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Top 15 Favorite Reads of 2018!

It’s time for the top reads of 2018! My favorite books I read, plus some runners-up, and for fun, my top couple of nonfiction and re-reads. So let’s get to it!

But first, a few stats, because stats are fun. πŸ˜‰

Goodreads claims that I read 123 books in 2018.

“Panic ye not, Grant,” in the words of my favorite Chrestomanci; many of those were short. πŸ˜‰

(Brought to you by my love of spreadsheets) I read:

  • 42 new-to-me novels
  • 12 new novellas/novelettes
  • 14 re-reads
  • 30+ individual short stories
  • 4 anthologies
  • 10 nonfiction books
  • 11 picture books
  • 3 beta-reads (which don’t count on the Goodreads total . . .)

If you’re curious to see them all, you can find them here on Goodreads.

Oh, and . . . visual representation of lots of the books I read last year. πŸ˜‰

Books I read in 2018 (exactly 52 physical books! Perfect) which aren’t ebooks or borrowed from libraries/friends.

TOP 15 BOOKS OF 2018

I’m terribly indecisive about actually listing favorite books in order of favorite-ness, so these are not precisely in order, although the top-ish ones are slightly more beloved. But all of these top-15 are the most splendid books I read all year and they’re all delightful. (The top 4-ish kept wanting to trade places so . . . they’re probably my favorites overall?)

1. The Electrical Menagerie (Mollie E. Reeder)

Carthage and Huxley! ❀ An introverted illusionist and his smooth-talking young manager. Floating Isles and trains run by stardust. A murder mystery, sabotage, and a plot against the throne. An electrical butler. And most of all, some of the best banter and writing I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading! It’s so absolutely magnificent and Carthage and Huxley are my favorites! ❀ ACK. I JUST LOVE IT.

[Review]

2. Echo North (Joanna Ruth Meyer)

East of the Sun, West of the Moon. A white wolf. A scarred girl. An exuberant young man. A house with mirrors which are like books that you can step into and live their stories. Hal and the Wolf and Echo are such delightful characters and the imagination and writing left me positively pen-slain. A dash of Beauty and the Beast and Tam Lin only made it more perfect. ❀ I LOVE IT SO MUCH.

[Review]

3. Lady Moon (Rachel Starr Thomson)

I loved Lady Moon so much that I immediately re-read it aloud to my siblings. A whimsical original fairytale. A princess who we first meet languishing beautifully on the moon. A nefarious uncle. An absolutely un-pigeon-hole-able Immortal by the name of Tomas who is procrastinating his destiny (I need his clocktower to live in). And other delightful characters such as the Revolution (XD) and Winnie the wombat. I JUST CAN’T. This book is so, so fantastic and I adore it. ❀

4. Masque (W.R. Gingell)

Beauty and the Beast. A murder mystery. A delightful, funny style perfect for fans of Wodehouse, Heyer, or Diana Wynne Jones. I loved Isabella — she had such spirit! — and of course mysterous Lord Pecus. And I also loved the Horse Lords. XD Also, the book that answered questions was like a character itself, and the magical communication and hand-mirror and so on were so cool. And it was just so GORGEOUS. So many shenanigans and such humor and fun! ❀ (There’s a bit of gore due to the murders so it’s not for the squeamish but otherwise it’s perfectly delightful!)

5. Falling Snow (Skye Hoffert) — in Five Poisoned Apples

Snow White. A twist on the Huntsman and Prince characters that you’ll never see coming. A dark Faerie circus. Peril and darkness and beauty. Fire and snow. Deception and innocence. Chayse was such an awesome character and I loved him! Cynfael was so fascinating. And the writing is incredible. ❀

[Review]

6. Minstrel’s Call (Jenelle Leanne Schmidt)

The epic conclusion to the Minstrel’s Song series that began with King’s Warrior! Quests and favorite characters galore, twists and adventure, dragons, prophecies . . . It has everything. Brant and Kiernan Kane are the absolute BEST. I JUST LOVE THEM SO MUCH. And there were some twists and just — my mind was blown by all the epicness and it was a perfectly satisfactory conclusion. ❀

[Review]

7. Sage (Jamie Foley)

HELP. I can’t talk much about this because of the absolute stacks of spoilers involved . . . But there’s arena fights and characters on wings, fantastical super-powers and futuristic technology in a fantasy world, and it’s all so absolutely INTENSE. Jet is my favorite. So is another character who shall remain nameless but WOW. I was so impressed by said character’s story-arc! Just so, so good. It’s like a fantasy thriller and I probably didn’t breathe for all 300+ pages. XD

[Review]

8. Song of Leira (Gillian Bronte Adams)

Wow. Just — wow. A griffin. A small girl with a big Song. The saif which is on the cover (I need one to ride!). Beloved characters including plucky Ky, gruff Amos, and Cade who I particularly like. All the characters come SO far and go through SO much but there’s beauty too. The ending stuff was so absolutely epic that I simply can’t even. ❀

[Review]

9. The Return of Beaumont and Beasley (Kyle Robert Shultz)

Two novellas. Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dragon archaelogist Malcolm Blackfire and reformed jewel-thief Melody Nightingale make a perfect (and hilarious) pair! (But seriously though, Malcolm!) A canine curse. Beast-ly Nick Beasley and our favorite Crispin Beasley pair up as detectives in alternate 1920s London, and their banter and brotherly interactions and all the humor and shenanigans make my day! Absolutely hilarious. XD (Crispiiiin!)

(Originally published as The Janus Elixir and The Hound of Duville. They were then bundled together and now make Beaumont and Beasley book 4, right after The Stroke of Eleven.)

10. Horseman (Kyle Robert Shultz)

Yes, I’m putting both of these on the list because I wanted to put one on and then couldn’t pick which. *cough*

The magical wild west. Part-time centaur con-man, Todd Crane. The Legend of Sleepy-Hollow like you’ve never seen it before. No-nonsense Marshall Amy Crocket. Plus Julio the Spanish dragon and Meg the sweet Gorgon teenager. And a dash of time-travel. So many shenanigans and adventures! It’s hilarious, and Todd is my favorite.

(Also, I edited this book, which means I read it . . . three times . . . so I got rather fond of it. Plus it’s sort of dedicated to me, so it’s kinda special.)

11. Blood in the Snow (Sarah Pennington)

Snow White. The Goose Girl. Asian-inspired fantasy. Gorgeously told. Awesome and super-fascinating magical system featuring wind and water. A great heroine and prince, and fantastic side-characters who I simply loved! (Like, talk about great “seven dwarves.”) Because Gan and Chouko are fabulous. And so are Baili and Xiang. SO complex and well-written, and fits everything together so well. I just love it! ❀

[Review]

12. The Last Motley (DJ Edwardson)

A simple tailor. A many-colored boy. Mysterious magic. Sinister shadows. A quest to a far-off island. I LOVED how this felt like an instant fantasy classic. It reminded me of Lloyd Alexander or Tolkien. Roderick the tailor is such a simply good hero, Jacob the Motley is precious, and Nagan is absolutely hilarious and my favorite. XD The Gitanos are so intriguing too, and we can’t forget Portia. I loved this colorful, rich fantasy. ❀

[Review]

13. Mark of the Raven (Morgan L. Busse)

A dreamwalking heroine. Assassins. Fantastic abilities like manipulating water. Wyverns. A young woman trapped by the darkness of her mother and her people’s past. A young visiting nobleman — who she’s supposed to kill. It’s all VERY EXCITING. Selene and especially Damien make great characters. ❀ (And Lady Bryren and the wyvern riders!) It was really gorgeous and gripping and just a solid epic fantasy.

[Review]

14. A Matter of Magic (Patricia C. Wrede)

This is ever-so-slightly cheating . . . because it’s actually two books in one and I’m kind of taking them as a whole, even though I read the second one first, and that was on my favorite list last year, but I’m sort of using it again? The first one was fun but I loved the second one more and . . . anyway, I’m mostly just calling the whole collection my “favorite” of this year. Regency fantasy. A young magician gentleman. A street thief girl who becomes his ward. Shenanigans and humor and magical adventures. I just really enjoyed it. πŸ™‚ And it works best as one book.

[Review of the second half, which I read first.]

15. The Ruins of Gorlan (John Flanagan)

The first Ranger’s Apprentice book unexpectedly stole my heart.Β Total classic fantasy but fresh, too. Halt the Ranger is my FAVE. He’s the best and I love his dry humor. XD And of course we like Will. I just really identified with this book and Will’s journey and wanted to be a Ranger, naturally. πŸ˜‰ It was just really refreshing and plain fun! (And Halt!)

[Review]


9 RUNNERS UP THAT MAKE ME HAPPY

The above list was SO hard to make because I read so many spectacular books this year! But those were the most absolutely spectacular ones.

But I still wanted to talk about some others! So off the top of my head I’m tossing in a runner-up list of a few that were just so much fun — even if they don’t quite fit on the list, or there was something about them that made them not quite a favorite, I still really loved some element of them, so I have to mention them too. πŸ˜‰

I know there’s only 5 in this picture. I can count, I promise . . .

  1. Common by Laurie Lucking — I loved the FEEL of this one and just . . . it’s so absolutely sweet (but also exciting at times) and it makes me so happy! ❀
  2. Healers and Warriors by Daley Downing — This modern fantasy series just kinda makes me happy and there was a lot of epicness and fun and fabulous characters and so many thiiings going down.
  3. The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen — I thoroughly enjoyed myself reading this. All the snark that is Sage. XD I did guess the twist but I don’t mind because it’s awesome.
  4. Lightporter by C.B. Cook — Because BLAZE. He’s my fave. Anvil, too. πŸ˜‰ It’s just such a fun YA superhero book and I adored it.
  5. Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn — Sci-fi isn’t usually my genre, but this was such a fun book! It’s a heist story featuring Han Solo, Chewie, Lando, and others, by the best Star Wars author, and I just loved it. XD

Not pictured above because I don’t own physical copies but still make me happy:

  1. A Royal Masquerade by Allison Tebo — Because Burndee and Prince Colin bickering are HILARIOUS and the absolute best. (And the skunk. XD)
  2. The Worth of a King by Kendra E. Ardnek — Because Delaney and Granite and the winged horses and the Zovordians.
  3. The Game by Diana Wynne Jones — The whole idea and the mythosphere and all the story bits were brilliant. I wish it had been longer than a novella because it was so fascinating.
  4. The Stealthmaster’s Shadow by Hope Ann — Just because I can’t stop thinking about how fabulous Verus and his snark is. XD

(So . . . that’s sort of 24 books? I REGRET NOTHING.)


OTHER STUFF: Non-Fiction + Re-Reads

Top 2 Non-Fiction Reads

  • Tolkien: A Celebration — This one is here because of a stellar essay by Stephen R. Lawhead. I read the entire collection this year, but this essay is still one of my favorites of all time, and anyone who is a writer (particularly of fantasy) needs to read it!
  • Punctuation 101 by Jill Williamson — Speaking of writers . . . Everyone needs this one, too! πŸ˜‰ I had the chance to help beta-read/proofread this little book and I absolutely loved it! PUNCTUATION 101 is practical, succinct, fun, and easy to read. I zoomed right through it! I learned a few things, and I think it will be a very helpful book to refer to in the future. πŸ™‚

Top 2 Re-Reads

  • The Beast of Talesend by Kyle Robert Shultz — I’ve now read this four times and I still absolutely adore it and want to re-read it again. XD It’s hilarious and brilliant, and the characters, fairytale things, and humor, just . . . they get me every time! (Nick and Crispin and Cordelia are the absolute best!) You can read my original review here.
  • The Crown of Dalemark by Diana Wynne Jones — The absolute brilliance of time-travel in a fantasy world and all the characters I love and the twists and EVERYTHING. (Mitt and Navis, though!) I even forgot some of the twists from the first time I read it, so I got to re-experience some of them, which was awesome. DWJ is the only author who can do this to me. XD SO glad I finally re-read this series! (This is book 4, and it’s totally worth making it through the first three for this one. ❀ )

(Missing Masque and Five Poisoned Apples for Falling Snow in this pic because I tragically don’t own paperbacks of those two.)

So there you are! Various of the best books I read in 2018! (You can also check out my top 15 (ish) short stories of last year if you missed that, and my 2018 End-of-Year Book-Freakout Tag.)

What was your favorite book (or several) you read last year? And have you read any of these? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Also! Expect an epic recap of my writing news of 2018 along with goals ‘n’ stuff, over on my other blog, very soon!

Thanks for reading! πŸ™‚

End-of-Year Book Freakout Tag 2018! (fave characters and other bookish madness)

I’m stealing this from the ever-fabulous Sarah @ Dreams and Dragons, and I’m tweaking some of the questions from “in the second half of the year” to just the year in general, given that I didn’t do one of these for the first half. XD

(Also, I was going to link to the books, but given how many of them I reference in this post, that sounds exhausting. So I will point you in the direction of this list of things I read in 2018, where you can find most of the books. And if I do links to books in the post, it will be to reviews I wrote. :))

1. Best book you’ve read in 2018

I will be doing a top 15 reads of 2018 post soon! (Once I put together my reading lists and make difficult life decisions like what I loved most. Being a bookworm is haaard.)

But off the top of my head I’m going to say . . . Echo North (which I JUST finished!) and The Electrical Menagerie and Lady Moon. ALL SO GOOD. ❀ ❀ ❀ There will be others in my upcoming post!

2. Best sequel you’ve read in 2018

Minstrel’s Call, Sage, and Song of Leira. I HAVE SO MANY FEELS. I LOVE THEM ALL. They were all actually CONCLUSIONS to series and absoluly blew me away and just… my heart! ❀

3. New release you haven’t read yet but want to

So many! But I think I’ll go with the first Green Princess book which I STILL haven’t read. And Rothana (because Halayda was amazing) and I’m sooo excited to get my copy in the mail sometime. πŸ˜€ *curls up on mailbox in the form of a small dragon and waits*

4. Most anticipated release for next year

I have a few, but Flight of the Raven is up there on the list!

Also The Mountain Baron because I beta-read it and it’s awesome!

5. Biggest disappointment

Maybe Fawkes? It just wasn’t my favorite and now I feel bad and have no idea how to review it but it’s a review book and this is all really awkward… (Or should I say fawkward?)

6. Biggest surprise

Hmm. I don’t know if there were any huge surprises? I guess I’ll just go with how surprised I was at how much I adored the first Ranger’s Apprentice, which I talked all about here.

7. Favorite new-to-you author

So many, but I’ll pick three: W.R. Gingell, Mollie E. Reeder, and Joanna Ruth Meyer! I’m going to read all of their things. ❀ (People, go add Masque, The Electrical Menagerie, and Echo North to your TBR right now.)

8. Newest fictional crush/ship

Let’s go with ships, shall we? *cough*

SO MANY. In no particular order:

  • Malcolm and Melody (The Return of Beaumont and Beasley)
  • SPOILERS from Sage
  • Kate and Patrick from the Kate’s Case Files books (I read Kate’s Dilemma and Kate’s Conundrum this year)
  • Gan and Chouko (Blood in the Snow)
  • Tomas and Celine (Lady Moon)
  • Damien and Selena (Mark of the Raven)
  • Isabella and Lord Pecus (Masque)
  • Hal and Echo (Echo North)

9. Newest favorite character(s)

DO YOU WANT TO BE HERE ALL DAY? *cough* For a start:

  • Jayden and Dana (various short stories by Arthur Daigle! I NEED these to be a novel so I can share about them to EVERYONE. BECAUSE THEY’RE MY FAVORITE THING.)
  • Halt (Ranger’s Apprentice)
  • Tomas (Lady Moon)
  • The Horse Lords (Masque)
  • Todd Crane (Horseman)
  • Carthage and Huxley and Dominic (The Electrical Menagerie)
  • Damien (Mark of the Raven)
  • Chayse (Falling Snow)
  • and last but far from least, Hal (Echo North)

And characters who aren’t exactly NEW, since I’ve met them before, but I want to include anyway:

I HAVE A LOT OF FAVORITE CHARACTERS, OKAY. ❀

10. A book that made you cry

Song of Leira! You KNOW what part it was if you’ve read it. My feeeeels.

11. A book that made you happy

Oh, so many! But since I’ve already mentioned some in my “favorites” I’ll avoid repeating myself, and I’ll say Common. It just . . . made me happy. ^_^

12. Favorite book to film adaptation you’ve seen this year

I suddenly can’t remember the movies I watched this year. XD I did just see Mortal Engines at the theater and thought it was LOADS OF FUN (go see it) but I haven’t read the book . . . *shame*

I was just watching some episodes of The Return of Sherlock Holmes featuring Jeremy Brett, who I hadn’t watched before, and a couple of those were good adaptions.

We’ll go with those two because they were this month and who even remembers the rest of the year? πŸ˜› (Hint: Not me.)

13. Favorite post(s) you’ve done this year

These are just a few, for this blog… I haven’t checked my other blog for favorites yet. XD

14. Most beautiful book you’ve bought/received this year

Oh, man. I feel like there have been so many gorgeous ones! For now I think I’ll go with two I got for Christmas: Blood in the Snow and The Fall of Gondolin (with epic illustrations!!).

15. Any other books you want to babble about for any other reason?

Ohhh, yes. *rubs hands gleefully together* How about a random collection of books that I enjoyed for various reasons (some of which are different than my usual genres so might not make it to my top-books post but we’ll see). And some re-reads and beta-reads.

  • Scoundrels was a super-fun sci-fi heist featuring Han Solo (set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back), and it’s by Timothy Zahn so I knew I’d like it, but it was just totally awesome! (They should have made it a movie instead of Solo. XD)
  • Dear Mr. Knightley is a contemporary and I had no idea I’d like it as much as I did because it’s totally not my thing, but I loved it.
  • Trial by Song was a modern scary-fairy Jack and the Beanstalk retelling with a smidge of Snow White set in winter and was SO INTENSE. O_O
  • Healers and Warriors was an awesome continuation of a modern fantasy series that makes me happy, and I loved the twists and characters and… I gotta say, the villain was so creepy and well-written!
  • The False Prince and The Stealthmaster’s Shadow had really snarky main characters who told the stories, which gave me life!
  • Lightporter and RotoVegas are both really fun YA superhero novels, and just… can we talk about how it’s cool that this is a thing?

I also re-read all the Beaumont and Beasley books that came out last year (because I’m now the Editor of the Afterverse), which was LOADS of fun. (The Return of Beaumont and Beasle and Horseman came out this year, so those were new reads.)

I re-read the Dalemark Quartet by Diana Wynne Jones, which was a highlight because I’ve been meaning to do that for ages, and The Crown of Dalemark is still one of my top fave DWJ books.

I beta-read three INCREDIBLE books which have yet to be published:

  • The Road to Bremen by Kelsey Bryant (releasing in January! I can’t wait to see the cover and illustrations!)
  • The Brightest Thread by Tracey Dyck (which I hope will be published someday sooon because it was a stellar Sleeping Beauty novel featuring dreams and Prince Hadrian who is My Fave)
  • The Mountain Baron by C. M. Banschbach (releasing summer 2019 and featuring Rhys, my smol floof of anger management issues, and lots of clannishness and outlaws and feels).

I just had to give a shout-out about these!

Okay! I will stop babbling before I end up talking about every book I read this year. XD

What’s your favorite book you read in 2018? Did you have a good reading year? (Mine was fabulous!) And do you have any bookish resolutions for 2019?

Thanks for reading!

Stay tuned for more bookish posts in the new year. πŸ™‚

Happy New Year, my pagelings!

A Ramble on Ranger’s Apprentice

I recently read the The Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger’s Apprentice, #1) by John Flanagan.

In honor of February #FantasyMonth (hosted by Jenelle Schmidt) I want to share some thoughts about this book.

I’m foregoing my usual review format to just ramble a little about things it made me think about, and I hope you’ll enjoy. πŸ™‚

(Note: I haven’t read the rest of the series yet. I just want to talk about the first Ranger’s Apprentice book today.)

Ranger’s Apprentice: Book 1 (The Ruins of Gorlan)

On the surface, it’s just a fun, YA fantasy book about fifteen-year-old Will and a sort of coming-of-age tale with swords and bows and rangers in a medieval-esque world, and a much more straightforward, less-convoluted story.

And it is all of that.

But beneath the surface there are other things going on (at least to this reader) which I’ll get to later.

It’s very funny, in a dry, kind of sarcastic way, that sometimes you almost don’t catch — and then you do and it’s HILARIOUS and you’re not totally sure why. Will doesn’t always “get it” when Halt makes little jabs and jibes and wry comments but I love it. XD

I love Will! He’s such a fun little character and just… I don’t know… he’s classic, somehow. And I like how he’s very determined and doesn’t give up.

Halt is the absolute best!! One of my favorite mentor characters. He’s an amazing Ranger and I just… I can’t describe how cool he is, but he’s awesome. Hands-down the best thing about this book! (And the main reason I read it. ;))

And I love some of the other characters, like Gilan (he’s awesome!) and Tug the pony (SO ADORBZ!!) and Horace and so on. And the Rangers are fabulous.

Did I mention it’s funny? I love funny books!

And it’s just fun fantasy, and good old-fashioned Good vs. Evil. Speaking of which…

“There’s Some Good in This World, Mr. Frodo”

One thing I noticed that was refreshing was there are good people in this book and a lot of them are just… nice.

I mean, sure, there were villains. And a few bullies. And Horace and Will both had their moments of disagreement or resentment — it’s not like they weren’t human. And by nice I don’t mean everyone was always sunshine, but they were GOOD.

I remember as I was reading, I kept expecting that everyone would be nasty to everyone else. I expected the wards to have had a miserable time growing up; and the Baron to be mean; and Sir Roderick to be mean; and for the villagers to be mean. That’s how I feel like most books these days would do it. But you know what? Their lives weren’t actually terrible; the Baron was super nice and really did want the best for these kids; Sir Roderick may not have known about the bully problem but he did want the best for Horace; the villagers might have been wary of Rangers in general through ignorance, but they were goodnaturedly applauding certain exploits of the hero(es).

The thing is, I’ve grown used to the usual setup of many books these days, where the characters are so flawed and “realistic” that… they’re not actually realistic anymore. People say you can’t have “perfect” characters and that you have to give your characters flaws; that’s all well and good. But that doesn’t mean that every character (or person in real life) you run into is going to be a terrible person! That’s just… not true?? I mean, yes, there are bad people, both in life and in fiction, but that doesn’t mean every character has to be out to ruin our heroes’ lives… or be mean-spirited… or whatever. There can be the forces of good and they can be ordinary people like you and me, and they can be nice — and there will still be tension, I promise! (I first noticed this issue when I read the Bright Empires series by Stephen R. Lawhead and was so shocked — in a good way — by how there were actually *gasp* good people in the world, that it made me realize that most books are not this way.)

Anyway, minor rant over. I didn’t mean to go into all of that. My POINT is that it was SO, SO refreshing reading this book and every time I ran into one of the “good guys”, they were exactly that. The villains and bullies were the bad guys. But the good guys were GOOD. And they have their flaws and have to work on life just as you and I do, but the good was good and the evil was evil and I LOVE that. And I MISS that. And I was surprised how big of a difference this seemingly insignificant aspect of the book made in making me enjoy it. πŸ™‚ There was a clear divide between the good people and the bad, and it was refreshing, and something you can get away with in fantasy — or you used to, anyway.

Sometimes you want to focus on GOOD things instead of the things that are just stressful to read about. And I loved that I was able to just enjoy this book, for that reason and others. πŸ™‚

There’s a Place For You, Just Waiting…

Another thing I absolutely loved was something a little hard to explain but I’ll do my best.

In the book, Will has always dreamed of going to the battle school to become a knight, but he’s turned down because he’s too small. Then he unexpectedly becomes Halt’s apprentice. (Not a spoiler! It’s called Ranger’s Apprentice; it’s in the title.)

And the thing is, it’s obvious to Halt, and to the reader, that Will is MEANT to be a Ranger. He’s small and light and quick and agile, and he has this habit of sneaking around without being noticed, and climbing trees and walls and living his own kind of solitary life, even in a community setting like the castle where he’s one of the wards.

A Ranger is supposed to be good at all of those things, and it’s immediately clear to me, as I read it, that Will Is A Ranger and that’s where he really fits.

But the funny thing is — he has no idea. At all. He has these skills, but he doesn’t really realize he has them, or think of them as skills, or realize he can put them to use as a Ranger’s Apprentice.

And I think that’s true of a lot of us. How many of us have things we could do, callings we could follow, jobs we could fill, that we’d fit into just perfectly, and we just… don’t realize it? Don’t think there’s anything special about us? Think we’re misfits and don’t belong?

As we watch Will trying out this new, unexpected turn of his life, and see him find his place in the world — really find it — it was just deeply satisfying to me.

And it made me think — oh. Sometimes, as a writer and whatever else it is I’ll be one day, if I’m feeling like I don’t know what skills I have or what to do with my life, or like I don’t fit in and there’s no place for me… I’m wrong. Because you know what? There IS. I have to find my “Ranger skills” and my “Rangers” and then I’ll be home and have found my place.

Especially if I work hard on it…

Keep Trying and You’ll Get There

Because the third and final “deep” thing I pulled out of this, was the fact that when we watch Will learning his Ranger’s craft, it just… well… inspired me. I might be rubbish at learning the things he had to learn — how to shoot arrows and ride a horse and how to track and be stealthy and unseen and live in the wilderness — but watching him learn them, and seeing him just keep at it and become adept at these things… it inspired me.

Because he just kept trying and he was able to do it. I saw him go from an uncertain lad who was rather timid and didn’t know what his skills were, to a confident lad who has conquered these skills and is every inch a true Ranger’s Apprentice. I saw it happen, and it showed me that it’s not impossible to learn and become better at something, to master it. Especially if you have a good mentor and just don’t quit.

If I’d been in Will’s shoes (boots?), I would have stared at what needed to be learned/accomplished, and been crippled by doubts and “I-can’t-do-its”. But Will didn’t. And Halt wouldn’t stand for that anyway. (I’d be a terrible Ranger’s apprentice. XD)

BUT. If you just start something, and tackle it, and hang on and keep trying… then we too can learn and conquer the things we need to learn and do. Which is something I know in theory… but seeing it play out on the page, in this little story of characters I love, with fun and humor and an enjoyable fantasy story, I saw it, and I believed it, and so now I Know it, instead of just knowing it in theory.

Fin

That may sound odd. I mean, what do I mean by saying this “unrealistic” book, this Fantasy (oh, escapism; oh, horror. …’Scuse the Halt-ish sarcasm.) taught me things? I mean, who am I, finding things in a fantasy novel which teach me things about life? Shouldn’t I just find these things in some self-help blog?

But the thing is . . . it took a story — a real story, which I enjoyed and which was just for fun, not one that set out to do this (because I suspect then it would not have sunk in nearly as deeply, if at all) — to prod at my subconscious and bring out things that I kind of knew or suspected but hadn’t ever thought of in that way before. It inspired me and let me put it into words.

To know that you have skills and a place in the world, that you have YOUR Rangers to find that might be somewhere out there in the world, is a liberating thought. And so is seeing that keeping on and practicing can make a difference. I can know a thing in theory without really knowing it, and that’s what I’m trying to say.

What I’m trying to say is, even though this is just a fun little book, and I enjoyed it as simply a good STORY, it also made me happy to see Good people and was like a breath of fresh air, and it showed me there’s a place for everyone. Even if you feel like you don’t fit in — especially if you feel like you don’t fit in; it’s Will’s uniqueness that makes him the perfect fit for a job that only a handful of people can fulfill — there’s somewhere that you belong, even if you don’t know what it is yet. Something you can DO, that you’re meant to do. We just have to find it. And no matter how impossible a thing may seem, if you just keep at it, you can succeed.

I’m not saying it’s one of the the greatest books I’ve ever read, or one of the most profound; I’m not even saying that it will be this way for anyone else.

But the thing is . . . it doesn’t have to be.

It’s a fun and light read which I spent an enjoyable morning with and just… made me happy.

And that’s all it needs to be.

And, while it was at it, it showed me things about life where I’m at right now, without — I’m sure — really meaning to.

It made me smile and taught me things.

And isn’t that one of the things good Fantasy is best at?

Vintage Jane Austen Valentine Sale

Hey, page-dreaming friends!

Just a heads-up: check out this sale for those Jane Austen retellings I’ve reviewed before! πŸ™‚

From the Vintage Jane Austen Website…

A Kindle Countdown sale for the Vintage Jane Austen books begins today and runs through February 16!

If you’ve been wanting to read these 1930s-era retellings of Jane Austen’s classic novels, now is a great time to pick up ebook copies!

(The prices will slowly go back up toward their usual price, so jump on it now!)

Thanks for reading!

Dream away in those pages . . .

~The Page Dreamer

10 Bookish Resolutions for 2018

Today I’m joining in on a Top Ten Tuesdays post, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl (which is where TTT moved as of TODAY, having formerly been hosted by the Broke and the Bookish).

Here are some of my bookish resolutions/goals for 2018!

1. Stay on top of reading ARCs and review books

I haven’t decided if this means more or less books for review (since I love them but they are also time-consuming… but I love them…). Regardless, I’d like to stay on track for the ones I have and any future ones I might get.

2. Stay on top of reviews

Related to the above point, I’d like to get the necessary reviews written within a decent amount of time. NaNo and Christmas season wreaked havoc on my reviewing schedule, and I just haven’t gotten around to some of them that I should have. So those are next!

3. Read the books I’ve won

I seem to have accumulated several books which authors were kind enough to give away and which I won… And then said books sit on my dresser or Kindle app waiting for me to read them, while I get distracted with review books and things. So I’d like to read and (hopefully) review the books I’ve won.

4. Read one book at a time (within reason)

I often end up reading a lot of books at the same time, which means I get stuck in several… which ends badly. I’d like to focus on one book at a time. I do say within reason, so I may read more than one at a time under certain circumstances — for instance: an e-book and a physical book, a re-read and a new read, a read-along and a read-aloud, a novel and some short stories and a nonfiction… things like that, where I distinguish between what SORT of book it is, I might allow myself to simultaneously read more than one book. But in general, just. one.

5. Finish beta-reading and take a break

I have a couple of beta-reads to finish, which I’m excited for, but after that I’m taking a break, at least this year. Beta-reading just takes so long, and I don’t know what to say, so I accidentally procrastinate over it for a century, and then feel absolutely terrible. I’m just… really bad at being a beta-reader. XD

6. Do more editing

That may sound like it contradicts the point above, but it doesn’t! Beta-reading is usually a general-feedback kind of deal, which I’m not the best at. What I am better at is proofreading/copyediting, which I LOVE. I’m passionate about fixing typos and punctuation, and generally polishing books to a fine sheen. Someday I will catch ALL the typos in the world! (Okay, not really; but I can dream. ;)) This point is involved with kicking off my new freelance editing service, which you can check out HERE; prices are negotiable, and I don’t bite! πŸ˜‰

7. Read for fun more often

I know it sounds silly, but any time a book comes “with strings attached,” it becomes something to mark off my to-do list. I do LOVE review books, read-alongs, library books, books I’ve won, books to edit, books by friends, and so on, but anything with an “I should read this” or “I should review this” or a deadline attached to it in my subconscious isn’t just for PURE pleasure… (Please tell me I’m not the only one?) So despite loving those, I would like to kick back and read JUST for fun sometimes, and not worry about having opinions and stuff.

8. Read more Diana Wynne Jones

This is kind of self-explanatory… I’m hoping March Magics and a trip to the library will help with this one. πŸ˜‰

9. Read more Tolkien

Also self-explanatory. Re-reads. Books by Tolkien I haven’t read. Books by others about him and his writings. The works.

10. Have fun and don’t obsess

This one is hard, and one of the reasons why I often ALMOST don’t start a Goodreads reading goal… (But I usually break down anyway because it’s nice having them all listed.) I don’t like obsessing about how many books I read, because that makes it more like work, but I can hopefully keep track without getting too into it. XD I really need to remind myself that I still read for fun. And if it’s not fun, I shouldn’t be doing it. And if I’m MAKING it not fun, I need to stop! Breathe. Read. Dream of ink and pages and bookshelves. Be a contented bookdragon.

Well, those are my top ten bookish resolutions/goals; we’ll see how quickly I can fail at all of them. XD But it’s all in fun. πŸ™‚ What are yours? And do we share any? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading! πŸ™‚

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer / Deborah O’Carroll

Bookish Post! (a.k.a. I Travel from NaNo Land to Book Land + Bookish News + Mini-Reviews)

Oh, hi, world! I’m baaack!

It’s been a wee bit quiet around here because it’s awfully hard to read/review books while you’re madly writing one of your own. But as I have now won my EIGHTH NaNoWriMo, I am back in the world of books — and my first thought (besides “ACK, I CAN READ AGAIN!”) was “Time to pop onto my poor neglected book blog!” πŸ˜‰

So this is kind of a mashup of OH HI I HAVEN’T REALLY POSTED MUCH AROUND HERE LATELY BECAUSE NANO and stuff I’ve been reading and stuff going on/releasing, and all of the bookish things. *nods*

Books I Read Lately

October

Here’s what I read in October, which was a busy month and I barely managed to squeeze these in… I award them all 5 stars because though all different, I loved them each in their own way.

  • Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith – Shaun Hume — I lived in this book world and loved the characters and setting, and though it was a little long and not my usual thing, it was different and fun. Review to come!
  • Spellsmith and Carver: Magicians’ Reckoning – H. L. Burke — SO MANY FEELS. :O This almost got a star knocked off BUT it ended reasonably better than I thought it might and yes. MY FEELS. But a good conclusion to the Spellsmith and Carver Trilogy. Review to come!
  • Second Impressions: A Collection of Fiction Inspired by Jane Austen – edited by Hannah Scheele — Adorable short stories based on Jane Austen things. Loved this collection! {My Review}
  • Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen — This was a re-read. It was the first Jane Austen novel I read, AGES ago, and I hadn’t read it since, so it was lovely to read it again. I really enjoyed reading along with Season of Humility’s readalong. Mr. Darcy is the best, okay? πŸ˜‰
  • The Last Days of Lady Cordelia – Kyle Robert Shultz — This novelette had MANY FEELS and some humor and parallel world stuff and delightful references to Kyle’s main Beaumont and Beasley series! In a way I don’t know how I feel about it, but in another way I loved it so much I read it twice, so… XD

November

Wait, who is this crazy person who READ BOOKS during NaNoWriMo?? :O These were all very short, quick reads, which I consumed between my crazy writing because I needed to relax occasionally. *gasp* I enjoyed them all and give them all 4 stars. πŸ™‚ My mini-thoughts…

  • Saffron’s Big Plan and Other Stories – Kendra E. Ardnek — I had the pleasure of meeting the delightful Kendra herself this month, and picked up a couple of her short story collections when I did. (She’s super fun, FYI! ;)) What fun little tales! πŸ™‚ I read them all in a sitting and they were just the light little read I needed just then. Three original fairytales, and one retelling of Puss in Boots — very unique! I loved the style. πŸ™‚
  • The Woodcutter Quince and Other Stories – Kendra E. Ardnek — What fun stories! The Woodcutter one was my favorite — fantastic! πŸ˜€ The CinderEddy twist on Cinderella was awesome too. XD Most enjoyable. πŸ™‚
  • Coloring Christmas Devotions – Thomas Nelson Publishers — This is my first Adult Coloring book, and while I haven’t colored all the pictures yet, I did read through all the devotionals and colored some. This was a book for review from BookLook, and I’ll be reviewing it on my other blog soon.
  • Fire and Ice Cream – K. M. Carroll — AWK. SO GREAT. ^_^ Super original modern fantasy, with a murder mystery in an ice cream shop in Arizona, where shapeshifting dragons (fire-breathing) and shapeshifting drakes (ice-breathing) are a part of normal life — and in fact the heroine is one! So cool. πŸ˜€ (I read this for the Fellowship of Fantasy Bookclub’s book of the month for November.)
  • No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days – Chris Baty — A fairly quick, light read, sometimes amusing with a few helpful ideas, in general of interest to those who have or would like to participate in NaNoWriMo or otherwise write a novel in a month, and about writing in general. There’s some language, and the humor is of a particular type you need to be in the mood for, so it’s not for everybody, and has stuff/advice that hopefully nobody takes seriously, because it’s intended to be tongue in cheek. XD But otherwise it was enjoyable and a nice distraction so I could feel like I was being NaNo-ish when I should have been writing words for NaNo. πŸ˜› And besides, it felt vaguely appropriate to read it this month. Anyway, I enjoyed it, rather. πŸ™‚

If you’re curious to learn more about any of the books I’ve been reading, you can always find them linked in my Goodreads Reading Challenge.

Releases

The Stroke of Eleven by Kyle Robert Shultz, which is the third Beaumont and Beasley book, came out today and I’m ridiculously excited for more Nick and Crispin and Cordelia and fairytale humor. I CAN’T WAIT. ❀

The sequel to Masters and Beginners by Daley Downing (which I loved) is now out at B&N and it’s called Rulers and Mages and I love the cover! I beta-read this, really enjoyed it, and can’t wait to read the final version. πŸ™‚

The final Vintage Jane Austen book, Presumption and Partiality by Rebekah Jones, which is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice in 1930s Arizona, also released this week in ebook and paperback, and the Kindle version is 99 cents on Amazon this week only — I just snagged my copy over there and I’m excited to read this one too! πŸ™‚

Hannah Scheele continues to outdo herself with each new VJA cover. ❀

Speaking of covers…

Upcoming Cover Reveal

(image by DJ Edwardson)

DJ Edwardson (of Silmarillion Awards fame) is about to reveal the cover for his upcoming first fantasy novel, The Last Motleyso go join his awesome newsletter so you can see it this week! πŸ˜€ (I’m ridiculously excited.)

Reviews on the Horizon?

I’ve been somewhat quiet on the review front, as I just haven’t had the energy to write any what with NaNo… But now that NaNo is over, I’m hoping (key word: hoping) to get back into reading and reviewing, particularly catching up on a few that I was hoping to before November but just didn’t find time for. (And some other kinds of posts on my other blog, as well!)

So you can reasonably hope to expect some reviews (like for Ewan Pendle, Magicians’ Reckoning, Coloring Christmas Devotions, The Fatal Tree) soon-ish… And a couple of beta-reading books, and reviews books (like Disowned by Sarah Addison-Fox) which I hope to read/review soon! And hopefully for those new releases I just mentioned too. XD

Basically, I should have National Book Reading/Reviewing Month (NaBoReReMo… no? Not catchy enough?) but we’ll see how much I have energy for. πŸ˜›

It’s been a CRAZY couple of months in my life lately and hopefully I can finally breathe/relax a little, with some reading and blogging on the side…

I thought about sharing a Nightstand Books kind of thing but I have so many I WANT to read this month, and have no idea what I’ll get to during December, so I’ll just say I WILL READ ALL THE BOOKS THAT I CAN. XD

Anyway!

I think that’s it on the bookish news, and what’s been up with me. What about you? And have you read/want to read any of the books I mentioned? Chat with me, fellow page-dreamers! πŸ™‚

Thanks for reading! πŸ™‚

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer / Deborah O’Carroll

Bookworm Confessions: Reading Just One Story in Anthologies

So, fellow bookworms! Here’s a very important life question:

Is it okay to just read the one book in a short story anthology that you want to read?

Because, confession:

Sometimes I only read one short story in a collection. O_O

I KNOW.

THE SHOCK. THE HORROR. THE STARES OF DOUBT.

I can feel your surprise and worrying at my living-on-the-edge actions from here.

Ahem.

You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? (Or is it just me??)

There’s some collection of short stories that you have, and you got it SPECIFICALLY for ONE PARTICULAR STORY OR AUTHOR in the collection. And you’re excited to read it — that particular one! So excited!

So… do you:

  1. Read the whole collection?
  2. Put off reading the whole collection because you really only want to read that one so you procrastinate the others…?
  3. Just devour that particular story right away and be happy you read it, and then… proceed to never get around to reading the others, even if you mean to? *cough* (This is usually me…)

But what do you do in that case? Because I can’t say I’ve read the book… since I haven’t! Just one tiny portion of it! But that also means I can’t, like, rate it or review it or anything… and it also bugs my poor perfectionist mind because I know I have to finish reading the entire collection SOMEDAY because I read something in there, but… I don’t feel like it right now. *collapses*

Also, short story collections are NOTORIOUSLY hit-or-miss. There’s usually one or two I really like and sometimes a whole handful that I… really don’t care for.

It’s very risky! Sort of like a blind date with a book, but it’s a whole bunch of small stories so you have SEVERAL blind dates and sometimes it doesn’t go well. XD

So is it better to read just the one you want to? Or to go all-in and brave the possibly of lots of mediocre or creepy stories?

Even if I do vaguely want to read the others, I usually don’t get around to them…

Which brings us to the list part of my confession.

Some anthologies I’ve read a story or two in but shamefully haven’t gotten around to reading the rest:

1. Firebirds

I got this so I could read a Lloyd Alexander short story and a Diana Wynne Jones short story. The Lloyd one was actually sad and creepy. o.o But the DWJ one was awesome! (It was called Little Dot and was from the POV of a cat and I loved it. XD) The rest of the stories… have sadly gone unread so far.

2. The Dragon Book

I got this partly because DRAGONS and partly because of a DWJ story. I read the DWJ story, which incidentally turned out to be THE ONLY THING I’VE READ BY HER THAT I DISLIKED. (It’s called JoBoy and I read it at a bad time because I was ill and it’s NOT sometime to read when you’re ill… Ahem.) So. Yeah. That was a disappointment… I’ve now been avoiding it because I don’t like to think about it and so I haven’t read the others yet because I don’t really know those authors… But someday…

3. Maps in a Mirror by Orson Scott Card

I got this solely to read the original novella version of Ender’s Game (which was a really interesting comparison). And promptly didn’t read any of the others. I don’t even feel like I really necessarily want to read them at this point? But it’s just sitting there, mostly unread, and I don’t know what to do with it. XD (Confession: I probably will never get around to reading the others.)

4. A Wolf at the Door

This is a collection of short story fairytale retellings, so I WILL read the rest someday, I just… haven’t yet. I mostly got it so I could read the Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling in it by Patricia A. McKillip, which I did and I seem to remember enjoying it… But I still haven’t read the others yet.

5. Tolkien: A Celebration

This one is actually essays about Tolkien by several different authors, so it’s not exactly short stories. I specifically got it so I could read the one Stephen Lawhead wrote, and I LOVED it — one of my favorite things of all time — but… I haven’t read the rest of the essays yet, so I can’t really review it or recommend it and I’m just like WHY. Because it was an amazing essay about writing and fantasy and it was by a favorite author about another favorite author, which is always DELIGHTFUL, but I haven’t read the rest so I can’t talk about it yet. I will read the others… someday…

6. Tales Before Narnia

I found an uncorrected-proofs version of this at a library sale? And I read the poem in it that Tolkien wrote (which I hadn’t ever found in anything else) and haven’t read the rest yet… They do look interesting, I just haven’t started yet. (The lack of an actual official cover, due to it being an uncorrected proof, may be slightly involved. Whoops.)

Also: Fairytales

And there are a few fairytale collections which I surreptitiously read the Twelve Dancing Princesses ones, or a couple others, and haven’t read the others yet… but I will!

…Someday.

Let’s discuss!

What about you, readers? Do you ever read short stories? And do you read entire collections or… do you live on the edge and sometimes just read one? Any reader confessions about short stories or otherwise? Tell all in the comments!

Thanks for reading! πŸ™‚

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer