Thursday, December 24, 2015

10 Favorite New (to Me) Characters of 2015 (and Fabulous Fanart)

Happy Christmas Eve Everyone! I hope you are all getting some time off/rest or family time :)
I have been working almost nonstop, so I haven't gotten around to those year end posts I wanted to do, but I am trying to squeeze a few in before -- gulp -- next year.

As much as I hate to admit it, 2016 is right around the corner. 2015 was a pretty good year for reading and writing, and I started off the year-end posts last week with my Top 10 Favorite Reads of 2015. Today, I'm back with another list (because I love them).

If you ask me my favorite character (in books, movies, tv, etc), I usually can't answer. Unless it's the original Star Wars (Han Solo is the best. Period). And naturally, I acquire new favorites every year!*

So here is a list of my top 10 *new* favorite characters that I discovered in 2015, along with why I liked them so much, and cool art of each character. 

(All art belongs to the respective copyright holder, and sources are linked. This blog is strictly non-profit, and all known sources are credited.)

1. Ken (Kaneki) - Tokyo Ghoul (Ishida Sui) Manga + Anime

Official art Copyright Ishida Sui
Where do I even start? All that bookish, quiet, adorable college student Ken wanted to to do was go on a date. Instead, he gets turned into a literal monster and the world goes to hell in a hand-basket. That's basically the story of Tokyo Ghoul.

Ken's story is not for the faint of heart - not only is Tokyo Ghoul quite violent - Ken himself has a downward spiral arc that rivals a Victorian melodrama, as he fights to retain his humanity in a brutal, bloody world. Think of anything bad that has happened to a character - and Kaneki has probably had something worse happen to him. Still, his fight to survive (physically, mentally, and spiritually) makes him an incredibly compelling character. And in case you couldn't tell from the cover art, Ishida Sui's art is fantastic. His style is so dreamy and beautiful, it just adds a layer of horror to the story. Tokyo Ghoul has spawned some incredible fanart as well, such as the gif of Ken's transformation below.
Copyright 量産型 source

2. Kaz Brekker (and Inej!) from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Official art by Kevin Wada

Six of Crows was one of those books that you read more for the plot than the characters, in my humble opinion, but that didn't stop me from loving Kaz and Inej. Kaz slightly edges Inej out, because I'd rather read a solo novel about him, but they are a pair of characters that are better together. And they really do make a great pair, with her skills and sense of honor, and his schemes and, well, drive to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Sort of like a criminal Batman and Alfred, if the roles were a bit reversed.
Anyhow, this was one with a lot of cool fanart, so I had to post a couple of my favorites.

Love this one! It's so atmospheric and eerie. Art Source -Copyright Waricka @ Metempsychosis
Fantastic depictions of Kaz and Inej by Gillian @ The Art of Young Adult  

3. Yael from Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

I know, I know, I have been like a song on repeat about this book, but I really loved it! One of the main reasons was definitely the strong heroine, Yael. She's Jewish, a "victim" of Nazi experiments, and absolutely awesome. Here's what I had to say about her earlier this year:
"I loved Yael so much. A little Winter Soldier and all survivor, she was sympathetic, hardcore, and brave. She (understandably) had a hard time trusting others, but she wasn't afraid to love or feel for the people in her past. She wanted to think well of people, and she put her mission ahead of her own interests." 5 star review, Wolf by Wolf
Sadly, I have yet to see any fanart (I'll have to draw some, I suppose). But Ryan Graudin has a cool Pin-spiration board for it here. And did I mention motorcycle racing??

Image: Roland Sand - Source

4. Rey (and Finn) from Star Wars: The Force Awakens

No spoilers here - but it is safe to say that when I first saw Star Wars: A New Hope (I was 7), it rocked my world. Han was my favorite (see above), but if Rey had been in that movie, I might have changed my mind. She is the SW movie character I've been waiting for. Fiery but not stereotypical - tough, relatable, and practical, and with a sense of humor, Rey was just the sort of strong female lead I was wanting to see (and Daisy Ridley's performance was top notch). I will happily follow her adventures in the next few films. (I also loved Finn - he was cheeky and so lovable, but Rey people)

5. Maven from The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Image Credit:
I really enjoyed The Red Queen - it was just the right mixture of action, intrigue, and superpowers. Like an X-Men movie, none of it paved new ground, but I was surprised by how much I liked Mare, Maven, and Cal's interactions. Normally I despise love triangles, but this wasn't *really* a love triangle at all. Instead, it's a complex and dangerous relationship between three people, one of whom is an outsider in every way (Mare). Maven and Cal were actually more interesting to me (their brother dynamic, you know), especially Maven. In some ways, he's that character I always love - the neglected younger son who is desperate for his father's approval and overshadowed by his "perfect" brother. However, he was also willing to give up everything and go all the way to get what he wanted. Add that to his considerable brains and sharp wits, and you have a character that I get very invested in.
This fantastic piece is by allarica on
Surprisingly, there is not very much Maven art.** He tends to draw the Loki crowd, so he has plenty of fans, but . . .

6. Sakurako from Beautiful Bones (Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru) - Anime

This is a gorgeous anime, by the way.
Sakurako (Kujo) is a brilliant but eccentric osteologist who is generally more interested in bones than people. Using her knowledge of bones, her experience as the niece of a forensic scientist, and her own considerable powers of observation, she solves mysteries somewhat on a whim. Aided by a high-school student, Shotaro (the Watson to her Holmes) who incidentally helps Sakurako with normal social interaction, and helps her out of scrapes. Sakurako is hilarious, and the dynamic between her and the empathetic, gentle Shotaro really makes the show.

Hitomi as envisioned by Porotto

7. and 8. - Hitomi and Val from Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani

Sadly, there really isn't ANY fanart for Sunbolt.*** Intisar Khanani has a great Pinterest inspiration board here.

Anyhow, I love both of these characters so much that they get their own numbers :)

It's sort of spoilery to say anything about why I love Val (all you need to know is that he is A. A Breather****, B. An actual threat, and C. Awesome.)

Hitomi, our young heroine, is a racial + cultural outcast with hidden abilities and a lot of spunk. She's flawed and real, but still cool. The one piece of fan art I managed to fine captured her attitude pretty well. The second picture is a stock photo that kind of evokes her description. You'll have to read the book to find out what Val looks like . . .

9. Utsuho from Itsuwaribito by Iinuma Yuuki (manga)
Azako Utsuho by Saiyuri-Taiyou on DeviantArt
Another strangely dark yet comic manga - Itsuwaribito has an extremely sketchy protagonist (Utsuho) who aims to help people by lying. Sound curious? It is. Utsuho is one of the most enigmatic characters I've come across - you really can't trust anything he says!  You don't know where he stands, or if he really stands anywhere (he has a bit in common with Kaz - see #2), and he can be downright scary. Still, Utsuho is hilarious, and his interactions with the uptight Doctor Yakuma are golden.
Itsuwaribito Utsuho by WiiWiipyon on

10. Vin (and Kelsier) from Mistborn
Mistborn: Vin and Kelsier by Shilesque on
These two kind of have a master-apprentice meets father-daughter relationship. I loved everything about it, and them. Vin was another strong heroine who was a joy to read about. Feisty, smart, a survivor, and a Mistborn, Vin is the sort of character who could have easily been annoying. Instead, she was nuanced and believable, and I can't wait to read more about her (soon!)
Vin by sgfw on

Honorable Mentions: I was trying to keep this list strictly to characters I was completely unaware of until this year, however, there are a few that deserve a side note. 

1. Levi Ackerman. While I first read some Attack on Titan/SnK last year, I didn't read the spinoff No Regrets series until a few months ago. It centers on Levi pre-AOT, and it made me love (and appreciate) Levi even more.

2. Everyone in Naruto (well, except Madara). Similarly, I was familiar with the very large group of characters that make up Naruto, but I grew much more attached to them all once I read the whole series end to end! Also, the "new Team 7" in Boruto were pretty adorable.

3. Foggy Nelson. I also loved Foggy in the Netflix Daredevil. To be honest, I'd never really cared about him either way (though I like Daredevil [comics!] a lot), but the Netflix series changed that! Matt and Foggy's friendship really pulled my heartstrings, and it was a highlight of the show.

4. Agent Peggy Carter. I always liked Peggy, but she didn't really stand out to me. The tv series Agent Carter made me love her. From her banter with Jarvis, to her determination to live as her own woman in a "man's world," I can't wait to see more of her. Season 2 is soon!

Did you discover any new favorite characters this year? Who were they, and why did you like them? Are you familiar with any of the ones on my list?

*I even started a board on Pinterest for them. My lists were too long, :P
**Most of the stuff I found . . . did not look like Maven's description. It looked like Justin Bieber (?)
***Maybe that should be my Christmas project?
****Read the book.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas-y Tag 2015

My parent's tree was the model
Christmas is my favorite holiday, so I was delighted when Deborah O'Carroll (The Road of a Writer) tagged me for this. If you don't already follow her blog, you should. She loves Tolkien and she's got a great sense of humor, and she's got a lot of interesting writing projects in the works.Thanks for the tag, Deborah, and Merry Christmas!

I'm skipping the rules and just getting to the fun part, because that's how I roll (today). If you read this post and would like to share your Christmas (or honestly, any holiday) traditions, I'd love to read/hear about them!

(all images belong to their respective copyright holders, and are used for zero financial gain)

Christmas-y Tag 2015

1. What is your favourite Christmas treat?

Actually, would you believe it's fruitcake? I seem to be the only fan of this much maligned delicacy.  But it has to be home/bakery made, and it can't have any of that dreadful fake candied fruit. Real dried fruit, pecans, and legitimate ingredients only. I also love Stollen (so apparently I just like bread/cake with dried fruit??)

2. Are there any special traditions that your family has to celebrate Christmas?

Ever since I was little, we've hunted for The Pickle ornament on our tree. It's a vaguely strange tradition that is supposedly German, but no one really knows where it started. Regardless, you hang this ornament on the tree and whoever finds it first gets a prize. It's pretty hard to find a a green ornament on a green tree, but is there a point? No. Idea. Well, other than prizes. Still, it's something my dad's family, and his dad's dad's family (etc.) all have done for years.

3. How do you normally celebrate Christmas?

We read the Christmas story, then hunt for the pickle (see #2), then we open presents, eat brunch (usually homemade, but we have met relatives for it before), and then hang out all day. I am a big fan of spending the day in pajamas.

4. Do you enjoy getting presents for your friends and family? Do you buy your gifts or go the homemade route?

You know someone loves you when they knit the same scarf three+ times for you . . .

Yes! I love giving gifts. If I had tons of money, I would do this all year long, not just at Christmas. For everyone. I love picking out/making the perfect thing for each person and wrapping it up so it looks pretty. How much I make depends on the year and how much time I have. I knit gloves for people (a lot), as well as baby sweaters, and I've made other things too.

5. Is it cold where you live? Have you ever had a white Christmas?

Funny you should ask - it's normally cold here (West Michigan), but this Christmas will probably be green. Normally we have snow by Thanksgiving (and when I lived farther north, we sometimes had snow by Halloween!)

6.What’s on your Christmas list this year?

Books - always! Also, board games! I love them, but I don't usually spend my money on them. That sort of thing (anything my adult budget doesn't usually allow for)

7. What’s your favourite Christmas song?

I actually don't like what I call "holiday music"--that generic stuff that involves pop divas vocalizing and singing meaningless phrases ("Last Christmas," I'm looking at you). What I do love are instrumental carols and folk tunes, and classic hymns.  Any Celtic Christmas cd, Mannheim Steamroller, and TSO are some of my favorites. For a beautiful modern rendition of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," you can't get much better than Kutless here.

8. What are you reading in December? (Anything festive?)

I'm not much for seasonal/themed books, but I am reading Magna Carta by Dan Jones, and a couple ARCs (none of which are festive. At all). One of my favorite things about December is that I usually find some time to read. With half-days at work, and a couple extra days off, reading is one of my priorities.

9. Are you an organised little elf or are you still shopping/preparing on Christmas Eve?

It's practically a Christmas tradition for my sister (Grace) and I to be up way too late on Christmas Eve putting the finishing touches on everything.

10. How early do you start to get into the Christmas spirit?

After Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving.

11. Do you make any Christmas crafts? Decorations? Send physical Christmas cards?

Sometimes. Depends on my mood and how many presents I made. I usually ice Christmas cookies and hang them on the tree. So they're usually ninjas or Star Wars characters, but they're still gingerbread.

12. What’s the menu for Christmas Day?!

Sugar. With a side of protein and more sugar. My mom usually makes something good, like ham or turkey with mashed potatoes, etc. But I seem to develop a strange passion/tolerance for sugar and bypass most of the real food.

13. What famous Christmas character do you most identify with? (Scrooge, Elf, Tiny Tim, the Grinch, Santa, etc.)

Well, I'm not Buddy the Elf, but that's probably obvious. I once played the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in a skit though. It was so much fun! I got to pace around shrouded in black, and point at things. I didn't have to speak. In other words, the only sort of dramatic role I was meant to play.

14. If you were to start a new Christmas tradition, what would it be?

I think my staying up till midnight and trying to finish crafts is a good one. Grace and I usually listen to music/watch movies and get really slap happy. It's a fun tradition. (See #9)

15. What Christmas movies do you like to watch this time of year or what’s your favorite?

It's a Wonderful Life, Elf, the classic claymation Rudolph, Nightmare Before Christmas, Rise of the Guardians, and White Christmas. Also, I sort of associate Star Wars with Christmas, because I first saw it around Christmas when I was seven. After that, it became a thing. A thing that The Force Awakens is now continuing.

16. What’s your favorite Christmasy book or book with a favorite Christmasy part?

Despite the fact that ^^ was based on a book, I haven't read it yet

Letters from Father Christmas by Tolkien is wonderful. I also like A Christmas Carol and The Grinch.

Merry Christmas Everyone! Feel free to do this tag, just link back so I can read it. Otherwise, share some of your favorite traditions in the comments. How do you feel about seasonal (any season) movies and books?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Book Review: Dragonfly by Julia Golding

One of the most pleasant surprises of 2015 was this book: Dragonfly by Julia Golding. I was expecting rote YA fantasy - what I got was a sensitive, moving, and action-packed examination of cultural and religious conflict and cooperation.

Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:

Princess Taoshira of the Blue Crescent Islands is appalled when she is ordered to marry Prince Ramil of Gerfal. And he's not too pleased, either. She is used to a life of discipline, ritual, and splendor. He is used to hunting and carousing. They hate each other on sight. But both of their countries are under threat from a fearsome warlord, and the only chance of peace is to form an alliance.

When Tashi and Ram are kidnapped, they fear there's no escape--from their kidnappers or from each other. Can they put aside their differences long enough to survive ambush, unarmed combat, brainwashing, and imprisonment? And will the people they meet on their adventure--including a circus strongman, a daring rebel leader, a sinister master of spies, and the best female fighter they have ever seen--help them or betray them to the enemy?

Arranged marriages, clashing religions, warlords on the move, and two teenagers who really just want to be their own people - this is the backdrop for Dragonfly. Though the novel takes place in a fantasy landscape, the peoples deal with a lot of the same problems: bigotry, religious and cultural differences, duty verse desire, and serious threats to our countries and ways of life.

Here are 3 more reasons why you should read Dragonfly:

1. An authentic and empathetic portray of religious and cultural diversity: Apparently this is one of my 2015 themes, since it seems to have cropped up in a lot of the books I read this year. If you are looking for a book that tackles these issues head on, but in a fantasy landscape, look no further.

2. The worldbuilding. This plays into #1. I felt totally immersed in the fantasy landscape. The depth of the world really drew you into the story and helped you care about all of the many people and allegiances. The religious systems added to this as well, with the antagonist's brutal, bloody religion, Tashi's goddess and ritual centered system, and Ram's casual Germanic god system, all in tension and playing into the plot.

3. The examination of faith. Specifically Tashi's faith. Saying any more would be severe spoiler territory about one of the strongest/most compelling parts of the book. I liked how Ms. Golding handled Tashi's belief system being challenged, and how Tashi had to make her faith her own. This was a very interesting plot element (and it had quite a bit to do with the plot). Also, the persecution she faced was raw and realistic. Persecution is a terrible, terrible thing, and all too real and relevant today.

Minor Quibbles: Since I have taken a vow of review honesty, I must put down a few of these (since I had them)

1. The romance felt a little slapdash, almost like an afterthought. (Or like it was required?) I really would have liked to see more of the developing friendship first. The characters chemistry as friends was better, and I would have liked to see them take their time.

2. Some of the side characters detracted from the main story. They were introduced fairly late, and I just didn't care as much about them, and they were a distraction. I feel like their stories might have been better saved for future books.

Overall: 3.75 out of 5 stars. An intelligent fantasy novel about compromise, faith, courage, and doing the right thing, Dragonfly really stands out from the crowd. Tashi is a uniquely strong heroine, and she was probably my favorite part of the book.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Beautiful Books #3: The Editing Process (gifssss)

It's time for the last of the NaNoWriMo themed Beautiful Books series, hosted by Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further Up and Further In. Click the link above for more about the monthly writing link-up, and how to join.

My NaNo project came in at 47K words (3K under the goal), but I don't intend on shelving it for too long. It's an alternate history/Victorian inspired fantasy, and the working title is The Butler Did It. You can read more about it here.

And now for the questions:

1. On a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best), how did the book turn out? Did anything defy your expectations?

Well, since I haven't finished it, I can't really say how it turned out. But right now, I'd say it's at a solid 7 - I'm pleased with how it's going, but it's a long way from where it needs to be.
Did anything defy my expectations? I didn't expect people moving around would take so much time! (I wasn't paying enough attention to Jane Austen! When you quit one house for another and only have horse-drawn conveyances, and must close/open houses, stuff takes forever). Also, I wasn't planning on so many drawing room conversations. But I suppose that's where the action really happens in this type of thing.
There just aren't enough Lady Catherine gifs! She agrees.

2. Comparative title time: what published books, movies, or TV shows are like your book? (Ex: Inkheart meets X-Men.)

This is kind of hard, since I was trying to write a book I wanted to read. I suppose it's Jane Austen + Edgar Allen Poe with a touch of Downton Abbey and Black Butler. In other words, manners, secrets, scandal, murder, and really bizarre goings-on.

3. Do you enjoy working with deadlines and pressure (aka NaNoWriMo)? Or do you prefer to write-as-you’re-inspired?

Depends on the day, and my mood/stress levels. I like deadlines because they make me do stuff. But I am also fickle and like to write when inspiration strikes. Regardless, my goal is to write something every single day, whether it's reviews, words in a book, or a blog post.

4. How do you go about editing? Give us an insight into your editing process.

1. Chapter-by-chapter read through, just like I've picked up a random book and am reading it for the first time. This tells me how the story flows.
2. Print out the unholy leviathan (most of my books fit that length description). This is where I compare my outline/structure to the book, and do examinations of the plot arcs.
3. Hunt for plot holes. They're there, just look harder.
4. Have someone do a stylistic read through (usually my sister, Grace. She's a fantastic beta. I mean, sister).
5. Take any input from 2-4, and apply to manuscript.
6. Work on another project for at least another month so I can read the book with a clear mind again. Start over at 1.

And basically I do this until I am satisfied that it is either A. The worst novel ever written, or B. Ready to be submitted to more readers/agents/publishers.
What finishing this process feels like

5. What aspect of your story needs the most work?

Probably the plot! This tends to be my problem with my NaNo novels. I usually come up with ideas at the spur of the moment, and have little time to plan before November (yes, I know, that's my own fault).

6. What aspect of your story did you love the most?

The characters! They came together like a symphony, and they will keep me plugging along. I love them all, and they turned out how I wanted them to ;)

7. Give us a brief run down on your main characters and how you think they turned out. Do you think they’ll need changes in edits?

The major three characters: (More about them here)

Ernest(ine) Harrison (Grey) - A naive but headstrong girl who disguised as a butler/manservant to be with her beloved, Lord Atlantis de Carrefour. But then he up and died and ruined everything, throwing her life into a tailspin. Despite this, she is a determined to not only survive, but flourish.

Pasifica (Sif) de Carrefour - Atlantis' scandalous and "wild" sister. She seems to be more irritated that her brother's murder put her in mourning seclusion than that he was murdered. She has a surprisingly crafty brain, and she daydreams about exploring lethal jungles and reporting her findings back to the Citadel.

Sydney Smith (?), Butler (?)- He is surprisingly young and scary. His spectacles seem to reflect rays of light into your soul. And he's so efficient, condescending, and capable that Ernestine sort-of hates him. However, his past is apparently linked in interesting ways to the de Carrefours, and Ernestine is determined to get to the bottom of it.

Two other important people:

Atlantis de Carrefour - Though he is the victim of murder most foul, he left a string of problems and mysteries behind him (including a manservant that appears to be a woman). So he's still a very important presence in the novel - not to mention his murder is the catalyst and the mystery here.

Ronin Kuznetzov - A battle-weary young commander at a Siberian outpost, outside the Citadel. M.I.A at the beginning of the novel. No one inside the city cares if he will resurface or not, but that might be a grave oversight on their part.

8. What are your plans for this novel once you finish editing? More edits? Finding beta readers? Querying? Self-publishing? Hiding it in a dark hole forever?

My main plan is to finish the draft, and then shelve it until I'm ready to edit it. I have a lot of other projects on the table. And then, who knows?

9. Share a favorite snippet!

My favorite snippet (as of now) gives away just about every plot twist, so I am refraining from that. Instead, I just picked the first random bit that caught my eye! It's rather long, but it just didn't seem to work if I cut off more.


Lady de Carrefour gave me a sour look. “Atlantis’ death will mean I can easily avoid society, I’m in mourning after all. Unfortunate as it is, this has given me a chance I can not afford to miss. Tell me, Miss Gray, have you ever wanted more out of life than a good marriage, a couple offspring, and the finest dress each season?” She leaned forward, her tone light but her expression intense.

I was still processing her lack of proper mortification at her brother’s death, but I had known my answer to this question for a long time. “Of course not! That’s all I ever wanted. And,” I surged on, rebellion blooming in my blood, “Atlantis,” it felt good to say his name aloud, “promised me that life. And now he’s dead, and you don’t even seem to care.”

Instead of smacking me again, as she certainly had a right to do, Lady de Carrefour just leaned back in her chair, giving me that satisfied cat smile. “Ahh, there it is at last: A spine. I figured you had one buried somewhere. After all, it takes a certain determination to be the sort of idiot you are. Don’t worry – I have loved Atlantis much longer than you, and with both eyes open. But I don’t have time to mourn him now. Not when he’s given me the perfect chance.”

I glowered at her, sick of playing the respectful valet. “You keep saying that. The chance for what?”

“Why, to leave the Citadel and go West, of course.” Lady de Carrefour crossed her arms over her chest (a very masculine habit) and regarded me thoughtfully. “That has been my goal. Do I really seem like the sort of creature you’d want in a drawing room?”

I stared at her blankly. “Why on earth would you want to leave the Citadel? Don’t you know what it’s like out there?”

“Much more interesting than here is what it’s like. Natives, ancient beasts, bands of criminals, jungles, cannibals, steam engines, and thousands of miles of land just waiting to be claimed by adventurous souls.”

I shook my head, thinking of the dirty, crowded wharves near my ruined home.  The wide-eyed children, the adults who crept furtively through life, as if they were afraid their own shadow might catch them. “No, there’s nothing out there but death. Whether by monsters, disease, wild animals, or outlaws. The Citadel is paradise. Why would you want to leave?”

Lady de Carrefour pressed her lips together, “One person’s paradise is another person’s gilded cage. And besides, it isn’t much of a paradise at all, or even safe, if one’s strong and healthy brother can be beheaded in his own home.” Her expression hardened into a cold mask. “Now that, is a travesty. And of course, what they don’t want anyone to know is that Atlantis is not the first. There’s something else going on here, and no one wants to talk about it. Have you heard about the murders farther inland, on Embassy Row?”

I gaped at her, “No, what are you talking about? Murders are incredibly rare in the Citadel.”

Were. Were incredibly rare. Until earlier this year.” Lady de Carrefour drummed her fingers on the table top, “Something is happening. But no one is supposed to know about it. I suspect that the Interior Guard has no clue what’d going on either, and that’s why they’re keeping it quiet. It wouldn’t do to have mass hysteria in the middle of the season, would it? Not when we might finally find out if the Greco-Roman ambassador’s daughter might really wed the Persian magistrate’s delightfully foolish (and delightfully rich) son. Why would we want to fret about blood and death when ruffles have finally been ruled acceptable for evening dress? Such times we live in,” her voice practically oozed scorn.

Still, despite her flippant dismissal, I realized that I had been safely cocooned in my own life and my own troubles, with nary a thought for the Capitol and all of the dignitaries who lived there. They were the heart of the Citadel, and part of the reason for its very existence: a safe haven to raise the future rulers of the world, help them form allegiances, and ensure a more global, united nation of  mankind. In the Citadel, it was easy to forget that humanity was sorely outnumbered by all the other inhabitants of the world.


10. What are your writing goals and plans for 2016?

Promote my debut novel - Knight of the Blue Surcoat! Continue to work at my current novels. My major goal is to finish/polish up The Last Coffee Shop (my darling) and get it query ready. I also have two more novels that are begging me to write them (or at least outline them). My current pesky idea involves Korean and Norse mythology, an oracle with zero spirituality or supernatural ability, a traveling pack of misfit warriors, and a deaf boy who lives in the forest and has a lot of secrets.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

TTT: Top 10 Books I Read in 2015

Image Copyright: The Broke and the Bookish

I have been absent from Top Ten Tuesdays for too long (I love lists!), and this was a list I'd been planning anyway. Thanks, as always, to The Broke and the Bookish for hosting this link-up!

I read a lot of amazing books in 2015, and at first, I wasn't even sure how to approach this. However, I finally settled on listing the 10 books that I loved that ALSO made the biggest impression on me this year. So here they are, in no particular order, with notes on why they made it onto the list.

Top 10 Books/Series for 2015

1. Between the World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Adult NF)

I think that this was one of the most important books of 2015 - as it intimately explores what it means to be a black man in America through the eyes of a father writing a letter to his son. It's raw, emotional nonfiction that is also spare and thought-provoking.

2. Jakob's Colors by Lindsay Hawdon (Adult Fic) - 5 stars

Earlier this year, I had the great privilege of reading a bunch of debut manuscripts with fellow ABA booksellers. We had weekly conference calls (which I miss now), and selected 10 picks to promote in indie stores all over the country. It's probably obvious that this sort of thing takes a lot of cooperation and compromise, and while I liked a lot of the books, my favorite one didn't make the list.* That would be Jakob's Colors, a lyrical story about a gypsy boy in 1944, on the run from Nazi persecution, and separated from everything he knows and loves. It is one of my favorite books this year, and you can expect a US release in early 2016.

3. Vision in Silver (The Others #3) by Anne Bishop (Adult Fantasy) - 4.5 stars

I've mentioned my love for this series, but never reviewed any of them here. I plan to remedy that when I read the 4th one though. Basically, this is a series that combines urban, paranormal, and high fantasy, with an extremely detailed world/mythology, and fantastic characters. What made this one of my top picks for 2015? I truly admire Anne Bishop's consistency with these books. After 3 books, I still love the characters, and I am even more interested in the world than before. My only major complaint is the cover art . . .

4. The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson (Adult Fantasy) - 5 stars

I've mentioned this one a few times this year, but I didn't actually review it.

I can't believe it took me so long to get around to reading this! High fantasy with rebellions, humor, a strong heroine, lots of action, a fascinating magic system, and stellar writing? Just about perfect. Now I have to find the time to read the sequels, and the rest of Sanderson's books.

5. Thorn and Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani - 4.5 and 5 stars, respectively

I'm not really cheating because Sunbolt is a novella.
This is probably no surprise to anyone who's been following my blog this year. I randomly discovered Thorn while scrolling Goodreads, and decided to buy it because of the cover. That was probably the best shallow decision I've ever made. Thorn is an awesome retelling of "The Goose Girl,"and you can read my full review here.  I liked it so much, I immediately ordered Ms. Khanani's novella, Sunbolt, which I immediately fell in love with, as evidenced by my review.

6. Naruto (the manga) by Masashi Kishimoto (yes, the entire 72 volume series) - 5 stars

Laugh all you want, but I binge-read the entire manga in about 2 months and it was epic. I originally read the first volume when I was fifteen or sixteen, saw how many there were and that it was ongoing, and shelved it (for 10 years, lol). But after reminiscing about it with a friend (and seeing that the series was finally ending), I decided to reread it. And it hooked me all over again. And it has the august distinction of being one of the 10 fictional things that have actually made me cry. I am without shame.**

7. Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin - 5 stars

No surprise here. I wrote a glowing review of this book back in September. I loved The Walled City (also by Graudin) and I feel like Wolf by Wolf topped it completely, and her writing just gets better.

8. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo - 4 stars

Looking back over all of the books I've read this year, I realized that this was one of the ones I enjoyed the most, and also one of the most memorable ones. It's a very promising start to a new series for Ms. Bardugo, and I'll definitely read the sequel. But the best part about this book was THE HEIST part. And the fascinating cast of scalawags, as well. You can find my review here.

9. Winter by Marissa Meyer - 4.5 stars

If you are a Lunar Chronicles fan, this will probably be on your list. It wrapped up the series with a bang, and was a lot of fun. You can read my review (spoiler free!) here.

10. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel - 4.5 stars

Another book that needs no introduction. Beautiful prose, travelling players, quotable lines, SHAKESPEARE, and the apocalypse made this a winner for me. I liked it even better after I went to a mixed-media presentation featuring Shakespearean players and the author herself. This list would not be complete without it.

Honorable Mention at the Utterly Appropriate Number 11: Bigger on the Inside: Christianity and Doctor Who, edited by Gregory Alan Thornbury and Ned Bustard

This didn't make my list because it felt a little self-serving: after all, I wrote one of the essays in this collection. But in spite of that, I really loved the rest of these essays on Christianity and Doctor Who, so it had to be here anyhow.


*A note on #2 - A few of the books I liked did make it into the Top 10 - as there were some incredible debut manuscripts. However, I will save them for 2016 reviews and lists (when they are actually released)

** A note on #6 -

 Just went and saw the Boruto movie!

 The fight scenes were so beautifully animated, it almost made me breathless. And it also made me love Sasuke and Naruto even more (impressive). And everyone's kids were just so darn cute! Oh, and it was a good movie too. Gave me all kinds of parental feels (despite the fact that I have exactly zero children, lol).