Tag Archives: My Lady Jane

My Favorite YA Books of 2017

23 Dec

I’m judging this based on what I read in 2017, not necessarily books that released in 2017, and I’m only focusing on YA. If you want a complete list of books I read, check out my Goodreads challenge. A lot of these books could fall into more than one category, but I didn’t want repeats, so I tried to stick with a new book each time.

I hope you find some recs you’ll enjoy!

Fantasy

The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron

Labeling fantasy and science fiction can get a little strange, and this novel is a perfect example of that. I honestly can’t say a lot about this book, because, if I did, it would ruin the craziest surprises. Surprises that blew me away. I totally loved how bizarre and brutal and lovely and strange this book is. If you’re okay going in blind into a strange new world with little to no explanation, you will love this novel, because by the time you get answers, it’s a million times worth it.

Sci-Fi

Warcross by Marie Lu

If you’ve ever spoken to me about the types of books I love, then you know I love future tech. (There’s something so much fun about exploring possibilities.) Marie Lu hit the nail on the head with this book that features a futuristic video game and a craze overtaking the world. Her plot twists have me DYING for book 2. (And we need more gamer girls in fiction.)

Historical

My Lady Jane by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows

Technically a historical fantasy, My Lady Jane is easily the funniest book I read all year. (And I definitely need more laughter in my laugh.) If you’re willing to let your imagination stretch past the point of believability (especially since most of the characters are real historical figures), and you don’t mind the authors breaking the fourth wall, this book is the one you didn’t know you absolutely needed. It’s unique, hilarious, and un-put-downable. Also, My Plain Jane, a sequel following a different time period, releases in 2018. It’s one of my most anticipated reads.

Contemporary

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

At first, I wasn’t sure how this book would play out. I mean, it takes place over one weekend at a convention. What could happen? SO MUCH. If you’re a geek like me, the love for geek culture just seeps out of this quirky story. It really captures how much a fictional character can save a person. The cast is full of diversity, including a female protagonist on the spectrum, and the book features a lot of important discussions more people need to have. A quick, fun, but important read.

Horror

There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

So this novel takes place in Nebraska, which automatically gets points from me, because we do not have enough books set in the Midwest. Despite a lot of Midwest clichés, I really enjoyed this story. I read it one setting. I didn’t see the killer coming. It’s super gory in a way a horror book should be. And I couldn’t stop thinking about when all was said and done. Love, love, loved this spine-tingling mystery.

Debut

Body Parts by Jessica Kapp

Yay for more future tech! This book discusses lots of relevant issues about body autonomy and the power of pharmaceutical companies. It has just the right amount of gore (can you tell I enjoy gore?), and the action is both nonstop and believable. Add a dash of romance, and you’re in for a wild ride. Also, I think this is a standalone, so if you need a great standalone (and want to support a debut author), pick this one up.

Sequel

These Dazzling Heights by Katharine McGee

If you haven’t read The Thousandth Floor (#1), then go get it right now, especially if you’re an old-school Gossip Girl fan. This is another fantastic futuristic novel with believable tech and lots of guilty pleasure drama. The novel does not get enough credit for showing a lot of socio-economic situations that are happening now. I absolutely love this series. It’s uncomfortable and devious in such a flawless way that allows you to enjoy every little moment, even the ones you should feel guilty about enjoying.

 

Series

Tiny Pretty Things and Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

I can’t believe I didn’t pick up these books sooner. Competitive ballet + real-life issues = I wish there was a book 3. (Why isn’t there a book 3???) I went from loving certain characters in the first book, to hating them in the second, and it was perfection. Also a series for Gossip Girl fans, this duology keeps you on your toes with betrayal in highly competitive ballet. This diverse duology is written by two diverse authors and published by Cake Literary, a diverse company.

Biggest Surprise:

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

I hesitated to include this category, because it makes me sound like I expected a book to be awful, but that’s not what I mean by “Biggest Surprise.” Biggest Surprise, to me, means I wasn’t sure what to expect from a book, and then it blew me away. The Love Interest definitely takes YA tropes and turns them on their head in the most glorious (and often hilarious) ways. I’m also a fan of spies, and there’s more future tech, so…

Manga

Jigoku no Enra

If you took a peek at my Goodreads challenge, you might have noticed that I read A LOT of manga this year. In fact, I normally read a lot of manga, but this was the first year I recorded it. Why? I used to hide how much manga I read, because there’s this weird stigma about it, but when I started sharing it, I began to connect to other readers who loved some of my favorites, so I’m recording it from now on. Anyway. Jigoku no Enra has everything I love in a paranormal shoujo: demons, cursed princes of hell, and one unfortunate girl wrapped up in it all. Definitely recommended.

Top Three Honorable Mentions:

The Speaker, Daughter of the Pirate King, and Our Dark Duet.

The Speaker by Traci Chee is book 2 in a Sea of Ink and Gold series. Her prose drips off the pages. A complex, yet brutally beautiful fantasy.

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller has pirates and magic. Need I say more?

Our Dark Duet concludes the Monsters of Verity, and it was a fitting ending for a twisted tale about monsters, music, and mayhem.

But what was my all-time favorite read?

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

It was my first time reading Shusterman, and he blew me away. I LOVED Scythe so much I never put it down. It’s brilliant, morally gray, and gory as hell. Scythe answers the question, What happens when everyone begins to live forever? Well, we hire Scythes, of course. You know, people trained to decide who will die. The book follows two scythe apprentices, and everything they go through—including their first deaths and some pretty horrible plot twists—will keep your head spinning. After every chapter, I kept bothering my roommate because I HAD to talk to someone about each and every scene. This book is also a near-future scenario. Scythe released at the end of 2016, so if you’re talking about 2017 releases only, my favorite book was Warcross by Marie Lu.

What were your favorites?

~SAT

 

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My Hate-Love Relationship with Historical Fiction

8 May

I love historical fiction. In fact, I’m currently binge reading, watching, and writing it right now. But I have a beef with it. (Does anyone even say that anymore? No? Oh, well.) If you’re curious, I’m reading Stalking Jack the Ripper, watching Reign, and writing a book set in the ancient world. Very different time periods, but all can easily fall into my hate-love with the genre.

So what is my issue with the genre?

My biggest pet peeve with historical fiction is when I look up the factual story and the factual story is MORE—more fascinating, bizarre, fun, gory, symbolic, or anything MORE.

Let’s look at a few examples:

In the movie The Revenant with Leonardo Dicaprio, Hugh Glass fights his way back from the wilderness to enact bloody revenge on the two who left him to die. In real life? He actually tracked down the two men and ultimately forgave them, because it was better for society. (One was a solider and the other a young man with a family.) I actually LOVE the real version, because I think it teaches us more about survival and sympathy and societal sacrifice. But forgiveness doesn’t feed into the bloody climax many expect, does it? (On a side note, Hugh Glass could’ve been a pirate…but that also doesn’t make it into the movie either. Boo.) Here’s an article if you’re interested in more info: The Real Story of ‘The Revenant’ is Far Weirder (and Bloodier) Than the Movie.

In Reign, the show follows Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, as she marries the Dauphin of France. And it’s entertaining, don’t get me wrong. Lots of betrayal, murder, and sex. But the real-life version, if the show had been expanded to show more years, has MORE. Nearly everyone loses their head, country, or both. (It’s very Game of Thrones.) What I find strange, though, is not the focus but some of the blatant inaccuracies portrayed as fact. For instance, the show takes (weird?) liberties in taking shots at the blond hair Francis has when Mary herself was famous for blond-red hair, while Francis was the brunet. They even go as far as to say all Scots have dark hair. (Or bringing her mother into it, when they never saw one another after her childhood.) In real life, over time, there are three husbands. (Perfect for a trilogy, no?) That aside, I’ll absolutely acknowledge that brutal story is not the target audience or goal for the romantic TV show on the CW. Which brings me to my next point…

I don’t blame the authors or any creators behind this. Why? Because I get it. Truth is often stranger than fiction. If you wrote down some of the actual events that happened, readers or viewers would have a harder time believing that than the completely fictionalized version of an event. Not to mention that life doesn’t serve a linear, symbolic purpose…and with stories, that’s the whole point, especially when you bring genres and expectations for that genre into play. Not to mention the traditional narrative viewers and readers expect from certain historical periods. 

It was discovered, for instance, that slaves were not used to build the Great Pyramids. Skilled (and paid) craftsman were, which is why they could stage protests. (In fact, the first protests we now know of.) But our fictional worlds have yet to reflect this. (Oh, did I mention they were often paid with beer? I mean, come on.)

History—and what we understand of history—is constantly changing, and the genre should change along with it.

I want to see more Norse women out on Viking Voyages, as skilled seafarers. (Source) I want to see black cowboys (Source). I want to see skilled craftsmen building the pyramids (Source). I want to see the female sailors on the doomed Franklin expedition, especially since the entire crew was reported to be male (Source). I want to see an all-female battalion in the Russian Revolution (Source). I want MORE.

I get that it might be a little strange to see some of your favorite historical figures (and narratives) in a different light. But why not?

Why not challenge the traditional narrative, especially if it’s backed up by science and other types of studies? Why not write a version that’s based in factual evidence more than on speculation? On the opposite end, why not write a version that owns the fact that it’s not based in reality at all, like My Lady Jane (where royalty can shape-shift into animals)? Why not push those limits and expectations of what historical fiction can be? (On a side note, there’s actually a really funny/enlightening Oatmeal comic on why this is so difficult, and you can read it here.)

Historical fiction has limitless, constantly changing possibilities, and I cannot wait to see how it morphs in the future.

~SAT

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