#TopTenTuesday: Favorite Books I’ve Read in 2016 (So Far)

#TopTenTuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. You can find a list of all TTT themes on their blog!

This week’s theme: Top Ten Favorite 2016 Releases So Far This Year

Well, I haven’t read a lot of new releases this year (I’m always SO behind on new books). So, I’ve decided my list will be Favorite Books I’ve Read in 2016 So Far. Some of them are 2016 releases and some are older. I’m also going to divide my list into two categories: novels and graphic novels. Here we go!

Graphic Novels

 

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Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

*shudders* What a delightfully creepy book. Through the Woods is a series of short, illustrated horror stories, and it’s utterly addicting. Plus, it has amazing illustrations.

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Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, and Brooke A. Allen

My younger siblings are obsessed with these books, so I gave the first one a try and I loved it! It’s really adorable and laugh-out-loud funny, and it has wonderful character diversity. I still need to read the sequels!

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Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

I was lucky enough to see the musical adaptation of this book on Broadway a few months ago––but before I went to see it, I sat down and read the graphic novel first. And dang, it’s amazing. Somehow it manages to be both heart-crushing and darkly funny (as the tragicomic in the title implies). It’s some really powerful stuff.

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Daytripper by Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon

Wow, this book is mind-blowing and gorgeous in every way. It’s nearly impossible to describe what it’s about, but it’s a fascinating exploration of the relationship between life and death, and how each gives the other meaning. It’s surreal, moving, and utterly haunting.

Novels

 

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Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4) by Marissa Meyer

I was a little late getting around to reading this one––but when I finally got my hands on it, I could not put it down. If you haven’t read the series, don’t let the glittery covers fool you––this is some really awesome, hardcore sci-fi. It’s like … Star Wars meets fairytales. It has a truly lovable cast of characters, and the plotting is fantastic. Even though this book was over 800 pages long, I wanted it to keep going forever. I adored this book and the entire series!

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The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

This book is just so much fun. SEA MONSTERS. PIRATES. AHHHH. Also, awesome characters, cool world-building, and a cute romance between two ladies. ❤

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The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4) by Maggie Stiefvater

*clutches chest* Oh my God, this book. This series. No words could ever capture my feelings. It’s one of the most unique and enchanting series I’ve ever read, and The Raven King is a beautiful conclusion. The characters and the relationships between them mean the world to me, and it’s an incredible story. I really don’t think there will ever be anything quite like these books.

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The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo, #1) by Rick Riordan

You know, this book really surprised me. As much as I love Rick Riordan and his whole PJO/HoO universe, I didn’t have very high expectations for The Hidden Oracle. I was just going to read it for the heck of it (and because I was curious to see where the PJO/HoO characters had ended up), so I was a little shocked by how much I enjoyed it. In my opinion, it’s actually the best thing Rick Riordan has written in the past few years. It deviates slightly from his usual formula, and Apollo’s narration is fantastic.

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UnDivided (Unwind Dystology, #4) by Neal Shusterman

Another series I was a little slow to finish, but it was totally worth it! I finally finished this one, the last book in the series, last month––and wow, wow, wow. Neal Shusterman, how do you do it? This is definitely one of the greatest dystopian series I’ve ever read, and UnDivided is possibly the best of the whole “dystology”. It’s twisted, heart-stopping, and unsettlingly believable.

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Wildwood (Wildwood, #1) by Colin Meloy, illustrated by Carson Ellis

This was another pleasant surprise for me. I don’t read many middle-grade books, and I expected this to be “cute” more than anything. But it was actually quite dark and intense at times! I couldn’t put it down. It’s like a hipster-Narnia-fairytale with gorgeous illustrations, and it was right up my alley. I’m really excited to read the sequels!


How about you guys? 

  • Have you read any of the books on my list? What did you think of them?
  • What are some of your favorite books you’ve read this year?
  • If you made a TTT post, please link me to it!
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Orlando

I don’t know what to say.

I feel bad that I didn’t post about this right after I’d heard about the tragedy––I was just in such shock, rage, and pain that I couldn’t even form words. I still can’t. I don’t think there’s any way I can articulate how devastated and furious I am.

Above all else, my heart hurts for the victims, for all their friends and family. The pain and horror they have to endure is unimaginable.

49 innocent people were killed, and 53 were injured. 49 people don’t get to live out the rest of their lives or see their loved ones ever again. 53 people have to live with lifelong injuries, scars, and PTSD (if they all survive). All because one man was so offended by the sight of two men kissing that he decided 49 people had to pay for it with their lives.

They were more than just numbers, more than just victims. They were beautiful human beings. Here are their names. They were dancers, artists, students, teachers, musicians, nurses. They were parents, they were sons and daughters. They died alongside beloved friends and partners. It’s so tragic and unfair that it makes me want to scream.

This was an act of domestic terrorism as well as a hate crime. Nothing about this tragedy is a coincidence. It’s not a coincidence that the shooter targeted a gay nightclub. It’s not a coincidence that he chose to attack on a Lantinx-themed night hosted by trans women. It’s not a coincidence that he chose to attack during Pride Month. He specifically targeted LGBTQIA+ people of color, one of the most marginalized groups in the country (and the world), and he chose to attack them in their safe space. Typing out those words literally makes me feel dizzy and sick to my stomach. I can’t believe that someone could be so monstrous.

But if that’s not disgusting enough, it also infuriates me that this is not new or entirely unexpected. We live in a country that fuels hatred and gives people the means to carry out hate crimes. We live in a country that politicizes love and marriage,  but does nothing when it comes to controlling violence. Apparently everyone has the right to own a machine gun––including people on FBI watch lists, people with histories of committing violence/abuse, and people who are openly racist and/or homophobic/transphobic––but LGBTQIA+ people (especially LGBTQIA+ people of color) don’t have the right to walk outside, or even to exist in their own safe spaces, without the fear of being attacked or killed for their mere existence.

I’ve seen people blaming this tragedy on guns, and others blaming it on hatred. The fact is, it’s both. If we’re going to prevent hate crimes and mass shootings, we need to stand up for the rights of marginalized people and listen to their voices and have a better control on violence.

We still have a very long way to go. But I’m still trying to be hopeful about the future, as bleak as things may seem right now. Even though this attack is a huge blow, I’ve still seen a lot of progress in my lifetime. I see more and more people accepting who they are, and at younger and younger ages. I see more and more LGBTQIA+ representation in the media (even if it’s still not nearly enough, but at least it’s happening). I’ve only very recently started to accept my own identity as a bisexual woman, and it’s because I’ve had so much love, support, and acceptance from friends and family––many of whom are also LGBTQIA+.

The tragedy in Orlando weighs so heavily on my heart, and I know change will not come easily. But ultimately, love is love, and it will always be stronger and louder than hatred.

I Met Maggie Stiefvater!

This post is coming a little late, but I wanted to tell you all about my experience meeting Maggie Stiefvater the other week! *screams and fangirls* She is currently on her book tour for The Raven King (the final book in the Raven Cycle series), and she happened to stop by Brookline, MA (which is fairly close to where I live), and I was fortunate enough to attend the event––and I’m really happy I was able to reserve tickets for me and my mom, because it sold out in less than five minutes! 😱

In case you didn’t know, Maggie is the author of a bunch of best-selling YA books/series, including The Wolves of Mercy Falls (aka the Shiver trilogy)The Scorpio Races, and The Raven Cycle. And she’s one of my favorite authors ever.

First of all, the talk she gave was so funny. It was almost like a stand-up routine, really. Everyone was just laughing their heads off and it was so much fun. Topics included ugly babies, evil goats, vomiting on airplanes, accidentally posting photos of her boobs on the internet, and setting John Green on fire.

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Here she is, pretending to be one of her pet goats attempting to fly off the roof. 

 

After the talk, of course, was the book signing. I was near the end of the line, but I didn’t mind because it gave me more time to pull myself together and decide what on earth I was going to say.

I always feel so intimidated when I meet authors, and as a result I often get tongue-tied. But luckily, Maggie was super friendly, and I managed to say something semi-coherent about how much I love her books and characters. *whew*

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 Here is my signed copy of The Raven Boys!

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And I also got this lovely “book hugger” which wraps around all four of the Raven Cycle books (with beautiful art by Maggie herself––gosh, how can one person be so talented?!):

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It was such an amazing event, and I’m so happy I had the opportunity to meet one of my favorite authors!


 

How about you guys?

  • Have you met any authors?
  • If so, who did you meet? What was the experience like?
  • If not, which author(s) would you most like to meet?

How Do You Name Your Characters?

Hi everyone! Happy June! Gosh, it’s almost halfway through the year already.

Anyway, today I wanted to talk about how to name characters. I’m curious to hear from you guys about this aspect of writing, and how you approach it. Mainly, I’m interested to hear:

  • How do you name your characters?
  • Do you think characters should have “meaningful” names?

Personally, I love coming up with character names. It’s such a strangely magical process––by which I mean, I know when I’ve found the right name because it just clicks. I’ll be scrolling through baby name sites, and something will just leap out at me.

But where do you start?

First of all, time period and setting play a role in choosing your characters’ names. For example, when I was choosing names for my characters in The Resurrectionists, I wanted them all to have believable, 18th-century English names (because––guess what?––it takes place in 18th-century England). A Google search of “18th century English names” brings up some good sources, like this list of unique 18th-century British baby names or this list of common nicknames used in the 18th and 19th centuries. So, Google can really come in handy in these situations!

Or maybe your story takes place in a totally different world, in which case there are a lot of cool online fantasy name generators, like this one or this one.

Sometimes meaning is also a factor in naming characters. Personally, I don’t go out of my way to give my characters “meaningful” names (that is, that the meaning of their name says something about their personality), but I know some writers love to do this. In which case, there are a lot of great sources for finding the meanings of names. My personal favorite is Behind the Name, which has a large database of names from all over the world, and includes their meaning, history, and etymology. It even has a surnames section! And you can look up names by meaning, which is pretty awesome (you just have to click on the gear symbol next to the search bar, and select “search meanings”).

A lot of the time, though, character names seem to come out of nowhere––they pop into my head, or I just like the sound of them.

How about you guys?

  • How do you name your characters?
  • Do you ever use name generators or online name databases? If so, do you have any favorite sources?
  • Do you give your characters names that are meaningful to their personalities, or do you just pick names you like? Or both?