Friday, October 27, 2017

Interview with Alex

For a twist, I'm hosting an interview with someone whose talent lies down a different creative path from my normal visitors.

Alex is a 28 year old self-taught artist from Jamaica. I met Alex in the gaming community and quickly discovered her love of creating art. I'm so excited to now be able to share her talent with all of you!

Kristen: Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions for me today, Alex. I'm curious to learn what got you interested in art. Was there that special moment? Or did you just always know?

Alex: I’ve been drawing since I was very small. The first thing I remember drawing as a small child was pokemon. A relative had bought me a book containing the pokemon from the first season of the anime, and I used the pictures in the book to copy them, then I cut the drawings out and stuck them on the wall in my bedroom.

Kristen: I bet that relative had no idea their gift would inspire you in such a long-lasting way! I'm sure your walls were an interesting sight.

What form(s) of art are your favorite?

Alex:  Ever since Primary School (Elementary School) I’ve been a fan of cartoons and anime. It was by watching my favorite animated programs on cartoon network that I developed a love for art, and to this day my favorite art form is anime/manga.

Kristen: Can you tell me a bit about your work and how you've progressed on your artistic journey?

Alex: During high school I put more focus and effort into my drawings, and in early high school I began to copy more complicated things like Yu-Gi-OH cards. My classmates were always fans of my work, but they began to ask if I could draw something else besides monsters. After hearing their comments I decided to try my hand at human characters, and it so happened to be around the time when Naruto first premiered on cartoon network. My first human character drawing was Gaara. I became known for being the weird girl who could draw, and classmates sometimes asked me to draw their assignments for them. At a certain point, even teachers started asking me to draw their diagrams on the chalkboard-I generously accepted.

During the latter part of high school some of the boys who were taking art as a subject began to criticize my abilities-they thought I couldn’t draw actual people. Now while realistic portraits are hardly a thing you’d expect from a child artist, I willingly accepted that challenge, and succeeded once again. As a senior in high school I started creating my own characters. 

Kristen: When you're not drawing, what do you spend your time doing?

Alex: After high school and into young adulthood I started to add to my hobbies. I learned how to do digital artwork and tattooing, and experimented with other styles. I also got into video games and weight lifting.

Kristen: Awesome! And I'm going to go ahead and share one of the pictures you sent me right now because I think it ties into that.

This was actually the first piece of artwork from you that I saw. I remember you talking about it as you worked, and going through a lot of preliminary work to get inspiration for it. And at the time I wasn't sure what the result was going to be. Then you finished it and when I saw it .  . . I was amazed. I still say you have a lot of talent.

So yes, readers, this is my favorite piece from Alex because I do remember the creation process. And the one in the stunning pink hat is Alex's fantasy incarnation.

Kristen: Out of curiosity, I punched some numbers and discovered that my state is 22 times larger than Jamaica. Holy crap! I just imagine you going stir crazy! I'm always wondering if islanders feel cagey after awhile or if it's just normal.

So on that note, iff you could go anywhere for a vacation, where would you go and what would you do?

Alex: It would be wonderful if I could one day visit Japan and experience the awesome culture first hand, that would be the best vacation imaginable.

Kristen: LOL, so another island! I guess I'm just imagining myself with island fever if I shifted suddenly from where I am to an island.

What inspires you? Is there anything about your country, town, area that you find particularly inspirational?

Alex: Living in a poor country, and being the harshly realistic person I am, I wouldn’t say I’m inspired by anything from my country in particular. Along the way however, I have met persons with whom I have things in common, which has helped me to be more enthusiastic about my work. In a place where you’re the outcast because your favorite things are foreign, it’s nice to see something that you can identify with. Whenever I feel like I can’t decide what to paint I watch a few cartoons, or maybe some episodes of bleach and a few minutes later ideas flood my mind. 

Kristen: What would you say to other artists to encourage them?

Alex: If I could give any solid advice to the other artists out there it would be-draw, paint, and sculpt, etc. what you enjoy. It’s more difficult to do something you don’t like than to do something you like. If a style speaks to you, learn it, practice it, and perfect it as much as you can. Don’t worry about if someone else’s work is better, because there are probably many artists out there who’d wish their work was like yours, and even more still who have no artistic talent. Remember that your art is tied to your emotion and is an expression of it.

Kristen: Great advice!  And so applicable to many forms of creative expression. Do what you love! 

What are your plans for the future?

Alex: In the future I plan on branching from realism to photo-realism, taking a crack at animation by studying at an art school, and perhaps practicing my tattooing skills more. 

Kristen: That sounds great for you! I wish you the best of luck. :)

And lastly, if people are interested in finding out more about you or your work, how could they do that? 

Alex: If anyone reading this would like to see some of my best pieces please feel free to visit my online gallery at Thank you for reading, now if you’ll excuse me I have to return to my pokeball ;)

Kristen: And thank you, Alex! It's been a pleasure to have you and good luck with all your endeavors

(All pictures included are ones created by Alex that she gave me permission to share with you!)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Summer Reading

It can't be true!!! Summer is over and I'm already dreading winter. Fall just means winter is coming. It's like the time to build up dread for the snow, cold, ice, shoveling, brushing, layers of clothing, and bills galore.

But also it's time for me to start looking at my plans for the "not outdoors" season. One of the things I let fall by the wayside this summer was blogging. (oh gosh, let's be honest, I let a lot of things fall behind.) I decided to spend the summer doing some different things and now I need to start shifting my mindset to include some of those things I let lapse.

Not sure yet WHEN I'll fully get back to all those things or what things I will attempt to recapture this *sob* winter. But here's starting off with something fairly easy. 

One of the things that I did a little bit of was reading, so here's my favorite books from this summer(okay and spring too). I chose to just mention my 4 and 5 star books as usual for my book trees. :)

So pretty!!!! Anyway, kicking it off with my 4 star reads! I have an interesting assortment here, starting with a classic!

  1. After the fun I had last year, I did choose to set myself a classic challenge again this year. And as I'd loved Pride and Prejudice I gave Sense and Sensibility a shot. Now I actually didn't like the tv series or the movie of this book. (though to be fair the series was closer to the book than the movie) So this was a challenge to choose because I wanted to see if I'd dislike it or not.

    I'm happy to say that I did enjoy it. Though I didn't love it like I did P&P I did enjoy it and found it immensely better than either of the adaptions. I'd sooner reread this book than watch a movie of it.

  2. The Enemy's Service was the final book in a series that I finished up this summer. I really loved the variety of view points and the story of what a war might look like for a regular person caught on the losing side. As this was MG, it prevented me from being completely sucked in as I have a hard time relating to really young characters. I'm too far past that stage in my life! Full review

  3. Chasing Lady Midnight was a new adventure for me. I can't recall reading many(if any) superhero books and mysteries have become a rarity since I was a teenager. This was both and though it took me some time to decide if I liked the MC's voice, I ended up really enjoying the story. Lady Midnight's personality and voice shown through everything. Very good work on the author's part. Full review

  4. Next up is Joss the Seven another MG book that was based on a young boy determined to make the best of his last summer on top of the middle school food chain. Things go awry when he discovers he has magical talents. But who is friend and who is foe? To the best of my knowledge, the boys in this book rang very true to what middle grade boys are like. Thought the twist was pretty ingenious.Full review
  5. My last 4 star book was The Trouble With Demons. Number 3 in an adult fantasy series, this is a book that I couldn't put down. There's some parts that were a little . . .meh for me. (not fond of romance or love triangles) But overall this was another humorous story in the series. I love the voice of the main character. Raine really shines through the pages and if for no other reason, I'd keep reading this series. The plot is fast-paced and you never want to set the book down. I mean, everything that can go wrong or make Raine's world more crazy, yeah it happens.

    Everyone and their evil uncle is after a special rock that is the source of Raine's power. (not that she asked to have the stupid rock, thank you very much.) They're bringing hellfire and brimstone to the hub of the world if that's what it takes to GET THAT ROCK. Full review

★★★★★ Reads

  1. The Door That Came to Dinner 

    Confession time. I'm a chicken when it comes to all thing scary or creepy. Long periods of continued suspense, no thank you. No to horror, etc. I have an active imagination that can't handle ideas that cause me no end of trouble.

    So when I picked this up, I really didn't know it was horror. I'm reading along and I'm like, "wow, something isn't right here." I was engaged by the very defined character voice. The story was well-built. And there was clearly something strange going on. I knew that. Something wasn't right. But whatever I was thinking wasn't a "horror" reason.

    Probably because I didn't know the genre, I didn't spend the whole book on the edge of my seat and terrified. I just saw things playing out differently so I was like hmm, this is interesting. THEN THAT ENDING! I was like, what the fuzzy pink slippers just happened?!

    I then had to immediately go engage my mind in something else so I didn't dwell on that ending. *shudders* But it didn't change the fact that until like that last paragraph or two I was really hooked by this story and completely enthralled. This is probably right up a horror lovers alley and for folks like me, this is what I imagine is a light trip into horror where if you're not expecting it the ending is the only thing that's going to make your brain scream. Full review

  2. Lost in a Book

    A retelling of a retelling? And oh look, it came out from DISNEY in time to celebrate their retelling of their original retelling. See where I'm going with this? Gorgeous cover, interesting sounding blurb . . . but . . . it was a clear marketing ploy building on the hype of a movie release.

    Basically I went into this book thinking I was going to hate it and then roll my eyes at all the other people too blinded by "OH MY GOSH IT'S DISNEY AND THEY HAVE A NEW MOVIE ABOUT THIS COMING OUT. OHMYGOSH. OHMYGOSH." Yep, I wasn't going to get taken in like those suckers!!!

    I say all of that for two reasons. First if you see this book and the above is your thought also, I encourage you to give it a chance. I was in the same boat as you! Second reason I share that is to say that I went into this already predisposed to not like it and the opposite happened.

    I actually really really really enjoyed this book. Retellings of retellings are kind a weird thing to me, but since it was only like a small portion it didn't drag me out of the story. The premise is that what if after Belle finds the library there's this whole section we didn't see in the movie.

    I looooove missing pieces. I like to wonder what might've happened between events. What we didn't see. Behind the scenes!

    I thought Belle's journey into a book, the lesson not to miss out on real life, and the one plot thread about how if you want something to be true, you'll believe it.

    The one thing that irked me was how blatantly obvious the evil was. "My name is Dark Evil and this is my leering henchman Black Slayer. Come to my Palace of the Dead that is dark and spooky and has creepy eyes leering at you."

    But at the end, there's this awesome bit where Death(the villain) tells Belle she made it so obvious and therefore Belle couldn't say she hadn't been given a fair chance. Belle comments that she had so badly wanted the lie to be true that she'd closed her eyes to the truth.

    It was definitely a twist where the MC misses something not because the author goofed or because the MC is stupid, but rather because much like real life, the MC simply wanted what was a lie to be true so they let themselves believe it. Full review

  3. The Enemy of an Enemy was another book I started out a bit leery of. This time it was because of the first page of reviews. Eek! Not a good feeling to pick up a book where most of the top rated reviews aren't promising. I already had the book at that point, so I figured I might as well give it a shot.

    Perhaps I'm just not use to the genre so it was a new adventure for me, but whatever the reason I really liked this. My only real complaint was the ending could've been handled better. This was the book I couldn't put down. I was up late, then up early again to keep reading it. I HAD to know what happened next. Full review

  4. My mom read to me a lot when I was a kid and one of the books I distinctly remember her reading was When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. I haven't read it since then, but had a nostalgic summer and decided to go back and read it for myself.

    I can so see why this made an impact on me as a kid, and it had an impact on me now. This is truly an amazing story. Judith Kerr may have given her characters fictional names, but this is HER story. This is her WWII experience. It's her family's experience. And yes it's different from most WWII books.

    The little girl in the book is Anna. Her father is able to get himself and his family out of Germany before it's impossible. It covers from right before the family leaves through their journey after. Anna has such a bright spirit and she says near the end of the book that as long as she has her family and they're together, she can forget she's a refugee.

    This book had both a theme of two kids who find a way to stay optimistic when their world is turned upside down, while not undermining what was happening at the time. As an adult I see that a man lost his job, had his books burned, had to leave his family temporarily to escape, and then wait for them to join him. He has to find a way to provide for his family when no one will hire him and he lost everything.

    A woman who has to rush herself and her kids out of the country alone. She has to leave her home and possessions behind. And they never do get them back. Having to watch her kids be treated like less-than because of who they are.

    And it goes on. There's moments we see where like a German family forbids their kids to play with them. A story from a visitor about a professor who was humiliated, degraded, and eventually his mind broken. A brilliant person lowered to the state of an animal. That's probably one of the darkest moments in the book.

    And then again at the end with Anna's uncle. I teared right up for that part. A quiet man who loved his work at a library and was fired. Then his one other passion had been regular visits to the zoo. He was such a familiar face that that animals responded to him and were excited by his visits. Because he was a Jew, he was forbidden from ever coming back. And it just broke him and I so did cry.

    This is perfect for young kids who aren't ready for the full ugliness of the time, but who can learn from Anna's attitude and get glimpses of the horror in a small measure. Full review
  5. Little House in the Big Woods

    This was part of my classic reading challenge, so I'm saving up my thoughts for that post. But again, here's more of me being nostalgic.
  6. Anne of Green Gables

    Same as above.

  7. The Bloodstone Chronicles was another childhood favorite for me and my siblings. I actually read the book and listened to the audiobook at the time. I will say that after rereading the book if my memory serves me correctly the audiobook was better.

    A MG allegory that follows three kids on their adventures into an alternate dimension. There they meet new friends, enemies, and Creator. If you love allegories, then this is one that shouldn't miss your to-read list. I distinctly remember crying over the story of Denise when she gets to create her own little people and understands what that kind of love is like. Full review.
  8. Den of Wolves closes up this list! If I still have your attention, I'm telling you, READ THIS BOOK. I don't normally read adult fantasy(hard to find stuff that's not over-the-top adult) but this is a series I stumbled on and is just beyond words.

    The characters are some of the most well-developed and "real" that I've come across in any book. Such a level of depth to this series and though I felt like this book was the weakest of the series(like the author felt rushed to end it and hurried the ending), it didn't change that overall this series is simply amazing.  The sequence of events are so gripping that putting this down was nearly impossible. Not to mention that I was overcome by a desire to READ faster. I couldn't read this fast enough, it was so good it was killing me to not know what was next.

    Definitely my number one book for the summer.  Full review

    What did you read this summer? Anything that really stood out as a must read?

Friday, October 6, 2017

UnEnchanted - ABB

Hey everyone! As I'm jumping back into blogging, I've got a variety of things coming your way. And of course where would I be without content for my Angry Book Blogger series!

I had a stand out candidate recently and knew that it HAD to have an ABB review. A good friend recommended UnEnchanted to me. I then discovered that it was a fairly popular self-published book and I had to see what it was about.

There will be spoilers throughout the review. But as always it's hard to state what I like/dislike without particulars.

After wrapping up the book, the first(and probably unoriginal) thought I had was that the title summed up my feelings.

UnEnchanted (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale #1) by Chanda Hahn.

 Mina 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.

A couple pages in I had to stop and double check that I was reading the right book. It starts out with Mina writing in her journal, then dreaming, then waking up, getting ready for her day, blah blah blah. I kept reminding myself that stories may start off boring, but can turn out great. 

In retrospect I wish I would've fled at that point.

The general plot of UnEnchanted is that Mina Grime(aka Grimm) is the plain-looking, unpopular girl who moves every few years until an accident at a factory turns her world upside down. After saving prince popular(Brody) she becomes a celebrity overnight and finds out that she's a Grimm. Grimm's carry a curse where they have to try and live out 200 fairytales or the next person in the family will have to start over.

Mina's time has come and now she must live through the tales in order to break the curse. No big deal, right? Except for it's hundred's of years after the Grimm brothers were around and they had the longest record at 190. No one has come close since then. 

Sounds okay, right? Well here's where the story went wrong for me. Characters, characters, characters, and common sense. 

Our MC Mina is boring. She's lackluster and about as interesting as white wallpaper. She just kind of goes through life up until she finds out about the curse and is completely yawn-worthy. 

Her best friend Nan we're told is super popular and everyone in the school loves her. But she chooses Mina as her bff even though Mina has only been at the school for two years. We don't know how the two girls met or how they became so close seeing as how they have nothing in common, are at complete opposite ends of the popularity scale, and Mina's got the personality of a doormat.

Not to mention that when you have a small cast of characters like this, it's kind of important they stand out. Nan is . . . this is Nan. All book.

Because regardless of what we're TOLD about Nan(and not told), what we see is one of those bubble-gum blowing, phone-chained, social media obsessed teens that is on her phone for the whole book.

We never hear about Nan going anywhere else, talking to anyone else, etc. Nan sits with Mina at their own table where even Nan's popularity isn't enough to draw people to them. I'm told that everyone likes this girl, but her entire purpose is to be give Mina a cardboard cut-out friend that's always on her phone.

Next is Brody. Brody is the super-mega-rich-handsome kid that Mina has a crush on. After saving his life, she goes from zero to hero. He goes from not even knowing she exists to determine to win her over and protect her.

Jared is the lone, dark, brooding guy who mysteriously shows up one day and knows about the curse. He waffles over whether or not to help her, but finally decides to do so. Help consists of him joining Mina's school and having her avoid him most of the time. There's one lesson of sword fighting that . . . never become relevant. 

That's what I had to deal with! How am I supposed to like these people? Besides some shadowy figures such as "bad guy named wolf-tail we meet three times" and "brother Charlie who eats weird cereal and doesn't talk", this is our cast! 

I mean, the bad guys "kidnap" two of Mina's classmates at one point to force her to do something and they steal mean, ex-girlfriend and her best friend because those are the ONLY two kids in the whole school who are named besides our main four. So we can't very well kidnap anyone else because the readers don't know anyone!

Let me break down where I felt these characters failed and common sense took a hike.

1. Mina has been at this school for two years and she's best friends with ultra-popular. They weren't preschool buddies who grew up together. How does super-reclusive nobody Mina meet Nan the social-media obsessed chick everyone likes and become tight with her? I'm not buying it without an explanation. It's too convenient. 

2. Mina is crushing on Brody, but WHY? He's good-looking and rich. We know he's already taken, has never once looked at Mina. He doesn't even know her name. He's never stood up for her. We're not told he has a super nice personality. Nothing. Mina denies later that she is a gold-digger because she doesn't care about Brody's money. Okay . . . then why DOES she care about Brody? If we're given no reason that she likes this guy and he's not even on the market, and it's not his money. See where I'm going? It has to be because of his looks!

It's really hard to get behind a "romance" when we're not told why the guy is a good catch and does nothing nice to Mina until the curse forces him to.


3. That leads us to Brody. How are we supposed to like a guy who's dating head cheerleader, ultra-pretty, popular girl and doesn't mind that she's a nasty piece of work? He only breaks up with her because the curse needs him to have a Mina-centric universe. That's right, Brody needs to care about Mina for the story and is influenced by the curse to do so. Everything he does is completely fake and at the end he forgets any of it happened.

That was in fact the one redeeming quality of the book. If you sit there eye-rolling at Brody's 180 don't worry, it is as fake and unbelievable as it seems. Despite that, it doesn't change that Brody is a main character who you can't believe in.

4. Brody is rich. Like, fenced property with a buzzer to get in and a guard to answer said buzzer rich. He's got maids, a limo, etc. And he's at public school?! Why? I mean, it's not like impossible but it would've been nice to know why someone this loaded is at public school. I mean, his parents even pay the press off to mind their own business and not interview Brody. Sounds like people who wouldn't be sending their kid to public school.

5. When Mina's mom tells her about this curse, she says that as the only other living family member, Charlie will get it if Mina dies. This is not once a generation, this is a curse that latches onto a family member and then moves on to another one immediately when that one dies.

Mina's told that her dad only lived through 10 stories. She's told that TOGETHER the original Grimm brothers held the record of 190 completed and no one has been close since. Two adults with the full knowledge of the curse since it started and a deep knowledge of fairy tales didn't even get this done.

And she's told that her brother will get the curse, which he probably won't survive long, if she fails. Her response is not, "Oh, we should do what's kept us safe for 16 years mom. Let's keep moving any time the curse starts circling. That way I will live as long as I can barring other causes and give Charlie as much time as he can have."

Noooo, her response is, "Let's stop running and I'll take on these fairytales and complete them to save Charlie!"
Mina has no training. No combat skills. We're not given any indicator that she knows more than your average person about fairy tales. She's a kid! With zero self-confidence. But suddenly she's ready to take this head on and seriously thinks she's going to survive and beat 200 stories and save Charlie.

THAT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN! Or at least it shouldn't, but it will. Because we wouldn't have a story otherwise. But really, come on!!! Tell me this story with someone who knows from birth what their destiny is. Have them be trained in self-defense and an intense knowledge of all things fairytale. 

Don't give me mousy Mina who can't even defend herself from high school drama and her fairy tale knowledge is nil. 

Completely unbelievable that she'd survive. This right here is where I really was just done with the book. If someone like Mina wants to save her brother, she should just keep moving and not take on these fairy tales. 

See, authors don't write about just wizards. They write about the wizard who takes down the dark lord. They don't write about just hobbits. They write about the hobbits who go on a journey to save the world. And they don't write books about cursed people unless those people are going to break the pattern of their families curse and actually you know, BREAK THE CURSE. 

We aren't hearing the story of all the people before Mina because they didn't make it. We're hearing about Mina because she will complete the stories. So there's no doubt in my mind about that, but I do not think it's realistic for Mina to do this.

6. Mina is more worried about her "romance" with Brody and going to this dance than this curse. She doesn't grab a volume of faity tales and start studying. She doesn't go out and buy pepper spray or enroll in self-defense classes. 

She's a high school student who is worried about guys, and dresses, and her classes, etc. She does completely stupid things like "Hey I'm at a dance and I see bad guys. I know, I'm going to head behind the sets where no one can see me and sneak out the back door out of eye sight into the alley where no one will hear me scream."

Shockingly enough the bad guys follow and then corner her where no one else can see what's going on. Why do people always leave crowded areas where lots of people can see them and help? 

I think they would call Mina TSTL. And that's a big issue for UnEnchanted because her whole mission is to survive some intense stories come to life. 

There's a couple other things that bothered me. Jared who's sorta helping but who doesn't actually help for most of the time. Brody's getting all alpha dog on Jared, "You're scaring my girl!" Well Mina never told Brody she wanted Jared to go away or that he was creeping her out. At the same time she never stopped to say, "Actually Jared is helping me out with the curse that you, me, Jared, and Nan know about though we never talk about it amongst ourselves."

Nan is supposedly this great friend, but she lives on her phone and her life revolves around how many hits she gets on social media. It's considered a great sacrifice when she drops her phone(which she probably shouldn't be playing with on a school trip anyway) to save Mina and Brody. Um, duh. I'd hope anyone would choose two people over their phone. But since Nan is addicted to her phone I guess that's a heroic choice for her. No worries, she won't be without one long.

My hero.

In summary. I found the characters to not have enough depth. I found there were too many issues that made me want to throw the book. I think the idea of this could've been amazing. But I'd like to see a different cast, and see a MC who is prepared to take on this challenge so I can actually believe it when she wins. 

This netted two stars from me and I think the only reason I gave it two instead of one was because I've hated some books a lot more. I definitely will be avoiding the rest of the series.

To learn more about ABB and see my disclaimer check out my blog post on that.