Summer Reads: Three Jane-Austinish Books

Summer Reads: Three Jane-Austinish Books

For a quick read, perhaps you’re looking for a light summer-time book, or good distraction, here are three Jane-Austinish amusements. Continue reading “Summer Reads: Three Jane-Austinish Books”


5 best YA novels with dragons (any excuse to talk about dragons)

5 best YA novels with dragons (any excuse to talk about dragons)



This calls for a celebration. I finished my reading goal on goodreads! I somehow managed to sneak in one last book yesterday and that means . . . I have a total of 1000 books in my READ shelf!

Ta da!


I’m making a bit of fuss over nothing. There were no fireworks this morning. No CONGRATULATIONS. Nothing exciting happened when I input the latest book. I’ve certain read over 1000 books, but I didn’t always keep a record when I was younger.

Book number 1000 was A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn.

It surprised me by being quite ordinary. I kept expecting action and excitement and romance, but the book kept sliding down a different path. It was more about knowing yourself and your place in the world. For Marni, a princess who has a rather tragic background story – that world is one of magic. Of a forest that moves, that is full of strange laughter and tiny creatures, and, of course, there is a dragon.

This year I encountered five very different dragon worlds. Most of them did not come out this year, but this is when I discovered them.

I’m going to list them below and countdown to my favorite.

5 Best YA novels with dragons that I read in 2015

5. A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn

There is only one dragon is this book. He is something made of myth and story. “There is no familiarity here, no urge to reach out and stroke his razor scales. . . . Yes, there is his size, and his teeth, and his claws, but he is beautiful, pure, and I near wish he would eat me up . . .”

The language throughout Hahn’s book is stunning, and best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Don’t look for action here, but heart. Mostly confusions of the heart. Whether Marni is among humans, or inside the magic, nothing is ever simple.

4. Dragon’s Keep by Janet Lee Carey

The dragons on Wilde Island are predators.

“The dragon’s tongue lashed out like a devil’s whip. He lowered his head, saying ‘Sweet morsel.’ Dragons know many human languages, being sharp-witted and slit-tongued so the words did not surprise me.”

They are deadly monsters who hunt humans. Although the humans have their dragonslayers, they also have a memorial dragonstone to list all the victims the dragon has taken. It’s a very medieval world, and Carey captures that with all its superstitions and dangers.

The princess Rosalind has a strange curse. She was born with a scaly blue-green dragon’s claw, instead of one finger. This “cursed” deformity brings her a surprising connection to the dragons.

This is a story of surviving.

3. The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin

A classic story of dragons that exist at the edge of the world.

The Farthest Shore is the third book in the Earthsea Cycle. It is a slow read too, but it builds as only Le Guin can do it. The Archmage Sparrowhawk and young Arren are on a quest, searching for answers. Why is magic fading from the world? This is not really a YA book, but it’s a coming of age story and masterful written.

The dragons are immortal and wild, both dangerous creatures and irresistibly fascinating.

2. Seraphina  and the companion tale: Shadow Scale by Rachael Hartman

I highly recommend Seraphina. It delighted me in so many ways. The dragons especially. It was the best book I read last year. The companion tale Shadow Scale came out this year. It wraps up some loose ends, and explores more of the world, but just wasn’t quite as good as the first. The ending felt a little too much like a deus ex machina.

The dragons in Seraphina are numerous, and they have a human form known as saarantari. Dragons and humans in this world have formed a tenuous peace between each other. No longer trying to kill and destroy, but to learn and communicate. Harder than it sounds. The dragons here are not emotional creatures, like humans are, but rather they are scientific, rational and logical. Mostly. When they take human form they can experience emotions, but they are still dragon.

“I was eleven years old. Orma had been teaching me meditations for months. . . He thrust a mug of water under my nose. I grasped it shakily and drank. I wasn’t thirsty, but any trace of kindness …. was a thing to encourage.

‘Report, Seraphina,’ he said, straightening himself and pushing up his spectacles. His voice held neither warmth nor impatience.

I shifted on the hard floor. Providing me with a cushion would have required more empathy than a dragon – even in human form – could muster.”

A more traditional fantasy, but so unexpected, from the philosophical discussions, the strange inner world Seraphina keeps in her mind and the humanness of dragons, the dragoness of humans.

last dragonslayer1. The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

Ah yes, if you haven’t discovered Jasper Fforde then you have to try him. I cannot repeat this enough. His newest series is YA, although I could argue about that, but at least it has all the classic wackiness of Jasper Fforde novel. Instead of classical literature, or nurse tales or aliens – this time the world is all magic. Dragons. Quarkbeasts. Big magic. Little magic. I don’t know how this book doesn’t explode from all the humor and zaniness inside it.

Jennifer Strange is an orphan. There are plenty of orphans around since the Troll wars. Jennifer manages Kazam Mystical Arts, even though she is only fifteen, and as she explains, “Working with those versed in Mystical Arts was sometimes like trying to knit with wet spaghetti; just when you thought you’d gotten somewhere, it all came to pieces in your hands.”

There is only one dragon in this book and one dragonslayer. One dragon left in all the world, and the dragonlands are a highly valued property. Until the dragon dies no one can get their hands on it. Also, magic is dying out in the world. Jennifer’s boss the great Zambini has disappeared and it’s up to Jennifer to sort things out. Don’t worry. Even if she can’t use magic, she has a quarkbeast and the magicians at Kazam may be unusual and mostly old retirees, and, even if things get crazy, it will always be entertaining.


Currently Reading: The gaslight effect: how to spot and survive the hidden manipulations other people use to control your life by Dr Robin Stern

Current distraction: Playing Xenoblade Chronicles X

2015 Reading Challenge

2015 Reading Challenge
Julia has
completed her goal of reading 77 books in 2015!




April Book-Marathon

April Book-Marathon

When April comes around I tend to read more books than usual. That’s because I’m usually traveling, or about to travel. I get so nervous about wherever I’m heading, so I read and read and read. This year it’s a writer’s conference in Seattle. It’s only a mini vacation, but I have a list of books to keep me distracted.

Definitely Need to Read

  • The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas
  • The Best of all possible Worlds by Karen Lord
  • Who fears Death by Nnedi Okrafor
  • Shadow Scales by Rachel Hartman

The maybe I should read list

  • Legend by Marie Lu (I own this book, so I can read it whenever.)
  • Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo (Maybe. I spent most of March trying to read it.)
  • The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks (Ha, its like 700 words. I doubt I’ll get to it.)

I already finished one book on the list, so here’s a Mini Review

The TwyningThe Twyning by Terence Blacker

I just finished reading this last night. It will definitely be one of my top ten books for the year. It is a gorgeous read. I’m so glad I picked it up. I was put off at first by the fact it’s about rats and one of the characters telling the story is a rat. But it’s half and half, partly told by a boy on the streets named Dogboy, and mostly the story of a rat named Efran. Both are trying to survive. Their stories weave together is a magical way. The worlds above and below are entwined. There is darkness and violence, betrayal and deception, hope and love, in both the humans and the rats. It’s absolutely worth it. The rat-language is dazzling. Rats don’t speak, they reveal their thoughts. They hear and smell and act so very much like rats, but they are made so human. I haven’t read such a romantic book in years. The rats in this book are very romantic.

Light Novels Coming Soon

I also have my eye on some light novels. There is a new publishing company called Yen On, who is putting a ton of new light novels out there. And Vertical is publishing some light novels I’m interested in too. I want all of them. At one point I thought maybe I’d learn to read Japanese just so I could read these books. They’re listed in order of excitement:

  • Durarara by Ryohgo Narita
  • Kizumonogatari by NisiOsin
  • No Game, No Life by Yuu Kamiya
  • Log Horizon by Mamare Touno
  • A Certain Magical Index by Kazuma Kamachi
  • Black Bullet by Shiden Kanzaki
  • Kagerou Daze by Jin
  • Sereph of the End by Kagami Takaya

By the time April is over do you think I’ll be sick of reading? Doubtful. I’m always looking for the next one to devour. When do you think Jasper Fforde‘s next book will come out?

Favorite Encounters from 2013

Favorite Encounters from 2013

I’ve had plenty of good encounters this year. I met magicians, witches, vampires, ghosts and ghost killers, sea gods, a snake god, a crippled god, dream scientists, hackers, superheros and several different people who did not stay dead or could not die. I encountered secret smells, the color of death, selkies, tanuki, aliens in disguise, factions I did not fit into and districts where I did not want to live. I visited a city with a split personality, that transformed between the night and day, and saw a village entirely underwater. I got lost in two different wild forests and survived to fight another day.

In books, my number one encounter was a tie between The Mark of Athena and House of Hades by Rick Riordan

mofathena hofhades

I was slow getting to The Mark of Athena, I only read it in January. I did not really like Annabeth before I read this book. She is amazing! Why didn’t I realize that before? She finally gets her own adventure, and kapow! Go Annabeth.

The quest in the book leads the heroes, both Roman and Greek, to Europe and specifically Rome. It is in Rome where Annabeth has her greatest challenge, to find famous statue of her mother stolen from Athens Parthenon eons ago by the Romans, and hidden somewhere in the city of Rome. Worst of all she has to do it alone. I also never realized before, but Annabeth doesn’t have any special supernatural powers. She can’t summon the elements, control water or wind or fire. She is just Annabeth, daughter of wisdom. How far can cleverness get you?

Well, as long as you have courage and the nerve to try something outrageous and crazy, then the answer is pretty far. Even with a broken leg Annabeth faces down her nemesis Arachne, the ill-fated woman who once challenged the goddess Athena to a weaving contest, and was transformed into a spider-monster after losing. The Greek myths can make for such great background. Its pretty obvious Annabeth can’t win in a fight, so she decides to trick Arachne.

Whenever I read Rick Riordan, I’m hoping for a scene like that. Just one scene where the dialogue snaps, where you can’t believe the audacity of Percy or Annabeth or whoever, or the fact that they are going to get away with tricking (and making fun) of the ancient gods.

So, it was the scene in Mark of Athena where Annabeth confronts Arachne, and in House of Hades it’s the scene from chapter 53 when Annabeth and Percy encounter the godddess of Night, Nyx. They end tricking Nyx into not killing them outright, because they’re on a tour of the underworld. As if anyone would go on a tour there. I love that it’s not always about who is stronger, or more powerful.

  • An honorable mention goes to Another by Yukito Ayatsuji. I don’t often read horror, or japanese horror. Summertime is a good time to read them. Why? Because in Montana there is more daylight.

Favorite Opening line: “Freakish, it was.” from Guin Saga: The Leopard Mask by Kaoru Kurimoto

Winner of the Flip-flop award: Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games trilogy. Love triangles can be fun, yes, but they can be horribly annoying too. Pick one. Geez. Or get on with the ménage à trois.

DDaisyIn Manga: I read Dengeki Daisy by Kyousuke Motomi for the first time. It is a lovely shojo manga without too too much glitter and just the right touch of flowers. I mean she has an excuse, daisy is in the title. It’s a powerful symbol to the story too. I like a lot of things about this story. But, to be honest here, Tasuku Kurosaki is just my type. The hero with a painful past, bleached blond hair, and oh so perfect collarbones. Sigh.

Honorable mention for Itazura Na Kiss by Kaoru Tada. Classic shojo. I didn’t really expect to like this as much as I did. (I felt the same way about the Twilight series.) It’s like staring at a car accident, you can’t help but stare with morbid fascination. Is Kotoko really this stupid and obsessive? Yes. The answer is yes. And yet I keep reading.

moonrise kingdom

For Movies: Moonrise Kingdom

I was late watching this too. Actually, I saw it on the airplane, on a flight over to Tokyo in the very beginning of the year. I was already jet lagged, and consequently only remember that I loved this movie. Even on a small screen it was visually striking. Maybe more so.

Honorable Mention: Cloud Atlas

This is a movie I regret. Not the movie. I regret that I didn’t go see it in theaters on the big screen. And I regret that I didn’t read the book first. I still might, but the initial impulse is gone.

In Anime, my number one guilty pleasure was Red Data GirlRDG2

I have an unreasonable affection for this show. Wait, maybe I can explain it. It has a number of features I like in a story.

  • One. I have a weakness for stories that exist in our world, but have supernatural or magical elements. Red Data Girl is a modern Fantasy. Check.
  • Two. The main couple, Izumiko and Miyuki. He is angry and mean to her, but its obvious he’s going to soften up, and she’s going to get stronger. They belong together. They balance each other. That sort of romance gets to me. I’m rooting for them. So, I had to watch to make sure it worked out.
  • Three. The second episode takes place in Tokyo. Izumiko and Miyuki visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Building, the 45th floor, north tower. I was just there in January. I’m already feeling nostalgic?
  • Four. . . . Doesn’t matter anymore. I’m done counting. It’s not so unreasonable that I love it. I just do. Visually, it’s beautiful. The ending song made me want to dance, sometimes I did.

Honorable mention: Gargantia on a Verdurous Planet

Gen Uurobuchi wrote the screenplay. That’s basically why I watched. It was definitely worth it. I’m looking forward to his next project.

You can have your own encounters here:

Rick Riordan

Moonrise Kingdom

Red Data Girl is on Hulu or Funimation

Gargantia is on Crunchyroll

Mini Review: Outlander

Outlander (Outlander, #1)Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Whenever I read history, or historical fiction I sorta feel like a time traveler. So, I would like to dedicate this review to myself 10 years ago. I wish I had a time machine to go back and tell you to read this book.

Outlander actually came out in 1991, when you were (we were) 9 years old. I highly doubt my 9 year old self would have enjoyed it. Too much romance! Ick. But at the age of 21 I absolutely know you would loved it. (Even more than I did. You would have given it 4 stars, maybe even 5.)

I’d probably still have to convince you to read such a thick book, but you see its divided into smaller ‘books’, each one is intriguing, powerful, intense and passionate. From Clare’s arrival in the Highlands, her wedding, the witch trails, and the prison break! (to highlight a few). 18th century Scotland was not so dull.

You’d also fall for Jamie Fraser. O yes, you would enjoy him. Clare’s strength throughout all her ordeals would inspire you. But if I’m going to be honest with myself, mostly I think you’d like this book because of Jamie, Jamie, Jamie.

I know you basically only read fantasy books, back then, and not historical fiction, but this one involves time traveling. It gives the book a different perspective, perhaps it acknowledges that the reader is also a time traveler.

I also really think you should read it before you travel to Scotland. I think you may have missed out. You would appreciate the Highlands more having read about Clare’s journey, knowing how the people lived there, how the land was so brutal and the people had to be so strong to survive.

Although, I wonder what you would think about Clare’s punishment. Would that scene make you stop reading, like it almost did to me? I didn’t though, because Clare made it clear to Jamie he would never do that again. I understand why Jamie felt he had to punish her. Clare put herself and Jamie in danger by disobeying him and sneaking away from the clearing. The book makes it clear. But I wasn’t reading this book to understand 18th century ideas of abuse, physical punishment and consequences. This was pure pleasure reading for me and did I really want to fantasize about a man who would beat his wife? So, I wonder if you would worry about that, or maybe you wouldn’t take the book so seriously. It is just a story, you’d tell me.

When I discovered Outlander, I couldn’t believe I didn’t know about it sooner. Why didn’t I know about this? There are seven books in this series.  (The 8th one comes out in March, 2014. The series list is here on Gabaldon’s website: ) Every now and then this happens to me. I discovered Harry Potter a few weeks before book 4 came out. I didn’t know about Scott Pilgrim until the movie was announced. Most of the time when I learn about a movie based on a book, my first response is, I want to read the book. Right now. Before the movie comes out. I’m always behind.

This is why I could use a time machine: to have more time to read. Or perhaps I don’t want one. Perhaps I discover these books at the moment when I’m ready to read them. And I don’t have to impatiently wait for the next one to come out.

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