Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Merry Christmas (late) and Happy New Year! ~2015~

FIRST OFF, I apologize I have been extremely MIA.
I didn't even know this was going on: Legend of Korra Book 4.
But I have graduated! And I will have a theoretical article coming out in the political science journal Alternatives about the South Korean middle class in 2015. The journal will also feature some neat articles from my colleagues about middle classes in India, Palestine, and Denmark, so I'll keep you all updated on that; it's cool stuff.

Anyway, New Year's Resolutions for 2015:

-O'ahu, Maui, Kauai'i travel blogs

-The first free Changeling Sisters novella published on Amazon: Changeling Sisters #1.5: Year of the Boar: Tica

-Afterlife Chronicles #2: The Staff of Aaron excerpt

-Changeling Sisters #3: Year of the Dragon to be published in 2015. Exciting news about the Changeling Sisters Series: there will be 6 books in all. Adventures will continue in South Korea as well as in near and faraway countries as the Alvarez sisters learn the extent of the evil they're up against. There will also be 6 free novellas in all taking place between novels from time-to-time featuring supporting characters' perspectives.

-Book Reviews! I joined up with #DiverseReads and look forward to having time to read some great upcoming fantasy books that push boundaries and screw up all sense of normalcy :D

Happy 2015 Everyone! What are your New Year's Resolutions?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

September 2014 Book Review: The Fire Wish

By Amber Lough
~Book Review~

Warning! Spoilers!

WHEN ROBIN WILLIAMS RECENTLY PASSED, I had flashback childhood images of a man wearing a woman’s wig and grandmother clothes, a crazy bat, a bangarang Peter Pan, and of course a big blue genie. I have always been curious about genies, their interpretations, and the mythology behind them. I’ve read Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus books starring a very clever djinn and loved them. What wonderful tale would Amber Lough spin about the warring humans of Baghdad and the mysterious beings made of smokeless fire, the jinni? A human princess captures an enemy jinni and orders her to switch places with her to avoid a marriage? What can’t go wrong with this set-up?

The execution, I’m afraid. The heart of the story was missing because there were no memorable characters to win the readers’ hearts. The world-building was there, the imagery crept up and absorbed you, but as you looked around for the characters to bring this classic “switch places” story to life, there were none to be found. Zayele, the human betrothed to Prince Kamal, and Najwa, the jinni spy who can break through human wards, are more alike than just appearance—their first person voice sounds too similar as well. The girls had rather bland personalities; Zayele was vaguely a rebellious princess trope, and Najwa seemed as invisible as the Shatabi spell, and not in a good way. I kept questioning how someone who seemed as weak backboned as her would be enlisted for a high-pressure spying mission on the enemy. What really irritated me about her was that she kept getting distracted from her mission by a certain hawt prince in the Baghdad Palace. Really, your people are at risk and you’re busy thinking of a human guy you’ve barely spoken to? Being “jinni” by itself isn’t a personality; for an example, look at Bartimaeus in Jonathan Stroud’s books and how easily his humor, cowardice, and clever usage of weapons of the weak makes him memorable and beloved by readers.

Zayele is marginally better, but she just seemed like a slightly more outspoken version of Najwa. It doesn’t help that the supporting characters are forgettable tropes we’ve seen in fantasy books before—evil vizier, brooding prince, wise teacher, bitchy girl rival, ect. I was being told a story, and I was being told about the chemistry between the characters, but I didn’t feel it. However, do read this story for how to do prose. The imagery is gorgeous, and for the first tenth of the book, I was really excited for how this story would turn out. An excerpt describing the jinni’s home, the Cavern:

“The Lake of Fire swept along the side of the Cavern, lapping at the crystal spears on the edge. Unlike in the human stories, it wasn’t a lake of molten rock. It was decorated in fire. Gases bubbled to the surface, where they caught fire, sending licks of flame dancing across the shallow waves. The flames were blue-hot, but harmless. Wishlights lined the streets and the crescent wall that curved along the lake…” (Chapter 5).

Oh, and in the human palace:

“I felt too many eyes on me. I looked up to avoid them and found myself beneath a sky of glass lanterns. They hung from the mosaic ceiling like spiders from their webs. Glowing, smoking spiders.” (Chapter 35)

I don’t know about you, but spiders have never sounded so beautiful. Also, the story’s pace does pick up toward the end, and things are wrapped up neatly. You could read this book and be done with the series, or you could read on in the next installment. I don’t know whether I’ll continue, since sympathetic characters are a large part of why I fall in love with a series. Maybe Lough won’t play it quite as safe in the next one.

Recommended for fans of: Laini Taylor, Maggie Stiefvater, Brenna Yovanoff
Upcoming Book Review: Prophecy by Ellen Oh

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Three Reasons Why I’m Signing Up to be a Diverse Book Tours Blog Host

TWINJA BOOK REVIEWS hosts Guinevere and Libertad have teamed up with book blogger and founder Sasha to bring us Diverse Book Tours! These three have already established a meaningful online presence by fostering literary communities dedicated to discussing and discovering books with a commitment to diversity. They are critically honest, welcoming, and ask the necessary tough questions to help readers and authors alike grow! Their latest endeavor, Diverse Book Tours, offers a platform for authors to connect readers to books that put pressure on the idea that society’s status quo is natural and unified.

I’m looking forward to participating as a Diverse Book Tours host. Here are a couple reasons:

       1. A personal desire to explore new worlds—or worlds that have always been there, but are often white-washed, dismissed, or demonized. There are many mythologies out there that I’m completely unfamiliar with or have a lot of misconceptions about, like from African or Southeast Asian nations, so I’m hungry for an experience outside of Western European-style mythology. I want to read more books that take on complex histories (like how would you approach a fantasy story set in a place so incredibly ethnically diverse as India?)  and learn more about the world in the process. As a Diverse Book Tour host, I’ll have the opportunity to do just that.

      2. To challenge our literary community to grow stronger with differing, dissenting voices. They say every story’s been told but it’s the way it’s told that makes it come across as new, creative, or unique. Many diverse stories already exist but they haven’t gained traction, sometimes because they don’t feature “normal”—white, able-bodied, straight—protagonists, and they don’t follow “normal” Puritanical, patriarchal, nuclear-family type lifestyles. Diverse stories make us more aware of the power dynamics in our own communities and underline how much of history depends on perspective. Helping readers live an experience from a different angle is a crucial gift of storytelling—let’s not pretend there is one way to live and one person to be.
       3. Free Stuff. Good free stuff, not like bookmarks or a box of pencils. To celebrate the countdown to Launch on September 1st, you can enter a giveaway to win Amazon/Barnes and Noble Gift Cards & hot diverse books like The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K.  Jemisin and The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan.

So I trust I will see you there, eh? (Virtually) Check it out!

Official Diverse Book Tours Website:

Twinja Book Reviews:

So Bookishly Blog: 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Year of the Boar (Changeling Sisters #1.5) is complete!

Hi Everyone,

You can read Year of the Boar: Tica (Changeling Sisters #1.5) online for a limited time here at This is a rough draft, and I appreciate everyone's comments and votes! I plan on adding a glossary soon after consulting with friends on Hawaiian phrases/terminology. Mahalo! 


Monday, August 11, 2014

August 2014 Book Review: Gilded


By Christina Farley

~Book Review~

Warning! Spoilers!

MEET JAE HWA. She is a Korean-American girl with a black belt in Taekwondo who moves to South Korea after her mother’s death and has to deal with her cranky harabojee and fitting in at a prestigious international school. However, a nasty sun demigod of legend named Haemosu eagerly awaits her return as well: in order to marry her and steal her soul.  

Fantasy books featuring Korean mythology are few and far-between. Prophecy by Ellen Oh is another one to check out, geared more toward younger readers. Gilded is aimed at an older YA audience and makes a clean, refreshing read with a hard-hitting, well-intentioned heroine.

Jae Hwa has a lot of potential, and she’s quite entertaining to read about. At the beginning of the story, she is self-focused and short-sighted (as most sixteen-year-olds are apt to be), but by the end, amidst developing strong friendships and bonds of loyalty with her estranged family, her perspective shifts and she realizes how far she’s willing to go to protect them. Her grandfather is distant and cold for a reason, and her aunt is a kick-butt fighter with a lot to teach her. Her romantic interest is Marc, an American student at her international school. He’s super intelligent, has expert parents in the field of archaeology, the personality of sandpaper, and is perfect in every way—aka, boring. But whatever. This is only Book I, so a lot could change. And for just the first book, many fascinating Korean legends are introduced and the plot is cleanly wrapped up.

First off, let’s talk about how cool HAECHI is. He is a fire-eating lion-dog monster who guards Seoul, and in this interpretation, he appears to help Jae Hwa when Haemosu’s goonies are after her. Here’s hoping Haechi is actually a cute, shape-shifting Korean boy who shows up in Book II to partner up with Jae Hwa after Marc turns out to be an evil agent of the Korean god of darkness (that would make M more interesting)—but I’m getting ahead of myself. I liked Haemosu, too. He had interesting powers with sunlight, since usually baddies have “dark” or “shadow” powers and lurk around at night. So that was a nice flip. Haemosu is a formidable opponent and uber creepy; Jae Hwa falls for his tricks each time and gets closer to losing her soul completely. Although I would have liked more description of the day-to-day life in Seoul, since it such an exciting place full of old-style markets and cutting-edge technology, there are some neat sites highlighted. Jae Hwa visits King Mun Mu’s underwater tomb toward the tip of the peninsula, for example, which has some really interesting history behind it.

Jae Hwa makes some silly decisions (the plan to break into the museum, for example; ignoring her grandfather’s warnings; running around in the sunlight where Haemosu has power), but to be honest, many of them felt forced for the sake of moving the plot along. After all, the easiest way to thwart her evil suitor would be to leave Korea, but then there wouldn’t be much of a story. So I was willing to overlook a lot of her mistakes because I wanted more fighting, but at the same time, it did make the plot feel forced and disjointed at places.

Also, there is so much interesting Korean mythology, I thought too much of it was crammed into one book. Nine-tailed foxes and samjoko, the all-powerful three-legged crow, easily deserve a lot of attention by themselves, and they were just sort of thrown in. However, the focus on Korean gods was unique and sorely needed in the YA AND the mainstream fantasy genre, so I think this story is an excellent place to start for readers of all ages. My attention rarely flagged, I enjoyed the incorporation of Korean words, and the mythology is well-researched. The dialogue is a bit awkward and clichéd at times, particularly with Jae Hwa’s one-liners when it comes to boys (or Marc creatively calling her “Fighter Girl” :/), but I am confident Farley is only going to grow stronger as a writer in the next installment, Silvern. And hey, this gives me all the more inspiration to research and get moving on Citlalli and Raina’s next adventure in Seoul for Changeling Sisters III: Year of the Dragon

Recommended for fans of: Susan Ee, Colleen Houck, Amanda Sun
Upcoming Book Review: The Fire Wish by Amber Lough

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Hurricane Watch: Iselle and Julio

LANAI CLEARED OUT and battened down? Check.
Costco-sized bags of ice, flashlights, and bath tub cleaned out for water? Triple check.
Looking forward to how little monies I'm going to make at work this weekend? ...
I guess I should look at this like a surprise vacation celebrated inside with no power while the storms plural party it up outside. 

Hurricanes Iselle and Julio are on their way to the Hawaiian Islands. Iselle is expected to hit Oʻahu at 6 tomorrow morning and storm all day Friday. Julio is more of a wild card, but it's expected to last Sunday through Monday. Needless to say, I most likely won't be updating Year of the Boar this weekend, apologies for that and also for being MIA in general. 

So, hurricane madness is in full swing. The list of worst storms I've been in include A) the Blizzard I Don't Remember because I was a baby, but it hit us on a camping trip up in the Cascades, Washington State, and apparently I was turning blue and screaming my head off quite helpfully; B) Jeju Island Summer 2011, during  which it was so pitch-black I kid you not: I couldn't see my hand in front of my face; C) Assorted wind storms in Washington State, during which I prayed those pesky carpenter ants hadn't weakened our towering pine and Douglas Fur trees. There was also a wild lightning storm in West Virginia, during which streaks of purple lightning lit up the entire horizon in front of our car. 

Now there's Iselle and Julio. The whole island is waiting with bated breath. Last year there was a tsunami scare, but thankfully it didn't reach the island. There was less warning on that one, so people didn't have as much time to prepare. This situation is different. This entire week, people have been flooding Costco, Foodland, Sam's Club, City Mill, Safeway, and gas stations. I pulled into work yesterday and there was a line of cars swamping the Tesoro gas station, nearly out to the highway. The Tesoro people said they'd sold something like 80,000 gallons of gas--at one station. I went to Foodland three days ago, and the entire wall of bottled water was bare. Since then, other shelves have been plucked clean; it's kind of an eerie feeling to walk through the store and see so little there. 

Our landlords are clearing out tonight to go stay at a hotel, since the hotel wouldn't give them a refund and they have friends visiting. Various hurricane shelters have been set up. Some like at Kaimuki are pet friendly. Last storm scare we packed up our cat Mango to go stay at Greg's mother's place, who has a loveable German Shepherd mix. Yeah, neither of them were too happy. Also, The Bus is offering free service to hurricane shelters, if you look for the ones that have EVACUATION signs.

Mango no like storm.
I'm definitely expecting power outages and maybe some flooding...hopefully it isn't too bad. Last time there was a bad storm, our driveway flooded quite a bit, so our landlord has been spending time diverting gutters and clearing out the leaves from storm drains. They just put in really nice solar panels, so I hope those don't get damaged. Greg and I will be staying home; his mother who lives inland did invite us over if it gets really bad, but I guess we'll just have to see.

The sky's so clear and blue right now. You wouldn't believe a storm was coming.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Cliffs of Moher

This is the fifth installment in the Ireland Series about studying abroad in Galway, Ireland. Read Part I here.

FIVE MILES along the southwestern coast of County Clare rises a stunning stack of bluffs over the ocean: the famous Cliffs of Moher. Shale and sandstone pile on top of one another like a perilous Jenga game, and the result is dramatic overhangs and hollowed-out caves along a three million-year-old river bed. They tower 390 feet (120 meters), and at their tallest 702 feet (214 meters) toward the north by O’Brien’s Tower. Princess Bride or Harry Potter Movie #6 Fans? You no doubt remember these cliffs making a memorable performance.

 The Cliffs are about an hour and a half to the south of Galway in County Clare. Bus Éireann Route #350 travels there after making stops in Galway and the surrounding towns. We took a day-long tour there via Arcadia University, and pulled into a large parking lot complete with a Visitor’s Center. Children under 16 are free, students and seniors are 4 euros, and adults are 6 euros. The Cliffs of Moher Information Office also offers deals that include transportation and ticket. There is also a fee to enter O’Brien’s Tower, a popular look-out point for photographers (Adult 2; Child 1 euro). Refreshments, mini museums, souvenir shops, and picnic tables are available in and around the Visitor’s Center. I include the main Information Office website at the bottom of this page.

For our group, we were content just meandering along the path and snapping photos. The Cliffs stretch around 5 miles down the coastline. There are always new parts of the Cliffs that will capture your attention, and lighting at the different times of day also adds another unique aspect. If you’re a big hiker, you might make it as far as the puffin colony. There’s also a surf spot here, Aill Na Searrachor, or its nickname, “Aileen’s.” Jet Ski tow is recommended, since the waves can reach up to 30 feet, but real pro surfers have been known to paddle out, too. I’d be too busy gazing at a bottom-up view of the cliffs to pay attention to the waves!

Our daredevil stunts mostly consisted of taking dramatic poses on the precarious outcrops. Warning signs are posted everywhere around unstable rock, but tourists from around the world pretty much ignored them. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend time on the Cliffs seemed to bring out taking once-in-a-lifetime photo opps, too.


We only spent around two hours at the Cliffs, not nearly enough time if planning to take the hike down to Hag’s Head and out to Liscannor Village. The Cliffs Coastal Trail stretches about 7.4 miles (12 kilometers) and takes around 3 hours. I’d recommend an independent adventure to pencil this gorgeous cliff-side walk in, and make sure to bring gear for blustery winds and rains.

When we arrived back in Galway, I found a new email waiting for me. My uncle had arrived to help paint his friend’s place in Sligo, and he’d invited me up for a visit. I’d been looking forward to meeting his “Irish family” for some time now, so I heartily agreed! But first, there was an upcoming trip to Cork to look forward to. 

To be continued…

Disclaimer: The above is presented as fiction, not fact.


“Cliffs of Moher,” Cliffs of Moher Information Office, accessed July 25, 2014,

“Cliffs of Moher,” Wikipedia Foundation, July 15, 2014, accessed July 25, 2014,