Tag Archives: picture book

My Favorite Books of 2018

15 Dec

According to Goodreads, I’ve read 160 books this year. I read more so than usual, not going to lie, mainly because it was one of the only activities I could do between my job changes and the move. I also started working in a library, which helped my ability to find new books, try more genres, and just explore overall. (This generally happened during “processing,” which is when we check all the books that patrons turn in for damages and such. I saw all kinds of books I wouldn’t have seen if it weren’t for processing.) So this year I wanted to share more of my favorites than I did last year, and in more categories. Just like last year, though, these are books I read this year, not necessarily books that released this year. If you want a complete list of books I read, check out my Goodreads challenge.

I hope you find a read to check out!

Favorite Adult Romance

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

The Kiss Quotient is a diverse romance, full of plenty of fun twists and hilarious interactions between Stella (an algorithm experiment, who also has Asperger’s) and Michael, an escort. Think Pretty Woman, but gender-swapped, more diverse, and a lot more sexy. Even better? There’s a sequel releasing next year! I believe it’s also being made into a movie.

Adult Thriller

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan

Not for the faint of heart, this unique thriller connects a suicide in a book store with Lydia’s dark, twisted past, including an interaction with a serial killer. I don’t want to say much more, because this book deserves to be read without any prior knowledge. You’ll figure out many of the twists, only to realize the author wanted you to figure it out just so that he could surprise you with ones you weren’t considering. If you love thrillers full of strange puzzles and family secrets, this is well worth the read.

Choose Your Own Adventure

My Lady’s Choosing by Kitty Curran

Choose your own adventure is on the rise in publishing, even for adults, which is why I had to check out one this year. And it didn’t disappoint. Another romance, this novel allows you to choose who the main character falls in love with, and it takes you on a wild ride across countries (and gives many possibilities). It’s such a hoot to go back and change your mind, too. If you like romance, definitely check this one out.

Favorite Graphic Novel

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

This is basically the cutest graphic novel ever. Staring a dressmaker who secretly makes dresses for a prince in disguise, this graphic novel is about discovering yourself and being kind to others, not to mention following your passion. And the artwork is beautiful.

Middle Grade

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

This spooky middle grade about a girl who sees ghosts brings a unique twist to the horror genre, especially for kids. It’s refreshing, creepy, funny, and action-packed. Not to mention that it’s set in Scotland!

Favorite Picture Book

Unicorn (And Horse) by David W Miles

I read a ton of picture books this year, trying to find books for storytime at the library, and I honestly never realized how fun they can be, not to mention how beautiful the artwork is. This was my favorite, both for the artwork and the hilarious story. It’s about a preppy unicorn and a grumpy horse, total opposites, and how their lives intertwine.

YOUNG ADULT SECTION

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Sci-Fi

Wildcard by Marie Lu

This is the sequel of Warcross, my favorite novel that was published in 2017 last year. If you’re into near-futurism, definitely check out this series. The plot twists are to die for.

Fantasy

To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Confession time: I’m not a huge fan of fairytale retellings. This one, however, is a huge exception. It’s every bit brutal and monstrous that I’ve always wanted from a dark fantasy retelling.

Historical

The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

The prose in this historical is to die for. And it covers a time period rarely explored in young adult fiction. If you like puzzles, journeys, and secret identities, I recommend this one.

Contemporary

Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter

I’ve been reading Ally Carter since I was a preteen. She is one of my ultimate favs, so it comes to no surprise that her latest stole my heart, crushed it, and put it back together again. This save-the-president’s-son book takes place in Alaska, and it’s badass. Also, super clean for those parents and educators out there looking for that perfect transitional book between MG and YA.

Humor

Kill The Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky

I wish we had more humor books in general. (They’re so hard to find!) While I know everyone’s humor is different, I really loved this book. It’s about fangirls getting together, accidentally kidnapping a member of a boyband, and the following chaos. It’s absolutely ridiculous to the point that it’s believable, and I couldn’t stop giggling throughout.

Biggest Surprise

The Loneliest Girl in The Universe by Lauren James

This book is about a girl on a spaceship heading for a new earth, but everyone else is gone. She’s all by herself. And the following story is really surprising. I don’t want to say much, because it’ll ruin it, and this book deserves to be read without prior knowledge. I absolutely loved it.

Debut

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

This African-inspired fantasy is super lush and exciting! Not only is the plot adventurous, but the cast is also fresh. It’s a big book, so give yourself time to really sink your teeth into it, because it’s quite the start to a new series.

Continuing Series

Giant Days by John Allison

Okay, okay, so I’m cheating a little bit since Giant Days is a graphic novel series (and get this: it’s shelved in the Adult section in a our library, while the novelization is shelved in the Young Adult section), so I’m not sure if this is perfect category, but it deserves major recognition. I love this graphic novel series. It’s about three girls going through college, and it’s priceless.

Series Conclusion

This Towering Sky by Katharine McGee

It’s over! The Thousandth Floor trilogy has ended, and my heart just couldn’t take it. Not only is this series’ ending exciting, it’s perfect. All the characters’ conclusions make sense and give you this “of course” feeling that is so satisfying and rare.

Top Three Honorable Mentions

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland is about a girl stalked by Death, literally. (Or is it literally?) You’ll have to read and make that conclusion for yourself.

Winner Take All by Laurie Devore is about two very intelligent (and destructively competitive) teenagers who accidentally fall in love. It’s not a rosy-romance, but rather an honest portrayal of examining your strengths, weaknesses, and toxicity, even to those that you love.

S.T.A.G.S by M.A. Bennett almost won the “Biggest Surprise” for me, mainly for the last few pages. Not only is the book unsettling, it’s also exciting, and quite the examination of “tradition” in regards to high society education. And those last few pages! EEK. I wish there was a sequel. 

My Ultimate Favorite!

The Good Demon by Jimmy Cajoleas

You know those horror movies about exorcisms? Well, this is what happens afterward—except Clare never wanted her demon exorcised. She loves Her, and she will do anything to get Her back. This book is incredible. It’s one of the most atmospheric reads I’ve ever had the pleasure of stumbling across, and it sucked me in from page one. Clare’s voice is maddening, delicate, and brutally honest. I cheered her on and also became incredibly frustrated with her, but most of all, I always believed she was real, flaws and all. And I haven’t even mentioned the unique subject matter of this book. I’m normally one that avoids religious-type books altogether. (Yes, including exorcisms.) But this one felt explorative and emotional, even in its small town setting. I highly recommend this book to anyone, if not for the seductive pull of the demon’s presence, then for the plot twists, atmosphere, and prose.

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Writing Tips: Picture Book

16 May

Many writers use pictures as inspiration and/or reminders as they write their novels, but what pictures should writers try to find?

Since I’ve come across many who use pictures, I thought I’d expand by showing many different kinds of pictures artists can use throughout the writing process. I’m even going to use my personal picture book that I began in 2007 when I originally wrote Minutes Before Sunset. So you’ll not only get ideas, but you’ll also see an extra from behind-the-scenes of my recently published novel! (Which, by the way, is now available directly on AmazonBarnes & Noble, SmashwordsDiesel, Sony, and Apple.)

The original Minutes Before Sunset picture book, 2007

The original Minutes Before Sunset picture book, 2007

When I was creating Minutes Before Sunset, as many of you know, I already had a novel published. I also had two others written. As much I can keep my characters straight, I often need to go back, because of the abundance of information. I find this completely normal, and pictures can help more than you think! On top of that, it’s actually quite fun to create a picture book.

As you might notice, my book is titled “Characters,” but it contains much more than just people. At first, I thought I’d only need people, but then I realized that I could also use pictures representing scenes, objects, and more. Before I start, however, I’d recommend using Stumbleupon, Pinterest, and model websites to find the perfect picture (or as close as you can get) to certainties within your novel. These websites are also good just to find inspiration. Maybe you have character you aren’t sure of. On a lot of model websites, you can literally type in a description to find portfolios of genders, ethnicities, and even height or weight. Granted, models are models, so the pictures of characters may be much more perfect than they actually are in the novel. Simply keep in mind that you’re using these pictures as a map, not a definite rule. And here are my three types of pictures:

Characters: 

This example page includes Mindy and Noah (originally named "Colton")

This example page includes Mindy and Noah (originally named “Colton”)

This is one of my many character pages. I show this one first, because characters are often the most important to start with when making a picture book, mainly because a lot of novels revolve around the characters more than the scene. However, this can be very different, and it depends on your writing style.

I normally have a page or more per character (for clothes, hair, eyes, etc.) But I included this simplistic version, because it’s two side characters. Mindy is Eric’s stepmother; Colton is Eric’s stepbrother. Fun fact: his name was changed to Noah during the publication process.

However, in terms of character, you can add much more information on these pages than just pasting pictures into a notebook. (In fact, I keep a character list on my computer on top of these notebooks.) But I add basic information next to their pictures. As an example:

MINDY: married to Jim Welborn 2 years, curly red hair in her face, cheerful, brown eyes, comes across as perfect housewife, oblivious.

COLTON: Mindy’s ten-year-old, annoying, pries, brown hair with pudgy face, brown eyes.

In this case, for instance, Mindy’s picture is of a very young woman compared to her age in the book, but I used it, because it had the type of hair, skin, smile, and eyes that I wanted. Those were the most important features, for me, to find.

Objects: 

An example of an object's page.

An example of an object’s page.

This is an example of an object’s page from my picture book. When I was younger, I didn’t expect this to be too important, but it is, because there are so many scenes where these things can become symbolic and/or useful. For instance, throughout Minutes Before Sunset, Eric wears a vital necklace to the plot. I have pictures of it, but the words had a lot of spoilers, so I’m adding this one of dresses instead. Objects can includes clothes, furniture, cars, and possessions like phones or gifts like flowers. I’d recommend not stressing too much about objects unless they are very important, but, at the same time, keeping repetitive information straight. This example is a dress that my character, Crystal Hutchins, wears towards the end of the novel:

DRESSES: silver party dress, seen as rebelling against the fancy aspect of prom, but it really flatters her. Hair will be down, for once, very girly for Crystal.

An interesting fact to keep in mind is this is simply the dress, not how she looks in it or what it would look like in the light of a dim dance floor. As great as these pictures can be, they can get confusing if you don’t keep these scene aspects in mind. That’s why I added another category.

Scenes:

This is an example of scenes given through pictures.

This is an example of scenes given through pictures.

This is an example of my last category. (Thanks for sticking with me through this long post!) I struggled with adding scenes into my picture book, mainly because I believed I couldn’t find the perfect pictures (or even something close) that I needed to make notes. But I was wrong.

I found a lot of pictures, and I kept most of them. The only thing I’d recommend is keeping in mind, much like the characters and objects, that these are maps, not definite rules. In this case, the first photo is a railing at night, and that’s accurate, but the second photo is simply a tree in snow, and it isn’t the correct tree. It’s only a photo I can use for inspiration during a snowy scene I write later in the series. Here’s the example:

SCENES: First, railing by river where Eric (Shoman) first meets nameless shade. Second, lamppost and road used mainly in second book.

I hope this picture book with the examples helps inspire you to try out a picture collection for your novels, while also having fun exploring the internet for inspiration! 

Goodreads quote of the day: “Fate was a reality, but it wasn’t a beautiful or angelic thing. It was a heart-wrenching nightmare. And we’d fallen blindly into it. We had no escape. It was happening, and it was up to me to guarantee our survival of it. (Eric)” ― Shannon A. ThompsonMinutes Before Sunset

~SAT

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