Guys, I might’ve gotten carried away diving into fictional worlds and overshot to outer-space. Brain melting. Can’t stop spinning. 💫
Translation: I discovered an author who writes exceptional young adult fantasy, sci-fi and adventure. And she has four series already completed – sparkly and new! Am I dead?!😵
Ena of Ilbrea Series
“Ember and Stone” is where it all began for me. It was actually included in a free trial combo called “When Worlds Begin”. Before I knew it, I’d binged all the way through the Ena Of Ilbrea series. The suspense pulled me onward as the plot unfolded. Assassins. Spies. Magical abilities.A powerhouse woman with snarkiness for days! Best of all, each character came alive in the brilliant dialogue. 🤩
Mood: Do you want a strong female main character? Still in the realm of YA, but exploring more mature themes? An immersive and cutthroat series with hidden magic, forbidden love, and rebellion?
Girl Of Glass Series
Exhausted and obsessed, I immediately found another series from the Megan O’Russell. “Girl Of Glass”, a coming of age story, features a slightly younger protagonist. Nola and her pure heart are infinitely dear to me! She’s a member of a privileged class, living in protective Domes, which makes for an intriguing dystopian perspective. We’ve got teen drama, betrayal, vampires, zombies – you’ll love it!
Mood: Do you want a high-stakes plot, in a futuristic society where climate change and disease ravage humanity? Oh, and a love triangle? If you loved the Divergent series by Veronica Roth (which I did) then you’ll get into this adventure!
Heart Of Smoke (Book #1)
I was dying of fantasy-adventure overload. OF COURSE I fangirled about it!! Megan saw my review on Instagram, or my blog, and reached out to suggest her new series. Wait. WHAT?
That’s right, the Heart Of Smoke series follows Lanni, a teen from the exploited class in the same world as Girl Of Glass. The characters, including the stubborn Lanni, are just as powerful and compelling! 😍
Mood: Do you want a fast-paced, grim tale about the bitter, angry citizens whose lives mean little to nothing, and a secret plot to exact vengeance? If you enjoyed clenching your teeth through James Dashner’s The Maze Runner, I think you can handle it!
Lanni works in one of the factories run by The Incorporation, supplying the Domes. She takes care of her sister, often stealing and lying to protect young Mari. Even their own mother has secrets. Suddenly, it seems, Lanni and Mari are offered a one-way ticket out of the burning hole they call home. How can they leave their mother?
Every moment is tense with fear and danger. Lanni is poised to play along with whatever elaborate plan keeps Mari breathing. But doubt creeps in as we race toward the end of book one. Who is really pulling the strings behind Lanni’s rescue?
Help! I can’t choose! 😅
Heart Of Smoke was fast-paced and intense! That cliff-hanger, though!! It’ll be over a week (April 22, 2021) before the new sequel, Soul Of Glass, is released. I’m so psyched up, maybe I’ll read book one again! 😂
Alternatively, I have another YA series by O’Russell called The Tethering. Magic? Check. Teen angst? Check. Romance? Goodness, I hope so!
So, the options are to read Heart Of Smoke again, binge a new magical series…or continue to drift aimlessly through nothingness!
Eventually, I’ll choose one and savour the adventure! Authors like Megan O’Russell are real treasures. What’s the last series you discovered that collapsed your whole freaking universe? I’d love to know!
If this is the first you’re hearing about autism, you’re gonna want a little more detail! I hope to share some useful resources to promote awareness and acceptance.
Why acceptance? A neurological difference, like autism, is a lifelong condition. Since it is NOT a disease, awareness is not enough. We need to encourage society to include and to accept autistic people.
Today, I’d like to recommend a few autistic content creators, suggest great books, and debunk a few myths. Here goes!
What is autism? Autism is a neurological condition. It means the brain functions in different ways to the typical brain. Metaphorically, you could compare it to two different operating systems that do the same job in different ways.
What is masking? When a person does not understand the social behaviour of others they “mask”, or imitate, those around them to blend in. Examples of masking include hiding autistic behaviours, ignoring one’s own physical and emotional needs, and speaking from a practiced script.
Traits (not symptoms) – Autistic traits are directly related to neurological differences and therefore can vary widely, from sensory sensitivities to communication difficulties; from intense focus to intense empathy.
“On the spectrum” – The autism spectrum represents myriad traits, challenges and strengths which occur in autistic individuals. A spectrum is often used to describe two polar opposites like “Blue is cool, but on the opposite end of the spectrum, red is much warmer.” But the autism spectrum is more like this image below!
Neurodiversity – A term referring to variation in the human brain regarding sociability, learning, attention, mood and other mental functions. Diversity is key to humanity’s success. Yet too many autistic people are unemployed or struggling.
If you’ve read one book about autism, you’ve read one book about autism. Whether it’s a fiction or non-fiction book, it’s inadvisable to base our understanding of autistic people on just one book!
That said, plenty of books offer valuable info about the history of autism and neurodiversity. Even fiction can offer insight into cross-sections of the autistic experience! Here are my top three favorites (non-fiction).
Neurodiversity, a term that should be self-explanatory, has been a reality throughout human history, even before “scientist” became a word, and before psychology and neurology were even a concept!
Steve Silberman is a journalist who studies the world through inquisitive eyes! I can feel his excitement—his intense curiosity— with each step towards the truth. His passion for people permeates these 12 chapters which read like essays. He weaves historically significant events together with fascinating narratives about people whose efforts have impacted the journey to understanding.
Women on the spectrum have long been overlooked. There is hope for the future! These brave authors share their stories to illuminate the struggles autistic people often face. Their hard-earned advice will benefit women (all genders, really!) who are diagnosed later in life.
Check out the Not Neurotypical Podcast where Laura Zdan shares her journey to discovering her autistic identity as an adult.
This is an easy but educational read about autism from a scientific perspective. Temple Grandin is an autism activist and engineer. She has a deep interest in neuroscience too, so we benefit from her knowledge and experience in this valuable book. Learn about the different types of “thinkers”- which are you?
“Neuroanatomy isn’t destiny. Neither is genetics. They don’t define who you will be. But they do define who you might be. They define who you can be.”
If you have read this whole post – wow, thank you! It is so important to consider the many unique views and experiences of neurodiverse people. This April, let’s listen to autistic voices. Let’s ask ourselves, what is required for acceptance in our society? I’ll leave you with this quote,
“Viewed as a form of disability that is relatively common rather than as a baffling enigma, autism is not so baffling after all. Designing appropriate forms of support and accommodation is not beyond our capabilities as a society, as the history of the disability rights movement proves. But first we have to learn to think more intelligently about people who think differently.”
NeuroTribes: The Legacy Of Autism and the Future Of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman
Are you sharing about autism this month? (Let me know where to find your content!) ❤️
Can you recommend fiction with autistic representation?
Is it just me, or does now seem like a perfect time to read some post-apocalyptic sci-fi? No? Just me? Anyway…
I have three YA dystopian series’s at the top of my to-read list, so why not binge them all? Time for Bookdragon feast! First, we have Ernest Cline’s debut Ready Player One, along with its surprise sequel released in November 2020. Next, The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, which I have often considered reading. Finally, by fantasy author Megan O’Russell, the four-volume Girl of Glass series.
What makes an impactful dystopian story? It’s a paradise-gone-wrong, cautionary story. A dystopian society is both dehumanizing and terrifying! The scariest part is knowing it could happen to us! Environmental decline and bad government hit us close to home. My favorite plots involve advanced, problematic technology! I also look for oppression. And a climactic fight to overthrow tyrannical control (of course).
Ready Player One & Ready Player Two
by Ernest Cline
In 2044, the Internet has been succeeded by the Oasis, a virtual reality universe with every distraction imaginable! Its inventor, Halliday, has died. To hunt down an heir to his fortune, he has laid out clues throughout the Oasis — the ultimate treasure hunt.
While billions of people seek Halliday’s Easter Egg, Wade Watts is going to school. A parentless, penniless teen, he has yet to legitimately join the hunt, however he has spent every free moment studying the clues! Will Wade’s obsession with Halliday’s maze-like mind pay off?
An elaborate quest. There’s a fantastic level of world-building involved in setting out clues and solving puzzles with high stakes! I had the most fun while Wade fine-tuned his theories – especially when he realized he’d need a little help. It wouldn’t be such a cool quest if one guy could conquer it alone!
Online friends. Friendships develop in the Oasis, the kids never having once met in real life. And they’re beautiful connections based on common interests and shared experiences. I can relate, having grown to love many of my good friends online. (Shout out – love you guys! ❤️💚💛💙)
Nostalgia. Pop-culture references, (like Serenity from Firefly!) trigger warm-fuzzies in any fangirl. The culture-obsessed Wade shares a million fun facts about 80’s trivia and video games. The social awkwardness that accompanies his fixation is so extremely relatable.
Exposition galore. Repetition and a lack of pacing means we the reader must be very patient to get to the meat of the story. Wade’s narration of events is cynical yet humorous. But you might get a little sick of his “voice”. (Not to be confused with audiobook performer Wil Wheaton’s voice which is just lovely, bless him!)
Unnecessary sequels. In 2011, RP1 pleasantly surprised readers with an ode to nerd-culture. Nine years later, a sequel! We wondered, would it be a gift for Spielberg, best fit for film? Could it be that Cline actually spent the intermediate years developing his clumsy prose in order to advance his dystopian world, along with young Wade and crew? Answer: nope. Cline leans into his wheelhouse for RP2, barely developing anything further in this half-formed attempt at forced creativity.
FUN FACT: Cline isn’t the first author ever to spit out an unnecessary sequel! Did you know that The Giver was the first of four in a series that no one seems to have read? Yikes!
The Hunger Games & Catching Fire & Mockingjay
by Suzanne Collins
Years after war ravaged the population, The Capital Of Panem instated a tradition. An annual Games would be held, each district yielding a boy and a girl to participate in a televised fight to the death.
Katniss Everdeen is a teen from the mining district. She has learned to hunt to save herself, her mother, and her sister from starvation. Mostly, she blocks out the rest of the world. If she didn’t, she’d have to think about the odds of being chosen for The Hunger Games, which rise every year. Is she strong enough to stand and face those odds?
Politics, politics, politics. Panem leaders over-feed and excite the Capital citizens to quiet their voices. I appreciated the references to historical Roman gladiators who were likewise pulled from the mud and painted to entertain the masses.
A complex resolution. Um, to avoid spoilers I will just say that there’s no switch to flip a dystopia to utopia! Or from battle to peace. Or to make trauma okay. Collins writes gut-wrenching reality. It’s compelling YA that coaxes us into harsh adulthood.
Relics of a long-lost culture. ‘The Hanging Tree’, like ‘Oranges and Lemons’ in 1984, was a song referencing tragic events that had since been rooted out of the nation’s collective memory. These intensified the deep yearning for a better world.
Disturbing images. The “mutts” (that’s all I will say on that!) I admit, I avoided reading The Hunger Games for a long time, despite all the hype*. A battle royale with children did not intrigue me. What can I say? I prefer governments that systemically crush their citizens without all the spectacle!
*But in this case, the hype is merited! The writing, the character depth, the stakes. The beautiful writing!
Oblivious protagonists. I totally understand that the protagonist, Katniss, was basically still a kid. She was intensely conflicted as her family’s stoic provider struggling to survive under Panem’s thumb. However, she flip-flopped between impulsive rebelliousness and coldly playing the “game”. Her ignorance of other districts and her lack of imagination were unbelievably frustrating!
Girl of Glass & Boy of Blood & Never of Night & Son of Sun
by Megan O’Russell
The world has fallen. Humanity is barely clinging to life. Its only hope – The Domes. These protect the healthy from illness, shelter the crops from the burning heat and acid rain… and they keep the others out.
Nola is reeling from the recent loss of her best friend. She is expected to follow in her agriculturist mother’s footsteps, an important career within the domes. But when Jeremy brings news of monsters in the streets, Nola struggles to reconcile life in the domes with the reality outside them. What will her uncertainty end up costing?
Normalized horror. We expect insensitivity from a government working toward a greater good. But there’s an even more disturbing transformation at an individual level, when survival means being numb to the fact that the privileged thrive while the majority suffer.
Morally grey characters. O’Russell does not just pin two perspectives against one another. Within each warring faction we find disagreement, varying levels of compassion, and complex motivations. The vicious, the callous, the charismatic – all draw their own line between right and wrong.
Literal monsters. Genetic manipulation. Experimental “cures” that warp humanity into something other. What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be a monster, for that matter?
A bleeding heart. More than the usual noble protagonist, heavy on justice and self-sacrifice, the bleeding heart is complex and volatile. The author must somehow preserve and toughen this character’s essence. No one fits this description better, inspiring action and sacrifice, than the authentic Nola Kent.
Continuity issues. I had to search hard for something to really hate, and this is a small-ish thing. But the “Domers” need a medication to filter the polluted air anytime they go outside. The later books just sort of stop mentioning it and that annoyed me.
While I did binge through all three series’s, I just didn’t connect to all three the way I did with Girl of Glass. I honestly couldn’t be more pleased with Megan O’Russell. It’s as though she took several well-planned ideas and wove them into a progressively hopeful, death-defying journey!
My sentimental self wants to say one more thing. That the piece of my soul I once lost to Jonas of Lois Lowry’s The Giver has now come to rest on Nola, my new symbol of all that is good and pure! 🖤
More YA TROPES…
The “nice guy” who isn’t really a nice guy. Won’t say which book did this best because SPOILER.
Overcoming addiction/substance abuse is an important issue that YA books especially should address very seriously.
The Chosen One trope. What makes them the one? Circumstance? A special skill? Society?
Not every dystopian series will be impactful. Some fall flat, failing to develop past the climax of their revolution. Some delve deep into a fantasy world, twisting dark themes until we question our own reality. (I just realized The Hunger Games and 1984 have this in common!)
The best, although based on a fictional struggle, will inspire faith in humanity. We’ll carry noble characters with us all our lives. An impactful YA dystopian is one whose victories over adversity become our own.
…but most of all, an impactful dystopian series leaves you wanting more. Because humanity is defined both by hope and uncertainty!
Thank you for reading! 🖤
How do you feel about dystopia in books and films? Have you enjoyed the film adaptations? (Ready Player One, The Hunger Games, etc.) Should YA always have a happy ending?
Werewolves howling at the full moon, trapped somewhere between human and beast. The appeal is foreign to me, although I do acknowledge that Remus Lupin of the Harry Potter series is a hero, an inspiration and the best teacher of all time! But…aren’t werewolves usually bad guys, feral, hungry and hunted?
To answer this question, I have scoured my e-reader, and Goodreads, and Google for the top choices in werewolf lit! I discovered a wide range, from unimaginative teen romance to grim-dark supernatural thrillers. From the wild wolf to the hybrid wolf-man monstrosity. And finally, I found a niche in the genre for a bookdragon like me!
Anna is an unforgettable protagonist. She’s a breath of sweet sunshine, scrappy and kind. And shattered. We don’t just pity her or admire her, we become her. After surviving isolation and brutality, the relief and residual unease of escape is staggering! Despite the brutality of wolf life, will Anna accept the loyalty, the love, of a healthy “family“?
A developed world. Patricia Briggs was a top result when I embarked on my werewolf hunt. She’s set up an immense urban fantasy world spanning multiple series. As a reader, I appreciate that the history and lore is woven seamlessly into the plot. I sought an enticing series packed with action and intrigue, and I’ve struck gold!
I hate violence. But I also understand it’s necessary to an extent for a thrilling plot. Fighting enemies who are willing to kill, and defending loved ones, will result in injuries – or worse. In ‘Cry Wolf’, we focus less on bloody mess and more on the mental fallout of trauma. It’s actually brilliant. So, I hate nothing!
Intense romance.I define romance as a character actively trying to fit someone new into their life, whether or not they end up becoming partners. Werewolf lore often involves imprinting, where mates are bonded in an all encompassing devotion. This is only romantic, in my opinion, if both werewolves have agency and interest in figuring out the new relationship. When they do, it’s compelling!
Want a standalone with powerful young women battling werewolf stereotypes? You must read Phased! The characters are endearing, infuriating, flawed and brave in this YA fantasy. A seemingly average school incorporates human and were students with apparent success. But they’ve never met anyone like Lyla and Val.
Sisterly bonds. Val and Lyla are together, and that’s what they focus on. Not the years they were forced apart while interned at the facility. Although many students at their new boarding school fear the girls, they are not as alone as they expected to be. Alternating perspectives reveal a snarky, sweet and raw relationship.
Over-dependence on the alpha trope. Briefly, the alpha is a boss wolf. Betas naturally follow the alpha. Omegas are lone wolves, basically exempt from the wolf hierarchy. Pack status does play a clear role in the story, but I seriously doubt a school could remain standing with so many alphas in one building! Also, complex personalities should factor into whether an alpha werewolf garners respect from “the pack”.
Dystopia. A broken society with science fiction elements. A world in which werewolves, though commonplace, are subject to prejudice and discrimination. I. Love. This. The elaborate settings and medical technology drew me in. Toxic language such as “feral” and “assimilation” had me clambering for reform.
All Bryar Rose really wants is to study Ancient Egyptian papyri and hang out with her rebellious bestie, Cinderella aka Elle. But a recurring dream – the one with a wolf and a sexy guy – may mean she’s in danger! She’s going to need all of her teenage sass and martial arts skills to survive her eighteenth birthday.
A real, live girl. Yes, Bryar will need the help of her magical friends, including a gruff werewolf named Knox who melts her heart. But she’s no damsel. Her hopes, interests, ideas and beliefs are present throughout the story. There’s doubt, shock, mistaken confidence. She is so much the over-sheltered teen with a rebellious streak, I want to give her a hug and buy her some french fries!
Basic descriptors. Authors, if you’re only going to describe the main character as having “blue eyes and brown hair” then why bother? There are a zillion hair types and body types and attitudes to feed us an image of your character. I want to know what about this young woman demands my attention. And that had better not be the hue of her hair. That said, these characters had sass for days, so I’ll temporarily overlook the dull descriptors. End of rant.
It’s about the magic. Underneath the friendship, family dysfunction, fledgling romance and petty crime, the main theme is magic. Magicians hide their abilities like the gems in their unassuming sport coat pockets. Shifters mask the golden gleam of their eyes as they slip out of the city to take animal form. And fairies. Well, fairies are divas, clever, resourceful and fond of drama. A disastrous mix!
These are my three favorite werewolf novels! Not only do I need to know what’s next for the characters, but I’m invested in their worlds. Could Bryar and Elle be destined for high school high jinks? Will there be a sequel to Phased? What other forms of shifters will appear in Patricia Briggs’ other books?
I also enjoyed comparing transformations! Do you like your werewolves more canine or monstrous? Relatable or insatiable? I was surprised to find that I enjoyed both – the more natural wolf form in ‘Cry Wolf’ and the fiercer biped form in ‘Phased’. It turns out the struggle with an inner beast is exciting and compelling. I can’t help but love a werewolf story!
Do you have a favorite werewolf?
Can you suggest another great book or series about shapeshifters?
Hello, there! I hope you have lots to read. I sure do, more than a Bookdragon could read in a year. Not that I should brag about my hoarding tendencies…but I do want to brag about three of my bookish treasures!
The problem with reviewing books is that I love each and every one for unique reasons. It’s tough! Hey— what if I tell you exactly what I love and hate about my treasures? You can judge the value for yourself and perhaps find new treasures for your own hoard.
Titus Fogg is a normal high school student. At least that’s what he keeps saying to himself. But is it normal to be suspected of murder? Or to argue with your pervy shadow? Or to enjoy algebra? At the very least, he’d like to keep the m-word out of things, given how magic has ruined his life so far!
Tess Roe loves scary films, soccer, and the ancient library where her mother works crazy hours. When she meets the new kid, Titus, she’s aware he’s weird, insane and possibly homicidal. She senses something more in him, however, and soon she’s sucked into his world of Wyrd with no way out.
Characters with weaknesses. Trust issues. Callousness. Pig-headedness. Prejudice. Titus lacks social skills, but is a mathematical genius. Tess has anger issues, but oozes compassion. Can two substantially flawed kids turn their weirdness their advantage? Or will evil overtake them before they can figure out they need each other?
When the point of view changes between several characters!When executed well, the switch between POVs heightens suspense while illuminating relationship dynamics.
Terrible editing. I sincerely hope there’s a better edited version out there. Spelling errors like loose instead of lose and a misused word or two, like sympatic instead of sympathy, kept me from losing myself in the magic!
Mystery. I enjoy guessing, figuring out the characters and their motives. We’re given nothing more about Titus, Tess and their families than is necessary to follow the plot. As the reader, I felt respected. I trusted that every gory, unexpected event was leading to a big reveal!
Sylvia Baker is musical. Music should be the antithesis of depression, but not in her case. Her summer was punctuated with a visit to an in-patient care facility. Her very young single father is a recovering addict. Sylvia struggles with his local fame and her own loneliness.
Her life is about to change when Sylvia meets a dark stranger. Suddenly inspired, she realizes how important he is to her journey as a musician—maybe even to her as a person. Is music the cure? Can she balance her obsession with the flighty Vincent, her new friends, her band, and her dad’s sobriety?
An emotional artist’s view of her craft. Music is my favorite subject for an art-fueled novel! It’s magical, mythical, how music connects thought and feeling; draws folks of all different experiences together. In ‘We Own The Sky”, Art with a capital A is described as an almost supernatural motivation. And yet, the most basic of human emotions are deeply imbedded in musical expression.
Grab your headphones and breathe in Sylvia’s playlist as she meets her Muse, exploring new avenues of herself and bringing us along for the ride. Flying, falling, grieving, transforming— it’s all experienced through the concept of music. 🎶
Interesting side characters. The more great characters the better, I say. The sensational personalities in Sylvia’s life include Travis, a self-assured and gifted lead singer, Vincent, a dejected and intense loner, and Mariella, a spunky Muse with poor punctuality!
Brushing mental health issues under the rug. It’s absolutely amazing when a character fights their demons, accepts help, and pulls out the other side having learned to trust. That being said, it’s dangerous when an author portrays mental health in a misleading way. To be very honest, I found this attitude triggering.
Sylvia lies about taking her meds. She lies about returning her therapist’s calls. And she lies about her suicide attempt. I kept waiting, waiting, waiting for her to realize that it was okay to get help. Worse, the fantasy element is used to explain book’s dismissive attitude toward treatment.
When the main character realizes she fits in after all! You know I am all for angsty, no-one-gets-me, lonely-punk-teenager tropes. But even better than that? Our lonely-punk-teen finds a friend group! She opens up to new experiences and personalities! She finds she belongs! Real life, right there. We all belong somewhere.
Apollo. The Greek god of the sun, music, and being mega hot! *poses for photo op*! Being immortal makes a person have a big head, it’s not Apollo’s fault he’s amazing! *flashes a blinding grin* But according to daddy Zeus, that recent situation with the half-bloods was his fault. Big time. And his punishment is way unfair: mortality.
Apollo finds himself un-amazing, in the mortal world, hoping a little girl will save him! What he really needs is a few half-bloods to accept the great honor of questing for him! Unfortunately, he’s got a lot to learn about mortal life. Turns out he doesn’t know much about demigods, either.
Mythology in modern day. As the fans of the Riordanverse well know, being a demigod is dangerous business! Humans remain cheerfully oblivious, while monsters and other ruthless mythical beings tend to make life suck for people like Percy Jackson. Did I mention that Olympus is atop the Empire Stare Building in NYC? No one adapts Greek lore into trage-larious adventure like Rick Riordan.
Un-relatable main characters. I’m drawn to books with great character development. That means a character has to be fully formed, flawed, and functional before the events of the story take place. I’m not sure Apollo counts by this description. Can he even improve himself as a (former) god among men?
Tying in characters from previous storylines.Hey, Percy! Missed you, man. I enjoyed catching a glimpse of several other favourites from the series Heroes of Olympus. Will Solace, son if Apollo, is one of them. He’s a skilled healer at Camp Half-Blood. Friendly and easy-going, Will is the ideal tour guide for his disillusioned dad.
All three of these books boast realistic city backdrops with uncanny twists on magic and mythology—top-tier Urban Fantasy. In reviewing these beauties, I have very intentionally avoided contrasting them with popular works of the same genre. Reviewers love to say “for fans of Harry Potter” or “for fans of Twilight” or “for fans of Percy Jackson”. But I say, let’s give new stories a chance to be special on their own merit! Thanks for reading. 🖤
Have you enjoyed any of these books/authors? 💎
Would you like more Love/Hate/Like reviews from me? ❤️
I started the year with goals because I love an excuse for a fresh start! Mainly, I decided that this year should have a bookish direction. I wanted to read with purpose, which prompted the following aims.
Read books from my bookshelf!
Read more non-fiction!
Choose a short list of absolute-must-reads!
Explore children’s books that I never read as a kid!
Don’t these sound wonderful? So, I wrote up my little list, proud and excited to get it started. I wasn’t doing badly at all – and then the world went sideways. I hope this Tag will help me assess my reading goals, and my progress so far! Here goes.
After reading A Curse So Dark And Lonely, I wanted the sequel so badly! But I’d have to wait six months. Once I finally had a copy on my Kindle, all thoughts of other books vanished! I fell into the story of Lia Mara, her sisterhood, her inner conflict… her enigmatic new ally, Grey. Although it wasn’t what I expected, I loved it!
Irene is a spy. For a secret library. She is skilled, and she loves her career, even on its worst days. Like when she has a trainee shadowing her the same day the Library’s safety is threatened. I was psyched to find out this series has 7 volumes! Speaking of which, ebook 2 just became available… thanks, visible library!
So, the world went sideways, and I just wanted to read a fun, familiar adventure!
#12 Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought This Year
Mary Poppins 80th Anniversary Collection by P.L.Travers
Yes, it is an ebook. But the illustrations are magic!
#13 What books do you need to read by the end of 2020?
I’ll be disappointed if Ihaven’t read these by the end of 2020:
Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery
The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
The Lord of the Rings series by J.R. Tolkien
The Heroes of Olympus series (re-read) by Rick Riordan
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
So, I’ve decided that I’m on track with my re-reads, and YA/children’s stories! I’m excited to discover the classic fantasy genre. And, as a fan of dystopian reads like The Maze Runner and Divergent, I hope I’ll enjoy Suzanne Collins. Are any of these books on your list?
Hello, happy Sunday! I’ve been working on a different blog post, but decided not to rush that one. Instead, I got inspired by a book tag from Zezee with books, originally created by Jamishelves.
Have you ever wanted to read a book, but somehow simultaneously NOT wanted to pick it up? Sigh. Please tell me you can relate to this bookdragon problem. The following are 8 of my “kinda don’t wanna read” titles from my TBR!
1. A book that you feel you need to read because everyone talks about it
Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee
I’ve wanted to read this since it was released! How interesting that the author of the classic, powerful ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ has at length written a second novel! What do you suppose Scout is up to? (No spoilers, I’ve still got to read it!) 😉
2. A book that’s really long
The Lord Of The Rings trilogy by J.R. Tolkien
The films are amazing. Tolkien’s works are precursors to modern fantasy! I must read them. I have the audiobooks, too. But… I’m scared to begin and then fail at this legendary trilogy.
3. A book you’ve owned / had on your TBR for too long
The Life Of Elves by Muriel Barbery
I adore a deeply introspective novel. After enjoying Muriel Barbery’s ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’, I was psyched to buy another of her novels! The cover of ‘The Life of Elves’ is as gorgeous as the title. Why haven’t I progressed past chapter one? I honestly don’t know.
4. A book that is ‘required’ reading (eg, school text, really popular classic – something you feel obligated to read!)
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Also, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and Animal Farm by George Orwell. I don’t remember everything I read in high school, but I definitely not these! To be honest, it’s usually movies like ‘Easy A’ with Emma Stone, or tv series’s like Gilmore Girls that reference such books and make me wonder what I’m missing.
5. A book that intimidates you
The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
I’ve a great interest in mental health. Memoirs are brave efforts to shed light on previously taboo subjects. It’s also great to see well-researched fiction relating to tough health issues. This work is special in that its 63-page account of postpartum depression shocked society, prompting change in the mental health industry.
6. A book that you think might be slow
The Burning Page Genevieve Cogman
This is book three of ‘The Invisible Library’ series. The first two books boasted of gorgeous imagery, an elaborate, imaginative premise, and intriguing personalities! But… there was no meat to it. No tension to keep me plunging onward. Urgency without substance. Though this steampunk, spy, fantasy series had potential to become a favorite, I don’t regret stopping at book two.
7. A book you need to be in the right mood for
Vampire Academy (#1) by Richelle Meade
After my recent Twilight saga binge, I was wondering if there might be a better YA vampire series out there. This one seems promising. Great reviews on Goodreads! But I should be in the mood for an addictive, suspenseful vampire romance before I buy and binge this six-book series…right?
8. A book you’re unsure if you will like
Juvenilia by Jane Austen
I am a Janeite. A reader, re-reader and analyzer of her six published novels. Austen’s incomplete stories, like Sanditon, and childhood writing efforts have also been made available since her death. Her childhood stories make up Juvenilia. I’m so afraid to ruin what I’ve got going on with my beloved Jane that I’ve never read Juvenilia. I’ve heard that it should have a trigger warning!
There you have it, guys! And my battery is getting low, so I’ll post this now. Please comment! And I’ll be finishing my A Bookdragon Hoard ~ YA Dystopia post very soon!
This isn’t really a book review. At this point, analyzing Twilight has been done. Really, all I want to do is ask, why? Why do we revisit this particular story? Stephenie Meyer’s debut, Twilight made way for three sequels which were adapted into five films, and still it wasn’t enough. For the 10 year anniversary of Twilight’s release, Meyer offered fans a ‘retelling’ of the story swapping the genders of the characters. Then, the long-awaited ‘Midnight Sun’ finally arrived. Fans had been desperate to devour this version of Twilight since a draft had been leaked online! At 32 years old, in the winter of 2020, I am one of those fans revisiting Twilight.
I might never have read Twilight if not for my young neighbour, Joe. She adored the Twilight books. I guess she needed someone to share in her anticipation for book 3’s imminent release, and who better than the 17-year-old bookworm down the street? I found myself somewhat reluctantly borrowing her hard-cover copy of Twilight, sans-dust jacket and carefully protected within a ZipLoc bag. O-kay, I thought to myself, I can give this book a chance (and please don’t let me stain it!)
In defence of Twilight…
Here I am, years later, willingly reading the latest in the Twilight Saga, Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer. Put simply, this instalment is a retelling of book one from the vampire’s point of view. I know, we’re all asking ourselves why. Has this series become a literary phenomenon? Yes. Launched a film franchise? Uh-huh. Popularized a new “genre” marketed to “young adults”? Unequivocally. Has it become a running joke, fodder for rapacious critics? Yep, that, too!
What is there to incite such polarized reactions in teens, parents, and young(ish) adults? Simply put, it’s horror and romance. Edward is a teen vampire inexplicably acting out a mundane, joyless human life. A near perpetual mist makes Forks, WA one of very few towns where his vampire family can hide their secret. Bella is an unflinchingly responsible teen who has agreed to live out her worst nightmare – high school in Forks with her estranged father. Her only hope of escape will be acceptance into university (in a sunny climate, of course). But, there will be no escape for young Bella and Edward once events set in motion a merciless struggle with fate. The horror? Inevitable. The romance? Likewise, inevitable.
It is shocking how quickly young Bella begins to obsess over Edward, the only boy in her peer group who doesn’t care about her arrival. Or does he? Edward Cullen is a puzzle she can’t solve but can’t ignore. As I began reading Midnight Sun, I was eager to experience Bella’s first few weeks in Forks from the vampire’s POV. BAM. Edward-the-heartthrob becomes Edward-the-monster, obsessed with his lab-partner’s blood!
“Her scent hit me like a battering ram, like an exploding grenade. There was no image violent enough to force if what happened to me in that moment.”
Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer
At first, Edward’s condition explains his peculiar behaviour. But as he resists his primal urges, he gradually becomes aware that the doe-eyed new girl is pretty odd. His usual gift, hearing thoughts, is stymied by her solemn person. Can he unlock her mysteries whilst resisting the bouquet that is her blood? The problem is that his family is counting on him to behave. His own conscience, too, depends on his ability to abstain. Never before has he slipped up. He should leave Forks… and yet, the new girl has awakened more in him than thirst. Something like curiosity, perhaps fascination, or even purpose.
Edward’s motives are selfish, as he reveals the truth to Bella about his family, their life, their secrets. But what in the world might be motivating Bella to listen so attentively to his confessions? Selflessness? Curiosity? Most readers agree that Twilight’s Bella is flat, with little motive or reasoning to propel her actions. That said, with Midnight Sun comes Edward’s clarifying perception of Bella, from outside Bella’s self-deprecating mind. Finally, I get a glimpse of a character I can see falling for the cold, ageless immortal. A girl whose sense of structure is self-created; whose time is divided between academics and supporting her incompetent mother. The lonely girl who is finally free to be her own person, but doesn’t actually know who that person is.
Who is Bella Swan? Nothing more than a toy for the fates. All versions of Bella decline to describe her life prior to the big event, moving to Forks. That’s fate, screaming at us! Bella was destined to come to Forks, to sit next to a predator and, ultimately, to devote her soul to him. Her young life was a void. As for Edward, he was doomed to hear the secret thoughts of innumerable, tedious minds while keeping secret his own true nature. That is, until Bella appeared.
Midnight Sun was terribly nostalgic for me! It stays true to the feel of Twilight and its familiar plunge into adolescent devotion. It also appeases my craving for a more developed plot line, and deeper understanding of the characters. Despite its bulk, its minutiae and its bouts of exposition, there is a beauty in Midnight Sun. That beauty is the unapologetic angst. It is Edward’s violent rebellion against his own nature. Though fear and self-hatred drive him away, he comes back. Morality and loyalty rein him in, but he breaks free of those, too. He fights for agency and for his own humanity, even though having both may be an impossibility. Can a monster deserve anything? (Please excuse my raving and rambling!)
“For just a second, I saw Persephone, pomegranate in hand. Dooming herself to the underworld. Is that who I was? Hades himself, coveting springtime, stealing it, condemning it to endless night?
Midnight Sun, Stepheni
Fate is clear. Bella’s destiny is Edward or death, or both. Twilight (the original) only implies a choice must be made, whereas Edward’s POV unveils a devastating struggle! Every moment, he’s aware his beloved is doomed and a crushing depression accompanies his desperation to save her, again and again, keeping death at a distance. It’s very Romeo and Juliet, youthful passion gone wrong, and don’t you just love it?
You know the formula. A coming of age story: girl meets boy, overcomes her own limitations and emerges into a larger world. What would seem like dull ‘insta-love’ in a novel, ignites a hormone-fuelled attraction that belongs to the ‘young adult’ genre!
But this is a horror-romance. The ‘bad boy’ thirsts for blood, the good girl risks her neck being in the same room as her love interest. And Stephenie Meyer nails it! The horror crescendos as Bella and Edward test the boundaries of their distinct realities, every moment threatening their relationship.
“You are my life now.”
Twilight, Stephenie Meyer
Is it healthy, this teenage love? No way. But practical judgment has no place in this train wreck. I won’t even venture to address my thoughts on books two, three and four except to say they descend into the most abominable storytelling I have ever subjected myself to (read at your own risk). Nevertheless, I am invested in this saga. Probably not as invested as the average fan girl. But when you suffer through such a series, there’s a sort of compulsion to continue. Horror is compulsion. It’s surrendering control. It’s buying and reading Breaking Dawn (the final instalment), on my actual honeymoon! Ugh, I don’t know if I can ever recover from that.
An Immortal Fandom
“Twilight again. Another ending. No matter how perfect the day is, it always has to end.”
Twilight, Stephenie Meyer
These books and films are not going anywhere anytime soon. Fans will analyze them, enjoying the intense passions, taking sides, and even re-writing fate for Stephenie Meyer’s beloved characters! Personally, I liked reading Midnight Sun. I thought it improved on the original in many ways! But I especially enjoyed the ‘gender-bent’ Twilight retelling, ‘Life and Death’. What can I say? Meyer created a surreal fictional universe that survives multiple re-reads! The newer content improves her style, fixes a few inconsistencies, and revives a powerful nostalgia. Ah, such lovely torture.
Would I change this series? In my opinion, Bella’s life should have ended with the conclusion of Twilight. It could have been thrilling – a transformative journey fulfilling the inevitable, a sacrifice made, monsters redeemed. Let the mundane lives of the residents of Forks, Washington carry on, oblivious to the governance of unnatural fates.
Thank you for reading! 🖤 What did you think of the Twilight retellings (Midnight Sun and Life and Death)? Did you have a favourite book in the series?
Do you ever ponder over how Christmas seems to have changed since childhood? Some of us live farther away now. Our unique priorities, beliefs and lifestyles have us feeling even further apart than the distance ever could. We have separate communities and friend groups. And yet, I feel more and more connected to you, my family. The strangeness of this year, at the conclusion of 2020, highlights what’s important and what’s hopeful in days to come.
Although I was never really a Christmas person, that doesn’t mean I am without nostalgia for the “season of giving”. Every year I look back on my life, appreciating the many experiences that have made me who I am. I wonder how my family and friends have changed? How might they have translated their own life experiences into something beautiful and unique? I hope they are as happy as I am.
I want to share with you my memories of our childhood traditions. Our less traditional family get-togethers of more recent years have fully convinced me that what we call “Christmas” is not tangible at all! Sometimes Christmas is someone’s gift to you, as is often the case by parents for children. Sometimes it’s a tradition, or a collection of traditions, upheld to bring joy to ourselves and to foster nostalgia. In truth, it is family that we yearn for, and it is our sense of family that actually transforms as we grow up and grow together or apart.
Here are some of my cherished memories. However intangible they may seem, these represent my connection to our past. ~ Dad being home from work, relaxed and feeding CDs into the five-disc changer! ~ Each of us taking turns with Mom in the kitchen, designing our own chocolate concoctions! ~ Digging out three separate Christmas candle collections and arranging them on a blanket of cotton “snow”. These we rescued from a neighbor’s garage sale, some half melted, others too cute to ever be set alight! ~ Perfectly arranging the nativity scene stickers on the family room window! ~ The calmness of mornings without the grumpy process of early alarms, of lunch-making and bus-catching. ~ Hiding in our rooms, whether to escape squabbles or to sneakily wrap up our gifts. ~ Taking family walks on cold, dark evenings to admire the colored lights, pointing our flashlights at the road to avoid icy puddles. These memories are mine, but I hope you share them, too. And I hope you have a million more safely stored, even as you create new memories in the years to come!
I just want you to know that, for me, Christmas was never a tangible thing. Christmas was you guys, my family, just being ourselves together. And that’s something I treasure every day of the year, whereever we are, whatever our lives look like.
This year, so many families are discovering that joy and connection don’t require proximity and abundance. Whether video chatting with grandkids, sharing photos of new decorations, or dropping off care packages for neighbors, people seem to be keeping the spirit of giving alive.
Remember, the most special gift you can give is family. I hope each of you, in your own households, are kindling your own hope and basking in togetherness during these short days.
Warmest wishes for the new year! With love, Robyn ❤️
Autumn is my favourite season! Fresh rain, crisp leaves, spiced coffee, blankets and cozy, comfy books! I found this tag on Merphy’s booktube channel, and I’m ready to celebrate! 🍁
1. What book always reminds you of autumn?
Persuasion by Jane Austen is a novel brimming with humorous social commentary. Her storytelling is interspersed with glorious, crisp descriptions of leaf and tree! We enter into the life of Anne Elliot, a mild-tempered young heroine. Anne adores country life and the natural beauties surrounding her father’s estate, however she finds little to enjoy in her home life. What she really needs is someone special to walk with among the walnut trees, and to appreciate her subtle sweetness.
2. What is your favourite autumnal book cover?
Coziness means books, and books mean coziness! That’s why this book is my cozy choice! The intricate designs, gold embossed lettering and russet tone of The Thirteenth Tale supply a weighty comfort that precipitates an absorbing literary experience.
3. What is your favourite autumnal drink to read with?
4. Do you prefer to read late at night or early in the morning?
I like to get comfy in bed in the evening and read until my brain gives up! 🌙
5. What is your favourite spooky read?
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is one of my favourite, most often re-read novels. Also, the spookiest! No, I don’t often read scary themes, but I bet most people would agree this faux biography is extremely creepy! The enduring title character is thrown about by gothic elements, while the plot is infused with overwrought sensibilities and human cruelty! Complex morally grey characters struggle between the tangible forces of good and evil.
6. What is the ultimate comfort read for you?
I love to restart the Harry Potter series! ⚡️ A new school year, a secret world, the changing of the seasons, and a cozy castle warmed by magical fireplaces.
7. What is your favourite autumnal reading snack?
Plain popcorn. It’s a hot snack and goes perfectly with any flavour of tea! Nothing beats that smell when the munchies set in.
8. What is your favourite autumnal candle to burn whilst reading?
I don’t burn candles because of my fragrance allergies, but I have always preferred the scent of Vanilla Spice. De-licious!
9. When you’re not reading, what is your favourite autumnal activity?
Watching Gilmore Girls! Stars Hollow is the coziest fictional town to ever exist. I will die on this hill! In fact, I’m such a super fan that my husband took me to tour Warner Brothers in California. That’s how I know that the sets involve painstakingly dressing trees with false leaves or snow to fit the season and scene! As the theme “Where you lead I will follow” rings out, I feel safe and serene. Stars Hollow will always be there for me.
10. What is on your autumn reading list?
My husband and I are particularly psyched for the sequel to Ready Player One, Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline! (Pre-ordered for November 25)
I am currently reading The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. It’s riveting! I’ve also been re-reading some childhood favourites. I plan to write a post about them soon, including how my impressions have changed since I was a child! 📚
As I write this post, the chill wind is bending even the tallest trees, and yet sunlight filters through my living room window! Canadian weather is indecisive, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s reading season! 🌧
I think I’ll always love names! It’s not as though writing a couple of blog posts about names could exhaust my interest, haha! Names are ever-changing, and yet they also carry history from way back, adding meaning upon meaning to the familiar and stylish alike.
It’s awesome to know I’m not alone in this fascination! An entire community exists, in the comment sections of YouTube channels and Instagram accounts, to share a burning passion for names. Some even create Tags, and I thought to myself, “Tags are fun!” 😆
Melayne is an invented name combining Melanie (meaning ‘black, dark’) And Layne (meaning ‘path, roadway’).
One of the first young adult fantasy books I read was called ‘The Secret of Dragonhome’. It was actually recommended to me by a boy in my 6th grade class, so it surprised me that the main character was a strong female named Melayne! The best thing about Melayne was her passion for justice. She could take charge and fight without compromising her kind spirit.
Why would I feel too scared to use it? I pity people who have grown up correcting spelling and punctuation. Their names probably begin to feel like a burden, which is very sad! 😢
Leanne is a combination of the names Lee and Ann, meaning ‘clearing’ and ‘gracious’.
I don’t actually remember how Leanne was related to me. I met her at a family reunion when I was a kid. At the time, I remember thinking that it was the sweetest name I’d ever heard! 💛
Look at this chart for my home province! Zachary’s spike of popularity has declined over the last 20 years, while Grayson is on its way up!
Gregory seems like a perfect compromise between the Grayson and Zachary. It also has similar nickname potential (Gray, Zach, Greg). Am I imagining it, or is this potentially the west coast’s next trendy boy name? 🤔
Angelina Johnson was an impactful character I read about in a fantasy series (Harry Potter). She was a spunky, sporty young woman, ready to give her best effort and confront any slackers! I was so proud when she became Quidditch captain – that was some hardcore leadership!
The fact that no one called her “Angie” tells me that she’s got gumption, and insists her name be used in full! 🦁
Alecia Beth is a musical artist (her stage name is P!nk) with a rich voice and rock’n’roll attitude! 🤟
“Danny” Daniel Ocean (played by George Clooney) in Ocean’s Eleven owns this name with confidence. He is as dynamic and fickle, deep and calm as the sea itself. The loveable criminal! I love many, many movies, but this is one film I count as a top favorite.
Between the ages of 5-16 my family lived near the beach. Not a sandy, surfy, long beach. It was near a harbour, ringed in rocks, home to curious sea lions and towering trees! The smell of the ocean always brings on a wave of nostalgia, for me. 🌊
So, do you see any patterns in my name style? I doubt it. Unless you count the fact my favorite names tend to be inspired by powerful characters! And also, popcorn. 😂
I hope you enjoyed reading this, and if you want to join in the fun, copy the questions below and share your choices, wherever you like! 🖤