Friday, May 17, 2019

My Thoughts on Avengers: Endgame (No Spoilers!)

Usually, I'm the last one to see any given MCU film — mostly because I insist on waiting until it comes out on DVD and I can get it at the library. But, having more or less caught up on the MCU for once in my life, and having found a theater with $5 tickets on Tuesdays, I decided to make an exception for once and go see Endgame in theaters. And oh stars was it worth it!

Endgame is best watched unspoiled (or at least minimally spoiled), so I'm going to do my best to keep this post spoiler-free. That said, I have a lot of thoughts which require giving spoilers, so I wrote up second post on my other blog, where I can keep the content behind a password. The password is yes_spoilers; have fun. Please keep any spoilery comments over there as well, or at least mark them if you post them in the comments of this post. Thanks!

My Non-Spoilery Endgame Thoughts

  1. First up, that was way better than Infinity War. Anyone who read my Doings! post last week or who's friends with me on Facebook or Letterboxd knows that I was not crazy about Infinity War; it suffered from too many characters and too many characters making stupid decisions and also too much Thanos being melodramatic. Endgame suffered from none of these problems, and most of the people were actually, like . . . reasonably sensible? And communicated semi-well? And Thanos actually acted like an interesting villain? So that was nice. The beginning dragged a bit, but overall, it was good.
  2. It did not murder my heart as badly as I thought it would. Not that most movies hurt that much; I tend to get over any case of movie-related feels much faster than most fangirls do. (I'm pretty sure it's because I then go and fill myself up with other stories that give me new feels . . . and also I'm an ISTP.) But I kind of thought Endgame was going to hurt a lot more than it did. That's not to say that it doesn't have sad or touching moments or that those moments aren't handled well; it does, and they are. But it does mean that the sadness was balanced out by other emotions.
  3. It does a good job of wrapping up the character arcs for most of the original Avengers. I don't think this is actually a spoiler; the entire internet knows that this is the end of an era, that certain actors aren't signed on for more films, so on. And I think that it's a good ending or wrap-up point for most of the original Avengers — two in particular — but there were others who I'm not so happy about. I'll say outright that I don't think this movie treated Thor as well as it could have or should have. And there's another Avenger — I won't say who, because spoilers — whose arc I'm kind of happy with and kind of not happy with and I don't know what to do with it.
  4. The ladies of Marvel sometimes got the short end of the stick here; I'll be honest. But Captain Marvel and Black Widow (the two females with the most screentime) are both pretty fabulous, and almost all the major Marvel women get their moments of awesome in the climax. There were two in particular that made me almost fistpump in the theater, but . . . those are spoilers. Surprise, surprise.
  5. Speaking of which, the final battle? STORMING EPIC. Like, Lord of the Rings-level epic, and that's not something I typically say about superhero movies. I could probably make a whole post just out of my favorite parts of that battle. And the resolution to the battle was just . . . I don't even know the right word. It was really satisfying and fitting and it worked, ok? It made sense.
So, yeah. That's about as much as I can say without giving away spoilers (remember: check out my spoiler post for those!). All in all: definitely worth watching in theaters, even if you're not usually a theater person . . .  but don't go if you haven't seen at least a good chunk of the previous Marvel movies. It won't be as meaningful.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go write up that spoiler post I mentioned . . . and look up what other movies are releasing this summer that I might want to see in theaters now that I've realized that going by yourself can be pretty storming fun. (I'm almost certainly going to see Spider-Man: Far From Home, assuming I can get ahold of Homecoming before then. It'll be great.) But what about you? What did you think of Endgame (remember, mark spoilers or put them in the other post's comments!)? Do you have any recommendations for movies I should see this summer?

Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, May 10, 2019

April 2019 Doings! (Plus the first third of May . . . oops)

Behold! I return!

So, yeah. April was super busy and I basically did all the things and then semi-collapsed. But I'm back now! And in case you think I was joking about "all the things", I have a Doings! post to show just how crazy this month was.

Writing!

  • Obviously, the main writing thing of the month (and the reason I haven't posted but once since my last Doings!) was Camp NaNoWriMo. For those who missed it, I was continuing my rewrite/edit of Mechanical Heart: adding new scenes and reworking existing ones to be consistent with the changes I'm making based on beta comments.
  • Because of the work I was doing and because of class projects, this was kind of a weird month. I'd bounce between way ahead of the game and barely keeping up depending on whether I was writing new words or just editing existing stuff. Plus, some days I couldn't get anything done at all. It was a mess.
  • (I also learned that writing while other people are watching a TV show in the same room just doesn't work. Inevitably, I end up watching the show as well, no matter what it is. It's a problem.)
  • In the end, I did win Camp NaNoWriMo, but it was the closest win I've ever had. I validated my final wordcount maybe twenty minutes before midnight on April 30. (It might've been closer to ten 'til, honestly.) Mechanical Heart isn't done with this round of edits either — but I've outlined the rest of the book and written short chapter summaries, so maybe it'll go faster?
  • (At least once I get back my motivation . . . after Camp NaNoWriMo, I sort of switched over all my energy to finishing up final projects, and I've struggled to get back into writing ever since. So that's a problem.)

Reading!

Image of the books I read this month: the Abhorsen trilogy; A Branch of a Silver, a Branch of Gold; Murder on the Orient Express; Between Jobs; and A Darker Shade of Magic
  • As you can see, April was a much lighter reading month than average — and technically, I only read three of these in April; the other two I read since getting home from college.
  • Murder on the Orient Express was my first read of the month. It was a solid book, as one would expect given how famous it is. I don't think it's my favorite mystery novel I've ever read, but I'm certainly interested to read more by Christie. And I didn't guess the killer before the end of the book, so that's . . . probably good?
  • A Darker Shade of Magic was, as the name suggests, super dark. C.G. Drews yells about this series semi-frequently, so I thought I'd give it a try. Ultimately, I'm not sure if I'll continue the series; the world is interesting, but I'm not super invested in the characters, and did I mention that the book was really, really dark and bloody? So, yeah. I'm glad I read it, but I don't think I'll repeat the experience.
  • Between Jobs, on the other hand, is one I've been looking forward to for a while. It's part of W.R. Gingell's series of urban fantasy mysteries, and, unsurprisingly, I highly enjoyed it. I think I like her Two Monarchies books a bit better, but on the other hand, relatively clean urban fantasy is hard to find. I definitely intend to pick up the rest of the series quite soon!
  • Moving on: A Branch of Silver, a Branch of Gold was a reread, obviously. I'm hoping to reread all of the Tales of Goldstone Wood sometime in the relatively near future, but didn't really intend to start here — it was just kind of a whim. I definitely like it better this time than I did the first time. The ending makes much more sense and is more powerful, and the whole book is just better when you know what's up and know what to look for.
  • Finally, we have the Abhorsen Chronicles, which are technically three books, but I have them all together in one volume. I acquired the book ages ago, after a blogger friend recommended Lirael as one of her favorite books. That was years ago, though, around the time that Anne Elisabeth Stengl first started the Five Something Somethings anthologies, and it took me this long to read it. I enjoyed the trilogy, though I think Sabriel is my favorite of the books. They're a bit dark, but they're exciting and have a cool magic system and a nice interplay of fantasy and technology.

Watching!

  • Oh stars. There's SO MUCH here compared to usual.
  • For most of the month, I watched relatively little. Between Camp NaNoWriMo and college, I didn't have a lot of time for Netflix, YouTube, or so forth. The exception was one random evening on which my roommate and I both magically acquired some extra time and decided that I needed to be introduced to Leverage. So, we watched my roommate's favorite episode: a flashback episode about the crew all trying to steal the same thing before they were a crew. I think that format made it easier for me to keep up with what was going on (since I didn't really know the characters — other than Elliot, who I only know about because both my roommate and Deborah O'Carroll love him). I really enjoyed the characters and the show concept, though, so I'm hoping to watch more of the show sometime.
  • Then Easter break hit, and suddenly I was watching ALL THE THINGS.
  • For one thing, of course, I watched all the stuff that was distracting me from writing: specifically, four episodes of Love It Or List It (a househunting/remodeling show; fairly interesting but frustrating because the families literally never did what I thought they should do), a food truck cooking competition whose name I didn't catch (again, interesting, but I probably wouldn't watch it deliberately), and quite a lot of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. CSI, for the record, was pretty cool. Definitely for a more mature audience, but interesting nonetheless. (Also, the last episode I watched ended on a cliffhanger and it's not ok and I need the rest of the story, storm it all!)
  • Finally, and most importantly: I'm almost caught up on the MCU because between Easter break and finals week, I watched three whole Marvel movies!
  • The best of these movies was undoubtedly Captain Marvel, which my roommate, her family, and I saw in theaters on the Monday after Easter. I'm not going to claim that Captain Marvel is the best MCU movie ever, but it's still really good and highly satisfying. It hit all the right beats, had all the right elements, twisted some tropes and played others perfectly straight . . . and, ok, the final battle can't top the climax of Thor: Ragnarok, but it was still pretty awesome.
  • The same day, we watched Ant-Man and the Wasp, which was great in terms of plot, cool tech, and awesome action, but not so great in terms of characters who I actually connected with, cared about, and wasn't annoyed with. (At some point, I need to compare my reaction to Ant-Man and the Wasp with my reaction to Guardians of the Galaxy 1 & 2. Technically, I should be annoyed with Guardians for the same reason I am with Ant-Man and the Wasp: the cast as a whole shows the fundamental selfishness of humanity very clearly, and a significant part of the main cast is populated by idiots. And yet I love Guardians and am just meh about Ant-Man and the Wasp, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the music, or maybe it's the fact that I enjoy Peter Quill's brand of idiocy more than Scott Lang's.)
  • Anyway. Getting back on track: since I was so close to being caught up, during finals week, I decided to bite the bullet and take out the MCU movie I was most dreading: Infinity War. So, Wednesday, my roommate and I had our end-of-semester movie night, and watched that . . . and, honestly, I'm not overwhelmed with either awe or sadness. The movie did the best it could with the number of characters it had to include, and it had some fairly cool action scenes, a few nice pieces of humor, and some pretty touching moments. But it was still kind of all over the place, I'm annoyed with several characters, and Thanos just is not an interesting villain in my opinion. So, yeah. On the upside, now I can go see Endgame in theaters and actually watch an MCU movie before I get all the spoilers for once.

Life!

  • Oh stars. There's so much. I don't know how I had time for all the stuff I did, what with Camp NaNoWriMo, but somehow it all happened.
  • The first weekend of April was, of course, my hall's D&D one-shot. (Storms, that feels like so long ago.) Overall, I think it was successful. Everyone seemed to have fun, people liked my storyline and concept reasonably well, and a lot of the girls said they'd be interested in playing again in a longer-term campaign sometime. We had a few hiccups at the beginning due to the fact that six players are definitely too many people, especially when you're a first-time GM. However, things calmed down after a while, people got the hang of what they were doing, and we had some pretty fun moments.
  • (Also: you know the joke about how D&D players will make any encounter a combat encounter? My group was the exact opposite. At the very beginning, I had set up a mini-combat encounter with an angry bear to give everyone a feel for how combat works. Instead, it turned into a mini therapy section as our Ranger talked the bear down, asked why it was mad and who hurt it, and got information about the cave below. This was a trend through most of the game. Giant snake? Chat with it and ask if it knows anything about the treasure. Flying snakes? Try to befriend and/or tame them. It turned out well, though, because I'd set up a dragon at the end, and I wanted them to talk instead of attacking, and they did. It was lovely.)
  • The next weekend was the PWID spring trip, in which a group of people from my major headed down to Nashville to explore, visit companies, and generally have a good time. Also, I spent most of the trip with most of my really good friends in the major, which was fabulous.
    • We left on Thursday morning. I was able to write a lot in the car on the way down, which was good. After we arrived at the hotel and got settled in, most of us decided to head to a coffee shop to eat and do homework. However, only one of the three cars actually ended up at the right coffee shop. One of the others ended up at a completely different homestyle-type restaurant. My group found ourselves at a different coffee shop by the same name — which, honestly, was fine. We worked on stuff, ate crepes, and chatted; it was a good time. (We also established what type of animal each person would be; apparently, I'm either a dragon or an armadillo. I mean, I'll take either one.)
 
    • Friday was our most structured day. We visited two different marketing companies, one really big but also really new, the other older but smaller. Both were pretty cool and informative. Then, eight of us headed to the big event of the day: a Grey Havens concert at Trevecca University! That was super fun! They played several of my favorites of their songs, and when I got their autographs afterward, I actually managed to ask an intelligent question instead of just rambling about how cool they are. So that was pretty awesome.
    • Saturday we got a late start and headed into Nashville for a day that was pretty much defined by food. We walked around part of downtown and visited a Soda Parlor owned by a YouTuber who I didn't recognize. We had coffee with a published author who graduated from Cedarville (pretty cool, though I don't read her books and probably won't change that) and visited a used/vintage bookstore that definitely had the vibe of a magical shop. Then we went to a board game cafe, which I loved. We played Apples to Apples and Codenames and drank hot apple, and I bought a new d20 (which has served me quite well since).
    • Finally, on Sunday, we headed home. We actually got back in time for me to video chat with my family and get to D&D on time, so that was awesome. Overall, it was a great trip.
  • Moving on: the weekend after that was Easter break. My roommate and I were able to leave a day early and stay a day late, since neither of us had Tuesday/Thursday classes. We mostly just chilled at her house and then at her grandfather's farmhouse (other than the time we went to see Captain Marvel). I wrote, we ate lots of good food, and we played board and card games that I thoroughly enjoyed. (Mysterium is a very fun game that I would absolutely play again given the opportunity.) Overall, it was a nice chance to rest and recharge.
  • Finally, the last weekend in April featured Elliv and the TDK Formal. This was my first year going to Elliv (which is basically Cedarville's big end-of-year music thing . . . other people are better at explaining it than me). It was pretty cool, but I would've enjoyed it more if I actually knew more of the songs. I don't know if I'll go next year or not; it depends on what my friends are doing.
  • The TDK Formal, on the other hand, was awesome. Everyone pretty much agreed that this year's formal was the best one yet, which makes me happy. I was in charge of the decorations, which turned out really nice — though I can't take all the credit; I had ideas and other people helped execute them. But the food was great, the hosts did a great job running it, and everyone seemed to have fun.
  • Outside of all that, of course, I had classwork. Two of my final projects hit significant snags in the last week of April and the first week of May, which was very frustrating. We managed to work most of it out in time to submit things, though. So that's a relief. Better yet, I think I'm done or almost done with classes involving group work. Thank goodness! (Don't get me wrong; I know group work is important, and I see the value in it. But being in a group project, even when I like my group members, can be exhausting.) On the upside, my Web Design final project, essay, and exam all went well, and I'm unreasonably happy with how my website turned out.
  • That covers pretty much all the major stuff this past month. There were a few other small events — CU Lead Kickstart, a morning spent in Cedarville, a DTR show, and so forth — but this post is long enough as it is. And now I'm back home, and all is well. Or, as well as it can be, anyway.

May Plans!

  • Obviously, May is almost half gone at this point, so I don't have a ton of stuff to put here. But there is some. A lot of this is whole-summer plans, but oh well.
  • Most importantly, I need to finish up Mechanical Heart as soon as I possibly can. I plan to join in the Go Teen Writers 100 for 100 challenge, and I want enough space between finishing Mechanical Heart and starting the challenge that I can take a bit of a mental break. (That said, knowing my luck, I'll probably finish up on May 19th, then have to start something new on the 20th.)
  • Second most importantly, I'm working again this summer. I'll be interning again with the same company as last summer, which means I get to work from home on design and writing stuff. But since I don't have a required number of hours I have to get this time around, things should be more chill. (That's not to say that I won't work as much as I can, only that I don't have to stress if I fail to get a certain number of hours of work in a day.)
  • Outside of those two things, I want to take a sizable chunk out of both my TBR list and my to-watch list, though that's definitely a whole-summer aim. I'm planning to start Star Trek: The Next Generation to see if I like it more than the original series. (I am, of course, also going to watch from the original series; I'd like to get through most of the first season, at least.) I also want to watch Endgame in theaters — that will probably happen this coming week, if it happens at all — and finally see the last few MCU movies that I haven't watched, namely Homecoming and Iron Man 3.
  • My last significant plan for the summer: cook more. I know how to cook, but I definitely need more practice, and there are certain things that I've never done and want to try at least once before I'm living on my own. I mean, yes, I have another year at least before I reach that point, but it's not like I can practice much at college, and right now the things I'm best at are enchiladas and chili. So, yeah. That's hopefully going to happen.
How was your April? What are your plans for May? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, May 3, 2019

No Doings; Have a Snippet!

Hey'a, y'all. First thing: I won Camp NaNoWriMo! I validated my count at, like, twenty minutes to midnight, but it's fine. Second, due to a busier-than-expected finals week and a more-tired-than-expected me, I will be pushing the April Doings! post until next Friday. (Hey, I've put Doings! posts up later . . .) To make up for this, I'm sharing some snippets from Mechanical Heart. Enjoy!
First: in which Breen is every sleep-deprived college student (but with higher stakes):
Why had she stayed awake so late last night? Why had she not thought to keep track of the time? Why had she not insisted on finishing the project another night? I’m such a fool . . .
Second: in which people bond over food (which I'm pretty sure is going to be a trademark of my books):
While he did, Breen pulled open the bundle. Here were a half-dozen small loaves of bread — not the course, hard, dark variety she was used to, but light, golden-crusted rounds, some speckled with what looked like cranberries. Here was a packet of large tea leaves, which Breen smelled eagerly — even their faint scent was delicious — and a jar full of coffee, at which Breen let out an audible cry of delight. Here were round, red-cheeked apples, and a small wheel of hard, white cheese, and a metal tin of porridge oats and another small jar of — oh, delight! Honey! And at the very bottom of the bundle, she found a small box wrapped in gold paper, tied with a white ribbon, and marked with a stamp that read Düetschin Confectionary.
She glanced up at Josiah. “Chocolates,” he said, before she could say anything. “That’s how Grace usually likes me to apologize for things. As for the rest — I wasn’t sure what you’d want, so I guessed. I hope it’s all right.”
Third: in which Josiah talks policy and ethics with another senator:
“Good things indeed.” Josiah leaned forward slightly, tilting his head. “Yet you’re still concerned.”
“Of course I am. Everything has a cost, your highness. In blood alchemy, that cost is blood.” Aaronson raised an eyebrow. “My question is, who’s paying it?”
There you have it. Pulling snippets for this was harder than I thought; everything is potentially spoilery. Hope you enjoyed. If not, I apologize.
Have a lovely day!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, April 5, 2019

March 2019 Doings! (Is It Spring Yet?)

Hey'a, everyone! So, March has now been over for almost a week, but today's the scheduled day for Doings, and we're going with it. (Plus, the alternative is that I leave it until the end of April, and that'll just be a bad idea all 'round.) For those curious: Camp NaNoWriMo is going reasonably well. I started off the month with one chapter that I was excited to rewrite and another few that needed relatively few changes, so that helped a lot. Thus why I was able to get this post up at a reasonable time without dying.

Writing!

Mechanical Heart mock cover
Mock cover created as an experiment in style. Not an official cover reveal. Don't get excited, please.
  • Once again, I spent most of the month rewriting Mechanical Heart and not making a lot of progress. Part of the problem is that I was almost exclusively writing new material rather than rewriting old material, and I felt a lot of pressure to get it right the first time 'round.
  • Also, politics. One significant beta request was to have more scenes with Josiah acting in his normal world (aka politics and asking a lot of people a lot of questions). Some of those scenes have been fun, but some have been . . . challenging. Hopefully, the results will be worth it.
  • That said, I also wrote less because I was busy putting together the material for the one-shot I'm running tomorrow night. That was another interesting challenge, though of a very different sort. People have been creating their characters and telling me about them, and I'm super excited to see how this all goes down. (Also a little nervous, since I've never been on the other side of the screen before, but y'know.)
  • I also have been assailed all month with a desire to write either books 3 through whatever-the-last-volume-is in my epic fairy tale retelling series or the first book in my fantasy murder mystery series, and it's intensely frustrating. I can't write either book any time soon; the first, I need to rewrite the other two books first, and the second will require a lot of delicate planning that I'm not ready for. Oh well. Such is life.

Reading!

March 2019 books. Lots of 'em.
  • On the upside, March was another pretty solid month of reading. It looks more impressive than it is, though, for a few reasons.
  • First of all, I only finished Second Son in March; I started reading it back in January for Jenelle Schmidt's read-along. It was, on the whole, a good book, though not my favorite.
  • Second of all, roughly half the books on here are Oz books. And, surprisingly, Oz books are pretty short; I can read one in under two hours. I reread the first one mostly on a whim, then kept going because I wanted to see how the other books held up against my memories since they used to be some of my favorites. They were still thoroughly enjoyable (as evidenced by the fact that I read the whole series, save two). The plots are sometimes a little lacking, and the narration can be a bit didactic, but you have to appreciate the creativity and humor that goes into them. That said, they're pretty dark books if you put even a little bit of thought into them. I may end up writing a full Friday 5s post about my thoughts and analysis after rereading them; is that something anyone would be interested in?
  • I read three other classics in addition to Oz. One, A Wrinkle In Time, is another old favorite that I read while I was home over spring break. (I mostly read it because I had expected to get it as one of my blind date books and that put me in the mood.) The others were both by Agatha Christie: Parker Pyne Investigates (a book of short stories) and Murder on the Orient Express (not pictured because I forgot to add it on Goodreads until the writing of this post). The short stories were fine; a bit of a mixed bag but on the whole enjoyable. Murder on the Orient Express was, naturally, much more impressive. I can see why it's so well known and why so many people love it so much. For my part, I enjoyed it fairly well, and I was impressed by how well Christie wove everything together and planted all the clues. Did I guess the culprit before the reveal? No, but I almost never do.
  • And now we go back to the start of the month for some non-classic reads. On the indie fiction front, we have three recent releases: Honor: A Quest In (Kendra E. Ardnek), To Court a Queen (H.L. Burke), and If Wishes Were Curses (Janeen Ippolito). That's pretty much the order of how much I like each one as well. Honor is excellent; definitely the best in Bookania. If you haven't read it yet, you should. To Court a Queen was also fun, even if the hero wasn't my favorite I've encountered of his archetype. It messed with fantasy tropes in pretty fun ways, and the plot was good. If Wishes Were Curses, on the other hand, didn't quite meet my expectations. I was excited for an urban fantasy mystery, but instead the story spent far too much time gallivanting about with romance and destiny and so forth. That's definitely a personal problem and not a strike against the book itself, but it's still frustrating. (That said, I did like one particular element of the romance quite a lot, so there's that.)
  • Then we have four mainline fantasy reads. As She Ascends is the sequel to Before She Ignites, which I read and reviewed for Cedars in September 2017. I didn't reread Ignites before reading Ascends, which proved to be a mistake; I spent the first half of the novel trying to remember who everyone was and what happened in the last book. This book is also another lesson in why fantasy heroes need to communicate, but what else is new? The Graveyard Book was interesting and clever, a bit odd but enjoyable nonetheless. I may reread it next October, when I'm properly in the mood for creepiness. Monstrous Regiment was my latest jaunt through Discworld, and it was neither my favorite nor least favorite in the series, but I know I don't agree with part of its primary message.
  • And, finally, we have my favorite thing I read all month: The Aeronaut's Windlass! I take this book as proof that steampunk, when well done, is honestly one of the best genres. You've got sciencey magic, quirky characters, airship battles, magical science, cat societies, intrigue, spies, more airship battles, romance, pirates, and did I mention the airship battles? And, as the cherry on top, you've got Captain Grimm, who's the best possible blend of practicality and heroism, whose grasp of airship tactics is matched only by his understanding of human nature, and who has wit and skill enough to spar, verbally or physically, with anyone who comes his way. He's high-key the best.

Watching!

  • Surprisingly, I watched a lot of movies this month — well, compared to how many I normally watch.
Star Wars logo
  • As I'm going to talk about in a minute, spring break happened in March, which is part of why I watched more than usual. (It's a bit odd — after years of watching movies only rarely, the rest of my family has suddenly started watching movies and old TV shows on DVD every couple weeks, if not every week or multiple times a week. Part of that is probably the fact that we finally got a new TV last summer after having kept the same one for basically as long as I've been alive, but it's still a little bewildering.)
  • Anyway. I got kind of off topic there. So, until recently, my sister hadn't seen Star Wars, which is obviously a state of affairs that had to be fixed before next fall. My family watched Episode 4 before spring break, and then we watched Episodes 5 and 6 while I was home on break. I'm currently hoping that they'll hold off on the rest of the movies until May, when I'll be home again, but only time will tell.
  • We also watched a few episodes of Star Trek (mostly because my grandpa's copy of Star Wars is on VHS, and his VHS player was messed up, so we had to watch something else). I have come to the conclusion that the only way I'll get through the original series is if I watch each season's episode in the order of this-interests-me-most-right-now instead of chronological order. Obviously, I'll watch all, or almost all, the episodes in a season before moving on to the next season.
  • Speaking of watching things out of order: my roommate and I are temporarily back on the Fairy Tail boat. We've been unable to find English dubs of the next episodes in order, though, so we're jumping ahead to watch Fairy Tail Zero, the prequel arc. So far, we've only watched one episode, and it was . . . depressing. But at least tiny!Mavis isn't a complete Pollyanna. That's something.
  • Most exciting out of everything I watched this month . . .
Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse Poster
  • That's right! I actually watched a Marvel movie within a year of when it came out! It's a miracle, y'all. I'm not going to say that Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse is my favorite Marvel movie ever. (It isn't, not while Thor: Ragnarok is on the table.) However, it's still a really good movie. The characters are beautifully drawn in multiple senses, and the writers successfully gave all everyone a reasonable bit of development even while keeping the focus on the main three, and they gave each of the main three their own narrative without letting the two secondaries in that core group take over the plot from Miles.
  • Miles, by the way, is a cinnamon roll. And his relationships with the other characters are fabulous.
  • Also, the art of the movie is gorgeous. And the action scenes are almost all amazing. (There's, like, one that frustrated me? But generally, amazing.)
  • Also: Miles has an actual family and relatively non-horrible relationships with his family members. What the actual pumpernickel. It's a spidey-miracle. Recent films and books have gotten a little better about family relationships, but (with a few exceptions, like Black Panther) not much. Miles's relationship with his parents isn't perfect, true, but it's a normal sort of strained? You can tell that the family members really care about each other, even if they disagree about certain things. So, yeah. That made me happy.

Life!

SNEK.
Crochet snake that I made for my roommate based on a pattern by H.L. Burke. Its name is Apep.
  • March was mostly characterized by DOING ALL THE THINGS and traveling ALL THE PLACES . . . if by "all the places" you mean Virginia. But I went there and back twice, and those were the two big events of the month.
  • The first trip back was, of course, for spring break. I very much enjoyed being back home for a week! We didn't do much out of the ordinary, but I appreciated the chance to relax and spend time with my family and catch up on some recent book releases. (Plus, I went to the discount bookstore near my house and got new books, so YAY for that.)
  • The second trip to Virginia was actually to Roanoke with some friends from the Honors program. Why were we there? The Roanoke Open Classic QuizBowl tournament! The leader of TDK QuizBowl was taking a team (actually two teams) back to his hometown for the tournament, and he invited me to join them. I wasn't going to go originally . . . and then I realized that, by some miracle, I actually wasn't as busy that weekend as I thought!
  • The tournament went very well on the whole. We didn't win, but we had fun and we gave the other teams a good challenge. (Well, most of the other teams . . . some of them steamrolled us, but some of them also do this competitively as opposed to just as a hobby.) I only made one stupid mistake, and that not until later in the day, but I got several questions quick enough to earn my team bonus points. So, I'd call the tournament a personal success as well as a group one. That trip was also where I watched Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse and discovered my latest strategy game craze, Star Realms. It's a fun mix between a deck-building game and a battle-strategy game; you acquire ships and bases and use them to attack your opponent. I've only played the standard game once, but there's an app version that I downloaded pretty much as soon as I got back.
  • In other news: I figured out my schedule for next semester. I have two graphic design classes taught by a prof who has a reputation for being difficult, but other than those my schedule looks pretty chill. I'm annoyed that I couldn't get the PWID elective that I wanted (Advanced Composition; I'm taking Intercultural Communication instead), though. On the upside, I'm not taking College Algebra! So that's exciting!
  • (For the record: my reluctance to take College Algebra is not because I dislike math — I mean, I don't like it, but my dislike is based on disinterest and not difficulty. However, I've never heard anything good about the college algebra class here, and I have heard that it has a ridiculously high workload and a poorly designed online learning platform. So, in the interest of not driving myself mad with frustration, I'm taking a business stats class instead.)
  • The church website redesign is progressing slowly but surely. We know what we're doing; it's just a matter of assembling the content, and not all of that is under my control. I'm not complaining about the slow pace, though. That just means I can work on it when I have time and not feel pressured to compress other activities to make time for it.
  • Finally: I discovered Mongolian Metal, courtesy of W.R. Gingell. It's awesome, and I've been listening to it basically all month. That is all.

Doings!

Camp NaNoWriMo Banner
  • Camp NaNoWriMo is happening. I'm still working on Mechanical Heart. I think everyone reading this already knew, that, but if not: you have now been told.
  • I also have stuff going on literally every weekend this month. I am going to die (of fun!). In case you want to know what's going to kill me (with fun!):
    • Tomorrow: D&D one-shot! Pretty much everything is ready now, which is good since I don't exactly have much more time to prep. I've been working with various people, helping them make their characters, and I have to say: we have a pretty interesting group. Everyone did a very good job of avoiding the cliche and making actual characters, not just collections of traits, and I look forward to seeing what happens.
    • The weekend after: PWID Spring Trip. AKA, we travel for the weekend, have fun, and visit companies to see what PWID people "in the wild" do. This year we're going to Nashville, visiting two marketing companies (!!!), talking to an actual published author, and, among other activities, going to a Grey Havens concert (!!!!!!!!). I'm super excited, and I'm so glad that I decided to go on the trip.
    • The third weekend: Easter break! AKA I go to my roommate's house and hang out with her and her family. We might get to leave early this year — like, a whole day early — and I'm very much looking forward to it. It'll be nice to get off campus and not have a full schedule.
    • The final weekend: TDK formal! I'm in charge of decorating, which turned out to be harder than I expected. But the org treasurer just increased my decorating budget, which means I can actually afford my ideas! I can't wait!
  • Anyway. Assuming I don't die of fun, I may die of final projects. On the upside, half of my final projects are actually semester-long group projects, so we really just have to finish up what we've been working on for months now. That's something. On the downside, I'm really tired of user testing.
That about covers it. How was your March? Any exciting April plans? Are you doing Camp NaNoWriMo, and if so, how's that going?
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, March 29, 2019

Camp NaNoWriMo Encouragement

Hello, friends! In case you haven't noticed, the month of March is almost over, and April is almost here. And that means . . . you know it . . .


I've participated in every Camp NaNoWriMo event I could since 2012 or 2011, one of the two, and I'm not about to stop now — especially since I need the extra motivation to finish certain projects. (Mechanical Heart edits/rewrites are taking so storming long. I blame politics.) However, I'm also pretty sure that this round of NaNo-ing will be more difficult than some of the other times I've done it. I'm busier; I have more stressful classes; and I'm having trouble with my project but I don't have time to take a real work-on-something-else-to-reset-my-brain break. I know others are in the same boat, so I thought I'd give us all a hand by posting some Camp NaNoWriMo encouragement for the month.

(Also, on a housekeeping note: because I would like to not die of stress, I will probably take a blogging mostly-hiatus for the month of April. I'll post Doings next Friday-ish, but that's about it.)

Camp NaNoWriMo Encouragement

  1. There's a reason you're writing your story. There is a purpose to the fact that you are writing this story at this time. You probably have your own reasons for writing what you do, whether you just want to have fun or you're trying to finish a to-be-published book before its deadline. But there are other reasons too; there are plans at work beyond your own. So whatever you're writing, even if it's the "wrong" book in some sense, there is purpose behind it.
  2. Imperfect but existent is better than the imagined ideal. Or, in other words, what you write doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to be written. This is something I really need to remember this month, since I'm kind of in a weird spot with my WIP. I'm writing a lot of new material, but I'm technically editing the book as a whole, so I feel pressured to make everything perfect the first time around. But I need to keep in mind that what's written can be edited and made better, but what stays only in my head does me no good, no matter how good or bad it seems.
  3. The only true failure is giving up. Did you put words on your page? Did you make words you had better than they used to be? Did you sit down and try to make the words go even if they didn't cooperate? If you did any of these things, you have not failed, even if you didn't accomplish exactly what you intended.
  4. You are capable of more than you think. The only thing easier than overestimating your abilities is underestimating them. We so easily say "Oh, no, I can't do that; that's too big a challenge for me." And sometimes that's true — sometimes there is a story you're not ready to write or a goal that's too much of a stretch. But those situations are rarer than you think. And here's the thing: for me, at least, if I say "I don't know if I can do this, but I'll try anyway," I often succeed. Even if I don't, I learn more from trying than I would from doing nothing.
  5. Camp NaNoWriMo is an adventure. Here's the thing about adventures: they're never easy. If they were, they wouldn't be adventures. But the challenges in adventures always mean something; they're never purposeless. And, y'know, every adventurer has bad days — it's not all ponie rides in May sunshine, as anyone who's read The Hobbit knows. But, as we also know from that book, even dragons have their endings, and bad days don't last forever.
In conclusion, whether you're pumped and ready for Camp NaNoWriMo or not at all ready but hoping to give it your best shot, don't forget that it's an adventure and you need to give yourself grace for the bad days and take full advantage of the good days. Best of luck, and may the words flow easily from your pens!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, March 22, 2019

Spring 2019 Reads!

Hello, everyone! Spring is finally here (and the weather's actually cooperating with that statement), which means it's time for another season of reads! Now, I'm still way behind on my winter releases (and I'm sure I'm not the only one), but that's no reason not to be excited for more new books. After all, you can never have too many books. And this season actually has a lot of pretty promising releases, so let's get started!

Spring 2019 Reads!


1. The Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds (March 5). Ok, so I normally avoid contemporary books unless I'm being paid to review them because, let's be real, if I want real-world angst, I can just walk outside and find the nearest awkward couple. But this one has time-travel in it, and . . . ok, it's a time-travel trope I'm a little iffy on. Still, I'd be willing to give it a try if I have time.


2. To Best the Boys by Mary Weber (March 19). I honestly thought this was a contemporary, just based on the title, and so avoided it on principle. Then everyone I knew abruptly started yelling on the internet about how good it was, and I decided that I'd better look into it. And what I found? Scientist girls, mysterious mazes, and potentially-deadly challenges. With all those factors in its favor, I just might have to pick this one after all.


3. Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cory McCarthy (March 26). It's a sci-fi King Arthur retelling! With a cranky teenage Merlin! (I'll bet you and anyone else five bucks that the authors took at least a little inspiration from the BBC Merlin.) I am, naturally, down for this. I might even buy it if it turns out really good, if only so I can shove it at my roommate and tell her to read it too.


4. We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett (April 2). Y'know how I keep yelling about how I want more historical fantasy in unique time periods? We've got historical fantasy set during the Civil War, "complicated friendships" (yes please!), and spying! What more could I ask for? (Don't answer that.)


5. The Boy Who Steals Houses by C.G. Drews (April 4). And here we have one of the few authors whose books I'll read even if they are contemporary. I'm 99% certain that The Boy Who Steals Houses will make a mess of my emotions just based on what Cait Grace has said about it. All the same, I'm looking forward to reading more of her books and hopefully getting some cute found-family moments. We'll see!


6. Descendent of the Crane by Joan He (April 9). Asian! Inspired! Fantasy! I still haven't gotten to most of the books in this genre that came out this winter, but that just means I can binge-read all of it once I get home on summer break. It'll be fabulous. Also, reluctantly responsible rulers and murder mysteries are two of my favorite things. So, yeah, I can't wait to read this one.


7. The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala (April 23). And now we've got Indian/Hindu mythology in the mix, which is probably going to be a wild ride, but I'm not complaining. We've got assassins, we've got politics, we've got masterminds . . . if it goes right, it'll be awesome. Admittedly, some things in the synopsis make me a little worried about whether or not it'll actually go right, but we can hope!


8. Romanov by Nadine Brandes (May 7). More historical fantasy! About Anastasia! Not that I know a whole lot about Anastasia, but still: historical! fantasy! In Russia! My reading list is deliciously multicultural, and I'm so excited. Plus, I've been meaning to read Nadine's books for ages — I have Fawkes on my shelf, but I just haven't had time, but maybe Romanov will change that.


9. We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal (May 14). Ok, we all know how this one's going to go — any time a young, reasonably attractive person in fantasy is sent to kill another young, reasonably attractive person, they end up falling in love and having to make semi-complicated moral choices. But the characters themselves sound interesting, and the last Arabian fantasy I read was beautiful, so I'm hoping for a repeat experience. We'll see how it goes.


10. The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg (May 28). The first time I heard about this book, I passed it by. However, since I've been taking a class on AI this semester, I'm more interested in how modern media presents artificial intelligence and deals with the question of whether or not a program can be a person. With that plus the fact that this is a mystery, I think it's worth including on the reading list.

What reads are you most excited for this spring? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, March 15, 2019

Let's Talk About Pie.

So, in case you didn't notice, yesterday was Pi Day. And while I may not be a STEM major, I still enjoy the holiday because it's an excuse to eat pie, which happens to be one of my favorite food types in the world. A well-made pie is on level with a well-made cake . . . and a poorly-made pie is far superior to a poorly-made cake, at least if you ask me. Pie also happens to bear the distinction of being both a dinner food and a dessert food, so you really can't go wrong.

Now, my college, despite being heavily focused on STEM (especially engineering), failed to serve any sort of pie yesterday, which made celebrating very difficult. Technically I could've bought a slice of Reese's peanut butter pie at the Hive, but I forgot that existed until my roommate reminded me long after dinnertime ended. So, in a last-ditch effort to mark the day somehow, I'm writing my weekly post about my favorite types of pie. I mean, I'm writing it on Thursday anyway, so it counts, right?

Let's Talk About Pie.

Let's Talk About Pie.

Pecan pie slice
  1. Pecan pie. This is, hands-down, the best type of pie, at least when it's made right. Yes, it's very sweet, and yes, it is pretty much made of sugar and pecans, but I'd say those are benefits, not bugs. Of course, part of why I like it so much is that I don't get it super often, so when I do, it's like a special treat.
    Chicken pot pie (whole, in dish)
  2. Homemade chicken pot pie. And by that I mean the sort that's actually in a pie crust, not the sort with biscuits on top — I mean, I love the type with biscuits on top, but that's technically a chicken pot cobbler, not a chicken pot pie. It's basically one of the ultimate comfort foods in my book: warm and savory and filling, with the deliciousness of a good homemade pie crust to complement the chicken and veggies . . . yeah. It makes me happy.
    lattice-topped apple pie
  3. Apple pie. Otherwise known as the number one dessert pie that everyone in my family can agree on. But really, you can't go wrong with a good apple pie. I prefer it hot with ice cream, but I'm not opposed to the idea of putting cheese on top — it's like a cinnamony dessert version of a grilled cheese-and-apple sandwich, and we all know how delicious those are.
    Slice of grasshopper pie
  4. Grasshopper pie. For the uninitiated: grasshopper pie is a fluffy mint pie with chocolate chips and oreo pieces in it. Usually, it has a chocolate crumb crust, though sometimes you'll get a graham cracker crust instead. Like most things that involve mint and chocolate, it's delicious — though it's also often so light that you're strongly tempted to eat a second piece. Then again, I'm almost always tempted to eat a second piece of the pie.
  5. Spaghetti pie. Tell me: is this a common thing in anyone else's house? (Not that it's a common thing in my house anymore, but it used to be.) A "crust" of spaghetti and cheese, topped with tomato sauce, ground beef, and more cheese, it's almost like a pie version of lasagna, just with different noodles. (Also, I just had a vague, half-formed idea for a version using eggplant instead of beef that seems really good in theory? I'm going to have to think about it more.) Anyway. It's delicious and I love it. (Also, my family had it for Pi Day, and I'm really sad that I missed it.)
What are your favorite types of pie? Do you celebrate Pi Day? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, March 8, 2019

Five Books Whose Sequels I Need IMMEDIATELY

You know the feeling. You finish an amazing, epic book. You're in love with the characters, the plot, the world, everything. You might even say you want to marry the book, if you're the sort of person who says that kind of thing. You dash to your computer, leave your Goodreads review, and then look for the sequel — only to discover that it isn't out yet. Or, worse still, there's no sequel planned.

It's a tragedy, it is. No two ways about it.

I, like most of you, have experienced that feeling many times. In fact, I'm experiencing it now as I write this blog post. And, obviously, the best way to deal with book-related frustration is to complain on the internet where other people can commisserate with you. So, here we go: five books whose sequels I'm desperate for — but have no chance of getting any time soon.

Books Whose Sequels I Need IMMEDIATELY


Five Books Whose Sequels I Need IMMEDIATELY

The Aeronaut's Windlass Cover
1. The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher. This is the book that set off this post; I've been meaning to read it for absolute years, ever since Jenelle Schmidt recommended it to me. Honestly, I ought to have read it sooner — except then I would still be waiting for the sequel now. The ending practically promises more adventure, and there's no way the characters wouldn't have more even if the ending wrapped everything up with a neat bow and a perfectly satisfying conclusion, but the sequel doesn't even have a release date. This is absolutely unfair and should be remedied immediately. (And while we're at it, maybe a book or two about Captain Grimm before this story begins? Or a short story or two, at least? Captain Grimm is the best.)

Masque Cover 
2. Masque by W.R. Gingell. Yes, I'm still yelling about this one. In this case, Gingell did wrap just about everything up with a neat bow and a satisfying conclusion — but I want more. Specifically, I want an entire spinoff series about Isabella and Lord Pecus solving mysteries and being happily (if adventurously) married and working as a proper team instead of sneaking around each other — except, of course, when one of them decides that the situation is absolutely too dangerous for the other to be involved in, but the other knows better and shows up just in time, and then the first one admits that it was for the best and it's a good thing the other showed up. (I really like that trope, ok?) Anyway. That's all I want — well, that and more about Melchior and Annabel, and Poly and Luck, but that's not so much to ask, is it?

Illusionarium Cover 
3. Illusionarium by Heather Dixon Wallwork. I love Heather Dixon's writing, but she has a habit of writing a story and then not writing sequels to it, or even spinoffs, and so even though you're in love with the characters, the one book is all you get. And that's not so bad when the book is Entwined and it ends with everyone in their happily-ever-after (even though you're fairly certain they could manage a few more adventures), but when the book is Illusionarium and there's no chance whatsoever that the characters didn't find more adventure? Then it's immensely frustrating, especially since there's next to no chance that the author will ever do anything about it.

An Enchantment of Ravens cover 
4. An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson. How long has it been since I raved about this one? (A fair while, I think — which is somewhat surprising, given how amazing it is.) Anyway. Once again, there is no way whatsoever that Isobelle and Rook don't have further adventures after the story ends. No storming way. And while there are plenty of ways that a sequel could go wrong, I am confident that Rogerson could make it go extremely right. Also, I love this book and this world and these characters and I need more of it, please and thank you very much. I have heard rumors about a sequel . . . but now I can't find where I heard them, and so I might just have imagined them.

The Sky Riders Cover 
5. The Sky Riders by Christopher Hopper. What is it with steampunk novels that don't get sequels? I've been waiting for the second Sky Riders book since 2013 — and, I'll admit, I've pretty much given up hope for a sequel. Now that Hopper's finally writing again, he's working on a sci-fi book that . . . ok, it looks interesting, but it's not a Sky Riders sequel. But this was one of my first introductions to steampunk, and it used to be one of my favorite books, I'd love to see it get some resolution, especially since it ends on a cliffhanger.

What books do you need sequels for immediately (or at least in the very near future)? Please tell me in the comments! Also, have you read The Aeronaut's Windlass, and if so, who's your favorite character? Thoughts on the book in general?
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, March 1, 2019

February 2019 Doings!

Ok, all the stuff I said about February being a horrible month? I was wrong. February was a very good month (with the exception of a few days). It was also a very busy month, so I'm kind of glad it's done . . . not that it's going to get any easier from here on out.

Writing!

  • I spent most of the month working on the fourth round of edits on Mechanical Heart, which ended up being more extensive than I expected. My beta readers made some excellent points about pacing and character dynamics that mean completely rewriting several more chapters than I expected. Of course, completely rewriting things takes longer than regular editing, so I'm only about halfway through the story instead of all the way through.
  • That said, I'm really excited about the results of the edits I've done so far, and I think that the story as a whole will be much better for the changes. And I get to annoy Josiah and write a really fun female friendship at the same time as a result, so that's exciting.
  • (For the record: Josiah needs to be annoyed more. He had it far too easy in the previous versions of the novel. Also, he's just a generally dramatic sort of guy and that comes out very strongly when he's annoyed.)

Reading!


  • I don't know if it was a self-defense mechanism against all my stress this month or the fact that I've felt like I'm starving for good books or just the fact that I found a lot of really good reads, but February was an amazing month for reading. It can be pretty easily divided into two halves: pre-Blind Date and post-Blind Date.
  • Pre-Blind Date was mostly defined by one author: W.R. Gingell. I tried Masque on a whim; I'd just finished the latest Invisible Library books and needed another fantasy mystery (ideally, fantasy murder mystery). I happened to remember Masque and figured, hey, it probably won't be as good as the Invisible Library books, but it's a fairy tale retelling and a murder mystery, so it can't be that bad.
  • Surprise: It was as good as the Invisible Library books. Not a surprise: by the time I finished, I was officially addicted to both fantasy mysteries and W.R. Gingell's books. I mean, the Two Monarchies series is basically what would happen if you combined that series with a Diana Wynne Jones book and I am in love.
  • So, yeah. I devoured Masque, which is arguably my new favorite retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I mean, you can't go wrong with murder to drive a plot, and the protagonist is delightfully sneaky and clever — plus, she's 28 and happily unmarried when the book starts, and she isn't particularly interested in changing that but also isn't angsty about the fact that she does inevitably fall in love. And the magic system is fascinating; it hits a sweet spot between technical/scientific and fairy tale-like that I didn't even know existed. And the world is highly interesting; you don't see a lot of fantasy worlds where magic is normal. Also, there's politics. I love politics in fantasy. And the love interest is pretty cool.
  • All that put together, it should be no surprise that I proceeded to devour the other Two Monarchies book that I already owned, Spindle, a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. That one was also very good, but in a different way. No murder here, but still mystery and politics and a couple whose relationship dynamics, combined with the world, reminded me of Howl's Moving Castle. Like, I've never read another book that I could honestly compare to Howl — except this one.
  • So, obviously, I had to read the rest of the series . . . which I didn't own. Surprise: I bought all the Two Monarchies books, plus the random spinoff. (This actually is a surprise; I almost never buy eBooks unless they're free or $0.99 unless I really like the author, but I paid full price for these. And I would've bought all her other books too, but I ran out of spending money.) Blackfoot wasn't quite as good as Spindle or Masque, but Staff and Crown was utterly delightful. (Annabel is at her best when she's got Isabelle by her side, plus we had Melchior and a boarding school full of noble and upper-class girls, and someone's sneaking about plotting things, and there was intrigue and sneakery and explosions. What more could you want?) And Wolfskin, the spinoff, was excellent too. It had a very different feel, and I'm not 100% satisfied with the ending, but the mystery was excellent.
  • I had two other Gingell books already on my Kindle: Twelve Days of Faerie (a fun mystery involving fae; not my favorite of Gingell's books but still fun) and A Time Traveler's Best Friend (kind of confusing and weird, but not bad). And after that, I had to console my soul by reading Pratchett — specifically, Night Watch, which is also time travel but much less confusing. It was pretty cool to see what characters were like before we met them at the series start. Also, you can't go wrong with Vimes.
  • And as soon as I finished that, it was Blind Date with a Book time!
  • This is my best year yet for Blind Date books. I had a grand total of seven 'dates', and I was pretty satisfied with all of them. Here's the rundown!
  • VIRTUAL REALITY, GAMING, and CYBERCRIME: Warcross (Marie Lu). I really enjoyed this one! It was less predictable than I expected and much more colorful than most sci-fi novels I read. Plus, SAO has made me a sucker for virtual reality game stories. My one complaint is that the romance moved much faster than I liked. It was a really nice slow burn for a while, and then — boom. They're kissing. Oh well.
  • EPIC TEEN ADVENTURES, MAGIC, and MYSTERIES: The Rithmatist (Brandon Sanderson). This was one of three rereads and definitely my favorite of those three. I think I've probably read The Rithmatist more than any other Sanderson book at this point. Not that I'm complaining; it's a good book!
  • ABSURDITY, ALIENS, and QUIRKY TECHNOLOGY: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams). Another reread. I tried this one a couple years ago and found it depressing, but a lot of my friends love the series. I hoped that maybe I'd enjoy it more now since I knew it wasn't basically sci-fi Discworld, but . . . no such luck. It's still depressing and nihilistic.
  • FANTASY, LOST MEMORIES, and SACRIFICE: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman). This is my first Gaiman, and I really enjoyed it. It was a little bit weird and a little bit creepy, but I'm not complaining about that. I loved the way that myths were quietly intertwined with the story, and the general feel of the book . . . it's like if someone wove a Diana Wynne Jones book and A Wrinkle in Time into one story, and it's beautiful.
  • MONSTERS, TIME TRAVEL, and SPECIAL POWERS: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs). Ugh. I saw the description and thought storms yes, but now that I've finished it, I am intensely disappointed. This is the book you'd get if you combined the most cliche YA contemporary fantasy novel in existence with those Aggressively Realistic contemporary books I was semi-forced to read as a kid. (They were all set in the South, all featured relatively poor characters who were generally miserable, and were supposed to be Deep and Significant but were mostly just depressing. I'm pretty sure they were trying to be modern To Kill a Mockingbirds or Flannery O'Connor stories, but they failed miserably.) It was boring, it was annoying, and it was cliche. It could've been amazing, but it failed me. I definitely will not be back for the rest of the series.
  • MAGICAL VISITORS, CHILDHOOD ADVENTURES, and SURPRISE: Mary Poppins (P.L. Travers). I haven't read this book in so long. It used to be one of my favorites, and I enjoyed revisiting the stories. I will confess that Mary seemed a lot grumpier than I remembered, and the writing style is definitely aimed at younger kids . . . but some of the magic is still there.
  • FRIENDSHIP, SPACE & TIME, and CONSPIRACIES: Twinmaker (Sean Williams). This is the only book I read about which I had no prior knowledge regarding the author or story. It wasn't bad, but it also wasn't amazing. A lot of the ideas were interesting, and I think the author did a fairly good job with the worldbuilding. Unfortunately, the plot and characters were kind of predictable. I enjoyed it, but I don't think I'm going to read the sequel.

 Watching!

  • The number one thing I learned this month? I am not a fan of "art" pieces when it comes to television and movies. It's not that there's anything wrong with them, but I have very low patience for TV and movies in general. (Part of the reason is probably that I'm stuck if I watch something long, as opposed to reading a long book, which can be done in bits and pieces over the course of a day, week, or month.) So, when I end up watching a movie that's the cinematic equivalent of a highbrow literary novel — all introspection and silence and obscure metaphor and symbolism and confusion — I end up bored and frustrated rather than stimulated. Watching them when you're running a fever and probably should be in bed doesn't help matters.
  • All that to say: the Studio Ghibli film The Red Turtle is a beautiful film full of metaphors that I don't think I understood. And the middle 90 minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey are excellent and suspenseful and thought-provoking (if slow), but the beginning was odd, and the end made no sense at all. And you can call me uncultured all you like, but I don't think you should have to confuse and bore the audience to create a story — whether on the page or the screen — that's deep enough and meaningful enough and full of enough symbolism to be considered art. Art doesn't cease to be art simply because it's accessible.
  • Much more pleasant was Cedarville's winter play: Agatha Christie's Appointment With Death. The first half was a bit frustrating because it was so much character buildup and I kind of wanted to get to the murder already. The actors all played their characters well, and I understand why they needed so much time to set up characters' motivations and personalities and so forth. The second half was excellent, though, and the answer to the whudunnit made sense.
  • And the Honors org put together a Princess Bride movie night for Valentine's Day. It was awesome. We watched the movie and then our philosophy prof (who is every Honors student's favorite professor) talked about love and relationships and whether or not true love is a thing and whether or not it's really wise to marry a pirate. It was a good time.
  • Outside of those four things, I didn't watch a whole lot. We managed a few more episodes of Doctor Who; I'm enjoying Tennant a bit more than I was when he first showed up. Also, I met K9, so that was fabulous. (And also Sarah Jane Smith — that was interesting, seeing a current and former companion interact with each other and the Doctor.) And the roomie and I are slowly making our way back into Fairy Tail. Sadly, the amount of writing I needed to do (and the number of events I had) cut severely into our watching time.

Life!

  • The highlight of the month was definitely the weekend before Valentine's Day. My family came up — not primarily for me; there were events that my sister needed to be at, but we still got to spend time together on Sunday and Tuesday.
  • Also on Tuesday was the second-best Cedarville chapel event of my life: Andrew Peterson speaking in chapel! He played a few of his songs from Resurrection Letters, and he read us the first chapter of his upcoming book on writing. It was fabulous. And then that evening he did a concert, which was amazing. He played a lot of my favorites and shared some of the stories behind the songs, and it was just beautiful. Plus I had a really good time trying to guess which songs were coming up based on his descriptions; I only guessed wrong once. (I though he was going to sing "After All These Years" or maybe "You Came So Close," but instead it was "Every Star Is a Burning Flame.")
  • Now, you may be wondering "Why is Andrew Peterson in chapel only the second-best chapel of your life, Sarah? That sounds pretty amazing." The reason is: he was actually in chapel twice, and the second time was better. It was less serious, more fun, and he played some of his less-well-known songs. I'm going to suggest you actually go watch it. It's a little under an hour, but it's super fun, and something happens at the end that couldn't have been better if it had been planned.
  • And I got to go to a Q&A with him after chapel, which was cool. Sadly, I didn't get to ask any of my questions — all the music majors got their hands up first. But it was still cool to hear what he had to say on some of the topics.
  • In non-Andrew-Peterson-related news . . . Um. Honestly, I've covered most of it. I went to plays and movies. I saw Andrew Peterson (and got a CD signed by him, which was great!). I read copious amounts of fiction. I didn't have to spend much time arguing with Captivate, and my group projects are all going very smoothly — except one, but that one's not our fault. We had a survey that we needed sent out to the whole school, and we did what we were supposed to do to make that happen, but the person sending it apparently just forgot for a week solid. We're rather annoyed about that.
  • Oh! We did have a snow day pretty early in the month! That was exciting, and it was nice to have a day off of classes. The only problem was that all the meetings that were supposed to happen that day got rescheduled to Thursday, as did a meeting that was supposed to happen on the weekend (and for which I needed to put something together in the computer lab), so that was stressful. I'm pretty sure I ended up with the same amount of stress for those two days that I normally would've had; it was just all condensed into Thursday instead of being split between the two.
  • The last thing that happened this month was Sing, Dance, Laugh, a show put on by the Inversions (an acapella group), AYO (the dance org whose showcases I LOVE), and DTR (an improv comedy group). It was pretty fabulous; they made fun of millenials, lip-synced to the Bellybutton Song and "Let's Get Down To Business" (the latter of which involved a joke about the philosophy prof I mentioned earlier), and generally had a good time on stage — which meant those of us in the audience had fun too.

March Plans!

  • I'm on spring break! Almost! I have a couple classes still today, but once those are done, I'm free! I had a hard time finding a ride home, which was frustrating, but I did get it worked out. So, pretty soon, I'll be back in VA!
  • I don't have any particular plans, but I know I have a lot of writing to do. I need to get as much as I can done on Mechanical Heart, and I want to see if I can put together a D&D one-shot for some friends of mine on the hall who are kind of interested in D&D but aren't certain enough to commit to a full campaign. I have the skeleton of the adventure already; I'm adapting a forum roleplay plot that I created earlier this fall (and which is progressing very slowly). I'm well aware that I'm not super experienced with D&D, so I'm a little nervous, but I figure that my friends will be pretty forgiving — and I know how to tell a good story, so all I have to do is work out the mechanics. That shouldn't be too hard.
  • I do have class projects that I'll need to work on, but not as many as I've had some years. Several of my projects I can't really do anything with off-campus. I do want to get ahead in Web Design if I can, but we'll see if my internet cooperates.
  • I also have to figure out my schedule for next semester, so that's stressful. Actually, it probably won't be too bad; I'll be a senior, so I just have to figure out which of the classes I still need are offered in fall and which are offered in spring and sort it out from there. I just hope that Advanced Comp with the professor I want doesn't conflict with a graphic design class again. It will be super weird, though; I'll only have one actual PWID class; everything else will be Honors, Graphic Design, or PWID electives (which are all run by other majors or departments).
  • I'll also be working on designing a website for my church here in Cedarville, and I'm super excited about that. I'm meeting with him later this morning to talk about what he's thinking and hosting options and content and so forth. (I was supposed to meet with him on Tuesday, but that got delayed . . . oh well.)
  • And, of course, there will be reading. Probably not as much as there was this past month, but you never know . . .
How was your February? Was yours as non-blah as mine? Any fun plans for March?
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)