The Badass Book Trilogy Bible: Part 3

Here’s the final part of my trilogy wrap-up, at least for now. Who knows? If/when I read more awesome trilogies–or just plain series–in the coming months, maybe I’ll expand upon this series.

1. The Lynburn Legacy Trilogy: Unspoken, Untold, and Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan.

Best imaginary friends-turned real life maybe more than friends. A tough female reporter with a wise-cracking group of diverse buddies. Magic and sorcery and family secrets. A tiny English town that’s about to be the scene of some serious trouble. These are a few of my favorite things! (Sorry, it was never going to rhyme.)

In the first book, Kami discovers that Jared–the boy who has been her imaginary friend since she was little–is actually a real person, and that the link between them was forged as a result of a magic spell. Jared is a member of the powerful Lynburn family, who once ruled the town from their manor house and are looking to reclaim their old heritage. In the final book, Kami and her friends must stop some of the Lynburns from destroying the town and everyone in it.

I was invested in this story and its amazing cast of characters from the very beginning, but by the time I started Unmade, I was obsessed. Like, I bought the book and did not pick it up until the weekend, when I could sit down and read the whole thing without interruptions obsessed.

Read for: The characters. Seriously, you will feel something for every person in this story–whether it’s love or loathing or smoldering desire. Also, the humor, the ties between magic and ancestry, and the romance(s). Good God, the romance.

2. The Darkest Minds Trilogy: The Darkest Minds, Never Fade, and In the Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken.

This trilogy makes you think it’s a YA dystopian superhero novel about a group of kids with special powers roaming the country in search of safety from a government that wants to incarcerate them. You’re engrossed in the story of Ruby, a prison/concentration camp runaway who believes herself to be a monster because of her powers, and who finds some small redemption in helping other kids like herself. You’re laughing over the interactions between Ruby and her friends, and squealing over the budding romance between Ruby and another outcast.

Then the story yanks it all out from under you–not just with death, and war, and destruction, but with its subtle look at how much damage society can do when it treats members of its population as less than everyone else.

I realize that the dystopian trend has kind of passed, but The Darkest Minds has depth that so many other series lack. It develops the current US politics in a thorough, though not overwhelming way, and it even mentions how other countries have tried to step in and help. (Which is a thing I always wonder when I read dystopian or post-apocalpytic fiction. Like, is the rest of the world in shambles, or is it just us?)

In the Afterlight answers the vast majority of reader questions, but not all of them. It leaves some holes in the story unfilled, because real life is often messy and unfulfilling, and you can’t always undo the damage you’ve done. Ruby and her friends feel painfully real, in spite of their unreal abilities, and their doubts and fears never feel forced. You’ll spend the whole trilogy hoping that they will get their old lives back, even if those old lives aren’t the same. You’ll root for them, even when you hate the decisions they make.

If you’re looking for painstakingly developed YA, you should definitely check out these books.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my recommendations as much as I’ve enjoyed providing them. If there are any series or trilogies that you’d recommend to me, let me know!

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The Badass Book Trilogy Bible: Part 2

I blogged last week about some of the best trilogies that I’ve finished in the past year or so. If that list hadn’t been longer than I expected, I would’ve kept all of the awesome contained in the original post. 😉 Instead, I’ll be giving you part two of the “bible” separately, so that I have the space to give each series and author the credit they’re due.

In no particular order, here are three more YA trilogies that you should definitely read now that all three books have been released.

1. The Something Strange and Deadly Trilogy: Something Strange and Deadly, A Darkness Strange and Lovely, and Strange and Ever After by Susan Dennard.

Zombies, steampunk, and the Philadelphia world’s fair? All described through a late 19th century lens? Yes, please. Our heroine Eleanor Fitt is a girl who loves Shakespeare and hates dodging her mother’s attempts at marrying her off. In the first book, Eleanor tries to rescue her brother Elijah with the help of The Spirit Hunters–a ragtag team of misfits who believe that the dead rising in Philadelphia and Elijah’s disappearance are tied to the same evil necromancer. In the last book, Eleanor and the Spirit Hunters square off against said necromancer once and for all, risking life and limb to lay the dead and a few personal demons to rest.

Strange and Ever After doesn’t just force Eleanor to confront some of her worst fears. She has to face and overcome the worst parts of herself too, in order to come out on top. I really admire Susan Dennard’s ability to pull no punches with her characters, even though I still haven’t recovered from the latest casualties. 😉

Read for: Lush, period locales, a feisty yet unlikely heroine, a simmering romance troubled by societal norms AND zombies, and lots of kickass team-on-a-mission fight scenes.

2. The NewSoul Trilogy: Incarnate, Asunder, and Infinite by Jodi Meadows.

Another fantasy series with gorgeous covers to cover the gorgeous writing. Ana is born into a society where every soul reincarnates over hundreds of lifetimes–except for hers. In the first book, Ana travels to the city of Heart to try and unravel the mystery surrounding her existence. There, she makes new friends, faces new violence from people who fear that her newsoul brings dark omens, and uncovers dangerous new secrets. In the final book, Ana and her friends must try to solve the puzzle of reincarnation and prevent the ascension of a god-like being who plans to use reincarnation as a way to cement his return to power.

Infinite is just as intelligent as it is entertaining, and the questions it asks about why some lives are prioritized above others resonated so much with me, especially given the US political climate during the time I was reading it. Ana’s desire for acceptance is much more universal, however, and Jodi Meadows does an excellent job of capturing Ana’s shifts in self-worth in a way that’s clear and easy to relate to.

Read for: Sparse but beautiful prose, a fantasy world containing fresh new creatures and mythology, and most importantly, a love story that transcends time and experience. Also, Sam. Oh, Sam.

3. The Defiance Trilogy: Defiance, Deception, and Deliverance by CJ Redwine.

I expected Defiance, a post-apocalpytic YA set in an America that’s been ravaged by mythical beasts and warfare, to be dark. I didn’t expect it to be the kind of start to finish thrill ride that meant neglecting real life responsibilities until I reached the end. Rachel is one POV character, a girl whose father secretly trained her as a warrior in a society where women are forbidden to fight, or even leave the house alone. Logan is her father’s apprentice and an orphan, who is incredibly bright and technically minded, and also incredibly clueless about the depths of Rachel’s feelings for him. In the first book, Rachel and Logan accidentally incite a long-brewing war when they leave their city to search for Rachel’s missing father. In the final book, the two of them must reunite the shattered remains of their country and find their way back to each other–while fighting off various enemies seeking their destruction.

CJ Redwine writes broken, spiteful, tough, loyal characters better than almost anyone, which meant that I was in the awkward position of sympathizing with almost everyone by the end of Deliverance. Villains included. I loved that the remaining characters still felt human, even in the middle of all these big, climactic battles. Plus, the little glimpse at life after war was really appreciated.

Read for: Unexpected friendships/alliances, a forbidden (in more ways than one) love story, two compelling leads with very different strengths and weaknesses, brilliant strategizing, and the many contrasts between family you’re born with versus family you make.

 

Have you read any of these trilogies? What were your thoughts?

The Badass Book Trilogy Bible: Part 1

Or, you know, holy text of your choice. I would’ve used ‘encyclopedia’ if the alliteration hadn’t been too tough to resist.

One benefit to completing all of these awesome end of year book surveys was the chance to review all the books I’d finished last year. When I was perusing pages on Goodreads, trying to choose the best fit by category or question, one thing immediately stood out.

I finished more awesome trilogies in 2014 than I could ever individually review or promote. Some of them I’ve recommended to friends in person, or mentioned on Twitter. Some of them are already wildly popular and widely read. Some don’t get nearly as much attention as they deserve.

So, over the course of the next week or two, I’m going to spend a couple posts talking about these trilogies. The ones I blew through in a couple days. The ones I tried my best to savor. The ones that made me laugh, or cry, or gasp.

Please check some of these out if you’re searching for a story that you can fall in love with over a series of books. No waiting required. 🙂

1. The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Dreams of Blood and Starlight, and Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor.

Come for the gorgeous covers, stay for the gorgeous writing. The series features Karou, an art student in Prague who becomes an unlikely participant in a huge celestial war. In the first book, Karou learns of her role in an ancient conflict between angels and chimaera, a race of hybrid creatures considered demonic. In the final book, Karou must attempt to stop this war from enveloping the human world, with help from her friends, her lover-in-a-past-life, and a few unexpected allies.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters is loooonnng, but you won’t notice it when you’re reading. Laini Taylor has a knack for mixing surprising twists and turns with prose that will make you–and also me–green with envy.

Read for: A new twist on paranormal fantasy, exotic locales both real and fictional, and a pair of secondary romantic characters–Zuzana and Mik!–you’ll love just as much as the main romantic pairing.

2. The Grisha Trilogy: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo.

If you like your fantasy with a touch of history, then this is the series for you. Alina Starkov is an orphaned peasant girl in an alternate version of Tsarist Russia, who manifests an unexpected ability to wield light as a weapon. In the first book, she joins an army of other soldiers with supernatural powers–known as Grisha–and hones her own skills under the instruction of the Darkling, a boy who wields darkness as a weapon. In the final book, Alina and a ragged band of allies fight for the throne of Ravka after an unexpected coup leaves the entire country and all of their lives at risk.

Ruin and Rising is a super fast read, even for a fast paced series. I had to take my time in the early pages of the first few books, just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything important. Leigh Bardugo handles a ton of overlapping subplots, characters, and world-building details with an ease that doesn’t ever feel boring.

Read for: An army of highly powerful and super compelling Grisha, a believable friends to lovers romance, subtle power plays and counter-maneuvers that will make you cheer, and also, pirates.

3. The Legend Trilogy: Legend, Prodigy, and Champion by Marie Lu.

Legend is a pseudo Les Miserables retelling that takes place in a futuristic US divided by civil war and natural disaster, instead of a pre-revolutionary France. June is a young soldier of the Republic tracking her big brother’s killer, who is believed to be a young rebel named Day. Day has plenty of reasons to hate the Republic, but he’s more focused on protecting his own family than he is on murder. In the first book, the two of them uncover a vast government conspiracy that plays a vital role in the collapse of the US. In the last book, they’re desperately trying to reunite their country without losing each other.

Also note: Champion will probably break your heart. Just a little. It will also leave you on the edge of your seat. Marie Lu doesn’t give any of her characters an easy ending, but the epilogue is still deeply satisfying.

Read for: Equally badass male and female leads, inspiring political speeches, unexpected moments of romantic sweetness, and big Blockbuster fight scenes. (The good kind.)

4. The Under the Never Sky Trilogy: Under the Never Sky, Through the Ever Night, and Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi.

Under the Never Sky is simultaneously dystopian and post-apocalpytic fiction. Aria lives in a pleasure dome called Reverie, where life is perfect and lovely, and forgetting about the ravaged world outside is all too easy. Perry is an outsider, dodging ether storms and rival tribes as he wanders the wilds in search of his kidnapped nephew. In the first book, their separate worlds collide when Aria is banished from Reverie after her mother’s disappearance, and the two of them must team up to search for answers regarding their missing family members. In the last book, Aria and Perry discover that neither Reverie nor the outside is safe from the ravages of the ether storms, and that they’ll need all the allies they can muster on both sides if they’re going to reach safety.

One of the most fantastically frustrating things about Into the Still Blue is that the alliances between characters are STILL changing. Bonds are broken and reformed constantly because Veronica Rossi sets up the kind of stakes where anyone and everyone stands to lose. You might be able to predict the ending, but you won’t have a clue how the characters reach it until you pick up the book for yourself.

Read for: Subtly specialized survival skills, heart-wrenching, yet incredibly sexy romances, and the strength of familial bonds amid the constant threat of total destruction.

 

Have you read any of these trilogies? What did you think?

2015 New Years Resolutions

Let me start off by saying that I spent most of 2014 trying to bring some stability back into my life. I settled into my job, got back into working out, and started really trying to manage some mental health issues. I found my way back into writing and being sociable again. There were rough patches, of course, but for the first time in months I’m feeling good. Happy. Hopeful.

Which is why I’m incredibly optimistic about 2015. I always geek out over making New Years resolutions, but I’m more excited about my goals this year than I have been in quite a while. Not because they’re bigger or more awesome than they have been in the past, but because I finally feel like some of them might be in reach.

So without further ado, here’s my list:

1. Finish revising Facing the Music and start querying.

2. Find a new job.

3. Draft one other manuscript this year.

4. Read 100 books this year.

5. Continue to keep a regular workout schedule.

6. Spend less time obsessing about my insecurities or comparing myself to other people.

7. Make more of an effort to be kind, especially in situations where kindness wouldn’t be my gut reaction.

If 2014 was the year I found my balance, 2015 is going to be the year I find myself. Let’s do this!

What are your resolutions for 2015? What would you like to accomplish this year?