My (Obligatory) 2018 Goals Post

Hey everyone! So it’s 2018, and it seems (at least to me) as though everyone out there in the blogosphere is putting together posts about their goals for the new year. I figured I’d hop on the bandwagon, just for fun! Plus, it’s a nice quick post to put together for the first week of the spring semester. So, in no particular order, here are some of my goals!

1. Read the books of the Bible I’ve never read.

Yes, it’s true: I’m 20-and-a-half, and I haven’t read the whole Bible. Last year, I started going backwards through the Old Testament to finish up the books I’ve never read, and I want to finish this year. I’m currently a good way through Jeremiah, then I only have 1 and 2 Maccabees (Catholic here) to go!

2. Read 24 (non-Bible) books.

A little history of my Goodreads yearly goals…. In 2016, when I joined Goodreads (in March), I thought 24 books would be a feasible goal for the year. I failed miserably with only 17 books finished by the end of the year, so last year, 2017, I set a goal of 20. I reached that goal, and even read two books extra–yay! So this year, I figured I’d go back to 24 and see if I can do it. So far, I’m already on my third book, re-reading To Darkness Fled by Jill Williamson.

3. Apply to graduate school.

My initial reaction upon thinking of this goal: Oh, shoot, is that this year already?!?

Seriously, though. I’m going into my senior year of college this coming fall (!) and it’ll be time to start applying to PhD programs. I am currently working toward this goal by making very many spreadsheets (thank you, Microsoft Excel) of potential schools I’d like to apply to and faculty I’d like to work with. It’s so crazy to think that in about a year’s time, I’ll start hearing back…. Let’s move on, shall we?

4. Make time for writing and other creativity.

This is SO important this year. I think in previous years, I’ve gotten so caught up in college that I haven’t been able to make time to do the other things I really want to do, specifically writing. So I have resolved to write, outline, edit, or worldbuild–anything that contributes directly to one of my books–at least five minutes three days a week, just to keep in practice. So far I’ve already failed on that, with only two days last week (don’t look at me like that; I took the GRE on Saturday), but I think I made up for it with the map I drew Saturday night. I think it’s my best version yet!

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My latest map for my fantasy book Windsong.

Well, those are some of my goals for the year! What are some of yours? How are they coming so far? Tell me in the comments!


Thoughts on The Two Towers, Part I

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Good morning, everyone, and happy Monday! Normally today I would do the Beautiful People link-up, but since this month it’s about NaNoWriMo and I’m not participating (anymore *cough* I gave up), I wanted to share some thoughts about one of my favorite books with you.

Every year and a half or so, I get a gut feeling that it’s Lord of the Rings time again. I love The Lord of the Rings. It’s my absolute favorite book ever and probably the single greatest influence on my writing over my lifetime. And (you guessed it) it’s Lord of the Rings time right now! Right now, I’m almost finished with The Return of the King, the third part, so that means I’ve recently finished The Two Towers, the (I think) underappreciated filling in the Lord of the Rings sandwich. And I have some thoughts on it, which I’ll share below! (There are, of course, spoilers here for anyone who has not read The Lord of the Rings.)

The Two Towers: The Bridge of The Lord of the Rings

As it says in the header, it is my opinion that The Two Towers (which, for simplicity, I’ll refer to as TTT for the rest of the post) is really the bridge of The Lord of the Rings (LotR). In other words, without it, The Fellowship of the Ring (FotR) and The Return of the King (RotK) would be lost and alone and probably make no sense. TTT pulls it all together in many ways.

Probably the most important thing about TTT is that everything is interconnected, at least within each of the two major parts, Book III (which follows Aragorn, Gandalf, and the rest of the fellowship after its breaking) and Book IV (concerned with Frodo and Sam’s journey to Mordor). In writing this post, I found that when thinking about one element of either book, three or four elements it was connected to would pop up. I attribute this to J.R.R. Tolkien’s seamless weaving together of storylines into one vast epic, and indeed this is one of the qualities that make LotR as a whole so enduring. TTT is an excellent example of this beautiful interweaving.

So what are some of those elements I was talking about? In Book III, let’s take Saruman. Saruman was introduced, but always off-screen, in FotR when Gandalf told the Council of Elrond about his imprisonment in Isengard, Saruman’s stronghold. In TTT, he is a much more present menace; for instance, it is revealed that some of the Orcs who captured Merry and Pippin at the end of FotR are acting on Saruman’s orders, to bring back hobbits, alive. They fail, of course, when Eomer and the Riders of Rohan intercept and destroy them. This leads us into the role of Merry and Pippin (who coincidentally constitute one of my favorite literary pairings ever), who, after escaping from the Orcs, wander into Fangorn forest and bump into Treebeard and the other Ents. This seemingly minor movement of two small characters proves to be earth-shattering (literally), when the information Merry and Pippin bring galvanizes the Ents to break Isengard.

This is one of the instances in which TTT reinforces one of LotR’s key themes: even the smallest people can change the world, especially when they don’t intend to. Merry and Pippin didn’t set out with Frodo to become great in their own right, but only to support him in his journey. But because they refused to be left behind, in the Shire and again in Rivendell, they became two of the most important movers and shakers in the War of the Ring. And their combined influence in TTT set them up to go even further when separated during the events of RotK.

Right, where was I? Oh, yes, Saruman. Another key personage who is intimately connected with Saruman is, of course, Gandalf. The end of FotR saw Gandalf fallen in the Mines of Moria, supposedly never to return. In TTT, however, it is revealed that he has in fact survived (or died and risen–I’ve always found the distinction rather ambiguous), and has returned to continue supporting Frodo’s quest by orchestrating the War west of the River Anduin. He takes up this role most fully in RotK, but first, Gandalf must deal with Saruman. He first throws Saruman’s influence out of the land of Rohan (more on that later), then rides on to Isengard, where he proves his primacy by asserting power to cast Saruman down from his high horse, as it were.

So in TTT, Gandalf grows (debatably–I suppose he always had this in him) into his new role as the head wizard and war-orchestrator, which he takes on more fully in RotK. His new primacy makes the reader wonder, though: if Gandalf is greater than Saruman, isn’t he on a level with Sauron? He is so wise and powerful; shouldn’t he have taken the Ring and taken Sauron on one-to-one, rather than sending Frodo with the Ring to Mordor? But deep down, we know that Gandalf would ultimately have been corrupted by the Ring, and that he did the wisest thing possible in sending Frodo. This also gives more impact to the climax of LotR; when the Ring is cast into Mount Doom, and Sauron is overcome, it has that much more impact because we know that little Frodo and Sam did something that great, wise Gandalf could not have done. Again, TTT reinforces that overall theme of the influence of seemingly unimportant people.

Then there are the other pieces on the chessboard of TTT: Rohan with its king, Theoden, and the other members of the Fellowship, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. Like Gandalf, Aragorn grows during TTT into the king he was meant to be, and will become in RotK. He is sure of himself; he makes executive decisions, like when he goes west after Merry and Pippin rather than east after Frodo and Sam at the beginning of TTT, and it is clear that Legolas and Gimli acknowledge him as their leader. But he is not overconfident or over-proud; once they meet Gandalf, he submits to his authority, which he will continue to do in RotK, because he knows Gandalf is wiser. And he always treats Legolas and Gimli as equals, and befriends Eomer, who is much younger than he is. This last move pays off in RotK when Eomer and Aragorn are both kings and become official allies.

Rohan is also an important piece of the puzzle. Without Theoden and his host, Gondor would have failed in RotK at the Pelennor Fields, and the quest of the Ring most likely would have failed as well. But without the events of TTT, Theoden and his host could never have come to Gondor’s aid. For starters, it was Eomer’s Riders who ambushed the Orc host, allowing Merry and Pippin to be freed and having a domino effect on the rest of the story as discussed above. And if Theoden King had continued to despair after Gandalf cast out Wormtongue, or had given in to Saruman’s voice at Isengard, Rohan would have been bereft of a leader and probably overwhelmed by Saruman’s forces. Instead, they won the battle at Helm’s Deep (with the help of the Huorns, another piece moved by the hobbits’ escape) and lived to help Gondor and ultimately stand before the Black Gate of Mordor at the climax of RotK, with the other peoples of the world.

Well, those are my thoughts on Book III of LotR, the first book of The Two Towers. I was going to put my thoughts on Book IV in here, too, but I think this is long enough for one blog post. Come back next month for my thoughts on Frodo’s journey to Mordor!

That’s all for me today! What do you think? Do you have anything to add to my thoughts on TTT? Which installment of LotR is your favorite? Who are your favorite members of the Fellowship? Tell me in the comments!


The Daily Quote Challenge

Hi, folks! Just a quick note before we begin. April is going to be a weird month for blog scheduling. I’ve decided to make my genetics/biotech Q&A into two posts on the 15th and 22nd, since I have several questions accumulated in different categories. And I had a plan for today, but since I’m staring down at a pile of lab reports, exams, and research for next week, I decided to scrap my normal science post and go with a quick short thing. There will sadly be no book review this month (I was going to review The Double Helix by James Watson, but I don’t have much time to try to remember what I thought of it . . . write reviews ahead of time, people).

So, onward! Today I’m going to do a tag that Victoria Grace Howell tagged me for a couple months ago, and I just never got around to it. I do want to thank her for tagging me, though. This looks like it should be fun. 🙂

The Rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Nominate 3 new bloggers every day.
  3. Post a new quote every day for three consecutive days. (Like Victoria, I’m just going to change this to posting three quotes all at once and tag a couple bloggers.)

My outlining-stage WIP tentatively titled This Hidden Darkness particularly lends itself to finding quotes for writing inspiration, so the three quotes shared here are all related to this book. So here they are!

Faith is the antidote for fear. —Russell M. Nelson #LDS:

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The Nominees:

  1. Olivia @ Story Matters
  2. Maggie @ Maggie’s Musings

And that’s it for me today!

Have you ever done this tag? What is a quote that fits your WIP? Do any of these work for your WIP as well as mine? Tell me in the comments!

A Call for Questions: Genetics and Writing

Hi, everybody! It’s the end of March, and April is a fifth-Saturday month, so I’m planning something special for that day. Genetics and biotechnology seem to be big premise concepts in science fiction right now (not surprising, since they’re currently undergoing a revolutionary rise), and as a genetics major, I know a bit more about these topics than most people. Further, I really like to see these things accurately represented in fiction.

This leads to the subject of today’s post. If you are a sci-fi writer, or any other kind of writer, and want to know more about something in your book, please comment with a question about genetics or biotech, what scientists do all day, what techniques are used in labs, or anything else related that you can think of. I’m happy to help with book research, and all questions will be answered in a Q & A style post on this topic on April 22nd.

So feel free to ask away!

What questions do you have? I’m eager to see them. Leave them in the comments!

Changes to the Blogging Schedule

Hello all! Yesterday was the end of finals week for me (yay!), so I wasn’t able to whip up a blog post for today. Instead, I thought I’d make some notes about my blogging schedule for December.

I was originally going to follow my regular schedule, but I haven’t finished reading my review book yet, since the semester just ended (although I did make quite a lot of progress on one last night). And since next Saturday is Christmas Eve, I’ll be taking that day off. Instead, this month’s book review will go up next Wednesday, Dec. 21st.

The “My Life This Month” post will go up on the final Saturday of the month, Dec. 31st, as usual. Since it is the end of the year this month, I may take a look back at my whole year as well as the month. I’m not sure yet.

That’s it for me today! Enjoy your weekend, and I’ll see you on Wednesday!

Beautiful Books 2016: Novel Update

Hello, everyone! I know it took a while for me to get to this, but here is my Wednesday post for the month. This month, Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further Up and Further In have continued their Beautiful Books from last month. This is mostly geared at NaNoWriMo projects, which brings up a funny story. I wasn’t going to do NaNoWriMo last month; I mean, I already had 5500 words in Circle of Fire before November started. Then, about 8 P.M. on October 31st, I thought, “Well, why not?” And here I am.

So here is my novel update for CoF this November!

1. Overall, how is your mental state, and how is your novel going?

My mental state? Eh. Okay, I guess. My stress level is mostly related to a large number of exams and physics things this month, so writing is actually a nice distraction from that. My novel is going okay; I’m a bit behind on word count (and I don’t expect that will change by the time this post is published), but I’m hoping to catch up over Thanksgiving. I have finished the First Act and am plowing through the Second, so I’m making more progress than I was before November, which I guess is the overall goal.

2. What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?

I think this is the most you’ve gotten out of me about this book. All right. Here is the first sentence:

“Faint thoughts drifted across Rahara’s mind.”

Scintillating, I know. (Seriously, though, do let me know what you think of it. They say the first line is very important.)

3. Who’s your current favorite character in your novel?

Ooh, tough one. I love all my characters (even my antagonist this time, which is unusual for me). I think I’d have to say Rahara, the main, is my favorite. She’s just delightful, and I love writing her British accent. 🙂

4. What do you love about your novel so far?

Many things. 🙂 I’ve realized as I’ve gotten into it just how passionate I am about this weird idea (and believe me, it is weird). I love the characters. I love them with every book I write, but this is the first time I’ve written such a diverse cast. (So many Earthlings. XD) And I really do love my antagonist. I think he’s the most relatable one I’ve ever created. And since it would be a major spoiler to say how, I’ll just stop there.

5. Have you made any hilarious typos or other mistakes?

Haha. I wouldn’t be surprised if I did, but I’m usually pretty good about backspacing. (Which is why I can’t do a Fifty-Headed Hydra–five hundred words in five minutes–I’m obsessive about correct spelling.) While I was chatting with a friend one day, though, I did mention how I had to “right” a lab report. Not related to the novel, but still.

6. What is your favorite to write: beginning, middle, or end, and why?

Hmm. I always like the end (especially if I know what’s going on), because I’m wrapping it all up and it means I’m finally done. Dialogue, though, anywhere in the book, is my favorite.

7. What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!

This is a long question. Well, I have developed a habit of fitting in some writing while I’m waiting for physics lecture to start; I can usually get in 500 words or so that way. My usual writing space is just my bed, so I won’t bother to photograph that (my desk has a fish tank and a gerbera daisy on it, so). Honestly, I write best on weekends; weekdays after I get home from school, I’m sometimes quite exhausted. So I try to catch up (and miserably fail) on the weekends.

8. How private are you about your novel while you’re writing? Do you need a cheer squad or do you work alone?

In general, I’m fairly private about my writing, although I find I am sharing more and more on this blog. I always brainstorm and share snippets with my best friend and fellow writer, though. And sometimes I rant at my brother, too (sorry).

9. What keeps you writing even when it’s hard?

That usually comes down to this: “I’m sick of schoolwork!” XD But also, I’m a very highly driven person (at least most of the time), and I know if I never finish the book, I’m not going to have a writing career, am I? So I keep going.

10. What are your top 3 pieces of writing advice?

Hmm, good question. A positivity thing that I’ve learned is that, no matter what, this is the best book you’ve ever written, because you’re always getting better. I think of that when I’m in a perfectionistic mood. I also love the advice that reading makes you a better writer. It’s true, and it’s an excuse to read, right? And lastly, it is good to finish the book like I said above, or you don’t have anything to seek publication with. It just seems logical to me.

What do you think? Have you done this link-up? Are you going to? (If you have, put your link in the comments so I can read it!) How is your book coming? What did you think of my first line? What are your top three pieces of writing advice? Tell me in the comments!

What I’m Watching: Star Trek Beyond

This month, in lieu of a book review, I have a movie review, since a) I loved this movie and b) I haven’t read a book recently to review . . . oops. *ahem* And movies are stories, too, right? I figure it’s good to do something different once in a while.

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Information for Readers Viewers:

Genre: Science Fiction/Action-Adventure

Age Level Rating: PG-13

Extreme Content? Yes; there’s quite a bit of violence, including one torture-ish scene my family fast-forwarded through, and some swearing. Also, one character is gay, but it’s fairly subtle.

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The Story: After visiting the new Starbase, Yorktown, the starship Enterprise responds to a distress call that leads them into a nebula–and under attack by a fleet of small alien ships that tear the Enterprise to pieces. Destroyed, and with most of her crew captured, the Enterprise crash-lands on a nearby planet. Now Kirk (Chris Pine), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), Doctor “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), Spock (Zachary Quinto), and Scotty (Simon Pegg), split up, must find a way to free the rest of their crew and stop the nefarious Krall (Idris Elba), who is behind the Enterprise‘s destruction, from wreaking havoc on the Federation.

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The Characters: There are a lot of the same characters as in the first two alternate-universe Star Trek movies, like Kirk, Spock, Bones, Chekov, Sulu, Uhura, and of course, Scotty. There are also some new characters, mainly Krall and Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), a marooned alien girl who befriends Scotty. All of them were well-developed and well-rounded, and most had major parts to play in the film. Initially, I thought Krall was a bit of a stereotypical pure-evil villain, but that changed near the end, which made a nice twist. I also really liked Jaylah (let’s face it, I’m a sucker for woman warrior characters), and the rest of the crew, but as always, Scotty was my favorite. He always has the best dialogue and the funniest reactions to things, and Simon Pegg does such a good job. I just love Scotty. 🙂

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Scotty and Jaylah


The Writing (and Filmmaking): I’m not much of a film critic, but I thought this film, like the first two in the series, was beautifully done. The computer-generated sequences are really nice, and the filmography (I think that’s the term) just sucks you in. It’s quite engrossing to watch.

The writing, too, was excellent. My little writer brain got all excited watching this movie, because I kept noticing foreshadowing and plot twists and payoffs on earlier foreshadowing and things like that. Plus, the dialogue was on point, and I didn’t feel there was too much infodumping in the form of contrived dialogue. It was just really satisfying to see the story unfold.

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And Spock and Bones get stuck together, which makes for interesting interpersonal conflict.


Overall: Star Trek: Beyond was  a really good movie. Definitely recommended! (And watch out for future movie reviews! I rather like this format. . . .)

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There’s also this fun scene where Captain Kirk gets to ride a motorcycle. There’s a lot going on in this movie.


Have you seen Star Trek: Beyond? What did you think of it? Who was your favorite character? If you haven’t seen it, do you think you will? Tell me in the comments!

Extra Post: The Bookshelf Tour Tag

Hi, folks! I know I’ve already wrapped up September, but Victoria Howell tagged me for this tag (many thanks, Victoria!), and it looked too fun to not do. So, let’s tour my bookshelf!

1. A short but powerful book: Good question. I think the closest thing to “short and powerful” on my bookshelf is 1984 by George Orwell. But it’s not exactly short. 😛 As far as things I’ve read, A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin was pretty short, and absolutely amazing. (Check out my review here!)

2. A good, long book: The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien. (That may not be the last Tolkien book mentioned in this tag. . . .)

3. Favorite classic (on your shelf): Let’s hear it for The Lord of the Rings! If that doesn’t count because it’s too much of a pop-culture phenomenon, Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott is also good.

4. A relatively obscure book: Dreamlander by K.M. Weiland. This is an amazing book, I’m pretty sure it’s self-published, and it needs to be better known. (Seriously, go look it up right now. Or read my review first, whatever.)

5. An underrated book: See #4. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede could also fall into this category, but I’m pretty sure they have more of a following than Dreamlander does.

6. An overrated book: Hmm. I guess Edge of Oblivion by Joshua A. Johnston, although it’s not very overrated. As I said in my review, I just couldn’t like the characters very much. I’m not sure if a second read will prove me wrong, but for now, it’ll just sit on my shelf.

7. Most reread book: The Lord of the Rings, easy. Also probably the Dragons in our Midst series by Bryan Davis. Both (well, all five) are excellent.

8. A book you haven’t read: There are so many, actually. . . . A few are Othello by William Shakespeare, a translation of Beowulf, and Patriot Games by Tom Clancy.

9. A short story collection: Two: the Great Short Works of Herman Melville and The Rest of the Robots by Isaac Asimov. Both of which could also be answers for #8.

10. A non-fiction book: Hahaha, there are so many of these. I’ll restrict my answers to three: Plant Growth and Development: A Molecular Approach, Power Unseen: How Microbes Rule the World (curiously enough, another answer to #8), and the Outlining Your Novel Workbook by K.M. Weiland. (That last one isn’t actually on the shelf at the moment, since I’ve been using it to work on Circle of Fire. But hey.)

11. A book (physical copy, not the story itself) that has an interesting story behind it: Edge of Oblivion, actually. It’s the only book I’ve ever won in a giveaway. Besides that, Jill Williamson‘s Blood of Kings trilogy is a result of the only time I’ve ever spent $40 worth of gift cards on only three books. (I think the only time I’ve ever spent $40 worth of gift cards, period. But they’re awesome books, so they were worth it.)

Now I’m going to tag some people. There are no rules with this one, so how about three other bloggers?

  1. Olivia @ Story Matters
  2. Maggie @ Maggie’s Musings
  3. Natasha @ Starlit Wanderings

And that’s it for me for today!

Whew! I think I had too many answers to the questions. . . . Well, have you read any of the books I mentioned? Curious about any of them? What would be your answers to some of these questions? (Feel free to take the tag if you want, just link back politely. :)) (Oh, and go check out those blogs I listed as my nominees! And Victoria’s blog, too, if I didn’t say that already.) Anyway . . . tell me in the comments!


Extra Post: One Lovely Blog Award

Hello, all! I am deviating from my planned schedule because I have been tagged for the “One Lovely Blog Award.” I have never done one of these before, so let’s give it a shot and see how it goes.

The rules are as follows:

  1. Each nominee must THANK the person who nominated them and link to their blog in the post. (Thank you so much to Natalie @ Books and Quills for the nomination!)
  2. They must include the rules and add the blog award badge as an image. (Check!)
  3. Must add 7 facts about them. (See below.)
  4. Then nominate 15 people! (Eheh. I may come up short on this one, but I’ll give it my best shot.)

So on to my seven facts!

  1. I love DNA. I think nucleotide base pairing is just the coolest thing (along with stories, yes. . .). I know I’m a nerd, but there it is.
  2. I have a cat! (Well, my family’s cat. And if you go by his favorite person, he’s my brother’s.)
His name is Milo. I love him so much, even though he’s unfriendly sometimes. He’s just so cute.

3. I love chocolate, especially dark chocolate. Well, who doesn’t?

4. I have a lot of hobbies. Writing (if it counts as a hobby as well as a career aspiration), reading, gardening, pottery, aquarium fish, sewing, crochet and knitting, and on and on.

5. Fish! I love tropical freshwater aquarium fish. I think they’re so cool. I have a betta, some tetras and platies, a cichlid, and a plecostomus.

Plecostomus are my favorites. They eat algae and they’re awesome, though this isn’t the kind I have. (Image not mine)

6. My favorite authors: J.R.R. Tolkien (far and away in a category by himself), Jill Williamson, and Bryan Davis. You should check out all of their books if you like fantasy and speculative fiction (Christian for the latter two). On that topic, I am currently reading Tolkien’s The Children of Hurin to review for you in April!

7. I dislike snow. I live in New Hampshire, and it can get very tiresome to have to shovel and drive in the stuff. Fortunately, this winter was much better than last year’s.

On to nominations! Let’s see how many I can come up with:

Olivia @ Story Matters

Sara @ Sara Letorneau’s Official Website and Blog

David @ David B. Hunter

Ha. Three. I knew I wouldn’t be able to come up with fifteen. Well, that’s all right.

Well, that’s it for today! I hope you enjoyed getting to know me a bit better. And I guess you can expect occasional extra posts on Wednesdays. Thanks for reading!