Tag Archives: Cinder

Tammy’s Top Ten Sci-Fi Books Written by Women – Since I Started Blogging


I have two Sci-Fi related top ten posts this month, and this is the first. When Sci-Fi November rolled around, I knew I wanted to celebrate women authors in the science fiction field, because there are just too few of them. Sci-Fi is pretty much ruled by men, but the women who have made names for themselves in the genre need to be celebrated as well. Since I started blogging three years ago, I’ve read some great examples of what women can do with science fiction. I’ve reviewed most of these, and I’m linking up my reviews below if you’re interested. Keep in mind, these are just the books I’ve read in the last three years. There are marvelous examples of women in science fiction, like Octavia Butler, whom I’ve read and loved, but not since I’ve started blogging.

Adult Science Fiction:

1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. If you haven’t grown tired of me singing the praises of this book, then allow me to gush about it some more. This is the front-runner so far for my favorite book of the year—and I’ve read some damn good books! This beautifully written, sad, but hopeful story is set slightly in the future, after a killer flu rampages humanity. Read my review.

2. The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke.  This is another example of a quiet and thoughtful science fiction story, where robots are commonplace. It’s also a love story, and I loved the way Clarke’s story takes place over many years of the characters’ lives. Read my review.

3. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. This is the first book in Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, and it was amazing. If you’re looking for a series written by a master storyteller, I suggest reading this one. Goodreads.

4. Ghost Planet by Sharon Lynn Fisher. I had so much fun with this one! Yes, it’s a romance, but Fisher has some serious world-building skills as well. Give this one a try, you won’t be disappointed. Read my review.

5. The Ophelia Prophecy by Sharon Lynn Fisher. Wow, Sharon gets two books on my list! I think I loved this one even more than Ghost Planet. Once again, she writes a complicated love story, this time between two different races (and I mean that one of them is an alien!). Read my review.

Young Adult Science Fiction:

6. Starters by Lissa Price. Price’s future is a chilling one, where teens rent their bodies to Enders, elderly people who want to experience what it feels like to be young again. Goodreads.

7. Arclight by Josin L. McQuein. Wow, this book blew me away with its originality! Almost as much a horror story as it is science fiction, I loved the creatures called the Fade. For some reason I missed downloading McQuein’s follow-up to this book, Meridian, but I plan on catching up with it at some point. Read my review.

8. These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. Two teens are stranded on an uninhabited planet, after their space ship crashes. This book has everything—action, romance, and great characters. Plus it’s a fantastic survival story with unexpected depth and emotion. Not sure why I never reviewed this…I have a copy of the follow-up, This Shattered World, ready and waiting for me to read! Goodreads.

9. Blood Red Road by Moira Young. Man, I loved this book! It was beautifully written, heartbreaking (as all the best books are!) and atmospheric. I never got around to reading the two follow-up books (which seems to happen to me a lot!), but I hope to some day. Goodreads.

10. Cinder by Marissa Meyer. I know this series is on many favorites lists, but it all started with Cinder. Meyer is a great storyteller, and her characters come to vibrant life on the page. I still haven’t read the next two books in the series, but I’m sure I will at some point. Read my review.

Do you have any favorite science fiction books written by women? I know there are a lot more out there. Sound off in the comments!



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Tammy’s Top Ten Authors I’ve Only Read One Book From – But I NEED to Read More!

Top Ten Tuesday new 7-14 copy

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! I love this week’s theme, because I seem to have found some new-to-me authors in recent months, and I can’t wait to read more of their books. I am only listing authors that already have more than one book published, not debut authors. So here they are: my top ten authors I’ve only read one book from – but I NEED to read more (and sorry, I’m not linking these up—there are just too many!):

1. Andrew Smith. I’ve read: 100 Sideways Miles. I’m dying to read: Grasshopper Jungle and Winger.

2. Marcus Sedgwick. I’ve read: She is Not Invisible. I’m dying to read: Midwinterblood and My Swordhand is Singing.

3. Kevin Hearne. I’ve read: Hounded. I’m dying to read: Hexed and Hammered.

4. John Scalzi. I’ve read: Lock In. I’m dying to read: Redshirts and Old Man’s War.

5. Kathleen Tierney. I’ve read: Blood Oranges. I’m dying to read: Red Delicious and Cherry Bomb.

6. Gillian Flynn. I’ve read: Gone Girl. I’m dying to read: Sharp Objects and Dark Places.

7. Patrick Ness. I’ve read: A Monster Calls. I’m dying to read: The Knife of Never Letting Go and More Than This.

8. Marissa Meyer. I’ve read: Cinder. I’m dying to read: Scarlet and Cress.

9. Stephanie Kuehn. I’ve read: Charm & Strange. I’m dying to read: Complicit and Delicate Monsters (no cover yet).

10. Libba Bray. I’ve read: A Great and Terrible Beauty. I’m dying to read: The Diviners and Going Bovine.

Have you read these authors? I’d love to hear from you!


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Tammy’s Top Ten Books I Read in 2012

Top Ten Tuesday2Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)  is definitely my favorite of the year! And what a hard Top Ten to narrow down…I read so many wonderful books this year. Every book on my list received a five-star review, but many of my five-star reviews aren’t on this list. Cutting the list down to ten was very painful and agonizing, but in the interest of keeping this a true “Top Ten” list, I did just that. It was interesting to discover that eight out of the ten are adult books, which surprised me since I read a lot of YA as well. So here they are, my faves from the past year! I’m listing them in alphabetical order, so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings:) Oh, and I’m trying out WordPress’ new slide show feature, what do you think?

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1. 11/22/63 by Stephen King. Yes, this book came out in November of 2011, but I didn’t get around to reading it until January. And I’m so glad I did! Although long (849 pages), I loved every word. King writes a tense and engaging time travel novel about the repercussions of changing events in the past (like for example, JFK’s shooting). But it’s a lot more complicated than it seems on the surface. One of my all-time favorite King stories.

2. Cinder by Marissa Meyer.  I love fairy tale re-tellings, and this has got to be one of the most enjoyable ones I’ve ever read. Cinderella as a cyborg?? Yes! This imaginative story is only the first of four books in the series, the next of which comes out in February. So if you loved Cinder, you have a lot to look forward to. You can read my review of Cinder here.

3. Edge of Oblivion by J. T. Geissinger. Wow, this book took me totally by surprise! It’s published by Montlake Romance, a publishing arm of Amazon, and I really wasn’t expecting the quality of writing and story building that I found in this amazing book. Not for kids, though! I’d rate it NC17 if it were a movie:) You can read my review here.

4. The Reckoning by Alma Katsu. The second book in Katsu’s The Taker Trilogy did not disappoint. It was a lush and dangerous descent into the minds of some very fascinating characters, and I can’t wait for the third book in the series, which will hopefully be published in 2013. You can read my review here.

5. The Rook by Daniel O’Malley.  This adult paranormal story was funny, entertaining, confusing, surprising, and amazing! It was one of the most unique stories I read all year, and it has been compared to Harry Potter, X-Men and Ghostbusters. It’s really none of those, but something completely original. I look forward to reading more from this talented writer.

6. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. I read this for book club back in March, and was blown away by the violent, gritty and unexpectedly funny Eli and Charlie Sisters, two outlaw killers that seem more human than many of the “good guy” characters I’ve read in other books. Reading this book has given me a fondness for westerns, and I hope to read more like it soon.

7. Something Red by Douglas Nicholas. I don’t usually seek out historical fiction, but this book seemed too good to pass up.  Something Red has some of the best characters I’ve read all year. Mysterious and epic and filled with action as well as tender human moments, I hope more readers discover this amazing book. You can read my review here.

8. Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff. It’s hard for me to describe how much I loved this book. Oddly, I’ve read some really mixed reviews, and I think the reason some people just didn’t get it was that it wasn’t what they were expecting. It’s a beautifully written fantasy with a lovely relationship between a girl and a griffin, but it’s set in a harsh world where lots of bad things happen. Just read it already! You can read my review here.

9. Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone. Gladstone is a master of world-building, and the odd but compelling city of Alt Coulumb has wonders to spare. I was completely immersed in the story of Tara, Abelard, Cat and Raz and I can’t wait for the sequel next year. You can read my review here.

10. Velveteen by Daniel Marks. I just managed to squeeze this in before this post was due to go up, and I’m so glad I did. Wow. Marks’ wonderful but horrifying depiction of purgatory is tempered by some pretty awesome characters, especially Velveteen, a very angry girl who has died horribly and now wants nothing more than to take revenge on the madman that killed her. Oh, and to get to know the newest and hottest soul in town, Nick. Look for my review coming soon.

I’d love to hear what your top ten books are! Please link me up, or just let me know in the comments! Next week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a freebie, and although it’s Christmas day, I’ll be posting my Top Ten Indie Books of 2012. I read some amazing indies, and they deserve some love as well:)


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Tammy’s Top Ten Most Anticipated Books for 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. I’ve been waiting so patiently for this week’s Top Ten! From now until the end of the year are some of my favorite Top Ten themes. In fact, I’ve been working hard (reading) all year to bring you these lists, as have most other book bloggers. So here we go…these are my Top Ten most anticipated books that will be released in 2013—at least the ones I know about, and the ones that already have book covers. There are several that could have made this list, except the cover designs have not yet been revealed, and since the visual impact of a book is important to me, I don’t want to show you any blank covers.  These are listed in order of release date.

1. Splintered by A. G. Howard. Release date: January 1 2013. Technically I will be reading this in December, in order to have a review up before the release date, but technically it is a 2013 book, so I feel like I can include it here. I’ve read really good reviews of Splintered, and I can’t wait to read it myself. This re-imagined Alice in Wonderland is far closer to the original than Alice in Zombieland which came out earlier this year, from what I’ve heard, so if you’re looking for a good Alice story, this could be the one.

2. The Archived by Victoria Schwab. Release date: January 22 2013. This story is about a girl who keeps watch over the dead, who sit on shelves like books and are violent if awakened. I’ve been waiting forever to read this, and the wait is nearly over! This is another book that’s already received some great reviews. To promote her book, Victoria has been recording her own “histories” on YouTube for the past few months, you should check it out if you have time.

3. The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd. Release date: January 29 2013. This book has my name written all over it! Based on the story The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells, it tells the story of Dr. Moreau’s daughter Juliet, who discovers her father’s terrible scientific experiments with animals when she journeys to the island to find him. It sounds like a mix of science fiction and horror, and it’s set in the same time period as the original story, 1894.

4. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. Release date: February 5 2013. Yea, it’s coming out on my birthday! Happy birthday to me:) Scarlet, in case anyone has been hiding under a rock, is the second book, after Cinder, in Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles. (There will be four books in the series.) According to some reviews I’ve read, it picks up right where Cinder left off and continues her story, but introduces us to new characters as well.

5. Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger. Release date: March 5 2013. Wow, this sounds great. It’s about a girl who can walk on the wind and can control it as well. She’s sworn to protect a boy named Vane, who survived a category five tornado which killed his family. It sounds romantic, dangerous, and magical. I can’t wait to read it!

6. In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters. Release date: April 2 2013. I recently chose this as a Waiting on Wednesday (last week in fact!) and it’s true: it is one of the books I’m super excited to read. It takes place in 1908 during the Spanish Influenza epidemic, where a girl named Mary, who doesn’t believe in ghosts, is haunted by the ghost of a boy who died in battle.

7. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. Release date: April 30 2013. Joe Hill is one of my top favorite horror writers, and I’m so pleased he has a new book coming out soon. It’s about a girl named Victoria who escapes a place called “Christmasland” after being kidnapped by a bad guy named Charlie. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, and you can bet whatever Hill has in store for his characters, it won’t be pleasant…

8. Invisibility by Andrea Cremer & David Levithan.  Release date: May 7 2013. A story about an invisibly boy? Are you kidding me?? Stephen has been invisible almost his entire life, ever since his grandfather cursed Stephen’s mother. He is surprised to meet someone who can actually see him, a girl named Elizabeth. Can they break the curse? Will they fall in love? Let’s all read it and find out…and don’t you love the cover?

9. Joyland by Stephen King. Release date: June 4 2013. This is one of those instances where I wanted to list King’s other book that’s coming out next year, the sequel to The Shining, Dr. Sleep. Alas, there is no cover art to show you yet, so I had to cross it off the list. But I can’t wait to read Joyland, which comes out exclusively in mass market paperback, and takes place at a carnival.

10. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke. Release date: August 15 2013. Between the title of the book and the author’s name, it’s quite a mouthful, but beneath this gorgeous and Gothic-looking cover lies a terrifying tale of a boy who just might be the devil, and the girl who’s falling for him.

I just realized this list is made up of mostly YA titles.  I didn’t plan it that way, I guess it just goes to show that young adult authors are writing some of the best fiction out there. I’d love to read your top ten list, please leave me your link!


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Waiting on Wednesday #16 – SCARLET by Marissa Meyer

Another Wednesday, another book. It’s my favorite day of the week! Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine. Finally, the cover and release date have been revealed for the second book in The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, Scarlet:

Isn’t the cover beautiful? As many of you know, Cinder is high on my list of all-time favorite novels, so a release date for Scarlet is happy news, even if it’s next year. I’ve even added Scarlet to my new header, that’s how excited I am! Here’s the book description from Goodreads:

This book will feature Cinder and Little Red Riding Hood and will take place in France.

Cinder returns in the second thrilling installment of the New York Times-bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother and the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she has no choice but to trust him, though he clearly has a few dark secrets of his own.

As Scarlet and Wolf work to unravel one mystery, they find another when they cross paths with Cinder. Together, they must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen who will do anything to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner.

The expected release date for Scarlet is February 5, 2013 (my birthday!). And I’m really glad Meyer is continuing to feature the character of Cinder in each of the four Lunar Chronicles, even though each book focuses on a different fairy tale character.

What are you waiting on this week?


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Tammy’s Top Ten Things I Learned at Camp NaNoWriMo

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is a freebie! Which means, we can pick whatever Top Ten Topic we want. I wanted to do something completely different this time, and since I recently participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve decided to share some things I learned while writing a novel. For those of you unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), it’s a novel-writing program that takes place during the month of November every year. Participants who write a 50,000 word novel during that month *win* the bragging rights and special “badges” to place on your website. The philosophy of NaNoWriMo is simple: you have a limited amount of time to write 50,000 words (approximately 175 pages), and to reach this goal you need to focus on quantity, not quality. That’s right, throw quality out the window and just get the words out. Hey, that’s what revision’s for, right?

Last year Camp NaNoWriMo (held in the months of June and August) was created, and this year I caught wind of it just in time to register and start writing. And yes, it was hard. Added to the stress of having to write every day, I went on vacation and lost five days of writing. So technically, I wrote my novel in 25 days, not 30. But I persevered, I wrote when I didn’t want to, and I made myself sit down at the computer for 1-2 hours a day and work on something that may or may not actually be a novel. And at the end of the month, I had written 50,017 words. Here’s a screenshot of my progress. I loved watching the daily count bar go up! But you can see the flat lines on the days I didn’t get to write:

I learned a lot while writing, and I wanted to share what I learned for those of you who may be interested in taking a shot at the August Camp or this November’s NaNoWriMo Challenge:

1. Plan your novel out ahead of time, and outline it if you can. It will be much easier to get your word count down if you know where you’re headed.

2. It’s OK to write your story out-of-order.  When I sat down each day to write, I decided what I was in the mood to write about, and concentrated on that particular scene or character, no matter where it fell in the story. The fine folks at NaNoWriMo may consider this cheating, but I did it anyway.

3.  Don’t waste time stressing over the names for things, like characters or places. If you haven’t come up with cool names by the time you start writing, use something generic for now, like “Bob” or “Sally” and go back and change the names later. Likewise, if you have a brain-freeze and can’t think of a word, instead of spending precious time going through the thesaurus trying to find just the right word, insert a placement word for now. You can always revise it later.

4. It’s OK to break your writing time up during the day. Instead of writing 2,000 words in one sitting, I broke it up into morning, afternoon, and evening writing sessions. This worked really well and kept me from being overwhelmed.

5. Don’t fall behind in your daily word count! Also, try not to skip days. It will be much harder to make up missed days than you realize. Just like the story of the turtle and the hare, keeping a steady pace will get you to the finish line stress-free (well, mostly, anyway…).

6.  Don’t worry about the prose—too much. Get the words out and concentrate on polishing later. Adding imagery, similes and other descriptive phrases later is—or can be—a part of revision.

7.  If you get stuck and can’t figure out where your story is going next, pick a couple of characters and write a scene between them with lots of dialog. You may discover things about your characters that you didn’t know before.

8.  When all else fails, just start typing! This kind of free-form writing can lead you in surprising directions, and you may come up with plot ideas you hadn’t considered.

9.  Don’t go back and fix things during NaNoWriMo! If you write yourself into a corner and realize something isn’t working (which I did many times), just write an alternate scene that solves the problem. But don’t delete the first scene! You want to add to your word count, not subtract from it.

10.  50,000 words is not a novel. It’s about half a novel, so remember when NaNoWriMo is over, you still have a lot of work to do. NaNoWriMo is a motivational tool to get you started, but unless you are an incredibly gifted writer, you will not have a finished novel at the end. That’s OK!

At the end of it all, I am happy to say I earned this badge! The whole thing was an eye-opening experience, and yes, I will do it again.  I want to leave you with a real-life story I just read in Publisher’s Weekly. Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, one of my favorite books so far this year, sprang from NaNoWriMo. Here’s what Meyer told PW during a recent interview:

“I wrote the first draft of Cinder during NaNoWriMo [National Novel Writing Month], in about two weeks…But then it really took a little less than two years of on-and-off revising until I began querying.” — Publisher’s Weekly, July 2 2012

Novels take time to write, but it can be done. Even a best-selling novel has to start somewhere. Like Cinder. Like mine. Or yours.

Join Camp NaNoWriMo now! The next session starts August 1st. Or, if you aren’t quite ready, sign up for November NaNoWriMo.


Filed under Ruminations, Top Ten

Tammy’s Top Ten All Time Favorite Characters in Books

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  If you head on over to their site, you can see other bloggers’ top ten lists too. This week is tough!  I mean, what do you do? Go back to the classics?  I decided to focus on books I’ve read in the past five years or so.  And I’ve noticed my list features lots of smart, beautiful, and resourceful women. With a couple of guys thrown in!  Here we go, in no particular order:

Rudy from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I love this book so much. And although I’m listing Rudy as my favorite character, I really love Liesel as well. This is a survival story, a love story, a sad story, and a story of hope. Liesel is the book thief, but I fell in love with her friend Rudy. Just read it, if you haven’t yet. You won’t regret it.

Candy from Emergence by David R. Palmer.  I’m so glad I thought of this book. It’s been years since I read it, but it ranks high up on my list of favorite SF stories.  Candy is an incredibly smart eleven-year-old survivor of a bionuclear plague.  With her pet parrot Terry, she sets out on a journey to find other survivors.  Yes, it sounds like a million other post-apocalyptic novels, but it’s unlike anything else you’ll ever read. I’m holding on tight to my frayed paperback copy, because unfortunately, Emergence is out of print at the moment.

Fire from Fire by Kristin Cashore. I am eagerly awaiting Bitterblue, the final book in Cashore’s trilogy, but until then I can gush over Fire, the second in the series. In this world, Fire is called a monster.  She has fiery red, beautiful hair and can control people and read their minds.  She is such a unique character, that it’s hard to compare her to anyone else.

Jake from The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan. Jake is the last werewolf on Earth, and he is one bad-ass dude.  But he’s also handsome, suave and charismatic. Plus he has the heart of a poet. Or at least Duncan does. Jake has been around the block and has given up hope, and now that he’s being hunted, he’s almost ready to go quietly.  You kinda feel sorry for the guy, but he finds the will to live when he meets…well, I don’t want to spoil it for you…

Myfawny Thomas from The Rook by Daniel O’Malley. “Myfawny” rhymes with “Tiffany.”  That’s one of the first things you learn about this wonderful character, told in her own words.  I loved The Rook and just never got around to writing a review, but Myfawny’s first person account of how she wakes up in someone else’s body (she’s actually lost her memory) and how she solves the mystery of who exactly is trying to kill her is one of the more original stories I’ve read recently.

Unnamed narrator from Incendiary by Chris Cleave.  The subject matter about a London bombing at a soccer game is tough to swallow,  and I don’t think I would have been able to get through it if it weren’t for the heart-felt narration of a woman whose husband and son were killed in the stadium.  Written as a letter to Osama bin Laden,  the narrator’s voice is fraught with sorrow and anger, but she gets through the horrible days after the bombing with a wry humor. She is truly an unforgettable woman.

Iko from Cinder by Marissa Meyer.  One of my most recent five-star reviews, Cinder is a SF take on the Cinderella fairy tale. Its structure follows the events in the classic tale, but the unique characters make this quite different. I love the character of Cinder, but I actually loved her android Iko even more.  Iko is quite intelligent for an android, and she is Cinder’s constant companion.  She keeps Cinder’s secrets just like a real friend, and you won’t believe what happens to her near the end of the story, or how Meyer sets the stage for Iko’s reappearance in the next book in the series, Scarlet.

Kvothe from The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Kvothe is everything a great character should be: dashing, a talented musician and gifted with the ability to do just about everything well. He’s also irreverent and has a mysterious past. He makes women swoon and breaks lots of rules.  I didn’t like Rothfuss’ second book, The Wise Man’s Fear, as much, but I did find even more to love about Kvothe.

Karou from Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor. Here’s another quirky, intelligent and talented female character with colored hair! Daughter of Smoke & Bone was a favorite of mine last year, mostly due to the characters, but also because Laini’s writing is so vibrant and engaging. You can tell she truly loves the characters she is writing about, and that makes the reader love them as well. Deep down I want to be Karou, a girl who can make wishes come true and has blue hair.

Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.  Although she is abused in the beginning of the story, Lisbeth gets her sweet revenge and never lets the bad guys crush her spirit. How can you not love a character like that? And she’s a computer hacker to boot. I don’t really want to be her, but I do admire her tenacity and focus.

So, who are your favorite characters?


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Tammy’s Top Ten Books to Read in a Day

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and this week we are asked to pick ten books that we would read in one day. I interpret this as books that are so engaging that I can’t stop reading! If only I still had time to read a book in a day…I think those days are well behind me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t think of ten books that would fit the bill if I had absolutely nothing else to do for a whole day! So here we go…

1. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.  OK, all you Twi-haters, this may come as a shock to you, but before it became fashionable to hate the Twilight series, this book was actually given good reviews by the publishing industry. I am happy to say that I read Twilight long before it became popular, and I was so taken with it, that I emailed everyone I knew and told them to drop everything and go get it!  Stephenie Meyer may be the brunt of sparkly vampire jokes now, but she was able to pull off something rare: she created an amazing chemistry between two characters that compelled you to keep reading.  In fact, this is the only time I’ve ever finished a book, then immediately turned back to page one and read it a second time. No, she’s not the best prose writer out there, but let’s give credit where it’s due: this book created a sensation. I dare anyone out there to prove me wrong.

2. Harry Potter (any or all of them) by J. K. Rowling. This selection should be on everyone’s list this week, I think.  Rowling is a master story-teller, and she deserves every bit of fame she’s struggled for.  The Harry Potter books are extremely readable and hard to put down once you’ve started.  I love the way they evolved over the years, as Rowling herself matured as a writer.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone may have been written for kids, but The Deathly Hallows that ended the series had a different audience in mind.

3. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher.  This unique story kept me turning pages as fast as I could.  The main characters are separated throughout most of the story, which made the tension palpable. Finn is a prisoner in Incarceron, and Claudia is the daughter of the prison warden, who doesn’t even know Incarceron exists, until she discovers a secret.  Her follow-up to Incarceron, Sapphique, was not as engaging for me, but the writing and world-building in both are top rate. Fisher really knows her stuff, and if you haven’t read the books, I suggest you add them to your list.

4. His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman.  Another unique concept, The Golden Compass and the two books that follow it, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, ought to be as widely read as the Harry Potter books, but their controversial anti-church theme has kept them from reaching a wider audience. The characters are amazing, and Pullman’s idea of each person having their soul embodied by an animal struck me as genius. Forget the movie, read the books. You won’t regret it.

5. Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor.  Lots of hype about this book pre-publication did not detract from its greatness. The story of a girl who uses wishes to do things like make her hair blue was so original and readable that it was over before I knew it.  Although some of the elements feel familiar, like the fact that Karou is a girl trying to find out who she really is, mostly the book is loaded with originality. Laini’s other books are just as good, and her buoyant writing style just makes you happy! Plus, this cover is gorgeous, I love its simplicity. I can’t wait for her next book…

6. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt.  My book club just read this, and yes, it was my pick, I’m happy to say.  This western set in Oregon and California during the 1850’s gold rush was compelling for many reasons, but mostly for the first person narrative of Eli, one of the brothers in the title.  Charlie and Eli Sisters are hired guns, and they have been recruited to kill a man in California.  The tale of how they attempt to do this is strange, violent, and at times, tender-hearted.  This funny and irreverent tale should not be missed.

7. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  I’ve mentioned this book before, but it definitely falls in the category of books that are hard to put down.  I’ve noticed a pattern to all my picks, and that is that they all have unique worlds and compelling characters.  With so many over-used plots out there, it’s nice to find writers that work hard to go against the grain.  Ready Player One is set in a horrible future where people escape into a virtual computer world rather than face real life.  It’s a mind-bending concept and I found myself literally forgetting which world I was in.  Plus, a futuristic novel that glorifies the 80’s? How can you not want to read that!

8. Cinder by Marissa Meyer.  Cinder is still fresh in my mind, so I immediately thought of it when compiling this list. Again, it’s got a special and clever idea that borrows from something recognizable (the fairy tale of Cinderella) and drops it into an unfamiliar framework (science fiction). This combination, especially in the hands of a talented writer, is unbeatable.  Knowing there are three future books in the Lunar Chronicles is gratifying, but having to wait a year for the second installment is going to be torture.  Read it and you’ll see what I mean.

9. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. It’s hard to keep track of all the different series Cassandra Clare has going on, but it all started with this book, by far my favorite.  Great characters, romance, special powers, and a story that will keep you reading long past your bedtime, City of Bones has it all for me.  The narrative moves fast, and it has that element we’re all looking for in a story: it makes us want to know what happens next.  Not only would I read this in a day, but I would go back and re-read it if I had time.

10. Hyperion by Dan Simmons.  Simmons is a rock star, no matter what genre he writes in, but I have to say his Hyperion books are still my favorite.  This one and The Fall of Hyperion are classics, and I don’t mean because they were written twenty years ago.  Simmons’ imagination is unsurpassed in my book, and even though Hyperion is a bit lengthy, you will not want to stop reading once you have started.


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CINDER Audiobook Sample

Some of you may already know that I loved Cinder by Marissa Meyer, and gave it a gushing review.  Yesterday, a very nice publicist from Macmillan Audio contacted me and asked if I would also promote the audiobook version. And of course I said yes!  The sample below is from Chapter One and will give you a very good idea of what to expect. Just click the arrow to hear the first few pages:

I highly recommend Cinder in any version. It will most likely be turning up on my Best Books of 2012 list at the end of the year.

You can purchased the Cinder audiobook here, and read my review of Cinder here.

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CINDER by Marissa Meyer – Review

She has grease stains on her face instead of ashes. She’s looking for the mechanical foot that fits her best.  And she drives to the ball in a beat-up gasoline car instead of a magical pumpkin. Welcome to Marissa Meyer’s inventive re-imagining of Cinderella, the first of four books in the Lunar Chronicles.

I finally got around to reading Cinder, and I’m so glad I took time off from my scheduled review requests to do so.  Cinder was everything I was expecting and more. Yes, I would say it exceeded my expectations.  May I make a suggestion to all aspiring writers out there, including the ones who are self-publishing their books because they believe they can write:  please read Cinder, for it is a perfect example of how a book should be written. Not only is it a bang-up story that will have you turning pages faster than a runaway hover craft, but it is perfectly written, perfectly paced, and packed with so much emotion and so many engaging characters that you will wonder where the time went.  I flew through it in a couple of days, and it only took me that long because I had to stop and (reluctantly) feed my family.

When Cinder begins, World War IV is over, but the country of New Beijing is fighting a losing battle with a deadly plague. Cinder, a lower class citizen who is virtually the property of her stepmother Adri, is a cyborg mechanic who runs a repair stall in the town marketplace and also fixes everything mechanical that breaks down at home. Like Cinderella before her, she also has two step sisters. Pearl is mean and spiteful, but Peony is Cinder’s only human friend. Until one day Prince Kai himself, heir to the throne of New Beijing, comes to her stall to have his favorite android repaired.  The prince is intrigued by Cinder’s secretive nature and her lack of interest in him. But although she is attracted to the prince, Cinder is afraid of Kai discovering her secret: that she is part machine. Indeed, her cyborg parts include a foot and a hand, which she covers up with a grease-stained glove.

When Peony contracts the dreaded letumosis plague, Adri forces Cinder to “volunteer” as a test subject to find a cure for the disease.  At the medical center Cinder meets Dr. Erland, a kindly but determined old man whose task is to save the dying Emperor, Prince Kai’s father.  In Dr. Erland’s medical facility, Cinder learns a horrifying truth about herself, giving her one more reason to avoid Prince Kai.  As is the case with many of the characters, Dr. Erland has his own secrets, and although he seems suspicious at first, he later becomes Cinder’s trusted friend and ally. With the arrival of Queen Levana, the evil ruler of Luna, the future of New Beijing rests on a terrible decision that Kai must make, and more than one life hangs in the balance. Readers may be equally thrilled and frustrated by the ending, which comes all too soon.

Besides her creative take on the Cinderella story, Meyer fills her story with details that remind us that we are indeed in science fiction territory. For example, Cinder is programmed with an orange warning light that flashes at the corner of her vision whenever someone is lying to her, and her mechanical leg has a hinged door behind which Cinder stores her tools.  One of my favorite characters in the book is Iko, Cinder’s wonderfully quirky android and constant companion.

I’m always grateful to writers who can surprise me, and Meyer surprised me throughout the entire book. She doesn’t go for the obvious happy ending, and for that she should be applauded.  At the risk of giving too much away, there were many times during the story when she could have saved a beloved character, but didn’t.  It is this bravery in part that elevates Cinder above the many other young adult fantasy books on the market today.  When you read the final paragraph, just keep this in mind: luckily for us readers, Cinder’s story isn’t finished. The second book in the series, Scarlet, arrives in 2013.


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