Friday, July 21, 2017

The Sunshine Blogger Award /// My First Evah Tag!

It happened on a dark and stormy night. I was debating what to do for my next post, as it was still a bit too soon to write a follow-up to "A Misdiagnosis." As I sat there wondering, the voice spoke. It told me it was my destiny to do a tag. I was soon told by one of my followers that I had been tagged, and so that's what I decided to do. The end of that story, which was only 50% true.

(That has got to be my weirdest and most random intro yet. Don't mind me; I'm in a peculiar mood.)

Anyway, let's get on the real reason for the post. The rules for the Sunshine Blogger Award are simple. First, you need to answer the 11 questions you've been given. Once you've done that, you need to come up with 11 new questions and tag 11 bloggers to do said tag. Capiche?

But before I begin, I'd like to thank Lisa for tagging me in the first place! I wasn't sure what to do for today's post, so this was really helpful. Let's all give her a big round of applause for saving my bacon!

Mmm . . . bacon. Uh, I'd better move on before I get too distracted.

1. Do you have favorite fictional families/siblings, and who are they?

Oh, boy. Lemme think for a moment . . . I'd have to say Barry's families in The Flash. If you're a bit confused at this point, allow me to explain. Barry Allen (aka the Flash) has no siblings, but he's got some really great parents. They obviously all love each other deeply, and it's really cool to see.

However, at the very beginning of the show, Barry's mom is murdered, and his dad is framed for the whole thing. A friend of Barry's dad, a cop by the name of Joe West, takes the young boy in. He has a daughter, and their love is also very strong and evident. They quickly make Barry feel like part of the family.

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I highly suggest you watch this show if you haven't yet. You'll see why I love the families here; the relationships in the show are all really well-done. I can't do them justice with my words.

2. If you could reform one villain (book or movie), who would it be?

Another tough question. But I think I would love to see Loki reformed. Yes, he makes for a fantastic and dastardly villain. Wouldn't it be epic, though, if he teamed up with the heroes to take on Thanos in the future Avengers movies? Maybe it's just me, but I think he'd make a great addition to the team. So long as he kept up the kind of remarks he made in Thor: The Dark World when he and Thor were escaping Asgard.

3. If you could work with/be the apprentice of/learn from one historical figure (hero or not), who would it be?

'Tis a very unique question, indeed. To make it a bit tougher on myself, I'm going to remove the option of choosing Jesus, since He's kinda the obvious figure to pick here.

I think I'd probably pick Abraham Lincoln. I mean, the guy went through so many setbacks and failures. Most people would've given up, but he kept pushing through, defeat after defeat, year after year. In the end, it paid off, as he became the president at the right time, when America needed him most. I'd love to work with him and learn all that I could.

4. Have you ever dreamed (when you were asleep, of course) that you were in a book or movie? If so, which ones?

I feel like this has actually happened to me. Thing is, I don't remember very many of my dreams, or I'll only remember for a little while. So while my mind tells me I've experienced this kind of dream before, I can't recall any specific books or movies. If one suddenly comes to mind, I'll be sure to mention it at some point.

5. What are your favorite kind of book titles (e.g. one word, a reference, symbolism, with a certain word in them . . .)?

I'd have to say they have to pop out and catch my attention in some way. For example, Vigilante is a great title because I love superheroes; when I noticed the book, it piqued me interest. Another good book title is Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow. Upon seeing it, I was curious as to what the Shadow was, along with what secrets it was hiding. A third example is Mister Monday, because alliteration is one of my favorite things in book titles. In fact, the series this book is in, the Keys to the Kingdom series, features similar titles for the other six books. So there really isn't just one thing that gets me intrigued in a book. It just has to hook me in some fashion.


6. If you could be the "sidekick" of one fictional character, who would it be?

I'd choose to be a sidekick for Will from the Ranger's Apprentice series. I'd get him to teach me how to use a bow, track people, and do other epic things that Rangers do. I think it would be a lot of fun! Well, it wouldn't be all fun and games, but that'd be okay, because where there's a Will, there's a way. See what I did there?  . . . Yes, I know it's a horrible pun!

7. If you were a superhero, what would your power be?

Teleportation! It'd come so handy. Why travel to other countries by plane when you can just teleport yourself there? I would probably also include the ability to teleport other people with me if I'm holding onto them, or vice versa. And if I couldn't pick teleportation, I'd choose super speed. (In case you can't tell, I love The Flash show.)

8. If you entered a fictional world, what is the worst thing that could happen to you?

I'd die. End of story.

Seriously, what's worse than dying? If you're looking for a more serious answer, I guess it might be getting trapped on that world and not being able to come back to Earth. That'd be pretty scary and/or traumatic for me. I'd eventually be able to start a new life, but I don't think I would ever fully get over the fact that I'd never see any people I love ever again.

9. What kind of book covers do you not like?

You know the old adage, "Don't judge a book by its cover"? I do it all the time. If a book is unappealing to me, it'll be harder for me to pick it up. In fact, there are two book series that I started because of some of their covers. Weird, huh?

So I suppose I don't like covers that are done poorly, or look old, or whatever. Again, there's not one certain thing that I don't like when it comes to a book cover. It's just that if a book doesn't have a cover I find awesome in some way or another, I'll be less inclined to read it.

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10. What fictional character would you want as your sidekick?

I'd want Prince Hadrian from Tracey's The Brightest Thread to be my sidekick. He's loyal, heroic, determined, passionate, just, and an all-around cool dude. I'd feel very confident if he was my companion on some kind of quest. We'd probably hit it off really well, and we could be really epic together!

11. What fictional character would you want as your arch-nemesis?

Thanos!

No, not really, because then I really would die. Uh . . . my choice would be . . . I don't know if I should pick someone who'd be easy to fight or someone who could beat me to a pulp. I'll just choose Ganondorf from The Legend of Zelda series, because, although he'd be tough, defeating him would definitely make me feel like an epic hero.

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Now that I've answered the questions, here are mine!

  1. You are stranded on an island, and it's guaranteed you won't be rescued for a whole year. You have only one book and one CD (along with the means to listen to it). Which book and CD would you have, and why?
  2. What's your opinion on ghostwriting?
  3. Have you ever had an experience that deeply influenced your art?
  4. If you had to perform in a play, which one would it be?
  5. Which book have you read recently that resonated with you long after you finished reading?
  6. Would you volunteer to join a space mission in which you would attempt to create a Mars colony? Why or why not?
  7. If you could choose any book to be made into a movie, which book would you pick?
  8. What would you do if video games were the only creative outlet in the world?
  9. You get a package in the mail with enough money to travel anywhere and vacation for a month. Where would you go?
  10. In your opinion (educated or otherwise), what do you think would happen if a world government was established?
  11. You're about to get a song stuck in your head for a whole week. Which song is it, and why?

As for the people to tag, I really don't know who has or hasn't done this tag, so I'm cheating a little. If you enjoyed the questions I came up with, feel free to pick up the tag on your own blog!

Well, I think that's it for me today. Until next time, ciao!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Music Monday #2

Welcome back, one and all, to the day you probably forgot about (I almost did too, but don't tell anyone that)! And in case you really don't remember and didn't read the post title, today is . . .


Yep, it's that time again, folks! I've got some great music coming your way. Can I get drumroll, please?

*crickets chirping*

No? Too much to ask?

*more crickets*

Good help is hard to find these days. Anyhow, today's song is . . .

"Ice of Phoenix" from the Audiomachine album Phenomena
Composed by Paul Dinletir

Now, if you don't know who Audiomachine is, allow me to explain. It's a group of composers who make music for movie trailers. Companies can buy the tracks off of them to use in their trailers. While most of their albums are industrial albums, some of them are public releases, so that everyone can buy and enjoy their music.

I was recommended their music a couple of years back, and I haven't stopped listening to them since. While my favorite album of theirs is Magnus, Phenomena is what got me hooked on them, and I just had to share one of their songs with you guys.

The track for today happens to be one of my favorites by Audiomachine. It was used for one of the Dragon Age: Inquisition trailers, and it has a very heroic tone to it. I love everything from the constant strings to the heavenly choir to the well-placed drumbeats. To me, it invokes the image of a hero rising from the dust to take on his final challenge . . . which is actually what I'm using it for in my playlist for The Tournament of Convicts. But don't just take my word for it; give it a listen yourself.


Have you heard of Audiomachine before today? If you have, which album of theirs is your favorite? Could you even list one of your favorite songs that they've done? And if you have any music recommendations, don't hesitate to tell me them!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Humble (and Slightly Horrible) Beginnings

Before I start this post, there's something I wanted to quickly mention: when I launched my blog, I did four amazing interviews with four even more amazing bloggers. If you haven't checked them out, you should! On Tracey's blog, she interviewed me on many forms of art, like writing and music. With Lostfairy, we discussed various things about video games. Christine asked me questions all about writing and my stories. Lastly, Chloe and I talked about books and such. So, like I said, you have to read these interviews if you have not done so yet.

Now that that's out of the way, let's get on to the actual post!

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Every writer has a humble beginning. It may be a story that you're extremely proud of, because it won in a local contest and proved you were talented. Or perhaps you cringe even at the thought of your first story; it's currently hidden away in your room, cursed to never the see the light of day again. Whatever the case, you had to start somewhere.

I did too. The first project that really convinced me I could write was an attempt at a fantasy novel. The plot? Three guys travel through a portal to another world that must be saved from an overwhelming evil. That's the boiled-down version. It may not be super creative or unique, but it's still a valid plot.

Thing is, I wrote this back when I was . . . I'm going to say, 12 or 13. So it's pretty awful at times. What I want to do is give excerpts from this story and poke fun at it. I'm going to harsh and sarcastic with myself, because I can be. Some people might think this is a weird thing to do, or maybe even that I shouldn't judge my older writing. I'm going to get a kick out of this, though, and I hope you guys will find it funny as well.

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The sun blazed overhead, scorching the landscape. A wind shifted the grains of sand. If someone thought this was an ordinary day in the desert, they would've assumed wrong. For this day would soon turn into a very unusual day.

Really? This is the opening paragraph? Talk about a lame hook. I probably wouldn't even continue the book after reading this.

Sometimes [the soldiers] would stop and carefully dig [a land mine] out of the ground. One would carry it to a waiting truck, where soldiers would carefully place it in a box among boxes.

Okay, there's a number of things wrong with this portion. First off is the fact that you don't just dig a live land mine out of the ground! How inexperienced are these guys?! (I obviously knew nothing about the disposing of land mines and didn't bother researching it.) Secondly, why did I have to specify that soldiers were the ones putting the mines into boxes? I thought we already knew soldiers were the guys doing the work. And "a box among boxes"? Seriously?

"How many more mines until the load is full?"
A tall man looked at the vehicle. "I'm guessing thirty-seven more. Let's keep at it, boys."

If they've been doing this for a while now, shouldn't they know how many mines fit into the truck? And no POV has been established yet. Tsk-tsk.

Colonel Smits had black hair, which was starting to turn gray, and stood at the height of six foot five. He was very kind to everyone and was experienced in the removal of land mines.

Okay, now that we finally have a POV, let's address the fact that he's reminding himself of his hair color (which could've been called salt-and-pepper) and his height. No one, on a regular basis, thinks to himself, You know, I'm so glad I'm six feet and five inches tall. Readers don't care what the specific height is, unless it's one of those thrillers where the author wants to establish the fact that the protagonist is a big tough guy. We already found out that he was tall in the last paragraph. And if he's so experienced in removing land mines, why the heck is he allowing his men to dig them out and have them transported live?

As he watched the soldiers, he recalled why they were here. Egypt was covered with land mines, approximately twenty-three million, and requested help in the United Nations. The U.S. had agreed to assist Egypt and sent a trained squad of deminers.

Oh, how convenient of you to randomly remember your mission so that readers know why you're doing what you're doing. (#RandomFactDumping) From the sounds of it, the U.S. evidently sent one of their poorer squads. But I will mention that "deminer" is an actual word. Look it up yourself and you'll see.

"Something's wrong with my metal detector. It's going bonkers!"

Because "bonkers" is part of a soldier's everyday vocabulary. And we're only done the first page now... yeesh.

"I have no idea," Smits said, clearly perplexed. He said into his radio, "Houston, I want  you here right now. We have a problem."
"We'll be right there," a voice answered. Soon, an army tank climbed over a sand dune and slowly drove down. When the tank stopped, the hatch on the turret opened, and the gunner hopped out. He saluted Smits. "John Houston, at your service. What is your problem?"

Yes, Smits is clearly perplexed, indeed. Since, you know, he's so experienced that he relies on the tank gunner to tell him what the problem is with the metal detectors. Not to mention he made an uproariously funny joke. He better quit now, or we'll never be able to finish the story since we're laughing so hard.

The two soldiers in the truck climbed out, apparently finished their work. One said, "I think it's something supernatural. Like a message from heaven, warning us of something."
"Get real, Xander," a soldier scoffed. "Are you off your rocker? Or are you some sort of religious fanatic?"

A message . . . from heaven? Sure, Josiah, just make the Christian soldier a nutty one, why don'tcha? And then there's the obligatory anti-Christian guy, who says stuff like "off your rocker," even when no one else does.

Then [Nathan] vanished.
"Where did he go?" a soldier asked frantically.
"Don't panic!" John said.

I dunno where he went. It's kind of a ridiculous question to ask, since he just kinda poofed right before your eyes. And we have another prime example that these soldiers aren't fully trained, since we got one guy freaking out.

If there was one thing Smits hated, it was making a decision on the spot. But it was something he had to sometimes do.

Dude! You're a man in the army! You're going to have to constantly make on-the-spot choices. Ugh, what is wrong with my characters?

 Smits said into his radio, "Tank, follow us very slowly. The last thing we want to do is deactivating a land mine."

You're bringing a honking big tank to the mysterious spot where someone just disappeared right before your eyes? Boy, this colonel is full of bright ideas, and he can't use proper grammar either.

"This is stupid," Alex said. "There's nothing there." With that, he ran to the spot where Nathan had gone. When he reached the spot, he disappeared.

Remember when I said this guy was the obligatory anti-Christian? He's also obligatorily idiotic.

One soldier looked at the others. "Pack up, boys. We're heading back to the base."

Well, finally we've got a level-headed soldier, although maybe he's too level-headed considering the situation. He just witnessed five guys and a tank vanish into thin air, and he's like, "Cool beans." (And now we're back to just floating around these characters.)

"They're getting reinforcements," [one of the strange figures watching the soldiers secretly] said. "We have to alert the boss."
"He kinda creeps me out," the other said.
The first punched him in the shoulder. "Don't be a wimp. He's just . . . different." He got up. "Hurry! We've got no time to waste!"
"Yeah," the second snarled. "Nobody finds the portal and stays alive. Nobody!"

Let's examine the dialogue from these two villains, shall we? We are first treated to info we already know, but is repeated just so we don't forget. Then one of said baddies confesses his fear of his boss, to give us the heads-up that we should be afraid for the main characters (who, believe it or not, haven't been introduced yet, even though we know the names of five characters). Finally, we get some campy dialogue to finish up this rousing, four-page chapter. Yay.

Nathan held up a hand. "There's no sense in wasting your breath by getting all huffed up over such a little predicament."

A "little predicament"? Since when was being transported into another world such a minor issue?

"A LITTLE PREDICAMENT!!" Alex yelled in a loud voice. "Look around you, idiot! This isn't a picnic!"

I'm pretty sure most people use loud voices when they yell, but thanks for letting us know.

"No, it's not a picnic. But it's an adventure," Nathan exclaimed.

*facepalm* Seriously, dude?!

Alex started to swear when Smits said, "Enough, Alex!"
The two soldiers swivled around and saluted the colonel. He marched over to them. "Alex, I never want to hear you say that again! Is that clear?"
Alex nodded. When Smits turned, Alex stuck his tongue out. Nathan rolled his eyes and thought, "He can be so immature."

Yes, I intentionally misspelled "swivelled," because that's what it was like in the story. And I'm uncertain as to whether you'd be reprimanded for using foul language in the army. What I'm not uncertain about is that you would certainly get the boot for sticking your tongue out at your commanding officer. (Plus, we're back to the floating POV.)

There was a moment of silence. Nathan spoke up. "I think . . . we're in another world."
Xander whistled. "Neat."

This reaction is just so illogical. It's like, "Oh, I'm in an alternate world away from all my loved ones and everything I knew, and I've got no hot clue if I'll ever go back. Neat."

"It's the tank!" Smits cried. Indeed, it had started to come out of the portal.
"Evasive action! Drive backwards!" Smits pleaded into his radio.

Who the heck says "Evasive action! Drive backwards!" He could've chosen some much better dialogue.

Smits turned to the others. "John, you're the stockiest of all of us. I want you to get in the tank and see if any of the soldiers are alive. Oh, yes, and also retrieve the laptop that contains all the information about our mission."

Calling someone stocky isn't exactly a compliment, Smits.

John ran to the boy, yelling, "Back away, you repulsive deformities!" The startled creatures came to a stop, confused.
John's hand whipped to his gun and let out a round of shots. Some of them ripped through one's heart. Several more dug into various places in the other's head. They flopped to the ground, lifeless.

I just don't what to say about the whole "repulsive deformities" thing. It's . . . it's odd. That's all there is to it. And John, you're wasting bullets, man! One shot to the heart and one to the head would be just enough, thank you. (In case you're wondering, this only the beginning of this book's violence. I was obviously a weird kid back then.)

Smits replied, "You can take us to your city."
"That's hardly a favor. I would've done that whether you had asked me to or not," Justin said.

Oh, real smart, kid. You just met these oddly-dressed people from another world, who shoot baddies up with guns that you've never seen before, and you're just going to march them back into town, eh? No suspicions? No thoughts on where they came from and if they're good or bad? All righty.

Smits thought for a moment. "See that tank over there?"
"Yeah."
"In there is a laptop with secret info on it. I was going to send John in to get it. But you're slimmer than he is. Could you find it?" 

And now Justin recognizes a tank when he sees one. Sure, it's a little obvious as to what Smits is referring to, but even so! Hold up, Smits. You don't got any doubts either? You don't want to hide the fact that your laptop (which apparently Justin'll recognize also without ever having seen one in his lifetime) has confidential info on it? What if the creatures your gunner just killed were the good guys? No? Well, ain't that swell! You're all buddies already.

"Get off of the [burning] tank!" Nathan yelled.
"Don't worry! I'm immune to fire!"

Thanks for that handy tidbit! This is so random . . . and has a bit of a deus ex machina vibe to it.

Okay, I had better stop, or we'll be here all day. I only went through two chapters, and there's stuff I had to leave out to ensure that this post wouldn't get too long. And we're only done 9 pages of 157!

One final thing I'd like to say: yes, I poked and prodded my story, but I still love it. It made me actually enjoy writing and want to do it more. This is the first step of my journey, and while it may look like a flimsy step with hindsight, it was still my first step. And that's what matters more than anything else. Be proud of your first step. If you can see you've improved, be glad for it. If you can't, don't get discouraged. Your writer's road is far from over. After all, life is all about making the most of the journey.

So what did you guys think? If you found this post amusing in any way, let me know! I'm more than happy to roast my old writing again in the future.

Friday, July 07, 2017

A Misdiagnosis

We writers all face a problem at some point or another. This problem has plagued many an author over the ages. It is a ferocious beast, one that freezes us with a cold uncertainty. None are above it; all are susceptible.
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The problem? Writer's block.

Or is it?

I've been mentally debating this for a little while now, and I have to wonder if writer's block is the only monster out there in the world of crafting stories. I think it has an older brother that's the root of the plague. It disguises itself as something else and calls itself writer's block.

In other words, I believe we've been misdiagnosing the problem here.

Now, that's not to say writer's block isn't a valid issue. It is! There are times when you hit an obstacle that blocks off your flow of creativity. But there's also more to this than meets the eye.

Let's use our imagination for a bit. (I'm assuming you guys can, since you're writers too, or even just humans in general.) Let's pretend you have a friend who's sick. They've gone to see a doctor about it, and they've been prescribed to some medicine. There are certain steps they have to take in order to get their health about.

One day, while you two are talking, your friend mentions it to you. You've had the same sickness in the past, so you ask them about the symptoms. They tell you about them, and you realize that something's wrong here: the symptoms aren't the same ones you had. You were told back then that there's a similar sickness. Your friend has been misdiagnosed.

Can you imagine what kind of consequences could ensue? If you treat a medical issue wrongly, you can become worse because of it. In the same fashion, when writers encounter this mysterious creature in their journey and label it as "writer's block," they will treat it as such. And this could do more harm than good.

So, then, what are we actually up against here?

Writer's doubt.

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You see, you cannot deal with doubt in the same fashion as a lack of creative ideas. If you're suffering from writer's block, you can problem-solve your way out of the situation, and you can often enlist the help of others. When facing doubt, it's up to you--and only you--to break past and keep going.

What makes doubt such a crippling foe? When you doubt yourself and your writing, you question if you're any good at what you do. You think no one would ever want to read what you have to say. If the doubt is strong enough, you may even consider calling it quits. This issue springs forth from your self-worth, or lack thereof. You are the only person who determines if you'll move forward and keep running the race set out before you . . . or if you'll get tired of running and walk away from it all.

I think we encounter this problem at least once, if not multiple times, in our life. Even if you're not a writer, you can still wrestle with this debilitating doubt. Sometimes, when I've had long spans of not writing, I wonder if part of the reason for that was because I felt I didn't measure up.

Now the question is, if writer's doubt is such a big problem that needs to be discussed, how do we deal with it? That will be the subject of a future blog post. For now, I needed to present the issue and see what you think. We're all in this together. None of us are above experiencing doubt in our stories. We must all take a stand and fight back, because we know we are doing what God has called us to do. That knowledge alone is the start of beating back the monster.

What do you think? Is doubt the beast lurking under the name of "writer's block"? Have we been misdiagnosing the problem? If not, do share why! I'm curious to hear all of your thoughts.

Monday, July 03, 2017

The Start of Something New

What's this? I'm posting on a Monday, you say? He must be completely discombobulated! you're probably thinking to yourself. Well, allow me to explain myself.

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For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to do something unique on this blog. I've desired to have a biweekly special post where I share with all of you something I'm very passionate about. Today marks the first day of said post. It's the start of something new, something I'm excited about. And I shan't keep you in suspense anymore!

Introducing . . .


Yep! In this special post, I will be sharing a piece of music that I love with you. Most of the music will probably be instrumental, but there will also be some lyrical stuff in the mix. I'm thinking there'll also be some kind of vote to determine the best song of each year--but that's a long time in coming.

You guys honestly don't know how eager I've been to commence this series of posts. It's actually one of the things I was looking forward to most on my blog. So without further adieu, here is the first track of many:

"Imagine the Fire" from The Dark Knight Rises
Composed by Hans Zimmer

Allow me to tell the story of how I started listening to soundtrack music. Tracey had bought the Narnia soundtracks before I ever got into that type of music, and I didn't really care a whole lot for it at the time. But one time after watching The Dark Knight Rises (my favorite movie in the trilogy), I noticed it mentioned the soundtrack on the back of the movie case. I figured that the score must be just as awesome as the movie. I wasn't wrong.

Once I bought the album, I listened to it many, many times. One of my favorite tracks is the song I'm sharing with you. Yes, it's long, but it's so epic. I just love everything about the track, and I especially love it when the chanting (which is part of Bane's theme) comes in. This music is the perfect final battle music as the Dark Knight trilogy reaches its conclusion.

If you've never tried soundtrack music, I highly recommend listening to this track. It's one of the pieces of music that got me permanently hooked on movie scores. And if you need inspiration for the big fight you're writing--or you just want to feel like you can take on the world--this song is perfect for you too.


So what do you think of Music Monday posts? Did you enjoy the track? Have you listened to this particular soundtrack before? I eagerly await all your thoughts in the comments!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes /// A Book Review

You know how I said in my last post that I would be doing more than just reviews? Well, as I was brainstorming my second post, it just so happened to be a review that my brain settled on. I do hope that's all right with you. I just had to talk to you all about the book I finished reading several days ago.

(Believe it or not, I actually looked up and debated using an apologetic cat picture. I figured it was too weird too soon.)

In case the title didn't make it obvious enough, I am reviewing Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier!

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You may have seen this book and decided not to read it because it is a middle grade fantasy, and you are not of the middle grade age. Or perhaps you have never seen it, and now your curiosity is piqued. Well, I shall tell you all you need to know. But first . . .

SPOILER ALERT! There will be no spoilers in this review.

Now that the obligatory spoiler alert is out of the way, let's begin!

Plot

Ten-year-old Peter Nimble is a thief, and a devious one at that. He can pick virtually any kind of lock, sneak through a room without you noticing, and deftly escape any would-be captors. You might be tempted to call him the perfect thief.

He also happens to be a blind one.

Orphaned as a child and taken in by the cruel Mr. Seamus, he is forced to steal every night. That is, until a mysterious man gives him a box that contains three pairs of eyes--Fantastic Eyes, more specifically. He puts one pair on and is transported to an island. There, he finds out about the Vanished Kingdom, where things have gone terribly wrong. With the help of his new-found friend, Sir Tode, Peter shall venture to this kingdom in order to save it. But many dangers lurk along the way, and all of his skills as a thief will be put to the test if he wants to survive and become a hero.

Pros

While the essential plotline isn't necessarily new, it's told in a creative way. The Wall Street Journal describes the book as "part hero quest" and "part orphan saga." This will probably give you some indication as to the flow of the story. What Auxier does well is add creative elements into it, like a blind protagonist (which I've never thought of doing), clockwork machinery, eyes with magical properties, etc. It helps keep the story fresh, even if we've read books like this before.

The characters are all creative, I must say. Aside from the blind Peter, we have Sir Tode, a loyal companion who used to be a knight. When he and his horse argued with a kitten (yes, you read right: he argued with a kitten) outside a witch's home, she carelessly cast a spell that combined the three. So Tode is a knight in a cat's body that has a few horse features, such as hooves and those pointy horse ears. And he has a fabulous mustache. And he can talk. Pretty unique, I say.

A thief by the name of Poor Old Scabbs offers crazy pieces of dialogue, especially since he refers to himself in third person. There are other talking animals, such as fish, birds, and apes. I shouldn't really mention any more characters, since I promised not to spoil anything, and most of the interesting characters involve spoilers.

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The setting also is unique, partially due to the fact that it's very ambiguous. When I started reading, I thought the book took place in London during the 1800s or something. However, once Peter teleports to a hidden island, sets out for the Vanished Kingdom, and lands in the Just Deserts, I figured this was probably set in a made-up world. I only really thought that was the case by the time I reached the end of the book. There are different examples I could use, but again, no spoilers.

I loved Auxier's whimsical writing style. It made it feel like I was reading a new classic, if that makes sense. And Auxier was brave enough to do something not many would: he intentionally broke the rules. What I mean by this is that he snapped out of the POV to offer a piece of information that would otherwise be unknown by Peter, or he'd insert witty aside. At one point in the book, Auxier writes, "If you have ever had the chance to spend quality time with a villainous mastermind, you will know these people are extraordinarily fond of discussing their evil schemes out loud." Comments like these can be hard to do--and shouldn't always be done either--but when they're done right, they are great additions to the story and are a testament to a delightful writing voice.

Cons

I was able to guess all the major twists in the book ahead of time; while you may not foresee them, don't go into the book expecting to be surprised by phenomenal plot twists. For this book, it wasn't a huge deal for me, but . . . just a fair warning.

There are a few uses of the British word "bloody," which I didn't find offensive, but some people might.

There was one point in the book where Peter suddenly feels various things, such as tiredness. While this can happen, to me, it would've been more logical if there had been something leading up to this. For example, if Peter had noted being tired a few times before, I would've been okay with him being suddenly overwhelmed by it.

I feel like some of the characters could've used a little more depth or been rounded out a bit more. Doing so would've added just a little more oomph to them. This could very well just by my personal preference, but I figured I'd mention it.

What took me by surprise the most was some of the violence in the story. After all, this is a MG fantasy, right? How bad can it get? For the most part, it was vague, but there were a few moments where it stood out. For example, a character is pecked to death by ravens, and said character is only the first victim. Armies clash on a few occasions, causing much blood to flow. Someone gets a knife to the heart. Another character is beheaded. Burning coal is dropped on heads. The final confrontation is possibly the most violent scene, but to explain it would be spoilery. Suffice it to say it was very unexpected and wince-worthy.

Conclusion

To sum up, I think this book was surprising and yet not surprising. Surprising because I didn't expect to fly through it as I got caught up in the plot and the characters. Not surprising because I foresaw the twists, which were still good additions to the plot.

What was most surprising was the violence. I think the reason for that is because it's MG, and so I had no reason to expect those moments. It shocked me more because of younger kids who might pick up the book and encounter these sudden violent scenes. The rest of the book suits the MG audience, but I thought the violence was more at home in a YA book.

In the end, though, I loved the book and would recommend it to anyone wanting a quick summer read/hero story. To more sensitive readers, I would caution them to put down the book if they get uncomfortable. And while there were some flaws, I can forgive them since this story is Auxier's debut novel. I expect excellence more than I do perfection, and for the most part, I found it to be of excellent quality.

I deem Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes to be worthy of four stars!

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What do you think, dear readers? Have you read Peter Nimble before, and if so, does it deserve four stars? Are you now interested in reading it? How am I at reviews? (I think I nailed it on my first try, but that's only my humble opinion.)

Friday, June 23, 2017

Greetings and Salutations!

Congratulations, weary Internet traveller. You have just encountered a little piece of the web that I call home. Do come in, won't you? Put up your feet and rest.

It's good to meet you! My name is Josiah . . . but that was probably a little obvious. Welcome to my humble blog, The Steadfast Pen. I'm glad you stopped by. Fact is, I hope you stop by a lot more in the future.

To start off, let's get to know each other a little better. Here's a list of ten things you should know about me, because I like lists. And no, that one doesn't count.

  1. I love stories. Because of my love for stories, I'm a writer and, by nature, a reader. See, what I've found is that not all readers are writers, but writers tend to be readers. They need to replenish their creative juices now and again, and I'm no different. I love becoming so engrossed in a good book that I lose track of time. But it doesn't stop there. I want to return the favor by giving others stories that they'll absolutely love, which is a major reason why I write.
  2. I was homeschooled. No, I'm not one of those awkward, socially inept homeschool students. I can hold a conversation with the best of them. Well, maybe not quite, but close enough. I was in public school for kindergarten and driver's ed. I actually graduated from a one-year college class this spring, so there's that too for my "normal" school exposure.
  3. I have three sisters. People seem to be really surprised when they find out I don't have any brothers. They seem to think it's tough to survive in a home with so many females. Actually, they should be jealous of me. It gives me the advantage, because I can learn how to interact with the opposite gender. Plus, they're an incredible blessing to me, so it all works out in the end.
  4. I am the last of my siblings to start a blog. Yep, all three of my sisters have their own blogs. I finally decided to join the club this year. My oldest sister blogs about a variety of things, with writing and life in general being the most common topics. You can find her here. My middle sister likes to post about the art she draws and the books she reads. Check her out here. Last, but not least, my youngest sister posts about an online game she plays (Animal Jam) and is also writing a story about her and her friends in a high school. You'll catch her right here. (No, my sisters didn't bribe me so that I could advertise their blogs. This was all my doing.)
  5. I'm a gamer. Quick, erase the image of a forty-year-old, foul-mouthed, bachelor living in his parents's basement, surviving on Cheetos and shrinking away from the outdoors. It's a stereotype that I do not conform to, save for that fact that I'm a bachelor. I thoroughly enjoy playing video games, both by myself and with my youngest two sisters. I generally prefer family-friendly games, of which Nintendo has plenty. Shameless advertising for you there, Nintendo!
  6. I'm a LEGO fanatic. No one will ever be able to convince me that LEGO is a toy for kids only. It's ageless, and anyone can enjoy it. My LEGO collection consists of several boxes filled with an assortment of vehicles, animals, and what-have-you. I've got four boxes for minifigures, and I share a closet with my sisters to store bigger models. Plus, I've got a shelf or two on an old bookself, since the closet isn't big enough. Think I have enough yet? . . . Nah!
  7. My favorite music to listen to is soundtrack music. This collection rivals my LEGO; I own over fifty albums, if I'm not mistaken. Some people think this is really odd, but I love instrumental music more than I like lyrical songs. That's not to say that I don't enjoy stuff with lyrics, or that I never listen to it. It's just that if I'm going to listen to music, it'll probably be soundtrack music. One of my many quirks, I suppose.
  8. I enjoy making playlists for my stories. What I'll do is find tracks that match scenes from my stories--or the music will inspire story scenes--and put them together to make a playlist. It's actually a lot of fun to do, and the playlists always seem to get me even more pumped about my stories.
  9. Pizza is one of my favorite foods ever. Yes, this is a totally random fact to add to the list. But pizza deserves to be in its own food group. It's just that amazing. No other reason is need. Plus, my mom makes some extremely delectable homemade pizza, so that makes it even better.
  10. I am a passionate pursuer of Christ. He is the One who gave me my gifts and abilities, and He pursued me first. Because of all He has done for me, I follow Him through thick and thin. I want to ensure that in each and every one of my books, He is glorified. I want to be His steadfast pen to the world.

Well, there you have it! We are now better acquainted and can cut to the chase: what is this blog about? That question is probably at the forefront of your mind. (Unless you're thinking of pizza, which is definitely more important.) Well, let me tell what you can expect from my blog posts.

  • You can expect my adventures in my writing journey, which will include anything from tips and tricks to what I'm currently working on. In fact, writing will probably one of the major focuses of my blog.
  • You can expect me to talk about life in general. I'll probably share you with any interesting events that happen to me, or any ponderings I have about various "life" subjects.
  • You can expect book rants or reviews, whichever I feel like doing. Because, you know, books are a pretty big part of my life, since I'm a writer/reader.
  • You can expect amusing posts (at least I hope they are) about gaming and reviews for games.
  • You can expect me to jabber about amazing movies or TV shows I've seen, as well as reviews for them.
  • You can expect to get great suggestions from me as to what music you should listen to . . . or I'll just ramble about what I'm listening to. Also, more reviews about music.
  • You can expect more than just reviews, even though it sounds like all I'm posting about. Because I probably won't do it that often. I guess we'll see what happens.
  • You can expect new posts from me every Friday!

That wraps up my first post. I look forward to hanging out with you guys more in the future. Please, stay a little while and chat with me. I'm not going anywhere. And there's free pizza, so help yourselves. While you wait for a new post from me, why don't you check this guest post in which I talk about writing villains?

Farewell, my friends, until we meet again! Same time, same place!