On Being an Alien

andalitesI grew up a socially awkward homeschooler. (For the record, I don’t believe homeschooling is the reason for my social awkwardness.)
When I had access to TV, I mostly watched the shows with talking animals, like 101 Dalmatians or my favorite, Redwall, which was the show that got me into reading. All the live action shows with humans tended to be about kids in school, and that was a foreign culture I couldn’t relate to. Talking animals were easier to understand. The only show with humans that I regularly watched was the Wild Thornberries, which was about a homeschooled girl who talked to animals. That was just the sort of show I liked, and to this day, it’s one of the only shows I can think of that actually represented homeschool kids. (If we want to talk about representation, let’s talk about how rarely homeschooled kids and homeschool culture gets positive representation in the media.)

When I started reading, I mostly read animal stories and reread all the Redwall books at least twice, then I began branching out. When I read Animorphs, I immediately connected with Ax, the one alien. He stuck out like a sore thumb, didn’t do very well passing for human, and had a unique perspective on humanity. He sadly got less books since the publishers thought kids couldn’t connect to the alien. Go figure.

Even now, when I’m consuming media, I tend to relate to the alien, or the one who doesn’t fit in. Normal humans aren’t as interesting. Sadly, these nonhumans seem to get pushed to the background because the writers think I can’t relate to them.

I wonder if this is why it seems like outcasts are attracted to sci-fi. We don’t fit in the main crowd, so it’s a lot more fun to read about another world, one where we can imagine we would fit, and one with characters that feel like outcasts or are socially inept because they’re aliens.

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Book Review: Space Drifters: The Ghost Ship

51ca8cc7eml-_sx322_bo1204203200_After leaving us hanging in the last book, Glint and his crew of misfits are back and in more trouble than ever. Not only are Glint’s old enemies after him, but now he’s got a killer nanocat out to punish him and his crew for stealing a rare flower.

Note on ratings:

*           Horrible.
**         Below average
***       Average. Not good or bad.
****    Above average
*****  Above and beyond

 

Content: **** (Content based off my personal level of squeamishness.)
Some violence, a little romance, and that sort of thing, but overall it’s pretty clean.

Originality and world building: ****
It reminds me a bit of Guardians of the Galaxy, but it’s a lot cleaner. The story is light, so I wouldn’t say the worldbuilding’s deep, but the world feels real enough.

Characters and their Arcs: ****
Glint can be annoying at times, but he’s funny so that makes it better.  He is getting less annoying as the story progresses. Blix is still my favorite character, and the other characters, including bounty hunters and Nelvin are cool too.

Writing style and Pacing: ****
The style is clean, but I was able to put the book down. It was pretty fun though, and it’s not slow.

Other things I liked:
Nelvin is an interesting and out of his depth character.
I would love to see this as a movie or TV series. I also keep wondering if there was anything more about those skeletons. I liked how the book mentioned Christianity without seeming preachy too. Many books I read seem to be preachy, but this one fits it in without feeling that way.

Other things I didn’t like:
I could put it down. Oh, and the character has his finger on the trigger on the cover, which isn’t something safe to do with a gun. (You never put your finger on the trigger unless you’re ready to shoot.) Then again, Glint did shoot a kitten when he got spooked, so Glint may be disregarding gun safety.

Is it worth reading?
Yes. If you like Guardians of the Galaxy, or would like it if it was cleaner, this is the book for you.

My Rating:

fourstar

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Cake Flavored Book Tag

Keturah didn’t even tag me, but this looked fun, so I’m doing it.

 

51wflsnmosl-_sx349_bo1204203200_1. Chocolate Cake (a dark book you absolutely love)
For me, if a book’s dark, it’s likely dark because it’s dealing with something real, so I’d have to say The Shepherd’s Granddaughter. It’s about a shepherd girl growing up in occupied Palestine and the horrible stuff that happens to her was based off stuff that happens to real people there. Since the situation hasn’t gotten any better, the book’s attempt to end on a positive note is overshadowed by the dark situation in the real world.

2. Vanilla Cake (a light read)
Space Drifters by Paul Regnier. It’s a sci-fi light read with humor.

3. Red Velvet (a book that gave you mixed emotions)
Killer Instinct. It’s about a serial killer. Murder mysteries like this kind of give me the creeps.

4. Cheesecake (a book you would recommend to anyone)
Maybe Legion by Brandon Sanderson? It’s one of the few I think non-fantasy/sci-fi readers would like. It’s super funny, and it’s a quick read.

5. Coffee Cake (a book you started but didn’t finish)
Placebo by Steven James. It just seemed boring to me.

6. Carrot Cake (a book with great writing)
Firstborn by Brandon Sanderson. Yes, it’s a short story you can read for free, but I really enjoyed it.

7. Tiramisu (a book that left you wanting more)
Pacifist’s War by Leila Rose Foreman. I feel like there’s a lot more to the universe than that one planet, and I want to see what the colonists have done there in a century or so. Have they made peace with the violent locals? Will the aliens on the planet want to go into space?

51e2b7v-pdyl-_sx307_bo1204203200_8. Cupcakes (a series with 4+ books)
Mistborn by Sanderson again. Sanderson has some long series.

9. Fruit Cake (a book that wasn’t what you anticipated)
Dark Life by Kat Falls. I’d recently read a pretty bad post global warming book, so I didn’t expect much when I picked up this book, but it was really good.

10. Lamington (favorite Australian book)
Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan. It’s the only Australian series I can think of, and I did really like the Ranger’s Apprentice books.

 

 

And here I am, not knowing who to tag. If you like this, just do it without being tagged.

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Thirteen Ways Star Wars Rebels Outdid the Sequels

While I did enjoy watching the two sequel Star Wars movies, I’ve felt they’re lacking compared to the originals, and in some ways, even lacking in comparison to Star Wars Rebels. While Rebels has some of its own problems, I decided to list thirteen ways it outdid the films.

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  1. Helmet slice. I’m half-suspicious that the deal with Captain Phasma was just a Rebels Easter egg. In TLJ, the helmet breaking had no significance and made little sense. However, when Ahsoka sliced Vader’s helmet, it was a moment of awesome because it was when she realized Darth Vader was Anakin, giving emotional impact similar to when Luke realized Darth Vader was his father.
    vaders_cut_mask_by_darthbane48-d9xfctw
  2. Ramming always works. Sato was a more likable character than Holdo. Granted, hers did more damage, so it kind of outdid the visual display, but Sato gets credit for doing it first, and being a better leader who didn’t cause his crew to mutiny needlessly.
  3. Jedi training. Rey never even got real training, and she’s suddenly a competent Jedi? Luke could barely use the Force when he had Rey’s level of training, let alone dual an evil guy with more training and experience. In Rebels, both Sabine and Ezra needed episodes of training before they did anything right. Ezra was so bad when he started that he got attacked by a Lothcat. Even Kanan, who had more training than Rey was beaten by the Inquisitor the first few times he dueled him, and Kanan had backup.
  4. Purple hair. Sabine rocks the colorful hair. Holdo’s looks more like cotton candy.
    Holdo
  5. Villains that are actually frightening. The Inquisitor, Maul, or Thrawn could mop the floor with Kylo Ren.
  6. Leaders who do their job right and keep the right secrets. In the first season of Rebels, Hera is the only one who knows the group is a rebel cell. Sabine confronts her about keeping secrets and Hera gives a good explanation for why she has kept stuff secret from Sabine. Later in the season, this is shown to be a wise move because, when Kanan is tortured, he has no information. Holdo, on the other hand, kept secrets that led to her crew mutinying because she appeared to be an inept leader.
  7. Characters from other storylines are treated with respect. Captain Rex, Darth Maul, Gregor, and Ahsoka are all treated well by the series. This series knows that people are watching to see characters from other shows, so they treat them decently, unlike the Sequels who leave fans of the other Star Wars films disappointed.
  8. Anti-climactic deaths. Even though some believe Maul’s death was a bit anticlimactic, it was a lot better than Snoke’s, and it wasn’t bad considering how experienced Obi-Wan was. Kanan and even Sato sacrificed themselves for his their, which was much better than how Akbar, Luke, and Han went out. Even Gregor, who had very little screen time, got a good death scene.
  9. The value of sacrifice. Instead trying to save Kanan during a weird time-travel episode, Ezra realizes that he can’t save Kanan when he had chosen to sacrifice himself. He has to let go, unlike Rose, who crashed into Finn rather than let him sacrifice himself to save what was left of the Resistance.
  10. Masters who stop hiding. Kanan realized quite quickly that, even if he’d run in the past, he had to train Ezra and become a Jedi himself. He couldn’t turn his back on it like Luke did, even when he’s blinded at the end of Season 2.

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  11. Depth to war. In Rebels, we get to see that there are some people who fight the empire but have few morals. as Saw Gerrera. Even a droid from The Clone Wars, who, when asked what he was fighting for, answered with “freedom.” While the Empire is pure evil, we at least get a few shades of gray on the good side, something lacking from the Sequels.
  12. People switch sides a bit more realistically. In Rebels, Kallus switches sides, and Minister Tua tries and is promptly killed by the Empire. Both of these characters have more depth than Finn, who seems to grow a moral compass without cause.
  13. The heroes get to pass on a legacy. While the villainous Kylo is the only offspring of any of the heroes from the Original Trilogy, Kanan was able to get a kid, passing on his legacy, not just through his student, but through his blood.

How It Should Have Ended actually came up with a lot of awesome stuff that should’ve been in the movie.

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Author Interview Heather Halverstadt

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Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a Christian science fiction writer. I’m also a book blogger- I do speculative fiction reviews from a Christian perspective on my public FB site, H. Halverstadt Books.

What are you currently excited about? (A new book, a movie, a TV show, something else?)
I love speculative books with recognizably Christian themes and clean stories. It’s what I write, and what I love to read. Three recent works that I really enjoyed are Bridgett Powers’ Keeper of Shadows, David Johnson’s Star Wolf and Stuart Stockton’s Starfire. I love how the spiritual themes are woven into the story. I’m also excited about some of your novels, since I had the privilege of beta reading for you. I can’t wait to see Klate on the cover of a book!

What project are you working on now?
I’m writing a space opera/mystery set 1500 years in the future, about a young man who is trying to prove his dead father innocent of treason. Along the way he finds a lot more than he bargained for. It has a murder mystery, starships, robots, AI, and a host of other fun stuff.

Now, tell us about your favorite project or close second, if you already told us about your favorite.
I’m really excited about H. Halverstadt Books’ new website! It’s under construction right now and we hope that it will be ready sometime this spring or summer.

How did you get into writing?
I don’t ever remember a time when I was not writing. My friend Ben Wolf said it best: “If you can stop writing, you probably should.” I had some very discouraging experiences as a young writer that resulted in me not writing fiction for a long time. I thought I was a bad writer because I fell into plot holes and couldn’t discovery write my way out, and I was convinced that no one would ever buy science fiction that did not contain profanity, heat, etc. I didn’t realize that my approach to plot holes was normal for a plotter like myself (all the people advising me were discovery writers). After viewing a biopic of Agatha Christie about a year and a half ago, I realized the answer to my plot hole problem- and decided that I was going to write a Christian science fiction novel even if no one ever read it. Then I discovered the Realm Makers Consortium (a tribe of believing speculative fiction authors), and finishing and publishing a book started to look like a reachable goal. My two partially finished science fiction novels were long since deleted, so I started a new one.

What advice would you give to beginning writers?
Your first draft will probably look awful. Apparently, that happens to even the most experienced authors. Keep writing, you’ll be fine. Join a writer’s group on Facebook that writes your genre. Read craft books and watch Brandon Sanderson’s YouTube class on writing. Ask other writers who write in your genre to critique your writing. Listen politely and say thank you. Don’t explain. You won’t be there to explain to your readers.

What about experienced writers?
I don’t think of myself as an experienced writer, so I’m not likely to give them advice. I do know quite a few of them, but I’m more likely to ask them for advice.

What are some of your favorite books, authors, movies, and/or TV shows?
My favorite secular authors of all time are Lois McMaster Bujold, Anne McCaffrey and Matthew Stover. I would love for my writing style to be someday compared to theirs. My favorite Christian fiction authors are C.S. Lewis, Kerry Nietz, Kathy Tyers, and David G. Johnson. I’m a fan of most of the Star Trek shows- but not the current one. I thought The Last Jedi was great, and had much better character depth than The Force Awakens. My husband and I are fans of British television, so we watch things like Poirot, Marple, Foyle’s War, Midsummer Murders, Sherlock, and a host of British documentaries. We also love all kinds of history shows. I love to cook, so I love instructional cooking TV like The Barefoot Contessa.

Any closing words?
Christian speculative fiction needs your support. Many writers who would love to write Christian speculative fiction don’t, because they don’t sell as well as secular books. There are some great books out there, and you can find them at places like H, Halverstadt Books, The Speculative Faith Library, and Reality Calling. If you request these books from your local library, you can make a difference. If Christian authors can make a living writing Christian fiction, Christian fans will have more of the books they love available.

Where can we find you?
You can find reviews of lots of books (with content labels) on my FB site, H. Halverstadt Books, and you can message me there. If you’re on Twitter, you can find me at @H_Halverstadt . If you’re interested in what I am writing, I’ll post updates on H. Halverstadt Books when I get closer to publication.
https://www.facebook.com/H.Halverstadt/

 

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2017 Wrap Up

black_claw_cover_by_rebel_rider-db3mkb2Last year, I finished the second draft of The Black Claw, and it’s now ready for beta readers. It’s a sequel to Hand of Steel, so I can’t say much about it without giving away the ending to HoS. I will say there’s an evil cybernetic pirate Elba though. If you want to read it, (or HoS if you haven’t read that yet) just shoot me your email address

I’ve got The Red Tattoo and Hand of Steel as close to polished as I can, so if no publishers get back to me soon, I’ll likely try to self-publish them this year, or at least self-publish Hand of Steel.

I during NaNo, I wrote a rough draft for a fourth story, Son of Oppression. It’s a short novel about a Torf boy who joins a terrorist group. The secondary character is a Chix sniper who happens to be a pacifist. I need to rewrite it, expand it, and then do edits on that one.

Books I liked:

Million Dollar Outlines by David Farland
It says outline, but I think that it has a lot of good info for any writer, no matter which way one goes about writing. I highly recommend it.

The Destiny Trilogy by A. C. Williams, which I reviewed. It’s good if you can take a heavy R rating.

Some new stuff by Brandon Sanderson

For Us Humans, another one I reviewed

Starfire by Stuart Von Stockton was an interesting one. It’s so rare to see a nonhuman species featured that isn’t in the middle-grade animal fantasy genre.

Republic Commando by Karen Travis, which is partially decanonized now, but still interesting. I need to read the sequel this year.

Movies/TV

The Last Jedi and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 were the only two I saw in theaters. I didn’t like The Last Jedi as much as Rogue One. Guardians was funny but isn’t really a film you want to think about a lot.

I’ve still been watching Voltron and Rebels, as well as Deep Space 9. I’m now in the final season of DS9 and things are heating up.
I also watched Extinct, which is free to watch online, and was much cleaner than most of the adult TV shows I’ve seen recently, though it’s rather slow moving.

 

And I’ll also share a few sketches I did for my spaceverse. Some of these scenes take place in The Red Tattoo, The Black Claw, and Son of Oppression.

 

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Book Review: The Button Girl

9781947446007_p0_v2_s550x406When Repentance refused to button because she doesn’t want to give birth to sons who will be slaves for the overlords, she’s taken to a land of ice and sold, along with the man she was supposed to button, the man she betrayed.

Note on ratings:

*           Horrible.
**         Below average
***       Average. Not good or bad.
****    Above average
***** Above and beyond

 

 

Content: *** (Content based off my personal level of squeamishness.)
There’s some kissing, but nothing farther than that. There is some light violence, and the most graphic thing is frozen bodies.

Originality and world building: ****
The story’s plot line of forced marriage is pretty common, but the worldbuilding is good, with castles of ice and yacks for mounts.

Characters and their Arcs: ***
I liked Sober, but I didn’t really care for Repentance. I like it when a character’s actions are what push the plot forward, but she made so many mistakes that it was hard to care much for her.

Writing style and Pacing: ***
The pacing seems good, and it picks up toward the end, but the book didn’t grab me hard. it was a bit easy for me to put down.

Other things I liked:
Bramble the yak. The Christian message was also nice.

Other things I didn’t like:
I prefer stories with more action, and romance isn’t quite my thing.

Is it worth reading?
Yes, if it’s your sort of book. People who enjoy clean romance and aren’t big on action would probably love it. My dad also enjoyed it.

My Rating:

fourstar

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Book Review: The Destiny Trilogy

morningstar-series

Xander has no memory of who she was before being rescued from a wrecked spaceship, she doesn’t even know if the name on her jacket is hers. All she knows is things aren’t the way they should be. People are supposed to have morals, but few do, and none know anything about God or the Bible.

Note on ratings:

*           Horrible.
**         Below average
***       Average. Not good or bad.
****    Above average
***** Above and beyond

Content: ** (Content based off my personal level of squeamishness.)
The violence is about PG-13. The swearing is very strong with the f word used, and sex is everywhere in this dystopian future. Xander is the only character who even understands the concept of waiting until marriage, and many characters are gay or lesbian. If this book had not been by a Christian, I never would’ve read the whole series. It’s probably one of the most “adult” books I’ve read.
SPOILER WARNING: In the second book, the main character is raped and it’s described. (I skipped that part best I could.)

Originality and world building: *****
The storyline was quite original, but I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t say more.
Even though seeing a world with no Christian morals was pretty disturbing, the worldbuilding was really good, and it reminded me of my own space opera. I really enjoyed the world, even with its gritty problems.

Characters and their Arcs: ****
The characters were likable and unique. They all felt like individuals.

Writing style and Pacing: ****
The books were very hard to put down. I liked the breakneck pacing, and I read the first two books together, something I rarely do.

Other things I liked:
I mostly liked the worldbuilding. I will admit, even if it’s nasty, sometimes it’s nice to read a book that feels like the real world, but with a Christian perspective that didn’t pretend all those horrible things were supposed to be normal.

Other things I didn’t like:
For the first two books, it felt like the author was trying a bit hard to be edgy. I can’t put my finger on what made me feel this way, though it may have been that the voice felt YA, so that much gritty content felt out of place.
I didn’t like the main character’s name changing. I also felt like realistically, Xander should’ve got some self-defense training early on, not been helpless for so long.
The third book ended with unanswered questions, so I hope the author isn’t done exploring the universe.

Is it worth reading?
Yes, but only for very mature readers who can handle an R rated storyline. This book doesn’t pull punches.

My Rating:

fourstar

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Black Friday ebook Deal

Because I like to support authors, I’m putting out this message. Later this week, there are going to be some good ebook deals.

Indie Christian Books will have some Black Friday deals for you.

From Nov 24th through Nov 30th, a huge selection of independently published Christian books are on sale. You can find discounted paperbacks, dozens of books offered with free shipping, $0.99 ebooks, package deals and more. Even if your budget is depleted from Christmas shopping, we have some freebies for you! Need even more of a reason to support indie authors and fill your shelf with good stories? When you purchase a paperback book through indiechristianbooks.com you’ll be eligible to enter an exclusive giveaway including free books and an Amazon gift card!

You can meet our authors by visiting the Author Database on the website. Want to get to know the authors better AND have the chance to win some fun prizes? We’d love to have you join our week long Facebook party which will feature 39 authors over 7 days.

 

A note on the Ebooks Only page. Many of the books are listed as “Sold Out.” This is because we aren’t selling those directly through our site. Please click onto the product pages to find descriptions and links to discounted or free ebooks.

 

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Leah E. Good and Kendra E. Ardnek for their work organizing this sale, and Hannah Mills for her fantastic design work on the website graphics. Hannah can be contacted at hmills(at)omorecollege(dot)edu for more information about her design services.

And here’s a givaway:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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In Which I Fangirl about Sanderson

Before I get started, I’ve updated the fan art page with two new pieces.

Some of you may have noticed I’ve been reading a lot of Brandon Sanderson. I first read his YA novel Steelheart and quickly consumed the rest of his YA books, then moved on to his adult books. (I read very few adult books.) He has done well to gain my trust, so I’ve gotten to the point that I’ll often read thing Sanderson wrote even if I wouldn’t expect something like that to be good, all because I know Sanderson can make pretty much any storyline good. Even stranger, I actually enjoy Sanderson’s romantic subplots.

Here is a list of the books by Sanderson that I’ve read, minus a few short stories I didn’t feel like mentioning:
Reckoners trilogy: This trilogy was a great twist on the superhero storyline. Instead of superheroes, there are supervillains and normal people trying to stop them. I really liked how the main character, David, made up sayings that no one got, and he was a gun nut. It’s so rare to see guns in superhero stories, so seeing someone who actually tried to shoot supervillains was a nice twist. Overall, it’s a great trilogy and well worth the read. (The novella is also good.) I reviewed Firefight.

The Rithmatist: This one was pretty cool, and very original. I guess it might be chalkpunk? It involves chalk-based duals and such, and what makes it really neat is, like Steelheart, the main character is someone without powers who lives in a world where other people have powers.

51e2b7v-pdyl-_sx307_bo1204203200_Mistborn (1st Era): This storyline managed to put a twist on many fantasy tropes and, while it is extremely fast paced, has excellent worldbuilding.  I loved the idea of a setting where the evil overlord already took control. The characters are great. I quite enjoyed the magic system, and I normally dislike magic. For those who are afraid to read this series due to not liking magic, this magic feels much more like superpowers than actual magic, though there are some gods.

Mistborn (2nd Era): The wild west in the city, but with cool metal magic. There’s even a train robbery. The characters are again, great, the sidekick is a hoot, and the god of the world is also very interesting too, which I never thought I’d say. I found it refreshing to read about a god that wasn’t an allegory, but yet still had some concepts that can be applicable to the real world. I want the fourth book NOW.

Warbreaker: This one is my least favorite of Sanderson’s longer books. The romance was interesting, and I always appreciate his female characters, but it was slower and not quite to my liking.

Untitled-3The Stormlight Archives: I’ve reviewed both books. I’m currently reading the third book, Oathbringer. (You can read the first thirty or so chapters here.) It promises to be another winner.  Though the series takes a little while to get into, the story gets good. It’s also got very deep worldbuilding, so it’s a good option for Lord of the Rings fans. (I like it better than Lord of the Rings since the pacing is faster.)

Elantris: I found myself really enjoying the romance in here, which is a bit of a shocker. I loved the characters, and the plot was original, again. I listened to the graphic audio version of this, which meant that each character got a different voice, though I tended to lose track of the names. It also had music and sound effects. Another thing I’ve found is I really enjoy Sanderson’s female characters. He does really good at making each one an individual. (His male characters are great too, but many times, I have trouble relating to female characters in stories.)

The Emperor’s Soul: This story was short, but pretty good. I enjoyed it, and Sanderson always has neat magic systems.

Legion: I’m not into detective stuff, but these two stories were great and humorous too. I loved all the hallucinations. They’re so funny. Highly recommended. (Note that for those who don’t care for fantasy/magic or superheroes, these would be good to read.)

firstborn_final_200pxFirstborn: This is a short story you can find here for free. It’s sci-fi, and I really like how the plot works and the character’s flaw is used. It’s well worth the read, especially when it’s free.

Sixth of the Dusk: Magic birds are interesting. It wasn’t one of the best, but still pretty good.

White Sand: This one wasn’t as easy for me. I felt like the art style was a bit busy. I think it was a story that should have been written, not depicted as a graphic novel.

Snapshot: This idea was interesting, but I do not like downer endings.

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians: I’ve only read the first book in this series. It was pretty good, but I’m not the target audience, so I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as a ten year old boy would.

Have you read much Sanderson? If so, what are your favorite stories of his?

 

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