Saturday, March 3, 2018

Subplots and Storylines - February 2018

February can be a bit of a slump. December is abuzz with Christmas hype, January opens a fresh new year, and February . . . well, good old Feb is just another cold month following three other equally cold months, at least where I live. Is it much the same for you, or are you already melting in southern heat?

Life Subplots

Thankfully, this last week it has finally begun to feel like spring! There's something hopeful about seeing the snow creep back from under the pine trees, where the sun's rays begin to gather in the boughs . . . hearing the birds start to sing again . . . hearing the drip of snowmelt trickling from the eaves. Spring has always been about life and new beginnings to me.

"O wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?" -Percy Bysshe Shelley

February was a pretty average month here in my corner of the world. Life went on as usual: going to work, going to school, wrapping up some projects, studying, and--gasp--I just finished midterms! It's funny, but once again midterm week was a really nice change of pace. It was actually less busy than a normal week of school, because I booked it off work to give myself time to study. We'll see if it paid off once I get my marks back.

One noteworthy event amongst the averageness was going grad dress shopping with my sisters, one of whom is graduating this spring. I can't believe she's the third in the family to finish high school. My siblings are growing up!

Screen Storylines

My siblings and I are just about finished with Once Upon a Time season 3 and The Flash season 3. This season of The Flash is the most intense, feelsy one yet--my poor heart has been mangled at least five times over, and the last couple of episodes promise to do an even worse number on me. It's fantastic and terrible and I just want my favorite characters to be happy for once! Is that too much to ask?!

I also watched a teensy bit more of Once Upon a Time season 6. I've yet to be impressed, sadly. But Emma, Hook, and the Charming family are enough reason to keep watching.

As far as movies go . . .

The Death Cure

OH. MY. WORD. My siblings and I went to see it in theaters at the beginning of the month. I've enjoyed the first two Maze Runner movies, but this final one blew me away. It was better than expected, and yes, it did rip my heart out and shred it into pieces. Yes, I did almost shed a tear. Yes, I did spend most of the movie with my hands close to my face as if I could shield myself from the adrenaline and feels. (Didn't work.)

The Death Cure definitely felt like a war movie. It was darker than the first two. Lots of strategy, rescue missions, gunfights, chases, and heart-stopping action--but also grave consequences. Characters have worked hard to get where they are, but some of them risk everything to go against WCKD one last time to rescue their friends. It wasn't a perfect movie, and there was quite a bit of violence (obviously), but it somehow did an excellent job of making me feel deeply.

I'm nervous to read the book now because I don't think it'll top the movie.


Much more lighthearted than The Death Cure! I haven't seen this one in a few years, although with all the hype that surrounded its release, I feel like I've watched it more often than I have.

My youngest sister and I decided it would make the perfect cozy film for Valentine's Day evening, which it was. I'd forgotten how sweet the story is, how nutso Kristoff is, and how well the foreshadowing was woven in.


Okay, I quite enjoyed the books a few years ago. I loved the Divergent movie (and its epic soundtrack, oh my goodness). But Insurgent fell kind of flat. I was hoping the series would fight past the sequel blues and deliver at least a decent finish, but based on reviews when Allegiant came out, I wasn't too hopeful.

Finally I sat down and watched it for myself. Yawn. I could have looked past the weird Martian-red landscape beyond Chicago's protective wall (which looks nothing like it did in the book). I could have chosen to ignore the plot holes and lack of explanation behind the sleek technology of the Bureau of Genetic Welfare.

But even though there were some good action sequences, like the escape over the wall, the story totally lacked emotional depth. Tris and Four felt like wooden cut-outs of who they were in Divergent. Tris makes stupid decisions (which I think she did in the book too, but somehow they felt more pronounced on screen). Four goes around being Mr. Brooding Boyfriend and punching people. Christina is practically absent. Peter is still his annoying self, but now in a juvenile way. And Caleb is . . . himself, I suppose. Don't get me started on the villain--his final moment was laughable.

It's a shame this movie bombed the way it did. I believe they were planning to split this book into two films (noooo, whyyyy), but that the fourth movie, Ascendant, was canceled. It's too bad, because Allegiant ended anticlimactically, with little sense of resolution. I was hoping for the kind of courage and sacrifice we find in the book, but alas, all Tris does during the climax is run through a ventilation shaft and shoot some things.

If you're looking for a solid finish to a dystopian movie series, watch The Death Cure instead.

Page Subplots

This was a good month for reading! I finished up a book I'd started in January, read three more, and started another one that will show up in March's Subplots & Storylines. Here's what I finished:

The Scorch Trials // James Dashner

(Funnily enough, I was in the middle of this book when I watched the third movie. Bad bookworm!)

The writing in this one was a slight improvement over book one. I really liked the change of setting found in the Scorch and the ruined cityscape. It was a sharp contrast, and the lack of walls and rules made things more difficult for the characters. Moments like the scene with the Cranks in the Underneath were pretty intense! Newt's dry levelheadedness and Minho's blustery leadership style were fun, and Thomas's dreams/memories were interesting, if a bit repetitive.

My main quibbles fall on the two female characters. Toward the second half, Teresa was just plain annoying. "Trust me, Thomas. This is all an act. No, wait, the act is an act! No, the act is an act of an act! Trust me!" I'm not sure what Thomas sees in her. I was waiting for a better explanation behind her actions, but maybe the payoff is coming in book three.

And Brenda. I was blurring the movie version of her with the book version (that's what you get for watching the movies first), so for the most part I genuinely liked her. Some of her unwarranted touchy-feely moments were grating, but my sisters assure me she improves a lot in book three.

Speaking of movie versions of characters, I just couldn't picture Jorge as being "young" like Dashner described! My picture of Jorge is the 50-something face in the movies, and I can't see him any other way.

Anyway, I enjoyed the book overall! Rat Man was properly infuriating. The sheer craziness of the tests WICKED puts the teens through is . . . well, crazy. There are a lot of unanswered questions, but again--I must read book three and find out. Four stars.

The Candlestone // Bryan Davis

I continued my DIOM reread with the second book in the series this month. Once again it was great to return to beloved characters! In The Candlestone, Billy battles his own darkness, Bonnie faces a deep fear, Walter steps up as a comrade in battle, Professor Hamilton reveals secrets, and Ashley's eyes are opened for the first time. Their journeys really begin to gel and intertwine in this one as a centuries-old story comes to light.

The candlestone itself provided a canvas for several vivid analogies, which I appreciated again in a new way. It nearly brought tears to my eyes. I'll never forget Billy lying on the cavern floor with Excalibur in his grip. "Truth . . . truth is my sword. Faith . . . faith is my shield."

And I couldn't help but notice that Bryan Davis's writing improved over the first book. Both are fantastic, don't get me wrong, but it's neat to see how even your favorite authors grow their craft over time! Five stars.

Hostage Run // Andrew Klavan

Klavan's books are always super fast reads for me, and this one was no exception! I finished it in a few days.

Some things I liked:
  • Klavan's writing style is sharp and to the point. Nothing fancy, but that's what makes it sound like the main character himself, an ex-football player named Rick, is telling his story.
  • Rick's friend Molly featured more prominently in this book, which I loved. She was sadly lacking in book 1, and felt like just another personality-less girlfriend type. But she got a lot more page-time this time around, and her parts of the story were my favorite. She's almost six feet tall, super fit, and spiritually strong as well, a combo I don't find very often.
  • Victor One. He is the BEST.
  • Rick was honestly trying to forgive his father and mend their relationship, unlike so many embittered sons in fiction.
  • The Breach was cool, even if it wasn't explained as much as I wanted.

What I didn't like as much:
  • Mainly just the Octo-Guardian, a humongous creature with octopus legs and a humanoid face. This creature guards the villain's ship in the Realm (the videogame world that Rick is able to enter). Given the videogame context, I guess it works, but it was a biiiit of a stretch to take seriously on my part. Still, it didn't ruin the book for me.

It felt great to devour a book so fast. With that cliffhanger ending, I won't let another couple of years before I pick up the sequel! Four stars.

Orphan's Song // Gillian Bronte Adams

My friends in the blogging/bookish/Goodreads communities have been buzzing about this book ever since Enclave Publishing released it over three years ago! I was intrigued by the premise of a Songkeeper wielding some kind of musical power, but to be honest, I was hesitant about the quality. (I seem to be wary of self-pubbed or small publisher books--always wondering if the writing will be polished enough not to snag my attention with too many mistakes.)

But aside from a small handful of typos and missing commas, my fears were unfounded! This was a really sweet, cozy fantasy that reminded me the type of books I read as a tween/young teen. It just felt homey to me. With a cranky peddler, ancient griffin, mistreated orphan, mysterious sword, and young street rat, it carried many classic elements of a good ol' fantasy adventure.

Amos was my favorite character, even if his refusal to share information with Birdie, the main character, got a little old by the end. For some reason, Amos's voice clearly sounded like Hector Barbossa's in my head??? Except more kindly? I don't know, maybe it was his accent or his amusing insults!

I also enjoyed Ky's storyline and how it eventually wove into Birdie's journey. I'm looking forward to their adventures together. I sense that both of them will flourish in the sequels! Speaking of sequels, the plot twist at the end took me by surprise, even though I should've seen it coming.

I'll be keeping an eye out for book 2! Four stars.

Writing Storylines

I actually have a few little somethings to report here.

First, I wrote a piece of flash fiction about 1,000 words long, called Dead Magic. I intended to submit it to Havok Magazine, but thanks to school and procrastination, I didn't finish in time. I might post it here someday, or brush it up and find another place to submit it. Either way, it was fun to actually write something!

And I purchased an annual Realm Makers membership! Even with the exchange rate to Canadian dollars, it still will save me a bit on conference registration.* When you get a membership, they send you four free audio recordings of past RM classes, so I listened to one by Steve Laube about Theology and the Cosmos. Inspiring! I also caught part of a webinar by Thomas Locke that was open just to RM members.

*Speaking of which, earlybird registration ends on March 15 and I need to do something about that!

But the best writing thing to happen this month was that I finally started working on The Brightest Thread again! YES!!! Not editing yet--that will come later, once this college term finishes. No, for now I'm compiling all the feedback from my beta readers into one place so I can, you know, actually use it. There's about ten sets of complete feedback, give or take a few, so that's a lot of comments to go through! I've covered chapters 1-6, and there are . . . gulp . . . 371 comments to deal with so far. Granted, some of them are positive! But there are also substantial issues to fix in the first section of the book.

Farewell, February! How was your month, adventurers? Is it spring yet for you? Have you seen The Death Cure? Are my book/movie reviews getting too long? (Be honest now.) Should I post about my beta/editing process someday? Let's chat about allll the things!


  1. I think I need to read/watch the Maze Runner series. A dystopian trilogy with a solid finale??? Sign me up! And look, I can handle loads of feels, which is what everybody says about Death Cure. I just can't handle nonsensical nonsense. *side eyes at Mockingjay*

    1. And yes, I'd love to hear about your editing process! I'll be editing soon and trying to edit without an utter and complete rewrite will be a first. So anything you have to say would be much appreciated!!!

    2. I enjoyed the movies quite a bit more than the books, but that being said, my sisters still LOVE the books. So it depends on the person?? But definitely give it a go! There were sooo many feels in The Death Cure movie. D': (WHAT NONSENSICAL NONSENSE DO YOU SPEAK OF?? Ahem, I'm just curious. I enjoyed Mockingjay for the most part, but I can see how it wouldn't sit right with everybody.)

      Then I shall put together a post on editing! It might be a month or two before I get to that point, but I hope it'll be helpful. Complete rewrites are hard, but they can be SO rewarding!

  2. Oy, I need to get the Songkeeper Chronicles on my TBR...especially because they sound slightly similar to my trilogy. And also because I’ve enjoyed reading Gillian’s blog every now and then.

    But are you going to Realm Makers this year, then? I’m scrambling around trying to see if I can make family doesn’t plan in advance AT ALL so it’s kinda hard, lol

    But I’d love to hear about your editing process! I’m in edits now, and any tips (or simple motivation) would be great!

    1. Yes, read them! The first book was a lot of fun. Gillian's blog is great! (And so is her Instagram, if you're ever on there.)

      I'm certainly planning to! I actually just registered today, so that's one big piece in place! Ohhhh, I hope you manage to make it too--it would be awesome to meet you there. :D

      Thanks for the interest! I'll write up a post on that once I actually get into the real editing process for The Brightest Thread, which probably won't happen until May. But it's coming! Hope your editing goes well in the meantime! ^_^

  3. My siblings and I watch Flash together, too. We finished Season three recently. I must say I liked season one best.... and in some ways the drama got to me in the later seasons. I really loved the episode where Super Girl and Flash sing and dance though.

    And my siblings and I went to watch Death Cure, too! I've only watched the movies... I've never liked any of the characters except Newt. And I've always said if he dies I'll hate the movies... so, yeah ;p

    1. Ah, cool! I don't know if I could pick a favorite season... Each one did something different that I really loved. Yes, the musical episode was so fun! :D

      Newt is one of my favorites too. ;)

  4. I need to watch Death Cure, I haven't read the book of it yet either. I really want to see it! Season 6 of Once was a bit of a disappointment to me too! Not sure how to feel about season 7 yet.

    1. YESSSS, WATCH IT! I was surprised at how good it was! That's too bad you felt the same about Once. I've heard a couple things about season 7 that I'm not sure about either. Guess we'll see! I'll watch it regardless, because after this long I have to see how it ends. :)

  5. Huh. You know, I don't think I've ever thought about it, but February IS kinda an in between month. It's just...there, nothing greatly special about it. Poor February! I love it though because, for us, it's basically our last month of winter and I cling to that as long as I can. XD I apologize to all you who are wishing for spring. Heh.

    Congrats on finishing midterms!!! I do so hope they went well for you!

    Apparently I need to see The Death Cure! Well...actually I haven't even seen The Scorch Trials yet. LOL. And I want to read The Death Cure book before seeing the movie (I've already read The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials, one of these days I'm actually gonna finish these stories!). I'm encouraged to hear that The Death Cure was good, because thus far I haven't been wowed by the books OR movies. I guess I need to see it all the way through! *nods*

    One can NEVER go wrong with Frozen! :D But you know what's hilarious? I actually loved Once Upon a Time's version of Elsa SO MUCH it made me almost not like the original animated Elsa. I know that's crazy, but the woman who portrayed Elsa in OUAT was amazing! I adored ALL the Frozen stuff in OUAT and almost prefer it over the actual movie. XDD

    That's a shame the Divergent series has kinda become a flop. I still want to read the books and see the movies, but I have heard they all lack depth and emotion. :(

    I, too, got sooo annoyed by Teresa's constant flip-flopping in The Scorch Trials. I guess it was to try to add tension and keep the readers guessing?? But it was WAY over the top and ill-done. And it seems like Brenda annoyed me a bit too. Heh. Really, Newt is about the only character in the books I genuinely like. :x Mihno is okay, too. I just get SO annoyed how they keep information from Thomas FOR NO REASON. Buuut I won't get into that rant. XD

    Aaaaahhhhh! THE CANDLESTONE. That book is when I realized how amazing this series was. I enjoyed Raising Dragons the first time I read it, but it was The Candlestone that pulled me into the DioM fandom hook, line, and sinker! GAH. You're making me want to reread all of these but I already have so many NEW reads to tackle. *flaaaails*

    One day I'm gonna try these Andrew Klavan books! They look like a fun ride! And wasn't Orphan's Song so fun? It didn't just blow my mind, but it did have that classic, homey fantasy feel that made me happy. ^_^ (And Amos. Just...Amos.)

    That's so fun you wrote a flash fiction piece!!! I'm sorry you were unable submit it in time, but you could definitely always save it for something else. *nods* AND I'M SO EXCITED YOU'RE WORKING ON TBT AGAIN!!!!! :D That's brilliant you're taking the time to compile all the feedback like that. I know that will be super helpful once you get into the real edits. I would LOOOOVE to hear about your editing process. YES, YES, YES! I'll take any editing tips I can get! Lol.

    Oookay, now that my comment is nearly the size of your post, I should probably end this. XD (OH! By the way, I LOVE your book/movie review sections. I'm always curious about your thoughts on these things and never find them too long.)


    1. At least there's Valentine's Day! (Or SAD: Singles Awareness Day.) I'd probably cling to February too if I lived in a place of near-perpetual summer! ;)

      Thank you! I'm happy with all the scores I've received so far, and I'm just waiting on one more.

      I still need to read The Death Cure too, but do at least watch the movies! I found they improved some things over the books. You may or may not feel the same, but if nothing else, The Death Cure was nonstop, heart-pounding action/feels/epicness! XD

      HAHAHA, that's awesome that you love Once's version of Elsa the most! I can see why. She's pretty amazing. I remember I wasn't too sure about incorporating such a recent "kids movie" in a show that was trying to take itself seriously, but I ended up loving it.

      There are redeeming qualities in the books, and even a little bit in the movies...but yeah. It's disappointing. For some reason I just loved the first movie, though?? And the ending of the books was a real blow to the feels. ;)

      I guess so, but Teresa's charades didn't work for me either. >.< I'm hoping at least Brenda improves in the third book. Newt's my fav too! <333 I like Minho as well, but probably the movie version influenced my opinion more than the book version. (This is the problem with consuming both forms of the story simultaneously; they get tangled up with each other. XD) Heh, I know what you mean about withholding info. A book I just read did the exact same thing--so annoying.

      Awww, I love that The Candlestone was what drew you in! I just started Circles of Seven today, and I'm so excited because it's one of my FAVORITES. But I knoooow, our poor TBR piles are looming.

      They are a fun ride! Kind of like a summer action flick. Light on the literary side, but well-supplied on the adrenaline side. You're right, Orphan's Song does have that classic, homey feel to it! Amosssss. <3

      It's all good--I'm sure I'll find a use for it somewhere, and I do plan to write another piece for a different edition. YES YES YES I AM WORKING ON TBT AND I CAN'T WAIT TO ACTUALLY EDIT!!! *salutes* Yes ma'am, I'd love to write up a post on editing. (Speaking of which, I hope yours is going well!)

      I love your monster comments. <3 And I'm so glad you enjoy the book and movie sections! Those are fun to write, and I'm happy to hear they're not boring! XD

      SAME TO YOU! <3

  6. Congratulations to your sister! Wait, I have a second sibling graduating as well... they grow up too fast!
    I often like to read what Gillian has on her blog, and I'd love to try her books someday.
    Oh boy, editing time! Can't wait to see how TBT has grown!

    1. She passes on her thanks! Man, don't you feel old sometimes? XD It's weird to think of how long it's been since I was in high school... and yet I feel like I was just in grade 12.

      I love her blog too. You should definitely try Orphan's Song! :D

      Awww, you. *hugs* I can't wait to MAKE it grow!

  7. Southern heat! Actually it turned cold over last weekend, but it's warmed up to a comfortable temperature again.

    I've not read much by Bryan Davis, and want to get my hands on more. Orphan's Song too has been on my wishlist for a couple of years.

    I'm not getting to Realm Makers this year (Though all my author friends seem to be going), but I still want to get a membership for I can get last year's audio discounted.

    1. Oh boy! I wouldn't mind a little of that warmth up here. Although it hasn't been all that cold this week, so I guess spring is coming.

      He's one of my favorite authors! I recommend all of his books. ^_^ Orphan's Song was a fun one too.

      Awww, maybe next year! Getting the audio sounds like a great idea. Looking at the list of classes this year, I wish I could go to all of them... looks like I just might have to purchase audio this time around too. :)

  8. Yay! I'm so happy you liked the Death Cure! I really enjoyed it too. ^ ^ I'm also glad you liked the Scorch Trials. It's very different than the movie. XD Happy February!

    1. I LOVED THE DEATH CURE. My poor heart still hasn't recovered. XD Yeah, The Scorch Trials movie certainly changed a lot. I hope your March is off to a great start, Tori!

  9. You've reached season 6 of Once Upon a Time? You're a lot more faithful than I am. I was watching that show at one point with my brother, and I think that's the only reason I managed to get as far as I did. If I start something by myself, I don't usually get so far.

    I think I did like Frozen. I only watched it once in the theaters, and then with the craze, I never watched it again. On random I'll start singing 'Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?'. It's such a sad song, and as the youngest in my family, I can relate to it. Lately I've been annoying my mom by switching up the lyrics to something like 'Do You Wanna Plant a Garden?' :P

    Hope your March is lovely! =)

    1. It took me and my sisters the better part of a year to watch season 5, though! XD It's always more fun when you watch WITH someone else, I agree. How far did you guys get in Once?

      It *is* a sad song... I can see how it would fit with being the youngest in the family. *sniffles* Haha, I'm pretty sure I've joked about a few variations on the song myself--though "Do You Wanna Plant a Garden" is a new one. ;)

      I hope yours is too, Meaghan!

  10. I have watched Frozen so many times...TOO many times... XD

    Also, best of luck sorting out all the betas' feedback and working at TBT!! I really did enjoy reading your story, it was so fun. <333

    1. LOL, I *felt* like I had watched it too many times when it first came out. Elsa and Anna were EVERYWHERE. xD

      Thanks, Maddie! I so treasure every single one of your comments. <3 (And as of today I've compiled all the comments up until chapter 12. Woohoo!)