Eona: the Last Dragoneye

7992995by Alison Goodman
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars
Book 2 of a duology

This is an intense follow up to the first book! It provoked so many emotions in me that it was hard to read at times.

With her true identity exposed and the country torn apart by civil war, Eona must master her power or risk the destruction of everything and everyone she loves.

As with the first book, there’s a lot of political intrigue and secrets. I felt like this time it was not solely based on characters refusing to talk to each other though, so I enjoyed it more. Eona evolves so much as a character here–I loved her unquestionably in the first book, and in this one she made so many decisions that angered me–yet I could see her reasoning. As she made deals for knowledge and power I kept feeling a love-hate relationship with her and it was such an interesting read. Especially since I felt many of her choices that upset me at first wouldn’t have upset me if a male character had made them. The double-standard of women and men in power is examined a lot as a side theme, and it’s eye-opening.

Along with that, Eona faces the struggle of being a woman in a man’s world. Aside from relearning how to dress and carry herself as a woman, the disparity of power between the genders impedes her. She is expected to speak, walk, think, reason differently as a woman, court protocol continually reinforces her inferior rank, and her closest friends make her re-earn their respect. There is so much here any woman can identify with from personal experiences.

As with the previous book, the side characters Ryko and Lady Dela continued to endear themselves to me–which helped when I was frustrated with Eona. They’re interesting foils to Eona since they both have immovable convictions, whereas Eona is learning what her moral and ethical boundaries are. Lord Ido also has a larger role in this book, and he is just a fun character to analyze, love him or hate him. He keeps you on your toes!

There’s a lot more action in this book, and we learn a lot more about the dragons, their history, and their powers. Everything tied together so well, yet in such a surprising way!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Eona is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Risuko by David Kudler – Risuko is just a peasant girl who loves to climb. When a noblewoman notices her abilities, she is recruited to the Full Moon, where she will learn to be a “very special kind of woman” and possibly save her country. See my review here.
  • Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman – Seraphina’s abilities have led her to assist the crown, but now she must seek out and recruit the half-dragon’s like herself if she wants to stabilize their fractured land. See my review here.
  • Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce – A girl disguised as a boy takes her brother’s place as a page to learn the skills and discipline of knighthood. See my review here.
  • Soundless by Richelle Mead – Everyone in Fei’s village has been deaf for generations, but when they begin to go blind too, and their food supply is cut off, she decides to risk her life by descending their remote mountain to find help. See my review here.
  • The Rose Society by Marie Lu – Adelina’s journey to power and descent into darkness becomes more compelling and dangerous in this sequel. See my review here.
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What to read again:

Ever since Harry Potter I’ve enjoyed re-reading the previous books in a series before the next one comes out. You get to soak up all the nuances and speculate about what’s going to happen next—it just makes the whole experience richer and more fun! What am I going to start re-reading?

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Passenger

I was engrossed in this book and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Etta’s life revolved around her debut as a violin prodigy — but things changed when she was attacked and dragged through time to a ship in 1776. Family history and actual history took center stage and Etta had to piece everything together as a captive of her newly-discovered grandfather, a time patriarch concerned with getting something called an astrolabe back to continue living in wealth.

Etta hunts for the astrolabe to save her captured mother, but the more she jumps through time the more unprepared she feels for saving everything at stake.

It’s hard to say more without spoilers, but you can read my review here, and jump on board before the sequel comes out in January!

20983366

The Night Parade

26698476by Kathryn Tanquary
Children’s Lit
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel: January 5, 2016

This book is simply delightful! Full of twists and turns and whimsy, you’ll be transported to rural Japan and Saki’s strange journey in the spirit world. It’s the written version of a Hayao Miyazaki film!

Saki’s family is spending the Obon festival with her grandmother in a rural village—a sharp contrast to their busy city life in Tokyo. Bored with the small village traditions, she tries to impress some local kids by letting them into the graveyard her grandparents manage. Their disrespectful game ends up inviting a death curse on Saki and her family! Saki has to see the Midlight Prince during the Night Parade if she wants to break the curse and save her family, but humans aren’t meant to navigate the treacherous paths of the spirit world. Spirit guides will attempt to help her, but three days isn’t a long time…

At first this seems like a straightforward adventure, perhaps similar to A Christmas Carol. But each time I thought I knew what to expect, I was surprised! Poor Saki faces setbacks at every turn, yet her dogged persistence keeps her on the path to right her mistakes. We meet so many interesting (and at times terrifying!) spirits, and the setting is at once concrete and dreamlike. There were several spirits in particular that made me laugh out loud, and others that made me cringe, but I don’t want to spoil anything!

Saki learns a lot not just about the spirit world, but about the people around her—what makes a real friend, when she should speak up, and the value of family history.

I thoroughly enjoyed this journey; it’s a fun, thrilling debut novel. I look forward to seeing more of this author’s work!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Night Parade is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Risuko by David Kudler – Risuko is a young girl in feudal Japan that just wants to climb. But when a noblewoman spots her and recruits her to her estate, Risuko learns her talents might allow her to become “a very special kind of woman”—one that can change the fate of her nation. See my review here.
  • Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar – Another girl struggling with her family’s past and present identities, Carolina is not thrilled to spend the summer at her grandfather Serge’s ranch in the middle of the desert. But as the family readies the house and property for sale, Serge tells Carolina a fantastical story about a village of people that never died, the tree that gave them life, and bees that brought the rain. Carolina thinks it’s a fairy tale, until bees start following her around too. See my review here.
  • Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova – Alex is the most powerful bruja in her Brooklyn family. But when her birthday wish to rescind her powers goes horribly wrong, she must journey to the spirit world of Los Lagos to save them all.
  • Soundless by Richelle Mead – When Fei’s remote village faces starvation, she decides to make the perilous descent to the valley for food. As the only one in generations who can hear, she has the best chance of surviving the trek, but she is not prepared for what she finds. See my review here.
  • The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi – Maya’s horoscope of death and destruction doesn’t matter to the strange king who proposes to her. But when Maya journeys to his kingdom, she has to uncover many secrets to discover the truth of who she married and what realm she rules. See my review here.
  • Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke – Three unreliable narrators tell you a strange story from a remote Colorado town. Who is the hero, the villain, the liar? It depends on your perspective. See my review here.

The Female of the Species

25812109by Mindy McGinnis
YA Contemporary
5 of 5 stars

If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be unflinching. It shoves the worst parts of humanity in your face and demands a response. It’s a dark book–trigger warnings could be peppered throughout for violence, rape (not on-page), and animal cruelty–but it’s so good.

Alex’s sister was murdered three years ago. When the killer walked free, she secretly took vengeance into her own hands. Jack is the valedictorian jock who wishes he could forget his past and make a future for himself by escaping the town. Peekay is the preacher’s daughter who wishes she could exist beyond her dad’s job. The three of them are drawn together in different ways for their senior year.

This book rips apart rape culture, sexism, the dangers of stereotypes, all in a small town with little opportunity for its students to grow in any capacity. Yet they all do grow, and you’re along for every doubt, question, and realization.

Alex finds herself enraged by things everyone else takes for granted: that “boys will be boys”, that what a girl wears determines her reputation, that words are thrown around with little regard for their effects. She doesn’t understand the part of herself that rises to lash out and attack people for their behavior, whether it’s a crime or simply an offensive habit.

I think many women have experienced a lot of rage this year, and this story felt especially timely. As Alex struggles to understand her impulses and to fit in, she had me questioning why we don’t feel the same anger over injustice, sexism, and cruelty. Laying out everything explored in this book wouldn’t come across in the same way. As each chapter unfolded, connections between different human idiosyncrasies and social customs pop up to frustrate you and prod you into changing society for the better.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Female of the Species is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis – Maren has an unbreakable habit of eating anyone who feels affection for her. When her mother abandons her as a 16th birthday present, Maren decides to seek out her biological father to see if she can learn what made her this way and if there’s hope to break free of it. See my review here.
  • The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter – Cassie and her mother have a volatile relationship, capped by Cassie’s involuntary stint in a psychiatric ward. Now 18 and free to go to college (against medical advice) she hopes to begin a new life. But then her mother reappears promising all the love Cassie always wanted. See my review here.
  • Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero – Gabi always feels too white for her family, too Mexican for her classmates. As one friend tries to come out as gay, and the other has an unplanned pregnancy, Gabi finds herself spread thin over all her responsibilities, and discovers poetry as an escape. See my review here.
  • Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson – Lia and Cassie were best friends with a pact to be the skinniest girls in school. But after Cassie is found dead in a motel, Lia struggles with her friend’s ghostly encouragement to continue their contest and the insidious voice in her head that insists she’s still fat. See my review here.
  • The Girl Who Fell by Shannon M. Parker – Zephyr has her life planned: graduate, attend Boston College. But when she meets Alec, he’s everything she never dreamed she needed. It’s normal to give up all your dreams for love, right? But when Zephyr starts to have doubts, she wonders if Alec will ever let her go. See my review here.

Of Fire and Stars

25164304by Audrey Coulthurst
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel: November 22, 2016
**This is a review of an uncorrected proof copy

I was sold on this book the minute I read the description (princess with fire magic is betrothed to prince in a country where magic is illegal, but she falls for his sister) and when my lovely CPs Katy and Akshaya got ARCs in May I immediately began begging them (with no dignity whatsoever) for the chance to read it. Akshaya brought me an ARC at Leviosa Con in July and I devoured it immediately after! (Dreams do come true you guys).

This was everything I hoped for! Romance, adventure—did I mention romance? The best kind: friends-to-lovers slow-burn tension with cute scenes and jokes and surprising moments of daring. I loved everything about Denna and Mare’s relationship! All the things normally reserved for the “hero” to do for his girl get to happen between two women instead and it’s amazing. We also explore the different responsibilities they had to consider since they are both princesses. Everything they do ripples out into their respective kingdoms and it was interesting to see how they balanced their decisions based on that. Denna’s secret affinity for fire magic added a fascinating dimension both to her and to the plot, since magic is illegal in Mare’s country. The religion and ritual surrounding these powers is so interesting and I wanted to see more of it! It also allowed both women to be powerful and smart in different ways which I love.

The story otherwise is mostly political, with lots of meetings and spies (and assassinations!) and ideas discussed with the occasional new clue leading to more chaos. Alliances, power plays, prejudice warring with pragmatism. It could be tightened a bit but overall I was flying through the pages eager to see what would happen next!

The ending is a nice balance of closure and potential openings for a sequel (please oh please let there be a sequel). Read this and swoon!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Of Fire and Stars is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski – Another story of falling in love with someone you shouldn’t. Kestrel and Arin’s kingdoms are at war, and her impulsive decision to buy a prince disguised as a slave could be the downfall of them both. See my review here.
  • Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge – A retelling of Romeo and Juliet where you never know who will live and who will die—and come back to life. Strange magic and death rule these re-imagined star-crossed lovers in a world that pays homage to Shakespeare while still having a life of its own.
  • Huntress by Malinda Lo – Kaede and Taisin (one magical, one ordinary) are chosen to lead a group on a quest to the faery kingdom to restore sunlight to the world. Falling in love was not part of the plan.  A subtle story perfect for a cozy night.
  • Tides by Betsy Cornwell – Brother and sister Noah and Lo spend the summer on the coast with their grandmother. Their plans change dramatically when Noah pulls a girl from the water, and they begin to suspect she—and someone else they know—may be selkies. See my review here.
  • Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat – For those seeking mature romance, this trilogy is fantastic! Damen’s brother seizes the throne, murders their father, and sends Damen to their rival kingdom as a pleasure slave to Prince Laurent. Damen is determined to escape and reclaim his kingdom, but he can’t reveal his true identity to Laurent because he killed Laurent’s older brother. Tension, plotting, betrayal, more tension—enjoy! See my review here.

Follow your characters’ cues

It’s November! That magical month where thousands of writers decide to create a book—often their first book—at the same time! When I found NaNoWriMo in 2009, for the first time I could discuss writing and books and craft with a bunch of people obsessed with the same thing as me! It’s just lovely.

I’ve learned a lot since I pantsed my first NaNo novel, and one of the biggest lessons is that your characters are here to help you.

You might be thinking, “Um, no, they never do what I want!” or “They are so difficult!” I didn’t say they were willingly helping you (please let me know if you find out that secret!) but that doesn’t mean they are fighting you on every page.  What they are doing or discussing –or refusing to do or discuss—are character cues that you can use to make your scene or chapter or arc come out the way you want it to.

As you write you’ll probably find scenes or events that surprise you. You might also feel like even though your word count is climbing, you aren’t making the progress or hitting the beats you wanted to—even if you have an outline right next to you, telling you what needs to happen next!

Something that always helps me is to STOP and read through what I just wrote. I put STOP in all caps because many times we draft to a schedule—X words per X days of the week or you miss a DEADLINE (real or self-imposed) and that leads to STRESS and family members saying “Oh, you’re still doing that?” at the holidays.

STOP. READ WHAT YOU WROTE.

Explore your pages and find the threads of the issue.

Because what your characters are doing in this moment is going to tell you what isn’t working.

These are a few examples of what I see in my own work and in some of the books I read that I find less satisfying than they should be.

Is a character reacting badly to a piece of information? Your reader probably will too, because you didn’t set it up properly. I call this “author ex machina” – keeping readers in the dark by withholding information with no context clues. When a character learns what has been going on behind the scenes and is really pissed off because they had no idea (like they can’t move on because they keep arguing with the secret-keeping character), your reader probably feels cheated and pissed off, too. Go back and layer that in, make some connections, so that your character and your reader will be slapping their foreheads in realization, and not trying to slap the character doing the Big Reveal.

Are your characters wandering around (in a forest, commonly) or staying in the same place for too long, wondering what to do next? You need to restructure your clues or your emotional beats so that there is no hesitating! If the characters ever voice this question without getting a direct answer, an interruption, or an immediate call to action, you can bet the reader was already at this point 10 pages ago. Readers are smarter than characters because they have read stories before. A lull in action is for emotional arcs and interpersonal drama, not a chance for the characters (or the reader) to sit around flipping channels wondering what’s on in 30 minutes.

Are your characters wondering why another character made that choice or likes this other character? Pay attention—this may not be the reaction you’re going for! If your side characters are thinking your protagonist has stopped making sense, your reader might be thinking the same thing.

Imagine your characters on screen. What if nothing is happening at all? Films are stories too, and they don’t devote valuable minutes of screen time to relaxing or circular conversations, or walking uneventful miles through a forest.  So what is causing your characters to stall?

The characters might be afraid of what’s going to happen, or afraid of making the wrong choice. Wave to your subconscious, because it just showed up on the page.

Now assure it that you’re going to do something besides waffling or wringing your hands.

You may be afraid to write the next scene because it’s deeply personal for you, or something you are uncomfortable with, or something you’ve never written before.

You’re afraid you’ll pick the wrong thing—you may realize the characters should make a different choice once you write this. Or the scene may be right but the words aren’t. Or you have to tap into memories or feelings that are hard to control once they’re released.

The scenes that scare you are the ones that readers are going to connect with and remember.

This is your heart on the page—it may even be the reason you thought to write this story at all—don’t let anyone, even yourself, say that you’re doing it wrong. You’re drafting! You can fix it. You can feel it. But you can’t revise a blank page, and having the characters sitting around is just writing material to cut later. Sometimes it takes several attempts at a scene before it comes out the way you envisioned. Give yourself a chance (or ten) to get it right!

Good luck, and keep writing! ❤

Three Dark Crowns

23207027by Kendare Blake
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars

This is a book that won me over despite intense skepticism on my part. (Thanks for the rec Erin!) There’s a lot of royal competitions to the death right now, and I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to hop on board. Yet after a few chapters I found myself flipping the pages as fast as I could!

Mirabella, Katharine, and Arsinoe are triplet princesses who have grown up estranged because on their 16th birthday, they will begin a fight to the death for the throne. Mirabella is a powerful elemental that can control fire, earth, water, or air. Katharine is a poisoner, able to ingest any type of deadly plant or chemical with no effect. Arsinoe is a naturalist, skilled with plants and animals.

Except they aren’t all as strong as they say. Katharine has spent a decade building up the most basic immunity to common poisons. Arsinoe can’t make a flower bloom and still lacks her animal familiar. Their courts have done their best to keep their failures a secret, but time is almost out, and everyone assumes Mirabella will take the crown with ease. But the sisters won’t go down without a fight.

These queens and their courts felt distant at first (the third person present voice is colder than Marie Lu’s), but I found myself drawn into their plots and intrigue. I enjoyed this largely because I knew going into the story that this book is a set-up for the fight to the death–which isn’t what the jacket summary would have you think. If I hadn’t known that, I probably would have been frustrated by the seemingly slow lead-in. However, much like interviewing the Tributes made you care about who won the Hunger Games, without this book and getting to know the sisters, I don’t think we would care much about who wins. It does a fantastic job of taking what should be three very unsympathetic girls and having each of them tug your heartstrings in a different way. The girls’ character arcs are surprising and well-drawn.

The island itself is fascinating too, and the mythology surrounding it is addictive! The traditions surrounding the royal family, the backstories of the three princesses, the strange power of the land itself–it’s so atmospheric!

The biggest difficulty for me was the sheer number of POV characters. In addition to the three princesses, several people from each royal court (Elemental, Poisoner, Naturalist) receive their own chapters of scheming. It was hard for me to keep track of everyone until near the end.

This has one of the most intense endings I’ve read this year! The last twenty pages turns everything on its head and made me need the next book so much! In short, this was a pleasant surprise for me and I highly recommend checking it out before next fall’s sequel.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Three Dark Crowns is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – Speaking of atmospheric islands with strange magic…Puck and Sean are both determined to win the annual deadly race on water horses to change their lives forever. See my review here.
  • The Young Elites by Marie Lu – Adelina survived the blood fever with terrible scars and strange powers. She soon learns that others like her are banding together, and she is determined to join them and have revenge for the way she’s been treated. See my review here.
  • The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye – A royal competition to the death to determine who will be the kingdom’s sorcerer.
  • The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski – Kestrel has put off her fate (marriage or military) as long as possible. When she impulsively buys a slave who is not what he seems, her life begins to unravel. See my review here.
  • Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch – Meira’s whole life has been dedicated to restoring the fallen kingdom of Winter, but she doesn’t know what her true destiny holds in store for her. See my review here.
  • Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – Mia Corvere has lost her family and her inheritance to corrupt officials. If she can survive initation into the Red Church, she will be one of the most skilled assassins in the land and capable of claiming her revenge. See my review here.

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