Thursday, February 14, 2019

Honor: A Bookania Tag


Hey'a, everyone! First off, if you missed my late-night Facebook excitement last Tuesday: I saw Andrew Peterson in concert! It was amazing and beautiful and he played a lot of my favorite songs and I'm so glad I got to be there. Next up: another source of excitement for me this month: Honor: A Quest In! This is Kendra E. Ardnek's next book, which releases in about a week and a half! I got to alpha-read it, and I'm looking forward so much to when it comes out and y'all get to enjoy it too. In the meantime, though, Kendra made this awesome tag themed on the book, so I'm filling that out this week!

1. Have you read any of the Bookania Quests yet? If so, what is your favorite thing about them? If not, why are you excited to read them?
I've read all the Bookania Quests that have been released so far. I'd say my favorite thing about them is the sheer number of fairy tales (including some pretty obscure ones) that are woven into the stories.

2. What is your favorite fairy tale that no one else seems to know about?

"Six Soldiers of Fortune" and similar stories are some of my favorites, but most people have never heard of them. That's probably for good reason; they're kind of weird, and there's not really a hero — but they're fun to read, and they involve some pretty crazy and awesome powers.

3. Sword or Bow?
In general, swords. Bows do have the advantage of distance, but I like the style of swords better.

4. What is your favorite Fairy Tale mash-up universe?
Either Bookania or Christopher Healy's Hero's Guide series universe. I can't decide which; they're both awesome for different reasons.

5. What is your favorite fictional sword?
Oooh. That's a tough question. I'm going to say that it's a three-way tie between Sting from The Lord of the Rings (the first really significant fictional sword I encountered), the version of Excalibur from Dragons in Our Midst (because it's an awesome legendary sword that can also disintegrate people), and Riptide from Percy Jackson (because a sword that can turn into a pen is automatically awesome).

6. Name a Rebellious Princess that you felt to be particularly well-developed and compelling.
Er. I typically don't like rebellious princess characters; it's far too easy for authors to make their rebelliousness their only real trait, or else I get frustrated with them because they aren't rebellious because they're sensible; they're just as silly and petty and ridiculous as the pink puffball princesses. Don't give me a merely rebellious princess; they're so common that good, obedient princesses are the rarity these days. Give me a clever princess, one who recognizes the potential in her position and uses every assumption to her own advantage.

Anyway. All that said: Poppy from the Midnight Ball series isn't exactly rebellious, but she does know her own mind, and she does what she likes regardless of how proper it is. And Siri from Warbreaker is a bit closer to being actually rebellious, but she turns out to be pretty clever as well.

7. What is your favorite representation of Robin Hood?
Personally, I like the original Robin Hood best, but that could just be that I haven't read many Robin Hood retellings. If anyone has any particularly good recommendations, let me know.

8. Who is your favorite fictional mother?
Oooh. That's a good question. I'm going to go with Nia Wingfeather from the Wingfeather Saga, who's brilliantly brave and loving and wonderful in many, many ways. She's been through quite a lot, but she never gives up.

9. If you could learn any language in the world instantaneously, which would you choose?
Like, learn it and be able to speak and write it with perfect fluency? Chinese, Japanese, or Arabic. Any of those three could have potential practical applications (particularly the former two), but would require a lot of effort to learn the normal way because they're so different from English. Then I can continue to learn the more English-like languages like most people learn languages.

10. Who is someone in your life that you couldn't bear to lose?
My sister, my parents, my roommate . . . probably my sister most of all.

Thanks for putting this tag together, Kendra! And thanks to all of you for reading! Tell me: what language would you pick if you could learn any of them instantaneously? And do you have any really good Robin Hood retellings that you'd like to recommend? Let me know in comments!
Have an excellent day!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Only Blind Dates I'll Ever Go On

Hey'a, everyone! It's almost Valentine's Day, and you know what that means — it's Blind Date with a Book time! As a quick note for those who aren't aware: Blind Date with a Book is basically an event where the library staff wraps up a ton of books in pretty paper and puts some kind of clue or hint on the paper. Last year it was the genre and the first line of the book; the year before it was the genre and a few key descriptive words. You pick whichever book sounds most appealing based on the information given, take it home, and read it. Usually, there's a little card with the book that you can fill out to be entered in a drawing as well. It's basically my favorite library event of the year. Anyway, now that that's sorted out, let's get on with explaining why this is so awesome.

Why Blind Date with a Book is the Best!

  1. It's a good way to get out of a reading rut. Generally, at least for me, reading ruts are caused by one of two things. Either I've figured out all the books I want to read way in advance and now what I planned doesn't seem appealing anymore, or else all my reading options are so familiar to me that none of them sound appealing. Blind Date with a Book effectively nullifies both of these, because whatever I end up reading is unplanned and mysterious and exciting. It's wonderful.
  2. It puts reading at a temporarily higher priority. You know how I said there's that bit with the card that you have to fill out to get entered in the giveaway? Well, obviously you have to have that card back by a certain date . . . and you also have to finish the book by that date so you can rate it on the card. Also, if you're a Book Blind Date addict like me, you end up reading your first date fast so you can go back and get another . . . and another . . . and possibly another after that. (The fact that, by February, I'm generally mentally exhausted and so I want to read something that I don't have to think too hard about helps quite a bit, but y'know.)
  3. You sometimes discover good books you never would've read otherwise. For example, last year I ended up reading Court of Fives and The Adoration of Jenna Fox. I'm not going to say that either of these is an amazing book, because they aren't . . . but they're still good, if flawed by cliche characters. Court of Fives, in particular, is African/Roman-inspired fantasy and so I'm happy that I read the book just for that, even if I did lose patience with people more than once.
  4. You sometimes end up being pushed to read books that you've forgotten about! Like, two years ago I ended up reading East, which is a retelling of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" that people had told me to read multiple times and I never got around to. And last year I read Watership Down, which was, by the way, pretty amazing. It was also pretty dark for a book about rabbits, but you know. I'd been meaning to read it for ages, and getting it as a Blind Date Book was just the push I needed.
  5. You're taking a risk! Without actually taking a risk! So, yeah. For an ISTP, I'm an astoundingly non-risk-prone person. (For context: ISTPs tend to be stereotyped as impulsive daredevils, among other things.) It's not that I don't have a sense of adventure; it's just that, in any conflict between Tookishness and Baggins-ness, the Baggins side has the better arguments, namely "You have assignments due; you don't have time for [X, Y, and Z potential consequences]." However, Blind Date with a Book allows me to satisfy both the Tookish desire for adventure (because the book is mysterious and WILL I LIKE IT? WHO KNOWS. I HAVE TO READ IT NO MATTER WHAT IT IS!) and the Baggins-esque desire for stability (because what's more stable than a good book and a cup of tea, I'd like to know?) and so it's basically perfect. And yes, it is possible to overdo it, but . . . I haven't yet? We'll see what this year brings.
What about you? Have you ever participated in a Blind Date with a Book event? Would you want to? Please tell me in the comments! (Also, if you came here hoping that I was HOSTING a Blind Date with a Book event . . . sorry. Though, on a serious note: is that something you'd be interested in? Because I have an idea and I'm debating whether or not to try to pull it off. Again, let me know in comments.)
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)  

Friday, February 1, 2019

January 2019 Doings!

I'm not going to lie, y'all: it's a small miracle that this is up on time. This week — this whole month — has been a cycle of super chill days abruptly dissolving into obscenely frantic and packed ones. (Part of this is my fault; if I don't have a deadline for a project, or if the deadline is far away and the task is small, I'm very easily distracted. However, it's also partially due to the fact that professors and other people keep saying "Oh, here's this project; it's due in two class periods; have fun!" . . . and they do this on weekends when I'm already busy with other stuff.) Anyway. Let's get on with the Doings!

Writing!

  • I . . . did not actually meet my writing goal for the month of January, in the sense that I didn't write 300 words per day, five days a week. I did write a ton for the first week or so because I had to finish up my short stories for my Actual Writing Job. Thankfully, I got those sent in on time, the client liked them, and I should be getting money pretty soon.
  • The rest of the month, though? I was so burned out that I didn't touch anything creative until halfway through the month after my first Mechanical Heart beta got back to me. At that point, I started doing a little bit of on-and-off work on the end of Mechanical Heart; basically, I figured out that I really needed to rearrange some scenes at the end for the story to work properly. So, I've been doing that and trying to get it sorted out before I look at the rest of my beta feedback.
  • Thankfully, almost all of my betas have gotten back to me! And I'm almost done with the last piece I'm rearranging! So as soon as I finish that, I can really jump into beta-inspired edits.
  • Oh! And the Year of Snow White Facebook party was just the other night! That was super fun! I ran an online game of Bring Your Own Book, which went pretty well . . . aside from the fact that my computer crashed halfway through the night and wouldn't restart for twenty minutes. That was frustrating. But the rest of the evening was great!

Reading!

  • This was actually a really fabulous reading month in terms of how many books I actually read. In terms of the quality of those books . . . it's a little iffier, but it got better as the month went on.
  • We'll start with the highlights of the month — obviously, the two Invisible Library novels I read and reread. The Lost Plot was just as good on the reread as it was the first time around — in fact, it might've been made better by anticipation of exactly what I was getting into. As for The Mortal Word, AAAHHHHHHH IT WAS SO AWESOME!!!! All my favorite characters were in one place! And there were murders! And fae! And dragons! Basically, it was all the reasons I love the series stuffed into one book.
  • The third major highlight of the month was the latest Fellowship of Fantasy anthology, Paws, Claws, and Magic Tales, a set of cat-themed short stories. As always, some of the stories were better than others, but all of them were delightful in some fashion. My absolute favorite was H.L. Burke's "Whisker-Width" . . . though I may be a little biased there due to the fact that I want the plot of that story to happen to me!
  • Moving on to the next level of books, the ones that were great but not quite my favorites of the month: The Last Motley, while not a perfect book, was a fun adventure with plenty of twists and turns. I can see why so many of my friends rate it so highly! Fairest Son was a lovely Snow White retelling from a friend of mine; it could've been a little longer, but overall it was delightful. I also enjoyed K. M. Shea's Beauty and the Beast — of course, I'm always down for a good retelling of my favorite fairy tale, so no surprise there! All That We See or Seem was good as well, once I figured out that it was more romance than adventure, and West was an exciting but emotionally-frustrating sequel to East.
  • In the middle ground, we have three books: H. L. Burke's Coiled, Lea Doue's Mirrors and Pearls, and Hannah Moskowitz's Salt. All of these were good books, just not great. Coiled was a lovely retelling of Cupid and Psyche featuring two cursed princes and two cursed princesses. Mirrors and Pearls was a fun Snow White retelling, albeit one that could've been fleshed out a little more. Salt had fun sibling relationships and monster-slaying, but was a little frustrating at times.
  • And, finally, we have three books that disappointed me: one by no fault of its own, one by overly high expectations, and one because I absolutely should not have picked it up in the first place. First up: Sarah Addison Fox's Disowned. Now, don't get the wrong idea. Disowned is not a bad book by any means. People who aren't me have rated it very highly, and in hindsight, I understand why. Here's the thing, though: what I knew of the rest of the series led me to expect something with adventure and intrigue and constant danger. Disowned does not have those things. The first half of the book primarily concerns the growing relationships between Celeste and the family that takes her in, with a healthy dose of angst on Celeste's part. It's not bad in and of itself, and I will read the second book in the series to see if it's more like what I expected. (Plus, with indie books, the second book in a series is almost always better than the first one.) I just kind of feel like I was the victim of false advertising or something. Or maybe I just needed to read more reviews. I don't know.
  • Moving on! Next up, the book for which I might have had overly high expectations: Brandon Sanderson's Legion anthology. Again, this wasn't a bad book in and of itself. The first two short story/novellas in the anthology are actually quite good. They have everything you'd expect from Sandersons' work: colorful characters, exciting plots, cool magic (in this case, more like cool technology, but you know what I mean), and fascinating twists. The third story also has these things, but it ended in a very frustrating and unsatisfying fashion.
  • As for Trail of Lightning: It has content that's somewhat more adult than I really wanted to experience. It's very dark. The main character angsts too much and trusts too little. There's more blood and gore than I expected or was comfortable with. The magic system was super weird and confusing. The only things it had going for it were that it was based on Navajo myths and that it was basically a Western fantasy dystopia. So, basically: plenty of potential, but not enough of that potential came through.
  • Oh, and I acquired a lot of books this month! Rosalie sent me a copy of her latest Ticket to Write book, and I won a copy of Because  . . . Anonymous from Diana L. Sharples. Then I bought a lot of ebooks . . . including a preorder of Honor: A Quest In, which you should all go preorder now. Trust me; I beta-read it and it's awesome.
  • That said, I didn't read any old books this month. I fully intended to; it just . . . didn't happen. Oh well.

Watching!

  • Good news: I am no longer completely behind on the best movies of the MCU! By which I mean that I finally watched Black Panther, almost a year after it came out. Should I have watched it sooner? Yes. Was it awesome? Yes. Is it my new favorite Marvel movie? No. But it is my second favorite! The characters were great (even though I would've been really confused about 75% of the names if I hadn't seen so much about it on the internet first)! The plot was exciting! The themes were excellent! Basically, I have nothing bad to say about it (except the name thing), but Thor: Ragnarok is still my favorite. It also has all those things, plus it has one of my favorite final battle scenes in any movie. So, yeah.
  • That said, Shuri is a fabulous science princess and I love her and she's amazing. And I loved that we had scenes with her and T'Challa being sibling-ly. We need more awesome sibling teams of all kinds.
  • I also watched the rest of Season 1 of Doctor Who, and I'd like to say thank you to everyone who told me to stick with it; I quite enjoyed the rest of the season! I ended up skipping episode 8 ("Father's Day") because I'm not crazy about the trope it seems to be founded on. I also ended up watching the last five episodes out of order — people who aren't my roommate and I didn't want to watch the Empty Child episodes at night, so we watched episodes 11, 12, and 13, and then my roommate and I backtracked to watch episodes 9 and 10 . . . which weren't actually that scary, but were pretty cool. Of course, I also knew spoilers, so that probably contributed. Also, Jack Harkness makes almost everything better. He's a mess, yes. But he's a fun mess who fits multiple of my favorite character tropes.
  • Now we're in Season Two with Tennant, two episodes in, and I'm back to not knowing how I feel about anything. Tennant is a Doctor I've heard a lot about, and I know he's there for a while . . . but he showed up just as I'd finally gotten used to Eccleston's Doctor. I don't know.
  • That said, speaking of things that I like better in the second half of the season: the Alfheim Online part of Sword Art Online is fabulous. Much less angst, a really cool world, and a more connected plot all helped keep me more engaged. I mean, the whole subplot with Leafa/Suguha's crush was annoying, but still. My roommate and I finished it two nights ago and I was pretty satisfied with the climax.
  • And now we can finally return to Fairy Tail and hopefully get through all the completed arcs of that by the end of the semester. After that, we might watch the second season of Sword Art Online, but that's still a long way away.

Life!

I knitted these for the people who got signed copies of Blood in the Snow. I'm super happy with how they turned out.
  • I'm going to be honest: I don't remember a lot of what happened this month. I need to start writing these posts over the course of the month instead of doing the whole thing at the very end.
  • The first week of January was pretty chill, other than the fact that I had so much writing to do. At least, I'm pretty sure it was.
  • College started back up the second week of January. My schedule is interesting; I'm in class from dawn to dusk (literally) Monday and Friday, I have normal class hours Wednesday, and I have nothing on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I'm sure that contributes to my feeling of either being completely chill or completely stressed; hopefully, I can find a better balance as the semester goes on. I am really enjoying several of my classes, though. Web Design is cool because I realized I know more about it than I thought; my blogs and forums gave me a little bit of a jumpstart with the basics of HTML, so now it's just a matter of expanding that knowledge and keeping all the tags and terms in place. Plus, I can work ahead, which is super nice.
  • Both of my Honors seminars are going well, especially Artificial Intelligence. I'm pretty sure that I get more story ideas every week; at this rate, I'll have at least half a dozen science fantasy concepts ready to be expanded into full stories! Oddly, my actual PWID classes are my least favorite in my schedule — which isn't to say that I hate them, but one is a lot of theory and group work (stressful for obvious reasons) and the other is basically on one of my least favorite parts of the writing and design process. So, yeah. They aren't my favorite classes I've ever had.
  • I also learned that I do not like leadership conferences, mostly because they tend to tell me stuff I already know. Or, at least, that's what happened at the one I attended this month — it's hosted by the university, and all org officers are required to attend. It was a very frustrating, stressful, exhausting experience.
  • D&D is still going strong, thankfully. We lost a few people, but we also gained some new members, one of whom is a good friend of mine from my hall. I also think that I'm getting better at playing as my character instead of playing as me or just doing what seems like the most strategic option. (Admittedly, my character's personality is fairly similar to mine, but there are some differences.) So, yeah. That's a generally good time.
  • Also, this week was so cold that the college literally shut down on Wednesday. I enjoyed the day off, but I would like spring, please. I know that's not going to happen, but . . . I can dream, right? (And if you live in Minnesota or Chicago or somewhere that's even more horribly cold, yes, I know, you had it worse. Just let me be miserable in peace, please; I'm not used to this.)

February Plans!

  • I really, really hate February, ok? It's the shortest month, but it always feels like the longest. I'm pretty sure that has something to do with the fact that it's the coldest month and hot things move faster than cold things and all that. There's a very scientific reason, that's all I'm saying.
  • I also expect that my workload will start amping up pretty soon. (In some respects it already has, but you know.) Odds are high that I'll be spending a considerable amount of time either in group project meetings or arguing with Adobe Captivate. (It's not the easiest Adobe program I've ever worked with, ok? And all the other programs are fairly intuitive; once you know one, you can figure out all of them. But Captivate acts more like Word or Powerpoint, and it's just . . . ugh. I'm sure I'll get the hang of it, but it's taking me a whole lot longer than it usually would.)
  • And when I'm not working on something for a class? I'll be editing Mechanical Heart, trying to get it polished and submitted to the Golden Braids group release before Kendra gets another steampunk Rapunzel retelling that she likes better. That's my goal for the month: do something with Mechanical Heart every day until it's finished. It doesn't matter if I edit one paragraph or five chapters, just as long as I make progress. I would make a time-based goal, but that feels like a risky proposition right now since my schedule is so wacky and will probably get weirder as the month goes on.
  • As far as reading goes, I don't have any particular plans, but I now need to read two old books instead of just one. I still hope to read The Four Loves so I can ask intelligent questions about it in one of my honors seminars. As for the other . . . I haven't decided yet. Any suggestions?
How was your January? Any fun plans for February? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)