Saturday, January 28, 2017

First Lines (Part 1)

Last summer, Rachel Heffington compiled a lovely little post of first lines from her stories and flash fiction pieces. Thinking that was a fun idea, I scrounged through documents both well-used and nearly-forgotten. What I found was a mix of the mysterious and the ridiculous, the excellent and the mediocre. Placing these first lines side by side, it's interesting to note the patterns of how I begin stories, and how I've grown over the years. I found so many pieces from which to pull, I've split this into two posts.

Note: There's no particular order to these snippets.
★ How to Make Drawing a Part Of Your Life | Daily Creativity by Keeping a Sketchbook ★:

The chosen ones have not yet arrived. Lord Mauray paced from one end of the balcony to the other, his boots slapping the tiles in a restless rhythm. He paused at the railing and scanned the labyrinth of rooftops and bustling streets below. A wide thoroughfare cut through the city. Across the outlying fields in the distance, a dark speck appeared.

A messenger--but does he bring news of life or death?

[The Prophet's Quest, novel, complete]


He stood in the pouring rain, left hand loose at his side and right hand clenched around something. His clothes had long ago soaked up as much rainwater as they could. Now they clung to his shoulders like a cloak of grief and wrapped his legs like chains. Evening darkness shrouded the forest clearing. He stood alone--a solitary pillar holding up the thundering sky.

[Ann Marie, unfinished]


"I'm beginning to think your debts are going to cost you more than your life."

[untitled, unfinished]


Landon awoke with his face wet and the damp leaching into his clothes.

[untitled, unfinished]


A rainstorm usually affects a single region, for thunderheads can only be so and so big, and cloud banks can only stretch so far. But this deluge rolled across the entire cosmos in one day.

[tentatively titled Our Destiny, unfinished]

True book Love. Girl carrying an armful of books. ~Artist: Unknown:


"Keeping my share of the loot, Char?" the tall man sneered down, twisting his bronzed features.

Charlotte flicked him a glance. "Never, Wolf." She tossed him an amulet. "That good enough?"

[Redemptive Scars, short story, complete]


Rodin jammed the shovel into packed earth. The blade rang against a stone, and he dug it up. As big as two fists, it was--and not his own moderately-sized fists, either--more like the farmer's meaty paws. Rodin picked up the rock with one hand and hurled it over his shoulder, where it clattered onto a pile of its brethren.

[untitled, unfinished]


It's not the first time Blair has asked me to dive, and I know it won't be the last. Serebell has too many secrets left in it to abandon our mission.

[untitled, unfinished]


Once upon a time, there lived a peasant man in a village. This man, Ewald, had little more than the threadbare tunic on his back and the sieve-like thatched roof  above his head.

Every day, he worked a patch of stony ground. "It's me garden," he'd say of it, when inquired by foot-travelers passing through. They'd raise their eyebrows at the pebbly soil and stunted green shoots, and walk on by without comment. But poor as the 'garden' was, for Ewald, it was his only source of income.

[untitled allegorical short story, unfinished]


"No, not you. Anyone but you." Prince Tyrus--by all appearances thoroughly overwhelmed by the sight before him--covered his eyes, then scrubbed his hand down his face as if resigning himself to meet it head-on after all.

[To Fool the Court, unfinished]

Lost between the pages of a book.


The young man gaped at me with something between wonder and terror in his eyes. "How'd you do that?" he stammered.

I rolled the strawberry-sized ball, sickly green and smooth as marble, between my fingers. "I don't know."

[untitled, unfinished]


This is a story that took place a very long ways away from where you live. So you've probably never laid eyes on the magnificent Macaroni Kingdom. Too bad. You would have liked it. (The King ordered everyone to like it, but most do anyway.) The Macaroni Kingdom is my home, and that of many other macaroni penguins. Oh, I suppose I should introduce myself before we continue. I'm Mac, short for Mac 'n' Cheese, because my brilliant parents thought that was a good name for a macaroni penguin. (That's a lot of pasta, I know, and it's about to get worse.)

[The Quest of a Macaroni Penguin, short story, complete]


There it is! Beginnings are key when it comes to stories. The best ones hook us with their intrigue, unexpectedness, or humor. The worst ones make us put a book down and never pick it up again. I'm not too sure where mine fall in that spectrum, but nevertheless, this was a fun exercise.

Which ones are your favorites? What's a first line that you've read or written that you absolutely love?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why Fiction Matters


"By words the mind is winged."


Why do we love books so much? Why do we spend hundreds of dollars buying them and thousands of hours reading them? Why do we fill our bookshelves? Why do we browse libraries and bookstores, why do we create book blogs and write reviews and form communities centered around our favorite genres?

It's because of story.

And it's because story reaches in and speaks right to the heart.

Stories are an escape. They are journeys and adventures. They are safe places to think and feel and question, places where we dare to risk it all in a hypothetical situation, to see how it plays out. They prepare us for the real places that ask us to risk, to fight, to love. Once we've practiced in fiction, we're a bit more ready to choose the heroic path in life.

Dry information is not remembered. Yet information attached to strong emotion stays with us for years. You may not even remember the plot of a book you read five years ago--not the names of the characters or the twist at the end--but somewhere in your mind, the feelings and concepts are there.

The hero who laid his life on the line for the helpless.

The antihero who struggled uphill and found redemption.

The villain who spiraled ever deeper into darkness.

The girl who found true love.

The orphan who found a family.

The emotions behind those virtues and vices, victories and defeats, stick with us. In those universal emotions of loss, joy, love, conflict, frustration, and triumph, pieces of ourselves are brought to light. Me too is perhaps the strongest element in any story--that realization that we're not the only ones who've been there. Because if a character feels like I do, that means there are countless others in this world who have trudged the same valleys and climbed the same mountains. I am not alone.

It's in stories that we often learn what life is, and what it should be. Even when a novel makes no attempt to teach an overt message, we are learning. We are vicariously experiencing another world and another life through the characters.

That's why stories mean so much to me. In them I've lived hundreds of lives. I've been a victorious hero. I've succumbed to a fatal flaw. I've offered mercy and received mercy. I have lived, I have died. I have seen the world through many eyes, felt pain and joy so like my own in many hearts.

I've found more than just companionship in stories. I've also seen glimpses of God, in the spaces between the lines where imagination intersects with the holy. It astounds me that He would use stories humbly imprinted on paper to speak to us. Of course, the Bible is where I find Him the most--as it should be. But I cannot discount the ways fiction has shed a different light on things I'd grown too familiar to see in Scripture.

Ted Dekker's Black drowned me in God's love.

Bryan Davis's Eye of the Oracle let me dance with Elohim.

Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Starflower pierced through my judgmental nature and showed me grace.

C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe put me in awe of my Savior's sacrifice.

Andrew Klavan's If We Survive reminded me of the beauty and fragility of life.

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Return of the King showed me courage in the face of impossible odds.

Jeffrey Overstreet's The Ale Boy's Feast helped me lean on God's provision.

Even a children's book like Max Lucado's With You All the Way helped me listen for my Father's song when I cannot see Him.

I could go on and on. Secular books, too, have helped to instill bravery and friendship in me. The point is, I don't know where I would be without stories.

Some may criticize fiction as being unnecessary. An escape for those too cowardly to deal with their problems head-on. On the contrary, fiction has helped me face my problems. Between the covers of books, I have discovered courage to combat fear, love to fuel my steps, and the reassurance that the happiest ending of all is yet to come.

What books have impacted you?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

as only you can

[via Pinterest]

We compare too much.
As people we compare our lives.
As girls we may compare our beauty.
As guys we may compare our strength.
As students we compare knowledge and grades.
As employees we compare wages and positions and achievements.
As friends we compare circles and contacts and how many people we know and how many of those people are important.
As writers we compare our words.

And every time we fall short.

There is always--a l w a y s--someone better than us.
Someone more beautiful, successful, productive. Someone smarter, faster, better. Someone who has it all together when we are falling apart.

We have the unfortunate tendency to compare our failures to another person's successes.

This comparison game makes us feel better sometimes. "Oh look, I'm further ahead than they are." It's probably true. You're more skilled, more disciplined, more accomplished. But it's also true when you turn the other way and realize, "But other people are further ahead than I am." Wherever you are, there will always be those behind you and those ahead of you.

Who cares?

It's terribly cliched, but you're on your own journey! You have a unique life made up of
your background
your upbringing
where you live
who your family is
what you've learned
what you've taught yourself
who you know
where you've been
what you've decided
what others have decided for you
what you care about
what you dream about
what you absolutely cannot live without.

No one else has that combination, that magic elixir that cannot be replicated. You are a limited edition, a one time only sort of thing.

We hear it all the time. "You're special. You're unique. Be you--everyone else is taken." We've grown deaf to it.

Deaf to the truth that you are you and that's pretty amazing.

Where you're going is amazing.

Your life is amazing. I love your story. I love who you are.

Whether you're rocketing forward in a blur of breathless light
or you're plodding forward step by painful step
or your path is wandering, looping, falling back on itself and finding its way--
it's your path.

This life is yours.

What do you want out of it?

Not what everyone else wants out of it. What does success look like to you? (I'll give you a hint: ask the One who created you what your success looks like to Him. You'll find an even better answer.)

Forget everyone else's perfectly filtered photos and snappy blog posts and put-together facades. (Yes, forget mine too.) There are things crumbling behind those fronts. We all have those broken bits.

Go out and really live. Live the way you and only you are supposed to live. Doing anything less is a disservice to yourself and to the God who invented you in the first place.

And writers--you beautiful creatures with wings of ink--stop wishing for your voice to sound like anyone else's. You are not some other author, no matter how poetic, tightly written, skillfully crafted, surprisingly plotted, allegorical, straightforward, intense, or fantastic their books are. Admire them; that's all right. Don't try to be them.

Try to be you.

That's hard. I know. Sometimes you'll borrow bits of other people in an effort to discover your own voice underneath. It's part of the process. But stop trying to stuff yourself into another person's box--be it in writing or any other part of life. You're too wild and original and incredible for that.

[via Pinterest]

I don't think I could sum it up any better than that.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Beautiful Books - Writing Goals

I love goals. LOVE 'em. I make big goals and mini goals, crazy goals and easily achievable goals. I put things on to-do lists for the sheer satisfaction of crossing them off. Great pumpernickel, I even write down things I've already done so that I can cross them off.

And once I make a goal, I get so excited about it that I start telling everyone I know what I'm aiming to do. This is met with one of two reactions: a) they get excited along with me, or b) they back away slowly with the wide-eyed expression of someone avoiding a rabid skunk.*

*Technically, I suppose one would run away from a rabid skunk as fast as possible. I never said my metaphors were 100% accurate.
Last January, I posted about my writing goals for the year. I thought it would be interesting to look back and see which ones I reached, and then look forward and make new goals for 2017. (You can see the 2016 post HERE.)

I had this post all tidily drafted and ready to publish, and then lo and behold, the Beautiful People/Beautiful Books link-up returned with a set of questions that halfway meshed with what I already had. So I compromised by tweaking some of my material and tweaking some of Sky and Cait's material, in order to offer you this conglomeration that may or may not be comprehensible. Read at your own risk.

1. What were your writing achievements last year?

Allow me to examine each goal and whether or not I reached it. Analysis is such fun.
  • January: Finish editing book 1. Well, I mostly finished. I thought I was finished at the time, but since then I've decided to cut out a couple of characters, and just haven't gone back and done it yet. It shouldn't take too long once I get to it, though.
  • February: Begin querying agents for book 1. (Yipes!) Review the outline of book 2 and do some research. I researched a fair number of literary agents, but . . . did not begin querying. I did, however, review the outline and research.
  • March-May: Draft book 2. I certainly started!
  • June: Draft Rooglewood entry. July: Edit Rooglewood entry and send it off. (I'd like to be much more on the ball this year, so I'm going to try finishing it in two months. Two and a half, tops.) Seeing as the Rooglewood contest was postponed because of Anne Elisabeth Stengl's pregnancy, this did not happen. Which I am okay with, because there was so much else to concentrate on instead.
  • August-December: Finish drafting book 2, and if I've actually managed to meet my monthly goals, I'd like to do a round or two of edits on it as well. Ahahaha . . . ha . . . ha. I am approximately 63% through the first draft. Not exactly finished, and definitely nowhere near a pass or two of edits!
  • I didn't make a specific monthly goal for this, but a big thing last year was taking a step to grow my craft by starting a writing course, something I plan to finish in 2017.

Considering school and life and the unforeseen complexities of The Prophet's Key, I think I did pretty well. I know if I hadn't made these goals, I wouldn't have accomplished nearly as much. So I consider 2016 to be a successful writing year!

2. What's on your writerly "to-do list" for 2017?

Uh oh. Prepare to run from the rabid skunk.

January to mid-May: Finish the first draft of The Prophet's Key. Given my estimated word counts, this will amount to 60k words or more over the course of four and a half months.

Mid-May to July: Begin expanding The Brightest Thread into a novel, and hopefully have the first draft at or very near completion by July 27th, because . . .

July 27th to 29th: Attend Realm Makers! It's not going to be cheap, but I feel it's worth the investment.

Somewhere within the summer: Maybe write, edit, and send off an entry in the next Rooglewood fairy tale retelling contest. This will depend on how the progress on my two main projects is coming along, and whether the chosen fairy tale sparks a great idea or not.

August to December: Continue working on The Brightest Thread. Complete the first draft and do a round or two of edits so that it's poised to move forward (aka maybe get published) in 2018.

Throughout the year: Finish The Creative Way writing course. Possibly begin querying agents for TBT, depending on progress.

It's a lot of writing, I know, especially for a fulltime student. But if you don't aim high, how are you going to get anywhere? Even if I don't meet all these goals, the main thing is still to make the most of the time and resources I do have.

3. Tell us about your top-priority writing projects for this year!

Pretty sure the above list gives a clear indication. There's The Prophet's Key, book 2 of my long-time WIP high fantasy YA series. And after finishing that first draft, there's expanding The Brightest Thread, a Sleeping Beauty novella I wrote in 2015. I am a pretty single-minded writer, so two main projects is plenty for me! But who knows, there might be that new fairy tell retelling thrown in there too. If that happens, I hope to plot so extensively beforehand that I can draft it within a month, tops. #optimisticallyhighacheiver

4. How do you hope to improve as a writer? Where do you see yourself at the end of 2017?

I hope to keep growing in all areas of my writing life--perseverance, creativity, skill, and also the whole career side of it. I see myself with a couple more stories under my belt by the end of the year. I see myself more knowledgeable, more confident, and with a clearer sense of where this path will lead. Most importantly, I see myself involving God in my writing process more and more.

5. Describe your general editing process.

Let the story stew on its own for an indefinite period of time.

Reread the story and make notes on whatever problems I spot (and simultaneously bemoan the horridness of it all, and occasionally smile when I come across a bit I still love).

Begin editing. This will include: cutting out fluff and unnecessary scenes, adding new scenes if needed, adding in foreshadowing, smoothing out the pacing, bringing the right details to life, working on consistency, tightening dialogue, keeping an eye out for pet words, paying attention to the arc of the story and of individual characters, drawing out the themes I didn't realize were there, etc. But not all at once! I try to work on the big stuff first, and then work my way down to the little things, but I usually end up polishing the little things as I work on the big things, which is not the most efficient method.

In between editing passes, I may let it stew a bit more. I may have to take some time out to research, re-examine my outline, or brainstorm my way out of a particularly knotted problem.

In the final stages, I'm just brushing up the wording and catching stray plot holes.

6. On a scale of 1-10, how do you think this draft turned out?

If we're talking about The Prophet's Key, then it hasn't finished "turning out" just yet. But so far . . . eh. The bones of the story have a lot of potential. I think the story is a little lost in the clutter of people and places, but I sense a good tale underneath that just needs to be hammered into shape.

7. What aspect of your draft needs the most work?

Oh, it's a hodgepodge. So the biggest thing is streamlining everything, which will include patching up the places where my research had holes in it, and trimming down events that took too much page-time to happen. My main characters, Josiah and Aileen, will also need to become more assertive. With everything happening in this book, I'm worried they've become too passive while all the adult characters run around making things happen.

8. What do you like the most about your draft?

I like how unusual it is. I don't think I've ever read a book that combined the exotic flavors of a globetrotting, riddle-solving quest with a high fantasy world boasting dragons and portals and impending doom. (Mind you, this conceptual stuff is also what is most scary about this book. I have to keep telling myself that I'll find a way to make it all work, and that way will not be found during the drafting stage!)

9. What are your plans for this novel once you finish editing? More edits? Finding beta readers? Querying? Self-publishing? Hiding it in a dark hole forever?

I shall hide it in a dark hole, but not forever. Just until The Brightest Thread is completed, or until I'm between editing passes and need another project at which to poke. But The Prophet's Key will probably wait until it can once again take first priority. I have a feeling I'll need every ounce of my creative energy to tackle the job of editing it into something readable. After all that . . . well, perhaps by then TBT will be out in the big wide world, in which case, my next publication would be this series. I'd like to get the whole series written by then, however, so it could be a while, folks.

10. What's your top piece of advice for those who just finished writing a first draft?

LET IT REST. It's nigh impossible to edit that book objectively when you've just finished drafting it. You're still in creation mode, and you need to gain some distance and perspective to get into critique mode. I've tried editing things I've just written, and guess what? I don't make many changes. But when I leave a piece alone for a while, then return to it with a fresh eye, I see so many things to improve.

In the meanwhile, work on another project, or focus on filling your creative tank: soak in other people's stories, draw, paint, listen to music, spend some time outdoors, live life, try new things. When it comes time to get back to that first draft, you'll be refreshed and ready to tackle its problems head-on.


Looking at 2017 writing plans overall, I am ecstatic about seeing where my TPK characters end up (hint: bad places. like cliffhanger bad); building my craft and career by going to Realm Makers; and returning to TBT, which is probably one of my favorite stories I've ever written!

Let's do this thing! Or several things! All the things! What about you, noble questers? What are your goals for the year, writing or otherwise? (And please tell me I'm not insane. Even if you must lie, false assurance might keep me calm enough to reach all these goals. #kidding)

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Books of 2016

2016 was a cozy reading year. By that I mean it was smaller than usual--only 35 books, as opposed to last year's 52--but it was filled with mostly good, solid stories. There were a few "meh" kinds in the mix, but nearly every month contained at least one wonderful book.

Bookdragons are notorious for their nosiness. Come now, admit it. We're the sort who are drawn instantly to the bookshelf when entering someone's home, the sort who click around Goodreads to see what our friends are reading, the sort who like reading others' year-end book recaps . . . or writing our own, if we're so inclined. So here's mine!

(Click here to see my Books of 2015!)

Illusionarium // Heather Dixon
Shadowmancer // G.P. Taylor

Illusionarium was a smashing way to start off the reading year! Steampunk, airships, disease, creepiness, humor, precious characters, and snarky footnotes made this an instant favorite. Shadowmancer, on the other hand, was a sorry slew of poor writing, cardboard characters, and heavy-handed Christian themes.

The Invaders // John Flanagan
A Snicker of Magic // Natalie Lloyd
The Romeo and Juliet Code // Phoebe Stone
Artemis Fowl // Eoin Colfer

The Invaders was a fun Flanagan concoction of wit, cleverness, sailing, and--you guessed it--invasions. A Snicker of Magic was possibly the sweetest, spindiddliest middle grade book I've had the great pleasure of reading! The Romeo and Juliet Code painted a bittersweet picture of a little girl uprooted from home during WWII. Artemis Fowl was . . . quirky, I suppose you could say.

You Have a Brain: A Teen's Guide to T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G. // Dr. Ben Carson
Cinder // Marissa Meyer
Paige Turned // Erynn Mangum

In You Have a Brain, there are a number of stories about miraculous surgeries Dr. Carson performed, followed by some decent bits of advice for young people. Cinder sucked me into the fabulous world that is the Lunar Chronicles, and I don't plan to leave anytime soon. Paige Turned proved to be the perfect bow on top of the fluffy romance trilogy featuring busy, sarcastic, 20-something Paige Alder.

Merlin's Blade // Robert Treskillard
Knightley Academy // Violet Haberdasher
The Raven Boys // Maggie Stiefvater

I found Merlin's Blade to be slightly underwhelming, but the protagonist's blindness was a neat twist. Knightley Academy--ah, what an amusing romp of a school novel! And The Raven Boys was a piece of gorgeousness (minus a couple issues) that had me wanting to savor every sentence.

The Prayer Box // Lisa Wingate
Water Walker // Ted Dekker
Howl's Moving Castle // Diana Wynne Jones

The Prayer Box was a sweet romance sprinkled with letters detailing a storyline from the past. Water Walker read like an extended parable, packing a solid punch with its vivid imagery and characterization. I finally read Howl's Moving Castle, and it was another one of those insta-favorites that I know I'll be rereading multiple times in the future.

Skeleton Key // Anthony Horowitz
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell // Susanna Clarke

Skeleton Key was pretty much a secret agent movie disguised as a middle-grade action novel. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell . . . now that was one of the most impressive novels I've read, rife with unexpected humor, striking descriptions, and complex characters.

Raising Dragons Graphic Novel // James Art Ville and Bryan Davis
The Shadow Lamp // Stephen Lawhead
Scarlet // Marissa Meyer

The long-awaited Raising Dragons Graphic Novel met my expectations and brought a hit of nostalgia as it retold one of my favorite books in comic book form. The Shadow Lamp, as the second-last book in the Bright Empires series, completely blew my mind with its rising stakes and seamless blend of science and fantasy. And then Scarlet proved to be a little less stunning than Cinder, but still a fun read.

The Realms Thereunder // Ross Lawhead
The Runaway King // Jennifer Nielsen
Peter Pan // J.M. Barrie

The Realms Thereunder had a great plot, but its characters weren't quite as emotionally alive as I had wanted. The Runaway King made up for it with a fast pace and its characteristic humor--and also pirates. And then I read the classic Peter Pan at long, long last. Such a delightful little tale!

Five Enchanted Roses // Browning, Jezowski, Schmidt, Tsukioka, and Wand
The Calling // Rachelle Dekker

I discovered a well-rounded collection of Beauty and the Beast retellings within the beautiful covers of Five Enchanted Roses; and then followed gritty, brave characters through their battle with fear in The Calling.

The Dream Thieves // Maggie Stiefvater
Into the Wild // Erin Hunt
Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink // Gail Carson Levine
Eagle Strike // Anthony Horowitz

The Dream Thieves bore the same stunning writing style as the previous book in the series, along with some of the same irksome issues. Into the Wild was less gripping than I remembered it being when I was a youngster. Clear, concise, engaging advice on the craft was found in Writer to Writer. Eagle Strike took the Alex Rider series on a turn for the better, with a different plot than its predecessors.

Journey to the Center of the Earth // Jules Verne
Prophet // R.J. Larson

Journey to the Center of the Earth was a surprisingly interesting little classic. Prophet proved to be as pretty inside as it was outside, with lovable characters, a unique world, and thoughtful questions about free will and responsibility and mercy.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children // Ransom Riggs
Cress // Marissa Meyer
Treasures of the Snow // Patricia St. John
Paper Crowns // Mirriam Neal

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was somehow less creepy than I'd expected, but still eerie and, well . . . peculiar. Cress became my favorite Lunar Chronicles instalment to date. Treasures of the Snow brought back fond memories of my childhood, and Paper Crowns made me grin with its cast of delightfully snarky, witty, lovable characters.

It also bears mentioning that I beta-read two novels this year as well: Christine Smith's Beauty and the Beast retelling called Burning Thorns, and Emily's high fantasy called The City and the Trees.


(because numbers + books = fascinating, right?)

I read 35 books this year, an average of 2-3 per month. Paper Crowns was the shortest book at 190 pages, and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell was the uncontested longest book at a humongous 1,006 pages. In total, I read 12,705 pages.

Here's how 2016's genres broke down:

It's no surprise that fantasy once again dominated my reading choices! Sci-fi was a bit higher this year than it was in 2015 because of reading the Lunar Chronicles, and everything else was like little scraps in comparison. I'm a bit embarrassed at how few nonfiction books I read. Perhaps I'll do better in 2017!

Since I joined Goodreads in 2016, I've started rating books. My average this year was 4.4 stars. What can I say? Either I just read a lot of good books, or I'm a forgiving reader. (Or both. I'm a paradox in how I judge a book--critical and forgiving at the same time. I think if a book works for me, I'm willing to overlook the flaws I notice?)

My most-read authors were Marissa Meyer (3 books) and Maggie Stiefvater (2 books). Didn't take much to become a most-read this year, obviously!

My favorite authors that I discovered in 2016 were: Heather Dixon, Marissa Meyer, Diana Wynne Jones, and Mirriam Neal.

My least favorite book of 2016 was definitely Shadowmancer. Just . . . no. None of it worked for me--not the clunky writing style, not the unbelievable character motives, not the hit-you-over-the-head themes. Sorry.

My favorite books of 2016 . . . Well, given that half of them were five-star reads, I could list all of those, but I'll shrink the list down a bit by mentioning only those that really stood out to me this year. Illusionarium, A Snicker of Magic, Cinder, Knightley Academy, Howl's Moving Castle, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, The Shadow Lamp, Peter Pan, Cress, Prophet, and Paper Crowns! Okay, that didn't really diminish the list by much, after all.

And that, bookdragons, was an overview of my reading year! Now it's my turn to get a glimpse at yours: what was one (or several) of your absolute favorite 2016 reads? Least favorite? What's the most pressing book on your to-be-read pile? (I personally have Winter waiting for me. And Blue Lily, Lily Blue. And Reapers. And Five Magic Spindles. And waaaay too many others!)