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)

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