Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Fractured

Fractured. Rae Elliott. 2014/2015. Smashwords. ebook. [Source: Bought]

An android slave named Lough seeks to return to his previous life as a powerful human king.

But Lough begins to question that goal when what's left of his human heart is inspired by the royal family he serves. Lough is in awe of Queen Darphina, a selfless mother who would face death in order to protect her children. Lough befriends young prince Fenton, who seeks to liberate his oppressed people from the tyranny of his father, the King.

As Prince Fenton is about to come of age, the blood-thirsty and power-hungry king plots against his heir to the throne. But the queen overhears his plans. (Synopsis shortened. Full synopsis here.)

~~~

Rating: 

When I bought this book off of Kindle, I was excited. It was the first Science Fantasy with an android in it I had yet to come across, and I was thrilled. And an android that used to be human? A corrupt human? How juicy is that?!

As a note: I classify this as a 'Science Fantasy' due to the fact that there are heavy science fiction elements in this story, yet it's set in a distinctly fantasy-like setting, with a monarchal government system and elements like poor citizens of the kingdom who use horses as a main mode of transportation.

In all honesty, the synopsis lead me to believe that Lough was going to be the main focus of the story, but it quickly became apparent that the attention was to be divided between Lough (whose name is pronounced like the word 'low' and does not rhyme with word 'bough' like I thought), the queen, and her children. Not that I minded, I was just caught off guard.

The only problems I had with the story was that it didn't feel like it focused on Lough desiring to be who he once was in the way that the synopsis lead me to believe. I thought he would dwell on the desire to be the powerful king he had been, despite the gaping holes in his memory, a lot longer than he had. And the only other thing that had me pursing my lips in a careful mix of uncertainty and doubt was the fact that the main inciting incident didn't seem to occur until halfway into the story.

I loved the world-building, though. That was my favourite part. I was immediately sucked in in the first chapter. I found myself falling into a world of fantasy that was delightfully free of any apparent magic - world of fantasy mixed with science fiction that successfully brought together my two favourite genres. There were elements of dystopia, because of how the king treated his people, but it distinctly didn't feel like a dystopia, for which I am glad - I don't like dystopia. There's only so much depressive themes in a story that I can take before I can't take it anymore.

I really loved this story and I'm so glad I chose to sit down and read it during my Christmas break. It's so refreshing to come across a story like this and not be bowled over by profanity and inappropriate scenes.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Agatha Christie. 1920. William Morrow Paperbacks. Pages: 230 (plus an extra scene). [Source: Bought]

Who poisoned wealthy Emily Inglethorp and how did the murderer penetrate and escape from her locked bedroom? Suspects abound in the quaint village of Styles St. Mary - from the heiress's fawning new husband to her two stepsons, her volatile housekeeper, and a pretty nurse who works in a hospital dispensary. Making his unforgettable debut, the brilliant Belgian detective is on the case.


~~~

Rating: 

Although I finished this novel on New Years Eve, this review comes a couple days too late and doesn't count towards the Back to the Classics challenge I participated in last year. Unfortunately, I went to college, and the course load didn't let me pick it up other than to move it around my dorm room.

I have mixed feelings about this mystery, I guess I'm still getting used to Agatha Christie's style, but I found this mystery to be rather long-winded. I get that this was the first book of her Hercule Poirot series and that she was basically introducing her character in this book, but there were some things that irked me.

Silly me, I found myself introducing myself to Agatha Christie through the tenth book in her Hercule Poirot series, Murder On the Orient Express. So it came as quite a shock when I began to read The Mysterious Affair at Styles and I found the story had been written in first-person - since the other had been written in third. I guess this is what I disliked the most about this book, because I came in expecting to follow Poirot around and instead found myself following this guy around whose last name was not 'Poirot'.

All in all, I did enjoy this novel, even though the time it took for me to finish reading this (which was 4 months) made it feel like the mystery had stretched on forever. I enjoyed the mystery because you couldn't tell who was the murderer until the very end. And the true murderer of Emily Inglethorp came as quite the shock to me. I never saw it coming!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Deep Space Nine: Episode 1 "Emissary"

For the longest time, DS9 was not available on Netflix, and I had to be content with buying as many episodes I could with whatever iTunes money I could get my hands on. My mother isn't a big fan of DS9. She says it's because of the format of the story - that it happens on a space station and not on a starship - that she doesn't like it - and because she doesn't like it, I couldn't hope for her to buy any of the seasons of the show. I honestly was prepared to start buying it for myself once I went to college. Thankfully, Netflix finally made it available for Canadian viewers and I didn't have to dish out any of what precious little money I have.

I'm reviewing the two parter pilot of DS9 for the 2017 Sci-Fi Experience, because I'm a sci-fi nerd, and Star Trek is one of my favourite sci-fi giants. I'm doing this for fun, and not for money, just saying.

DS9 opens in the midst of a terrifying battle between the Federation and the invading Borg. This episode begins during The Next Generation episode "The Best of Both Worlds", after Captain Jean-Luc Picard was kidnapped by the Borg and assimilated so they could take over the Federation. In the subsequent battle, the ship the main character of the episodes - Benjamin Sisko - served on was destroyed and he ended up losing his wife.

I know the real reason why my mother doesn't like DS9 - it's because the series takes a lot of time to focus on the Bajoran's religion and faith in "the Prophets", inter-dimensional alien beings who don't perceive time like people in the normal universe do. I like the series because it involves the Romulans a lot more than The Next Generation did, and they play more of a friendly role towards the end of the series where they're allies with the Federation.

This episode felt like a satisfying introduction to a series that lasted as long as this one did. The beginning was terribly sad, but it quickly gave way to a fascinating side of Star Trek that I look forward to seeing through to the end.

Some notes:

- DS9 starts out differently than the other shows. It starts out in the middle of the conflict between the Federation and the Borg at Wolf 359.

-Why the heck would they go into battle with ships laden with civilians? Wouldn't it be more logical to drop the civilians off before going to battle? Send the ships without civilians in first!

2017 Sci-Fi Experience


2017 Sci-Fi Experience
Host: Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings (sign up here)
December 2016 - January 2017
Goal: Review as much of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Voyager as I can; review my copy of The Transformers: All Hail Optimus comic omnibus, and read my copy of Star Trek - Green Lantern: The Spectrum War again.

Honestly, I totally forgot that this was coming up - all thanks to college - so that leaves me with only a month to appreciate what has come to be my all time favourite genre of fiction ever. Thankfully, I remembered, and this is my chance to breathe life back into my blog, since my studies have prevented me from posting here. :3

"Reviews":

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Day One of College Life

So, I’m finally at college, and today is day two of Orientation (today is day two, even though this is my first day living on my own at college). Despite the fact that I want to ball my eyes out every other minute due to the fact that I am now no longer with my family, and because they’re now driving back home, which is at least 500 kilometers from the college is, everything is okay-ish. My feet don’t hurt (yet), all the sessions are getting kind of boring and somewhat repetitive, the little coffee shop in the atrium is cute and serves great drinks (I tried one this morning before I went to Library Orientation - it was an Iced Chai Latte with a shot of white chocolate syrup (it was so good!). I can’t wait to try their “London Fog” beverage (I think it’s tea) when it gets a little cooler), and everyone’s really friendly and happy, and some are downright hilarious.
But the climate is a lot different from where my home is. It’s dryer because it’s the prairies - and while it’s only getting cooler and more fall-like up at home, it’s still hot here. And the heat here is oppressive. It saps my energy while I walk from my dorm room to different buildings between sessions.
It’s kind of lonely here, because the college is in a small town. The town is so small that the only chain-store here is an IGA, and there’s only half the banks here compared to what we have at home (so they don’t have my bank). I can look out my dorm window and see nothing but a couple of houses and endless prairies. If I look sharp enough to the right out my window, I can see a lone wind-turbine - which is part of a larger wind-farm but it’s out of view. The land is so flat here that I can see that lone turbine, even though it’s over 20 kilometers away (I know because I drove past it).
I was so excited to come here, and I’m excited about the prospect of learning something that can further me in life, but I really miss my family. I really wish they hadn’t had to leave. :’(

Monday, August 22, 2016

Heart Thumping, Mind Wheeling, Hail Thrashing - TORNADO!

(Sorry for the long post)

Summer can be a dangerous time for some. More dangerous than a simple sunburn or the risk of skin-cancer. The weather phenomena called the 'tornado' is a destructive force that strikes every summer - it's expected on the North American plate, where the conditions are just right.

Growing up, I always had a morbid fascination for tornadoes. When I say "morbid" I mean: "I find this fascinating, yet also terrifying". The mechanics of how tornadoes formed fascinated me, but the destruction and the lives they took frightened me to death.

I never thought I would ever have to hide from the threat of one. Sure, when my mother, grandmother, cousin and I were travelling across Canada when I was six, we drove through this weird cloud that stretched across the highway that had lead us about halfway across Saskatchewan. Mom could barely see and I can remember how her shrieking had my heart dancing in my throat - an experience I hadn't endured before, since I was only six and that was the first time I remember being out of my home province since I was 2 years old (though my parents traveled to the USA a lot when I was younger than that).

A few years later, my mother and I discovered that the weird cloud, that acted like a solid wall of dust, was caused by a tornado. We never saw a tornado, and the dust seemed to just hang in the air. It was by God's prevention that we hadn't hit the tornado as we drove through its cloud, and that everyone that drove through it (the highway was packed with cars that day - that's why Mom was shrieking so much. She didn't know if she could slow down, speed up, or whether or not she was still on the road since we really only had about 20 feet of visibility in front of the nose of the car).

That was as close to a tornado as I would ever get, I thought, up until last night.

It's one thing to run into a tornado when you're outside of your home province, it's another when a tornado decides to visit you in your backyard.

Since I was six, my family has moved one province over, from British Columbia to Alberta. I live so far north in Alberta, in the Taiga Biome where it's normally wet and void of the conditions needed for a tornado to develop. The only thing different from my childhood home on the west coast is the fact we get thunderstorms here, and it's not as humid, or wet.

I've heard over the last few years that tornados have begun to pop up down south. A couple years ago a tornado touched down on a farm outside of Whitecourt, a town/small city only an hour away from when I live, and dissipated before it could leave the farm's boundaries. Edmonton has been struck by a couple devastating tornadoes... but I honestly didn't think one would touch down so close. Edmonton is farther from the Rocky Mountains than I am, thus leaving it open for the volatile mixing of cold air from the Rockies and the warm air from down south.

Last night, my brother came back from summer camp orienteering (it's soccer themed and he's been looking forward to it all year) and warned us that there was a tornado watch, something that was a surprise. The weather was so calm and peaceful. The wind was gentle and it was actually cool and slightly rainy. Dad jumped outside and looked up at the sky while I peered out the bay window in our living room. At 9:30 in the evening, it was still light out despite the fact it would be gone in the next 30 minutes. But when I looked out that window, a dark, ominous cloud was creeping across the sky, like a black ooze.

Mentally, I went "uh oh", since the last time I saw a cloud like that, I was in the car with my mom as we went to pick my brother up from VBS. The thunder and lightning were fierce, and the rain had poured from the roof of the church with the intensity comparable to someone running several water hoses an just letting the water splatter loudly to the concrete of the parking lot. The rain drops that hit my face and back as I ran from the car to the safety of the church felt like bullets and were at least the size of my thumb.

My mind flashed back to that storm, and how it had terrified me then. I wasn't looking forward to facing such a terrifying storm so late at night, not after the recent memory of a fierce thunderstorm that hit at six in the morning in late June (I think...), where a tree across the yard was struck and the thunderclap was so loud that it sent my cat running from my bedroom and caused me to jump out of fright and nearly scream.

I went about checking the Weather Network app (last night), and I was presented with a terrible surprise. According to the Weather Network, the tornado watch had been upgraded to a tornado warning! A tornado watch is when meteorologists see that the thunderstorm is behaving in a way that it could produce a tornado and devastating side-effects like harsh winds, hail, and driving rain. But a tornado WARNING is when a storm chaser or someone watching the storm has seen rotation at the base of the cloud (think the swirls left by the whisk in your home-made whipped cream or how the water in your kitchen sink sometimes when it spins and then forms a funnel shape as it goes down the drain).


I've never felt such fear before! Dad went out onto the deck again, and watched the sky since there was still enough light to see by. He said that the clouds were going west, then were going north, then east. They were going everywhere, and I knew something was going on since clouds did not do that.

So, after some debate on what we should do (should we ride it out on the main floor or should we go downstairs into the basement?) I ran down into the basement and grabbed one of the cat carriers. Rushing back upstairs, I located my cat and stuffed her into the carrier and carried her downstairs. Dad rushed outside to shut the quad shed since it is one of those flimsy tarp ones stretched over a frame, and he didn't want it to blow away, and I prayed that he would be safe.

Once Pebbles was downstairs, I packed up my laptop, my mother's laptop, my kindle, and some books. I couldn't remember if my laptop is insured and I need it for college so I wasn't going to take any chances. Dad made it inside as the storm began to hammer the house with hail, harder than I've ever experienced before. I was lamenting our outdoor kitties because they must have been so scared! I love them so much, and even if the tornado was weak enough to not cause too much damage if it came through the property we were renting, the shed the cats take shelter in is so weak and the old barn they like to explore has sat on a strange slant since the day it was built several decades ago.

F-0, or "cold-core" tornadoes as they call them when they're as weak as a dust devil but still appear to be a tornado, are still strong enough to lift mobile homes and blow over cat sheds.

I'm still trying to deduce if it was a wedge tornado or a tornado cloaked by rain by this shot.


We all hunkered down in the unfinished basement, on the little decorative couch my mother hopes to refurnish someday, and to help take our minds off the storm raging outside, I opened my laptop and we continued to watch The Flash episode we had been watching before my brother came home (Season 2, Episode 1, in fact, since I had bought it from Google Play). At some points I couldn't tell if it was the wind shrieking outside or the sound effects from the show, but I kept my mouth shut.

After the episode was over, we watched "The Unicorn Song" by the Irish Rovers on Youtube, and a clip from the Irish Rovers TV show. By then, the storm seemed to have quieted down, and moved off, so we let my cat out of the carrier, shut down my laptop, and moved upstairs.

It was too quiet after the rattling caused by the hail which drove us downstairs. I honestly thought we were going to lose something - a storm had never been so fierce to us before. My dad had checked Doppler radar on his phone and the part of the storm that eventually created the tornado in the pictures I showed in this post passed right over us.

If you can zoom in, there's a tiny triangle of a funnel cloud smack dab in the middle of the picture.

Stupid me has always wished to experience a tornado for the rush, but now that I've experienced a near-miss, I wish I could go back and slap myself. This experience was NOT fun, there was no rush! I suppose it was a by-product of my morbid fascination with tornadoes, and I know better now.

I want to go see if there was any damage left behind. I'm hoping my dad will take me today before it gets too dark.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Book Review: The Artisan's Wife

The Artisan's Wife. Judith Miller. 2016. Bethany House Publishers. Pages: 333. [Source: Netgalley / Bethany House Publishers review program]

Ainslee McKay's world is shaken when she discovers her twin sister has not only eloped with a man she barely knows but now Ainslee must fulfill their obligation at a tile works in Weston, West Virginia. Ainslee must learn the ropes and, if she can keep the tile works profitable, her brother will help her sell the business. 
When Levi Judson arrives and shows Ainslee his designs for new tiles, she's impressed by his skill and passion for the business. But he's hiding his true reason for coming to Weston. And Ainslee knows he'd be crushed to learn his plans for a long career at McKay Tile Works are in vain since she intends to sell. Can the growing feelings between them survive if the truth comes to light--or is a future together as untenable as the future of the tile works itself?


~~~

Rating: ★★✩✩

I was sorely disappointed with this novel. At points I thought the story was going well, but then the jumbled plot soured my opinion of the story. When I chose to read and review this novel, I expected that the story would revolve around Ainslee and how she struggled to keep the fact that she wanted to sell the tile works from the man she fell in love with. Instead, Ainslee's older brother drops the bomb in front of the man she loves, a man who is one of her employees (that's why she was trying to keep the secret from him). And she wasn't madly in love with him at the time - yet.

I couldn't get into this novel, and not because it was the third novel in a series (something I didn't know when I requested the novel). The interactions, reactions, and the way the characters felt stilted, unrealistic to me. I know that Judith Miller put a lot of time and energy and thought into the story, but I didn't like it.

The plot felt strung out. The tension that could have been gained was let go half-way through the novel (the secret about wanting to sell the tile works), and the sudden appearance of "awful" Aunt Margaret and subsequent death seemed unneeded and pointless to the story - it probably would have seemed less pointless to me if I was forewarned about the novel being the third in its series and I had read the first two instalments. There wasn't enough forewarning about Aunt Margaret for her part to mesh with the rest of the story. 

I wish I liked the story more, because I really did like Ainslee. And I really felt for her when her twin sister took off on her and eloped. But that wasn't enough.