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

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

Tribal-Dragon-30-300px

 

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!

1000read

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!
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a small rebellion

I’ve been taking my blog title too seriously lately. I’ve been too distracted. (Mostly books, books and anime.) I also traveled in June and July, I got a new job in September at a bakery, and I finished the revisions to my manuscript this morning. It’s almost November and than means . . . gasp – NANOWRIMO.

NANOWRIMOYes, I’ve signed up again for the novel writing, only this year I’m going to be a rebel. (That’s what we’re called, Nano rebels, because we’re not writing novels.)  I intend to write short stories, with enough words to hopefully equal the usual goal of 50,000, but as long as I get around 10-12 short stories, I’ll be satisfied. Hopefully. It’s going to be a real challenge for me, since I’ve never been good with writing shorts. Is there such a thing as selective writer’s block? Because I’m pretty sure I have that when it comes to short form writing. I panic. I stare at the blank page/blank screen and there is nothing. I have some ideas, but honestly I think I need to put more effort into them.

I’ve never prepared myself much for Nanowrimo, other than a short 1 page summary about the beginning of the story, mostly about the main character and the challenges they’re facing. I usually only write YA and middle grade fantasy or science fiction, but those don’t make for sellable shorts.

Also, I’ve recently noticed something about my writing. In the beginning my stories tend to be kind of dry and lifeless. Mostly when I compare them to later on. They really get exciting say around chapter 4 or 5, and then pick up speed as they race along toward the climax. In other words they build slowly.

I would really like to capture the later excitement in the very beginning of my stories! How though? It’s a puzzle. So, my goal for November is to practice. A short stories need immediate conflict, excitement, and drama and then, I have to wrap it all up within a couple of thousands words. Eeeee, I’m already getting nervous.

Currently reading (and loving it) : Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly
On my Kindle: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

Next up: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

2015 Reading Challenge

2015 Reading Challenge
Julia has
read 58 books toward her goal of 77 books.
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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?

How Novel

How Novel

Winner-2014-Web-Banner

I meant to post this on November 30th, to celebrate a successful Nanowrimo novel, but my apartment has been without heat for three days now. It still isn’t fixed. It’s been the perfect excuse to goof off, but tonight I decided “tough it out”. It’s only supposed to get down to 4 degrees. Not that I plan on getting cold. I have a space heater about two feet away, I’m wearing a sweater to bed, and have my sleeping bag as an extra blanket. I will not be getting cold tonight.

November is National Write a Novel Month, and this year at the very last minute (I think it was on October 30th) I signed up for another Nanowrimo. I’ve participated twice before, and have “won” both times. I always think to myself, especially when I’m stuck dealing with revisions, that a new story will be so much easier. Well, it’s not.

In order to “win” Nanowrimo, you need to complete a 50,000 word novel in one month, that means writing about 1,667 words per day. Well, that’s exactly what I did. I even saved my stats!

nano 2014 statsNot too bad, having an average of 1,668, and take a look at that lovely graph I made. I wrote every day for 30 days.

I’ve always felt that Nanowrimo moves a little too fast for me. I like to write a bit slower on a first draft, and not just pantser it. That reminds me, I did learn something important from one of the pep talks this year. I don’t know why, but I never realized where the word ‘pantser’ came from. I’ve heard the term for years now, to describe how people write without outlines, and instead just write, well, ‘by the seat of their pants’. For some reason, maybe because I’d only heard it spoken, and never written down, I always thought of it was like the word panther – not pant-sers – and I could never figure out what it had to do with large cats.

nano 2014 stats 2The novel this year was called Carousel Island. It’s a sci-fi children’s story set in 1927 on an island in the south pacific. It is a story about belonging.

I’ve been daydreaming about Carousel Island for years now, and finally I have a draft of the story.

A brief synopsis

The year is 1927.

Celia Voller arrives on Carousel Island carrying an extra hat box, (that’s where she keeps her camera) and a parakeet named June on her shoulder.

Celia’s mother died when she was born, and her father has died recently in an accident. Her Aunt is a scientist who lives on an island in the South Pacific. Its a strange little place, with robots chauffeurs, and some unusual fruit. Oranges can be eaten like apples, peel and all, the coconuts break open like eggs. But where does the submarine door on the bottom of the lagoon lead?

An Excerpt

“There was something strange about the sky in this world, Celia thought staring up at it. Why did it look so very gray? It wasn’t as if there were rain clouds up there. The grayness extended everywhere, from a hazy smudge on the horizon to high above her head, all gloom and threatening. No rain though. The air tasted horribly dry, and made her throat feel like she’d swallowed wool threads. When she squinted off in the distance and she could see tiny silver towers. They curved along the skyline, as if connecting something on the ground, far in the distance, to something way up in the sky.

When she pointed them out to Apollo, he grunted. “Elevators.”

“What?”

“They’re space elevators,” he told her.

Winner-2014-Twitter-ProfileNow that I have the first draft I’m going to let it sit for a month or two, then I’ll start looking at it again, and figure out what to do with it. I’m going to do something with it, but it’s going to take a bit of research.

Even though the story is sci-fi, its also historical fiction too, and I’m going to have to do more research to make sure everything makes sense. 1927 turns out to be pretty interesting year. Charles Linbergh flew solo across the Atlantic, from New York to Paris. The Jazz Singer was released that year, the first talking movie. I’ve always felt kind of like a time traveler when I read history books, well, when it’s a good history book.

Also, I don’t really know anything about islands in the South Pacific. I haven’t traveled there, yet. I might have to do some of that research in person. At least it will be warm there, right?

The Fastest Walking Tour of Paris

The Fastest Walking Tour of Paris

Louvre

 Monday, April 28th.
I’ve decided to call it the Fastest Walking Tour of Paris.

I spent the day in a weird state, sorta floating, feeling out-of-my-mind, from lack of sleep and food. After only two to three hours of not really sleeping on the plane I arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport. My next flight for Rome left in seven hours.

It took much longer to convince  my sleep deprived brain that I should leave the airport. Terminal 2 did not have anywhere remotely comfortable to sit and wait, or sleep. It’s primarily for domestic flights. There are warning signs when you’re about to leave a secure area. And the only way to get back is to go through security again. But the actually wording was on the doors was something like, once you walk through this door you can’t get back in! I took it way too literally. I kept thinking, ‘no I have to get back in. I have to catch a flight to Rome.’ Part of me was terrified, but eventually I did it. I walked through the doors and out of the airport.

Over an hour later, I’d gotten myself some euros, including a bunch of coins, and purchased a Day Pass for the RER into Paris.

You always know you’re in a big city when you take the metro or train and pass by wall after wall of colorful graffiti. For some reason it looked exotic to me, different from the graffiti back home, perhaps because it was in French?Louvre2

It only takes about 50 minutes on the RER and I arrived at the Notre Dame/ San Micheal station. The middle of Paris. I made it. From there I walked along the street San Germain up to Notre Dame. Rain tickled my face. Tourists lined up the length of the block, waiting to get inside the cathedral. Someday I will go inside Notre Dame, but not today.

Since the weather cleared up, with the sun coming out of the clouds, I was drawn across the Île de la Cité. I kept walking and walking. I went around the Louvre and through a gateway into the courtyard with the glass pyramids. It was crowded as ever. Snapping pictures left and right, I continued my walking tour to the gate on the other side and strolled along the Seine River. Strolled isn’t the right word. I was frantic at this point about getting back to the RER and paranoid about making my flight.

river seine2

On the RER there was a beautiful French woman. She wore a black and white checkered dress, black boots and heels, her thick black hair braided and draped over her shoulder.

At the Louvre I saw two worker on their lunch break. They wore bright blue coveralls and sat in a alcove in front of a line of streetlights.

What I remember most about the day: Frantic energy. Hunger that cuts. Sleep that hurts.

 

Seven hours in Paris

Seven hours in Paris

paris  ten years ago 2So, it’s really more like 4 hours in Paris. I bought my tickets to visit Rome a couple of weeks ago. It includes a seven hour layover in Paris. Sounds like a perfect excuse for an adventure.

Notre Dame cathedral The last time I was in Paris was ten years.  It was also in April. So, I have a vague sense of what the weather might be like. Spring in Paris still sounds utterly romantic to me.

I keep asking myself what can I do with seven hours in Paris? Is it even possible? Should I go shopping? I could eat lunch at a cafe, or just wander around the streets of Paris. I’ve never tried something like this before, leaving the airport during a long layover. But this is Paris. I have to try. I keep reminding myself those seven hours include arriving at the airport, going through passport control, and I might have change terminals for the short flight to Rome.

I will arrive around 8 in the morning, Paris-time. I’ll be completely jet lagged at that point. Nothing beats walking in the morning to get over jet lag. I found a wonderful site called Paris by Train, which gives invaluable advise on getting to and from the airport. It only takes about 40-50 minutes to travel into the heart of the city. There is a stop near Notre Dame Cathedral. I’ve already found some great cafes, a tea shop that’s a bit of a walk, and an amazing looking chocolate shop. I don’t even like macaroons, but I’ve been day-dreaming about buying them.

I love this part of traveling. At this point I get to imagine everything. The weather is always perfect, trains are never delayed, and everything goes according to plan. Half the thrill is knowing that my plans will eventually turn into reality. I really will get to walk around Paris for a few hours.

Paris at night.

It’s both exciting and scary to know everything will not go according to plan. I have to remind myself I don’t speak any French at all. I have to be careful not to miss my plane to Rome. The weather might be horrible, and, if so, do I want to walk around with an umbrella? (Yes, of course.) Do I bring an umbrella from home, just in case, or buy one in Paris? Just how little can I pack in my carry-on bag so that I won’t be encumbered as I walk around? What am I going to wear? Question after question runs through my head. That’s part of the fun.

And this is only the first day of my trip. Next stop is Rome!

Rome ten years agoAh, Rome. I remember you.

It was June and so very hot out. I walked around the city with my friends. I dunked my head under the faucet of a drinking fountain (I didn’t really trust drinking from it!) I forgot to bring a scarf and didn’t get to see Michelangelo’s Moses. Instead I waited outside the church and bought an orange from a street vendor. The next day we left Rome for Venice.

I was on my whirlwind camping tour of Europe, 10 countries in 21 days! No time to really enjoy the city. I got all the famous highlights back then, so now I can explore. It’s going to be a very different visit.

I will report back with details later!

Update: For the fastest walking Tour of Paris