Saturday, June 29, 2013

Siege and Storm

Alina and Mal have fled to an unfamiliar land and seek to build a new life there, away from the Darkling and Ravka. She returns to her sickly, weak state and suffers from the guilt of the deaths caused by her power. They don't stay in hiding for long and quickly have to face the Darkling along with his frightening new power that was previously thought to be impossible. Alina escapes the Darkling with the help of a notorious pirate that is more than what he seems, but not before she acquires another amplifier. This new power prompts her to seek even more power and drives a wedge between her and Mal. They all return to Ravka to prepare for the coming battle with the Darkling, but only time will tell if all of their efforts will do anything against the Darkling's shadow army.

I read Shadow and Bone before it came out last year and was dismayed that although I got to read it early, I had to wait even longer than normal. The wait was completely worth it, I am pleased to report. All of my expectations were subverted time after time, making Siege and Storm exciting and surprising to read. I expected the beginning to have an extended time in hiding with narrow escapes, but the Darkling showed up fairly quickly to capture them. It was so outside my expectations that it was jarring. In a genre with so many conventions and stereotypes, Siege and Storm is a very welcome breath of fresh air. Most second books of trilogies simply set up for the last book and don't have a lot going on outside of that. Siege and Storm accomplished that and so much more. New and very memorable characters are introduced, my favorite being twins Tolya and Tamar. The characters we all love (or passionately hate) develop and change throughout the story.

Alina Starkov is wanted by a great many people. She's known as the Sun Summoner and Saint Alina, after rumors that she died and resurrected circulate Ravka. Very few people know her as simply Alina. Everyone wants something from her. Princes ask for her hand in marriage, not because they like her, but because of the power she wields. A growing group of people idolize her as a saint and hang their hopes and dreams on her, but know nothing about her at all. She doesn't even recognize herself at times because her hunger for more and more power is changing her. I like this new story line. She's grown a lot since she discovered her power. Now the questions are how much is too much and is she seeking it for herself or to save Ravka? I still like Alina, but I see some dumb decisions she's making, like pushing the only person who likes her for her (Mal) away for his own good.

Siege and Storm is an amazing read with crazy twists and turns, breathtaking action, and heartwrenching events. The Darkling is back with a vengeance, charming, frightening, and seemingly unbeatable. He is such a compelling yet evil character that appears and influences throughout the novel. The ending of Siege and Storm was completely shocking and I didn't see it coming. I need to know what happens next and I will be definitely preordering the final book.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Thursday, June 27, 2013

I'm back! (rant and list)

Hello all. I meant to keep posting throughout the semester, but I have never had so much stress and unhelpful people, and bureaucratic crap to go through. The following is a rant about the semester, so feel free to completely ignore if you aren't interested.

I have had the worst semester ever in my life, so I fell of the face of the planet. My student teaching started off on a bad start when I  had to harass the coordinator for a week before classes started to get my assignment. Then I didn't know what date it started or ended because my lovely school doesn't see fit to make that clear at the beginning or really ever.

Then, I was placed with a band director that had no control over their classroom at all and I, as a brand new teacher, was expected to magically fix all the behavior problems. This person also undermined any sort of authority I had all the time so the kids didn't respect me at all. This person basically thought of me as a free secretary/assistant and would make me teach without her observation, which is required for me to improve and receive input. My supervisor that comes and observes me every so often was completely unhelpful and only succeeded in being completely discouraging, insulting, and a bit sexist. About a month before the semester was over, he said if things don't improve, I'm not going to pass. I had shown improvement and didn't really know what else I could do to improve the situation. I was incredibly stressed and hopeless.

I did end up passing because that teacher I worked with, although awful to work with, really fought for me. I'm so happy to never set foot in that school ever again and to have lots and lots of free time this summer.

Anyway, here is a list of things that kept me sane over this hellish, horrible time.

1) The Binding of Isaac

This adorable and creepy video game is addicting as hell. Isaac is a sweet little boy with a mother who tries to kill him because God told her to. The game features dungeon exploration clearly influenced by Legend of Zelda. Isaac starts in the basement to hide from Mom and works through creepy crawlies and monsters in the cutest cartoony style to kill his mother with the help of items, trinkets, tarot cards, and pills before she kills him. He ventures into this hellish dungeon nude and only welding his own tears as weapons. Each powerup and certain items changes his appearance, making him at times appear horribly disfigured and/or mutated. The game stays fresh because each dungeon is randomly generated with a huge number of creatures, mini bosses, and stage bosses. The deeper implications are pretty depressing, but give the game interesting layers of reality and fiction. If you have a pitch black sense of humor like me, you will like this game. I would play the game for about an hour each night after school to wind down and relax.

2) Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Making a complete 180 from Isaac, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a super addicting, cutesy Nintendo game.  You are the mayor of a town full of animals and the town looks kind of crappy with boarded up buildings and not a whole lot to do. It is up to you to build up the town with ordinances, public works projects, planting greenery, donating stuff to the museum, etc, etc. You can do anything you want in the game: go fishing, catch bugs, earn money, talk to villagers, make the town look like how you want, among many other things. I've played this game since it came out for the DS because my boyfriend played it and I've been hooked every since. This game was only out for about 2 weeks before school was out, but it helped me push through to the end.

3) Books of course!

Books also kept me sane. I read in every free moment. Even though a lot of the books I read in that time were kind of mediocre, they still gave me a nice distraction from my worries and kept me entertained in the long hours I sometimes had to sit around.

So that's it for today. My awful semester and the stuff that kept me sane. What stuff keeps you sane in crazy times?