I love my Mares fins!

I won the Mares Summer Selfie contest for July! While it’s not my first time to win an online contest (I’ve won a few of them by blogging), this was my first time to win one via Facebook Likes. Winning this contest was particularly fantastic because the prize was a pair of Mares fins of my choice <3

mares fins

 

And this is the photo that won me the contest:

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I don’t look particularly nice in this photo – in fact, I look pretty ridiculous with my chipmunk cheeks – but hey, I was willing to sacrifice a bit of my dignity for the chance to win a new pair of fins 😛 After consulting with friends and gear reviews, I settled on the Mares Avanti Quattro+ in white. They go very nicely with my blue Avanti Tre fins 😀

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So how do they handle? I got to test them out during my most recent fieldwork in Tawi-tawi. Power-wise, the Avanti Quattro+ give a good kick. I used them while going against strong currents and managed to cover over 100 meters in relatively good time while carrying a huge tetrapod. Extra force was needed but the fins got the job done so I’m counting it as a win.

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Maneuverability is also pretty good. I had no problems with the tight turns I needed to make while doing fish visual census. For aesthetics, the fins come in black, white, blue, green, and red. I got the white ones because 1) they look so clean and pretty, and 2) they’re easy to spot underwater. Mares says that the red fins stay red even at depth so you can get that too.

Thanks again to Mares for holding the contest! (Underwater photos were taken by Denmark Recamara)

Book review: The Reluctant Assassin (WARP Book #1) by Eoin Colfer

WARP 1 cover britishWith the latest draft of my master’s thesis (finally!) in my adviser’s and reader’s “to read” piles, I finally got to read for fun! First on the list was The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer, the first book in his new series W.A.R.P. I got my copy several months ago from my favorite bookstore ever (thank you Danes for getting it for me!) but only recently had the time to read it.

The synopsis from the book jacket:
Riley, an orphan living in Victorian London, has had the misfortune of being apprenticed to Albert Garrick, a former illusionist turned murderer, who now uses his conjuring skills to gain access to his victims’ dwellings. On one such escapade, Garrick brings his reluctant assistant along and urges him to commit his first killing. Riley is saved from having to complete the grisly act when the intended prey turns out to be a scientist from the future, part of the FBI’s Witness Anonymous Relocation Program (WARP). Riley is unwittingly transported via wormhole to modern-day London-with Garrick close on his heels.

In modern London, Riley is aided by Chevron Savano, a seventeen-year-old FBI agent. Together, Riley and Chevie must evade Garrick, who has been fundamentally changed by his trip through the wormhole. Garrick is now not only evil, but he also possess all of the scientist’s knowledge. He is determined to track down Riley and use the Timekey in Chevie’s possession to literally change the world.

Note: the synopsis is slightly misleading as yes, Riley and Garrick do find a scientist from the future but Garrick got his knowledge from a different scientist. Just clearing that up.

The Reluctant Assassin is a great time travel romp, with likeable characters, snappy dialogue, and lots of blood. Oh yes, there’s a lot more blood in this book compared to Colfer’s previous novels.

The good:
1. I liked Chevie. She was headstrong without being obnoxious, willing to let Riley take the lead in situations where his experience exceeded hers, and plenty smart. She’s obviously not happy with how she ended up in London in the first place but she tried to make the best of it.

2. I liked Riley too. He’s a genuinely good kid who just got caught up in circumstances. He gets fleshed out later on in the book, when we find out about his past and how he got involved with Garrick.

3. Garrick is one heck of a creepy villain. Kudos to Colfer for creating a great boogeyman.

4. The plot twists were nicely done. They were surprising, sure, but they didn’t come out of nowhere.

5. Excellent handling of time travel! The time travel framework for The Reluctant Assassin is similar to Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox, which is a good thing because none of the side details are lost and everything makes sense. It was an integral part of the story and not a deus ex machina

The not-so-good:
1. While I love Chevie to bits, her attitude can be grating at times.

2. Garrick is built up to be so scary, it’s bordering on ridiculous. He was already unconscionably evil before the start of the book and then the wormhole shit happens and he becomes even smarter and meaner. Garrick is still an excellent villain but there are some times when his over-the-top antics actually make him less scary.

The part that made me fume in anger:
THE COVER. Oh my god, the cover for the US release! Chevron Savano is a seventeen-year-old badass FBI agent, not some model wannabe. Why in the ever-loving hell was she subjected to the infamous spine-twisting ass shot? WHYYYYY??? This sends a bad message all around, especially since this book is marketed towards teenagers. Before you say that I’m overreacting, let me introduce you to the The Hawkeye Initiative. Here’s Hawkeye doing the exact pose that Chevie is in:

WARP1 US cover Hawkeye

Enough said. Compare this to the UK cover (see the first cover I posted) which has no asses whatsoever. Whoever designed the US book cover, you have a lot to answer for. Please get it right in the second book.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars when I ignore the cover, 2.5 stars if the cover is considered.