Tuesday Top Ten-Best YA High Fantasy Series

I was browsing around Tumblr this morning, medical like I do (because how do you start a day without spending some time on Tumblr) and I saw a post talking about YA high fantasy and it had SO many of my favorites. I was trying to think of something to write for the Tuesday Top Ten today and it just presented itself to me so easily.

I must admit, thumb as I wrote this list, I discovered TWO things: One, I really need to read more high fantasy (recommend some, please!) and two, I am majorly biased on one particular author…but that’s okay.

10. The Beka Cooper Trilogy 

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Books: Terrier, Bloodhound, Mastiff

Beka Cooper is the ancestor of George Cooper (who is massively important in Pierce’s first series, which, duh, is on the list), and she joins the Provost Dogs, which is basically like a police force. As the books go on, she becomes one of the most prominent and well trusted of the Dogs, solving crimes and taking down criminals. The story is told in diary form, which was a new thing for Tamora Pierce.

Its awesome. Anything Tammy does is basically magic, but what I love about this is you know how history plays out after this already. Her first four Tortall series all take place years after this so you know the direction its going in, but its still so fun. I think that Tamora Pierce has a wonderful way of writing fantastically strong characters but sometimes we convince ourselves that Daine and Kel and Aly are only able to have their stories because of all the things Alanna accomplished in the first series. But telling Beka’s story really tells us that women had a lot more power, and possibility in the past until obviously something went wrong. Plus these stories are so different than the others. Beka has to prove herself, not really as a capable woman, like the others, but just a capable person in general. And the crimes she solves, the mysteries that unravel are all so fun.

9. The Immortals Quartet 

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Books: Wild Magic, Wolf Speaker, Emperor Mage, The Realms of the Gods

Daine is trying to escape her home country of Galla, where she was treated as a pariah, an abomination for the “sickness” she believes is inside her. When she is brought on as an assistant horse handler on the way to Tortall, she discovers that she’s not crazy, but she has a rare bit of magic in here called wild magic, which gives her the ability to communicate with animals, heal them and even shape shift. Under the tutelage of the realms most powerful mage, Numair, she learns to control her magic and when her new home in Tortall is threatened by immortal creatures, she must learn to use her powers to help save her home and her friends.

I mean, can you really go wrong with this book? There’s magic and animals and cute boys and kissing and battles and its a GREAT series. Tammy blew my MIND with this one. I love Daine because before Daine, we had Alanna, who was great but didn’t get to be a girl as often because she was pretending to be a boy, so Daine was awesome. I loved when she was able to give up her dresses for breeches, and when she discovered she could heal animals. I love that we see old characters from Alanna’s series and I love the whole idea of these immortal creatures like spidrens and centaurs and stormwings. Daine’s story is absolutely fantastic.

8. The Protector of the Small Quartet 

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Books: First Test, Page, Squire, Lady Knight

In Kel’s book, the law has been changed and girls can go out for their knighthood, instead of hiding their sex the way Alanna does in her series. This is the moment that Kel has been waiting for but its tainted when the king grants her permission to come to the palace to try, under the condition that she have a probationary year, something no boy has. Not only does Kel have to prove herself as a knight, but that she belongs there amongst the boys.

What I love about Kel’s story is that it seems like it could be a repeat of Alanna’s story but it most definitely is not. Kel has a whole new adventure to go through. Alanna had to prove herself, yes, but everyone thought she was a boy. Kel is a girl, and on probation and has to work even harder than all the boys do. On top of that, her page master treats her differently and her fellow pages tease her, and play jokes on her, all to try and get her kicked out. I think Kel’s story is sometimes easier to relate to than Alanna’s. I like how it starts off with Kel being bullied and being angry that she and others are getting bullied and turns into a larger story when Scanra comes chopping at the Tortall borders. Kel always wants to take down the bullies, no matter how big or small, and I love her story.

7. The Girl of Fire and Thorns Trilogy 

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Books: The Girl of Fire and Thorns, The Crown of Embers, The Bitter Kingdom

Elisa was born with a godstone in her belly button, marking her as a chosen one, to do amazing things in the world. However, Elisa feels so much less than a chosen one. She’s massively overweight, not pretty, and constantly in the shadow of her older sister. When she is married off to a neighboring kingdom’s king, who is devastatingly handsome, she doubts she’ll ever reach her supposed amazing potential. Then she is kidnapped, by revolutionaries, and she suddenly sees how much more she is capable of and what she really could accomplish.

The first thing that caught me about this book is that Elisa is fat. Straight up, Elisa is fat. I love that. Do you know how often we get YA heroines who are fat, especially in novels like this? We just don’t. Even though Elisa loses weight through out the series, she remains a bigger girl and I think that’s important. Elisa is a strong, strong, incredible female character but its more than a physical strength. She’s incredibly smart, clever and she figures out exactly what she needs to do, with bumps all the way. Its all about coming into yourself, and coming into what people expect of you, and just doing the best that you can with what you are given and its just incredible. I dragged my dad, boyfriend and brother four hours to Las Vegas just so I could meet Rae Carson.

6. The Throne of Glass Series 

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Books (so far): Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, Heir of Fire 

Celaena is a former deadly assassin, sent into the dark work prisons. She is caught trying to escape and is chosen by a stranger to be a contestant, part of a tournament to choose the next King’s Champion. If she succeeds in winning, she will have to work for the King, whom she hates, for a period of time and then she can earn her freedom. She agrees and comes to the palace to compete but then people start disappearing, dying, being sabotaged in the contest and Celaena fears that she could be next. Add in the handsome and charming prince Dorian and the equally handsome and strong captain of the guard, Chaol, and you have a recipe for trouble.

 Sarah J. Maas blew my mind with this series. I had seen it all over the place for so long and I finally purchased it and was so incredibly glad when I did. The one thing that really jumps out at me of this series is the incredible world building of it. It is deep and complex and has a whole history to it, which is beautiful. A really good high fantasy novel will have that, and this book definitely accomplishes that. Add in the fact that there’s Dorian and Chaol and its so hard to figure out which one you like more, because they’re both so different…and you’re just so addicted to the story. But the kicker of the series is Celaena, who is a fantastic main character. I love that she can kill a person easily, almost in her sleep, but also loves to curl up with a good book and is so incredibly loving and caring.

5. The Song of the Lioness Quartet 

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Books: Alanna: The First Adventure, In the Hands of the Goddess, The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, Lioness Rampant

Alanna and her twin brother, Thom, are unhappy with their futures. Thom is all set to go to the palace to train as a knight, when he wants to go and learn to hone his magical Gift and become a powerful sorcerer. Alanna is to be sent to the convent, to be trained as a lady, to return home and find a husband, when she wants to become a knight. They switch places, and Alanna heads to the palace as Alan, disguised as a boy in order to earn her shield. Alanna has to work hard, doing all that she can to earn her shield, while trying to hide the fact that she is a girl.

This book series is incredible and what truly blows my mind about it is that it was written back in the 1980s. People think that the idea of a strong female character is a new phenomenon because of Hermione and Katniss and Tris but the original strong YA female character is definitely Alanna. She disguises herself as a boy for YEARS. Do you know how hard that would be? Not only does she have to work hard to become a knight, which is a trial all in itself, but she has to do it pretending to be a boy. She has to pretend that she doesn’t get her period, or breasts, and that she doesn’t having feelings for boys. She can’t undress herself in front of them. Its all so hard. But she fights hard and earns everything that she gains and its just SUCH a great series. Its a must, an absolute must for any lover of YA.

4. The Grisha Trilogy 

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Books: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising

Alina Starkov is an orphan, earning her way through life, and struggling to find where she fits in. She’s working as a mapmaker, getting by and trying to ignore that her best friend, Mal, is handsome, popular with the ladies, and an incredibly good tracker. One day, as their crossing the Fold, a desolate bit of land, she saves Mal’s life, by using a power that she never knew she had. She has been labeled the Sun Summoner, a rare Grisha classification, able to produce light from within her. Suddenly, she is whisked away by The Darkling, the most powerful of the Grisha, and her power becomes the center of her existence.

The first I met Leigh Bardugo was at the Ontario Teen Book Fest. She was on a panel and the moderator said something about strong female characters not existing when the authors were younger and Leigh immediately says “Uh, duh, Alanna?” and I knew immediately that I needed to read her book. I bought Shadow and Bone that day and I’ve been massively in love with the Grisha trilogy since then. I just read the last one a few weeks ago when it was released and I’m just so in love. Leigh is an incredible writer and a beautiful storyteller. She has magic, and power, and politics and romance and humor and so much all in one series and its just brilliant. I really haven’t read a series like this before and I doubt I will ever read one like it again.

3. The Seven Realms Series

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Books: The Demon King, The Exiled Queen, The Grey Wolf Throne, The Crimson Crown

Raisa is the princess of her queendom, being bred every day to be the queen. She is royal by blood on her mother’s side, and has tribal blood from her father’s side and after spending time with her father and his people, she returns to the castle, restless and ready to do more. Her mother, on the other hand, has been taken in by the High Wizard, in a world where wizards are not to be trusted, and Raisa begins to fear what her mother will do. She starts sneaking out of the palace, getting to know her queendom, hoping to become the best queen that she can be. Han is a former thief, turning away from his criminal ways, in order to support his mother and younger sister. When he steals a wizard’s amulet one day, trouble begins to follow him and leads him into finding the truth about where he came from and what sort of powers he holds in himself.

THIS SERIES. I picked it up on a whim, really, just out of nowhere, and coincidentally, a few days before the final book was released. I literally read the four of them in a period of about five or six days and I have no regrets. Cinda Chima is absolutely brilliant. She reminds of Tamora Pierce a bit, and she just builds a great world. The Seven Realms is just so incredibly real and I love both the main characters so much and I couldn’t wait until the two of them met up together. Raisa is fun, and brave, and sassy, and strong and Han is sarcastic and fearless and reckless and caring and I just love the both of them so much. There’s mystery and intrigue and magic and you can never really figure out who the bad guy is and the books are full of surprises until the very end. There’s action one moment and then steamy makeout scenes the next and I seriously canNOT get enough of these books.

2. The Daughter of the Lioness Duology 

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Books: Trickster’s Choice, Trickster’s Queen

Aly has lived in the shadow of her parents for her entire life. Her father is the King’s spymaster and her mother is King’s champion, and the first female knight in over a century. Her godparents are the king and queen, the wildmage and the realm’s most powerful mage, the captain of the King’s Guard and more. Her brother is studying to be a sorcerer and her twin has gone for his knighthood. What Aly wants more than anything is to be a spy,  but her parents do not approve. She is kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery at the nearby Copper Isles, to the Balitang family. There she discovers a rebellion brewing, the dark skinned raka wanting to take their country back from the light skinned luarin. Before she knows it, she’s wrapped up in it, doing everything she can to protect the Balitang girls, who could become the countries’ future rulers.

I’m rare in liking this series by Tammy the most but I must admit that I am quite biased. This is the first series that I actually read by Tammy. I picked it up when I was about 15 years old because it mentioned pirates and I was obsessed with pirates at the time. Obviously pirates were NOT essential to the story but I legitimately found one of my favorite books of all time. Aly is incredible and so different than Alanna, Daine and Kel. She doesn’t have magical powers like Daine, though she has the Sight. She isn’t a fighter like Alanna and Kel, though she can fight. Instead she’s absolutely clever. She knows the way of politics and the underground spy world. She knows the minds of people and how to trick them and how to get them to do the things she wants them to. Plus I loved the rebellion of it, of the people rising up. Its…easily my favorite book (tied with Goblet of Fire).

1. The Harry Potter Series 

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Books: You know

I’m not going to do a summary for this one because, duh. I’m pretty sure most people know what this is about and if you don’t…have you been living under a rock for all these years? Seriously?

I know this one is weird on this list because its kind of…is it full fantasy? Its kind of contemporary at the same time? I consider it high fantasy though. Also, is it YA? I’ve always sort of considered it YA but a lot of people say it’s children. SO that’s weird. But either way, its my favorite of all time. I do not have five HP tattoos, a personalized HP license plate and much more for nothing. This series is one of the most incredible series to ever be written and there is literally no other book that can make me feel the way these do. They have everything I could possibly need. They provide escape. They have taught me so many lessons of life. They make me laugh and cry. They make me question everything. They have brought me friends. They have an incredible world built and the story is beautiful and complex and exciting from the first page to the last.

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Tuesday Top Ten-Top Authors that Deserve More Recognition

One thing that I’ve really appreciated about being a book blogger is coming to expand my bookshelf immensely. In the last year, ask I have discovered so many new authors, I can’t even begin to think of all the authors I’ve discovered. I’ve immersed myself so deeply into the world of books that those authors that you may not notice right off the bat are coming out of the woodwork for me, and I’m discovering authors that are truly truly wonderful.

And I feel like, as a book blogger, it is one of my jobs to tell you all about these! One of the questions that I probably get more than anything is, “what do you recommend?”

Now you guys know some of my favorite books are Harry Potter and The Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices and Percy Jackson and Divergent and Hunger Games…but these authors, they don’t need more help really in finding readers. Most of those have movies and they’re bestsellers and they just don’t really need me talking about them all the time.

So I spend most of my time recommending the authors that I believe are absolutely brilliant and just don’t get enough attention or readers, and so that was the inspiration for this week’s Top Ten.

Each and every single one of these authors are absolutely brilliant, and I find most people that I meet do NOT know who they are, and I find that to be very disappointing. I’m hoping this week’s Top Ten encourages you try some of these authors out and to explore new authors when you go to the book store.

So here we go.

11. Neal Shusterman

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Yes I realize this is a top eleven and not a top 12. You can just deal with it haha.

I first discovered Neal Shusterman a couple months ago, and I recognize that he isn’t an unknown author. However, now that I’ve discovered his Unwind series, I want to share it with everyone and it doesn’t seem to be a ton of people out there who know him and this series. So that is why he makes it on to this list. I absolutely love this series and I think it is due to the fact that it makes me think. The Unwind trilogy takes an issue that is very highly debated right now (pro-life vs pro-choice) and he makes it so real, and he makes us really take the time to look at it. In the book, a second civil war has occurred between the pro-life and the pro-choice, and a compromise is reached: abortion in the womb is illegal, but a parent can have the option to have their child between the ages of 12 and 18 “unwound”, and all of their parts harvested to be donated to other bodies. In this compromise, it is said that there is no death, because the child continues to live, in a “divided state”. It is heartbreaking and raw and beautiful and its an addicting book series that makes me laugh and cry and it makes me think more than a lot of other books have. I think there would be a ton of people that would avoid this book because its not like other YA books, but that is EXACTLY the reason that you should read it. Do it.

You can read my review of Unwind here.

10. Jennifer Bosworth

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I had no idea who Jennifer Bosworth was until I attended the Ontario Teen Book Fest back in May (which you can read about here). She was part of the panel with authors like Jessica Brody, Morgan Matson, Marie Lu and Leigh Bardugo, which ended up being one of the best panels I’ve ever been to. This is where I really discovered Jennifer. One, she is SO pretty, and two, she really caught my interest with her book, and sort of the back story behind it. Struck is about a girl named Mia who lives in Los Angeles after it was hit with a huge earthquake disaster, and she has this addiction to lightning. The only problem is, in the wake of this disaster, there have been several religious cults, one in particular, that have sprung up and would do anything to have  Mia on their side. Again, like with Neal, it really causes you to think and to question some of the things you know. I think that Jennifer tends not to get a lot of notice because her books are not your “typical” YA novels. She really makes you think, and her book has an anti-religion message in there and I think most people would avoid that, instead of reading it, and taking it as a book that challenges the way you think. She’s not trying to CHANGE the way you think, but she does want you to question, question, question and I think that’s beautiful. She writes a beautiful book, with a great story but she really makes me think, and I can’t wait for her novel, The Killing Jar, to come out.

You can read my review of her book, Struck, here.

9. Jessica Brody

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Jessica Brody is one of the FUNNEST authors that I’ve had a chance to meet this year, and discover, and I seriously get all fangirlish every time she recognizes me. (She saw me in the Cassandra Clare CBS interview and tweeted me. I nearly died). I saw her book, Unremembered at Barnes and Noble, read the inside cover, and decided to buy it. Then at WonderCon, I wanted to go to the panel “Writing for Teens and Tweens” because, well, that’s what I want to do, and she was there. She made me laugh, and she really impressed me with the things she said. I stopped by her signing booth and talked to her for a bit, and when I told her I was trying to be a writer, she said, “Don’t try to be a writer, just be one.” That really stuck with me, and I raced home to finish this book. I’ve since then met her several more times, and have read more books by her, and I seriously love her. She has a great sense of humor, and her book Unremembered (which is the first in a planned trilogy) is a real action packed book that was so different than anything else I had read in YA so far. Seriously, think The Bourne Identity but with a teenage girl instead of Matt Damon. I really love this book, not only because of the characters and story, but because of the uniqueness of it. I LOVE Jessica, and its hardly ever that I find someone who has read her books, which is why I’m telling you, please please read Unremembered. SO good.

You can read my review of Unremembered here.

8. Marie Lu

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Marie Lu is NOT an unknown author. Her book series has already exploded onto the scene, and the first book of her Legend trilogy, Legend, was optioned as a movie before it was even published. It is a brilliant series. The reason that I have her on here as an author that deserves more recognition is because I think she gets shuffled under the rug because of series like The Hunger Games and Divergent. I am a HUGE fan of both of those series, definitely, but I can say, with confidence, that Legend is, in my personal opinion, better than both of those. The thing about Marie Lu’s dystopian trilogy is that its so believable and its almost scary in that its so believable. I also think its better because its dual point of view, and the two different points of view are SO different. You have someone completely enveloped in this society, and believes it to the very core, and then you have someone who has been fighting against it, to keep himself and his family alive, for so long, and the clash of those two people together really is awesome. In Hunger Games and Divergent, you always know who the “bad guy” is, but in Legend, you’re always questioning because you get these two points of views. I also admire Marie a lot because she’s one of the only series I’ve read, dysptopian wise, who talks of other countries outside of the United States. She recognizes the rest of the world, which causes an even more solid story, in my opinion. Its an amazing series, and I can’t wait for the third and last book in November.

You can read my review of Legend here.

7. Rae Carson

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In a little more than a week, I’ll be heading to Las Vegas to meet this author…which is roughly about a four hour drive away from my suburb town in Orange County, California. That is how much I love this author. This will be the farthest I’ve driven to meet an author and I honestly don’t think that I’ll regret it in the slightest. When I first read The Girl of Fire and Thorns, I couldn’t get into it; I was really confused at first. But I think it was about 50 or so pages in when it just hit me and it grabbed me and I raced through it, and then immediately bought A Crown of Embers on my Kindle, because I couldn’t wait until the book store opened the next day. I felt VERY lucky to be able to receive an ARC of the last book of the series, The Bitter Kingdom. Its an amazing series. I think that maybe people avoid this series because of the epic fantasy that it is. I think fantasy tends to be really popular…when its recognizable, which is why all the urban, contemporary fantasies seem to do better than epic fantasies. But I’m an epic fantasy lover more than anything and I think Rae Carson is a fantastic story teller and a great world builder. And my absolute favorite part of her novels? Her main character, Elisa? She’s fat. Over the course of the books, she becomes less fat but she’s not a perfect, beautiful, skinny character and I absolutely love that.

You can read my review of The Girl of Fire and Thorns here.

6. Jen Calonita

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I absolutely adore Jen Calonita, because she writes very realistically without having to be ridiculously tragic. Not that I don’t like books with tragedies but sometimes I think people forget the trivial problems we had as teenagers that felt like the absolute end of the world. I like Jen Calonita because she’s fun, and because her books are extremely sweet and because they remind me that we don’t always have to be setting the weight of the world on our shoulders and its okay to worry about how we look that day, or whether we’re going to pass our math test. I love that there are books out there that make me think, and that make me more aware of the economy or history, or world affairs but sometimes I just need a break from the world, and Jen’s books are great for that. Her Secrets of My Hollywood Life series is about Kaitlin Burke, a young Hollywood star on a hit TV show, who wishes nothing more than to find a balance between the job she loves doing and her desire to be a normal girl. Her Belles series follows Izzy, a girl who grows up in a small community until her grandmother gets too sick to take care of her anymore, and she goes to live with family she never knew existed in the ridiculously rich town of Emerald Cove. She also has two standalone novels, Reality Check and Sleepaway Girls. I love these books because they are the kind of YA that you don’t have to question, because there’s sort of younger YA and older YA. I think you can enjoy this at any age. They’re funny and cute and I think they’re really enjoyable books to read. I wish more people would notice her, and I think because she tends to have happy endings, without any tragedies, she doesn’t get a lot of notice, and that makes me incredibly sad. Her books are great, and you should definitely check them out. Also, her Secrets of My Hollywood Life series was incredible help for my book, A Little Less than Famous!

I unfortunately have not reviewed any of her books for this site yet!

5. Andrew Smith

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I had no idea who Andrew Smith was until the Ontario Teen Book Fest, and even then, I still had no idea who he was or any of that. Carrie Arcos (author of Out of Reach) actually pointed him out to me, and said that his book, Winger, was coming out that Tuesday and that it was already going to be featured in the New York Times. That caught my interest quickly. After talking to him throughout the day, and learning what a really cool guy he was, I added it to my “To-Read” list, and hoped to read it soon. I’ve only read Winger, I haven’t had a chance to read his other books YET, but I already think that he is an absolutely amazing author. I read Winger in the span of a few hours and was immediately sold on the book and on Andrew Smith. There was so many layers to this novel. Part school story, part coming of age, part humor, part tragedy, even part comic book, it tells the story of Ryan Dean and his adventures at boarding school. There is just so much about the book that is great. Like I said, its funny and sad, and its full of adventure and romance and its just a great book, and it keeps popping up everywhere, earning recognition and recommendations, but I don’t know of many people who have actually READ it, in my circle of readers and bloggers. Lately, when people ask for a recommendation, this is one of the ones I say right off the bat. I will push this on anyone and everyone and I think its an essential read. I am happy every time I do see someone reading it. Let’s just say this: CNN made a list of must-read books for the summer, and Winger was the only YA book to make it on the list. That shows you how good it is.

You can read my review of Winger here.

4. Tammara Webber

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I discovered Tammara Webber when I first purchased a Kindle a few years ago. I was looking for something new to read, and Amazon suggested the book, Between the Lines, which was fairly inexpensive, maybe only 5 dollars. I decided to give it a try, and I was hooked so fast. I was blazing through the next two books in the series, eating it up. Then I decided I needed them in actual hard copy. That’s when I really discovered the awesomeness that is Tammara Webber. Because most people tend to consider her books “new adult”, which is kind of a wacky age group/classification that is still not quite found its place, she was having a really hard time selling her novel. So she has worked her butt off, self-publishing her novels in ebook format, and her Between the Lines series has garnered her a bunch of attention. Then Tammara wrote her standalone novel, Easy, which highlights the dangers of rape, especially acquaintance rape, and that too has garnered a lot of attention and a lot of high praise for it. Her series and her standalone novel are both fantastic, and I admire her immensely because of her drive, her determination and her ability to make herself successful because of those.

You can read an interview between me and Tammara here.

3. Morgan Matson

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Morgan Matson is one of the more brilliant authors in contemporary young adult fiction and the fact that I have gotten to meet her three times this year has made me incredibly happy. She has written two novels: Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer. And while I’ve noticed a TON of Morgan Matson love on the interwebs and on most blogs about books (because we knows whats up!), I don’t see a lot of book readers outside of blogs that really know who she is. That makes me incredibly sad. Her two novels that have been published so far easily would make my top list of books, especially Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour. As a debut novel, it just shines. Its a beautiful work of contemporary YA lit; it recalls Sarah Dessen, for sure, but Morgan Matson has a voice on her own and it seeps into her characters, Amy and Taylor. Plus her novels are SO summer, and I just love summer. Okay, maybe not the ridiculous temperatures that we can get here in Southern California but I adore everything else about summer, especially that I get to curl up and read, read, read, and I always make sure to read Amy and Roger’s, because its so worth a summer read and more. I’ve been able to meet her a bunch this year, and I *think* she recognizes me now and I seriously get SUCH a kick out of that. She is such a sweetheart and she helps me to believe that I can be a writer too. Seriously, read her books.

You can read a review of Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour here.

2. Tamora Pierce

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Tamora Pierce has been writing books since the 1980s, the EARLY 1980s, and she hardly needs help getting recognition. So why do I have her on here? Because its all fine and dandy that she has a strong fan base and that she’s been recognized in several different countries, and a TON of different associations and had honors bestowed upon and she CONTINUES to write magnificent books, BUT, I think its time to introduce her to the new generation: you guys. I have found that most of my followers tend to be younger than me, and have absolutely no idea who she is and that saddens me! In this world where young adult literature is at the highest I’ve ever seen it, and where fantasy is HUGE, and young, strong, smart, amazing female characters are incredibly popular, why isn’t she? Because her books are older, shorter, what? I can’t understand it so I continue to talk about her all the time, to rebuild her and her absolutely wonderful books. Her first series? About a girl who hides her gender in order to become a knight, as good as the boys. Her second series? A girl who discovers she has the rare power of wild (animal) magic and she can use it for so much, and to help the kingdom. Her third series? About a girl who tries for her knighthood after its legalized that a girl CAN do so, but is it any easier? Her fourth series? About a girl kidnapped to a foreign country who finds her niche, and helps a group of oppressed people take back their country. I mean, I could go on and on. She’s a brilliant writer, a brilliant storyteller and her world building is flawless. Please, read her; you won’t be disappointed in the SLIGHTEST.

You can read my review for her very first book, Alanna: The First Adventure here. You can also check out my Fandom Friday about Tamora Pierce, as well, here.

1. Cinda Williams Chima

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This is one of my more recent discoveries and it is a discovery that I made so gladly. I somehow randomly came across Cinda’s book, The Demon King, last fall and immediately went sprinting through the rest of the series. Its absolutely brilliant, an epic fantasy that has great characters, from the main characters of Han and Raisa, to the smaller characters as well, and a great world that you find yourself immersed in. Raisa is a princess struggling to become a better ruler, for the day that she takes over as queen, and Han is a former criminal, who discovers a secret about himself, and its a secret that is going to change his life forever. The two of them are so far apart, and yet their lives start to intersect and they both become so instrumental to the well-being of the queendom. Her Heir Chronicles series is a contemporary urban fantasy, following different people but the first book follows Jack, who discovers he has special powers after he stops taking his medicine one day, and he finds out he is a warrior in a society full of enchanters and sorcerers, wizards and more. Wizards are in control and they need a warrior for their tournament, a tournament that includes a fight to the death. She creates beautiful fantasy worlds, with great characters, a ton of action with a nice balance of the romantic and steamy and her books are written SO well. I’m meeting her in a couple weeks and I have to make sure that I don’t faint in excitement!

You can check out a review of The Demon King here, my exclusive interview with Cinda here, and also a full post on my urging you to read her books here.

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I hope you enjoyed this week’s Tuesday Top Ten!

Don’t forget that you can always check out previous lists here.

And definitely don’t forget to check out these ELEVEN amazing authors! You won’t regret reading any of them.

Who are some authors that you love to read that you wish more people would read? Is there a particular book that you’re always recommending to people? As always, share in the comments!

Book of the Week-The Bitter Kingdom ARC

I am so excited to be reviewing the book that I am today. First off, ed it is the first ever ARC I have ever gotten so I’m super attached to it. Secondly, information pills Rae Carson is a brilliant writer, and caught me up in her trilogy so fast. I was very excited to read this book and I really enjoyed it.

I wanted to wait a little longer to review it so it was a little closer to the August 27th release, especially since it’s not out yet and I am doing a MOSTLY spoiler free review.

For those who may be unfamiliar with Rae Carson and her The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, you’re in luck. One, I’m about to paste the description from the first novel and two, I already reviewed The Girl of Fire and Thorns back in January, which you can read here.

The GoodReads summary of The Girl of Fire and Thorns:

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one. But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will. Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess. And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do

Doesn’t that sound SO good? That’s because it IS good. Rae Carson has created an absolutely beautiful fantasy world, with rich characters and an original story that immediately caught me up. I was so happy to have a chance to read the finale early and I am even more happy to share my review with you.

The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson 

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GoodReads / Amazon / Barnes and Noble 

Genre:
young adult, fantasy

Part of a Series?
yes, the third and final installment of The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy

You May Like if You Liked:
anything by Tamora Pierce, Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima, Eon by Alison Goodman, Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Plot Summary: 

To sort of recap the previous two books, Elisa was born with a Godstone in her belly button, making her one of God’s chosen ones, to do his work. It is a huge expectation and she never really feels that she lives up to it. Her father and sister arrange for her to marry the king of the nearby country, a king of a country in turmoil who needs the chosen one. However, when she gets there, he hides her away as a guest of the kingdom, not his wife, and she feels useless. She does make friends along the way, and she saves the kingdom, though her husband dies. In the second book, she’s a queen with the smallest grasp on the kingdom and no one seems to listen to her, a seventeen year old girl with no real claim to the throne. She goes searching for something to bring her power in the a kingdom that is turning against her.

When we reach the third book of this series, Elisa is literally at the bottom of the barrel of life. Her queendom, which is hers by marriage not by birthright, is in turmoil as some of her highest nobles start questioning her rule and starting mutiny. The love of her life, though he does not know it yet (or does he?), Hector, has been stolen away from some of the most feared enemies, the Inverni, and she is determined to get him.

But she also has a few other things in mind as well. Can she be queen enough to regain the country, keep them safe and rule? Can she save Hector? Can she live up to this expectation that she has had since birth, when the Godstone was found in her belly button, declaring her one of god’s chosen ones, to do his work. She is being hunted by her own countrymen and by her enemies.

The Bad: 

Uh, it ended so soon and since it was an advanced readers copy, there’s hardly anyone to talk to about it? That’s really all I can think of. I sped through this book so incredibly fast. I was dying to read it as soon as I finished The Crown of Embers back in January.

So I guess my only gripe with this book is that its over, the series is over and I can’t read on to see what more adventures come in the future. I want to know all what happens to Elisa and Hector and all of them :) But I do have the chance to read the series over and over again, which I know I definitely will do.

The Good: 

So. Much. Good.

Where do I even begin with this novel? I love fantasy novels. I read paranormal and dystopian and sci-fi but when it all comes down to it, fantasy is where its at. When I first read The Girl of Fire and Thorns, I immediately thought of some of my favorite writers, like Tamora Pierce and Cinda Williams Chima. Both of these ladies create these wonderful, believable, beautiful fantasy worlds and Rae Carson does it flawlessly as well. She creates this world that you get so caught up in, you forget for a moment that its not even real. Her countries and the customs and the cultures she creates in these novels are so real. She gets even the tiniest of details, even in the doubts that Elisa has about the history she’s been taught, that you just marvel at the creativity and originality behind it.

Elisa is such a wonderful character, in that she is the hero of the story, through and through. Even with her relationship with Hector, and his determination to keep her safe, as her guard, she still is the one to save the day, to do what needs to be done to get what she wants. And she’s so strong, so different than the girl we first meet in the first book. She goes from being this fat, unconfident, shy girl to a proud, strong fighter. The decisions she makes, the solutions she comes up with are ones that surprised me but also made me cheer too. When she meets with her sister, who has essentially taken over queen duties of her kingdom, and her friend, Queen Cosme, what results from their meeting was so incredibly unexpected but also a fantastic plot twist and a show of the kind of changes Elisa has gone through and the growing up she had to do to get there.

Which leads me to the characters. Something I appreciate about fantasy novels is that they always create such memorable, unique and rich characters. Every character in this novel has his or her own unique personality that you completely believe in. They each are so different and yet so connected to similar missions, to similar goals. Elisa’s coming of age journey is not new, and yet because of the complexity and development of her character, her journey is fresh and new and you follow it with open eyes, and a racing in your heart. Hector is equally a complex character, torn by his duty to obey his queen but also his passion and love and determination to protect her, no matter what she commands of him. And this sort of pattern with these fully developed characters continues with the people that serve Elisa, her soldiers, her servants, her friends and her enemies. Every character comes with such a defining personality.

Rae Carson has created a trilogy that won’t be long forgotten because of the timelessness she creates in it. This is not a series that can go out of style or lose interest, because she creates a world that you get so easily swept up in and won’t ever want to leave. She belongs in the realms of authors like Kristin Cashore, Cinda Williams Chima and Tamora Pierce, because of her ability to create an epic fantasy with a fantastic cast of characters, with the strong and passionate Elisa at the helm.

Rating: 

5 out of 5 Stars. Easily

Recommended or Not? 

Definitely. Two of my absolute favorite authors on the planet are Tamora Pierce and Cinda Williams Chima and when I picked up The Girl of Fire and Thorns, I was so immediately swept up, caught up in this gorgeous fantasy world that I felt like I was in Tortall or the Seven Realms. I liked that it gave me such similar feelings to these books that I already love so much and I love that it was such a brand new story at the same time. I think Rae Carson is an absolutely fantastic writer, someone who deserves all the credit and awards she gets and more. I can’t wait to see what more comes from her as time goes on.

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I hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of the Book of the Week.

I hope you all get a chance to read this entire trilogy, especially when the finale hits bookstores on August 27th!

Rae Carson is going on tour this fall as well so make sure to check out her website to see where she will be!

And check out previous book reviews in the Book of the Week section!

Book of the Week-Shatter Me

Today, check I’m posting two book reviews. First off will be the Book of the Week which is the post that you are reading right now. I will post later today the second episode of Sara’s Quick Picks. I have been reading like crazy and have been overloaded with so many books.

And the best part is, dosage I keep getting books recommended to me, which is amazing. Keep that coming. I love to hear what you all are reading. It keeps me all excited and happy to feel like I have a never ending “to-read” list.

And I am SO excited because I received my first ever ARC (advance reading copy). Since I’m a blogger, and I blog mostly about books, I’ve been trying to get my hands on some ARCs for awhile now, with some limited success. By limited success, I mean that I’ve gotten my name out there, sent my address to some publishers but that’s about it.

So I was so excited to receive, by surprise, an advanced copy of The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson today. I hope to read that VERY soon and have a review up. Just keep in mind that this book isn’t actually released until August 27th so maybe reading the review is a bad idea :)

But in the meantime, here is this week’s Book of the Week!

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi 

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Genre:
young adult, dystopian, romance, science fiction

Part of a Series:
Yes, it is followed by Unravel Me (published this year), and an untitled third book releasing in 2014. There is also an e-novella entitled Destroy Me available.

You May Like if You Liked:
Divergent by Veronica Roth and Legend by Marie Lu

Plot Summary: 

The world has changed. We abused the earth too much and she’s feeling the pain. The climate has changed, the animals are gone, food is nearly impossible to grow. There is a new boss in town, the Reestablishment, and the way of life as we know it is flipped upside down in this heavily regulated, militaristic world.

Juliette is the main character of this novel and you first meet her in her prison room. She hasn’t spoken to anyone in years, hasn’t touched anymore and her own comfort is a makeshift notebook and her one leaky pen in which she writes. She can’t touch anyone. Anyone she touches loses strength extremely quickly, experiences terrible pain and dies. Her touch equals death. Her parents despise and society practically mobs against her very existence. She is teased, bullied, ridiculed, told that she’s better off killing herself. She’s poked and prodded, sent to hospitals and put under a million tests. When it just seems like too much, her parents send her away, to an “establishment” (read: prison), wiping their hands clean of her.

Suddenly, after hundreds of days of solitude, Juliette gets a roommate in the form of a very handsome boy who doesn’t seem crazy in the slightest and is someone she recognizes from her past on the outside. His name is Adam and he wants to be her friend, even in the deep and dismal place that they both inhabit. But Juliette’s never had a friend before and has never been able to get close to anyone before, due to her deadly power, especially after the mistake she made, the secret she keeps. But there is more to Adam that she knows and soon she is recruited as a weapon, to use the power that binds her and frightens her.

The Bad:

It’s another young adult dystopian romance. I know, this is the kind of books that I generally tend to gravitate toward, along with fantasy and science fiction. But there is a lot of it out there, especially in this golden age of YA literature. I think this is something that could really hold Tahereh back. I know quite a few of my book buddies that are like “oh god, please no more dystopian” when I try to recommend them books. Not exactly a good sign for those hoping to get their dystopian novels out there, and noticed. People are getting tired of them. I’m not, really, but I will admit, I don’t go out of my way to find them. I usually read dystopian books when they are recommended to me by people whose opinion I trust.

I only took notice of “Shatter Me” because Tahereh was popping up everywhere. She was at the Festival of Books and she’s been Ransom Riggs (who, by the way, is an absolutely beautiful man), Marie Lu, Kami Garcia, Alyson Noel and Margaret Stohl. She’s been EVERYWHERE. I was basically like, who is this author anyway? So I bought Shatter Me. I don’t know if I would have picked it up otherwise.

The Good: 

That all being said, I absolutely loved this book. I told myself that I would try and reach a goal of 200 books read this year and I am so behind because I am SO busy. I picked this book up and everything else flew out of my head. Finals? Pssh. Writing for the blog? Psssh. Life in general? Pssh. I read this book in about four or five hours because it was SO good. It was so impressively good. I hope more people are talking about this book than just me because I really enjoyed it. I had to know what happened next and she just released the sequel, Unravel Me, earlier this year which means its only out in hardback, which means its going to be fairly expensive. But you know what? I enjoyed the book so much that I caved in and bought the hardback yesterday.

I loved Juliette. Juliette is wary of all people, wary of the world, but she’s such a good person and still cares about the world. She has this power, this crazy, intense power that is frightening. All she has to do is simply touch someone to cause the pain, the suffering, the death. That is absolutely frightening and I’m sure incredibly difficult to understand. And Juliette didn’t have anyone there to help her, to explain, to do anything. Her parents immediately tried to fix her, and when that didn’t work, they gave on her. There was no affection, no love, no warmth. She hasn’t known anything but hate and despise and ignorance, wherever she goes. But despite that, she’s still an inherently good person. She doesn’t trust people, she doesn’t trust Adam, or Warner, the man who wants to use her as a weapon, she doesn’t trust most people, but she still doesn’t want to fight people, doesn’t want to kill people, no matter what they’ve done to her.

I also like the dynamic between Adam and Juliette, especially the relationship that starts building between them. Everything like this is new to Juliette, she literally has never had a relationship of any kind: not a parental, friendship, anything. She doesn’t know what its like to hold someone’s hand. She doesn’t know what its like to have someone smile at her, genuinely smile. She doesn’t know what a hug feels like, the warmth and happiness and comfort it can provide. So when she finds someone who is able to share that with her, its beautiful, and the way Mafi writes it is beautiful. She really creates the newness of the feelings and sensations so well. I’ve been in a relationship for five years, I’ve been in relationships before. I’ve been hugged my whole life from family and friends. I love the touch of affection and I can only imagine how it would feel, experiencing it for the first time.

I also like that the world that Tahereh creates. It is familiar to us, not only because it is a world not entirely different from our own but also because we’ve all read various different dystopian books before. We have a society that broke down, and had to be reestablished, and in being reestablished, a group of people come into power, and come up with militaristic ways, and heavy rules and regulations. This is not new to us. However, the way that they got us there is a lot different than I have seen before. So many of the dystopian novels are post-apocalyptic or after war, especially of the nuclear variety. Its a society that has emerged from the aftermath of war. In “Shatter Me”, its an entirely different source of trouble. The Reestablishment comes out of a global warming crisis, a breakdown of the actual planet, not the society and its structure. I really liked that. People don’t tend to explore that kind of thing and I really admired it.

Plus the whole  powers thing, it felt very X-Men to me. I mean, sure Juliette’s power is seriously deadly and easy to misunderstand be absolutely scared of, but I do think that a lot of it comes from just ignorance and the inability to accept and try to understand something that is new and foreign to them. But I like that we eventually see more acceptance, and its really awesome. Its interesting to watch Juliette’s progress through the book, and watching her as she deals with her power.

I also liked the actual way she formatted the book. I liked that we are so in Juliette’s head, so much that its almost like she’s writing the book herself. I like that some phrases and words are crossed out. We get to see what she’s really thinking, or what she really wants to say before we get the amended version. Its really hard to describe so I took a picture of a page toward the beginning of the book so you could see.

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I really get a kick out of this. We get all of Juliette, both her thoughts, her words, and her amended words. And you can also see her own self doubting in such a real, raw way. I really loved this technique.

Rating:

4.5 out of 5 Stars

Recommended or Not: 

Yes, definitely. It was an absolutely brilliant book and I seriously blew through it. It was a very fast paced and emotional book, lots of really deep and emotional turmoil and all of that. Plus the relationship between Juliette and Adam is really really fun and super juicy.

Now I’m off to go read Unravel Me, because I’m just dying to find out what happens next!

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Do you have a book that you would like me to review for Book of the Week? If so, please contact me for details!

And check out previous Book of the Week reviews here!