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Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 Bookish Maps

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fantastic Bionic Bookworm. This week’s topic:

AUGUST 28TH – Top 5 Bookish Maps

Yo. YO. Have I ever mentioned my obsessive love for maps of all kinds? I have so many maps hanging in my room, I’m always looking to buy more, and I spend way more time than I need to on Google Maps. I JUST LOVE MAPS. There is noting that annoys me more than when a fantasy book does not contain a map. I’m a visual person; I need that map to help me make sense of a story. Plus there are some maps that are illustrated so brilliantly that they’re just great to look at, you know? And as an aspiring writer of fantasy, I’m always crafting my own maps, clumsy though they may be!

I am SO excited for this topic, so excited that I  couldn’t pick only five and had to whittle it down to eight, which are ranked in order of preference, with my absolute favorite coming in at the end of the post, at #1. Click on the maps to enlarge, y’all, I spent so long hunting down high-quality maps lmao!

Oh, also: SHOUT OUT to two maps that didn’t make it onto this list not because I don’t love them, but because they’re so popular and well-known and I wanted to spotlight something else: the Grishaverse map and the map of the world of A Song of Ice and Fire. Both fantastic maps, especially the latter, which is hyper-realistic.

And now onto the maps!

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Number Eight (#8)

Say what you will about the Throne of Glass series, but the map is solid! Granted, it’s not super detailed and not terribly pretty, but there’s something soothing about its simplicity nonetheless! I also just like the shape of it.


Number Seven (#7)

I actually read an ARC of Children of Blood and Bone, so I did not get to experience this lovely map as I read! I didn’t end up enjoying this book, but I think the map is so cool. I love the detailed frame (I LOVE framed maps) and the way the structures are illustrated. There’s so many wonderful little details! And I also love that this world appears to be a set of islands strung together; it’s so unique.


Number Six (#6)

This map is deceptively simple. You have to really look at it twice to get a sense of all the details. There’s something very elegant about it, though, and I love the shading around the map! Sadly I didn’t love the book, so I won’t be continuing the series, but I still enjoy the map!


Number Five (#5)

I really love maps that span huge worlds. Even if the story only takes place in a single country, I love having a map that shows me the width and breadth of the entire world the characters are living in. I haven’t actually read Furyborn, so I don’t know if the story takes place across several countries, but I don’t even care – I love having all these nations there for context. And I like how elegant and simple this map is!


Number Four (#4)

This map barely came into play throughout the course of this lackluster book, but it’s still a really cool map. Even though the story only took place in one of these countries, the book referenced other places, and it was great to have this map as a point of reference. It also just looks really cool? Like, something about the way the continents are cut up just looks so visually appealing to me.


Number Three (#3)

This map is really simple, but I just adore it. Perhaps it’s because this is one of my favorite fantasy series of all time, or perhaps because it’s one of the first fantasy maps I truly fell in love with, but there’s just something about it that keeps drawing me back.


Number Two (#2)

God, I love this map so much! First, there’s a frame, and it’s so old-world and so elegant. Second, Susan Dennard said it’s based off off Croatia and the Adriatic, which you can definitely see, and I think that’s super cool. And look at those little sea monsters swimming!


Number One (#1)

And we come to the creme of the crop, what is probably the best fantasy map I have ever and will ever see in my entire freaking life. This is my favorite map of all time, y’all. OF ALL TIME. I’ve uploaded a full size version so you can click on it to enlarge and see all the wondrous, gorgeous details. This map ain’t playing around. This map is serious shit. First, there’s the frame, with busts of Aa’s four daughters as well as Niah and Aa himself. Gorgeous and a neat bit of worldbuilding to incorporate onto the map. Then here’s the incredibly detailed structures which hint at the cultures and architectural styles of each country. This map is SO BEAUTIFUL I think I literally almost cried the first time I saw it. Oh, and the map of the city of Godsgrave is nothing to sneeze at either. If anything, it’s actually more detailed than the map of Itreya. I love that we have a map of the whole world and then another, even more detailed map of the major city. LOVE IT. Like, it’s not just a map, it’s a visual representation of the world; it truly helps you picture the city. INCREDIBLE.

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Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 Books I Didn’t Like That Others Loved

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fantastic Bionic Bookworm. This week’s topic:

APRIL 10TH – Top 5 Books I Didn’t Like That Others Loved

I kind of love getting salty about popular books that I didn’t like, so let’s get to it!


the wrath & the sawnThe Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh (GR Rating: 4.18)

This is probably more a case of unmatched expectations than anything. I should have expected that a retelling of Scheherazade would be heavy on the romance. That’s my bad. But I also found it annoying that the protagonist was ~super special~ and everyone felt the need to mention this every other page. Characters were pretty bland, to the point where there were some I couldn’t tell apart. This is one of those situations where I wouldn’t have given this book a second thought only it’s somehow become one of the most popular YA fantasy books out there for some reason.

roarRoar by Cora Carmack (GR Rating: 3.98)

WHY does this book have such a high rating?? This is a book that I actively disliked, not only because it wasted a great premise for a terrible romance, but because said romance was so, so, so gross. I mean, I don’t know, maybe I just have a really low tolerance for the Inexplicable Heterosexual Romance, but the whole relationship in this book came off as super creepy and misogynistic, with the male love interest literally saying that the female MC “belongs” to him and that he has to protect her and getting turned on when she resists his advances. I could not get past that, and the rest of the book – that is, the threadbare plot – is boring and terrible.

abyss surrounds usThe Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie (GR Rating: 4.01)

I didn’t hate this book, but I didn’t like it either. No one was more disappointed about that than me, trust me. This book is so hyped as a fantastic f/f romance, but…I did not like that romance. I didn’t think the leads had any chemistry and I kind of hated one of them. Which is a shame, because there were a ton of other things about this book that were super cool. The concept is great and there’s a ruthless lady pirate and the main character is super badass. But the romance just dragged it down for me.

darkest mindsThe Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken (GR Rating: 4.24)

I gave this book a 3 rating because I was being nice, but if I think back to it it was probably closer to a 2 or a 1.5. I really do not understand the hype about this book? It’s super boring and the worldbuilding makes literally no sense whatsoever. And the disappointing thing is it’s such a fascinating premise if only it had been handled in a more logical fashion, but alas. At this point I don’t think I even remember the characters’ names because it was just that forgettable.

children of blood and boneChildren of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (GR Rating: 4.38)

I’ve talked about this before, but the reaction to this book is just inexplicable to me. Like, it wasn’t a terrible book, I get that, but I also don’t think it needs to be treated like the second coming of Jesus? The way everyone is talking about it I literally feel like I read a different book. Personally, I thought the writing was juvenile, the plot generic and insanely tropey, the romance awful, and the dialogue stilted. The worldbuilding was fresh, but that was literally it. Other than that there isn’t anything in this that’s new. It’s actually the most formulaic YA fantasy I’ve ever read, just cliched trope after cliched trope. Every time I read another glowing, out-of-this-world fantastic review I feel like I’m losing my mind.


Do any of y’all share my dislike for these books? Let me know in the comments!

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Top 5 Wednesday: Bookish Things I’m a Grinch About

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Top Five Wednesday was created by Lainey from gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Check out the goodreads group to learn more.

December 6th – Bookish Things You’re a Grinch About: Since being a grinch is a funny thing, try not to make this serious topics that make you angry (like lack of diversity or abusive relationships in fiction, etc) as this is supposed to be more of a petty bookish things you hate. This can be stuff about covers, dumb tropes, etc. Have fun with it.

All right, a chance to rant! Reading everyone else’s posts has been super fun, by the way. Here we go!


1. Characters calling each other by name way too frequently. This is a super small thing but it irritates me SO MUCH. If two people are having a conversation in real life they are not going to be using each others’ name every other sentence because it’s very clear who they are talking to!  Authors do this so much and it always jolts me out of the narrative because it makes the dialogue feel so…stiff and unnatural and performative.  Imagine a lengthy conversation in a book and literally in every sentence the characters use each others’ names…it ‘s hell.  Utter hell.

2. The Exceptional Woman, aka “I’m Not Like Other Girls.” This is a super irritating trope not only because it pits women against each other, but because it inevitably leads to the dreaded Mean Girl trope as well.  So you’ll have your protagonist, who is special and perfect, and then all other girls are either silly and frivolous or complete jerks for no reason whatsoever. Thankfully it looks like we’re starting to see less of this and more of female friendships, but it is still shockingly prevalent in fiction, YA in particular, which is just so horribly insidious to pit teen girls against one another like that.

3. Everyone is Beautiful and You Need to Be Reminded Constantly. Character descriptions can be so damn irritating in YA fiction.  I really hate it when the protagonist is thought of as ~gorgeous~ by everyone except herself.  I hate it even more when the male love interest is super chiseled and perfect and the author is constantly describing his shiny abs and sharp jaw or whatever and our heroine is always going weak in the knees at the sight of him. It’s so boring and so heteronormative and wouldn’t it be so much more interesting if they looked like ordinary people? Or if they looked interesting/striking but not necessarily beautiful? Or if they were beautiful in ways that don’t adhere to traditional Western beauty standards? Or if they were beautiful but weren’t attracted to each other? Or at the very least, can authors stop harping on about how gorgeous their characters are?

4. Instalove/Soulmates. I really, really hate this. I mean, to be fair, I’m not a huge fan of romance in general, but that’s because most romance is done so badly! I actually really love well-done romances (Kell and Lila in Shades of Magic; Wanu and Hanani in the Dreamblood duology; Nahri and Dara in The City of Brass; Kaz and Inej in Six of Crows).  I like slow-burn relationships, friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, relationships that develop over time, realistic relationships, relationships with depth and hard work and payoff. I even don’t mind love triangles if they’re done well! But instalove is boring and doesn’t give the reader anything to wonder about or root for.

5. Tropes Played Straight. Let me explain this one, because it’s kind of vague, but I’ve encountered it a lot, particularly in YA. This is when an author introduces a very common trope and sets the story up in such a way to make it seem like the trope will be subverted…only the trope is played completely straight.  The most prominent examples are Red Queen and the Mara Dyer trilogy.  In Red Queen, I really thought the author was playing on our expectations and giving us an unexpected love interest…only she played the trope completely straight and gave us  the boring predictable love interest. In Mara Dyer the book set itself up as a psychological thriller but then went the standard supernatural romance/soulmate route.  There is so much to play around with in literature if authors took these tropes and flipped them on their heads; it’s a great way to shock readers’ expectations. One of the reasons I really love GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire is that so many cliched fantasy tropes are overturned and subverted.


This was surprisingly cathartic, haha!

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Top 5 Wednesday: Authors I Want to Write Like

Top Five Wednesday was created by Lainey from gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Check out the goodreads group to learn more.

This week’s topic is Authors I Want to Write Like.

I have been so, so excited for this topic. As an aspiring writer, writing style is something I pay close attention to.  This was a super fun topic for me and really got me thinking about what I admire in authors.


ny42eh4NRoshani Chokshi: Okay, let’s get this out of the way: I love purple prose. I love it. Heavy, heady, overly descriptive, flowery writing. I adore it.  Yes, sometimes it can be too much, but I have a very high threshold.  I’ve only read one of Roshani’s books but I fell completely in love with the writing, separate from the story or the characters (both of which were good, but not as fantastic as the writing).  When I started The Star-Touched Queen I remember being absolutely mesmerized by the quality of the words weaving together. I would go back and re-read paragraphs just to linger on the pretty writing.

“Neither the secret whirring song of the stars nor the sonorous canticles of the earth knew the language that sprang up in the space between us. It was a dialect of heartbeats, strung together with the lilt of long suffering and the incandescent hope of an infinite future.”

– The Star-Touched Queen


13414088S. Jae-Jones: JJ is another writer sometimes accused of overly purple prose.  I wasn’t partial to her book because it was much too slow for me, but I adored the quality of her writing. Yes, it was purple at times, but it was also incredibly elegant and polished, lush and sensual.  Though the story slow, it was beautiful and atmospheric, with a lingering fairy-tale quality.  I also really admired the way she wrote her romance.  It was such a slow burn, and even the sex scenes were written in such a gorgeous, elegant way!

“I surveyed my kingdom. Chaos. Cruelty. Abandon. I had always been holding back. Always been restrained. I wanted to be bigger, brighter, better; I wanted to be capricious, malicious, sly. Until now, I had not known the intoxicating sweetness of attention. In the world above, it had always been Käthe or Josef who captivated people’s eyes and hearts— Käthe with her beauty, Josef with his talent. I was forgotten, overlooked, ignored— the plain, drab, practical,talentless sister. But here in the Underground, I was the sun around which their world spun, the axis around which their maelstrom twirled. Liesl the girl had been dull, drab, and obedient; Elisabeth the woman was a queen.”

– Wintersong


7168230Victoria Schwab: The thing about Victoria’s writing is that it feels absolutely effortless. It’s the sort of writing that makes you feel like you’ve just wrapped a warm cozy blanket around yourself.  She is just an objectively good writer; her prose is neither too purple nor too sparse, she builds characters who feel real, she is so, so creative with her plots, and she writes romance that makes you care.  Also, her productivity is just so admirable? She writes so much and has been writing for so long and she puts out at least one book a year, which is almost unbelievable. I kind of want to be Victoria when I grow up (Victoria is only five years older than me RIP).

“They crashed into each other as if propelled by gravity, and he didn’t know which one of them was the object and which the earth, only that they were colliding. The kiss was Lila pressed into a single gesture. Her brazen pride and her stubborn resolve, her recklessness and her daring and her hunger for freedom. It was all those things, and it took Kell’s breath away.”

– A Gathering of Shadows


3472Margaret Atwood: I’ve only read two books by Atwood (a crime, I know), but I’ve enjoyed both of them (and hey, I’ve been meaning to read more).  Atwood’s writing is just so brilliant and incisive. She has such a clear way of stating universal truths.  Her writing is sensual and detailed, clear and visceral.  Not only do I want to write like her, I want her cleverness and her ability to bend genre conventions.

“She imagines him imagining her. This is her salvation. In spirit she walks the city, traces its labyrinths, its dingy mazes: each assignation, each rendezvous, each door and stair and bed. What he said, what she said, what they did, what they did then. Even the times they argued, fought, parted, agonized, rejoined. How they’d loved to cut themselves on each other, taste their own blood. We were ruinous together, she thinks. But how else can we live, these days, except in the midst of ruin?”

– The Blind Assassin


tumblr_inline_o940q2meUN1qaqnoq_500Alyssa Wong: Alyssa’s a bit different from the other folks on this list, because she hasn’t written a novel just yet. But she’s written multiple award-winning short stories, most of them dark, most of them strange, all of them lovingly crafted.  Her writing is rich and vivid, but above all creative.  She has a way of pulling out common themes and ideas and writing about them in innovative ways. I really admire her skill, and I read her short stories to learn!

“The world ended with a bang, folding in on itself, the lines of the horizon collapsing like soaked origami. Our parents’ house turned to glass, to fire, to energy sparking ripe and rich for the taking. I drained it, pulling it deep into myself until the house was empty, our parents gone. And then there was nothing but me and my sister, her imprint, her echo.”

– A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers


Honorable Mentions: Daphne du Maurier, Erin Morgenstern, Catherine Valente, Alison Goodman, Katherine Arden

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Top 5 Wednesday: Books I’m Thankful For

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I haven’t done Top 5 anything in a while, but I thought I could give this week’s Top 5 Wednesday a shot! The topic is Top 5 Books You Are Thankful For.  It ended up being…a little demoralizing.  Let me explain. When I first saw the topic, my mind immediately jumped to books with f/f pairings, just because this has been on my mind lately.  In particular, YA books with f/f pairings. But as I went through my list of books read this year, I realized that none of the books I’ve read this year feature any prominent f/f pairings.  There is a thread on Twitter that recently talked about how few f/f books there are in YA and in fantasy, particularly compared to m/m, and f/f books tends to be sidelined as “special interest” or something.  All of which is to say: please, please, recommend f/f books to me! Preferably fantasy, but I will take contemporary as well! Give me recs guys!!!

Anyway, I didn’t mean to turn this into an essay on the state of the YA market. Despite the aforementioned blow, I did manage to find five books I am thankful for, and for various reasons! In no particular order:

20764879A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab: Aside from being a spectacularly written book with incredible tension and a romance that makes me giggle (a rare thing), A Gathering of Shadows also features Lila Bard, an absolute tour de force of a character. So often women with magic are reluctant to use their powers or stumble into them. Not so with Lila.  Lila actively seeks out her power. She is not frightened by her abilities; she is impressed by them. She wants to be the most powerful of them all, so she trains as hard as she can, even when others tell her not to. She takes ridiculous risks and she’s full of herself and she’s not frightened of anything. She is an absolutely incredible woman, an incredibly written female character, and I am so thankful she exists.


31123249Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali: This was one of my favorite books of the year.  Ali writes about Muslim community with such grace, such love, such complexity! In Ali’s book, Muslims were real and human, lovable and flawed, loving and cruel.  Ali wrote about a niqabi who also happens to be an outspoken badass – talk about flipping the stereotype of oppressed Muslim women right on its head! The narrator is witty and engaging, and the writing is high-quality. I am thankful this book exists because it is such a great example of diversity in literature done right.


33574143The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Probably one of the stranger books I’ve read this year, but also one of my favorites! It’s a novel of manners a la Jane Austen with a touch of magic (telekinesis, to be specific). At its heart, it’s a romance. However, what drew me to it was the elegant writing, the prettily crafted world, and the compelling main characters.  The moment I finished this book I was inspired to write a novel of manners of my own (Egyptian inspired, in my case). So, I am thankful this book exists, because without it, I wouldn’t have my current WIP, which is one of my favorite projects that I’m working on.


29396738Monstress by Marjorie Liu: This one’s a little different, since it’s a graphic novel. I don’t normally read those, but I was drawn to Monstress.  Let me quote the Goodreads summary at you so you understand why: “Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steam punk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both and make them the target of both human and otherworldly powers.” I mean. Need I even say more? This book is absolutely wild, so freaking original, with that overwhelming epicness that so many fantasy books strive for but don’t achieve. I am thankful that something this original exists.


16235Sister of my Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: Not only am I partial to f/f relationships, I am super fond of friendships between women. Sister of my Heart features one of the most beautiful, intimate, and enduring friendships between two women that I’ve ever seen.  Two girls, Anju and Sudha, from different worlds, grow up together, close as sisters, and their love for each other goes beyond anything.  There were so many beautiful scenes in this book, but the one that I remember most clearly is Anju watching Sudha look at the moon. Sudha is topless, but her hair is covering her chest, and Anju is thinking she is beautiful.  There were of course flaws in this book, and I’m sure if I went back and looked with a more critical eye I would find them. But I don’t want to. As much as I want to go back and reread this book I’m afraid reading it now, with my more critical eye, might ruin it for me. So I am simply thankful this book has given me such a beautiful and powerful female friendship to think about.