What is a Beta Reader

STORIES THAT ENCHANT THE MIND

What is a Beta Reader

Beta Readers are Vital.

What is a BETA reader? It's a question I frequently hear in the author community. The Oxford Dictionary gives a to the point definition that reads, “A person who reads a work of fiction before it is published, to mark errors and suggest improvements, typically without receiving payment.” This definition is accurate, and as an author, BETA readers are an essential piece to the writing process and every author's journey.

As an author, you should have a firm understanding of the benefit of having multiple BETA readers, and what effects they have on the success of a manuscript. BETA readers are the first to look at a revised manuscript. Even before the document goes to an editor, Beta readers will go through chapter by chapter and deliberately break down the story. They'll read the manuscript for typos, plot flaws, confusion in dialogue, flaws in character consistency, and more. It would be embarrassing to publish a manuscript that has the main character as a blond on line one, and as a redhead online fifty. Moreover, because BETA readers read from the point of view of the average reader, they can catch these little yet critical flaws.

So how does an author find such valuable assets? Fortunately for today's author, they can find almost everything they are looking for on Facebook and Twitter. Finding BETA readers by searching for groups on Facebook and Twitter using keywords, such as Fantasy as your genre, add BETA groups. Follow other authors who write in your genre and some who don't. You can find excellent BETAs who follow Dean Koontz, and also enjoy David Baldacci. You can also use reading-related hashtags to help draw attention to your search.

Some groups meet in person. You can find group posts in libraries and bookstores, as well as dedicated websites with the intent of helping you connect with BETA readers. Some authors, myself included, will put a call to action in their newsletter, asking their established audience to BETA read their new work. Once an author has located a BETA reading group, they should introduce themselves, including the genre they write. Start a conversation offering to BETA read for others in the group.

It is essential that authors not have a personal connection with their BETA readers. Not having a personal connection allows the reader to give a sincere critique without fear of damaging a relationship. However, starting conversations and growing healthy professional relationships with BETA readers is vital.

Some authors choose to have a single BETA reader. The majority of authors recommend having multiple BETA readers with various backgrounds and skill sets. Changes will be suggested, allowing the story to be cleaner and more precise once the author is ready to send the polished manuscript to the editor. Having a manuscript, BETA read often results in faster editing times and possibly lower editing costs.

Reader Quote:

Ursula K. Le Guin

The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.”

What is a Beta Reader

Once you have decided how many BETA readers you want (3 to 10 is ideal) to work with, it is wise to set up a private group to communicate with BETA readers. There you can post files with documents explaining what the author's expectations are—having a clear written agreement and a list of expectations. Listing specific items you want, a few examples are (a) Did the story hold your interest from the very beginning? If not, why? Was there a point at which you felt the story lagged, or you became less than excited about finding out what was going to happen next? Where, exactly? Giving your readers specific questions to focus on will help them to focus on the overall plot, pacing of the story, continuity, and tone. One recommendation you can make to your BETA's is to write down a list of questions they have about each chapter, and see if the end of the story answers them. If the questions on the list remain unanswered, or they have new questions about your book.

Including a clear NDA allows transparency between the author and readers. This type of information is an important detail. Seasoned BETA readers know an unpublished manuscript is not for the general public, but having it in writing, and having detailed items, protects your work.

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Once you've formed your group and sent them the manuscript, be sure to have a posted due date. Typically, an author will post single chapters, or several chapters at a time, depending on the length of the novel. Giving each section a due date helps BETA readers schedule their time, and know that they are staying on track. At the end of each section, have a questionnaire available for BETAs to fill out. Giving them the ability to express their thoughts while they are reading, and once finished a place to express their final thoughts and any suggestions. Beta readers help strengthen an author's manuscript. After all, we write for our readers, so who best to help us give them what they want than readers.

Learn to love criticism. One of the best things I have learned from BETA readers is to find learning moments in negative feedback. Sometimes, your BETA readers come with heavy hands, and honesty can be hard to hear. But if you look at what your BETAs are saying and don't agree with their feedback, you don't have to use it. However, always remember that they are part of your target audience, their critiques, even though sometimes harsh, have value to them. If, for example, the majority of your BETAs do not react to a specific scene in your story, you might need to reword it. Don't be afraid to rewrite a scene or even an entire chapter to achieve your desired reaction.

Finally, be sure to show BETA readers appreciation. Thanking them can be done in so many ways. Offer to BETA read for their own stories, give an electronic advanced reader copy, or gift card if you so wish. Whatever the author chooses to do, let the BETA readers know that their hard work and time is appreciated. Let them know they are a valuable asset, a real treasure in author life. Because when you do, your BETAs will stick with you through your incredible author journey.

We hope you enjoyed this article by Dana Gaulin Writes! Below are a few titles that should be read at least once in your life time.

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Dune by Frank Herbert
1984 by George Orwell
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

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Dana Gaulin

Written by Dana Gaulin Writes

Dana Gaulin, author of The Awakening Love Eternal. Living her best life in sunny Arizona with her husband, four children, and Oink, her Alaskan Malamute. She loves writing books that are stimulating, entertaining, and leaving you wanting more. She loves wild treasures of the earth and chocolate macaroons.

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Best Social Media Platforms for Authors

STORIES THAT ENCHANT THE MIND

Best Social Media Platforms for Authors

The platforms and their best uses…

Which platforms would you use to gain the most exposure? That really comes down to you and what you’re willing to do. Let’s cover the major ones typically used by authors. However, if you have not read PART ONE of this article, please feel free to check it out too at the button below.

WORDPRESS:

Author working on Social media

Creating an author website is the first step. When people hear your name for the first time, they are going to do an internet search. So be searchable. Let your website be the top link when the search results populate. Think of your author site as the foundation on which you expand out into the fast web. Your site doesn’t need to razzle and dazzle people, but it does need to look smooth, be easy to navigate, and constant the following information:

  • Your author photo
  • Your author bio
  • Links/Purchase options for your book(s)
  • Newsletter sign-up
  • Contact info

Optional items on your site can be…

  • A blog
  • Upcoming events
  • Merch store

WordPress is one of the more versatile options when it comes to creating an author website, but there are others out there such Squarespace, Weebly, Godaddy, and so on.

  • Pro: Everything about you is found in one place!

  • Con: You have to manage the site and pay for all fees related to web hosting. If you opt for a free option, you will lose out on some of the professionalism typically found in the paid for service, so do so at your own discrission. Track your expenses for tax season.

  • Carrow Advice: You will be inclined to find the perfect theme which represents the essence of who you are as an author. Stop that. Pick one you like, can easily work with, and move on. There are other more important things to do than to try and figure out if Serif Old Style or Sans Serif Grotesque font represents you better.

Fantasy Quote:

J.K. Rowling

Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?

NEWSLETTERS:

I mentioned newsletters as part of your author website, which I know some of you may have scratched your head at. The reason why I mention it is because people who sign up for your newsletter have an invested interest in you. Most folks don’t like to get junk in their mailboxes, so the fact they gave you your email is a pretty big deal. This is a direct line of communication with others, so make sure to foster it.

  • Pro: Direct access to an individual who are invested in you.

  • Con: Getting people to sign-up. You will have to provide some incentives for why folks give you their precious email address. Also, if you use a service like MailChimp or Privy, you’ll have to learn how to use it in order to get the most out of it.

  • Carrow Advice: Have newsletters come out monthly, not when you have something to sell. Let your subscribers have the inside scoop of what you are up to or the behind-the-scenes info or covering upcoming events. This is your special club, so give them a few perks no one else gets.

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PODCASTING:

I frequently say I am not a podcast person, but I have found myself listening to them when I am driving, cleaning, or doing anything that doesn’t require my full attention. You can find a podcast on just about any subject out there from grammar to new developments in genetic science.

  • Pro: If you aren’t big on writing a blog, a podcast may be more in line with your preferences since it allows you to get your message across without worrying about typos or sentence flow.

  • Con: Hosting a podcast can get hairy if you are not used to it. And then there is purchasing the equipment for it: sound dampeners, editing software, etc. Also, no one will listen to your podcast if they don’t know it is there, so you still need to get the word out via other channels.

  • Carrow Advice: If you are going to do a podcast, do it about something you are passionate about. If you are in this simply to get followers and are picking up topics others are doing, you won’t have fun. This is a time investment, so spend your time doing what you enjoy. Keep your theme consistent regardless.

TWITTER:

Author Twitter

Twitter is a great tool when it comes to networking and having a direct line of communication. If you enjoy writing profound or witty messages in less than 280 characters, then Twitter is for you.

  • Pro: Very easy to meet other people and establish a network.

  • Con: Hashtags have to be included or others will have a hard time finding you. Also, tweets happen fast and it can be easy to miss things if you aren’t paying attention.

  • Carrow Advice: Try to avoid following people just to have them follow you back. Tweet about things you like and reach out to the community. #writingcommunity #amwriting #amediting will be your friends on Twitter. Engagement is important since you are looking to build up a community. If people notice you are in it for the numbers, they will drop you.

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FACEBOOK:

Author Facebook

Pretty much everyone has a Facebook account these days. Regardless of what your views on Facebook are, it does have some features in it that will make it easier to work with groups, fan pages, clubs, set-up events, reminders, and network in general.

  • Pro: Being connected with your audience and friends via a network the majority uses.

  • Con: The algorithms of Facebook constantly change and sometimes it posts things in chronological order or in the order of most engagement. This can cause whatever post you create to be missed.

  • Carrow Advice: I enjoy using Facebook for clubs, the team helping spread the word of your book, and events. Since the majority of folks have this, it makes arranging those easier and I would recommend utilizing Facebook for that purpose when you can.

YOUTUBE:

Author Youtube

Just like Facebook has a huge reach, so does YouTube. There are a ton of people who use YouTube either for tutorials, funny cat videos, news, etc. More than one author has an “Authortube” channel in which they talk about writing, the coming events, or happenings within the writing community. Plenty create vlog videos, share recordings of speaking at panels, updating their fanbase on how their current project is going, or may even talk about other books they are reading. I engage with a group of lady authors who live stream daily while they write.

  • Pro: This can be very rewarding once you are used to working with this platform. It makes easy communication and the fact you can embed the videos into pretty much anything makes it very versatile.

  • Con: There are strict guidelines being enforced which can cause your video to not be popular in search results. Just like you need equipment for podcasting, you’ll need that and more for creating YouTube videos since people will also be able to see you. You’ll have to worry about the location you film in, make sure you brushed your hair, and create a video that is visually engaging.

  • Carrow Advice: If you are a socially awkward person, you may not like sitting in front of a camera and talking to people you can’t see. But, once you get a system down, recording and editing videos is painless.

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INSTAGRAM:

Author Instagram

If you’re the type that enjoys the idea of “a picture is worth a thousand words,” then you will likely enjoy Instagram. Of all the social media options, my favorite is Instagram because I am a visual person. There is also a feature built in where you can share your images with Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, so you don’t have to worry about reposting. It’s been changing where people can upload videos and broadcasts. I am curious to see where this platform will go in the coming years.

  • Pro: Get to visually present content to your audience.

  • Con: Very little visibility without the use of hashtags and if you post too often, you can get whitelisted.

  • Carrow Advice: You can only post so many pictures of you sitting at your keyboard writing. There is nothing wrong with mixing up your author life with other things you enjoy such as hiking or selfies with your dogs.

Honorable Mentions…

These are honorable mentions because I haven’t seen these produce great results for authors, but they can be fun to work with.

GOODREADS:

GoodReads allows you to have the option to create an author account and claim your books. It is also a place where readers can reach out to you and ask questions allows you to do giveaways for your book. The reason I have it in honorable mentions is because the site is primarily for readers, not for authors. When you see someone posted a negative comment about your book baby, the temptation to respond to them is strong (and can damage your career).

TUMBLR:

I haven’t visited Tumblr since the TOS changed last Dec in regards to what is allowed to be on the site and what isn’t. The reporting system which labels content as “explicit” is still wonky. It is a good site if you want to have a blog without the hassle of maintaining a website. Some folks enjoy posting their free samples on there, which can work and allows others to share it.

PINTEREST:

I’ve heard of Pinterest being used by authors, but it is more in the line of being used as an aesthetic board. I created a board myself for the purpose of creating my cover since I wanted to have a collection of reference images to give to the designer. As an author, it doesn’t do a lot for me outside of that.

Best practices with Social Media…

I’ve given you a list of possible platforms to use, but you are not required to use all of them. I’d say pick two or three you feel are easy to work with and stick with those (unless your publisher tells you otherwise, then you do what they say). If you try to do all the options out there in the web, you will be spending more time working with that than actually doing what you want to do: write.

If you do decide to juggle multiple platforms at once, make sure you have a good time management system in place and an idea of what you want to post in the future. As someone who learned the hard way about what to do with social media, I promise planning out the next one to three months will do a world of good. It also doesn’t hurt to have a service like Hootsuite or Buffer to help you set up your social media ahead of time. I’ve also seen a team of people utilize Trello to organize and prepare their social media.

Engagement will be important as you progress. People are looking to talk to you, hence why it is called SOCIAL media. A good rule of thumb is to spend about twenty to thirty minutes reading what others have shared, talking to them, or leaving comments. This is another reason why I advise against juggling too many platforms since the time adds up fast. I’d avoid comments such as “Great stuff, go like and subscribe to my page, please” since that leaves the impression you don’t care about the person, just that they follow you.

A word of caution…

Impressions are important and the last thing you want to do is create a less than appealing image of yourself. Just like the job industry will look you up after submitting your resume, publishers will scout your social media to see what face you are showing the public.

There are authors who have lost out on contracts because of how they conduct themselves on the internet–antagonizing people, insulting others in the industry, or posting controversial statements. What you decide to do with your social media is up to you, but if you think that it may ruin your chances of getting published, consider not hitting that submit button.

You will be approached multiple times by various groups to help “increase your influence” and “expand your follower count.” These are individuals looking to sell you a bot service which will give the impression that there are more people following you than there are. Do not engage in this. These bots are not going to purchase your book and it looks really bad when your follower count takes a nosedive when the bot accounts are terminated. Focus on forming relations rather than building numbers.

My personal experience…

Nov 2018, Eight Little Pages Publishing offered me a writing deal. I was thrilled, excited, and giddy for days. When my contract was sent for signing, I read it over with my husband and he pointed to the part which made my stomach clench–my requirement for my online presence. There would be a website, a newsletter, and I needed to post on whichever social media I chose at least three times a week (which actually isn’t bad).

At the time, my Instagram following hadn’t even hit a hundred. I didn’t understand the importance of hashtags and the idea of doing anything with Twitter left me dizzy.

I had to do it, but I didn’t know how. So, I did what any overachieve grad student would do and research the living hell out of the topic for a week. I watched every skillshare video, read endless blogs, listened to multiple podcasts and even bothered my friend who worked in marketing. Books on the topic piled high outside beside my bed and soon became littered with my scribbled notes and highlighter. On top of that, I also studied the pattern of several successful YouTubers and influences to see how they engaged with their audience.

Since then, my connections on social media has jumped up, I’ve made multiple connections with various people around the world, and I enjoy popping onto Twitter to see what folks are doing.

My followers didn’t jump up into the tens of thousands overnight, but you shouldn’t go into social media for the numbers alone. Followers come in time so long as you are active and engage with others. One piece of advice I heard repeatedly is to focus on the connections you can make before your sale.

Final thoughts…

Social media is intimidating. Every platform has its own environment, pitfalls, and various methods to engage with others. Regardless of what you select, don’t approach it as just another part of your “job.” Looking at it as a way to connect and befriend others will giving you a lot more satisfaction than seeing it as something you have to do.

If you are someone who frequently engages in social media, what is a suggestion you can give to those looking to engage for the first time?


Interested in learning more about social media? Here is a list of six great books to start from:


To be a Beta Reader

What is a Beta Reader 

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Written by Carrow Brown

Carrow Brown, author of Ghost Walker Chronicles, is a military vet living in sunny Arizona with husband and dogs. She devoted to writing that both entertain and invoke thoughtful questions. She is bribed by tacos and always looking for a book recommendation.

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The Importance of Social Media for Authors

STORIES THAT ENCHANT THE MIND

The Importance of Social Media: For Authors

When does an Author start doing Social Media?

So, you got this idea for an awesome book! You’ve taken the time to outline it (or you’re gonna pants it), flesh out your characters (especially the antagonist), did your research for the various elements of your story, and definitely made sure to give your character flaws to overcome throughout the book. You’re even excited to write this epic tale and tell your friends who are equally excited! That’s awesome! Good for you!

At this point, you may think that the hardest part is overcoming the occasional writer’s block or engaging in the query trenches once your book baby is written and polished. However, those will not be your greatest adversaries in this writing journey. You’ll write your book, edit it into perfection, and set forth to publish only to realize you missed a key factor.

Social media.

“But Carrow, my book isn’t even written yet, so I don’t have to worry about social media until then.”

The average marketing expert will say that you need to set up your author platform(s) at least two to three years before your book is published. The major reason for this is because you want to build up a community of people who are as excited about your book as you are. An author can spend thousands of dollars on advertisements, but nothing sells a book faster than word of mouth.

Social media can be very intimidating for new people, which is why I wanted to share information in hopes to show how feasible it is. If you already have several accounts and find yourself struggling, you’re not alone! Many authors are introverts and frequently struggle with tackling social media. However, once you get use to it, it’s easier to navigate.

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Author Quote:

Virginia Woolf

“The real novelist, the perfectly simple human being, could go on, indefinitely imaging.”

Picture from Pixabay

tail

Why an Author needs Social Media?

Bad news first: If you think your publisher is going to handle your website, marketing, and social media, you’ve made a bad assumption. More and more authors are expected (sometimes required) to manage their online presence and have a bigger hand in marketing their book to others.

In fact, my advice for many of you is to assume that even if you are going to be traditionally published, you still need to market yourself like any other entrepreneur. Let’s cover the major reasons why.

One, if you are not willing to market your book, why expect anyone else to? Treat your book the same way grandparents treat their grandkids. Talk about it and show folks you’re proud! Be excited! This is your book and you worked hard on it! Don’t let your blood, sweat, stress and tears go to waste.

Two, you can’t expect your publisher to pick up the slack for you. Kim Craft, who spoke at a panel in 2014 for self-publishing, commented that when she asked for help with various marketing strategies, her publisher came back with, “We only do that for the bestsellers.” She went on to further explain about how publishers will typically put more time and effort into the 10% of published authors who are guaranteed sales for the company and require other authors to sell their books on their own. It sounds dire, but that is how the industry works. Even if you intend to go the traditional route, I’d encourage to take the time to watch Kim’s panel as a lot of good information about the industry.

Three, some publishers will only sign you on if you have an online presence and have something bring to the table. There are a number of authors who have been published not because their work was revolutionary, but because the publisher knew their 10,122,072 YouTube followers would buy their book.

This is why social media and building up a platform are important. Authors need to network with each other and their potential readers to help build up that hype. If you seek to learn more about which platforms are best to use, and what each one can offer. Click the Part Two button.


Interested on books that go into the nit and grit of each social media platform? Here is a list of eight great books to start from:



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Written by Carrow Brown

Carrow Brown, author of Ghost Walker Chronicles, is a military vet living in sunny Arizona with husband and dogs. She devoted to writing that both entertain and invoke thoughtful questions. She is bribed by tacos and always looking for a book recommendation.

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Baylee Jay | Author Beware of Publisher Bankruptcy

STORIES THAT ENCHANT THE MIND

Baylee Jay Publisher Bankrupt: Author Beware of Publisher Bankruptcy

What if your publisher is in debt…

Talented art enthusiast and fellow Canadian, Baylee Jay recently shared a video regarding her now bankrupt and notorious publisher, F+W Media. What the parent company of IMPACT Publishing blamed in their release as the reason they filed for bankruptcy was mismanagement, an ill-planned switch to more technology-based publishing, and, of course, the fact that they are now up to $500 million in debt. It’s unfortunate that the authors who are owed royalties land at the bottom of a long list of debtors. 

F+W, “dedicated to enriching the lives of active enthusiasts” has suddenly gone inactive in their communication with the authors they had contracted. What will happen to the dozens of authors who have dedicated their time, money, resources, and souls into their work? The learning experience from it and those last few dusty issues on their shelves might be all they truly have left to take forward. Do they or will they ever even have rights to their work now that F+W has gone bankrupt?

How much background searching should an aspiring author actually do?From the outside still, both websites for IMPACT and F+W don’t mention a thing about bankruptcy, instead choosing the path of denial in order to continue to try and sell as many books as possible that they have left, including Baylee Jay’s. It’s tough to know from the outside, especially if it seems they’re doing fine and throwing huge numbers of readers at you, whether or not they’ll even still exist even a few years later. You would need to know quite a bit about the ins and outs of financial business management to even catch a clue. 

Find someone who knows what you don’t and make sure you do more research than just looking at a website and social presence. In the United States, many companies that are publicly owned, are subject to detailed disclosure laws about their financial condition, but companies that are privately owned are not required to do so. Private companies can keep this information away from public eyes, if they deem fit. Use this to your advantage, determine if a publisher is publicly or privately owned, and compare the offering and status to their competition – and make a smart decision. 

Publishing Quote:

John Green

In the end, what makes a book valuable is not the paper it’s printed on, but the thousands of hours of work by dozens of people who are dedicated to creating the best possible reading experience for you.”

Picture from Luizclas

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What more authors should be negotiating OUT of their contracts before signing?

It was clever to see Baylee mention that, when offered her first contract, she did negotiate a little but not A LOT. Not knowing exactly how she felt, but as an aspiring author myself, if I were to finally be offered a publishing deal, I would probably agree with everything they threw at me – even despite the fact that I now work in a legal profession. You can’t help but try and wiggle a bit more, but fear that if you ask for too much freedom, the canoe will tip over and take it’s publishing deal with it. 

Books have been around for centuries, and contracts have been around far longer than that – and they have and always will tilt more in favor of one party over another. In the case of book publishing, more authors should search for specific clauses in the contract they’re offered and not take no for an answer. One of which, those contract clauses that define time limits, are the first that should be negotiated. Most book deals include a 35-year minimum termination window. Ask for 5 or 10 years instead, with the opportunity for the window to be renewed if the books are selling well. 

Always, always, always, ask to include a clause of what will happen if the company goes bankrupt. We have proof that it does happen. Read the contract as if you’re expecting the unexpected to happen and you’ll get more clarity about what changes you may want to make. 

Some publishers, the wrong ones, will try and make you feel uneducated in the world of publishing and that they know all about how the process works. This might be true, however, many will use this to their advantage and make you feel like you really don’t have a say in how your book is going to be published. Believe me, you do. If they reached out to you, you know they are aware that there’s money to be made in your talent. You don’t need to sell your skills and experience for a tiny piece of the pie. 

I’ve seen Baylee’s and many other artist/authors’ works and know that exceptional talent won’t go unnoticed for long. There’s an amazing future for so many aspiring out there – and by using technology, resources, marketing, and networks the right way, it’s easier than it ever has been to reach a large audience as quickly as possible. You no longer need to depend on the large publishing companies approval in order to be put into print. 

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Interested in learning more about Baylee Jae? Check out her Youtube Channel, or if you seek to learn more about publishing, how publishers work, and want to be knowledgable about the industry? Here is a list of eight great books to start from:


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kimberley Folk

Written by Kimberly Falk

Kimberley, aka Lupsandtnks, spends her days dreaming about her favourite stories, drinking coffee with as many shots of espresso as Starbucks will allow, and writing about anything and everything. She’s a grammar dork and a lifetime nerd who lives more in the fiction world than she does the real one. . .

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How Alita: Battle Angel & Buffy Summers Compare

STORIES THAT ENCHANT THE MIND

How Alita: Battle Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer Compare

While I sat almost expecting to hate it…

Seeing the trailer for Alita: Battle Angel while sitting in the theatre waiting to see Aquaman brought to life, was my first taste of the fandom. I had never heard of the manga before, so sitting down to watch the film was going to be difficult for me to truly understand the story and the reason why this movie could have such a big impact.

I had nothing to reference other than the story being told before me while I sat almost expecting to hate it. I know that there are many Alita fans out that that are equally going to be waiting defensively to hear what I have to say as well, but here goes.

At first, I couldn’t help but feel like I was in a crossover between Elysium and my favorite movie of all time, The Fifth Element. Just like Lee-Loo in the Fifth Element, we’re faced with a strong female character that men take for granted because of her beauty and the fact that she’s basically a child born into an adult body.

As a woman who still feels like a young girl trapped in a body that’s not quite my own, I connected with Alita. Some of the decisions she made did seem childish and a little dumb, but so would some of ours from those who are watching us.

Most of us connect with the Battle Angel from the beginning, she’s witty, clever, and strong, and we want to find out her story almost as badly as she does. She’s not a bit unlike another strong female role model I had growing up, Buffy the Vampire Slayer..

Manga Quote:

Yukito Kishiro

There is nothing in

this world of value… nothing worth risking our

lives for…

except perhaps…

what little we can create for ourselves.”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Christos Cage

Picture from Dark Horse Comics.

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They Both Challenge and Succeed at Destroying The Men Need To Save Women Trope

There’s no doubt about it, Buffy and Alita kick ass and they don’t need the protection of a man to save the day! Alita never needed Hugo, in fact, he needed her. While in the middle of trying to keep herself from being torn apart by the bounty hunters, she runs to him when he calls.

She still lets him die, but we’ll get to that. So much literature, and most recently, movies, are based on the man saving the day and the woman needing him in order to complete her life and finally be happy. Thankfully, we have amazing heroines like these ones to save us from the eye-roll that a lot of vintage ( and still a good chunk of today’s) culture potrays.

They’re Both Stuck In Sunnydale

Why would he (he as in Hugo, not Angel) want to tear living, breathing, eating creatures apart, blackening his own heart, so he could maybe, possibly, get a chance to see an unknown world in the sky when he can just up and leave and find a happier place a few miles away? How has no one left the city?

The same goes for the Buffy-verse. Literally, no one ever leaves Sunnydale because apparently, regardless of the fact that she is the only slayer (okay, not really). There are some moments when she has big-bads trying to kill her in her sleep, and yet it takes the town ceasing to exist in order for her to leave.

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Love Makes Them Do The Wacky- Contributing to the Destruction of Their Lovers

”I'd do whatever I had to for you. I'd give you whatever I have. I'd give you my heart.” – Alita

If you think about it, Hugo did absolutely nothing to Alita to make her fall in love with him other than accept her for exactly who she was in a time when she wasn’t even aware of who that was. You’ve literally crawled into this guy’s window after knowing him only a few days and you’re willing to just give him your heart?

You’re basically an immortal, beautiful, cyborg – go out and explore the world before willing to die for a kid who has been tearing your sisters and brothers up. Regardless, we know she honestly believes she loves Hugo. She does, however, doubt him and, for a split second, allows her love to waver, leading to Hugo with a sword through his heart.

For Buffy, it’s the moment of happiness she allows herself to have with Angel that has him turn back to his demon side. And, at the end of the second season, after the torture he puts her through, Buffy is led to the point where she slays Angel at the last second as Willow finally gives him back his soul. She watches him die at her own hands the same way Alita let Hugo fall apart in hers.

Have another strong heroine you think belongs up there with Buffy and Alita? Let me know in the comments.

Below are a few titles that any Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Alita: Battle Angel fan may like:



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kimberley Folk

Written by KIMBERLEY FALK

Kimberley, aka Lupsandtnks, spends her days dreaming about her favourite stories, drinking coffee with as many shots of espresso as Starbucks will allow, and writing about anything and everything. She’s a grammar dork and a lifetime nerd who lives more in the fiction world than she does the real one. . .

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Lunora and the Monster King | An Adventure in Literature

STORIES THAT ENCHANT THE MIND

Lunora and the Monster King :

An Adventure in Literature

A play with similar elements to Shakespeare…

The bestselling novel 'Lunora and the Monster King' by H.S. Crow has entered major stores such as Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble.

This magical story will have you tumbling down waves of emotion as you explore the first glimpse of Caligo, a vast universe praised by many as this era's Middle-Earth.

Travel inside the mind of Lunora, a young girl searching for her father in a land ruled by monsters. The Kingdom of Nevermore is in a mess as the Eversea draws closer. Thousands fall into a permanent dance with vacant smiles and no monster understands why. They blame the young interloper from Dolos and they will do whatever it takes to silence her. Among her growing collection of enemies, a boy with bleached white hair and blood red eyes has grown curious of her, and he desires to be the first to kill her.

This Young-Adult fantasy is a playwright for all ages with its deep layers of mythology and rich poetry uncovering the issues in our world and the darkness looming in Nevermore. The topics of hate, loss, and vengeance are brilliantly touched on.

Join Lunora in her search, and save her father!

Literary Quote:

H.S. Crow

“I will wait for you until the gold from the sun dwindles away…”

Monster King Oberon holding Rose

The Rose of Aronul by Gij Arentz

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The Monster King’s searching for a human, and word on the wind is Mother Leaf knows where it is!

Wake to a New Horizon.

The vast world of Caligo dwells beyond the gaze of humans. Inhabiting extraordinary fiends and deadly creatures, its black sun and moonless nights are hidden for one lone purpose-to keep us out.

Fourteen-year-old Lunora wakes up scared and alone in this dark world, but she’s not alone’ and she’s not welcome.

Her treacherous journey to find her father will take her body and soul to the depths of despair as she must turn enemies into allies to survive.

A Hyperion monster boy, Iko, must decide if he can trust a human over the will of his tribe and the rule of the ruthless Monster King.


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Lunora sleeping in the Land of Twilight

One girl in a quest to find her father. 

A ruthless king and his desire to kill her.

 

A half-sprite destined for greatness.

 

Will shake a kingdom apart.


Y/A Fantasy books with a strong heroine, similar to Lunora and the Monster King:


unholy blood by Lina Im / Jeonghyeon Kim supernatural webtoon originals

Top 5 Supernatural Webtoon Originals 

Monster Anime Review: The Cost of Being a Savior 

Tower of God Korean Banner

The Most Popular Anime of Spring 2020: Tower of God 

Written by Lilith Iris Ethelwood

Ethelwood enjoys her coffee black like the sun, drifting beneath an unbearable white abyss, void of color and life, yet forever present. She loves to listen to the yowling fog, bearing the muffled screams of ancient apparitions while she writes. Life is good, the unnamed are watching . . .

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How To Photoshop With Art Director Ashevaili

STORIES THAT ENCHANT THE MIND

How To Photoshop With Art Director Ashevaili

The 18 year-old Art Director…

Sierra Ashe Rottman aka Ashevaili in the art community is known for her illustrations in the beautiful tale, Lunora and the Monster King, and for her work in the Stars of Glass and Lunora comic series. She is also recognized as the mother of the Caligo Universe, a massive fantasy exploring the mysterious and maddening mythology of the past. She is a talent also working on the Project Adrestia comic by Yaruno, author of Glacias coming out later this year. Recently, she commenced her mission in creating tutorials and unique videos logging her process as an artist in order to help her younger sister, an aspiring artist, and others like her–young or old.

Sharing information is one of the most fundamental ways to learn new technics and it was one of the methods Ashevaili learned during her years in high school. She hopes to join many of the great artist on youtube, and help the growing community.

One unique thing she will be including in her youtube channel is the creative exploration of not just her art, but also the profound undertaking that is 'Caligo'–a universe containing nearly every mythology across the world through a web of plots stretching eons. She was the first artist to join H.S. Crow in his insanity, and she's grown to share his dream in bringing such stories to life.

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Life Quote:

Benjamin Franklin

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Mother Leaf approaching the Child of Summer by Ashevaili

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Fans now have a chance to explore the creative process behind her work, and the world H.S. Crow began.

Interested in becoming an artist, exploring new concepts and stories, or thirsty for fun and entertaining videos with quality content? Watch the video below and start now.

According to an interview, she plans to dive into art programs such as Adobe Photoshop and hopes to inspire more artist to reach his or her dreams.

We live in a world where anything is possible, if the effort is put. Start learning now, and click on the Dranail to follow her on Instagram.

Dranail Sigil from Caligo Mythology


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Written by Lilith Iris Ethelwood

Ethelwood enjoys her coffee black like the sun, drifting beneath an unbearable white abyss, void of color and life, yet forever present. She loves to listen to the yowling fog, bearing the muffled screams of ancient apparitions while she writes. Life is good, the unnamed are watching . . .

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Stars of Glass is coming out soon.

Subscribe to stay informed and win prizes!

By clicking “Join Now” you acknowledge and agree to The Otherworlds Inc’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You also agree that your a cool snail.

Stars of Glass is coming out soon.

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What H.S. Crow has in stored for 2019

STORIES THAT ENCHANT THE MIND

What H.S. Crow has in stored for 2019

2019 was a year of growth…

2017, 2018, and 2019 has proven to be tough years for H.S. Crow. Lunora and the Monster King debuted back in April 1, 2017, and though it earned a good reception, it was not intended to be H.S. Crow's first steps into an already flooded industry.

Lunora and the Monster King has reached distribution around the world, and created the foundation for even bigger projects, Stars of Glass and Lunora the comic series. If you have yet to experience Lunora and the Monster King, don't hesitate. Read it. It's a must for any fan of fantasy, especially playwrights.

The poetic prose Crow imbues into his work tends to grip the heart, and he does not hesitate to target the issues happening around the world. Lunora and the Monster King–a tale influenced by the holocaust and the attacks on Syrian children–explored a young girl who suffered a great loss and her ability to strive for something more than just vengeance. She sought to break the chain of hatred, a feat capable of changing the world.

The story takes you into the twilight of Nevermore, a realm lost the strange white blur known as the Eversea. Here, a broken king rules with an obsidian fist as the kingdom mourns the loss of Aronul. Many blame seek to blame someone, and eyes have turned to a girl found sleeping in a bed of flowers.

Read a free sample here.

Stars of Glass, Lunora, and Drums of Fog take place within the same universe, and they dive deeper into the world and characters.

Literary Quote:

H.S. Crow

“Words have oppressed and liberated countless. It is a weapon that can be used to inspire and save lives, or discourage and forsake them.”

Princess Sarai Deep Slumber by Shoz

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What to expect from the Otherworlds Inc (Though things can change from this article):

The Caligo Universe (The first universe and mythology created by H.S. Crow is a influenced masterpiece containing every major mythos from across the world, reinvented.)

  1. The Drums of Fog, set to release some time in 2023 as the first title debuting the high fantasy epic series expanding the huge universe of Caligo. This book will be a favorite among fans of George R. R. Martin's 'Game of Thrones', J. R. R. Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings', and H.P. Lovecraft's 'Cthulhu Mythos'. The Drums of Fog will contain a piece of everything as it explores multiple characters in Caligo. The breathtaking book layered with beauty, elegance, and madness will be a MUST for your library.
  2. Stars of Glass, an emotional roller coaster following the journey of Taylor Snow, her older brother Danny, and Artemis Bennet as they uncover a horrid conspiracy and the door to a new world. Stars of Glass will be a must have for fans that enjoyed the Stranger Things. The comic series is marked to release sometime in the Winter of 2021.
  3. The Tales of Yesterday, or the Andvari Grim Tales is a collection of stories written by the wise mountain sprites in Caligo. H.S. Crow managed to get a copy of the original books, and he translated it. The first story was published three years ago in 2017 with the title, 'Lunora and the Monster King.' However, 2021 is rumored to be the year for the second installment of the ToY Grim Tales.

The Tales of Yesterday collection includes:

The Flight of a Starless Garden: a short story released in January 2017 on H.S. Crow's author site, and as an extra story inside the Lunora and the Monster King book.

Lunora and the Monster King: a graceful novel written in play format released in April 2017. It explores the last accounts of Lunora, a girl searching for her father, and Iko the Hyperion monster driven by hatred as they cross paths in the Kingdom of Nevermore—a land ruled by monsters.

The Journey of Azalea: a children's novel set to release sometime in the Winter of 2022.

The Weight of a Nation: a novel exploring the mythology of Africa is rumored to be ready for release sometime at the start of 2024.

Hive of Anthra: set to release in 2025.

• And many more to come.

Other content to look out for:

Caligo Products (Merchandise): shop will be ready by fall of 2019

Lunora and the Monster King (Audiobook Theater): a theater performance unlike any audiobook will capture you and take you into another world in the Winter of 2022.

Lunora and the Monster King (Soundtrack): a collection of beautifully composed scores used for the LMK Audiobook Theater is currently releasing slowly via Youtube since Febrary 1, 2018. These songs will be able to be found all over after this date.

The Amber Library: A deep exploration of the collective mythology and world of Caligo. Focusing on the creatures and ruling tribes within it. Construction on the H.S. Crow website begins early 2021.

Escape of Umbra: production begins July of 2022.


Below are a few recommendations if you enjoy H.S. Crow's work. The authors below either influenced him, or bear a similar tone. Happy reading!



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Written by Lilith Iris Ethelwood

Ethelwood enjoys her coffee black like the sun, drifting beneath an unbearable white abyss, void of color and life, yet forever present. She loves to listen to the yowling fog, bearing the muffled screams of ancient apparitions while she writes. Life is good, the unnamed are watching . . .

FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL:

Stars of Glass is coming out soon.

Subscribe to stay informed and win prizes!

By clicking “Join Now” you acknowledge and agree to The Otherworlds Inc’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You also agree that your a cool snail.

Stars of Glass is coming out soon.

Subscribe to stay informed and win prizes!

Sea of Thieves Review

STORIES THAT ENCHANT THE MIND

Sea of Thieves Review

My throat went dry as I turned the ship…

From shooting yourself into enemy ships to finding buried treasure—is Sea of Thieves worth it? Well, gamers that answer is complicated. At a glance the game looks beautiful with it's vast horizons, opposing seas, frightening storms, and open world seascape filled with islands and secrets, but what is the point of it all?

Usually in open world games like this it is often presented through the story as seen in Blizzard's World of Warcraft, or the competitive atmosphere that Tom Clancy's Division presented before hackers nearly ruined the game. Luckily, it's been addressed from what I hear. A story and/or competitive atmosphere are methods to this, add wickedly cool items and you have tough game to resist, but does Sea of Thieves have what it takes to retain?

You could say that finding treasure, looting enemy ships, and exploring the great sea either on your own or with a group of people is all the game needs, but is that enough to keep you enchanted after 100 hours of gameplay?

One of the biggest issues in games that I have noticed is the game's inability to keep entertaining the player with content or challenges after the gamer honeymoon phase ends. Destiny 2 is an example of a game currently suffering from it's lack of diverse things to do which is a shame.

Will Sea of Thieves still capture you with its breathing ocean after you have plundered the same ship countless times? The game has puzzles, unique creatures to fight like the Kraken, and player interactions which in my opinion is the most important trait the game has to give, but what else does this game have that will keep you coming back, especially if the people playing with you isn't speaking in a mic or stops talking entirely? That's where the complication rises.

After exploring the game in it's beta and meeting a fun crew that made me laugh and feel like a pirate. It hooked me. It honestly did. I was surprised at how immersed I became as crew members shouted in panic to the sight of an enemy ship

“Tentacles! Turn around before they see us. Turn north you F***!”?

Film Quote:

Captain Barbossa

“Better were the days when mastery of seas came not from bargains struck with eldritch creatures… but from the sweat of a man's brow and the strength of his back alone. You all know this to be true!”

Sea of Thieves pirate ship

Screenshot of Sea of Thieves

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My throat went dry as I turned the ship. The storm was fierce and the waves were high as my ears took in the whistling wind and creaking ship. My eyes were fixed on the compass as the enemy ship vanished beyond the horizon towards an island, then BAM! The first cannon was shot. They knew where we were the whole time. We had made a grave mistake and confused them with a wreckage from another ship.

The experience you have with a group of people that talk, keyword is talk, is amazing and honestly the primary thing that made this game worth looking into. If the community is great, the game will be too.

Playing this game is fun, and exciting, but only if people talk. It's a giant sandbox after all, one that should be experienced with people for the true magic to form. The treasure is fun, but it's not the primary thing that got me. It was honestly the experience of being a pirate and having a crew. There are many responsibilities on the ship and lots of moving parts. One person steers while the others drop or raise sails, secure the anchor, go on the lookout to make sure no one is trying to sink you, and/or making sure the cannons have their cannonball. Yes, you have to load. Everything has to be loaded up. Your cannons do, your guns, and weapons that fire. It sticks with weapons of that period and with that said . . . I saw no weapon upgrades or enhancement type of ammo. The true skill seems to be determined by how you play and use the arsenal you are given from the start which isn't bad, but it may get boring to those interested in finding weapons or rare items that increase your power in the game.

The ship has a map downstairs and I believe it was the only world map on the ship which meant that the person steering could not see it and would have to depend on others to do so, even the sail gets in the way when you're trying to get more speed.

The game's success will be determined by its community.

Truthfully, navigating these waters is a team effort, and it was something I loved. The fact that you can interact with others and show them your map and parchment was cool. Talking to or yelling at people who may end up becoming friends gave a sense of immersion. This game heavily focuses of multiplayer. I attempted being a lone wolf as well and found it boring after a while. It felt repetitive, and even annoying when I got jumped by bigger ships. I managed to avoid them, but my ship nearly sunk! Being alone or if the people you are with don't talk made the game either lonely or tedious. It's easier to get frustrated, and you're not exploring the full capabilities of the game. You need a good community for this game and communication. Luckily, if a teammate acts up or isn't playing nice you can lock him in the brig in a team vote.

Sea of Thieves cover

Now the player verses player action is tough. The cannons do a lot of damage, but you need to load them and stock up on cannonballs to insure you can use them which makes getting resources necessary, but even then it can take time to sink a ship in a chase or during a storm. Also, fighting is on equal grounds as mentioned before with the weapons you have. It's focused on your personal skill or experience with the game and the teamwork you build with others.

You see, there is no upgrades to weapons or weapons that can give you the upper hand. This makes the competition on equal grounds which can be a double-sided blade. On one end, it's fun as hell to fight others without enhancements, but on the other it may get repetitive. Not getting to try out new gear or weapons is a shame. I would love to try out a ghostly sword, or a cursed gun from a dead and infamous pirate, or even use a rock to troll people with. The lack of diversity in the weapons and gear may cause more harm, but it's up to you to decide.

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Things to know about the combat system:

• There is no aim crossing

• It takes a lot of time to reload . . . anything actually.

• When boarding a ship or if enemies are all around you . . . consider the sword.

• At the moment the melee combat system still has it's flaws as it is under development, but the company seems to be correcting it before official release in March 20, 2018.

• Every weapon type will serve a purpose depending the situation.

• A foresight exist for better aiming, but it slows down your shooting. In truth, it follows pirate movies in regards to shooting without accurately aiming.

The game has potential, and with the added content the creators plan to implement after the beta with the official release it might just be a pirate/open-world/multiplayer game worth looking into. Personally, my concern remains in regards to the replay value of the game when it releases and if it will expand to an even wider range of things to do, but this cannot be confirmed until March 20, 2018.

This review was based on the beta testing of the game. If you play the game, please tell us how you felt about it. We really want to hear more about your experience with it, and if the things covered resonated with you. Every experience in gaming is different from person to person, and you may have discovered or observed something we may have missed. I look forward to sailing the seas with you.


Below is a small list of open world games that may grab your interest!


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Written by Lilith Iris Ethelwood

Ethelwood enjoys her coffee black like the sun, drifting beneath an unbearable white abyss, void of color and life, yet forever present. She loves to listen to the yowling fog, bearing the muffled screams of ancient apparitions while she writes. Life is good, the unnamed are watching . . .

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OW Votes Best Fantasy Books of 2017

STORIES THAT ENCHANT THE MIND

Best Fantasy Books of 2017

2017 Top Ten Fantasy Books

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Otherworld's Editorial Picks of 2017…

2017’s top fantasy books, chosen by the Otherworld’s editorial staff highlights this year’s best in the genre. Are you looking to explore pages layered with deep meaning, brilliant prose, and just an overall great story? Then these are the books to grab. Discover a journey that will captivate your mind.

Please note, these selections are based on what our staff enjoyed the most in 2017. If you have suggestions of stories that should be considered for this list, please let us know. We are always searching for new books that invoke the imagination.

If you decide to read any of these stories, remember to write your thoughts on it here and at the store/website you bought it from. Sharing your thoughts will only help fellow readers in their search for new material, and authors in regards to seeing what their fans enjoyed or disliked.

Literary Quote:

J.K. Rowling

“If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

08.

Exit West

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

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Exit West by Mohsin Hamid is a novel about migration and mutation, full of wormholes and rips in reality. This is a tale about a man and woman who meet at an evening class regarding company branding. Saeed is earthy and works at an ad agency. Nadia, who wears a full black robe and is employed by an insurance company, lives alone, and enjoys vinyl and psychedelic mushrooms. They are temporal individuals struggling with the chains of a theological state.

They live in an unnamed city as refugees begin to flood in. Militants are causing unrest and the terrors arising is driving out those with ambition and voice. Saeed and Nadia embark on a journey that resembles a dreamlike odyssey as they witness strange doors.

The characters move through the pages like abrupt flicker or broken tape. There is no flesh, no middle, only the cognitive shock of having been freshly transplanted to a new territory. Hamid documents the casual devastation of bombs, harassment and molestation that takes place as hundreds of city dwellers fight to take their life savings from a bank, and the supernatural elation of taking a warm shower after weeks on the road. This is explored through elements of magical realism and even The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe-style children’s storytelling. This was such a lush and evocative read that probes the mind of not just the characters, but the reader.

“Every time a couple moves they begin, if their attention is still drawn to one another, to see each other differently, for personalities are not a single immutable color, like white or blue, but rather illuminated screens, and the shades we reflect depend much on what is around us.”

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07.

Red Sister

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

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Politics, violence, and religion on a scale that grips fantasy readers. Mark Lawrence's Red Sister is a complex universe that begins with a gripping army seeking to kill a nun before the tale swiftly rekindles it's flame over the nine-year old Nona Grey who is given away by her mother and village after a frightful night. The children that to be sold are worth as much as what is in their blood.

There are four tribes in this world, and the purer the blood you have the more valuable you are until Nona is found guilty of a very violent crime and is sentenced to be executed. However, Sweet Mercy's Convent for young girls intervenes. This tale focuses on the training and growth of Nona as she is trained in the art of assassination, a regimen that often awakes the slumbering blood of the ancestors–magical skills that enhance the body, and abilities in combat.

The story takes you through epic battles, rival factions within the church, and a world that is slowly dying. Mark Lawrence knows how to create a nail-biting, bloody, on-the-edge-of-your seat kind of scene, and it's one you should not miss.

This story puts a heavy emphasis on friendship and the importance of believing in others even when you've been hurt in the past. Friendship truly is the constant theme of this story, and how beautiful and cruel it can be. Trust is something we should never give willingly, but it can reap so many beautiful things if you choose to put your trust in the right person.

Lawrence's prose carries a slow, but meticulously thoughtful momentum. It's different and unique and reflective on things going on in today's world such as gender, and identity. It's mesmerizing and unforgettable.

“A book is as dangerous as any journey you might take.

The person who closes the back cover may not be the same one that opened the front one. Treat them with respect.”

Learn more on:

Literary Quote:

Oscar Wilde

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

06.

Lunora and the Monster King

Lunora and the Monster King by H.S. Crow

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Under the pendulum of a black sun floats the realm of Nevermore. It is trapped in a timeless white gale, nearly forgotten by the world it once existed in as if carved out and tossed aside. This is a place ruled by monsters and fallen deities.

The common belief is that humans caused this calamity, but much of the whispers are inconsistent. There is barely any truth anymore, and the once beautiful landscape blanketed by flowers is dying. Time has returned to fix it's mistakes, and with it a girl–a human girl.

Lunora and the Monster King is H.S. Crow's debut as an author, and by all that is Caligo, one of the most underrated masterpieces of 2017. The prose, tangled in poetry, takes the reader into a modernized Shakespearean vale filled with drama, pain, betrayal, vengeance, love, and hope. It is a story tinged with a darkness that utterly mirrors our world.

The issues of hate and discrimination found in the Middle East and United States are primary drivers to this tale, but also the concept of loss, acceptance, death, reality, and retribution. Truth is perspective, and nothing is ever as it seems. LMK paints this beautifully with it's rich exploration of a young girl named Lunora, and her journey to find her father. The girl meets many fantastic creatures along the way, and a Hyperion orphan named Iko, who has sworn to kill the Banished Oberon, King of Nevermore.

Lunora barely surviving her own home after the bombs fell knows to well of the terrible poison hate and revenge can bring. In order to keep her father's memory and teachings alive, she has sworn to never succumb to the wickedness the world spits, and she will die for this righteous belief if she has to. There is always another way. Violence should not be the only choice, and it's a cycle that ends with one's own actions. This decision creates severe conflict in her journey as she wakes in a land that seeks to punish her under the Obsidian Law.

Written in play form, this was such an unexpected ride. A must read of 2017. Become captured by a fairy tale worth remembering and a heroine any child or adult can respect. You may uncover the deeper mysteries locked in its pages. Subjects exploring reality, dreams, and perspective. The unique, yet subtle elements will shake you.

We could not help but to wonder if this is a representation of a child's brain and the imagination she used to hide the horrors she experienced, or if this is in fact another world, a piece of Caligo (The massive universe H.S. Crow is unleashing with Drums of Fog some time in 2019-2020) We have not read many books like this and found it to be easily one of those books that can change minds, bring awareness, and touch hearts. This powerful coming-of-age fantasy will have you seeking more.

“Liar! I know that you humans build your life in lies.

It starts with your mortal lords and their fabricated gods.

They use fictitious stories to impregnate the minds of people,

and like herds of sheep they do as their told.

With manipulation alone is enough to secure their reign.

After all, is it not in your nature to be wanted and purposeful?

It is such an easy game to play.

I have observed this falsehood accepted by fathers and mothers over and over again.

The idiocy becomes one with their children,

and they become the infrastructure that not only sedates but corrodes the soul with instructed conformity.

In the end, lies are all that you are..”

Learn more on:


05.

The Stone Sky

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

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The explosive first installments of the Broken Earth Series (The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate) by N.K. Jemisin was one that took the literary world by storm. Its twisting plots brimming with ideas and clever puzzles encased the reader in a masterwork of world-building tinged with history and culture.

The Stillness is a place of difficult decisions that constantly suffers from earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and other terrible anomalies. However, the Orogenes are able to manipulate the earth to ease the destruction. They are powerful, yet oppressed due to the fear and ignorance of a civilization that mirrors our own racial issues. The Orogenes in essence are nothing more but resource to the stills, the non-orogenic.

The heart of this novel is oppression, but the soul of this deals with motherhood. The follows the lives of Essun and Nassun, mother and daughter, both before the cataclysm and after. Essun was a rogue Orogene, a person born with an innate, near-magical manipulation of the earth.

In the start, she's hidden alongside the stills on the apocalyptic continent of Stillness until Essun's husband, the father of her children murders their son after learning of the boy's secret–he is also an Oregene. The man flees with the likewise orogenically talented daughter, Nassun, on some terrified quest to save the girl from herself. When Essun comes home to the dead child, and a missing one, it sets a course of no return. What will a mother do to save her daughter?

“But there are none so frightened, or so strange in their fear, as conquerors. They conjure phantoms endlessly, terrified that their victims will someday do back what was done to them—even if, in truth, their victims couldn’t care less about such pettiness and have moved on. Conquerors live in dread of the day when they are shown to be, not superior, but simply lucky.”

Learn more on:


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04.

The Book of Dust

Book of Dust by Philip Pullman

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Philip Pullman's world of His Dark Materials returns in the new trilogy called The Book of Dust, beginning with La Belle Sauvage. This delicious return to such a rich and particular tale expands what was loved from the original. It deepens the story we know, and if you don't I suggest you start with The Golden Compass.

La Bella Sauvage captures the original series as we are taken back to when Lyra was a baby. We meet her parents and her spirited Dæmon, Pantalaimon, through the eyes of a inquisitive and adventurous, Malcolm Polstead. The young man becomes entangled in an unsettling plot to pursue and protect a 6 month year old Lyra, the heroine of the previous series, as the wrath of a massive storm drowns Oxford.

The book opens with a slow pace filled with tidbits of magic and secrets that gradually shift to a darker and harsher climax. This story will take you through many emotions, feelings of comfort and sorrow, followed by a deepening of the soul. While His Dark Materials represented a retailing of John Milton's Paradise Lost or the Fall of Eden, this is the Flood.

“Words belong in contexts,

not pegged out like biological specimens.”

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Literary Quote:

Neil Gaiman

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

03.

The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale bookcover

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The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden is jaw-dropping fusion of Russian fairy tales and history, woven together distinctively to tell a powerful modern story exploring themes of belief, feminism, and magic.

Arden evokes a vivid medieval Russia, deep in woods, sunk beneath a blanket of white, and crippling with frost. Many elements from fairy tale stories are intertwined beneath these rich and captivating pages.

Vasilisa “Vasya” Petrovna is the daughter of a 13th century Russian noble. In many ways, she is the essence of a fairy-tale heroine dripping with youth and hope. Her father is kind, but he blames her for the death of her mother, and has always been conflicted by her. He still seeks to protect her the only way he believes he can: by marrying her into royalty. However, Vasya prefers to commune with the spirits that lurk within the woods and waters of the estate she lives in.

Spirits have protected the land for centuries and were respected until the arrival of a new priest and Vasya’s new mother-in-law, who both can see the spirits as well, but view them as demons to be destroyed. The locals begin to reject the ancient beings due to their influences, just when the village needs them the most, and things start to fall apart.

It falls to Vasya to harness the power she holds to save her family and her home. Arden’s lyrical prose serves a story that combines the beauty of nature and the power of magic into a tale that feels like a fairy tale of old—ideal for a cold winter night’s reading.

“There was a time, not long ago

When flowers grew all year

When days were long

And nights star-strewn

And men lived free from fear”

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02.

The City of Brass

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

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The Islamic Fantasy epic, The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty is a must. It touches on subjects that mirrors our world today. From systematic oppression to identity to human trafficking, it's a story with many elements. The enchanting story takes the reader through the eyes of Nahri, a con woman in her early twenties, who remembers nothing of her childhood and fakes mystical powers of healing and fortune-telling to fleece her mark, or so it seems. Behind the thievery and deceit Nahri bears a special affinity to healing and magic, and it becomes more evident when she accidentally turns one of her exorcisms into an actual summoning. She had never believed in magical beings or creatures until her gaze fell on the Djinn Warrior, Dava.

The tale set in 18th-century Cairo during the Ottoman Empire as Dara tells Nahri that she is in danger and she must come with him to Daevabad, the city of the djinn. There she discovers a world of magic, power, secrets, and possibly, a birthright to reclaim. The imagination behind this book is more than promising, it is bewitching. The rich tale also takes you through the eyes of another, a young djinn prince named Ali with a heavy weight, who lives in the city Nahri must reach.

Many beings with different powers and abilities arise in this tale. The fantastical element in it truly made this story feel so whimsical. There are six tribes, and our dear Nahri is something completely different, very rare, and very sought after…

“It’s not just a word […]

That slur has been used to demonize our tribe for centuries.

It’s what people spit when they rip off our women’s veils and beat our men.

It’s what the authorities charge us with whenever they want to raid our homes and seize our property.”

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Literary Quote:

George R.R. Martin

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”

01.

The Oathbringer

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The Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson is the third in the immensely popular book series, Stormlight Archive. We highly recommend you to read The Way of Kings, and the novella, Edgedancer before opening the masterpiece that Oathbringer is.

This is a huge scale, epic fantasy, that is massive not only in size, but in content and complexity. Characters and plot lines that span over thousands of years can be discovered here. Everything Sanderson creates resides in the same cosmos that connects all of his previous stories. The intricate magic discussed through these mythical pages exceeded the genre standards again. Yes, again. He has created multiple since his debut with Elantris, a must read as well.

Roshar is devided into ten mini/major kingdoms, all self-governed with Alethkar being the largest and where majority of the main characters build from. Sanderson draws is story through multiple eyes, but three being the primary characters: Dalinar, Kaladin, and Shallan. This installment of the series brings Dalinar and his family to focal point.

The emotions experienced in this book carry weight, and will linger. The heart of this story is oppression, and of the oppressor when they realize the wrong they have been doing or ignoring for so long. It carries a heavy reflection to our world, and the issues of racism and slavery. In addition, Sanderson tackles concepts of sexuality, gender, and identity in ways unlike his previous work. The bones of the story is the religion, and what people are willing to do in the name of it, and their God.

A new desolation has arisen with the return of the Voidbringers, a foe with numbers rivaling their thirst for vengeance. The armies of Dalinar gained victory at a terrible cost as the Everstorm destroyed the land at its wake. In essence, the story follows a band of humans fighting to unite their world in the face of an apocalyptic threat. The threats they face is not only outside, but within their people. Yet, in all this lunacy, deep bonds are formed and even a love that takes you away.

“You are not a heretic, Dalinar Kholin.

You are a king, a Radiant, and a father.

You are a man with complicated beliefs, who does not accept everything you are told.

You decide how you are defined.

Don’t surrender that to them.

They will gleefully take the chance to define you, if you allow it.”

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Written by Lilith Iris Ethelwood

Ethelwood enjoys her coffee black like the sun, drifting beneath an unbearable white abyss, void of color and life, yet forever present. She loves to listen to the yowling fog, bearing the muffled screams of ancient apparitions while she writes. Life is good, the unnamed are watching . . .

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