Thursday, April 30, 2015

Shimanami Spring Intensity!

Ahoy, lovely readers!

With Spring in the air, a lot of creative energy has struck me lately. The biggest of all is finally finishing Devon`s second adventure. That`s right, Reverie is officially written and is now undergoing beta reader and pre-edits! I will keep you updated on any news that comes my way. Get excited!

As if editing a sequel wasn`t enough to deal with, Japan has thrown me many great experiences in this past month. Being from a sub-tropical climate, I never really get to experience a proper spring. The best part, hands-down, were the lovely sakura trees blossoming seemingly out of nowhere. Seriously, these trees went from being barren to full of pink and white lovelies! They only lasted for a few weeks, but that makes them even more special. I`m lucky to be in a prefecture with lots of great places for hanami (sakura viewing.) Onomichi, a town about a 90 minute drive south from me, has the most breathtaking park that is a sakura wonderland in the spring. My own town`s humble park has a pretty good spread, as well. The nighttime events for my town`s sakura was the best. I stumbled upon the festivities one night during a lonely drive. Really lucky I did!




Alas, it appears springtime is also fleeting in the Land of the Rising Sun. Summer is well on its way, but I used the last cool weekend to do a feat of endurance and strength. Onomichi (I frequent that place, if it`s not obvious) is also famous for being one end of the Shimanami-Kaido, the longest suspension bridge system in Japan. This 77km road spans across several small islands, connecting mainland Honshu to the island of Shikoku. The road is comprised of 7 bridges, beautiful beach roads, and cultural stops along the way. The salty sea air propelled me and my friends forward, even when the bike seats started to abuse our backsides. Oftentimes, the bridge ramps seemed impossible, but reaching the top of each bridge rewarded me with a stunning view of the Seto Inland Sea and astonishingly beautiful beaches. Through all the sweat, heat, and bottom pain, the only thing I could think of was how beautiful the ride was. Those scenes were why I came to Japan.
I even got to see a dinosaur! 

One of the many beautiful scenes atop the bridges.

Hard to stop when there were so many beautiful sights! 

I REALLY didn't feel like tackling that last bridge. 

But we did and we FINISHED! Dekita! 

After the ride, a victory dinner, and a night in a traditional ryokan (Japanese inn,) I headed back to my little mountain town full of pride and feeling accomplished. I truly cannot wait to see what the next 3 months will bring!
Ryokan supplied the hungry cyclists with MEAT! Could've eaten 20 more of these pots, to be honest.

Until next time, keep readin and dreamin!


Sunday, April 12, 2015

First big book review gets a little peculiar!

Miss Peregrine`s Peculiar Children  review

Ahoy, readers!

This time I have a non-travel blog post for you! Recently, I`ve been working hard on finishing up Reverie, but the ending is giving me a bit of trouble. Now, when writer`s block comes on, the best cure is to lose myself in another writer`s world for a bit. So, I downloaded my handy Overdrive app (wonderful device for e-reading if you have a library card,) and started going through my lists of recommendations, which led me to read Miss Peregrine`s House for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Two of the series are out now! 

Here's the first: 

And the second:

I read both. There's also a graphic novel version out, as well! And, naturally, there's going to be a film released next year!

Now, I usually don`t do reviews on already mainstream books. My fiction features usually include indie authors, such as myself, or those who are only on the e-book shelves, again such as myself. I feel there are too many reviews out there for the popular books and that mine won`t make much of a splash. Well, Riggs`s story has made me change my mind and compelled me to review –or really gush over—this amazing world of past, present, and peculiar characters.

            Jacob Portman is a teenage boy who grew up somewhat of a loner. With only one friend to claim, Jacob spent most of his childhood listening to his hero, his grandfather Abe`s childhood stories. As Jacob grew, he realized his grandfather`s tales of his time in a foster home were fantastical representations of the truth. Jacob even began to realize how bogus his grandfather`s old photos looked. Is it really that difficult to make it look like a girl can levitate? And how hard is it to stuff some clothes to make it look like an invisible boy is wearing them? Jacob`s parents reminded him of the horrors his grandfather experienced as a Polish Jew in WWII and convinced Jacob that Abe`s peculiar stories were ways to cope with his actual memories of the past. As Grandpa Abe descended into what Jacob`s parents believed to be dementia, Jacob grew apart from his childhood hero and accepted his lonely, mundane life. It wasn`t until his grandfather died a gruesome and inexplicable death that Jacob`s world took a most peculiar turn. His grandfather`s stories didn`t seem so bogus after all. In fact ,they were the key to Jacob beginning his own adventure.

Why I loved it:

            First, I`m a sucker for anything involving historical fiction, especially if it involves WWII. After learning that the story focuses on Jacob`s grandfather`s past for a lot of the book, I knew I would be interested in the plot. What I didn`t know what how in-depth Riggs takes both Jacob`s and Abe`s stories, intertwining, analyzing, and expanding both of the Portman men`s lives in ways unimaginable. Riggs cleverly combines his own fantasy world with actual events of the past, such as the London air raids. I`m also a sucker for an average-boy-turned hero story, if that`s not obvious. Jacob reminded me a lot of Devon, both suffer from the teenage affliction of low self-esteem. The power of friendship and believing in oneself helps both heroes attain their goals. I also have to hand it to Riggs for writing in first person. Anyone can write from a character`s perspective, but it takes a true author to have empathy for a character he creates. Riggs doesn`t write Jacob so much as he feels for Jacob as he delves deeper into his story of becoming a hero. Even though this is a YA work, there are a lot of deep revelations Jacob experiences throughout the story. I really enjoyed reading these, as teenagers often have the capacity to feel as much as to think as deeply as adults. It was a great contrast of kiddie adventure and not-quite-adult harsh reality.
            The coolest bit, of course, is that Riggs places actual vintage photos throughout his stories. Though they are of real people from times in the past, they fit perfectly to serve as a visual for characters and events throughout the story. Also, I learned that people took weird pictures back in the day! Riggs gives credit to all of the photos uses at the end of each story.

Who should read this:
            I first have to encourage people of the YA age to read this. I`d say 7th-high school is age-appropriate. There is a bit of a romance going on, but it`s all PG. Even the brief moments of nudity are comical and can be likened to the kind of humor one will see in Diary of a Wimpy Kid so no worries there. Some of the monsters can be a bit scary, so any kids who are afraid of the dark might want to find a lighter book to read. I also encourage adults who are still into YA fiction or write for the genre to read these stories. If you want to see a non-conventional fantasy story work, and work well, this is a must-read.
            First two books are out now! The third will be out September, 2015!

Until next time, keep readin and dreamin!