Tips to Meet This Year’s Reading Goal

We’re more than halfway through the year. Now’s when the rubber meets the road on all those reading goals we set in January. Some of us are killing it and topping off 200 books like it’s nothing.

However, if you are a mere mortal like me, you need all the help you can get. Ergo, here are some personal life hacks to meet yearly reading goals.

Short Reads Are Your Friend

You don’t have to always read a book that “requires it’s own ZIP code,” to quote the illustrious Tad Williams.

Novellas and short stories are perfectly acceptable. There are plenty to choose from, whether you like classics, romance, fantasy, or any other genre. Give them a shot!

Always Have a Book on Standby

Print or eReader, being able to whip out your book at a moment’s notice while standing in line, waiting for a coworker to come down the elevator, your Starbucks order, or anything else definitely gives you an edge.

Reading in 15-minute chunks is still reading and it adds up!

Anthologies Don’t Count as One

If you read a collection or anthology, give yourself credit for every individual book/story included. After all, you read the same amount as if you’d gotten them individually.

You deserve credit!

Schedule Time to Read

Like I said, it can be 15 minutes, 30 minutes, six hours. It doesn’t matter. I personally block off a whole day when it’s an option and I have something that ABSOLUTELY HAS to be read.

Have an Accountability Partner

My own accountability partner is the peer pressure of Goodreads. Some 2,000+ people plus my Facebook and Twitter followers can see if I’ve met my reading goal or if I’ve updated my reading progress lately.

I’m pretty sure none of them care. However, I am highly competitive and seeing their updates makes me want to show off. See? Vanity can be converted to motivation.

Read Books You Like

This might seem obvious, but I’m serious. Don’t read books just because they’re popular or your friends keep pushing you to read them. Reading is for you. If you want to read from the recommendation lists, do that. If not, don’t.

I tried reading based on what blogs and recommendation sites said I should. It was hell. My reading time sucked and I was miserable.

Screw that, I’ll read what I want.

Treat Yo’self

It can be an iced coffee, ice cream, a cookie…a new book. I find that giving myself a reward when I meet my goals helps drive me. In extreme situations, I make lunch into my reward. You’ve got to be hardcore sometimes!

Do you have any tricks to meet your reading goals? Do you use any of these?

Review: Memories of Ash (Sunbolt, #2) by Intisar Khanani @booksbyintisar

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In the year since she cast her sunbolt, Hitomi has recovered only a handful of memories. But the truths of the past have a tendency to come calling, and an isolated mountain fastness can offer only so much shelter. When the High Council of Mages summons Brigit Stormwind to stand trial for treason, Hitomi knows her mentor won’t return—not with Arch Mage Blackflame behind the charges.

Armed only with her magic and her wits, Hitomi vows to free her mentor from unjust imprisonment. She must traverse spell-cursed lands and barren deserts, facing powerful ancient enchantments and navigating bitter enmities, as she races to reach the High Council. There, she reunites with old friends, planning a rescue equal parts magic and trickery.

If she succeeds, Hitomi will be hunted the rest of her life. If she fails, she’ll face the ultimate punishment: enslavement to the High Council, her magic slowly drained until she dies.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars

The long-awaited sequel to Ms. Khanani’s Sunbolt did not disappoint. Despite being more than three times as long as the predecessor, it didn’t feel that way to me. The story zipped by and I had reached the end before I realized. All the things that made me love the first story were here—the action, the diversity, the complex morality—and it was absolutely fantastic.

The plot:

I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t what I got. We find Hitomi once again on a quest to save someone and stopping at nothing to see her mission complete. We’re taken into new areas of the world, meet new cultures and characters. It was an exciting journey that rushed me through the story on the edge of my seat.

This book delves even deeper into the political complexities of the world and the mysteries surrounding Hitomi’s parents. Some things were answered, but more questions were raised and it’s going to be a long wait for the next book!

The characters:

Hitomi is one of my favorite characters simply for her sheer compassion. She is the embodiment of selflessness while still being hardcore. Resourceful and cunning, she uses her powers for good and stands for the oppressed. Unfortunately, that means she often gets into scrapes and suffers for her beliefs. (Without which there wouldn’t be much of a story, but made me feel terrible for her.)

We do meet an array of new characters and a few familiar ones return. I was thrilled to see Valerius again and was pleasantly surprised when other characters made their way back as well. I did grow frustrated when characters weren’t willing to take certain risks for Hitomi when she had repeatedly risked everything for them. However, in hindsight, I think that was realistic. Most people don’t have the guts and there would have been larger repercussions for helping her in the way I wanted.

This book leaves off with a bittersweet sense of both loss and victory. It undoubtedly has hope, but it also NEEDS a sequel. I can’t wait to see where this series leads!

Find Memories of Ash on Goodreads

Find Memories of Ash on Amazon

Find Memories of Ash on BN.com

Write Different, but the Same

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There are two things that sum up what agents and publishers are always looking for: different and the same.

I mean, it kind of makes sense, but it really doesn’t.

On one hand, they want something they’ve never seen before. That’s what we all look for in a book, isn’t it? At the same time, they want something that can be neatly boxed off into a subgenre or a type. They want something they know they can sell. From a business standpoint, I totally understand. The business of publishing is a business and business needs a product that will sell.

That just economics.

It is true that readers want something familiar. Just think of how many times you’ve seen a book compared to others on the back flap. I swear if I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen “The Hunger Games meets” or “for fans of Game of Thrones” on a book cover, I’d be able to rebuild Alexandria by now.

The thing is, readers go for that. It’s evident in how well books sell when they can pull this off. It’s really good business.

On the writing side, I mean…

Authors are expected to write stories that are at once 100% original and instantly recognizable. In Star Trek terms, this is the Kobayashi Maru. It’s really hard to win here!

What I’m trying to say, is that it sucks and this is a rant.

I salute the authors who battle the gatekeepers and get the agents/publishers. You guys are slightly masochistic hardcore.

As for the authors who march off on their own…the world is scary. You’re braving it on your own. You lot are pretty damn crazy badass, too.

10 Fantasy Book Series About Overthrowing the Government

I couldn’t think of a nicer way to say “overthrow.” Seeing as what we Americans are celebrating tomorrow, I wanted to share some of my favorite fantasy books about revolution.

The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini

This entire four-book epic follows a young farm boy turned dragon rider on his mission to slay King Galbatorix and liberate the continent.

I actually got to meet the author in 2008 where I lied to his face, saying “I liked the ending”  of book #4. But books #2-3 were AMAZING.

Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne

This comes from a lesser known author I’ve been following for a while.

A young thief with eerie talents is recruited by a crime lord for questionable reasons. These reasons prove to include some hardcore rebellion. (Said crime lord is also one of my adoptive sons.)

Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani

While the first book is technically a novella, this series explores a peaceful revolution within a rich fantasy world. Come for the diversity and highly moral themes, stay for the same reasons.

Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

The thing I love about this series is that it not only takes us through the revolution, but also what happens when the good guys win. Once you free a country, you have to restructure and run it! We see the dark side of of a coup d’etat and I loved that!

Throne of Glass by Sara J. Maas

It takes a while to get the whole “overthrow” thing going, but once it does…Ms. Maas doesn’t do things in halves, let’s just say that.

Plus, Cinderella is an assassin. How can you top that?

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

Okay, so “overthrowing government” is basically the two-word summary for this series. Anyone who has heard of it probably knows.

You want overthrowing? Good King George has got you covered.

The Fireblade Array by H.O. Charles

Couples that slay together stay together, but couples who slay together and are reincarnated can keep overthrowing tyrants generation after generation. #RelationshipGoals.

Tyrants and Kings by John Marco

This military fantasy begins with a king losing a war for his emperor. Through a tangle of events involving love at first sight and an illegitimate child, he ends up fighting for the people who defeated him the first time.

A strongly anti-war fantasy, it follows the story of multiple factions fighting for power.  Most of these factions are led by basically good people. What I love about this series is it explores how conflicting interests can lead these good people to doing terrible things to one another. It’s something we see all the time in the real world.

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Think the PG-13 version of Game of Thrones. You want your “overthrowing” fix? Say no more…

(It bears noting that Magnus Damora is also one of my adoptive sons.)

Blood of Kings Trilogy by Jill Williamson

A vaguely Arthurian tale, this is the story of a king reclaiming his rightful throne. The first book has a slow start, but once you break the 30% mark, it’s flying by and next thing you know, you’ve read all three books in one weekend and are supine on the floor because it’s OVER.

Do you have any to add to this list? What’s your favorite book about revolution?

Wonder Woman: We Have Achieved Peak Feminism

Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman premiered just over there weeks ago, shattering box office records and glass ceilings alike. A female-led superhero film directed by a female director, I went to see it opening weekend with high hopes.

I was not disappointed. What I found was feminism as it was meant to be, as I believe it should be. It was so goddamn beautiful, I nearly cried.

Diverse female characters and body types

We have wrinkled women, skinny women, muscular women, white women, and melanin goddesses. (I almost screamed when Niobe came on screen. She’s a perfect example of the amazing, refreshing representation and that’s on Themyscira alone.)

And for female roles, there are women as generals, mothers, warriors, caretakers, victims, oppressors mad scientists, secretaries, YOU NAME IT. Women are finally shown in a variety of roles besides the overdone femme fatale, waif, and man-hater.

Antiwar

This film has two messages: women are badasses and war is bad. Though Diana is a boss in every sense of the word, she never dehumanizes her opponents.

She tries to save anyone she can, fighting for her enemies as much as her allies. She truly stands for the human rights of EVERYONE.

Acknowledgement of female sexuality, but not defined by it

Diana is not shy talking about “pleasures of the flesh” as she puts it. Nor is there denial of men’s attraction to her. But rather than fall into the trap of low-cut breastplates and lingering shots of widespread legs, Diana’s sexuality is her own.

It’s portrayed as something in her control, not something flaunted while she remains seemingly oblivious or convinced it’s tactically advantageous, like Black Widow.

Stand up for yourself without tearing others down

Diana and the Amazons stand up for themselves, do what they think is right, and don’t let being female limit them. You’re probably thinking “they had better,” but it doesn’t stop there.

Even in the rigid, openly sexist world of pre-suffrage Europe, we see Diana inspire women and men alike to do the right thing and damn the  consequences. Soldiers, civilians, secretaries, and refugees, she empowers everyone, female and male. She’s perfect.

Multicultural

Not only do we have Diana speaking “hundreds of languages” with a highly diverse Amazonian homeland, her sidekicks include a Scotsman with PTSD, a Native American (yes, it’s in Europe, but trust me, it works), and Middle Eastern man. (Three heavily marginalized groups, even more so in WWI.)

Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins are my new #LifeGoals and I am so grateful for this film. Not just the experience itself, but also the conversations it’s started. I’m seeing self-professed anti-feminists support the film’s message and it gives me hope. We’ll turn them yet, folks!

In short, I believe we have achieved peak feminism.

Have you seen Wonder Woman yet? What did you think?

Interview: W.R. Gingell, author of LADY OF DREAMS @WRGingell

Today, I’m joined by the Amazing W.R. Gingell to talk about her latest release with Amazon Scout. This is the second time I have hosted W.R. on my blog and I’m psyched to have her here for Round #2.

Check out her interview and don’t forget to take a peek at her links at the end of the post!

To start us off, what gave you the idea for Clovis’s Dreams?

Ah, that. I didn’t get the idea straight away; I just knew that I needed a character who was able to see a lot, and understand a lot. She had to be able to make the world dance around her in the rhythm she made. At the same time, she needed to be reasonably set apart from the world. I knew that she couldn’t walk before I knew that she Dreamed, and when it came to me that the reason she couldn’t walk was because she Dreamed, and her soul was always so far from her body, it was a delightful surprise.

People ask me about my plotting, but honestly, you blokes—half the time it’s as much a surprise to me as it is to you.

Haha…pantsing seems to have worked for you so far. Is there something in particular that drew you to write a Korean story? You’re studying Korean, aren’t you?

Yes! The Korean language study definitely played into my desire to write a Korean-based fantasy: I love the language, and I wanted to use what I’d learned. At the same time, I’d been watching a lot of K-Drama (one of the easiest ways to learn words and pronunciation is to watch a lot of tv in that language), and I was mesmerised by their method of storytelling. It is completely different to western storytelling.

There are tropes, good and oh-so-bad, that I wanted to have fun with. Watchers of K-Drama should be able to make a game of picking them out, because I really went to town with them. There are multiple threads throughout, because one of the things I love so much about K-Drama is the multiple thread approach. (That nearly came back to bite me, though, since toward the end it was hard to keep them all in hand.)

And then there was that character I fell in love with, who wasn’t given a happy ending, and so I decided I would write one for him…

I did pick up the K-Drama influence! (And loved it.) Are there any qualities/faults you have that you recognize in any of the characters?

There are always faults of mine in the characters I write. Whether they are MCs or side characters, there’s always a good chance that any bad thing in them is something I’ve seen in myself.

I’m not gonna be too specific, though; I prefer to be a sympathetic character, and I’m nothing like cool enough to be an anti-hero…

It’s okay to be a nice person, you know that, right? 😉 Most of your work is self-published, but Lady of Dreams was released with Kindle Scout. How has that been different?

SO different! It’s been really hard to be so far separated from the book in terms of what I can and can’t do promo-wise. My last book that I released by myself, Blackfoot, did much better in terms of preorders and sticky rank at a reasonable place. However, Blackfoot is the 2nd book in a series (and the 3rd or 4th in that world), so not all the factors are equal. And Lady of Dreams has only just had its first published week, so it’s too soon to say how well it’ll go.

There’s also not much need to worry about it, so if there’s distance, there’s also less worry. I mean, there’s nothing I can do for it: Amazon’s taking care of that baby now. Well, I can probably try to use BookBubs perclick ads, but that’s about the extent of it. So the bad is also the good, in one sense.

“Different” can be like that. How soon can readers expect that next book in the series?

I’m hoping to have finished and published the 2nd book by the end of this year. First I have to finish the scifi I’m working on (the 2nd Time-Traveller’s Best Friend book) and the 3rd book in the Two Monarchies SequenceThe Staff and the Crown. But Lady of Weeds is due right after that, and if I keep writing at my usual, sustainable pace, all three will be done and published by the end of the year.

That’s the plan…

Plans are fickle things, yes? Especially for authors, haha. Are there any “behind the scenes” tidbits or facts you can tell us about the creation of Lady of Dreams?

I had a very specific playlist while I was writing this book. Well, actually, I had two.

One was The Monkees. They’re my favourite band, and their whimsical, dreamy feel was just perfect to write to. I had originally titled Lady of Dreams as Bright as the Eyes of You, a title which I absolutely loved, and came from one of my favourite Monkees songs, Of You. In fact, every single chapter in Lady of Dreams was titled by an excerpt from a Monkees song that fit perfectly with the tone of the chapter and the book as a whole.

Was. In the past tense.

And then I learned that you have to seek permission to use even a four word excerpt from a song…

Let’s just say it was a nightmare—more importantly, it was a nightmare which I couldn’t afford. I would have had to pay upward of $20k to use the lyrics I wanted to use. Ain’t nobody can afford that.

The second playlist was much less problematic. It was Jung Yong-hwa’s first solo album (yes, you’re right; this is where I stole Yong-hwa’s name from). It had the same dreamy, whimsical feel as the Monkees, and had the benefit of being Korean music with Korean words. I listened to that album over and over as I wrote, and I ended up writing half the dedication of Lady of Dreams as thanks to Jung Yong-hwa. I mean, he’s probably never going to see it, but it made me happy.

And speaking of names…When you’re first learning Korean, it’s really hard to tell what are male names, and what are female ones. I had a lot of trouble that way at first. So when I went to pick names for Lady of Dreams, I picked them the same way I picked Yong-hwa’s name: I stole them. I stole them from my favourite actors and actresses, from favourite characters, and from Korean name registries.

You can just call me the Name Thief.

$20k? GOOD LORD. What would you say to readers, like me, who loved your other work, but are hesitant to read something so different?

“Come with me and you’ll be in a land of pure imagination–” wait, no, that’s Willy Wonka. Seriously, though, the thing about my work is that no matter what genre I write in, you’ll always find the kinds of characters, plots, and values that I typically write. I always try to write fully fleshed characters and interesting dynamics, mad plotlines and weird situations, in whatever I write. I write fantasy, scifi (and now a bit of urban fantasy, shhh!) and the kind of fantasy romance you’ll find in Lady of Dreams.

So if you’re the kind of reader who loves characterisation, well, that’s what I like to do. Come with me! You’ll find that my fantasy is not that much different from my fantasy romance. Although the settings are different, my scifi isn’t all that different from my fantasy, either. And when I’ve finished writing the urban fantasy, it will still have the same multi-layered characters and plots (I hope).

So there’s nothing to lose…

About the Author

W.R. Gingell is a Tasmanian author who lives in a house with a green door. She loves to rewrite fairytales with a twist or two–and a murder or three–and original fantasy where dragons, enchantresses, and other magical creatures abound. Occasionally she will also dip her toes into the waters of SciFi.

W.R. spends her time reading, drinking an inordinate amount of tea, and slouching in front of the fire to write. Like Peter Pan, she never really grew up, and is still occasionally to be found climbing trees.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter

Read my review of Lady of Dreams | Twelve Days of Faery | Fire in the Blood | First Chill of Autumn

Read W.R.’s guest post on her Shards of a Broken Sword series

 

Top Ten Most Hardcore Dads in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

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In honor of Father’s Day, I couldn’t decide whether to do a best or worst top ten of dads in SF/F. Ergo, we’re just listing the toughest. Make everybody happy, right? Okay, in no particular order, here we go!

1. John Carter

The wholly underrated film starring Taylor Kitsch bears little resemblance to the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels. However, this guy is basically Superman on Mars if Superman were an ex-Civil War captain who married a Martian princess.

No pressure to their kids, though. Totally no pressure.

2. Achilles

Did you know Achilles had a kid? Achilles had a kid. Despite being an absentee father, this beserking demigod is about as hardcore as they come.

3. Kelsier

While technically there was no formal adoption, Kelsier is a fantastic dad to Vin in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn. He’s also a magic ninja who can manipulate magnetic fields (among other things). He’s freaking badass.

4. Darth Vader

While revealing your kinship to your son right after chopping his hand off may not qualify for Father of the Year, Darth Vader is hardcore. No denying that. Sick saber skills and a dry wit to make grown men weep, it’s no wonder he landed on this list.

5. Elrond

This guy was just a bit scary. I mean, the LOTR movies showed a little of his martial prowess and they were not exaggerating.

6. John Winchester

Second only to Vader for the “Crappiest Dad” award, John Winchester of Supernatural is no less terrifying. Also crazy. I mean, who else hunts monsters full time with two kids?

7. Morghiad

“My dad can beat up your dad and even if he can’t, my dad will be reincarnated and beat up your dad in 20-ish years.” I kind of wonder if H.O. Charles is ever going to let that conversation happen in the Fireblade Array. It would be hilarious.

8. Doctor Who

Though we don’t get to see much of his kids and some of them died, this British sci-fi hero periodically destroys/saves the universe. It’s gotten to be a hobby at this point.

9. Vladimir Dracul

Dracula Untold might not have been a blockbuster, but it has shirtless Luke Evans as a loving vampire dad and I will watch the movies I want, damn it!

10. Harry Dresden

I don’t know how else to explain this, except that Jim Butcher’s creation is a BAMF. A total, sassy BAMF. We cannot advance beyond this level of hardcore. Everyone can go home now.

Tell me your favorite hardcore dads from SF/F!

Review: Lady of Dreams by W.R. Gingell @WRGingell

Confined to her couch, Clovis Sohn spends her days and nights dreaming, drifting further away from the outside world with each passing day. But Clovis’s dreams are also real, giving her a glimpse into the lives of those around her…
When a moment of unthinking sympathy twines Clovis’s dreams with the bored, playful composer Yong-hwa, she must decide whether to keep dreaming in the comfort of her chaise lounge, or to awaken into a reality that is by no means so sure or familiar as her dreams.

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars

Jane Austen meets Korean steampunk in the latest release from literary genius, W.R. Gingell!

I wasn’t sure about this at first, just because the premise is so different from Gingell’s SHARDS OF A BROKEN SWORD series (which I loved). I was a little uncertain, but all my favorite things about her works, unique characterizations, creative settings, and multilayered storylines, were all here! (Not to mention swoon-worthy, sweet romance.)

The plot:

The story moves a little slowly the first chapter or so, but it really picks up from there. I was very quickly curious as to what would happen. The complex interactions of the characters was definitely a huge draw. Gingell rewards her readers well and I never should have doubted!

The characters:

Clovis is an unusual narrator mainly because of her profound apathy (in the beginning). I have never seen such an unemotional character made so sympathetic and it’s one of my favorite things about this book.

The intricate dance of Ae-jung, Jessamy, Se-ri, Yong-hwa, Hyuan-jun was incredibly well orchestrated. I was deeply impressed that I never felt the story was rushed, failed to make sense, or had holes.

Also, where can I buy a Yong-hwa? (You think I’m joking, but I’m not.)

Overall, I loved this book. I look forward to the upcoming installments in the series and getting to Gingell’s backlist!

Find Lady of Dreams on Goodreads

Find Lady of Dreams on Amazon

King Arthur’s Literary Legacy

King Arthur is perhaps the most well known character in fantasy literature. For centuries, poets, screenwriters, artists, novelists, and musicians have been captivated by tales of the timeless monarch and his Knights of the Round Table.

The real Arthur would have lived around the 6th century A.D.

He predated the Age of Chivalry by 500+ years and would have had more in common with a Roman legionnaire than a European knight. While this does instantly discredit about 83% of Arthurian lore, we know there was a real warlord who fought back the Saxons after the Romans jumped ship. (Merlin was also real, but that’s for another time.)

Regardless, the exploits of Arthur and his men were so impressive, they were told and retold from antiquity into the modern era. We have an entire subgenre of literature based on him that has spawned books, movies, songs, visual art, television series, and one Monty Python film (legendary in its own right).

Yet even outside Arthurian retellings, Arthur’s influence is everywhere.

My own writing has been heavily influenced by Arthurian lore. Armandius Caersynn of the Argetallam Saga was loosely modeled off Arthur (magical sword, last of his bloodline, fools around with enchantresses). Daindreth of Daindreth’s Assassin has some similarities, but by far my most pronounced inspiration is seen in WIP FireblightFireblight started out as a gender-bent retelling of the Guinevere and Lancelot debacle (with dragon shifters) and kind of mushroomed from there.

I’m certainly not the only one, either. Going back to J.R.R. Tolkien, you can find parallelisms. Aragorn has a magically imbued ancestral sword, grows up in exile, has an association with the fey/elves, and his return marks a time of peace an prosperity for his kingdom. Lloyd Alexander drew strongly from the Welsh branch of Arthurian lore in creating his Prydain Chronicles.

In more contemporary works, Sarah J. Maas‘s Aelin is an exiled heir with association to the fey, brought down to nothing in order to rise again, and her return marks redemption/salvation for the land as well as its people. Branwen of Destiny’s Path and Achan of the Blood of Kings series are other modern examples. The Arthurian archetype is alive and well.

Arthur is immortal.

Modern literary influences are mostly if not entirely based on Arthur’s mythological exploits. Nevertheless, the framework set by Arthurian writers has shaped fantasy fiction for centuries. Archetypes of Merlin, Guinevere, Morgan le Fay, Lancelot, Galahad, Gawain, Mordred, and even the Grail can also be seen cropping up throughout the genre.

We may never know exactly what the real Arthur did or precisely who he was. There was probably no Grail or Lady of the Lake involved. It’s possible he didn’t even go by Arthur.

None of that has stopped generations of fantasy writers from casting him in countless reincarnations. The Once and Future King has no need to return. He never left us.

What is your favorite/least favorite of the Arthurian archetypes? Can you see it in any of your favorite fantasy books?

Top Ten Life Lessons I learned from Fantasy Books

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It takes a library to raise a reader. Like many of us, books played a big role in developing me as a person. I picked up so many bits of wisdom over the years, especially from Fantasy books. These lessons made me a kinder person, more forgiving, and expanded my mind so much…I will be forever grateful.

1. No such thing as hopeless.

To me, The Lord of the Rings has one of the best “all is lost” moments in literature. In the midst of enemy territory with strength fading, it seems Frodo and Sam could never get the Ring into Mt. Doom. But because Sam keeps fighting to keep his promise and because Frodo followed his conscience to spare Gollum, they succeed.

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In the end, the Ring is destroyed and Sauron defeated not so much because of great feats, but the actions of a few determined individuals who stick to their beliefs. And in the end, what are we without belief?

2. Sometimes parents/mentors/role models fail us…and that’s okay.

In The Jackal of Nar by John Marco, Prince Richius is on a campaign ordered by the empire when he is cut off by his father in enemy territory. While it is a horrible thing to abandon your only child and his soldiers, we find out why later on.

Richius’s country couldn’t support the war. The only way his father could stop the war was to have Richius lose through no fault of his own, else the empire would kill them both.

Sometimes our parents do things or make fantastic blunders that screw us over, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t trying to do what was best. While that doesn’t invalidate the hurt or damage caused, I try to remember that.

3. You never know what someone’s going through.

From the perspective of the Wizarding World, Harry Potter seemed to have it all, didn’t he? Fame, a fat inheritance, a Hogwarts headmaster convinced he could do no wrong.

 harry potter twilight better shut up GIF

But his close friends and we the readers know the truth. His abusive muggle childhood, possible PTSD after Cedric Diggory’s death, and the huge weight of expectations that came with being the Chosen One…that’s a lot to throw at a kid. Knowing that, I don’t really blame him for being an occasional jerk, but most people in the story had no clue.

4. You WILL find love again.

While I am extremely salty about the sinking of my Throne of Glass ship, I do like that Sarah J. Maas does away with the “one true love” trope. While I absolutely believe there is a special someone for everyone, it doesn’t have to be the first person you fall in love with.

This took so much pressure out of dating and I’m glad I finally realized it.

5. Animals’ lives are important, too.

In The Inheritance Cycle, the elves are vegetarians because they can read the minds of animals and can’t stomach the thought of killing them. At the time, I was sort of ambivalent to this, but it stayed in my mind. Animals experience pain and fear, too.

Nine years and lots of internal debates later, I can’t stomach it, either.

DISCLAIMER: Vegetarianism was a decision I made based off my own feelings. I don’t want people to think I’m trying to impose that on anyone else. “You do you,” as they say.

6. Power is complicated.

It’s really easy to look at politicians, CEO’s, principles, or anyone in power and wonder how stupid they must be. In Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, the evil dictator is overthrown. In the sequel, the starry-eyed revolutionaries now have to run the world they liberated. Equality and safety for all citizens sounds easy, but it’s really not.

The main characters soon learn there are rules for power that limit the good even the best leader can do.  The rules bind every person who holds any position of power. This does not excuse rulers for unethical or immoral behavior, certainly. I do, however, try to remember that they are all just humans attempting to balance a wide array of interests, needs, and wants of many others.

7. The environment is important. 

In the world of Armania in King’s Folly by Jill Williamson, the witches have mined ahvenrood, the source of their power, for centuries. The mining has left the land riddled with holes, prone to spontaneous sinkholes. Fossil fuels, anyone? Because the witches weren’t concerned with the health of the land, the entire freaking continent sinks and is flooded.

We have to take care of the world we have. We only get one.

8. Your enemies are people, too.

I am mad at George R.R. Martin for many things. One of his worst grievances was humanizing Cirsei. Cirsei, the murdering, lying, peasant-slaughtering bastard that she is.

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In A Clash of Kings, when she receives word that Jaime has been captured, she cries. Cirsei cries. That made me feel terrible. I mean, this evil woman has a heart! And she loves her children! How am I supposed to handle a bad person with wholly justifiable and relatable feelings??? 

The lesson I learned was that even people I hate have souls.

9. Hate is usually born from pain.

Shadowmarch by Tad Williams was a series that got me through that first year of my parents’ divorce. In it, the country of Southmarch is invaded by fairies from the north. Highly racist fairies who hate humanity with a passion. I tore through the first two books eagerly, waiting to see the fairies get their comeuppance.

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We then come to learn that the fairies are dying off because a Southmarch ruler couldn’t keep his pants on. They’re also technically fighting the same world-ending power, expecting to die, and I can’t really blame them for hating the humans so much. Even if the humans alive now had nothing to do with it. This taught me to think maybe I should ask more questions when people are bitter. You never know what they’ve been through.

10. If a romance doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean either person is a bad person.

Queen Cassandra and King Akeela in The Eyes of God by John Marco are both splendid people. They’re both kind, loving, and want what’s best for their countries. Unfortunately, Cassandra falls in love with Akeela’s best friend and then the world ends. (I’m only partly joking.)

The thing is, it wasn’t really because either of them was the villain (in the beginning, at least). There can be two amazing people who just don’t work. It happens. And that’s okay. Seriously, this whole book is about the consequences of trying to force a relationship.

What are some life lessons you’ve learned from books?