Friday, February 28, 2014

Random Fridays: Spring 2014 Reading List
Hey'a, everyone! Time for another Random Fridays post! But first, I have an announcement: for the next three weeks, I'll be guest-hosting Random Fridays over at Awkwordly Emma. So, no Random Friday posts here. I do hope to get other posts up during that time, though, so stay tuned! And now, this week's Random Friday: Spring 2014 Reading List!

First, newly released books:

 Shadow Hand by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. (3/4) I can hardly wait for this book. We finally get to find out what happens to Leonard! Finally! And Eanrin! And Imraldera! I'm very eager to find out what happens there. And I've heard there's something about Alistair and Mouse in there as well . . . And I have theories. And I want to know if I'm right or not.

 The Seventh Door by Bryan Davis. This is actually out already, but I have no idea when it actually came out. Some sources say February 17th, but I checked Amazon a few days ago, and they didn't have it, and the author's site says March 1, so, yeah. Confusing. I actually got an ARC of it a while back, so my review will be up tomorrow, but I hope to reread it so it'll be fresh in my memory.

Dreamtreaders by Wayne Thomas Batson. I've liked the idea of a world entered through dreams ever since I read the Circle Series, and I'm sure Wayne Thomas Batson's take on it will be awesome.

And books that are already out:
A Draw of Kings by Patrick W. Carr. I'm second in line on the library hold list for this, which is a good thing, because I need to find out what happens to Errol and I know someone is going to die, but who? (No spoilers, if you've read it already.) If it's Errol . . . let's just say I won't be happy.

The Elite by Kiera Cass. I read The Selection a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. Now The Elite is waiting in my to-read stack, and I just need to find time for it. I want to know what happens between Maxon and America.  (As a note, having seen all three books, The Elite definitely has my least favorite cover.)

Michael Vey: Battle of the Ampere by Richard Paul Evans. I read the first two books in this series, though I wasn't all that crazy about the second. However, it left me on enough of a cliffhanger that I want to read Battle of the Ampere so I can find out what happens.

And that is the last of the recently-released books on my spring TBR list. The final three are books that most of you have probably read already and I'm just now getting into.

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. Yeah, I probably should've read this ages ago, but I wasn't interested in it then. I mostly picked it up a while ago because I'd heard a bit about it and didn't have anything new to read at the time. Odds are, I also didn't have as much free time as I thought at that point, because it's still in my TBR pile. I do think it sounds like a cool book, though. It's just thicker than most of the other books in my stack.

The Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander. I keep hearing about this series- Ok, let me rephrase that. I keep hearing about a certain bard (he is a bard, right?) named Fflewdwyn Flam, and I'm curious to find out who he is. And from what I've heard about the series, it sounds cool.

DragonKnight by Donita K. Paul. I'm actually rereading this one, and it'll probably be the next book I read. I just reread DragonQuest on Saturday, so I want to finish up my favorite three books in the series before I move on to something else. And I haven't read it in a while so, yeah.

What's in your spring reading list? Feel free to tell me in the comments, or create a Random Fridays post of your own. Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)
Want to join in the Random Fridays fun? Feel free to make a post of your own on the week's topic! Please just be sure to use the Random Fridays banner, link back to Awkwordly Emma, and post the link to your post on the Awkwordly Emma blog so other participants can check out your post. For a list of future Random Friday topics, click here.  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top Ten Tuesdays: Favorite Villains
Hey'a, everyone! This week's Top Ten Tuesday theme is Top Ten Tuesday REWIND! That means that you can pick any topic that you want to redo or you missed. I was really excited when I saw the theme, since a lot of topics that I think sounded really fun were done before I started doing Top Ten Tuesdays. Unfortunately, I also became paralyzed by indecision while trying to pick which topic to do! (Thus why this post is so late.) Finally (at the advice of my sister), I decided on Favorite Book Villains.
  1. The Dragon (Tales of Goldstone Wood series). Also known as Death-in-Life and the Destroyer of Dreams. That should give you an idea of what kind of villain he is: terrifyingly evil. He'll crush a person's dreams to dust, make them wish for the end- and then makes their life a living death.  
  2. Smaug (The Hobbit). Smaug says it best himself: “My armor is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!” Also, his conversation with Bilbo is one of my favorite scenes in the book. Do I need more reasons?   
  3. Bartholomew Thorne (Wayne Thomas Batson's pirate books). Ruthless, chilling, calculating, and just the slightest bit insane. Plus, he's a pirate, and his bleeding stick is a pretty impressive weapon.      
  4. Tamiel (Children of the Bard series). Tamiel is on this list for various reasons, most of which are rather spoilery. (As a note, I'm very glad that The Seventh Door is coming out soon.) What I can say is that as much as I hate him for what he does, you kind of have to admire his deviousness and his plotting.  
  5. The Dragonwitch (Tales of Goldstone Wood series). One has to feel a bit sorry for the Dragonwitch. She's evil, eaten up by hatred and a desire for revenge, but when you think about what she went through . . . It doesn't make her right, but it makes her a bit more understandable.  
  6. Keeper (Entwined). I'll admit: I thought at first that Keeper was a good (albeit rather creepy) guy. That's part of why I like him: he had me tricked. But then evidence stacked up, and when I found out who he really was for the first time, I was as freaked out as Azalea. I also like how he was more restrained than a lot of villains, though. Somehow, it makes him doubly creepy.
  7. The Duke (The Thirteen Clocks). This quote says it all: "We all have flaws. Mine is being wicked." He is, quite literally, one of the coldest villains out there. 
  8. Cythraul (The Dark Sea Annals). Cythraul is a bit mad-scientist-y in certain ways, and he has pretty amazing fighting skills. Also, he (spoiler) can't die. Literally. (End spoiler) And his backstory is pretty impressive too.     
  9. Raudrim-Quevara (The Dark Sea Annals). Raudrim-Quevara reminds me a bit of the Dragonwitch (or vice-versa, as Raudrim-Quevara technically came first). However, Raudrim-Quevara is more calculating and more interested in generally killing anyone who stands in her way, while the Dragonwitch is a bit less controlled but also more focused on certain goals.
  10. Deeb Rauber and The Warlord of Dar (The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle). Ok. These two are mostly on here because they make me laugh. You've got Deeb Rauber, the eleven-year-old Bandit King. He's an immature, spoiled brat, and yet he's actually pretty devious. And then you have the Warlord of Dar, who's so evil and villainous that he's funny.
 Well, there you have it! My top ten favorite villains! What about you? What villains do you like best? Please tell me in the comments!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Top Ten Tuesdays: Reasons I Love Being a Bookworm
Hello! This week's Top Ten Tuesdays theme is Reasons I Love Being a Bookworm.
  1. It's impossible to be bored. Reading is something I can do almost any time and in almost any place. In the car. At home. At the store. At Awana while I'm waiting for club to start. At church, before and after the service. Between school subjects. In the five or ten minutes before I go to bed. As long as I have a book or some kind of reading material handy, I always have something to do that I enjoy doing. (Unless the only books handy are science and math textbooks. Then we have a problem.)
  2. It takes me to places and introduces me to people I'd never otherwise see or meet. Books are pretty much the real-world equivalent of portals, teleporting, looking glasses, or whatever other fantastical method of instant travel you prefer. And if you have not, at some point, read a book and felt like you were there and you knew the characters nearly as well, if not better, than you know your best friend, I feel very sorry for you.
  3. It's a way to escape. It's like the song says: "Reality is a lovely place, but I wouldn't want to live there." Hiding from problems won't solve them; I know that. But sometimes you need a break, a distraction, a bit of time to cool down and stop panicking. And there is no better way to do that than a book. (Unless your problem is that you're not getting enough sleep, in which case, nap now; read later.)
  4. I learn from reading. Writing-wise, reading helps me see what to do and what not to do. It shows me what works and what doesn't. Knowledge-wise, there have been many times when I've read something in a schoolbook (particularly in history) and realized I already knew it from something I've read for fun. And life-in-general-wise, most good books have themes and characters which teach you something. 
  5. On a similar note, because of reading, I know what to do in a variety of situations I'll probably never actually face. The chances of World War III breaking out and shattering the world as we know it, or of accidentally ending up in another world, or of anything to that effect happening, are extremely unlikely. But if they do happen, I'll know what to do. Theoretically. I'd prefer not to test the theory, though.
  6. It connects me to other people. I know, it sounds a bit odd. Isn't reading all about being off by yourself, immersed in a good book? But it's true. I became closer to one of my friends because she recommended (and lent) books to me and we'd chat about them. I met many of my good online friends through a forum based off The Berinfell Prophecies. In fact, the vast majority of my friends are bookworms like me.
  7. It inspires my writing. I wouldn't have really gotten into writing if I hadn't loved reading. I wouldn't have written 'Rosa: A Snow White Remake' if it hadn't been for the prompt in the back of Ella Enchanted. My daydreams, which generally lead into my writing one way or another, take nods from books I've read recently. And two books that I'd like to publish (if I ever finish them) wouldn't exist without fairy tale retellings like Princess of the Midnight Ball, Entwined, and The Merchant's Daughter.
  8. Books remind me that there's something more. It's easy to look at the world and think that this is all there is. Books like The Tales of Goldstone Wood remind me that it isn't. There's much more out there, and each person was made for a special purpose. Life doesn't always make sense- but in the end, we'll see that everything happened for a reason. 
Well, there you have my reasons. What are yours? Feel free to tell me in the comments, or to make your own Top Ten Tuesdays post!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)  

Friday, February 14, 2014

Random Friday: Valentine's Day Book Covers
Hey'a, everyone! Happy Valentine's Day! This week's theme is Book Covers Featuring Love or the Color Red, which I obviously paraphrased into 'Valentine's Day Book Covers' for the title of this post. This could be a bit of a tricky post, considering my usual taste in books, but I'll certainly try my best.

We'll start with the obvious: the Lunar Chronicles.
I just read Cress fairly recently, and loved it! It's definitely the best yet in the series, and Cress, Cinder, and Thorne are officially my favorite characters. Of course, I might be slightly biased, since Cress is somewhat similar to me in personality. Anyway, getting back to the book covers, I think Cress is also my favorite cover, though Scarlet is a close second.

Moving on . . .
I love this cover; it's probably my favorite of the Twelve Dancing Princesses trilogy. I also love Petunia's cloak. It's so pretty!
Look! I actually found a cover with a couple on it! I like how Dasha is looking all serious and regal, while Razo's just looking at her. It definitely shows their personalities!

And I'm out of covers that really fit the category. (Yes, I could possibly include Eldest because it's red, but 1)that book drives me crazy, and 2)I don't think it fits in a Valentine's Day post.) Oh well. Can you think of any covers I missed? What's your favorite of the covers I chose?

Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)   
Want to join in the Random Fridays fun? Feel free to make a post of your own on the week's topic! Please just be sure to use the Random Fridays banner, link back to Awkwordly Emma, and post the link to your post on the Awkwordly Emma blog so other participants can check out your post. For a list of future Random Friday topics, click here.  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Top Ten Tuesdays: Swoon-Worthy Books
Hello, all! This week's Top Ten Tuesday theme is Swoon-Worthy Books. Note that none of these are just romances, because I don't read just romances. Some of them might not even have romance as the main plot; I might just like the main couple in the story (or the guy in the main couple). Basically, they're the books that I would (and probably will) read for Valentine's Day.
  1.  Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. This book has a great many things going for it. It reads like a fairy tale, but isn't a remake, so you're never quite sure what will happen next. It's sweet and funny and Howl and Sophie are awesome together. And Howl, despite his flaws, is rather awesome by himself too. To top it all off, you have this line, which would be on my list of Favorite Romantic Lines: "I think we ought to live happily ever after."
  2. Melanie Dickerson's Fairy Tale Retellings. This is technically four books, but I don't feel like splitting them up, since I'll be saying something very similar for all of them. Of all the books I read, these are probably some of the most romance-focused, but the romance is very clean and very sweet. My favorite is The Merchant's Daughter (which I plan to read on Valentine's Day), but I enjoyed all four.
  3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I don't know how swoon-worthy Pride and Prejudice actually is, but I love Elizabeth and Darcy and the way they learn to love each other. 
  4. Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. I wasn't sure whether to include this or not, since it really goes far deeper than 'swoon-worthy'. In the end, I decided to put it on the list. Yes, 'swoon-worthy' isn't an accurate description, but it is pretty much my favorite fantasy-adventure-romance in the world. (Even if that's because it's so much more than just a fantasy-adventure-romance.) 
  5. Scarlet and Cress by Marissa Meyer. Wolf and Scarlet are so sweet together; they're pretty much my favorite Lunar Chronicles couple. Wolf is so protective and sweet and loyal. And I love Thorne as well. It doesn't matter if he's not as much a hero as Cress thought he was; his actions, particularly in Cress, prove that he's well on his way to becoming a hero, if he's not one already. 
  6. Starflower and Dragonwitch by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. Like Heartless, 'swoon-worthy' is not a word I would generally use to describe these books. The main reason these books are on the list is Bard Eanrin. He's pretty much my favorite character in the entire Goldstone Wood series (which says something about how much I like him), and he plays a major role in both of these books. I especially like him in Starflower, when I and other readers get to see how his focus changes from just himself to others. Besides Eanrin, though, I am very fond of certain scenes involving Alistair and Mouse in Dragonwitch. Just saying.
And that, technically, is ten books. What did you think of my choices? What books would you count as 'swoon-worthy'? Feel free to tell me in the comments, or to make your own Top Ten Tuesdays post on your blog!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)   

Friday, February 7, 2014

My Thoughts on the Divergent Trilogy

Remember how in my Slippery Time post, I mentioned that I needed to read Allegiant but I was too scared to? The day after I wrote that post, I decided that it was time to stop being scared of what I thought was going to happen in it. It was time to start reading it.

Surprise: I couldn't put it down and finished it that same night.

Since I posted so enthusiastically about the first book, I decided that I should follow up with my thoughts on the whole trilogy. I will make sure to keep it as spoiler-free as possible for those of you who haven't read it yet.

Divergent (1st book): I said before that this is my new favorite dystopian book, and I'll say that again now. I love Tris and Four, and the faction system is really interesting. The story is intense and exciting, but it's not nonstop action. There are deep parts that really make you think. Also, while they aren't perfect, many of the characters do display traits worth imitating. The ending is bittersweet, yes, but it's not depressing. Divergent is also fairly clean. As one might expect, there is fighting and some intense scenes, it isn't particularly descriptive. And while romance does play a part, it doesn't go beyond (a good bit of) kissing.

Insurgent (2nd book): I didn't like Insurgent as much as I liked Divergent. It's still a good book. It's even more exciting than Divergent, especially towards the end. The last chapter or two, in particular, caught me completely off-guard (in a good way). And like the previous book, there are some aspects of it that make you think. However, several of the main characters' make choices that made me respect them a little less. Also, while the amount of violence remains the same, there is one romantic scene that made me feel a bit uncomfortable.

Allegiant (3rd book): Wow. Allegiant was not at all what I expected, but that's a good thing. I can't really say much because of the whole spoiler thing, but the explanations for some of the questions I'd had were finally answered and those answers were much more interesting than anything I expected. One other thing I liked (though a lot of others seem dislike) is getting Four's view as well as Tris's. While it did throw me off occasionally when the POV switched and I didn't notice, I think that the story wouldn't have been as good if we'd just had Tris's POV.

Allegiant is also, in my opinion, the most thought-provoking book in the trilogy. Again, I can't give away spoilers, but one of the main conflicts in the book seemed to be the questions of 'How far are you willing to go for what you think is right?' and 'How far is too far?' The answers to those questions, particularly the first one, can be frightening.

I was happy to find that the characters seem to have learned from their mistakes in Insurgent and, as in Divergent, make choices that are (mostly) worth imitating. Though they're not perfect, they're characters you can feel good about liking, especially when you consider how they willingly risk their lives to protect each other and stand for what they believe is right.

Allegiant is not perfect. As in Insurgent, there's one romantic scene that I could've done without, and Tris and Four seem to spend a lot of time kissing. There's one or two instances of bad words. However, the book does remain mostly clean.

Overall, I'd definitely recommend the Divergent trilogy to older teens. Despite some flaws, the books are well-written, exciting, and certainly worth reading.

If you've already read the trilogy, or are currently reading it, I'd like to hear what your thoughts. Feel free to comment, but please mark any spoilers so people who haven't read it yet don't read something they don't want to know yet. Thanks!

Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)  
Note: This was supposed to be published back on Wednesday or so. I have no clue what went wrong. Oh well.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Slippery Time and Other Things

Time can be a very slippery thing. You sit down one minute to do a bit of knitting and listen to some of a good book or to enjoy yourself online and the next thing you know, it's two hours later and you've forgotten to do something important. Like schoolwork. Or writing. Funny how that works.

At least if you lose track of time while you're knitting, you're doing something useful. In the past two weeks, I made a new pair of wristers and most of a cute headband that my mom found a pattern for. I would've finished the headband yesterday, but the book I was listening to, Howl's Moving Castle, ended much too soon. You'd think that by this time, I'd be used to it, that the ending wouldn't make me wish so hard that there was more or that the characters were real and I could visit them because I'm not ready to say goodbye. But I'm not, which is why I spent most of today reading the two sequels to Howl's Moving Castle and wishing very much that Howl and Sophie played a bigger part in the other books. I'm strongly tempted to start listening to the book all over again, unless I find something else to listen to that catches my attention more.

In other news, I wrote myself into a corner and can't seem to find my way out of it. Unless Inspiration shows up and rescues me, or at least gives me a secret passage out of the corner, I'll probably scrap the story and start over with something new. Or maybe I'll just work on my WIPs from last year's Camp NaNoWriMo and NaNoWriMo. That would work too. I just want to write something that's not this particular story and where I have a better idea what I'm doing.

Ok, this blog post is turning into a lot of moping. Time for happier stuff.
  • Cress comes out in three day! Three days! I'll have to wait until it comes in at the library before I can read it, but all the same- three days!
  • A Draw of Kings also comes out in three days.
  • I still need to read Allegiant but I'm kind of scared to. I want to know what's going to happen, but at the same time, I have a feeling it's going to be something heartbreaking. And it's easier to just listen to Howl's Moving Castle, which isn't very sad at all. Actually, it's quite funny and I defy anyone to read or listen to it and not be in a good mood by the time they're done.
  • Owl City music can be sad, like 'Lonely Lullaby' (which I'm listening to now), but I love it anyway. Though I generally prefer the happy songs, like 'Hot Air Balloon'.
  • There's a short story contest on at my library. I need to pick something to enter. For once, I have plenty of options! (Thank you, TPS Summer Creative Writing class!)
  • I love playing Ticket to Ride, but if you and your friends are playing it while your parents are having Bible Study, you really need to start it before snack time. Otherwise, you end up having to stop halfway through so that people can go home and go to bed.
  • I love this song:
Well, that's all for today. Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)