Friday, September 20, 2019

Fall 2019 Reads!

Hellllooooooooo, everyone! Tomorrow is the first day of fall, and you know what that means: new book releases! (Also, today is the first day of my hall's D&D campaign, so WHOO! I was originally going to do a D&D-themed post because of that, but then I remembered what tomorrow is and so I'm delaying that plan for a while.) There aren't quite as many books on this list as there have been on previous lists, but they're all pretty promising, so it balances out, y'know?


Fall 2019 Reads!

 
1. The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett (September 10). Historical fantasy! Granted, it's billed as "meets The Last Magician," which is not what I'd call enticing . . . but the rest of the synopsis sounds great! Relic-chasing archeologists, adventurers, and a dose of creepiness . . . what more could you want?

 
2. When She Reigns by Jodi Meadows (September 10). I read the rest of this trilogy, so obviously, I need to finish it out, right? I mean, I do really like the main character's development, even if some of the side characters kinda annoy me. Also, I have been informed that this one has more dragons than ever, which is like — yes, please!

 
3. The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas (September 10). MULAN RETELLING! The first time I watched Mulan all the way through was actually around this time last year (though I'd watched most of it several years before that), but it's amazing, and this retelling sounds even better. Possibly closer to the original story, though I could be wrong. Also, there's sneakery involved. I am always down for sneakery. And I am still very happy about the trend towards Asian fantasy that we're seeing lately.

 
4. The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah (October 29). It's sci-fi UNDER THE SEA! Featuring submarine races! Intrigue! Quests to save family members! And there's some mention of a "secretive, hotheaded companion" at the end that sounds quite promising . . . Granted, it's receiving mixed pre-reviews, so I don't want to get too excited, but I am hoping this turns out well.

 
5. Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon (October 29). I'm getting a Middle Eastern fantasy feel from this one, and I am HERE FOR IT, even if the premise is a tiny bit disturbing. But it's about sisters trying to save sisters, and that's absolutely the way to my heart. Also, we've got intrigue, and we already know how I feel about intrigue.

 
6. Blood Heir by Amelie Wen Zhao (November 19). This one sounds suuuuuper dark, but also super cool. It sounds rather Russian in setting, which is a culture I don't really read as often as I'd like. Plus, she's tracking down her father's murderer, which usually promises a mystery (at least to some degree), and we've got a conman . . . who, ok, sounds more like the Kaz Brekker variety of conman than other varieties of conman, but still. It did have a bit of controversy around it, but that sounds like it was from people being jerks on Twitter, not from an actual problem with the book.

 
7. Starsight by Brandon Sanderson (November 26). I'm still deciding how excited I am about this one. On one hand, Skyward wasn't really my favorite Sanderson novel. It was good, but it didn't have that spark. On the other hand, "not my favorite Sanderson novel" is kind of like saying that strawberry isn't my favorite ice cream flavor: it's still pretty storming delicious. So, yeah, I'll probably be picking this one up . . . and hoping really, really hard that Brandon Sanderson keeps the romance low-key or non-existent.

What books are you looking forward to this fall? Have you read any of the ones on this list already, since some of them are out already? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Friday, September 13, 2019

Things I'd Say to Freshman-Me

Hello hello hello, friends! It's the first list post of the school year — took me long enough, I know. If you found my blog through the blog tour back in August and are therefore new here, welcome! If you're a regular, good to see you again.

Anyway. In honor of the fact that this is, as I said, the first non-Doings! post of the school year and the fact that it is both my last year and my sister's first year, I have decided to share five things that I wish I could've said to freshman-me. A little cliche? Yeah. But I'm going for it anyway.

Things I'd Say to Freshman-Me

  1. You never know which friends will stick. I remember having lunch with a particular girl and coming away from it thinking "I like this person! I hope we get to hang out again; we could be really good friends!" I'm pretty sure I've talked to her less than a dozen times since then. I also remember not expecting to get along super well with some of the people who are now my closest friends. My point: I am terrible at figuring out who will and won't be a lasting friend and I should stop trying to make quick judgements about people.
  2. Learn to focus your effort. Freshman year, I put a lot of effort into certain classes that really didn't require that much time and energy. Some of that extra energy did pay off, but some (for example: health class) I could've gotten the same results with much less stress and effort. I'm still working on this one (perfectionism is a hard habit to break), but I wish I would've started working sooner.
  3. You're not as weird as you think you are. I had a very high opinion of my own weirdness coming out of high school — I wasn't quite sure if I was a nerd or a geek or a fangirl or all three*, but I knew that I was something outside of the mainstream. Aaaaaand then I came to college and discovered that my brand of "weird" is actually pretty socially acceptable; I just didn't have enough data points to recognize it. (That said, the steadily-growing popularity of fantasy and sci-fi media doesn't hurt.) And even when I'm at my craziest, I'm significantly tamer than some other people I know (who can be downright esoteric at times).
  4. Group projects aren't always horrible. Honestly, I probably dreaded having to do group projects more than I did the actual academic challenge of college. I knew how to work hard and work well on my own. Group work, on the other hand? Horrors. Except . . . if you get the right group of people, it's not bad. I've had a few awful experiences (most of them freshman year), but even those weren't nearly as horrible as I feared.
  5. Don't be afraid to step up — it's less stressful than you think. Freshman year, I did not think of myself as a leader. And I still don't want to be the one in charge of everything, but I am a lot more comfortable with taking the lead. As it turns out, a major part of "leading" a group is just keeping everyone organized, figuring out who does what, making sure people stay on task, and occasionally picking up the slack — and having permission to do all that actually decreases my stress level to a degree. Yeah, my brain doesn't make sense, and I wish I'd figured that out sooner.
So, yeah. That's what I've got. What would you like to tell your younger self (at whichever point in time you pick)? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

*All three. Definitely all three, just in different domains.

Friday, September 6, 2019

August 2019 Doings!

I'm back from my hiatus at last! It probably wasn't the greatest marketing choice to disappear for so long right after my release . . . but I did need the break. August was another weird mix of really chill and "I'm DYING," and yeah. It was interesting.

Writing!


  • Mechanical Heart is officially out, and the release went really well overall! Y'all seem to like it, which makes me happy. (That said: if you've read it, please leave a review, especially on Amazon. Currently there's just four reviews over there . . . though they're all good reviews, so that's great.)
  • (Also, Kyle Robert storming Shultz read my book and liked it and I still can't quite believe that's a thing that happened. I screamed a little when I found out, not gonna lie.)
  • August was not a great writing month, let me just say.
  • I don't actually know how much I wrote, but I do know that it wasn't enough.
  • I did have an excuse, though. It's called "Work, packing, school, and more work." Also, certain scenes ended up dragging ooooonnnnn and oooonnnn and it got to the point where I was like "I don't want to write this; I will do literally anything that's not writing this." I will have to find a way to make them more interesting in edits. (Or I may find out that they aren't actually that long and they just feel long because I didn't want to write them . . . not sure.)
  • Oh, and I did some creative non-fiction pieces for my cnf class, and I think some of them turned out pretty well. I may post them on the blog eventually, but we'll see.
  • On the upside, some of my characters got nominated in the Silmaril Awards! Breen and Baili are both up for Most Epic Heroine, and Luis and Grace are contenders for Most Faithful Friend. I don't really expect them to win, but I'm really happy that people like them enough to nominate them! (And there are still a few more days to second nominations, so . . .)

Reading!

  • August wasn't a half-bad reading month, though it wasn't as great as the start of the summer.
  • The Game was probably my favorite read of the month, as should not be surprising since it's by Diana Wynne Jones. It was really short and wrapped up a bit quickly, but it was a very clever take on mythology and just a good story all 'round. Oath of the Outcast was another great book; though I found the lack of female characters a bit disconcerting, I liked the characters and plot and focus on family and friendship. And Descendent of the Crane was great right up until it tore my heart into tiny pieces and then told me that it was actually the first in a series, so that's a thing. I do recommend it — it's a great fantasy-mystery with a bonus helping of "suddenly ascended ruler trying to figure out how to do the rulership thing" and a topping of family drama and relationships. The ending just hurts. A lot.
  • I also enjoyed Savannah Jezowski's short stories, "The Witching Hour" and "The Hounds of Darkness." They're both solid short stories, and I appreciate how effectively Savannah can write from a cat's perspective. I'm not sure how I feel about the ending of Hounds, but that's a me thing.
  • One tier down: three books that were good, but not as great as I hoped. Not Write Now was an interesting book of writing advice from Kyle Robert Shultz, and I feel like it's worth a read if you want to readily identify the ways you can accidentally (or purposefully) set yourself up to fail as a writer. Storms, it's probably worth getting just for the prologue/introduction. That said, it wasn't as effective for me personally as it might be for other people. Match Cats was a cute anthology of romance shorts from the perspective of both cats and owners . . . which is fine, but fluffier than I wanted. And The Atlas of Cursed Places was slightly less helpful for location inspiration than I thought it would be, but it was still a pretty interesting read that nicely balanced history, philosophical musing, science, and imagination.
  • Last, we have my first DNF in a while: Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword. I picked this up on a whim, thinking "Oh, hey, this looks like fun!" Spoiler alert: it was not fun. I gave up about three or four chapters in. I couldn't stand Peasprout — she's too arrogant, and too dismissive of her younger brother, and just too frustrating all around.
  • I did acquire some lovely books, mostly via giveaway! From Emma of Awkwordly Emma, I won Empress of All Seasons, Sorcery of Thorns, and Truly Devious, all of which I'm super-excited to read but haven't quite gotten to yet (mostly because library books took precedence). From C.M. Banschbach, I won Oath of the Outcast . . . twice. Thanks to a mix-up somewhere along the line, I accidentally received two copies. (Not that I'm complaining! Now I have a copy to give to someone . . . as soon as I figure out who.)
  • Oh, and I read roughly sixteen volumes of Schlock Mercenary, thanks to the recommendation of Matthew Sampson. I'm not sure whether or not to thank him. On one hand, the storyline is great. You have to get past some off-color humor, particularly in the first few books, but the craft, characterization, and worldbuilding are spot-on. I just found out that the author does the Writing Excuses podcast along with Brandon storming Sanderson, and I am exactly zero percent surprised.

Watching!

  • In keeping with last month's theme, my family and I finished our John-Wayne-watching with True Grit, which was actually really good and I would've watched ages ago if someone had properly explained how great it was, focusing on the things that I'd actually get excited about. (Which is to say: strong-minded female protagonist who knows what she wants and won't let anyone stop her from going after it, and a wonderful example of the "grizzled, cynical loner accidentally adopts small naive newbie-adventurer." Also, lots of snark and no stupid pointless romance.) Maddie did act like a bit of a brat at times, but it wasn't too bad. And while the ending was a bit odd, the movie on the whole was solid.
  • We also watched The Sting, which was a heist movie set in 1920s Chicago-ish area. And it was fine, just very slow. I think I would have loved it if it were a book; as a movie, my natural impatience and my inability to tell similar faces apart made it a bit difficult. Still, great character development!
  • On the TV-watching front: my roommate and I agreed that we needed to continue our Fairy Tail hiatus and that we weren't ready to start up SAO again . . . so we started watching The Librarians, which is pretty much about people who work for a magical library, trying to keep magic from being used for evil. It occasionally trips over cliches, but it's overall pretty fun. But we took a break from that too about four episodes in. Why? Because . . .
  • We're watching Avatar: The Last Airbender! I've had this on my to-watch list longer than basically any other show, and I can say with confidence that it is worth the wait. We're about halfway through season one and I'm really enjoying the story and characters and the really good balance between humor and adventure and drama. And while certain characters are a bit annoying right now, there's no one who's unbearably frustrating, and it's sort of a more realistic annoying-ness rather than the stupid-annoying-ness of several characters in other shows I could name. Plus, I think that the show's doing a really good job of setting up stuff that's going to occur in the future, particularly with regard to character development.

Life!

  • Ok, so obviously the main event this month was that I returned to Cedarville University for the start of my senior year. And that's been going fairly well so far. I'm pretty sure that this year is either going to be stupidly stressful or really chill. I have three different classes that seem like they'll be heavily creative: two graphic design and the creative nonfiction class I mentioned earlier. I'm excited for all of those, but they're also the ones that'll be hardest to keep up with because I want to get stuff right. In addition, I have Honors Colloqium (which has only met once because it's on Mondays and we get Labor Day off), Statistics for Business (which seems like it'll be pretty fun, if only because the professor is doing a great job of keeping class time intersting — though I also genuinely like statistics, particularly probability), and Professional Portfolio Development (which is basically "this is how you get a job, now go do it"). All in all, it's a solid lineup.
  • My roommate and I did not make it to the Rennaissance Festival on Labor Day weekend like we usually do, but I did walk down into to town several times to hang out in the coffee shops and drink yummy things (and probably spend more money than I should, but OH WELL. I'm supporting small businesses). And I went to the pancake breakfast on Monday, which was delicious.
  • (For those who aren't aware: Labor Day was basically invented by a person from Cedarville, so it's a Big Deal here. There's a parade and a three-day festival and everything. Plus the college students get the day off, which is great.)
  • Plus, I'm the secretary for TDK again, so I'm keeping busy with that. We have our first QuizBowl day today, and our Kickoff Party is in a couple days, and I'm really excited for both things.
  • And I played both Portal and Portal 2! Both were great, and I'm really sad that they're over. (Also, I'm sad that I can't go back and replay specific levels to try to get some of the achievements I missed . . . oh well. Maybe I'll replay the whole thing in a year or two.) Very good storytelling, especially in Portal 2, but also great puzzle challenges.
  • Before Cedarville, not a ton happened . . . though I did finish my sword!
  • I painted it, attached the hilt and blade, and put the wrap on the hilt literally two nights before we left for Cedarville. Things I have learned: (1) next time, print in the other direction, (2) spray paint, then craft paint, never just one, and (3) epoxy is interesting, but not as intimidating as it might seem.
  • I also finally got my bread to the desired fluffiness, though never to the desired shape. My mom's still keeping it going, so maybe she'll have better luck eventually.
  • Other than that . . . um . . . I have sometimes-glasses now. I noticed that the chapel slides were getting steadily harder to see, so we got my eyes checked and I'm basically on the border of needing glasses and not needing them. So I ended up getting them, but I mostly wear them during class and when I'm driving — I get headaches if I wear them too long, especially if I'm looking at screens. But, yeah. That's a thing. I put them on and I was like "Oh, huh, I didn't realize stuff was supposed to be sharp that far out!"

September Plans!

  • I'm still hoping to make it to the Rennaissance Festival, hopefully this weekend. We'll see how that goes.
  • Other than that: lots of schoolwork and org activities! I'm in two high-committment orgs (TDK and the Inklings) and then I'm in several other orgs where my committment is either "I'll come if I have time" or else "I'll be there at every meeting, but you only meet once a month, so we're chill." I am probably in too many things, but it's easier to test stuff out now and drop it later than to try to break into a new social group halfway through the school year.
  • And, of course, there's D&D! The campaign I'm currently in is a bit . . . intersting . . . with regard to scheduling; half our members are off-campus, and we're meeting online still, and it's a bit of a mess. But it's still fun when we're able to meet. And then the campaign that I'm running should kick off pretty soon, maybe either next week or the week after if we can get stuff sorted out there.
  • On the writing front, I really want to finish my WIP draft this month so I can take a little time off before I start the first round of edits (either in October or November, depending on how I'm feeling). And I have several creative nonfiction ideas that I want to get down at some point (and need to get down so i can turn them in, but yeah).
  • As far as reading goes: I have very easy library access, and I have a shelf full of mostly not-yet-reads, all of which I'm excited about. As long as I have time (and as soon as I finish Northanger Abbey), reading this month will be great.
How was your August? What are your plans for September? Have you been doing any fun crafty things? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)