Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Are you ready for this?

I will be taking a short hiatus for the next few days for Easter break, and because I'm madly preparing for the A-Z Challenge.

If you missed my reveal from last week, my theme is:

Sci-fi and Fantasy Characters

And I will also be giving a shout out to a special blogger buddy each day.

Thanks to all the awesome hosts, helpers, and everyone else involved for putting together such a massive fest. It's gonna be legendary!

See you April 1.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Guest Post: Fullmetal Alchemist!!

Laura from My Baffling Brain is here to talk about my favourite anime show today! Woo! Take it away, Laura.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

First of all, thank you to Allison for having me on her blog, and giving me the opportunity to write about one of my favourite things!

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is my favourite anime; I’m currently watching it for the fourth time in less than a year. It really is the best I’ve seen, so far. Here are my reasons:


There are a lot of characters involved in this anime, but every single one of them is necessary to the plot. The characterisation is excellent; each character has their own distinct personality and style. The villains are also amazing for the same reason – at times you even feel sorry for them, which I think is good in any story. My favourite character is Ed, one of the main characters (I also love Roy Mustang and Lin Yao). I don’t think there are any characters I really disliked, except for the villains (and I had a real love/hate relationship with them!)

I also think the Japanese voice actors do a great job, particularly considering that the two main male characters are voiced by women.


The pacing is really good – each episode moves the story along, so there are no fillers. I’ve seen it three times so far and there still aren’t any episodes I would skip past to get to the good bits. It can be quite a dark anime, with some really sad, tragic moments, which makes it quite mature. I like the humour that is used to balance it out – it works really well and doesn’t take away the seriousness of the story.

The story is heavily themed around sacrifice, and this is probably one of the reasons I love it so much. Stories with sacrifice are my favourite kinds.


So many emotions ran through me while watching this anime, and I think it’s hard to create something that brings up so many emotions. It can make you feel sadness, anger, joy and fear, all in one episode!


I love the concept of alchemy in this anime – it’s such a unique idea, and I really wish I could clap my hands together and change something. Although I think if I could I’d use it for everything, and become really lazy!

I also really like the law of equivalent exchange, and think it makes a lot of sense that everything comes at a cost.


The ending was great, even better than I had expected it to be, and it tied up all loose ends just like an ending should.


I love the soundtrack to this anime; I listen to it all the time. It really suits the story, with some dramatic pieces, some incredibly sad (to the extent that when I listen to them I nearly burst into tears) and some very playful.

So if you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Big Reveal!

I was going to do this anyway, and lo' and behold, I find out there is a blog hop for just such a purpose! Huzzah. Thanks Mina and David for hosting! Check out their blogs for other participants revealing their themes!

My A-Z theme is....

Fantasy and Sci-Fi Characters.

I'm highlighting some of my favourites, and they are from TV shows, video games, movies, AND books. That's right, who knows who might show up to this blog hop. The Star Wars galaxy, Hyrule, Hogwarts, and Eureka all mashed up into one blogfest? Heck, yeah. Universes just might collide.

Since I've also made some fantastic blogging friends this year, I will be adding a line at the bottom of each post to give a shout out to some blogging pals as well. I've almost got one blogging buddy for every letter of the alphabet. Only X and Y are missing right now, so, you know, feel to befriend me quick if your name starts with X or Y ;)

April's almost here!!!

And don't forget to comment on the post below if you like steampunk! You could win a copy of The Aylesford Skull.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Book Review and Giveaway: THE AYLESFORD SKULL

Author: James P. Blaylock
Publisher: Titan Books
Pub Date: January 15, 2013

It is the summer of 1883 and Professor Langdon St. Ives - brilliant but eccentric scientist and explorer - is at home in Aylesford with his family. However, a few miles to the north a steam launch has been taken by pirates above Egypt Bay; the crew murdered and pitched overboard. In Aylesford itself a grave is opened and possibly robbed of the skull. The suspected grave robber, the infamous Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, is an old nemesis of Langdon St. Ives.

When Dr. Narbondo returns to kidnap his four-year-old son Eddie and then vanishes into the night, St. Ives and his factotum Hasbro race to London in pursuit...

The first new steampunk novel in over twenty years from one of the genre's founding fathers!
(summary from Goodreads)

Though I haven't read any of Blaylock's previous Langdon St. Ives novels, I didn't find it a problem getting into this one. What really drew me in was St. Ives' evil nemesis, Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, who plans to get revenge on St. Ives by kidnaping his son. He is a fascinatingly twisted character. 

I also loved the character of St. Ives' wife Alice. She was a no-nonsense, practical woman who knew what she wanted and didn't let anything stand in her way.

The story reminded me of Sherlock Holmes with a dash of ghosts, necromancy, and airships. At times, I felt like it dragged by following too many characters, but the adventure and snappy ending made up for it. All in all, a pleasant read.

Want to win a copy of The Aylesford Skull? Well you're in luck, because I've got an extra one! Leave me a note in the comments and I will enter you to win it. I'll pick the winner on Friday, March 29. And sorry, my pals overseas, only people from Canada or the U.S. are eligible.

Happy Wednesday, friends!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Top Ten Movie Countdown

Huzzah! Today is Alex J. Cavanaugh's Top Ten Movie Countdown blogfest! I love making lists, and I haven't done my favourite movies yet, so this is perfect timing!

I am actually going to play strictly to the rules and only pick ONE movie per slot (e.g. I won't be cheating and mentioning the whole Harry Potter series, for example.) Most of my selections are geeky, but a couple of them are not (gasp).

Without further ado, here are my favourites:

10. The Italian Job

A clever heist, good acting, and car chases that are actually interesting. This movie is fun, and even appealing to the non-geek.

9. Pride and Prejudice

What? A girly movie on my list? Come on, I think I'm entitled to at least one... And yes, it's the long BBC version.

8. The 10th Kingdom

No one seems to have heard of this movie, but it's so good! A fantastic twist on the "lonely lass finds her way into fairy-tale land" story. It's so much fun. I might have to write a review on it to further convince you all.


7. Spirited Away

Miyazaki's finest. So weird and so good.


6. Back to the Future

 A classic.


5. The Avengers

 Joss Whedon can do no wrong, can he?

4. Sword in the Stone

 My favourite Disney movie. My family can quote this one backwards and forwards.


3. Serenity

What was I saying about Joss Whedon? So glad Firefly got a movie that tied some of the loose ends. And it's a fantastic movie even on its own.


2. Empire Strikes Back

The original trilogy is still the best. I like to pretend episodes I-III don't exist. Episode V is my favourite.


1. The Fellowship of the Ring

I was brought up on Lord of the Rings. It was so exciting when this came out, and it absolutely didn't disappoint. It's my favourite of the trilogy.

And there you have it. Whew. So hard to pick just 10. Honorable mentions go to Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, X-Men 2, and Tangled.

What are your top ten movies? Be sure to stop by Alex's blog and visit the other participants in the fest!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Music Monday: Game of Thrones

What tune do I bring you today? None other than the theme from the TV show Game of Thrones. Haven't watched the show or read the books, but love the music!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

To-Play List

I gave you my to-read list the other day, so I figured I would share with you the video games that are on my list to play next. (Summaries from Wikipedia.)

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Released: November, 2011

Skyward Sword follows an incarnation of the series protagonist Link who was raised in a society above the clouds known as Skyloft. After his closest childhood friend, Zelda, is swept into the land below the clouds by demonic forces, Link does whatever it takes to save her, traveling between Skyloft and the surface below while battling the dark forces of the self-proclaimed "Demon Lord", Ghirahim.

I am actually well into Skyward Sword already. No Zelda game has beat Ocarina of Time in my humble opinion, but this one is still pretty darn fun. Full review to come.

The Last Story

Released: August, 2012 

Set on the fictional Lazulis Island, the game's story focuses on a group of mercenaries from a desolate continent as they seek work, discovering the world's slow destruction in the process.

I'd never heard of this before a friend mentioned recently how good it was, comparing it to Final Fantasy and insisting the story and gameplay are matchless. How have I not heard of this before? I'm playing it next, because it sounds fantastic.

Chrono Trigger

Released: March, 1995

Chrono Trigger takes place in a world similar to Earth, with eras such as the prehistoric age, except that humans and dinosaurs share the earth; the Middle Ages, replete with knights, monsters, and magic; and the post-apocalyptic future, where humans and sentient robots struggle to survive. The characters frequently travel through time to obtain allies, gather equipment, and learn information to help them in their quest.

Considered by some as one of the greatest games of all time. I know, I know. How is it I have not played it yet? It's on my to-do list.


Released: August, 2007

BioShock is set in 1960, in which the player guides Jack after his airplane crashes in the ocean near the bathysphere terminus that leads to the underwater city of Rapture. Built by the business magnate Andrew Ryan, the city was intended to be an isolated utopia, but the discovery of ADAM, a plasmid which grants superhuman powers, initiated the city's turbulent decline. Jack tries to find a way to escape, fighting through hordes of ADAM-obsessed enemies.

Some of my friends rave about this one. Some of them don't care for it. I haven't quite decided if I'm going to play it or not--it sounds kind of dark, but apparently the storyline is amazing.

Played any of these games? Thoughts? What's on your to-play list?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Psychology of Writing

I am not making a long post, because I have writing projects to work on! But I have not forgotten you, my IWSG friends. I leave you with this thought from Calvin and Hobbes.

 Sometimes, coming up with a crazy good story is worth being sent to the psychologist's office for, agreed? :)


This post is part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Check the link for some of the other blogs participating in this event!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Alex Brown talks Joss Whedon's Female Characters

The wonderfully geeky blogger extraordinaire Alex Brown from A Novel Journey, whom I first bonded with over Fringe and Firefly on her blog, is visiting today to talk about a truly awesome subject--Joss Whedon. Welcome, Alex!

Thanks, Alli, for letting me guest post today!

I’m here to talk about one of my favorite storytellers ever. He’s brought us countless wonderful, awesome, I-hate-you-but-I’m-gonna-keep-watching-because-I-love-what-you-just-did things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, oh, and a little movie called The Avengers. Maybe you saw it last summer.

So, I’ve been a long time fan of Joss Whedon. One might even say I’m a Whedonite. They wouldn’t be wrong. And there are many things about his shows/movies/online miniseries that I love, but today I’m going to talk about what might be my favorite part (besides the witty banter and the breakaway pop hits).

Today I’m here to talk to you about strong female characters in the Whedon-verse. The idea for this came from an interview excerpt from a few years ago. Joss was asked why he writes so many strong female characters and replied:

“Because you’re still asking me that question.”

Holding for applause.


Right then. His answer pretty much made me love him even more – and not just because I’m also a writer who creates strong female characters. When I was growing up it was very difficult to find those strong female characters to identify with. Sure, there were a couple of females on the Power Rangers, but Kimberly (the Pink Ranger)’s arc mostly revolved around boys. Trina (the Yellow Ranger – who was also Asian, and I’m not jumping down that rabbit hole today) was given even less to do. There were also a bunch of Disney Princesses who did a lot of waiting for their Prince to come and have really only started to take charge of their own lives and hey, realize that they can be just as autonomous as their male counterparts.

So that’s why I love Joss Whedon. He has a variety of female characters who are all strong in their own ways.  Here’s my super-quick breakdown:

Zoe Washburne - Firefly

Zoe is the First Officer of Serenity.  She can kick ass, take names, and deliver a witty quip all before she’s eaten breakfast. She says what she wants, when she wants, and will call people out when they need it.  When I think of a “strong female” character, my mind immediately goes to Zoe because she’s tough but she’s also in touch with her emotions. Zoe is totally confident in who she is and what she wants, and won’t hesitate to protect any of her crew members.

She knows who she is, she gets everything done, and she isn’t so damaged or hurt that she can’t love or is angsty all the time (which is an unfortunate common occurrence in female characters that I’ve run across).

She has emotions (as do we all, no matter what gender you identify with), acknowledges them, uses them when she needs to, and can bottle them up when she needs to. She’s pretty much just in control of everything and I love her for it.

One of my favorite Zoe quotes is from an exchange she has with Serenity’s Captain, Mal Reynolds. When they swoop in and save the day in the nick of time:

Mal: Well, look at this! Appears we got here in the nick of time. What does that make us?

Zoe: Big damn heroes, sir!

(This might be my favorite Zoe quote ever)

I really don’t want to get super spoilery about what happens to Zoe, but Joss Whedon I’m still mad at you *shakes fist at Joss* - still, if I wanted to find someone to role model, it would be Zoe Washburne.

Buffy – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

(Spoilers in this one!)

There are SO MANY female characters I could have focused on from Buffy, but I figured if I was going to talk about this show, I should use Buffy Summers. I mean, she did save the world. A lot. Buffy literally went to hell and back and, out of all of Whedon’s heroines, probably had the most on her plate at any given time. Buffy had to deal with a boyfriend who turned evil (and the timing of said turning was quite perfect on Whedon’s part), had to then kill said boyfriend to save the world, had to quit college to raise a little sister, died twice, was an unwilling participant in a musical, and…I could keep going, but I’ll stop the list at the musical.

What I love about Buffy is that she didn’t always do the right thing. She screwed up, she isolated herself, she put everyone at a distance because she didn’t want them to get hurt and she didn’t want herself to get hurt. Buffy had so much to cope with, and, thinking back to when I was 16, she handled all of that pretty well.

One of my favorite Buffy quotes is from Restless. She’s talking to the Original Slayer, and Buffy’s pointing out the differences between them.

I walk. I talk. I shop. I sneeze. I'm gonna be a fireman when the floods roll back. There's trees in the desert since you moved out, and I don't sleep on a bed of bones.

This is seriously the epitome of Buffy.  She’s a normal teenage girl who walks, talks, shops, and sneezes, but she also wants to be a fireman when the floods roll back. Even when it doesn’t seem like people will need her, and that she’ll have outgrown her usefulness, she’s still ready to help people. She’ll wait during the calm periods, until everything dries out and catches fire again, and she’ll be there, ready to put them out.

Or, you know, save the world. A lot.

Fred – Angel

Okay.  So, Fred.  Fred is an interesting character, in that when she first arrives on Angel, she’s very much the stereotype of the “weak female.” She’s very timid, and frightened, and develops a super-fast-crush on a character, and can’t seem to make her own decisions, deferring to other people’s opinions.

But then the show digs a little deeper into Fred’s past, and the viewers discover why she’s this way. To keep a long story short, a jealous guy sent her into an alternate dimension where she became a slave and slowly started to doubt her life in our world had ever happened. So, again, a female character who had to deal with some pretty heavy stuff.

Fred’s also brilliant. She becomes a very good strategist and already had skills in physics and advanced math stuff (and I obviously don’t share said skill). Fred becomes her own person again when she comes back to our world, and I think she’s the best example of the “Sleeper” strong female character. Surface-wise, when she first gets on the series she seems so weak and helpless. But then, if you take a second to look at everything she went through (getting sucked to another dimension that happens to be filled with demons, having to wear a shock collar, starting to doubt the existence of her real life, getting rescued by a vampire) she coped in the best way she could.

But what makes her a “Sleeper” strong female character isn’t that she coped relatively well.  It’s that she didn’t let it hold her back. She came back to the real world, took a bit of time to adjust, but was able to heal and use her intelligence to help her friends. She acknowledged her pain but fought through it and…well, I’m not going to discuss Season 5. Just know that Fred is awesome.

There are so many more characters I could discuss, but I’m a little terrified that I’ve already droned on for quite some time!  I think I’ll call it a day for now, but if anyone wants to discuss strong female characters and the issues that face people who try to create them (like if people have said: your character is too in touch with her emotions, she needs to man up! Or, I think your character is a manipulative cold B****, or doesn’t your character need to wear a dress all the time and want to have a husband/kids/a family) then you can find me on my blog, or on Twitter!

Or if you want to discuss Joss Whedon (and/or any of his characters) I’d be more than happy to do that, too!

Alex Brown isn't really a fan of speaking in third person, so she's about to switch POV in the next sentence. I'm a grad student in Tennessee but originally I hail from the coast of Virginia, where I hung out with a lot of Canadian tourists during the summers of my youth. *waves to Canadian friends* I'm an aspiring YA writer who mostly sticks to sci-fi but sometimes ventures into fantasy and magical realism. I write characters with a lot of snark, even more heart, and who run the gamut when it comes to diversity. I'm a very big fan of stories with diverse characters in them. I'm a constant user of the Bechdel Test and can never turn my brain off (which is terrible when I'm trying to sleep). You can find me on Twitter or on my blog, where I try my best to be entertaining!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

My To-Read Pile

I like to see what other people have on their reading lists, so I thought I'd show you mine. Summaries from Goodreads.

Emilie and the Hollow World

While running away from home for reasons that are eminently defensible, Emilie’s plans to stow away on the steamship Merry Bell and reach her cousin in the big city go awry, landing her on the wrong ship and at the beginning of a fantastic adventure.

Taken under the protection of Lady Marlende, Emilie learns that the crew hopes to use the aether currents and an experimental engine, and with the assistance of Lord Engal, journey to the interior of the planet in search of Marlende’s missing father.

With the ship damaged on arrival, they attempt to traverse the strange lands on their quest. But when evidence points to sabotage and they encounter the treacherous Lord Ivers, along with the strange race of the sea-lands, Emilie has to make some challenging decisions and take daring action if they are ever to reach the surface world again.

 Encounters of Sherlock Holmes

A brand-new collection of Sherlock Holmes stories from a variety of exciting voices in modern horror and steampunk, including James Lovegrove, Justin Richards, Paul Magrs, Guy Adams and Mark Hodder. Edited by respected anthologist George Mann, and including a story by Mann himself.


 Imagine an Age of Exploration full of alchemy, human dissection, sea monsters, betrayal, torture, religious controversy, and magic. In Europe, the magic is thin, but at the edge of the world, where the stars reach down close to the Earth, wonders abound. This drives the bravest explorers to the alluring Western Ocean. Christopher Sinclair is an alchemist who cares only about one thing: quintessence, a substance he believes will grant magical powers and immortality. And he has a ship.

 The Golem and the Jinni

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master-the husband who commissioned her-dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.

Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free-an unbreakable band of iron around his wrist binds him to the physical world.

Meeting by chance, Chava and Ahmad become unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing nature-until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful threat will soon bring the Golem and the Jinni together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.

Earth Girl

2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. While everyone else portals between worlds, 18-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, she has been abandoned by her parents. She can’t travel to other worlds, but she can watch their vids, and she knows all the jokes they make. She’s an ‘ape’, a ‘throwback’, but this is one ape girl who won’t give in.

Jarra invents a fake background for herself – as a normal child of Military parents – and joins a class of norms that is on Earth to excavate the ruins of the old cities. When an ancient skyscraper collapses, burying another research team, Jarra’s role in their rescue puts her in the spotlight. No hiding at back of class now. To make life more complicated, she finds herself falling in love with one of her classmates – a norm from another planet. Somehow, she has to keep the deception going.

What looks interesting to you? What's on your reading list?