Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Top 10 Favorite Reads of 2017

I'm so excited to share my favorite books of 2017! I had a lot near the start of the year, then kind of slumped in the middle, then UGH there I am in December just hitting amazing book after amazing book. It got really hard to narrow down my top 10.

Keep in mind that it was really, really difficult to choose an order for these books. I ended up just going with the first title that popped into my head. I'd agonize for months over it if I overthought it!

Counting down!

#10 Moonburner

Kai is a Moonburner—a female sorceress reviled by her people and normally killed at birth. Except Kai's parents saved her by disguising her as a boy—a ruse they've kept up for almost seventeen years. But when her village is attacked, Kai’s secret is revealed and she’s sentenced to death.

Thankfully, the gods aren’t done with Kai. Despite the odds stacked against her, she escapes her fate, undertaking a harrowing journey to a land where Moonburners are revered and trained as warriors.

But her new home has dangers of its own—the ancient war against the male Sunburners has led the Moonburners down a dark path that could destroy all magic. And Kai, armed only with a secret from her past and a handsome but dangerous ally, may be the only one who can prevent the destruction of her people...

Moonburner was deep, layered, and full of twists. With a Japanese flair added to this fantasy tale, Moonburner creates a unique world where two countries have been split apart. A great desert separates them from each other. On one side the king rules the Sunburners, men with the power to capture the suns rays and spin magic with it. On the other is Queen Airi and her Moonburners, women who draw their power from the moon's rays.

Kai was raised in hiding on the outskirts of a small village in the land of the Sunburners. Disguised as a boy to avoid the deadly Gleaming test that would reveal her true identity, Kai's always on edge that her secret will be discovered. Six months until they escape to Airi's kingdom... they're so close. Then it all falls apart when a heroic act reveals the truth.

Kai loses everything. But then when she needs it most, Quitsu, a silver seishen fox comes to her aid.

Moonburner has black, white, and the shades in between. It has heroes who can become villains, and villains who can become heroes. It has two people that hate each other. It's men against women, sun against moon. But maybe, maybe they need each other to survive.

Buy on Amazon for only 99 cents!

#9 A Dance of Silver and Shadow

When Princess Liliana and her twin sister set sail for new lands, Lily hopes to find adventure and romance. But the people of Marin live under the shadow of a curse--one powerful enough to destroy entire kingdoms. To protect them all, Lily and eleven other princesses are forced to participate in a mysterious and secret tournament.

Lily spends her nights competing in a magical underground realm and her days unraveling the dangers of this new court. Although she needs the help of the Marinese prince, Lily knows she can't let herself grow too close to him. There's no time for romance when the duchy is about to fall to the encroaching darkness and the winner of the tournament faces a terrible fate.

But Lily and her twin have a secret advantage. And Lily grows increasingly determined to use their magical bond to defeat the tournament, save the princesses, and free Marin. Except she might have to sacrifice true love to do it.

In this reimagining of the classic fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, there's a lot more at stake than worn out dancing slippers.

Easily one of the best retellings of the 12 Dancing Princesses. Lots of new twists. The world building was very well done. The characters all had the right amount of development. I couldn't put this down and was up late into the night to finish it.

Unlike any retelling I've seen, these princesses aren't sisters(or at least not all of them). A Princess Tourney has been called and by the ancient laws of the land, all eligible princesses within the borders of the participating kingdoms MUST attend. They are forbidden to speak of the trials(magically forbidden) and have to perform their best to prevent a death curse from falling on someone they care about.

Lily is determined to win the tourney in order to save her sister and the younger princesses. But even as she climbs to the top, her heart sinks with the knowledge of what her prize will be. A sinister prince in a dark, cursed land that no one has heard from in years. A land that's full of monsters and dangers so terrible that no one dares cross the border anymore.

There's multiple layers to this story, there's plenty of personalities, the story begs to not be put down. And I was so excited to see where future stories are hinted at. There's pieces of other tales tucked in and I think all of them will get their chance to shine in future books.

Buy on Amazon!

#8 Where Carpets Fly

Restless teen Elina is bored of village life. When she starts magic lessons in the city, her only concern is exploring the sights with new school friend Kara. However, life takes a darker turn. Her magic teacher is hiding a secret, and odd happenings pile up, like unsociable Simeon's shady dockside deals. But Elina's questions go unanswered.

When Elina and Simeon develop a magical mind link, she suspects his involvement in foreign spy work. But an unexpected ship tour-turned-voyage throws her and Kara right at the mystery's heart-in the volatile, dangerous country of Pallexon.

Alone and with no ID, things worsen when a terrorist act blows Kara's cover. With her own freedom at stake, Elina must rely on her wits and magic to save her friend and unravel Pallexon's secrets-before it's too late.

There may be bigger things going on in Elina's world, but she just wants to get out of the boring old family carpet shop. She manages to win permission to move to the city of Kamikan where she can get magic lessons at a private school.

Flying carpets, magic, sailing, and a crazy adventure are waiting.

I loved the worldbuilding with the glowglobes, carpets, biological life, and even the food. It was cool to see the different types of magic and how they could be used. When things start getting out of control for Elina and her friend, Kara, I was like, UGH, because it was all things that you couldn't do anything about. A series of unfortunate events! Though when Kara stopped at one point, I wanted to drag her onto the ship by her hair.

I did think it was weird how Elina during one of her Cognitive lessons was like, "Oh gosh, does Simeon like me?" because they'd just recently met and there'd been so little book time with them together that I was actually surprised that Elina even considered it since there was no reason to wonder.

It was awesome that Simeon and Elina had a chance to use what they'd been learning. I think Kara's ordeal helped make the larger situation of what's going on in this world more personal and close for both Elina and me. It'll be interesting to see if Elina feels inspired to help and change things for the better.

Buy on Amazon!

#7 Den of Wolves

Feather bright and feather fine, None shall harm this child of mine...

Healer Blackthorn knows all too well the rules of her bond to the fey: seek no vengeance, help any who ask, do only good. But after the recent ordeal she and her companion, Grim, have suffered, she knows she cannot let go of her quest to bring justice to the man who ruined her life.

Despite her personal struggles, Blackthorn agrees to help the princess of Dalriada in taking care of a troubled young girl who has recently been brought to court, while Grim is sent to the girl’s home at Wolf Glen to aid her wealthy father with a strange task—repairing a broken-down house deep in the woods. It doesn’t take Grim long to realize that everything in Wolf Glen is not as it seems—the place is full of perilous secrets and deadly lies...

Back at Winterfalls, the evil touch of Blackthorn’s sworn enemy reopens old wounds and fuels her long-simmering passion for justice. With danger on two fronts, Blackthorn and Grim are faced with a heartbreaking choice—to stand once again by each other’s side or to fight their battles alone...

Blackthorn and Grim captivated me with their "realness" in a way that few characters do. I believe this is this last of the series as it ties up everything neatly, but I can't help wanting more still.

This series is a slow-brew that is rich with detail and vivacity. It's dark, but not graphically so. It's got mystery and intrigue woven through every book. I simply could not read any of the three fast enough.

Here the story continues, only we see a lot more of Grim and Blackthorn on their own as circumstances keep them apart. This allowed for me to really see how much they'd grown to depend on care on each other.

While I found Cara annoying, it fit for her age. And Bardan's mystery was so fascinating I had to resist not staying up all night to find out what happened.

Overall I can't stress how amazing this series has been for me. The writing is beautiful. The over-arcing plot as well as the plot for each individual book is engaging and immersive. And most of all, here are two characters that have a lot of depth, a lot of personality, and who manage to make you care more about them then you'd think possible for two fictional characters.

They have faults and weaknesses, they're human, they're easy to relate to, and deep down they're both stellar people with qualities most of us could benefit from having in our lives. These are two people you'd want to have your back any day.

Buy on Amazon!

#6 Tower of Thorns

Disillusioned healer Blackthorn and her companion, Grim, have settled in Dalriada to wait out the seven years of Blackthorn’s bond to her fey mentor, hoping to avoid any dire challenges. But trouble has a way of seeking out Blackthorn and Grim.

Lady GeilĂ©is, a noblewoman from the northern border, has asked for the prince of Dalriada’s help in expelling a howling creature from an old tower on her land—one surrounded by an impenetrable hedge of thorns. Casting a blight over the entire district, and impossible to drive out by ordinary means, it threatens both the safety and the sanity of all who live nearby. With no ready solutions to offer, the prince consults Blackthorn and Grim.

As Blackthorn and Grim begin to put the pieces of this puzzle together, it’s apparent that a powerful adversary is working behind the scenes. Their quest is about to become a life and death struggle—a conflict in which even the closest of friends can find themselves on opposite sides.

Yes, I really did love this series enough to have both books I read this year make the top 10. I adore Blackthorn and Grim. Blackthorn is this jaded and snarky woman who's been through so much and she's bent on revenge. I love, love, love her personality. I'm secretly hoping she finds a way to off Mathuin.

And Grim is just plain lovable. He's like the big teddy bear guy who people make fun of and think is a stupid. The poor guy even believes himself to be stupid but he's talented, loyal, caring, selfless, and smart in his own way.

Their voices are absolutely perfect and even with first person pov, you never forget whose head you're in because they're so distinct.

The mystery behind the Tower was given in perfect doses to drive me crazy with wanting to know what was happening! As always, there's multiple layers to the secondary characters and it's fun trying to figure out motivations and so on.

Blackthorn is trying to solve the mystery of the monster in the tower. But there's more than the monster that's concerning her. The lady who begged her aid and the entire household staff is... strange. Not everything is at it seems and Blackthorn tries to find out what no one wants her to know.

While Grim takes a job repairing the thatch for a monastery. This is the first big peek into Grim's past as previously we only really saw Blackthorns. His work in this book brings memories back that would be sweet if not for the overlaying pain that casts its shadow over them.

I liked being able to see a hint of Grim's past and having this book focus on his internal battles the way book one focused on Blackthorn's.

I chuckled evilly over how Geileis' story ended. HA! HA! Take that lady! I absolutely love books where the baddies actually get their comeuppance. Oh, I'd expound on it but I don't want to ruin it. Suffice to say, I thought she was a horrid person and felt zero sympathy for her. And yep, I thought how her story ended was just what she deserved.

Buy on Amazon!

#5 God's Daughter

One Viking woman. One God. One legendary journey to the New World.

In the tenth century, when pagan holy women rule the Viking lands, Gudrid turns her back on her training as a seeress to embrace Christianity. Clinging to her faith, she joins her husband, Finn, on a voyage to North America.

But even as Gudrid faces down murderous crewmen, raging sickness, and hostile natives, she realizes her greatest enemy is herself--and the secrets she hides might just tear her marriage apart.

Almost five centuries before Columbus, Viking women sailed to North America with their husbands. God's Daughter, Book One in the Vikings of the New World Saga, offers an expansive yet intimate look into the world of Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir--daughter-in-law of Eirik the Red, and the first documented European woman to have a child in North America.

One of the fun things about picking up a lot of books is that by the time I get to reading a lot of them, I've forgotten the back cover. That means I'm jumping into a book completely fresh and trusting that I picked it up for a reason.

I honestly thought this was a fantasy with a viking flavor to it. Until I started reading, and I was like wow, this author is good. She REALLY has a lot of layers and details. I did some digging and hey, it's historical fiction.

I love doing some light researching about whatever I'm reading about when it comes to historical. For this one it just made me more impressed with how well Gilbert stuck to the framework of what is known or believed to be known about Gudrid and the people around her. She fleshes those details out and made a super engaging story that I devoured in one night. (who needs sleep?)

This book is REAL in the manner that it feels like you're right there alongside real people. The setting and characters are described extraordinarily well and Gilbert pulls off something that is hard for a lot of authors to do.

She makes a flawed heroine with a flaw that I really really don't like, but I still loved the character. Gudrid struggles with being faithful. Not in her actions, but in her mind. I got the sense that Gudrid missed out on love as she grew up. She missed out on having someone care about her and take care of her. People in her life used her and mistreated her, until now.

Now she's happily married, but at the same time she has two men in her life who think she's amazing. She wrestles with her thoughts, know they're wrong, and tries to fight against them. I think she's afraid of being alone. Both physically and emotionally. And now she's got multiple people that could prevent that and part of her wants all of them because you know, if one fails there'll be two more.

Meanwhile there's this intense battle for survival in a strange land. Gudrid is trying to take care of herself, her son, the community, her sister-in-law, etc. There's diseases they have to hope they can outlast, hostiles who they can't communicate with, and restlessness in a camp with way more men than women. There's also a strange wolf that seems to be watching over her!

I'll list the cons for me real quick.

- Gudrid's slaves. She finds out at one point that a good portion of the slaves are hers, but she was not to be told. Considering her reaction to this, I was surprised it took her so long to free them and that when she at last faced Leif it took her some time to confront him about it and overall the interaction was mild. I thought her reaction to discovering she was a slave owner did not match up with her later actions.

- The two enemy boys. This felt just strange and forced into the story. They're on their way home and they camp on shore at one point. They see some of the hostiles they've bumped into and chase the two adults(we assume parents) who take off leaving two kids to flee the best they can. The Vikings instead turn and grab the kids and bring them back to the crew. Gudrid immediately decides to adopt them. They then take the boys with them back to Greenland.

First off, I was torn over this. On one hand, yes, the parents fled and didn't make sure their kids made it out okay. And yes, the kids were clearly mistreated(covered in bruises, lice, etc.). But it seemed extreme to just ...take two kids that couldn't communicate their wishes or understand what was happening away from their home, family, and people. I also think Gudrid should've talked with Finn before deciding to adopt them. Overall I just don't think it added to the story, and felt strangely squeezed in there. And yes, I couldn't help wondering if it was really the right choice.

- Leif. A character who was supposed to be one of the early Christians to the area acted very un-Christian and I had a hard time believing his faith was genuine. I wish either a different, non-Christian character would've had his role in the story or that this could've been seen as before his conversion.

- Lastly I REALLY wish there was more of this book. Like at the end. I thought it ended too soon. And here's why. We spend most of the book following Gudrid's struggles with her wandering thoughts. There's a LOT of struggle and she is slowly able to work herself to a good spot. But it's not until near the end of the book that this really comes to a strong standing point. Where Gudrid stands up and says, no, I'm my husband's and he's the one I want and him alone. She denies the other two men and it's clear that she's finally where I spent the whole book waiting for her to be.

Then it ends. I wanted to see more time with Gudrid and Finn being a healthy couple. Finn reaches out to her and opens up in an amazing way that's one of the many fine points of this book. And I really really wanted Gudrid to do the same. I wanted her to open up and share what she'd been feeling, what she'd been struggling with, but how she'd changed and where she was now. I really wanted to see that healthy step. Especially because Finn was clearly very tuned in to what was going on, I think he probably knew some of what she was going through. I think her opening up would've been healing and helped the relationship.

NOW, yes, that's my list, but I want to say that overall this book is... it's amazing. I loved how indepth the characters were and so many of them. There's a number of names, but it's handled well so that I caught up on who was who quickly. Clearly the author put a lot of work into crafting her characters and bringing them to life. I was very interested to see what would happen next, who would do what, and how Gudrid would get through it all.

This has it's sad, and somewhat dark moments, but I also think it's a great portrayal of how someone might've experienced life then. And that includes someone who is a fairly new Christian in a land that still follows pagan practices of chants and human sacrifices. You can see how hard that probably was and how bits of it would cling here and there.

I only wish there was more of Gudrid and Finn's story. A really amazing book and I'd recommend it.

Buy on Amazon

#4 Prince of Malorn

One major obstacle stands between seventeen-year-old Prince Korram and the throne that is his

birthright: Regent Rampus. Temporary ruler of Malorn, Rampus has no intention of giving up his position when the crown prince comes of age – or of allowing the prince to live long enough to reach that age.

Desperate to build an army of his own to stand against the regent, Korram treks into the Impassable Mountains to try to recruit the one segment of Malornian society not under Rampus’s control. But can he lead a band of untrained hunters and gatherers to victory against the full might of the Malornian military? Or will they all be crushed by the grasping hand of the regent before the prince can claim his rightful throne?

I can't believe it took me so long to start this book! I've had it sitting around for awhile, but it's such a big book . . .

By the end of the prologue I was hooked. There's 3 books in the series, and I wasn't sure if they should be read in a particular order, so I stopped briefly to check. (they all take place around the same time, but focus on different characters) I was so happy to hear I didn't have to go read something else first, because I was THAT interested.

It did take me about 3 nights to read, but it was so worth it. I mean this is an amazing story and I didn't see a single error(for 460 some pages, that's impressive!).

There's 4 parts to this book and each is so intense, and so immersive that I'd reach the end feeling like I'd been right there every second with the character. I'd check how far I'd come, because I must be almost to the end after that adventure. Nope. I never was anywhere near the end!!

Reading this book felt like reading LOTR where every day, week, month, you are there. It doesn't matter that it only took 3 days to read, I felt like I was there for months. Trying to compress that much of a book into a review is tough.

The writing is amazing, the characters completely real, the plot is flawless. I loved that Korram ran into a problem once he got his army and was back in the Lowlands because yes, he has it, but gosh they are untrained. My heart was sinking right then. There was just no way it'd work. We just went through acceptance, integration, battles against elements, animals, prejudice, starvation, cold, etc. and now we have these worthless troops!! ARGH!!!

I say we, because yep, I was with Korram the whole trip. We tackled this together!

It'd have been easy to just have some ready-made troops and everything to go swimmingly after this, but it's like the author KNEW it wasn't real and she showed that these people needed a LOT of training and found a way to accomplish it.

I wish I could do this book justice with my review, I can't. If you like adventure, survival, underdogs, and writing that sucks you into a new world and takes you along for the ride, you've gotta try this book.


Buy on Amazon!

#3 Katya's War

The battle lines have been drawn. The people of Russalka turn upon one another in a ruthless and unwavering civil war even while their world sickens and the deep black ocean is stained red with their blood. As the young civilisation weakens, its vitality fuelling the opposing militaries at the cost of all else, the war drums beat louder and louder.

Katya Kuriakova knows it cannot last. Both sides are exhausted – it can only be a matter of days or weeks before they finally call a truce and negotiate. But the days and weeks pass, the death toll mounts, and still the enemy will not talk.

Then a figure from the tainted past returns to make her an offer she cannot lightly refuse – a plan to stop the war. But to do it she will have to turn her back on everything she has believed in, everything she has ever fought for, to make sacrifices greater even than laying down her own life. To save Russalka, she must become its greatest enemy.

Katya's War is the perfect followup to Katya's World. So many times the second book fails to deliver, but not this one. This one is the equal to the first in every way.

Full review on my blog.

Following Katya's choice at the end of the first book, she is now living the simple, uncomplicated life of an obedient Federal citizen running cargo across the ocean-covered planet.

Expect for things are not that simple, they never are. The pace of this is like a work of art. It goes along and just when things need that leap to spur you forward, you get it. I didn't want to put this down because gosh darn it is good.

I love Katya. I love that this is a YA novel that doesn't have romance anywhere in sight. I love that Katya's constantly challenged and yet knows her own mind.

The twists in this book are INSANE. I mean, you think you know what's coming, but you don't.

I got a little sad in here when Katya is led to the destroyed base. And that feeling never quite diminishes as the web of lies and deceit is slowly unraveled to show all of its horror.

I lived one of my biggest nightmares during the very long climax at the end. Gosh that was terrible.

Like the first book, this kept me riveted and I REALLY want there to be a third book. More people need to know about this series.

Buy on Amazon!

#2 Slave

There is no sun. There is no moon. There is only gray—the smog belched from coal-fueled factories. The Workers silently shuffle to their assigned posts. The Outcasts watch from the alley walls. On every corner, a Watcher stands stone-faced, a rifle in hand. This is the only life that exists. Beyond the mountains is a dream. But dreams are foolish in a place like this.

Hannah has spent nineteen years dodging Watchers and doing as she is told.

"Do not look Watchers in the eye. Don't give them a reason to notice you."

But when she wakes to the valley exploding in revolution, Hannah is forced onto a dangerous path, where nothing is what she believed. Suddenly freedom is in her grasp, and the way there requires working with the men she once feared.

This was the book chosen for my book club this month. I'm really happy we picked this because wow, it was GOOD!

Slave is easily one of the best dystopians I've read in awhile(not falling into so many of the common "problems" of the genre). Writted for a NA audience, this is clean enough for a YA readers(though there is some light torture that might be too much for a young YA reader).

Hannah is our MC and with the story being told in first person POV, I didn't actually learn/retain her name until quite a way into the story. I was shocked when they said her name. I was like . . . wait, I didn't know her name, but I feel so connected to "I". I think that's a testament to Frances' ability to make her characters easy to relate to.

Hannah lives in a world that's lost all of its beauty in more ways than one. There is no sunlight, grey clouds from the factories cover the sky, and I swear there's no grass or trees, or nature anywhere in this miserable place. The people live in hovels with no luxuries or anything nice whatsoever. They are given just the bare essentials and live to work.

Those who can't work are cast out to live on the street.

The absolute despair of the place seeps in everywhere and Hannah is a reflection of her world. Sometimes being in a character's head is not enjoyable for the reader, but I loved being in Hannah's head. The book spends a lot of time there but it's sooo well-done.

Hannah is a product of her system. She's terrified of everything, she's completely cowed. Too often with dystopians the character is like "oh yeah, totally not affected by my crazy world and ready to rebel!"

Hannah felt REAL and I couldn't put her story down. I understood her fear, was freaking out with her when everything was normal but she and you KNOW the other shoe is going to drop any second!! She does the right thing, even when she's scared. She's not willing to take the chance that if she doesn't make a good choice that someone else will, because what if they don't?

The romance was slow, and I wouldn't call it sweet but rather it had a depth and realness to it that fit the story.

I already can't wait for the second book to be out. And I so want that Aspen girl to DIE!!! She annoyed the heck out of me.

My only "complaint" was that I didn't see the twist with one of the character's identities(connection to the South) coming and didn't feel like there was really any indicator(Hannah states that it made sense to her, but it didn't make sense to me.) leading up to the point that the other characters deferred to this character in anyway or that there would be a reason for it.

Great story though! And so nice to read something with a slightly older cast.

Buy on Amazon!

 #1 Colonization

Finding a new home has never been so dangerous.

Andromeda has spent all seventeen years of her life aboard a deep space transport vessel destined for a paradise planet. Her safe cocoon is about to break open as Paradise 21 looms only one month away, and she must take the aptitude tests to determine her role on the new world and her computer
assigned lifemate. As a great-granddaughter of the Commander of the ship, she wants to live up to her family name. But, her forbidden love for her childhood friend, Sirius, distracts her and she fails the tests. The results place her in a menial role in the new colony and pair her with Corvus, “the oaf”.

But when Andromeda steps foot on Paradise 21, her predestined future is the least of her worries. Alien ghosts from a failed colonization warn her of a deadly threat to her colony. And when Sirius's ship crashes on the far ridge in an attempt to investigate, she journeys to rescue him with Corvus.

Andromeda now must convince the authorities of the imminent danger to protect her new home. What she didn't expect was a battle of her own feelings for Sirius and Corvus.

Can she save the colony and discover her true love?

I started this book last night...and finished it last night. It was that good. I love the streak I've had the past few days because I've been reading some awesome books and this didn't let me down.

Too often with colony ship stories, I feel like some basic common sense things were overlooked. Colonization didn't do that. There was just enough details to make it believable, but not so many that I had a ton of areas to pick holes in. I completely accepted Annie's world.

After 8 generations in space, it's finally time. Twenty-one colony ships were sent out to different worlds from a dying Earth, and at least the final ship is about to reach its destination.

Everyone is excited, well, almost everyone. Annie is the great-granddaughter of the ship's captain and has spent her life slacking off and ignoring her destination. She doesn't want to think about leaving the safety of the ship. She also knows it means a major change in her life.

Annie and Sirius have been best friends forever. Honestly it's like they didn't make any other friends. As the ship nears Planet 21, the graduating class receives two lists. One has their assignment on the planet, and the other their lifemate. Lifemates are chosen to avoid inbreeding, etc.

Despite their hopes, Annie and Sirius are NOT paired together. It's a great setup for wanting to fight against the system and somehow hope that they can defy the odds and find a way to change their assignments.

Annie is all for requesting a change, but Sirius is more of the mind to trust the system and just go with it. He seems okay with letting Annie go and moves on.

Annie isn't ready for that, but... in enters her lifemate, Corvus. I'm not normally one to go all "Awww." over fictional guys, but Corvus was a sweetheart. You know he probably knows what Annie wanted, and that she's not happy she's stuck with him.

He's very kind about it though and doesn't mention it. He just ...is there for her. He shows up to say hi, or to see what she's doing. He helps with her work, cares about what she wants to do. And gradually Annie and I began to see that maybe the sorting thing knew what it was doing.

It's not like Sirius was a bad guy, it's just clear that Annie wasn't really his dream. She was more like the ornament on his tree. He wanted to do his thing and have Annie tag along.

Corvus was different. He wanted to change and do better for Annie. He cared what she did, and what she thought. He believed in her and valued her opinion. And Annie opens up to that and is interested in him and his life.

There's really two stories here. One of a colony landing on a strange planet and having to adapt and learn. And a romance. The romance was one of my favorites and I'm actually SAD that the next two books don't focus on Annie and Corvus. I'd reread this just to get the feels all over again.

Buy on Amazon for 99 cents

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Aeonians Book Tour!

Hey readers! Today I'm part of blog tour for The Aeonians, a YA fantasy that'll be released . . . TOMORROW!

First a little bit about the book and then we'll go straight into the interview with author J.E.

 Isabel Deran only wants to practice archery with the castle guards, and that is the last thing expected from an elegant Princess. Living in the shadow of her late sister, Victoria, she is next in line to receive the royal armlet that is embedded with four stones: an opal, a sapphire, an amber, and a ruby. It is a revered family heirloom with the power of the elements passed down from mother to daughter.

However, an evil, once thought to be sealed away in a prison in which time does not pass, breaks free with an army that swarms the castle and wreck havoc over the kingdom in search for the magical armlet. They are known as the Aeonians. When they kidnap Isabel and place their hands on it, the precious stones vanish.

Isabel is now trapped in a race against time to locate her stones of power with the head of the Aeonian army, Bence Brechenhad, stalking her like a shadow. With the help of her trusty weapon, the sai, she fights her way through seemingly impossible trials and fearsome monsters in order to restore peace in her kingdom.

Kristen: What was your inspiration for Aeonians?

J. E.: My primary inspiration came from a beloved childhood video game: Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. I was fascinated by the sense of exploration, the urgency of destiny, and the diverse characters. At first I was dreaming up fan-fiction, but eventually, I wanted to create a story of my own. I also was inspired by eastern elements of fantasy- traditional powers of the elements: wind, water, earth, fire.

Kristen: Who’s your favorite character and what do they do that makes them so special?

J. E.: My favorite has to go the Bence. Yes, the antagonist. The more I fleshed him out, the more I appreciated him. He is not a "bad guy" because he is evil for no reason. Bence is flawed, but has a good head on his shoulders, and his motives are the result of misdirection. This creates a complex character, which I grew to appreciate. Plus a sarcastic sense of humor. Quite the charmer (not).

Kristen: If you were transported into the world of your story, what role would you fill and how do you think you’re react?

J. E.: Oh! Fun question! If I were transported directly into my story, I would want to be in the middle of the action. I'd probably take the role of Isabel's side kick. My purpose would be dual: Help her grow her confidence (the confidence I never had growing up) and fight alongside her. Isabel covers a lot of ground in the 400+ pages, and I would love to roam the countryside with her and kick some butt!

Kristen: Can you tell us your favorite world aspect that is special to Aeonians?

J. E.: My favorite world aspect is the diverse species that inhabit it. And it expands past the primary setting, Deran. (You will see more countries in the sequel). I'm proud of the various creatures/races I created and happy to provide them with a world to live in.

Kristen: The princess is at a feast. What would be her favorite foods at the table?

Isabel loves turkey legs. If given the chance, she would toss all proper royalty etiquette out the door and dig into a nice drumstick!

Kristen: What are your plans for the future?

J. E.: I am finalizing the edits to the sequel to "The Aeonians", named "The Shadow Warrior". I am also multi-tasking and working on another fairy-tale re-telling for the next Just-Us-League anthology! In the not to distance future, I may take a break from the Aeonian series and focus on a sci-fi/fantasy mix based from The Fate of Patient Zero, my short story, in "Between Heroes and Villains."

Kristen: Thank you so much for stopping by, J.E and good luck with your launch. 

If anyone would like to learn more about The Aeonians, you can find it on Amazon or get a sneak peek on J. E.'s website.

 J.E. Klimov grew up in a small suburb in Massachusetts. After graduating from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, she obtained her PharmD and became a pharmacist; however, her true passion was writing and illustration.

Ever since J.E. Klimov was little, she dreamed of sharing her stories with the world. From scribbling plotlines instead of taking notes in school, to bringing her characters to life through sketches, J.E. Klimov’s ideas ranged from fantasy to thriller fiction. Her first publication was a short story, The Guardian’s Secret, in “From the Stories of Old”─ an anthology of fairy-tale retellings. “The Aeonians” is her debut novel with Silver Leaf Books.

 Don't forget to checkout and follow all her social media!

Twitter: @klimov_author
Facebook page: @klimovauthor.

Friday, November 3, 2017

2017 Classic Reading Challenge Completion

Going way back to the start of the year, I had posted two reading challenges. By the start of October both had been complete! Woohoo!

My first challenge is a general goal oriented one. I had a goal of 50 books and that has been met!

My second one was a classic reading challenge. This is my second year setting up this for myself. Last year I had a goal of 10 classics and this year I had a goal of 5.

On that original list were:

  • North and South
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • A Study in Scarlet
  • Oliver Twist
  • The Swiss Family Robinson
I try very hard to complete these challenge books as it is a specific list, but I can't push myself through a book that's not doing it for me. What ended up happening is I got to the last book on the list(Swiss Family Robinson) and hit a surprise. We'll get to that later though.

  • Oliver Twist (4 stars)

I kicked off the year with Oliver Twist. My friend Elise Edmonds over at Magic Writer had this on her list too, so we tackled it together in February. I would say this was my favorite of the year. I'd grown up with the abridged version so I knew the series of the events, but missed Dicken's voice. So while what was happening was new to me, the tone and storytelling finesse that Dicken's has was new to me.

I really loved his sarcastic, dry humor and how he used it to mock the ill-behavior of the characters and the times.

I kept picturing Mr. Bumble as Mr. Smee(having him be that goofy looking and sound like that). And Fagin was Gollum with his constant groveling and "my dear" while all the time seeking to get the upper-hand and wanting to kill those over him.

I loved Oliver's heart and how he strove to be good in a world that was trying to corrupt him. I smiled when reading about how he ran around helping Rose and Mrs. Maylie. I could picture that youthful enthusiasm.

Nancy's fate, though I knew it already, hit me harder than it ever had. There was something in the way it was told that was so . . . morbid. It was so terrible that the criminals couldn't even deal with it and everyone was ready to have Sikes captured.

The final chapters after that event where Sikes is fleeing from real and imaginary foes, and then the scene in London as he's at last cornered was just wow. So intense that I read it twice. Once to myself, and once outloud to my husband who I pulled down beside me going, "Oh my gosh!!! You've got to hear this!"

Really, the whole book was extremely well-written, but those chapters there were above and beyond. They were the best, most passionate, most real and heart-pounding of the story.

It was nice to see justice dolled out to most of the buggers who'd been so nasty throughout the book, and the good rewarded. Though there was some grey where the good didn't win out and the evil escaped(Sowerberry's and Charlotte/Noah). There was also a nice redemption story for one of the criminals and a second chance for another who blew it, but you can't say he wasn't given the chance.

Full Review

  • A Study in Scarlet (4 stars)

A Study in Scarlet I've never read this story and it was definitely an adventure. It was so easy to get lost in this and feel like I really was in the middle of an actual mystery. Fiction be hanged! I was hanging on to my seat thinking, THIS IS REAL LIFE!

Half of this book is about Holmes and Watson solving the mystery. The second half was going back to see the motive behind all of it. While both parts were REALLY intriguing, the sudden switch was one of the worst book tactics I've seen. I mean, you go from solving a mystery that you've been into for awhile, to a turn of a page taking you to the other side of the ocean into the middle of a desert.

I didn't know WHY I was there or who these people were or why I should care. Without thinking too much on the matter, I'd say off the top of my head that alternating chapters would've been a better technique.

I was so taken out of the story and confused. I honestly went to the computer and did some Google work to find out if I'd had a misprinted book or something. I mean, how does chapter X end with "We've caught the dastardly villain, and do you have any questions?" to chapter post-X starting with, "In the American West . . ."

But no, I didn't get some other random book in this novel where a printer had made an error. This was legit. So I kept going and once I got over the frustration of being drawn out of the story and over the trying to figure out why any of this mattered, I quite enjoyed what was happening. Eventually I saw the connection, and that was nice too. I did feel sort of cheated though. Like we'd hit a climax and then it was yanked away from me and I was expected to care two bits about some guy dying in the American West.

Honestly though, even though I'm having a good moan about that aspect, the rest was simply amazing. I loved the characters, the plot, and the writing was so engaging that I'm still struggling to believe this wasn't real!

Full Review

  • Sense and Sensibility (4 stars)
After taking on Pride and Prejudice last year, I was so excited for more Jane Austen. I have to admit, I do NOT like any movie/tv adaption of this book. So I was really nervous about choosing this particular book, but I wanted to see if it was different enough from the films(not like good books haven't ever been butchered before in movies!) where I would like it.

The short answer is yes, it was different enough and I did like it.

The longer answer is that I didn't not love this nearly as much as P&P but still thought it was a really interesting read. I felt that on the romance aspects, this was lacking. We just do not see enough of the romantic male leads to really understand the girl's connection and interest in them. In fact, in Marianne's case it sounded more like(at the end) that Col. Brandon was nice to her and her family so she couldn't help eventually liking him and subsequently marrying him

That might have been meant to be as lackluster as it sounds, so I want to say that I would just not recommend this as a good romantic read. It fails if that's what you're shopping for.

At times the plot dragged a bit, but overall very solid story.

What I REALLY liked was Elinor. It's always pleasant when even though a character is separated by time, culture, etc. from myself, that I can still connect and relate to them.

Elinor was that character for me. Not only could I really get behind her, but I found her situations with rudeness not so different than modern times. Even today one form of rudeness is acceptable while another is horrible.

You have to sit there and listen to someone tell you that you're homely and unattractive, but if you were to respond with, "You don't look so great yourself, you wrinkled old potato sack." well . . . heaven forbid.

You can pointedly ignore someone and slight them while they're visiting, but if they were to leave early then oh no, that would just be soooo rude.

There were quite a few situations where I was like UGH, ruuuuude, but that one in particular made me smile because I've been there. Get invited somewhere out of "duty" and then you HAVE to accept or YOU are rude. Then you go and hate every moment and are soundly ignored(which of course isn't rude at all), but if you don't stay for a certain length of time you'll again be rude. *eye roll*

(That moment where you're super happy certain people don't read your blog. Yeah, you ended up the villain in someone else's book!)

But really, if you don't want me to come to your shindig then please don't feel like you have to invite me because there's some familial connection. And if I say no I won't be there, you should be happy! And if I do show up, I can leave after a few hours! It's a free country! You weren't even talking to me!

*clears throat*

So yes, Elinor was my soulmate for this book. And there's something humorous about how here we are so many years later and we still think certain rudeness is okay, but responding to that is naughty. And I laughed so hard as I was reading that one scene and it was like someone took that scene from my memory and just dated it.

Full Review

  • North and South (2 stars)
This was the book I was probably most excited about on my list. I'd recently seen the movie for the first time and fell in love with it. So there was no doubt I wanted it on my list for this year. Reality was . . . I'm still upset about it! Seriously though, it's like there was a great story and the wrong person wrote it!

Was this the most horrible thing I've ever read? No, of course not. I'm not even sure what that would be. So was it one of the worst? No. But it was really, really, really, REALLY boring and one of the worst things is being bored for a long time. And this is a long freaking book to be bored for.

And the longer I'm stuck in boredom, the more I resent what's boring me. I really try hard to finish my classic challenge books or at least limit my DNF's and since I only picked 5 books this year . . .

Under normal circumstances I would've dropped this like a poopy diaper but come on! I loved the movie, so this had to be good! I WANTED it to be good. In a weird twist, this became the 2nd ever book that I felt was better done in film form. Miles better.

The lists of differences was so huge I probably would've had to sit there with a notebook, the book, and the movie and burn through an absurd amount of pages. But this was a book being read and judged. So no more about the movie(go watch it if you haven't! It's awesome!) as this truly about the book.

Dull characters meet dull plot in a sea of writing that's as dry as stale bread. And no, there won't be a drink of water to help it go down. I felt like Christian trying to get through the Slough of Despond and my only enticement to get through it was to get OUT of it.

That book was my burden and when I reached the end it was the top of the hill and IT FELT SO GOOD when that book fell away and I didn't have to carry it anymore! I didn't look at that burden falling down the hill and think gosh, but we had some good times. NO! I didn't look back, I ran as fast as I could in the other direction.

The Hale's are an annoying family. The father is a weak-willed, selfish, lousy father/husband. He uproots his family without even asking for their opinions, waits as long as can be to tell them, then tells his daughter so she can tell the mother because he wants to put that unpleasant task on her because he's too cowardly to do it. He gave them hardly any time to reconcile to the idea or to plan and he didn't plan at all so the whole moving out was chaos.

Then he moves them to a place that's the exact opposite of where they lived so that he won't ever be reminded of their home, not even considering that maybe his wife and daughter would like a place that was like home.

The mother does nothing but mope and whine(some of that is warranted, but she goes overboard) and ends up sick. The father continues to be oblivious and leave any unpleasantness for Margaret to handle. The mother spends most of the book cooped up in the house as an "invalid", imposing on everyone around her.

She's NOT an actual invalid, it's very much self-imposed oh poor me, pity me everyone state.

She even throws this major hissy fit and cries like a spoiled child to get her way at one point. She guilts Margaret into writing to her brother despite it being dangerous for him to return. Not only is her manipulation of Margaret disgusting, but her lack of concern over the death sentence her son faces if he returns sealed her in my mind as a horrid person.

Dixon was the nosiest busybody who was way to uppity for her own good and I believe her friendship with Mrs. Hale did more harm than good in concerns to Mrs. Hale's relationships with her daughter and husband and her own petulant attitude.

Margaret was the most emotionless, doormat of a character you could ever hope to meet. She's snobby and aloof but we must always talk about her like she's this angel who's presiding over everything. She never does anything wrong and supposedly the fact she's such a snob who barely condescends to speak or look at people makes her desirable as a fine lady.

Thornton is the only interesting character of the lot. He was actually a character I could relate with. He had a personality, he had good and bad points, he treated people well, had a practical head on his shoulders, and was probably the only reason I could force myself to continue.

The romance is one-sided with Thornton being smacked over Margaret. The ending was unsatisfactory as I hoped that maybe we'd see a shift in Margaret's thoughts towards him as being someone she loved and then maybe some romance. Instead it's more like Thornton asks again and she reluctantly says okay, maybe we can have something.

I don't understand why he liked her.

I took a break from it at 35% percent. When I got around to picking it back up, I was hit by this overwhelming feeling of DO NOT WANT.

I mean, I really did not want to read more. I knew I wasn't enjoying it before that point as I had taken a break, but only when I realized I did not want to pick it back up did I realize how much I hated that story. I had gone too far to quit, but also not so far as to feel near the end. I think I read 5 other books before I hit the end of this nightmare as I had to keep switching to something else out of sheer boredom.

I'll never read another Gaskell book. If nothing else the droning, monotonous writing style is to be avoided at all costs. I couldn't face that again, not even if there was a decent plot with better characters. Sometimes I'll read a book I don't like and try another one by the author, but this was such a stand out case of NO NO NO that I would never pick up another of her books.

Stick to the movie!!! SO MUCH BETTER! The setting and names of characters are about all that's the same. Scenes cut, scenes added, new dialogue, characters personalities are changed, etc. It holds semblances of the book and touches of the character's personalities, but wow, yeah.

Full Review

  • Swiss Family Robinson
Swiss Family Robinson was the last book on my list that I had left. I was very excited about it as I grew up reading the abridged version and it was like the dream fantasy of being on an island with all the people you care about and not just surviving but creating this wonderful things.

Sadly reality didn't measure up. The original work is a story created based on bedtime stories the author used to tell his children. While I'm sure short 5-10 minute snippets of this would be fine, together it was a nightmare. I can see a parent trying to include a moral lesson in their bedtime story, but as an adult(or probably even a kid) reading a decent-sized novel, having not a single page without a moral smooshed into your face was enough to make me scream.

The family would catch a lobster and there'd be a moral about catching lobster, a moral about storing it, a moral about where you leave it, a moral about cooking it, a moral about the leftover lobster, and then the next day they'd take a walk and tie in something to another lobster moral.

I just wanted to go on an adventure!!! I didn't want something interesting to happen and then turn around and listen to 10 pages of how the father found ways to teach his children life lessons based on that thing.

It got to the point where instead of looking forward to the next inventive/interesting bit, I dreaded it. I was like, oh boy, they just found a coconut . . . here we go.

In summary I ended up hitting the end of my however many weeks of checkout time(library book) and renewing and hitting the end of that. I was sitting there with a book only 10% done and my childhood dreams of this grand adventure smashed. 

Last book so I allowed myself that DNF and said good riddance to it. Since I only hit 10% I don't have a rating for it. Because I'd only selected 5 books this year instead of last years 10, I decided on some alternatives. I picked two to replace this one.

  • Little House in the Big Woods (5 stars)
 I had a hit of nostalgia this summer and ended up doing a good bit of rereading. This made my choices for last minute challenge books easy. I went really far back to a book I probably haven't read in over 10 years. I'm sure there is no time like the first time, but I really loved reading this again. It went by so fast and definitely hit whatever nostalgia need I was having.

This is a simple story. Simple pleasures, a simple life, etc. It made me feel peaceful and relaxed. It was a like a bit of harmony in a chaotic world. Like if I'd gone out into the woods after a day of bustling around town and just sat there.

I loved how happy the family is in their tiny cabin with nothing more than the few necessities. They were so content with so little. I think sometimes in having so much now, there's an aspect of life we're missing out on. Not that I'd want to live like this(days to make a straw hat, a week to make cheese!) but that I do think there was something special they had that we don't. Something we gave up in gaining comfort, ease, and entertainment.
The descriptions of how they made things, how they went through the year,  and how they banded together to make work more efficient was captivating. Like looking into another world. It made me appreciate being able to go to the store and buy cheese and not having to worry about getting attacked while getting drinking water.

But I do still find the idea of playing in an attic full of produce or making maple syrup candy appealing.

Admit it! You so want to go make candy with me and listen to Pa tell stories of running from bears!

Full Review

  • Anne of Green Gables (5 stars)
 There's something special about Anne, isn't there? Something that's a little hard to put your finger on. There's been times where I've thought her kind of annoying and I understood where Marilla was coming from. But I also see why deep down, Marilla really liked Anne's crazy personality.

I think this is only my second time reading this book. It hits a lot of the same marks as Little House in that it feels . . . relaxing. It's peaceful and makes me walk away smiling when I'm done. Again there is something about a simpler time that makes me think.

Her spirit, her imagination, her spunk and fire! Her pure enjoyment of life and her capacity for deep emotions(of love or hate!). Her stubbornness and craziness. Yes, I get done with this book and find myself with little to say but, "There's just something special about Anne."

Full Review