Diversifying My Blog

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Throw out the old schedule, I never kept to it anyway.

I created this space to review novels and recommend books. That is still the primary purpose of this blog.

However, I think what has been bogging me down is my personal focus has been my writing and I haven’t felt like I should mix the two passions on my blog. But that is just silly. It’s mine. I can do whatever I want with it.

So from now on I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts on writing as well as my book reviews and recommendations.

While I still want this to me more of a book club/reader’s space, I cant ignore the writing aspect of my life either. It exists and is a big part of my hopes/dreams/goals. Yes… I am aware those all basically mean the same thing, but I couldn’t pick just one!

What this means for you:

Basically, I’m going to have a “Writer’s Nest” section I post my thoughts on writing and the personal struggles and triumphs I have in my writer’s life. So if you want to just focus on the books and reader aspect you still can. You’ll just also see some writing content you can ignore it you wish.

I hope to continue on this crazy reading/writing/living journey with you!

XX

T.G.

Crow Queen Review

 

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Oh, so I’m published now…

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AHHHHHHH!

I’m not freaking out. You’re freaking out.

Okay, so maybe it’s just me.

But my short story, Bloodless, is one in a collection of eight short stories with the theme of survival published in the anthology Shards of Survival. The collection was put together by Writing Bad, an online writing community.

Obligatory links:

Anthology:

Website: https://writingbad.org/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/WritingBad/

The Facebook community of Writing Bad has over seven thousand members and has bright, vibrant talent from all over the world.

Last year, a group of us participated in a contest and wrote themed stories. Before the winner of the contest was even announced, we all commented that we would love to read everyone else’s work. An offhand remark about how we should put it all together in anthology and a lot of hard work from one of our brilliant admins later, and it became real.

The contest winner Caton Easton’s story, Healers, is fantastic. We were all privileged to read it when the contest ended.

And of course, I’m partial to my own story, Bloodless, but there are a whole host of cool stories in here I can’t wait to read.

Bloodless is the story of a vampire named Sadie who finds herself relying on an unlikely ally when her family entrap her with one directive: kill or be killed.

Look forward to a short review of the work as a whole with more details to come!

And in the meantime, if you have $0.99 you’d like to drop and time to pass reading cool survival stories, that’s awesome too!

xx

T.G.

IT’S READING WEEK!

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You may or may not have noticed, but I haven’t been posting for a few weeks. The answer to that mystery is as follows: I’ve been overwhelmed with life. I struggle with a combination of depression and anxiety that usually rears its ugly head in the winter months, though it can strike at any time.

I’ve also been imposing a lot of writing related goals on myself lately with my multitude of writing works in progress and it has been bogging down my soul. I love to write. It’s my passion. But sometimes I need to unwind, unplug and get back to the core of why I love to write. Which is because I love to read. I love to explore new worlds and escape into literature and that drives me  to create my own worlds and give my own characters life.

So I decided to unplug from my biggest social media drain, Facebook, and just read for a week.

It has already done wonders for my mental health. I even did work around the house and straightened things up so the place looks tidy and uncluttered like my mind from this social media sabbatical.

So my book challenge is a go and already part complete.

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Sunday I read The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser. I really liked the beginning of this book when I started it weeks ago, but I finally read it all the way through and I was not impressed.

It’s a modern-day fairy tale who-dun-it that features characters that can literally jump into the literary world, and while that sounds good on paper, I wasn’t very impressed. Even though it is well-written, it was not my cup of tea. 3/5 Crows.

Amazon Blurb:

Amy Lennox doesn’t know quite what to expect when she and her mother pick up and leave Germany for Scotland, heading to her mother’s childhood home of Lennox House on the island of Stormsay.

Amy’s grandmother, Lady Mairead, insists that Amy must read while she resides at Lennox House—but not in the usual way. It turns out that Amy is a book jumper, able to leap into a story and interact with the world inside. As thrilling as Amy’s new power is, it also brings danger: someone is stealing from the books she visits, and that person may be after her life. Teaming up with fellow book jumper Will, Amy vows to get to the bottom of the thefts—at whatever cost.

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Monday I read When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore and, as always, she created a beautiful modern magical story about diverse characters that was lovely, well-executed, and everything I could have hoped for and more.

I will do a more thorough review of this one at a later time but suffice to say McLemore continues to be one of the best writers in the YA genre of this day and age and never disappoints. Her stories are works of art and her descriptions so beautiful they could be poetry. I recommend this novel and the author’s complete body of work. 5/5 Crows.

Amazon Blurb:

Anna-Marie McLemore’s debut novel The Weight of Feathers was greeted with rave reviews, a YALSA Morris Award nomination, and spots on multiple “Best YA Novels” lists. Now, McLemore delivers a second stunning and utterly romantic novel, again tinged with magic.

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

Atmospheric, dynamic, and packed with gorgeous prose, When the Moon was Ours is another winner from this talented author.

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Today, Tuesday, I am reading Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore. Cashore is one of my favorite authors and I’ve already talked about and recommended her novels at length on multiple posts here for a reason.

I am sucked in already but can’t say more at this time. But I’m definitely enjoying this read so far.

Amazon Blurb:

Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions.

Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family’s island mansion called Tu Reviens.

Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.” With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn’t know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price.

 

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Wednesday I plan on reading Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst.

I was drawn to this book initially because I saw the cover and I was like… wait … is that princess holding a girl’s hand? So of course I had to buy it. I was at a bookseller and added it to the ever-growing pile in my husband’s arms, but such is the way of things, I’m just getting around to reading it this week. I’m excited for it though and can’t wait to check out this new author.

Amazon Blurb:

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile kingdoms.

But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a land where magic is forbidden.

Now Denna has to learn the ways of her new kingdom while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine, sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, they discover there is more to one another than they thought—and soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.

 

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Thursday I’ll be reading The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco.

This book was introduced to me at the same bookseller by my friend who saw the lovely purple and gold cover and the intriguing description and pointed it out to me. Though the cover is freaking gorgeous and the blurb is interesting, I might not have picked it up on my own. But with her encouragement, I bought it several months ago, and with another friend’s encouragement, who also saw it and thought it sounded rad on my bookshelf, it’s now near the top of my to-read pile.

Amazon Blurb:

Let me be clear: I never intended to raise my brother from his grave, though he may claim otherwise. If there’s anything I’ve learned from him in the years since, it’s that the dead hide truths as well as the living.

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha—one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.

 

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Friday I’ll be reading another gorgeous novel by Anna-Marie McLemore, Wild Beauty.

I’ve already discussed in many posts why this is near the top of my to-read list, namely because I can’t get enough of McLemore’s gorgeous writing style and the magical, moving tales she grows as naturally as flowers and uses to illuminate diverse cultures and points of view as brilliantly as stars.

Amazon Blurb:

Love grows such strange things.

Anna-Marie McLemore’s debut novel The Weight of Feathers garnered fabulous reviews and was a finalist for the prestigious YALSA Morris Award, and her second novel, When the Moon was Ours, was longlisted for the 2016 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Now, in Wild Beauty, McLemore introduces a spellbinding setting and two characters who are drawn together by fate—and pulled apart by reality.

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

 

 

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Saturday I want to finish off this week of YA novels with Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me by writer Carrie DiRisio and illustrator Linnea Gear. 

I think a comedic self-help book will be a fun way to end my week of non-stop reading. 

Amazon Blurb:

Have you ever wished you could receive a little guidance from your favorite book boyfriend? Ever dreamed of being the Chosen One in a YA novel? Want to know all the secrets of surviving the dreaded plot twist?

Or maybe you’re just really confused about what “opal-tinted, luminous cerulean orbs” actually are?

Well, popular Twitter personality @broodingYAhero is here to help as he tackles the final frontier in his media dominance: writing a book. Join Broody McHottiepants as he attempts to pen Brooding YA Hero’s Guide to Achieving Main Character Status, a “self-help” guide (with activities–you always need activities) that lovingly pokes fun at the YA tropes that we roll our eyes at, but secretly love.

As his nefarious ex, Blondie DeMeani, attempts to thwart him at every turn, Broody overcomes to detail, among other topics, how to choose your genre, how to keep your love interest engaged (while maintaining lead character status), his secret formula for guaranteed love triangle success, and how to make sure you secure that sequel, all while keeping his hair perfectly coiffed and never breaking a sweat.

 

If any of these books pique your interest, feel free to check them out and then look forward to seeing my reviews and book rants about them in the weeks to come!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wolfsong by TJ Klune

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WolfsongAmazon Blurb:

“Ox was twelve when his daddy taught him a very valuable lesson. He said that Ox wasn’t worth anything and people would never understand him. Then he left.

Ox was sixteen when he met the boy on the road, the boy who talked and talked and talked. Ox found out later the boy hadn’t spoken in almost two years before that day, and that the boy belonged to a family who had moved into the house at the end of the lane.

Ox was seventeen when he found out the boy’s secret, and it painted the world around him in colors of red and orange and violet, of Alpha and Beta and Omega.

Ox was twenty-three when murder came to town and tore a hole in his head and heart. The boy chased after the monster with revenge in his bloodred eyes, leaving Ox behind to pick up the pieces.

It’s been three years since that fateful day—and the boy is back. Except now he’s a man, and Ox can no longer ignore the song that howls between them.”

Wolfsong is a beautiful, heartbreaking, and lovely story about a simple human boy who was told by his father that he would never amount to anything and that people were going to give him shit.

It’s a story about how when he was sixteen he was walking down the dirt road towards his house and a tornado of a ten-year-old boy jumped out into the road and asked him what that smell was. What smelled like candy canes and pine cones, epic and awesome.

That smell was Ox. and when the little tornado that is Joe Bennett realizes this, he drags Ox home to meet his whole family that lives in the house at the end of the lane.

From then on Ox’s life is full of werewolves and magic and pack.pack.pack.
It’s about finding out his little corner of the world in Green Creek is so much bigger and so much darker than he ever imagined.
It’s about the long wait for true love that was there all along, and all the pain and violence and strength necessary to be a leader and lover and protect those closest to you.
It’s honestly one of my favorite books.
And one I put off doing a review of for the longest time.
Because how could I ever do justice to this beautiful novel?
So that’s where I’ll start. This novel is beautiful. It’s told in a format that might throw off some readers. There is a repetition of words and phrases and small snapshots of scenes to show the passage of time. This is a novel that spans over the course of more than a decade. It’s ambitious, but the flowing, repetitive style keeps it from seeming that way. Instead it feels fluid and natural. It feels like you are right there with Ox. Feeling the joy, the family, the green relief of pack. brother. son. love.
There are so many great things to love about this novel, it’s hard for me to mention just a few and keep but I’ll try.
Ox is one of my favorite MCs of all time. He is strong and resilient and believes that he doesn’t deserve anything but the shit his father promised the world would give him, so it’s even more wonderful that he is immersed with people who value him even when he can’t value himself.
Joe. Oh the tornado Joe. He grows up that Joe Bennett. But still retains all the vulnerability of the little boy on the road who noticed Ox, smelled him, and knew he would be the center of his world and that he just had to give him his most prized possession.
Ox’s mother and Joe’s mother are two of the best characters.
Thomas Bennett is the world’s greatest dad.
Carter and Kelly are the best brothers.
And everyone just wants Gordo and Mark to get their shit together.
And I’m always going to love Robbie. And all the guys from the shop. And Jessie is badass.
I love that this novel isn’t afraid to hurt people. Some of the best characters don’t make it to the end folks. The villain is as competent as he is crazy and he will stop at nothing to take the power of a Bennett pack alpha. You have been warned. But it’s all so worth it.
Wolfsong is a novel that makes you cry and laugh, cry and laugh. It breaks your hard and then puts it back together. On the one hand it’s a gay werewolf shifter novel. On the other it’s the story about a guy who is stronger and more special than all the supernatural creatures around him. Not in spite of being human, or even because of his humanity, but because he is so much more than that.
Please read this book and love it just as much as I do. I promise you will not be disappointed.
5/5 Crows. Because seriously guys, this is one of my favorites.

 

 

As always, a brief summation of my rating system:

1 Crow: It sucks and I’m not even going to finish.

2 Crows: It’s okay, very meh. I read it all the way through but probably skimmed it in places.

3 Crows: It was good, it held my attention. I read it all the way through. It entertained me. I liked it but there were some flaws. (This will be where most of my reviews land.)

4 Crows: I really liked it. It was so good. I’m going to reread it several times. There was hardly anything wrong with it.

5 Crows: The illusive 5 Crows. It impressed me so much, I loved it, and consider it one of my favorite books of all time. It was ground-breaking, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Casting and Creating Unforgettable Secondary Characters

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This is a super helpful article on casting secondary characters in stories.

Writing Bad - Official Site

drawing people

It may be the salty aired beach or a long-ago molten path on a dormant volcano that brings us into the story, and the main characters who introduce themselves and take the reader by the hand for the journey. However, without secondary characters, the story wouldn’t get far. Main characters can’t be everywhere at once, even though they are the main focus in stories. There’s no way for them to gain every tidbit of knowledge they need without the help of their comrades. That’s why writers should never forget the importance of creating and casting unforgettable secondary characters.

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My Favorite Series with Fantastic Worldbuilding

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These are all series that are very near and dear to my heart for various reasons. Most of these worlds I dived into as a teenager and in college and each offered me a mind-blowing story to read and a fantastic world to explore.

5. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (Study Series)

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Amazon Blurb:

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

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

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

I love this series and subsequent companion series, the Glass series, because the world is so vivid and magical and real. It’s one of the few series that succeeds in showing the realities and dangers of magic while still leaving the reader enchanted by each new display.

The characters are strong, motivated, and true to themselves. I love Yelena in the Study series and Opal in the Glass series. I am absolutely drawn to the men in their lives, but the series are both about so much more than that. The countries explored, Ixia and Sitia, have different governments and different views on magic, but both come alive and are peopled with engaging characters–ones that become dear to the protagonists and the reader.

The worlds explored in all of Maria V. Synder’s works aren’t black and white. They are filled with shades of gray, magic, and truth. I find them riveting and hope you do too.

4. Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien (Birthmarked Trilogy)

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Amazon Blurb:

“In the future, in a world baked dry by the harsh sun, there are those who live inside the wall and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife, Gaia Stone, who live outside. Gaia has always believed it is her duty, with her mother, to hand over a small quota of babies to the Enclave. But when Gaia’s mother and father are arrested by the very people they so dutifully serve, Gaia is forced to question everything she has been taught to believe. Gaia’s choice is now simple: enter the world of the Enclave to rescue her parents, or die trying.”

Not a dystopian world to laugh at, this series shows a post apocalyptic North America dealing with the very real problems of a devastated landscape, few resources, and too small a population.

The trilogy follows Gaia as her little acts of defiance; trying to rescue her family, save her and her sister, fight for gender equality, lead a group of people, and her very genetics make her a target and put her in the position to change her world forever.

The trilogy doesn’t just focus on the Enclave and those villages outside the wall. The second book has her traveling across wasteland to another civilization and the third has her back where she started outside the wall. All the civilizations we experience with Gaia feel like real, living-breathing places with people who have different struggles and we see a range of human experience.

It’s a harsh world that makes you face hard topics; sexism, civil rights, but most importantly what it means to be a woman in any world, the choices you face as one, and the autonomy of a woman’s body in unexpected ways.

It’s dystopian, but also an intimate story. It follows Gaia, the love of her life, the amazing, Leon Grey, and all the small triumphs and horrors they face in their journey not only to change their world, but to carve out a place for themselves in it.

3. Graceling by Kristin Cashore (Graceling Realm Series)

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Amazon Blurb:

“Graceling tells the story of the vulnerable-yet-strong Katsa, who is smart and beautiful and lives in the Seven Kingdoms where selected people are born with a Grace, a special talent that can be anything at all. Katsa’s Grace is killing. As the king’s niece, she is forced to use her extreme skills as his brutal enforcer. Until the day she meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, and Katsa’s life begins to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.”

The world of the Seven Kingdoms explored in Graceling, and the rest of the world explored in the companion novel Fire, is one of my favorites. The kingdoms, traditions, and the magic of the world (Graces in Graceling, and the “monsters” in Fire) are so well thought out and lend themselves to fantastic plots, strong, vivid characters, and deep romances.

When reading these books, Graceling, Fire,  and Bitterblue, I am transported. I feel as though I can walk into any kingdom mentioned and experience different traditions and cultures and quirks to the way everyone lives their daily lives. We are given this unique backdrop with characters who embody the magic of their kingdom and then go on a journey with them to save kingdoms and fall in love.

Graceling was one of the first novels I ever looked up from after reading it and felt whiplash from being pulled out of the novel and back into the real world. Fire was much the same, with the bonus that I don’t know that I have ever loved a character more than I love Brigan, the love of Fire (the titular character).

The worldbuilding and magic concepts are original and fleshed out exactly enough to be engrossing but not too much so that I’m left bored or uninterested in learning more. Words I would use to describe this series are original, bold, beautiful, and engrossing.

2. Crown Duel (Crown Duel and Court Duel separately) by Sherwood Smith

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Amazon Blurb:

“Young Countess Meliara swears to her dying father that she and her brother will defend their people from the growing greed of the king. That promise leads them into a war for which they are ill-prepared, which threatens the very people they are trying to protect. But war is simple compared to what follows, in peacetime. Meliara is summoned to live at the royal palace, where friends and enemies look alike, and intrigue fills the dance halls and the drawing rooms. If she is to survive, Meliara must learn a whole new way of fighting-with wits and words and secret alliances.

In war, at least, she knew in whom she could trust. Now she can trust no one.”

Counting this as a series because it’s published two books in one.

The worldbuilding and magic in Sherwood Smith’s novels is always stellar. Both subtle and in-depth, similar to other novels on this list, a novel set in any kingdom mentioned in any of her books is one both the reader and the characters in the novel can step into and be immersed in different governments, traditions and ways of life.

Small magic is integrated in the daily lives of the characters and so we pick up a lot from context (think waste spells and cloaks enchanted to repel rain), but the important magic of the novel, that of the hill folk, fire sticks, and the few and far between mages, is dazzling and vivid on the page.

The young Countess Meliara, the main character, and her brother Bran are beloved, well-meaning, but flawed characters,  and the heir apparent Vidanric Renselaeus, Marquis of Shevraeth, is equal parts perfect for the job and perplexing to Mel.

Crown Duel is a classic and one of my all time favorite novels. This book (or books if bought separately) is full of action, plotting, courtly schemes, political intrigue, and, much to Mel’s chagrin, courtship.

1.The Named by Marianne Curley (Guardians of Time Trilogy) 511T72R1BTL._SX302_BO1,204,203,200_Amazon Blurb:

“Ethan lives a secret life as a Guardian of the Named. Under the guidance of Arkarian, his mentor, and with the help of Isabel, his unlikely but highly capable apprentice, Ethan has become a valued member of this other-worldly corps. As the only defense against the evil Order of Chaos, the Named travel through time to prevent the Order from altering history and thereby gaining power in the present and the future.

As the threat from the Order intensifies, secrets of the past are revealed and villains and heroes are exposed. This gripping fantasy is set in modern times, but is infused with intrigue from the past, super-natural characters and surprising plot twists. Curley has written a winner through to the end.”

Bringing things back to the “real world,” the Guardians of Time trilogy (now a series thanks to a release of a fourth book coming soon) takes place in modern day Australia but as the premise of the series is that the Named travel through time and protect key events from the Order of Chaos, there are whole worlds set on multiple planes of existence.

We visit a plane for the pantheon of this book world’s gods, we visit the underworld, a plane between life and death, the Citadel, and of course different eras of time.

Each place is vividly described and fits perfectly into the universe these novels create.

I still find myself recommending this series to anyone and everyone because, as a fan of time travel, Greek mythology (though the original mythology here is different), and traveling, this Australian based epic is everything my young teenage heart loved and more.

It doesn’t hurt that the main characters (there are several as they are a part of a larger prophecy that drives the novels) are all varied and wonderful and all going through personal struggles a long the way that ground the story and make the impossible expansive universe of the novel feel not only plausible but real.

 

That’s it folks, those are my top five recommended series with the best world building. Did you agree? Disagree? Have you read any of the series or novels mentioned? Tell me in the comments!

 

 

The Culling: Book 1 by Tricia Wentworth

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A Crow Queen Review of The Culling: Book 1 by Tricia Wentworth

My Blurb:

Dystopian YA meets The Bachelorette meets Government 101, this novel is a must-read. There is something about the combination of first love and a dystopian future that fits together seamlessly and offers an addictive read in this book.

Amazon Blurb:

150 years after a virus wipes out most of the world’s population, Reagan Scott finds herself chosen for the State of the Union’s fifth Culling. She will compete against 49 of the country’s brightest girls. And then, of course, there are the 50 boys.

Though the government truly means well, not everything is as it seems. She will be tested to the fullest extent while an evil storm brews.

With eliminations happening frequently, how far can she make it? And if she makes it far enough to meet the boys, how can she be expected to, at just 18 years of age, find a partner…for life?

Does she have what it takes to be the next Madam President?

Written by a first-time indie author, The Culling calls on common themes of its genre and then combines them with other elements to create something refreshing, original, and new.

I’m not going to lie, I’m currently obsessed with this novel. I’ve known about it for about a week and I’ve already read it twice and ranted to my husband and two of my best friends about it ad nauseam.

That being said, let’s dive on in shall we?

This book is the kind of novel self-publishing was made for. At 600 printed pages, it’s something of a masterpiece. Not only is it as well written and edited as a traditionally published work, but had it been published traditionally, half of this amazing content would have been cut.

And I couldn’t stand that!

Because what makes it work, what makes it amazing, is the drawn-out tension throughout the story. Somehow you are on the edge of your seat the entire time wondering what in the world is going to happen, who the MC is going to end up with, and what secrets the government is keeping. And the fact that it was so engaging and constant through the entire story was impressive and kept me reading late into the night. I just had to know!

Which brings me to my next point.

I’m pretty sure the last time I “shipped” something this intensely was the first time I read Hunger Games back in high school or maybe this past fall when I read In Other Lands.

As is par for course in most YA novels, there is a love triangle. That’s not a spoiler, the blurb basically says the future President and Madam President are to be married. The main character finds herself stuck between two very worthy options, both of whom would make great presidents and great husbands. I have a favorite of course, but I won’t say, because spoilers! I will say my pick was the same as Reagan’s and that made me happy.

I’m usually not one for love triangles and the second one is introduced I run for the hills or roll my eyes. But not so here, I was all for it. The situation actually called for it. With 50 young men and women thrown together to compete to marry and become the next leaders of government, it made sense, and was encouraged for the characters to explore all their options.

Reagan is a fantastic character. This should have been my first point, but I digress.

Oftentimes it is the main character that will make or break a series.

This series, the main character, Reagan, makes it. She is strong, stubborn, and always does what she believes to be the right thing. It is apparent early on to all those involved that she should be the next Madam President and that she is the biggest competition to all the other young women.

Reagan isn’t there to stab backs and get ahead though. For the longest while she is in it to help her family be promoted in her home township, but later she is in it to do what’s best for her country and to help people. She knows she isn’t the smartest girl there, but she has a remarkable sense of judgment and knows when to incorporate the ideas of others and when to come up with her own out of the box solutions. She is brave, tough, and effective, but she is motivated by compassion and loyalty and ironically those seemingly dichotomous traits are all what make her the best.

The novel does a great job of showcasing the qualities she possesses that could make her a good leader early on and often without telling us about them. She shows her leadership, her loyalty, her intelligence and ingenuity as well as her ability to get her hands dirty and effectively kick butt and intimidate people when necessary. She’s one of the better heroines I’ve read about in a while.

What have I covered so far? Additive, well-paced writing? Check. Fantastic relationships to root for aka shipping? Check. Incredibly well-done heroine? Check.

I could go on about the stunning, brilliant, skilled, and kick butt main cast and secondary characters, but I won’t. I want you do discover them and find your favorites yourselves.

I will next, though, let you in on a secret. Don’t let the lack of foul language fool you, this novel can get dark when it needs to be. The government has made some decisions it’s not proud of and is looking for this new generation of leaders to fix their past mistakes.

We get an inside and wicked cool look into their military, loads of necessary training for the candidates both in the classroom, in the shooting range, in sci-fi worthy simulators, and in the darker side of an interrogation room.

It’s a novel with plenty of action, romance, ballgowns, and cut-throat politics. It’s a dystopian YA novel with a small town heroine with enough enemies and allies to make your head spin, hate, and fall in love with.

I’d recommend this novel to anyone and everyone who loves dystopian YA novels, “shipping,” and strong female heroines. I’ve never screamed “YOU GO GIRL!” louder in my life than I did at a certain point in this novel.

Seriously, I love it. Seriously, go read this book.

5/5 Crows.

 

As always, a brief summation of my rating system:

1 Crow: It sucks and I’m not even going to finish.

2 Crows: It’s okay, very meh. I read it all the way through but probably skimmed it in places.

3 Crows: It was good, it held my attention. I read it all the way through. It entertained me. I liked it but there were some flaws. (This will be where most of my reviews land.)

4 Crows: I really liked it. It was so good. I’m going to reread it several times. There was hardly anything wrong with it.

5 Crows: The illusive 5 Crows. It impressed me so much, I loved it, and consider it one of my favorite books of all time. It was ground-breaking and I wouldn’t change a thing.