Archive for January, 2016



Here, There Be Dragons (Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica, #1) by James A. Owen

Ages 12 & up

Here,_There_Be_Dragons,_James_A._Owen_-_CoverAn adventure was the last thing John expected when Professor Sigurdssen summoned him to Oxford, but that’s exactly what he gets. Upon his arrival, the police greet John with the news of the good professor’s murder and John finds his lot thrown in with three strangers: Jack, Charles, and the mysterious Bert. Pursued by strange, inhuman creatures the four new friends flee to the Indigo Dragon, a magical ship capable of crossing from our world to the Archipelago of Dreams. Now the principal caretaker of The Imaginarium Geographica, John, along with his new friends must defend the Archipelago from the Winter King—a formidable foe bent on turning the entire Archipelago into Shadowlands. All the King needs to complete his plan is the Geographica.

This book. Holy guacamole. THIS. BOOK.

I’ll just start by saying that if you are a fan of the Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia, just stop reading this review and do yourself the favor of finding this book and reading it. Make your family read it. Make your friends read it. Make your neighbor’s mom read it. Yes, you’re going to be slightly confused at the beginning…but there’s a reason for that. It all makes sense in the end.

While we’re on the subject…the end is by far my FAVORITE part of this book. I’m still reeling over the big twist. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but suffice it to say that it was fan-TAS-tic .

I know the book says 12 & up, but really, I think (depending on the child) you could probably go even younger. A great book for the whole family. Yeah, it gets intense and maybe a little scary, but there are Disney movies scarier than this book. (If your kid can handle Frozen, your kid can handle this book.) It has all the whimsy of Narnia (talking animals, mystical lands with grand mythologies, a grand magical journey, life-altering betrayal) and all the cleverness too. Mythology provides all the building blocks for this story, which makes sense considering that the Archipelago is supposedly a world created by human imagination. Owens takes stories that we all know, sewing them into a seamless tapestry that adds color and life to his world.

This is the classic heroes’ quest, Owens doesn’t take any particular risks with this book, but he crafted his story so well I didn’t mind too much. Instead of making the book stale and trite, the familiar archetypes turn it into something comfortable. I loved the challenge of trying to figure each character out before their name was revealed. There are probably those that disagree with me, but I enjoyed the way familiar stories were taken and spun on their heads. And trust me, there’s a good reason you’re feeling those déjà vu vibes.

The only thing I found disappointing was the dearth of female characters. Owens did give us Aven, the captain of the Indigo Dragon, but I would have liked seeing more girls participating in the action. Circumstances dictated that the three main characters be male and I’m cool with that, but I’d like to see more than the token strong female character in the sequels (fingers crossed, I’ve got a bit of time before I start the next one).

All in all, I enjoyed this book so much that I’d love to add it to my shelf (also, the cover art is REALLY pretty). If you’re looking for a great book to read with your kids—or you just like books with dragons—then I’d definitely recommend this book.

This book is a good example of:

  • Multiple POV narrative
  • Third person
  • World building
  • Middle grade

8508313605_d13cbe9fe8_zHappy New Year!

Yeah, I know. I’m a bit late, but I hope you finished 2015 with pizazz and kicked off 2016 brilliantly.

I devoted most of December (and January) to a much needed mental break. Happens every year. Somehow, I always forget how drained the three months of crazy known as September, October, and November leave me. And yes, I did manage to complete NaNoWriMo.

The final word count was (drum roll please)….

50,015 words!

Bringing WIP#2 to a whopping 66,311 words…So far.

But enough about last year, I want to talk about this year. After all, isn’t that what January is about? New starts. New challenges. Don’t worry, I’m not here to challenge you to eat better or exercise more or even write more. But I do have a few suggestions to spice up your reading life.

But Margaret, you say, I’m happy with my current reading list. Why spend my time on something I don’t know I’ll like?

For the same reason people try new exercise routines or new recipes. Yes, there is a chance that you might absolutely hate it (why not try your local library instead of purchasing the book), but you might also find something that you absolutely love. Trying new things is how I discovered that I absolutely love steampunk novels…and that despite being a card carrying member of the hopeless romantic club, I can barely stomach most romance novels (weird I know).

So, without further ado, here are some ways you can shake up your reading rut:

  • Read More Women- If you are a YA junkie like me, you probably read a lot of women. The YA shelves are rife with the likes of Maureen Johnson, Susan Collins, Sarah Dessen, Lauren Oliver, Maggie Stiefvater, Shannon Hale, and Ally Carter. We have some kickass female writers, but female writers still face a steeper uphill climb than many male writers, regardless of their protagonist’s gender. Especially in the big name genres like science fiction and fantasy. Male authors just tend to get more visibility. Think about it, you probably know who John Green is (you should, he’s amazing), but of the women listed above how many names did you recognize? That’s not to say there aren’t some seriously talented male authors, but there are just as many talented female authors. Give their books some love too.
  • Read More Authors of Color- While we’re on the subject of convincing publishers that the the idea of the “standard author model” (Think Nicholas Sparks: middle-aged, white, and male) is outdated, let’s talk about my personal reading challenge for 2016: to read more books by non-white authors. I’ve seen this particular reading challenge focus on the protagonists and that’s a valid challenge, but as a writer I want to focus on the writers themselves. Again, I’m not challenging the talent of white authors, but publishing is a business and businesses like to stick to “proven” models, which provides fewer opportunities for authors who don’t fit that mold.
  • Read Outside Your Normal Genre- Do you usually read Sci-Fi? Try something contemporary. Do you usually browse the adult sections? Maybe it’s time to take a chance on Percy Jackson or The Hunger Games (Don’t let the label fool you, YA isn’t just for teenagers). Do you usually read romance? Let me tell you, Mr. Darcy is not the only fantastic guy lurking on the bookstore shelves. (And no, I am NOT talking about Christian Grey, blech.) Try some poetry. Try some Shakespeare (Much Ado About Nothing is my personal fave). If you usually read fiction, try non-fiction. Pick up a new hobby this year. Learn about something cool, like the Vikings.
  • Read Something Foreign- You don’t even have to speak another language for this one. There are plenty of books that have been translated into English (or maybe you want to brush up on that high school Spanish/French/German/Romanian/whatever). Heck, there are plenty of foreign books published in English. The point is (really, the point of this whole list): Get a look at the world around you. Every society tells stories a little differently. Imagine if Sherlock Holmes were written by an American?

Those are only a few suggestions meant to inspire you to try some new books in 2016. This list is by no means comprehensive. If you’re really curious or want more inspiration, do an image search for 2016 Reading Challenges. There are tons of them; many of them made into colorful lists. If you want suggestions, you can drop a question in the comments how you’d like to expand your reading list. If I don’t have a something, I’m sure some of my readers will.

Question of the Week:

Have you ever taken a chance on a book and been pleasantly surprised?


Image: Read More by Starry Raston, CC BY-ND 2.0

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