TGIF (v. 35)

(Behind the scenes of this photo: Chip, my fur-brother, basically destroys anything he comes in contact with and he particularly loves destroying blankets by putting holes in them. This is the blanket in his crate and, well, you can see how he spends his time while he’s in there. Sigh. This crazy dude!)

The high of my week was surprising a friend for her birthday! Tomorrow is her birthday and my friends and I decided on a mid-week surprise so that she wouldn’t suspect a thing. She was properly shocked and we must give major kudos to her husband for helping us plan this and find the best time for the surprise. Yay! Afterward, we all hung out in her backyard (properly distanced, of course!) and chatted about life and coronavirus and all that jazz. (Although, I swear anyone walking by her house when we were all there would have thought we were the WORST people ever, since we had NINE cars shoved in her driveway, haha.)

The low of my week was work stress. It’s been a really stressful week in my work life, where I feel like I can’t take a minute to breathe from the moment I turn on my computer at the beginning of the day. The end of the month is always pretty crazy as I work on a monthly schedule and have to get everything done by the last day of the month, but it’s felt crazier than normal. I’ve also had a lot of other deadlines fall into my lap that are outside my normal monthly work, so it’s just been a lot.

An anti-racism resource I’d like to share is this white privilege questionnaire. It came as no surprise to me that I scored a 30 (the highest score). White people, even if you understand your white privilege, I still think it’s worth looking over the questions and recognizing all the different ways BIPOC are discriminated against.

A podcast episode I enjoyed was Tom Hanks on Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend. Yes, this episode has been out for a while, but I’m wayyy behind on my podcast queue. Tom Hanks is a national treasure and this podcast just reaffirmed my obsession with him. He is hilarious, warm, kind, and just an all-around good guy. (Also, the beginning segment with just Conan and his two co-hosts had me crying with laughter so that’s worth a listen alone.)

The best money I spent was $14 on a new pack of markers. I’ve talked before about my love for adult coloring books. I always have an open coloring book on my kitchen island next to a cup full of markers and I’ll usually color while I’m watching Netflix or Hulu, or while listening to a podcast. It’s such a fun, relaxing activity for me, but I go through markers so quickly now! I think I have to buy a new set every 6 months of so because my favorite colors always start drying out. I’m sad that Amazon doesn’t seem to have my favorite markers anymore so I had to buy a different type. Fingers crossed I like them!

My plans this weekend include… not a damn thing! Which is good because it means I can catch up on work this weekend. It’s not ideal, of course, to work on the weekend but if it takes a bit of the stress off my shoulders, then it will be worth it. I may go for a swim at my mom’s and I have my weekly writing date with M. But that’s about it for me! I’m not too bummed… last weekend was so busy that I only got to take one nap (oh, the horror!) so I’m looking forward to a much more relaxed weekend.

What was the high of your week?

h0ApOGxRgv0 - TGIF (v. 35)

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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