Sunday, March 31, 2019

4 Years of Adventures

My, how time has flown! Adventure Awaits is past its toddler stage and is now four years old! (Who am I kidding, though; it's still a Very Small Child.)

Despite my spotty absences in the past seven months, I treasure this space. And the reason I treasure it is because of you! This is a gathering place for book dragons and adventurers and old souls. I've met so many wonderful people in the comments here. So thank you! If you've ever read a post or left a comment or two or a hundred, I appreciate you!

To celebrate four years of bloggerly adventures with all of you, I've dreamt up some reminiscent lists. Read on, friend. There might be some announcement-type items at the end.

Four Friends I've Met Through Blogging

I could probably list 400 friends I've met through Adventure Awaits (okay, maybe not quite that many), but four that spring to mind are . . .

  • Jenelle Schmidt - half of the brainpower behind the Silmarillion Awards, a lovely author, and supermom of four hobbits
  • Mary Horton - if it weren't for her adorably long comment years ago, I never would've met this lovely friend who steadfastly holds to the light
  • Blue - this fellow old soul deserves a gold star for her loyalty and faithful commenting
  • Emily - who became my Scottish pen pal and critique partner thanks to bonding over each others blogs

These four ladies are dear friends whom I probably wouldn't have met otherwise! And I honestly could sit here all day listing so many more, along with friends I met elsewhere but have since connected with through blogging as well. YOU ARE ALL AMAZING.

Four Guest Posts

We've seen a modest number of interviews and guest posts over the years, but here are four particularly good ones.

Four Special Things I've Written for the Blog

  • hey dreamer // a love letter to creatives and dreamers everywhere
  • The Cage // a creepy story for Halloween
  • Fantasy in My Veins // not a fictional story, but a tribute to the mark that fantasy has made on my life
  • Rewritten // a self-aware look at the torture characters go through (mwahaha)
And as a bonus (yep, we're breaking the rule of four), here's Ann Marie. As it turns out, this is one of the very earliest inspirations for my main work-in-progress, The Brightest Thread. I didn't know at the time that a spark from that flash fiction would become a faint echo in TBT!

Four Struggles of Blogging

  • Finding ideas! I'm out of practice due to college life, but blogger's block happens even when I'm posting regularly.

Searching For Inspiration - Writers Write
  • Taking the time to visit other blogs. I've been almost completely MIA on my friends' blogs lately, and I want to find a way to change that!

  • Imposter syndrome. You know how it goes. "Who am I to speak to others? What do I have to teach? I'm no expert. Who am I to inspire anyone? I'm as messed up as they are. I'm not like what people think I am." It's a load of garbage, but we probably all face those thoughts from time to time.

  • Balancing authenticity and privacy. I love sharing life with you all, but sometimes it's hard to know how much of life to share online.

Four Joys of Blogging

  • Connecting with followers and other bloggers. You all are the best, okay? I can't say it enough. It's the relationships formed that make this so fun and rewarding!

  • Writing discipline. Not counting these past few months (*cough*), blogging has helped me regularly exercise my writing muscles. Holding myself accountable to a schedule means learning how to show up to the table even when the Muse declines the invitation.

  • Reflection. My monthly Subplots and Storylines posts are signposts showing me how far I've come, inspirational posts cause me to reflect, and others force me to define my thoughts. It's a good exercise, putting what's in my head into actual words.

23 Awesome Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About “The Lego Movie” Vitruvius’ line, “Ah, we gotta write all that down ‘cause I’m not gonna remember any of it, but here we go,” wasn’t originally in the script. It was only added when Morgan Freeman said it during filming because he was frustrated with all the line changes.
  • Making a difference. I won't bother to quantify what sort of difference I make here. That's impossible. But I have long dreamed of lighting hearts aflame with words. Publishing is a long, long journey, so it has been pretty incredible in the meantime to send words into a corner of the world and (hopefully) fan a few flames.

Four Things I've Learned About Blogging

  • It's not about me. I mean, YES, obviously I talk about myself here. Quite a bit, in fact. But I am gradually learning that the purpose of my journey is not me. My highs and lows are, in fact, a means of connecting to others taking their own journeys. And so I try to structure my posts as a means of illustration and companionship to make your path a little better.

  • It's okay to talk about me. Doesn't that contradict the first point? No, because part of that companionship is me being me. Offering up a piece of myself, however silly and trivial or deep and heartfelt. We need each other. It's actually inspiring to hear someone ramble about what they're passionate about or share a story of what they're going through! I can recognize that in others, so it's about time I recognize that in myself.

  • We are lazy readers. Short paragraphs. Lots of images. Lots of white space. Easy to read fonts and light colored backgrounds. Please and thank you.

  • When the well runs dry, there's a good chance you've stopped adventuring. This applies to all of life, all of creativity. You can't write about new things if you're not experiencing new things. It's hard to produce good content if you're not living life, dreaming dreams, meeting people, getting things done, etc. Get out and go on an adventure. Live a life worth writing about!
I got You're free-spirited and adventurous.! The Color You Love Most Will Reveal A Deep Truth About You

Four Ways I'm Going to Improve as a Blogger

College is over in just one month! Which means I'll have time to sweep out the dust bunnies around here and start posting more often. I've learned a l o t in the past couple of years, and I'm excited to start executing on some of those things! So here are four ways I plan to improve as a blogger.

  • We are moving house! Yes sirree, if you missed the mentions in earlier posts, Adventure Awaits is going to pack up and move to a self-hosted website. Blogger has served me well, but I would like to step it up in terms of design and professionalism. Tentative moving date is the end of April/sometime in May! Don't worry, I'll keep you all in the loop and make sure that migrating to the new platform goes as smoothly as possible.

  • Post regularly. No explanation needed there!

  • Hone my focus. I'm going to zoom in on my niche (once I define what that is for me) so that I can offer you sharper, more valuable content on a consistent basis!

  • Launch my super secret project. Yeah, everyone and their pet dragon has a "super secret project," and yeah, you might've forgotten mine because it's been forever since I dropped a hint. But! It is stillll on the backburner! And I'm more excited than ever to get it going for real. (Note: the fact that this secret project is listed under improvements as a blogger might be a big hint in and of itself.)

Well, friends, let's pass out the chocolate cake and break out the balloons. Thanks for popping by for my fourth blogoversary! I'm looking forward to many more years with you!

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(I couldn't resist, Four.)

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Subplots & Storylines - January & February 2019

Well hi there. Things have gone radio silent around here over the past seven weeks, huh? This final semester of college is a real doozy so far, and it's been such a frigid winter I think my brain froze. But . . . I got my first library card in January, so #priorities, yay!

In other good news, I'm done midterm exams, which means I'm that much closer to graduating, which means we'll be returning to a regular posting schedule soon. Thank heavens, you're all thinking! . . . Right? Right. You've all been wasting away here in my absence, I'm sure. *cough*
Speaking of which, the main life update to share with you is that I'll be starting a brand new job after college! It's exactly the sort of position I was hoping for. Having everything in place ahead of time is a huge relief and answer to prayer.
But now--on to the mini reviews of everything I watched and read during the first two months of 2019! Buckle up!

Screen Subplots

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(Looking at you, Miss Poofy Dress*)

Once Upon a Time // Season 7 (episodes 1-3)
Final opinions are, of course, suspended until I finish the season, but so far I'm having more fun making fun of Season 7 than I am actually watching it. Oops. Everything is different and they got rid of some favorite characters, replacing them with super bratty ones.* I'm also in the dark on most people's motives right now--hopefully they actually come to light and make sense!

January Films

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I WAS SURPRISED. Pleasantly surprised! Venom was never my favorite dude, and I'd heard this movie was gross and dark. But while it was darker than, say, Captain America . . I really liked it! So many laughs, so much suspense, and such a well-drawn villain.

For those wondering about content, most decapitations occurred off-screen, but I wouldn't recommend it for young or sensitive viewers.
February Films

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The Grinch (2018)
Eh. So Benedict Cumberbatch voiced the green guy himself. That's great. The rest of it was pretty ho-hum, like they took the original movie and doubled the length without adding anything significant. (But I'm guessing young kids would enjoy it anyway.)

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The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
I looooved The Lego Movie, and I'm happy to report that I liked the second instalment just as much! The only thing it's missing is some of the novelty of the first one, but that's hard to replicate in a sequel, so I forgive it. Aside from that, there were plenty of dazzling visuals, romping adventures, one-liners, and clever twists of old tropes (and twists of the twists, imagine that!).

Also . . .
"This song's gonna get stuck inside your he-e-ead!"

It did. It very much did.

Page Storylines

January Reads
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A Time to Die (reread) // Nadine Brandes
I reviewed this book back when I first read it in November 2017 (check it out on Goodreads here!) but it still deeply touched me the second time around. 5 stars!

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Mark of the Thief (audiobook) // Jennifer A. Nielsen
This wasn't as good as The False Prince, but still entertaining. I liked how Ancient Rome was fused with fantasy, incorporating mythology and even some history.
Where this book fell short for me was in character motivations. Our protagonist, Nicolas, seemed to care about his friends and family only when it was convenient to the plot. And when other interesting things were happening? Well, he completely forgot about them. (For the minor spoilers on this, check out my Goodreads review.)
Other characters: Auralia had an attitude that came across a bit more caustic than snarkily endearing, and Crispus, although nice enough, was kind of arrogant.
Anyway. I did like the “One Ring” vibes the magical bulla was giving, and Caela the griffin was cool (because GRIFFINS). The pacing of the plot was quick and enjoyable too, so 3.5 stars.

February Reads

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A Time to Speak // Nadine Brandes
Well, there goes my heart in a hundred pieces. Nadine Brandes did it again.
I can’t tell you how much Parvin’s journey is resonating with me. I wish I’d known her five years ago, but I’m glad to have met her now. She’s grown so much since the beginning of the first book—in purpose, in courage, and in tenderness.
And that shattered heart I mentioned? Every piece of it was stolen by Solomon Hawke, and I don’t think he plans to give it back. He and Parvin share one of the most solid and mature relationships I’ve ever read in YA!
I won’t even begin to flail over the plot, because there’s no way I want to spoil it for anyone! But I will say that . . .
a) Nothing is easy
b) Not everyone survives
c) Everything is vivid—the pain, the cold, the hunger, the hope
That’s what I love about this trilogy. It’s a gritty dystopian—like we’ve all seen before—except there’s hope burning brightly in the midst of darkness. And with that ending? Yeah, it’s way more meaningful than any other dystopian I’ve read. 5 stars!

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A Time to Rise // Nadine Brandes
I was terrified for everyone during the majority of this book, but I’m pleased to say that after shattering my heart in all three books of this trilogy, Nadine Brandes did in fact manage to put it back together again!
The hope and contentment at the end is something most dystopian stories don’t have. It took pages of pain and stumbling to reach it. But we made it. Parvin made it, and I’m so proud of her.
My only complaint is that there were a couple spots I felt antsy and removed from the action, but on the plus side, it was nice to have a young heroine who isn’t the sole person responsible for saving the world. So . . . I can’t complain much. 5 stars! Overall, this trilogy is a favorite!
P.S. I totally need a dogsled ride now!

P.P.S. Solomon is still one of the best love interests EVER.

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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire // J.K. Rowling
I'm still reeling! Smack dab in the middle of the series, this book has the charm of the first three, but definitely takes a turn for the darker. Something I love about Rowling's writing is that she spends the first half of the book fooling you into thinking this is all fun and games and unrelated side quests--and then pulls everything together at the end. Everything is significant.
A few thoughts . . .
  • Harry is getting a backbone!
  • Ron is utterly clueless about girls.
  • Hermione is still a mini-me.
  • Snuffles!
  • It was fun getting a wider view of the wizarding world, what with the Quidditch World Cup, portkeys, and the Triwizard Tournament.
I didn't expect most of the plot twists!
That. Ending. Oh my goodness. *screeches* That was terrifyingly good and would've given me nightmares as a child!
I could ramble on if I let myself, but I shan't, because I want to keep this spoiler-free. (Side note: I went through this as a read-along with a few friends and 10/10 recommend the experience!) 5 stars!

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow // Mary Weber

That ending wrecked me. (And here I thought the Storm Siren trilogy cliffhangers were bad.)

But let me back up a bit. The Evaporation of Sofi Snow was exactly the cool, techy, futuristic sci-fi novel I wanted, but that’s not what made me love it.

What I loved were the characters. Broken, bruised characters with scarred pasts. Characters running from guilt. Characters clinging to the very few good things left in their lives.

What I loved was the gut-wrenching heart of the story. I knew that this book speaks on human trafficking, but I wasn’t prepared to flip the pages faster and faster, heart in my throat, as I witnessed the brokenness of humanity shouting from within the pages of a fictional world.

Rabbit trail: It’s books like these that are driving Christian fiction in the right direction. Some of you reading this review may not be comfortable with the light smattering of language, or mentions of sex, or references to characters sleeping around, or the depiction of the horrors of trafficking. It’s not pretty. But given the context, I think it was necessary. I think the grittiness was important, and wasn’t there for its own sake; it was there as a rolling up of the sleeves, a digging into the dirt to get to the root of deep pain. There are souls living the same pain that are crying out to be seen, accepted, and healed. They—we—need books like these.

(Rabbit trail over.)

After devouring book 1, I am so eager to dive into the sequel ASAP! Thank heavens it’s sitting ready on my shelf. (I'm currently reading the climax, actually!)

Written Subplots

Nothing to see here that you don't already know! But in case you missed it, Dead Magic appeared in Havok--and has since been selected for consideration in the printed anthology!!! I also guest posted on Realm Makers' blog in January.

No actual writing occurred these past two months, sadly. I took a peek at The Brightest Thread. Once. I sighed wistfully and then went back to homework.

Your turn, friend! What's 2019 looking like so far? What's the last series you binge-read? Have you seen any of those movies? Let's chat--I've missed you all!