Friday, March 27, 2020

Reasons to Love the Wingfeather Saga (Part the First)

Hey'a, everyone! So, as I mentioned in last week's post, Andrew Peterson and Waterbrook Press recently re-released the first two Wingfeather Saga books, and I made the release street team. As you may also remember, the release took place the week that everything descended into chaos and madness, which meant I neither reread the books in as timely a fashion as I intended nor blogged about them when I planned. But, better late than never, and I'll take any excuse to ramble about the books I love! So, here is Part the First of my non-exhaustive list of reasons to love (and read, and reread, and reread again) the Wingfeather Saga. I'll be focusing primarily on the first two books, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and North! Or Be Eaten in this post, and I'll talk about the other two books, Monster in the Hollows and The Warden and the Wolf King, in my second post, which will go up when those two rerelease. Hopefully the world will be a little less crazy then, yeah?

Reasons to Love the Wingfeather Saga
(Part the First)

  1. It's a very family-oriented series. I mean this in both senses. It is a story that the whole family can enjoy (and my whole family does, and so do the wholes of several other families I know that include a much wider variety of ages). But it's also a story very focused on familial relationships. That's consistent across all four novels, but you get the biggest variety of those relationships in these first two novels. These two are also where you most clearly see the relationship between Leeli and her grandfather, which has a special place in my heart.
  2. It has footnotes! I've mentioned this before, but I love footnotes in fantasy. Whether used seriously or in humor, I feel like they give another layer of depth to the narrative and worldbuilding. In some respects, they give some of the effects of having a Silmarillion-and-then-some behind the story without having to actually write those background books (unless you want to). In any case, they certainly make the story feel like something that's been given to you out of that world, and they give the author a chance to add all the fun little asides that they can't put in the actual story.
  3. It has absolutely amazing artwork (in the new versions). Practically speaking, I recognize why most fantasy novels don't have a lot of artwork in them. Artwork requires an artist, and getting an artist requires a fair bit of money and time. However, I do think that good artwork dropped in here and there in appropriate places can help bring a story to life. So, I quite enjoy the fact that the new editions of the Wingfeather Saga has some absolutely gorgeous art at key points. Plus, the characters (except for two) actually look like I imagined them! Which is awesome!
  4. You need to meet Artham. Look, I am not going to make a list of my favorite heroes in fantasy fiction. Even if you let me make two lists, one for heroes and one for heroines, I'd spend the entire time second-guessing my picks. But one of the few who I wouldn't second-guess hails from these books, and his name is Artham. If you've read the books, you know who I mean and you most likely agree. Artham is magnificent, and his part of the story contains some of the most heartbreaking lows and the most thrilling triumphs. (Other people might argue with me on that. That's fine. I'm probably biased.) And besides being a great character, Artham has inspired some of my characters, so . . . yeah. He's cool.
  5. It's a story about kids who are actually kids and are treated like kids (but not in a bad way). Maybe I've just gotten salty and cynical as I've become an adult-ish person, but I become more and more frustrated with some fantasy books in which the kids are given an unrealistic amount of responsibility and then handle it unrealistically well, or where it's constantly the kids solving the problems because the adults are, for some mysterious reason, unable to do so. But in the Wingfeather books, the kids are kids. They generally think like kids and act like kids, and they're treated like kids. When they aren't treated like kids, when they're forced into situations that force them to grow up too fast, that strip away joy and innocence, it's treated as a genuine tragedy. And I appreciate that a lot.
Have you read the Wingfeather Saga yet? What do you think are the biggest reasons to love it? If you haven't read it yet, have I convinced you to give it a try? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah Pennington

Friday, March 20, 2020

Spring 2020 Reads!

Hello, everyone! It is officially spring; the flowers are blooming outside my window, and yesterday it actually felt kinda sorta warm! So that's a bit of hope for y'all in this crazy, stressful period of life. And I've got several more bits of hope as well in the form of new books releasing this season. Some of the ones I'm most excited about already released, but that's fine; I'll talk about them anyway. Let's get started!

Spring 2020 Reads!

1. Havenfall by Sara Holland (March 3). We all know how much I love portal fantasies. We all also know how much I love fantasy murder mysteries. So if you put those together in a fabulous inn-between-the-worlds, well, it sounds like just my cup of tea! I'm super hopeful that I'll get to pick up Havenfall soon in some form (though I have heard it has some LGBT stuff in it . . . so we'll see how much of that there is).

2. Rerelease: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson (March 10). Aka what I was supposed to post about last Friday but didn't because I was too busy packing, doing job interviews, and trying to figure out my life (and doing homework in between). But, yes, the first two Wingfeather Saga books rereleased with gorgeous new cover art and illustrations, and I highly recommend picking them up. If you've read them before, you'll be delighted to reexperience the beauty of these stories — and if you haven't read them, well, you're in for a treat!

3. The Empire of Dreams by Rae Carson (April 7). I loved the Fire and Thorns trilogy back when I first read it (all the way back in 2014, what the pumpernickel); it was one of my first tastes of fantasy that stepped outside the traditional medieval European setting and one of the books that led to my falling in love with fantasy court intrigue. The Empire of Dreams sounds like a very different story — which is good, but I'm excited to return to the same setting and some of the same characters. (Also, I've been told that there's no? romantic? plotline? in this book? Which I am far too excited for, I'm sorry.)

4. Let the Ghosts Speak by Bryan Davis (April 15). Bryan Davis has a habit of publishing books and then doing next to no marketing for those books, so I'm glad I'm catching this one before it comes out. I'm really not sure what to think about this novel; it's kind of a historical murder mystery, but with bonus ghosts? What even. (Also, Bryan Davis apparently really appreciates Joan of Arc, because this is the second time she's popped up as a character in one of his books.) I get to find out soon, though, since I managed to score an ARC. (Whoo!)

5. The Silence of Bones by June Hur (April 21). Ok, this is not my usual genre; it's a historical mystery set in 1800s Korea and sounds like it could end up being a bit dark. But, y'know, I did say I wanted to step outside the speculative fiction genre more. And we've already established that I love a good mystery. So, I'm excited to give this one a try.

6. Moonscript by H.S.J. Williams (May 7). This is almost certainly the book on this list that I've been waiting for the longest! I've been anticipating the release of Moonscript for, I don't know, seven or eight years? It was back when Anne Elisabeth Stengl was doing her mentoring-young-authors thing (and still writing Goldstone Wood; I think it might have been before Starflower came out, in fact) and Hannah was one of the mentees. I got a glimpse of it through Stengl's blog and have been following (and befriending) Hannah ever since. And now, at last, the hope becomes reality and Moonscript can be on my shelves. (Plus, I scored an ARC of this one too, so huzzah! No, I haven't read it yet; I've been distracted by the Wingfeather Saga. But soon!)

7. By the Book by Amanda Sellet (May 12). We finish off with another not-my-usual-genre title. By the Book is contemporary — YA contemporary romance at that. But it's also about a classics-loving girl who's creating a romance survival guide based on literary romances, so . . . that's kind of hard to resist. Here's hoping that it turns out more like Pride and Prejudice than Emma.

And there's my list! Which of these are you most excited for? Are there any spring releases that I missed that I should be psyched about? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah P

Friday, March 6, 2020

February 2020 Doings!

Behold! I live! I apologize for dropping off the face of the earth, blog-wise, the last two weeks. With classes, writing, social events, and the need for decent sleep all coming in front of the need to write blog posts, blogging just didn't happen. And, fair warning, I might be a bit spotty for the next couple months as well. But for now, I'm here (and on spring break!), so let's get on with the Doings of the last month!


  • My goal for February was to write 500 words or 30 minutes a day, five days per week. I kept that goal for the first three weeks, and then I gave myself the last week as a grace week because I had a lot to get done before I left on break. Still, I wrote a total of 16,707 words, with an average of 756 words per day, so I'd say that's pretty solid.
  • Most of those words were D&D-related, unsurprisingly. I wrote a one-shot, plus three campaign episodes (one of which could have been a one-shot in its own right — that one involved homebrewing my own monster villain, which was interesting), plus the Valentine's Day short stories. For anyone who missed those, they showcased the first meeting of a pair of NPCs from my campaign from each person's perspective. Ardent's perspective was on Light and Shadows, while Tiria's was on Dreams and Dragons.
  • Outside of that, I did a little more work on Blood in the Earth/Soil, which mostly consisted of finishing up the scene I'd been working on and then writing the first line of the next scene. (That next scene is what I've been working on during break; it's going well. One of the sisters who hasn't been in the spotlight much gets to play a bigger role and interact with Eun-Ji, plus plot stuff is set in motion. It's great.) I also toyed with another writing project, but ended up dropping it because it conflicted with a different novel (or novella) that I plan to write in the future.


  • I did a little better with reading this month than I did last month, which is good. I finished up my reread of the Illuminae Files around the beginning of the month. Everything I said about them last month stands; they're excellent books and I anticipate coming back to them many more times. Also, can I reiterate how much I appreciate that the authors didn't give us a grimdark ending? Or grimdark anything, really? I think it's become almost a trend for endings of YA fiction to focus almost as much on what was lost as what was gained, but you really don't get that in this series.
  • How To was also excellent! I think I may have enjoyed What If? just a little bit more, but I think How To is a little more helpful in certain respects. If you're a writer who tries to get some measure of scientific realism in your stories, I'd recommend picking it up; even though most of the advice is sarcastic, there is some genuinely useful information in here (especially if you tend to write dramatic, over-the-top villains).
  • At the end of February and beginning of March, I did a little early celebrating of March Magics by rereading Charmed Life and The Many Lives of Christopher Chant (the first two Chrestomanci Chronicles, nicely contained in one volume) and Castle in the Air. I actually enjoyed both of the Chrestomanci books more this time around than I did the first time — which is saying something; I really like Chrestomanci. And Castle in the Air was, of course, delightful.
  • Continuing the reread trend: Redwall's been on my mind on and off throughout February, so I decided to reread Lord Brocktree to see how it held up. The answer is "surprisingly well" — the prose and technical quality of the book are nothing special, but it's refreshing to read a book where the good characters are solidly good, the evil characters are truly evil, and friendship, bravery, and appreciation of life are celebrated so honestly. I'm toying with the idea of doing a Great Redwall Reread now and perhaps even blogging about it if I have time. We'll see.
  • I also reread 101 Dalmatians after we watched the movie a few days ago. That one didn't hold up quite as well, but it was still fun. There are some delightful interactions that didn't make it into the movie. And, y'know, it's a fundamentally family-oriented story and we all know that I have a soft spot for those.
  • In terms of nonfiction, I've spent the better part of the month slowly reading The Design of Everyday Things, which is, contrary to what I expected, not about the history behind how various ordinary items developed into their modern forms. What is it about? User-centered design, that's what. Is it giving me flashbacks to User Experience for the Web (aka my second-least-favorite PWID class)? Also yes. But it is actually a good book, and it's honestly relevant to some of what I want to do professionally, so I'm going to finish it or go down trying.
  • Not reading but still bookish: I did participate in Jenelle Schmidt's February is Fantasy Month again, though not as extensively as usual. I did manage to sort of keep up with the Instagram challenge for a few weeks, which was fun.
  • Finally, a quick update on how my reading goals are going! I've read twelve books so far this year, which puts me five books behind schedule, but I should be able to catch up without too much trouble, especially if I end up rereading Redwall — those aren't short books, by any means, but they go quickly. I've also only read one non-speculative-fiction book, but I'm in the middle of a second. I'm doing a bit better on reading older books — I've gotten in four of those. I mean, they're all middle grade-ish, and three of them are by Diana Wynne Jones, and pretty much all of them were published after 1956, but still. It's progress.


  • Once again, I haven't really watched much of anything this month; I've mostly been too busy. My roommate and I did watch the third episode of Avatar season 2, but that's pretty much it.
  • Well, and my family rewatched 101 Dalmatians while I was home for spring break. That was quite fun. (That's why I ended up rereading the book as well.) It's kind of underrated, and if Disney tries to make a "live action" version of it like they did with Lion King and Lady and the Tramp, I shall be immensely annoyed. (I'm already annoyed about Lady and the Tramp, but there's nothing I can do about that.) Also, the art on older Disney movies? Gorgeous.
  • (I also have a new appreciation for the title sequences of Disney movies after having taken graphic design classes. I know it's not exactly graphic design, but it's related, and yeah.)


  • Most of this month was, to be honest, taken up by either classes, homework, or writing. As such, my main impression of most of it was of being busy and tired.
  • (Not that classes and homework are bad things, of course. I actually got to design the branding for a fictional university for one of my PWID classes, and it was SO MUCH FUN. Like, yes, it was tiring and it took effort, but there's a reason I want to go into branding and marketing if at all possible.)
  • My roommate and I did make it down to Orion to take advantage of their drink of the month and their Valentine's blooming tea special. So that was fun. The blooming teas look pretty cool, and they come in this adorable glass teapot and it made me quite happy. (Also quite warm, as it was snowing that day. I was distinctly displeased.)
  • On an exciting note, I went to the spring career fair that Cedarville hosts and actually had several very good conversations! I'm not sure if anything will come of them, but I'm hopeful. And the companies that seem to have the highest potential would both mean I'd be spending a lot of time around engineers and scientists, which I would honestly be fine with and would probably even enjoy. (I mean, I already hang around STEM people a lot; why not continue the habit?)
  • On a less exciting note, I officially stepped down as an Inklings workshop leader this month. This is a decision I've been contemplating for several months, and I finally made up my mind after the TDK Academic Integration Conference (which I'm not talking about here because it was largely frustrating for me for entirely personal reasons, but some good things did come out of it). My workshop group has only had one person regularly show up (other than me), and it's been frustrating for both of us — and workshop, in general, has been taking up more emotional and mental bandwidth than I can spare ever since the start of the school year. I feel bad about not seeing the year through, but I think that this was best for everyone (especially since the one person who did come to workshop can now move to a group with actually active people in it).
  • I also spent several afternoons in Centerville so my roommate could take a series of exams that she needs to get into grad school. That wasn't great for my productivity, but it was a nice change of pace. And now she's done with that, and we celebrated with a trip to Lola's Mexican for chimichangas, which were, as always, delicious.
  • And this past week, I've been home on spring break — thank goodness! I've enjoyed being able to relax and spend time with my family and not have anywhere particular to be. It's possible that I should have been more productive over break than I was, but at the same time, I've gotten a reasonable amount done, and I needed the chance to rest.
  • As per the usual, being home meant trying a new sourdough recipe. This time, it was crusty sourdough rolls, and they turned out super well (as you may have seen on my Instagram). If not, behold the deliciousness:

March Plans

  • I'm going back to my January writing goal of 300 words or 30 minutes of writing per day, five days per week. 500 wasn't unbearable, especially with how much I was writing D&D stuff, but I think this will be more manageable. Plus, next month is Camp NaNoWriMo, so I don't want to exhaust my writing inspiration in March and then have nothing left when April hits.
  • I also have lots of books to read, especially since I've gotten ahold of ARCs for several upcoming releases: the Wingfeather Saga rereleases, Moonscript, and Let the Ghosts Speak! I think this is the most ARCs I've ever had at one time, haha. (On the downside, I'm behind on the Wingfeather Saga ones because I can't figure out how to get the ARCs from Netgalley to my Kindle. The emailing thing doesn't seem to have worked. It's a problem.) Plus, of course, I have plenty to reread, and I may try to join in with the Fellowship of Fantasy book this month. We'll see.
  • More importantly than either of those: classes still exist. I want to have my Honors final project at least drafted, if not completely done, by the end of the month, and there's the usual deadlines in other classes as well.
  • In terms of social activity: D&D will continue to be a thing. Also, my friend group is doing a second cheese night the night we get back to Cedarville, and I'm psyched about that. And part of the TDK Quizbowl group — myself included — is going to a tournament at the end of the month, which I'm really looking forward to. (Not just because that means I get to be back in Virginia for a weekend, but also because it's going to be fun.)
How was your February? How do you feel about rereading books you used to love? What movie do you never want to see Disney remake in "live-action"? What plans do you have for March? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah Pennington