Tag Archive: Books

Book Review: Echoes by Miranda Marie

This book is amazing. I’ll just start with that. This book is wonderful. The style, the characters, the plot… It’s just wonderful.

I had the privilege of reading excerpts of this book, since Miranda (Mandy) and I are in the same writing group (which in no way affects this review, because this book can more than stand on its own), and I immediately fell in love with the poetic writing style and intricate characters. Every excerpt just piqued my interest more, and by the time I was finally able to buy Echoes I was dying to read it. Unfortunately, I’d made it a reward for reaching my goal of 100k for NaNoWriMo (which I didn’t come close to), so I waited to read it until sometime in December (although I did cheat on a couple of chapters on days that I met my daily goal. Shhh).

Now I’ve finally been able to read the whole thing, and I love it even more. Fair warning, the style isn’t for everyone, and it crosses the lines in genre, but Mandy did an excellent job executing it. The writing style is poetic and unlike anything I’ve ever read, told from a limited third-person POV that allows the reader to see Emma’s fascinating, unique way of thinking and seeing things. Emma sees symbolism in anything and draws incredibly poetic parallels between things in her description. It’s gorgeous to read, and even though there’s very little dialogue, you never really get tired of reading the long descriptions because they’re so beautifully written.

The characters are incredibly well-developed, the two most prominent characters (Emma and Natan) being particularly distinct from any other characters I’ve seen. Emma is shy, and her quirks are well thought out and shown clearly and in a way that makes her particularly stand out as developed and unique. She doesn’t talk much, but that doesn’t detract from her character (or the story, for that matter) in the slightest.

The character relationships are another thing I really admire in this book. The contrast between Natan and Adrae (and their relationship in general), (**minor spoiler ahead**) the way that Natan protects Emma, (**more major spoiler ahead. Highlight to read**) the relationships between Emma and those she knows from her old life, etc. Mandy is excellent at skillfully writing the dynamics between characters so that they seem real. (And you ship couples way easier than in the majority of popular YA fiction. Or anything else for that matter.)

Overall, Echoes is definitely worthy of five stars, and I highly recommend it. :)

14 of My Favorite Books

Books are a writer’s (or just a person’s) best friend. They provide inspiration, expand your vocabulary, introduce you to new characters and worlds that don’t exist outside of the imagination… So here’s a list of some of my favorite books. (All of the below book links are affiliate links.) Please note that while I would recommend the majority of these, they are simply my personal favorites and there are a couple that I can’t comfortably recommend.

#1 The Shannara series by Terry Brooks

This is an epic (in multiple uses of the word) fantasy series. There are around thirty books so far, and Brooks is still writing. I’ve read almost all of them, and they’re mostly clean. There is romance in them, but the only one I would be inclined to warn again is in Bearers of the Black Staff and The Measure of the Magic, and even that one doesn’t go far enough that I was particularly uncomfortable with it, though some people might be.

The series goes all the way from a post-apocalyptic world to at least a dozen generations down a line in a fantasy world. It’s really cool, and you get to see almost all of those generations. There’s a bit of a gap between the end of the post-apocalyptic world and the fantasy world, but after that the line is nearly unbroken. It’s really interesting seeing the world and the line develop as time goes on. If you’re looking for something to keep you busy for a while, definitely check out the Shannara series.

#2 The Door Within by Wayne Thomas Batson

This is only the first of four trilogies I’m going to mention by Wayne Thomas Batson, because his books are awesome.

The Door Within is the first trilogy of his I read, and it’s really good. He’s a Christian author, and all of the books of his I’ve read are clean and have positive messages. The Door Within is an MG/YA portal-fantasy trilogy following a young man named Aidan as he finds a land he didn’t know existed and becomes a hero in a war between good and evil.

I love the characters in this trilogy, because they’re really real. They felt to me like family as soon as I read it, and coming back to reread it was like a family reunion, except without the awkwardness of having those relatives over that you see, like, once a year and don’t really know. It’s comfortable being with the characters, and the whole thing is just a really great read.

#3 Dreamtreaders by Wayne Thomas Batson

This is obviously the second trilogy I’m sharing by Wayne Thomas Batson. This one is my declared favorite series (though really, who can pick a favorite?), and the second trilogy of his that I read. It’s sort of a portal fantasy, but not exactly. The main character, Archer Keaton, is a Dreamtreader, meaning that he can explore the world of dreams and keeps it safely separate from the waking world. It’s super cool, and the characters are amazing. Kaylie… Dude, I love Kaylie. You’ll have to read it to see what I mean, but she’s the most precocious, amazing child character I think I’ve ever read.

#4 The Isle Chronicles by Wayne Thomas Batson

This one is a pirate trilogy (though it’s planned to be more than three books, I believe), but it’s nearly as good as the others. I need to reread it, ’cause it’s been a while and my memory of it is growing a bit hazy, but I do know I loved the two main characters and if you ever mention iguana soup I will immediately imagine a one-armed man running after iguanas on a beach.

#5 The Berinfell Prophecies by Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper

Characters. Guys, I love the characters in all of Batson’s books, and this collaboration series is no different. I’ve only been able to read the first of these so far, because my library is lacking the second book, but I read the first one and it’s amazing. There are a myriad of characters, and yet I only ever mixed up two of them. They’re all distinct enough to tell apart, whether that distinction is in their voice, their appearance, or their personality. And I liked nearly all of them. One of them actually seemed like he could totally be the kid of my character Braedyn and my best friend’s character Jess, which was really cool, lol.

#6 The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

If you like seeing fairytales twisted into new shapes, you’ll like my short story series the Mirror-Hunter Chronicles- Hey wait a minute… We’re talking about other people’s books here. I meant you’ll like The Lunar Chronicles. Sheesh. The Lunar Chronicles is actually way better than the Mirror-Hunter Chronicles (and more than a thousand pages longer), and it’s a set of sci-fi fairytale retellings. All of the stories weave together, some of them aren’t really what they seem like at face value, and all of them are excellently written with incredible characters. This is another series that expertly balances a large cast of characters, all with distinct voices and personalities. Thorne and Cress are the greatest, with Iko next and everyone else behind them, but they’re all amazing and I love reading about them and what they get themselves into (and then out of). Plus the plot is really interesting, with twists and turns that most people probably wouldn’t see coming. (I’ve inherited my dad’s knack for seeing plot twists a mile away, which is both a blessing and a curse.)

#7 Graceling by Kristin Cashore

This is one that I can admire for the plot as well as the characters (not because any of the other plots are bad, just because I don’t tend to notice plot as much and this one caught my attention more than the others did), and which I can appreciate for having a deep, complex, personal villain. The characters all have their own struggles and strengths (as do the characters of all the past mentioned books), and the relationships between them are really interesting. (Ooh, I should have mentioned that specifically for The Lunar Chronicles, too. Character relationships are the best.)

The villain was possibly my favorite thing about this book, just from a writer’s perspective. He was terrifying (as much as I’m terrified by any villain in a book that’s not my own. If it’s your own there’s a whole different dynamic with that…), and best of all he was personal to the characters. He impacted them all personally in different ways, and so he seemed like more of a threat, even though he had very little “screen time.” You didn’t get the impression that he was just some faceless evil that had to be defeated. He needed to be defeated because he was hurting the main characters even when he wasn’t there. He was ever-present even if he wasn’t really there.

The worldbuilding was also really interesting, and I wished I could see more of it.

I’ve written a full review here.

(Warning: there are a couple of vague mature scenes, which may need to be glossed over depending on your sensitivity to that sort of thing.)

#8 Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Another that I can appreciate in all aspects (except, unfortunately, mature content). The plot is intriguing and mysterious, the characters are distinct and have fascinating relationships with one another, and the world seems – from what I’ve read so far – incredible.

I’ve only read the first two books of this series, and they do grow more mature as they go on. The first had a few crude comments in it, as well as some semi-graphic gore; the second one had a mature scene. I think there may be mild occasional language. I’ve heard that the maturity level goes up the further into the series you go, so use discretion when deciding whether or not to read these.

#9 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

This is an old book, but a good one. The artistry of the fire motif had me hooked from the first paragraph. (No, literally, in just a paragraph I could tell that the fire motif was going to be amazing.) While the characters weren’t very deeply developed by current standards, they were still intriguing, and the message of the book was incredible. And I got through it pretty fast, too. I definitely recommend it.

#10 Echoes by Miranda Marie

Okay, so maybe I’m a tiny bit biased since I know the author and she’s an amazing person, but this book was just downright good on its own, no bias required. The characters are deep and complex; the relationships between them are dynamic; and the writing style, though not for everyone, is stunningly gorgeous. I mean wow. Like, take the description of Adrae’s otherworldly, stunning beauty and you have the description for this book. It’s gorgeously amazing.

#11 The Wilderking Trilogy by Jonathan Rogers

All right, so picture this: The biblical David in a fantasy world. That’s what this book is, and it’s awesome. I’ve read it two or three times (three, I think) and I enjoy it every single time. It never disappoints or misses the high expectations that memory gives it. The world is fascinating, particularly when you understand the story that he puts into it, and the new take on David is really interesting.

#12 The Truth series by Dawn Cook

(I apologize for the blurry pictures on some of these things.)

I’ve read this quartet (is that the right word if it’s books?) two or three times. It’s a fantasy series in a really interesting world that you only really see one corner of, and I love the majority of the characters. There was only one that I really disliked and found annoying, and that was the villain of Lost Truth. Otherwise, they were all really cool, and the plot is interesting.

#13 Chasing Jupiter by Rachel Coker

This one is historical fiction that felt to me like contemporary. It’s a great book by a homeschooled Christian author (in other words, similar to me), and this book was the most relatable that I’ve ever read. Like, even down to some of the minor details. I’m not entirely convinced it wasn’t written on psychic paper. (Kidding, obviously.)

I wrote a full review here.

#14 The Fault In Our Stars

To even things out (and obviously because it’s a good book), The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. This is a beautifully written book in an entirely different way from anything else I’ve read. Hazel’s voice comes across more thoroughly than I would have thought possible, and the philosophy is really deep, even if I don’t necessarily agree with all of it.

Some of the writing techniques that Green employed I found really interesting, and the end of The Imperial Affliction was an excellent use of a plot device within the confines of fiction, lol.

(Content warning: There’s one mature scene, as well as occasional language.)

Clean Fantasy and Boring Cover Syndrome

Since recently subscribing to a number of clean fantasy authors’ newsletters, I’ve come across a disappointing trend. A lot of clean fantasy books have really unimpressive covers. You know the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover,” and that’s great in principle, but when it comes to books, readers really do judge books by their covers. As a reader myself I can attest to this. Heck, it’s why I’m writing this post.

I love finding clean fantasy books. They’re rare, and thus they’re hard to find. *thinks of all of the fantasy books she’s read that have been almost clean, but not quite* We need more authors of clean fantasy (or clean anything, for that matter), and we need those authors to step into the reader’s shoes and think about whether or not the cover they’ve chosen will draw someone’s attention or if it will just be overlooked on the bookshelf or as a reader’s scrolling through Amazon or whatever. If your goal as a clean fantasy author is to bless your readers with something they can easily trust to not have sex scenes or language or whatever else we don’t want to read, bless them by making your book stand out on a shelf, too, so that they can actually find it to read it. Maybe these books are fabulously written, but I’ll never know because the cover doesn’t make me interested enough to even look.

Now, this is not to say that all clean fantasy books have boring covers. I know several authors who write clean books and have wonderful covers (Wayne Thomas Batson, Miranda Marie, Jonathan Rogers, Evan Angler…), but it appears that as a general rule, clean fantasy has dull covers.

As a reader and author of clean fantasy, I just want to ask a simple favor of any other clean fantasy authors out there: Please pay attention to your covers. Please put effort into them. The Book Cover Designer has fairly affordable pre-made covers, if you want to start there. Since I’ve only ever bought one cover I can’t attest to anywhere else, unfortunately, but look around. Find something pre-made or get something custom made, just give thought to your cover.

Character Interview: Prynn Nemea

Prynn is one of the semi-main characters of The Shadow Raven. She’s Detren‘s cousin, and she does her best to keep him steady as he becomes king.


Interviewer: Good morning, Prynn. How are you?

Prynn: I’m doing well. *smiles* How are you?

Interviewer: I’m doing all right. Shall we begin?

Prynn: *nods*

Interviewer: What is your name?

Prynn: Prynn Cantara Nemea.

Interviewer: How old are you?

Prynn: I’m sixteen.

Interviewer: Do you have any siblings?

Prynn: No. But Detren is something like a brother.

Interviewer: What is your job?

Prynn: I don’t particularly have one. I’m the daughter of a lord and lady and the cousin of a king. There’s no special title for me, and I’m still in school. So I guess the most fitting thing to say would be that I’m a student.

Interviewer: Do you enjoy school?

Prynn: *shrugs* It’s neither enjoyable nor awful. I tend to prefer reading on my own to reading about how mountains are formed.

Interviewer: *laughs* Well, reading is always good. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

Prynn: I’m an introvert, but I love people. I love talking to them, getting to know them, taking care of them when they need it, stuff like that.

Interviewer: What is your favorite food?

Prynn: Hmm. I like a lot of things. Freshly baked bread is always good. I also like plums.

Interviewer: And your favorite color?

Prynn: Dark purple.

Interviewer: You mentioned you like to read; what is your favorite book?

Prynn: Moon of Gold. It’s a more fantastical story set in the same world as Detren’s favorite, Soldiers of the East.

Interviewer: I’ve heard that one mentioned a lot around here. What is it about?

Prynn: It’s set in a desert with a lot of competing countries and divisions with opposing views and values. Soldiers of the East focuses on the Eilram and the Pastyna Regiment, the former of which works for a war-focused country and the latter of which works to preserve peace and justice against the Eilram’s rampages. There are others, though, that focus on other aspects of the world. Moon of Gold takes place in the theocratic country that’s at odds with the war-centered country. It’s hard to describe in short terms, but they’re really interesting.

Interviewer: They sound fascinating. They seem popular, too.

Prynn: They are fairly popular. I think it’s because the world is deep and you always feel like there’s always more to know.

Interviewer: Those are always the best worlds. I guess we should probably move on. Do you have any ideas of what job you might want to have after school?

Prynn: I’m considering becoming a healer, possibly specializing in childbirth.

Interviewer: You seem to really care about people, so I think you’d be good in that role.

Prynn: *smiles* Thank you.

Interviewer: What are your hobbies?

Prynn: Reading and piano, mostly. I also paint, on occasion, but those two are my main hobbies.

Interviewer: What traits do you look for in a potential husband?

Prynn: At the moment I don’t, but if I were looking… Someone kind and generous, a believer in Abba, and someone willing to stand up for what he believes in.

Interviewer: All good qualities. Which of these is most important to you, in general: Kindness, intelligence, or bravery?

Prynn: Bravery. All of them are excellent traits, but bravery is probably the most important.

Interviewer: And honesty or selflessness?

Prynn: That one’s a tougher choice. Probably honesty, but selflessness is a very close second.

Interviewer: What is something you can never leave the house without?

Prynn: Some sort of hairpiece. If I’m going out I don’t want my hair constantly in my face.

Interviewer: Thank you for your time. That was the last question. I enjoyed talking with you.

Prynn: You too. *smiles* Thank you for the interview. *heads out of the room*

The Grand Beginning – NaNoWriMo Excerpt Day #13

This is another excerpt from a short story instead of The Shadow Raven.


Fiona’s eyes flashed open. The room around her was still, but it only took her a moment to identify what sound had woken her. The front door had opened. Why was someone coming into the house at… She glanced at the clock by her bed. Why was someone coming into the house at three in the morning? She debated for a moment over whether it would be better to stay in bed or go investigate, and finally she got out of bed and put on socks and tennis shoes. It would be good to be ready to run if the need arose.

She heard footsteps on the stairs and looked at her closed bedroom door. Best to pack some things, too. Her parents had told her someone might come after her. She grabbed her backpack from the closet and stuffed some clothes into it, followed by her purse and a box of granola bars from her desk. The footsteps came toward her door and she glanced at it. The knob began to slowly turn and she slung the backpack onto her back. Time to go.


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