Friday, September 17, 2021

Autumn 2021 Reads

 First things first: Gilded in Ice releases in ONE WEEK! Or less if you're reading this after Friday. HUZZAH! Now I just have to finish the final proof (which would've been finished at least a week ago if I'd gotten my blog posts done when I meant to . . . stupid pneumonia) and write the rest of the seventeen blog posts for which I am in some way responsible and which needed to be posted between this morning and end of day next Saturday. (Ok, in all fairness, I'm only actually writing twelve of them. But still.) If you haven't yet, make sure you preorder the ebook and add it on Goodreads!

Of course, my book is far from the only book coming out this month. There's actually quite a list of shiny-looking new releases coming out this month or in the next two months! My original list had fifteen or so, a notable improvement from summer's somewhat sparse pickings. Of course, in the interest of not spending all night on this post, I've cut it down a little bit. So, what's on the list? Let's find out.

(Quick sidenote first, though: today is the last day to vote in this year's Silmaril Awards! So make sure you take the time to support all your favorite characters! Ok, that's all. On with the post!)

Autumn 2021 Reads

1. The Bones of Ruin by Sarah Raughley (September 7). This maaaaay end up being darker than I like . . . but it does sound really cool. Historical fantasy featuring a tightrope dancer (who apparently dual-wields swords?), a tournament, and the potential end of the world? That's hard to resist, y'all. Let's hope it lives up to what it can be.

2. Rose Petals and Snowflakes by Kendra E. Ardnek (September 25). Our first Frosted Rose! Kendra blends Snow White and Rose Red with Sense and Sensibility, which is not a combo I would've come up with, but is pretty cool. No pun intended. The release date for this one just got moved back a few days, which is unfortunate — but as a beta reader, I can say with confidence that, if you're a fan of Austen or fairy tale retellings, the extra few days are worth it. (You'll have to wait until the tour starts on Monday to get my full review, sorry.)

3. Runaway Lyrics by C.O. Bonham (September 21). Another Frosted Rose that I've actually read already, this time via ARC. (Again, though, I'm not giving away my full thoughts until the tour . . . well, technically I already posted a review on Facebook, but y'know.) We've got steampunkery, two sibling pairs, and music magic, so that's very much worth looking forward to.

4. As Long As We Live by Cortney Manning (September 22). This is the Frosted Rose I know the least about, but it's promsied me fae (including a fae prince in love with a human girl), sisterhood, magic, and treachery, so obviously I'm hyped. Also, Cortney wrote one of my favorite stories in the Five Poisoned Apples collection, so I know she's good.

5. Secrets of the Mountain by Wyn Estelle Owens (September 23). Wyn's stories tend to be full of family, magic, and mingled humor and epicness, so it should be no surprise that Secrets of the Mountain is the Frosted Rose I'm most excited about (other than my own). I loved The Dragon's Flower and The Dark King's Curse, and I'm sure that Secrets of the Mountain is going to be just as awesome. (No pressure or anything, Wyn! Not that I know if you still read my blogs . . .)

6. Gilded in Ice by Sarah Pennington (September 24). Oh, look! It's me! By now, I think that everyone's heard about Gilded, but in case anyone hasn't: it's the sequel to last year's The Midnight Show (though you could probably read it without having read The Midnight Show first if you really wanted to), and it features a semi-magical cat, two cases for Bastian to solve, and lots of sibling banter. 

7. The Bear by Rachel Roden (September 25). I'm really not sure how you pull off a non-magical, Western take on Snow White and Rose Red. But apparently it's a mystery! In the sense that it's about a mystery, not the sense that how it was pulled off is a mystery. And I look forward to finding out how it works out.

8. Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber (September 30). I have mixed feelings about Caraval — mixed enough that I never actually got around to reading the other books in the trilogy. (Maybe I will eventually . . . but not today.) But I know a fae story when I see one (even if they don't explicitly call the Prince of Hearts a fae), and we've got an ill-advised bargain and a curiosity shop, and, ok, yeah, I have a pretty good guess where the story will end up, but how it gets there is (hopefully) going to be delightful.

9. Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson (October 5). AT LAST. Margaret Rogerson returns! I'm excited enough about this that I preordered the OwlCrate special edition — and I never preorder books, much less special editions, so that's saying something. Vespertine sounds deliciously creepy and perfect for the Halloween season — and it's a nomance. I mean, Rogerson does a great job of writing romance, but I love it when authors recognize that not every story needs it and choose to focus on other types of relationship. (Also,can we take a minute to appreciate THAT COVER? Because, wow. I wish I could make covers that gorgeous.)

10. Gothel and the Maiden Prince by W.R. Gingell (October 1). It is a testament to how much I love W.R. Gingell's books that I even get excited about the ones that are marketed as being primarily-romance. (Well, this is romance and fairy tale retelling, but most of the marketing for the Villain's Ever After series seems to emphasize the romance bit.) Gingell has been sharing snippets on her Facebook and Discord, and Lucien and Gothel's dynamic reminds me a lot of Eurion and Carys (from Lady of Weeds), but with the added factor of a Rapunzel who might be more perceptive than Gothel would like? Suffice it to say: I am very excited and will probably devour this rapidly after it becomes available. Not quite as rapidly as I did Between Family, but still.

11. The Sorcerer and the Swan Princess by Lucy Tempest (October 8). I don't know if I'll actually end up reading this one or not? On one hand, I have yet to read Lucy Tempest's books, even though I have several of them on Kindle, and, again, it promises to be romance-heavy. On the other hand, I've never seen a Swan Princess retelling before, and I am immensely curious how they manage to redeem the villain. I think it'll be on Kindle Unlimited, though, so if I don't have to spend money (and if initial reviews are good), I might just give it a chance.

12. Curse of the Midnight King by Yakira Goldsberry (November 9). I just realized that 70% of this list is fairy tale retellings. Wow. Anyway, Curse of the Midnight King is a Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling, so it should be no surprise that I'm excited — but I also have high hopes for a deliciously dark and engaging villain, and maybe some Hades and Persephone vibes? It's going to be great. (And I have an ARC, so I get to read it just as soon as the Frosted Roses and the Silmaril Awards are over!

13. Critical Role: Vox Machina — Kith & Kin by Marieke Nijkamp (November 30). Have I watched the first Critical Role campaign yet? No. Am I likely to watch it anytime soon? Also probably not, unless you use Aslan's definition of "soon." (Not because I don't want to, but I'm still stuck in the middle of Campaign 2 because I am just not vibing with Raini.) Have I gotten attached to Vex and Vax anyway by way of fanart, animatics, and the Critical Role: Origins comics? Yes. Am I probably going to try to read Kith & Kin if I can get my hands on it? Absolutely.

What book releases are you excited for this fall? Do you prefer romances or nomances? And have you voted in the Silmaril Awards yet? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 3, 2021

August 2021 Doings!

Hello all! We're into the last stretch of summer and the beginning of fall . . . and also the last stretch before the release of Gilded in Ice and the other Six Frosted Roses books! If you haven't already, make sure you preorder the Gilded in Ice ebook (unless you're holding out for the print version, which I totally understand). Also, signups for the Frosted Roses blog tour and Frosted Roses ARCs are still open, if you're interested! Your support is always welcomed and appreciated.

And with that, let's get on with the Doings!

Writing!

  • I started editing on Gilded in Ice a little later than I anticipated due to various forces beyond my control — but, thankfully, I made far better time than I expected. Case in point: my first week of edits, my goal was to get through five chapters. Instead, I managed to edit at least half of the book — I don't remember the exact amount, since I didn't write it down. (I probably should've.)
  • And it's a good thing I got so much done, because the following week I got . . . very little done. Fun fact: if you're sick enough to be stuck in bed most of the day, you don't really get any editing done. (More on that later, though.) Thankfully, I rallied in time to finish that round of edits, write a new chapter, and do a third edit (focusing on language) the week after.
  • This past week, I've been working on formatting and word-level grammar and spelling-type edits . . . slowly. This is my least favorite stage of the editing process, so I've been rather more distracted than I was in the previous stages. (It didn't help that I had some very good stories — both on the page and on the screen — calling my name.) But progress is being made! And I hope to have the book done to the point of ordering a proof copy this weekend.
  • Also, on a side note: I got a widescreen monitor this month (for non-writing-related-reasons), and it makes editing so much easier. I can have my working document and my beta document up side by side at an easily-readable size on the monitor, and then I have my laptop screen for internet searches, referencing previous versions of the story, or checking things from The Midnight Show. It's amazing. If you have the money and the desk or table space, I highly recommend the investment; it'll make your life way easier.
  • On the D&D front, the group I run didn't meet much this month for a variety of reasons, but we did manage to finally finish the climatic battle of the arc! The Defenders of Serys have survived an encounter with a young kraken, and only two people almost died. The module I've been writing is almost done as well; I just need to sort out the climax. (This is one of those modules where I had lots of ideas for the middle bit of the adventure, but no clue what was going to happen in the ending. I do prefer those to the ones where it's the other way round, though.)

Reading!

  • Ohhhhhh boy was this a good reading month. Look at all those books! Thirty-five of them! That's more than a book a day! (Ok, two of them are short stories. But that's still thirty-three books and two short stories.) As it turns out, when you have one week with no writing projects to work on and three weeks stuck at home, that translates to a lot of reading time.
  • Over half of those books (twenty, to be exact) are by one author: W.R. Gingell. I literally read everything she's published except for four books — one trilogy in which I read the first book and decided I wasn't a fan, and one very early work. Most of those were read all at once, and before you ask — yes, I did have a massive book hangover afterwards because there's no authors quite like Gingell. I'll give you thoughts by series so this section doesn't get too long.
    • I've already told everyone how much I love the Two Monarchies Sequence, particularly Spindle and Masque, which I reread, but I did finally read the newest book, Clockwork Magician! It wasn't my favorite in the series, but Peter also isn't my favorite character in the series, and Isabella and Melchior were both woefully absent. So I'm not terribly surprised by that.
    • I also expressed my love of the City Between novels earlier this month, but thanks to a free Kindle Unlimited subscription that I picked up, I got to read Book 9, Between Family, the day it released! Some of y'all might've seen me raving about it on Facebook and Instagram, but if you missed that, just know that it was truly excellent and brought me much happiness, but I am undone by the ending. Not quite as undone as I was by the ending of Book 8, but still. Undone.
    • The Shards of a Broken Sword trilogy was another very enjoyable fae story. I didn't love it as much as I do Two Monarchies or City Between, but I'd reread it. (It does have dragons in it as well as fae . . . but oddly enough, the dragon-focused book was my least favorite in the trilogy.)
    • Playing Hearts was an interesting take on a Wonderland retelling, but I never got super attached to most of the characters? It's probably my least favorite Gingell — which is to say, it's still better than even the best of some authors I've read, but it's not one I'm going to be raving about anytime soon.
    • Finally, we have the Lady series, which I enjoyed much more than I expected. They're slow, and they're very romance-focused, and both female leads are, I think, intentionally a bit standoffish and prickly? Which should add up to something I don't especially enjoy. But instead, I found myself liking them quite a lot. The first book, Lady of Dreams, feels something like an Austen novel, but sneakier and vaguely Korean and with some fantasy elements mixed in. And then the second book, Lady of Weeds . . . I don't know. It just has a vibe that I really enjoyed, and it's full of mystery that kept me interested even during the slowest bits. I think you have to be in the mood for them, but if you are in the mood, you'll really enjoy them.
  • After Gingell novels, the second-biggest category of the month is rereads — nine of them in total. I revisited Pilgrim's Progress at the beginning of the month, which I've been meaning to do for a while. That was an interesting experience; I'd forgotten how much of the dialogue is basically just a theological treatise. Sorcery of Thorns and An Enchantment of Ravens were both as excellent as ever, as were the first three Invisible Library books. (I intend to reread the whole series, but I was interrupted by Between Family.) The Books of the Infinite trilogy was another I'd been meaning to reread for a while, and it was even better than I remembered. Conversely, The Paper Magician was a bit disappointing the second time round, but it was at a disadvantage, since what I really wanted at the time was more W.R. Gingell.
  • That just leaves a few non-Gingell new-to-me reads. The Heir and the Spare was excellent — very character-focused, but in a good way. Midnight for a Curse and Dawn Bringer were both a bit disappointing, especially compared to Wrought of Silver and Ravens. Maybe I would've enjoyed them more at another time; I don't know. And then the first two Stariel books were a lot of fun — fae magic mixed with psuedo-rural-England drama mixed with romance. However, I don't think I'm going to continue the series unless they get rave reviews from someone I know; I liked The Lord of Stariel better than Prince of SecretsPrince of Secrets had a perfectly satisfying ending, and some of the reviews of books three and four make me concerned about where the series is going content-wise. 
  • And I think that covers it! I apologize for the length of this section, but if I can't use my blog to rave about all the excellent books I read, what's even the point?

Watching!

  • So, what did I watch this month? Pretty much everything except Critical Role, which I'm procrastinating on because the next three episodes are guest player episodes, and I don't enjoy those nearly as much as I do the regular episodes. I'll get to them sometime.
  • On the upside, my Critical Role procrastination means I finally started watching Leverage! I'm about eight episodes in (or possibly more if I had time to watch some last night), and I can say with absolute certainty that Eliot is hands-down my favorite character. (Hardison and Parker tie for second place — which is to say, who I like better shifts based on what happened in whatever episode I just watched, so it's easiest to say they're tied.) But I really enjoy the concept of the show, and I think it's well-executed. The heists are clever, the character dynamics are delightful, and there's just the right amount of humor. (Granted, some of it is based on secondhand embarrassment, but so far, I've been able to fast-forward past the worst of those moments without too much trouble.) My only quibble with the show is that Nate and Sophie's definitely-into-each-other-but-not-going-to-act-on-it dynamic is already getting old. I don't always dislike that type of relationship — I was fine with it in Firefly, and I actually write it my stories periodically (it works very nicely with both slowburn and rogue-and-princess romances, which are the two types of relationship I most enjoy writing), but the way it's written in Leverage just . . . it bugs me, y'know?
  • Other than Leverage, I watched a few things with my family. We started the month with The Return of the King, which was obviously great (though not my favorite movie in the trilogy). Later in the month, we watched some classic Star Trek (the best of what I saw was "The Journey to Babel," which is the one with Spock's parents in it), the first episode of The Mandalorian (interesting, but slower than I expected; I want to keep watching, but only if I'm doing it with someone), and an old live-action Disney movie, The Love Bug (which was . . . um? it's not a bad movie, but it was weird and I still don't know what to do with it).

Life!

  • So, this has been a weird month. It started out fine — business as usual at work, church and D&D on the weekend. Then I came down with what I thought was a bad cold — which was fine. I took it as a sign that I should actually buy an external laptop monitor like I'd been thinking of doing for months, hooked up my laptop to my work's remote access, and worked from home for a week, figuring that I'd be better by Monday. And then my symptoms took a turn for the very-not-cold-like and got bad enough that I thought maybe I should go to Urgent Care . . . where they informed me that I probably did not have a cold and did have pneumonia and sent me to the ER, where the doctor and nurses, after stabbing me with needles far too many times, agreed that I probably did not have a cold and did have pneumonia and that I should not go to work in the morning.
  • (Side note, the ER visit and the day immediately preceding the ER visit — when I ended up very dehydrated — were the worst parts of this whole ordeal. The rest of it was tiresome, but otherwise not awful.)
  • So, yes. I won't say which not-a-cold virus I had, but you can probably guess. I spent about three days (two due to fever, one due to just being tired) lying in bed, reading books, listening to The Anthropocene Reviewed, and occasionally managing a nap before starting to be up-and-about more on Thursday. By the following Monday, I was operating at about 75%, which was sufficient for me to get back to editing (well, technically I started editing again on the weekend, but I digress, though my supervisor wouldn't let me work from home. (In her defense, that was probably the wiser choice, since it meant I only spent half the day staring at a screen. In my defense, I was stressed about how much time off I was taking, and I knew I was well enough that I wasn't going to sleep during the day, which is what I think she thought I'd do.)
  • Thankfully, this week I'm pretty much back to 100%, which meant I was able to go back to work and catch up on all the stuff that hadn't been done for two weeks . . . and also start work on the most intimidating project I've had all year. It's not big, but it's very freeform, and the material that needs to go in it is not terribly conducive to any particular format I've come up with. A solution will be found, but frustration will be found first.
  • Outside of the whole being-sick thing, I've started to get back into doing Scripture memorization (and also poetry memorization, just to switch things up now and then). My long-term goal is to be able to pull out applicable and accurately-quoted-and-understood Scripture (and poetry) for various situations without having to look it up (and also to make sure I don't lose my ability to memorize stuff). At the moment, I'm doing one longer passage per week (where "longer" is defined as anywhere from six to twenty-something verses, depending on where natural breaks are and how much of the passage I've previously memorized as single verses), with one week per month dedicated to poetry. It's going well so far, though I think I may have to adjust a few of the passages I have planned for future weeks. I definitely have a much easier time with really long passages when they're poetry or at least poetic rather than prose.
  • Right before I got sick, I also made it to my church's how-to-lead-a-Bible-study-group training, which means I'm qualified to start a group! Unfortunately, a lot of my planning got . . . ah, you know. Delayed. So we'll see what happens with that.
  • The last thing of note that happened this month was that I finally revisited the Journey video game. I managed to get past the point where I was stuck last time, but then I got stuck again a few levels onward, and I know I kept missing stuff in other levels . . . gah. It's very frustrating, and I honestly don't know if I'm going to finish the game at this point.

September Plans

  • Y'all, September is going to be busy. Why? Well . . .
  • As I mentioned at the start of this post, Gilded in Ice releases this month, which means I'll have plenty on my plate doing final formatting and edits and preparing for the blog tour. (I have so many posts to write, y'all. I was supposed to work on them in August, but, well, y'know. That didn't happen.)
  • In addition, September is the Silmaril Awards! Nomination posts will go up on Monday (so soon! I know!), and we'll have voting midway through the month and the awards ceremonies the last two weeks of the month. (Yes, they will overlap with the Frosted Roses blog tour . . . thankfully, my ceremony isn't until the week after.) I'm SUPER excited for my category this year, but it's also going to be a lot.
  • But wait! We're not done yet! Fall is also when things start ramping up at the church where I work, so my workday might be getting a bit busier soon as well. (Or it might not. It's hard to say. It might not really get busier until October, when the new Kid's Ministry Director takes over.)
  • I'm also hoping for more regular D&D sessions this month . . . which means I need to finish that module I'm writing. And start on the next module. On the upside, I have plans and at least three weeks of material already finished. On the downside, I actually have to write the plans. I am not the type of DM who can just go into a session like "Well, I have a rough idea of the storyline. That's good enough!"
  • And then on the reading front, I'm signed up for review copies of all five of my fellow Frosted Roses, which I'm excited about — plus I want to finish rereading the Invisible Library books, and I really need to catch up on some of my specific reading goals. I think that my epic-length fantasy goal is a wash at this point, but I probably have a chance with some of the others. Probably. Maybe.
  • (Plus, of course, the onset of fall means the possibility of cooler weather . . . which means the lure of the hammock may be quite strong on Fridays when I'm supposed to be productive. We shall see how well I manage to resist.)

How was your August? Any exciting plans for September? How was your reading this month? Have you watched Leverage, and if so, who's your favorite character? Do you do regular memorization, whether of Scripture, poetry, or something? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!