Fantasy fiction, self-publishing, Young Adult fiction

Spotlighting Masters and Beginners!

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One year ago today, I officially put my baby debut on sale, thrust the result of my hard work and long wait to be published into the world, for public consumption. Wow, that makes it sound not quite as pleasant as it actually was. Well, I have to admit, seeing Masters and Beginners on Goodreads, seeing the ARC reviews on blogs, was almost terrifying at first. In a good way.

Anyway, since this is my “bookiversary” (yes, anniversary of the book’s release), I wanted to mark the occasion with the fanfare it deserves! Seen above is the redesigned cover of the first installment in my fantasy series, The Order of the Twelve Tribes, created by Kyle Robert Shultz. The story inside either the first or second edition cover is the same; I switched printing companies, and wanted to do certain things announcing my establishment as an author — like secure a cover designer for the whole series, really increase my presence on Goodreads and Twitter, and build a solid foundation of loyal fans who would move mountains for me. Okay, I’m being slightly facetious on that last bit. But the fandom part is important. To those of you who have been around since the beginning, I want to say (again, but it never gets old) THANK YOU, for all your support and participation and faith in my writing.

So, today I want to go a little nuts, waxing lyrical on my own title, and we’ll celebrate Masters and Beginners: Volume 1 of The Order of the Twelve Tribes!

The story focuses on the Driscolls, a pretty ordinary family that lives in a pretty ordinary town in Ohio. The reason we choose to follow their tale is because they’re actually descended from a secret organization called The Order of the Twelve Tribes, which knows the forgotten truth of the universe — that faeries, angels, and monsters are real — and the Order protects unsuspecting people from the more unsavory of these creatures.

Sophie Driscoll and her brothers, Flynn and Cal, and their parents, James and Kate, take over running the Annex, a local facility that stores documents and objects related to Order history and the fey. As they officially join the Order, they find themselves immersed in a world of literal magic, and danger.

As if that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, the new neighbors are demi-fey (half human, half faery), their pets are talking, shapeshifting cats, and I leave Volume 1 off on a twist worthy of the most brilliant/evil author. It ensures that you’ll have to read Volume 2 (see, brilliant) to find out what happens.

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Classified as YA (because I wanted to write something my kids could read before they were all grown up), my contemporary-fantasy-blend series isn’t limited to the ages of 12 to 17. Scattered throughout the text are references to the art and entertainment that helped bring about my inspiration to write this tale, such as Harry Potter, Discworld, Warriors, Warehouse 13 and Doctor Who. My playlist during the writing part of this project also receives its credit, by appearing in the form of lyric snippets at the start of each chapter.

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There are still a few copies of the first edition available, which can be acquired through me (though I only accept cash, check, or gift card, sorry). The redesigned cover/second edition can always be found at Barnes & Noble:  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/masters-and-beginners-daley-downing/1126998956. (And they accept credit cards, and often have free shipping deals.)

If you enjoyed Volume 1 and feel inclined to post a review on Goodreads, Barnes & Noble.com, or a blog, that’s fantastic, and I espouse further thank yous still.

This last year has been quite the journey, and I look forward to what comes next! See you all there, moths!

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children's fiction, Young Adult fiction

Is The “We Need Diverse Books” Movement Doing Itself In?

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Hey, don’t you love it when I start off Monday with a controversial post?! *big grin and double thumbs up* Well, this is a topic that’s been riling me for a while now — sorry that it’s formed itself into a post on a Monday.

Unless you’ve been living under the figurative rock, you’ve probably heard about this idea that we, the reading public, particularly in countries with lots of immigrants, really need to have books/movies/TV shows that reflect these minority groups. Now, before anybody jumps down my throat, I LOVE THIS IDEA.

So, I’m not here to get on that soapbox. My soapbox is about the quality of the literature and film being created in the name of inclusion — and the fact that, unfortunately, some of it, in my humble opinion, doesn’t help the cause.

Here are some examples of don’t’s that I’ve come across.

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The Hate U Give. I only recently read this, after hearing about it for months. The intense hype was making me nervous, and I was right to be on edge. While I do not for an instant feel police violence due to racism is acceptable, I have major issues with a book that constantly paints non-black people as the bad guy, seems to glorify a culture that really shuts down the validity of other groups, and just propagates this current, very unsteady, real life argument, without offering any concrete tactics towards resolving it.

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Labyrinth Lost. While my issues with the quality of this novel had a LOT to do with the numerous typos and meandering plot and lack of character development, here’s what bugged me when it came to diversity. The story represents Central American brujas (basically, witchcraft from Latino and Caribbean roots), and the depictions in Labyrinth Lost of ritual animal sacrifice and spells to connect to the land of the dead put a bitter taste in my mouth. This hardly seemed like good publicity for real life Hispanic communities, most of which are Catholic/Christian nowadays.

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Aru Shah and the End of Time. I read Aru Shah and the End of Time this weekend, and I am still fuming. This novel makes a complete mockery of Hindu mythology — and it’s written by an Indian-American author. On top of that, the protagonist makes it clear early on that she doesn’t like “not fitting in” with her white/non-Hindi classmates, and gives the impression that she feels ashamed of her heritage. That is just sad. Having lived for a few years in England, which has a bunch of Hindu residents, I’ve witnessed the importance of their ancient customs in 21st century life, and after reading this book, I can’t help but wonder what they’d think of it, and whether it would be favorable.

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A Thousand Nights. Now, maybe it’s because I have very little knowledge of the original Arabian Nights/1,001 Nights tales, but this retelling just did not make sense to me. The very concept of a woman being able to stop a ruthless egomaniac of a tyrant from killing her by telling him a story every night just seemed prepostorous. I’ve read glowing reviews of this novel, but I just can’t understand the appeal. And that irks me, because when a diverse novel seems so closely stuck to the narrative tradition that ethnic outsiders had difficulty relating to, well, that means the risk is posed for exactly the same thing happening today.

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Rebel of the Sands. Rebel of the Sands went down as one of my biggest disappointments of 2017. I found the premise intriguing, and really wanted to like the story. But the recurring theme of intense sexism and accepted mistreatment of women seriously got under my skin. I don’t care that it’s historically accurate — can’t you determine that a fantasy set in ancient Persian culture can be non-chauvinist? Writing the opposite only perpetrates the notion that all Arab nations/peoples are anti-women’s rights.

Okay, enough complaining — now onto some good examples from this movement.

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Children of Blood and Bone. My major issues with this novel were the unnecessary length (stop making each debut 500 pages, publishers!) and the wandering plot. But as a diversity title, it ROCKS. The world-building of a fantasy African kingdom is just awesome, and it incorporated a bunch of African nature religion beliefs and legends, and created such a rich and interesting culture. Also, the way that the maji characters are discriminated against for being different — and looking different, as they have white hair and often a lighter skin tone than the rest of the natives — is a perfect representation of the (frequently-overlooked) modern prejudices in today’s Africa.

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The Sandwich Swap. The Sandwich Swap is a sweet picture book, inspired by experiences Queen Rania of Jordan had with non-Muslim/non-Arab students at the international school she attended as a child. I first read it when I was finishing my Early Childhood Education degree, and on the hunt for diverse books, as part of our classwork.

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Biblioburro. This is based on a true story about a man in Columbia who started a traveling library, hoping to tackle low literacy rates in rural areas of Central and South America. (It’s an issue that many of us blessed enough to live in well-educated countries may forget about.)

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All The Crooked Saints. Yes, I’ve heard the criticisms about a white author penning this tale set in the Colorado desert with Hispanic protagonists. No, I don’t agree with them. I think Maggie Stiefvater did a great job of portraying a sample of Hispanic/Latino culture in mid-20th-century America, without being condescending, or preachy. The Sorias do speak Spanish, and are Catholic, but that’s only a small part of their characterizations. She focuses much more on what makes them as human as everybody — their hopes and fears, their family dynamics, their weaknesses and eventual growth.

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A Bucket of Blessings. This is a picture book I recently discovered in my local library, searching for new bedtime books for Muffin. I fell in love with it while reading it to him. It’s a retelling of an Indian folktale, with unique illustrations and a relateable voice for today’s children, of all ethnic groups.

I also recommend…

Books: Blue Tights; The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson; Inside Out and Back Again

Movies: The Book of Life; Kubo and the Two Strings; Moana 

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Fantasy fiction, reading, Young Adult fiction

My Love/Hate Affair with the World of Shadowhunters

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White Fang has entered the world of Shadowhunters. He finished reading City of Bones last week, and is now onto City of Ashes. He has NO IDEA of the massive plot twists that await before he finishes City of Glass, and I am DYING keeping the spoilers under my hat. But I will absolutely do so for his sake.

Last night we watched the movie of City of Bones, and he and I agreed (I’d already seen it) that most of the acting was great, the plot changes were acceptable, and it was worth viewing.

Without getting into a whole discussion on the book vs. the movie (personally, I liked the movie, and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, so there), I will say that there were hints towards events portrayed in later books in what was hoped to be the first film in a series. Then production was switched to the TV series, Shadowhunters, which I cannot stand. Sorry, folks.

Anyway, my biggest issue with the foreshadowing is (again, NO SPOILERS, everyone, he reads this blog) is the reminder of the fact that Cassandra Clare repeatedly broke my heart in City of Fallen Angels/Lost Souls/Heavenly Fire. 

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The only reason I pushed myself to finish the whole series was the proverbial: to find out what happened in the end. Although I felt the wrap-up in book 3 was very nice and good and pleasant and fair, once I found out the author had written more, I couldn’t help myself.

Here are my thoughts of books 1-3: OH MY GOSH!!!! What a wild ride! Everyone who likes fantasy should totally read this! Wow, that ending!!!

Here are my thoughts of books 4-6: WHHHHYYYYYYYYYYY?!!?!?!!

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I truly felt this was a perfect example of: When the publisher wants more, but the author is tapped out. Plots suffer. Character arcs suffer. Readers suffer. And then so do book sales. And possibly great movies get cancelled, and turned into lame TV shows.

Now, I’m well aware that authors are allowed to change their minds without asking the readers what we think. And some authors can pull off stunning twists that no one saw coming, and we haven’t all fallen down on the floor, crying. But when it comes to The Mortal Instruments, I — and thousands of other fans — firmly believe the series should have ended with City of Glass.

After how much I enjoyed the first couple of books, I felt betrayed by what the ultimate conclusion actually became. Yes, betrayed. I had a bitter taste in my mouth for WEEKS after finishing City of Heavenly Fire.

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I wasn’t even encouraged to try the prequel series, The Infernal Devices. Eventually I did take Clockwork Angel out of the library…and returned it within a week, unfinished. That was over 2 years ago.

The prequel felt so flat, so churned out to feed the demands of an ever-increasing fan publicity monster. At least, to me it did. The banter all felt recycled from The Mortal Instruments, the characters merely Victorian versions of Clary and Jace and Alec and Izzy and Simon. It did not float my boat.

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And then there are the spinoffs. I haven’t touched any of them. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I have touched them — the library copies, to very, very carefully take a peek at the blurb…and then return them to the shelf. Actually, I think I read the first 2 pages of The Shadowhunters Codex. But my enthusiasm for the world as a whole was already seriously waning by this time, so I don’t feel like I missed much by opting to pass.

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However, I caved when The Dark Artifices hit shelves last year.

And then I was back on the floor, writhing in agony. Because of reader’s remorse. Because I knew I shouldn’t have bothered with the 700-plus-page behemoth of confusion and lackluster-ness that was Lady Midnight. I ended up skimming the last several chapters, found out who the (cardboard cut-out) villain was, and didn’t even bother with the epilogue. I don’t care for the characters, or the new plot, and didn’t even see the need for this series to be written.

And, yes, all of this is just my opinion, and there are many happily carrying on with this world. But I am (long) done.

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Last night, watching the movie again, I remembered anew what drew me to the books in the first place — the incredible worldbuilding, the intense potential for character arcs, the depth and breadth of backstory, the wonders awaiting around every corner, creepy and horrifying, or beautiful and admirable. The unwavering optimism of teens in a very challenging situation, sometimes in way over their heads, and how they faced everything with bravery and humor and teamwork — even when their personal feelings about who, or what, the team should consist of were complicated — all of this really won my heart.

Those are the feelings from reading the early books that I really want to hold onto. Let’s hope I can, in the midst of further releases and adaptations that are in danger of making me bitter.

Well, it’s still up to me, how much I take in, and what memories I choose to put front and center. Just like maintaining hope that Clary and company will defeat Valentine and retain the Mortal Cup. Not giving up even when it looks bleak.

Luckily for all of us this is just a fictional world, and we can decide to visit or leave whenever we wish. Though I must admit, I do still sometimes feel sad that I’ve decided to leave.

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Fantasy fiction, reading, Young Adult fiction

March Mini-Reviews

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Well, it’s a winter wonderland out there! At least for me — and if you don’t care for the snow and are ready for spring, then my apologies. Not too sorry, though — it looks wholly amazing, and I am once again awed by the splendor of Creation.

So it’s time for another round of mini-reviews! I’m already off to a raring start with reading this year (I guess setting my Goodreads challenge at 25 was laughable?!), which means I have more reviews to give!

Let’s start with a bit of nonfiction for a change — this I actually read years ago, but I’d forgotten how well-written it is, and my husband stumbled across it in a largely- unrelated Google search. So I decided to see if our local library still had it.

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Wicca’s Charm is an excellent, objective, and compassionate account from a Christian journalist who spent years researching the modern interest in ancient polytheism and the sudden surge in the practice of nature religions in the late 20th century. She never judged the many people she interviewed for their personal beliefs and customs, and while she found herself drawn deeper into her own faith, she also clearly saw a lot of the ways that the Church has let down so many of the people it’s meant to be building up. I highly recommend this one for anybody interested in bridging the gap between specifically Christian believers and those who are following non-Christian religions.

The next on this list will start a bit of extended whining. Sorry…

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I wanted to enjoy this. Oh, did I ever hope to open the cover and be swept away into a tale of magic and modern legend. Sigh. I’m afraid Enchanted Glass didn’t do it for me. Maybe I was still a little hung over from the anesthesia? But I had a very difficult time following the plot, and constantly got bogged down by the extremely similar names both the protagonists had (Aidan and Andrew), and felt frequently confused by the roles the secondary characters actually played. The housekeeper, Mrs. Stock, particularly was so irritating to me I wanted to chuck something at her, and began skimming the scenes she was in. And then the ending made NO sense to me, and I twisted into a bundle of discontent.

Unfortunately, my malcontent only continued with The Night Circus. Trust me, I’m aching, too…

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After hearing such great things about this novel, it’s been on my TBR (admittedly near the very bottom) for quite a while. I got to page 50 and just couldn’t get into the style. The prose felt neverending, and not really enlightening as to getting the plot going or establishing the character relationships. I struggled on as long as I could, then finally threw in the towel about halfway. When I had yet to reach any actual night circus action. (The auditions for a new illusionist don’t count, sorry, folks.)

At least I had saved my re-read of Shiver until now (after ordering it at Christmas). This will definitely perk me up.

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I read the whole trilogy (minus the “extra” wrap-up, Sinner) a few years ago. Recently, I decided it was time to enjoy The Wolves of Mercy Falls all over again, so I bought the first book. A few weeks ago, White Fang was literally moping (yes, quite literally — sorry, dude) over the fact he was AGAIN at the end of his TBR. (I swear he must be sacrificing cans of tuna on a scratching post altar under the full moon to a cat god who grants the power of speed reading, because he went through the 8 books I got him at Christmas in NO time.) Anyway, I handed him my copy of The Scorpio Races — and the rest, as they say, is bookdragon history.

So he has now completed all 4 of the Mercy Falls tales, and he is IN LOVE with the series.

No complaints with that. But what do I give him now?!

If you guys haven’t read “the other Maggie Stiefvater series,” what are you waiting for? The Wolves of Mercy Falls has definitely been eclipsed by the phenemeon The Raven Cycle has become, but I find the writing and plot and characters in Mercy Falls far superior. The protagonists are SO easy to root for, and I love the dynamics between the secondary characters in this quartet.

Well, that’s all for today! I’ll be back probably next week, as I put aside blogging for a bit in the pursuit of attacking fiction drafts (most likely with a flamethrower, or a live dragon). If you’re new around here, don’t forget to check out some of my more recent posts and some of my readers’ favorites! (Links are all in the sidebar.) Happy Wednesday, everyone!

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Fantasy fiction, Young Adult fiction

Mid-Month Mini-Reviews: Catching Up

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Good morning! This post sets out to do just what it says on the tin. My TBR has done an interesting thing, and actually increased itself through various turns of coincidence, fate, or maybe I ticked off a leprechaun and he decided I was going to be out of luck. I had it well under control. Then a few things happened…

First, I was at the library (in fact not getting a single book for myself, only picture books for Muffin and DVDs for White Fang), and the librarian suggested I read this nonfiction research book on linguistic studies — Thirty Million Words. Now, I appreciate her thinking of me, since she knows I have kids with speech difficulties, and I am interested in finding out what research is being conducted in this field. The one little hitch, however, is that now I have a lengthy, wordy, scientific-y title added to my TBR. With a time limit. Because she wants me to participate in the book club she’s forming to discuss this work. Hey, cool! Seriously. (Except for the time limit part.)

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So, I have begun reading Thirty Million Words, and it does promise to be an engaging, in-depth discussion on speech and language development. It will just take me a little while to make some progress…

Last week, I was preparing to dive into Thirty Million Words, when White Fang shoved his school library selection at me and declared, “You need to read this!” The latest in a long line of titles that has made him react this way. Since he needs it for a school project, I had to read it fast and get it back to him. (Hey, at least I got to add another completion to my Goodreads challenge!)

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It’s called Titans, and it’s a YA novel that I’d never heard of. White Fang picked it out for his independent reading at school because he just finished The Scorpio Races at home, and therefore noticed this cover. He said both titles had some elements in common, but largely were very different stories, and he loved them both. I concur with the first part. I’ve read some reviews that unfairly slammed Titans as being a “direct ripoff” of The Scorpio Races, and that just isn’t true. There’s no romance in Titans, the narrator has sisters instead of brothers, and living parents, and it’s set in more or less 21st century Detroit, Michigan. Yes, Titans focuses on an unorthodox horse race (the horses are made of metal and are basically machines), and there’s a lot of money at stake for the narrator, who’s hoping to save her family from eviction. But that’s where the similarities to The Scorpio Races end.

Titans incorporates a lot of the culture of horse racing we know today in the Kentucky Derby and the high-end circuit, with all the gala and pagentry on and off the course, as well as including several secondary characters that are nothing like the residents of the island of Thisby. And the narrator doesn’t have any love interests, rather she has a solid, female best friend who wants to be a fashion designer. Their relationship is so refreshing to see in a YA work, because there’s absolutely no chance of a guy coming between them, and Astrid and Magnolia are loyal to each other to the end. I totally applaud the author for that.

My personal quibbles with Titans were based on pacing and style. I just felt there were too many scenes that seemed to be included simply to draw out the spaces between the action and moments of important character growth.

Anyway, I pushed through it, and I did appreciate the climax and conflict resolution. So I’d still recommend it.

The other fiction I’ve been carrying on with is the Midnight, Texas books.

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I usually don’t read paranormal romance-ish novels, and I was not a fan at all of the True Blood TV series, but I did watch the adaptation of Midnight, Texas, and enjoyed it enough that I figured this trilogy was worth a go. Don’t judge a book by its multimedia versions. I liked the writing much better than the screen portrayals. The characters were great, the style was casual and relaxed, easy to get into the narrative and follow the motivations and plot. And — a major twist for this genre — the language was PG-13 for most of the pages, there was very little sexual reference, and even the violence was toned down. That was a pleasant surprise for me, as I’ve practically stopped reading adult fiction because of these factors.

Warning: This series won’t be for everyone, as there is a gay couple, mention of polytheistic religions, and some very unpleasant stuff with serial killers, vampires, white supremacists, and even demons. Although I was so floored by how ungraphic the author kept most of her writing on these subjects, and I thought that the ethical and philosophical debates she presented regarding people’s moral and social choices were appropriate for the content, not soapbox-y, and in some cases intensely heartstring-tug-y.

So, while I know some of you won’t give this series a second glance, I really enjoyed it.

White Fang is on a Stiefvater kick. A couple weeks ago, he had nothing new to read (I know, what travesty), so I offered him my copy of The Scorpio Races. I think I’ve created a fanboy…

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He got all teary-eyed on the last page, and when I mentioned Maggie Stiefvater has written several other books, his face lit up. He’s now devouring the first in The Wolves of Mercy Falls, and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before he’s onto the next…

On an unrelated note, I am getting ready to have exploratory surgery to try to nail down the cause of my health issues. This isn’t a major operation, but it still will require some down time, so if I temporarily vanish in early March, this will be why. I’m trying to schedule out some posts, so it won’t seem that I’m actually gone for very long.

Also, there is a slim chance (since all the other tests are showing I’m in generally good health, apart from the unexplained pain in my side that comes and goes) that they’ll uncover something not great with this procedure. Yes, my saying this is mostly being paranoid and anticipating the worst. Still, right now not everything horrible has yet been ruled out, so I’d appreciate any prayers you might offer up on my behalf…

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reading, Young Adult fiction

February Mini-Reviews

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Yes, it is February! (Cue the tortured screaming in the background.)

(Actually, at the time I’m writing this post, it isn’t in fact February yet. But when you’re reading it, that’s what the calendar will say. Ooh, look, I can travel through time!)

Ahem. Anyway, here we are with another round of mini-reviews!

January was a slightly slower reading month for me — hey, life happened, and there is nothing wrong with this. All it means is that there will be a few less books mentioned in this review. Deal with it, folks. (I know you all will, as you love me and want me to be my tip-top self more than a critiquing machine.)

Girl Online #2: On Tour by Zoe Suggs

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Okay, I am a BIG bundle of disappointed on this one. “Girl Online” was one of my top picks for 2017, and this is SAYING something, because it was a contemporary, it was a romance, and when you combine those two, you very rarely have The Invisible Moth declaring, “Read this, it’s great!” (Honestly, I’m usually walking away from it in the library.) So, the fact that I’m gushing over the mental health rep and the friendships and family relationships and sweetness in “Girl Online” is a MAJOR deal… And then I found out there was a sequel, and against my better judgement, I picked it up.

Here’s why I disclaim with “against my better judgement.” In my experience, most contemporaries in YA (particularly romances) can be — should be, in my view — standalones. I truly feel that when an author gets sucked into the marketing side of creating a series, they can easily lose the heart of their story/characters/intentions (as I believe those murder mystery series with 20+ installments that all become the same plot with different methods of death after book 5 can attest).

When I got to the final chapter of “Girl Online,” I thought it was a very nice, neat wrap-up — there had been a lot of character growth, it was a fun and poignant story, with an important but not in-your-face message. AND THEN. Then I got to literally 3 pages from the end (I’m not kidding, the paper stopped after that), and there was a definition of last-minute twist, and the only purpose I could see it serving was to leave room for a sequel. Where a sequel was not needed. SIGH.

But, I decided to give the author the benefit of the doubt. Whoops. “On Tour” was a mega mess from start to finish. Apparently the characters had had brain transplants, because they acted nothing like they did in book 1, and the plot was a sloppy, cliche-ridden, dull and uninspiring babble that was — as usual — far too long. Hence, I am once again boycotting contemporaries as I feel they have let me down too many times since 2013.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black:

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Oh, my word, did I want to like this. I diligently avoided spoilers, I waited patiently for the release date, I nabbed the library copy the second it hit the stacks. However, before I even got to page 50, I knew there would be trouble.

“The Cruel Prince” was, for me, extremely disheartening. It reads like Holly Black’s work of 10 years ago (which I didn’t like), full of fairy cruelty towards humans, unnecessary sexuality, uncool bullying, and none of the characters having any clear motives for anything. Why in the world would humans who were treated so badly in the fairy realm be trying so hard to fit in there?? Why would they want to stay? Why was the whole political deception plot even included? It just felt like an excuse to throw in a homage to Game of Thrones, to be perfectly honest. It’s not fun, or intriguing, like The Darkest Part of the Forest was. I couldn’t find any reason to root for the narrator, or even care about her increasingly bad choices. After slogging through pages 1-150, I actually skipped most of the rest of the book until the last few pages, so I could see how it turned out. I was not at all impressed.

The thing I loved about The Darkest Part of the Forest was that it felt that Holly Black had finally nailed the dark fairy story she wanted to tell; the characters felt three-dimensional, the undercurrent of tension and people avoiding plot points they’d ultimately be forced to confront later was very real and pulled the reader in. “The Cruel Prince” reads like a cheap throwback to the “Tithe” trilogy (which I thought was pretty awful), and it feels much more like, rather than being a “new” series, “The Folk of the Air” will be a trilogy that an editor wanted Black to write, glorifying past successes.

Well, I won’t be taking part in it. I’m officially done with this author.

The Familiars books 1-4 by Adam Epstein and Andrew Jacobson:

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Hey, to finish on a more pleasant note… This is a cute series (categorized as MG, but I’d honestly recommend it for ages 12 and up), with overall not much violence (and it’s always to prove a point in the story, not just for shock value), very clean language, no physically intimate situations (just a bit of utterly innocent and sweet romance), and lots of good themes like friendship, loyalty, courage, and determination. White Fang loves this series. If you’re looking for a clean, action-packed fantasy romp for your younger readers, I’d suggest looking into The Familiars.

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Fantasy fiction, reading, Young Adult fiction

January Mini-Reviews: What I Liked, What I Didn’t, and What Brought All the Feels

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Yes, it is officially the new year, a new month, and we’re back to the routine of raving and flailing over our latest reads!

In November and December, I made time to focus on something that was not writing or preparing for holidays, and polished off a few things that had been on my TBR for most of fall.

There was excitement, disappointment, and some confusion in the whole experience.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer:

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This was a bit of a wash for me. It was the first time in quite a while I’d tried a Marissa Meyer (since I got to about page 25 in Cinder and was just completely, “What the blazing apricots is going on?!”). I noticed Renegades was rather thick, and got a bit apprehensive, as long books and I do not really go together. I ended up DNF-ing. By page 175, there just wasn’t enough going on that didn’t feel cliche or recycled. This novel could’ve taken the established superhero vs. supervillain genre and really shaken it up, but there were no new thoughts or ideas that I could find.

Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer:

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Yes, another Marissa Meyer! I actually didn’t realize that when I ordered it from the library. Nor did I know it was a graphic novel — and I don’t read graphic novels. SIGH. The moral of the story is: Library catalogs need to have their materials marked more clearly, and: Readers should do as much research as possible on a title before they request it.

Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr:

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Okay, this was just odd. I liked the way it was set in ancient Greece (historically, not mythologically), and how the author split the narration into prose and poetry to show different POVs. And this is a MG novel, so I figured it would be pretty easy and fun.

Wow, was I wrong. Nothing happens for most of part one. The book draaaaags on, explaining wilderness survival in ridiculous amounts of detail, and I can’t see your average 5th-grader being interested in that. Then, when a significant plot advancement finally does occur, the rest of the book turns into an ancient version of The Hunger Games. Huh?!?! So, Dragonfly Song gets a no from me.

This Savage Song by VE Schwab:

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For most of 2017, I’ve been hearing lots and lots about VE Schwab. Well, maybe I started with the wrong series, but after not finishing This Savage Song, I’m (weepingly) not very impressed. A few months ago, I accidentally read Our Dark Duet first — I didn’t know it was the sequel. Anyway, now informed of my mistake, I obtained This Savage Song with high hopes.

Gah. I found the writing to be endless repetition of the same descriptions of Kate and August; stressing that Verity City was infested with monsters (which were rarely seen before page 200); and that Kate wanted to be a bada** gangster like her father (but whyyyyyy?!?!) and August was a monster who wanted to act like a human (but whyyyyyyyy?!?!). I didn’t feel the author provided enough details on the characters’ motivations or ambitions. And there was so little information on what actually triggered the new territories forming, the monster apocalypse, and why society was still set on taking selfies at high school after literal soul-sucking blackness had invaded.

So, I’m a bit sad.

Also, why is this cover so much better than the one I got?!

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All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater:

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This was the first book I bought in months. I was very excited for it, and I even made myself wait to start it until I’d finished my library books. All the Crooked Saints is very interesting, unique, and it’s not that I didn’t like it or wouldn’t recommend it. Buuuut. It doesn’t read like a Stiefvater novel. Yes, her trademark lyrical prose and humor are very there. However, I had a really tough time getting going with it. I actually had to read it twice to figure out what was really going on under the surface of the premise. And it took me until about halfway through that second reading before something clicked for me that it didn’t previously, and then some of the motivations made SO much sense.

I also realized something: That, for me, it’s much better to concentrate on Stiefvater works told in the first person. The way she wrote The Raven Cycle and All the Crooked Saints is very far removed from how immersed in the main characters’ heads/feelings she was with The Wolves of Mercy Falls and The Scorpio Races. Her standing-back-and-acting-as-1930s-radio-show-host style of narration in this new release makes connecting with her characters a LOT harder (at least for this reader).

Plus, this title relied heavily on the magical realism element, much more than The Raven Cycle (which is saying something, as it featured prominently in that series). Magical realism and I, it’s becoming apparent, are doomed to never co-exist. I just have the bloody hardest time figuring it out, and it gets really distracting to me from the actual story. Maybe this is why I had such a struggle with All The Crooked Saints overall.

Warriors: Legends of the Clans by Erin Hunter

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Well, it’s probably no shock that I LOVED this. It delivered ALL THE FEELS. Legends of the Clans is a companion novella to the canon series. These short stories expanded on some of the characters that we didn’t know very much about, and tied in to the canon beautifully. I had a massive, stupid grin on my face one page, and then tears were streaming from my eyes the next. 10/10 for ripping out my heart once again, Erin Hunter. (Seriously, keep it up!)

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