Top Ten Tuesday Rewind: Top 10 Things that Books Have Made Me Want to Learn or Do

Copyright : The Broke and the Bookish
Copyright : The Broke and the Bookish

So this week’s TTT is a chance to go back and do a Top 10 that you missed. I have missed A LOT of the recent Top 10’s, but the one I felt the most need to participate in was just a couple of weeks ago. “The Top 10 Things that Books Made Me Want to Learn or Do” is a topic that I haven’t written as much about, and as a writer*, there are a ton of things I have attempted or wanted to attempt because of books!! The difficult part was narrowing it down to just ten ūüėõ

So – without further ado:

The Top 10 Things that Books have Made Me Want to Learn or Do:

  1. Forge a sword

If you’ve ever read a fantasy novel, you probably have read about that pivotal blade for the hero, or magical smith character. I have been fascinated by swordsmithing ever since I was little. The first book that made me think about it though? That’s tough. I’d probably go with¬†The Lord of the Rings¬†trilogy. Aragorn’s sword is reforged from the shards of Narsil, a legendary blade of his ancestors. And it’s Aragorn’s¬†remade¬†blade And√ļril¬†that marks him as¬†the “true king.” Now¬†that, is a sword.

2. Become a samurai.
Maybe this is obvious, but Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” is one of my favorite movies.

Since I am A. Not Japanese, and B. Live in the 21st Century, the viability of this one is . . . err, nonexistent. But everything I read about these fascinating warriors always made me want to¬†be them. In particular, Chris Bradford’s¬†Young Samurai¬†series sealed the deal. (After all, it’s about¬†gaijin samurai).

3. Archery.

This is one that I actually went out and did. While I’m not a crack shot or anything (especially with my bad eyes), I’m not terrible. And I still love archery. It’s therapeutic. And I can blame Roger Lancelyn Green’s Adventures of Robin Hood¬†for this one! (With LOTR’s Legolas in a close second)

4. Celtic-style Illumination

Illumination^^

I don’t recall when I discovered the children’s picture book¬†Marguerite Makes a Book, but I was probably about six or seven. Anyhow, Marguerite is a young girl with an illuminator for a father. Marguerite dreams of illuminating a manuscript, and when her father needs help finishing a book for a noble lady’s birthday, it’s Marguerite who comes to his aid. I¬†still love this book, and I have spent many an hour practicing calligraphy and illuminating bookmarks and other things!

5. Riding in a horse race

While I did take horseback riding lessons for a few years (and I went to a horse camp), and I do enjoy the occasional trail ride, I have yet to race a horse (or own one). I’m not really the jockey build (or height). But between¬†Black Beauty,¬†Misty of Chincoteague, and¬†Walter Farley’s novels, owning a horse and racing it was something I always wanted to do. Still, I¬†did learn to take care of a horse and ride one because of books!

6. Knit a sweater.

There isn’t a single, specific book that made me want to do this. Rather, it was an idea that grew after reading enough historical fiction.¬†So many of the heroines were skilled in weaving, crocheting, or knitting, that I was determined to figure it out. After a few failed attempts, I finally got the hang of it, and I’ve knit more than one sweater now, and designed my own patterns! It’s a skill that I’m really glad I worked at developing. A recent-ish book that really made me want to knit would be¬†Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. It’s the¬†hero, not the heroine, who is the expert knitter of this fun little fairytale retelling. It is also, to date, the only book I’ve read where the villain was dispatched via knitting needle!

7. Go on an epic journey by foot, horse, ship, and/or wagon.

I still haven’t achieved this one ūüôā And I could name off at least a dozen books that made me want to do this.¬†The Hobbit,¬†Little House on the Prairie,¬†and¬†The Hero and the Crown are just two of many, many others.

8. Get some beehives and become a beekeeper

I haven’t done this – yet! But I plan on having some hives¬†someday (if I ever land somewhere permanently, that is). I have helped a beekeeper do their rounds, and studied bees and the homeopathic uses of honey. My fascination with the subject is pretty old, but one of the primary factors was¬†Chalice by Robin McKinley.¬†The Secret Life of Bees probably helped too ūüôā

9. Go to a masquerade ball.

Err, doesn’t everyone want to do this? I love the idea of a fancy dress ball – but everyone knows that a masquerade is the most exciting (or frightening) type of costume party. So many things are revealed when your face is concealed, and all that jazz. Notable examples would be¬†The Phantom of the Opera¬†and¬†Much Ado About Nothing, but there are¬†a lot more!

10. Become an archivist in a crazy library.

To be honest, I’m halfway there. Every befuddled-looking, dusty person in lumpy clothes – a staple in fantasy novels, is a little (lot) like me. The library in the¬†Abhorsen series, the library in¬†The Thirteenth Tale, the library in¬†Harry Potter, the Archives in the¬†Kingkiller Chronicles – those are the places I want to go/live in the most. Maybe this will be my ultimate bucket list item?

THAT WAS HARD. There are¬†so many things that books have made me want to do, or convinced me to learn. It’s one of the reasons I love books so much, to be honest.

*In the list of things I have learned/am learning how to do because of writing books – we can add learning Korean, dance tutorials, writing with my left hand, and living without modern conveniences, to name a few!

So – what sort of things have books made you want to do or made you do?

6 Reasons You Need to Read Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani

First off – A huge thank you to Intisar Khanani for allowing me to read an advance copy of¬†Memories of Ash! This was a free copy provided in exchange for an honest review – which in no way affected my review ūüôā

 

Memories of Ash, the sequel to¬†Sunbolt came out a couple days ago- have you ordered your copy yet? If you haven’t read¬†Sunbolt, don’t worry – it’s quite short, and very good – so fix that first ūüôā You can also click through above to read my review of¬†Sunbolt, and to get an idea of the story.

Memories of Ash picks up immediately where Sunbolt left off Рso some minor spoilers for Sunbolt follow in the synopsis (pinched from Goodreads):

In the year since she cast her sunbolt, Hitomi has recovered only a handful of memories. But the truths of the past have a tendency to come calling, and an isolated mountain fastness can offer only so much shelter. When the High Council of Mages summons Brigit Stormwind to stand trial for treason, Hitomi knows her mentor won‚Äôt return‚ÄĒnot with Arch Mage Blackflame behind the charges.

Armed only with her magic and her wits, Hitomi vows to free her mentor from unjust imprisonment. She must traverse spell-cursed lands and barren deserts, facing powerful ancient enchantments and navigating bitter enmities, as she races to reach the High Council. There, she reunites with old friends, planning a rescue equal parts magic and trickery.

If she succeeds, Hitomi will be hunted the rest of her life. If she fails, she’ll face the ultimate punishment: enslavement to the High Council, her magic slowly drained until she dies.

Since I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone I’ll follow the same format as I did with reviewing¬†Sunbolt, and give you 6 reasons why you need to read¬†Memories of Ash, ASAP.

6 Reasons to Read Memories of Ash

  1. The World and Characters.

    If you love fantasy, you know that a fascinating world and colorful characters are extremely important. In the Eleven Kingdoms of¬†Sunbolt and¬†Memories of Ash, Khanani has created a world so vivid and interesting that you won’t want to leave. Her worldbuilding is fabulous, with so many (effortlessly) diverse and multifaceted cultures and places. In¬†Memories of Ash, the Mage School¬†and the magical wastelands (both mentioned in¬†Sunbolt) are the primary new locations explored,¬†and there are a handful of new characters introduced as well. As with¬†Sunbolt, the characters are varied and well-developed, with Hitomi always at center stage (as she should be). Val isn’t forgotten either, and the ramifications of their alliance (friendship) are further explored and complicate the story.*

    2. Hitomi. 

    I know I used her as one of my reasons for reading¬†Sunbolt, but I’ll shamelessly repeat myself: Hitomi is just the sort of strong heroine that we need more of. She isn’t fearless or invincible, but she’ll go to (believably crazy) lengths to save the people she cares about. In spite of this, she won’t trample people or intentionally cause harm (which creates a few moral quandaries to spice up the plot).¬†She’s moral herself, but she isn’t judgemental, and she is both a likable and relatable young woman. And of course,¬†Memories of Ash just made me love her more.

    3. Consistency rules. 

    When I started¬†Memories of Ash (hereafter known as MoA), I was immediately plunged back into the world of¬†Sunbolt. Khanani’s characters, facts, magic systems, locations, and details are so seamless that you don’t feel disconnected at all. With fantasy, this is pivotal to the reader’s experience of the book. ¬†Characters from¬†Sunbolt mixed¬†with new characters, and at the center, Arch Mage Blackflame seems to have an even more complicated scheme than we all realized

    4. The Writing. 

    This is another point I’ve brought up – but Intisar Khanani’s prose is fluid and beautiful to read. She blends humor, intrigue, and just the perfect amount of description. Her plotting and pace are wonderful, with a good mixture of adventure, action, and a few twists. I could immediately visualize all of the different locations, though the descriptions were never long.

    5. Thorny Morality Questions: Met head-on.

    Have you ever watched an adventure film or read a book and thought “where are the consequences?,” or, “do they even care about collateral damage?” Well, morality (interestingly enough) comes up rather often through the course of¬†Memories of Ash. Hitomi is confronted with several pivotal decisions that make her put her own freedom/safety/happiness up against the lives and livelihood of others. And she doesn’t just make these decisions by flipping a coin or shrugging it off with a¬†“ends justify the means” mentality. It’s refreshing to see a character dealing¬†with the real fallout of their decisions, and Hitomi’s struggles just made me more invested in her.

6. It’s BOOK SIZED.

Did you love Sunbolt, but wish it was longer (I did!)? Memories of Ash is book-length, which takes away my only complaint from Sunbolt. A longer novel was definitely worth the wait, as it allowed Khanani to further develop and enrich the fascinating world and characters.

Did I convince you yet? Then what are you waiting for?! Go purchase a copy (you can download it through Kobo, Nook, or Amazon, or ask your local bookstore to order you a physical copy!**)

Have you read/do you plan to read Memories of Ash and/or Sunbolt? Scroll down for more info and a GIVEAWAY!

Footnotes:

*Don’t you just love complicated relationships (in fiction)? And Hitomi and Val’s whole connection is so interesting to me. I can’t wait to read more about Breathers (yeah, I’ll keep bringing this up . . .)

**I’ll be ordering physical copies for the store I work at!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Info:

Title: Memories of Ash

Series: The Sunbolt Chronicles, Book Two

Author: Intisar Khanani (http://booksbyintisar.com)

Cover Designer: Jenny Zemanek (http://www.seedlingsonline.com/index2.php#!/HOME)

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Release Date: May 30, 2016

Publisher: Purple Monkey Press

Price: US $3.99 (eBook), US $TBD (paperback)

Author Bio:

Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. She has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy.¬†Intisar’s current projects include a companion trilogy to Thorn, featuring the heroine introduced in her free short story The Bone Knife, and The Sunbolt Chronicles.

 

 

TTT: Top 10 Books That Cracked Me Up

Copyright : The Broke and the Bookish
Copyright : The Broke and the Bookish

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday¬†(hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) was too awesome to resist! I love to laugh, as I’ve mentioned before, and there is nothing better than a funny book. Well, except a book that is funny¬†AND really well written. On the other hand, I tend to laugh at things that *shouldn’t* be funny. Morbid humor, parody, and sarcasm = me in a nutshell.

Top 10 Books That Cracked Me Up (with gifs, because, why not?)

1. Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett

It goes without saying that any Terry Pratchett book is hilarious. And while Reaper Man made me laugh pretty hard, only Monstrous Regiment has made me laugh so hard I cried. If you have ever read a fantasy (or historical fiction) novel with the heroine disguised as a man, then at least part of this book will make you laugh. After all, it’s mainly about a group of women, disguised as men. Oh, and half of the women are also monsters, disguised as human. And there¬†is one man, by the way, and he’s the only one who convinces anyone he’s a woman when they’re all, you guessed it, disguised as women later on. Confused yet?

2. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Howl’s drama was one thing that is consistent with both movie and book

Another obvious one – but it’s¬†that funny. From Howl’s dramatic antics, to Sophie’s asides, there’s a reason I reread this one when I’m having a bad day. All of Jones’ novels are pretty funny, but the only one that comes close to HMC’s level of hilarity is¬†The Dark Lord of Derkholm. If you haven’t read it – it’s a parody of fantasy novels, that¬†is a fantasy novel, that manages to make some very good points along the way.

*pathetic*

3. The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

One of the parts in the movie that was accurate

While the movie was pretty funny (if rather foul-mouthed), the book is about 50 thousand times more hilarious (and heartbreaking – but equally foul-mouthed). Pat is one of the most interesting, sweet, silly, and unique narrators of any adult novel. He had me alternating between laughing and crying so many times that it was a testament to Matthew Quick’s skill as a writer. Never has Kenny G been so funny, yet so freaky . . .

Another pretty accurate part ;P

4. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Despite the fact that Brosh is (also) sometimes a little foul-mouthed for me, there’s no denying that Hyperbole and a Half is hysterical. From the odd little drawings to the endless musings on the perfection of cake, these comics are relatable and laugh-out-loud funny.

And yes – Brosh is the source of this meme

5. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This might not be the obvious Gaiman pick, but it made me laugh the hardest. From the sly observations, to the cheeky prose,¬†The Graveyard Book walks the fine line between hilarious and chilling. It’s also heartwarming, despite the fact that most of the characters are ghosts.

6. Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde

-That feeling when you die before the save point-

Before there was Sword Art Online, there was a snide little book about a teenage girl who got stuck in a VR fantasy world. She also had to win to escape – but it was a lot less glamorous. Heir Apparent was another book I picked up on vacation when I was a teenager. It’s not the most profound or best written book ever, but it’s still just as funny. Look out for a hilarious parody of every fantasy character type ever. My particular favorite is Sister Mary Ursula – the mystic devotee¬†of¬†everything, who spends a lot of time yakking about becoming one with, uhm,¬†everything. But there are warrior girls in impractical outfits, dangerous princes, deadly barbarians, and lots, and lots, of failures as the heroine tries to beat¬†a ridiculous game.

7. Every book in the Squire’s Tales Series¬†by Gerald Morris

I referenced¬†The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf in a previous list – and while that book is hilarious, the rest of the series is also very funny. From trope trolling to much-needed sense in the King Arthur narrative, Morris does a fantastic job of retelling these stories. There are fairies, knights in disguise, knights who take vows of silence (which he talks about endlessly), and loads of fair (?) maidens. There are sword fights and romances, and lots of absurd lines. Why haven’t you read one yet?

It’s like if the funniest bits of Monty Python were collected in a less crude book

8. Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

I’ve mentioned how much I love this play before, so I’ll be brief: it’s really funny, and you should read it often. And the movie versions are all pretty good!

He isn’t in love – he has a toothache. Obviously.

9.¬†The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

Imagine waking up with no memory, surrounded by bodies, with a strange letter telling you that you were a high-level supernatural operative, and someone wants you dead. That’s exactly what happens to Myfanwy Thomas. It doesn’t sound funny – but it’s the start of a hilarious yet suspenseful adventure yarn that is also one of the strangest books I’ve ever read. The part where they try to read the oracle – SO FUNNY!¬†Better still, the sequel FINALLY comes out this June!!

10. Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya

Ohhhh Haru . . .

The anime is funny, but the manga is even better. The characters range from quirky to downright terrifying – but they’re all pretty hilarious. It’s amazing how mangas can jump from cute to terrifying¬†to hilarious to crazy and back again in a matter of pages . . .

Honorable mentions – The Time Paradox, Piratica, Adulthood is a Myth, Naruto, The Thief, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness . . .

Have you read any of these books, or do you plan to read them? What is one of the funniest books you’ve ever read?

TTT: Top 10 Books I Love but I Just Haven’t Talked About As Much (with quotes!)

toptentuesday
Copyright : The Broke and the Bookish

I know for myself (and probably most of you) that there are tons of books I’ve read that I absolutely loved – I just don’t talk about them as much. So naturally, I had to participate in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (if you don’t know what that is, click here) hosted by¬†The Broke and the Bookish. So let’s get started.

lets-get-down-to-business-gif
Mulan = one of the best movies ever.

Top 10 Books I Love (I Just Don’t Talk About Them Much)

  1. The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine (first read in 2001)

9780060293154
This is the cover I have

I love¬†Ella Enchanted, but I actually prefer¬†The Two Princesses of Bamarre. I discovered it in a tiny Northern Michigan bookstore when we were on vacation (15 years ago, *cough, cough*). At the age of twelve, I was¬†obsessed¬†with fantasy and still high off of reading through¬†The Lord of the Rings by myself a couple of times (my dad read it to us when we were little). I was also at that stage when you’ve fallen in love with something (in my case, the feeling that LOTR gave me), and you read ravenously, just trying to find that feeling. This is also around¬†when I discovered Robin McKinley and Patricia Wrede, who have remained lifelong favorites as well. Anyhow, this is a story about the bond between two sisters – one who starts out as the classic “hero,” and the other, who becomes a hero. And it was¬†way before¬†Frozen. ;P

“I put my fingers around the unmarked ring of the spyglass and twisted. The scene became clear. 
Oh no! A hairy brown spider clung to a vine! I couldn't go there!
I'd go to the desert to find a dragon. I began to reset the spyglass, but then I stopped myself. A spider was worse than a dragon?
No.
My first monsters would be spiders, then.‚ÄĚ 

2.¬†Dragon’s Milk (The Dragon Chronicles) by Susan Fletcher

‚ÄúThe wild creatures of the earth are as milk for the human spirit; to destroy them is to starve our souls.‚ÄĚ

I love these covers <3

While Susan Fletcher is better known for Shadow Spinner (another one of my all time favorites), her¬†Dragon Chronicles were some of the books I reread repeatedly growing up. It’s somewhere between MG and YA, as¬† I recall. The heroine, Kaeldra, is a gawky, awkward girl who gets thrust into a difficult situation – she basically becomes orphaned Draclings (baby dragons) nanny, in a world where dragons are misunderstood and hated. There are two sequels that take place in the same world, and I remember liking them just as much.

3. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

‚ÄúWe have our clothes, some more splendid than others,‚ÄĒthis is our credit; but when a man dies he has only his skin;‚ÄĚ

Over a thousand gripping pages (really!),¬†The Count of Monte Cristo is an epic adventure and revenge drama with complex characters and intricate morality. Edmond Dantes is wrongfully imprisoned, and he swears to get the ultimate revenge on the man who put him there. Will Edmond follow his path to the end, or will his convictions and his fear of Heaven stop him before it’s too late? You’ll have to read it to find out. And if you saw that movie, it left out, well,¬†almost the entire book. Another one of my all-time favorite novels, and a definite influence on my writing. On an interesting side note, the nonfiction book¬†The Black Count (about Dumas’ father-an inspiration for a lot of the Count’s adventures) is also well worth the read.

‚ÄúThere are men who have suffered and who have not only gone on living, but even built a new fortune on the ruins of their former happiness. From the depths into which their enemies have plunged them, they have risen again with such vigor and glory that they have dominated their former conquerors and cast them down in their turn.‚ÄĚ

4. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

One of the most beautifully written, lyrical fantasies I have ever read. It’s my favorite one of McKillip’s novels, and the one that made me track down her other novels. Sixteen year-old Sybel is given a baby to raise, even though her only companions up to that point were a fantastical menagerie of creatures.¬†This book is gorgeous, magical, and if you haven’t read it, you should. A strong female lead, enduring themes, and amazing prose – this is one of those “so close to perfect it hurts” novels.

‚ÄúWhat do you think love is- a thing to startle from the heart like a bird at every shout or blow? You can fly from me, high as you choose into your darkness, but you will see me always beneath you, no matter how far away, with my face turned to you. My heart is in your heart. I gave it to you with my name that night and you are its guardian, to treasure it, or let it whither and die. I do not understand you. I am angry with you. I am hurt and helpless, but nothing will fill the ache of the hollowness in me where your name would echo if I lost you.‚ÄĚ

5. Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis

‚ÄúHoly places are dark places. It is life and strength, not knowledge and words, that we get in them. Holy wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark like blood.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúI saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?‚ÄĚ

I might have mentioned this book in passing, but I haven’t sung its praises enough.¬†This was the last work Lewis completed, but it started out as one of his earliest projects. Most people know how C. S. Lewis loved Greek Myths and classic literature.¬†Till We Have Faces is the story of Cupid and Psyche told from Psyche’s sister Orual’s perspective. But it isn’t a simple retelling – it’s a complex, dense, thought-provoking, and deeply philosophical novel that thoroughly explores the nature of love itself.¬†Till We Have Faces is nothing you would expect if you’re only familiar with¬†The Chronicles of Narnia – it’s more akin to¬†The Four Loves, or C.S. Lewis’s essays on the power of myths and legends. If I could just take a handful of books to a deserted island, this would be one of them.

‚ÄúOh, I can see it happening, age after age, and growing worse the more you reveal your beauty: the son turning his back on the mother and the bride on her groom, stolen away by this everlasting calling, calling, calling of the gods. Taken where we can't follow. It would be far better for us if you were foul and ravening. We'd rather you drank their blood than stole their hearts. We'd rather they were ours and dead than yours and made immortal.‚ÄĚ 

6. Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer

‚ÄúConfidence is ignorance. If you’re feeling cocky, it’s because there’s something you don’t know.‚ÄĚ

Twelve. Millionaire. Genius. Criminal. Artemis Fowl is all of those things. And Eoin Colfer sells it with the writing equivalent of a cheeky grin and a magician’s sleight of hand. One of my favorite middle grade series ever,¬†Artemis Fowl is laugh out loud funny. The characters are hilarious, the plots are crazy, and at the center are the epic odd couple of Artemis and his loyal butler, Butler. Yes – Butler. Butler is the other best thing about these books.

“That was horrible. Horrible. That poor little guy."
Pex was unrepentant. "Yeah, well, he asked for it. Calling us ... all those things."
But---buried alive! That's like in that horror movie. Y'know -- the one with all the horror."
I think I saw that one. With all the words going up on the screen at the end?"
Yeah, that was it. Tell you the truth, those words kinda ruined it for me.‚ÄĚ

7.¬†The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf (The Squire’s Tales #3) by Gerald Morris

‚ÄúI said you lie, knave!‚ÄĚ shouted Beaumains, drawing his sword. ‚ÄúAnd for telling such craven falsehoods, you must die!‚ÄĚ
The knight looked plaintively at Roger. ‚ÄúWhat‚Äôs wrong with this fellow?‚ÄĚ
He was dropped on his head when he was a baby,‚ÄĚ answered Roger.‚ÄĚ

This book is hysterical – even if you haven’t read the Arthurian original that it reinterprets (The Kitchen Knight). I loved every book in this series, but this one is a definite stand out. It takes Arthurian story constructs and constants, and turns them completely on their heads, all while keeping the basic story intact. With its witty, sharp-tongued heroine, a dash of faeries, crazy characters, and of course, the aforementioned sense of humor, this is another book I’ve read repeatedly.

8. Sorcery & Cecelia: or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer

‚ÄúI am determined to have the headache Thursday, if I have to hit myself with a rock to do it.‚ÄĚ

Manners, Magic, and Mayhem

The concept behind this book is positively brilliant: two writers decided to write letters to each other, assuming the characters of Regency girls with magical aptitude. Their letters became this delightful light fantasy novel that mixes Jane Austen with Diana Wynne Jones’ style magic and hilarity. The sequel,¬†The Grand Tour is equally funny, and highly recommended.

‚ÄúShe probably enjoys cutting up everyone's happiness. Not to mention cutting up other parts of people; given her penchant for poisoning people and turning them into beech trees, I fail to see how she has reached thirty without leaving a trail of bodies behind her.‚ÄĚ 

9. The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl

While I’ve mentioned my affection for Pearl’s writing, I doubt I’ve praised this book enough. Dante’s¬†Inferno is a favorite of mine, and this historical novel surrounds the translation of the¬†Inferno made by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Oh, and there’s murder most foul, as well.* But who doesn’t like to watch a group of middle-aged writers solve a murder, all while being terribly literary?

‚ÄúThe force of Dante's poetry resonated most in those who did not confess the Catholic faith, for believers would inevitably have quibbles with Dante's theology. But for those most distant theologically, Dante's faith was so perfect, so unyielding, that a reader found himself compelled by the poetry to take it all to heart.‚ÄĚ

10. The Kestrel (Westmark Trilogy #2) by Lloyd Alexander

The dedication in¬†this book:¬†“To those who know they are only human, but strive to be nothing less.”

Lloyd Alexander is another author I’ve touched on at times – with his excellent Prydain Chronicles being one of my favorite MG fantasy series ever. I’ve also named off¬†Westmark in passing. But¬†The Kestrel is one of the first, and best YA novels (that¬†I have read) to¬†deal with the trauma of war and fighting (especially for causes you believe in). Theo, the young printer’s devil from the first book, convincingly transforms into¬†the Kestrel, a fearsome warrior and bogeyman to haunt the enemies dreams. Humanity, hatred, fear, rage- this book covers it all, in a surprisingly slim package. There are touches of¬†Les Miserables and¬†A Tale of Two Cities (two more of my all-time favorite novels), but it’s an easier read. Not convinced? Read this excellent review and see if it changes your mind.

Well, if nothing else, I’ve learned that I need a shelf just for silly fantasy novels (I hadn’t realized what a great favorite they were of mine until I started working on this list!)

Have you read any of these books, or do you intend to?

What are some favorite books that you don’t mention enough?

Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani – COVER REVEAL!!! (+ Release Date, Preorder Info, and More!)

If you’ve followed me (or even just stopped by my blog), you might have noticed how much I loved the¬†fantasy¬†novella¬†Sunbolt, by indie author Intisar Khanani. You can read my review of Sunbolt here. So, naturally, when I heard there was going to be a sequel soon, I was super excited. I have the distinct privilege of participating in a cover reveal today for Memories of Ash, and keep reading for an interview with Intisar Khanani and info on pre-ordering the book!

I‚Äôm excited to have Intisar Khanani on the blog today, revealing the cover for her newest novel Memories of Ash. This cover was designed by the amazing Jenny of Seedlings Design Studio. There’s also a Kindle Fire giveaway, so make sure to scroll down to the end of the post to enter.

Describe Memories of Ash in 3 words.

IK: Walk with courage.

What compelled you to write your first book?

IK: I always wanted to write a novel, so my senior year of university I decided I‚Äôd better buckle down and try. I chose a fairy tale (The Goose Girl) to give me an over-arching plot and narrative structure, and then went to town with it. I really wrote it as an exercise to test myself, not intending to do anything with it when I finished. But, by the time I finished, I loved my characters so much that I ended up working through over a dozen revisions to take it from ‚Äúwriting exercise‚ÄĚ to my debut novel, Thorn.

If you could live in one of your books, which one would you choose?

IK: Definitely the world of the Sunbolt Chronicles. Sunbolt follows Hitomi, a street thief with a propensity to play hero when people need saving, and her nemesis, the dark mage who killed her father. Although there is a lot of darkness in Sunbolt, there’s also a lot of light. It’s a real world, in its way, and I love the diversity and vibrancy of the cultures and creatures that populate it. I’d have my choice of living in a tropical island sultanate reminiscent of historic Zanzibar, or among the nomadic desert tribes that eke out an existence alongside the cursed Burnt Lands, to name my two favorite options. Then again, in Memories of Ash, there’s the decaying grandeur of the capitol of a fallen empire that feels a lot like an Istanbul of old, right at the heart of the Eleven Kingdoms. Plus, I wouldn’t mind having shape-shifting friends and charms to keep my bread from burning.

What authors, or books, have influenced you?

IK:¬†As a young duckling, I imprinted on Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley’s earlier works. I read pretty widely, but those are the authors I kept coming back to, especially McKinley‚Äôs Damar books. I am also an incorrigible Jane Austen fan, but my books don‚Äôt reflect that very much!

What are you reading now?

IK:¬†I just finished ‚ÄúKingdom of Ruses‚ÄĚ by Kate Stradling. In a kingdom where the eternal prince who rules is just a ruse kept up by the prime minister‚Äôs family (and most recently, Viola, our heroine), keeping the peace is a delicate thing. Enter a stranger who manages to take the place of the doppelg√§nger the family uses, and Viola has her hands full.

Your first reaction to the cover in GIF format.

 

And here it is…

MoA_FC_FNL16_BN

“In the year since she cast her sunbolt, Hitomi has recovered only a handful of memories. But the truths of the past have a tendency to come calling, and an isolated mountain fastness can offer only so much shelter. When the High Council of Mages summons Brigit Stormwind to stand trial for treason, Hitomi knows her mentor won‚Äôt return‚ÄĒnot with Arch Mage Blackflame behind the charges.

Armed only with her magic and her wits, Hitomi vows to free her mentor from unjust imprisonment. She must traverse spell-cursed lands and barren deserts, facing powerful ancient enchantments and navigating bitter enmities, as she races to reach the High Council. There, she reunites with old friends, planning a rescue equal parts magic and trickery.

If she succeeds, Hitomi will be hunted the rest of her life. If she fails, she‚Äôll face the ultimate punishment: enslavement to the High Council, her magic slowly drained until she dies.”

Kobo Pre-order | Apple Store Pre-order | Amazon Pre-order | Barnes & Noble Pre-order | Add it to GoodReads

A Special Treat For Those Who Pre-order…

Not only is the pre-order of Memories of Ash on sale for only 99 cents, but anyone who buys the pre-order will receive a free digital art print of Hitomi by artist Grace Fong. Just email your proof of purchase to moapreorder@gmail.com!

Haven’t read Sunbolt (Book 1) yet? It’s been knocked down to just 99 cents to celebrate the release and is available at most major e-retailers. That’s two fantastic books for less than your morning coffee. And don’t forget to check with your¬†local, independent bookstore to see if they can order¬†Sunbolt for you. (I have a physical copy and it’s beautiful!)

MoA_PreOrder Special

About Intisar Khanani

Khanani_Author_PhotoIntisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. She has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. Intisar’s current projects include a companion trilogy to Thorn, featuring the heroine introduced in her free short story The Bone Knife, and The Sunbolt Chronicles.

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Book Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin (and Why You Should Read It)

My avalanche of 1-3 star reads finally stopped this last weekend, when I picked up Ryan Graudin‘s Wolf by Wolf. Thank you to Little Brown and Co. Books for Young Readers/Hachette Book Group for this ARC! (Wolf by Wolf¬†will be available October 6th, 2015) Note: Cover and quote might not be final.

Love this cover.
“These were the names she whispered in the dark.
These were the pieces she brought back into place.
These were the wolves she rode to war.‚Ä̬†
‚Äē¬†Ryan Graudin,¬†Wolf By Wolf

I read The Walled City¬†earlier this year, and really enjoyed it. Wolf by Wolf¬†was better, with a tighter story and more developed main characters.¬† Like with TWC, Wolf by Wolf¬†takes actual history for its inspiration. But this time, there’s a fantasy twist. Here’s a rundown for you:

 

Set in an alternate 1956, Wolf by Wolf¬†imagines a world where the Axis powers reign triumphant, and their victorious alliance is celebrated each year by a cross-country motorcycle race. The 1955 victor was the only girl, Adele Wolfe, and she had a rare opportunity to dance with Hitler himself after winning the race. That up-close look at the elusive F√ľhrer is one that resistance groups would gladly die for. But it seems impossible.

Yael, a young resistance member, just might be able to make the impossible happen. A Jewish girl who survived terrible experiments and escaped from concentration camp, Yael can skin-shift, altering her appearance to resemble any girl she has seen. If she can imitate Adele Wolfe, infiltrate the race, and win, Yael might get close enough for a second Operation Valkyrie.

Yael has been trained to fight and survive, and she has spent the last year practicing both racing and imitating Adele Wolfe down to the tiniest detail, but there are two major problems: Luka, who has a bitter romantic history with Adele, and much more serious, Adele’s twin brother Felix. Yael will have to fool them both, and defeat them along with all of the other competitors, if she wants to complete her mission.

 

Alternate history, what-ifs, human experiments, motorcycles, infiltration, how could this not sound amazing? But all that aside, this was a strong novel with an epic concept. And here are five reasons you should read it:

1. Yael. I loved Yael so much. A little Winter Soldier and all survivor, she was sympathetic, hardcore, and brave. She (understandably) had a hard time trusting others, but she wasn’t afraid to love or feel for the people in her past. She wanted to think well of people, and she put her mission ahead of her own interests.

Also, I loved¬†her interactions with Adele’s brother Felix. Felix was brave, adorable, and loyal and Yael really didn’t know how to handle this. Humor, and some surprisingly touching moments, resulted from this. (But she’s not Adele, so, ouch!)

2. The story. I really enjoyed the movie Valkyrie, and I find revolution/resistance novels tend to resonate with me. Wolf by Wolf¬†was definitely character centered, with Yael’s inner war against the Axis ideals, and what it took from her, taking more of the focus than the overall plot. Also, the fact that Yael was Jewish, while important to the story, wasn’t shoved in your face. Likewise with a cast of mainly German and Japanese teens.

3. Alternate history. Though Graudin definitely had to bend and shape history to her story, she did a great job of projecting how the world might have looked if things were different. From the tensions between Germany and Japan, to the disinterest of the US, to the eventual fall of Britain, it felt like she put a lot of time and thought (and research) into this historical fantasy novel.

4. The skin-shifting. I guess this relates to #1. I loved how the story just went with this slightly outrageous premise. I mean, scheming Nazi scientists? But it just worked, and the shifting was worked into the greater themes and character development. Also, Yael’s ability reminded me a bit of X-Men’s Mystique. Yael had similar identity problems due to always wearing someone else’s face. Also like Mystique, she tended to distance herself from her feelings and thoughts because of this.

5. Nothing was neat, tidy, or easy. Everything from the motorcycle race, to the ending, to Yael herself unraveled a bit. There was no quick fix. Especially when it came to playing Adele while dealing with Luka and Felix. Yael was always teetering toward failure, and I really wasn’t sure (till the end) how things would pan out. That’s a rare occurrence.

Minor Quibbles:

Yes, I loved this book so much, but I did have a few tiny issues. Like with TWC, the characters (other than Yael) were a bit thin for my liking. In particular, I would have liked to read more about the Japanese racers (there was some, but I wanted more).

Luka was a James Dean meets Thor type, and I wasn’t particularly interested in reading about him, but that’s purely personal. However, I did¬†like how Yael handled his interactions with “Adele.” Talk about an interesting situation there.

Other than that, this was one of my favorite books this year, and I am so thrilled that she is writing a sequel! The fallout from the ending just begs another round, and Yael is a heroine I would gladly read a series about.

Overall: 5 out of 5 stars. An exciting alternate history with a strong heroine, lots of action, and a fascinating premise. Recommended for fans of The Hunger Games, Valkyrie, The Scorpio Races, The Maze Runner, Code Name Verity and X-Men.

Top 10 Authors I’d Like to Meet (Top 10 Tuesday)

It’s that time of the week again: Top 10 Tuesday with The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s theme is Top 10 Authors you want to meet. 

Seeing as I live in the backend of nowhere, I haven’t met a lot of big time or international authors. On the other hand, I have a bunch of Michigan author meetings. Regardless, most of the authors I really want to meet are dead, which is slightly more backend of nowhere than West Michigan.

Well duh

I’m still waiting on the TARDIS, so while the Doctor is off saving the universe, I’ll just content myself with a list of living authors I want to meet.
 If any of you have read previous top 10s of mine, you can probably name at least two of them. So I’ll start with one that is not Neil Gaiman or Robin McKinley (though their inclusion is inevitable):

1. Matthew Pearl

If you can’t actually time travel, there are a few authors that make you feel like you can. Matthew Pearl is one of them. I love his historical fiction. I’m reading The Last Bookaneer right now and it’s really good. I am so impressed with his ability to incorporate historical figures and events into his story without changing or contradicting them. The Dante Club is my favorite.

2. Erik Larson

Larson is Pearl’s nonfiction equivalent. Erik Larson writes about history like it’s a first-rate thriller, weaving events together in a way that only a master of research and words can do. With my keen interest in the past, I love any book that makes you feel there, and Larson’s books always do. I would love to learn about all of the things he’s researched for his books. (My favorite is Devil in the White City)

3. J. K. Rowling

Do I have to explain? Is there a reader/writer out there who wouldn’t like to pick Rowling’s brain? Frankly, I’d like to know more about her rejection letters, some of the responses she got from publishers, and why she kept plugging on. I know she’s under a lot of popular pressure now that she’s crazy famous, and it would be interesting to know if she ever misses anonymity.

This is an awesome Zelda cosplay, btw

Naturally, my favorite is Harry Potter.

4. Marissa Meyer

When I randomly picked up Cinder (confession, it was the cover) and saw that it was a cyborg Cinderella, it was a rare insta-buy moment for me. I hadn’t heard anything about it, but you can’t get more up my alley than a cyborg, fairytales, and space combo. The anime influences were a bonus. I’d like to meet Marissa because we like a lot of the same things, and she seems like such a cool person, so open and fun. I’m not sure which one of the Lunar Chronicles I like best, but I am very excited about Winter, and I can’t wait to see what Meyer comes up with next.
Awesome picture credit here

I envy every one of you that lives in a major city, because you’ve probably had a chance to meet Neil Gaiman. Honestly, I’d rather have tea and chat with him than most authors. He is fabulous on the radio, so funny and engaging. I love his novels, and I would be honored to “talk shop” with him. But I’d settle for just meeting him and telling him what an impact his words have had on me (I’m sure that gets old, but what can you do?).

This picture is epic
Jonathan Maberry convinced me to read not one, but 5+ zombie novels. I liked every one of them. That was a major accomplishment. The mixture of action, thrills, philosophy, humor, heart, and wonderful characters in his novels got me (even though I don’t care for zombies). I would like to hear more about why Maberry likes zombies (who knows, he might convince me?), his thoughts on real-world Bushido and samurai history, and I’m not sure if I want to thank him or curse him for Tom Imura.* 
Even if you are a very casual Robin McKinley reader, I dare you to not enjoy her blog. She is a fabulous writer, and her wry sense of humor is in full force on her blog. 
As for her novels, there isn’t much I haven’t already said: I love them. They are lifelong favorites, and I’d love to tell her that in person. My favorite is still The Hero and the Crown, although Chalice is a close second.

8. Susanna Clarke

Susanna Clarke, of course, wrote one of my all-time favorite novels, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. If no one has convinced you to read it, then read this lovely BBC article and reconsider. Susanna Clarke is funny and smart, well read, loves magicians, and is very interested in history. Why wouldn’t I want to meet her?

For more of his work click here

9. D. M. Cornish

Though he is currently in between projects (I think), I love the layered world of Cornish’s Monster Blood Tattoo series.

In addition to writing a fantasy series with a rich world and fascinating characters, D. M. Cornish can draw. The series ( a bit like Oliver Twist with monster hunters and the moors of a Bronte novel) is completely illustrated by Cornish. Which is awesome.

I don’t really know much about Megan Whalen Turner besides the basics. What I do know is that she wrote one of my favorite series in the history of the world: The Queen’s Thief series. I love her characters, her writing style, and again, her love of history. I’d like to sit down and get all the details on the series, the characters, and her inspiration. 

So that’s all for this week. Did you have any of the same authors, or have you met any of them? Which authors would you like to meet and why?

Cheers!
Footnotes:
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