The back to school wardrobe of a Very Mature and Responsible college student.

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Back to school is here. That means stocking up on overpriced textbooks, caffeinated substances, and, of course, Disney socks. Here’s wishing the best of fortunes to everyone heading for the classroom and everyone claiming a student amongst their kith and kin.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go meet my word quota before zipping off for Japanese. :)

Things you DO NOT need to be a “good” character

It’s probably a bad idea to watch a movie with me. When I watch movies, I tend to criticize the character development and the writers’ standardized methods of relaying a character’s “strength.” I do it with books, too, there’s just usually no one around to hear me griping at my Kindle. There are five things that especially bug me, hence I have decided to whine about them in a blog post accompanied by Taylor Swift GIF’s because everyone likes Taylor Swift.

A temper

Tempers are not awesome. It is one thing to have righteous anger over injustice or cruelty, but quite another to overreact and resort to violence. Writers moved away from this one for a while, but I’ve noticed it coming back—mainly in female characters because men and women should be held to different moral standards (not).

A long list of ex-lovers

Some of my favorite characters of all time are, shall we say, romantically prolific, but the fact remains that being desired and/or sexually active are not the hallmarks of a strong persona! It’s okay to not have a significant other or regular one-night stands, but you wouldn’t know it by the way mainstream media handles it. Tay❤️

Modern literature and film seem to think it makes a character interesting, relying on sex as a plot device rather than using something crazy, like a storyline. There are plenty of shows I could list where if the writers weren’t allowed to incorporate sex involving the main characters, they would run out of material in about two episodes.

A tragic backstory

Tragic backstories are about as common as mud. I have used them quite often myself, but lacking some horror in your past does not make you any less of a character or your input to the story any less valid. Despite this, characters without tragedy in their pasts are usually portrayed as the naive innocent that gets killed first or gruesomely victimized, but that’s just a sign of lazy writing.

A set of fighting skills

I prefer for my own characters to have fighting skills (because fight scenes allow my inner ninja to play), but they aren’t necessary to a solid character—male or female. I wish I could find more portrayals where it’s okay to not be a warrior, but it’s been becoming rarer, especially in fantasy books.

A postmodern mindset

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It may sound like a contradiction to some, but it actually is possible for one to believe in traditional gender roles without being sexist. It’s also possible to firmly believe in one’s own religion as the sole truth without hating others and I could go on. However, the characters who are more traditional in their views are generally cast in a negative manner, which is a travesty, because it is an incomplete picture of what real people with similar opinions are actually like.

And that wraps up my rant for the month, but there’s plenty more where that came from. ;)

(As a side note, if you guys can think of any fantasy books that defy these tropes, I’d really like to hear about them.)

Review: The Seventh Magpie by Nancy Chase @NancyAChase

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Sometimes you must give up what you value most to gain what you want even more.

Princess Catrin is just a child when her mother vanishes, leaving her a cryptic legacy: a priceless magical book and the warning that if Catrin ever loses it, she’ll surely die. But she is a young woman on the brink of a whole new life when, in a moment of defiance, she forgets that warning and triggers a catastrophe that shatters all her hopes.

Stricken with grief and seeking a way to correct her terrible mistake, Catrin risks everything on a dangerous bargain. Too late, she realizes just how much more she has to lose.

With advice from a half-mad witch and help from companions she meets along the way, Catrin embarks on a desperate quest to defeat seven riddling Magpies–magical tricksters who can shapeshift into anything or anyone–and win back her book or face losing everything she holds dear.

With each step the stakes get higher, and there are secrets she still doesn’t suspect. How much is Catrin willing to sacrifice to finally unmask the Seventh Magpie?

A dark fairy tale of loss and renewal.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars

Reading this made me feel like a little girl again, curled up with Mommy while she was reading me princess stories. There is a whimsical, magical feel to this story that I haven’t truly encountered in contemporary literature before. It is a singular story that seems to cast a category all its own, creating something that truly comes across as an old-timey fairytale while creating something completely new. The fantastic illustrations add splendidly to the storybook feel and I immensely enjoyed the whole of the story.

The plot:

As I said, there is a definite storybook feel, however this employs more modern logic and characters. Unlike some of the old fables, the storyline interweaves and interconnects in ways the reader doesn’t see coming and gives us plenty to guess at right up until the very last page.

The riddles, the magic, the quests, and the prices of Catrin’s quests were wonderfully inventive and original while maintaining the fairytale theme of the story. You can certainly tell the author put her heart and soul into this.

There is a sense of sadness to the story, but at the same time, a lightness and whimsy that never lets the reader become depressed. The ending was not at all what I expected, but was no less gratifying and Ms. Chase is undeniably an exceptional wordsmith.

The characters:

The character development in this is not what we are used to in modern books. It is certainly incorporated, but is a bit more distant in keeping with the fairytale style. The focus is almost wholly on the main character, Catrin, and she undergoes a number of transformations throughout the story. She certainly matures and learns throughout the tale, a refreshing change from the traditional mold.

Overall, I think this is an amazing piece and I can do nothing but recommend it to anyone with a taste for fairytales that are fresh and inventive.

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Review: World of the Beasts (The Witches’ Sleep Trilogy, #2) by Kaitlyn Deann @kaitlyn_deann

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Sea-Anna and Tuck have been weretiger slaves to the witches for over twenty years. But now, because their master happens to be the leader’s worst enemy, they have been sold to the beasts behind their master’s back. Sea-Anna and Tuck are separated, bought by two different beasts. Sea-Anna, who dreads the beasts more than anything, promises herself to stay strong, but not for herself, not to save her own life. She has to protect her secrets. But will she buckle under the pressure Aphalie, the world of the beasts, shoves at her? Or will she overcome the trials and become the weretiger she was always meant to be?

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars

This is…wow. So much wow. I read the first book over a year ago and had forgotten what a skilled and talented authoress this young lady is. If she EVER even CONSIDERS putting a stop to her writing, I will have WORDS. No book is perfect and I did have some minor issues, but the overall storyline, character development, world building, plot twists…I was amazed by how well put together it was. The writer took her time with releasing this, getting everything just the way she wanted it, and I cannot argue with what a great book has resulted. Simply marvelous.

The plot:

I got to about 20% into this book and stopped. I knew bad things were about to happen and really didn’t want them to because I love the characters. However, an hour-long wait to take a college test forced me to stop being a baby and just read and I was so happy that I did.

I was never quite able to accurately predict what would happen. There were times when I thought “oh, the author would never let that happen” and then she DID. There were also times when I thought “oh, no, SHE’S GOING TO DO IT,” but she showed mercy on the characters (and I thank her for that). In short, this story was far from predictable and I enjoyed the not-knowing immensely.

The characters:

Sea-Anna is my dear little baby and I can’t say I was happy for most of this book because of that. She goes through a maelstrom of character development and it was wonderful to see how much stronger and wiser she had grown by the end. She was perfect before, but she somehow managed to become even more amazing.

Tuck also gets a few perspective chapters in this book and since he was one of my favorite characters in book 1, I loved it. I admit there were lots of twists about him that I didn’t see coming, but the fact remains that I adore him as much as Sea-Anna and that led to a great deal of stress. MAJOR stress.

Sunny still plays a large role in this book, despite a focus on Sea-Anna and her storyline. Some questions left open-ended in the first book come into play in her sequence and she makes some world-shattering discoveries about Raena and the whole of the world. The relationship between her and Clap continues to be precious and don’t even get me started on her and Kindness. <3 Everything about the way their dynamics are portrayed is adorable with just the perfect amount of grounding in reality.

SPOILERS

I said I had minor issues with a few things, but it was really only one thing—the whole element about Sea-Anna being used as a sex slave. For starters, I thought it strange that Sea-Anna would feel guilt over an interspecies carnal relationship, but not over the fact that she’s married.

Then there was Tuck’s reaction when he finds out that Sea-Anna was prostituted. I don’t mean toward the client who paid for her, but the man who did the selling. I would think that if I had found out that my spouse was used as a sex slave, I would be just a tad upset with the bloke who did the brokering. It doesn’t matter how pure or honest he might have seen his intentions when he prostituted her, the fact remains he prostituted her. There just didn’t seem to be any repercussions for Buck in that regard from Tuck or anyone, really.

SPOILER OVER

Overall, I adored this book. The new species that are introduced, the amazing handling of suspense and character development as well as the promise of an even juicier sequel have left me aching for the next book. Again, I say that Miss Deann better keep on writing because the world needs more books like this!

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Review: Betrayal (The Priestess Trilogy, #2) by Melissa Sasina @MelissaSasina

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Shiovra, High Priestess of the village Tara, is set to wed one considered the enemy for the sake of her clan. Torn between her heart and her people, between love and duty, Shiovra decides her fate and faces the truth about Odhrán.

Still hunted by both the Milidh clan and her own kin, she learns that not all enemies are quite what they seem.

Loyalty is brought into question and power lost within enemy ranks in what shall ultimately lead to one thing: BETRAYAL.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

4 out of 5 stars

I have been looking forward to this book for some time and was very excited when the chance came along for me to snag it. It was an enchanting, exciting read and it had all the elements that made the first one memorable—mythology, magic, and mayhem.

One of my favorite things is the archaic, era-appropriate terms and language. It gives the story a wonderfully authentic feel and who doesn’t like learning new words? These stories are woven in with just the right dose of the arcane, yet never enough so as to make it seem foreign, just right.

The plot:

These books trot along fairly quickly and I’m never quite sure which direction they’ll take. There is never a shortage of action or sword fights and the detailed battles are always an exciting shot of action.

There is a lot more sex in this one than in the previous, which I suppose makes sense in the storyline, but yes, I did skip them. It’s a policy I don’t plan on repealing in the foreseeable future and it also means I wouldn’t consider this as young adult by any means, just so you YA readers out there know.

The characters:

We meet a good many new characters in this one as well as some familiar friends (and enemies). There is a greater exploration of the different tribes and clans as well as their dynamics which made for excellent world building.

In addition, there is a great deal more delving into marital institutions of the era. Despite this being a fantasy, the characters’ attitudes and opinions regarding marriage and the entailed responsibilities/duties of husbands and wives came across as highly realistic and was one of my favorite elements. However, there was this one part where I think a character basically told his wife to cheat on him. I may have misunderstood and sincerely hope I did, but…yeah, let’s just say I hope I misunderstood.

I had a great deal of fun in reading this book and I am very much looking forward to Eclipse coming out later this year. I recommend this for fans of mythology and Celtic-based fantasy worlds—the author certainly put a great deal into the world building and it shows.

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Writing Update and Other News: July 2015

Home is where my books are.

Home is where my books are.

This past month has been trying and full of changes, to say the least. In the last few weeks, I have officially joined a church (for the first time in my life), undergone a massive move (for the first time in my life) and been punched in the jaw by a dog (not the first time, don’t ask).

In the move, I had thirteen boxes of personal stuff—nine of which were books. My family absolutely hated me when they had to transport them, but I handled packing, unpacking, and most the unloading, so they have no grounds for complaining. Putting away these babies reminded me of how many I haven’t read and all the reading I have to catch up on, not to mention all the sequels I still have to buy—*cough cough*—for the love of Shakespeare DO NOT tell my mother about that last part.

Speaking of sequels, I have been given an ARC of the last book in Jadie Jones’ Moonlit trilogy. I am a huge fangirl of this series, so when I got the email from Jadie asking if I would be “willing” to read and review it, I very nearly crawled through my phone screen to hug her. I can’t wait to share with you all how awesome it is (because, come on, you know it’s going to be awesome) and you had better check it out for yourselves!

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Wildwood’s gorgeous cover splashed across my Kindle screen. Boo-yah!

Amid so much happiness, I must now relay the tragic news that I am no longer a teenager. Last week marks two decades since my birth and I feel the need for a moment of silence or perhaps another slice of birthday chocolate pie.

Despite the sadness, I had a wonderful birthday reading books, hanging out with my best friend, eating fattening foods at my favorite restaurant, and—wait for it—finishing the first draft of Argetallam Saga 6. Yes, you read that right. One more book to go and then Janir’s story is fully written! I am very excited about where this series is headed and can’t wait to share it with you all.

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My new writing nook. Complete with surrounding bookshelves and requisite Minion cup.

Right now you’re probably shaking your heads and wanting to remind me that I still haven’t released book 2, The Secrets of the Vanmars. Well…we’ll talk about that later, how does that sound? Much later. I’m working on it—really—it’s just waiting for this person and that person to answer emails.

I am currently forcing myself to take a week-long break from writing before getting to work on Argetallam Saga 7. It’s all turning out to be SO fun, bwahaha.

On the side, I am also putting together something very big and very secret for the Argetallam Saga in September. Very big. Huge. And you guys are going to love it, I know.

Review: From Darkness Won (Blood of Kings, #3) by Jill Williamson @JillWilliamson

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Achan steps into his role as Crown Prince and prepares for war. But war against whom? Could Esek still be alive? Has Lord Nathak taken Esek’s place? Or is the mysterious Hadad the true enemy Achan must confront?

Vrell has her own agenda of serving Prince Oren as a healer, but when she is stormed and lost to the Veil, Achan does all he can to bring her back. His conversations with her are strange, though, as if she has no memory of who he is.

In a land consumed by Darkness, the fate of Er’Rets hangs in the balance as Achan endeavors to take the throne and end the reign of Darkness.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars

I love this series. I love this series SO FREAKING MUCH. Original, imaginative, inspiring, thrilling, enchanting, addictive—just a few adjectives to describe it. I am so sad to see the series end, but what an ending that was! I cannot remember the last time I binge read through a whole series beginning to end without reading anything else in between. I’m actually not sure it has happened before. This series consumed my literary adventures until the moment I ran out of trilogy.

As a Christian lover of Epic Fantasy, I cannot express all the ways and reasons I adore this series. For me, it was just perfect—perfect. Exactly what I have been needing lately and I’m dead serious when I say that every chance I get I shall be shoving this in people’s faces with all due fangirling and enthusiasm.

The plot:

It seems cliché to call the plot “fast” and I’ve said it before about the earlier books. It was certainly intense and never stayed in one place for very long. I admit I had a few of those “not enough book left for everything I want to happen” moments, but everything was okay in the end. There were some sad things, but everything was okay.

There were plot twists I did not see coming (another awesome point), what I considered to be highly realistic portrayals of individuals’ moral and spiritual struggles, and a good dose of action. In a word: awesome.

The characters:

Achan’s character arc is probably my favorite one in recent memory. In many ways, it’s not apparently obvious in the beginning just how much development he needs. (One of many parts I thought realistic.) He’s not a “bad” person in the beginning, but he comes to see over the course of the story that he can’t be truly “good” on his own, either. I loved that theme examining universally corrupt nature and Achan’s worries that he’ll repeat his father’s sins were a wonderful element as well.

As the blurb says, Vrell loses her memory in this one and can’t remember Achan or even guising herself as a boy for months. When that happened, it was a bit of a shock to realize how much character development she’d had when it was suddenly gone. Good grief. But I did like how her arc turned out as well, with her finally swallowing her pride and being honest and I LOVE THE ENDING SO MUCH I better stop there.

A wonderful series that I’m sorry to see end. I caught wind of the author writing another Achan and Vrell story, so I will be watching for that. I especially recommend this to Christians who don’t like Christian Fantasy (like me). Let this prove to you that religious fiction can be awesome, not preachy or boring or sermon-ish. Read it and then we can gush over it together!

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