Air Awakens – Review

A Library Apprentice, a Sorcerer Prince, and an Unbreakable Magic Bond…

Can we all just take a moment to appreciate how beautiful this cover art is?

 

I just picked up and finished “Air Awakens” by Elise Kova in three days. Oh, how I’ve longed for a book like this! I feel like it’s been ages since I’ve read a book that really engaged me, and that all the books between books like this are just fillers. Mediocre, barely decent fillers.

Air Awakens is set in a fantasy fiction world complete with magic and princes. Now before you start thinking that this is a fairy tale story, stop. I won’t deny that I rolled my eyes at the idea of it too. “Plain ordinary girl discovers she has rare magical powers, meets a prince, and is swept up into the war of her kingdom.” Excuse me? Is this a Disney movie?

The answer is a resounding no.

I implore you to ignore your knee-jerk reaction to what seems to be a bland repeat of an overused story. Air Awakens is so much more.

Let’s start with the setting. It does have a typical fantasy world with swords and magic. We have the kingdom of Solaris that is full of royalty, warriors, and sorcerers; some of which aren’t exclusive. Solaris is made up of the southern, eastern, and western regions. The northern region is the last that Solaris is attempting to conquer, and so they remain at war. The different regions also have different opinions on its sorcerers. Some are fearful while others are reverent.

I’m the latter. The sorcerers within this series are of the elemental variety. Each sorcerer has an elemental affinity that affects what type of magic they use. There are Firebearers, Windwalkers, Waterrunners,  and Groundbreakers; fire, air, water, and earth. Magic is not inherent in everyone, and it isn’t genetic. Magic chooses the person. Once it has, your powers remain dormant until they begin to “awaken”. I am really drawn to the way Kova’s magic works in this series.

Vhalla, our heroine, has been a library apprentice in the Imperial Library nearly her entire life until her powers begin to awaken. I really like Vhalla. She is intelligent, hungry for knowledge, and simply refuses to be ignorant. At the same time, she isn’t without her faults. The author did a very good job of making sure that her main character was balanced. Her development is also very well written, and you never reach a point where Vhalla abruptly becomes mature, all-knowing, and powerful. I can really appreciate that Vhalla’s personality stayed true to character throughout this first book. She struggles, and as a reader it made her all the more believable.

And then there’s the crown prince, Aldrik. Oh, he’s not the Prince Charming that fairy-tales have painted in all of our heads. He’s quite the opposite, although he is charming in his own unique way. Aldrik was the character that had me raising and furrowing my eyebrows all throughout the book. For me, he was the curve-ball that threw this story off of its dangerously close path to mediocre fantasy fiction. He was enigmatic, dark, unpredictably delicious. Ahem. I refuse to elaborate on him too much, but I will tell all the ladies that he is far more swoon-worthy than any other prince I’ve read about in the most untypical ways.

It is very special to me when I find an author that knows how to write and develop a romantic relationship properly. What I mean by properly is that the relationship develops at an appropriate pace while the character’s personalities remain true to themselves. Elise Kova has done just that. Vhalla wasn’t mindlessly falling head over heels for the prince, and Aldrik wasn’t immediately and inexplicably attracted to her. We don’t have two perfect characters falling perfectly in love with each other and riding off into a perfect sunset. Too many perfects? Exactly. These two have their faults, but they learn to appreciate each other’s good points and that eventually develops into feelings. Who would’ve thought?

I also have to commend Kava for even breathing life into her side characters. For once, I didn’t feel like they were just added (annoying) fluff. They had enough substance to them that you actually did care for them a bit, at least.

For an introduction to a new world, kingdom, magic, characters, ect., Kava does a great job of informing the reader of everything without dumping vast amounts of information at once. Because of that, the pace of the story isn’t dreadfully slow and it isn’t rushed either. There just the right amount of drama and intrigue to keep you turning the pages. I actually ended up reading this in the morning before work, during lunch, and in the evening before bed. I finished it three days, and immediately purchased the next book, Falling Fire.

I’m giving this book:

 5/5

I enjoyed it immensely! If you are looking for a new series that has pieces of fantasy, adventure, and romance all mixed in quite well, then I suggest you read Air Awakens.

Also, I’m crossing my fingers that someone else will read it because I really need to discuss this book with someone! 

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

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Alan Rickman, Always.

When I sat down on the couch this morning with my cup of coffee, the last thing that I expected was to hear such saddening news.

Alan Rickman has passed away. My heart dropped. It was so unbelievable to me at first that I spent a lot of time confirming the legitimacy of the news.

Announcing his death on Thursday, a family statement said: The actor and director Alan Rickman has died from cancer at the age of 69. He was surrounded by family and friends.

I was stunned and heartbroken instantly. I have always appreciated Alan Rickman’s work even though he became most famous for playing villains.  There was just so much about the way he carried himself in each role that, even if you disliked his character, you developed a certain respect for that character. Then there were other gentler movies like Truly Madly Deeply and Love, Actually where he showed us all how diverse his talent was.

His capacity to fell you with a look or lift you with a word. The intransigence which made him the great artist he was – his ineffable and cynical wit, the clarity with which he saw most things, including me, and the fact that he never spared me the view. I learned a lot from him.– Emma Thompson

Alan Rickman’s spectrum of talent was most brilliant, in my opinion, when he took on the role of Professor Severus Snape in all eight of the Harry Potter movies. People familiar with the series know that Severus Snape was a highly complicated man. He was the professor that you loved to hate, until he revealed his true nature beneath the cold sneering exterior. This was a character made for Rickman, and I don’t think that anyone could have brought Professor Snape to life quite like Rickman did.

Truly, his death today has felt as though we’ve lost Professor Snape himself. That is how closely he represented Snape for me. I’m sure he had the same profound effect on a lot of Harry Potter fans.

Rest in Peace, Alan Rickman. You will be missed so very much.

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Let’s Talk Pokémon!

Pokémon is celebrating its 20th Anniversary!

That fact really puts my age into perspective, but I will say that I’m impressed that Pokémon continues to resonate with kids today. It has been a very successful franchise, and actually holds onto a special place in my heart.

Pokémon wasn’t just a game to me. From the moment that I discovered The Official Pokémon Handbook at my school’s book fair, I couldn’t quench my thirst for it. I was eight years old. I read that book over and over again — memorizing everything that I could about the Pokémon. Back in those days, I could tell you anything you wanted to know about the first 150 Pokémon.

Pokémon did play the biggest factor in my development into a solo gamer. I had always been Player 2 to an older brother that owned all the consoles, but Pokémon changed all that for me. When my parents bought me Pokémon Blue for Christmas it came with my very own Gameboy Color. Thinking back on all of that, it gave me the freedom to finally game on my own!

I have to admit that this anniversary has me feeling very nostalgic. In the spirit of said nostalgia, I’ve decided to challenge anyone who reads this!

The Challenge

Find the BEST picture of your all time favorite Pokémon and post it in the comments below! Have fun walking down memory lane!

I’ll start.

Schools that Read Together: Cultivating Reading Communities at the Secondary Level by Heather Rocco

Here is an inspiring project by a middle school and high school to encourage young people to read. This truly warms my heart. I hope to one day be a part of such an initiative.

Nerdy Book Club

Approximately three years ago, Chatham Middle and High School teachers implemented an independent reading initiative for their students. There are many components to implementing an effective independent reading program, especially at the middle and high school levels.  To explain all we did (and do) requires a much longer blog post or, say, full texts written by brilliant educators like Donalyn Miller or Penny Kittle (our IR muses).  Instead, I’d like to focus this brief post on one of the most surprising, yet inspiring results of our independent reading initiative.  This initiative strengthened our school community.  

All our students have one thing in common – books.  They are readers.  They know the classmate sitting next to them reads.  They know their teachers read.  They know that they belong to this community.     

Community of Readers

Books bring people together.  Readers have book clubs, book stores, libraries, used book sales, GoodReads…

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To Barcelona and Back

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For those of you who might not know, I took the week of Thanksgiving off and flew to Barcelona for my vacation this year. I’ve been back almost two months now so I apologize for how long overdue this post is. Still, it really does feel like it’s taken that long for me to get back into the swing of things especially since the holidays happened right after.

The trip was a little over a week long, and it was one of those wonderful trips that are also incredibly tiring. We tried to cram as much sightseeing into those days as possible. We succeeded. We saw just about all there was to see within the city, and spent a day touring touring medieval towns outside Barcelona in the Catalunya region. I came back saying that I needed a vacation from my vacation, but it was most definitely worth it.

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I won’t pretend that I wasn’t expecting to come back from my first international trip very much changed by it all. Sure I have that experience under my belt, but I’m also someone who gets lost in the fast pace to the point of missing out on the good stuff. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the trip. I just wish I could have settled in for a longer stay and really got to know the culture of the city and region.

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I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a distinct difference between a vacation and a trip for me. In my opinion a vacation is a time for rest, recuperation, reflection, and above all else an escape from everyday stresses. A trip is defined by activities such as an abundance of travel, sightseeing, touring new locations, and participating in new activities. This was most definitely a trip to Barcelona.

Despite how tired we were, it was still an experience of a lifetime. It was my first time outside of the country, my first flying over the Atlantic, my first time in Europe, and in Spain. I think it’s important that everyone travel and experience other cultures no matter how short the time. It does expand your mind and remind you that you are a single life in a vast world.

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“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”

 

My Gaming Nostalgia

Ever really think about what it was in your life that really shaped you into the gamer that you are today? Can you remember the moment? I was recently asked these questions, and it really got me thinking.

I have to admit that it’s very difficult for me to remember one specific instance that really shaped me into the gamer that I am today. If I had to choose, there are two periods of my life that stand out.

First let me say that I’ve played video games since before I can remember, and before that I was an infant lying on the floor watching my older brother play them. (Trust me, there are home videos.) You might think that this makes it hard for me to pinpoint a time that changed me as a gamer, but it really isn’t. You see, I was always Player 2 early on. My parents decided video games were my brother’s thing. He received the systems and games as gifts, and since they were his I was only allowed to play when he wanted me to.

A big turning point for me as a gamer was when I received a Gameboy Color and Pokémon Blue for Christmas. I didn’t realize until much later that the Gameboy was my first game system, and that Pokémon was my first truly solo gaming experience. Of course, I didn’t know this at the time. I was too engrossed with actually playing Pokémon. There is even a picture of me at about seven years old curled in my dad’s old grey lounger with my head hung over my new Gameboy. I’m sure my family didn’t get to visit much with me during the time I spent adventuring through Pokémon.

Everyone might be surprised that the most influential moment of my early gaming life was a time that I wasn’t even playing the game 90% of the time. I was watching my brother play through a specific game, and he would let me play the mini-games or do miscellaneous things in the game but never the story. That game was Final Fantasy VII.  I’ll never forget the summer that he got that game. I don’t even think that we really knew how popular the game was, but we literally spent the entire summer playing it. I say we because I was so engrossed by it. The story, the graphics, the gameplay; I always wanted to play, but I settled for the mostly watching. I couldn’t get enough.

This was the summer that we snacked instead of really eating. My diet consisted of nachos, Pizza Rolls, Bagel Bites, and delicious popsicles. I can honestly say that this was when we starting choosing what we now call gamer food. That is, the food that is chosen for ease and convenience. I’m also pretty sure we never changed out of our pajama’s either.

I digress. Final Fantasy VII wasn’t the first in the Final Fantasy series that I had seen, but it was the first that I got to experience more. It was the game that got me hooked on the series, and since I’ve become quite an avid fan. That game, easy snacks, and comfy clothes made up a summer that shaped me the most as a gamer. I found my niche and my passion within the gaming world, and I haven’t turned back since.

It’s nice to look back on those moments, and it was even nicer to share them with everyone. It really makes you think about the things that make you feel nostalgic. I can’t take the credit though. A representative from a company called Man Crates sent me a request to see if I was interested in writing about those key ingredients that shaped me as a gamer.

For those of you that don’t know what Man Crates are, you should — Shame on you. Haha, I’m just kidding. They’re essentially crates that contain a bundle of quality goods for any man in your life. I’m not talking about cheap colognes, ties, socks, and boxers. They also have a new offering where they cover a gift card in concrete to be smashed open by your man — No, I’m not kidding. This company really represents Go Big or Go Home, in my opinion.

Did I mention that all the macho goods come in a wooden crate? Yes, you have to use a crowbar to get these bad boys open. I feel like that’s a manly gift in itself. Give him a wooden crate, a crow bar, and watch as he gets to show off his strength by opening it.

So if that sounds like something you would gift to someone, click their logo below!

 

Man Crates Store

D.I.Y. Magical Wand Tutorial

I might have moved under a rock for the past month or so, but I promise that it’s not because I didn’t want to write! Life has been hectic, especially when October rolled around. There were several events taking place at my workplace, Halloween, and my boyfriend’s Birthday on Halloween. Add my Barcelona trip planning on top of that, and I was/am a very busy lady. (More on that Barcelona Trip soon!)

So for Halloween, I decided to finally attempt to make my very own magical wand. As you may or may not know, I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I was planning on using it to go with my HP witch costume for Halloween, but I actually didn’t end up attending that party at all. Even so, I am very proud of the wands I made, and I plan to make more in the future.

In honor of the upcoming movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, here is a simple tutorial on how to make magical wands!

Supplies

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  • Wooden Dowels or Large Chopsticks – Wooden dowels are easier to find and cheaper, but you will have to use sandpaper to round out the end and taper the ends. Large chopsticks are harder to find unless you order them online. Wands are generally 9 to 14 inches in length although they can be as short as 7 inches and as long as 18 inches.)
  • Sandpaper – I used general purpose so it took a while to taper the ends, so I recommend getting a rougher grade.
  • Acrylic Paint – I chose a variety of browns.
  • Clear Multi-Surface Sealer – The Krylon sealer that I bought actually took the natural paint gloss away and gave my wands a more matted look. If you want a glossy finish, I’d suggest either looking for a glossy sealer or buy a separate gloss to apply after your sealer.
  • Glue Gun & Glue Sticks – For giving your wand that rugged wood look.
  • *** Optional Marbles/Gems – To press into your wand’s handle. I didn’t do this, but I will share how to add them.

Step #1: Sand it Down

(If you went with chopsticks, skip to Step #2)

First things first, you need to choose the thickness of your wand. A lot of wooden dowels will come in variety packs. For mine, I went with the medium size thickness since I’m a woman. Men with larger hands may want to use the thicker wands. A good way to determine which you prefer is by holding it in your hand. Does it look too thin? Too large? Also, is it comfortable to hold?

Once you’ve got that figured out, get your sandpaper out. I suggest putting down a tarp or something to catch the wood shavings if you do this inside. You’ll be using the sandpaper to thin down one end of the dowel so that it tapers toward one side and rounding out the tip so that it’s not blunt. To taper it down, place the sandpaper on your hand and then wrap your hand (and sandpaper) in a tight clenched fist around the one end while holding the opposite end with your other hand. Now twist your clenched hand to scrape away. Keep in mind that your hand may get tired and you may need to take a break or switch hands. Also, be sure to rotate the dowel in circles to make sure you are sanding evenly all the way around.

Rounding the tip is a little more difficult. You can do one of two things. Lay the sandpaper on your hand, cup your hand, and press and rotate the tip into the cupped sandpaper. This can quickly get tiring so I improved. I sat in a chair sitting with my legs together, placed the sandpaper in the crevice formed by pressing my legs together, and used both hands to quickly rotate the dowel while pushing it down into the sandpaper. Imagine trying to start a fire with wood and you have the right idea; only I was doing this in my lap.

Step #2: Hot Glue Handle/Designs

Glue time! I was most nervous about this part. I really thought it was going to be hard to make the glue look like natural wood. Ladies and gents, it’s not! I suggest looking at pictures of wands online to get an idea of how you would like your wand to look. You can do rugged, detailed, ringed, ect.

Firstly you’ll want to take up your wand in your hand like you’re about to cast a spell. Hold it comfortably and look at where your hand/fingers end. Give yourself another half inch or so beyond that and mark it lightly with a pencil. This will be where you glue handle/design ends. Unless, of course, you want the design all the way up the wand.

* Tip: Have 2 small glue sticks worth of glue ready if you want to do a full handle.

To start off, apply a larger bulbous glob of glue on the end to form the rounded tip for the handle. You’ll want to do this on any design since the dowel’s (or chopstick’s) other end is still flat. While holding the tapered side in one hand, rotate the dowel in circles applying generous lines of glue on the wood. If you want the natural wood look, apply the glue against the lines you already have, but don’t try to cover all the wood with glue. This creates the natural looking curves, bends, and nooks you would expect from actual wood. You’ll continue this until you reach the point your marked with pencil. At this point, I chose to add another circle of glue to sort of show where the handle ends more prominently.

* Tip: Try to avoid pulling your glue gun away from the wood too far or not at all until your design is finished if at all possible as this causes those little wispy strings of glue. Not only are they a pain for you, but they could stick to the rest of the glue and wispy bits aren’t very wood like or smooth!

The end result will look awkward, unfinished, and ugly even. No worries. That’s what the paint is for.

Note: Some prefer to wait until the glue is just about dry to roll it about in their hands to create that rolling crevice wood look, but I was impatient about waiting for the glue to reach this point to try it and so thus scared I was going to touch the glue while it was hot and burn myself. #wuss

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On the second wand, I did a ringed design. You start again with the bulb on the the flat end, and then do your first and thickest ring where you marked for your “handle” (design) to end. For evenly spaced rings, do your next ring right in between the two end points. The last two rings were then placed between the other points. Ta-da!

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Did I mention that a near essential ingredient to crafting is a deliciously spiked beverage? (For those of you that might have noticed the glass.) — For adults only, of course!

 *** If you wish to use gemstones or marbles on your handle, you’ll want to apply the glue and wait at least a minute or so before carefully pressing your goodies into the glue. That way the glue will still be warm and malleable to situate your shiny just the way you want.

Step #3: Paint Away

This is when your wand starts looking like a wand! Choose your preferred color and paint away. I bought 4 varying shades of brown for my wands. I even swirled some light and darker colors to get that inconsistent color actual wood might be for my first wand. The second I painted fawn per my best friend as it is a gift.

I really love the way my first wand turned out with all the natural looking crevices. The second turned out very pretty too!

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Step #4: Seal and/or Gloss

Time to seal all this awesomeness up so that it doesn’t get damaged. I highly recommend doing this outside due to the fumes and risk of getting sealer on your furniture, belongings, ect. Either way, you’ll need to put down something to set your wands on. I chose foil since I was doing it on my patio.

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Now follow the directions on your sealer! I applied several coats of sealer on mine because I am a tad overprotective. What can I say?

Step #5: Begin Casting!

If you are as impressed and infatuated with your wand as I was with mine, you may walk with it for a while practicing your “Swish and Flick” and annoying your significant other by waving it at them while rattling off every spell you know. I really couldn’t keep my hands off of it for the first few hours! Call me a geek and see if I care!

As you can see from comparing, the finished product is more matte and a bit lighter than the ones pictured above on the foil pre-sealer. I’m toying with the idea of leaving them as is or buying a gloss to put on them. Thoughts?

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Again, everyone, I’m disappeared without a trace there for a while. I will continue to try to make time for these posts.

I hope you liked it!

PS: Click on the pictures to enlarge them for a better view!