Top Ten Favorites Books

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.

Let’s Call It Book E – Writing Update

Over the last two months of the new year, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my writing. I set out this year with a goal in mind and it has already changed. Partly because of weeks and weeks of thought and partly because of a post by Morgan York that solidified my feelings on what I should be writing and what I should focus on to become a published author.

I’ve been writing several projects since I first started taking writing seriously. The first book I ever wrote and finished the first draft of (but definitely not the first book I ever started) is the first in a series of eight books (let’s call it Book A and Series 1). The second book I wrote, was a standalone (Book B). The following, the first book in a series of five (Book C and Series 2). And then, another standalone (though not quite finished) (Book D). My plan has been to work on both Book A and Book C and whichever I deemed the strongest, I would query with. (Book B is terrible, and I think I’ll be shelving it forever, and Book D is the book I won NaNoWriMo and want to finish writing this year, just on the side when I feel stuck on the others, a thing I do often. It’s actually how Book B and Book C were written in the first place, as side projects I worked on when I was stuck on Book A.)

For a while now, I’ve been thinking that trying to query the first book in a series is a bad idea. Almost every author and agent and editor that spreads their knowledge on the internet says it’s better to start with a standalone, but I’ve been stubborn, too attached to the story and characters, too attached to the idea that Book A, and Series 1, would be my first books published. And it didn’t really sink in until I read Morgan’s post, even though I’ve known it for years.

For many reasons, I’ve decided to move on. First, there’s the fact that Book A is going to need a lot more work. As it was the first book I wrote (started in high school and finished in college) it’s not the best. But I have a soft spot for it, it’s my passion project. I’ve rewritten it several times over the years, trying to get it just right, and last fall I realized the major problems with it—which means another rewrite, a realization that came partway through a different rewrite. It’s a mess. I still love the series, I still love the world, but I know it’s just not right. Second, as Morgan states in her post, it’s super hard getting a series published and it’s a lot of work once it is. (Though, I never wrote the sequels of said books, having previous advice to just focus on the first one and try to get that one published first. But it’s hard selling books as a series, especially as a first time author.)

After reading Morgan’s post (and eerily similar writing histories, especially because we’re almost the same age) I realized that maybe the universe wasn’t allowing my books to work quite right because I should be focusing on something else. So I decided to move on from Book A and Book C, shelve both series and work on something new—not just revamping Book B or finish Book D—but something completely new.

Uh…but work on what? I spent the last week or so of January and most of February searching through my ideas folder and disliking everything. I felt like I was in limbo—it’s the first time I’ve never been actively working on a book. So I stopped looking for ideas I’d already had and started trying to think of a new one.

And you know what happened? I ended up thinking about Book A and the entire Series 1 and the world I’d created. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Then, something blipped on my creative radar. It was too far away to see what it was yet, but that first spark of an idea is often shy at first. And then it slams into you and you have to spend a solid day writing and thinking and getting everything down that you can. That’s how it happens sometimes. And that’s how it happened for me with the new book.

Let’s call it Book E.

Book E isn’t new, exactly. That’s why it took a while for me to figure it out. Partway through figuring out the idea, I realized that it was connected to Book A and Series 1. It’s in the same book-universe. It even shares a character. But the best part about it, it’s entirely different from Book A, though threads of that world are woven in. And the best part? It’s completely contained. It’s one book, a standalone. A story that starts and finishes all between two covers. Book E could be published and Book A and Series 1 could never be, and it wouldn’t matter (except I’d be sad, because I still love Series 1) but the point is, it’s a better book to query with.

I did it! I practically ran up and down the road screaming with excitement. But I was too busy with that second phase of an idea: Writing everything down before I forget it. Characters, names, places, plot—everything on paper. The last part of February and all of this month has been full of plotting and outlining, piecing together a coherent story from all the ideas that I’d written earlier. And I’m in love with the story and have started drafting. I’m nearly 4k words in and wrote just 1.6k today, the day I posted this.

So now, with Book E in the works, I have new writing goals for the year:

  • Finish drafting Book E and begin revising/editing.
  • Possibly query? Probably begin in 2018.
  • Finish first draft of Book D (NaNoWriMo 2016 Book).
  • Complete NaNoWriMo 2017
  • And maybe, possibly, probably, work more on Book A and Series 1, even just on the side. [insert Brokeback Mountain ‘I wish I knew how to quit you’ gif here]

In all honesty, I think this is for the best. Book E is making me incredibly happy and I think it’s the smartest thing to do going forward on my path to becoming published.

(PS I’m not being secretive with all the Book A, Book B business, most of them don’t have titles yet and it was just easier this way. Book A is tentatively called The Infinite Light and Book C is called Thoughtless.)