Book Report: Fire Mage

Okay, I grant I read this a little ways back, so my memory is a wee bit fuzzier than I’d prefer as I write this, but honestly, I think you all would enjoy the heck out of it, so here I am.  Fire Mage was one of those books that my husband had to force me to put down so I would actually sleep at some point, the night I picked it up.

StockSnap_Vinicius_AmanoThe two lead characters were both compelling and each had completely believable reasons for going out on their respective adventures, and I rather liked them both.  Scarred since childhood, Jena has spent the past few years in the best place she can remember.  The great mage Thornal shelters her and, despite the prohibition on women using mage spells, teaches her all he knows.  When he is killed at the hands of elite royal assassins, he spends the last of his power to keep her safe and destroy the very thing the assassins were sent for.  As Thornal instructed with his last words, Jena uses her illicit mage skills to destroy her mentor’s hut, reach the supposed safety of the Forest of Ghosts, and get past one of the forest’s creepy guardians.  Once there, she learns more about her late mentor and discovers a sister, Bree, that she never knew of.

Jena is plucky and determined, and as we learn on the way also pretty powerful with a Super Secret Super Power, but she’s not all powerful.  She’s also not prone to fits of hysteria or sulking or any of the common heroine tropes.  She’s inexperienced and aware of it,  and she’s scared, with good reason.  The only complaint I really have is how easily she falls into accepting her newfound sister, and how she’ immediately tries to be close ‘like sisters are.’ Yes, they’re blood relatives, when they both thought they didn’t have any, but sharing DNA doesn’t always automatically mean that people will be close, or even like each other, necessarily.

warrior-2613605_1920

Nate is rescued from being murdered by those very same royal assassins by a mercenary under a geas.  This man explains that the Crown Prince— and soon to be king— wants him dead since Nate is in actuality the Long Lost True Heir.  Nate is, shall we say, skeptical.  While he appreciates Argus saving his life and all, he’s clearly a bit cracked if he thinks Nate is anything other than a bastard and a failed mage.  And his refusal to say who he’s working for makes Argus somewhat less than trustworthy.  Argus turns out to be right about one thing, though: Nate is definitely being hunted.  Nate can also see and interact with ghosts, so when he is suddenly haunted by the ghost of a particular, recently dead mage who helps him tap into powers he never knew he had, Nate finds himself on a journey he never wanted, just in a bid to keep himself alive.

I like Nate.  He’s not the sort of hero that simply accepts everything he’s told by whoever he runs into on the journey.  He questions everything, doesn’t trust his companions outside of a narrow band of behaviors, and has a more than healthy amount of skepticism.  It’s a pleasant change from the standard ‘I’m on an adventure s everyone must obviously be just what they present themselves as!’ Attitude that so many heroes adopt the second they set out.  Frankly, I wouldn’t trust Argus either, Nate.  Good call.

Naturally, these two meet up in the Forest of Ghosts when Nate and Argus are desperately trying to outrun some nasty dark rider style creatures made up of thousands of flies.  Not corpses.  Not smoke or brainwashed humans on aggressive horses.  Horse and rider are both made out of flies.  That is both creative and super gross.

Anyway, Nate and Argus make it into the Forest, though Argus is poisoned by the fly-rider things, and from there it’s a merry-is band of four as the sisters, the mage, and the mercenary set out with the vague aim of making it to Argus’ master’s house.  Not that any of them trust the guy, but it’s the only lead they’ve got.

This is already dragging on a bit, so I’m going to wrap up by pointing out that these characters are well worth spending a few hours of your time with. Nate and Jena do feel an attraction to one another, so there is a potential romance floating in the plot.  It’s a series, so the bigger plot doesn’t wrap up, either.  There’s a healthy bit of story left to go in this universe, and frankly, I look forward to going over it.  What, exactly, does it mean that Nate is the prophesied Fire Mage?  How can he leverage that to keep himself alive, and presumably save the world on the way?  How does Jena manage to keep herself alive even though she’s clearly a mage of no small skill herself, which as a woman carries a death sentence?  What happens to Argus and Bree?

The book does end on a cliffhanger.  They reach the interim goal they’d set for themselves, but the book doesn’t take them further than that, and I definitely can’t help but feel like this whole thing is a setup for badness.  As cliffhangers go, it’s a good one.  I definitely want to know what happens next.

15717229930_9be4b15fab_c

Photo credit: OFTO via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

In the end, this was a thoroughly enjoyable adventure with characters I didn’t get tired of and a decent take on the old Rightful Heir trope.  I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who wants a fun high fantasy escape.  I have a feeling that book two is going to be worth the wait.  In the meantime, I’m going to check out a few of Trudi Jaye’s other books.   If you want a copy, now’s your chance.  Giveaways don’t happen EVERY day, but aren’t they fun when they do?  What’s next on your TBR list?

Akihabara

I honestly don’t know what to write for this post today.  I spent my weekend mostly just hanging out with family and friends.  We bought The Boy a desk lamp.  He asked to do some school on Saturday morning, so we did that.  We made Science Cookies— simple shortbread cookies that we weighed before and after baking to document any possible changes in mass since his science unit is discussing measuring right now.  Science, for the record, can be super delicious.

14769598688_cf27532886_c

Photo credit: Japón Entre Amigos on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

We did run over to Akihabara to meet up with some friends who are in the business of geekery and were over there for work.  If you don’t know what it is, Akihabara is sort of a destination for all things geeky in a Japanese sort of way: anime, manga, video games, and all the related toys and foods and posters and art books and, well, merchandise that is associated with it is for sale and on display.  There are more girls in costumes selling things then I’ve seen about anywhere outside of an *ahem* more adult sort of district.

I could get into the history and all that of the place— and it is pretty interesting— but if you’re unfamiliar with the place all you need to know is that it is now somewhere across between Times Square and a traveling carnival, with an unrelenting theme of crowds and anime style.  It’s also probably the most tourist-dense place I’ve been so far in Tokyo.

The thing of it is, though, is that it’s only a few blocks long.  It’s not even more than maybe two blocks deep, either.  The crowds thin dramatically once you pass an invisible line in the pavement, and suddenly you’re just in Tokyo, albeit with a bit more emphasis on the entertainment industry.  The temple I mentioned a few weeks back was a fairly easy walk from the main strip, but the people there were a distinctly different sort of crowd: more calm, more polite, less inclined to stopping suddenly and pushing across the stream of traffic to get a better view of something.

IMG_9558

So it’s not much of a shock that on our way from the mobbed JR station to our friend’s hotel a few blocks away, we not only left the mass of humanity but also passed a tiny postage-stamp park with a historical marker in it.  It seems that the river (which I hadn’t even known about before, though I’m not surprised by) that runs past Akihabara also once ran past one of the major roads through Japan, from Kyoto to what was then known as Edo.  My husband told me that in the evenings when it’s not oppressively hot and soupy (and probably even when it is, if I’ve learned anything at all about the longtime locals,) young guys gather there for Tokyo-style rap battles.

IMG_9516

We didn’t see anyone there when we passed on Saturday, but I did get to check out the sign and took some photos of the backs of some found-space shops and cafes that are squirreled away in the arches of the train bridge.  I learned a little more about my newly adopted hometown, and, after a few stops for business, I got to have my first okonomiyaki. The restaurant was on a floor full of restaurants in what seemed to be an otherwise normal office building smack dab in the center of the Otaku Mecca.  A small, hidden-n-plain-sight oasis of quiet.

So I guess what I’m saying, really, is that when you’re traveling, it makes sense to dig a little deeper, even at the tourist sites.  Because you never know what you’ll find just off the beaten path.

Influenced

You are no doubt shocked to learn that I am pretty heavily influenced by Japanese folk tales in my writing.  Yes, I’m a longtime anime fan, but well before I discovered the joys of giant robots and magical girls, I knew Hokusai and Fukurokuju.  My grandparents had, in my father’s lifetime, lived in Japan for a while and brought home with them not just art for the walls, but the songs Dad learned in Kindergarten and everyday household stuff like cups and jewelry boxes.

F43A050A-8531-452F-9E7B-10AF557D1A63 (1)So it should come as little surprise that I’ve got an eye for evidence of the more old-fashioned stories in my new hometown, and this weekend I was surrounded by them.  The Boy and I walked over to Skytree Tower last week, using a park as a less congested route, and came across a series of murals.  There were men being confronted by yokai, a woman being murdered, critters dancing under the moon that I am guessing were tanuki…

The Boy?  He was not so impressed.  There were no giant robots or rocket ships in any of the murals.  I feel like I’m failing him, but he’s definitely his father’s son, so I’ll take it.  I took photos of the text that accompanied each picture so that my husband could tell me the stories, but we haven’t gotten that far yet so I’m still free to make things up.  What story should I think of next?

Summer

Holy balls it’s hot here, you guys.  Like, melt into a puddle the moment you step foot outside hot.  Even the hallways in the apartment building are hot and they’re theoretically air conditioned.  It’s get your errands done early in the day hot.  It’s carry an insulated bag for your milk hot.  It’s so hot nobody even wants to wear their skin let alone clothes hot.  And it’s not just the temperature that’s got everyone sweating.  It’s so humid that stepping outside feels like wearing a damp wool bag over your whole body.  It’s so humid that the laundry takes forever to dry on the line.  It’s an itchy, prickly, sticky, soupy heat.

IMG_9345

My kakigouri was lemon, but The Boy prefers melon flavor.

That said, there are ways around it.  You can stay in your apartment with the AC on and play video games (or write!) all day.  The only trouble is that you start to feel a little stir crazy after a bit— especially with an active 8 year old boy involved!  If you can survive the walk, head to a mall or a shopping arcade of some sort.  Always pleasantly air conditioned there’s usually enough to do to spend a few hours.  We could try to figure out how to get to a beach of some sort, but wed have to go buy swimsuits first, and then get on the train for a while, and… well.

So instead we’re settling for a combination of the two above options, with a few others thrown in.  The Boy has developed an instant love of kakigouri and melon soda, and I can’t blame him.  There’s always ice cream, as well.  We each have folding fans we carry around, and can I tell you how much I love my new parasol?  Love.

IMG_9368

Finished setting up!  Now’s the calm before the crowds…

There are benefits to summer, though.  Fireworks and summer festivals and the abundance of produce at the shop across the street.  I enjoy the sound of the cicadas in the odd quiet moment, though I know they drive some folks crazy.  I do wish we had a little space to grew some plants, but then, we do have a small balcony and now a potted rosemary, so we may be closer to a container gardener life than I’d thought.

It’s hot, sure, but I’m finding that I’m enjoying the season anyway.  At the risk of melting every time we go out, I still like to walk to the market and see what’s there, and discovering what’s going on at the park we walk through to get there.  You never know when you’ll find a festival, and where there’s a festival, there’s probably kakigouri.

Life, large and small

14949202534_bacd339174_bI had a blog post all written out but when I looked at it this morning, I kind of hated it.  So I scrapped it and here we are. Post-less and out of ideas first thing on Monday morning.  Ah well.

If you’re following my Facebook or my Instagram, you’ll have seen some of our adventures this weekend.  We got out and about and played, and left our son’s backpack on the train, and got the bag back with everything but his Nintendo Switch.  We had some amazing food, saw some awesome people, and I still have some photos left to post later this week

I got to practice my terrible Japanese a little, which is honestly pretty surprising.  I’m one of that terribly self-conscious sort of people who don’t want to sound like an idiot in any language, and when it’s a language you don’t know well… Well.  But my husband’s friend is super cool and I felt pretty comfortable to try my limited Japanese on her, and in return, she used her somewhat less limited English on me.  We both had beers and honestly, it was kind of perfect.  I hope we get to hang out some more soon.

When we got home last night, we were getting ready for bed, and my husband made a comment about how he can tell that I’m really here now.  When I asked him what he meant, he pointed to the small desk he was standing next to and pointed.

“I’ve never been so happy to see coffee rings,” he said.  I, naturally, threw a pillow at him, but honestly?  I love you too, sweetheart. And I’ll start using a coaster, thanks.

 

3375886335_b195b829e1

Coffee rings are a symbol of love.  I think.   Photo credit: roger.karlsson on Visual hunt / CC BY

Social life

japan-tokyo-shibuya-japanese-building-crowd

Shibuya scramble, photo from Visualhunt

our first week in Tokyo was spent almost entirely in the apartment.  Jet lag, rain, a nasty cold, and just plain exhaustion combined to keep me and The Boy inside playing video games and watching TV.  I didn’t mind too terribly much, but on top of my already shattered attention span, it really hasn’t helped my productive output, word out wise.    I did have a couple of fairly productive days, overall, but not nearly as much as I should have, and I’m feeling a wee bit guilty about that.

On top of that, I’m feeling pretty drained, creatively speaking.  What little energy I’ve had this past week has been all about organization and practical stuff.  Go to the Ward Office and get our papers in order.  Go buy a shelving solution for my clothes.  Figure out how to use the washing machine and the cooking appliances.  (Our microwave is also our oven, and all the instructions are in kanji.  I’ve been cooking everything on the stovetop.)

group-day-out-man-people-friends-park-strolling.jpgSo I took the weekend off.  Well, mostly, but even though our shopping trip was to Daiso for household supplies, it was still out at a mall and we got to do some window shopping.  We went out to lunch, looked at the capsule machines, even managed to hit up a kaiten sushi place!  Saturday night we got to hang out with several folks for popsicles and chatting and fun.  We saw another friend for lunch on yesterday, and last night, we went to the Tower Records Cafe in Shibuya to meet a  friend and enjoy a collaboration cafe for a Granblue Fantasy Cafe experience.  It was silly and fun and the food was surprisingly decent!

I had an amazing weekend talking to other adult human beings and going outside the

IMG_9249

My husband and several plates of Granblue Fantasy themed food!

apartment.   I’m afraid that at a few points I managed to complete word-vomit all over them because I guess I’d had all the chattiness saved up from the past few days.  I mean, I’m introverted, not antisocial, and I’ve been effectively sealed in a box for a week!

It’s a little overboard, probably because everyone wants to see us finally AND they’re in town for a convention, but still.  It’s been really good to see people and be out among other human beings.  I think that when I sit down to work out my next few chapters, I’ll be in better shape to actually get my creativity flowing.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do mid-week to recharge when I need it and it’s just me and The Boy…. Anyone have any suggestions?

Jet lag is not for sissies

plane_window

I’m writing this at almost 8 am, and I’ve been up for 4 hours already.  Still, that’s way better than yesterday when I woke up at 2!  If I can sleep in till 6 tomorrow, I’m going to call it a massive win.

So yes, we made it to Tokyo.  It’s hot and muggy and so far we’ve barely ventured out for more than groceries, but I don’t care.  I’m feeling pretty damn good about life! My husband has taken some time off today to take us to the ward office and get our resident cards all done up official-like, and then we’re going to do something about my cell phone situation.

I’ve got a ton of stuff to work out (I started by re-organizing half the kitchen and doing a serious scrub down of it this morning…) but I think I’m starting to get into a minor groove.  It’s going to be a few weeks before I have a really solid handle on our day-to-day rhythms, but I think it’s going to be okay.

Now if I could just convince myself not to try living off nothing but combini pudding…

3690218087_2c32372cdf_b

 

Depending on when you read this, a second sample chapter of Brewing Trouble may be up on my Patreon– it’s scheduled to go up mid-morning- and the short story is still available!

Summer vacation?

32859186280_9c384251c4_b

Okay, not really a vacation that’s vacation-ish, where I get to hang out with my family and rest up and do fun stuff, although some of that’s probably going to happen if I’m lucky.  You all know that The Boy and I are moving soon.  From the East Coast of the U.S. to Tokyo Japan.  It’s causing just a wee little bit of stress here at Chez Kim, and I’m totally handling it in very healthy ways like not starting to drink immediately after getting up in the morning.  

Basically, everyone I know is a bit concerned for my health, and self-care has become a rather vital thing in my life.  As a result, I’m going to be dialing it back here a little since I have to focus on packing and making sure we have the tickets and passports and all the things, and then I have to figure out unpacking and how to re-jam together two households back into one household and sort out our new schedules and… well.  Life.  I’m a little shocked that the Anxiety Gnomes haven’t launched an attack, but then I think even they’re exhausted by everything so, small blessings?

14949202534_bacd339174_bSo for the next month (August, basically), I’m going to be posting here only once a week.  I’m going to keep up with the Patreon page since the short story is almost ready to post now, and I have the chapter available for preview.  I should have a book cover by the end of the month as well, so that’s going to be fun.  Also, I’ll be posting some Adventures over on Instagram, because that’s pretty quick.

Mostly, though, I’m going to spend August focusing on how to get our lives rolling in Tokyo and getting Brewing Trouble finished up.  And trying to help my friends live vicariously by going to places they want to go and taking copious photos.  Any requests?

Timeline

Spirit-hunting-Generic

I am not a cover designer, but I do my best… It’ll look nicer when they’re all collected.

As you know, I’ve been writing short stories to premiere on my Patreon page.  The first is up now, but I’ve got the second and third already in process for the next two months.  That’s, unfortunately, been a bit of a problem.

You see, This first story is current.  That is, it’s about Cassie, and her adventures just after the events of Finding Insight.  The second story is about Gabe and happens in the middle of Brewing Trouble, which I’m still writing.  Made it a bit easier to overlap the events, at least!  But… the third story is about Marcus and takes place way back just near the beginning of Finding Insight, or just before.

Which, while I felt pretty inspired by the story itself, caused some serious hiccuping in my brain.  I had to remember what happened in that book, for one thing, but more importantly, I had to remember what hadn’t happened yet.  I gamely started in on it and to my chagrin, my mind switched gears quickly and I managed to finish the story in a few days to send out to my beta readers.  I was thrilled!  I could get right back to Brewing Trouble and keep my momentum going!

So I sat and stared at a blank screen for two days.  Because my brain couldn’t catch up again.  I had a book hangover from the short story I just wrote, and couldn’t get back into the right part of the time stream of the series.

7937242004_f3f88bfc61_c.jpg

Where’d these new characters come from?  We just introduced Marcus and Cassie, right?  All that stuff with Kai in the basement just happened, didn’t it?  I mean… how is he so totally healed up already? And, and, and… Augh!

So I’ve had to forcibly retrain my brain into the right timeline.  It’s slow going, but I’m getting back to it finally, which is good since I was hoping to be almost done with this one before our move next month and I don’t think it’s going to happen.  Ah well.

Space Patrol

560775974_34ccc0d3c4_z

Photo credit: darastar via Visual Hunt / CC BY

The packing continues.  The Boy’s sheets and most of our winter clothes are in a box and in a couple of hours I’ll trek down to the post office to ship it all to Tokyo.  We’re not really taking much, but that still ends up being a ton of stuff.  So much that I’m surprised, actually.   Clothes take up a remarkable amount of space, it turns out.  I’ve been going through all the stuff I don’t wear, or don’t love, and the pile for the charity shop is getting to be fairly substantial.  That doesn’t even count the kid clothes I’m pulling because The Boy is growing like kids do.

It’s a good thing he’s got a fancy whole-apartment-in-one bed from Ikea, or we’d never have anywhere to put The Boy’s things.  In addition to the clothes and the bedding, he’s got an army of stuffed animals that he will die without.  And books (in English and Japanese) that he requires for his continued good health.  And Legos.  I have tried to explain that we won’t have all the space there that we have here in his grandparents’ house, but it’s like shouting at a rock.

And, of course, all his school things are there already as well.  We’re sort-of homeschooling until his Japanese reading and writing catches up a bit to his peers, and the online school we’re going through has sent two boxes of supplies, from books to an inflatable globe to art supplies.  His desk and shelves and dresser will be full to overflowing with his things and it’s going to be an adventure keeping everything tidy.

Meanwhile, I get two shelves in closet and no room for all my books.  I’m heartbroken, my bed doesn’t even have fancy drawers under it!  Kids get the best stuff.    What would you take if you had to live essentailly out of a suitcase?

15717229930_9be4b15fab_c

But where do I put all my books?!!!      Photo credit: OFTO via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA