Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Titles

I was super surprised to discover I’d never actually done a list for this topic before? And since That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday is having a free topic, now is a great time to remedy that. Including all of the covers would defeat the purpose of having the titles stand on their own, so this post will have to do without.

Titles can do a lot to pique our interest, but it is genuinely hard to pull off even when the author/marketing team wants to–because often it’s more important to have the title match the genre and brand. I find that very few titles stick out. These are the ones that really impressed me (please note that I haven’t read all of them yet):


Dead Witch Walking

Did I say that authors have to choose between cool titles and branding? Because here’s Kim Harrison, proving that’s not always the case. This is still the greatest urban fantasy title I’ve ever come across even over a decade post-publication. Continue reading “Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Titles”

Legendary Gives Us a Heroine Who Knows the Value of a Good Bluff

The background is a spades playing card. The text reads "New York Times Bestselling Author Stephanie Garber, Legendary, A Caraval novel."

I reviewed the first book, Caraval, here. 

Caraval is a magical carnival where participants compete to win a prize. At the previous Caraval, Scarlett competed to save her sister Tella and win their freedom. But Tella hasn’t shared all of her secrets, and those secrets will have her competing in the next Caraval–where she’ll have to choose who to save, and who to sacrifice.

In a way, Tella had been the hidden protagonist of Caraval. Scarlett might have been the narrator, but she was walking on a path that Tella laid out for her. Tella’s decisions drove the entire plot of the book. So it was super exciting to get the next book from her perspective, because though I like Scarlett, Tella has so much more agency.

And true to that promise, Legendary starts us off by revealing a whole heap of Tella’s secrets and motivations. She’d had access to way more information than we’d known (through the eyes of her sister) in the first book. And she’d tracked down that information because she’s been fighting fate for a long time now–and she’s not about to stop now. Continue reading “Legendary Gives Us a Heroine Who Knows the Value of a Good Bluff”

Suspense and Arcane Horror in Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Crystal Palace One-Shot from Critical Role

 

(The show starts around the 6-minute mark, as it doesn’t seem to be autoplaying from there properly.)

Victorian London is holding its annual cat show at the Crystal Palace–an exhibition center made of glass, now fallen into disrepair. It is under the guise of this event that six enterprising professionals are hired to “procure” an artifact from the closed portions of the building for a collector. A world-trotting explorer, an enterprising daughter of Japanese ambassadors, an archivist from the British Museum, an engineer previously employed by Edison, a spiritualist, and a veteran now employed by the gentlemen collector paying for this enterprise–all of these people venture into the depths of the Crystal Palace to find much more than what they were looking for.

A cross between historical fiction and arcane horror, this is a role-playing adventure with a cast of professional voice actors. And it’s awesome. Continue reading “Suspense and Arcane Horror in Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Crystal Palace One-Shot from Critical Role”

5 Character Traits I Love (And Want to See More Often)

This is an interesting Top Ten Tuesday prompt (by way of That Artsy Reader Girl), that I’m interpreting as characteristics I’d like to see in protagonists. And there are definitely personality traits I want to see more of in heroes (especially female heroes, who usually get a much more limited range of characteristics to work with). I’ll be ignoring the stuff I think is already pretty common, like various types of compassion or diplomacy.

Here’s five things I wish more protagonists would be:

Awkward

There’s a stereotypical notion of awkwardness, but the reality is way more varied than we usually get to see in fiction. As someone who’s pretty awkward myself, I want more representation of that range. And I want those kinds of characters to be mostly unapologetic about how they are.

Examples: Beka (Terrier), Keyleth (Critical Role)

An image of a pendent, with a creature's head on it, with the words "#1 New York Times Bestsellling Author Tamora Pierce, Beka Cooper, Terrier, 'Tamora Pierce is a pillar, an icon, and an inspiriation.' - Sarah J. Maas, #1 New York Times bestselling author" Continue reading “5 Character Traits I Love (And Want to See More Often)”

Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire: Another Layer of Secrets Is Revealed, as Our Protagonists Recover from the Last Book’s Ordeal

A woman with a knife. The text reads "New York Times Bestselling Author Seanan McGuire, Night and Silence, An October Daye Novel"

If I needed any more evidence that grad school was driving me hard here it is: I didn’t even realize the latest October Daye novel had been out for a year. My ultimate auto-buy series, the one that’s reached a dozen novels now without my interest in the story dipping even a little.

Yeah, wasn’t expecting that. But now I’ve finally caught up with my favorite series…just in time for the next book to come out.

Centuries of Backstory Catching Up with Our Protagonists

The protagonist of these novels is Toby Daye, a part-fae detective whose heritage is so convoluted even she’s still figuring it all out. Daughter of a powerful but absent blood worker and a human man, Toby has had to carve a place for herself in a world that didn’t want her. She’s built her own circle of support, solved mysteries, been declared a hero of the realm…and made ridiculously powerful enemies. (Though to be fair, her greatest enemy had already been in place the moment she was born.) Continue reading “Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire: Another Layer of Secrets Is Revealed, as Our Protagonists Recover from the Last Book’s Ordeal”

Chains Carried on Wings is a Semi-finalist in the YA Genre of the 2019 Kindle Book Awards

The shadowy figure of a girl stands against a backdrop of the moon. The text reads "Chains Carried on Wings, Living on the edge of acceptance."

The 2019 Kindle Book Awards are ongoing, and they’ve just announced their Category Semi-finalists today–with Chains Carried on Wings making the cut in the YA genre.

So that’s pretty cool.

This book was all about being non-standard, from the way that my protagonists fit into their world (or don’t) to the fantasy cultures populating my story. Whether I pulled that off or not is up each reader to decide, but the experience of writing it really meant something to me, and I’m glad it does something for other people as well.

Agents of SHIELD S6 Gives Us Adventures in Deep Space and Alien Invasions

I’m trying to unpackage my feelings about this latest season. I loved most of it. But then the last episode happened and it was…a little ridiculous.

Keeping the Plotlines Fresh

After so many seasons and so many threats, the show somehow still manages to find innovative threats that feel fresh. The world keeps getting bigger. The season opens with half the team on an escapade through deep space, heading into alien territory that they usually steer clear of. Meanwhile, a huge mystery is introduced back home.

I spent the whole season on the edge of my seat, hyped to find out what is happening, how it’s happening, and who has what motivation. Continue reading “Agents of SHIELD S6 Gives Us Adventures in Deep Space and Alien Invasions”

Jessica Jones Brings Three Seasons of Character Development to a Close

It’s the end of the third and final season of Jessica Jones, a gritty show following a superpowered PI.

And wow, does it go places.

The climax of season three is the culmination of the character work from the past three seasons. The first half of the season only hints at what’s building, but by the time it comes into fruition, it feels like both a logical progression and something too extreme to have predicted. I don’t think the execution is always as good as the idea it’s trying to convey–a few of the details open themselves up to nitpicking and criticism–but the broad strokes are clear and powerful.

Every Season is Deeply Personal

Looking back on the entire show, what strikes me is how much every season centered around personal stakes for Jessica. This is not your normal day-in-the-life detective or superhero show. Each season centers around one plot, and that plot is always massively entwined with Jess’ life. And while each decision is harder than the last, somehow that progression coincides with Jess putting herself a little more together after the mess she starts out as. Continue reading “Jessica Jones Brings Three Seasons of Character Development to a Close”

The Umbrella Academy: Deep Character Work Mixed with Over-the-Top Action

what in the world did I just watch?

Gritty and Outlandish

It’s like this show has a switch. It’ll be this serious drama about a messed-up family with superpowers, then boom, suddenly it’s this over-the-top action/time travel/spy thriller that combines festive music with its shootouts. It all works really well together, and I’m still not sure how.

The comic book-based movies/TV shows that I’ve seen have either been gritty and realistic(ish), or feel-good and outlandish. The Umbrella Academy distinguishes itself by being gritty and outlandish.

Six Superpowered Siblings, and One on the Outside Looking In

The show follows seven siblings that were born on the same day, and adopted by a man who expected them to have powers. He raised six of them to be superheroes, while the seventh one was ordinary. One died (though he still shows up sometimes). One tried to use his powers to time travel, and was never heard from again. And all of them left and fell out of touch as they grew up.

But now, number 5 (the time traveler) is back from the future, with the information that the world is about to end in the next week. And he has no idea how or why. Continue reading “The Umbrella Academy: Deep Character Work Mixed with Over-the-Top Action”

3 Book Series that Rank as my Childhood Favorites (and One I Wish I’d Read)

In another prompt from Top Ten Tuesday from That Artsy Reader Girl, I’ll be searching my memories for whatever I can recall about the most meaningful reads I had in my childhood. Those are from three series, one middle grade historical fiction and two young adult fantasies. Plus one bonus young adult fantasy author I wish I’d found while I was still a kid.

The Royal Diaries by various authors

A girl pets a cheetah in front of a river. The text reads "The Royal Diaries, Cleopatra VII, Daughter of the Nile, Egypt, 57 B.C."

I loved this series as a kid. Every time my elementary school had another book sale, I’d hunt though the shelves for another one of these books, and it was always so exciting to find one I hadn’t read yet.

Each one of these novels, written by different authors, features one historical female protagonist from a royal/political family during her teenage years. The first one I ever read, the one that started the habit, followed Cleopatra VII (the famous Cleopatra). I don’t remember much beyond that I loved it, and that it was set during the years she and her father visited Rome–before he died, and way before she became queen.

This series also introduced me to Nzinga Mbande, who was a total badass and deserves to be way better known as a historical figure. Continue reading “3 Book Series that Rank as my Childhood Favorites (and One I Wish I’d Read)”