to get some for yourself? Have you been snorkelling around with turtles (and jellyfishes)? Let me know in the comments below.

2019 Goals and Indiecember Final Board (I won a prize pack!)

Internet was kind of spotty where I was so I put off blogging until I’m back from the Philippines.

Indiecember

I’m happy to report I’ve completed flush style for my Indiecember board which ultimately looked like this:

indiecember2018

I also wrote about Indiecember in the following posts:

Here are my Amazon reviews for the last few books since my last update:

Sorted: Freedom Through Structure by Gillian Perkins

img_6375This book feels like 40% instruction and 60% encouragement. That 60% is working because I am very encouraged to apply the principles laid out in this book when my vacation ends. Although both my fiance and I are slightly organized and our place is not that messy to begin with – and we try not to have too many stuff at home as well because we move to a different apartment every two years – I still feel that there’s still a lot of clutter and a complete lack of routine. A routine is something I feel I personally need, especially in the near future, since I plan on doing a personal project in addition to… well, adulting. I think that this book will provide a great guide to achieve a doable routine. I can even start by using the author’s examples and tweaking it to fulfill my needs. I’ve been eyeing this book for some time now, and I’m glad I finally got it. And for sure, this won’t be the last time I’ll be reading this.

So To Honor Him: the Magi and the Drummer by Laura VanArendonk Baugh

img_6398The Little Drummer Boy has always been a song to me – my favorite Christmas song actually – and I never came across a telling of it as a story. So to take notice of this as a historical fiction type novella intrigued me, especially during the Christmas season. (I’ve long since become an atheist, but I respect and appreciate Christmas, be it fact or fiction. It’s a wonderful holiday to spend with family!) I enjoyed reading and learning through the slave drummer Arash’s perspective, and it was eye-opening to discover what it would have been like during that time period. Both Arash and Saman are likeable characters and I would have liked to continue following them beyond the events of this story. Overall, this is a charming retelling of The Little Drummer Boy and I wish there was more to it.

Boracay Vows by Maida Malby

img_6447I haven’t been reading a lot of romance novels and I’m not really the target audience for this book, so I don’t know how it compares to other romances nowadays. The sexy parts were definitely spicy for sure but storywise it wasn’t as impressive as I’d hoped. However despite the plot feeling contrived and rushed, the male character quite bland, and the conflict kind of lackluster, it still was quite an enjoyable read especially with all the Filipino touches. I’m also Filipino, so I really appreciate that. It’s also a nice look into multicultural romance, and the relationship between these two individuals – despite their somewhat adult arrangement – was kind of sweet.

I was definitely more active in Instagram when it came to updating my Indiecember progress and the link to my Indiecember stories is here.

I’ve somewhat became a bookstagrammer in December (because I wanted to record my Indiecember progress) and now I think I may continue to post bookstagram photos. It’s just a little bit tricky with ebooks because the light reflects on my iPad and I have to get creative in getting good shots. I don’t also know if I can read as much books in one month as I did in December so I may not post as often as I did then. But if you’re interested, you can follow me on Instagram here.

Lastly, I won a prize pack! I got an email from Megan Tennant – the creator of the Indiecember Reading Challenge – saying, “Congratulations!!! You won a prize pack with multiple physical books, a $10 Amazon gift card, and some other assorted goodies!” Yay! She also announced the winners in this YouTube video. Some, if not all, of these books in the prize pack (I don’t know yet what the books will be) will definitely go into my 2019 reading goal of 50 books. It would also be nice to take photos of physical books for Instagram!

2019 Reading Goals

img_6512I definitely intend to read more books this year, especially fantasy books, because I am planning to write a fantasy novel myself. For the past two years or so, the books I’ve read and re-read are mostly the Witcher series and A Song of Ice and Fire series.

I also have five indie books in my December TBR that I was not able to read in December in favor of other indie books for my Indiecember board. So I’d like to finally read them this year, within January or the next two months if possible.

Lastly, I’ve been intending to complete The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini but I’ve put that on hold for Indiecember. I got all the four books in one compiled volume in my Kindle app but I’ve read the first three a long time ago. I am thinking of rereading the whole entire thing.

My Goodreads Reading Challenge Goal for 2019 is 50 books. I feel optimistic about it and I think I can accomplish it. Wish me luck!

In summary:

  • Read 50 Books in 2019 (some of them can be from the prize pack)
  • Finish The Inheritance Cycle
  • Read the 5 indie books in my December TBR, namely: Eve: The Awakening by Jenna Moreci, It’s Killing Jerry by Sharn Hutton, The Confectioner’s Guild by Claire Luana, Echo: Approaching Shatter by Kent Wayne, and The Lone and Level Sands by Emerson Grey.
  • Read at least 12 Fantasy Books (where a series would count as one)

2019 Writing Goals

img_6198First of all, I definitely want to participate in NaNoWriMo again this year as well as Camp NaNoWriMo.

Secondly, I want to continue writing poetry so I’m setting a goal of 12 Poems for this year – in theory, one for each month. I could end up doing much more, but I think one per month is a good goal to set.

Lastly, I want to complete a first draft of my fantasy story which now has around 50K words thanks to NaNoWriMo 2018. The story is not finished yet (far from it!) and I estimate around 120K words, which means I’m lacking 70K. I don’t think I’ll wait for NaNoWriMo to do the 70K but we’ll see where life takes me in 2019 hahaha! My goal right now is basically just have the experience of finishing a first draft of a story, regardless of whether the story ultimately ends up getting published or not.

I don’t have any goals for blogging right now but I may think about it and set up some goals in the near future.

Thanks for reading and have a great year, everyone! Happy New Year!