2017 Year in Review

Time to see what I did this year! 

I have a bittersweet announcement, which is that I will not be continuing this blog in 2018. As I keep writing with the goal of publication and face other varied demands on my time, I can no longer keep up with these reviews. I will be sad to leave it behind–I met so many nice readers and writers!–but I began this blog for fun, and unfortunately it is becoming more stressful than enjoyable for me now. I will still be active on Goodreads and Instagram, and you can follow my reading habits and reviews there! If you need recommendations, I will still have you covered on those platforms. This was a fun project, and I am so grateful for each person that liked what I created here! Thank you so much! ❤

Whew, all right, so what did my 2017 look like?

I read 86 books this year (27,420 pages)! Not bad considering my goal in January was 50.
I bought 36 books and received 5 as gifts!

CP Manuscripts read: 7! So really, I read 93 books and 30,000 pages? It was a lot, and I am so excited to see these manuscripts become bound books on my shelves!

I’m still trying to keep up with recommendations from friends/family – I think I succeeded!

CP’s: Furthermore, Emma, Wintersong, Memories of Silk & Straw, Orange vols 1-2, Annarasumanara, Aristotle & Dante, Emotional Craft of Fiction, Want
Friends: Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter vol. 1, Runaways vols. 1-3

I had a few other little challenges I wanted to complete this year! Clearly I was most passionate about reading more nonfiction, and I have to say that this was a very rewarding adjustment to my reading schedule each month.

Read one classic novel a month: 2
Read one nonfiction book a month: 13
Read the Harry Potter series again: 2

Debut novels: 21! Including two from my friends Amanda Foody and Axie Oh!

How did I like what I did read this year?

5 stars – 40%
4 stars – 44%
3 stars – 16%

Overall, a very satisfying year!

Out of all of these books, which one was my Best Read of 2017?

This crown is much harder to give away this year! And since I’m retiring this blog, I thought I would cheat and do a top 7 for 2017. I can do what I want! I loved all of these for a variety of reasons, but here are just a few. I highly recommend adding all of these to your list next year:

  1. The Night Circus – Best world
  2. The Hate U Give – Best family
  3. This Adventure Ends – Best friendships
  4. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns – Best protagonist
  5. When the Moon Was Ours – Best romance
  6. A Crown of Wishes – Best magic
  7. When Dimple Met Rishi – Best humor

THIS IS MY LAST POST FOR 2017 AND FOR THIS BLOG. It has been so fun sharing these reviews with all of you! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

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Beasts Made of Night

33395234by Tochi Onyebuchi
YA Fantasy
3 of 5 stars
Debut: October 31, 2017
*ARC review

Taj is the best sin-eater in Kos, but when he’s called to Eat the sin of the city’s prince, he’s drawn into a web of intrigue that will determine not only his fate, but that of the city he loves.

This is such a fascinating world! Kos is ruled by a religious monarchy, and sins can make people physically ill. Only the wealthy can afford an aki, or sin-eater, to Eat the sin that a mage calls from their body. The sinner is left purified, the aki is left to bear the guilt and emotional trauma of the sin, while a tattoo of an animal brands their body for each sin they Eat. Taj’s sin-spots don’t fade with time, which has given him a reputation among the aki and makes everyone else shun his “impurity.” The more sins an aki eats, the quicker they will go mad with the guilt.

Obviously, there is so much to explore here in regards to religion and sin and social classes and economics. My main disappointment with this book is that it’s so short! I would have loved to spend more time in Kos, exploring the city, and getting more information about the religion and sins from Taj. He’s instantly likable, and a great window into this world, but I felt so rushed through this story. I wanted more of his relationships with Bo, the princess, and the scholar. There are plenty of surprising and dark revelations about the sin-beasts and the magic in this world that will keep you turning pages and wishing you could sneak away to the mage library.

Probably my favorite aspect was the micro-setting of Kos. The city breathes life on every page and there’s something new around every corner! Taj races through it with expertise, and I felt like I knew it so well by the end.

This is a great fast-paced read, but you will definitely want a sequel!

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


Similar reads:

  • The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli – Asha’s kingdom has banned the old stories for the deaths they cause, but that doesn’t stop her from telling them lure dragons. She’s determined to kill every dragon in the land, but the biggest one has a story to trade that will change her world. See my review here.
  • Eon by Alison Goodman – Eon is secretly Eona, a girl disguised as a boy to become a Dragoneye apprentice and bond with one of the 12 dragons that rules the land. It’s her only chance to leave her life of poverty and servitude for one of influence and power. See my review here.
  • The Young Elites by Marie Lu – The blood fever survivors have extraordinary abilities, and they are determined to take revenge on the rulers that ordered their subjugation. See my review here.
  • Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee – Kai and her adopted brother scrounge for scraps in the city, but the day he disappears, Kai vows to find him, even if it means revealing her ability to manipulate threads of time in a city where magic is illegal.

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.

Kingdom of Ash and Briars

28554825by Hannah West
YA Fantasy
3 of 5 stars
Debut novel: September 15, 2016

The summary and cover are so dark and seductive; I desperately wanted to love this story. Unfortunately, this didn’t live up to its potential for me.

Bristal discovers she is an elicromancer—powerful immortals with different abilities that guide the three kingdoms of Nissera and attempt to maintain peace between them. Bristal’s special talent is shape-shifting, a unique power that would be especially useful to keeping treaties intact. When the elicromancer Tamarice curses all the royal families in an attempt to build a nation ruled by the immortals, Brack and Bristal take measures to protect two princesses betrothed to unify the kingdoms.

What follows are loose retellings of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, with Bristal acting the part of village aunt and fairy godmother to the two princesses over the years. I loved the world and the magic, and I even loved Bristal’s behind-the-scenes role in arranging affairs. There are some interesting rituals and side characters, and each chapter I expected the story to take flight. I just had such a hard time connecting to her. When her wishes are so forcibly subsumed by the needs of the island’s nations, she lost most of her vitality, and although the pacing is fast, I felt distant from it all. Ultimately I expected a story about a girl struggling to choose good or evil with her powers (as the jacket hints) but I ended up reading about a girl who chooses good from the outset and fades into the background of her own life.

I’ll be on the lookout for the next book by this author though, as her imagination promises dark and sultry tales to come!

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


Similar reads:

  • Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake – I was strongly reminded of this while reading Kingdom because they both feature islands with three nations that struggle to get along. In this case, triplet sisters raised apart in the three kingdoms each fight for the crown once they turn 16. There can be only one queen of the island. See my review here.
  • Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst – A cute romance between two princesses set against the backdrop of political skirmishes and nefarious plots. See my review here.
  • Lirael by Garth Nix – Another protagonist stuck with guiding and protecting a kingdom skeptical of her powers. Lirael is an assistant librarian to the Clayr, women who see the future and try to help the king govern the Old Kingdom. But Lirael is destined to leave her library to fight against a darkness no one wants to acknowledge.
  • A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan  – A sci-fi retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Rosalinda Fitzroy awakens from 62 years of stasis to find out her family is dead and she is the missing heiress to a global conglomerate. The acting CEO is not pleased to hear she was found, and Rosalinda must come to terms with her past if she is to survive the fight for her future.
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer – A sci-fi retelling of Cinderella. The famed princess is a lowly cyborg mechanic in New Beijing who has a chance encounter with a prince in disguise that changes her life. See my review here.

The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller

1383168by John Truby
Nonfiction
3 of 5 stars

This came highly rec’d from many YA authors and I was excited to dive in! Especially since I hadn’t read a craft book in far too long. (If like me, you are not familiar with the author, here is more about him). What I found was a book that rang truer to the 1970s than today, despite being written in 2008…

Personally, when I am studying the mechanics of storytelling it helps me to have a broad range of examples, especially ones that subvert known patterns. Show me a variety of settings or characters or plots that take the basic principles and explore them in new ways. For a book about coming up with original stories, I found this to be very unoriginal itself, which was disappointing.

There are some good tips and nuggets of wisdom here, but the scope of “good storytelling” is so narrow it becomes distracting. Aside from a couple of Jane Austen’s works, the examples you study in each chapter are mostly white male-centric stories from the ‘70s or older. Tootsie, Casablanca, The Lord of the Rings, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Godfather, Star Wars…these are all good stories, yes, but they begin to blend together when you are discussing character arc. How many rising king/wise mentor/bromances do we need? This would bother me less if the critiques of poor storytelling were not confined to female authors (i.e. Jane Austen and Emily Bronte let their emotions get in the way of satisfying endings). Or if the only character not assigned an archetypal role in Star Wars was Princess Leia – deemed “The Princess,” which was not an archetype on Truby’s list, when it arguably could be, feminism aside. (Even R2-D2 – who does not speak – was designated a prince-magician-warrior archetype).

The eponymous 22 step process is a little muddy, mainly because 22 steps is a lot of steps, and because they can be moved around in nearly any order. (Again, I would have liked a few more examples of this bit). Studying the 22 steps individually and reviewing the prewriting exercises are the most useful things in this book. It is easy to see where your own manuscript might be lacking when you look at the key points, and there are some excellent brainstorming tips for each step.

I read this as I was beginning revisions on my rough draft, and I didn’t feel that I missed out too much. I tend to discover themes and connections through writing the first draft that I can’t plan in advance – this is a book that I think you can approach for prewriting work on a story or while you are revising to get some fresh ideas, depending on your own approach.

I found myself drawn to the key points called out in the text, and the helpful exercises at the end of each chapter and skimming the rest. Overall this was very similar to my college courses in writing. I guess I just expect a little more now!

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


Similar reads:

  • The Pocket Muse by Monica Wood – A collection of photos and prompts to help you scribble down a scene or short story whenever you feel like writing but do not have a guide. I love this little book!
  • 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 Anatomy of Curiosity by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, Brenna Yovanoff – This presents several short stories in various states of revision with notes from real-life critique partners, so you can see how a story goes from draft to finished product.

2016 Year in Review

Time to see what I did this year!

I read 76 books this year (29,359 pages)! Not bad considering my goal in January was 40.
I bought 42 books, received 12 as gifts and 1 as a prize!

One of my goals was to read more recommendations from friends/family – I think I succeeded!

CP’s: Captive Prince, Prince’s Gambit, Kings Rising, Wolf by Wolf, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Finnikin of the Rock, The 3 Writing Thesauruses (Emotion, Positive and Negative Traits), Three Dark Crowns, Milk and Honey
Grandfather: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, The Mill on the Floss (partial)
Friends: Pax, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, When We Collided, The Start of Me and You

I had a few other little challenges I wanted to complete this year but I think I failed pretty much all of them!

Read one classic novel a month: 5
Read one nonfiction book a month: 6
Read the Harry Potter series again: 1

Read the 10 books on my Goodreads TBR the longest: 1
Debut novels: 14

Better luck next year, Future Me!
How did I like what I did read this year?

5 stars – 33%
4 stars – 48%
3 stars – 16%
2 stars – 4%

Out of all of these books, which one was my Best Read of 2016?

29396738

It was an incredibly hard choice – until I read Monstress! (See my review here!) I can still barely talk about this book without screaming–I absolutely love this story and I can’t wait to buy the next bound volume! It’s dark and feminist and has beautiful as well as brutal moments. The art is a bonus–every panel is lovingly detailed and kept me from reading too quickly. If you want deep world-building, flawed characters fighting for their goals, and a story that demands you keep up with it, grab this now! I enjoyed every page.

And Best Surprise Read of 2016 goes to….

22453777

I had seen this cover pop up a couple times on Instagram and I finally picked up a copy of this debut novel because I was curious about the magical realism. (See my review here!) This book had me enthralled! The themes of family, identity, growing up, traditionalism vs change, what makes a full life–Carolina and her family felt so real to me and I savored their story. It is a rare example of a perfectly packaged tale with that nostalgic feeling you normally reserve for something old. I look forward to coming back to this again and again!

What did I achieve with my writing?
1) Revised and polished YA fantasy
2) Attended my first writing conference
3) Pitched to agents for the first time
4) Chose to shelve YA fantasy and begin a new project
5) Completed the 83,000 word draft for Fox Story in 3 months
6) Learned. So. Much.
7) And of course, I posted twice a week here, rain shine or deadline!

New things coming for 2017

Give this year’s goals another chance:
-1 nonfiction book a month
-1 classic novel a month
-Read Harry Potter again
-Get through those books that I’ve meant to read for years!

THIS IS MY LAST POST FOR 2016 – HAPPY NEW YEAR!

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

The Hundred and One Dalmatians

16650024by Dodie Smith
Classics / Children’s Lit
3 of 5 stars

This little book is probably better known as the Disney film, but I picked it up last year and loved it, and I enjoyed reading it again this year.

There are some big differences between the two, for instance the fact that Pongo and Missis have the 15 puppies, and Perdita is a lost dog the Dearlys take in to help nurse them all. There are characters removed from or changed for the film (Cruella’s white cat, Perdita’s husband, the puppy Cadpig was combined with Lucky, the two nannies were combined into one, and the farm cat Tibbs is female in the book, to name a few).  They have a series of adventures both searching for and bringing back their puppies, and its charm is irresistible. There are fresh surprises here even if you’ve seen the film.

The best part of this story is the author’s knowledge of dogs. She owned seven Dalmatians during her lifetime and this cute story is packed with facts, jokes, and tips on how to have a happy Dalmatian in your home. It’s also quintessentially British in its descriptions (Mr. Dearly is “not handsome but has the sort of face one does not grow tired of” and Pongo “chewed the wicker on his basket as a man might smoke a pipe”) and each interaction Pongo and Missis have with other dogs is ruled by etiquette and manners.

This is a fun read for a night by the fire in December! If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Hundred and One Dalmatians is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd – Another Christmas tale about a girl in the countryside during WWII. She and the other children are sick, but she is the only one who can see the winged horses in the mirrors of the mansion-turned-hospital. See my review here.
  • Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman – A silly story with fun illustrations about a father explaining to his young children why it took him so long to get the milk.
  • The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo – A brave little mouse is sure his destiny is to become a knight, and when the Princess Pea is endangered, he sets out to save the day. I love this story! It’s so cute and such a good representation of the light and dark in us all.
  • Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt & Alison McGhee – A winter tale about two sisters, a family of fox kits, and the way their lives intersect after a terrible accident. See my review here.

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