Friday, May 28, 2021

May 2021 Doings

Hello, y'all! It's the end of May, or just about — technically, we have a few days left in the month, but I'm posting Doings now for reasons that will be clear at the end of this post. I anticipate a quiet Memorial Day weekend, so it should be fine. Let's get going!


hands typing on a laptop keyboard

  • Here's the big news: the Midnight Show sequel has a title! After some deliberation (and title testing on IG), I settled on Gilded in Ice. This will be the second time I've written and released a book that has a wintery title despite being set primarily in spring or summer . . . but this one, at least, does involve quite a bit of coldness. (I'll just have to release some wintery books with warm or summery titles to balance it out. Or, you know, I could stop doing this sort of thing altogether, but where's the fun in that?)
  • The actual writing of the book is coming along slowly but steadily. I'm on Chapter 30 or 31 at this point (depending on when you read this post — if I'm lucky or if you're reading this really late, I might be on 32), and I sorted out the rest of the timeline this past week.
  • ("Wait, Sarah," you say, "you're editing this, aren't you? Shouldn't the timeline have been figured out months ago?" I've rearranged and cut so many scenes in this book, the original timeline ran for the hills long ago. And I've been working the rewritten timeline out in chunks of five to ten chapters at a time.)
  • Anyway. As I was saying, I'm on chapter 30 or 31, and I plan for about 40 chapters total. So it would be feasible for me to finish the rewrite this coming month, provided I'm able to focus.


  • As you can probably see, this month's reading was a somewhat eclectic mix. I'm not sure if it's actually more eclectic than my average reading month or if I'm just in a mood while I'm writing this, but there was a lot of variety.
  • I'm finally back to rereading The Lord of the Rings, as you can see. I'd been procrastinating on The Two Towers because, while I quite enjoy the first half of the book, Frodo and Sam's journey from the Great River to Mordor is one of my least favorite parts of the trilogy. (Granted, it does have one of my favorite LOTR quotes and one of my favorite characters in it, so that helps. But it's still . . . y'know.) But I got some extra motivation in the form of needing to refresh my memory of the book's events, and I'm glad I finally got back to it.
  • I had two read-for-review books this month: Bryan Davis's Invading Hell and Suzannah Rowntree's A Vampire in Bavaria. Both were excellent, and Invading Hell was a pleasant surprise — I was worried that it, like the first book, would end up amplifying my stress rather than providing an escape. However, it ended up having much more of a classic Davis book vibe than I expected, almost reminding me of some of the Oracles of Fire novels. I suspect it'll end up being my favorite in the trilogy.
  • And, of course, I loved A Vampire in Bavaria. This time, I was ready for more action and less mystery (so I didn't experience that same twinge of missed expectations I did in Anarchist), and the story itself was absolutely thrilling. I made the mistake of picking it up after ten in the evening, thinking I could read a few chapters and then set it down again like I usually would — and then it was 11:30, and I was on Chapter 11, so I decided I'd read one more chapter so I could end on a good number — and then I didn't end until the book did. Oops.
  • And the last exciting read of the month was The Green Ember, which has been quietly blinking out at the edge of my radar for quite a while — the author is part of the Rabbit Room, I think, or is otherwise associated with Andrew Peterson — but which was pushed to much higher priority by the fact that a new friend of mine kept posting fanart for it, and I got curious. So I read it and quite enjoyed it, even if I did occasionally have to stop and question the author's character-naming choices. (There's a rabbit named Kyle, and he has roughly the personality you'd expect from a human by that name. He confuses me on many, many levels. He's not a main character, thankfully.) 
  • Names aside, though, it's a good story, and the main characters are a very satisfying balance of reasonably competent but still inexperienced, and, yeah, I guessed what Smalls's deal was in the first chapter he was onscreen, but I'm ok with that. And I definitely requested the rest of the series from the library when I was about 60 pages out from the end of the first book.
  • And a quick mention of my other reads this month: The Language of Thorns was a really cool anthology of in-world folktales from the Grishaverse, and now I kinda feel like I should do a better job thinking through my own worlds' folklore. Met by Midnight was a reasonably interesting twist on Cinderella and a nice distraction on the random day when my office lost internet access all day, but it's far from my favorite retelling. And my reread of Elantris was a nice next step in my Cosmere reread.


  • Pretty much the most noteworthy bit of the month on this front was probably re-watching the Fellowship of the Ring (extended edition, naturally) with my family towards the beginning of the month. Though — and I kind of feel like a horrible person for this — I honestly wasn't excited about watching it? It wasn't even my suggestion; my dad is the one who's been suggesting LOTR any time we're talking about watching a movie. And I kept putting it off with the excuse that my sister would be disappointed if we watched them without her — until now, obviously, because my sister was here and did want to watch the movie.
  • I don't even know why I wasn't more enthusiastic about the idea. I should've been enthusiastic. I've repeatedly stated that The Lord of the Rings trilogy is my favorite movie/movie series, and I still hold to that statement. But when it came up in discussion, I just . . . wasn't excited. I don't know. Maybe I was remembering all my frustrations with the movie more keenly than the things I love about it. Maybe I was intimidated by the probability that if we started watching the trilogy, even if we watched each movie in halves (which is what we're doing), I was committing to the equivalent of two movies a weekend for at least three weeks. Or maybe it was just one of those scenarios where the weight of the excitement and hype I thought I was supposed to feel started pressing so hard that it turned into dread instead. That's happened, sometimes. It's a primary reason why I sometimes take ages upon ages to read a book I've, up to that point, been really excited for. I don't know.
  • Anyway. The point is, we watched Fellowship, and I certainly enjoyed it, even if I wasn't excited about it. I was less frustrated with Frodo's tendency to stare dramatically than I remembered being, which was a plus. And I'd forgotten how much of the dialogue actually is pulled straight from the book.
  • On the downside, I have . . . well, I didn't actually read The Silmarillion, but I read a lot about the events of The Silmarillion, and now I'm about 300% more annoyed at the absence of Glorfindel than I was back when I just thought he was a cool character. Like, for conservation of detail, I understand the switch, but . . . bleh. I also think that Tolkien had the right idea in the books, keeping Arwen and Aragorn's romance largely "off-screen" and showing it mostly through other methods, thereby preserving the more . . . mythic, I guess, element of it. (Feel free to take that opinion with as much salt as you like, though. I tend to not be enthusiastic about on-screen romances in general, and that, along with characters' communication skills, tends to be the first thing critique in any film.)
  • (Also, unpopular opinion, but leaving out Tom Bombadil was 100% the right choice. Younger me may have said otherwise. Younger me also was trying to shape a large portion of her identity around being a "hardcore" Tolkien fan. Tom Bombadil and the Old Forest are great in the books for worldbuilding, theme, and tension purposes. But in the movie, they truly aren't necessary.)
  • Outside of Fellowship, I've pretty much just been watching — you guessed it! — more Critical Role. I just finished Episode 66 the other night, and . . . to be honest, I'm ready to move on from Xhorhas, just like I was ready to move on from Fjord's pirate arc a few months ago. Mostly, I'm tired of the Mighty Nein's attitude. But we seem to be moving in a cool (though creepy) direction with the end of the last episode, so I'm excited for that!
  • Also, I keep hearing that Campaign 2 is probably going to wrap up soon, which is kind of exciting for me in that it means Campaign 3 will be right around the corner (albeit after a hiatus, probably). And that means I'll have the option to at least start the episodes when they're live as opposed to, y'know, two years after they happen. It'll mean splitting my attention between two campaigns, but I can live with that, especially since there'll no longer be any pressure to "catch up."


  • We saw an owl! In our YARD! Not only that, in a tree right outside the office window! It was very exciting.
  • In other news, my sister's back! And that's made me happy. It's nice to have someone around who's a little closer to my own age (and who shares most of my interests). We've played a few rounds of Sentinels, and I introduced her to Portal. (I also started replaying Portal, but I'm doing it in tandem with her — so, we do the same rooms at the same time, so I can more effectively provide hints and help when she needs it and so I have the fun of playing it. The added benefit is that, because we're only playing when we can play together, it doesn't become a temptation for either of us to spend too much time on.)
  • Mother's Day was pretty chill as a holiday. We played some Yahtzee and watched the second half of The Fellowship of the Ring, my sister and I made food, and . . . that's pretty much it. Unless I'm forgetting something. Which is always possible.
  • Probably the most exciting thing that happened this month was a visit to a historic mansion and its gardens/grounds (mostly the gardens/grounds because we weren't allowed in the mansion) courtesy of my dad's photo club's lack of a year-end party. (As in, they didn't have a year-end party, so they spent the money on admission for this instead). We had a nice time walking around and taking pictures, and I convinced my sister to dress up a bit so I could do some portrait photography, which was fun. The pictures mostly seem to have turned out reasonably well, though I do apparently suffer from an inability to hold the camera straight half the time. Oh well. That's what the crop tool is for.
  • Work continues to be, well, business as usual. Things are quieting down now, since Easter (and Pentecost) is past and less happens in the summer. Well, that's not quite true. Stuff still happens . . . it's just not as intense as Easter week or the newsletter. Or figuring out the livestreaming system. (This is a good thing in that it means I'm less stressed about my actual work. It's not a great thing in that it gives me more time to get frustrated with people .  . . well, mostly one person who has a habit of asking me to update, design, or post things and then not giving me all the information I need, even when I ask multiple times. Given that this is the only significant job-based frustration I have on a regular basis, I am absolutely not complaining. I'm still annoyed, though.)
  • (Also, I realized that this is basically just another variation on the same problem that caused me 99% of my stress my junior year of college, and I'm just like . . . gah. I can't even solve this one by doing what needs to be done for the person who didn't do it because, again, I'm lacking fundamental information and resources. Is this going to be my entire life? Because it's starting to feel like this is going to be my entire life.)
  • On the baking front, I made sourdough bagels (which turned out much better than the non-sourdough ones I made two months ago) and a chocolate cake (because I have basically no experience with cake-making, and I thought I should fix that.)
  • And we'll wrap this up with a D&D update! We only met a couple times this month, thanks to people having to deal with stuff like, y'know, finals and travel and work. Sadly, we lost one of our players, at least temporarily. We hope he'll be able to come back once his job situation is sorted out, but for now, we're operating as if he won't be returning. And then we had our first PC death (not counting the PC who turned on the party ages ago) the same session. He got better (because guess who has Revivify now? me, that's who), but it was still intense.

June Plans

  • You know how I normally take a blogging hiatus in April because it's Camp NaNoWriMo and finals and all that jazz? And you know how I didn't take a hiatus in April this year because I'd been going at a Camp NaNo pace all year already and I didn't have finals? Yeah. Turns out that hiatus was important.
  • So, yes. I'll be taking a blogging hiatus in June. I'll still be reading other people's blogs and hanging out on Facebook and Instagram, and I'll probably try to put up my Summer 2021 reads post sometime before summer starts. But I won't be posting other than that until July (or at least until June Doings).
  • What will I be doing instead? Most significantly, I intend to have the second draft of Gilded in Ice finished and ready for other people to read and return comments on by the end of the month. This is way later than I wanted it to be done, but it is what it is, and I'm planning on a later release, so I should still have time enough.
  • I also have a wedding to attend in June, which I'm excited for. It'll be a chance to see a lot of my close friends who I haven't seen in person in a year or more, so that makes up for all the driving I'll have to do to get to it.
  • And I also think that the current D&D arc I'm running will probably wrap up this month! Assuming we actually manage to meet more than twice in the whole month, that is. After we finish the arc, we'll probably take a break from playing for a bit so I can write what happens next. One thing I'm certain of: while this was fun, I'm going to try to avoid planning such lengthy modules in the future.

How was your May? Any exciting plans for June? Or for the summer in general? And do you ever have the problem of "I should be excited for this because I love it, but I'm not actually excited?" Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 14, 2021

Spring Anytime Reads

 Hey'a, all! We're well into spring now, and I think that makes it a good time to finish up my series of seasonal reads! As a reminder, this started some years ago with my Summer Anytime Reads. In the last year, I followed it up with Autumnal Anytime Reads and Winter Anytime Reads. And now I've got a list of spring reads for you! As usual, there's a variety of qualifying elements; some of these take place in spring, others have themes that I think reflect the season well. All of them, as usual, come with some related reads for if you've already read my primary suggestion.

Spring Anytime Reads

  1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I almost didn't include this because it's so obvious, but at the same time — it's the classic Easter fantasy read, and the return of spring after an unending winter is one of the main plot points. You kind of have to include it.
    If you liked The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, try: The Princess and the Goblin/The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald (for more classic children's fantasy and the man who inspired Lewis) or The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson (for beautiful, decidedly Christian fantasy).

  2. Moonscript by H.S.J. Williams. This is another winter-into-spring book, for sure. It's a story of rebirth, of return, of renewed life; what could be more spring-like? And the vibe of the story runs the gamut from the aching cold of early spring when you wonder if winter will ever let go to the joyful release of the first warm days to the misery of a sudden return of winter cold and darkness when you thought you were free at last.
    If you liked Moonscript, try: The Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (for more stories of renewal that heavily influenced Moonscript) or Orphan's Song by Gillian Bronte Adams (because Birdie and Tellie are astonishingly similar).

  3. Spindle by W.R. Gingell. How long's it been since I raved about a W.R. Gingell book? Too long, that's how long. Spindle probably actually takes place in summer, but it feels like a very May-ish book. It's full of new beginnings and new growth and sunshine, and I love it so much.
    If you liked TBA, try: Spindle's End by Robin McKinley (for another highly magical Sleeping Beauty story) or Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (for stubborn, unexpectedly magical female leads, oddly charming wizards, and general vibes).

  4. An Echo of the Fae by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt. This story does take place specifically in spring (though with quite a bit of influence from Summer and Winter — yes, those are capitalized for a reason, and you can probably guess what the reason is from the title). But it's also a very green and springy story, and if you, unlike me, don't suffer from seasonal allergies, it would be a very good book to enjoy on a day out in nature (or at least outside).
    If you liked An Echo of the Fae, try: Fairest Son by H.S.J. Williams (for fae fairy tales) or The Princess and the Invisible Apple Tree by Meredith Burton (for sweet family-focused fairy tales).

  5. The Thirteen Clocks by James Thurber. Thanks to my sister for this suggestion, which I absolutely wouldn't have thought of on my own. (It's been way too long since I read this book.) One could make an argument for The Thirteen Clocks as either a winter or spring book — most of the book is very wintery-feeling, but the storyline and ideas are spring-like in the same way as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardobe is. So, I'm categorizing it as an early March sort of book.
    If you liked The Thirteen Clocks, try: You tell me. Of this story, I would say, as one character puts it, "I don't know what it is, but it's the only one there ever was."

What are your favorite springtime reads? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 7, 2021

Interview With Princess Sorei (of Love and Memory)

 Good morning (or afternoon, or evening, or whenever you happen to be reading this), all! Who here's read Love and Memory since it released two weeks ago? (If you haven't gotten it yet, you can pick it up on Amazon). As part of the release tour, I was supposed to post this interview with Sorei, one of the new characters, but . . . it didn't exactly happen. But I thought it was fun, so I'm posting it now.

Interview With Princess Sorei

Hello, Sorei! Welcome to the blog! To start out, tell us a little about yourself! Who you are, your role in the story, anything you want to share?

I'm a princess on the way to marry a prince so he can become king. I'll secure a treaty between our feuding kingdoms and be his first wife, but who knows if he'll remember me the next day. I mean, I'm barely more than a child. 

As a princess of Kurzi, I'm sure you have many duties and responsibilities. Can you tell us a bit about what those look like and how you feel about them?

If you consider learning how to make myself beautiful and perfect for a future husband to be a duty and a responsibility ... oh, and learning how to argue with the other women over who's the most valuable and important, but I know that doesn't count.

Who would you say is the person who's influenced or inspired you most in your life?

My oldest brother Nalaam, who I unfortunately failed to mention to Kendra until the last minute so she wasn't able to properly incorporate him into the book. But he was the one who taught me to read and write, and then convinced my father that I was the one who should be sent for the alliance. I'm a bit put out with him on that last point.

During the course of your story, you encounter some rather interesting travelers from another world. What were your thoughts on them? 

They treat their women a lot better than my country does. I mean, they say it's not perfect either, and I believe them, but, well, they apparently don't send fourteen-year-old girls off to get married. 

Based on your experience with these travelers, what do you think their world does better than yours, and what does your world (or country, either one) do better than theirs?

Well, their world has televisions and technology, but ours has Fire Princes and magic, so I think that's a fair trade. There's some other stuff, too, but I don't have everything straight on what is their world, what is actually Rizkaland, and what is Sylvia's other countries.

One of those travelers, I'm aware, has in her possession a magic tablecloth that produces a feast of its owner's favorite foods on command. I also believe you got to partake of at least one of these feasts. Did you taste any particularly noteworthy foods from it? Either something particularly delicious or something especially odd?

There was this stuff called chocolate, and it was amazing. Bitter and sweet all at once, it tasted a bit like the nira nut, but even better.

How do you hope people, either those in your own world or those in our world who read your story, will remember you? What legacy do you want to leave behind? 

I want to be remembered - positively - for myself, and not just as the princess who a prince married to secure an alliance and bear him an heir.

That seems like a good legacy. Thanks for answering my questions!

So, if you've read Love and Memory, what did you think of it? If you haven't read it yet, what's another new release that you really loved (or are really excited for)? Please tell me in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 30, 2021

April 2021 Doings!

Well, here we are! I keep trying to think of something vaguely clever to say here, but I'm . . . not really having much luck, to be honest. April's been a quiet month, and there's not a lot to say by way of introduction. So let's just get right to it, shall we?


  • So, I kind of forgot this month was Camp NaNoWriMo. I guess that's what happens when you have the same goals and project for Camp that you had for the last several months.
  • Side note — at some point, I really need to settle on the name of the Midnight Show sequel. I've been working on the book half a year, and it's still just "the TMS sequel." I mean, yeah, it's anywhere near the longest one of my books has gone without a title, but . . . deadlines.
  • Anyway. Progress on the sequel rewrite is going slower than I intended (I keep getting stuck on timeline things or how to make particular scenes happen in the new version), but it's still moving forward. I'm currently on Chapter 23, which puts me into the back half of the book. Given the level of changes I've been making (completely rearranging certain events, stitching scenes together, and writing some entirely new material), I don't think I'm making bad time.
  • I'm also far enough along that I can start thinking about what I want to write next . . . I have two different ideas for the same fairy tale, one in the Mechanical Heart world and one in the Midnight Show world, and I'm not sure which I prefer.
  • On the D&D front, again, I accomplished less than I wanted in terms of D&D writing . . . but I did run my group's first encounter with a legendary monster! And then promptly forgot about or didn't get a chance to use pretty much all its legendary abilities. Oh well.


  • This month has been a lot of "Well, I said I'd read this book/need to read this before the library demands it back, so I guess I'm doing that now," bookended between two mood reads.
  • Warbreaker and Isle of Swords were my two mood reads (well, mood re-reads). Warbreaker also falls a little into the category of "Need to read before the library demands it back," but I originally picked it up because of my unofficial Cosmere reread (and the significance of certain characters in the Stormlight Archive). As with Mistborn, reading it is kind of a weird experience where I'm torn between "Wow, you can tell this is Sanderson's early work" and "This is still really good." Isle of Swords, on the other hand, I reread because I wanted pirates, and I didn't expect much of it (having grown disenchanted with Batson's writing some time ago), but it's honestly better than I was giving it credit for. It does what it's supposed to do very well, is I guess how I'd put it.
  • Of the non-rereads, Sourdough was probably the highlight. It was a very enjoyable observation and celebration of food and the cultures it creates, with nice hints of magic and a very satisfying ending. Also, props to the author for not going the route with said ending that I expected her to.
  • Anarchist on the Orient Express was also good, though I enjoyed Werewolf more. I think that's because half of it was more action-adventure than mystery — and it's a very good action-adventure, don't get me wrong. It just wasn't entirely what I expected. I am excited for Book 3, though.
  • Broken and Delicious In Dungeon #9 were both about what I expected. There were some bits in each that I really loved (Delicious in Dungeon gives us some revelations about the nature of the dungeons and what our heroes are walking into that are just . . . !!! I am scared now!), and some bits that I wasn't crazy about, but the experience on the whole was positive.
  • And The Last Unicorn, I read because I get the impression that it's a sort of "fantasy classic," in the same category as Le Guin's Earthsea, and . . . well, I can see why so many people like it, but it's not my thing. It's a story very concerned with ideas and theme, and it carries out those themes well, but . . . again, not my thing, really.


  • In the continuing saga of "Sarah finally watches that thing that all her friends were crazy about ten years ago," I watched Curse of the Black Pearl about midway through April, when I happened to have a Saturday night without D&D. And now I completely understand why everyone I knew (or, well, everyone I knew online) spent so much time quoting it. And referencing it. And why people are still quoting it and referencing it and circulating gifs of it now, albeit to a lesser degree.
  • Like, it's a really fun movie. But also, it's an astonishingly well-told story? With surprisingly well-drawn characters? Like? I thought it was going to be, you know, the type of movie you watch for the humor and the cool action scenes and the inherently delightful dramatics of pop culture pirates, and you kind of overlook the fact that it's cliche and everyone's a bit flat.
  • But instead! Instead we get the humor and the action and the dramatics from a story that is, quite frankly, better-crafted than some books I've read. We get characters who are archetypal, yes, but generally not cliche, and who are genuinely clever. (I also appreciated how it's never just one character saving everyone else. No one's infallible. No one's always right.) And I can really see why everyone loved it so much. And I'm sure the sequels won't be as good, but yeah. I want to watch them anyway.
  • (I would also like to argue that the movie did a really good job with its antagonists/villains. Like, Norrington is clearly set up as an antagonist, but he's honorable and his decisions make sense given who he is. He'd be a hero in another story; he just had the bad luck to be in this one. And Barbossa — look, he's awful and a generally terrible person, but he makes sense too. And he's almost a more sympathetic villain (in the sense of a villain you're meant to feel sympathy for) than most of the actually-intended-as-sympathetic villains people are writing these days.)
  • This has been your regularly scheduled Sarah-ramble-about-things-everyone-already-knew. Thank you for your patience.
  • As per the usual, I'm still watching Critical Role, and I still am not very far along, and I still get anxiety when the group tries to talk to authority figures. Except now I get anxious about pretty much everyone doing it, not just Nott and Jester. But it's fiiiiiiiiiine. I'm having fun.


  • April was, as I predicted, a pretty quiet month. Even Easter felt rather like just another weekend — we went to the Saturday service (to avoid the Sunday crowds), and once again, our Bible Study didn't have the usual celebration, so we spent the day at home. My mom did make a lemon-blueberry tart, though, so that was delicious and exciting.
  • At work, we officially started livestreaming services with . . . minimal hiccups. They were not the hiccups I had expected and prepared for, unfortunately. But at this point, things seem to be going fine.
  • I've also concluded that newsletters are one of the most challenging design types I have to do for either work or publishing. You'd think that books would be harder, but — no, not really. A book cover's really just a poster seen at a different scale. And book interiors, you design a chapter heading page and right and left sides to the spread and poof! You're done! Newsletters, every page in the spread looks different, and you're trying to figure out how to fit in all the information and make it look fun and exciting, and it's honestly kind of intimidating initially.
  • Despite my best intentions, I did not start learning VBA. I did pick up the basics of Adobe Premiere and some aspects of video editing, though, so . . . there's that. (I quickly determined that video editing is a rather different animal than photo editing, and there are fewer transferable skills than I expected. People who do it for a living: you have my respect.)

May Plans

  • May should be a little more exciting than April was, both because of holidays and because my sister will be home from for the summer! It'll be nice to have her around again. I've missed her. (Also, when she's home, I have someone to play Sentinels and watch stuff with.)
  • I have high hopes of this being the month that I finish the TMS Sequel. Theoretically, as long as I don't have my timeline messed up, it should be doable. A lot of what's left will have very few changes to the actual scenes, just changes to the order of events. (And once I get past the chapter or two I'm writing now, there won't even be that many changes to the sequence.) I'm trying not to be too optimistic, though.
  • Aaaaaand I really need to get things moving again with D&D writing. My problem is that I get caught up in making maps and background info, and then that takes longer than I expected, and then, poof, I'm behind. But I'll catch up again soon, now that the prep stuff is all done.

How was your April? Any exciting plans for May? What's something that you discovered ages after everyone else had already experienced it and moved on? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 23, 2021

Love and Memory Blog Tour: Interview With Kendra E. Arndek

 Hey'a, everyone! Today, we're celebrating the release of Love and Memory, the third book in Kendra E. Ardnek's Rizkaland Legends! I very much enjoyed this book (hop over to Light and Shadows, my other blog, to read about why), and I'm excited that other people get to read it now instead of just Kendra's alpha/beta readers. And today, we've got an interview with the author herself in which she'll share a bit about this book and her journey writing it. (Also, make sure you stop back tomorrow for an interview with one of the characters from the book!) But before we jump into the interview, let's get the details on the book and author.

About the Book and Author

About Love and Memory

The Rizkaland Legends #3

When a Queen forgets,
Her enemies rejoice in her weakness.
But when the Queen remembers,
They tremble in fear.
When a King loves,
His country rejoices with him.
But when that love is broken.
The land is broken, too.
Can Water and Fire join again?
Can Love and Memory be restored?

They spent years in Rizkaland. They ruled the land, forged friendships, built families, and made it their home. But then it was time to return to Earth, and their former lives just don’t fit anymore. Clara and Andrew struggle to reevaluate their priorities when hundreds of miles separate them. Reuben and Petra are lost as they seek a balance between their old friendship and their Rizkan marriage. And Ashna and Noraeto never planned to return, so what life is there for them on Earth?

When the unthinkable happens and a new enemy arises, they’re all thrown back into Rizkaland, into a young prince’s rise to power and struggle to build alliances for his kingdom. But they no longer belong in their other world, either.

Are good memories too much to bear?

Buy it on Amazon || Add it on Goodreads

About Kendra E. Ardnek

Kendra E. Ardnek is the self-proclaimed Arista of Fairy Tales. She lives in the Piney Woods of East Texas with her dragon babies and massive herd of mini-giraffes, and she is still waiting for one of of her fifty nutcrackers to come to life and marry her. When not writing, you can usually find her sitting in a random box, and she’s frequently known to act before she thinks.

Find her online at: Website || Blog || Goodreads || Facebook || Twitter || YouTube || Newsletter || Instagram || TikTok || Amazon 

Interview With Kendra E. Ardnek

Welcome back to the blog! To start out, where did the inspiration for Love and Memory come from, and what additional sources of inspiration did you find along the way?

I don't know where the initial idea came from (beyond my obsession with amnesia, and the fact that using it with a certain couple was just tooooo tempting a torment to not do), and there's a lot of stuff of stuff I've magpied into the book over its evolution. 


Actually a lot of this book's writing process can be summed up in "A fan made a request/asked a question and I figured this was the book to address it. So ... possibly explains why it became 600 pages long.

That would make for a long book. LaM is a return to your Rizkaland Legends series, of which you've previously published two books. How did the experience of writing LaM differ from writing those books?

Um, mostly the fact that I now had an existing fanbase that had expectations for the book. WPFP and LDTD both came out so quickly together, and each had such an insular cast, no one really had an opinion, but LaM started percolating only right about the time of WPFP's publication, so fan expectations really played a large role in what subplots I tackled.

Interesting. Although LaM is a portal fantasy, it's also a story about what happens after a portal fantasy adventure and how you rebuild and return to what you left behind. Many portal fantasy series tend to overlook or minimize this particular struggle. How did you decide to instead focus on this aspect of the story?

Because I had a fan who specifically request to know exactly what happened to Clara and Andrew after they got back. I was also hugely influenced by a bunch of Narnia fanfiction. 

Without revealing any major spoilers, what was your favorite scene in this book to write? Can you share a snippet from it?

There's an eight thousand word chapter in part 3 that is absolutely amazing, but it's absolutely spoilers, so ... *sigh*

Aw, oh well. We'll just have to look forward to reading it for ourselves. Fun question time! Many of the characters in the Rizkaland Legends have special powers or abilities. Which character's power would you most like to have for yourself and why?

Petra and Reuben's telepathy. I mean, the others are cool and all, but ... mind talking! 

Think fast! The main cast of this book has spontaneously appeared in your living room! How do you react, and what do you do?

Realize that I need a bigger living room. And that I should probably clean. 

Haha, don't we all? What would you say is the biggest thing you learned (about writing or anything else) while writing this book?

Readers are opinionated. And when you declare a book a catch-all for the plots that you can't fit into the rest of the series ... it gets thick fast.

Yeah, it would. To finish out our discussion, now that LaM is out in the world, what's your next project going to be?

Rose Petals and Snowflakes, the first in a series of Jane Austen/Fairy Tale mashups that I'm incredibly excited about. Lemme just say - Colonel Brandon makes an AWESOME bear. 

I bet he does. Thanks for answering my questions!

Are you excited to read Love and Memory? Please tell me in the comments! Also, don't forget to check out the preorder giveaway and the rest of today's tour stops (listed below).

Thanks for reading!


April 23rd – Friday
Knitted By God’s Plan: Book 4 Title Announcement
Dreams & Dragons: Interview – Kendra
A. R. Silverberry: Interview – Andrew
Light & Shadows: Review

Friday, April 9, 2021

Some Thoughts on Spoilers

Hello, all! So, spoilers are, of course, a Big Deal, both in fandom and in culture as a whole. It's considered common courtesy to take care what you share about your favorite stories, to mark spoilers when you post about them online, and to ask permission before sharing spoilery info in a face-to-face conversation. In some cases, studios and creators have even published official reminders to their audiences to be careful about what they share. On every level, people take spoilers seriously. In fact, I would argue that they take them a little too seriously — that spoilers don't necessarily spoil your enjoyment of a story and fandom culture (and fandom creators) might need to take a collective chill pill when it comes to dealing with them.

Some Thoughts on Spoilers

  1. It's possible to fully enjoy a story while knowing all the spoilers (or all the major ones). Harry Potter, Fairy Tail, Critical Role — these are all stories I've gotten into after learning a lot of major spoilers. Storms, I knew every character who died in Harry Potter before I ever picked up the first book, and I'd heard summaries of half the story arcs and character backstories and character relationships in Fairy Tail months and years before I considered watching it. Knowing those spoilers didn't make me enjoy the stories any less. I watched Fairy Tail until I ran out of English episodes (it's one of only three TV shows I've actually watched sort of all the way through). And, yes, I did sort of drop off with Harry Potter — but my decision had nothing to do with what I knew or didn't know and everything to do with my feelings on certain tropes.
  2. Knowing spoilers can help you enjoy a story more in some cases. Let's talk about Critical Role. I got into this fandom through fanart, listening to the theme song (which showed up solo on my YouTube feed one day and is AWESOME, just FYI), and especially through fan-made animatics. As a result, I came in knowing . . . well, not the same level of spoilers I knew about Harry Potter, but still a lot of spoilers, including everything from the biggest events, reveals, and twists in the game to the best and funniest small moments in the story. And yet I've stuck with this show much, much longer than I've stuck with shows that I went into "clean." Why? Knowing the spoilers meant I'd already fallen in love with the characters, so I had more patience with them when they frustrated me. It meant I had a sense of anticipation and eagerness when I realized I was getting close to seeing one of those big moments for real or when I noticed something clearly foreshadowing or leading up to one of those big moments. And it meant I had twice the fun of seeing those small, fun moments — both the pleasure of watching the moment and the excitement of recognizing "Oh, that's the context for this!" In a sense, it's like having the best parts of both the first-time read/watch and the reread/re-watch at once.
  3. Too much focus on "no spoilers!" can lead to bad storytelling. Look. I love a good twist as much as anyone. I praise authors like Brandon Sanderson and Megan Whalen Turner for their ability to pull off massive twists that you don't see coming but make perfect sense in hindsight. But a trend I'm picking up on lately is that creators (especially TV/movie studios, especially Marvel) are focusing too much on making sure their audience never saw it coming. I have even heard — second- or third-hand, but the source was, so it seems pretty reliable — that some recent shows had last-minute changes made because fans had guessed what was going to happen. But the problem with doing that is that now, all your foreshadowing is just red herrings . . . and your new twist may not have the support it needs to make sense. If you accept that sometimes, people will guess what's coming — if you accept that for many people, finding the clues and guessing what's going to happen five minutes or five pages in advance is part of the fun — your stories will be stronger.
  4. Too much emphasis on going in "clean" could make people think there's only one acceptable way to experience a story. This isn't something I've seen happen yet, but it seems like the logical progression of the current cultural attitudes. If fandom keeps obsessing over "No spoilers!" and going into a story "clean," it makes people think that the only way you can truly enjoy a story is if you know nothing about it except the blurb and maybe your friend's favorite character. Which, if you remember point #2, is nonsense. But if someone has that attitude, they're probably going to miss out on a lot of amazing works of storytelling because they accidentally were exposed to spoilery information and now they think it's ruined. But — look. Even if you don't agree with what I said earlier about spoilers improving your experience, you have to admit that there's more to a story than its big twists. Characters, world, themes — spoilers might affect your view of these a little, but they don't have to take away your ability to enjoy them.
  5. Obsession with no spoilers can hinder fans' ability to bring new people into the fandom. Of course, the other side of thinking people can only enjoy a story if they go in "clean" is that you have a much harder time talking about the story. And if you can't talk about the story, how are other people going to get into it? I watched Fairy Tail because my roommate had told me so much about it — careless of spoilers because at the time, I didn't watch anime, and I didn't plan to start — that I wanted to know more. I played Portal because some online friends kept making references to GLaDOS and neurotoxin and cake and I wanted to know what they were talking about. I read . . . well, a lot of books, quite frankly . . . because I'd seen people share favorite snippets or excerpts or fanfics, sometimes very spoilery ones, and was curious about the story they came from. If I hadn't seen or heard the spoilers, I wouldn't have experienced the stories. And that would've been a tragedy.

Obviously (I hope), I'm not saying that we should stop marking spoilers or that it's wrong to want to go into a story without knowing what happens. There are books that I do try to avoid spoilers for because I know half the excitement of the book is going to be the big twists. And I would never knowingly/willingly reveal spoilers to someone who I knew wasn't OK with hearing them. But I do think we need to consider if maybe, just maybe, spoilers aren't as big a deal as we've made them out to be.

What do you think about spoilers? Will knowing what's coming ruin your enjoyment of the story? Or do you agree that maybe we're putting a little too much energy and emphasis into not knowing them beforehand? Please tell me in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 2, 2021

March 2021 Doings!


Good morning, everyone! (Or afternoon, or evening, or night, or moment beyond the petty grasps of time, whenever you happen to be reading this.) Wordpress has permanently gotten rid of the Classic Editor, and I am mightily annoyed. Yes, there's the classic block in the block editor that functions the same way, but . . . it's a pure white workspace, y'all, and I am not digging it, even if it does look "clean" and "modern" and "minimally distracting." Give me back my sidebars, storm you! Anyway. All rants aside, March is gone, spring is upon us, and it's time to check in with a new round of Doings!


  • Work on the TMS Sequel continues . . . slower than I'd like it to. I ended up having to rewrite Chapters 4, 5, and 7 more times than I thought I would, and though I'm very happy with the end result, it was a bit rough getting there. I've also been rearranging a lot of scenes, which means creating a timeline so I know what's happening when and who's getting how many POV scenes. (The result is that chapters/scenes from one plotline currently heavily outweigh those from the other plotline . . . which is unfortunate. But I'm also not sure I can do a lot about it because there's a lot more happening in the one than in the other. Hopefully they'll even out over time or I can think of something to add to the one.)
  • Anyway. I'm currently sitting at Chapter 15, and I've been averaging two chapters rewritten per week. I'd like to pick up that pace a little next month, but we'll see what happens. I'm trying to make some adjustments to make a certain element of the base fairytale fit better with the story, and it's . . . difficult.
  • On the D&D front, I've finished writing the one subplot, and now I just have finale stuff to put together! I think I'm getting back into the swing of this kind of writing, which makes me quite happy. My current big challenge is "How do I arrange events so the friendly NPCs who my players joined up with don't take over combat?" That's proving . . . interesting. And it's going to be even more important come the actual finale. But we'll figure it out.
  • (That said, I put the finishing adjustments on the details for part of the final boss encounter yesterday, and if it goes even vaguely like I hope it will, it's going to be so cool. I'm super excited.)


  • March was a much lighter reading month than February. Part of that is that I didn't have as many snow days; part was that I had forgotten just why The Well of Ascension is my least favorite Mistborn book. It's still a really good book, but . . . it's hard to get through at times. (I also really dislike Zane.) Thus why I paused reading it a bunch of times to read other books.
  • On the upside, I did discover a new favorite series this month: Miss Sharp's Monsters by Suzannah Rowntree! I raved about the first book in the series, The Werewolf of Whitechapel, last Friday, so I won't repeat myself. But to summarize, it's mysteries and murders in an alternate late-Victorian England with a delicious storytelling style and a magnificent heroine, and I can't recommend it enough. Go read it. Seriously.
  • The other new release I read this month was the Wingfeather Tales anthology, which was a reread but still quite good. Again, I covered my thoughts on the book in a Friday 5s post, so I won't go into depth here. It's a good anthology, though I don't love every story in it.
  • Also in short story territory, I finally read H.L. Burke's fun short story "Ghosted," which was a nice twist on the haunted house trope. I can't say a lot without running up against spoilers, but I will say that I very much enjoyed the story.
  • Currently, I'm working through the Unicorn Anthology assembled by Peter S. Beagle (which is ok, but I may DNF because it's coming due at the library soon and I'm not sure I care enough about the rest of the stories to get it back out) and a Warbreaker reread, which is quite enjoyable. I've been meaning to reread this and Elantris for a bit, so I'm glad to finally get around to it. (Yes, I am going to finish my Mistborn reread, but I needed a break.)


  • About midway through the month, my dad says (paraphrased), "Hey, so there's this Star Trek episode, 'Spectre of the Gun' that apparently partially inspired/influenced the people who made The Matrix. It's on Amazon Prime. We should watch it." And because I was tired and figured I wasn't going to be productive that night anyway, I said sure, I'd watch it too.
  • So we start watching it, and my first thought is . . . didn't we see a multicolored flashing object giving off weird warnings in another episode? Is this a thing that happens? Or am I just imagining things?
  • (I was not imagining things. The episode I was thinking of was "The Corbomite Manuever," and it has some interesting similarities to "Spectre," but also pretty much an opposite resolution? Sort of? I digress.)
  • Anyway. We watch the episode. And, yeah, you can see how it influenced The Matrix, but I was too distracted to really focus on that because — look. Spock, at least, should've figured out the situation within the first five minutes. Storms, they all should've figured it out within the first five minutes (except maybe Chekhov, who seems to be a bit easily distracted — Chekhov fans, if I'm misjudging your fave, sorry; I'm pulling from limited data). And, yeah, if they had, it wouldn't have been the same story, but there could've been a story and more done with the particular idea that the episode was exploring.
  • The moral of this story is . . . I don't know. If you're going to have your characters make assumptions, at least make those assumptions reasonable? Or possibly "When dealing with powerful telepathic beings, doubt everything in front of you."
  • (Now that I'm thinking about it, the concept actually would be a pretty cool concept for a D&D party to face. And it's pretty interesting in general. I just feel like the Star Trek writers could've done a better job with it.)
  • Moving on from my uncharitable analysis of classic Star Trek, we also watched High Noon, which . . . was not what I expected, really. It's a Western, but it's really more of a character drama wearing western clothes and a gunbelt. It was very well done, just not what I usually think of when I think western.
  • And, of course, I'm still watching Critical Role. I've made it up to Episode 57, and I've finally met Essek. I feel like I already have a pretty good idea why he's such a fan favorite. I've also learned that probably the most stressful thing that can happen in the entire show is Jester and Nott being the party's face for dealing with authority figures. I had to pause or go down to one earbud and lowered volume so many times because I was dying of "No, no, no, why are you like that you are going to get yourselves killed." Like, it made perfect sense in context for them to be in that position. And it certainly makes for a good story. But it still stresses me out more than any combat has up to this point. (Even so, the last two episodes were SO GOOD.)
  • Also, this isn't exactly watching, but it's sort of tangential — Amazon Music (which is one of the two apps I mostly listen to music on) has apparently come to the conclusion that I'm into musicals? And so it's been sprinkling miscellaneous Broadway and off-Broadway musical soundtracks into my mix? But they aren't big-name everyone-knows-this musicals like Les Mis or Phantom or Wicked. (Well, there've been a few Les Mis songs. But not many.) They're . . . I don't know if they're niche, but it's stuff like Six and Come from Away and the Percy Jackson musical? And something about Shakespeare that I can't actually remember the name of? And I have no idea how this happened, but I've actually discovered some good stuff from it, so I rather hope it keeps happening.
  • (Well, except for the Dear Evan Hansen songs that keep popping up, which I actually dislike — I've tried to listen to the musical twice and couldn't get past the first song either time. I'd like it if those stopped appearing. But the rest of the random musicals are good.)


  • For those curious, my paladin did not have a breakdown or get pushed over the tipping point by family drama. (She did have a little bit of a breakdown for other reasons. But that's because she still hasn't fully processed the fact that they can just call/talk to some pretty powerful beings. Including a literal deity. You'd think she'd be used to that one by now, or at least more comfortable with it since she's, y'know, a paladin, but nope.) Anyway. The family drama was actually considerably less dramatic than I expected — both in and out of character, I was fully prepared to have to disown someone. And I didn't. So that was nice. And I got some nice roleplay moments with my character's family members (including one I've been hoping my DM would bring in for ages). And all in all, much fun was had, even if we only met twice again.
  • I did end up trying to make the chocolate-raspberry biscotti like I said I was going to, and it went much better than the butterscotch biscotti I did in January did. It held together very nicely and was just generally so much easier than the first batch I made. I actually preferred the flavor of the butterscotch, though, so . . . yeah.
  • Probably the most exciting (or at least out of the ordinary) thing that happened was a weekend trip to see my grandpa on Palm Sunday weekend — our usual weekend commitments got canceled for a variety of reasons, so it seemed like a good time to go visit. We didn't do much while we were up there, but it was nice to get to spend time with him after so long.
  • At the office, most of the month has been relatively chill. I'm quite well settled in (still no decorations, but I have a kettle and a routine), and I'm still enjoying the work. I've been learning a lot about livestreaming as the church is working on getting that going — since I do a lot of the media, it's close enough to my job description (and my interests in general) that a lot of the setup and "figure out how this works" responsibilities landed on my plate. (That also meant I got to revisit my documentation design skills — I haven't done that in a while! It made a nice change of pace, though.)
  • And then Holy Week hit and everything got much busier for everyone. I had my first run of putting together a Sunday bulletin (the church hasn't been handing them out because of COVID, but they wanted to do one for Easter), and there were slides and social media graphics and promotional materials to put together, plus normal stuff . . . Even with all that, though, I might've been the least stressed person in the office. Most days, anyway. And I think everyone's happy with how everything turned out.
  • (I also learned that I want to learn Visual Basic for Applications sometime. Maybe next month, if I have time and can find a free course on YouTube or something with an instructor I like.)

April Plans

  • So, yeah, April is typically Camp NaNoWriMo. And I wasn't sure if I'd do Camp or not this year, what with the whole "having a job" thing. To be honest, I kind of forgot that it was happening (well, more accurately, I forgot that April was happening) until this last Monday. Whoops. But the theme for this year is NaNoFinMo — National Novel Finishing Month. And I do need to finish editing the Midnight Show sequel. So guess who made her Camp goal two days before the event started? Yep. That's right. This girl. It'll be good, though. (Or it'll kill me. We'll see!)
  • Other than Camp NaNoWriMo, things will probably be quiet. We don't have much planned for Easter . . . or for most of the month, really. Things may start ramping up at work, now that warmer weather and looser restrictions mean more church events to promote. But I imagine it'll all be pretty manageable. I will start working on the first newsletter I've done without someone watching over my shoulder/training me, though, so that's exciting.
  • The one other semi-exciting thing: a lot of book releases that I'm involved with in terms of either being on the blog/social media tour or having ARCs or having been a beta or all of the above. I think I may have something going on somewhere every week, actually, or every week except the last week . . . (Also, I GOT AN ARC OF ANARCHIST ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS! Otherwise known as Miss Sharp #2. And also an ARC of A Thieving Curse! I am SO EXCITED.)
  • In terms of D&D, writing will probably go a little on hold unless I decide that I can count both it and TMS towards Camp NaNoWriMo. But I think I have enough material to keep things moving, especially if sessions remain short as they have been, which I expect they will. And in terms of the campaign I play in but don't run, well . . . we have an underdark adventure and then a face-off with a dragon aberration (or at least its followers) ahead, so that's going to be interesting. (I'm actually really excited for the underdark bit. And kinda worried about the aberration bit and the chance that we'll have another player death. Or semi-death. From the same player as the last one. I mean, I finally have Revivify, so we might be OK? But also . . . concern.)

How was your March? Any exciting plans for April? TBA? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 26, 2021

Why You NEED to Read The Werewolf of Whitechapel

 Hello, all! So, if you read last week's post, you may remember me absolutely raving about one book in particular: The Werewolf of Whitechapel, the first in Suzannah Rowntree's new historical fantasy mystery series, Miss Sharp's Monsters. If you didn't read last week's post (or if you did read it but you don't remember it because you skimmed through it, added a bunch of books to your TBR list, and then stuffed more important things into its memory-space), here's the quick need-to-know about the book: it's set in a fantastical alternate England, and it follows Liz Sharp, an amnesiac werewolf victim and lady's maid and bodyguard who's trying to solve her best friend's murder. For some of you, that may be all you need to know to know why you should ABSOLUTELY read it as soon as humanely possible. If so, it's on Amazon in Kindle form (just released yesterday!), and a paperback version is on the way. But if you need a little more convincing, well, read on!

Why You NEED to Read The Werewolf of Whitechapel

  1. The storytelling style is deliciousThe Werewolf of Whitechapel is written in a more modern and fast-paced version of the Victorian memoir, which is to say that it's very conversational and full of personality and little asides and hints. It sort of takes the best parts of Victorian and modern writing and blends them together, and the result is just such a delight to read. And Rowntree does this sort of thing a lot — the other books of hers that I've read also had a more old-fashioned tone and style to match the eras they're set in — but it's especially effective here. Though that's in no small part thanks to the fact that . . .
  2. Miss Sharp is magnificent. Devastatingly loyal, recklessly bold, impossibly curious, and unrelentingly dedicated to discovering truth, with a wit as keen as her name, Miss Liz Sharp is everything you could possibly want in a fantasy-mystery heroine. She's no intellectual, unlike some other favorite detectives, but she's clever and not afraid to get her hands dirty when necessary. She's also very capable of taking care of herself, which is fun. In many respects, she reminds me of Isabella Farrah from Masque, but less polished and with significantly less social rank to apply to her problems.
  3. The worldbuilding is excellent. Essentially, the thrones of Europe are held by monsters of mythology — vampires, sirens, and, of course, werewolves — all except for the throne of England. And Rowntree did a magnificent job of taking that premise and combining it with well-researched historical reality to create a version of the world that feels believable and even unquestionable. The attitudes of different people and groups, the portrayal of actual historical figures (many of whom play major roles in the story), the details . . . it's all very well done.
  4. It's kind of nice that the lead isn't anyone particularly "special." This is a weird thing to like, but bear with me, please. Miss Sharp is clever, but she's not the smartest person in the room. She's well-trained, but not more so than any of the other girls in her situation. She's not gifted with special knowledge or anything of the sort. She's not an ordinary person — I mean, remember the "amnesiac werewolf victim" bit I mentioned earlier? — but she's not the only one of her kind. That's a bit unusual for a detective, fantasy or otherwise — classic detectives tend to be the smartest person in the room; fantasy-mystery detectives are often magically gifted (like Jackaby or Harry Dresden) or at least connected with a magical organization of some kind (like Irene of The Invisible Library). That makes Miss Sharp a bit of a rarity, but in a good way.
  5. Overall, the story is, as some might put it, rather a lark to read. There's just the right balance of humor and action and suspense, mixed in with slowly growing friendships and genuinely emotional moments, to make this book perfectly enjoyable. One moment you're laughing at the banter between characters or Miss Sharp's asides to the reader; the next you're clutching the book and frantically turning pages as our hero ventures into a den of monsters in search of answers or discovers a shocking truth. There's never a slow moment, and the story is solid without being weighty.

Are you excited about The Werewolf of Whitechapel yet? If not, you should be — I'd rank it up JackabyMasque, and The Invisible Library in terms of how much I love it. I even preordered the sequel pretty much as soon as I saw it was available, and I almost never do that. Anyway, excited or not, please tell me in the comments! (And if you scored an ARC like I did, tell me that too so we can rave over it together!)
Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 19, 2021

Spring 2021 Reads

 Hey'a, everyone! So, after winter's rather underwhelming release lineup, this spring's list looks amazing — though, honestly, it would look amazing compared to just about any release lineup. While we don't have long-anticipated releases on the level of Return of the Thief, we have some reads on this list that I already know are amazing and a lot of others that I have high hopes for. And when I say "a lot," I really mean a lot. When I made my original list of all the books releasing this spring that I was interested in, there were over 20 books on it. Even after I cut the ones I was less enthusiastic about or that I was uncomfortable with based on early reviews or other newly-released information, I had a solid seventeen titles that I wanted to feature in my release posts. So, this list is going to take a little time to get through . . . but trust me, it's worth it.

Spring 2021 Reads

1. The Bright and the Pale by Jessica Rubinowski (March 2). I want to start by stating that I really like this cover. The colors, the art style, the little bits of northern lights in the sky, the typeface and the little icicles on the word pale . . . it's just very pretty. The story sounds like it has a great deal of potential too; it's Russian-inspired fantasy, and some of the reviews suggest it has that edge of creepiness that can make for a really enjoyable tale.

2. Sing Me Forgotten by Jessica S. Olsen (March 9). So this is a genderbent Phantom of the Opera retelling told from the perspective of the Phantom equivalent, and while I'm not a huge Phantom fan (mostly because I think Christine Daae is largely an idiot), this does sound pretty cool? The idea of memory magic has a lot of potential, and it sounds like the romantic relationships might be handled a bit better. We'll see.

3. Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley (March 16). Obviously I don't usually go in for contemporary. But I love a good mystery, and I'm still trying to read more books outside speculative fiction, so we're going to give this a try. It does sound pretty exciting.

4. The Seventh Raven by David Elliott (March 16). There are not enough Six Ravens/Wild Swans retellings out there — I only know of one other, and that one was . . . disappointing, to say the least. So I have very high hopes for The Seventh Raven! I'm hoping for a good focus on family ties and sibling relationships and all that sort of thing. The book is also written in verse instead of prose, which will be quite different from my usual fare.

5. Wingfeather Tales by Andrew Peterson and friends (March 23). I shared my thoughts on this anthology last week, but to sum up: if you read the Wingfeather Saga when it re-released last year (or in general) and you want more tales from Aerwiar, this book is just the thing to satisfy that appetite. There's something in this anthology for everyone, and the stories range from an Arabian-Nights-esque adventure in "The Prince of Yorsha Doon" to a high-seas look at a favorite Wingfeather character's past in "From the Deeps of the Dragon King" to a heartbreakingly raw and beautiful journey in "The Places Beyond the Maps." (And there's a Florid Sword comic! Which is awesome.)

6. The Werewolf of Whitechapel by Suzannah Rowntree (March 25). THIS BOOK, Y'ALL. There isn't a single book on this list I'm more excited about than The Werewolf of Whitechapel. I signed up for an eARC of it and read it earlier this week, and oh my pumpernickel. It's one of my favorite books I've read this year. It reminds me a lot of W.R. Gingell's Masque — which, you may recall, I utterly adore and read twice in a single year — but set in a fantastical alternate-history England, in which mythological monsters hold the thrones of Europe. And it's SO GOOD. And I need EVERYONE ELSE to buy it and read it AT ONCE so y'all can experience the AWESOMENESS and appreciate Miss Sharp with me.

7. Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo (March 30). On one hand, I was kind of meh about King of Scars — which is tragic, given how much I loved Nikolai in the original Grisha trilogy and Nina in the Six of Crows duology. (In all fairness, Nikolai's character is of the type that often works best when seen from a POV other than his own.) On the other hand . . . maybe the second book will be better since I won't have such high expectations? And I do want to see how things end.

8. Broken (In the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson (April 6). I read Jenny's other two books over the last couple months, and while I didn't love them, they have a certain mad charm to them. So, I'm looking forward to reading Broken (and I hope I enjoy it, because I won a copy off Goodreads and it would therefore be a shame if I end up disliking it). If nothing else, her books are always an interesting shift from my usual speculative fiction fare.

9. The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman (April 6). Here's a little sci-fi to liven up the list! Though apparently this is actually a blend of sci-fi and fantasy, which just makes it even better. And we've got an evil AI, which always makes for an interesting story . . . though it also means I'll end up comparing however they portray AI to what we talked about when I took a class on the philosophy of AI, so there's that.

10. A Thieving Curse by Selina R. Gonzalez (April 7). I am always immensely fond of Beauty and the Beast retellings, and dragons, of course, just make everything better! So, of course, I'm very excited to have discovered this book in time to feature it. There's also a preorder campaign with some pretty nice book swag, for anyone who's inclined to order the book early! (I'm torn between that and saving my money for a Werewolf of Whitechapel paperback, personally.) Also, can we take a moment to appreciate that beautiful cover art?

 11. Love and Memory by Kendra E. Ardnek (April 19). It's been a while since Kendra's brought us back to Rizkaland, but the wait is very nearly over! One of Kendra's greatest strengths as a writer is that she's often willing and eager to ask "What happens next?" where other authors might write "Happily Ever After" (or "Unhappily Ever After," as the case may be) and be done with it. That's one of the things I love about her Bookania Quests, and I'm immensely excited to see her do it again in Love and Memory. Petra, Reuben, Andrew, and Clara may be home from Rizkaland . . . but now they have to figure out how to pick up the pieces of their lives, and, well . . . let's just say it's a struggle.

12. Invading Hell by Bryan Davis (April 16/May 15). This is the second book in the Oculus Gate series, the first of which released last summer. (I posted my thoughts on that book, Heaven Came Down, as a Friday 5s post, if you want to read them.) While I had mixed feelings about the end of book 1, I'm excited to see some of my favorite characters (by which I mostly mean Leo and Iona) again. And, hey, you know when you pick up a Bryan Davis that it's guaranteed to be out of the ordinary.

13. Luck of the Titanic by Stacy Lee (May 4). I feel like this is going to be a tragedy on some level. I get the impression that most Titanic stories are. (I only have two data points to draw from, though, so I could be wrong.) It sounds like it has a lot of potential, though, and it's a sibling story, so I'm looking forward to that.

14. Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (May 11). Nomance! Non-European fantasy! Conspiracies! Secrets! Lore! And also a main character who's described as a "scholar," which I hope means he'll have some delightful moments of "The thing I learned about . . . the thing I studied . . . it's real and now and right in front of me oh this is so cool." I would also accept some moments of "Danger? What danger? This is an unprecedented research opportunity!" (Side note: I think I may've just realized another reason I really like the Stormlight Archives.)

15. The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman (May 15). Something about this book's blurb is giving me Knight and Rogue-but-way-darker vibes, and I'm here for it. I really hope we get a delightful friendship between the main characters; any kind of positive relationship between the straight-laced, honorable noble warrior and the clever, sneaky, live-by-my-wits-and-my-speed rogue tends to be so much fun to read. Also, apparently there's a kraken. Or multiple kraken. And I'm so here for that too.

16. The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green (May 16). For those unaware, The Anthropocene Reviewed was originally a podcast created by John Green, in which he reviews parts of the world and society on a five-star scale. He covers everything from Canada Geese to Diet Dr. Pepper to pineapple on pizza to plague in a gentle, meditative fashion, discussing the history of the thing and how it impacts and reflects aspects of the world as a whole. I've only listened to a small portion of it (I'm not a big podcast person, unlike . . . basically the rest of the world, it seems like), but I enjoyed what I did listen to. I'm looking forward to seeing what I love translated into my favorite form of media.

17. The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis (May 18). This is a historical urban fantasy with maybe a hint of mystery? It sounds like it might be a mystery, and we all know I hope it's a mystery. Early reviews are coming in mixed, but the blurb sounds good. And it sounds like we may be getting some science and magic mixing, which I almost always enjoy.

What book releases are you excited for this spring? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 12, 2021

Thoughts on the Wingfeather Tales

 Hello, all! Y'all may remember my exultation over the new editions of the Wingfeather Saga last year. I'm happy to say that the exultation continues as there's another re-release! The Wingfeather Tales was originally written as an anthology of stories and poems written by Andrew Peterson and many of his author friends to entice and reward backers for the Wingfeather short film a few years ago. Now it's being made widely available (with the addition of a bonus Florid Sword & Shadowblade comic!), releasing March 23, and I am very excited that new fans will get to enjoy it! Since this is an anthology, reviewing in Friday 5s format is going to be a little interesting . . . but I'm still going to do my best to provide my thoughts on the collection, its high points and low points, and whether or not you should pre-order it on Amazon or add it to your Goodreads TBR. (Spoiler alert: you should totally do both. Unless you haven't read the rest of the series, in which case you should just add it to your TBR for now and go pick up the other books.)


Thoughts on the Wingfeather Tales

  1. Before you ask, these stories aren't sequels, and that's a good thing. A couple of the stories, specifically "The Prince of Yorsha Doon," the Florid Sword & Shadowblade comic, and parts of "The Places Beyond the Maps" do take place after the end of The Warden and the Wolf King. However, none of the Wingfeathers show up, so all we're really told is that Maraly and Gammon continue to be awesome and Oscar continues to be Oscar . . . and I'm happy about that. I think most other people are too. Instead, what we mostly get are stories that take place before (or, in one case, concurrently with) the events of The Wingfeather Saga, which gives us a fun look into the past of Aerwiar and certain significant people and locations.
  2. The best story? "The Places Beyond the Maps." This is the last and longest story in the anthology — a full novella, actually, that takes up half the book. And it's heartbreaking, but it's also beautifully written. The style is almost like if someone combined Andrew Peterson, Anne Elisabeth Stengl, and Jennifer Freitag (Plenilune, for those who don't know) into one person. It's gorgeous. And, as I said, heartbreaking, as we see a man driven to the very ends of himself, and the author lays this man's soul bare to the reader with stunning effectiveness. But it comes to beauty in the end.
  3. Wingfeather crossovers are not my favorite. To be more specific, two of these stories cross over Peterson's books with the books of another author (also known, though not especially well outside of certain circles, for Christian-themed fantasy), and they more or less ended up being my least favorite stories in the anthology. They're still good. And people who've read and loved the crossover series will probably enjoy these stories. For me, though? Not my favorite.
  4. We do get a Podo Helmer story! Since Podo is one of my favorite characters in the series, the bar was set pretty high for this tale . . . but it more than surpasses my expectations. It's set back in Podo's dragon-hunting days, and it's pretty great. While I'm not familiar with the author of the story (A.S. Peterson), he has an excellent storytelling voice, perfect for a seafaring story such as this. And the story he chose to tell . . . it's hard to say a lot without spoilers, but I'd say it's worth buying the anthology just for this and "The Places Beyond the Maps."
  5. If you saw "Florid Sword and Shadowblade comic" and got really excited, get the book in paper form. I got an eARC of this to review, which I read on my Kindle. Though I enjoyed the comic (I'm always a fan of both Gammon and Maraly), I did have a bit of trouble reading it on the screen. That might be different if you have a Kindle app on a device that lets you zoom in, I'd say it's worth just getting it in paper.

Are you excited for the Wingfeather Tales? Which story or stories are you most excited for (or, if you've read the anthology before, which did you like best)? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!