My Top 5 Books for far!

It is August. I cannot believe it is August! So far I have 35 books out of my 50 book goal this year. I have read some great stories this year (along with a couple of bad ones). There are still so many books in my TBR pile that I am trying to get to before the year comes to an end. I do not think I am ever going to catch up.

I am currently in the process of reading "The Magic Misfits: The Second Story" by Neil Patrick Harris.

What books have you guys read so far that you absolutely loved?

Circe by Madeline Miller 

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

Obsidio by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff 

Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza—but who knows what they'll find seven months after the invasion? 

Meanwhile, Kady's cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza's ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys—an old flame from Asha's past—reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict. 

With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heroes will fall, and hearts will be broken.

Sabriel by Garth Nix 

For many years Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the random power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who won't stay dead. But now her father, the Mage Abhorsen, is missing, and to find him Sabriel must cross back into that treacherous world - and face the power of her own extraordinary destiny.

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him. 

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingalecontinues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

Honorary Mention

The Adventure Zone by Clint McElroy

Join Taako the elf wizard, Merle the dwarf cleric, and Magnus the human warrior for an adventure they are poorly equipped to handle AT BEST, guided ("guided") by their snarky DM, in a graphic novel that, like the smash-hit podcast it's based on, will tickle your funny bone, tug your heartstrings, and probably pants you if you give it half a chance.

With endearingly off-kilter storytelling from master goofballs Clint McElroy and the McElroy brothers, and vivid, adorable art by Carey Pietsch, The Adventure Zone: Here There be Gerblins is the comics equivalent of role-playing in your friend's basement at 2am, eating Cheetos and laughing your ass off as she rolls critical failure after critical failure.

Literary Gifts Galore! | Spotlight

The best part of the literary community is the abundance of cute accessories available to express your inner bookworm in public. Sometimes subtle and sometimes BAM in your face!

The are pins, shirts, backlogs, tote bags, and a million other things to wear or carry around! I always have to try very hard to not make crazy impulsive purchases for all these things, because some of them are so wonderful. I need all these bookish things in my life. It is my calling. Who needs shoes when you have books and bookish stuff!

Literary Book Gifts is a new little online store that has popped up in this community. And they have the cutest design! They’ve gotten a bunch of literary classics like Peter Pan, Moby Dick and Sherlock Holmes and put them in really cute (and useful items). I need to remind myself that I do not need more bookish tote bags since I already have more than ten...

My personal favorites are the Hound of the Baskervilles tote bag and the Peter Pan shirt.

The shirts run from small to extra-large (3XL-5XL) and a variety of of colors to chose from. Sometimes I don’t get certain shirts because it is a cool color — because I know warm colors suit me best. So if I love the design of a shirt I just have to muse over which color shirt I should get.

Literary Book Gifts has been kind enough to give all you lovely readers a special 20% discount so you can indulge in all your literary needs. (PROMOCODE:  SIMPLYALLYTEA20)

It is good for anything in the store, no minimum purchase required! It's important to support small business owners, but it is more important to support small business owners who sell bookish gear!

Check it all out at:

The Last of the Firedrakes by Farah Oomerbhoy | Book Review

This book was sent to me in exchange of an honest review.

16-year-old Aurora Darlington is an orphan. Mistreated by her adopted family and bullied at school, she dreams of running away and being free. But when she is kidnapped and dragged through a portal into a magical world, suddenly her old life doesn't seem so bad. 

Avalonia is a dangerous land ruled by powerful mages and a cruel, selfish queen who will do anything to control all seven kingdoms--including killing anyone who stands in her way. Thrust headlong into this new, magical world, Aurora's arrival sets plans in motion that threaten to destroy all she holds dear. 

With the help of a young fae, a magical pegasus, and a handsome mage, Aurora journeys across Avalonia to learn the truth about her past and unleash the power within herself. Kingdoms collide as a complicated web of political intrigue and ancient magic lead Aurora to unravel a shocking secret that will change her life forever.

The amount of books I had to put down and claim as “did not finish” could be counted on a single hand. I make it my motto to try to finish all books, even bad ones — and I have read a few bad ones in my lifetime. 

The premise of the story was something right up my alley, hence why I requested it. It promised a story in a fantasy world with a missing princess, a cruel queen and a grand adventure. However, the story was about a perfect over-trusting whiny girl whom everyone likes for some reason who falls in love with a guy in a span of 5 minutes (and in less than 40 pages).

Aurora was supposed to be 16, but acted worse than most 11 and 12 year olds I know.

The quality of the prose was so poor I actually felt like tearing my eyes out. Maybe it is because I am quite picky with prose, because I have read so much great writing. Oomerbhoy’s prose fails in the “show don’t tell” schematics by just telling me how things are rather than showing the reader. 

"My heart was racing, and I was suddenly afraid. How did the shadow guard know about the midnight market? Karen had said I would be safe here. I was terrified at what Lord Oblek would do to me for escaping his Dungeons if he caught me again."

Please show me how beautiful and grand the forest is instead of telling me "the forest was huge and beautiful.” I just can’t stand or deal with that type of prose.

Oomeerbhoy introduced a series of interesting side characters who were just…there. Maybe it was because I did not bother finishing the book, but the side characters felt that they were not important, because it was not Aurora. Pretty disappointing, since some of my favorite characters have been side characters. 

The Last of the Firedrakes has the bones of a great story, it just needs to be fleshed out.

Rating: None Available
Did not finish on page 87 out of 488.
The Last of the Firedrakes by Farah Oomerbhoy

Exclusive Author Interview with Mary Fan

Mary Fan is a sci-fi/fantasy writer from Jersey City, NJ. She is the author of Jane Colt, Starswept (read my review!), Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil, Stronger than a Bronze Dragon. 

In addition, Mary is the co-editor of Brave New Girls, a YA sci-fi anthology. Brave New Girls features tales about girls in STEM. Revenues from sales are donated to the Society of Women Engineers scholarship fun.

Mary has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember and especially enjoys the infinite possibilities and out-of-this-world experiences of science fiction and fantasy. In her spare time (when she has any), she enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and exploring new things—she'll try almost anything once.

Mary graduated Magna cum Laude from Princeton University in 2010 with a Bachelor of the Arts in Music, specializing in composition. Although she is currently focusing on writing, music is still her first love, and so in her spare time she composes songs and soundtracks.

I was able to talk to her and ask her few questions in order to share with you guys! Let's get started.

Q: What is your go to snacks when writing?

I don't snack a lot when writing, but I have to have a beverage nearby. Have to... otherwise I feel incomplete. Depending on my mood, the season, and the time of day, this might be tea, wine, beer, or coffee. Or the occasional juice. I get super antsy when I don't have something to drink within reach!

Q: Care to share you favorite playlist?

Sure! I don't listen to music when writing because it distracts me (I just wind up listening to the music instead!), but here's a playlist of songs I listen to while out and about:

Renegades - X Ambassadors
Bottom of the Deep Blue Sea - Missio
The Fall - Imagine Dragons
Laura Palmer - Bastille
Loudspeaker - MUNA
Uprising - Muse
Heathens - Twenty One Pilots
KDV - Missio
Not Your Fault - AWOL Nation
Centuries - Fallout Boy
Warriors - Imagine Dragons
Critical Mistakes - 888
Shut Up and Dance - Walk the Moon

I have no idea what any of this says about me... it's just what I listen to!

Q: When creating a new story do you start with the plot or the characters? You do you start with the ending, the beginning or just somewhere in the middle.

The world, actually! Usually that's the first thing that occurs to me. What the world looks like, how it might feel to live in it... and then from there, characters start to form. I automatically go for the person in this world who thinks they're nothing special -- a "nobody." How would that person feel, and what might they want? How would they get it, and what would stand in their way? From there, a plot begins to take shape.

Q: Most of your books are science fiction — what got you into the genre?

Wishbone, actually! It's funny -- I can trace my love of sci-fi back to a single book: the Wishbone adaptation of Legion of Space, Unleashed in Space. It was a fun space adventure, written in the era of old-school sci-fi, and I liked it so much I tracked down the original Jack Williamson novel. It. Was. Awesome. I was maybe 10 or 11, and I quickly became obsessed with old-school sci-fi. I borrowed every Jack Williamson book my library had, and then I moved on to his contemporaries, and then I discovered more and more of the genre. And then Galaxy Quest hit theaters. I'd never watched classic Star Trek (only a bit of Next Generation with mom), so I didn't get any of the references, but I just thought it was a fantastic romp through the stars. 

I wanted more space books and space movies... and that's when I discovered a little thing called Star Wars (I hadn't grown up on it -- didn't discover it till middle school). I actually found the novelizations of the original trilogy first, and I liked them so much, I hunted down the originals... in a seedy pirated DVD shop in Hong Kong, where I was living at the time (I was 12 and I had no money, okay?). Accidentally binge-watched the entire trilogy in one night (a school night!) and went to class starry-eyed the next day. From there, there was no turning back. Sci-fi was my THING.

Q: What is your earliest memory of art?

Hmm... probably playing violin as a toddler. I started playing when I was three, and I have very vague memories of finger tapes, fun little tricks to remember how to hold the bow (make a fox, and the fox is eating a carrot!), using sponges as shoulder rests...

Q: If there is a person (dead or alive) you’d like to meet and get advice from — about writing, life, ect?

Ursula Le Guin (may she rest in peace). I would have loved to learned from her anything she was willing to share.

Q: You specialized in composition while at Princeton University, who is your favorite composer? How did that influence your writing? 

I don't think I have a single favorite -- there are too many great ones out there! And I tend to like most music... it takes a special kind of horrible for me to dislike a song. Though a piece that's been special to me is Verdi's Requiem. I was so obsessed with it in college, I wrote my junior paper on it, and then took inspiration from it for my senior composition thesis. 

Most of my characters tend to be performing artists of some kind, and I think that's because I've studied music since I was so little (pretty sure I learned to read music before I could read words). Music also tends to weave its way into my writing unintentionally through the descriptions. I think it's just how I perceive sound now.

Q: What are you currently reading?

I'm currently on something of a horror kick. I just finished For Emmy, a creepy little novella by Mary San Giovanni, and I'm about to start Brian Keene's The Rising. Also have Justina Ireland's Dread Nation on deck after that.

Q: Why is a raven like a writing desk?

Because they're both solid objects on Earth. Considering the size of the universe -- not to mention the multiverse -- and how much of it is made up of dark matter, that's actually very specific.

Q: Tea or coffee?

Yes, please!

You can learn more about Mary Fan books when you visit her website:

Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne | Book Review

In “Kill the Farm Boy” by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne, a group of unlikely individuals come together under very strange circumstances.Together, they oddly enough sorta succeeded in their grand adventure together.

This novel is the lovechild of Shrek, The Princess Bride, and Monty Python and that child goes on a crazy Dungeons and Dragon adventure.

Ms. Dawson and Mr. Hearne put the reader in a magical fantasy world filled with the usual archetypes and take it to an extreme. The party is mainly composed of women  with different strengths and weaknesses. The Chosen One is not who you’d expect and hates being the chosen one. 

Throughout the novel, I found myself laughing loudly for every single character is endearing with brilliant faults and powers that you would think would be useful for any situation — like fear of chickens and powers to make “almost crackers”.

The authors give everything a rather odd and refreshing modern twist — trolls act like both the myth and the modern day internet trolls, and women call out  the misogynist tropes of a medieval  fantasy world.

While this cleverly written adventure is refreshing, the prose sometimes seem to drag on as the character monologues extend farther than they need to. While this story is driven by both plot and its characters, sometimes they hold up the progression of the story in an unassuming fashion. 

A Rogue.
A Bard.
A Warrior.
A Wizard.
A Goat.
A Steve. 
A Quest.

A story you wouldn’t expect to teach you lessons about life, death, love and adventure after you’re done laughing out loud.

Personal Rating: 4.5/5

Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Pub Date: July 17, 2018
Page Count: 384
Publisher: Del Rey
ISBN: 9781524797744

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden | Book Review

“The Girl in the Tower” is the second novel in Kathrine Arden’s Winternight trilogy. Ms. Arden was able to continue to create a magical world where magic is weaved delicately to every nook and cranny.

In book two, Vasya sets off to become her own person — an adventurer if you will. However, her dream of exploring the wide land of Russ comes to a halt when she decides to play hero by rescuing some recently kidnapped girls — while dressed as a boy — and gets tangled up with a much darker magic brewing.

Just like in “The Bear and the Nightingale” Ms. Arden starts her prose with a story within a story, a retelling of a fairytale with a story of a Russian fairytale, probably hinting the general basis of the story. Vasya’s older siblings Olga and Sasha, who we met briefly in the previously novel, take center stage in this story and become essential to understanding Vasya’s story arc.

In this novel is a love story, but not your traditional girl meets boy and fall in love story. The love is instead between siblings and explores how far these siblings go for each other.

Ms. Arden displays beautifully the strange bond siblings have — even when several years have passed since the last face to face contact. The bond Olga, Sasha, and Vasya have is realistic and natural. When Vasya decides to pretend to be a boy in a time where women were seen as third-class citizens, Olga and Sasha take the responsibility of keeping Vasya’s secret (begrudgingly) knowing that such a thing could not only hurt Vasya, but their own reputations as a wife of a prince and a high priest. The love, the pain, the betrayal and the forgiveness were all pure and real, reminding me of my own relationship with my sibling. Their pain and happiness became my own.

Much like her previous novel, “The Girl in the Tower” has a unique prose that is like no other. The attention to detail visually and emotionally allows the words to flow elegantly like poetry. 

Ms. Arden’s newest book could be considered a work of magic and adventure, but much like her previous novel, it is a elegant work of art that will grip you and introduce you to a world you never knew you wanted to be a part of.

Personal Rating: 5/5
The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2018
Page Count: 362
Publisher: Del Rey
ISBN: 978-1-101-88596-3

The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Greblins | Book Review

The Adventure Zone by Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy and Carey Pietsch, follows the adventures of three very different individuals who are trying to complete a simple mission, but get dragged into a much larger adventure. 

Tako —  an elvish wizard with a prideful personality, Magnus Burnsides — a human fighter that is pretty much the human version of a golden retriever, and Merle Highchurch — a dwarve cleric who seems to get the bad end of the stick. All they wanted to do, was rescue Merle’s cousin and get paid. Obviously, it became much more than that.

This beautifully illustrated comic book is an adaption to a Dungeon’s and Dragons podcast with the same name, that has a large fanbase emotionally invested in the journey of these three boys (Much like me and Critical Role — another D&D campaign available online).

As someone who went into the comic book story blind and with very little knowledge of the podcast I was immediately captivated by the characters personalities and their interactions with each other. 

Pietsch’s illustrations are beautiful and simple. Her cartoon art style truly matches the general gist of what “The Adventure Zone” is; goofy characters making poor and silly decisions while trying not to die.

You will laugh, you will gasp, you will hold your breath, but most importantly you will want to go on your own adventure.

My Rating: 5/5
Release Date: July 17, 2018
Publisher: First Second