Double the Dragon

This may or may not be taken as blasphemy – particularly coming from not only a fantasy reader, but a fantasy writer – but the fact is, I’m not super into dragons.

Don’t get me wrong! They can be cool and all. If they’re done right. And by “right”, I mean they need to bring more to the table than just, “We’re dragons! ‘Nough said!” If and when I ever decide to deliver a story featuring THE mythological beast synonymous with fantasy (meaning above and the beyond the cameo appearance in “The Song Caster”, and my sorta-kinda dragon character who’ll be making her debut in Xchyler Publishing’s paranormal anthology this fall), it’ll be because I’ve come up with an at least semi-original spin that I feel will do this venerable creature justice.

So, that’s the place I was coming from when I picked up a pair of dragon books by (as coincidence would have it) a pair of Rachels. Did these fire-breathing (and, in both cases, shapeshifting) lizards brings their A-game? Read on, reader…

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Book the First: “Nice Dragons Finish Last (Heartstrikers #1)” by Rachel Aaron.

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Blurb: As the smallest dragon in the Heartstriker clan, Julius survives by a simple code: keep quiet, don’t cause trouble, and stay out of the way of bigger dragons. But this meek behavior doesn’t fly in a family of ambitious magical predators, and his mother, Bethesda the Heartstriker, has finally reached the end of her patience.

Now, sealed in human form and banished to the DFZ—a vertical metropolis built on the ruins of Old Detroit—Julius has one month to prove that he can be a ruthless dragon or kiss his true shape goodbye forever. But in a city of modern mages and vengeful spirits where dragons are considered monsters to be exterminated, he’s going to need some serious help to survive this test.

He only hopes humans are more trustworthy than dragons…

Nice Dragons

My Thoughts: Sorry, Julius Heartstriker, but it’s true: You really are a nice guy. Like, truly. And I very much like that about you. Sure, it was also cool to watch some of your siblings do their more blatantly draconic thing – Justin’s fearless badassery, Chelsea’s deadly creepiness, and the unpredictable* Bob. (*Irony intended.) Not to mention the death spirit cat. They all did their part to help things pick up speed as the story went along, until we all went roaring through the climax. But I’m a bit of a sucker for a super sweetheart (if they happen to have an “awww!”-worthy backstory, so much the more darling), and it was a pleasure, Julius, to watch you grow – both in your partnership with Marci the mage, and into your own strengths. Way to dragon up, dude.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): C’mon, kids. When was the last time I told you not to read a Rachel Aaron book? The e-book’s been out for a while, and now it’s finally available in paperback, too, so if you’re a diehard physical-book-lover like me, that excuse for not giving this book your money is dead. (Also, as of recently, the first sequel is out! ^o^)

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Book the Second: “Seraphina (#1)” by Rachel Hartman.

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Blurb: Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

Seraphina

My Thoughts: So, I basically loved everything about this book. Seraphina’s passion for music, the blunt wit of her voice, pretty much any exchange between her and… well, most of the people she spoke with, but the excellent Lucian Kiggs in particular. There were mysteries afoot and a full cast of characters I cared about, including dragons religiously divorced from human emotion. The world was fascinating, and the storytelling fun. Even the glossary at the end was entertaining! I laughed. I cringed. I mentally fondled this or that turn of phrase. I yelled at the pages and earned disparaging looks from my sisters. I smacked myself for not having sought out “Seraphina” sooner, and for leaving Book Two on the library shelf when I finally snagged Book One. “Shadow Scale”, you’d better believe I’ll be coming for you.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): YES, SHUT UP, YES.

Such are my thoughts on the books. Have any of your own? Share below!

Book Spine Poetry Prophecy

Word on the ‘Net is April’s been National Poetry Month – i.e., the perfect excuse to finally get around to posting this book spine poem I composed back in February, inspired as I was by the Alexa Loves Books-hosted 2015 Book Blogger Love-a-Thon.

Some of you may recall the last time I shared such a poem (during the 2014 Love-a-Thon, as it happens.) Proud as I was of that piece of art, I do believe I like this one even better. Probably because it strikes me as sounding like some epic, ancient prophecy. Complete with rhymes. ^o^

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Spine Poetry Prophecy, Line 1

One more day on the Isle of Sound and Wonder inspired the Seventh Spell:

Spine Poetry Prophecy, Line 2

Transparent ink. The violet hour. The toll of another bell.

Spine Poetry Prophecy, Line 3

The Song Caster unhinged the door in the mountain; splintered the spirit war.

Spine Poetry Prophecy, Line 4

Vicious, marvelous spirit’s end – mistborn legends and lore.

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This lyrical omen brought to you by…

One More Day by L.S. Murphy and others (including yours truly) – available here

On the Isle of Sound and Wonder by Alyson Grauer – my review here

Inspired by Danielle E. Shipley – available here

The Seventh Spell (Book Three of The Wilderhark Tales) by Danielle E. Shipley – available here

Transparent by Natalie Whipple – my review here

Ink (Paper Gods #1) by Amanda Sun – found here on Goodreads

The Violet Hour (The Violet Hour #1) by Whitney A. Miller – found here on Goodreads

The Toll of Another Bell: A Fantasy Anthology by yours truly and others – available here

The Song Caster (Book Four of The Wilderhark Tales) by Danielle E. Shipley – available here

Unhinged (Splintered #2) by A.G. Howard – my review here

The Door in the Mountain by Caitlin Sweet – my review here

Splintered (Splintered #1) by A.G. Howard – my review here

The Spirit War (Eli Monpress #4) by Rachel Aaron – my review here

Vicious by V.E. Schwab – my review here

Marvelous (The Books of Marvella #1) by Travis Thrasher – found here on Goodreads

Spirit’s End (Eli Monpress #5) by Rachel Aaron – my review here

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson – found here on Goodreads

Legends and Lore: An Anthology of Mythic Proportions by yours truly and others – available here

Got any cool book spine poems of your own – oracular or otherwise? I do hope you’ll share!

In Which We Arrive at the End Game

You’ve read my take on books one and two (or, if you haven’t, I totally just linked to them, so at your leisure…). Now, at long last, here’s my short ‘n’ sweet review for the final book of the Paradox Trilogy.

The Book: “Heaven’s Queen (Paradox #3)” by Rachel Bach.

Genre: Sci-Fi / Space Opera

Blurb: From the moment she took a job on Captain Caldswell’s doomed ship, Devi Morris’ life has been one disaster after another: government conspiracies, two alien races out for her blood, an incurable virus that’s eating her alive.

Now, with the captain missing and everyone – even her own government – determined to hunt her down, things are going from bad to impossible. The sensible plan would be to hide and wait for things to blow over, but Devi’s never been one to shy from a fight, and she’s getting mighty sick of running.

It’s time to put this crisis on her terms and do what she knows is right. But with all human life hanging on her actions, the price of taking a stand might be more than she can pay.

Heaven's Queen and Me

My Thoughts: It took me forever to get around to reviewing this (since my head has been in a fog of “Song Caster” launching and Camp NaNoWriMo writing and Bristol Renaissance Faire Town Crier-ing and and and…), so the details escape me, but this much I remember: Of the trilogy’s installments, this was the book that tried its darnedest to make me cry. Though she got there kicking and screaming, Devi’s finally letting her heart have something closer to an equal say with her head, which means more emotions to cope with – both for her, and for me as the reader – particularly as, with a universe-wide battle raging on, there are bound to be some hard losses. But I’m not about to spoil things by saying what the gains and losses are. If you want answers, make like Deviana Morris and go after them, guns blazing.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): It’s Rachel Aaron/Bach. Am I going to tell you not to read this?

Your Thoughts: Put ‘em in the comments, and I’ll know!

Top 10 Book(s that I own) Covers I’d Totally Put On My Wall

So I saw this post by The Book Rat that was all like “Top 10 Book Covers I’d Have as Wall Art”, and I was all, aw, man, how fun is that? I wanna do a post like that, too!

And me being the can-do, go-get-‘er-done gal that I am, I began that very hour to scour my shelves* for my picks.

*(Mind you, there’s no law that said I had to limit myself to books I own. I just figured I’d save myself a lot of dithering if I gave myself a solid guideline.)

Behold, therefore, in no particular order, precisely what this post’s title implies: The Top 10 Book(s that I own) Covers I’d Totally Put On My Wall!

1) “The Legend of Eli Monpress” by Rachel Aaron

eli type mockup

Okay, this one’s first for a reason. I fell hard for this cover from the moment I saw it, and I’m still smitten. Between the soft color scheme and the gorgeous rascal popping out of it, I cannot but swoon.

2) “Vicious” by V.E. Schwab

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

‘Cause it’s all coolly villainous, much like the story inside. (My recent review here, for those who’d like a recap.)

3) “The Outlaws of Sherwood” by Robin McKinley

Outlaws of Sherwood

In part because it’s associated with a book/legend I love. Also, archer in the beautifully-painted woods!

4) “Maximum Ride: School’s Out Forever” by James Patterson

School's Out Forever

Though, in my opinion, the series took a sharp downward turn following this second book in it, I’ll not let that disappointment sour me on what a cool poster this cover would make.

5) “Stone of Tears” by Terry Goodkind

Stone of Tears

Also on the list of Book 2s with epic cover art, notwithstanding the internal face I make every time I think about the series it belongs to. (It’s not you, Richard; it’s your author’s handling of your story.)

6) “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood” by Howard Pyle

Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

Yeah, so what if I already included a Robin Hood book? NO APOLOGIES.

7) “Wildwood Dancing” by Juliet Marillier

Wildwood Dancing

Because the woods don’t need Robin hood to make me happy. A fairytale forest works, too. (Wowza, there’s so much going on in this picture!)

8) “Peter and the Starcatchers” by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

Peter and the Starcatchers

Because who says fairytales need to be restricted to the forest? Let’s take it to the skies! To the high seas! To by-gosh Neverland! That, and I really like the style/colors/composition this cover’s got going on.

9) Classic Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene

Nancy Drew covers

Going through the fifty-six covers in my classic Nancy Drew collection, I found I couldn’t decide on just one. What would be awesome is if there were a gigantic poster that featured them all, lined up together in rows. I’d love that!

10) “Rose Under Fire” by Elizabeth Wein

Rose Under Fire

I think it’s the gate. Together with the flutter of red and the airplanes in the sky overhead, it just all-around pleases me as an art piece.

Aaand there you have it, folks – my top ten, give or take fifty-six. Time shall tell whether they ever go up on my wall to join the likes of my sketch of Will Scarlet and Edgwyn Wyle clothes shopping and somebody’s awesome photo manip of Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson as LOTR’s Aragorn.

What say you guys? What would be some of your picks for book cover wall art? ^^

In Which I Talk Paradox #2 More/Less in Time for Paradox #3

Guess who won another book from one of her fave authors? The same gal who’s finally getting around to reviewing that book for you, that’s who.

The Book: “Honor’s Knight (Paradox #2)” by Rachel Bach.

Genre: Science Fiction.

Honor's Knight

Blurb (as snagged from the back o’ the book): Devi Morris has a lot of problems. And not the fun easy-to-shoot kind either.

After a mysterious attack left her short several memories and one partner, she’s determined to keep her head down, do her job, and get on with her life. But even though Devi’s no actually looking for it – trouble keeps finding her.

She sees things no one else can, the black stain on her hands is growing, and she’s entangled with the cook she thought she hated. Now the mysteries she’s been avoiding are starting to find her, and as the stakes get higher, missing memories might be the least of Devi’s problems.

My Thoughts: No rest for the mercenaries! “Honor’s Knight” is an unrelenting ride that keeps the book’s heroine and readers alike questioning who’s on whose side, which side is which, and whether there’s anyone or anything Devi can trust besides her tricked-out powered armor (which is kind of one of my favorite characters, and it’s just a suit of machinery!).

It’s no longer just Devi’s career ambitions at stake, or even her own survival and increasingly overtaxed sanity. Whole galaxies are under a massive threat kept quiet by the powers that be, and the best shot at a weapon capable of saving the worlds may rest in Devi’s hands. …if only she knew how to wield it like she does her arsenal of guns.

The mystery deepens every step of the way, as does the danger, all of it running us full-tilt toward the climax – which, as of April 22, has been released in Book Three!

Rachel Bach certainly knows how to keep me in suspense, and how to keep me guessing. This is in no way a story that relies on the obvious. Even the romance, which you just know is going to work out in the end (…or which you hope is going to work out… We can only pray that Devi isn’t pushed to deliver a death shot to Rupert right between the eyes, because 1, she just might do it and 2, one might not be entirely able to blame her), swerves wildly from any kind of simple path. You wanna talk about “it’s complicated”? These two have it complicated!

And seriously: Who are the good guys?? ‘Cause just when you think you know who’s got the best interests of the universe at heart, you’ve got to wonder about both their motives and their methods. It’s all way more than Devi signed up for, but you can bet I’ll be signing up for the Paradox trilogy’s conclusion, “Heaven’s Queen”.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): If you’ve read Book One, I probably don’t even have to tell you. If you haven’t read Book One, then dude. “Fortune’s Pawn”. Get on that.

In Which I Gush Over the Continuation of a Beautiful Fanship

Ah, Rachel Aaron, I love how we keep meeting like this. First I win my cherished copy of your Legend of Eli Monpress” omnibus (*pauses a moment to sigh swoonily over Eli*), and then lately I’ve won the first novel released under your other authorial alias! You are my giveaway hero (for realzies. My own personal giveaways have been inspired by yours), and a writer whose stories have yet to do wrong by me. I feel most fortunate to be your fan. I salute you. And I review you[r book].

œFortune's Pawn

The Book: “Fortune’s Pawn (Paradox #1)” by Rachel Bach.

Genre: Science Fiction.

Blurb: Devi Morris isn’t your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It’s a combination that’s going to get her killed one day – but not just yet.
That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn’t misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she’s found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn’t give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.

My Thoughts: Aaron, Bach, it doesn’t matter what surname this author goes by, I just really enjoy her writing. I can’t usually get into sci-fi, but this book felt accessible to my tech-shy brain in a way much of the genre has not, and kept me engaged from start to finish. Bedtime, phooey – I wanted the next the chapter! …and kinda wanted to run off and write my own space adventure. (Time will tell what comes of that.)

The action excited (so many aliens to shoot in the crazy-cool armor suit!), the mystery intrigued (just what game are Captain Caldswell and his conspirators playing, anyway?), and the romance tantalized (Rupert is one of those inside/outside hotties I’ve got a soft spot for. Good pick, Devi; this reader approves). I’m so sad the book is over already, and so glad the sequel is scheduled to come out in February. 😀

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): If I liked it this much, I can’t think of any good reason why you shouldn’t. Give it a go. And while you’re in a book-shopping mood, I recommend you pick up a copy of, say, “One More Day”, as well. One good read deserves another, aye? ^-^

“HYSRT!” or “When Good Stories Go Bad…”

Grumpy Cat Characters

…It could be because you’ve got a stranglehold on your characters and aren’t letting them do their thing. (I don’t think that’s the problem I’ve got with the project giving me grief, lately, but who knows? I’ll give it some soul-o’-the-story-searching thought.)

In her blog post “Learn From My Fail: Character Edition”, the oft-mentioned-around-here Rachel Aaron shares her own experience with a power struggle between her and her characters that may hit close to home with other writers, out there. And if this particularly brand of writer’s blockage hasn’t affected you yet, then, Hey, You Should Read This to help ensure it never does! The writing process goes so much more smoothly when the author and her creations are working in harmony. (:

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In semi-related news (since this post’s subtitle does mention good stories), as of a few days ago, I’ve started an account on Goodreads. No, I don’t really have any idea what I’m doing over there, any more than I did when I joined Facebook or started a blog, although I did spend a fun afternoon giving stars to books I’ve liked and/or loved over the years. If any of you readers have likewise jumped on the Goodreads train and want to add me as a friend, you’ll find me under my ingeniously deceptive alias, Danielle Shipley, perchance with a middle initial E.

demotivational-posters-its-so-overt-sherlock

“Stars” or “A Review of a Book That Has Me Seeing Them and To Which I Give Lots”

What do you do when a book leaves you in such a state of excitement that you can barely put together a coherent review for your blog? Why, you embrace the chaos and roll with it, of course! (Good news, Daddy – you get to read me raving about this series one more time!)

...And boy, did it ever end with a bang...
…And boy, did it ever end with a bang…

The Book: “Spirit’s End” by Rachel Aaron.

Genre: Fantasy adventure.

Blurb: Normally, this is where I’d summarize the book in my own words. But this book’s got me such a beautiful wreck (and is a series-ender, and therefore tricky to recap without spoilers at every turn), I’m going with something new; namely, copying the tease on the back of the book. …plus commentary!

Eli Monpress is clever, he’s determined, and he’s in way over his head. [*Check, check, and oh-h-h, is he ever…*]

First rule of thievery: Don’t be a hero.

When Eli broke the rules [*back in “The Spirit War”*] and saved the Council Kingdoms, he thought he knew the price [*and he about gave me a bloody heart attack! What a way to end a book! Boo/attaway, Rachel Aaron!*], but resuming his place as the Shepherdess’s favorite isn’t as simple as bowing his head. Now that she has her darling back, Benehime [*who is even more star-struck by Eli and further out of her mind than I am*] is setting in motion a plan that could destroy everything she was created to protect [*THE WORLD*] – and even Eli’s charm might not be enough to stop her [*talk about a “You know you’re in mega-deep trouble when…” scenario*].

My Thoughts: Aw, people, I couldn’t handle it! …Meaning I couldn’t not handle it, meaning I couldn’t put it down. Something about the imminent doom of the world tends to make all heck break loose. Shocking deaths, shocking survivals, powers shifted (and if you’ve read the book, you’ll know how literally I mean that), and dangling ends from previous books tied up because, let’s face it, if the world goes under, when we will ever again get the chance to find out what’s up?

The characters were rocking the house. I mean, they’ve always rocked the house, or I wouldn’t have fallen for this series so hard. But the awesomeness levels were just off the charts! It got to the point where my heart was like, “Eli, sweetheart, I adore you, but don’t get jealous if I gaze at the Lord of Storms a little too hard…”

Oh, man, the Lord of Storms… He’s that guy menacing Eli on the cover, by the way. The dude was raining bad-A coolness. In buckets. And as my reading of this book and my viewing of the new “Les Misérables” film happened within the same time frame, I could not help but note the parallels between this fanatical demon-hunter and Inspector Javert – especially once my brain started rewriting the opening lyrics of Javert’s solo.

There, out in the darkness, a demonseed running;

Fallen from Powers; fallen from grace.

Shepherdess witness: I never shall yield,

‘Til we come face to face. ‘Til we come face to face.

I would pay big money to hear the Lord of Storms sing “Stars” – a performance which I imagine would sound like something between the Russell Crowe and Philip Quast, 10th Anniversary versions (the one’s resonance meets the other’s fire). Seriously. It’s too perfect a song for him. I’d tell you why, but… spoilers.

Fight Club

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): Not without reading the first four books! (E-book of the “Legend of Eli Monpress” omnibus on sale, this month. That’s the first three books of the series for $2.99. Are you kidding me? Somebody get on this!) After that, do not walk, RUN to read this! And then if, immediately after, you feel the strong temptation to read it again and rave about it to everyone and oh, gosh, why isn’t the whole world raving with you?!… well, you’ll be in good company.

“End” or “Over So Soon?/At Last!”

For those of you on the edge of your seats after the final pages of “The Spirit War”… for everyone taking bets on how long it would take me to post yet another blog centered around one of my favorite authors, Rachel Aaron, and her thief that made off with a spot on my character crush list, Eli Monpress… your wait is at “the point in time when an action, an event, or a phenomenon ceases or is completed; the conclusion”.

Same deal as in the past, folks: Rachel’s got free copies of her latest book, “Spirit’s End”, and she’s hosting a raffle on her blog to give them away, because she’s straight-up awesome like that. (How awesome is “straight-up awesome”? Awesome enough that she’s got a thread on the NaNo site’s fantasy forum where she takes time out of her own month of writing to answer any and all writing-related questions asked by inquiring Wrimos, that’s how awesome.)

So check out the giveaway’s rules, share to enter, and, perchance, win books. And let’s all find out how Eli’s fantastic story ends!

“War” or “Make Love (or Awesome Books Worth Loving) Instead”

Eli’s back!!! Not that the blog’s hyperventilating with excitement, or anything… *pant, pant, pant*

The bloggin’ Buccaneers have yet another outrageous demand: “Recommend or review a book of choice. Tell the interwebz why you love it!

Well, they’ve got the timing of a sea captain’s finest chronoscope, because there just happens to be a book I’ve been wanting to rave about.

The Book: “The Spirit War” by Rachel Aaron.

Genre: Fantasy adventure.

Blurb (because I seem to be incapable of just saying, “It’s about X and Y, and then Z happens.” Oh, no, I’ve gotta be all authorial about it.):

In a world where everything from doors to swords to grains of sand has a living spirit… they all adore Eli Monpress, rogue wizard and self-proclaimed greatest thief in the world. But as much as the everyday spirits love Eli, no one loves him more – or with more dangerous obsession – than the Shepherdess, Benehime, a formidable power with a disturbing lack of attention to responsibility. She’ll pull any stunt to get her favorite back where she wants him, even if it means letting the inexorable Immortal Empress loose on a world with no might to oppose her.

Preparing to make a stand nonetheless is the island of Osera. Its people beat back the Empress’s armies once before, and they are determined to do it again, with help from their truant prince. There is, however, one small complication: That prince is none other than infamous swordsman Joseph Lichten, accomplice and friend of a certain wizard-thief. The price on his head is now higher than Eli’s, and if anyone thinks Eli’s pride will allow him to take the situation lying down, they may have another think coming.

My Thoughts: I did not want this book to end – particularly not on the note that it did! There’s little I can say without giving it all away, but just know that the final pages of this fourth book in the Eli Monpress series had me craving Book Five even more than I already was. (“Spirit’s End”, coming in November 2012!)

For those who wanted a “state of open, armed, often prolonged conflict carried on between nations, states, or parties” story, this book delivers on its title’s promise. There are plenty of political head games throughout, and nail-biter battles as the conclusion draws near. There’s also a healthy dose of familial dysfunction, treason and treachery, and enough emotional warfare going on within characters’ own selves to rival the action happening on Osera’s front lines. Readers may even see some characters of which they’ve grown fond meet tragic ends ere the book’s close; certainly, one of the losses hit me rather hard. But, as I’ve been heard to say, the threat doesn’t seem real if nobody dies.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): I’ve yet to come across an installment of the Eli Monpress series that I don’t think you should read. Whatever you’re waiting for, knock it off and buy the book. …Unless what you’re waiting for is to have read the first three books, in which case, knock it off and buy the omnibus.