Brandi M Ziegler

Walking the path to publication one step at a time.

Category: Recommendation

May Epic Reads

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.
~ C.S. Lewis

The fantasy debuts this year have been absolutely fantastic. I binged on four particular debuts last month.

First: AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir.

Goodreads Description: Laia is a slave.

Elias is a soldier.

Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Likes: Um, everything. The world-building. The POC characters. The pacing was steady and some of the most high-stakes/impact reading I’ve enjoyed in years.

Dislikes: Can’t really think of much. I noticed, as a fellow writer, that one main character had a major, almost cliche (coward to hero saving the day) arc, while the other character had a much more subtle, almost nonexistent arc. But other than that, I have no complaints. MUST READ!

I squealed for Sabaa Tahir when I heard she finally got a book deal for Book II. CANNOT WAIT!

Next I read A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES by Sarah J. Maas.

Goodreads Description: When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Likes: The cover – gorgeous! I’ve been a hard-core Maas fan since she had her fiction up on FictionPress.com before THRONE OF GLASS was published. So any of her work is an automatic read for me. She’s a master at creating secondary characters. Lucien is probably my favorite character of all time. I’m dying to read more about him and Rhysand in Book II.

Dislikes: This book was written after TOG but wasn’t published until after many of the TOG books in the series. And… it kinda shows. ACOTAR wasn’t as polished or refined as CROWN OF MIDNIGHT or HEIR OF FIRE. I’ve never felt like the pace was dragging while reading the TOG series (cannot wait for Book IV this fall). I savored every page, every word.But I was tempted to flip through pages as things slowed in the middle of ACOTAR. Although once you’re Under the Freaking Mountain… OMG! I think I got whiplash. Best third act of all time. OF ALL TIME!

I went headfirst into THE WRATH & THE DAWN by Renee Ahdieh after ACOTAR.

Goodreads Description: Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

Likes: Stunning prose and flawless world-building. A fantastic story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights. The details Renee places into this book are just… impeccable.

Dislikes: I think her world outshone her characters. I was more intrigued by the setting than the characters. Mostly because they were so standard. Badass bitch as the MC, misunderstood villain, vengeful father, childhood sweetheart, etc. None of the characters surprised me. Even though they were standard, they were lovely, and I grew to care about each of them. Book II is going to be epic!

Finished off with RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard.

Goodreads Description: The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.

To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of

those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

Likes: Another great cover. Another oppressed individual rising up and getting used by both the superior forces and the rebels story, but it’s unique enough to bring a freshness to such a tired storyline. Lots of twists that keep you guessing. I saw a few coming, but some truly surprised me.

Dislikes: Never really learning about the red blood vs silver blood and how that all works. It’s a series, so I’m sure she’ll get into that detail, but not knowing why some people suddenly had silver blood and developed powers was a little weak in the world-building department.

All 2015 debuts. All absolutely amazing and recommended.

June seems more like a series clean-up month for me. More book recommendations/reviews to come.

Happy reading!

Undead Recommendations

The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.

~James Bryce

 

I love me some zombies. Quite often I find myself figuring out what to do if the zombie apocalypse happens.

These two reads deliver the zombie creepiness.

Susan Dennard’s SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY was better than I expected. I’m not a big Victorian era fan, but Susan seamlessly incorporated all the corsets and high society etiquette into her story about a heroine I’ve come to love. Plus Daniel = swoon.

The zombies are pretty icky and I love the motto “Aim for the knees”. Susan’s website says:

There’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…

The year is 1876 and Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

 

Fast zombies freak me out. There are a few in Dennard’s book but all of the zombies in Courtney Summers’ THIS IS NOT A TEST might outrace you. Eek!

 

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up.

As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, everyone’s motivations to survive begin to change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life–and death–inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

 

I adored this book. Sloane is suicidal. During a zombie apocalypse. It was such an interesting point of view. I found myself rooting for all the teens trapped in the school, and I was totally creeped out by the baddies, living and undead. Be careful reading this one after dark. I kept checking windows and listening for screams.

Have you read a good zombie book lately? Recommend them in the comments!

Epic Musings & Debuts

A word after a word after a word is power.

~Margaret Atwood

 

So last week I celebrated my 26th birthday. Such an anticlimactic age! I’ve been reflecting on this last year of my journey to publication. No agent yet, but almost a complete third novel. Writing is something I still love to do. Whether these ideas on a page will get published or not is a dream I’ll keep striving for. In the meantime I’ll keep writing. And reading.

I went a little overboard with books. My husband made the mistake of taking me to Barnes & Noble on my birthday and letting me go all out. I plan on recommending a few good reads over the next few weeks.

Not everything I bought was in paper form. Let’s start with the final e-book installation of Sarah J. Maass’ novella series, The Assassin and the Empire. You’ve seen me mention them before here. This last novella… my God, Sarah left me winded with this one. Here’s a description from her website:

Celaena Sardothien is the assassin with everything: a place to call her own, the love of handsome Sam, and, best of all, freedom. But Celaena won’t be truly free until she is far away from her old master, Arobynn Hamel – so she and Sam decide to take one last daring assignment that will liberate them forever. And that’s how Celaena learns that having everything… means everything can be taken away.

 

 

 

It’s no secret that I’m an epic fantasy fan, and Sarah truly delivers in this final novella installment. Vivid fight scenes, cruel royalty, brutal betrayals, true love. I’ve been a fan of Sarah’s ever since she posted Throne of Glass (formerly Queen of Glass) on FictionPress in 2002. I was a late fan. The entire story was posted before I got to it. Which means I stayed up late for days devouring every word. I still remember the email she sent to her yahoo fan group announcing ToG was going to be published.

Yesterday she wrote this super sweet letter to all us FP fans for sticking with her all this time. It’s been a long, wonderful journey for this generous, talented author and I’m super excited for her.

ToG releases today. Not only do I suggest that you buy Throne of Glass immediately, but also check out her four novellas that delve deep into Celaena Sardothien’s past. Celaena’s story will always be with me, and has influenced my writing greatly over the years. Adarlan’s Assassin is a badass and you need to get to know her.

I cannot wait to see what Sarah will do next.

Have you read Throne of Glass yet or the e-novellas? What do you think?

RTW: Best May Read

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read. 

~ Groucho Marx

What’s that YAHighway? What’s the best book I read in May?

Sadly, I didn’t get a whole lot of reading done last month, but that’s okay because I know the winner! Definitely Brigid Kemmerer’s STORM. Here’s a blurb from her very own blog:

Ever since her ex-boyfriend spread lies about her, Becca Chandler is suddenly getting all the guys—the ones she doesn’t want. Then she saves Chris Merrick from a beating in the school parking lot. Chris is different. Way different: he can control water—just like his brothers can control fire, wind, and earth. They’re powerful. Dangerous. Marked for death.
 

And now that she knows the truth, so is Becca.
 

When Hunter, the mysterious new kid in town, turns up with a talent for being in the wrong place at the right time, Becca thinks she can trust him. But then Hunter goes head-to-head with Chris, and Becca wonders who’s hiding the most dangerous truth of all…

 

I’ve said in a recent post that I’ve had my eye on Brigid for some time now because she writes about Elementals – just like me! I love how she incorporates the Elements into the life of modern teenhood. My favorite Merrick Brother by far is Michael, but I’ve loved him ever since I read about him in Brigid’s novella ELEMENTAL.

If you’re looking for a story with hot boys and a bit of “magic”, STORM is it! I cannot wait for Book II SPARK.

Can your best read of May top mine? Let me know in the comments!

Recommended Reading: Novella Edition

I’ve never known any trouble that an hour’s reading didn’t assuage.
~ Arthur Schopenhauer

Usually the longer the better, but I’ve been on a novella kick these last few weeks.

I’ve been a follower of Sarah J Maass (who has awesome book news on her blog today) since her novel THRONE OF GLASS (formerly QUEEN OF GLASS) was on Fictionpress.com. And yet when she announced the release of her first TOG novella, THE ASSASSIN AND THE PIRATE LORD, I was skeptical. I didn’t want to read something that would take me less than an hour and happened before the good stuff. After the first page I realized anything Sarah writes – particularly about Celaena Sardothien – is good stuff!


Celaena Sardothien, feared assassin, has come for retribution. Sent by the Assassin’s Guild to a remote island in a tropical sea, Celaena is supposed to be to collecting on a debt they are owed by the Lord of the Pirates. But when she learns that the agreed payment is not in money, but in slaves, her mission suddenly changes–and she will risk everything to right the wrong she’s been sent to bring about.

 

 

Sarah hooked me with her spectacular world-building, snappy dialogue, and fast-paced plot. So I instantly downloaded THE ASSASSIN AND THE DESSERT. I adore the cover’s color scheme and I love this novella even better than the first.

 


The Silent Assassins of the Red Desert aren’t much for conversation, and Celaena Sardothien wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s not there to chatter, she’s there to hone her craft as the world’s most feared killer for hire. When the quiet is shattered by forces who want to destroy the Silent Assassins, Celaena must find a way to stop them, or she’ll be lucky to leave the desert alive.

 

 

Celaena’s newfound BFF Ansel – Sarah mentioned writing a novella just for this red-headed vixen. I hope she does! Sarah’s characters are just as fleshed out as the worlds she creates. I cannot wait to get my hands on Novella #3 THE ASSASIN AND THE UNDERWORLD on May 1st! Fans of epic fantasy featuring kick-butt heroines will love these!

Brigid Kemmerer caught my attention when she announced her book deal over a year ago. A fellow elemental writer? Yes, please! I’ve been waiting for STORM to come out ever since, but then she went and teased me with her novella ELEMENTAL. I couldn’t wait until STORM’s April 24th debut (that’s barely a week away, folks), so I had to download ELEMENTAL on my Nook and get a fix. I’m having withdrawals already!

Earth, Fire, Air, Water – they are more than you dream.

As an air Elemental, 17-year-old Emily Morgan doesn’t have much power. That’s okay—she knows what happens to kids who do.

Like Michael Merrick. He’s an earth Elemental, one with enough power to level cities. Which makes him sexy, dangerous, and completely off limits. At least according to Emily’s family.

But her summer job puts her in close contact with Michael, and neither of them can help the attraction they feel. When forces of nature like theirs collide, one misstep could get someone killed. Because Emily’s family doesn’t just want her to stay away from him.

They want him dead.

 

Brigid foreshadows the politics of her world and I totally dug it. Add a little steamy romance (huge fan of forbidden love here) and authentic teenage scenarios filled with enough awkwardness and angst to pop a zit… okay, that was too much. It’s good, trust me!

I cannot recommend these novellas enough. And I’m on the lookout for more. Read any good ones lately?

YA Fantasy Book Recommendations

Reading is a discount ticket to everywhere.

~Mary Schmich

 

At times I can go on a YA Fantasy reading binge. That’s what February and March has been all about. There are two books in particular that you have to read.


At first I didn’t’ think I’d read TORN because… well, I have a confession to make. I’m not a huge fan of urban fantasy. Give me medieval worlds with swords and dragons and royalty. I’ll even take dwarves. A modern day high school with an underworld of magic and creatures only seen in nightmares… not so much. They’re growing on me, but I will always be a diehard epic fantasy fan.

Anyway, what drew me to TORN is the fact that the MC isn’t the chosen one. Mo is the chosen one’s best friend. And she’ll have to do because the chosen one is dead. Here’s a description from Erica’s website (where you can also read an excerpt):

 

Mo Fitzgerald knows about secrets. But when she witnesses her best friend’s murder, she discovers Verity was hiding things she never could have guessed. To find the answers she needs and the vengeance she craves, Mo—quiet, ordinary, unmagical Mo—will have to enter a world of raw magic and shifting alliances. And she’ll have to choose between two very different, equally dangerous guys—protective, duty-bound Colin and brash, mysterious Luc. One wants to save her, one wants to claim her. Which would you choose?

 

I love the concept of this story – not to mention the hot guys. I totally intend to check out TANGLED, Book II, and you should too after reading TORN.

 

The cover of THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS alone made me want to read it for two reasons:

  1. It’s GORGEOUS!
  2. I spotted the name of one of my all-time favorite YA Fantasy writers, Tamora Pierce. Her cover quote says “Engrossing”. That was enough to convince me. Here’s how Rae describes her novel on her website:

     

     

    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 needs 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.

 

Elisa isn’t pretty or thin, and would rather eat scones all day than be queen. But her circumstances force her to become a strong, resourceful young woman. Carson’s world is totally realized and I was hooked from page one, Elisa’s wedding day. The ending is completely satisfying, but I’m still left craving the next book in the series. THE CROWN OF EMBERS comes out in September. Squee! If you’re a diehard epic fantasy geek like me, you will love this book.

I’m trying to mix things up, so I recently downloaded a YA dystopian to my Nook, Lissa Price’s STARTERS. I couldn’t resist buying Melina Marchetta’s FROI OF THE EXILES too. Hello! FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK sequel – couldn’t resist! I’ll let you know what I think of these soon.

 

Have you read any of these books? Do you have a preference on the type of fantasy you read?

God bless and happy writing and reading.

Recommended Reading

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. 

~Ray Bradbury
I’ve been on this YA high fantasy kick lately. Perhaps it’s because I write YA fantasy. Anyway, I’ve read these over the last few weeks (you people with time to read – how do you do it?) and I think you should check them out.

Goodreads:

At the age of nine, Finnikin is warned by the gods that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh in order to save the royal house of his homeland, Lumatere.

And so he stands on the rock of three wonders with his childhood friend Prince Balthazar and the prince’s cousin, Lucian, and together they mix their blood. And Lumatere is safe.

Until the ‘five days of the unspeakable’, when the King and Queen and their children are slaughtered in the palace. And an imposter king takes the throne.
And a curse is put on Lumatere, which traps those caught inside and forces thousands of others to roam the land as exiles, dying of fever and persecution in foreign camps.

But ten years later Finnikin is led to another rock to meet the young novice, Evanjalin. A girl plagued by dark dreams, who holds the key to their return to the Land of light.

Amazing. I’m a fan of Melina Marchetta’s YA contemporary novels but FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK blew me away. I remember looking her up for another book and stumbling upon this gem categorized under fantasy. Seriously? I had to read it. Great decision. I LOVE this book. I can’t add a better review than that. Read it.

Goodreads:

Lirael has never felt like a true daughter of the Clayr. Now, two years past the time when she should have received the Sight that is the Clayr’s birthright, she feels alone, abandoned, unsure of who she is. Nevertheless, the fate of the Old Kingdom lies in her hands. With only her faithful companion, the Disreputable Dog, Lirael must undertake a desperate mission under the growing shadow of an ancient evil. Garth Nix’s LIRAEL is the second book in the ABHORSEN series. No spoilers, and I insist that you read SABRIEL before reading this sequel.

 

I’m always on the lookout for more YA fantasy so feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments.

Battle Royal: Wow

Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret.

~Matthew Arnold


I watched Battle Royale with my husband this weekend. If you’re a fan of THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins and anticipating the movie, you can get a little taste by watching this. I bet it’s a sweet read too. WARNING: Lots of gore and teen angst.