Sara’s Favorite Reads of 2017 (Plus, Another Double Giveaway!)

Isn’t it fun to look back on the books you’ve read in the past year? I always enjoy doing this, though I also prefer to wait until January to share my lists of favorites. Somehow the books I read around Christmas and New Year’s have a habit of shaking up those lists – and that certainly was the case again!

Out of the 56 fiction books I read in 2017, I’ve narrowed my favorites down to a top 10 of brand new books and a top 10 of previously published books. Plus, like with my Favorite Reads of 2016 post, I’ve added something fun for readers at the end of this post. 😉 So let’s dive in!

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My 10 Favorite Reads of Fall 2016 (+ Win Your Choice in a Giveaway!)


When I announced in September that I was reducing my blogging schedule, I knew that change would mean ending the monthly Recent Reads series. But I didn’t want to walk away from the idea of discussing books we’ve recently read. Then I read Leanne Sowul’s summer reading round-up here, and inspiration sparked. Why not do a seasonal reading recap – and also make it fun for my readers?

So, today I’ll share my 10 favorite reads from Fall 2016 (September through November). What you’ll find after the jump aren’t reviews, but rather blurbs that mention why I enjoyed each book with links to my full reviews at Goodreads and Amazon. As for the fun part: The title says it all, so stay tuned for the Rafflecopter link and instructions at the end of this post! 😉
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Stacking The Shelves, Vol. 13: Of Elementals and Elves

Stacking The Shelves banner

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly event hosted by Tynga’s Reviews that shares the books (both physical and virtual) that you recently purchased, borrowed from a fellow reader or the library, won from a giveaway, or received as gifts. Stacking The Shelves will post on Saturdays as new books are added to my shelves.

First of all, a huge and sincere apology to anyone who’s waiting on my response for blog tags and awards! I needed to focus on more deadline-driven articles first, and everything kind of came to a head all at once. 😦 I’m hoping to start catching up before my trip to Writer’s Digest Conference at the end of the month, and then continue when I’m back.

Now, books. Yes. Two new ones, and they are…

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Interview with Angela B. Chrysler, Author of “Dolor and Shadow”


I’m always excited to meet other fantasy writers through blogging or social media. That’s how I found Angela B. Chrysler last fall, though I don’t quite remember how. I want to say it was on Twitter… But what I do recall is that when Angela shared the premise of her debut novel Dolor and Shadow with me, I knew the story would be up my alley. High fantasy combined with Norse mythology, a foreboding atmosphere, and a dynamic female protagonist – where are the checkboxes to tick off? Oh, and Angela’s a fellow Tolkienite. Yay!

Dolor and Shadow was released on Sunday, May 31st, and I’m honored to have Angela here today for our newest Author Interview. Learn more about her novel, why she chose to self-publish, and how many books she plans to release over the next year. (Holy cow, it’s staggering!)  Let’s dive in, shall we?

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Recent Reads: “Over Sea, Under Stone” by Susan Cooper

Over Sea Under Stone cover

Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark Is Rising Sequence, Book #1)
Susan Cooper
Fantasy / Young Adult / Children’s


“I did not know that you children would be the ones to find it. Or what danger you would be putting yourselves in.”

Throughout time, the forces of good and evil have battled continuously, maintaining the balance. Whenever evil forces grow too powerful, a champion of good is called to drive them back. Now, with evil’s power rising and a champion yet to be found, three siblings find themselves at the center of a mystical war.

Jane, Simon, and Barney Drew have discovered an ancient text that reads of a legendary grail lost centuries ago. The grail is an object of great power, buried with a vital secret. As the Drews race against the forces of evil, they must piece together the text’s clues to find the grail – and keep its secret safe until a new champion rises.

Rating: 3.75 / 5

There’s nothing more rewarding than picking a long-unread book from your shelf and coming away from it satisfied. I can’t tell you how long I’ve neglected Over Sea, Under Stone, the first installment of Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising Sequence. Two years? Maybe three? It may be a good idea to prioritize more recent releases (Over Sea, Under Stone will be 50 years old in 2016), but that doesn’t help with alleviating TBR guilt. So, I decided to stop feeling guilty and dive into Cooper’s world of darkness, light, and Arthurian legends – and I really enjoyed it!

Over Sea, Under Stone takes place in the fictional coastal town of Trewissick, Great Britain. Three siblings – Simon, Jane, and Barney Drew – and their parents join their wise yet peculiar Great Uncle Merry for a summer vacation, renting a castle-like mansion known as the Grey House. While exploring the Grey House, the siblings discover a manuscript from the days of King Arthur. Strange things happen afterwards. The Grey House is ransacked by burglars, yet nothing is taken. Mysterious visitors try to slither their way into the family’s “inner circle.” The only person the children realize they can trust then is Great Uncle Merry, who seems to know a great deal about the manuscript and its significance. With their great uncle watching over them, the Drew siblings must piece together clues and find the grail mentioned in the manuscript – before their enemies do.

Over Sea, Under Stone takes a few chapters to get going. Once it does, it becomes a quick, fascinating read, with smart pacing and breezy language that readers young and old will appreciate. Its surprisingly intricate plot is effortless to follow, too. Cooper plays every detail as if it’s a chess piece; characters who initially don’t seem important weasel their way back into the story in ways that make complete sense, and then threaten the Drew children and their chances of success. These twists and turns are marks of great storytelling, regardless of the genre or target audience.

Cooper also excels at building tension and suspense. As conflict mounts in Over Sea, Under Stone, she constantly leaves the reader fearing the children’s lives. She achieves this through dialogue, internal reactions from the Drew siblings, and action. The chase scene at the end of Chapter 7 is one of my favorite parts of the book. By the end, my heart was pounding and I was recovering my breath from the pacing and the constant worrying over whether the chase would end badly for Simon.

Another aspect of Over Sea, Under Stone that I loved was the relationships between Simon, Jane, and Barney. It’s so obvious that they’re siblings! They argue, joke around, poke fun at one another, and fret about each other’s safety. Cooper never reveals their ages; if I had to guess, they’re probably 10 (Simon), 9 (Jane), and 7 (Barney), which fits how they interact with each other and with adults. Their banter does get tiring at times and can affect the pacing. Yet, Cooper’s realistic portrayals of the Drew siblings endeared me even more to the story, and to the characters themselves.

The only real gripe I have with Over Sea, Under Stone is the third-person omniscient narration (a.k.a. the all-knowing POV that shares thoughts and feelings from all of the main characters during a scene or chapter). I know this was acceptable back in the 1960s when Cooper wrote the book. (Other classic fantasy series like Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy and C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia were also written this way.) But it was jarring to learn Jane’s thoughts in one paragraph, and then Barney’s the next. I was also irritated by the couple times the omniscient narrator focused on a minor character instead of one of the Drew siblings. It may help with showing how the  scope widens as the story goes on, but I still questioned its necessity.

Overall, though, I’m happy that I finally snuck in time for Over Sea, Under Stone. It captures the innocence and curiosity of its young protagonists as well as the mythic weight of the battle between good and evil. And with believable characters, realistic relationships, and edge-of-your-seat suspense, it’s a vivid, compelling fantasy that appeals to readers of all ages. I have every intention now of continuing The Dark Is Rising Sequence now. Too bad it’s Christmastime and I’m still under my self-imposed book-buying ban for another 2 weeks!

Have you read Over Sea, Under Stone? What did you think of it? If you haven’t read it yet, do you think you might check it out based on what you’ve read above? Let me know by commenting below or visiting the same review at Amazon or Goodreads.