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:

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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!

Indiecember Update

This update is a bit delayed considering I’ve accomplished my initial Indiecember plan, and then some! Before I begin, these are my past Indiecember posts:

I’m happy to report that I have completed the middle row of Indiecember with Aletheia by Megan Tennant and Nocturnal by Wilder, thus accomplishing the traditional bingo style of playing. Upon completion, my board now looked like this:

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The O’s represent the boxes I am aiming for and must contain unique books. The X’s are the ones those five books also apply for. As you can see, there are only 7 squares left to fill the entire board to accomplish the flush style. So, why not?

In order to accomplish the 7 remaining squares I decided to come up with some kind of plan. The square are: [POC Author], [Novella], [10-20 Reviews], [Self-Help or Learning], [0-5 Reviews], [White on Cover], [40-60 Reviews].

My first action was to check my own library and see which indie books apply. Although I really wanted to read new books, I may not have enough time. I have already read The Elysian Prophecy by Vivien Reis but have not reviewed it yet, so I am including that one since it can cross out [White on Cover] and [40-60 Reviews].

The book I really wanted to read next was Firestone Key by Caroline Noe and I’ve actually started a bit on it, but wasn’t sure if it would cross out any of the remaining squares. I was happy to discover that it indeed crosses out [0-5 Reviews].

So right now, this is what my new Indiecember board looks like:

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Let me also list here the new reviews I have written, just to be consistent with my previous update:

Aletheia by Megan Tennant

IMG_6243The start of this book was quite slow for me. I was only half interested with what was going on and was easily distracted with other things. However, when I got into the meat of the story, I was completely swallowed whole. I really respect the guts of the author to give the main character a number – “736” – for a name. It actually contributed to my lack of interest in the beginning because I couldn’t remember it. Was it 736 or 763 or 793 or 765? And because it was written in first person perspective, the name is not stated as repeatedly as it would have been in third person. So, for someone like me, it’s a very forgettable name. But as it turns out, the character is not a forgettable character. She is only one of many compelling characters – some of which have numbers for names too – who have their own unique way of dealing with their circumstances. I would say that the best thing about this book are the character arcs and how they impacted 736’s psyche and mentality. Aside from the characters, I feel that the story and how it plays out is well-crafted, even though the writing may need some improvement in some areas. Don’t get me wrong, the writing is beautiful and has that poetic quality to it, but it can slow the pace down in certain scenes, such as in the beginning and in action scenes. But overall, the story took me on a ride where there are times I am overwhelmed with emotions, or just overwhelmed. The world-building plays a lot into this and I appreciate the way in which certain elements were not stated outright and are discovered by the reader as they become important, which is clever because it enhances the reading experience, sometimes with a punch. That, and of course, the elements of it that 736 discovers herself for the first time. The world-building itself feels much more realistic than other dystopian novels like Hunger Games (which I like despite the world-building) or Divergent (which I didn’t like because of the world-building) and it just seems like real effort is done to flesh out this book’s world-building and I really appreciate that. (Disclaimer: I haven’t really read a lot of dystopian books.) Overall, this is gritty and depressing in all the right ways, and because of that it has high entertainment value for me. This is definitely a book worth reading, and even worth rereading. It is by no means flawless, but for the quality of the story and my enjoyment in reading it, I feel it deserves 5 stars. I cannot wait for the next book!

Nocturnal by Wilder

IMG_6200This book is a wonderful creative package, full of beautiful, poignant, and inspiring poetry sprinkled with black and white pieces of art.

Note: For this book, I got both the physical book which is “the gift” and the ebook for my Kindle :) 

The Elysian Prophecy by Vivien Reis

IMG_6280I follow Vivien Reis’ YouTube channel and really like the way she presents her points, and I easily admired her. So when I found out she wrote a book, I immediately set out to buy it and read it. The cover was gorgeous too. Unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations, especially in the beginning where I didn’t feel any connection between the two main characters Abi and Ben, who are supposed to be siblings. I realized later that it might have been intentional, as hinted in Abi’s observations of her friend Cora’s much warmer relationship with her brother Jesse. Speaking of Jesse, the romance was a bit flat for me. But, this is not a romance novel, it’s a fantasy novel. And the more I got into the story, the more the fantasy elements intrigued me. By the time it ended I was already eager to read the next one. So overall, this may not be the best start for a series, but I’m still willing to discover what else it has to offer in the future.

Firestone Key by Caroline Noe

IMG_6349What an exhilarating adventure through time travel! Action, tragedy, and love surrounding complex and charming characters make for an enjoyable read. This is such an inventive tale, expertly crafted with a bit of science and a lot of magic. It takes a while to get through to the language structure, but it eventually elevates the material by taking the reader to a different time and place. For quite a dark story, it has a cozy feel to it, full of characters you can’t help but love. I finished the story completely amazed and would really encourage everyone to pick it up and read it. ❤️

As of this writing, I have just finished Sorted: Freedom Through Structure by Gillian Perkins. However I have yet to review it (or post on Instagram). I usually include a nice photo with my Amazon reviews and I want to do the same with this. I will have to do that after my social obligation later today. That will cross out my [Self-Help or Learning] square.

For Novella, I managed to read The Architect of Elysia by Vivien Reis while waiting for a flight the other day. However, this novella does not have an Amazon page. I do plan to also read So To Honor Him by Laura VanArendonk Baugh because Little Drummer Boy is my favorite Christmas Song. I’m an atheist now, but I still appreciate Christmas or be it fact or fiction. Anyway, this book will cross out both [Novella] and [10-20 Reviews] boxes.

Lastly, I found a book which is set in the Philippines – which is where I am now – and written by a Filipino author – and I am also Filipino. So, why not? It’s a romance novel called Boracay Vows by Maida Malby which will cross out the [POC Author] square.

I think this plan is completely achievable to me as the remaining books are not that long anyway and I have the time to read them before December 2018 is over.

Wish me luck!

My 5 Thoughts on Aletheia

51ow2rBQekLAletheia by Megan Tennant is an excellent dystopian fiction that is gritty and depressing in all the right ways. Here are 5 things I want to talk about without giving away too much:

1 | 736

First of all, I respect the guts of the author for giving the main character a number for a name. It seems to me quite risky. I, myself, immediately forgot her name except that it started with a 7. Was it 736 or 763 or 793 or 765…? And because it was written in first person perspective, the name is not stated as repeatedly as it would have been in third person. It’s very easy to forget. And I didn’t know how to pronounce it either – is it seven three six, or seven thirty-six, or seven hundred and thirty-six, or…? This character is giving me problems just with her name and it definitely contributed to my lack of interest in the beginning of this book.

As it turned out, my overthinking of this character’s name is actually a good representation of her complexity. Her complexity starts from her appearance and continues on to her psychology. She goes through so much, physically and emotionally, and we get a showcase of her toughness and vulnerabilities.

2 | Story

Aside from the characters, I feel that the story and how it plays out is well-crafted, even though the writing may need some improvement in some areas. Don’t get me wrong, the writing is beautiful and has that poetic quality to it, but it can slow the pace down in certain scenes, such as in the beginning and in action scenes. But overall, the story took me on a ride where there are times I am overwhelmed with emotions, or just overwhelmed.

3 | World Building

The world-building itself feels much more realistic than other dystopian novels like Hunger Games (which I like despite the world-building) or Divergent (which I didn’t like because of the world-building) and it just seems like real effort is done to flesh out this book’s world-building and I really appreciate that. (Disclaimer: I haven’t really read a lot of dystopian books.)

4 | Characters

I’d rather not delve too much into this topic because it could involve spoilers. But I would say that the character arcs that are offered here, and how they impacted 736’s psyche and mentality, are the best thing about this book. 736 is just one of many compelling characters who have their own unique quirks and personalities and their own unique way of dealing with their circumstances. If I were to pick the top 5 characters that intrigued me the most, in no particular order, I would say they are Arson, Rose, Seth, 1633, and 736 herself (OK, it’s kind of like in alphabetical order). These are also the characters that made the most impact to me. Jason is also a decent character, but because he’s very much like the tortured artist type that I’ve seen many times before, I don’t find him as compelling as the others.

5 | Romance

Although Jason was not one of my favourite characters, I find the romance between them sweet. And for everything 736 is going through, she deserves a little sweetness in her life. So I’m definitely rooting for them.

OVERALL | 5 / 5 Stars

Disclaimer: This rating is based on my overall enjoyment of the material, whether it was time well-spent, whether it was worth the money, whether I would be likely to repeat it. It is not a measurement based on structure, technique, flaws and perfections. FYI.

Side Note: When I first picked up this book (digitally) it reminded me of two things. The title reminded me of my sister whose second name is “Althea” – very close to Aletheia. She was named after my aunt whose second name is also Althea. The second thing is pertaining to the iris flower, which is on the cover of the book. There is a quote that I love from the anime Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuioku Hen. It goes: “The scent of an iris is strongest during the rain, even if it is a rain of blood.”

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#INDIECEMBER

This book is part of my participation to the Indiecember Reading Challenge, where I wrote a blog about here.

This book crosses out the following squares (circle = bingo style, cross = flush style):

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I’ve actually already completed the middle row (yay!) so now, I’m aiming to cross the whole board! (I’ll post an indiecember update soon!)

Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this review.

Blog & Indiecember Update

It’s been over a month since I revived this blog so I added the usual blog pages that I’ve been missing, which are:

These pages are pretty straightforward. The Contact Me page contains a contact form, and I’ve written a few things about myself in the About Me page. If you feel like contacting me for some reason, or want to know a bit about me, you can check out these pages.

Indiecember

I wrote about Indiecember in my Indiecember Reading Challenge blog post, and I’m happy to report that I have read and reviewed three of the four books I mentioned. Here they are below with my Amazon reviews:

The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci

IMG_5965I would highly recommend this book to adults who love action, twists, and steamy romance. It’s a thrilling roller-coaster ride full of intriguing characters, including a baddie you’d love to hate (Kaleo fan over here). Speaking of love and hate, I had a love-and-hate relationship with the main character Tobias almost the whole time, but still rooted for him all the way. (If only he’d be less whiny.) He is definitely a complex character, but his counterpart Leila is even more so. Leila is a capable but troubled heroine that I enjoyed reading every time she’s on the page. She is that character where the more you know about her, the more questions you end up having! The circumstances of Leila and Tobias’ coupledom plays on your emotions on top of the ride your emotions are getting from the twists and turns you encounter in the story. The fantasy elements are minimal but well-utilized, though I still wished there was more world-building. The amount of profanity can also be a bit distracting sometimes. Overall, I definitely enjoyed reading and rereading this book, and I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel.

* I had to delete and rewrite this review because I initially put it on the wrong version (paperback or hardcover) and so it didn’t have the “Verified Purchase” remark there. This was my first ever review on Amazon.

UnEnchanted by Chanda Hahn

IMG_5990I read this book with low expectations, knowing I’m not the type to care about a character who seems like the typical insecure teenager pining for the hot jock. But the fairy tale concept and the twist on it was intriguing to me, and it’s definitely not typical. So I read this book with the understanding that I’m not the target audience. I was pleasantly surprised and was not bored at all when reading this book. I actually cared for the main character and interested to read the next installment. Mina turned out to be a character that I wouldn’t mind following to her next journey, along with Jared, and the Grimoire. The villain is also something I didn’t quite expect and I’m curious what it has in store for Mina next. I love that the negative side of fairy tales are emphasized here, rather than the usual princess-gets-the-prince contemporary retellings. It is definitely more the Grimm’s Fairy Tales than the Disney ones. However, there were parts where I felt could have been done better. It’s not a perfect book, but it’s not a long one either, and great for pleasantly passing time. But if you love fairy tales retold in a contemporary setting, this book is definitely a must-read.

She’s Not Here by Mandi Lynn

IMG_6128I did not expect this book to be that of quiet suspense, especially from the cover. But I have been reading two eventful stories back to back and for me this was a welcome change of pace. In my ebook version, I found several misspellings and formatting issues, which I hope the paperback doesn’t have. I also realized, after reading the book, that I have no idea what the characters look like. Maybe I missed their descriptions or maybe it didn’t matter to me, but I managed to enjoy the book despite all of that. This story takes place almost entirely in a hospital and that already makes things uneasy. Add to that the tragic circumstances that surrounded Sam and her family, which pulls on the heartstrings. Sam’s interactions with Pup was quite cute and disturbing at the same time. I wish we’d had more background on Sam’s teenage life to get a bigger impact on what she had lost after what Willow did to her. I fully sensed Willow’s desperation but did not sympathize with her selfish goals until the end when I felt so bad for her. I completely sympathized with Randy, who was stuck in an impossible situation, except at the end where I felt he should have been less selfless. Overall, I respected this book and appreciated the message I felt the author was trying to convey. I’m glad I picked up this book.

I shared my thoughts on The Savior’s Champion in this post, but aside from the Amazon reviews, I’m not sure yet if I will be blogging about UnEnchanted and She’s Not Here. I feel like there’s not much to expound on what I wrote in my Amazon reviews for these books, but we’ll see.

So right now, my Indiecember board looks like this:

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I will be starting the fourth book tonight. I’ve also decided on the book that will be a gift. But I’ll leave that for my next update. So, that’s all for now :)

Tool

A tool to use when convenient
And discard when not
You don’t need to reward a tool
But you can let it rot

It doesn’t need your thank you’s
It will do its job
No need to bother whether
It cries or whines or sob

It doesn’t ask for sorry’s
And won’t require respect
It will do its job without
Its pride to protect

And if a tool is special
It is easy to abuse
And easy to forget that
It can break from overuse

And who would want to use
Such a broken piece
Can’t tolerate when you can
Count its flaws with ease

If you are going to be someone
Don’t be a fucking tool
You’ve trapped yourself and now
You’re just a broken fool

(Written some time ago when I was very frustrated and depressed at work.)

My 6 Thoughts on The Savior’s Champion

51lsmxtzmelThe Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci is a book I would highly recommend to adults looking for action, twists, and steamy romance. I really enjoyed this book. Here are 6 things I want to talk about without giving away too much:

1 | The Tournament

This book is all throughout about a fight-to-the-death tournament, where out of twenty competitors, there will be only one champion. But this tournament is not the gladiator arena type, although there are elements of that. There are different challenges the participants must face and some rest and relaxations in between, where we meet the non-competitor characters as well as get know the competitors themselves and their rapport with each other.

The Labyrinth is a significant part of this tournament, and although it is not the most clever labyrinth-type quest I’ve encountered (I watch anime), it certainly is able to bring characters some tough and shocking moments. We get to know the clear bad guys and the death of some guys.

The challenges that come after also give us a thrilling ride as we root for Tobias, the main character. Some challenges are as harmless as reciting a poem to the Savior, while others are as nerve-racking as… to avoid spoilers, let’s just say people get harmed and not only by other people. This book definitely does not shy away from death, even gruesome deaths, and a few heart-breaking ones.

Overall, I can say that the action and intrigue within the tournament, and even out of it, is well done in this book.

2 | Tobias & Leila

I was not happy with Tobias in the very beginning especially his reasoning for entering the tournament. He assumed he would die without a doubt, as he repeatedly told his friend, yet still he entered for the money, despite his mother still grieving the loss of his father and the disability of his sister. Tobias, you realize if you died your mother would then be grieving for another loved one – you think money can pay for that grief? Grr. I understand he has to enter to get the ball rolling, but another reason would be helpful. In the tournament he keeps getting angry because people have killed people and it’s like, Tobias, isn’t that what you expected in the first place? It’s not a beauty pageant!

What endeared me to Tobias was his personal predicament which seemed impossible and so I feel for him and just want to hug him. He has no intention of marrying the Savior, having fallen for Leila, and yet he must aim to complete it to keep his life. That feeling of having to do something frustrating and difficult, when even the glory of having achieved it doesn’t get you a reward, or the reward that you want, can be overwhelming especially when you have enemies out to get you. That feeling of being trapped between a rock and a hard place is very familiar to me (though in my case romance has nothing to do with it), and I definitely understand his frustrations.

His love interest, Leila, is definitely a character with character. She is interesting, smart, and competent, and the mystery behind her is compelling.

Their love story and the impossibility of their situation kept me engaged along with the action and intrigue. However, let me warn you that there are sexual content here that may be ohh-la-la to some, but cringey to others. As for me, I would say I don’t normally enjoy that type of content, but I’m not unhappy that it’s there.

3 | Supporting Characters

The one thing I will say about the supporting characters is that they are diverse, with no two characters alike. Delphi is easily a favorite.

4 | Antagonists

The only antagonist that really mattered to me was Kaleo because his character’s interaction with Tobias is just so interesting to read. The main villain of the story is not fully fleshed out and I’m hoping we get to know more about him and his motivations and background in a sequel.

5 | World Building

The world-building in this book is very minimal, including any fantasy elements or magic. It may or may not be intentional, considering the story is told just within the context of the tournament and very little outside of it. I’m expecting more world-building in a sequel.

6 | Profanity

The profanity and lewdness of some characters in this story can be very distracting sometimes. Therefore, I would not recommend this book to readers who are not used to this mature content because they will find it off-putting.

OVERALL | 4 / 5 Stars

Disclaimer: This rating is based on my overall enjoyment of the material, whether it was time well-spent, whether it was worth the money, whether I would be likely to repeat it. It is not a measurement based on structure, technique, flaws and perfections. FYI.

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tea & TSC

#INDIECEMBER

This book is part of my participation to the Indiecember Reading Challenge by Megan Tennant, where I wrote a blog about here.

This book crosses out the following squares (circle = bingo style, cross = flush style):

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I’m going for the middle row, but I’m hoping to cross the whole board!

Hope you enjoyed this review! Have you read this book? If so, did you like it too? Or if not, will you pick it up?

More Indie Books I found in my Kindle

I came across the Indiecember Reading Challenge by Megan Tennant and planned the books I’ll be reading and reviewing for the challenge. I blogged about it here. I bought three of those books, although one of them was free. Then I bought another one, suggested by the author herself, and I thought it seemed interesting. I started thinking more and more about indie/self-published books and looked through my Kindle app, wondering if I had any more. As it turns out, I actually had a few more.

I am actually trying to make a rule for myself to not buy more books unless I have read the books I have already bought. As it stands, I have sixteen unread books, and three books that I’m currently in the middle of. Eight of those books were written by indie authors, plus three books that I’ve already read. That means I have with me eleven indie books. (By the way, is Eragon/Inheritance Cycle still considered indie?)

I am planning to read/reread these eleven books this December, regardless of whether they cross out any of the remaining squares in the Indiecember challenge. I might as well review them in Amazon (and Goodreads?) too, because indie authors need them.

Without further ado, here is my December TBR, in no particular order (links are Kindle ebooks):

It’s Killing Jerry by Sharn Hutton, Echo: Approaching Shatter by Kent Wayne, The Confectioner’s Guild by Claire Luana, The Lone And Level Sands by Emerson Grey, Aletheia by Megan Tennant, She’s Not Here by Mandi Lynn,  Eve: The Awakening by Jenna Moreci, Firestone Key by Caroline Noe, The Savior’s Champion again by Jenna Moreci, UnEnchanted by by Chanda Hahn, and The Elysian Prophecy by Vivien Reis.

Here’s a photo of these books in my old – but still alive! – iPad:

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Four of the above are already in my Indiecember list, we’ll see if I’m able to cross out other squares from the other books once I’ve read them. I hope I can read (and review) all of them within December. Wish me luck!

Oh my, what random questions!

I found these questions from The Haunted Wordsmith’s blog. The post is called “A Few Nighttime Questions” but I live in Singapore so I read these questions in the daytime! But it’s fun to answer them because they seem so random, so here goes:

  1. What is your favorite nighttime snack?
    • lately, gummy bears and mini cream puffs
  2. Porky Pig or Miss Piggy?
    • Porky Pig looks cuter to me
  3. If you were Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, would you have made it to the Emerald City?
    • no, mostly because I have no sense of direction 
  4. If you decorate a tree for Christmas, what kind of ornaments do you prefer?
    • black or white or silver or gray ones… yeah this tree would be boring! I have minimalistic tendencies
  5. If you were to kill someone (and get away with it), how would you kill them?
    • hanging always seemed poetic to me, probably due to its associations with suicide…
  6. If you could hitch a ride in the Tardis, where/when would you go?
    • I just want to go to Japan – any time would be fine! ninjas and samurais or yesterday hahaha
  7. What is the oddest dream you have ever had?
    • ooh, so many odd dreams… I guess dreams where you’re dreaming within a dream within a dream are the ones that I remember
  8. Do you believe in the monster in the closet?
    • one time, I thought there was a large rat in my closet…
  9. Have you ever played strip poker (or another strip game)?
    • nope
  10. How long can you let a wrapped gift go before you open it?
    • forever… but my sisters will probably open them for me!
  11. You have to buy a book for another blogger, what do you buy and who for?
    • probably for absolute0 and it would probably be an art or poetry book
  12. What was the last book you disliked and why?
    • Crazy Rich Asians because I feel like I may not be the target audience for it… 
  13. Is there a song that gets stuck in your head every time you hear it?
    • lately, it would have to be Bohemian Rhapsody
  14. What is your favorite thing to buy at a movie theater concession stand?
    • truffle fries if I’m at one of the more high end cinemas
  15. Did Grandma get run over by the reindeer?
    • there are no reindeers where my grandma is so she’s safe for now hahaha!

My thanks to The Haunted Wordsmith for these questions :)

Indiecember Reading Challenge

IMG_5920After completing NaNoWriMo in November, I am now looking for a December challenge! So I’ve come across the Indiecember Reading Challenge by Megan Tennant and I’ve decided to participate! This will be my first time doing reviews in Amazon as well.

I really want to start reading a lot of books from now on as my book reading kind of dwindled in the past several years due to work and other things. So I think this is a great idea to get the ball rolling, and to support indie authors as well.

Before I begin, here is the Indiecember Reading Challenge:

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For more info: https://www.megantennant.com/indiecember

I really want to try flush style and discover all sorts of books, but I feel that may be unrealistic for me so I’ve come up with a much more doable list (links are Kindle versions) :

The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci

51lsmxtzmelTobias Kaya doesn’t care about The Savior. He doesn’t care that She’s the Ruler of the realm or that She purified the land, and he certainly doesn’t care that She’s of age to be married. But when competing for Her hand proves to be his last chance to save his family, he’s forced to make The Savior his priority.

Now Tobias is thrown into the Sovereign’s Tournament with nineteen other men, and each of them is fighting—and killing—for the chance to rule at The Savior’s side. Instantly his world is plagued with violence, treachery, and manipulation, revealing the hidden ugliness of his proud realm. And when his circumstances seem especially dire, he stumbles into an unexpected romance, one that opens him up to unimaginable dangers and darkness.

Trigger warning: this novel contains graphic violence, adult language, and sexual situations.

UnEnchanted by Chanda Hahn

41829mlrymlMina Grime is unlucky, unpopular and uncoordinated; until she saves her crush’s life on a field trip, changing her High School status from loser to hero overnight. But with her new found fame brings misfortune in the form of an old family curse come to light. For Mina is descended from the Brothers Grimm and has inherited all of their unfinished fairy tale business. Which includes trying to outwit a powerful Story from making her it’s next fairytale victim.

To break the fairy tale curse on her family and make these deadly occurrences stop, Mina must finish the tales until the very Grimm end.

She’s Not Here by Mandi Lynn

41nndg4adtlWillow watched her father diminish in front of her as Alzheimer’s pulled him further away each day. When a fire creates the perfect disaster, Willow’s desperation to find a cure to the disease causes her to change Samantha Ellison’s life forever.

Treated as an experiment, Willow injects Samantha with a serum that mimics Alzheimer’s and deteriorates her brain. With Sam’s mental capacity declining at an alarming rate, it won’t be long until people start looking for answers. With Willow’s husband as the doctor, it’s only a matter of time before he uncovers the truth. The only question is whether he discovers Willow’s secrets in time to save the innocent life at stake.

Aletheia by Megan Tennant

51ow2rbqeklNearly two decades after the fall, the transcendent city of Iris is the only place rumored to have a cure to the disease that decimated the world. Beyond Iris, are the remnants of the old world, crawling with the Depraved. Infected with Lethe, they no longer remember the people or dreams they were once willing to fight for, and are left instead with familiar voices that whisper dark and unfamiliar words within their minds. Instinct is all that keeps the diseased struggling to exist another day.

Deep underground, below Iris, exists a compound, prison to the Nameless who traded their freedom for the cure to Lethe. It is here that 736 fights to protect those she loves. Not against the Depraved that she’s taught to fear, but against the society that saved her from that fate. She was willing to trade away her rights to regain the ability to form memories, but she won’t let the cult that cured her treat the lives of the Nameless like a resource to be used and discarded. At least, not without a fight.

How much is 736 willing to sacrifice for revenge against her captors? For those she cares about? For freedom? Everything has a cost, what would you be willing to pay?

With these, plus gifting an indie book – I haven’t decided which one yet – I can cross the board this way:

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And if I can still do the flush, I’d have these spaces already filled with the above books, if I’m not wrong:

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I will be be blogging my thoughts on these books as well. First one up will be The Savior’s Champion because I’ve already read it right before NaNoWriMo. I’m not sure when I will post it, but it will definitely be in December. (I enjoyed the book, by the way.)

Anyone else participating in Indiecember? What indie books will you be reading?

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Day 30 for a NaNoWinner!

NaNo-2018-Winner-BadgeAfter validating my draft into the NaNoWriMo word-count validator (more than once, actually), I have officially accomplished 50,886 words. I am nowhere near completion of this project, not even halfway, but I have reached the 50,000 mark two days ago, and still continued updating my word count after that. This was an incredible experience and one I’m willing to repeat next year.

With that said, I have the following advice to myself:

  1. OUTLINE. Having an outline was very helpful for me, and so I should do the same prior to next year’s NaNoWriMo (this is probably what “Preptober” is for). I definitely still go off-tangent from time to time, but an outline is not set in stone… or it keeps me focus. Next year, I have to be more detailed with my outline than the one I have this year, like from which perspective or point of view will I be writing each chapter.
  2. Prepare CHARACTERS. Prior to NaNoWriMo, I had a list of characters and which kingdom they belong to along with a quick description. But that’s it. Having to think of a more detailed description for these characters, and even their personality, takes some time and kind of distracts me from the story situation I’m writing. If I had these prior to NaNoWriMo, my writing process would have been much smoother. (To be fair, I knew this beforehand but didn’t have time, as I learned about NaNoWriMo late October already, and I prioritised the outline.)
  3. Prepare SOUNDTRACK. I didn’t have one. I just sometimes played the Skyrim theme on repeat, and that one had words. I need to prepare instrumental music.
  4. SKIP chapters. Earlier during NaNoWriMo, I didn’t do this. When I come to a chapter that I particularly didn’t like doing, or didn’t know yet how to execute, I end up getting easily distracted. If I had thought of actually skipping that chapter and write for one I’m more interested in, I would have spent less time procrastinating. Because I have an outline now, the story can still end up connected when I do finally write that empty chapter.
  5. Use SCRIVENER. I doubt this will be an issue in the future, since I’m planning to purchase Scrivener soon. I’ve copied my project onto Word documents to save on my trial period in the middle of November. I’m back to using Scrivener now since I still have a few days of trial left, and will be purchasing it on December 1 or 2.
  6. DON’T EDIT. I’ve struggled with this and I bet I’ll still struggle with this in the future. (But I swear I was getting better at it towards the end.)
  7. Prepare mini REWARDS. I’m thinking I’d be more motivated if I give myself a reward for every 2,000 words put in. Like, give myself a small pack of gummy bears for every 2k increment, and prohibit myself from eating gummy bears aside from that.

Now that NaNoWriMo is done, I am in the process of editing what I have so far. And here is what I’ve found:

  • Story. Most of it I’m not happy with, but can be improved on. About a quarter of it I will scrap and replace with new ideas. A part of the main outline will have to change.
  • Characters. Some side characters have become more interesting than some main characters. Some characters who are not supposed to interact at this stage are interacting and seem to be getting along when they’re not supposed to. I may need to make more changes to the outline because of this. But for now, we’ll see.
  • Lore/Backstory. I’ve somehow come up with more, but I feel it will enhance the story. Or it will add more boring info dumping. This definitely needs review.
  • Magic. When a sorcerer doesn’t use sorcery in a situation where he should, it should be explained. (Or fixed.)
  • Action. Some action scenes need to be expanded.
  • Romance. Any romantic aspect in this thing is completely lacklustre. I need to improve on this. My sisters like romance and I want them to enjoy my story someday. I don’t want them to have to endure lousy romance.
  • Title. I may need to change the title from “The Moonseeker’s Medallion” to something else.

All of the above are totally understandable for a first draft, so I’m not so frustrated about them. It just means I’m in the process of polishing a rough piece.

I am currently looking for books on the craft of writing. If you have any recommendations, please let me know in the comments.

For everyone who accomplished 50,000 words or more, CONGRATULATIONS to us!!!

 

Day 25 of NaNoWriMo — Almost there!

nanowrimoingToday is a busy day because my sisters are coming over to Singapore! I have also left my job and will be taking a break from work for the meantime. I’ve really needed a break for a long time and I’m finally taking it. Next year, I will be stepping into the unknown world of job hunting and interviews, but for now and the remaining days of this year, I am FREE!!!

My NaNoWriMo story is progressing quite slowly, despite the growing number of words. It will definitely need some heavy developmental editing 😬 (among other types of editing). I have jumped from chapter to chapter just so I could write the stuff that I felt like writing in the moment. I should have done this in the beginning. It definitely helped me with putting more and more words especially in a slump!

As of this writing I’m at 43,014 words and closer and closer to “winning”! So good luck to me and all writers out there! We’re almost DONE!

Day 20 of NaNoWriMo: Recovery!

laptopandninjamugThis NaNoWriMo update will be quick! I have recovered to 35,073 words as of this writing. Focus and a surge of positivity really helped a lot! My draft is nowhere near completion, though, or even the middle, but I’ve already come to expect that.

I have also set my calendar to attend a regional NaNoWriMo event, which I’m looking forward to. I have never been to any Write-Ins (yet?) so it would be nice to see what a gathering with a bunch of writers would look like nowadays hahaha!

I have also written my first review in this blog, which is of new Fantastic Beasts movie, The Crimes of Grindelwald. It was not well-received by critics and a lot of fans, but I’m glad I’m one of those few who managed to enjoy it, despite not really being a fan of the two main characters Newt Scamander and Tina Goldstein. I think the visuals helped a lot. I genuinely was blown away and interested to learn more! Screenwriting may not be working so well for J. K. Rowling, as it feels like she’s trying to do too much in a limited time. But I’m hoping against hope she’ll write a book about this, especially expanding on Dumbledore and Grindelwald. There are no budgets and time limits for books, or at least not like the movies (and their screenplays).

My original plan was to update every 5 days, but I missed Day 10. Hopefully, I’ll be updating for Day 25 :)

My 7 Thoughts on The Crimes of Grindelwald

mv5bzjfimguzmtatndawmc00zjrhltk0otutmmjimzm5zmvjodqxxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymdm2ndm2mq-_v1_Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was a breathtaking ride for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Here are 7 things I want to talk about without giving away too much:

1 | Visuals

The visual effects were top-notch and exceeded my expectations. But it’s not just the effects themselves, the cinematography was great as well. This is definitely a movie meant to be seen in the big screen.

2 | Beasts

The smaller beasts were cute, but my top 3 were the big ones. I have a special place in my heart for Thestrals, which we’ve seen from the Harry Potter movies. I’m happy every time I see them. And sad at the same time. Of course, I also loved the Zouwu, the Chinese creature. It had adorable eyes and the way it moved with its flowy vibrant tail was so mesmerizing. My favorite, was the Kelpie, which was just utterly majestic. It didn’t have much of a role in the movie, though. There is another creature that I was surprised and happy to see, which made me anxious and nostalgic. But this is all I will say about it.

3 | Grindeldore

Both Grindelwald and Dumbledore were excellently portrayed here by Johnny Depp and Jude Law. I felt that these two actors captured the magnetic charisma of their characters and it makes me excited for seeing more of them in the future.

4 | Newt & Tina

Newt Scamander is a sweet quirky fella for sure, but I’m not that huge of a fan. Jacob, Queenie, Leta, and his own brother Theseus, seem much more interesting to me than Newt himself. Unfortunately, it’s the same for Tina Goldstein. I do like, though, the juxtaposition of Newt’s eccentric personality to Tina’s composed and purposeful attitude.

5 | Flashbacks

The flashback I expected to see did not turn up, which was slightly disappointing. But the ones I did get to see were thought-provoking and had a haunting quality to it, which made me feel for a character I did not expect to care for.

6 | Credence & Nagini

We have already seen Nagini turn into a huge snake from the trailers (not Basilisk-level, but still huge for a snake) and I prefer not to say anything about Credence. But let me tell you, I definitely want to see more and know more about these two.

7 | Not Enough

As I tweeted, I wish we get an actual novel of this movie, as well as the previous one, so we get more into this world, these characters, these events. This is a story that takes place in the adult world, with a character who is not a star athlete (Newt doesn’t seem the type to play Quidditch), not the “Chosen One”, and not even a sociable one either. We’ve had the wonderful coming-of-age story of a hero school boy. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have one about a struggling creature-loving dorky adult in the midst of a brewing war?

OVERALL | 4 / 5 Stars

Disclaimer: This rating is based on my overall enjoyment of the material, whether it was time well-spent, whether it was worth the money, whether I would be likely to repeat it. It is not a measurement based on structure, technique, flaws and perfections. FYI.