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.

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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.)

Books + 2017 Reading List

Books are a large part of my life—I read them, I write them, I buy them constantly (probably too much). I dedicate a lot of my space to books: I’m always carrying one around, bringing one to family events and long car rides, and I have a moderate collection (the most recent count was 250+) so most of my room is full of books. I love books. Books are great, man. Hop on this train.

Since finishing school and focusing more time on art and design, I decided to rearrange my space. Moving my office and all my art supplies and the giant drafting table I use into my bedroom has made it seem much smaller, but I’m starting to like it. I’ve spending a lot more time in it now that all my things are in one place instead of the office downstairs and the drafting table/art supplies in the other room. Moving is what I’ve been doing in my spare time (taking several days I should’ve been writing or working) the entire month of January. And as of today, the 25th, I’m still not completely done—I have a pile of art supplies on the floor and my desk is a mess. The point is, I took this time to not only rearrange my life, but my books too. I scanned their barcodes with the Goodreads app to create a list of all the books I own—which I could add to every time I bought or was gifted another book. (This is how I learned I owned over 250+ books, a few of which were duplicates, I don’t know how or why.)

I wanted to categorize the books I owned and see how many books I have by different people, like female authors, LGBT+ authors, POC authors, and any combination of those, and see how diverse my collection is—I have a guess that it isn’t as diverse I would like them to be, something I need to work on. But I also want to look at the characters and stories within those books and categorize them by the same, which I think would have more diversity because it’s what I’m drawn to read. Anyway, I plan to use the Goodreads app to help do that now that all of them are in one place and I can search for them easily. (This especially helps with friends and family for gift reasons—they can go on my profile and find that list to search which books I already have!)

Speaking of books, I’ve compiled a list of books that I want to read this year. As I’ve said of my goals for 2017, I have a goal to read 35 books. Though I’m usually more aggressively specific about when I read each book—I used to decide which specific books I would read within each month at the very start of the year, which made it difficult to follow and less fun, so now I’m taking a more relaxed approach. I just have a single, long list in no particular order (though some land roughly when they are released and/or a time of year I’d like to read them—like I want to reread the first for A Series of Unfortunate Events books sooner so I can watch the Netflix show and all those comics/graphic novels are probably during the summer, which is when I like to read them.)

Also, I know there’s 37 books on the list, I promise I can count. I’m just planning on wanting to skip one or that I won’t get to a few or I might want to swap out with a different book. See, totally relaxed.


2017 Reading List:

  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  • Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
  • The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
  • The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket
  • The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket
  • The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket
  • Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
  • A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab
  • Rooms by Lauren Oliver
  • This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
  • Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
  • Beowulf by Seamus Heaney
  • Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
  • Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare
  • The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley
  • The Graces by Laure Eve
  • The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
  • Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
  • The Strange Maid by Tessa Gratton
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R Tolkien
  • Vermilion by Molly Tanzer
  • Behold the Bones by Natalie C. Parker
  • Lumberjanes, Volume 3: A Terrible Plan by Noelle Stevenson
  • East of West, Volume 3: “There Is No Us” by Jonathan Hickman
  • The Walking Dead: Volume 7: “The Calm Before” by Robert Kirkman
  • The Walking Dead: Volume 8: “Made to Suffer” by Robert Kirkman
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 9: “Here We Remain” by Robert Kirkman
  • Pax by Sara Pennypacker
  • The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  • Wildwood by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis
  • The Copper Gauntlet by Cassandra Clare & Holly Black
  • The Bronze Key by Cassandra Clare & Holly Black
  • Conversion by Katherine Howe
  • Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd
  • The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  • Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

2017: New Year, New Goals

2017

It’s a new year and the following are my new goals—some the same as last year, some tweaked to better suit my life. 2016 was definitely a year of realizing things (you were right, Kylie Jenner) and I realized I needed to stop aiming so high.

So here are my goals for 2017:

Design & Illustration

In the new year, I want to work on more design projects for future plans of mine, continue working on my illustration skills, and practice my hand-lettering skills more. Since I just finished with school, I’ll be hopefully doing some freelance work here soon (after I’m able to quit my current job and make all the necessary preparations to start) and I’ll continue to do all the design work for the small business I co-run.

Writing

My goal for this year is to continue revising the two projects I’ve been working on. Both books (and related series) still get me excited after years of writing and rewriting and outlining and planning whenever I could fit it in while being a student and working. (And now that school is finished, I may have more time? Fingers crossed.) Whichever book is the strongest when finished, I’m planning on using it to start the process of querying for a literary agent (which may be this year or next year—the hope would be this year). Another writing goal is to finish the book I won NaNoWriMo with in 2016—I still love that story and want to get back into it, just to finish the first draft. And the final writing goal of mine is to again participate in NaNoWriMo. Though the election sort of made it more difficult to concentrate, making it harder and less fun, I had a blast doing it in 2016 and I want to do it again!

Reading

After the disaster of a reading year 2016 was, I’m setting my goal much lower: 35 books. That’s it. I always set it for 50 on Goodreads, always mark it down several in July and again in December after I realize 50 is too much. Not this year. I’m starting low and being less rigid with my list and schedule, because it only made reading more stressful than fun. I think I’ll be able to reach my goal this year of 35, which will be more than 2016’s 24 books and 3 books more than any other year of reading for me. And who knows? Maybe because of being more relaxed about reading, I’ll hit 50? Probably not, but you never know. (I know, actually. I probably won’t.)

Film | Part One: Import

Last year, I had a goal to see at least 12 films in the theater (as I realized I hadn’t seen a single one in 2015) and only saw two films in the theater; better than nothing, but disappointing. My goal for this year is similar, but on a smaller scale: I want to see 5 films in the theater, as well as watching 20 films via other sources (DVD, Netflix, TV, etc.) bringing the total of 25 new films in the year of 2017. A goal, I think, I can do—at least I will with the 20 outside of the theater, as I see most new (to me) films that way (and I’ve already watched 3).

Film | Part Two: Export

I want to do more film projects, but on a small scale. I first want to write a short film (should this have been up in the “writing” goals? oh, well)—I have ideas and ideas scribbled in notebooks and on files on my computer and on notes in my phone, but I’ve never sat down and finished a screenplay (though I’ve started a few). Second, I want to do more experimenting with the camera, making smaller videos like I used to do. It’s a muscle I haven’t stretched in a while.

Exercise

Hahahahahaha—No, wait. I’m serious this time. I started 2016 off really well with walking/running almost every day for a while and I lost ten pounds. I’ve since gained it back and slowed down on walking to a full stop, only to slowly start up again at the end of the year. But when I was doing it, I loved it. Now that I have a Fitbit Alta, I’m really getting back into it. My goal is to just try to exercise more. I don’t want to have a rigid schedule, I don’t want to set too high of expectations—especially in the winter when it’s more difficult to get up to drive to use the treadmill. I do have a recumbent bike at home that I can use and the treadmill once in a while, and I have an app on my phone for a 7 minute workout (which should be called 7 Minutes in Hell because omg working out like that instead of just walking is so awful how do people enjoy it???) So I’m going to start slow and really get going for when spring arrives and I can walk/run outside again—I really, really enjoyed it when doing it outside in the fresh air. It truly makes a big difference.

Instagram

I’ve been wanting to post more on Instagram and decided to post one a day for the entire year. Some will be from planned photo sessions, spread out over a few days, some will be just random and whatever I’m doing that day. I’ve already done it for 14 days in a row and I’m really enjoying it.

Those are my goals for 2017!

2016 Reading Update — November-December

Oh how optimistic I am about how much reading I’ll be able to get done in a given amount of time. I read 24 books this year. That’s all. I changed my target on Goodreads to 24 only because I hate having it say I failed, but my original goal had been 50, then 45, then 40, then 35, then 30, and I finished 2016 with only 24. Less than half of the original goal of 50.

I’ve learned a lot of things this year: Sometimes, I just don’t read a lot and that I set myself up for failure with too high of goals. So next year, I’ll be lowering my goal. But I’ll also be increasing my reading time by making it more of a priority instead of a last minute item on my to do list to skip. I’ll be making it first, reading every morning and afternoon.

Anyway, here is what I read since November:

9615347

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol
★★★★★

23133129

The Walk Up Nameless Ridge by Hugh Howey
★★★★

22578294

Glitch by Hugh Howey
★★★★

16283014

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
★★★★

18006950

Galway Bay Folk Tales by Rab Fulton
★★★★

(BOOKS READ THIS YEAR)

NaNoWriMo 2016 – Update #4

Last week I said if I could get to 40,000 by the 26th, I’d be in the clear. Well. I didn’t do that. I’m 12,000 shy of that. But! I still have faith! I’m still going! On the 26th, I wrote the most I have all month with 3,778 words. So I know that I can do it, I just have to focus all my time on writing on the last few days where I can write. I’ve written 6,000 words in a day before, so if I can just knock out the last few days, I can still win this!

I’m still optimistic even though I’m only just passed the halfway mark! I can do this! I can do this! I can do this! (I probably won’t.)

Words Written:
November 20th 0
November 21st 1,703
November 22nd 314
November 23rd 1,780
November 24th 532
November 25th 1,258
November 26th 3,778

Total Weekly Words: 9,365
Running Total: 28,215
Where I Should Be: 43,342

NaNoWriMo 2016 – Update #3

This past week of NaNoWriMo has gone better than last week, but since I’d fallen so far behind last week, I didn’t write as much as I should have. It would have been a short week anyway, but now it’s put me well passed the halfway mark of the month and I’ve yet to reach half the words.

But we move forward! I plan on writing a lot over Thanksgiving weekend, having two whole days off plus two half days. If I can get to 40,000 by the 26th, I know I can cram in 10,000 words in the last few days. I need to focus on writing when I can instead of just in one long session at the end of the day—50 to 100 words here and there will add up on top of that.

Words Written:
November 13th – 296
November 14th – 1,828
November 15th – 359
November 16th – 2.083
November 17th – 702
November 18th – 1,704
November 19th – 1,729

Total Weekly Words: 8,701
Running Total: 18,850
Where I Should Be: 31,673

2016 Reading Update — August-November

Since it’s been while since my last update on reading, not having posted about it since August, and because the year is coming to a close, I thought I’d share one last reading update before my grand total post at the end of the year. I’ve stated in my goals updates that I’ve been struggling reading the amount I want and have decreased my goal to 30 books, stand-alone short stories, or graphic novels. Which, I’m thinking of keeping as my goal for every year. I’ve never reached 50 and I probably won’t. 30 is a good number. Maybe I’ll increase to 35 optimistically, but 50 is just unrealistic for me right now.

Anyway, I’ve read more since August and have picked up my total to 17, just over half my goal. I’m confident I’ll be able to finish 30. Some of my upcoming reads are short and some are graphic novels. I’ve been making efforts to read more frequently by cutting most social media out of my daily schedule and keeping it at fewer amounts. That alone helped me reach 4 reads in two weeks (1 book, 1 graphic novel, and 2 short stories) when I’d been struggling with reading a single book, taking me over a month to finish.

So, here’s what I’ve read since August:

30065

The Walking Dead, Vol. 5: The Best Defense
★★★★

16034235

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
★★★★

17378527

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
★★★★★

138395

The Walking Dead, Vol. 6: This Sorrowful Life by Robert Kirkman
★★★★

24376529

A Madness So Discreet by
★★★

17910198

Burning Girls by
★★★★

13558703

Turn Here by Jackson Pearce
★★★

20170404

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
(not yet finished)

(BOOKS READ THIS YEAR)

NaNoWriMo 2016 – Update #2

Yikes. This week sucked for more than one reason. At the start, we cleared out our entire kitchen (all cabinets empty, stacked up on tables and chairs) and cleaned. Then slowly started reorganizing and putting everything away. That’s taken a lot of time and energy on top of a normal work week. So writing stopped there. And then the election happened and my brain hasn’t quite recovered yet. Slowly, by November 10th, it started to return. A bad week, putting me way behind, but that’s okay. I’ve written 10,000 words of a new story that I probably wouldn’t have been able to do without the NaNoWriMo pressure.

We press on! We write more!

Words Written:
November 6th 0
November 7th 0
November 8th 0
November 9th 0
November 10th 1,059
November 11th 1,898
November 12th 84

Total Weekly Words: 3,041
Running Total: 10,149
Where I Should Be: 20,004

NaNoWriMo 2016

I first heard of NaNoWriMo a several years ago, possibly while still in high school, and tried writing a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. I failed miserably. But I had a lot of fun. I think I might of tried a few years later, but never got back into doing it. I love the concept and I think it’s really fantastic that so many people write during a single month. There’s something about it that adds a word-and-magic-filled excitement to the air. It makes you want to write, to reach your daily goal, just knowing that thousands of others are doing the same thing.

Because I’ve been struggling with my writing projects lately, I’ve decided that, even though I don’t have any extra time next month, I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo. I’ve been working on the same few projects for the last few years, struggling with both of them, and I just want to have some fun. I want to start a fresh, new project, and just go for it.

I’ve been outlining my novel for the last week in preparation (I’m a planner when it comes to writing) and I’m really liking where it’s going. The book is about a missing teenager and an entire town looking for her. There’s multiple points of view, a dual structure with different timelines (a “before” she went missing and an “after”). I’m really getting excited to start writing it!

So I’ll be busy all of November writing my 1,667 daily words when I can and posting my weekly progress here! 50,000 words. Let’s do this.