Friday, September 15, 2017

Fall 2017 Reads (So Much Awesome!)

Hey'a, everyone! Normally, I would do this post a week from now, especially since next Friday actually falls on the first day of fall. However, next week I have other plans, so instead we get to explore next season's new books a week early. It's a sacrifice, I know, but one we all must make. Or, I must make, anyway. You're perfectly free to ignore this post until next Friday, but I do hope you won't, because I am super excited for some of these reads. Also, there's a lot of books to look forward to for what seems like the first time in absolute ages and it's quite wonderful.

Fall 2017 Reads

1. Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows (September 12)
Yes, yes, yes, this and the next one are technically already out. I'm only three days late, though, so we'll let it slide. Anyway- this is the only book on this list that I'm completely unfamiliar with beyond what's on Goodreads. It sounds like it has a lot of potential for awesome (and dragons, which are basically the same thing), but also a lot of potential to be just plain bad. We'll see which turns out to be the truth.

2. The Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud (September 12)
I didn't know I could be this excited for a Lockwood and Co. book, but after the ending of that last one- I need this as soon as possible, please. It sounds like it's going to be an incredible conclusion. Plus, I have theories about what's going on and I want to know if I'm right or not and yeah. It's going to be great. Or I hope it will be, anyway.

3. Lightporter by C.B. Cook (September ??) 
So, Goodreads just says that this one is coming out in September, so I wondered if it was already released? But it's not on Amazon, so I guess not. I've already read Lightporter (yay, beta-ing), so now I'm mostly just excited for everyone else to read it. If only we had an official release date . . .

4. Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World by Bryan Davis (October 1?) 
Again, I don't know what exactly is going on with the release date here, because Goodreads says October 1, but the blog tour is next week? I guess maybe the blog tour is just super early? I don't know. But I've already read this one too- just finished it, in fact!- and it's decidedly awesome. Again, I can't wait until others read it too so I can talk about it with them.

5. White Sands Volume 2 by Brandon Sanderson (November 14)
Arguably the book I'm least excited for out of all of these- which is kind of ironic, since it's by one of my top three favorite authors. I didn't care for the first White Sands book, and I don't have high hopes for this one either. However, I feel obligated to read it, because it's Cosmere and it has Khriss in it and potentially clues about who-knows what. At least since it's a graphic novel, it won't take super long to read. And who knows, this one might be better than the first.

6. Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (November 14)
AHHHHHH IT'S ALMOST HERE! Only two more months! Two more months! If I really wanted to, I could have started reading this a couple weeks ago, since is giving us a preview, posting a chapter or two every so often, but I feel like that'll just drive me crazier. I want to get this book and be able to dive into it and not come out for hours. (So, I either have to read it over Thanksgiving break or clear a Saturday of schoolwork and other activities . . . doable either way.) But I want more of Kaladin and Shallan and Syl and Pattern and Dalinar's history and Szeth's development and Wit being Wit and people maybe answering some questions and probably raising more questions than they answer and just everything

7. Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maarten (November 28) 
I'm not quite sure what to expect from this, but based on some of the author's tweets/Facebook messages/comments-under-comics, I think it's time travel, which sounds pretty awesome, and urban fantasy, which I'm always looking for more of. This is technically Kari Maarten's debut, but I already know a little about her style from her webcomics- which, for the record, are quite awesome and mind-twisty and kind of weird. If Weave a Circle Round is anything like those comics, it's going to be absolutely awesome. 

What Fall 2017 reads are you looking forward to? Did I miss any on this list? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for stopping by!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, September 8, 2017

Holidays of Bookishness and Geekery

Hey'a, everyone! In case you missed it, yesterday was National Book-Buying Day, and as a result of my and my sister's celebrations, I am now the proud owner of Exiles, Reaper Reborn, The Dark Lord of Derkholm, and Lord of Chaos. If you missed the holiday- well, today's International Literacy Day, so I'd say you've still a pretty good excuse to celebrate by adding another book to your shelves. (Or by curling up with a book before bed; that's an option too, and probably a more likely one at this hour.) Actually, September's a pretty good month for bookish, geeky, and fandom-related holidays. Besides the two I already mentioned, you have the first of September (recognized by Harry Potter fans as the first day of Hogwarts), Unification Day on the 20th for the Firefly fans, and, of course, Tolkien Day or Bilbo and Frodo's birthday on the 22nd! September's not the only month with awesome-but-obscure holidays related to fandoms, books, or geekery, though; I have a whole calendar of these. And today, I thought I'd share some of my favorites.

Holidays of Bookishness and Geekery

1. February 26: Tell a Fairy Tale Day. More bookish than geekish, but this is still a fun holiday. Reread your favorite fairy tale (or fairy tale retelling), watch a movie based on a fairy tale, or, if you're a writer, maybe this would be a good day to start your own fairy tale retelling! I haven't celebrated this one myself, since I just recently discovered it, but I plan to next year!

2. March 25: Gondorian New Year. This holiday is also known as Tolkien Reading Day. It recognizes the date on which the One Ring was destroyed, Sauron was overthrown, and the Fourth Age began. Like September 22, it's an excellent day to read Tolkien's books, watch The Lord of the Rings, eat like a hobbit, quote Gandalf's "Good morning" speech (or any other line from the books or movies that happens to be relevant), and generally be dramatic. Or, if you wanted to focus more on the fact that it is the first day of the Gondorian year, you could borrow from other traditional new year celebrations- though you might have to do that the day before; I'm not sure.

3. May 25: Geek Pride Day. This holiday combines two celebrations from other books. Fans of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy celebrate Towel Day, because that's a thing. Actually, yeah, I get it; that was one of the funnier bits of the book. And for the fantasy-lovers, we have the Glorious Revolution of Ankh-Morpork in Discworld. I . . . actually haven't gotten to that book yet. Maybe by May I'll be caught up enough with the other sub-series that I can celebrate by reading Night Watch at last.

4. November 29: C.S. Lewis's Birthday. The summer is surprisingly lacking in geek, fandom, and bookworm holidays, y'all. I don't know why. In any case, Lewis's birthday is certainly worth celebrating, especially since Tolkien's already got two holidays all to himself. This would be an excellent day to reread your favorite book in The Chronicles of Narnia or the Space Trilogy- or, if you feel like nonfiction, to read one of Lewis's nonfiction books. Which I end up reading will probably depend on what I need to accomplish for my class on Lewis's works . . . which, unfortunately, meets the day before his birthday, not on it. Oh well.

5. December 8: Act Like a Time Traveler Day. I've known about this day for a while, but I've never had a chance to celebrate, mostly because it's no fun if you can't actually go anywhere to pretend. I might try to do something this year, though- perhaps not for the whole day, but for part of it. It'll be the week before my final exams, so I'll either be terribly stressed (and glad of a distraction) or one of the least stressed and busy people on campus (and therefore a bit bored and more inclined to go out and act somewhat ridiculous).

Do you celebrate any fandom-related holidays? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, September 1, 2017

Kendra E. Ardnek Cover Overhaul!

Hey'a, everyone! So, remember how I mentioned on Tuesday that Kendra E. Ardnek is overhauling her six major novels to add new covers and improved content? And remember how I said I was participating in the cover reveal? Well- today's the day! Along with the new covers, I'm sharing Kendra's notes on what we can expect from the new version, my own thoughts on the new cover, and a mini-review of each book. That's a lot of ground to cover, so let's get started, shall we?

We'll start with the Bookania Quests, all of which have covers designed by the author. First up, we have Kendra's debut novel, Sew, It's a Quest:
Two twins in a fairy tale world must find their Fairy Godmother before their eighteenth birthday, lest they forever be stuck with the other’s gift.

Kendra's Revision Notes:
I sent this book to my kindle, tore it to shreds, then retyped the whole thing, making every word fight to stay in the book. I completely rewrote one chapter, and added/expanded several scenes, focusing on character development and pacing, in particular Robin’s character. 

Cover Thoughts:Woah. People in the Hangout chat were saying that they weren't expecting Sew to be pink, so I was kind of prepared, but- woah. Yeah. That's pink. I like it, though, more than I expected to. Maybe it's pink, but it's also very dramatic. Also, I like how the sword is intertwined with the words and the little needle and thread. My only complaint is that Kendra's name doesn't really stand out.

Mini-Review: So, this used to be my second-to-least favorite of Kendra's full-length books, mostly because, as Kendra herself has said, she released it into the wild before it was really ready. However, the re-released version is much better. There are still some rough spots and awkward sections of dialogue, and Doranna's speech still drives me a little nuts (even though I understand the reason behind it). However, it's still a fabulous fairy/folk tale retelling that combines Robin Hood, Sleeping Beauty, and an obscure little fairy tale called the Mountain Princess into a lighthearted, clever, and unique story. There are some pretty cool plot twists- some which I saw coming even the first time around, some which I didn't- and also some rather amusing twists on common expressions. In short, while Sew still isn't a perfect book, I do recommend it. (Also, it's permafree on Smashwords, so you have absolutely no reason not to at least get it.)

Find it on: Goodreads || Smashwords || Createspace

We continue through the Bookania Quests with Do You Take this Quest?
A prince’s quest for allies against his misery uncle and a madcap race to get home for a wedding

Kendra's Revision Notes:
This book has one added chapter, a few (potentially) added scenes, and a severe edit. Again, focus is going to Robin’s character development. I hadn’t the maturity to completely handle her emotional situation when I wrote this book, and now I intend to fix that. 

Cover Thoughts:It's so pretty! And purple! Also, there's the cake from the original cover in the picture, and it makes me immensely happy. I honestly think that this is my favorite of the new covers. I just love so much about it- the style, and the color, and the texture, and everything. 

So, Take is currently my least favorite of Kendra's novels- though that may change once Kendra re-releases it. As it stands, there is a fair bit I enjoy about this book: a unique retelling of the King Arthur legend, plenty of other fairy tale references, a whole host of colorful characters, and more of the same style of humor found in Sew. However, it shares a few issues with the original version of book 1- namely, rough writing and a Robin with whom I don't really get along. In addition, the flood of new characters can be confusing, and there seemed to be very little tension at all in the main storyline. The rewrite should fix most of those issues, though, so if you're interested but concerned, maybe just wait a little while (and go bug Kendra and read her other books in the meantime).

Find it on: Goodreads  

Finally, to finish up the Bookania Quests, we have My Kingdom for a Quest!
Prince Arthur’s quest to take back his kingdom, and Casperl’s quest to find out how, exactly, he’s a prince.
Kendra's Revision Notes:
This book was mostly clean … but it’s getting a part two. AKA, book 3.5, The Quest for a Quince, AKA, Casperl’s story. There will be a edit to part one, though. 

Cover Thoughts:
Like I said, Take is my favorite of the new covers- but Kingdom is definitely my second favorite. It's a little darker than the other Bookania covers, with that castle looming in the background, but that's a good thing. We've got the sword front-and-center, stuck in a pillar like in the original- which I like, though the pillar looks off. And once again, I really like the texture, this time in the grass. Random little things are what make or break a cover, y'know?

This was my favorite of the Bookania Quests, though I think it's been replaced by the new version of Sew. It focuses on one of my favorite Bookania characters, Arthur, and is primarily a King Arthur retelling, though other stories are woven in as well. As usual, I love the twists Kendra puts on the classic stories, especially the Lady of the Lake bit. I also like that the characters who get the most screentime are mostly the ones who I like better, though the sheer number of characters is still a little hard to keep track of.

Find it on: Goodreads

Next up, Kendra's single standalone, The Ankulen. The new cover for this was designed by the lovely and talented Alea Harper, another fantasy and speculative fiction author, though she's currently unpublished.
Jen knows she had an imagination once – how far will she go to get it back?

Kendra's Revision Notes:
Mostly just a thorough edit. I don’t foresee any great changes.

Cover Thoughts:
Honest opinion: I'm not a fan. The new cover really doesn't seem to convey what the book is about, and it has an odd grungy vibe that doesn't go with what I remember of the book. Also, while I like that Alea included the titular Ankulen at the bottom, something seems off about its presence, almost like it doesn't blend or mesh properly with the rest of the cover. For a different book, it could be good. But for this book- well, like I said up front: not a fan.

I have never read a story like this one, but I absolutely love it. The idea of a writer losing her imagination is, quite frankly, terrifying to me, and so the idea of a quest to get one's imagination back is naturally captivating. I expected Jen to be a bit more enthusiastic about the matter from the start, but I liked her character development through the story. I also enjoyed the storyworld; Kendra captures the nature of a child's imaginary world well, such that it feels natural, but I can still take it seriously. A few things about this book bothered me- namely the very blatant allegory at the end- but it's still an excellent book.

Find it on: Goodreads

And we end with Kendra's second series, the Rizkaland Legends. This contains both the cover I'm least sad to see go (Water Princess, Fire Prince) and the cover I'm most sad to lose (Lady Dragon, Tela Du). These covers, like that of The Ankulen, were designed by Alea Harper, though they have a distinctly different style.

When two teens are pulled into another world, fire and water must work together to defeat a dragon.

Kendra's Revision Notes:
Again, mostly a thorough edit, but there will be a few continuity fixes, and I’ll be adding a bonus scene to the extra stuff at the end.

Cover Thoughts:
As far as quality goes, the new cover is much better than the old one. The color scheme is gorgeous, the design behind the title is pretty, and the fonts work really well together. But once again, I almost feel like this doesn't quite fit the book? Yes, there's a mountain. Yes, about half the book is spent trying to get to and through a mountain. Yes, the color scheme works with the water and fire thing. But honestly, the vibe I'm getting off it is "Inspirational quote picture on a hipster Tumblr," not "Awesome and unique portal fantasy." I don't know. Maybe that's just me.

So, I wasn't thrilled with this book for most of the first part- the world was unique, the storyline was fun, but Clara kind of drove me crazy. Then we met Andrew (who is, by the way, wonderful), and then after that, Clara met Andrew, and suddenly the book was much better because we had someone to moderate Clara's intensity. While the book isn't perfect, there is a lot to love: Laura, Andrew, Clarand, the worldbuilding, Amber, the plot, the themes . . .there's a reason that the Rizkaland Legends are my favorite of Kendra's books, and that reason starts here.

Find it on: Goodreads

And we end with Kendra's second-to-most-recent release and my absolute favorite of any of her books, Lady Dragon, Tela Du. As I said already, I'm most sad to see this cover go. I loved the original: the colors, the silhouettes, everything. That said, the new version is pretty nice.
Only the Tela Du stands in Amber’s way for ruling Rizkaland forever. Petra would much rather find her long-lost sisters than fight a Lady Dragon.
Kendra's Revision Notes:
Edits mostly. 
Cover Thoughts:
Like I said- pretty nice! I don't know if I like it more than the original, but I think I like it just as much. It keeps the silhouettes and actually has essentially the same color scheme, but with more red and purple and less gold. And this cover suits the book better than Water Princess, Fire Prince's did, even though it's a similar style. I think the silhouettes help a lot with that, since they keep the focus on the characters and story. 
Mini-Review:I love basically everything about this book. The characters. The ships. The emphasis on family. The fact that there are no unrealistic weapons prodigies. The plot. The plot twists. The world. The magic. Everything. Ok, maybe not quite everything- I didn't quite connect with a few of the characters, and that made the first part a bit difficult to get through. Also, there's Karyn. I can understand her motivation, but I don't like her. But both of those things are mostly personal opinion, and my overall personal opinion is that Lady Dragon, Tela Du is awesome.
Find it on: Goodreads

About Kendra E. Ardnek:
Kendra E. Ardnek loves fairytales and twisting them in new and exciting ways. She's been or acting them on her dozen plus cousins and siblings for years. "Finish your story, Kendra," is frequently heard at family gatherings. Her sole life goal has always been to grow up and be an author of fantasy and children's tales that glorify God and His Word.
Find her online at: Website || Blog || Goodreads || Facebook || Twitter || Amazon 

For those who are interested, Kendra is running a giveaway of a full signed collection of all her books. Sounds pretty awesome, no? Full details are on her blog, but I will say that comments on the cover reveal blog posts give you a better chance of winning. I'll post a full list of participating blogs below.

Thanks, everyone, for stopping by, and Kendra for letting me participate in the cover reveal! For you, readers- have you read anything by Kendra? Also, which of these covers is your favorite? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks again for reading, and don't forget to check out the rest of the cover reveal posts!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade) 

Other Cover Reveal Stops: