One of my goals for the year of 2017 was to post more on Instagram, specifically posting once a day (or at least one post per day of the year, because sometimes I forget to… More
BookTube-A-Thon was recently! Actually, a while ago, at the end of July. Anyway, it’s one of my favorite events to take part in, having done it now three years in a row. The main challenge is to read seven books in seven days. And I did not accomplish that — but, I did accomplish all the other reading challenges and read quite a lot for a single week, so I’m proud of myself.
My official count is six and a half books read. Which isn’t terrible! That’s awesome! But also so close that is makes me so mad! I had an opportunity to have a fun night away and instead of saying no, I did it and ended up spending almost 24 hours of that week not reading. I definitely could’ve made it to seven had I not done it. But it was still fun so I don’t regret it. I still read more than I ever usually do in a week.
Here’s the breakdown with challenges:
- Read a hyped book:
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis – 3/5 stars
- Read a book with a protagonist very different from you AND read a book with a person on the cover:
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor – 4/5 stars
- Read a book in a single day AND read a book entirely outside:
Saga, Volume 7 by Brian K Vaughan – 5/5 stars
- Read a book you bought because of the cover:
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli – 4/5 stars
- Read seven books:
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab – 4/5 stars
The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket – 4/5 stars
Vermilion by Molly Tanzer (the half a book, but I’ve recently finished and gave it 4/5 stars)
I also switched Seven Brief Lessons on Physics in for Behold the Bones by Natalie C Parker because it was shorter and I wanted to get my sixth book in on the last day!
Anyway, I had a good time reading — this is the second year of getting six and a half books in (the other year I only read three) but I’m still happy with the results. Next year, I’m totally making it to seven! I’m determined!
July simultaneously felt really long and felt like it flew by — I don’t know how, but it did. My monthly focus for July was reading, and I did a fair amount of it, so most of my favorites this month are book related.
My favorite read-a-thon to participate in (and really the only one I do participate in, though I plan on doing more in the future) is BookTube-A-Thon, hosted by Ariel Bissett. You don’t have to be a BookTuber to participate and I do it every year – it’s so much fun and a little stressful. It’s a week long, with many challenges, but the main challenge is to read seven books. I did not. I plan on writing a wrap up post soon.
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
One of the books I read during BookTube-A-Thon was by my favorite author Victoria Schwab titled This Savage Song. It’s set in an alternate future of the United States, telling the story of two teens from opposite sides of a divided city, crossing paths long after “the phenomenon,” an event where monsters are created from acts of violence. It’s such an imaginative, cool world and the story was engaging from start to finish. It’s just a really awesome book and I can’t wait to read the sequel.
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Another book I read for BookTube-A-Thon was the novella Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. It’s a sci-fi story about a girl named Binti, chosen to go to the best university in the galaxy, having to survive an attack by an alien race on the ship taking her there. It’s one of the most interesting, imaginative stories I’ve ever read, from an incredible perspective of a black woman that doesn’t often get the attention from the mainstream as it should, especially in this genre — it’s the only one I’ve ever really heard of, but I know there is more out there. I’m excited to find more stories similar and I’ll be starting with the sequels to Binti.
Call Me By Your Name (Trailer)
Technically, the trailer came out in August and I’m writing this in August, but I don’t want to wait to talk about this film. I’m incredibly excited to watch Call Me By Your Name, a gay-themed drama starring Armie Hammer (one of my favorite actors). I’ve been waiting for this trailer for so long, ever since hearing about the film — I’ve watched it a dozen times already. And, it’s an adaptation of a book, so I’ll be hunting for that to read in time before the film is released.
In A Heart Beat
This entire list is either something book related or something gay. I’m not mad about it. In A Heartbeat is the most adorable gay-themed animated short about a school kid who has a crush on his classmate and his heart becomes anthropomorphic, chasing down his crush, risking the boy being outed. It’s adorable, the music is perfect, and it’s an instant classic up there with some of my favorite animated shorts like Paperman, which has a similar vibe.
So that’s all my favorite books/films/etc. things from July!
Each month, I’ve been focusing more on one goal for the year over the others, setting aside a few hours a week to one goal instead of trying to fit them all in. This has been making it easier to dedicating more time to them rather than spreading myself too thin by trying to do a little of them all. One of my goals was to work on my hand lettering skills, and having only taken a calligraphy and letterform class in design school, I wanted to practice it more and get better.
Over the month of May, I practiced as often as possible—which ended up not being that much, but much more than I had before—and, though I still need to work a lot more, I can definitely see an improvement from just one month alone! Some were done quickly, some when I had a few hours to spare, so the quality varies. Overall, I definitely felt like I had improved by the end. (Also, if anyone has tips or books on lettering, please share!)
Here are a few pages of work I’ve been doing over the course of the month:
After doing some on paper, I wanted to try vectorizing a piece of lettering to use in a full design, and because I’m already working on redesigning book covers of some favorite books to add to my portfolio, I though I’d give it a try and add some lettering to my redesigned cover of The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. I’m not entirely happy with it—my lettering skills still need a lot of work, but it was still worth it to try out.
I also designed the cover without the lettering, which I prefer anyway, to go into my portfolio. I did it in a few different color options, and I think I prefer the white cover with the single star shape.
2017 is halfway over and I’m in a constant state of panic because of it. June was the most insanely busy month I’d ever had (the small business I co-own launched another product) and went by as quickly as if it were a week long. Around the end of April, I decided that I would break up some of my goals and focus on one more than the others during each month, and so far it’s been working…sort of okay, mostly not. Anyway, it’s time to go over how well I’m doing with my goals for the year.
Design & Illustration
In the month of May, I focused on practicing hand lettering! It went fairly well, though I didn’t do as much as I wanted—I’d wanted to do one piece a day, but only ended up doing about half. Still, I definitely see an improvement in just that short of time and want to do more to get even better. I’m still not great at it, but a few of them turned out great. Along with this, I’ve been wanting to redesign book covers of some favorite books for two reasons: 1) to do more design projects in between other work that I’ve been doing and 2) to get more works that could go in my portfolio, specifically because I’d like to start marketing myself as a freelance designer that does book design covers (as well as branding and marketing design). It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and think it’s a good time to focus on it more. I’ve done one book cover with some hand lettering on it (still in the works, will post along with whole hand lettering post). In other ways, I’ve done very little design work outside of my day job (and even within that, hardly any) because June was so chaotic. And guess which month I chose to be my month of illustration focus? That’s right! June. I did very very little sketching and illustrating. But it’s okay, because I plan on choosing another month to focus on illustrating later in the year. Disappointing, but okay. I just have to press on!
Guess what I’ve been doing very little of? That’s right! Writing. But it’s okay. I posted about it last month here. July is writing and reading focused, so I’m going to be taking some extra time to write. Do I try to do to much? Too many interests? Probably. Anyway, my other writing month is September and then again in November (NaNoWriMo baby!), so I know I’ll be doing a lot more later in the year. Hopefully, July will be good to me and I’ll be able to care out the time to write.
Don’t look at me. I’ve only finished five books. FIVE. The year is half over and I’ve only read FIVE BOOKS. How does this happen to me? I feel like I read all the time but I just…am not. Again, hopefully July will be super great with reading. Well, I know it will be, because BookTube-A-Thon is this month! It’s my favorite time of year, where I stress myself out trying to read every extra minute I have for an entire week straight. I don’t sleep enough, I stop functioning as a normal human adult. It’s great.
I’ve actually watched a lot of films this year! I’ve seen almost 15 already. However, none in theaters—yet. I planned TWICE to go see Alien: Covenant in theaters, but couldn’t make it both times for dumb reasons (like work and stuff, ugh) and now I have no money to see any films in the theater. I do want to see Atomic Blonde, Valerian, and Baby Driver but I don’t know if I’ll be able to. But there are even more films I want to see in the fall, so I’m not worried. Five films in the theater is manageable, I don’t know I’m struggling. Stay tuned.
Though I haven’t made any film-based projects this year so far (my camera has been hijacked by a relative who needs it for work, as her camera broke, so I’ve been unable to really do anything yet) but I plan on doing some later in the summer. But—as I said in my last goals update post, I finished writing a short film called Anya, and I spent some time in May editing it. So there’s that.
THIS IS THE ONE I’VE MADE MOST PROGRESS ON! I’M VERY EXCITED ABOUT IT! I made a post recently about changing up my diet and how I’ve been walking/jogging nearly every day (except for most of June and the first week of July, but I’ve been getting back to it now) and have lost a total of 25 pounds! That’s the most I’ve ever lost! I’m extremely happy and pumped up to keep going. I’ve reached my first weight goal, so now I’ll be targeting a second goal and aiming for it to be hit by the end of the summer!
I’ve still been posting every day (or at least having one post per day, sometimes catching up with two or three a day) and I’ve been really loving it. I’ve almost hit 200 days and love a lot of the photos I’ve posted. Some are just okay, needing something to post or just posting a fun memory, less of a Photograph but it’s been a lot of fun.
2017 has been a difficult, busy year. But it’s all exciting! And hopefully worth it! I do know that I’ve already decided to lessen my goals next year. I have so many interests and things I want to accomplish, but I have to remember and realize that I can’t do it all. I can’t fit everything in one year. Doing two “everyday” projects in one year is too much (sketching daily and an Instagram post daily) and pressuring myself to create a certain number of illustrations, books read, and movies watched is taking the fun out of it. So I know what I want to change for next year, but want to finish this year out before doing anything different. Hopefully I don’t start to feel burnt out by the time 2018 comes along…ha ha…
I’ve been in a creative slump.
For the most part, I try to write as often as I can. It’s what I love to do. Sometimes I write for hours, every day, for a week straight. Sometimes I write for twenty minutes on only one day of the week. It all depends on how much time I’m able to carve out for myself. It’s all about carving out time, making it work, doing what I can.
With doing anything creative, there needs to be a balance of creativity coming in and going out. Refilling the creative well is important: soaking up from all sources (books, films, art, television, life), taking in inspiration and creative energy in order to focus it and use it to produce, to let it flow out. Whenever I’m in a creative slump, and nothing else is working, I know I need to fill the creative well.
But the last few weeks, I’ve been incredibly busy with work—the small business I co-run launched a new product, so we’ve been busy promoting and making the product and sampling at stores a lot. I haven’t had much time to work on anything else, especially writing. I’ve had to make choices with my time and writing hasn’t been winning the time slot. A few times, I carved out a bit of time to write, but sat down and couldn’t get it going—and I knew it was because my creative well was dry, that I was in a creative slump. But I barely had enough time to read or watch anything, let alone write.
A few times, I could’ve carved out more time to fill the well or maybe even try to write, but I chose to do something like getting other work done or spending time with family or watching a few YouTube videos before going to sleep instead. One such YouTube video was by my favorite author, Victoria Schwab. In her video, she talks about when a writer is at their computer, they’re really just transcribing and that writers write all the time, whenever they think about their work—plotting, creating, building. That’s all writing, too. And that had me thinking about my writing time.
So what do I do when I’m unable to carve out writing time and unable to refill the creative well? There’s one thing I know I can do:
Not write. Or, I should say, not transcribe. Seriously. I just don’t do it. I don’t sit at the computer, I don’t pick up a pen. Because sometimes it’s not feasible to do so. I’m not a full-time writer, it’s not my job, so I don’t need to do it. So I don’t.
And that’s okay.
It doesn’t mean I’m not making progress. Because no matter how busy I am, how hectic life is, my brain is always with me. I always have a few stolen minutes to think while doing mundane tasks—showering, driving in the car, lying in bed at night, walking the dog. I always have time to think about the story, the characters, the world—and maybe jot down a note or two. And that keeps it going. Even when I don’t have time to sit at the computer and type out the actual words, just keeping the wheels turning is all I need to do—it’s still being productive, it’s still writing.
The Walking Dead
One of my favorite shows on television is The Walking Dead—I’m a big sci-fi, dystopia fan, and zombies are an always fun, often disgusting time. The show is based off of a series of comics by Robert Kirkman, a series I didn’t start getting into until way after the show. I’ve been reading the comics in the 6-issue bind-ups and I’m only on volume seven, but they’re great. It’s cool to see the differences they’ve made with the show—characters added or taken out, storylines differing—and they’re really quick reads. I’ve been buying them when on sale and picking a weekend to enjoy a few issues. As an adaptation, it’s really incredible. I think the show takes a lot of risks and is incredibly well-made—the effects work alone is worth watching.
I’m a huge fantasy fan, and though I haven’t yet read The Lord of the Rings trilogy by JRR Tolkien (I’ve seen all the films), I read The Hobbit a few years ago and loved it. Because I never saw the first trilogy in theaters, only later when on DVD, I’m glad I was able to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in theaters (I missed the third movie while it was in theaters, but have it on DVD) because these films were so incredible to watch on a big screen. The adaptation of the book was really well done, though I’m not certain an entire trilogy was necessary—the structure of the book seemed more like a two-parter. At any rate, it’s one of my favorite adaptations.
The Hunger Games
I’ve only seen the first two films in the quartet (for no other reason than neglecting to see them in theaters at the time, always forgetting, and just never remembering to pick them up on DVD), but I’ve read all three books, and The Hunger Games is one of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen and certainly the best YA adaptation. It’s so perfectly adapted, getting everything just right, being as faithful as possible to the source material, having a really awesome style, and having some killer performances, especially from Jennifer Lawrence. Though, as a film, I enjoyed the second one more, but as an adaptation, the winner is the first in the series.
A Single Man
After hearing about the film starring Colin Firth, I read A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood one summer day and liked it—but then I saw the film and loved it so much more than the book. The film is very stylistic and Colin Firth’s performance is incredible and heartbreaking and I could watch it again and again. Honestly, it’s the rare occasion where the adaptation is several times better than the original book.
The Magicians is one of the coolest, fun shows on television right now. It’s funny and magical and disturbingly creepy at times—it’s like all the best parts of Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia but for adults. It’s based on a trilogy of books by Lev Grossman, and though I haven’t read them yet, I have the first and plan on reading it this year. This is the only adaptation on my list that I haven’t read yet, but because I love the show so much, I’m assuming I’ll love the books even more.
As one of my favorite films of all time, Atonement definitely needs to be mentioned even though I’ve never read the book—though I plan on it! The film is beautiful; every scene, every shot is stunning. And the performances are incredible—Keira Knightly does some of her best work, as does James McAvoy, and Romola Garai gives one of my favorite supporting performances—and of course Saoirse Ronan is so young and so brilliant in the film it astounds me. Everything from the style, the era, the score—which I still regularly listen to—is just perfect to me. And I’m sure the book will be just as incredible.
For a long time, I’ve been wanting to eat vegetarian, or at least partially. And recently, I’ve been wanting to go vegan (or at least try to get to like 90% of the food and meals I consume to be vegan). However, still living with my parents, who buy most-to-all of the food, made it more difficult—even having the items in the house made it easier to just say “forget it” and eat meat again.
Then, about two months ago, my parents wanted to start eating more healthy (as a family, we never really ate terribly, just not very well) and together, we decided to start eating more plant-based foods, bringing in more vegetables and fruits into our diet, and less meat and dairy. I took it as an opportunity to start transitioning slowly to pescatarian, with the goal of trying out being vegan afterward, and so I have taken over all the meal planning and cooking for the last two months.
So far, it’s been going really well. We’ve cut out beef and pork almost completely from our diet (we have free days, where we care less about what we eat, and sometimes whatever we have left in the freezer, from before our change, is eaten) and we have chicken occasionally. We have eaten fish the most out of all the meats. I know that cutting out beef is the best for helping the environment, so that’s what I want to really focus on cutting out completely. But as someone who still likes meat, who still occasionally craves it, I’m not willing to never ever eat it again. Even while trying out being vegan, I’m probably going to end up having at least one burger, even if it’s just once a year on my birthday—I don’t think I’d be capable of going 100%. But I think that’s okay. For now, I’m just going to be putting in the effort to reduce the amount of meat I consume. Maybe I’ll get to a point where 100% vegan fits with me, maybe I’ll find it just won’t work. Giving it a chance is something I think is best.
During the change, we have eaten eggs a lot during the last two months. I still love cheese but we’ve eaten very little dairy, and I don’t miss it or crave it like I used to—and regular dairy milk just grosses me out now. The other vegan thing I think I would struggle with is honey. It’s easily substituted, I know, so I want to work on it, but it’s often the cheapest option at the store (agave is almost twice as expensive and real maple syrup is way way way too expensive, and I don’t want to buy the artificial stuff.) A few obstacles, but I think the transition will be easy as long as I go slow and not worry so much about not following the “rules” exactly, just be more mindful of what I’m consuming.
Because of these changes—along with going for a one to two mile walk everyday—of eating more vegetables, less meat, and almost no dairy, I’ve lost twenty pounds in just a few months (some of that loss was before the dietary changes, but most was after). So, for now, I don’t think I can call myself anything yet. I’m not vegetarian, definitely not (yet) vegan, and only occasionally pescatarian. But it’s a start. And I’m really happy with that for now, especially because I can now wear shirts and pants I haven’t been able to in a while. I’m really excited to start living a more healthy, active life—one that will hopefully, one day, no longer do harm to animals.
May was SO FULL of favorites, y’all, I can’t even believe I discovered all these things this month. I actually cut two out because it has to stop somewhere, otherwise I’ll be just listing things I’ve done or used all month. There’s basically two categories to this month’s favorites: apps and podcasts, with a TV show thrown in accidentally. Here are my May favorites:
Trial & Error
This show was supposed to be one of my April favorites, but I completely forgot to add it. The mockumentary comedy stars John Lithgow as an eccentric and oblivious man accused of killing his wife in a small, Southern town, accompanied by a ridiculous set of characters. It’s hilariously written and outrageously, ridiculously silly. It’s a fun time.
Eating healthy is hard. Losing weight is hard. Keeping track of calories and protein and fat and blah blah blah, you lost me, get me another burger—it’s hard. I’ve struggled with my weight and staying healthy a long time. And thanks to starting to use MyFitnessPal app on my phone, I’ve been able to keep track of what I’m eating, the calories, fat, sugar—not just trying to keep it under a certain number (which has been a struggle in the past) but keep in a healthy “zone.” I want to post about my new dietary changes in another post, but since using the app, I’ve lost 13 pounds. The app makes it easy to enter what I’ve eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, and it breaks everything down for me, so I know if I’m getting enough protein, having too much sugar, everything. It’s one of the coolest apps ever, and the best part for me, it syncs with my Fitbit, so it accounts for the steps I’m getting and automatically logs my calories into my Fitbit app, so it’s all together and organized to help me stay on target.
I’ve had this on my computer for a while as a 30 day free trial, losing a day every time I open it. After a year or so of wanting to use it more, I finally paid for it, and have loved it even more than I thought I would. It’s a program (by the same company who created Scrivener, my favorite writing program) that makes it easy to brainstorm digitally. You can write notes, connect them to each other with lines, use arrows, pin images. It’s amazing. I’ve been using it for writing books, creating family trees and diagrams and outlines. It’s such a great tool that now allows me to be free of wasting pages and pages and pages of paper in a notebook. Let’s be real, I’ll still do that anyway, but Scapple makes it easy to save to Scrivener, so I have everything I need right in my file for referencing. It’s awesome.
And, the nerdiest thing on this favorites list goes to…Evernote. The best app I’ve ever found (sorry, Scapple, you work for one thing, this works for another) that I can use on my phone, as a Google Chrome extension, and as a program on my computer, all syncing perfectly together in harmony. Evernote is basically for note taking, but it can be used for anything. You can have folders with references, images, and notes at the ready. The Chrome extension is awesome for saving sites as simplified versions, which is great for articles you want to read later (though I also use Pocket for this) and recipes you find online (I do this a lot), quickly clipping the site from online and saving it to your notes in a folder you choose that can be accessed from your phone. The app for iPhone can take a picture of a document and essentially scan it, making an image you can save and reference back to. It would be great for receipts and important documents. You can make to do lists. Everything syncs perfectly, so you can work while on the go, at your desk, whatever. It’s incredible and I’ve been using it everyday for at least one thing since I downloaded it, and I haven’t even begun to start really diving in.
Recently, I’ve been getting into podcasts a lot. I’ve been listening to one every day while on my morning walk. Here are the few I’ve been listening to and loving this month:
Portrait of a Freelancer
One of my favorite YouTubers, Ariel Bissett, recently started a podcast about becoming a freelancer, documenting the journey and talking about the struggles and successes starting something new. The podcast is really great, especially because I’m also getting started with freelancing, so it came at the perfect time for me to be inspired and listen to someone else’s perspective on a similar path.
I don’t remember if I’ve ever talked about Spirits before, but it’s honestly my favorite podcast right now. I absolutely love mythology and legends, and hosts Amanda and Julia are hilarious, making the drunken storytelling podcast both highly entertaining and informative in my favorite area of history.
Story Not Story
Hosted by YouTuber Craig (WheezyWaiter) and his wife Chyna, the two tell bedtime stories, off the top of their heads while in bed, and record it for the podcast. They’re both funny and the stories vary, from the planets reacting to Pluto’s demotion to a story about the first water slide, ridden by micro-organisms, all ridiculous and hilarious.
Recently, I’ve been getting into the idea of printing—both relief printing and screen printing. If you don’t know what those are: relief printing is like a stamp, using linoleum or rubber or wood as a surface to carve into, and using ink or paint to print the carved image onto paper or fabric using pressure; screen printing is using a meshed screen in a frame, having the image displayed through a hardened emulsion layered on top of the mesh, allowing the ink to go through where the emulsion hasn’t been hardened—it’s a complicated process, and if I didn’t explain that very well, Google it, it’s cool.
Anyway, I’ve been following a few printers on Instagram and have been inspired to try it out. There’s some awesome DIY ways to go about printing, so I’ve been doing a lot of research on the best way to do it and most cost effective way to get the supplies I need. I never had a chance in school to do any screen printing before, though I have done some relief and have all the tools needed to do it, so I’m excited to give it a go. I have plans to design a lot of different things in the future and would love to be able to print them myself, giving them a more handmade, personal quality to them.
For now, I have most of the thing I need to do some relief printing, so I think I’m going to work in that medium for a while and get to screen printing later (I’ll have to gather the supplies needed for screen printing gradually because of money). There’s a lot of choices to make and I need to save a bit of money for the supplies, but I’m excited to work on some stuff and document my journey on here.
Though I haven’t read as many books as I’d like to have by this time in my life, I’ve read a lot compared to most people I know. Compared to most readers, I’ve read close to nothing. But the point is, since I posted my Top Five Favorite Films, I thought I’d do the same for my favorite books…except it’s actually my Top Ten because I couldn’t decide on only five and some of them are series…so it’s more like a lot. Anyway, here they are in no particular order:
A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab
The Shades of Magic trilogy is my favorite book series of all time, by my favorite author, Victoria VE Schwab. It’s an adult fantasy series about four connected Londons in parallel worlds with varying degrees of magic. A one-of-a-kind magician who can travel between them from one London and a pickpocket from another meet, travel through worlds together, and general chaos ensues. Schwab’s writing is incredible, the best I’ve ever read and these books are dark, fun, and exciting.
Vicious by VE Schwab
Another book by my favorite author, Vicious is about two college students who deduce that superhuman abilities can derive from near-death experiences and do it to themselves in order to gain such powers. Jumping back and forth in time, the book explores the dynamics of superheroism and villainry from an interesting perspective.
The Archived by Victoria Schwab
Yet another Victoria Schwab book—I swear there’s more than just hers on this list. The Archived is the first in a series of two YA books about a girl who is a Keeper for the Archive, an otherworldly library where the dead are shelved like books, and must keep those dangerous dead, called Histories, from entering back into our world. It’s like a light fantasy and murder mystery book all in one. The sequel, The Unbound, is also a favorite—and I’m still holding out for a third book, no matter how long it takes.
Saga by Brian K Vaughan
This series is actually not technically books, but comics. I’ve never been a huge fan of comic books, only recently getting into them—thanks, in part, to this series. I’ve been reading the six-issue bound volumes as they come out, reading mostly in the summer—which is my favorite time to read graphic novels and comics. Saga is about two soldiers from opposite sides of a galactic war falling in love, having a child, and going on the run from the war and those that want them, and their half-breed child, killed. It’s like a full-on adult Star Wars space odyssey with some of the most incredible artwork, which creates a vivid landscape for an awesome, kick-ass story about a blended alien family.
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
I fell in love with The Name of the Star and its two sequels (I believe, as of writing this, a fourth is on the way) a few years ago. It’s the story of a teen girl from the South of the US going to London to start her new life at a boarding school at the same time as the city relives the horrifying events of the Jack the Ripper murders as someone begins to mimic them. The book somehow balances being funny and creepy perfectly—the main character is relatable, Maureen Johnson’s writing is both dark and hilarious, and the book’s plot is often-times creepy and fully intriguing, with twists and surprises I didn’t expect.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This book surprised me—I hadn’t expected to love it as much as I did and I hadn’t expected to finish it so quickly. I read it in only two days; I couldn’t put it down. The story goes back and forth through time, before and after the night a famous actor dies on stage from a heart attack at the same time the world begins to fall from a deadly virus. All the characters have some connection to the actor, the main character having been in the same play as a young child actress, later growing up to travel through the desolate land of the northern midwest with a theater troupe called the Traveling Symphony, who plays for the small communities having survived the pandemic. It’s a beautifully written, poignant novel about the little things we’d lose just as much as the large things during such an event.
We Were Liars by E Lockhart
First: This book has a terrible title. I mean, a fine title that just doesn’t fit the book. That’s the my only complaint about it. This book is my favorite summer read I’ve ever read—and that’s what it is. A summer read. Read it in the summer only, trust me it makes for a better experience. Also, don’t read into the book at all, don’t look it up, don’t spoil yourself. Don’t even read this paragraph, just skip it. This is all I’ll say: The book’s about a family who have summer homes on a private island and it’s suspenseful and beautifully written. That’s it. If you love YA and suspense and beautiful writing, READ IT.
The Forest of Hands & Teeth by Carrie Ryan
This is a book that I read a long time ago, in high school, and have sort of forgotten all about it—time for a reread, I guess. However, I do know that I loved it and everything about it. It’s a very unique spin on the zombie genre, with a similar vibe to M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village crossed with The Walking Dead. It’s been on my favorites list since then, so even though I remember so little, I still have it on my top ten because I do remember that it was great and I loved it.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
I’m a huge fan of Leigh Bardugo and her work. The Grisha Trilogy she wrote is one of my favorites YA series and Six of Crows is part of the same world. I thought that the Grisha Trilogy was so fantastic and then I read Six of Crows and was blown away. It’s even better than the trilogy and is so unique. It’s set in the same “Grishaverse” so several people within the world have special powers, but in this book, the focus is more on a different set of skills: thievery and conning. A gang of young criminals work together on an impossible heist and it’s a blast. It’s one of the most fun books I’ve ever read. It’s just a straight up cool Ocean’s Eleven-esque fantasy book.
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
And finally, though this list is not in a particular order, The Raven Cycle is my favorite YA series of all time. It’s just the greatest series ever. I love the characters, the world Maggie Stiefvater has created, and the entire series itself. The Raven Boys and its sequels tells the story of a group of private school teenage boys and a girl named Blue, obsessively searching for the legendary Raven King, who is likely buried nearby, in hopes to be granted a wish—all with the help of the psychic family of women Blue’s grown up with and set in a town situated on a “ley line” of magical energy. It’s a book series I wish had come out while I was in high school, because I would’ve been all over it obsessed—I mean, I still was while in college, but still.