Saturday, July 6, 2019

I'VE MOVED!


Consider this a moving notice, friend. This is the LAST TIME I'll be posting here on Blogger... because I've launched my new website at traceydyck.com. I hope you'll come join me over there for the next leg of our adventure together! See you on the other side.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Subplots and Storylines - March & April 2019


Happy May! Last time Subplots and Storylines came around, I recapped January and February. It's strange to think it's only been two months since then . . . it feels like four, considering how much was packed into them!

[Note: be sure to catch the P.S. at the end of the post!]

Last day of college!
For one thing, after a torrential downpour of school projects--and a great big entrepreneurship tradeshow thingie--I am officially done college! I don't get my diploma until June. But the work is done. Classes are over. Exams have been written. I am no longer a student. (!!!) It's been an adventure and a half, I tell ya. Someday I might tell you all about it.

What else . . .

I registered for Realm Makers! I don't think I've announced that here yet, but yes--I'll be there for my third time in a row, and I can't wait. This time, my bro Josiah is coming with me!

In other news, we celebrated Easter, I squeezed in some friend time between college assignments (yay for Scrabble and London Fogs and pizza nights and trying African food for the first time!). I was also a bridesmaid in a dear friend's wedding.

My seven-year-old laptop rebelled and started crashing every time I used it. So I finally bought myself a shiny new one.*

*Feel like it needs a name, though . . . Maybe Sebastian. Because a) I like the name and b) it reminds me of Bucky Barnes, played by Sebastian Stan . . . and the laptop is sleek and metallic like Bucky's arm? IDK, man.

Aaaand on top of all of that, I started my new job this week! I'm now in the marketing department of a nonprofit organization. My head is spinning with all the new things I'm learning, but I positively love what I get to do and who I get to work with. God is so cool!

Here's yet another "and"--I joined the Havok team! Very excited to learn the ropes and start helping writers get their flash fiction into the world.

Screen Subplots


T V  S H O W S

I rewatched two episodes of The Flash season 3 and started The Flash season 4 (so good!). Also rewatched an episode of Once Upon a Time season 4.

M A R C H  M O V I E S


Christopher Robin
Heartwarming, nostalgic, and so, so perfect. I cried. Several times. The Hundred Acre Wood was my childhood love, and somehow Pooh still has the ability to say just the right thing in his simple way. I loved watching him and his friends help a grown-up Christopher Robin recapture his wonder.

"Sometimes when I'm going somewhere and I wait, somewhere comes to me."


Ralph Breaks the Internet
This was actually pretty cute (minus a few sort-of crass jokes). It ended up having a much deeper theme than I expected, dealing with what happens when best friends go different directions in life. And interpreting the Internet as an actual setting was really cool. Worth seeing if you liked the first one! (Also Gal Gadot was in it!)

"My autofill is a touch aggressive today."


Captain Marvel
IT WAS NOT AS BAD AS THE CRITICS SAID. I was leery after reviews (and Brie Larson herself) made it an ultra-feminism issue, but the movie didn't come off as preachy to me, thankfully.

And while it may not be my favorite Marvel movie to date, it was a fun addition with plenty of banter between Carol Danvers and Nick Fury, the surprise that is Goose, and 90's throwbacks. (Blockbuster, anyone?) Plus there was a super interesting take on the prejudices that drive war. I'm hoping for good things if we get any sequels!

"Do you know how to fly this thing?"
"Maybe."
"That's a yes or no question."

A P R I L  M O V I E (S)



Avengers: Endgame
AHHHHHHHH!!!! Pardon the fangirl in me, but that movie is INCREDIBLE. I'm in awe at the scope of the thing, the emotional depth, the satisfying conclusion. Three hours of awesomeness and feels.

It's bittersweet to see this massive story come to an end. After all, I spent most of my teen years looking forward to the next MCU release date. But it's been a good ride. *immediately wants to go on a Marvel movie binge* Maybe I'll manage to collect my thoughts in a full review once more of the world has seen it!

(There are so many quotes I'd like to list here, but this one's from the trailer, so it's not spoilery.)

"Whatever it takes."

Page Storylines


M A R C H  B O O K S



Reclaiming Shilo Snow // Mary Weber
Remember me screeching about the amazingness of The Evaporation of Sofi Snow in the last S&S post? Well, the sequel continued with the same guts and heart as the first book. As Sofi and Miguel hurry to save Sofi's brother, more heartpounding twists hurtled me right to the satisfying finale.

Together, this duology is inspiring in the truest sense of the word. It holds up a mirror and asks us to find our humanity, to choose goodness over rightness, and to make every choice one of love.

(Goodreads review here.) 5 stars!


Songkeeper // Gillian Bronte Adams
Taking a decidedly darker turn than its prequel, Orphan's Song, this book follows Birdie through her struggle to hold onto hope when the Song feels distant, and Ky's misadventures as he tries to protect his Underground friends.

I took almost a month to read this (thanks, college). Maybe that's why the story seemed to lack that "just one more chapter" pull.

But hey, Gundhrold the griffin is still there, Amos is still his belligerent self, we get to explore the further reaches of Leira, and the ending plunges into the heart of darkness in order to reveal the cogs that have been turning the series' main conflict! So yay for that! I'm interested to see how everything shapes up in the third and final book.

(Full review on Goodreads.) 3.5-4 stars.

A P R I L  B O O K S


The Scent of Her Soul // Bryan Davis
In this human trafficking story with a speculative twist, Mike has the ability to track the scent of young girls’ souls. He’s been searching for his daughter (who was abducted three years ago) and trying in the meantime to rescue as many trafficked girls from prostitution as possible.

Needless to say, this was a sad, intense, and horrifying read—yet the heroes of the tale gave me hope. It’s absolutely sickening what goes on in our very own streets, right under our noses. But as Mike repeatedly reminds himself, “Every girl is special. Every girl is unique. Every girls needs a hero.”

Based on the subject matter, along with some swearing (which I felt was justified and not gratuitous), I would recommend this only for mature readers. Be advised that there is frequent talk of rape as well as on-screen violence. However, it was all very well-written from the perspective of motivating action in the reader. Mr. Davis has tackled an extremely difficult topic head on and has done an excellent job.



Sky in the Deep // Adrienne Young
When I finally cracked open Sky a year after its hyped release, I hoped I'd love it as much as I wanted to. Vikings! Battle! Family! Gorgeous cover! And now I can say I DID love it.

Eelyn's a kick-butt, axe-wielding heroine, but she has a heart, which kept her from becoming just another warrior girl. That heart might be iced over with anger and bitterness, but her slow thaw was perfect.

I kind of hated Fiske at the beginning. I was worried he’d be the typical alpha male love interest who “makes up” for his foul moods by being hot. Thankfully that wasn’t the case! He too had a heart, fiercely protective of his family, and I loved him for that.

And Halvard!!! My previous boy! He was exactly the innocent touch that both Eelyn and the book itself needed. Inge and Iri are great too, even if Iri got overshadowed by Fiske toward the end.

I also loved the Viking-inspired culture, the crisp setting, and the beautiful-yet-punchy prose. Some truly heart pounding scenes took place! (And this is the perfect comp title for one of my own books, so yay!)

Some small dislikes include a few places where it was unclear who was speaking, a couple of make-out sessions, etc. And readers should be aware that the violence is rather bloody, and there is one very gory torture scene I wasn't expecting.

Other than that, though, I loved it! The power of family—of blood and of choice—runs through from the first page to the last.



Sentinel // Jamie Foley
Sentinel feels like it waltzed through the Story Elements Grocery Store and picked up a few bags of fantasy, a box of dystopian, a bit of supernatural, and a smidgen of alternate universe. Throw in some generous helpings of humor and voila! I don't know what it is, but hey. Breaking genres is cool, even if it confused me a bit in the beginning.

I loved the magic academy, the whole aether magic thing going on (there were some superhero vibes), and the fact that we get a sibling relationship from the younger one's point-of-view.

There's a big cast of characters and lots of banter going on. A few of my favorite people...
  • Darien, the main character, is such a puppy--probably one of the more realistic 16-year-old boys I've read about (in terms of maturity).
  • Jet is just awesome.
  • Levi sounded exactly like Haymitch (*cough* I mean Woody Harrelson) in my head.
  • Sorvashti has a language barrier.

Some events felt like they needed more foreshadowing or explanation . . . just more development, in general. But I hear that a prequel novella should clear some of that up. Overall, though, it was a pretty fun story! (JET IS MY FAV. MUST READ MORE BECAUSE OF JET.)

(Full Goodreads review.) 4 stars.


Sword in the Stars (first edition) // Wayne Thomas Batson
Sword in the Stars plunges you into Batson's richest, broadest fantasy realm yet--the land of Myriad. Here we roam forested kingdoms and ancient ruins and dark keeps, following a large cast of characters in a cinematic style. Rereading this book was a huge nostalgia kick. This was one of the tales that shaped my love of fantasy. Now, seven years later, a bit of the shine has worn off, but I still love the heart and vision of this book.

Former assassin Alastair Coldhollow drives much of the plot forward. Wrestling with a bloody past and an addiction to Witchdrale, he nevertheless searches for the Halfainin, a hero prophesied to defeat the Dark King and save Myriad. But a baby he never wanted and a woman he meant to stay away from pull Alastair in another direction.

Before you know it, he becomes caught in a web of dark designs as his former master, King Morlan, secretly stirs the kingdoms to war.

I loved Alastair, Queen Maren (who's a total boss), the Shepherds, the slow decline of the people's faith, Cythraul (the creepy dude), and all the allegorical elements!

What I didn't love so much were some spelling/punctuation mistakes that could've been caught with another proofread. Also there's a continuity problem with a character death--but the new-and-improved second edition fixes that! (I checked.) The beginning third of the book meanders. A few anachronisms like "okay" threw me off a little bit.

But I was pleasantly surprised at how well the majority of this book held up so many years later!
Myriad is a world I can sink my teeth into, meaty enough to carry the rest of this series (which I think is supposed to be seven books long). I applaud Mr. Batson for setting the stage as he did, choosing poignant characters to head up a story playing out on a global scale.

(Full review on Goodreads, complete with a fully explained list of what I loved and didn't love.) 4 stars!


[I am also quite pleased that all six of these books either start with S or almost do, and all of the covers except Reclaiming Shilo Snow match really well. #aesthetics]

Written Subplots


Not much to report here yet, but in April I did write a short story very spontaneously. It was one of those "just for me" sorts of things and was so good for my head and heart. So take note, writers! If you need to spend some time writing something that you don't plan to do anything with, ever, give yourself that gift.

Hello, May!

What have you been up to? Have you seen Endgame yet?! Read any of those books--or do any of them look like they should go on your to-be-read pile?


P.S. I'm going on a blogging hiatus, probably for the month of May! Why? I'm going to start the Great Move (aka I'm moving from Blogger to my own website). I'll be back when everything is ready to go! In the meantime, pop in and visit me on Instagram. See you later!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Marvel Cinematic Universe Tag

Time to blow the dust off Adventure Awaits again! I didn't mean to be absent for a whole month, but I'm happy to report I've emerged from college alive and well.

Well. That status might change once I see Avengers: Endgame this weekend.
In preparation for possibly the greatest superhero film of the decade, the brilliant Christine Smith has invented an MCU tag, which I am blatantly stealing. (Spoilers for MCU films up to and including Captain Marvel will abound! You've been warned.)

Credit goes to Christine Smith

Here we go . . .

Thor // Pinterest

1. How were you introduced into the MCU fandom?


I'm pretty sure I have my brother, Josiah @ The Steadfast Pen, to thank for watching Captain America: The First Avenger and then telling me I'd love it too.

You should've heard me when the plane went down at the end. "That's how it ends?" I shrieked. Josiah didn't say a word and let me sit in agony until Cap wakes up in the present. Needless to say, I became a Marvel fan.


2. What’s your favorite Marvel film?

THIS IS NOT A FAIR QUESTION, CHRISTINE.

All of the Captain America movies, obviously, with Winter Soldier barely edging out the other two. Spider-Man: Homecoming is another huge favorite, because finally--FINALLY--we got a Peter Parker that was young enough, dorky enough, and earnest enough without being overly melodramatic. (Sorry, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.) I also love all the Avengers films. And Thor: Ragnarok. And Doctor Strange. And--okay, I'll stop.


3. Top favorite Marvel character?

Preeeetty sure you've figured it out by now.

Captain America // Pinterest

Steve Rogers epitomizes true heroism. But Peter Parker is now tied as my favorite character ever since Homecoming.

"The spider is dead." // Pinterest

Very, very close runners-up (because I can never pick one favorite) include Bucky Barnes, Loki, Tony Stark, Peggy Carter, Shuri . . . the list goes on.


4. If you were transported into the MCU and had to trade places with one of the superheroes, who would you choose?

Um . . . none of them?! I wouldn't last five minutes.

I think I'll borrow Christine's answer and say Ant-Man, because he seems to have the calmest life of the bunch.

Scott Lang // Pinterest


But I'd take Thor's place on Asgard prior to Ragnarok, because it's pretty cool. Oooh, or Hawkeye whenever he gets a chance to chill on his farm with his kids.

Hawkeye // Pinterest

5. What are some of your favorite quotes from the films?

How many am I allowed to pick?

"You get hurt, hurt 'em back. You get killed, walk it off." -Captain America (Age of Ultron)

"Oh, we're using our made up names." -Spider-Man (Infinity War)

"Get this man a shield." -Black Panther (Infinity War)

"He's a friend from work!" -Thor (Ragnarok)

Hulk & Thor // Pinterest

"Elevator's not worthy." -Captain America (Age of Ultron)

"Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say, 'No, you move.'" -Sharon Carter (Civil War)

"I promise you brother, the sun will shine on us again." -Loki (Infinity War)

"Language!" -Captain America (Age of Ultron)

"Doth Mother know you weareth her drapes?" -Iron Man (The Avengers)

"I've mastered the ability of standing so incredibly still that I become invisible to the eye. Watch." -Drax (Infinity War)

"I recognize that the council has made a decision, but given that it's a stupid-a** decision, I've elected to ignore it." -Nick Fury (The Avengers)

"Don't do anything stupid until I get back."
"How can I? You're taking all the stupid with you."
-Bucky Barnes and Steve Rogers (The First Avenger)

"Do you know how to fly this thing?"
"We'll see."
"That's a yes or no question."
"Yes."
-Nick Fury and Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel)

"Well done, you just decapitated your grandfather!" -Loki (The Dark World)

"I'm Mary Poppins, y'all!" -Yondu (Guardians of the Galaxy Volume II)

Okay, I'll stop here. There's way too many more!

6. Which crew would you want to be part of the most: Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, or Revengers?


The Avengers, hands down!


7. Favorite and least favorite ship?


Steve and Peggy are one of my favs. And . . . hmm. I feel like the MCU excels in bromances and friendship in general, but I can't think of very many romance pairings that I really, really love. Wait--if we're counting the Amazing Spider-Man films, then I adore Peter and Gwen together.

Least favorite ship? I'm not sure on that one either. I guess Bruce and Natasha.


8. Favorite and least favorite villain?

Favorite: LOKIIII. But I do get tired of the fangirls who excuse his crimes just because he's "misunderstood." He is that, but he also made some horrendous decisions. If he wasn't so charismatic, I doubt he'd be nearly as popular as he is. The reason I love Loki's character is because he's complicated--he has the potential for good and evil, and we see him waver between the two.

Loki // Pinterest

Least favorite: Abomination from The Incredible Hulk. First of all, that's probably my least favorite Marvel movie, and second, Abomination is just plain ugly to look at.


9. Unpopular MCU opinion?

Ultron is a fantastic villain. I'm not sure why people give him--and the whole movie--a hard time. He was perfectly chilling, the way he learned and planned and spoke as an AI.

"Everyone creates the thing they dread. Men of peace create engines of war. Invaders create Avengers. People create... smaller people? Er... children! I lost the word there. Children. Designed to supplant them. To help them... end."



Plus we have the bonus of Ultron being Tony Stark's fear-fuelled creation. Yay for internal conflict becoming external conflict!


10. What’s your favorite Stan Lee cameo scene?


CHRISTINE, STOP MAKING ME PICK. I laughed every time Stan Lee showed up on screen. It's going to be so different not to see him anymore.

But okay, if I have to choose, it's the "Tony Stank" comment in Civil War, but I also love the "Did it work?" line when he tries towing Mjolnir in the first Thor movie.

Thanks for letting me steal the tag, Christine! It's the perfect way to reminisce on all the Marvel adventures we've been given thus far . . . right before I go have my heart shredded for three hours in the theater.


Who's ready to see Avengers: Endgame? Have you seen it already? (Let's keep the comments spoiler-free for that movie if you have!) And tell me YOUR favorite Marvel character and Marvel quote!

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!

Image result for divergent four gif
(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

Related image
(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


Image result for venom 
 
Venom
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


Image result for the grinch 2018 
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.)


Related image
 
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
 
Image result for a time to die nadine brandes
 
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!


Image result for mark of the thief jennifer nielsen

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

Image result for a time to speak nadine brandes

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!

Image result for a time to rise nadine brandes

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.


Image result for harry potter and the goblet of fire book


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!


Saturday, January 26, 2019

Guest Post - How Realm Makers Impacted My Writing Journey

Earlier this week, I had the honor of guest posting for the Realm Makers blog! So in lieu of a new post here on Adventure Awaits, I'll just drop the link here: How Realm Makers Impacted My Writing Journey.




It's a particularly timely topic for those of you who might be considering attending this year's conference, because registration opens on February 1st! (Wink, wink.)


Tally ho! These days of me being an MIA blogger are numbered, friends. Thanks for bearing with me.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

DEAD MAGIC - I'm Published in Havok!


Hey, friends! Just popping in to say that if you haven't heard yet, my story called Dead Magic is published on Havok's website! You can go read it right HERE.

But remember, it's available today only unless you're a paid subscriber to Havok.

Hope you enjoy it! I'd love to interact with you in the comment section over there throughout the day. Tally ho!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

2018 Recap // 2019 Goals



A crisp new morning. The wide open feeling of new potential. This is January--or rather, it's my idealized January. At this time of year, I find myself reflecting on what the past 365 days have been like and where I hope to go in the next 365. It's definitely been a journey.


At the beginning of 2018, I slowed down and took a different approach to goal-setting. You can read about it here: What Lies on the Horizon. Today let's look at those goals and see if I hit them.


2018 Goals



Organize my beta readers' feedback on The Brightest Thread. Check! It was one whale of a job, but I did manage to wrangle all the feedback into one place and took an objective look at the critiques. (And smiled at the fangirly comments, let's be honest.)


Try my hand at flash fiction and submit to a magazine. What do you know, I managed that too! I wrote a few flash fics, and Dead Magic was accepted by Havok. Details coming VERY soon!


Edit The Brightest Thread. I made progress on that front, for sure. The beginning of the novel gave me a hard time (how dare it), but the first 22,000 words are now in pretty good shape. I think. It's been a while since I looked at it, thanks to college.


Start querying literary agents. Nope, I didn't make it that far, since I didn't finish editing TBT.


Attend Realm Makers in St. Louis and pitch TBT again there. I did make it to Realm Makers for the second time and pitched twice, with promising results. I'm excited to pursue that in the future.


Finish The Creative Way course. Ahahaha . . . no. This was on my list of goals last year too, and I worked through even fewer lessons in 2018 than I did in 2017. College swallowed my LIFE.


Get my secret project off the ground. Aside from brainstorming, I made no progress here either. See the above reason.


Spiff up the blog. Again, nope.


Maybe plan my next novel? Nuh-uh. You know the drill by now. #collegelife


Three and a half achieved out of nine.



A couple years ago, that might have made me depressed. But now? I can smile, nod, and turn my face toward the new year. Because I know that list of goals doesn't paint the whole picture. There were more important things I wanted out of 2018, bigger wins to achieve. Most of them can't be quantified.


I took more time for people. I noticed a marked difference in how I treated time spent with family and friends. Not that I'm oh-so-generous now, but I've become a little more willing, a little more able to shut up my inner critic when it wants to yak about the looming to-do list. The people in my life mean more than getting that blog post up in time or editing another chapter.


I carved out time to read and recharge. I skidded too close to burnout in 2017 and 2016, so with college ramping up this year, I knew it was even more crucial to stay rested. Again, I wasn't perfect at this, but there were many, many occasions I made the decision to pick up a book instead of a task in my free time. Sure, there were weeks in summer when I went full-steam ahead in editing my novel, and most definitely times during the school months that I worked my fingers to the bone. BUT. Overall, I took steps to nurture my mental health, and now I'm thanking myself for it.

Most importantly, I grew closer to God and forged a new devotional habit. Recently, I reread the What Lies on the Horizon post from last January . . . and it almost made me cry. Many of those words had faded from memory since writing them down, including this thought:


"What I know right now is that every time I have hungered for more of God and cried out for a deeper knowing of Him, He has responded. And every time, all it took was asking... and then putting one foot in front of the other with my eyes open for an answer. Another thing I know right now is that I miss digging into the Word." [Jan. 2018]


Since writing that, I started a contemplative Bible-reading plan--and kept up with it all year. Coming from a 2017 of very sporadic times spent with God, that's huge for me.


And when I look back at all the things God has whispered to my heart in 2018, I am moved by how kind and wise He is. All year, He encouraged me to rest, to accept grace, to trust Him. To do everything WITH Him. This was made especially clear at Realm Makers, where author Allen Arnold taught a class called Chaos and Creativity.


Books I read, people I talked to, messages from church I listened to, songs I heard . . they wove together into a beautiful melody threaded through the year, snagging my wandering attention when I strayed too far.

(And on the more superficial side of things, I finished two semesters of business college, had Mirrors Never Lie place as a finalist in Five Poisoned Apples, and read 50 books.)

I'm proud of 2018.

But now it's time to look to the new year.


2019 Goals



Continue my devotional habit. But more than just continuing, I want to build more thought, study, and variety into it as time goes on.


Give myself more grace. This one goes without explanation.


Take better care of myself. This includes getting the right amount of sleep, being intentional about unplugging, and making space for just being still.


Graduate college and get a great job. I can't wait! As much as I grumble about college (which is something else I need to work on), it really has been a valuable experience. One of these days I'll share some survival tips for fellow students. Anyway, before I graduate in April, I'll be looking for the kind of job that will make me excited to get up in the morning.


Finish editing The Brightest Thread. I'm so looking forward to brushing up this darling child of mine . . .


Send TBT to a literary agent. . . . And I'm looking forward to engaging in some serious querying!

Attend Realm Makers for the third time. It's my tentative plan, and I'm hoping it'll fit in the budget again this summer.


Actually finish The Creative Way writing course by Ted Dekker. Because there's cool stuff to learn and it's about time I finish what I started an embarrassingly long time ago.


Move Adventure Awaits to a self-hosted website. You heard it here first, folks! Rather than simply spruce up the blog, I'm seriously contemplating moving to a bona-fide website later this year. I foresee many inquiries being sent to the more technologically-minded . . .


Bring that secret project into existence. And that's all I'll say about that. *wink*


I do have a handful of "bonus goals," smaller and easier-to-achieve things that would be nice to accomplish, but not absolutely imperative. Things like purging my room, purchasing a new laptop, reading another 50 books (including my nonfiction TBR stack), even getting a personal blender with which to make smoothies. But I think ten major goals are quite enough for now, thank you!

2019 holds some big changes, that much is certain. I'm eagerly anticipating a change of season, from full-time student to . . . well, full-time something else, and also the chance to revive my writing life. In the meantime, I hope to practice grace for myself and others--and face the future with a peaceful heart.


What are you looking forward to this year, fellow questers?


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Books of 2018

In true bookdragon fashion, I enjoy tracking what I read and keeping tabs on what my friends read too, because bookdragons love company! If you're here at Adventure Awaits, I'm assuming you're my scaly, story-addicted kin. Welcome.
 
In the interests of satisfying curiosity--yours and mine--here are all the books I read in 2018, complete with the mini reviews and stats that were popular last year!


JANUARY

Raising Dragons // Bryan Davis
Boy breathes fire // Arthurian legend // dragonslayers // felt like returning to old friends // 5 stars


Siren's Fury // Mary Weber
Steampunk meets fantasy // dramatic redemption // airships // darkness // cliffhanger // 5 stars


FEBRUARY

The Scorch Trials // James Dashner
Improved over The Maze Runner // Newt and Minho are my favs // Teresa is annoying as all get-out // sorry, the movie was better // 4 stars


The Candlestone // Bryan Davis
All my babies are growing up // vivid analogies // "truth is my sword" // singing in the midst of darkness // 5 stars


Hostage Run // Andrew Klavan
Super fast read // video game affects reality // angry son actually works to forgive his father // Molly is great // 4 stars


Orphan's Song // Gillian Bronte Adams
Cozy fantasy // griffins and orphans and swords // music is magic // Amos, the cranky peddler, sounds exactly like Hector Barbossa in my head // 4 stars



MARCH

Last Star Burning // Caitlin Sangster
Dystopian China = very cool // sleeping sickness // confusing action sequences // common sense could've prevented 90% of the problems // backstabby characters // 3 stars


Circles of Seven // Bryan Davis
So much symbolism // one of my favorites // Walter and Ashley snark // detestable villainess // Prof is the actual best // 5 stars



APRIL

The Returning // Rachelle Dekker
Powerful themes about identity // new generation of characters // I missed the old ones // some loose threads left unresolved // 4 stars


Tears of a Dragon // Bryan Davis
Great character growth // rescuing dragon souls // fighting the Watchers // solid ending // 5 stars


The Story Peddler // Lindsay A. Franklin
Cozy and full of wonder // exceeded my expectations // storytelling powers // headstrong heroine // ragtag band of misfits // I fell in love with the pirate! // 5 stars



MAY

Eye of the Oracle // Bryan Davis
History of millennia woven into overarching plot // underground slaves // portal jumping // Makaidos is my favorite dragon ever // 5 stars


The Sea of Monsters // Rick Riordan
Hilarious // a taxi of death // man-eating sheep // Tyson is sweet // epic bad guys plans // would've liked a bit more introspection // 5 stars


Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone // J.K. Rowling
Utterly enchanting // lovable characters // my first foray into the Wizarding World // some unnecessary sneakery // I'm gonna go live at Hogwarts okay thanks // 5 stars


Gravestone // Travis Thrasher
Audiobook // dark and winding road // gloomy // creepy // a ray of light is coming // very lifelike emotions // 5 stars


JUNE

Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff // Chip Gaines
Interesting anecdotes // family first // live fearlessly // felt a bit scattered // 4 stars


Steal Like an Artist // Austin Kleon
Inspiration for the creative process // celebrate imperfection // pithy and quotable // catapults your own thoughts // 5 stars


Enoch's Ghost // Bryan Davis
Sacrifice // Ashley is super relatable // creepy infinite staircase // so many awesome characters hurting so much, ow // 5 stars


Siren's Song // Mary Weber
Epic final battle // heart-wrenching ending // Nym has come so far // Myles gave me Loki vibes // thematically magnificent // 5 stars


Unblemished // Sara Ella
So fun and cute // fairy-tale-esque world connected to New York // twisty plot // love triangle // Team Ky all the way // 4.5 stars


The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap // Akira Himekawa
Graphic novel // cute drawing style // the Pikori are adorable // good conclusion // 4 stars


Paper and Fire // Rachel Caine
Left me breathless // good ol' rescue plot // creepy automatons // squad goals // stacks of dusty, old books // gearing up for an epic rebellion // 5 stars


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets // J.K. Rowling
The Weasely family is adorable // rollicking adventures // Mandrakes! // ugh, Lockhart // unexpected and satisfying ending // 5 stars


All the Crooked Saints // Maggie Stiefvater
Charming, lyrical writing // eclectic pilgrims // the desert is a character unto itself // Pete, my love // healing is found through opening up to others // 5 stars



JULY

Last of the Nephilim // Bryan Davis
War is coming // everyone's gathering in Second Eden (which is a really cool place) // lots of action // Elam! // 5 stars




AUGUST

Embers // Ronie Kendig
Love the premise // fire powers // a bit too many characters // set up for the beginnings of an epic "fellowship," though // 4 stars


The Bones of Makaidos // Bryan Davis
One of my favorite books // epic cast // climactic battles // best-ever satisfying ending // 5 stars


Fairest Son // H.S.J. Williams
Gender-bent Snow White // wild fey // unexpected twists // I fell in love with Prince Idris // beautiful story // 5 stars


Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking // Susan Cain
Fascinating // made me more aware of my temperament's strengths // 4 stars


Hacker // Ted Dekker
Took a surprising look at the unseen world // hacking the human consciousness // felt like an allegory // 4 stars



SEPTEMBER

The Magician's Nephew // C.S. Lewis
Focus on the Family audio // brought back memories // dawn of Narnia brings me to tears // 5 stars


The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe // C.S. Lewis
Focus on the Family audio // classic // great voice cast // except Aslan's voice doesn't beat Liam Neeson in the movies // 5 stars


The Story of With // Allen Arnold
Life-changing // awakens the heart // fiction and nonfiction fused together // 5 stars


The Horse and His Boy // C.S. Lewis
Focus on the Family audio // I loved this one more than the first few times I read it // Bree is my fav // 5 stars


Prince Caspian // C.S. Lewis
Focus on the Family audio // really fun // Trumpkin's voice is amusing // the Pevensies are back // 5 stars


The Voyage of the Dawn Treader // C.S. Lewis
Focus on the Family audio // so many adventures // one of my favorite Narnia books // 5 stars


The Silver Chair // C.S. Lewis
Focus on the Family audio // darker than I remembered // Puddleglum's the best // 5 stars


The Last Battle // C.S. Lewis
Focus on the Family audio // I want to throttle that ape // Susan, why? // happy reunions // further up and further in // 5 stars


Song of the Ovulum // Bryan Davis
Tale of mercy // new generation of characters // also a throwback to the Biblical Flood // 5 stars



OCTOBER

Crazy Love // Francis Chan
Audiobook // some good parts about the bigness of God // bit of a guilt trip in other parts // 4 stars


From the Mouth of Elijah // Bryan Davis
Fiery volcanoes // madcap portal dashes // sacrificial love // Lauren's journey is particularly poignant // 5 stars


If We Survive // Andrew Klavan
Audiobook // so intense // Will is such a good kid // I love all the characters, though // everything goes wrong, ack // 5 stars


Fawkes // Nadine Brandes
Lived up to the hype // historical fantasy with color magic // Thomas! Emma! // twisty plot // 5 stars


Haven // Mary Lindsey
Paranormal romance // clich├ęd plot, decently cool backstory // alpha male protagonist, overly aggressive // the romance was blegh, blegh, blegh // I got rid of the book // 1 star

NOVEMBER

The Seventh Door // Bryan Davis
Awesome parallels to Circles of Seven // Tamiel is one crafty villain // deeply sad scenes // Matt grows a lot // 5 stars



DECEMBER

The Scorpio Races // Maggie Stiefvater
So good that it hurts // atmospheric // the capall uisce horses are SCARY // slow burn romance // Puck and I understand each other // love Sean Kendrick // 5 stars


Omega Dragon // Bryan Davis
Apocalyptic conclusion // so many brave heroes // tied up the twelve books in a smashing finale // 5 stars
 
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban // J.K. Rowling
My favorite HP book yet // Lupin is the best // Harry is growing up // all the plot twists // I want to visit Hogwarts // 5 stars
 
Horseman // Kyle Robert Schultz
The Wild West of Neverica // magic and mayhem // spot-on humor // Julio the dragon is hilarious // 4 stars
 
The Sacred Enneagram // Christopher L. Heuertz
Enlightening // resonated with my inner journey // lots to chew on // Christian perspective on how to use the Enneagram for personal and spiritual growth // 5 stars
 

Reading Stats

 
Total Books Read: 50 (10 more than 2017!)
Pages Read: 17,656 (which is over 4,000 more pages than 2017!)
 
Also, let us take a moment to cast an appreciative glance at a two-foot stack made of eleven college textbooks read during the year. I'm not sure how many hundreds of pages that pile would add . . . and I'm not sure I want to think about it.

Genres of 2018

This was the year of fantasy! But . . . I mean . . . that's not new. I did average a nonfiction book every other month, which is up from last year.
 
 
Some other stats of interest . . .

 
I "read" a lot more audiobooks than normal (since normal used to be zero). And, as you'll see below, this was also the Year of Rereads!
 
 

Star Ratings

Pretty typical! I read a lot of books I enjoyed and very, very few that I didn't.
 
 

Most Read Authors

  • Bryan Davis (12)
  • C.S. Lewis (7)
  • J.K. Rowling (3)
  • Mary Weber (2)
  • Andrew Klavan (2)
  • Maggie Steifvater (2)
 

Favorite Authors Discovered in 2018

Without a doubt, my favorite new-to-me authors this year were:
 
  • Lindsay A. Franklin (because The Story Peddler was awesome, Lindsay is awesome, and I can't wait for her next book releasing April 2019!)
  • J.K. Rowling (because I finally joined the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and I'm rather delighted to be here)
  • H.S.J. Williams (because her Snow White novella was just so beautiful)
 

Least Favorite Book

Haven by Mary Lindsey. I've already complained about it, so if you're curious about the details behind why I so disliked this novel, I'll just drop a link to my Goodreads review HERE.
 

Favorite Books

IT'S SO HARD TO PICK. Because almost half of this year's books were rereads, I'm going to cheat and give you two lists--one of my favorite new books and one of my favorite rereads.

Favorite New Books
  • The Story Peddler
  • Paper and Fire
  • All the Crooked Saints
  • Fairest Son
  • Fawkes
  • The Scorpio Races
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
 
Favorite Rereads
  • Circles of Seven
  • Eye of the Oracle
  • The Bones of Makaidos
  • The Horse and His Boy
  • If We Survive


Happy Reading, Bookdragons!



I'm pleasantly surprised to see what a great reading year this was! It was pretty different than my usual, what with rereads (which used to be rare), more nonfiction, and more audiobooks (which saved my Goodreads reading challenge while in college).
 
Looking forward to another great set of books in 2019! My TBR pile is as staggering as ever, threatening to hold me hostage; and new releases like To Best the Boys by Mary Weber, The Story Raider by Lindsay Franklin, Romanov by Nadine Brandes, and probably a lot more are just going to add height to the TBR . . . but that's a fun problem to have.


Whew, you made it to the end! Now tell me: what were some of your top reads of 2018? And what's an upcoming release you can't wait to add to your dragon hoard?