Friday, May 31, 2013

Summer Reading Plans

When I think of summer activities, there are many things that come to me: swimming, biking, writing, and most of all, reading. For as long as I can remember, I've done the summer reading program at my library every year, and if I can find others, I like to do those too. This year, however, I'm doing something I haven't done before: a summer reading list.

Most of the books on my list are ones I haven't read in a year or more and want to make sure I reread sometime relatively soon. There are some new titles on the list, however, and if anyone has suggestions of other books I should add to it, I'd be happy to hear them. I'm always on the lookout for new books to enjoy.

First on my list is The Door Within Trilogy by Wayne Thomas Batson. This was one of the first contemporary Christian fantasy series I read, and when I first started writing, it heavily influenced my stories. However, in the last year, I've been more focused on other Batson books, namely The Tide of Unmaking and his short stories. I'm very much looking forward to returning to the Realm this summer and joining Aidan, Antoinette, and Robby on their adventures once more!

Another trilogy on my list is The White Lion Chronicles by Christopher Hopper. When I first read Rise of the Dibor, I don't think I was really mature enough to appreciate these books, since they're longer and move at a slower pace than most books I was reading at the time. After they were rereleased, I gave them another try and really enjoyed them. However, until now, I never quite got around to rereading them. This is the only series on my list that I've already gotten started on rereading; I just reread Rise of the Dibor last week.

For a change from fantasy to dystopian, I'll be reading Sneak, the second book in the Swipe series by Evan Angler. Though Sneak was released some time ago, my library only recently obtained copies of it. I can hardly wait to read it and find out what in the world is going to happen to Logan, not to mention whether or not my theories about the Mark and such are true. Of course, since Storm just recently came out, and I'm pretty sure my library doesn't have it, I'll be back in the same boat again. Oh well. Such is life.
Back to fantasy! This time, however, the fantasy is a classic. It's a tradition of mine to make sure I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings at least once every year. I used to try to do this in either November or May (near either my birthday or half-birthday), since the first time I read The Lord of the Rings was shortly after my birthday some years ago. More recently, however, I decided that summer was the best time to read these books, since I'll have more time to read and therefore I'll be able to enjoy them more. 

Another classic I'll be rereading is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I first read this book in September of last year and promptly decided that it was my new favorite non-fantasy classic. I also hope to find another Austen book to read, though I'm not sure which one. I read Sense and Sensibility in January and, though it was fairly good, didn't enjoy it nearly as much as Pride and Prejudice. I'm leaning towards Emma for this summer, but if any fans of Jane Austen's books are reading this, suggestions are more than welcome!

Two weekends ago, I did the Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt, an online scavenger hunt hosted by thirty-two Christian fiction authors. To complete the scavenger hunt, you had to go from blog to blog and collect all the clues to put together a quote and be entered in a drawing for the prize. Along the way, I discovered a few authors I'd like to try, most notably R. J. Larson, author of Prophet and the rest of the Books of the Infinite series. Her books, which are fantasy set in a world similar to the Biblical time period, looked interesting, so I decided to give them a try. I can hardly wait to find out if they live up to my hopes.

By far the longest series on my reading list is the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. I've read these books several times each since first discovering them, but I've been too busy with other books to read them for some time. This summer, however, I intend to change that. It might take a miracle to get through all of them, however, unless I decide to listen to some of them on cd or such instead of actually reading them. There are, after all, twenty-two books in the series!

Taking second place for longest series on my list is John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series, along with its companion series, The Brotherband Chronicles. I've actually read several of these semi-recently (within the last few months), but I decided to put them on my list anyway, since I've been thinking of rereading the two series for a few weeks now.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer is a newer book that I first noticed because two people recommending it in the same day: Jill Williamson in her ABC Reading Challenge and Emma, a friend of mine from WI. Cinder is a Cinderella remake set in a sci-fi/dystopian-type setting, which I thought sounded interesting. After asking both Emma and a lady at my church (who's recommended several other fairy-tale remakes to me) for more details, I decided to go ahead and add it to my reading list.

Another dystopian series on my list is The Cantral Chronicles by Amanda Davis. Like The White Lion Chronicles, I haven't quite gotten around to rereading the books in this series since around the time they first came out. In this case, however, that's mostly because I'd have to borrow the first book from a friend. I'm hoping she'll be ok with me borrowing it, since I remember really enjoying The Cantral Chronicles the first time I read them.

The last book or book series on my list? That's still a bit of a mystery. A friend of mine (who's pointed me towards many of my favorite authors and books) suggested that I try reading something by Shannon Hale. However, I'm not sure where to start. I know she wrote The Goose Girl, as well as the Princess Academy series and a whole lot of other books. (The library has twenty-two items by her, though some of those are books on cd, not actual paper-and-ink books.) Has anyone reading this read anything by Shannon Hale? If so, do you have any suggestions of which of her books I should read first, or any of her books I should avoid? Thank you in advance for your advice!

What about you? Do you have any summer reading plans?
Never alone!
- Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Medieval Times!

Hey'a, everyone! Today I went to Medieval Times! Medieval Times, for those of you who don't know, is a dinner theater-type place where you get to watch a medieval tournament while eating a medieval-style meal. One of my friends was going with her co-op, and she was nice enough to invite me to come along. I really enjoyed it, and I definitely want to go again sometime.

As you can see, it's in a castle of sorts. You can't tell from the picture, but the "castle" is actually part of a mall.

This is the entrance inside the mall itself. When we went in, they gave us tickets that told us where we were supposed to be sitting. (There are six seating areas, each marked with a different color.) As it turned out, we were in the yellow section, in two of the tables closest to the jousting area, so I got a really good view of the whole thing. (That being said, it was darkish in there for a lot of the time, so a good number of my pictures turned out pretty lousy.)

Before we went into the actual arena, though, we walked around the gift shop area. They sold all sorts of stuff, both costume-y, souvenir-ish type items and more interesting items like swords, armor, and weaponry. I would've liked to buy a sword or dagger, but they were all more than I wanted to spend.

Eventually, we were called into the arena by the Lord Chancellor/MC. The first half of the show consisted mostly of the king, princess, and lord chancellor talking and people like a falconer and two knights (who weren't in the actual tournament) and their squires doing demonstrations about different aspects of medieval times. My favorite part of this was when the knights were demonstrating different fighting moves. During this time, the servers were also bringing out the food: garlic bread, oven-roasted chicken, herb-roasted potato, corn on the cob, and the pastry of the castle for desert. My favorite part of the actual meal were the potatoes, which were absolutely delicious. The rest of the food was fairly good as well, but the chicken was a bit on the messy side, since there was no silverware.

Finally, it was time for the actual tournament! There were six knights competing in the tournament: the blue knight, the red and yellow knight, the green knight, the red knight, the black and white knight, and the yellow knight. The people in each seating area were supposed to cheer for the knight whose colors matched those of their section. As I said, I was in the yellow section, so I was cheering for the Yellow Knight. This is the only picture I got of him that turned out halfway decent. As you can see, it's still pretty blurry. Sorry about that.

The first part of the tournament after the knights were introduced consisted of various tests of the knights' skills of horsemanship and accuracy with their lances. The Yellow Knight did quite well in all these. Unfortunately, I didn't get any good pictures.

Then it was time for the actual joust. I'm pretty sure most of you probably know how a joust works, but I'll explain it anyway. First, the two knights who were jousting would ride towards each other and try to knock each other off their horses with their lances. Once one had been knocked off, he would try to knock the other off. Once both were on the ground, they'd fight hand-to-hand until one had been defeated. I do have a few somewhat decent pictures of the hand-to-hand portions of some of these battles, which I'll post here:

The Yellow Knight was in the second joust, which he won. Then the Green Knight decided that he'd rather fight the Yellow Knight than the Red Knight (who he was supposed to fight). Much to my disappointment, the Green Knight won that battle, which meant that he and the Red Knight would face off for the final battle. I and my friends were all rooting for the Red Knight to win. I actually took a video of this battle, as well as one or two others, but I can't seem to get them to upload. Once again, I apologize.

In the end, the Green Knight won. The show ended shortly after that, and we headed for home. As I said, I really enjoyed it (other than the Yellow Knight having lost). Also, I now want to find a way to put a tournament in one of my stories, since I now have an idea of what they were like. We'll have to see how that works out.

Thanks for reading! Nai haryuvalyë melwa rë!*
- Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)
*May you have a lovely day!