Sorry Honey, I Forgot Our Blogoversary . . .

SO, I figured out that my blog’s anniversary was August 13th . . . and then I worked a 65 hour week and didn’t think about it at all.*

So I’m doing a belated Blogoversary post for myself. That means I will use an inordinate amount of gifs and jibber about nothing for at least a page; you have been warned.

I’ve been blogging for a bit now, but I’ve only been consistent for about a year. In that time, I’ve made some awesome friends, and had a lot of fun getting some words out there. More importantly, I feel like the writing connection with others (and the helpful feedback) has made me a better writer, and made me a more efficient writer.

I answered a lot of the “Why do you blog” questions on this tag from blogger Victoria Grace, so I’ll skip that. Also, you probably have heard more random facts about me than you ever needed! So I’ll skip that too. Instead, I think I’ll write a bit about my past year in blogging, and where I see myself going.

As most of you probably know, I had my debut novel scheduled for August publication.

Unfortunately, it’s already September (yes, I’m screaming), and I have yet to hear back from my publishers on a new, concrete date. They haven’t done something terrible like close down or drop my book, they’ve just pushed everything back in their schedule because: LIFE HAPPENS. No one knows this better than me, but it doesn’t make it easy. In fact, it’s made my last couple months rougher mentally than I would like.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to stay positive and work on the many writing projects (new and old) that I have. I’ve also kept myself reading – because my love of reading is what got me writing, and it’s still my favorite pastime. It’s also good to get other people’s’ words and ideas flowing through your head, just like it’s good to have conversations with various people and not always be stuck in your own brain!

A Few Things I’ve Been Working on Between Last August and Now:

Promoting:

Knight of the Blue Surcoat, my delayed but still debut novel – an Arthurian historical fantasy adventure starring King Arthur’s daughter Melora. More about it here.

Editing:

The Last Coffee Shop (TLCS)- A snarky, post-apocalyptic adventure novel that involves a barista, a bounty hunter, a dancing thief, and a lot of aliens. Read more about it here.

Drafting:

Red as Blood – A genderbent Snow White retelling set in the same “world” as TLCS, just a decade or so later. It involves high fashion, corruption, food service, and quirky, damaged characters. More about that here, and in my current series of Beautiful People posts. September’s entry will be up soon!

Reading:

Scads of research books for a planned Japanese folktale retelling, and a few for an epic fantasy idea that I’ve been tossing around.

ARCS – as many as I can get to, for my day job as a bookseller. Standouts include Vassa in the NightBlood for Blood, and Patchinko.

Most recent reads: Tokyo Ghoul Volume 8 (<3t_t KEN!) and Malice by Keigo Higashino (Japanese mystery).

Learning:

Korean, and lots of other things – to be continued below . . .

Cooking:

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen my random kitchen projects. Kimchi-in-everything has been the theme. I’ve progressed to a proper kimchi storage container, so I can make as much kimchi jjigae (김치찌개) as I want!! Other things, such as Korean BBQ, fresh tuna sushi, Thai curries, the usual pies and scones, and many other things happened in my kitchen between work and other work.

Watching:

Obviously, I haven’t had much time to watch anything. However, I did finish the Korean Comedy/Horror/Drama “Let’s Fight, Ghost!” and it was hilarious (and actually a little creepy at times). I also started watching PinocchioCity Hunter, and a big-budget Chinese drama called Ice Fantasy. If you’re interested in hearing more about my tv watching habits, check out this post. AND PEOPLE – if you aren’t watching W: Two Worlds, you should! Not only do we get Lee Jong Suk being a fabulous action hero, it’s a reality-bending drama about being sucked into/out of a manhwa (만화 – Korean comics) and it has a rather Christopher Nolan-esque/postmodern feel about it that is pretty unique.

Oh, and Lee Jong Suk = reasons to watch anything. No, I’m completely unbiased.

ANYHOW.

The last movie I saw was Suicide Squad – and I had very mixed feelings about it. It felt like two different movies competing with each other, and I thought that it would have been better off as a goofy heist-style movie. Everything from the message to the storytelling was muddled (and I seem to be in the 1% who thought the Joker was in there too much – and I’d thought he was the main villain from the trailers . . .). And honestly, the villain (Tia Dalma 2.0, supermodel edition) was completely underwhelming. That being said, the main cast was good and parts of it were very fun/funny – and there were some excellent soundtrack choices.

I’m really looking forward to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemMiss Peregrine’s wasn’t my favorite book – I found it rather boring, and the romance was really the only unnerving thing about it, but the movie looks pretty cool. And of course I’m excited about Fantastic Beasts! It looks like breath of cinematic fresh air.

Listening to:

Other than the usual, I’ve really been liking Korean rockers F.T. Island‘s mixture of pop-punk and excellent vocals/instrumentals. Other notable current favorites include BØRNS (Michigan Native!), For the Foxes, EXO and B.A.P‘s dance-y recent offerings, The Unlikely Candidates, and Icelandic rockers Kaleo.

Also in music, I compiled an ultimate Last Coffee Shop Playlist (around 100 tracks) that gives you a great audio picture of the novel – and it includes a lot of the songs I listened to while writing TLCS as well.

Work:

Err, that. Back in February, I took on a second job at a new craft brewery, in addition to working part-time as a bookstore manager/head book-buyer, writing reviews for a women’s mag, and my own personal writing/reading work . . . so, yes. Anyhow, it’s been fun, but I think the crazy work fest might be over for the year.

Travel:

Besides travelling to Nashville and back in three days, I’ve been to Pensacola (for a day, but well, it was a good day), Gulf Shores, Chicago (4 times!), Traverse City, Harbor Springs, and all that jazz. I manage to clock a lot of road hours for someone who is rarely away from work, 😛

Life:

I GOT A NEPHEW!!! I already had a niece (and she’s one of the most precious, sweet, and mild-mannered little angels ever), but as of the end of June, I have a nephew too. He’s adorable and cuddly, and I got to go see him way too briefly in July.

So you remember I was learning Korean?

Well, last fall, after some serious contemplation/soul-searching/finance-shuffling, etc, I decided I’d be interested in putting some of my savings toward a few more college courses (I have some credits, but that’s all). I’ve always wanted to travel, travel write, and make it to East Asia. Not to mention, my passion for Asian History has had me reading courses worth of books for years. SOooo, I thought, well, a degree in East Asian Studies? Worth it? Maybe a foray into International Relations, or a certificate for teaching ESL? My number one goal has always (and probably will always be) to be a published author, but that travelling/teaching/exploring side is loud too. I want to write, in other places. So this meandering paragraph just means, I’m going back to school, as long as I can afford it . . . At least I’ll have a whole class of people to practice Korean with!!

Related to this – readers might remember how my sister and I had to leave our rental and ended up back with our parents? Well, I’m going to move (at least till December) down to Grand Rapids, and commute to my bookstore job in between. So I can’t see the craziness letting up any time soon, but it will probably be a bit more organized now. *Gulp*

And while I’m on the subject of school, I’m attending a college that really is quite a nontraditional place for an adult student – and it feels like I’m in class with high schoolers – I feel so awkward and out of place. So there’s that. I thought about doing a series about what it feels like to go back to school at 27 (on a small enough campus to where you can feel it). So that might be a thing . . . It’s amazing how isolated you can feel when you’re surrounded by thousands of people. Don’t get me wrong, I love being by myself, but trading in 65hr work weeks for 65hr work-and-school weeks is kind of lonely, you know? But I know that I have you guys to talk to! (And believe me, it’s comforting)

So that’s it – that’s all there is in a nutshell. Happy Belated Blogoversary to me! (Also, happy 추석 to my Korean friends out there!)

(I love Lurch’s dancing because we can all do better – sorry Lurch)

If you blog, when’s your blogoversary? Have you ever thought about going back to school after leaving it? Would you read a series about going back to school as an adult student?

What have you been up to this September? Conversation is delightful ;P

*I didn’t forget my beloved Bigbang’s anniversary though (August 19th). Priorities, priorities . . .

 

5 Reasons that Vassa In the Night NEEDS to be on Your Fall TBR List (ARC Review)

Anyone who follows my blog knows that I have been INSANELY busy all summer. It’s left me little time to read, and no time to blog – but I finally managed to squeeze in some reading time, and now I have to tell you all about it 😛

JUST LOOK AT IT – So Pretty

First things first – a huge thank you to ABA Whitebox and TOR/Macmillan for the ARC – this advance copy was provided for free as a bookseller promotion, and this is an unsolicited, unpaid, and 100% honest review 🙂

I don’t know about you, but I have a lifelong obsession with fairytales. Whether it was Disney, a dusty copy of Grimms, Ella Enchanted, a folktale collection I found at the library, or Once Upon a Time, I’ve given them all a shot. However, for all of the fairy tales and folktales out there (and there are thousands), only a handful ever seem to make it into novels. So when I saw the synopsis of Vassa in the Night, I knew I had to read it as soon as possible. (Official Synopsis Below)

In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now, but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won t be playing fair .

Basically, Vassa in the Night is a modern reimagining of Vassilissa the Beautiful (there are a lot of Vassilissa stories out there), set in Brooklyn, NYC.
And before you point out how many fairytale/folktale retellings are out there, scroll down for my

Top 5 Reasons to Read Vassa in the Night:

  1. The Prose is beautiful.

    There are sentences that my writer’s brain was wishing I’d come up with. And Sarah Porter’s “stage-setting” and descriptive writing roots you immediately – just read the first couple paragraphs and you’ll see what I mean:

People live here on purpose; that’s what I’ve heard. They even cross the country deliberately and move into the neighborhoods near the river, and suddenly their shoes are cuter than they are, and very possibly smarter and more articulate as well, and their lives are covered in sequins and they tell themselves they’ve arrived. They put on tiny feathered hats and go to parties in warehouses; they drink on rooftops at sunset. It’s a destination and everyone piles up and congratulates themselves on having made it all the way here from some wherever or other. To them this is practically an enchanted kingdom. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now, but not the part where I live.

Not that there isn’t any magic around here. If you’re dumb enough to look in the wrong places, you’ll stumble right into it. It’s the stumbling out again that might become an issue. The best thing you can do is ignore it. Cross the street. Don’t make eye contact—if by some remote chance you encounter something with eyes.

(Excerpt from Chapter 1, Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter)

Porter takes her time in setting the scene, enveloping you in a fantastical, yet familiar version of Brooklyn. Her writing has its own sort of magic, and it will immerse you in the world of the story in no time.

2. Creativity!

Baba Yaga as a demented shopkeeper? Yes, please. Vassilissa as a purple-haired teen from a blended family? Works for me. Demented, bodiless hands for sidekicks? Sure. Another world on the fringe of our own, populated by characters that Lewis Carroll would envy. SOLD. This is definitely one of the more inventive YA novels I’ve read, and I couldn’t wait to see where it would take me next. I also loved seeing how Porter worked elements from the Vassilissa story into the book.

3. It’s laugh-out-loud funny.

There’s a healthy dose of sarcasm, usually provided by Vassa herself, and a borderline-hysterics sort of humor that balances the macabre setting and rather dark subject matter (i.e., severed heads and gruesome, fairytale style deaths) The side characters and bizarre situations also provide a lot of humor. Erg (Vassa’s “doll), in particular, is a source of hilarious one liners and dry observations.

4. Reality checks.

I love how Vassa in the Night doesn’t have a “perfect” ending. Everything isn’t resolved or tied up neatly. More importantly, throughout the book, we don’t forget that Vassa is a young girl plunged into a world far beyond her comfort zone. None of her problems are magically solved, and she has to work for a resolution. Vassa’s relationships with Erg, her stepsisters, school peers, and missing/late parents are all extremely important, and she has to deal with them in “real-world” ways to grow as a character, and accomplish her goals. And hey – if Baba Yaga was real, I could definitely see her setting up a sinister convenience store chain in NYC. And getting away with it.

5. VASSA.

She’s everything I love in a heroine – smart, funny, snarky, empathetic, and believable. Despite her tough lot in life, she is determined and stubborn, and she refuses to give up when it matters the most. Also of note, though Vassa is obviously our heroine, she doesn’t fall into the stereotypical chosen-one mode at all. Her character growth and arc were well done and satisfying.

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars.*
A lush and inventive modern folktale for readers looking for something a little darker and less romantic than the majority of the fairytale retellings out there. A strong heroine, crazy strangeness, and beautiful prose help Vassa in the Night stand out as one of my favorite YA reads of 2016.
*Here are my minor quibbles (which are really only relevant after you’ve read the book:
  1. Was there a point to the whole story about Vassa’s dad (other than showing his extreme immaturity and selfishness)?
  2. I felt that “The Rules” (governing the magical world/characters) could have been fleshed out a little more. Obviously, like Erg, Babs had rules she was following – otherwise, she might have stopped Vassa more effectively at times. It makes it a bit harder to suspend your disbelief if you don’t know the rules that the world operates by.
  3. Babs defeat was slightly underwhelming. It was fairytale-esque, but (see #2) I felt like it would have worked a bit better if we knew how/why she was defeated.

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter will be released in Hardcover on September 20th, 2016.

Do you plan on reading Vassa in the Night? Why or why not? Have you read Vassilissa the Beautiful or any of the Vassilissa stories?

 

ALL the Books – Book Expo, ARCS, and More

So if you follow me here or on various social media, you probably know that I was just at Book Expo America 2016, in Chicago, Illinois. If not, now you do.

What is Book Expo? It’s basically an annual 3-day convention that brings bloggers, press, booksellers, librarians, teachers, publishers, agents, sales reps, printers, AND SO MANY MORE BOOK PEOPLE together in a giant venue. There are educational sessions, author panels, vendors, autographing events, and a lot more. It’s crazy, busy, and a little overwhelming. But it’s also a lot of fun, and I’ve been fortunate enough to go twice now for work.

For those of you who didn’t get to go, I thought it would be fun to give you a taste of BEA16 through the eyes of a scattered bookseller/author/blogger.

DAY 1 (Wednesday, May 11)

I was in Nashville at my brother’s house (long story that I may or may not tell some other time), and he kindly got up with me at 4 am to take me to the airport for my flight. AAAAAND – my flight was cancelled . . .

We went to the airport anyhow, and I waited in a line of around 100 people only to find out the next flight was at 8 PM! I needed to be in Chicago by 10 AM to make the sessions I wanted to go to.  According to the ticket agent, they always call when your flight is cancelled – but I didn’t know I was called because my phone crashed/died/imploded randomly the previous Friday (another long story I may tell later). I explained this to the ticket agent, and he managed to get me a refund (which was very nice of him, but it didn’t solve my flight problem).

Fortunately, I had purchased a Go Phone with my emergency cash, so I just logged onto a different airline site and snagged one of the last available tickets for Chicago. I had to wait an hour in the security line (for real), and my new flight didn’t make it there till 11am, but that was a lot better than missing the whole day!!

So I made it to O’Hare, which was a zoo. I quickly jogged downstairs and bought a Ventra card, hopped on the “L” train, and finally made it into Chicago. It was an easy ride to the McCormick Place stop (where BEA was), and I jogged a block, and arrived just before the exhibit hall opened at 1pm.

They don’t have napping rooms at these things, sadly

Instead of joining the crowd (stampede) rushing for the ARC drops and autographing lines, I took a few minutes to familiarize myself with the floor map and the show schedule. Next, I actually walked the building, to get the 3D version of the map in my head (hey, I’m actually a methodical person). And it’s just under 500,000 square feet of exhibit space, and that isn’t counting all the rooms for sessions and functions!

West Building Level 3
See – not kidding about the size

Once I had my bearings, I explored the many rows of shiny books and exciting, glittery things. It’s a bit like the booksellers’ equivalent of the fairy market, and it’s a really good thing that I bring home catalogs instead of buying things on the spot . . .

Photo Taken from the BEA Facebook Page

I am kind of bad about taking pictures, so I added one from BEA itself to give you a taste. It’s lines and lines of vendors from all over the world. I spent an inordinate amount of time in the Chinese publishing delegation’s section.

Day 1 for me was mostly spent in chatting with sales reps, publishers, and in snagging a few ARCs. I tend to be more adventurous, and get books from publishers and/or authors that I am less familiar with. In addition to books, there are always tote bags, bookish vendors (such as Out of Print Clothing Co.), and other exciting things to look at, so I usually reach sensory overload by the end.

Once I was thoroughly tired of hauling my overnight bag and books around, I headed back to the L, and from there to the commuter train. Riding the train is always fun for me – and besides, you can read! It was only about a 45 minute ride to the station, where my second cousin picked me up. We went to dinner, and then caught up over cups of tea back at her house. Tea is always amazing, but it’s even better after a long day!

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I love trains – and a commuter train is a wonderful thing
DAY 2: (Thursday, May 12)

We were off bright and early – her to work, and me to the train again. I continued to read one of my ARCS (more about this later), and the ride seemed pretty brief. I popped on my headphones, jogged to the Clinton St L stop, and made it to McCormick’s about a half hour early.

I looked over the day’s programming, marked up what I wanted to see and who I needed to meet up with, and then I waited with the crowds until the hall opened at 9am. My first stop was the ABA lounge, where those wonderful human beings had coffee for ABA members the whole time.

I spent the earlier part of the day doing more networking, meeting up with some of the people I met at Winter Institute (including my awesome scholarship sponsors, Lerner). I went to a few panels – covering what was new/upcoming in Adult, Children, and YA lit, and then one on nonfiction. I also attended on on what editors were excited to see at BEA. I grabbed a few of the ARCs that I heard about (including a heist novel called Thieving Weasels that looks hilarious!)

After being a good, studious little note-taking bookseller, I finally stood in a few signing lines. My first one was for MG/YA author Brandon Mull! (FablehavenA World Without Heroes, Five Kingdoms, etc). It was really cool to meet him and to tell him (personally) what success the store has had with his novels, and how so many young boys read them. He signed a book for my sister Charlotte (a fan!), which was awesome of him.

Debut author Kerri Maniscalco signed her novel Stalking Jack the Ripper (about a forensics student who, guess what, is trying to solve the Ripper murders), and she was very sweet and demure, and I’m pretty excited to read it.

Next, I stood in line for Min Jin Lee’s novel Pachinko, a story about a Korean family in Japan, starting in the early 1900’s. I hadn’t read anything of Lee’s, but I was sold by the premise. Since the line wasn’t super long, I actually got to chat with her for a few minutes, and she was lovely. We got to talking about my lifelong love of Asian pachinkohistory and culture (from India to lower Russian, to all of East Asia), and my travel-bug, which made her laugh and ask if I was actually Asian and didn’t know it – and then she signed my book like this —>

Needless to say, it’s one of my favorite ARCs I picked up, and I can’t wait to start it!

But the day’s excitement didn’t end there – because I found the Disney booth . . .

AND GUYS, GUYS – THEN I MET EOIN COLFER AND ACTUALLY MANAGED TO TALK. I don’t know if YOU read Artemis Fowl as a teenager, but I did, and it was a big deal to meet this guy. Not to mention, I have shared his books with my younger siblings, and he signed the book for my brother Elijah. It’s a novel about Iron Man (yeah, that Iron Man), and this is doubly cool because Elijah was a very reluctant reader at first, and superheroes are what really got him reading.

Also, he has beautiful, piercing blue eyes, which is irrelevant, but there you go

Anyhow, Eoin Colfer was nice and funny, and so gracious to listen to me tell him what his books meant to me, even with a whole line behind me. Also, since this was Disney (and they pull out all the stops), there was a guy standing in for Tony Stark. He was handing out chargers and directing us to the line for mocktails (served in light-up glasses, no less), which were quite refreshing after the (very warm!) walk around the exhibit hall.

A few more ARCs and conversations later, and I was ready to quit the hall for the city. Hauling books all over a city is no joke, so I decided it was high time for some Chicago pizza.

Ahhh, pizza. And now I'm hungry again
Ahhh, pizza. And now I’m hungry again

Gino’s East was my destination, and though it was busy, a lone person can always grab a chair at the bar, so I did. I got an artichoke and spinach pizza with honey goat cheese (since I’m lactose intolerant), and it was so good. My mouth’s watering just thinking about it! I also tried some Chicago craft beer, which was good, but not as good as the pizza!

After the food, I walked all over, dragging my books behind me. My ultimate destination was Chicago 360 (I’d never been there before), and the Sourcebooks party! (Thanks again to the wonderful team at Sourcebooks!!)

Chicago 360 is on the 94th floor of the John Hancock building, and it offers exactly what the name says: a breathtaking view of the city from all around. There were hor d’oeuvres and drinks, which I didn’t try until later (see^pizza). But I eventually tried some wonderful chilled noodle dishes (since walking all over Chicago had made me hungry again), and a cocktail with green tea syrup. Next, I tried the Tilt (where you tilt at a 30 degree angle over the city), took pictures, and met a fabulous and interesting Columbian bookseller named Yolanda. We talked books and bookselling in US vs Columbia for around and hour, and I had so much fun hearing about Columbia!

This was all as amazing as it sounds, but the highlight was KRISTI YAMAGUCHI. Yes – that one. She was at the party promoting a children’s book, and I missed the sample signing. However, I spotted her before she left, and managed to work up the courage to approach. (She’s one of my childhood heroes, and I followed her skating journey with the fervor of any fan, so I was truly nervous). Everyone after asked why I didn’t ask for a picture, and I’ve had trouble explaining that meeting her, shaking her hand, thanking her, and telling her how she inspired me – that was more valuable to me personally. It’s something I will never forget.

When I finally made it back to the suburbs, I was giddy and way overtired, and I didn’t make it to bed until 1am. But no regrets here!

DAY 3: (Friday, May 13)

By now, I was thoroughly tired, but still excited about several galleys and speakers/sessions on Friday. Most importantly, there was a galley drop of Blood for Blood (sequel to Wolf by Wolf) right off, and I wanted that more than pretty much anything. I braved a swarm of people and managed to get a copy, and it was all that I could do to not sit and read it on the spot.

But there were more books to get and people to talk to, so I resisted!

I went to two panels that were really fun, one on YA with Veronica Roth as the moderator, and one on African American authors and fiction.

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Roth first sorted everyone into their Hogwarts houses 🙂
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Center is Kwame Alexander, who has quickly become one of my favorite speakers ever

 

The YA panel was extremely entertaining (and I really want to read Veronica Roth’s new book now), but the second panel was spectacular. They talked about the importance of African-American lit written by/for African-American authors, and how the issue of an author’s race shouldn’t be an issue. A book is a good book, and we all want good books. Kwame Alexander is one of the most gracious, eloquent speakers I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing, and he’s really funny too!

Late afternoon brought the Children/YA Author and Illustrator Tea. This was the heaven it sounds: booksellers, educators, and librarians sat at a table with an author or illustrator and listened to them talk about their books. And we had tea and scones. I had to pay extra, but it was 100% worth it.

My three author/illustrators were Jeffrey Brown (*DARTH VADER AND SON, PEOPLE), Duncan Tonatiuh (incredibly talented Mexican-American illustrator), and MARISSA MEYER.  It was awesome to sip tea and enjoy scones with these three diverse authors. And of course, we got copies of each book!

The art in this book is gorgeous!

It’s hard to pick a favorite experience, but the tea was wonderful, and I’m so grateful to the ABA for providing the opportunity.

I had a huge pile of books by now, but my long-suffering sister (yes, Grace), was going to pick me up (driving my car down from Michigan), and I had time to kill. So naturally, I hopped on the L and did some exploring. Despite the books I was hauling, it was wet and rainy and I was pretty soaked by the time I’d walked around Chinatown. This was the only day I hadn’t worn my much-loved Timelord hoodie (uh, it had been all over the L, and BEA, and the train . . .), and the only day I’d dressed for warm weather. I’m smart like that. So I did the only logical thing – I went to K-Pop of Chinatown and bought a giant Bigbang hoodie that was like wearing a fuzzy blanket (and solved everything).

Needless to say, I now walked everywhere in the rain, and ended up at the Disney Store. Naturally.

Dear Grace eventually managed to find me, but she had to play taxi since it was so busy, and I quickly hopped in and drove us back to the suburbs.

 

Day 4: (Saturday, May 14)

Book Expo might have been over, but that didn’t stop us from spending a fun day in the suburbs with family.

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Grace’s new beau

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We explored downtown Geneva, and went to the mall (why not?) and found an Anime store that delighted us far more than it should have. They were playing 1Am by Taeyang (never mind that he’s Korean and had nothing to do with anything), so we happily sang along and geeked out over plastic junk from Japan. As you do. But then we found these:

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Naruto Blind Box Figures!
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I GOT ITACHI!! (Center)

I got Itachi, which was awesome – but Grace got Sasuke, who was adorable (and Itachi’s little brother, so it was kind of perfect). They’re so tiny and cute!

We also went to a really cool store called Ragstock. They had vintage kimonos. We bought some vintage kimonos, and now felt perfectly fulfilled.

Back in Winfield, we went to bed to late, and packed up all of our stuff to leave in the morning.

Day 5: (Sunday, May 15)

We went to church, then came back to hang out for a bit before we headed home. We were pretty exhausted, but it was worth it.

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ALL the books, and totes, and stuff
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The two books I’m most excited to read!

And that was pretty much it. It was back to work (and Eastern Time) again early the next morning. I haven’t started in on any of my new books yet (I’ve been trying to finish the ones I was already reading), but I’m super excited about them!

So do you think you’d like to go to BEA? Have you been to Chicago (and what’s your favorite part)? Did you read all the way down to here? (If so, you deserve some cookies or something)

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?

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books That Really Weren’t My Thing (But I liked them anyway) – With gifs and reasons and stuff

Image Source: The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday is a really fun topic (again) this week* – since it highlights books from genres or on topics that we don’t normally read, but that we really liked.

As a bookseller, it’s part of my job to read a diverse selection, so I have read plenty of books that I wouldn’t pick up because I simply wanted to. Here are 10 of the books I liked more than I thought I would!
As always, TTT is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and you can find out how to participate in the link-up right here. (Disclaimer: All images belong to respective copyright holders and are not being used for any financial gain)
And here we go . . .

Top 10 Books That I Liked (Even Though They Weren’t My Usual Reads)

1. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Why it isn’t me: I don’t usually go for cute and cuddly NYT bestsellers.


*Sniffles* Pushing Daisies!
How it changed my mind: While it was most definitely cute and cuddly, and bestselling, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry was sweet not sappy, and a love letter to books and bookstores. How could I not approve? The author really captured the charm of indie bookstores, reading, and the quirky people you meet in the bookish world.

2. The Iron Fey Series (And The Immortal Rules) by Julie Kagawa

Why they aren’t me: Two words- paranormal romance. And they were billed to me as “swoony,” which always earns an eyeroll (internally, of course, one must be polite).

My eyeliner is never this flawless, but this is how I’ll react . . .
How they changed my mind: While there was zero swooning, I did find the characters charming** enough to read every one of the Iron Fey books (and I even made it through the slight love triangle unscathed).
Anyhow, these books are like those giant cupcakes — you buy one and one becomes five and . . .  anyhow, I actually really enjoyed them. But I sort of felt like I had a sugar hangover after the fact. The characters are fun, the worlds are lovely (I especially love her take on the Fey), and Julie Kagawa is a good storytellerImmortal Rules was one of the more interesting vampire books I’ve come across, and I loved Kagawa’s take on a post-apocalyptic setting.

3. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Why it isn’t me: It’s an adult contemporary romance/comedic novel. I don’t usually enjoy romantic comedies, and they only ask for an hour of my time. A book is much more demanding.

How it changed my mind: It was actually hilarious. The characters were quirky and fun, and I loved Don Tillman. He's autistic, brilliant, and so socially awkward that I was immediately charmed. Rosie was fun, but Don's narration won this novel for me.

4. The Benny Imura Series and The Joe Ledger Series by Jonathan Maberry

Why they aren’t me: I am not into zombies. Period. And the Joe Ledger series are an adult zombie series, which really isn’t my thing . . .

Before Rot & Ruin
How they changed my mind: TOM.*** While there are a lot of zombies in both series, they also include: strong characters, brother bonds that will make you cry in a hole, great action, swords, authentic and relatable teenage drama, adorable characters, plotlines, humor, philosophy, and really complicated but terrifying villains. And did I mention Tom Imura? No? Small oversight. And as for the Joe Ledger books - they're like a Clint Eastwood movie with zombies and humor. A little rough,**** but I liked them way more than I thought I would (I haven't read them all yet, but they're still going strong)
After

Why it isn’t me: I read some of Faulkner’s short stories for school and was driven mad by his stylistic decisions (run-on sentences, strange punctuation, etc). Despite my love of classic lit, we didn’t click.

Trying to capture that eerie, empty feel with a gif here
How it changed my mind: I saw how short it was, and picked it up on vacation. And I was completely won over by the eerie darkness, the strange style, the drama, the depiction of the South, the story, and the narrators. Faulkner went from my never-read-again list, to my read-everything-eventually list. Just because of this book.

6. The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

So pretty

Why it isn’t me: I tend to avoid coming-of-age novels as a genre, especially when they sound like they’re just about teenagers doing teenage things (no, I never liked them when I was a teenager).

Couldn’t resist, mate
How it changed my mind: First, there was the evocative title. Second, I met a few people at Winter Institute who completely convinced me to read it with their love for this book. And then the author read an excerpt, and I loved her prose. The story is much more layered and complicated than what I expected, the characters are lovable and seem like real people, and the peek into 60's-70's Alaska was absolutely fascinating. If you like contemporary-ish YA at all, you should definitely give this book a shot.
Just look at this cover . . .

Why it isn’t me: While I love manga, I’m not much into the shoujo/school stuff/romance. I prefer shonen, hands down.

And Hiro – that kid with unlimited adult sass
How it changed my mind: Blogger Victoria Grace (Stori Tori) convinced me to watch the anime first, and I was hooked. I swear I've never been so invested in school clubs or random everyday life before. I had to read the manga because the anime doesn't have the entire story! And there are three very important things I haven't mentioned:
1. Everyone and everything is so darn cute!
2. The Chinese Zodiac have human forms, and they revert to animals when hugged by the opposite sex. It's weird and random and provides tons of hilarity.
3. The characters have surprising layers, and/or really dark sides.

8. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Why it isn’t me: See #2. Guys – this is so “not me” that I was almost too embarrassed to put it up (and I am not knocking anyone who likes these books, I promise). Paranormal romance, love triangles, ridiculously unrealistic characters, weird taxidermied-looking dudes on the covers, I could go on for days here – but they’re not my normal thing, obviously.

Taxidermy . . .
How it changed my mind: This was just a fun book. I stopped thinking and just giggled at the dialogue and got lost in the indulgent steampunk world and fun. Quirky, cute characters and plenty of action helped too.
Got to love that title though

Why it isn’t me: This is the sort of book I’d never even notice. Confessionals, anecdotes, personal mother-daughter stuff, chick-lit, etc.

Batman, are you trying to make us all feel bad?
How it changed my mind: I got this ARC from a box at work when I was desperately seeking a beachy read for a review program. The review was due in two days, and I needed something quick and easy. What I didn't expect was how much I enjoyed it! The stories were pretty relatable, and funnier than I thought they would be. As I have a close relationship with my mother, I found the mother-daughter stuff endearing and fun. It was easy to read, but only just fluffy enough. Sweet and sincere, I could honestly recommend it as a "beach read" to readers and non-readers alike.

10. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

Why it isn’t me: I was fully persuaded that I didn’t like Dickens. (Too early of an exposure – which was my own fault!). Long, overrated, boring, and melodramatic – that’s what I thought. And Little Dorrit is basically moose-sized.

How it changed my mind: I watched the Masterpiece Theater (love MT!) version and was hooked, so I decided to give the book a chance. I liked it even better. It was hilarious - with a such a heady level of satire I was completely surprised, and the characters were brilliant. The Circumlocution Office still figures into my conversations. Anyhow, Little Dorrit rekindled my love for Victorian novels, and sparked a new one with Dickens' works in particular. Many years later, I'm still a loyal fangirl <3

So, what was the last book you read that was out of your comfort zone or not something you’d normally read? Why did you like it? Have you read any of these books?

Footnotes:
*Last week was 10 Songs that Should Be Books - which was a fabulous idea!
**Ash is my spirit animal (okay, one of my many spirit animals)
***Tom Imura = <3<3<3<3<3
****The Joe Ledger covers are gross. Who wants to look at this? 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Songs That NEED to Be Books

Top 10 Songs that NEED to Be Books (Top 10 Tuesday on Wednesday)

Image Source: The Broke and the Bookish

When I saw this, I knew I had to participate, no matter how I managed to obtain internet. Next to books, music is my favorite thing in the world, and I could probably make a list that goes on for days. As I’ve written elsewhere, many/most of my own writing is either directly linked to music, or music is just one of the many ingredients. Either way, music and writing are inextricably connected for me.

The challenge here was limiting myself to 10! (So only one song per artists, or it will mainly be Within Temptation) Anyhow, I included videos where applicable, the song titles are linked to lyrics, and the bands are linked to their sites for more info.

1. Dark Wings by Within Temptation

There is a fantasy novel in almost every Within Temptation song (whether they were inspired by one, or it’s one that’s begging to be written!*). I have WT songs on almost every one of my novel playlists for a reason 🙂
So why pick Dark Wings? Look at the lyrics, listen to Sharon Den Adel’s vocals and the epic power of the music. This is a fantasy novel about the Faye, or some ancient winged race (related to dragons, maybe?)

2. Dragons by The Green Children

 Speaking of dragons, metaphorically, the song Dragons has a story. There are several parts to it (just click on The Green Children’s channel in the links to find the others – starting with Life Was Beautiful), but it isn’t a book. It needs to be. Like a modern Kay and Gerda in The Snow Queen, our video protagonists get separated and caught up in a sinister looking web of magic (?) or not.
The video visuals are amazing, and the dance pop ambiance makes it fun to listen to. And the lyrics are intriguing to boot. There is definitely a book here. One of the many bands I love that haven’t made it into a post yet, The Green Children are another frequent contributor to my novel playlists.

3. One Shot by B.A.P

Note – there is a bit of blood and violence in this video, but nothing too graphic.

Life choices are the major theme in this heavy-hitting song by B.A.P** The video above has handy subs for the lyrics, but it’s still pretty obvious what’s going on. But the surprise ending . . . This gives me all kinds of novel ideas. I’m thinking contemporary YA about a gang of street boys, with a sci-fi/time bending twist.

4. The Maiden and the Selkie by Heather Dale

If you’re into the Celtic/Folk/New Age music scene (or King Arthur), you’ve probably heard Canadian singer Heather Dale. Her music is based on folklore and legends, with her own spin.
I picked this song for the unique ending – the maiden is very proactive about this marrying a selkie prince business (basically Scottish were-seals). Instead of dying on command when she can’t marry her true love (a real danger in Celtic ballads), she finds a way around it. Applause for her. Embellish this story, and it could be a lot like a Tam Lin retelling.

5. Ralph Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra

Don’t feel like you have to watch all 17 minutes of the above performance, but I promise that it’s worthwhile! You might recognize this piece from the movie Master and Commander. It’s depth and haunting beauty always make me want to write – and if I could write something half as beautiful as this piece of music, I’d be pretty well pleased.
I love Thomas Tallis and his sacred/choral music, but Vaughan Williams (impressively) actually improved upon the original with his 1910 fantasia (above). Seriously, if this was a book, I think we’d all read it.

6. From Yesterday by 30 Seconds to Mars

This video is another one that needs a book. Not only is it gorgeous and evocative, the powerful lyrics of the song just shout novel at me every time. Sci-Fi, historical fiction, fantasy, it doesn’t matter. It would just be a really cool book, regardless. (Am I the only person who thinks that this video is better than a movie already?)

7. Shadows by Red

Lyrics, music, vocals, story, this song has it all. And it’s oh so intense.  We can follow up with So Far Away and Hold Me Now. If you like powerful vocals and messages with driving rock music, then you need some Red in your life.
 I’m envisioning this as urban fantasy with a character who walks the wire between life and death, and constantly suffers from crises of conscience and complex moral dilemmas. With Red serenading them in the background, how can they not be awesome?

8. When I’m Gone by The Click Five

Maybe it starts like this: A famous young detective was on his way to propose to his gf, and he was caught in a freak accident. Or was it just a freak accident? He comes back, but no one, including his girl, can see him. He doesn’t need/want revenge, and though he has some unsolved cases, he’s kind of puzzled as to why he didn’t pass over. And there’s your story – with lots of ghost-solving-mysteries along the way. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like this.***
But I want a book where the aforementioned ghost is the hero/POV character. I feel like comic books and movies/tv shows have somewhat explored this (but they’re usually stupidly violent). At any rate, this is my ghost’s anthem.

9. Generation Throwaway by The Used

I am envisioning Les Mis meets Holes meets The Maze Runner.
Led by an uncompromising idealist, a ragtag group of misfits and recreants sets out to save the world, but it’s never that simple. I think I need to write this book already, and dedicate it to everyone else who listened to lots of pop punk/emo/post-hardcore as a teenager.

10. Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon

Who doesn’t want this to be a literal book? The lyrics are nuts. I want to read it. Modern, jaded British werewolves just minding their business in London. (On second thought, I might be the only person who wants to read this)

So there you go: 10 songs that needed to be novels, yesterday.

Would you read any of these if they were books? Have you heard any of these songs/bands? Did you watch any of my videos? Is there a song that you think really, really, needs to be a book? Sound off below 😉

Footnotes:
*Seriously – just look over their lyrics. Novels happening everywhere. This seems to be a defining characteristic of symphonic metal – Xandria, Delain, Epica, Nightwish, Kamelot, Sirenia, I could go on forever but google it and you’ll understand.
**B.A.P is the only Kpop band on this list. But I find that the theatrical, overblown nature of Kpop is more suggestive of characters or themes than complete novels. And it’s very good at that (Case in point – my current infatuation with Bigbang and Kim Junsu‘s stuff)
***Closest thing was the ghost fiance in the Kdrama “Who Are You?” He was epic.

Lovely Books: 10 Literary Couples I Was Actually Invested In (With Fanart!) (February 15th, 2016)

THIS POST ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON MY OTHER BLOG – on February 15th, 2016

Image Source: Adventure Awaits/Tracey Dyck

Well, I’m behind on reading and reviewing, so I tossed it all out the window and decided to join Tracey Dyck’s new February link-up: Lovely Books (Adventure Awaits)

This is a new link-up that goes live the Saturday of every month. Rules (very few rules) can be found here. Since Lovely Books is all about loving on books with other bloggers and bookworms, I knew I had to join in. I totally missed the first one, but the second one was, you guessed it, Valentine's Day themed.

In unintentional rebellion, I’m doing it for President’s Day.*

Looking good, George.
But, yes, favorite literary couples. I'm slightly embarrassed that I did a total mind blank on this at first. I love books and characters, but I never get that invested in romantic plots. That being said, there are some couples in fiction that were so awesome, I felt my heart clenching in concern for them.** That's some mighty fine writing, my friends. (I intentionally ruled out all manga/comic book couples, because that was easier and required less mental straining)***

Warning: Some of these might be a little spoilery (but I find that figuring out romantic plotlines is one of the easiest to do, so probably not).

There is also fanart. So enjoy! (All art is credited when possible and belongs to the artist. It is not being used for any profit/marketing/or anything other than promoting awesome artists)

1. Howl and Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle

Unfortunately, I have no idea who the artist is! 🙁 I want to credit them. Source: Tumblr
It's a testament to the late Diana Wynne Jones' writing that she made us all fall in love with someone as awful as Howl. He's a spoiled brat of a wizard, albeit a brilliant one, and his antics are too funny. On the other hand, I think Sophie is one of the great unsung heroines of literature. She's smart, sensible, and forced to spend most of the book in the (fitting) guise of an old woman. Howl really doesn't deserve her - though I defy you to not want them to end up together. This a charming fantasy that resembles Beauty and the Beast, if the Beast was attractive in looks but not behavior, and the Beauty had a beautiful spirit but was a little old woman on the outside. A must read.
Sophie proving her love – movie version

2. Eugenides (the Thief) and Irene (the Queen of Attolia)

Attolia + Attolis by annmarieri on Deviantart
In Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series, the story of how Irene comes to respect Gen as a man and an equal is an impressive, mature look at love and relationships. And these books aren't  romances at all. They're based around a fantasy world that resembles Ancient Greece and Rome, full of intrigue, deception and lethal scheming. In the center of it all is Eugenides, the titular Thief, whose charm, wit, and quick fingers get him in and out of loads of trouble. When he starts falling in love with the powerful, proud, and disdainful Queen of Attolia, things get messy, and deadly, fast. Just read it, I don't want to give too much away.
Via Natroze on Tumblr – so funny!

3. Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing.

Love this – poster from Ali de Souza’s 2011 production
Much Ado is one of the deepest, and yet most entertaining, comedies from the Bard. If you get the chance to see it live, take it, as it's hilarious to see the action. Beatrice and Benedick are the bachelors, the confirmed singles who have sworn of love, marriage, and everything in between. Their relationship is realistic and funny, contrasted with the "love at first sight" of Hero and Claudio. My second favorite couple in Shakespeare is the Macbeths - who put the bad in badass and are scary as all get out. They're also hopelessly devoted to each other. Take that, Romeo and Juliet.
She has such a way with words, you know.

4. Sabriel and “Touchstone”  from Sabriel. 

 

 

Image Copyright: Laura Tolton

 

Image Copyright: Laura Tolton
Another pair from a book that isn't really romantic. Garth Nix's Sabriel is awesome. Sabriel is the Abhorsen, a sort of reverse necromancer that puts the dead back, as opposed to calling them up. When she's forced to take on the responsibilities of her father (the current Abhorsen), Sabriel must leave the safety of school to confront all the powers of darkness. She's a feminine, authentic girl who is  way cooler than anyone you've met, yet identifiable. She's also strong, very strong, in a quiet way that never screams "I can do anything a man can do!" Her relationship with Touchstone is believable, touching, and humorous. READ THIS BOOK. (Artist Laura Tolton has an amazing gallery with more Abhorsen related works - check it out.)

5. Kate and Christopher, from The Perilous Gard, by Elizabeth Marie Pope.

Christopher Heron by Whimsical Cow on Deviantart.com

Another book I’ve read that no one else seems to have heard of. And it’s their loss, because The Perilous Gard is one of the best YA novels ever. Really.

Kate Sutton by WhimsicalCow on Deviantart.com
It's set in 1558, and the historical accuracy makes this the most believable novel I've read about the Fae. Kate is the heroine, exiled by Queen Mary Tudor to the Perilous Gard of the title. It's an unwelcoming place, full of secretive inhabitants, including the handsome, rude, and mysterious Christopher Heron. Their relationship has a bit of the Jane Eyre-Mr. Rochester dynamic, but without all the creepiness (Christopher just acts like the type of guy who'd hide a wife in the attic, but he isn't). And there is a sad lack of fan art for this book! However, Jenn Rothwell's (Whimsical Cow) illustrations are perfect.

6. Gemma and KartikThe Sweet Far Thing (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy #3) by Libba Bray

Image Copyright Sam Schechter
I read this book a long time ago (whenever it first came out), but to be honest, the only thing I really remember is the ending - and Gemma and Kartik's characters. I always liked these two fine, but I didn't really care about their romance until, gulp, it was threatened by death and destruction and mayhem. I'll warn you, they don't get a "happy ending." But it's a beautiful finale that really proved how much they meant to each other. In other words, we had real, self-sacrificial love, that made sense, in a YA novel. Not kidding. And yes, fine, they had good chemistry and a convincing relationship too. At least, as far as I remember . . .
Dragon Fire by Leanna Crossan

7. Aerin and Luthe from The Hero and the Crown

Robin McKinley really likes her bittersweet endings. A lot. The Hero and the Crown is no exception. Somehow, her characters seem to make more adult decisions than most YA protagonists. Which means that these two do not end up together - because it would be irresponsible. Cue my twelve-year-old tears.

Yes, I really did cry for them when I was twelve. I just wanted them to be okay, you know? It doesn't affect me like this anymore (I'm all "hooray for people making the right choice instead of the romantic one"), but I still like them together. After fifteen years, it would be a shame if they weren't on this list.

There is basically zero fan art, or art at all, of either Aerin or Luthe. Sadly.

8. Luthien and Beren from the Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien

Beren, Luthien, and Huan by Steamey on Deviantart.com

Tolkien wasn’t known for romance, but is there anything more romantic than disguising as monsters to infiltrate “worse than Mordor” to steal a mystical gem from a guy who makes Sauron cower?

I didn’t think so.

Beren and Lúthien against Carcaroth by Justin Gerard
In fact, Luthien and Beren are so hardcore that they die and come back to life, mainly because Luthien is so stubborn that she refuses to lose her man after everything they've been through. It's pretty epic.(I love all of Tolkien's couples, but Luthien and Beren are definitely my favorite!). On a side note, I could probably fill about five posts with all the quality fanart of these two, so narrowing it down to just a couple pictures was hard.
Cinder by chrysalisgrey on deviantart.com

9. Kai and Cinder from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Prince Kaito, Cinder, and Iko by Mari945
I admit that I was rooting for them just because I loved both of their characters separately.

Kai's evolution from a slightly silly prince into a seriously impressive Emperor was one of the highlights of the series. And Cinder is the sort of character I love the minute they're introduced. Practical, no-nonsense, not afraid to laugh at herself, headstrong, determined, you get it. I can relate (and I'll add that I wouldn't say no to Kai either . . .).Cute fanart aboundeth for these two.

10. Morwen and Telemain from The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede

Forest Scene by chibi-oneechan on Deviant.com
(I couldn't find art I liked of these two, but I did find some gorgeous forest art that reminds me of the entire series)

If you know who Morwen and Telemain are, can we be friends? I love this quirky little fantasy series, and the whole Morwen + Telemain thing is a definite highlight. Granted, the fact that they like each other isn't confirmed until very late in the series, and it is a side thing, but it was obvious.

They're hilarious every time they interact - the ultimate odd couple in denial. She's a sensible witch with a lot of opinionated cats, and he's an absent-minded magician (not a wizard) who relies on endless theories and experiments instead of raw power. Classic.

So there you have it: 10 of My Favorite Fictional Couples

True. Love.
The trick to getting me invested is making me care so deeply about the character that I want what they want.
A good author can make you feel a little heady during a romantic scene. A great author can make your heart ache with the characters, make you want their “happy ending” for them so badly that you confuse it with your own feelings. And a brilliant author will do all of the above without you realizing it happened until it’s too late 😉

What was the last fictional couple you got invested in? Why did you care (or not care) about a fictional relationship? Do you tend to anticipate the romantic bits, or are you like me, and distracted by swordfights? Have you read any of these books? Why not?

 Footnotes:
*George and Martha approved
 **Confession time: I actually have a fictional couples themed Pinterest board.
 ***Winter Soldier + Black Widow <3