A Crown of Wishes

29939047by Roshani Chokshi
YA Fantasy
5 of 5 stars

A new favorite! A book lover’s dream, a love letter to stories and everything they are to our souls.

You might remember Gauri from her brief appearance in The Star-Touched Queen. She isn’t a side character anymore, she is a tough as nails heroine ready to carve out her own destiny! As soon as she gets out of prison for a failed uprising, that is. Vikram is the Fox Prince, known to be clever, not widely known to be the adopted son of the king–and thus bereft of royal blood and the right to rule. Both of them desperately want to help the people of their two countries, but rather than an alliance of marriage, they become partners in the Tournament of Wishes–a dangerous competition in the Otherworld where the winners are granted one wish.

This story resonated with me so deeply. Gauri and Vikram have to face their fears, adapt their strengths, learn to trust, and ultimately decide what they truly wish for in life–and if they have the nerve to go after their dreams. Some might find it too metaphorical or philosophical, but I was obsessed with their personal journeys and how closely they mirror our own lives. The whole thing was cathartic bliss.

Of course there’s plenty of adventure too! The Otherworld is not a dull place. Demon fruit, poisonous courtesans, the Serpent King’s lair…I loved the tournament itself. It was the cherry on top.

The language is lush, Gauri and Vikram are winsome characters that long to be remembered (and will be), and the Otherworld is a candyland of whimsy and danger. This book turns our world into magic, and reminds you that everything you want is within reach, for good or ill. A crown of stars for this story!

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


Similar reads:

  • The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh – Shazi volunteers to be the killer king’s next queen after her best friend is the last in a string of girls to be a bride one day and a corpse the next. Shazi plans to be the last—she’s going to kill the king. A beautiful retelling of The 1001 Nights. See my review here.
  • This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills – I recommend this simply because it’s another book that tracked closely with my personal journey and I loved it! Sloane doesn’t expect to make friends in her new town, but then she falls in with the complicated lives of twins Vera and Gabe. This is a fun, emotional story about senior year in a new place that might be the perfect place for you. See my review here.
  • Caraval by Stephanie Garber – If you enjoy magical tournaments, you’d probably like this one. Scarlett gets her dreamed-of chance to enter Caraval, but she had hoped to play with her sister, not play for her sister’s life. See my review here.
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What’s new this month

Fall release season part two!

3012293810/3 – Among the Red Stars – by Gwen C. Katz

A novel about a female pilot during World War Two, inspired by the true story of the Night Witches—a thousand times yes! Valka knows she can fly as well as any man, so when an all-female aviation group forms she signs up to defend Russia. Valka must deal with her love of flying being transformed into violence, and the fatigue of war that wars on her and the boy she’s known all of her life who is fighting on the front lines. This sounds sad but inspiring.

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


10/3 – Wild Beauty – by Anna-Marie McLemore33158561

The Nomeolvides women tend the most beautiful garden in the world, La Pradera, but their dark secret is that if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers disappear. But when Estrella finds a strange boy in the garden with no memory, she decides to help Fel remember his past. Wandering La Pradera leads to threatening secrets and knowledge…that I assume could threaten everything? It’s mysterious! I am so ready for this, I adored her previous book and I’m confident this will be another lush, emotional read.

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


3395823010/10 – Forest of a Thousand Lanterns – by Julie C. Dao

An East Asian retelling of the Evil Queen—well I love evil characters so let’s see how evil she can be! Xifeng is beautiful and destined to be Empress, but it comes at the cost of embracing the darkness within and rejecting the man who loves her. Her magic comes from eating the hearts of the recently killed, and a god has placed her on this path. I cannot say enough how amazing this sounds!!! Evil queen, dark magic, destiny, a haunting world, all my sweet spots for a fantasy book! Picking this up on release day! It’s a duology, so I’m dying to know whether Xifeng decides to redeem herself or if she goes all-in on her path to power.

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


10/10 – Gray Wolf Island – by Tracey Neithercott29906023

Her sister Sadie’s dying wish was for Ruby to find the treasure hidden on Gray Wolf Island. But Ruby and her three friends—all with strange powers—must give up their most precious secrets if they want a chance at finding it. I love stories about tight-knit friend groups and of course weird powers always get my attention. A girl who never sleeps? A boy who knows his own death? I am so intrigued! This could be one of those books that stays in my mind for ages.

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


3379908610/10 – Race to the Bottom of the Sea – by Lindsay Eagar

I have been waiting for her next book since I devoured Hour of the Bees! A girl with a passion for inventing wants to uncover pirate treasure! Fidelia blames herself for her parents deaths in a submarine of her invention. But when the pirate Merrick the Monstrous kidnaps her, she is dragged from her grief into a quest for his buried treasure. Stranger still, Merrick clearly expects not to live long enough to enjoy his loot. Fidelia has a lot to figure out and not much time to do it. I am confident this will be amazing!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


10/17 – Like Water – by Rebecca Podos31556136

A bisexual performing mermaid who feels trapped in her New Mexico small town because her father has Huntington’s disease and she takes care of him. Disappointed that she can’t leave for college, Savannah distracts herself with her water park job and a string of boys. But then she meets Leigh, who isn’t a “nice girl” but is a friend she desperately needs—and then more than a friend. Falling in love means Savannah has to deal with long-buried questions. This sounds emotional in the best way possible.

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


3339523410/31 – Beasts Made of Night – by Tochi Onyebuchi

Within a walled city called Kos live mages, sinners, and sin-eaters. When a mage magically calls the sin out of a sinner it creates a sin-beast that an indentured sin-eater must slay. But when the sin-beasts are killed, a tattoo of the beast appears on the sin-eater, and the guilt of the sin enters their mind. Eventually, the guilt drives them mad. Taj is the best sin-eater in Kos, and takes pride in providing for his family. But when a royal sin reveals a plan to destroy the city, he must fight to save the princess he loves, and himself. Everything about this book makes me want it immediately!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

33958230by Julie C. Dao
YA Fantasy / Fantasy
5 of 5 stars
Debut novel: October 10, 2017
*ARC review

This was one of my most-anticipated releases for this fall and I was lucky enough to snag an advanced reading copy at ALA this summer. This swept me away from the first chapter and I’m so sad this dark dream is over!

Xifeng’s impoverished existence is shadowed by her aunt Guma’s continual predictions for her greatness. Every time she reads Xifeng’s cards, they indicate she is meant to be Empress. Xifeng scoffs at the idea. She is no one, her incredible beauty and cleverness wasted in obscurity. Guma wants her to reject Wei, the man who loves her, because of her destiny, but Xifeng continues to see him–enduring brutal beatings from her aunt as a result. When Wei gives her the chance to run away, Xifeng thinks she is free of Guma’s abuse and can find her own fate. But her journey takes her to the imperial palace, and Xifeng decides to embrace her destiny and enter the palace as a lady-in-waiting. The competitive house of women tests Xifeng’s cunning in ways she didn’t expect, but each choice and gamble brings her closer to her goal. But becoming Empress will mean sacrificing everything she values and the man who loves her to claim the Emperor’s heart.

This is such a dark, addictive character study of a woman who believes her only worth lies in her flawless face and the power it provides. Xifeng is ruthless yet insecure as she feels the pull of destiny unraveling her morality. All she wants is the ability to control her own life, but as a woman in a patriarchal society her options are limited. Becoming Empress symbolizes safety and happiness for her because no one would outrank her.

Based on the stories of the Evil Queen, the fairy tale skeleton is visible beneath layers of fresh material and it provides additional significance to key moments in the best way. Xifeng’s journey feels inevitable and yet it’s clearly happening based on the choices she makes. Despite her darkness I could never bring myself to stop hoping she succeeded.

Although this is marketed as YA fantasy, I think the pacing, style, and themes better fit adult fantasy. Any readers who enjoy fairy tale re-tellings would enjoy this though!

The writing is vibrant, poetic, yet just as direct as its protagonist. Xifeng is unapologetically ambitious and I just wanted this story to last forever. Her rise from lowly peasant to life in the palace reads like a magical, disturbing Jane Austen / royal court drama and I was completely addicted to her bold game of chance and fate. I can’t wait for the sequel!

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


Similar reads:

  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – Agnieszka knows her perfect best friend is going to be the local wizard’s captive apprentice—except when he comes to choose a girl it isn’t Kasia. Incredible world-building, dark magic, excellent twists. This is the only fantasy novel nearly as dark and addictive as Forest that I’ve come across. See my review here.
  • Heartless by Marissa Meyer – The Queen of Hearts used to be a girl that wanted to open a bakery, but from the day she makes tarts for the King her parents try to push her towards royal ambitions. Cath is convinced she doesn’t want status or riches, but she doesn’t expect a forbidden romance with a joker to change her fate. See my review here.
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – Kell is one of the last Antari, magicians that can travel between the four parallel worlds. Officially, he works for the king of Red London (where magic is vibrant and free) but unofficially, he smuggles objects between the worlds for those willing to pay. But when he accidentally smuggles a piece of Black London (which should be extinct) into Red London, all hell breaks loose across the four worlds. 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. The stakes continue to rise and Adelina must continually sacrifice to achieve her dark dreams. See my review here.

The Last Namsara

32667458by Kristen Ciccarelli
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars
Debut: October 3, 2017
*ARC review

I was eagerly awaiting this book the moment I heard the author was inspired by my favorite novel. At ALA I got my hands on an advanced reading copy and I could not be more excited!

Asha is the Iskari–the most-feared dragonslayer in the land. To atone for a terrible dragon attack when she was a child, Asha is determined to eradicate all dragons from their land, and the threat of the old stories along with them. But no matter how many heads she brings to the king, she is still set to marry the commandant, a man Asha despises and fears. Until her father makes a deal with her: bring him the head of the First Dragon, Kozu, and escape the betrothal. Asha only has six days, but she has never failed to kill a dragon she’s hunted.

The mythology of this world is addictive! I was most fascinated by the old stories that poisoned their tellers–for a story to eat a person from the inside out whether they speak or write it down kept my imagination up late into the night. Several of the stories are included in the book and I found myself wanting a bound copy of all of them. Of course, the dragons kept me enthralled! It is HARD to find good YA stories with dragons. I don’t know why. I would have loved even more of them, but their presence in this story always stole the show.

Asha’s journey was surprising to me and I’m interested to see what the next two books explore with the world and her place in it! I also hope to see more of Safire and Roa!

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


Similar reads:

  • The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley – This was the main comp for Namsara and it’s my favorite story ever. I am so blinded with love that I can’t see it clearly but it’s about a disgraced princess slaying dragons and trying to save her prince and her kingdom. See my review here.
  • Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey – Lessa is a kitchen slave harboring a plan for vengeance on those who killed her family and stole her land. But everything changes when she is selected to bond with the dragon queen, elevating her to leadership she has only dreamed of and forcing her to face a threat to the entire planet.
  • Eon by Alison Goodman – Eon has been training for years in magic and combat for the chance to become the next Dragoneye apprentice–the successor to bond with one of the twelve zodiacal dragons that governs the land. But Eon’s secret is that she is a 16-year-old girl, not a 12-year-old boy, and if this is discovered the penalty is death. See my review here.
  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – Seraphina is a talented musician with connections in the royal court. Yet she fears the discovery that she has more than diplomatic ties to the scientific geniuses that are the dragon ambassadors to humans. This is a complex, interesting world where dragons and magic must coexist with wary humans intent on preserving peace. See my review here.

Wild Beauty

33158561by Anna-Marie McLemore
YA Contemporary / Magical Realism
5 of 5 stars
*ARC review

This is one of my new favorite authors! I read When the Moon Was Ours earlier this year and it blew my mind in every way. I’ve been hotly anticipating this book since spring and I snagged an ARC at ALA this summer (AND I got to meet Anna-Marie and babble something about how much I love her and her work while trying to stifle my emotions). I’m a mess where her writing is concerned–I love it so much, and I honestly would not be able to say whether I enjoyed Moon or this one more, but she is on my auto-buy list from now on! Ready for my completely unbiased review yet?

Estrella and the rest of the Nomeolvides women live their lives rooted to the mysterious garden, La Pradera, that protects their magical abilities to grow plants (abilities that make most people fear and shun them as witches). The cost of this safe haven is their hearts: if they love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But when a boy appears in the gardens, they begin to hope the gardens’ curse is ending. Of course, it’s nowhere near that simple.

Estrella pulls you into the Nomeolvides household and it feels like you become part of their family. The food, the squabbles, the arguments, the fierce loyalty–I never wanted to leave. The relationships between the five cousins, their mothers, and the cousins with their aunts and grandmothers are rich with complexity and shatterproof bonds. I loved exploring the layers and lives of all of these women!

Through her trademark magical realism, delicious prose, and imagery you swear you can taste and smell, McLemore weaves this utterly bewitching story that explores family, love, loss, secrets, and bisexuality. I adored every page of this! Her writing is an experience. How she takes ordinary words and turns them into this–that is its own magic.

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


Similar reads:

  • Bone Gap by Laura Ruby – Finn is horrified when Roza goes missing, just like the rest of Bone Gap, Illinois. He alone wants to keep searching for her several months later, despite his disgrace. He was the only who saw the man that took Roza–but he can’t remember his face. This story is filled with magical realism and heartbreaking truths about people. See my review here.
  • Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar – Another story featuring bees and magical realism, this one takes place in the Southwest. Carolina’s family is spending the summer at her grandfather’s ranch, prepping it for sale. Her grandfather is going to an assisted living home (against his will) and Carolina is caught in the middle of her family’s drama. Then her grandfather’s story about a village, a tree, and magic bees starts to seem less like fiction and more like family history. See my review here.
  • Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma – I love this magical realism story about a small town with a reservoir and two sisters–Ruby, who is everything, and Chloe, who looks up to her older sister. Ruby will do anything to keep her sister safe with her–even if it means bending the reality of their town and everyone in it. See my review here.
  • 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.

The Emotional Craft of Fiction

28915986by Donald Maass
Nonfiction
5 of 5 stars

My CP’s recommended this to me and I’m so glad they did! Packed with practical wisdom and insight, it’s one of the best craft books I’ve read.

Many books about writing novels focus on the elements of a novel. The plot, setting, characters, pacing, etc. All of those are important, but this book takes a different approach. If the most important element of the reading experience is how a book makes you feel, approach all of the tent poles of a novel with the emotional effects in mind. The best story in the world falls flat if it doesn’t connect emotionally. When you recommend a book, isn’t it because it made you feel something or think about something in a new way? I know that’s definitely true for me!

Broken into sections that highlight the inner and outer journeys of the character, and the journey of the writer in bringing that character to life, it lays out tips for what causes our emotional reactions to fiction and how to guide those reactions to create the resonance you intended. It’s definitely not easy, but the rewards are huge.

I found this to be immensely helpful, and much less condescension towards women / genre writing than is typical in craft books (at least in my experience!). There’s also a helpful checklist in the back of all the techniques covered, so you can quickly refer to them. This is one I will be referring to a lot going forward!

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


Similar reads:

  • Save the Cat by Blake Snyder – I’ve heard great things about this screenwriting book and I keep meaning to check it out! Many authors recommend this as one of the most helpful books they read.
  • The Positive / Negative / Emotion Thesauruses by Angela Ackerman – These are three invaluable guides to psychology and character motivations! Also a good way to find the most accurate and interesting way of writing your characters’ emotions and plans as they try to survive your story’s plot.

The Savage Dawn

28872472by Melissa Grey
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars

I was determined to catch up and finish this series and I got to it only a month after it ended, so…success! Echo and her band of allies has come a long way from an ill-timed museum heist and they managed to stay optimistic in the face of unbearable darkness in this book.

Tanith is the vessel for the kuçedra, the opposite of Echo’s firebird in every way. Tanith is determined to unmake the world and remake it into one that the Drakharin rule. Echo and her fragile Avicen/Drakharin alliance are left scrambling, always one step behind, wondering if any power they possess can combat Tanith.

From the beginning, Echo’s sharp wit and ready jokes combined with the alluring and sometimes dark magic of her world drew me in, and in the second book I was even more impressed with the balance of bravado and gravitas. This time, things grew so serious that I found their attempts at humor a bit off. I was so struck by the dire events surrounding them that jokes fell flat for me.

The inexorable pull of threads to tie up keeps the pages turning, but the stakes rose so rapidly I struggled to pace. There were bold choices made in this installment which I admire. Overall, this is a good end for the trilogy and it holds true to its themes throughout. I just love this cast of characters! 

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


Similar reads:

  • Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor – The massive and spell-binding conclusion to this trilogy about seraphs, chimaera and star-crossed lovers that hoped to stop their endless war. Karou and Akiva’s splintered relationship is all that remains to ally them against Jael’s army of seraphs that want to rule all of Eretz and Earth. See my review here.
  • Valiant by Holly Black – When Val runs away to New York City, she falls in with a group of friends and their mysterious, at times dangerous magical contacts. They live in the subway system, and Val quickly learns that monsters come in many forms.
  • So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane – I was enthralled with this story when it came out! Nita finds a “how to” guide book in the vein of learning a career, except this book teaches you how to become a wizard. Once she meets fellow wizard Kit, they are drawn into adventures. It’s like an American “Harry Potter” before HP hit it big.

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