November 28, 2014

A Book for Every {Fantasy} Reader


I can't believe that Fall Into Fantasy is ending today! I've had the most wonderful time co-hosting this event with Alexa, and it's been so much being able to spread the love for fantasy. Three years ago, I never would have imagined I'd spend three weeks celebrating this genre. But I'm so glad my tastes have changed and that I've grown to love fantasy. I hope that our personal posts, reviews and reflections on fantasy staples has reminded you of what you love about this genre - or given you the push needed to finally give it a shot!

While I've loved every post we've done the last few weeks, we did save the most epic post for last: our fantasy favorites! If you're looking for some recommendations, we've got you covered. We want to share our favorite fantasy reads so that you can either fangirl with us over own love for them or possibly discover the book that's right for you. While I still have a long way to go in my fantasy reading journey, I've definitely discovered some incredible books during the last few years. So, let's discuss!
POWER PLAYERS

I'll Follow You to Whatever End | Celaena from The Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas
I absolutely adore Celaena Sardothien. In my review of Heir of Fire, I called her "a mess of contradictions." I didn't mean that she seemed inconsistent, but that she seemed real to me. She is arrogant, stubborn, afraid, hurt, strong, damaged, heartbroken, angry... I read about her, and I feel like I know her. She's so well-developed and dimensional, which is why she's my favorite fantasy heroine. | My Reviews

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire | King Leck from The Graceling Series by Kristin Cashore
Oh, King Leck. I still haven't read Bitterblue (I know, I know), but one of the only things I remember about the first two books in this series is the awfulness of the villain. While I'm sure there are worse villains out there, he's one who first comes to mind for me. He's evil, power-hungry and feels no remorse for the terrible things he does and the lies he spreads. It makes him such a fascinating (but disturbing) character. | My Review

I Haven't Jumped Ship, But Be My Sidekick | Rowan from Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
ROWAN WHITETHORN. I'm not sure how Maas keeps writing the best male characters ever, but with each new book I find another guy to love! I was a little unsure of Rowan at first, but I was echoing Celaena by the end of the book: "I claim you, Rowan Whitethorn. I don't care what you say and how much you protest. I claim you as my friend." YES. He's a loyal badass, which makes him the best sidekick ever. | My Review

RELATIONSHIP STATUS

We'll Break This Curse Together | The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta
There is a lot to love about The Lumatere Chronicles, but I'll always remember the series for its characters. Individually, they are compelling and intriguing. But as a group, they are a force to be reckoned with. There is so much character development in these books, and you're able to see the truth power of the bonds of family and friendship. When everything is taken away, those still remain. | My Reviews

Be My Rabid Fairy? | Karou & Zuzana from The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series by Laini Taylor
This series is one of my all-time favorites, but one of the most memorable aspects of it is the friendship between Karou and Zuzana. I love the way these two women support one another and provide such warmth, humor and love. From their chats at the Poison Kitchen to Zuzana's daring search for Karou, they remind me that anything is possible with a best friend by your side. | My Review

The Most Painful Kind of Hope | Hector & Elisa from The Girl of Fire and Thorns Series by Rae Carson
The love story in The Girl of Fire and Thorns Series is one of my absolute favorites! The first of this series is good, but the second just takes the series to a whole different level. There's a slow burn relationship here built on mutual respect and friendship... so when that spark finally ignites, it's everything you've been waiting for and more. This is one of the best romances in any series, not just fantasy. Read it and swoon! | My Review

THE PLOT THICKENS

Until the Very End | The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
If you're giving an award for overall plot arc, it's got to go to The Harry Potter Series. There are so many reasons that this series is so beloved, but I truly believe that one of the biggest is that Rowling had a vision for her series from the beginning to the very end. There's no sense of the story being dragged out or things being left unsaid. The pacing and development of this story is so deserving of all the praise it receives!

This Oath I Pledge | The His Fair Assassin Series by Robin LaFevers
I really love this series, particularly because it blends history and fantasy. In these books, you'll meet assassin nuns who serve Death. There's so much to discover - real historical figures, political machinations, long-held secrets and dangerous missions. Each book follows a different heroine, so each adventure is a little bit different while still contributing to the overall arc of the series. I love that aspect of it! | My Review

Weaving a Wonderful Tale | "The Six Swans" in Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
Originally, I'd chosen a different book for this category, but I knew it was unseated the minute I finished Daughter of the Forest. This retelling of "The Six Swans" is absolutely enchanting! The writing is gorgeous, the characters are unforgettable, the romance is so memorable, the world is magical... I could go on and on about this book! I love the whole series, but the first two books are definitely my favorites. | My Review

IT'S ALL IN THE DETAILS

It Arrives Without Warning | The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I had completely forgotten about this gem until I was browsing through my Goodreads shelves. This is a great example of a fantasy read that will appeal to a variety of readers! It's not as intimidating as a lot of fantasy, but it still contains magical elements. I was enchanted by the circus in this story - the various tents and the ways magic manifested itself inside them. It's a slower read, but totally worth it. | My Review

I Can Read You Like a Book | Sir Bird from Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White
While this is a bit of "light" fantasy, I read it at the perfect time. I loved the characters, but I found myself surprised by how much I enjoyed the creature in this book! Sir Bird was an unexpected delight, and I couldn't believe that White made me care so much about him. While he's not necessarily the most creative or shocking creature, he's still the one that stole my heart! | My Review

A Rocky Crag Jutting From the Sea | Thisby from The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
There are so many wonderful things I could say about The Scorpio Races, but one of the things I loved most about this book was the setting. It comes to life through Stiefvater's words, and it stayed in my mind for weeks after I finished reading this book. The setting is like another character to this story - a living, breathing thing with a will that drives much of the conflict and action in the story. | My Review

THE WRITE WAY

Woo You With Words | The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series by Laini Taylor
This series is characterized by evocative writing, a richly imagined world and epic characters. I absolutely fell in love with Laini Taylor's writing in these books, and I can't say enough about her talent! I'd been so hesitant to read these books because they sounded just a little too weird, but Taylor won me over within a few pages. I love everything about this series, but it all goes back to the writing for me. | My Review

I Solemnly Swear I'm Crying | ???? in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
{Spoiler} I very rarely cry in books, but there was one death in this one that just did me in. The Weasley twins had always been two of my favorite characters, so I was heartbroken by the loss of Fred in this final book. I have a brother and sister who are twins, and I think that's one of the reasons I was so saddened by his death. I kept imagining if the twins didn't have one another, and then.... *sobs*

Love is a Battlefield | The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
There are a lot of books with more intensely romantic moments, but this was one of the most memorable for me! It's definitely a slow-burn relationship, but there's so much tension simmering under the surface here. I love when characters have this kind of relationship dynamic - from enemies into something more. Eeek! And there's a hair-braiding moment in this one that's just so swooooon. My Review

DESIGN APPEAL

Afraid of Your Own Shadow | The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland... by Catherynne M. Valente
While I'm not crazy about the book titles for this series (they're too dang long!), I do love the covers. The illustrations throughout the books are so charming, and that's even more true on the covers. I think they're so eye-catching and perfectly capture the whimsy of the story inside. I think of all three of them, the second book's cover is my favorite! It's also my favorite book of the series, too. | My Review

All About Alliteration | Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
I know that I read Ella Enchanted when I was younger, but I forgot how much I loved it until I re-read it recently. This is a wonderful retelling of Cinderella, and I love that the titles hints at the story's origins. There are lots of titles that are more "showy" than this one, but there's something I love about the alliteration and simplicity of this title. And the story inside is even lovelier! It's a creative and clever twist on a well-known tale. 

A Rift in Ravka | Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
I binge read this series this year, and I could see why it had so much hype! While I'm not as passionate about them, I enjoyed immersing myself in this world. Each book has a gorgeous map in the front, and I think this one of probably my favorite of them all. Ravka was such a fascinating setting, and I loved how Bardugo brought it to life in her books. The map helped me visualize everything, which I loved. | My Review

TIME WILL TELL

Oldie But a Goodie | The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
While I recently admitted that I've only read this book in the Narnia series, I do hope to remedy that within the next year or so. Either way, this is one of the few fantasy books I remember reading when I was younger. It's a classic for a reason! The idea that you can step through something ordinary into another world captured my mind as a child, and I want to one day read these books to my future children.

New Kid on the Block | The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
I was so surprised by my love for this book! While I had a few minor issues with the world, I found myself rooting for this character and invested in her journey. I loved the social and political aspects of the story: slavery, prostitution, wealth, power, magic, control... There are so many layers to uncover, and I look forward to finding out where the story takes Kelsea next! | My Review

Coming Soon | A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
This book sounds like a combination of everything amazing about fantasy PLUS it's written by Sarah J. Maas. What more could you want?! If you're wondering how I can "recommend" a book that I haven't even read, then you clearly haven't read anything by Maas yet. I have no doubt that this series will blow me away, and I cannot wait to fall head over heels in love with it.

READY TO READ

Sabriel by Garth Nix
When I realized that I was officially a fantasy reader, I went to the bookstore and bought this book. I know so many people who love it and consider it a staple of the genre, so I'm excited to discover it for myself.

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
This is another book that I added to my TBR because I heard my friends talking about it. I think this one focuses more on the romance than on some of the fantasy elements, but I have a feeling I'll still enjoy this read.

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas
I bought this book recently after a few friends RAVED about it. I've heard the first book is good, but the second is even better. And it sounds like the romance is epic, which is why I'm dying to read it. I'm ready for swoon!

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
I've never read anything by Tamora Pierce, and I feel like this is the series I hear about most often. I'm hoping to read them soon because I'd love to fill in some of the "holes" in my fantasy shelves!

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
This recent release caught my eye while I was browsing on Goodreads recently, and it sounds like it would be something I'd enjoy! I have a few friends who read and enjoyed it, too, so that's another point in its favor.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
I've never read anything by Tolkien, and I think this might be the best place to start. I'm kind of intimidated by his books, particularly the Lord of the Rings series. This is considered a classic, so I feel like I should give it a shot.

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Whew! How's that for some fantasy recommendations? Many of these books could have fit within multiple categories, but I did my best to offer a wide range of recommendations. I didn't want to just talk about the same five books over and over. If you're looking for a specific recommendation, feel free to tweet or email me - I'd be happy to help. Be sure to also check out Alexa's recommendations!

For your reference, here's a list of all of the Fall Into Fantasy posts:

SO OBSESSED WITH

November 27, 2014

A Tale As Old As Time...


It's time to talk about a crucial aspect of fantasy: fairy tales! Although I didn't grow up reading that many (and definitely noticed that I have some major catching up to do), I think most readers can name at least one fairy tale that has caught their fancy before. As you probably saw yesterday, Alexa and I absolutely adored Daughter of the Forest, which is based on the "The Six Swans" fairy tale. We were inspired by that book, which is why we're talking fairy tales today!

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What is your favorite fairy tale?

CINDERELLA | As I've mentioned, I realized when I was working on this post that I really haven't read as many fairy tales as I thought I had! I think I might have had a collection of fairy tales as a kid, but I'm not sure which one. I do know, however, that I absolutely loved this edition of Cinderella illustrated by K.Y. Craft. I still have copy of this gorgeous picture book, and it's the one fairy tale I remember loving when I was growing up!


What is your favorite Disney version of a fairy tale?

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST | I wanted to pick something different from Alexa, but I can't deny that this was my favorite Disney version of a fairy tale. Seriously, how many times did I watch Beauty and the Beast? I adored Belle's love of books, of course, but it also had my favorite music. There was just something so special about this movie! I have no doubt that it's a favorite for many and for good reason, too! Time to watch it again...

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What is your favorite fairy tale retelling?

DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST | I know we talked about this yesterday... and that I haven't even read "The Six Swans" fairy tale that it's based on... but I can't deny that this is my all-time favorite fairy tale retelling now. The writing perfectly captures that fairy tale feeling, and the world is so rich, the characters so complex and the romance so enchanting. But if I hadn't read Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, I would have chosen The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer for this question. That series is such a creative take on several fairy tales!

What is your favorite fairy tale?
What is your favorite Disney version of one?
And your favorite fairy tale retelling?

November 26, 2014

Faves & Flaws: Daughter of the Forest


It's time for a Fall Into Fantasy review! Today, we're talking about our Faves & Flaws for the Daughter of the Forest. Instead of doing a traditional review, Alexa and I are each sharing three things that we really enjoyed and three things that just didn't quite work. So, what did I think of this fantasy classic?

Release Date: April 1999
Publisher: Tor Books
Source & Format: Bought; Paperback
Series: The Sevenwaters Series #1

Summary (from Goodreads)
Lovely Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives, they are determined that she know only contentment.

But Sorcha's joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, a spell which only Sorcha can lift-by staying silent. If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever.

When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs at ever being able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all...


(1) the enchanting writing & world

Yes, I am basically combining the writing and the world into one category. I'm sorry, but it was hard to limit myself to just three favorite things about this book. Daughter of the Forest is a retelling of the "Six Swans" fairy tale, which I was unfamiliar with prior to reading this book. But from the moment I  stepped into this world, I was hooked. Marillier's writing is just absolutely gorgeous. I lost myself in the story! Marillier so perfectly captures that fairy tale tone - the harsh realities of life and the infusion of magic into the every day. 

I particularly loved that this series is historical fantasy - it's a real time period (9th century Ireland) and yet still manages to feel otherworldly. There are some very dark and sad moments in the book, but the writing makes it seem so hopeful and lovely. There is a powerful darkness threatening to disrupt the peace in this world, and I was absolutely aching for the family in the story and anxious over the fate of this world. I cannot get enough of Marillier's writing, and I already know I'll be returning to this world by continuing with this amazing series.

(2) the incredible, well-developed characters

What can I even say about these characters? The heroine, Sorcha, is absolutely incredible. She's strong, loyal and fights against all odds for the people she loves. She is given a seemingly impossible task, and I read with bated breath... hoping that she would be able to complete it. I was worried at first that I would be confused by the six brothers, but they soon began to feel like family to me. With small scenes and tiny moments, Marillier made it impossible for me not to know them. As for Red... what can be said? He captured my attention from the moment he made his first appearance, and he had stolen my heart before I even realized it. There are so many other secondary characters who shine in Daughter of the Forest, and I found myself so invested in all of them. As a character reader, this book was like hitting the jackpot.

(3) the slow-burn romance + abundance of feelings

THIS ROMANCE, Y'ALL. I had heart palpitations, knots in my stomach and legitimate angst while I was reading this book. I didn't expect to fall so hard for this love story, but I absolutely did. I have always loved a slow-burn romance, and this book has one that I'll never forget. I re-read so many scenes, highlighted so many passages and just sighed (and cried) over so many moments. I'm not a very emotional reader, but it was impossible not to be one while reading this book. 

There is also a different kind of love story in this book - one of family and the bond between siblings. The lengths Sorcha goes to save her brothers just ripped my heart out. Love is sacrifice, and that is something you see depicted in such a remarkable (and memorable) way in this book. I couldn't get enough! I finished reading before Alexa and was barely able to contain my feelings while I waited for her to discover its magic.


(1) umm... long chapters?

This barely even counts, but I literally cannot think of any flaws for this book. Seriously, this was a five-star read and is pretty much perfection. I loved everything about Daughter of the Forest, and the only negative thing I can even kind of think to say about it is that the chapters are long. The first chapter is a bit slower, too, so it makes it a little daunting at the start. I was unsure in the beginning if this book would work for me, but it didn't take me long to realize just how much I loved it. 

But it all seriousness...

I am, quite literally, SO OBSESSED WITH this book. Marillier has skyrocketed to the top of my favorite "new-to-me" authors, and I cannot wait to binge her entire backlist. After finishing Daughter of the Forest, I immediately started the second book, Son of the Shadows, and loved it just as much. I'll be spending quite a bit of time in Sevenwaters, and I already have no regrets. I've loved the Fall Into Fantasy event for so many reasons, but the biggest one is the discovery of this author and this book. It's gorgeous, moving and just begging to be read again and again. I have no doubt this will be a forever favorite for me! 

November 25, 2014

An Epic Adventure Awaits...


Last week, we talked about some of the different secondary characters you'll find in fantasy. But now it's time to talk about the plot! One of the best things about fantasy is that the character is often on a high-stakes journey or quest. There's a foe, evil to be defeated, wrongs to be righted... and that adventure is what makes fantasy such an exciting genre! Today, Alexa and I are discussing our favorite adventures in books and in life.  

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What's your favorite adventure in book?

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS SERIES by RAE CARSON | I loved everything about this series, but the plot is probably one of my favorite parts! You've got a complex, layered and compelling heroine who travels to far-off lands in order to fulfill a prophecy. The threatening magic, the dangerous calling and the fight for power made this such a compelling read! I loved Elisa (and Hector!), and this adventure was the perfect backdrop for her growth as a character and as a ruler. Carson just made this world and quest come alive!

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What adventure would you like to go on?

HIS FAIR ASSASSIN SERIES by ROBIN LAFEVERS | Maybe it's because I'm a history nerd, but I'm dying to join this convent as an assassin nun. This was my first experience with historical fantasy, and my favorite thing about this adventure is that it was a real historical event! While the main characters and their actions are fictional (as are the fantasy elements, obviously), the political environment and concern over the fate of Brittany was very real. I would be scared out of my mind, but I'd love to receive my assignment and join Ismae, Sybella and Annith. 


What's the best adventure you've ever been on?

OXFORD STUDY ABROAD | I almost chose my trip to South Africa, which I've referenced on the blog before, because it really was my best adventure. It's one of my favorite places I've ever visited, and it's how I met my now-husband. However, I wanted to highlight something new today instead! During the summer before my junior year of college, I studied abroad at Oxford for six weeks. It was an incredible trip, and I loved my time there. I spent most of my time exploring Oxford, but I also got to visit Bath, London and Wales! These are just of the many pictures I took while I was there. I'm a total Anglophile, so it was a dream come true to spend so much time in England. While I'd love to go back just for fun, I cherish my memories of it!

What's your favorite bookish adventure?
What bookish adventure do you want to join?
And what's the best adventure you've ever been on?

What I Want to Read This Winter

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week they post a new topic/top ten list and invite everyone to share their own answers. I'm so obsessed with lists - so it makes perfect sense that I'd love this feature!

I haven't quite read all the books on my Fall TBR, but I've come close. I'm blaming it on the fact that this topic is coming a little sooner than usual, so I've had less time to finish my list. But there have also been a lot of books distracting me, so it might be a little bit of that, too...

Top Ten Books On My Winter TBR


1. The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel
This book wasn't on my radar, but I was intrigued by the email I received about it from a publicist. The summary compared it to Sliding Doors and P.S. I Love You, and the ratings were high. I decided to give it a shot!

2. I Was Here by Gayle Forman
Although I hate this cover, I do love Gayle Forman. I have no doubt this will be a moving read, especially because the summary makes it sound like an emotional story. I'm scared of the feelings!

3. First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
I've enjoyed everything I've read by Allen, so I knew I had to request this one as soon as I saw it on NetGalley. This is a companion to Garden Spells, and I have no doubt I'll love it. I mean, do you see this gorgeous cover?!


4. Jane Austen Cover to Cover by Margaret Sullivan
Y'all, I'm obsessed with Jane Austen... and that includes collecting copies of her novels. As soon as I see a new cover, I've got to own it. So, I feel like this book was basically made for me. It's so gorgeous, too!

5. This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
I was so surprised by my love for These Broken Stars, but I've been dying to read This Shattered World ever since. When Alexa offered me her ARC, I jumped at the chance to read it! It's finally time.

6. Before I Go by Colleen Oakley
This is one of the last books I got at BEA that I still have to read, and it's one I've been most interested in reading. The premise sounds so intriguing (though sad), and I'm hoping it lives up to my expectations!

7. I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
I have heard incredible things about this book, so I was thrilled to get the chance to read this book early. This will be the first book I've read by Demetrios, and it sounds like it just might be the best place to start.

8. The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
MY PRETTY. I adored The Winner's Curse when I read it earlier this year, so I basically freaked out when Asheley sent it my way! This is at the top of my Winter TBR, but I want to re-read the first book before I do.

9. Every Breath by Ellie Marney
This blog world blew up when this book was released, and I felt like I was reading about it everywhere. I was delighted to win a giveaway for it, and I won't be able to wait much longer before reading it.

Alexa and I have a little something up our sleeve for 2015, and part of it involves this book. This will be a re-read for her, but a first read for me! I can't even believe I haven't already read it. It seems like such a ME book, too.

November 24, 2014

A Fierce & Fearless Fighter


After talking about villains and sidekicks, we figured it was only fitting that we finally discuss heroes and heroines! The main character is one of the most important parts of any book for me. I don't have to like them, but I do need them to be well developed, complex and realistic. I'm a total character reader, so this is make or break for me. In honor of that, Alexa and I are going to "build" our ideal character today!

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What would be your defining trait?

COURAGEOUS | This trait wasn't my first thought, but I quickly decided it's what I would most like to be known for if I were a heroine. I considered intelligence or loyalty, but I think I'd rather be remembered as courageous. While this attribute is pretty common in fantasy, especially for the hero or heroine, the first character that came to mind is Kelsea from The Queen of the Tearling. She's principled and compassionate, and she has the courage to make difficult and dangerous decisions... even if there will be consequences. (My Review)

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What would be your weakness?

STUBBORN | Hmm... I debated this one a bit before settling on stubbornness. I can definitely dig my heels in when I want to get my way. The other trait I considered was pride, but I think this pairs best with courage. I feel like if you've got the bravery and courage to follow a certain path, you've probably got a bit of stubbornness, too. This reminds me of one of my favorite fantasy characters - Kestrel from The Winner's Curse. She has some wonderful and admirable traits, but she's definitely proud and pretty stubborn sometimes. (My Review)

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What would your special ability be?

ASSASSIN | While it would be nice to have a special power, I think I'd rather train and work to develop the strength to defend myself. To have the abilities of an assassin like Celaena from the Throne of Glass series? YES, PLEASE. I'm not naturally athletic (or even coordinated), so this is a total departure from what I'm like in real life. But I'd love to channel this aggressiveness and be capable of this kind of power and control. (My Reviews

What trait would you want to define you?
And what about your weakness?
Any special ability you'd love to have?

November 21, 2014

You've Got a Friend In Me (+Giveaway)


We've talked about the bad guys, but what about all the people who help the protagonist take the villain down? In those moments, it's all about sidekicks! When a character goes on a quest or saves the world, they usually need help from their friends. These secondary characters often become one of my favorite parts of fantasy. No matter their reasons for helping the protagonist, the book just wouldn't be complete without them. So, Alexa and I are sharing our favorite sidekicks today!
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Who is your favorite sidekick?

ROWAN from THRONE OF GLASS SERIES | It took me all of two seconds to think of my favorite sidekick EVER. There were a lot of great possibilities, but my heart will always belong to Rowan Whitethorn. I was unsure of him when he first appeared in Heir of Fire, but I was echoing Celaena by the end of the book: “I claim you, Rowan Whitethorn. I don't care what you say and how much you protest. I claim you as my friend.” He's tough, loyal, fearless and you'd have him on your side forever. So yeah, TEAM ROWAN FOR LIFE. (My Review)

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Who do you want as your sidekick?

ZIRI from DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE SERIES | I almost chose Zuzana (from the same series), but I had to give it to Ziri at the last second. The last surviving member of the Kirin tribe, his nickname is "Lucky Ziri" because he's still in his original Kirin body. He absolutely stole the show after appearing in Days of Blood and Starlight. He's kind, loyal, selfless and has a sacrificial love for others. He will do anything to protect the people he loves, which is why he's the sidekick I'd most want by my side. I LOVE LUCKY ZIRI. (My Review)

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What sidekick do you think you could be?

WENDY DARLING from PETER PAN | Some may argue that Wendy is the protagonist and not the sidekick, but I think it counts! Wendy is the oldest child (as am I), loves telling stories and doesn't want to grow up. When she's taken to Neverland, she becomes a mother to the Lost Boys. I'll be honest: my mom used to call me "junior mom." Although Wendy is on the brink of adolescence, journeying to Neverland brings out her maturity. I relate to that - the love for magic and adventure but also the sense of responsibility and duty. She can be kind of bossy and a bit dramatic, and I hate to admit it but I have a little of that in me. So, I think it fits!

Who's your favorite sidekick?
Who would you want on your side?
What sidekick do you think you could be?

GIVEAWAY!
 Leave a comment answering one of the questions above to be entered
to win a copy of Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas. US Only. Ends 11/27.

WINNER: Commenter #6 - Holly! Congrats!

November 20, 2014

More Power to You!


Who hasn't had a moment where they wished for a magical power? Whether it's the ability to make the laundry fold itself or the power to speed up traffic, I've pondered how much fun it would be to have one. The addition of magical elements or special abilities is common in fantasy, but it took time for that to grow on me. Inspired by the malfettos in The Young Elites, that's what Alexa and I are talking about today!

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What special ability do you want to have?

TIME TRAVEL | I think this stems from my love of historical fiction, but I'd love to be able to go back in time. But I'd want to make sure I could easily return home, too. Traveling the modern world would be nice, but I'm too much of a history nerd to pass up on the opportunity to visit the past. My bags are packed!

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What special ability would you hate to have?

MIND READING | I'm in complete agreement with Alexa on this one! I'd absolutely hate to be able to hear people's thoughts. To be privy to their innermost thoughts, hopes, fears, failures... Ugh! No, thank you. I'd hate for anyone to be able to hear my mind, and I definitely wouldn't want the ability to do that to other people.

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What special ability do you think you already have?

ORGANIZATION | If you've read this blog before, you might know that I love anything and everything organization. I will happily spend a day cleaning out my closet, rearranging my bookshelves, sorting things in drawers... And if anyone needs help with something like that, I VOLUNTEER. It's totally my special power!

Any power you'd love or hate?
And what's a special power that you already have?

November 19, 2014

Faves & Flaws: The Young Elites


It's time for a Fall Into Fantasy review! Today, we're talking about our Faves & Flaws for the The Young Elites. Instead of doing a traditional review, Alexa and I are each sharing three things that we really enjoyed and three things that just didn't quite work. So, how was my first experience with Marie Lu?

Release Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Penguin | G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover
Series: The Young Elites #1

Summary (from Goodreads)
Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.


(1) a diverse cast of characters

There is a large, diverse cast of characters in The Young Elites. The protagonist is Adelina Amouteru, a survivor of the blood fever who may possess more than just scars... There's also Teren Santoro who works for the king and is the leader of the Inquisition Axis - the hunt to find all of the malfettos (survivors of the blood fever who have been marked) belonging to the Young Elites, a group of malfettos who have powerful gifts. Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society, a secret sect of Young Elites who tries to find malfettos with powers before the Inquisition Axis can. You'll meet Adelina's father, her sister, Violetta, and the all of the other members of the Dagger Society. It's a large group of characters, and I found them all so interesting!

(2) an intriguing mythology

The world and mythology in The Young Elites still needs a bit of development, but I expect that to happen more as the series progresses. But what we learn of it in the first book is very intriguing! A blood fever has ravaged this world - killing many and forever marking its survivors. Some of these survivors (malfettos) possess unique powers: creating fire, controlling the wind, crafting realistic illusions, manipulating emotions, etc. There is a political angle to the story, too, which I think will develop even more in the next books and will become a very interesting aspect of the book. While I didn't understand everything about the world or the way it worked, I liked what we got to see in The Young Elites!

(3) the birth of a villain

This isn't your typical young adult story! I found it a lot darker than what I normally read in YA, which made it feel very different. Adelina has had a rough upbringing, filled with pain and abuse. Other characters also have their own secret hurts and private problems. There didn't seem to be a lot of light or goodness in this world. In fact, The Young Elites is supposed to be the story of a villain. While I didn't think it totally went there, I can see the stage being set for an epic showdown. Either way, I love the idea of depicting the birth of a villain!


(1) too many POVs

Most of the chapters focus on Adelina, but there are also chapters other points of view. Instead of focusing solely on the main character, readers also get to hear directly from Enzo, Teren and a character named Raffaele. While I enjoyed all of the characters, I didn't like having chapters from each of them. I didn't feel like it was necessary, and the POV change sometimes felt abrupt or off-putting. It made some elements of the book feel a little undeveloped - like there was so much focus on the characters that there wasn't enough of the plot or setting. I'm hoping that there will be fewer POVs in the next book, which would improve the book for me!

(2) issues with pacing

So, I struggled a bit with the pacing in The Young Elites. It wasn't as exciting as I expected it to be! There are a few moments where things really pick up, but a lot of the book is Adelina's internal monologue and angst over how she should handle certain situations, how she feels about things and what happened to her in the past. It's a lot of laying the groundwork instead of actually jumping into the action. I flew through certain chapters... and then sort of slogged through others. I wanted there to be a bit more conflict driving the narrative, but the epilogue definitely gave me hope that I'll get more of what I want in the second book!

(3) connection to characters

I found the characters fascinating, but I didn't necessarily feel anything for them. I think this may be due to the sheer number of characters you meet and who seem to play in the events of the first book. For being so dark, I expected the book to be more emotional or tense. But overall, I felt a little disconnected from the entire story. It was good - and I liked reading it - but I don't feel passionate about what I read. I want to continue the series though because I'm hoping that will change as the pace picks up and I get to know the characters better!

November 18, 2014

Time to Map It Out


One of my favorite elements of fantasy: the setting. I used to think that it would be hard to fall in love with an imaginary world... and then I found Hogwarts. I saw just how wrong I'd been, and now I love discovering different complex and vivid worlds. I'd never realized how much work goes into creating a setting from scratch. There are so many things an author has to consider to make the place come alive and feel real! 

I love special details in books, especially maps. What a nice surprise when I find one hiding in the first few pages of a new read! I don't typically refer to them while I'm reading, but I love knowing it's there. Since maps and fantasy go hand-in-hand, Alexa and I created our own "maps" and are sharing what defines our worlds.

(1) Work

Last year, the company I work for moved into a brand-new building. We'd previously been spread out on a campus with lots of buildings, so it was a welcome and wonderful change! I have my own office, too. And yes, I've totally decorated it. What did you expect? I like the area where I work - it's not far from a great bookstore! 

(2) Restaurant

There are a ton of amazing restaurants in Atlanta, but I've never been a big foodie. Thankfully, there are also some great local places not far from me. One of my favorites is Los Hermanos, a Mexican restaurant I love to visit on my lunch break. It's not far from work, and you can't go wrong with anything on the menu. Yum!

(3) Shopping

There's a great mall pretty close to me, but I don't go there too often. It's just so busy! If I do, you're definitely going to find me in Barnes & Noble or Sephora. But honestly, I'd prefer to wander around the Target or Ulta right across the street! I wish I cared more about clothes, but I'm definitely more of a makeup addict.

(4) Bookstore

So, I cheated a little - I marked my library instead of bookstore. I have two chain bookstores near me, but I'm not crazy about either one. The only local one is a used bookstore, which I like but don't love. I'm more likely to get my books at the library because my county has an amazing system. They usually have all the books I want!

(5) Home

Nick and I bought a house two and a half years ago, and it definitely feels like home. It helps that I've been on a decorating kick recently. I forget how much that changes the way you feel about where you live! We're in a great neighborhood, and I think we're both so happy about becoming homeowners. About the yard though...

(6) Bonus

I wasn't sure what to pick for my "bonus" place and finally decided on my favorite city in Georgia. Amazing places to eat, fun places to shop, my favorite indie bookstore, my alma mater... The Classic City has it all! I love returning for football games, concerts or even a trip down memory lane. 

And now I've got to share one of my favorite fantasy maps! This beauty is from Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, which is a fantastic read. Isn't Ravka, as drawn by Keith Thompson, seriously gorgeous?

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Do you like maps in books?
What's your favorite fantasy map?
What places would be on your personal map?

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