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Best of 2016

As the year draws nearer to an end, I wish to reflect back on some of the marvellous reads that were on my list this year. I try to mostly read new books when they come out, so this list includes fairly new titles that did indeed publish in 2016, but it is important to note that I read a variety of novels published from all years.

The top 5 books on my reading list:

5) By Your Side by Kasie West

by-your-side-kasie-westA standalone story about a girl with anxiety facing a weekend alone trapped in a library with the notorious bad boy, this contemporary novel is a wonderful read using the same formula that Kasie West dominates with in her stories! A little predictable but heartfelt through and through, I connected so well with the main character (which is more rare in contemporary fiction for me) and the delivery of the story was the perfect blend of seriousness, wit and humor. This is one book you should add onto your 2017 reading list when it comes out early in January 2017.

4) Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

truthwitch -susan dennard A new fantasy world built around all types of witches and 4 reluctant heroes, this was a story I was initially reluctant to love as well. But with the carefully crafted backstory of each of these protagonists and the exciting new world Susan Dennard created, I fell more and more in love with everything happening in this novel. Book 1 to the start of a 4 part series, this was definitely a must-read on many people’s 2016 list. Look out for its sequel, Windwitch, hitting stores in January 2017.

 

3) This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

this savage song -victoria schwab For a story about monsters and one without a romantic component, this seemed so far from the type of story that I would adore. But lo and behold, the monster with a bleeding heart for humans and the girl who wished she could be as cruel as a monster won over my heart. This is a story about darkness and light, about cruelty and love. It had such a great and deep message, that you make your own destiny and you can be more than who you were born to be. Its sequel, Our Dark Duet, comes out June 2017!

 

2) The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

the dark days club -alison goodman A historical fantasy that balances each component very well, this is the kind of dark story I was morbidly curious about upon reading its synopsis. Filled with action and hints of romance, and a protagonist who can WHIP ass, this novel has been on my recommendation list throughout the year (and it’s well worth that!). Once you enter this Regency era world that Alison Goodman’s made and you’ll never want to step out of it! Find the next novel in this series, The Dark Days Pact, also comes out late January 2017.

 

1) Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

gemina-amie-kaufman-jay-kristoff Not known to be a huge lover of sci-fi, this combined genius piece of art between 3 authors has absolutely blown my mind (and many other bloggers’ minds too, mind you). So it’s not a huge surprise that Gemina tops my Best list of 2016. From crazy twists of the plot and beautiful designs of spaceships and journal entries, this book has something for everyone and you’d have to look very hard to find someone who doesn’t love this. Who said a sequel can’t be as loved as the original? Look out for its 3rd book in Fall 2017.

 

It was very hard to choose just a couple of books that amazed me this year. So take this into account that these books must’ve made a huge impression on me, even if I had read them months in advance.

Okay, so my last list deals with the books on my to-read list that I had hoped to get to this year (but sadly could not). Maybe they’re great, maybe they’re not, but here are the hopeful ones I may read in the new year.


The top 5 books I WISH I had read:

5) The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

the-crowns-game-evelyn-skyeVika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

4) The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

the-unexpected-everything-morgan-matsonAndie had it all planned out. When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future. Important internship? Check. Amazing friends? Check. Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks).

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life. Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected. And where’s the fun in that?

 

 

3) Remembrance by Meg Cabot

remembrance -meg cabotYou can take the boy out of the darkness.
But you can’t take the darkness out of the boy.

All Susannah Simon wants is to make a good impression at her first job since graduating from college (and since becoming engaged to Dr. Jesse de Silva). But when she’s hired as a guidance counselor at her alma mater, she stumbles across a decade-old murder, and soon ancient history isn’t all that’s coming back to haunt her. Old ghosts as well as new ones are coming out of the woodwork, some to test her, some to vex her, and it isn’t only because she’s a mediator, gifted with second sight.

What happens when old ghosts come back to haunt you?
If you’re a mediator, you might have to kick a little ass.

From a sophomore haunted by the murderous specter of a child to ghosts of a very different kind—including Paul Slater, Suze’s ex, who shows up to make a bargain Suze is certain must have come from the Devil himself—Suze isn’t sure she’ll make it through the semester, let alone to her wedding night. Suze is used to striking first and asking questions later. But what happens when ghosts from her past—including one she found nearly impossible to resist—strike first?

2) The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder

the-museum-of-heartbreak-meg-leder

In this ode to all the things we gain and lose and gain again, seventeen-year-old Penelope Marx curates her own mini-museum to deal with all the heartbreaks of love, friendship, and growing up.

Welcome to the Museum of Heartbreak.

Well, actually, to Penelope Marx’s personal museum. The one she creates after coming face to face with the devastating, lonely-making butt-kicking phenomenon known as heartbreak.

Heartbreak comes in all forms: There’s Keats, the charmingly handsome new guy who couldn’t be more perfect for her. There’s possibly the worst person in the world, Cherisse, whose mission in life is to make Penelope miserable. There’s Penelope’s increasingly distant best friend Audrey. And then there’s Penelope’s other best friend, the equal-parts-infuriating-and-yet-somehow-amazing Eph, who has been all kinds of confusing lately.

But sometimes the biggest heartbreak of all is learning to let go of that wondrous time before you ever knew things could be broken.

1) Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerhill

ever-the-hunted-erin-summerhill

Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.


I hope through the ups and downs of this year (and there were many downs in 2016) that the stories you lived through and your own personal ones combined to make some lovely memories that you can always look back to as you think of 2016.

Have a very happy New Year! Here’s to hoping that 2017 will only be better!

New Releases: May ’16

I happen to adore spring and the month of May always marks the beginning of a long summer (yay!) and the delights of getting to read to my heart’s content for the next little while.

It also happens to be the month where many new releases from authors I love and those with their debut novels are launched each year. So to make things easy for all of us, I will be outlining some cool titles that have been (or are about to be) released this May. Some of these will already have reviews lined up on this blog, while others will be a little slower in coming, but I assure you, they’ll come up eventually in case you wanna get an opinion first.


May 1

Soldier by Julie Kagawa

soldier -julie kagawaWhen forced to choose between safety with the dragon organization Talon and being hunted forever as an outcast, Ember Hill chose to stand with Riley and his band of rogue dragons rather than become an assassin for Talon. She’s lost any contact with her twin brother, Dante, a Talon devotee, as well as Garret, the former-enemy soldier who challenged her beliefs about her human side.

As Ember and Riley hide and regroup to fight another day, Garret journeys alone to the United Kingdom, birthplace of the ancient and secret Order of St. George, to spy on his former brothers and uncover deadly and shocking secrets that will shake the foundations of dragons and dragonslayers alike and place them all in imminent danger as Talon’s new order rises.


May 3

The Crown by Kiera Cass

the crown -kiera cassWhen Eadlyn became the first princess of Illéa to hold her own Selection, she didn’t think she would fall in love with any of her thirty-five suitors. She spent the first few weeks of the competition counting down the days until she could send them all home. But as events at the palace force Eadlyn even further into the spotlight, she realizes that she might not be content remaining alone.

Eadlyn still isn’t sure she’ll find the fairytale ending her parents did twenty years ago. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and soon Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more impossible—and more important—than she ever imagined.

Ruined by Amy Tintera (my rating: 4/5 stars)

ruined -amy tinteraEmelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped.

But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family.

In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family.

Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson (TBD)

the unexpected everything -morgan matsonAndie had it all planned out.

When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future.

Important internship? Check.

Amazing friends? Check.

Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks).

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life.

Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected.

And where’s the fun in that?

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

a court of mist and fury -sarah j. maasFeyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.

The Way Back to You by Michelle Andreani & Mindi Scott

the way back to you -michelle andreani and mindi scottIn this witty, heart-tugging novel, two teens take a spontaneous road trip across the Southwest to meet three strangers who received the life-saving organs of their late best friend—charting a journey of loss, hope, and love along the way.

Six months ago, Ashlyn Montiel died in a bike accident.

Her best friend Cloudy is keeping it together, at least on the outside. Cloudy’s insides are a different story: tangled, confused, heartbroken.

Kyle is falling apart, and everyone can tell. Ashlyn was his girlfriend, and when she died, a part of him went with her. Maybe the only part he cares about anymore.

As the two people who loved Ashlyn best, Cloudy and Kyle should be able to lean on each other. But after a terrible mistake last year, they’re barely speaking. So when Cloudy discovers that Ashlyn’s organs were donated after her death and the Montiel family has been in touch with three of the recipients, she does something a little bit crazy and a lot of out character: she steals the letters and convinces Kyle to go on a winter break road trip with her, from Oregon to California to Arizona to Nevada. Maybe if they see the recipients—the people whose lives were saved by Ashlyn’s death—the world will open up again. Or maybe it will be a huge mistake.

With hundreds of miles in front of them, a stowaway kitten, and a list of people who are alive because of Ashlyn, Cloudy and Kyle just may find their way to back to her…and to each other.


May 10

This is My Brain on Boys by Sarah Strohmeyer (my rating: 4/5 stars)

this is my brain on boys -sarah strohmeyerAddie Emerson doesn’t believe in love, at least for herself. A straightlaced, brilliant girl, she’s more interested in getting an A than falling in love. But Addie is determined to prove the science of love—because Addie Emerson does believe in science.

Science tells her that “love” is nothing more than the brain’s state under the influence of certain chemicals. And by artificially stimulating those chemicals, the brain can totally be tricked into falling in love. So Addie decides to apply that knowledge—and make her classmates fall in love—to win the coveted Athenian Award for Science in her elite private school. One way to speed up the process—adrenaline—she’ll put her classmates in dangerous, high-risk situations . . . and research the fallout.

But a mysterious new guy keeps messing with her plans. And she kind of can’t stop thinking about his gorgeous brown eyes. With backstabbing competitors—including her former lab partner, the preppy, wealthier-than-thou Dex—and more than one pair of star-crossed lovers—can Addie manage to salvage her experiment and win the Athenian? And what happens if she does the unthinkable—and falls in love?

The Season of You and Me by Robin Constantine (TBD)

the season of you and me -robin constantineCassidy Emmerich is determined to make this summer—the last before her boyfriend heads off to college—unforgettable. What she doesn’t count on is her boyfriend breaking up with her. Now, instead of being poolside with him, Cass is over a hundred miles away, spending the summer with her estranged father and his family at their bed-and-breakfast at the Jersey Shore and working as the newest counselor at Camp Manatee.

Bryan Lakewood is sick of nevers. You’ll never walk. You’ll never surf. You’ll never slow dance with your date at prom. One miscalculated step and Bryan’s life changed forever—now he’s paralyzed and needs to use a wheelchair. This is the first summer he’s back at his former position at Camp Manatee and ready to reclaim some of his independence, in spite of those who question if he’s up for the job.

Cass is expecting two months dealing with heartbreak.
Bryan is expecting a summer of tough adjustments.
Neither of them is expecting to fall in love.

Unrivaled by Alyson Noel

unrivaled -alyson noelEveryone wants to be someone.

Layla Harrison wants to leave her beach-bum days for digs behind a reporter’s desk. Aster Amirpour wants to scream at the next casting director who tells her “we need ethnic but not your kind of ethnic.” Tommy Phillips dreams of buying a twelve-string guitar and using it to shred his way back into his famous absentee dad’s life.

But Madison Brooks took destiny and made it her bitch a long time ago.

She’s Hollywood’s hottest starlet, and the things she did to become the name on everyone’s lips are merely a stain on the pavement, ground beneath her Louboutin heel.

That is, until Layla, Aster, and Tommy find themselves with a VIP invite to the glamorous and gritty world of Los Angeles’s nightlife and lured into a high-stakes competition where Madison Brooks is the target. Just as their hopes begin to gleam like stars through the California smog, Madison Brooks goes missing. . . . And all of their hopes are blacked out in the haze of their lies.


May 17

The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye (TBD)

the crown's game -evelyn skyeVika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love… or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear… the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

It Wasn’t Always Like This by Joy Preble (my rating: 1.5/5 stars)

it wasn't always like this -joy prebleIn 1916, Emma O’Neill is frozen in time. After sampling an experimental polio vaccine brewed on a remote island off St. Augustine, Florida, she and her family stop aging—as do the Ryans, her family’s business partners. In a way, this suits Emma fine because she’s in love with Charlie Ryan. Being seventeen forever with him is a dream. But soon a group of religious fanatics, the Church of Light, takes note. Drinking the elixir has made the O’Neills and Ryans impervious to aging, but not to murder—Emma and Charlie are the only ones who escape with their lives.

On the run, Emma is tragically separated from Charlie. For the next hundred years, she plays a cat-and-mouse game with the founding members of the Church of Light and their descendants. Over the years, a series of murders—whose victims all bear more than a passing resemblance to her—indicate that her enemies are closing in. Yet as the danger grows, so does Emma’s hope for finding the boy she’s certain is still out there . . .

 

I hope you’ll enjoy some of these cool titles, both standalones or part of large series.

Author Spotlight: Meg Cabot

So I’m pretty sure you know who Meg Cabot is, right? Like, I grew up on her books so she’s pretty important in my pages. Aha.

But, in case her name still doesn’t ring a bell, I’m sure you indirectly know her. I will now commence in giving you prompts to jolt your memories.

Exhibit A)

Her 1-800-WHERE-R-YOU series was made into an old TV show in the ’90s known as – well – Missing.

Exhibit B)

Disney has crafted her standalone novel Avalon High into a movie starring Britt Robertson (like, who doesn’t adore that girl-next-door kinda face?)

And lastly, if I have to come to Exhibit C for you to understand the vastness of her great works, I’m starting to think you don’t love YA as much as you think you do 😉

Exhibit C)

Meg Cabot started the very popular series The Princess Diaries, which as you guessed it (hopefully), has become a movie series as well starring none other than Anne Hathaway.


Now, I’m hoping this jogged your distant and vague memory of who she is because none of the above series/books are why I’m starring this Author Spotlight for her. Growing up, I adored her Mediator series about a girl, with the most hilarious sarcastic humor, who could see ghosts. And her job was, well, to mediate for them onto the afterlife.

No? Not jogging your memory because this series wasn’t made into a TV show/movie? Well, here’s the blurb for book 1.


shadowland -meg cabot

There’s a hot guy in Susannah Simon’s bedroom. Too bad he’s a ghost.

Suze is a mediator – a liaison between the living and the dead. In other words, she sees dead people. And they won’t leave her alone until she helps them resolve their unfinished business with the living.

But Jesse, the hot ghost haunting her bedroom, doesn’t seem to need her help. Which is a relief, because Suze has just moved to sunny California and plans to start fresh, with trips to the mall instead of the cemetery, and surfing instead of spectral visitations.

But the very first day at her new school, Suze realizes it’s not that easy. There’s a ghost with revenge on her mind… and Suze happens to be in the way.


As it is, Cabot’s Mediator series ended with the 6th novel, Twilight, back in 2005. To my utter amazement, drum roll please, a book 7 has been published this year that continues several years after the events of Twilight (which were satisfactory, don’t get me wrong – if Cabot had left me in a bind of a cliffhanger all these years, I would’ve stalked her down). And hence, for all you fans who loved Susannah Simon’s crazy ghost antics and her beloved ghost Jesse, I am pointing you all to Meg’s latest and probably, actually her last book in the Mediator series. (You’re welcome).


remembrance -meg cabotTHE HIGHLY ANTICIPATED RETURN OF MEG CABOT’S BESTSELLING MEDIATOR SERIES FEATURING FAN-FAVORITE GHOST WHISPERER SUSANNAH SIMON

You can take the boy out of the darkness.
But you can’t take the darkness out of the boy.

All Susannah Simon wants is to make a good impression at her first job since graduating from college (and since becoming engaged to Dr. Jesse de Silva). But when she’s hired as a guidance counselor at her alma mater, she stumbles across a decade-old murder, and soon ancient history isn’t all that’s coming back to haunt her. Old ghosts as well as new ones are coming out of the woodwork, some to test her, some to vex her, and it isn’t only because she’s a mediator, gifted with second sight. 

What happens when old ghosts come back to haunt you?
If you’re a mediator, you might have to kick a little ass.

From a sophomore haunted by the murderous specter of a child to ghosts of a very different kind—including Paul Slater, Suze’s ex, who shows up to make a bargain Suze is certain must have come from the Devil himself—Suze isn’t sure she’ll make it through the semester, let alone to her wedding night. Suze is used to striking first and asking questions later. But what happens when ghosts from her past—including one she found nearly impossible to resist—strike first?


If at the end of this blog and you still haven’t an iota of who the heck Meg Cabot is and her books, I do not judge you (much). The following link is to her Goodreads page and her website where you can browse through the multitude of books that she’s written in the last decades and learn more about her.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/11654

Website: http://www.megcabot.com/

Now, if you really need a recommendation for where to start among all these books, as a girl who grew up on all her books, may I suggest the Mediator series? (totally not a biased suggestion here).

Author Spotlight: Maria V. Snyder

Hello, lovelies.

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything beyond book reviews. Since I’m currently procrastinating from things that “actually matter”, I have decided to start a new series where I put some of my favourite authors in the spotlight. In celebration of the recent release of Night Study, I have chosen Maria V. Snyder for my first post.

Maria V. Snyder has been one of my favourite fantasy authors since I first read her debut novel, Poison Study, way back in 2010. Here’s the quick blurb from Goodreads about it.


poison study -maria v. snyderChoose: A quick death…Or slow poison…

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear…


Poison Study was a fast-paced, high-action novel that held me at the edge of my seat. It’s one of those novels that I go back to every once in a while because this is what I compare other books to in the fantasy genre. It has set the bar, threshold and goal for any book that wishes to get a 5 star rating in this category.

Besides the enthralling plot as a new life as the Commander’s food – er, poison – taster, there has never quite been someone like Yelena, in my opinion. Celaena Sardothien of Sarah Maas’ Throne of Glass series probably is the closest comparison, with their strong personalities and ability to take care of themselves. However, that’s where the comparison ends. Yelena comes from a crazy background of abuse and torture, almost dying for a crime that was really more self-defense than murder. Upon her deal with the Commander’s assassin to be the new taster, life gets crazy for her from there.

From action to the wittiest friends (in the form of two soldiers named Janco and Ari) to her sweet and unexpected romance with Valek, Maria V. Snyder set the world afire in 2005 as readers from all over the world found themselves enthralled by the militaristic world of Ixia.

As with all good series, the following novels Magic Study and Fire Study were amazing additions to Yelena’s adventures as she dives into her newfound abilities. Unfortunately, they weren’t as heavily steeped in romance as I would’ve liked it – my only criticism as Valek always shows up so late into each book – but Maria had created a world that no fan could quite forget.

And from the urgings of these said-fans, a new trilogy has sprung up continuing Yelena’s adventures with Valek and Ari and Janco, along with a new cast of amazing characters set in a world you didn’t quite wanna escape from.

Shadow Study came out last year in 2015, and now, its sequel Night Study has just come out in stores.



 

For those who haven’t read any of these books, I urge you from the deepest part of my heart to give them a try. You won’t look at fantasy in the same ever again. This is my golden standard for fantasy books.

Besides the Study series that propelled her to fame, Maria V. Snyder has also written a companion Glass series following a character from the original Study trilogy. (Personally, this was the one series that didn’t sit well with me from her, for which I’m sad to admit.) Along with that, her Healer series (Touch of Power, Scent of Magic, Taste of Darkness) has all your characteristic Snyder fantasy elements but set in a totally new world that captures you as much as Ixia and Sitia did.

To read more about Maria V. Snyder’s works and read about the latest things going on with her, below links you to her website and Goodreads account where she actively updates with blogs.

Website: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/445303.Maria_V_Snyder

I encourage you to explore the worlds in which Maria V. Snyder has created. Happy reading, my fellow bookworms!

Jesus Style – Part II – How to Love

jesus style -gayle D. erwinI wrote in Part 1 that this isn’t necessarily like a traditional book review, which is why I placed it under the tab Other Musings. Although it’s only been about two months since I wrote Part 1, so much has happened since then.

In this smaller blurb to conclude the book The Jesus Style that I’ve read and discussed alongside with others in my small group, I learned a whole lot of what it truly meant to love someone this summer.

First off, this novel is great when it comes to application. Gayle Erwin writes in a manner that sounds like he’s speaking to you. Sure, that style may not be for everyone, especially for the people who do prefer the scholarly type of writing that truly analyzes the fine details of everything. However, it was exactly what I needed this summer. Broken down into small chapters that centred on one trait he took out from Jesus’ life, it was made understandable how we, as normal and mundane people, can figure that trait into our absolutely boring lives.

And let me tell you, when you try to look for opportunities to love people, those opportunities will come knocking on your door. Trust me.

To not go into too many personal details and into an absurdly long story of how my summer unfolded, the bottom line is that I actually found someone to love. Now, love comes in many forms. The kind that you hear most about is, of course, your lovey-dovey OMG I’m in love kinda love. However, the ones that aren’t covered as much in our movies and books include  platonic friendship love, and brotherly love, to name a few.  I’m not saying which kind of love this was, but the important part is that there is lots of love for this particularly individual. When I least expect it, I found a person who I, for God knows what reason, do love. That’s not to say it was easy or that the individual was all that accepting of it. It makes it that much harder when it’s not reciprocated.

But this short conclusion to this book that became so applicable at the exact right moment is to underline that it’s not because they love you back that you care for them. It’s regardless of what you receive in return that makes your love a love that demonstrates Christ.

Now, I’m not trying to preach here. That is not the sentiment and purpose of such a post. This was to share my experience with the book and to share a piece of my life as I do with all the books and musings I post here. I still struggle to love someone in such a manner, but there is also a lot of joy in doing so. Joy has so wrongly been conceived as something that only occurs when one is happy. But no, joy can still occur even when one is even a bit sad.

Joy is not an emotion or simply a feeling. It’s a state of being. It doesn’t just come when there is reason to be happy. Whether one is feeling sad or feeling glad, joy is consistent through the seasons.

~Sonia Lee

I am also not encouraging the kind of unrequited love in a not-so platonic/romantic feelings that come with that kind of love. This kind of love looks at a more selfless perspective. It doesn’t love to gain anything from that person (i.e. to get them into a relationship with you). It loves just simply because that person matters and you want the best for them. It is more others-focused and not so me-focused.

With this particular person that I’ve found this book so applicable, it’s still an ongoing process and journey. It takes energy and it drains you to give time and effort for someone who takes even without knowing it. That’s where the joy comes in. I don’t focus so much on how little they are giving, but on trying to be a blessing in their life. I may not see much result yet, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect them. I get bummed out when they shut me out, but pushing too hard will get me nowhere. I love them simply because they matter to me and that should be enough.

I am sharing this snippet of my story in hopes of encouraging those who find themselves in a similar bind. Love doesn’t necessarily get easier with time. But here I found the source and example to which I follow in how to love someone like that. If you ever want to hear the full story, send me a message and I’d be more than happy to share life with you too.

Let me tell you of Fairy Tales….

I am not ashamed to admit that I harbor a strong love for fairy tales. I know, the Disney versions are the sweet and sappy counterparts of the real thing by the Grimm brothers. But there’s just something about fairy tales that dearly resonate with me, as I’m sure it still does for many other young people. I guess it’s either you-love-’em-or-hate-’em kind of thing.

And when I say “fairy tales”, I do mean just the biggest classics. So for you fans out there for the recent Disney princesses, er, sorry but you’re on the wrong musings page. This isn’t what this post is about. The ones I deem as classics are simply Cinderella, Snow White and Beauty and the Beast.

Along with this penchant for fairy tale stories comes the love for fairy tale retellings. Yes, if you look deep enough on this site, there are a number of fairy tale based books I’ve posted about. And I’m PICKY when it comes to basing stories off of fairy tales.

So, where did this love for such things come from? You may think the Disney movies, hmm?

WRONG. Yeah, I mean, they’re nice and all, but what really got me hooked?

Oddly enough, the answer is…well, a fairy tale retelling. I fell in love with a book based off of Cinderella, and then its counterpart that was based off of Snow White. From there, the love for fairy tale retellings was kindled and eventually festered into something larger. Now I have a secret love for princess books (shhh, don’t tell the world that. What would they think of a girl my age loving princesses?! Er, I might need to cover my face with a paper bag).

Oh, I didn’t really answer your question, did I? What books were these?

Ha, I will give credit where it’s due. These books were written none other than by the amazing children’s author Gail Carson Levine. Cinderella’s story was called Ella Enchanted (which was featured into a movie with Anne Hathaway! – so it’s a big deal, yo), and Snow White’s story later came out and was dubbed Fairest.

ella enchanted -gail carson levinefairest -gail carson levine

Before you think to yourself that fairy tales are just for plain little kids with no sense of reality, hold onto your hats for a second. Yes, the plots and things that happen to these types of characters don’t necessarily reflect what goes on in the real world. BUT. It’s not about being all practical and knowing that these things can actually happen word for word in our lives. What makes fairy tales thrive from generation to generation simply lies in its ideals.

Fairy tales make you feel for the protagonist. Things never quite look so good for them, which IS something we can ALL relate to in “real life”. Life’s unfair. That’s a common enough motto going around nowadays. However, these stories show that life may be unfair, but sometimes, things can look up when it’s hit absolute rock bottom. Prince Charming may not physically show up on a horse, but he can represent another chance at something great or redemption from our circumstances. He’s the idea of hope, that things can work together for good in the end.

That’s what I love about fairy tales. It may be for children, but it surely presents itself in themes that resonate with the average adult. I’m not pushing that everyone start picking up fairy tale books again, and I know even these themes or messages don’t speak to everyone. I’m only encouraging the view that it’s not necessarily just the cheesy stuff made for kids’ enjoyment. I think people are starting to see this too. For example, the hit TV show Once Upon a Time definitely dives heavily into all fairy tale characters and their stories. I hope this will give you pause the next time you reminisce of childhood and the stories that came along with it.

The great man is he who does not lose his child’s-heart.  ~Mencius, Book IV

Jesus Style – Part 1 – The Jesus Approach aka to LOVE

jesus style -gayle D. erwinNow, this is a book that a small group at my church is starting to read. Knowing me and this website, I love to read, but I will be frank and honest here. Sometimes theological words and ideas are so intense that they just fly over my head and I have trouble getting through large chapters just simply because they are so intense. Like, I sit there staring at the pages and think to myself, what in the world did I just read? And what exactly did that mean? Could you please put it in layman words for us ordinary folk?

However, I must say, getting through the first few chapters of The Jesus Style has proven this is not the case for this book. I love Erwin’s style of writing. It doesn’t try hard to sound eloquent with the fancy words and the smart-sounding way of putting things together as a sentence. It’s simply…well, understandable. It may not be the writing style for everyone, but it makes it easier to digest the basics of what he is trying to say. Or in other words, what the author is trying to remind us folks who have professed to be “Christ-like” for some time.

Now, this post isn’t exactly a review, per se. Hence, it’s placed under my “Other Musings” tab on this website. As my group and I go through this book over the course of the next few weeks, I will be occasionally putting my thoughts down as I do still love talking about books.

So, before you decide that this is some long speech and I’m just going to just go on and on about the same book for more than one post, I hope that you’d give my musings and thoughts a chance.

Who is this Jesus and why the heck am I reading about his “style”?

I have once watched video, on Youtube I believe, where someone went around a city and asked random people on the street what they thought about Jesus. Not about what they thought of religion or their opinions of people who profess to be following one. No, they simply just asked people what they thought of some guy named Jesus who may have lived approximately 2000 years ago, give or take.

And you know what’s surprising? Most people had a great many of good things to praise about this man called Jesus. Things like “love, good and compassion” or “he was an excellent man” or “you just gotta have a good opinion about him”. And why is that? Even with people who don’t necessarily put themselves into a religion or denomination, this response is just the same.

And that is why I am rather excited to read this book. There’s enough with church rituals that throw people off. Sometimes it even throws me off. At the end of the day, I think the heart of the matter is what Jesus did. I could only hope to be able to invoke a response in people akin to what these others say about Jesus.

How shall I do that? Simple. By learning what his style of living is and to hope to be a better person like him.

His main doctrine is love

So far, reading into the first few chapters, it seems the answer is simple. How to be like someone like Jesus? Love like he did. That sounds rather obvious, right? If I were to love everyone and truly care for people, then of course people down the generations would associate me with “compassion and goodness”.

Then I sit and ponder and let it sink in for a moment. Crap. The moment of realization where….well, I don’t love everyone. Heck, I barely have patience for some people, and for sure I don’t take the time of day to show “love” for everyone. That’s a mighty large order to fill. Does it have to be everyone? And how exactly do I love them? Does that mean I have to do things for all the people around me? Let them take advantage of me by telling them I’d be willing to do anything they ask of me?

Well, I guess I’d have to answer that question by the old saying “What would Jesus do?”

But for now, I think starting off small is just as meaningful. It’s not about the actions that matter. It’s that the intent behind it was with love. Think of the flip side. If someone were to do so many charitable things but didn’t intentionally do it because they cared (or did it for selfish reasons), would that action mean as much? As for me, maybe my first task is to not just step over a homeless person (which I swear is like every several blocks down the road in certain areas of the heart of the city), and to take the time to help with a physical need like a drink. Or maybe I should volunteer at a soup kitchen this summer.

Either way, for once I think it’s not enough to just want to be someone who loves, but to finally be someone who does. My question is: how about you? I’m not asking some giant theological question or anything. I’m simply asking, would you be willing to learn to love and think less on oneself for a moment?

Nostalgic Books & Thoughts

Nostalgia. That is the word I think of when I recall my childhood days.

Nostalgia. When dreams were as endless as the skies above; where days were filled with wonder and longing at the adventures unfolding at my fingertips.

I don’t know about you but I started my passion as a reader from a young age. Like, a really young age. Reading was encouraged for youngsters, and I secretly thought (with all the glee of a child could) all the adults in my life wished their kids had such a love for reading as I did so early on.

My fondness for books has only grown in the years from its meager beginnings. As evidence of this, shelf upon shelf have been lovingly crafted as homes for the books I deemed worthy enough to house (and pay for). One, two, there, slowly they came. Each book cherished. Each one with a story that draws breath into an almost forgotten memory.

But oh. The stories that are true treasures? Those are rare and far between these days. What are they? you may ask. Ah, they are but the stories that travel parallel to my own life’s story.

Picture this. Have you ever recalled a book and besides its own story that it brings back, it also draws out the events in your own life that had been captured in memory associated with that book? If not, then it’s never too late for such a wondrous book to come into your life. But if you are someone who understands this sentiment? That, my friend, is nostalgia at its finest.

And thus, the prompting for this post is to regale my utter excitement at finding two such stories that beheld my childhood days.

Do not laugh or scold me. Truly, I don’t think such a tale deserves to be considered as mere child’s play. It may be old, but I think the finest stories lie in its ability to withstand the age it was written in. A test of time, if you will.

What is it? My fondest memory and favourite genre as a child was, in fact, mystery novels. And to whom shall I give my thanks for such a love? That regard goes to the coolest girl detectives ever.

You probably guessed it by now. These girls are none other than Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden.

I was a true fan of both series. For the former, my secret dream has recently been to collect the original first 56 hardcover novels that were written under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene over the vast long years. Not an easy (or cheap) feat, I’ll tell you. So I thought it was just simply that. A dream. I’ll leave it to the pieces of my conscious mind to reminisce over the grand adventures I myself pretended to live while thriving on the years of those mysteries.

Then, lo and behold, I come across a beautiful section of a second-hand bookstore in a nearby town. What do my eyes find almost immediately? A whole section of her books, almost a complete collection of the 56 hardcovers. Of course, even at reduced prices, I could hardly pay for them all. But that’s not the purpose of this post.

I’m sharing with you that wonderful feeling of remembering. So many times do people, as they grow up, tend to push aside what once mattered in hopeless search for things that may always be just out of our grasp. Sometimes, I think it’s worthwhile to remember what it felt to have a heart of a child. And a mind of a dreamer. Where fantastical worlds and endless possibilities were our guiding light.

If you were a young reader like I was and truly enjoyed it, I’d say, the key for such feelings may lie deep within a book that parallel your story.

So. Whatever did I do at the second-hand bookstore? I bought a few of the books, of course. Not the 56 that I would’ve liked, but just enough to remind myself that it’s okay to sit still and dream a little even as I get older and dreams turn more into a long-ago fantasy that was once conjured.


nancy drew 24 nancy drew 32 nancy drew 44