Top Ten Favorite Book Quotes

This is something I feel like I’m uniquely suited for? When I was in high school and saw A Walk to Remember for the first time, I fell in love with Jamie’s quote book. So I started one. It’s been something like 12 years now and I still have it (and the next 2 books I filled too). I used them every year to give my students personalized notes with advice on the front. It’s pretty awesome.

But that also makes this so much harder because how do I choose?! I’ll do my best, though, and just pick 10 that are moving me at the moment.

Top Ten Favorite Book Quotes

1. “You crushed us to build your monarchy on the backs of our blood and bone. Your mistake wasn’t keeping us alive. It was thinking we’d never fight back.” -Tomi Adeyemi, Children of Blood and Bone

2. “I am always surprised to discover that when the world seems darkest, there exists the greatest opportunity for light.” -Brigid Kemmerer, A Curse So Dark and Lonely

3. “Parents have this twisted belief that anyone under the age of about twenty simply can’t know what love is, like the age of love is assessed in the same way the law assesses the legal age to drink. They think that the ’emotional growth’ of a teenager’s mind is too underdeveloped to understand love, to know if it’s ‘real’ or not. That’s completely asinine. The truth is that adults love in different ways, not the only way.” -J.A. Redmerski, The Edge of Never

4. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” -Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

5. “We are a country built by immigrants, dreams, daring, and opportunity. We are a country built by the horrors of slavery and genocide, the injustice of racism and exclusion. These realities exist side by side. It is our past and our present. The future is unwritten. This is a book about ghosts. For we live in a haunted house.” -Libba Bray, Before the Devil Breaks You

6. “I gave up on being Nice. I started putting more value on other qualities instead: passion, bravery, intelligence, practicality, humor, patience, fairness, sensitivity. Those last three might seem like they are covered by “nice,” but make no mistake, they are not. A person who smiles a lot and remembers everyone’s birthday can turn out to be undercover crazy, a compulsive thief, and boring to boot. I don’t put a lot of stock in nice. I’d prefer to be around people who have any of the above qualities over ‘niceness,’ and I’d prefer it if that applied to me, too.” -Anna Kendrick, Scrappy Little Nobody

7. “No one ever injured an eye by looking at the bright side.” -Stacey Lee, Under a Painted Sky

8. “There are different kinds of darkness. There is the darkness that frightens, the darkness that soothes, the darkness that is restful. There is the darkness of lovers, and the darkness of assassins. It becomes what the bearer wishes it to be, needs it to be. It is not wholly bad or good.” -Sarah J. Maas, A Court of Mist and Fury

9. “Stories may well be lies, but they are good lies that say true things, and which can sometimes pay the rent.” -Neil Gaiman

10. “Just because a person isn’t talking about something doesn’t mean it’s not on their mind. Often, in fact, it’s why they won’t speak of it.” -Sarah Dessen, Saint Anything

So it appears I was quite pensive as I went through this tonight. Maybe some day I’ll make a list of 10 funny quotes from books. That might be fun!

Deathless Divide (Dread Nation, #2)

First Lines: The first thing you should know about me, the truest most important thing, is that I ain’t never really had friends.

Admittedly, I was a little reluctant to read this book. While I certainly remembered certain scenes from the first book with alarming vividness, I did not feel like I remembered enough to do this book justice. (This is a running trend with me.) But I figured the book would probably help me out.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Jane thought life would get easier after the fall of Summerland. After all, what more was there to do than survive and find her mother? But when a devastating loss occurs on the way to the town of Nicodemus, Jane is forced to question everything she thought she knew about surviving. What’s more, this “safe haven” at Nicodemus isn’t as safe as she thought–there are far too many familiar faces there. Caught between lies, the undead, and her own demons, Jane soon finds herself walking a dark road into the future. But Katherine Deveraux won’t let her go alone. Katherine never thought of Jane as an ally before, but when friends are hard to come by–and the knowledge that Jane needs her–Katherine finds herself developing a soft spot for the girl who is so rough and dangerous. Can Katherine keep both of them alive as Jane reaches her breaking point?

This is a solid read. Granted, I wish I remembered the first book better because it would have made the book more emotionally impactful. As it was, I didn’t really feel some of the dramatic moments because I didn’t really remember the people involved. However, the writing of this book is so good that it really didn’t matter. By the end of chapter one, I was already invested in the story. There was just something about the writing that made me feel like I was there and a part of the action. The writing never got in the way of the story, if that makes sense.

The characters are fabulous. We get to see this story from Jane and Katherine’s perspectives, which was a definite plus. Jane is headstrong and reckless, whereas Katherine is more refined and strategically clever. Seeing the same situation from each perspective was very enlightening. (It was also fun to see Jane through Katherine’s eyes and vice versa just because neither of them sees themselves the way the other does.) But even though they’re our heroines, that doesn’t mean they are perfect–or even good people. There are a few times where you really start to question whether a character is actually about to become a villain.

There’s something about this premise that is just so fascinating and I’m not sure just exactly what it is. I mean, the zombie thing–and how daring this story is because of that–definitely is a bonus. But I think what really draws me into this is that our main characters are diverse. Most are Black, but a few are Native American or a mix of races. I think their experiences often mimic what is still happening in our world now, however much we may want to deny that and just seeing that played out in a story helps me see it happening now even better. Jane is fierce about delivering justice and righting wrongs–and she doesn’t hold back when she sees inequality. That means every time there’s someone being treated differently because of their skin color, she points it out. Actually, now that I say that, I almost think Katherine does it more because she’s fair enough to “pass” as white. It aggravates her more than it does Jane.

The plot is pretty daring. There were a few points in the story, particularly near the middle, where I was quite shocked by the turn the story took. I respect that a lot.

I guess if there was one other thing that bothered me (besides my own lack of emotional investment, as previously mentioned) would be that there were times I was clearly missing something and I’m not sure what the cause is. I’m tempted to say some of it was stuff I forgot from the first book, but there’s something that happened to a character that we just met and there’s just this, “Oh hey, by the way….” delivery of information that I feel like I missed something huge. Maybe I read too fast over something and missed it? I have no idea, but I wasn’t a fan of that.

All of that is utterly fascinating and a fantastic combination of plot and characters. I do wish I felt more as I read it, but it’s too late now.

The Lady Rogue

First Lines: I stood in stockinged feet with my hands up in the air, like Napoleon surrendering after the Battle of Waterloo. Outside the narrow stockroom–the scene of my current humiliation–the bustle of afternoon shoppers in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar echoed down arched stone corridors perfumed with wisps of fragrant smoke and spices. A crowd was gathering near the jewelry stall. One would think they’d never seen an American girl strip-searched by the merchant’s wife.

Two apologies here: first, I’m sorry these first lines are so atrociously long, but I really needed to hit that pay-off sentence at the end. Second, it has been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve posted a book review and it’s certainly not because I’m not reading. I’m reading a ton, but I’ve also fallen back into an old hobby that eats up a lot of my time, so blogging has fallen aside. But I’m trying to make that up! Let’s go!

Theodora has had an unusual upbringing as the daughter of a famous treasure-hunter. She’s traveled the world and she’s read every book in the library. The only thing she hasn’t had is her father’s support. Instead of becoming his apprentice, he takes on Huck Gallagher–the boy who was the love of Theodora’s life. When Huck returns without Theodora’s father, Theodora agrees to help him rescue her father. With only her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo set out and discover he’d been looking into a supposedly cursed ring owned by Vlad the Impaler…and finding the ring could be key to finding her father. But they aren’t the only ones searching for the ring–and those others will go to any length to ensure they come out ahead.

I knew from the first chapter that I was going to like Theo a lot. She’s funny and curious and adventurous and just generally unruffled by danger. I liked that a lot. She’s a very fun character to read about. Pair her with Huck (a cute Irishman she was raised with who also has an amazing sense of humor) and it’s pretty much gold. Those two are interesting complements to each other and Huck isn’t afraid to be the voice of reason when needed.

The plot revolves around finding this ring that belonged to Vlad Dracula (the man…not the vampire) and I’ll be honest…it’s a little tired. This story felt like The Historian mixed with a romance. I didn’t mind the romance part, but the other stuff felt kind of cliche to me. Especially since everything seemed…really easy. The book isn’t very long, so it was all like, “Hey, we need to find this person!” and ten pages later they stumbled into the person who was hiding from them? Easy.

But despite all of that, it truly was an interesting story. There’s a lot of action and the banter keeps your interest as well. The story deals with magic and legends and superstitions and there’s just something inherently enthralling about that. And it was interesting to read about Romania and Istanbul and all these other places that I’ve never gone in a time that I’ll never see. I liked those aspects a lot.

So if you can get past the fact that this is yet another book about the legend of Vlad Dracula, you’re in for a good time. 

Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR!

Oh, FINALLY, we are here! I’ve been really wanting to talk about my current library stash, which I’m feverishly trying to work through (but it “magically” keeps growing…).

LET’S GO.

Top Ten Books On My Fall TBR

1. The King of Crows (Diviners, #4) by Libba Bray

I really need to read this and be done with this series (which is amazingly written), but my problem is that so much time passes between each publication that I keep forgetting what’s happening! I need to find a good book 3 summary somewhere online…

2. Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

I haven’t read anything by Bracken yet, even though she’s been on my radar for years. Passenger sounds right up my alley, so I’m interested to try it out and see if I’m right!

3. The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

I do totally enjoy King Arthur stories, but for some reason, this book just never appealed to me in a theoretical capacity. But I’ve heard good things and I know White is a stellar writer, so I picked it up. I’m willing to try it anyway.

4. Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon

I’m a little divided on this. On one hand, it’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling, so you know I’m there, but it’s also not getting great reviews? I’ve read other books by Menon and enjoyed them, so I don’t know if it’s a problem with the premise? It’s coming up soon, so I’ll let you know what I discover!

5. Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

Another book I picked up on the basis of word of mouth. I’ve heard really good things about this book and…why not? It’s maybe not something that might have been a first choice grab, but I curious now.

6. Hood by Jenny Elder Moke

Robin Hood and Marian have a daughter and she is our MC here?!?!? I’m going to go pass out from excitement, brb.

7. Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power

This is billed (by my library) as a horror book (which is also the same qualification they gave Dread Nation), so I’m not sure it’s actually “horror” but it’s got enough going on in the book jacket to make me very curious about what’s going on in this town…

8. Lucky Caller by Emma Mills

Y’all, the world is a dark place and sometimes I just need a reliable YA contemp author to get me through the week. Something cute, something safe.

9. Throw Like a Girl by Sarah Henning

Billed as “Friday Night Lights meets Morgan Matson”, I definitely have to check this out. When I was younger, I fully envisioned myself playing football so having a story with a girl who does will never not by on my to-read list.

10. The Glass Queen (The Forest of Good and Evil, #2) by Gena Showalter

I have this as an ARC and I really need to be getting to it because pretty soon it won’t be an ARC anymore…

Top Ten Cover Freebie!

Hey everyone! This week, I had to pretend I had a good idea for this topic. Actually, I immediately thought of what I said two weeks ago: I would probably have an easier time finding 10 books with blood on the covers than 10 books with food on the cover.

Challenge accepted.

(…Is that a weird thing to say when I issued that challenge? To myself?)

Anyway, I feel like we’re all trying to gear up for Halloween anyway (my fall decorations are already up!) so I think this fits with the season and…and not some weird fascination of mine…that happens to be totally ironic because I freak out at the sight of real blood…

Top Ten Covers With Blood On Them

1. Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy, #1)

2. Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold

Red Hood

3. Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

Stepsister

4. Red Queen (Red Queen, #1) by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen (Red Queen, #1)

5. Half Bad by Sally Green

Half Bad (The Half Bad Trilogy, #1)

6. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)

7. Frostblood by Elly Blake

Frostblood (Frostblood Saga, #1)

8. Ripper by Stefan Petrucha

Ripper

9. Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy Must Die, #1)

10. Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Every Other Day

Conclusions: Yes, this was way easier to make than the food list! I can’t even tell you. …That sounds like a weird thing to admit, given the topic of this list…

The Difference Between a Good and a GREAT Fantasy Novel

Ok, everyone, I’ve been intending to write recently about what I perceive as the sudden influx of YA fantasy (or is it just me??) when I FINALLY CRACKED THE CODE.

Of course, I ended up figuring this out in the process of a Shower Thought, which really makes me want to roll my eyes, but whatever. I’ll get to that. Let’s start with the initial point, though.

The Current Rise of YA Fantasy

Again, this could just be my perception alone, but I feel like fantasy is becoming the go-to more and more often for those big releases. I don’t know if this is a side effect of the clear popularity of Sarah J. Maas or what, but I have noticed a definite uptick in fantasy.

When I go to the YA Novels of 2020 list on Goodreads (an awesome list if you’re looking for any new books that came out this year), it’s easy to pick out the fantasy novels. They’re frequent, like:

  • At #1: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (Hunger Games, #0) by Suzanne Collins [I know it’s dystopia, but it’s not our world, so I’m counting it.]
  • At #4: A Sky Beyond the Storm (An Ember in the Ashes, #4) by Sabaa Tahir
  • At #5: Imagine Me (Shatter Me, #6) by Tahereh Mafi
  • At #6: All the Stars and Teeth (All the Stars and Teeth, #1) by Adalyn Grace
  • At #7: A Heart So Fierce and Broken (Cursebreakers, #2) by Brigid Kemmerer
  • At #9: Blood & Honey (Serpent & Dove, #2) by Shelby Mahurin
  • At #10: The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

And that’s just the top ten. Even if you exclude my Hunger Games selection, that’s still over half of them. Literally, the only two at the top that weren’t fantasy were The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson and One of Us is Next by Karen M. McManus.

Now, granted, this list is generated by people voting on which books they are most looking forward to, which is why the majority of those books are A) in a series and B) later in the series. But I think it also proves my point: there is a demand for YA Fantasy and the publishers know it. I mean, two of those I listed are series that were finished (Shatter Me and Hunger Games) but have recently come back.

And I know the publishing world doesn’t move this fast, but a lot of us are looking for escapism right now due to the pandemic, politics, and the general dumpster fire that is 2020. Fantasies fill that void because it just allows us to remove ourselves from what is familiar. (I have found myself reading contemporary stories and being like, “How are you going to the movies when the theaters are closed?” or something similar.)

Fantasies are also usually pretty exciting. They’re dangerous and adventurous and action-packed. The stakes are high and the books are generally hard to put down. This also heightens the escapism elements because it becomes all-encompassing as we read them. I know this is why I read as much fantasy as I do.

But as I have mentioned in many of my reviews of fantasies, I often struggle to get into the stories and I’VE FINALLY CRACKED THE CODE.

Good vs. GREAT Fantasy Novels

Ok, so to help prove my hypothesis, I’m going to give you four fantasy novels that I’m going to talk about (spoiler-free) to explain my thoughts. Those novels are:

  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  • Night Spinner by Addie Thorley
  • Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan
  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Now, two of these books I was absolutely over the moon about (ACOTAR and Night Spinner), one I thought had merits but I struggled with (Wicked Saints), and one I’m reading at the time I’m writing this (An Ember in the Ashes).

My hypothesis as to what makes a great fantasy novel is this: a great fantasy novel allows you to get to know the main character and the world at the same time, acclimating to both before the action truly starts. That way, you have an easier time buying into what’s happening.

ACOTAR and Night Spinner pull this off. Wicked Saints and Ember do not.

When ACOTAR starts, we meet Feyre and see her walking through the village. She tells us about the type of people who live there, how poor her family is, her family dynamics, and the dangers of the fey early on. We learn about her character and discover that she enjoys painting and that she’s got a casual relationship going with a local boy. All of this before the real “action” starts. Therefore, we have a fairly thorough understanding of the world and Feyre’s loyalty and heart before the wolf shows up on her doorstep.

Night Spinner begins with Enebish sneaking out of the monastery to enjoy the night air and lament her current fate. We begin to understand her night spinner powers and why she’s so tormented by guilt and exiled to this (quite terrible) monastery. We also meet her best friend before she ever makes the deal to try to gain her freedom.

Both of those stories hooked me from the very beginning because I was able to connect with the main characters. By the time the action started, I was able to understand the stakes and begin to predict how the characters would react. Like when the wolf shows up at Feyre’s door, I already knew she’d be selfless enough to do anything to protect her family. If we had started the story at that moment instead, I wouldn’t have the same understanding of the world or Feyre’s character and I would have been learning as the story went along.

That’s exactly the problem with the other two stories, along with the multiple narrators.

Wicked Saints begins with Nadya peeling potatoes when she hears cannons and realizes the monastery is under attack. We jump almost immediately into this battle, where people who are important to Nadya are dying or sacrificing themselves to help her escape. And as exciting as it is, it didn’t draw me into the story for long because I didn’t understand what was happening. I didn’t understand why Nadya was important or why anyone was even bothering to attack this monastery. By jumping right into the action, I spent the next 50-100 pages trying to figure all of this out. It does not help that there is another narrator in this story as well, which means I’m now trying to figure out two characters of two different cultures in the same world.

I’m running into the same problem with An Ember in the Ashes. Two narrators of vastly different cultures in the same world. A story that immediately starts with the conflict rather than allowing us some understanding before we get there. In this case, we start with Laia listening as her brother sneaks back into the house during the night when they realize soldiers are arriving to raid their house. People die and Laia goes on the run. Those deaths meant nothing to me because I didn’t understand the characters yet. There were no stakes for this because again, I didn’t understand the world.

I understand why stories do this. It’s more fun to start with the action. But in the long run, I think it makes it that much harder to really get into the story. I know that’s what I tend to struggle with. If I can understand the characters from the beginning, I will devour that book in as few sitting as possible. It’s just good writing to be able to juggle the character- and world-building at the same time. I wish more writers (or editors? Publishers?) understood this and pushed for it.

Granted, this is not the end-all-be-all. A book can start strong and then suck. It can start with action and still be amazing. But I just realized there was a pattern between the books I raved over and the ones I was struggling with. And it’s really, truly as simple as did we get to know the characters and the world before the action starts?

Is this something you’ve noticed as well? Does this hold true for you as well? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear what you think of my theory!