Monstress Continued

24426209Last year in November I raved about Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s brilliant first issue of Monstress. The series is through Issue 6 now and you’ll be able to buy the compiled Vol. 1 in July. It’s safe to say I was deeply intrigued after the deluxe first issue (it was 66 pages!), but now I am enthralled. Mostly, I know that folks who are already comics readers have either already picked up Monstress or have heard the buzz, so I’m really trying to reach our readers that maybe typically don’t read comics, but that tend to like the kinds of books that Nicola, Alyssa and I tend to recommend27279102.

Over the past few years I’ve grown to like comics more and more. I love art, I love stories, I love fantasy and sci-fi and comics often blend those qualities in brilliant ways that I adore. Still, I have a bit of a hard time getting into any series that’s just started because I lose focus early and forget what’s happened — this happens to me with books, movies, podcasts… I love a series, but I typically need something significant to dig my teeth into to really get into a series. Liu and Takeda gave me just that, and I am practically addicted to the story.

Monstress is about a young woman named Maika Halfwolf who has a mysterious and ancient monster living inside her body. It times of distress it often takes over and commits atrocities to protect her (and by extension, itself). Maika lives in a world where her kind, the Arcanics, are in an uneasy truce with a race of witches called the Cumaea. While the Cumaea view the Arcanics as a “race,” the term applies broadly to groups of magical creatures that can pass as human, part animal, or even all animal.

27881799The Cumaea, as an organization, are a group of women who are endlessly savage in their acquisition of power. They are beautiful, highly educated and fantastic warriors, but are also vicious, conniving and violent. They have enslaved thousands of Arcanics for their own means, consuming them for 28695374power, using them for manual labor, or conducting heinous experiments on them. In Issues 1-4, we get a pretty good look at the Cumaea, but in Issues 5 and 6 we start to understand more about the “Courts” of the Arcanics, which aren’t seeming much better than the Cumaea, from Maika’s perspective.

I said in my first recommendation for Monstress that one of the most fascinating things about it was that its worldbuilding is primarily based on matriarchal structures, which has an interesting effect on how the story is told…. if only because it doesn’t seem to matter at all. There has been no sacrifice of power or violence to acquiesce to more “feminine” qualities. The female characters in these books are everything good, bad and the dozens of shades in between. It’s exactly these shades of grey that make the series being primarily populated by female characters so unique.

They way Monstress is paced feels a lot like reading a novel. Its themes of war between races (and some things about the “races” themselves) reminds me  of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. I think 29071035people who loved that series for its complexity will adore Monstress. In terms of aesthetics and worldbuilding, I think that people who typically enjoy manga-style artwork will be thrilled by Takeda’s intricate style.

I am consistently floored by how beautiful her work is and have read each issue several times just to look at the pictures again and again. Comic book covers are 29277177often more intricate or artistic versions of the art you can expect to see in the book (they’re meant to draw the reader in, like any book cover, after all!), but in this case, they are simply beautiful renditions of the heart of each issue’s primary conflict or theme. The images you can expect to see in the books themselves are just as stunning, frame by frame.

Overall, I realize this is just the beginning of what Takeda and Liu are trying to accomplish and that thought excites me more than what they’ve already put out. I expect that Maika will only become more complex, that her relationship with the mysterious Tuya will result in more surprises and I’m looking forward to seeing what becomes of a certain Lord Corvin in Issue 7.

I hope you’ll pick Monstress up if you haven’t, that you’ll pick it back up if you lost track of it and that you’ll love it no matter what.

Allison Carr Waechter’s summer school semester just started, so books with pictures are just the ticket. 


Coven Chat: Wrapping Up the World of Shadowhunters

256683We have had an amazing couple of weeks sharing our love for Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter universe with you. Today we’re wrapping up with a discussion of the ‘verse as a whole, including the television series and film.  

A note: Spoilers abound in this particular Coven Chat, so if you haven’t read or seen anything in the Shadowhunters saga, and you don’t want things spoiled, don’t read on!

Nicola: Naturally, we’re starting our discussion with the core of the Shadowhunter universe: the books. So far there are two completed series, The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices, and the first book in a third, The Dark Artifices. One of the things I really like about the Shadowhunter books is the way the series share common themes with each other. There are some popular YA themes – the loss or incompetence of parental figures (Tessa’s aunt, Clary’s mother, Julian’s uncle), first love, etc. – but the books also commonly explore themes like forbidden love and the importance of family (by blood and by choice). Not only does this mean the books are linked on a deeper level than shared characters and world, but it also means that there’s room for nuanced exploration of these different topics.

Allison: I am really impressed by Clare’s willingness to “go there” in terms of forbidden love. In November of last year, Scott Bergstrom started that big kerfluffle by implying that his book is unique in that he was willing to put his characters in “morally ambiguous” situations when “other YA” doesn’t typically do that. All I could think was “But does your character fall in love with someone, only to find out that they are their long lost sibling and then DECIDE TO GO AHEAD WITH THE ROMANCE ANYWAY????” Obviously, Bergstrom is a bit of dunce when it comes to knowing the market, but it’s something that folks who are dismissive of YA in general often use to dismiss it. The idea that YA, especially YA fantasy and sci-fi, is generally cut and dry in terms of morality is nuts. Cassandra Clare has been setting the bar for morally ambiguous since City of Bones.

Nicola: THIS. Even though I could never really get behind how Clary and Jace’s relationship developed (just because I think he’s an ass and it was basically instalove), I thought it fit so perfectly with the wider themes of The Mortal Instruments, because it’s all about the importance of family, but specifically about the importance of the people who act like family, not people who are family merely as an accident of birth. As far as the Lightwoods are concerned, Jace is their son, a25494343nd Luke is far more father to Clary than Valentine.

The Clave places a lot of emphasis on how Clary and Jace ought not to be trusted because of their father (never mind that Clary never even met the man), but as you say below one of the continuing themes in the Shadowhunter universe is the contrast between the actions of individual Shadowhunters and the Clave’s policies. While the Clave thinks being Valentine’s children makes Clary and Jace suspicious, Luke, Jocelyn, R obert and Maryse just see the young adults they brought up. In this context, it is Isabelle who is Jace’s sister, and Simon the closest thing to a brother Clary has, so it’s fitting to explore what happens when the two kinds of relationships – blood relatives who are strangers and non-blood relations who become friends and more – collide.

Alyssa: I really like what both of you are saying. I also love that Clare portrays forbidden love and the importance of family as complex and morally ambiguous concepts. While I sometimes get annoyed with the love triangle in The Infernal Devices and with Clary and Jace’s romance (for the same reasons Nicola mentioned), I appreciate that these series aren’t afraid to challenge our moral compass or assumptions. The Infernal Devices seems to accept the possibility of being in love with more than one person, and The Mortal Instruments suggests that Clary and Jace would likely still be in love even if they were in fact brother and sister. Perhaps, Clare’s books demonstrate that feelings of mutual love are never wrong?

Allison: My inclination is to say that Clare’s main point in all this is that these issues exist outside of right and wrong. It’s powerful to even acknowledge that such complexity exists. Along these same lines, I am always fascinated by how Clare positions her heroes. I’ve said this before, but Clare does a great job of making us feel attached to individual Shadowhunters, but question the hell out of the Clave’s moral compass. This is really cool to me because it parallels so much of how the real world is structured. In particular, I find the parallels between Western military and police forces and the Clave to be particularly salient and timely. The Clave asks Shadowhunters to put aside common decency and morality to enforce bigoted laws pretty frequently, all in the name of safety. Some Shadowhunters take advantage, others rail against the system. It’s to Clare’s credit that she includes characters that are someplace in the middle.

Nicola: Yes! I love this aspect, too. One of the things I think Clare does well here is that it’s almost understandable why many Shadowhunters look dowClockwork Princessn upon mundanes, because from their perspective they fight and die to protect mundanes, who don’t even know it’s happening. It’s clear from the narrative, particularly Clary’s storyline, that this attitude is not acceptable, but at the same time there isn’t utter condemnation for the people who have lost so much in a fight they never chose while the rest of the world is completely ignorant of it. I think for many Shadowhunters there’s a bit of envy for mundanes, along the lines of Jessamine’s, but they can’t be mundanes without losing their families and culture, so they channel their anger at the injustice towards the people they wish they could be. It’s petty and wrong, but not entirely unsympathetic.

Alyssa: I also like that Clare’s books are compassionate towards characters who are struggling with what’s right and wrong, good and evil, and who sometimes (or often) make immoral or morally compromised decisions. She pushes her readers to try to understand why creatures–humans, nephilim, angels, demons–behave cruelly, but she does not excuse their cruelty. Clare compares the moral ambiguity of humans, Shadowhunters and Downworlders with pure notions of good and evil, especially when you consider religious beliefs and the demon realms.

Take Sebastian, for example. Although he’s such a blatantly evil character because of his demon blood, I also couldn’t help wondering how much Clary’s mother is to blame for Sebastian’s evil nature…beyond his biological makeup and paternal influence. How much of Sebastian’s cruelty and violence result from his feelings of abandonment and loneliness? His parents rejected him (even Valentine for Jace), and Sebastian seems to genuinely want his sister to love and value him (as twisted as his efforts are to win her love). If their mother had loved and cared about Sebastian’s well-being and loved him unconditionally, even though he has demon rather than angel blood, would that have made a difference in his behavior? If his mother and sister had cared about him, would he have been less cruel? I’m not sure, but Clare raises those questions about whether good and evil are black and white concepts, or whether everything is morally ambiguous and everyone has the potential to be good or bad, depending on whether they are loved or hated. Shadowhunters as a whole are both benevolent and callous, superheroes and monsters.

Nicola: That’s a very good point, Alyssa. Even the Clave and Shadowhunter culture as a whole cannot be regarded as a one-dimensional bigoted force. Much of Shadowhunter culture is shaped by their role as protectors and demon-slayers, but at the same time concepts like parabatai and runes for marriage celebrate human love and relationships.

Allison: Yes, this idea that the Clave is both law (and as we know “the law is hard, but it is the law”) and people that enforce the law is so complex. So prevalent is the idea that laws and societal rules must grow and change with the times and with bodies of people and the truth that this is a hard process. I love how messy Clare lets it all be and that she shows how individuals work to turn the tides of these discussions, but that the tides are forces of nature and that change is slow.

It’s for all these reasons that I have trouble deciding which series I love best. There are aspects of The Mortal Instruments that I like better than the other seimagesries, but until Lady Midnight, I loved The Infernal Devices as a series more. Now I think The Dark Artifices will probably be my favorite series because so far it features my favorite characters and it’s the conglomeration of all the different complexities that Clare has been developing for years in other series.

Alyssa: I haven’t finished The Infernal Devices or read Lady Midnight yet, so I can’t say which is my favorite series. But I’m really looking forward to reading The Last Hours and The Dark Artifices and having an even better understanding of how all of these series relate.

Nicola: I think The Infernal Devices is still my favourite, but I did love a lot of the characters in Lady Midnight, so after the rest of The Dark Artifices comes out it’ll probably be a toss up between the two.

So we all love all the books, but what about the movie and TV series based off of them? The impression I always get of the film is that the filmmakers couldn’t decide if they were making a movie for existing fans or making a movie for Shadowhunter newbies, and they ended up with something confusing to non-fans (my fiancé had to keep asking me what was happening!) that changed some significant features of the book, upsetting existing fans – for instance, I couldn’t really get behind the portrayal of Valentine because he didn’t fit the well-manicured, charismatic character from the book.

This is something I think tShadowhunters-TV-show-poster-1448056730he TV series manages to balance better, in part because of the different formats; the first few episodes of the series felt plagued by the same problem as the movie, but then it diverged enough that, as a book fan I can enjoy it as a loose adaptation, but if I were unfamiliar with the books I’d be able to follow the story because it doesn’t presuppose an understanding of the Shadowhunter universe.

Allison: I totally agree with what you’re saying about the TV series handling this a bit better.  The thing the movie had going for it from my perspective was great actors and beautiful costumes and sets. It felt like the Shadowhunter world to me. Not quite the one I imagined in my head, but the aesthetic made sense, though I agree 100% that Valentine was not Valentine in the film. Trying to make him young and sexy just didn’t work.

Nicola: Yes, me too! That’s actually one of my main gripes about the TV series; I don’t like the high-tech aspects of the New York Institute because there shouldn’t even be computers in a Shadowhunter Institute.

Allison: YESSSS. No computers in any of the Institutes! I understand why they’re doing it, but it’s one of the things that’s so integral to Shadowhunter culture and it informs so much about how they are separate from the world.

Alyssa: I haven’t seen the City of Bones movie, but I’m really glad the series didn’t continue as a film franchise and was adapted as a TV series instead. While the first few episodes suffered a bit from weak character and plot development, I thought the second half of the TV series improved immensely. The beginning episodes felt a bit rushed, the acting and storylines somewhat awkward, forced and cheesy; but then the actors became more comfortable and natural in their roles.

I also really like that the characters in the TV series are a bit different than how they are in the books; they are not just a few years older, but Jace and Isabelle, for example, are less pompous and more relatable in the TV show. I also like that the storylines diverge from the books. Season One incorporates and changes plotlines from City of Ashes and City of Glass. I think it would be problematic if season one followed City of Bones, season two followed City of Ashes, and so on.

Nicola: I really struggled to get into the series at first for the same reasons you mention. In more recent episodes, however, the series has diverged enough from the book that even though the characters still don’t feel quite like their book versions, they feel like rounded, interesting characters all the same. I get the impression that the producers wanted to do a loose adaptation along the lines of The Vampire Diaries or Pretty Little Liars, and felt the need to get major plot points out of the way as soon as possible, which didn’t leave room for much character development. Now that it’s forging its own path I’m enjoying it a lot more – with the plus that I don’t see everything coming!

Allison: I totally agree. I worried that the series would flop for about half of the first season.My biggest issue with the show in the beginning was the cheese factor. It lost a lot of its dark edge with the over-stylized “Shadowhunter” costumes and the bad makeup for the runes. I’m really hoping that FreeForm is willing to dump some money into the show to clean up the aesthetic a bit more.

Nicola: The Lydia Branwell storyline is intriguing for the way it explores how traditional social mores and family obligations would encourage a young man like Alec to suppress his sexuality and marry Lydia. It is so like the Clave to be so involved in Shadowhunters’ lives that they cannot even be open about their sexuality; there is simply no room in the Clave’s worldview for Shadowhunters who don’t marry other Shadowhunters and make little Shadowhunter babies.

Allison: Yes, I think that storyline’s appearance did a lot for the development of the show in terms of both plotlines and character development. We get to understand more how narrow the Clave is at the time of The Mortal Instruments, and see how our characters react to the restrictive nature of the Clave’s morality.

The fact that Jace leaves with Valentine in the last episode of the season leaves so much open for more character development in Season Two. We’ll see Clary deal with all the complex stuff we’ve talked about from the books in terms of her feelings for Jace, as well as watching him confront the father who raised him and the idea that he might not be a “good guy” anymore. I’m hoping this will give the characters the same breathing room for complexity that the books allow.

It’s been so wonderful to talk with you ladies over the last weeks about Clare’s world of Shadowhunters. As for our readers, let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Interview With Sara McCormick

Today I’m interviewing Sara McCormick, owner of Bella deLuna Designs and her new shop Liber deStella. Sara lives in North Carolina with four cat children and a husband who thankfully loves math so she doesn’t have to. Like me, she gets distracted by shiny things. 

Sara and I met through a secret society for witches who love tea. We had a quick connection based on our love of the same kinds of magical books. When Sara opened Liber deStelltog candle (3 of 3)a, I knew I had to interview her for CBC, because how could I not share the deets on someone making handmade items based on the books we all love? Brew some tea, pull up a cat and join me and Sara for a chat…

Allison: Sara, I’m so happy you could talk with me today about books and your fantastic work. I was so delighted to find out that we read so much of the same stuff! What’re you reading right now and I know you always have a TBR pile going, so what do you plan to read next?

Sara: I’m so glad to be able to chat with you! I never turn down an opportunity to talk about books! Right now I’m reading Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare. I’m only a couple of chapters in, so I’m still getting a sense of the book, but I’ve heard so many great things about it.

Next up on my TBR pile I’ve got Flamecaster, The Glittering Court and The Shadow Queen. I’m waiting for The Star-Touched Queen and A Court of Mist and Fury to come out and as soon as they do, they’ll go to the top of the list.

Allison: I loved Lady Midnight! We’re right in the middle of our Shadowhunters universe weeks and we’ll be talking about Lady Midnight later this week! Have you read the other series Cassandra Clare has written?

Sara: I have! It’s crazy to see all the fanfare the Shadowhunter world is getting right now with the new TV show and everything. I discovered the books in 2009, just when City of Glass came out. I vividly remember curled up in a blanket pile for days reading the first three books, and falling in love with the world Clare had built. City of Bones is still my favorite.

Allison: It’s still my fwild dragonfly bracelet_lobster clasp (1 of 3)avorite too. I think Lady Midnight has that same feel of falling into something cool and new (even though the first half of the book does a lot of looking back). I think it’s something about the vivid role LA plays in setting the stage. New York was just as captivating in The Mortal Instruments. Clare has a way of making things feel real.

I also have The Star-Touched Queen (which I just got my hands on today!) and A Court of Mist and Fury on my list of can’t-wait-to-reads. What’s your favorite new book in the last few months? I confess I’m shamelessly looking for book recommendations!  

Sara: Without a doubt The Mirror King (the sequel to The Orphan Queen) and The Wrath and the Dawn. Both books I read in one sitting. I’ve already created a candle based on The Wrath and the Dawn, and I’ve got a necklace in the works based on The Mirror King. That’s pretty much how you know I absolutely fell in love with a book, I created something inspired by it.

Allison: How fortuitous! I’m reading The Orphan Queen right now. It’s very intriguing so far. I’m enjoying the slow reveal of Meadows’ system of magic. Speaking of new pieces, you just opened Liber deStella as a sister shop to Bella deLuna. How did you get your start selling handmade goods?

Sara: Oh, wow. Well, I’ve always created things, and actually in high school really go into making jewelry, candles and even the photography, but it wasn’t until my early 20’s that I started to look at it as a job. Long story short, my Mom was an artist, a painter, and when she passed away, I just remember standing in her art studio and having this epiphany that I was trying to force myself into the 9-5 desk job box and making myself pretty miserable while doing it. I saw all this art around me my Mom had created and knew I wanted the same thing, to live my life creating.

Allison: That makes so much sense to me, and it’s really inspiring. What made you want to create a shop just for cool book related goods?

mount of adamant wrath and the dawn candle (2 of 3)Sara: There started to feel like there was a divide in my original shop, Bella deLuna Designs. I knew I was heading into more of a feel of metaphysical shop there, with the gemstones and ritual candles I had been working on, and my book jewelry didn’t feel as at home there anymore. Plus, I knew I had these book inspired candles in the pipeline that really would feel out of place. The two shops are really catering to two different audiences, and I felt that in order to give both the room they need to grow and flourish, that they just needed their own space.

Allison: Luckily, I think there’s a lot of crossover between the metaphysical customers and lovers of the kinds of magical books we both enjoy. What are your favorite pieces thus far?

Sara: Yes, and I’m so happy about that! It has made the process of opening a second shop so much easier than it would have been if there was no crossover at all. And everyone has been super supportive, because there was a little shift where items that used to be in my Bella deLuna shop are no longer there, so I’ve done my best to make sure everyone can find what they’re looking for.

As far as my favorite pieces, I have to include my Outlander dragonfly bracelet, as that was the first book inspired piece I ever created. The Six of Crows necklace is another favorite, as it’s a completely different design than anything I’ve ever done, and I love that it can be worn with anything. But I do have to admit, I’m really obsessed with the book candles right now. I’ve always made notes of scents described in books and how the surrounding landscape shapes the book, so I was really excited to sit down and really do research on how I could create candles that reflected that.

Allison: I just got my Rattle the Stars candle today and it smells amazing. It really does remind me of Celaena. I saw you added a candle for The Wrath and the Dawn to the shop recently, any plans for jewelry inspired by tsix of crows necklace (2 of 4)he book?

Sara: Yes! I’m working on a bracelet inspired by The Wrath and the Dawn right now. I’m hoping to finish it and a few other pieces this week! (Click here to see the finished beauty!

Allison: I need to be saving my pennies… I loved The Wrath and the Dawn. And I already have a strong, strong desire to have that Six of Crows necklace. I love the book so much. For some reason I was a little worried about Leigh Bardugo expanding the Grishaverse, but it blew me away. Yet another series that has me impatiently waiting for the next book…

Sara: I had the same reservations about Six of Crows. Before reading it, I had heard it was from multiple points of view, and for some reason books written in multiple POVs can just rub me the wrong way. If there’s one character’s voice that I don’t like, I don’t like the rest of the book. So I was nervous about Six of Crows, but once I read it I absolutely fell in love.

Allison: I’m with you on the multiple POVs, it can be a risky move. But it turned out to the be thing that kept me on the edge of my seat. I can’t wait to get to know all the characters better in the next book. Sara, thank you again for having this fun chat with me today, I’m so blessed to know you.

Sara: Anytime! Thanks so much for inviting me to chat!

Pssst, before you go…Sara writes about the books she loves all the time on her blog. And if you want to see what her cats are up to, follow her on Instagram (or here for Liber deStella related goodness). Biscuit is my particular favorite. Like Twitter best? Follow her here. Facebook more your style? Keep up with Sara here. By the way, you can click on any of the above images to go right to Sara’s shop!

Double psssssst…. We’ll be back later this week for our talk about Lady Midnight and next week we’ll discuss the Shadowhunters universe as a whole!

Calling Lady Book Lovers!

QoR8Bv1S2SEqH6UcSJCA_TeaHey there!

Are you a lady? Do you love books written by ladies? Do we keep missing your favorite book?

If you checked yes to all three of the above, maybe you’d like to write a recommendation for CBC. If so, get in touch with us at for more information about our submission process.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Allison, Alyssa and Nicola

2015 Wrap Up

photo-1414124488080-0188dcbb8834It’s the end of the year and what would the end be without a list of our favorite books of the year? Nicola, Alyssa and I have put together a list of our shared faves, as well as our individual top books of the year. No surprise, adventurous fantasies are at the top of our lists! It was difficult to choose, but here’s what we’ve got:

Queen of Shadows, by Sarah J Maas:

Allison: The Throne of Glass series is probably one of my all-time favorites, so this is a clear contender for me. I love Aelin, but Manon… Manon is my girl. Maybe it’s my love of witches, my love of dragons or just my love of man-eating female protagonists, but Manon really grew on me during this book. I was also thrilled to see the stories in Assassin’s Blade playing out here. Lysandra is another one of my favorite female protagonists of the year.  

Nicola: Yes! I loved that all those storylines that were set up in the prequels started to play out in QoS. In many ways it felt like an ending to the series, wrapping up those storylines from earlier on, but of course we know there are two more books to go.

Alyssa: I also loved the ensemble narrative and the wrapping up of multiple storylines!

A Court of Thorns and Roses, by Sarah J Maas:

Allison: I am so ready for A Court of Mist and Fury. This was absolutely the best love story of the year for me. I love that this book had romance at the heart of the story. It was sexy, dark and compelling.

Alyssa: YES! YES! YES! YES!

Nicola: I always knew I’d love ACOTAR: my favourite fairy tale, retold by one of my favourite authors? It’s a no-brainer. But I really did love Maas’ take on it: the faery aspect, the not-so-beastly love interest, and Feyre.

An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir:

Allison: This was probably my favorite book of the year, overall. I thought it was fresh feeling in a way that surprised me a little. I loved the way it complicated what can be a very black and white story of good and evil. The idea that the oppressors are harmed by the act of oppression is very interesting to me.

Nicola: Yeah, I think that’s why I loved Helene so much as a character. Even though she doesn’t get any POV scenes (though I think/hope she might in A Torch Against the Night), her internal struggle between the rules she’s been trained to follow and the ethics of her heart positively leaps off the page. And the way the book ended for her, well, I’m really excited to see the decisions she makes and the way it all pans out for her.

Alyssa: This may have been my all-time favorite book of the year, too. I am SO HAPPY there will be a sequel!

Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo:

Allison: While Ember was my favorite book this year, this is probably my most anticipated series. I absolutely can’t wait to see what happens next. Like, really, I’m a little jittery just thinking about it.

Alyssa: Yes, waiting for Six of Crows to come out (and not getting an ARC, woe is me) was torture! And now anticipating book 2…I’m jittery too.

Allison: So those are the ones we agree on wholeheartedly as our top favorites, but I know we each have our lists… And there’s a lot of crossover there as well! What were your favorites aside from these four?

Alyssa: Here are my top favorites in a few categories, all YA published in 2015

  1. All the Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven (contemporary)
  2. Wolf by Wolf, by Ryan Gaudin (alternate history)
  3. Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard (epic fantasy)
  4. Winter, by Marissa Meyer (science fiction)
  5. The Rose Society, by Marie Lu (sequel)


  1. A Darker Shade of Magic, by Victoria Schwab
  2. The Diviners and Lair of Dreams, by Libba Bray
  3. How to Grow Up, by Michelle Tea
  4. Monstress, Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
  5. Elysium, by Jennifer Marie Brissett


  1. The Vanishing Throne, by Elizabeth May
  2. 2.The Heart of Betrayal, by Mary E. Pearson
  3. Devoted, by Jennifer Mathieu
  4. All the Rage, by Courtney Summers
  5. The Winner’s Crime, by Marie Rutkoski

Allison: There’s books on both your lists that I want to add to mine as well! It was really hard to narrow my list down this year. I loved The Heart of Betrayal and The Rose Society as well.

Nicola: Same here! I read The Diviners a couple of years ago so I really want to read Lair of Dreams, but I have to re-read The Diviners first.

Allison: There’s a reference in Lair of Dreams to The Gemma Doyle Trilogy and it’s KILLING ME. I need to know if that’s going to be continued into the next book, or if it was just a nod to fans of Bray’s previous work. I’m so grateful you both recommended The Kiss of Deception to me, because I’m loving those books so much! The Heart of Betrayal was one of my big time favorites this year.

Alyssa: Yes, The Heart of Betrayal and Lair of Dreams are also favorites of mine! They are such good sequels and, like The Rose Society, avoided the dreaded sophomore slump.

Allison: Agreed! There were so many great second books this year, it’s making me itch for 2016 new releases already… Though I’ll admit I’ve got a few of the ones you mentioned in my TBR for our hiatus.

Dear readers, as you may remember, we’re headed off to our winter hiatus from now until January 11th. We’ll be back in 2016 with new recommendations, our January Coven Reads discussion for Susan Dennard’s Truthwitch, and a few other surprises.

Yours in book magic and mayhem,

Allison, Alyssa and Nicola

While Allison, Alyssa and Nicola are gone, catch up on your TBR too and if you find you have a lady-authored book you’re dying to recommend to others, email us at We’re still answering the phones, but forgive us if we’re a little distracted, our noses are already deep in new books.