Friday, July 12, 2019

Mid-Year Book Freakout 2019!

THE TIME HAS COME. The year is half gone, and that means it's time for my biannual book freakout! In which I actually don't freak out that much, but I DO review the reads of the last six months, yell about my favorites, and save myself a bunch of effort in December.

A few stats before we get started: I've read 99 books so far this year . . . which is only slightly less than the number I read all of last year. What the actual pumpernickel. How did I do this? (I know the answer, actually: I decided to get back in the habit of reading a chapter or two or ten before bed, plus I reread the Oz books and the Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus books. That adds up fast.) That comes out to roughly 40K pages, for those who are curious, so I've done the equivalent of reading Oathbringer 32 times, Illuminae 67 times, or Howl's Moving Castle 121 times. As you can guess, that means I have a lot of material to choose from here.

Mid-Year Book Freakout

1. Best book you've read so far in 2019:

As per the usual, this one's a tie between two AMAZING books:

Masque by W.R. Gingell

The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher

So, on one hand, we've got a fantasy murder mystery crossed with a retelling of one of my favorite fairy tales (Beauty and the Beast), featuring a heroine who I fell in friend-love with approximately five seconds into the book and a thoroughly shippable main couple. And on the other hand, we've got a steampunk adventure involving pirates and intrigue and adventure and terrifying creatures and a noblewoman-diplomat with no sense of tact and all the other things that I can't help but love. You see why I can't pick?  

2. Best sequel you've read so far in 2019:

It's a three-way tie this time, 'cause I'm terrible at decisions. YOU CAN'T MAKE ME CHOOSE.

Honor: A Quest In by Kendra E. Ardnek

Staff & Crown by W.R. Gingell

The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman

Honor is the best yet of the released Bookania Quests (note that I said "released"; Hair is even better); it's got the after-ever-after angle that I can't get enough of these days. Staff & Crown is the third in the Two Monarchies series and my second-favorite after Masque. (Notably, both of these books involve Isabelle as a major character.) And, of course, I can't fail to mention my beloved Invisible Library books, especially since The Mortal Word is another proper murder mystery that involved all my favorite characters in one place HALLELUJAH.

3. New release you haven't read yet but want to: 

A Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson!

I really should've read this by now, but my library is slow at getting it. I am muchly displeased. I thought about buying the OwlCrate box that was supposed to have this book in it, but I decided to save my money and get just the book later. But I'm super excited; Rogerson's An Enchantment of Ravens was one of my most-yelled-about books last year and I can't wait to see what this one has in store!

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year:


This is possibly cheating because, A) it's actually five releases, and, B) one of those releases is my book. But I am immensely excited about it, moreso than I am for any other book that I'm seeing on my Want-to-Read list on Goodreads, so we're going for it. As a reminder: signups for the blog tour are still going. Your support would be much appreciated.

All that said, if I have to pick a single release that I'm not directly involved with . . .

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson

I mean, Sanderson has to make this list somehow. It's practically tradition. And I am looking forward to reading this, even if Skyward isn't my favorite of his books. If his past performance is any indication, Starsight will be even better than the first book . . . and I'm holding out hope that it'll be another nomance novel with primary focus on friendships and comraderie, but I'm also preparing to be disappointed on that front.
Speaking of disappointments . . .

5. Biggest disappointment:



Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

This book. This storming book. It could have been amazing. It had so much potential — dystopian fantasy, Navajo mythology, a monster-hunting protagonist. And then it squandered all that possibility by persistently muddling around in darkness and distrust and treachery and blood. At times, it went full-on horror story (enough so that I wish I could blank the book from my memory altogether, other than the fact that I shouldn't read it). Yeah. Don't try this one.

Oh, and speaking of wasted potential . . .


I never imagined that monsters, superpowers, and time travel could be so boring. It didn't help that the main character seemed to go out of his way to make himself unlikeable, or that all the other characters were equally grumpy and miserable and messy. Add on top of it that it has the same aggressively bleak and "realistic" feel as some of the books that turned me off realistic fiction when I was younger, and this is just a solid nope.  

6. Biggest surprise:

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

I picked this one up more or less on a whim and went in with low expectations, having read a lot of meh/unimpressed reviews . . . but it was actually surprisingly good? It's basically the fantasy equivalent of the road-trip-to-deal-with-your-problems that the contemporary genre loves so much, and it was rather slow-paced and meandering as a result . . . but it was also thoughtful and even philosophical at times and very much character-driven and generally a nice change of pace. It did talk about some rather heavy topics at times, and I'd rate it at the older end of YA (or possibly even NA?) as a result, but still, I enjoyed it.

7. Favorite new-to-you author:

W.R. Gingell! I found out about her through Deborah O'Carroll, tried Masque in hopes that it would cure my Invisible Library book-hangover, and fell in love almost immediately. Her Two Monarchies books are my favorite; I devoured them all within a week or so of reading the first ones. They're magical and wonderful and almost Diana Wynne Jones-ish in style. But I also really enjoy her City Between urban fantasies, which have a healthy dose of humor and mysteriousness and are generally fun.

8. Newest fictional crush/ship:

Tragically, the book-verse still insists on pairing off every interesting male character, and I try not to make a habit of entertaining crushes on people who are already taken (whether they're fictional or real — doing it with former means I have practice in avoiding drama with the latter). So, no character crushes.

New favorite ships on the other hand . . . those I've got. A few I especially like:
  •  Isabelle and Pecus from Masque. (A delightful detecting duo; they're both clever and strong-willed and loyal, but they work really well together, when they're not working around each other.) 
  • Luck and Poly from Spindle. (The most Howl and Sophie-ish couple I've ever read, other than the original. Need I say more?)
  • Robin and Eric from Honor: A Quest In. (Technically already a favorite couple of mine, but they just keep getting better.)
And there's one other couple that could make the list, but they're spoilery. Suffice it to say that they show up in the last two books (chronologically speaking) of the Abhorsen Chronicles and that I did not see the ship coming.

9. Newest favorite character:

Have I raved enough about Isabelle from Masque yet? She's smart and stubborn and sneaky; she has a head for intrigue and mysteries and making people do and think as she wants; she loves food and friends and fashion; and she's just so fun to read about. Plus, when I first met her, she's twenty-eight and happily single and probably would've stayed that way for the whole book if Lord Pecus wasn't such a good match for her. Basically, she's fabulous and I would be quite happy to be her, honestly.


A few other favorites who I absolutely love:
  • Melchior from the Two Monarchies series. (He's dashing and clever and dramatic and was temporarily a cat; what more could you want?)
  • Captain Grimm from The Aeronaut's Windlass(A noble rogue of an airship captain whose tactical ability is only outweighed by his loyalty to his crew and his courage in the face of danger. He's arguably the best part of the book.)
  • Gwendolyn Lancaster, also from The Aeronaut's Windlass. (Again: smart, stubborn, clever, but with emphasis on the stubbornness. She and Isabelle would probably get along, though Gwen isn't half as subtle as Isabelle can be.)
  • Athelas from the City Between books. (How could you not love a tea-loving, scheming fae who knows far more than he lets on and is, in general, a reasonably sensible person?)
  • Sabriel from the Abhorsen Chronicles. (She's smart and practical and generally a protagonist who I appreciate very much. She may not know what she's doing, but she'll get stuff done all the same.)
  • Mogget, also from the Abhorsen Chronicles. (He's a cat who's really more than a cat. What more could you want?)

10. A book that made you cry:

Um. I don't know. I guess I'll say the Strange the Dreamer duology by Laini Taylor. It didn't make me cry, per se, but it did have some parts that made me sad and others that made me very angry, so it counts. Right?

11. A book that made you happy:

Paws, Claws, and Magical Tales anthology

I should probably stop yelling about the Two Monarchies books for a bit, so I'm going to spotlight this one instead. I mean, it's a whole anthology about magical cats and cats in magical situations; that's pretty guaranteed to make anyone happy. There's one story, "Whisker Width" (H.L. Burke), that I especially like and wouldn't mind ending up in the middle of.
(Also, Spindle, Masque, and Staff & Crown, but I said I'd stop yelling about Two Monarchies books.)

12. Favorite reread this year:

(This is replacing "favorite book-to-movie adaptation you've seen this year" because I never have a good answer for the original question.)

Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

I don't think this surprises anyone, but I am so glad I decided to reread these books. I'd forgotten how awesome they are and also how much I love Leo. Leo is great. So's Frank. Anyway. And they really do go in the category of books-that-are-better-the-second-time-round, mostly because you semi-remember what's coming and you can say "Oh, I see what you did there" and also "Ok, it's fine; you know they survive." So that helps too.

Also worth mentioning: my reread of L. Frank Baum's Oz series. These were some of my favorite books when I was younger, and it's interesting to reread them now — they're way more bizarre than I remembered. Still good books, though.  

13. Favorite post you've done so far this year:

My post on The Only Blind Dates I'll Ever Go On, in which I sing the praises of my college's Blind Date With a Book event! Runner-up: my post a few weeks ago on whether steampunk is sci-fi or fantasy. Both were fun to write, though for very different reasons, and let me yell about something that excites me.

14. Most beautiful book you've bought so far this year:


I haven't bought many physical books this year, but I did find The Aeronaut's Windlass at my local used bookstore recently. So that's pretty fabulous. I'm going with that one. (Also, I got Firefly!!!)

15. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Lots. And I have no idea which ones I'll actually read because lately I've had a policy of "read what you feel like reading" instead of "must read all the newest releases." (The exception, of course, is when I have a book that I agreed to review.) But a few that are on my list include:
  • Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean. (Asian fantasy that comes recommended by C.G. Drews; it sounds super cool and I meant to read it last summer but didn't have time.)
  • The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen. (More Asian fantasy, this one based on the Mongols. Like Empress, I meant to read it last summer and then didn't.)
  • All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis. (I don't read much dystopian anymore, but this sounds cool, so I'm making an exception.)
  • Hertz to Be a Hero by Bryan Davis. (I keep forgetting this book exists, but I really enjoyed the first one in this series, so, yeah. I need to read it.)
Whew. That was a lot of books. How's your reading going so far this year? Any books you really loved (or were really disappointed in)? Please tell me in teh comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, July 5, 2019

June 2019 Doings!

Ok, that kinda snuck up on me . . . which is ironic, seeing as I was basically counting down the days to Camp NaNoWriMo (in the sense of "how long do I have to do x, y, and z before Camp?") in the second half of the month. And yet I still got to June 28 and was like "Wait, what? July is in three days? That's not right. That can't be right." But, obviously, it was right, and here we are with a new month's worth of Doings.

Writing!

Picture of the Mechanical Heart ARC
  • PROOF COPY! It's so shiny!
  • So, yeah; as you can see, I finished edits and formatting for Mechanical Heart and got my proof copy! I'm kind of ahead of schedule, but I wanted to get everything with the actual book finished before Camp NaNoWriMo. At this point, I just have to write blog posts and do marketing stuff.
  • Seriously, though, it's so shiny. And big. Mechanical Heart is roughly three times as long as Blood in the Snow, and, like, I knew that? That's why it took so much more time to edit? But it didn't really hit me until I got the physical copy and could hold it and all that.
  • Also, there was a cover reveal, and you can now preorder the book on Amazon and add it to your TBR list on Goodreads if you haven't already. I'd really appreciate it if you did.
  • In other news, it is now, in fact, July, and I'm working on my Camp NaNoWriMo novel! The tentative title is Blood in the Night, though I might change it to Blood in the Earth (except that earth technically is not a term that exists in this world?) or Blood Beneath. As you may be able to guess (or may have heard from me elsewhere), it's a sequel to Blood in the Snow, and it retells the Twelve Dancing Princesses crossed with a very loose retelling of Hades and Persephone. Interested? Great! Have a rough sort of blurb/synopsis thing!
A year has passed since the events of Blood in the Snow, and Baili is determined to keep the promise she made to return the captives to their homelands. She, Xiang, Chouko, Gan, and Azuma travel to one of the Three Peaks provinces to put her plans into action — but mysteries await there that will make their task more difficult and dangerous than anticipated.
Azuma believed he'd put sorrow behind him when he found a new purpose as a member of Princess Baili's personal guard. But the journey brings the ghosts of his past back in a way he never expected. To make matters worse, a mysterious visitor hints at danger to Baili, and the province princesses are undoubtedly hiding a dark secret. It's Azuma's duty to rescue his princess — but when he's failed with only one life in the balance, can he hope to succeed with thirteen?
Meanwhile, Princess Choi Eun-Ji of Cheongaeui Ttang is determined to save her older sister, no matter the cost. But that's easier said than done when it means defying the incredibly powerful Lord of Beneath. Desperate, Eun-Ji strikes a bargain that may be her only hope of success — if it doesn't claim the lives of her and her other ten sisters first.
  • So, yeah. It's going well so far. A few elements are showing up earlier than I anticipated, and an unexpected subplot sort of popped up and I don't know what I'm going to do with it, but it's still good. It's the first time in a while that I've written a new novella/novel-length work, so that's exciting. I've missed writing by hand, haha.
  • (Also, the Lord of Beneath is stupidly fun to write. He manages to be intensely Extra and dramatic while also surprisingly straightforward and practical, and he does ominous quite well, and yeah. I think this is the most fun I've had writing an antagonist since . . . oh, I don't know. Binding Destiny? Between Two Worlds? One of those two.)

Reading!

  • I kinda sorta definitely had to raise my reading goal multiple times this month because I kept hitting it or almost hitting it and was like "No! I can't hit it this soon! It's only halfway through the year!" The most recent raise — from 99 to 111 books — was last Saturday, and I'm still 40-ish books ahead of schedule. We'll see how many more times I raise it over the rest of the year.
  • I think it helps that I basically just said to myself, "You can read whatever you want as long as it's not trash," instead of just requesting a heap of the latest releases and pushing through them. I mean, I want to read the newest books, yes — but I also have a big backlog, and a big list of books I want to reread, and giving myself the freedom to read those meant I was reading a lot more.
  • And, yes, that would be why I reread all of the Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus books. I have exactly 1 regret, and that is the fact that I didn't finish reading the last two books before Camp NaNoWriMo. The whole thing started because I wanted to reread Son of Neptune, but then I got to the end of that and realized that I missed Leo, so I reread The Lost Hero, and at that point, I was super invested again, so I had to read the rest of HoO. And then I thought I was done, but Riordan's writing is super addictive and I kind of wanted to go back to the beginning, so I read the first three PJO books . . . and then got stuck for a few days because I didn't own book 4 or 5 and had to wait for the library. On a non-tragic note, I actually do own slightly more than half of these books, thanks to the giant used booksale my local library does every year.
Stack of Percy Jackson books
  • And I got non-Riordan books too! Behold!
Stack of non-Percy Jackson books, plus a blue stuffed dragon
  • (The dragon was not from the booksale, but the space looked empty and he seemed to fit, so I filled it. Also, please do notice that I have Volume 1 of the Chrestomanci Chronicles, which means my collection is complete! Also, A Cast of Stones is signed, but I'm honestly more excited about Chrestomanci. Not going to lie; if I hadn't gone on a Percy Jackson binge, I probably would've ended up devouring the Chrestomanci Chronicles instead.)
  • Anyway. Getting back to the non-PJO books I read. My other two rereads, Raven's Ladder and The Ale Boy's Feast, were good overall. They're frustrating books, honestly. In Raven's Ladder, basically everyone except Jordam and Partayn is a mess, and it's super frustrating, but the book overall is a very good metaphor for our current culture. And then The Ale Boy's Feast has great themes and great allegory, and I love Jordam, but I hate the ending. I don't mind if an author leaves an ending a bit open-ended, but that was too much.
  • All that said, I love how often this series wanders into what's basically horror territory, then remember they're supposed to be fantasy. It's mostly present in these books three and four, but it starts in book two once you find out about the beastmen. It's almost kind of funny.
  • Moving on: I cleared a bunch of meant-to-read-this-ages-ago books off my shelf! Most notable: Fawkes and Horseman, both of which are alternate histories/historical fantasies of a sort (though Horseman is a lot more distant of an alternate than Fawkes!). I loved both books, and would absolutely recommend them to others. Nadine Brandes did a great job with the historical element and the family relationship in Fawkes, even if I was a bit iffy about how one particular element was presented. And Horseman was just a bucket of fun; I'm alwasy very impressed with how well Kyle Robert Shultz can simultaneously have a really humorous story and really tough choices for his characters. (And right after I finished it, I read The Fourth Musketeer, which focuses on Julio and was also very fun. And I was able to read Deadwood right after it released, which was just as creepy as it should have been and also gave me feels.) Those were all definitely highlights.
  • On the short story front, I read Ray Bradbury's I Sing the Body Electric! anthology and part of Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things anthology. The Bradbury anthology was a bit mixed, as anthologies are wont to be, and both depressing and disturbing at times, but the better stories made the whole thing worth it. (I definitely don't agree with Bradbury on certain points of philosophy, but he still presented his ideas in an interesting way.) As for the Gaiman anthology — I DNF'ed it after reading a perfectly horrible story relating to The Chronicles of Narnia. I'm still mad about it; don't read it. I quite literally wanted to wash my brain out with bleach afterward. And most of the rest of the anthology was a bit too interested in the worst parts of human life and intentions for me to recommend it, even if some of them had interesting concepts. The only exceptions are the poetry, a few short stories that you can also find in his children's anthology, and a new-to-me short story, "Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire." Yes, that sounds like it ought to be sketchy, but it's actually a concept that I love — basically, the fact that, to a character in a fantasy world, our world would be the fantasy one. I absolutely recommend it. Just find somewhere else to read it than this particular anthology.

Watching!

  • I haven't really watched any movies this month, due to reasons which will be explained in the Life! section. However . . .
  • I did watch a good bit of Star Trek! And by "a good bit", I mean about ten episodes, which is probably a laughably small amount to other people my age, but storm it all, I need sleep. And if I'm going to lose sleep, I'd rather do it with a book than a TV screen.
  • Anyway. My family's been slowly watching the first season of the Star Trek Original Series, and I can definitively say that Spock is the best part and McCoy is the second best. Kirk is fine, but altogether too prone to impulsiveness for the sake of the plot. Aaaaand I'm also not crazy about how he apparently is contractually obliged to make out (or at least have an implied romantic connection with) at least one woman every episode. I have been told that this is because the show was made in the '60s, but I still don't appreciate it.
  • In addition, my sister and I have been watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, and I honestly like it rather more than TOS. For one thing: a ship full of reasonably sensible, reasonable, mostly professional people! Hallelujah! For another: I currently like a bunch of the characters rather than just two. (And the characters seem to be better-developed in general?) And, of course: there's no obligatory kissing scene every episode. Again: HALLELUJAH. I mean, yeah, you've got two sort-of-couples? But neither are "official" couples yet, and it seems like they're going to take their sweet time getting there, and given the choice between pointless kissing scenes and less-pointless awkwardness, I will take the latter. (Ok, I'll be fair. The kissing in TOS isn't always pointless. But there's still more of it than there needs to be.)

Life!

Not my picture.
  • June basically consisted of two exciting things (one good, one bad), a few weeks of various people having colds, and the book sale. And, obviously, lots of reading and writing and watching Star Trek, but we already talked about that.
  • We'll start with the good exciting thing: Hershey Park! We were supposed to go at the end of May, but we got rained out, so we went the first week of June instead. It was definitely a good time, especially since there were so many rides that everyone wanted to go on together. For context: my parents and my sister are all roller-coaster people. My sister, in particular, is the type of roller-coaster person who will happily ride the most extreme coasters in the park multiple times. I, on the other hand, would rather be spun in about five different directions than get on most roller coasters — literally. Spinny rides are some of my favorite things, and I wish I got to go on more of them. (The problem, of course, is that they're best to go on with other people, and I am a single person. So, I can have a good time on the swings or the Scrambler, but anything like the teacups where you have to rotate something to spin more is out.)
  • However, I make an exception for wooden roller coasters because I don't have a problem with speed (within reason) or even with a bit of rattling around; I just don't want to go upside down or get dropped at a 90-degree angle or such. In fact, I like wooden roller coasters — and Hershey has three of them, which is a pretty decent number. All of them are good coasters too. The Racer was the best, but I'd ride any of the three again.
  • The downside of the day at the park: I came home with a particularly nasty cold that reared its head a few days after we got back and put me out of commission for two days before I could function semi-well again. It seemed like I'd mostly gotten rid of it by the next weekend, which was Father's Day, but then, that Saturday . . . Well, a bigger problem showed up.
  • And by that, I mean that my dad went to the hospital with an infected or inflamed gallbladder.
  • The good news: he's fine now. The doctors figured out pretty quickly what was wrong; they did surgery; he came home and took a week off to recover. But we did have to delay celebrating Father's Day (we still haven't caught up on all our plans), and it did freak everyone out a little.
  • Also, for anyone who's interested: I didn't cook a lot this month (mostly due to the fact that I was sick — though I did make or assist in making a few skillet dishes). However, I did bake bread, which was one of the main things I wanted to try! A family friend of ours had some sourdough starter, and I asked if I could have some, since I love sourdough bread and wanted to try making it. And BEHOLD!
Rather flat sourdough bread
  • It did not turn out perfectly; it's super dense and didn't really rise as much as I think it was supposed to, and I'm not 100% sure what went wrong. But hopefully, the next loaf will turn out better. We'll see how it goes.
  • Oh, and Independence Day was fun! We went over to a family friend's house for barbeque and other assorted yumminess, which was great. We didn't end up going to see fireworks, though, since the weather was so wet. Instead, we just watched them on TV. (I don't mind, honestly. We got see fireworks back on Memorial Day weekend, and those were pretty great, so I got my fireworks fix then.)

July Plans!

Camp NaNoWriMo Banner
  • Obviously, the main plans for July are Camp NaNoWriMo and work — but I've already discussed the one, and the other hasn't changed much from last month, so I won't get into that.
  • My grandpa is visiting this month, so that should be fun. His visits are usually pretty chill.
  • Also, Cow Appreciation Day is July 9! Basically, you wear cow-related apparel (which could be, say, a cow-spotted bandana or other clothing article, or even just a white shirt with black spots taped on), go to Chick-fil-a, and you can get a free entree. You can do this at any meal; if you have enough Chick-fil-a's nearby, you can do it for all three meals. (That is a lot of chicken, yes. But it's good chicken, it's free, and if you plan what you're eating well, you don't feel like you're eating the same thing all day.) My family is very into Chick-fil-a, and we have four different restaurants in a twenty-minute radius of our house, so guess what we're doing? Plus, we plan to go see How To Train Your Dragon 3 that day, so, yeah. I'm going to get nothing done, but it will be a good day.
  • I have some crafting stuff I want to do: I'm working on my 3D-printed sword and a knitted cloak, and I'm planning to make a cool sign for my dorm room door. (Of course I make it the last year I'll be there . . . oh well. It is what it is.) I'll post pictures of all the things here on the blog once they're done.
  • In general, I'm hoping July will be mostly chill — or as chill as a NaNo month can be, in any case. We'll see what happens.
  • (Oh, and this isn't a July-specific plan, but I picked up some games during the Steam Summer Sale because they were cheap and I wanted to reward myself for being on top of things with Mechanical Heart, and I'm suuuper excited. None of them are new or recent — one of them is Portal, for heaven's sakes — but whatever. I'm going to have fun and enjoy several good stories and that's what matters. Again, it probably won't happen in July, 'cause Camp NaNoWriMo, but maaaybe if I finish early . . .?)
How was your June? What are your plans for July? How do you feel about roller coasters (wooden or otherwise) and spinny rides? How do you feel about engaging with books, games, or other media years after everyone else discovered them? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, June 28, 2019

Fantasy or Sci-Fi? What is Steampunk REALLY?

Hey'a, everyone! So, first of all: in case you haven't seen already, signups are open for both the Golden Braids blog tour and ARC copies of the Golden Braids books, including Mechanical Heart. If you want to help promote any of these books, please do sign up! We've got plenty of spots still open!

One unexpected question I've had to deal with in the process of publishing Mechanical Heart is what exactly steampunk is. I don't just mean in the sense of "what are the characteristics of the genre?" (though I have gotten that question a few more times than I expected). The question I'm referring to is whether steampunk is considered fantasy or science fiction. Opinions vary depending on who you ask, so I thought I'd weigh in with my view on the subject. Essentially, I'm going to evaluate five common elements or tropes of the genre, decide if they fall more in line with sci-fi or fantasy, and decide based on that. So, let's go!

 Fantasy or Sci-Fi? What is Steampunk REALLY?

  1. Element: A Victorian or Victorian-esque Setting. The core of steampunk is that it's a sort of alternate version of the Victorian Era (that is, the years from 1837 to 1901). This alternate may be set on Earth and simply have different technology and different history, like we find in The Invisible Library. It might also be set in a different world that simply shares much of the culture, social issues, social classes, and general aesthetics of the Victorian Era, as is the case in The Aeronaut's Windlass. This alternate usually reflects either England or America during those years, though it doesn't have to — you could very well have steampunk in China, India, or anywhere else.
    Verdict: Inconclusive. If you stay on Earth, both sci-fi and fantasy have alternate history subgenres (of which steampunk could be a further subgenre). If you go to another world, that would seem to indicate fantasy . . . but you could make the argument that these other worlds are simply other planets or dimensions, which would be characteristic of sci-fi. 
  2. Element: Focus on Improbable Science, Technology, and Gadgets. Steampunk may resemble the Victorian Era in many ways, but its technology is usually advanced in ways that the real Victorians only dreamed about. The degree depends on the story, but you shouldn't be surprised to find anything from a horseless carriage to airships to whole floating cities in a steampunk novel. And, of course, a lot of steampunk involves gadgets that would make James Bond jealous. Sometimes the science behind this tech is a major focus of the story; sometimes it's not — but the tech itself is almost always significant.
    Verdict: Sci-fi. The focus on technology is one of the main elements that I would say separates steampunk from gaslamp fantasy — a similar genre that's solidly in the fantasy side of the family due to its focus on magic over technology. (H.L. Burke's Spellsmith & Carver is a good example of this genre; though steampunk-esque tech is present and even plays a fairly significant role in the second book, the story is really interested in the magic of the world.) And I'd almost say that steampunk's love of tech is enough to put it solidly in sci-fi, except for one caveat . . .
  3. Element: Alternative Power Sources. And I don't mean solar powered! Traditionally, the technology of steampunk is powered by steam, as the name suggests, along with a fair bit of clockwork. But, here's the thing: many steampunk authors are not particularly mechanically minded, and they like their technology in their stories to run a little smaller than steam power requires. So, they invent other types of power. Often, this alternate source is aether or another fictional element or compound. But sometimes, it's just straight-up magic used in a very scientific way.
    Verdict: Mostly sci-fi. Look, the steam power falls under the purview of sci-fi. Even aether and such can qualify as sci-fi; even if it's improbable that we wouldn't have discovered such an element or compound by now if it existed. But one cannot ignore the number of times that magic pops up in sci-fi books — and the fact that it's treated scientifically doesn't change the fact that fantasy is a solidly fantasy element.
  4. Element: Scientists and Statesmen (Character Types). Just like any other genre, steampunk has its common character types. Obviously, you'll find a fair number of scientists and inventors — someone has to make all those gadgets we were just talking about. You have politicians, nobles, and other high-society folk, along with the requisite spies and assassins they employ against one another. And you've got street scoundrels, thieves, and occasional airship pirates to round things out and keep everything interesting (as if the assassins don't do that well enough on their own). Obviously, not every character in a steampunk novel will fit one of these types — but most do.
    Verdict: Inconclusive overall, though with slight sci-fi leanings. Many of these character types are common in both fantasy and sci-fi: you're as likely to find a spy, assassin, or thief in fantasy as you are in sci-fi these days, and nobles and high-society folk are more common in fantasy than they are in most science fiction (though there are some differences between fantasy nobles and steampunk nobles). Scientists and inventors, of course, are more sci-fi — in fantasy, the learned people tend to be more focused on history and literature. And airship pirates have cousins in both fantasy and sci-fi, but the sci-fi side of the family is definitely bigger.
  5. Element: Localized Plots. As a general, steampunk plots aren't interested in world-domination plots or attempts to destroy the universe. There are exceptions, of course — The Invisible Library, for instance — but in general, steampunk stories focus on one person, one family, one city, or one country at most.
    Verdict: Inconclusive. Granted, fantasy is best known for epic, world-spanning quests — but there's a whole subgenre, low fantasy, that has localized plots as a major characteristic. And, really, many of the most famous sci-fi stories deal with plots as large and epic as you'd find in any fantasy novel. So, once again, steampunk resembles both of its possible parent genres.
So, where does steampunk fit? In some ways, it's best to take it on a case-by-case basis. Check what powers the world's technology, see what character types the story focuses on, and go from there. But if I had to characterize the genre as a whole, I'd put it under the crossover genre of science fantasy: a little too tech-focused to be straight-up fantasy; a little too fantastical to be hard-core sci-fi. And, y'know, that's not a bad thing. In many ways, science fantasy is the best of both worlds, a place where heroes carry both swords and cell phones and where magic and science exist side-by-side and even in cooperation with each other. It's a place where realism and wonder come together and make something beautiful.

That's my view, anyway. What about you? What do you think steampunk is? Please tell me in the comments! And don't forget to sign up for the blog tour!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, June 21, 2019

Summer 2019 Reads!

Hello, everyone! It's summer! Admittedly, it's felt like summer here for quite a while now . . . but this means I finally get to yell about all the new books coming out, and we all know that's the highlight of this season. It's the highlight of almost every season, really. That and NaNoWriMo. (Yet another reason why winter is actually horrible: it's the only season with no NaNoWriMo event. But I digress.) And this summer has a particularly awesome lineup, so let's get started!

Summer 2019 Reads!


1. Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson (June 4). Aaaahhhhh the author of An Enchantment of Ravens (aka that book that I yelled about a lot two winters ago) released another book! And it's about a librarian! And living books that turn into monsters! And enemies-to-lovers romance! And a sorcerer who sounds like he's going to be GOLD to read about! I need this book now! And I probably won't stop yelling about it for a month after I read it!




2. Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan (June 4). Ok, so I have a few reservations about this one, but on the other hand? Steampunk Asian fantasy? Featuring, apparently, epic journeys and worldbuilding? I'll give it a shot. I just hope the author doesn't make the mistake of letting the inevitable romance overwhelm the plot.



3. Wicked Fox by Kat Cho (June 25). This is another one where I have reservations, but it's more Asian fantasy (urban fantasy this time!) and I need more urban fantasy in my life, so how can I really refuse? The main characters are probably going to spend a ton of time angsting and being illogical, but I'm hoping that the urban fantasy setting and Korean lore and the actual plot will make up for it.





4. Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim (July 9). Is this the summer of Asian fantasy or something? I feel like I should be releasing a sequel to Blood in the Snow to keep the theme going. But anyway — storms YES to this book. Just from the synopsis's description of the protagonist, I'm getting vibes of Creel (from Dragon Slippers; she's a rather underrated heroine who I didn't appreciate enough when I originally met her). And I absolutely love the whole "make a dress from the stars/sun/moon/other improbable light source" trope, and I'm excited to see how it plays out here. And yeah. I'm excited.






5. Before I Disappear by Danielle Stinson (July 23). Oh, look! Contemporary fantasy! Which will probably be really angsty, but it's a genre I don't read enough of, and it's about siblings, and I can't not give it a chance, ok? Anyway, I can live with angst. And the book sounds like it has the potential to be truly and properly terrifying in a good way, so it's got that going for it. (Fun fact: I don't like straight-up horror, but I do like books in other genres that'll give me a good scare before reminding me that evil never triumphs.)



6. Hair We Go Again by Kendra E. Ardnek (August 5). The first of the Golden Braids collection! I've already preordered this one — I mean, technically I've also already read it, or most of it, but y'know. Bookania just keeps getting better, even if I get super frustrated with certain characters in this one. On the upside, I can tell you now that Maryanne is adorable, and Kendra's take on Rapunzel is pretty fabulous. And, again, we need more books that take place after Ever After.


7. Molly Storm by Annie Twitchell (August 6). Another Golden Braids book! This one is basically Rapunzel in a lighthouse, and I am HERE FOR IT. And it's told from the perspective of the witch, which should be pretty cool. It's technically a short story instead of a full-on book, but y'know, I'm ok with that.


8. House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig (August 6). Wait, this isn't a Golden Braids book . . . but hello, new Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling! I haven't read a new 12DP retelling in a while, not since The City Beyond the Glass. And this author seems to understand quite well that if your 12DP retelling isn't at least a tiny bit creepy, you're doing it wrong. Actually, her story sounds like it'll be more than a tiny bit creepy — which suits me fine as long as it doesn't go full-on horror. Like I said a few books ago, I enjoy a good scare as long as good wins in the end.


9. Mechanical Heart by Sarah Pennington (August 7). Oh, hey, this looks familiar. Yeah, my new book is coming out this summer with the Golden Braids collection! If you like steampunk and politics and friendship and siblings (and more than a bit of deaf representation), you'll hopefully like this. I don't know; I'm just super excited to share it with y'all!


10. Rebekah's Refuge by Meredith Leigh Burton (August 8). More Golden Braids! Apparently this is Western fantasy, so that's cool. And it sounds like a beautiful story and maybe a bit of found family? Though we'll see how Meredith plays the tale out . . .


11. The Dragon's Flower by Wyn Estelle Owens (August 9). One last Asian fantasy and one last Golden Braid! I've read snippets of this story in the Arista's Challenge Facebook group, and I am super excited to get the full story. Her samurai character, Shichiro, sounds like a wonderful mess who I look forward to spending time with, and her Rapunzel sounds pretty cool too.


12. The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais (August 13). Ok, so it's contemporary and I almost never read contemporary, but it's also about a deaf girl going to a hearing school, and I want to know how the author is handling the deaf perspective and sign language, so, yeah. I'm reading it. It does sound interesting, if likely to involve angst.

What books are you looking forward to this summer? Please tell me in the comments! I can always use more additions to my TBR list! (That's actually true; I have given up on actually conquering it and instead just want to get as many awesome options on there as possible.)
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Who Wants to See Mechanical Heart's Cover?

Hey'a, everyone! Last night, over on Facebook, we had the cover reveal for the Golden Braids group release, this year's Arista Challenge group release. It was a great time, but since I know not everyone could make it out there, I'm sharing the shinies here too.

And, yes, if you were wondering, this means that I am officially publishing Mechanical Heart with the Arista Challenge this summer. I mean, I was going to publish it sometime soon no matter what happened; I've put in too much work not to. But I'm excited to be joining Kendra's group again. The group release will run from August 5th to August 9th, and Mechanical Heart specifically releases on August 7th.

Ok, enough of me trying to increase the suspense. Let's see the shiny!

Can you save someone who doesn’t know if she’s alive?

Breen lives locked away, separated from the world by the walls of her clock tower and the machine of gems, gears, and magic that replaces her heart. That is, until an unexpected visitor appears in her tower, offering a dangerous gift: freedom. His promises awaken hope for a life unbound by the tower walls — but she knows that if he learns about her heart, it’s only a matter of time before he turns on her.

Josiah is powerless. Though he’s the crown prince of the mighty Chanian empire, he feels stifled by his inability to protect his people from the schemes of corrupt nobles. When he discovers a girl trapped in a locked clock tower, he thinks he’s finally found a problem he can solve . . . but more than just walls keep her captive.

From the royal palace to the streets of Rivenford to the tops of clock towers, secrets hide around every corner in this steampunk retelling of Rapunzel. Breen and Josiah hold the keys to each other's struggles — if they can break down the barriers that divide them.


As those of you who've been reading my blog for a while might know, this is a story that's been in the works for a while. I mean, obviously I've been rewriting and editing like mad over the course of the last year, trying to weave all the plot threads and characters and details into their proper form. But I first drafted this back in summer of 2016 — and I came up with the earliest version of the story all the way back in 2014! It's not the earliest story that I eventually want to share, but it's definitely a good bit older than Blood in the Snow. And now I finally get to share it with you. I'm so excited!

Oh, and while I have you here, can I just say how much I love my cover? Savannah Jezowski of Dragonpen Press/Dragonpen Designs created it for me, and I think she did an amazing job. No lie; she emailed me the very first iteration and I did a legit happy dance. I was that excited — and it just got better from there. If you're also looking for a cover, I absolutely recommend her services. She's a storming magician, and I say this as someone who knows how to use Photoshop fairly well herself.
Ok, I'm done. Go preorder Mechanical Heart, if you don't mind. Or at least add it to your Goodreads shelves. Thanks muchly. And while you're at it, go check out the other Golden Braids books: Hair We Go Again, Rebekah's Refuge, Molly Storm, and The Dragon's Flower.
Have a lovely day!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, June 14, 2019

What Makes a Villain? (Favorite Villain Tropes!)

Villains. You can't have a story without one . . . Well, not if you're writing fantasy or speculative fiction, anyway. I talked a long time ago about my favorite villains (though I'm not linking the post; my opinions have changed somewhat since then). Today, however, I'm talking about the things that make me like a villain — in the as a villain sense; not in the 2012-Loki-fangirls sense. In short, I'm discussing my favorite villain tropes. (Many thanks to my sister for requesting the topic!)

Links go to the appropriate page on the TV Tropes site, though some of the tropes here are actually combinations of multiple tropes. Be warned, it's a bit of a black hole over there.

 Favorite Villain Tropes

  1. The Gentleman Villain. Ok, so this actually encompasses multiple tropes, but the point is: this is a villain with class. He has a charismatic personality, impeccable manners, excellent taste, and an excellent education— or, at the very least, a well-trained mind. However, he also has a mind so devious he can outthink anyone and anything, a healthy dose of common sense, and the nerve to take on enormous challenges and go toe to toe with the hero when the situation demands it. He’s also completely unapologetic about his villainy. Sometimes that’s because he really believes that his goal is just and good— and, in those cases, he often does have a good point, just a poor execution. But in other cases— the ones I enjoy more— he genuinely enjoys his villainy, and he does it with such style and nerve that you can’t help but enjoy him as a character, and even, in some odd way, respect him despite his lack of morals.
  2. The Faux Affably Evil Villain. This is connected to the Gentleman Villain, but slightly different. Basically, this is the villain who greets the hero cheerfully and politely while attempting to kill him, who insists that the captured hero join him for dinner (before said hero is to be interrogated, tortured, and/or killed), and who is quite likely to give the hero advice while they're fighting. The niceness is an act, and both hero and villain know it — but, done right, it can make the villain so much fun to read, especially when they're doing it out of a sense of strange personal morals or because they find it more satisfying or interesting than just acting straight-up villainous. It shows they've thought about their identity and their villainous image (which I appreciate; building your brand and sticking with it is important, even if you're evil). Plus, a faux affably evil villain is rarely angsty, and angsty villains are often the worst unless the angst is setting them up for a heel-face turn.
  3. The villain complimenting the hero and the hero being offended. This kind of goes with the previous trope, but a villain who compliments the hero while in combat (whether physical, verbal, or other)? Delightful. If it's genuine, it builds up the idea that the villain is highly competent, since he doesn't feel the need to attack the hero's self-confidence. If it's sarcastic, it can be either a wonderfully humorous exchange or a stunningly dramatic blow to the hero's internal state that will trigger new steps in the hero's character arc. Basically, no matter how you do it, as long as you do it well, this trope is a winner.
  4. Evil has standards and the hero-enemy teamup. Preferably when the latter results from the former (though the latter doesn't have to involve an outright villain all the time; it can just be a rival of the hero). When you have this situation, it means two things. First, you have a villain with standards, which is typically more interesting than a villain with no morals at all. Second, it means that there's a bigger, badder villain in the book who's powerful and maniacal enough to force the hero and the villain to call a temporary truce and work together in some fashion. Bonus points if the temporary team-up leads to a reasonable heel-face turn for the villain and the team-up becomes permanent . . . but even if it doesn't, watching the hero and villain try to interact and work together is sure to be gold.
  5. Genre-savvy villains. Again, not sure if this is actually a trope, but this is a villain who's read the Evil Overlord List (or who's intelligent enough to know what to avoid) and has made very conscious decisions about what to do and not to do. Bonus points if the villain uses his genre-savvy-ness to lure the heroes (and readers) into a trap — if he seems to be making all the classic blunders, but is instead using those "blunders" to make sure the heroes make exactly the choices he wants them to and play right into his hands. Then, when the time comes, he provides himself dazzlingly competent, which makes his defeat or the heroes' narrow escape (whichever one is appropriate) all the more amazing and thrilling.
What are your favorite villain tropes? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

P.S. Sorry about the missing post last week. We went to Hershey Park on Thursday, and then I spent all Friday catching up on the stuff I intended to do in the car but didn't get done. Thanks for understanding!

Thursday, May 30, 2019

May 2019 Doings!

Ahhhh. Finally a quiet month. It's so nice to be back home, away from classes and constant stress — even if I do miss my friends. That said, a quiet month doesn't mean there are no Doings at all, so let's get started!

Writing!

  • The last major round of edits on Mechanical Heart is done! Finally!
  • Ok, technically, I haven't been working on it that long; only since February. But the fact that I've been working on only Mechanical Heart edits, and the fact that I didn't have much of a break between the different rounds of edits, makes it feel like much longer. Also, I've literally doubled the length of the story every time I edit it. I'm pretty sure this is the opposite of what most people do. Oh well.
  • I still have another round or two of mid-level to minor adjustments to get through (the exact level depends on what Kendra has to say about it in her critique). But those won't be nearly as bad, and with luck, they won't take me more than a week or two.
  • (Hopefully, those won't be famous last words . . .)

Reading!

  • So, here's what happened: I got home from college. I went to the library. And then I devoured all the books because that's what happens when I have plenty of time and limited energy (which, naturally, I decrease further by staying up late to read . . . ).
  • Most of these were new-to-me reads, but some were rereads. I revisited Illusionarium around the middle of the month because I was losing motivation for Mechanical Heart and hoped that reading some good steampunk would help. (It did, thankfully.) I'm also rereading the Auralia's Colors series because a friend mentioned them and I wanted to see if they were as good as I remembered. I think the first book suffers on the reread; the author leaves too much fuzziness in an effort to create the magic the book requires. The rest of the series, however, improves, especially Cyndere's Midnight. My appreciation for Jordam has significantly increased, a fact I attribute in no small part to The Wingfeather Saga and the Tales of Goldstone Wood.
  • Moving on to the really good new books: the Strange the Dreamer duology was pretty amazing. I wasn't sure about it at the start, but once we moved on from Lazlo's horrible childhood and introduced Sairi and her family . . . yes. I wouldn't recommend it to everyone just because it is rather dark at times and involves some adult topics, but overall, I can see why people like these so much. Tess of the Road was another one covering difficult or mature topics, and I quite enjoyed it as well, even though I'd heard bad reviews from a lot of people. (My take: just go in expecting a slow plot, no dragons, and lots of emphasis on internal conflict and you'll be fine.) And, of course, the one Discworld book that I read, The Last Hero, was pretty fun. It wasn't my favorite in the series, but it's the best of the Rincewind books.
  • I also read a few anthologies! One, To Hold the Bridge, is by Garth Nix; I mostly read it because it had an Abhorsen short story in it. That short story was decent; the rest was highly meh. A Blink of the Screen, an anthology of Terry Pratchett's short fiction, was better — though, oddly, I enjoyed a lot of the non-Discworld stories better than the Discworld ones. And Neil Gaiman's M is for Magic was the best of the three; his short fiction reminds me of Diana Wynne Jones's in a lot of ways.
  • Most of the other books that I haven't mentioned yet were good, but not amazing, but I will mention the two really disappointing ones. Etiquette and Espionage was, like Illusionarium, supposed to motivate me to keep working on Mechanical Heart. Unfortunately, the trope it's founded on (the magical boarding school) is hit or miss for me, and this one missed more than it hit. I definitely will not be continuing the series. And I picked up An Abundance of Katherines because I liked Turtles All the Way Down and thought that I ought to read more than one John Green book in my lifetime . . . and then I put the book down again after the third chapter. Sorry, John Green, but Colin is a whiney child, and like the Katherines who dumped him, I have better things to do with my life than wait around for him to get a grip on his.

Watching!

  • So, yes. I saw Avengers: Endgame, and it did not kill me and I was very impressed with it. Go read my post on the topic if you want to know more about how I feel. I don't feel like recapping everything I already said more than I just did. Also, if you've watched Endgame since I wrote that post, go comment on my spoiler post and let me know what you thought! (Or just tell me in the comments of this post, if you put a spoiler warning on there.)
  • Also, going to movie theaters by yourself is highly underrated. I wish I'd realized this sooner; if I had, I would've been caught up on the MCU much faster, and I might've seen other recent movies as well. The only downside is that you don't have someone to talk to in-person right after you leave the movie . . . but I'd rather wait to discuss it until I've thought over my impressions more anyway.
  • In addition to seeing Endgame, I watched Mary Poppins Returns with my family and very much enjoyed it. Is it the same as the original? Not at all. It's a different, slightly darker story in a different, slightly darker era. Is it better than the original? Probably not. But is it worse? I don't think so. Honestly, I like the one just as much as the other. And while I will acknowledge that some of Emily Blunt's mannerisms and phrases seemed just the slightest touch off or forced, she stayed true to Mary's overall personality, and I appreciate that.
  • Other than that, I've mostly been watching a lot of Hogan's Heroes with my family, which I'm thoroughly enjoying. I really like that show, ok? I know it's not perfect, but it's fun, and I love a good guile hero — of which Hogan definitely is one. And it's one of the fairly rare humorous shows that produces next to no secondhand embarrassment, so that's a relief.

Life!

  • Honestly, there's not a lot to record in this section that I haven't written about already. I'm getting back into the routine of work, writing, and reading. I've been able to do some design stuff, both for professional and personal reasons, and that's been pretty fun. I'm trying to figure out how to get myself to draw more. (Also, I bought watercolor pencils because they were on clearance for really cheap, but I then realized that you need watercolor paper in order to use watercolor pencils, so now I have to buy that . . . gah.)
  • Oh! We went to the Memorial Day concert and fireworks at Wolftrap, which is a National Park/performing arts center about half an hour from my house. The concert was excellent, and I may look up a few of the pieces to see if there are good versions available online. And the fireworks were fabulous, even though our seat was partially under a tree that seemed like it might block our view. On that topic, fireworks are amazing and I forgot how gorgeous they could be, especially when they're arranged with music.
  • Um . . . I made food! That's something! One dish was just pasta and sausage in the skillet, which turned out well. The other was enchiladas, which also turned out well, but I had to make enchilada sauce, which almost burned and smelled terrible, but it's fine. It tasted good in the end. I did intend to cook more than I have, but there's still quite a bit of summer left.

June Plans!

  • I'm hoping that June will be more of the same as May: quiet and mostly occupied with writing, work, and reading. It may not be exciting, but it's pleasant.
  • Obviously, I'll be working on the next few rounds of Mechanical Heart edits just as soon as I get the final critique back from Kendra and have time to think through them. I'll also start working on the interior design and formatting for the Kindle and paperback versions . . . yay. I should probably try to work out how to do the paperback formatting in InDesign; maybe that'll be less aggravating than Word.
  • Also, there will be a cover reveal soon! Keep your eyes open for news about that.
  • Before I go back to work on Mechanical Heart (and possibly in the midst of that), I'm going to work on the D&D campaign I hope to run next semester. I'm hoping to have enough weekly adventures planned to carry me through the first month or two at least, if not more. I do have several of those adventures semi-prepared already, but I need to solidify worldbuilding stuff and figure out how those episodes might fit into the larger plot. (And, yeah, I'm doing this a bit out of order, but it'll work.)
  • And, of course, I need to start figuring out stuff in earnest for Camp NaNoWriMo in July . . . but that'll be more towards the end of the month. (Fingers crossed that I'll have all my Mechanical Heart edits done by then, 'cause that would be amazing.)
  • Outside of writing, it'll mostly be business as usual: work, reading, and so on. I'm knitting a cloak, so that's fun, and I have one or two other craft projects I'd like to work on if I have time. (Fun fact: you can 3D print a sword. And one of my local libraries has a 3D printer that patrons can use. Do you see where I'm going with this?) I may see a movie or two, which is a little out of the ordinary, but hopefully won't be much longer.
  • There's also a pretty good chance that my family will be going to at least one amusement park, so WHOO! Now that I know I actually like wooden roller coasters, I'm super excited. (We were supposed to go to Hershey Park yesterday, actually, but we got rained out. Here's hoping that doesn't happen again.)
How was your May? What are your plans for June? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)