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)”

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I Put a Spell On You Fantasy Giveaway and Legacies Mixing Supernatural Thriller with Teen Drama

Two things today, first a news item, and then a review of Legacies season one.

1. I Put a Spell On You Giveaway

BooksGoSocial is running their I Put a Spell On You fantasy giveaway, with 20 offerings including a preview of my urban fantasy novel, Terrestrial Magic.

2. Legacies

I’m pretty torn about this show. Because it fluctuates between being a supernatural thriller (which I like) and teen drama (which I don’t). Everything it does is well-executed, but whether or not I’m enjoying what’s playing on my screen tends to depend on what the show is going for at a particular moment.

Unraveling the mystery of a void that erased the memory of whole cadre of fantasy creatures from existence? Fending off monsters with wide-ranging powers? Navigating the consequences of your decisions? I am there for all of that.

Trying to win a beauty pageant? Not so much. Continue reading “I Put a Spell On You Fantasy Giveaway and Legacies Mixing Supernatural Thriller with Teen Drama”

First Five Books I Reviewed (Which Somehow Turned into a Critique of My Past Writing Ability?)

This topic prompt was proposed over at Top Ten Tuesday from That Artsy Reader Girl.

Thankfully, my old blog serves as an online record of my first book reviews (from 2012!). Wow, was I nowhere near as good of a writer then as I am now. In chronological order, here are the first five books I’ve ever reviewed and a quote from my not-that-well-written thoughts on them. (Also some criticisms about my former self’s reviewing skills–but with full appreciation that using whatever words I had back then is what allowed me to get better.)

1. The Lies of Locke Lamora

Genre: Fantasy

The view of a city built over a canal. Text reads "National Bestseller, The Lies of Locke Lamora, 'Fresh, original, and engrossing...gorgeously realized.' - George R.R. Martin, Scott Lynch, Author of The Republic of Thieves."
Image: Spectra/Random House LLC

“This book, set in a city evocative of Venice, is about a group of conmen who unwittingly become dragged into the middle of a political power struggle…From gladiators fighting sharks to a religious cult obsessed with their own mortality, it’s the details of the world and how it works that pulls readers in.” – World Building in The Lies of Locke Lamora  Continue reading “First Five Books I Reviewed (Which Somehow Turned into a Critique of My Past Writing Ability?)”

Into the Drowning Deep: Character-Driven Expedition Towards an Unknown Danger

Into the Drowning Deep is about a scientific expedition to retrace a voyage that’d gone missing seven years prior. No one knows what really happened to the Atargatis, except that the ship was found with no one left alive. But that failed voyage left consequences–for a young scientist who wonders why her sister never came home, a professor who carries the guilt for making the last expedition possible, a company whose reputation was left in tatters after the fiasco.

These people and more assemble to solve the mystery of the Atargatis…but how many of them will survive the answer?

Hands reaching out towards a streak of blood in dark water. The text reads "Into the Drowning Deep, New York Times Bestselling Author Mira Grant."
Image: Orbit

There is absolutely no way I would go anywhere near a story where the premise is ‘killer mermaids’ if I didn’t already trust the author.

I rarely venture into the horror genre at all, though I make exceptions for character-driven adventures. And Mira Grant (a penname for Seanan McGuire, who writes probably my favorite urban fantasy series ever) knows how to write a powerful, emotional story. Continue reading “Into the Drowning Deep: Character-Driven Expedition Towards an Unknown Danger”

Roundup: Books-to-TV, Critical Role’s Animated Series, and a Book Award

Grad school is pretty hectic at the moment, so I don’t have time to write a long post. But I figured I’d mention a few recent geeky news items, and a personal update.

1. Have you guys heard about the Lord of the Rings TV show coming to Amazon? I’ve just found out it will be set before all of the action in the original trilogy and The Hobbit–which is super exciting, because I really want to see new plotlines and characters in fantasy TV.

2) Speaking of book-to-movie adaptations, Leigh Bardugo’s stories are going to have a Netflix adaptation, though I’m still confused about exactly what is being adapted. There’s been talk about both of her first two series, which have different plotlines, different characters, and take place on different continents. So are there going to be two Netflix series? Once series combining both stories? What’s going on?

Either, anything that adapts Six of Crows’ amazing fantasy heist is worth keeping an eye on.

3. Critical Role will be making an animated series. They put up a Kickstarter last week that became fully funded within an hour of launching, blew through every stretch goal (forcing them to come up with new ones), and is currently somewhere around $6.7M. Because that’s the power of a dedicated fanbase. (I backed the project too, especially since some of their rewards will be available to everyone, not just backers.)

This is pretty cool, because the format for the regular show is esoteric enough to be a bit of a barrier towards viewers who aren’t already familiar with or interested in tabletop RPGs. But an animated series will create a new possible entry point.

4.  Chains Carried on Wings is a finalist for The Wishing Shelf Book Awards! It’s in category 4: Books for Teenagers. Maybe I should have led with that, instead of burying it at the bottom. But when it comes to this self-promoting nonsense, even mentioning it is already an improvement.

5 Favorite Speculative Fiction Books with Under 2,000 Ratings on Goodreads

The prompt for this post is for Top Ten Tuesday from That Artsy Reader Girl.

So…this list turned out pretty queer. 3/5 of these books have queer main characters. Apollo in Thalia’s Musings is bisexual. One of the three protagonists in The Bone Palace is trans. I think something like four of the protagonists in Fire Logic are gay.

Granted, this isn’t everything I loved that’s under 2,000 Goodreads ratings–I selected the five that were easiest to talk about, and ignored multiple works in a series. And maybe Thalia’s Musings should be exempt since it’s also a web serial, and those aren’t usually huge on Goodreads, but still. The works that happened to be on this list all have unusually prominent queer characters for sci-fi/fantasy novels, and this list is specifically for books that haven’t received that much attention.

Which is a little disheartening to think about, so I’m just going to get on with the list. In no particular order:

The Final Formula

A woman with a vial and candles standing before a rundown hallway. The text reads "The Final Formula, Becca Andre".
Image: Becca Andre

Continue reading “5 Favorite Speculative Fiction Books with Under 2,000 Ratings on Goodreads”

Caraval: By Far the Twistiest YA Fantasy I’ve Ever Read

This was one amazing ride. At first, the appeal of this story rested in the atmosphere of the setting, filled with wonder, and in trying to figure out what is going on. And then it broke my brain.

A pattern is visible over a night sky. The text reads "Remember it's only a game...Caraval, New York Times Bestseller, Stephanie Garber."
Image: Macmillan

Premise

Scarlett has dreamed of Caraval her entire life. She finally receives an invitation to the magical carnival, where participants compete to solve a mystery with a wish as the price, when it’s too late. Her abusive father is finally marrying her off, and she won’t jeopardize her chance to be free of him.

Her sister has other plans. Tella wants to escape their father as badly as Scarlett, but she wants to do it on her own terms. And she won’t allow Scarlett to give up on something she’s wanted so easily.

But Caraval is not the haven from their troubles that Scarlett wanted. Because the mystery that she and her competitors must solve? It’s the disappearance of her own sister.

Continue reading “Caraval: By Far the Twistiest YA Fantasy I’ve Ever Read”

Giveaways and Patreon

A couple of announcements:

Giveaways

I’m offering previews of each of my novels in one giveaway each. Head over to the giveaway site if you’d like to download PDF, MOBI, or EPUB files of the first chapters of my novels, or of any of the other stories available.

Fantasy heroines are featured in the giveaway “WHERE WOMEN RULE!” Over a hundred books/previews/short stories are on offer, one of which is a preview of my urban fantasy/post-apocalyptic novel, Terrestrial Magic–which will release in one week!

A woman sits on a motorcycle in an empty road. The text reads "Most people avoid fire-breathing carnivores that prey on humans. But where's the fun in that?"

YA fantasy is featured in the giveaway “Clean Fantasy Reads.” Almost fifty books/previews/short stories are on offer, one of which is a preview of my YA epic fantasy novel, Chains Carried on Wings.

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."

Patreon

I’ve put together a Patreon for my original fiction, which will launch once I meet the first stretch goal of $15/monthly installment (to cover the ebook delivery service). I don’t expect that to be soon, but I would like to start putting the idea out there as an option for whenever people start getting into my work.

Once it launches, patrons pledged at $1/monthly installment will receive the following:

1) Monthly installments of one of my projects–adventure fantasy novels, novellas, or short stories–via a digital download. Once the project is complete, I’ll combine the installments to provide you with the whole book in one package.

2) Access to each of my novels before their publication date via a digital download.

My goal is to make Patreon somewhere readers can get regular fiction from me, receive copies of my books before anyone else, and eventually, engage with other people who read my stuff.

But again, given that I’m pretty early on in my career, I don’t think this is going to launch for a little while. Though if I have any patrons pledged for whenever the installments start going out, while the stretch goal hasn’t been met, I might provide free behind-the-scenes content as a thank you for the interest.

Ruminating on Suspension of Disbelief Versus Expertise in Fiction

Words read "“It’s to all of our benefit if people contribute their expertise.”

Each of us has areas of knowledge that we’re more familiar with due to our own experiences. Which might make it harder to get into a story that veers into territory we’ve got a lot of familiarity with, especially if the work contradicts what we know about it.

This is just anecdotal, but I remember hearing about people with police experience having a harder time getting into crime thrillers, and even women who specifically avoided reading about female protagonists. I have personally put down a novel that made an inaccurate reference to Russian culture. (I grew up in America and am definitely first and foremost an American, but I was raised by Russian parents.)

Most recently, I read a genuinely amazing book that leaned on science harder than the average novel does–and overall, did a pretty good job with it, considering that the author isn’t a scientist. But there were still a few things that rubbed me the wrong way, enough that I don’t feel comfortable naming the book or author because I don’t want it seem like I’m calling them out over anything. Continue reading “Ruminating on Suspension of Disbelief Versus Expertise in Fiction”

Longest Books I’ve Read

I missed this topic when it originally posted for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl). So since this week was a free topic, I thought I’d take the time to go back to it–after all, as someone who’s read a lot of epic fantasy, it would just be wrong not to participate.

I fully expected epic fantasy to dominate here. And for the most part, that’s exactly what happened, though two historical fiction novels managed to rank alongside them.

I used page and word counts from Kobo, because they don’t have different sized paperback versions to confuse the issue. And because their word count estimates for the two books I’ve listed with them are accurate. So there’s some reason to trust we’re getting an accurate measure to work with (though note that their page counts tend to run long relative to Goodreads or Amazon). For the two books on this list which were out-of-print and therefore not on Kobo, I compared Amazon mass market paperback page counts.

The shadow of a dragon. The text reads, "Now the acclaimed HBO series Game of Thrones, New York Times Bestseller George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords."
Image: Bantam

Continue reading “Longest Books I’ve Read”