Thursday, December 1, 2016

Lessons from NaNoWriMo

For the fourth year in a row, I participated in National Novel Writing Month, a challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November. In past years, the challenge has helped me in several ways, like helping me finish a draft of my thesis. But this is the first year I actually hit the 50K mark. In the process, I learned a lot about myself as a writer.

1. I'm a sprinter, not a marathoner. This is true for me in real life, too. While some of my friends can easily reach 10K in a day, it's better for me to hit shorter goals. I try for 1,000 first, and if I make it, then I can try for another 1,000 and call it a day. But if I don't even make it to the first one, it's probably because something is wrong with the story itself. So instead of pushing it, I take a break and regroup.

2. Being a sprinter means I need rest days. Out of the 29 days it took me to get to 50K, I didn't log any words on five of those days, and I took three days off in a row right in the middle of the month to recharge and rethink my project. Even though "write every day" is common advice, it's not necessarily good advice for me. A day or two off can be of more help than trying to push through when I know the story needs some retooling.

3. 2,000 words is a doable goal for me. Any more than that was pushing it, but 2K is comfortable and enough to make me feel accomplished. However, when I push myself to do double that, it's hard to do it two days in a row. If I hit an up day, I should be prepared for a down day next. And there's nothing wrong with that. I apparently just don't like consistency.

4. I'm not a pantser. I knew this to a certain extent already, but my need for outlines seem to have grown stronger. I started my first fantasy novel with a barebones outline of one page, which worked well. I tried the same thing again with the mystery novel I wrote for this NaNo, but it didn't get me nearly as far. The good thing about having an outline with not many details, though, is I could take the story in new directions when I needed to.

5. I need some writing socialization. Although writing is mostly solitary, I like to participate in writing sprints, critiquing, and brainstorming sessions. It's helpful for me to toss around ideas aloud and to be able to talk about writing. Even just getting out of my house to write, going to a library or cafe, even if I don't interact with anyone, prevents me from getting lost in my own head space, which is easy for me to do when I try to shut out the world for a big chunk of time in order to write.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

An Incomplete List of Anti-heroines

Late last night, I had a conversation with a friend about how we're often bored by male characters, especially ones who exhibit anti-heroic traits, such as selfishness, manipulation, and gray morality. However, we find female characters who toe the line of heroism way more fascinating. With that conversation in mind, I'm starting a list of these characters in both television/film and books as both a recommendation page for anyone looking for anti-heroines and as a reference page for myself.

The way I'm defining an anti-heroine is a central female character who doesn't care to play by the rules, whether those rules are society's or her workplace's or her own. Characters marked with an * are suggestions from friends whose shows/films/books I haven't seen or read.

Saturday, September 17, 2016


I'm pleased to announce my first novel, The Dying of the Golden Day, is now available!

Synopsis: Marked by gray eyes that prophesy the death of magic, Aurelia seeks to avert her destiny by serving as advisor to the prince of Sunniva, but a chance to reunite two broken kingdoms soon forces Aurelia to decide where her loyalty lies--with her prince or with her magic. Meeting Brennus, the first male born with magic in centuries, further complicates her choice.

When Edana, the first seeress in generations, receives a vision concerning the end of the kingdom, she embarks on a mission to locate the subjects of the prophecy only to stumble upon a threat to all those with the gift of magic.

As prophecy becomes clearer and the future darker, they discover there are two sides to every coin--good and evil, hope and destruction, fate and chaos. Only they can restore balance, and only they can plunge the world into eternal darkness.

The book is available in paperback via CreateSpace and Amazon. The Kindle version is available for pre-order and will release on September 30th. You can also add it to your reading list on Goodreads

Connect with me on Goodreads, Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Monday, August 22, 2016

ANNOUNCEMENT: Sky Forest Press

What I've Been Up To The Past Few Months
My internet presence since June has been a little spotty because I've had business plans taking up my brain space. After being disappointed in a number of TV shows, movies, and books I've consumed this year, I realized that one way to fix seeing the same kinds of stories in fantasy and sci-fi over and over again was to help get new ones out there.

So Sky Forest Press was born! A little prematurely, which is why I'm still hard at work on the planning side of things, specifically the financials. While I have a ways to go, I'm optimistically hoping for an official launch in January 2017.

Why You Might Care
If you're a fan of fantasy and science-fiction books, you might also be disappointed with the lack of diversity in these genres. I'm starting Sky Forest Press to help publish books with inclusive protagonists and casts. I'm especially interested in female protagonists, since, outside of urban fantasy and YA, they're largely underrepresented in speculative fiction, but because SFP believes representation in fiction is important, we'd like to see diversity of all types: female characters, characters of color, LGBTQIA characters, characters of different body sizes, characters with disabilities, characters who struggle with mental health issues, and more.

Proof I'm Serious
I gave up my book-buying habit for this. An avid reader who thinks adding books to my collection is therapy, I haven't bought a book since July 29th and don't intend to buy another until 2017 all so I can save up money for SFP. How's that for serious?

Support Sky Forest
If you're interested in seeing Sky Forest Press come into being, a little support could go a long way. I'll be releasing a few of my own works in e-book and/or print version over the next few months. At least half the profits will go directly to SFP start-up expenses. And I'm now offering editing services for fiction manuscripts in the fantasy, sci-fi, young adult, romance, and mystery genres. You can also help by just spreading the word!

Want to Get Involved?
I can't do this alone! If you're an author with diverse spec fic and are interested in publishing with SFP, let me know about your manuscript. Submissions won't open until SFP's official launch in January, but I'm always on the lookout for new books.

If you're a reader or have questions, check out the website, and follow SFP on Twitter and Tumblr. Expect more content closer to 2017, but we'll be around answering questions.

If you're interested in being a beta/sensitivity reader or in getting advance copies in exchange for reviews, send us an email.

If you're an artist interested in providing cover illustrations, send us an email.

(Please keep in mind that because of the nature of a micro-press and because we're still starting out, we may be unable to offer much in the way of compensation for beta readers or artists.)

Thursday, August 4, 2016

You're Gonna Call THESE Ghostbusters

Last Friday, I saw Ghostbusters for the third time, and even though my coworkers all laughed when I told them and my mom said it wasn't good enough to see more than once, I'm not ashamed of that fact. The only other movie I've seen three times in theaters is The Force Awakens, and I think it's easy to see the common thread.

Before The Force Awakens came out, the advertising often featured Finn wielding Luke's lightsaber. That was cool in its own right because Mace Windu is the only black Jedi I can think of off the top of my head and he wasn't a main character. However, I still found myself passing signs and going, "When will girls get to be Jedis?" (Ahsoka is great, but I'm tlking about strictly the movie universe here.) So when I sat in my seat on December 18th and watched the force awaken in Rey, I got goosebumps.

That feeling was the same one I got in Ghostbusters (all three times!) when Erin popped the Stay Puft Marshmallow balloon with her Swiss Army knife, when Abby stood up to everyone who wanted to tear them down, when Patty came through with her knowledge of the city's history after all her non-fiction reading, and when Holtzmann took down a dozen ghosts in style and in slow-mo. Each one brought something wonderful and weird to the table. I grew up wanting to have adventures. I still want to have adventures. It's why I love to read and write and travel. So getting to see four women having adventures and saving the city was not only fun but special. "Be the protagonist of your own story" is a lot easier when you've got some kick-butt examples!

Plus, although I get overly worried about the world, I realized that when my nephew gets a few years older, I could introduce him to this movie and he won't think it's odd that it's about four women, and that's pretty darn awesome.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

IYWM Recap

It's been a while since I've blogged! Part of that was burn-out with all the bad news swirling around, so I needed to step back from the internet, and part of that was me keeping busy with other projects. I'll try to update this fairly regularly from now on.

the most photogenic building on campus

First, a recap from last weekend, when I attended the In Your Write Mind convention at Seton Hill University, my first time at IYWM after graduating last year. The best thing about the SHU writing community is the people. I got to catch up with friends, check in with mentors, and basically envelop myself in a creative bubble for a few days. More than half of my graduating cohort was in attendance, and the ones who couldn't make it were there in spirit, especially A.J. Culey, who sent us all wristbands commemorating her latest release, The Trouble with Antlers.

swag from A.J. Culey
Guests this year included two agents, an editor, and an author, all of whom presented seminars. It was great to hear their perspectives, especially during their collective panel. I even got to practice pitching my contemporary fantasy novel. The workshops were interesting overall, but my favorite was Timons Esaias's on Poetry for Writers. I think poetry and prose are seen as separate spheres by many writers, or at least get treated differently, but I feel that learning about one can only enhance my skill at the other.

tools of the trade
Other highlights included Seton Hill's gorgeous campus, especially beautiful in the sultry summer weather, and the town of Greensburg itself. This year's IYWM costume party was held in a restaurant that used to be a train station, which made for a very cool atmosphere.

Of course, my favorite part of going to conferences is always the books! At IYWM, I picked up Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley (courtesy of Diana Pho), Why Elephants No Longer Communicate in Greek by Timons Esaias, and Murder on St. Mark's Place by Victoria Thompson. Can't wait to dig into these.

Friday, March 18, 2016

FRIDAY FIVE: David Bowie Songs

My friend gave me a three-disc collection of David Bowie hits a few weeks ago, and it's pretty much all I've been listening to. In honor of that, here are five of my favorite Bowie songs.

"Space Oddity" - When I was in high school, my art teacher would sometimes put on music while we worked, but she played this song almost exclusively.

"Seven" - There's just something about songs about death, right?

"As the World Falls Down" - Labyrinth is so delightfully weird. How could I not love this one?

"Thursday's Child" - Because whose courage doesn't fall to their feet every once in a while?

"Heroes" - I've never seen Moulin Rouge, but I enjoy the soundtrack, and up until a few weeks ago, I had no idea this was an actual pre-MR song. "We could be heroes . . . "

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

What I'm Listening To: March '16

In the car: Swords and Scoundrels, Julia Knight
Goodreads synopsis: Two siblings.
Outcasts for life.... together.
What could possibly go wrong?

Vocho and Kacha are champion duelists: a brother and sister known for the finest swordplay in the city of Reyes. Or at least they used to be-until they were thrown out of the Duelist's Guild.

As a last resort, they turn reluctant highwaymen. But when they pick the wrong carriage to rob, their simple plans to win back fame and fortune go south fast.

After barely besting three armed men and a powerful magician, Vocho and Kacha make off with an immense locked chest. But the contents will bring them much more than they've bargained for when they find themselves embroiled in a dangerous plot to return an angry king to power....

For fun: Atlas Year One, Sleeping At Last
Favorite track: "Light" and "Saturn"

Singing about the stars is a sure-fire way to get me to listen to your album.

While writing: Far From the Madding Crowd soundtrack, Craig Armstrong
Favorite track: All of them? But if I had to pick, probably the love theme.

Friday, March 11, 2016


This edition of Friday Five brought to you by this week's celebration of International Women's Day as well as the current YA-reading kick I'm on. I tried not to repeat books I've put on other lists, but some I just love so much!

Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
This one's obvious. What first attracted me to Katniss was her introversion. She never seeks to make a spectacle. She never wants to fight. What she does--volunteering in the Hunger Games on Prim's behalf, becoming the Mockingjay--she does out of necessity. A lot of YA I read tends to portray its heroines as brash and angry and vocal about it, which is understandable since YA's main target audience, teenage girls, so often doesn't have a voice. But Katniss's strength is quiet, and I've always loved that.

Vanessa Dahl, The Engelsfors Trilogy (The Circle, Fire, and The Key), Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg
Oh, Vanessa. She's one of six heroines in The Engelsfors Trilogy, and while I love them all, Vanessa shines the brightest. She struggles with normal teenage worries in addition to having one-sixth of the fate of the world on her shoulders, but she still finds time to love her two-year-old brother, Melvin, and to forge a deep connection with fellow witch Linnea.

Susan Caraway, Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli
It's been so long since I've read this book, but it still sticks out in my mind as the one that made being different and feeling out of place less scary. Preferring to go by the name Stargirl, she marches to the beat of her own drum, one she's probably made herself. She loves flowers. She cheers for both teams at basketball games. She people watches in the mall and has a happy wagon she uses to keep track of good things that have happened throughout the day. Unencumbered by the normal social restrictions of high school, she doesn't really find a place there, but the point is that she doesn't feel she needs to.

Jo March, Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
Jo is the Lizzie Bennet of Little Women. Who doesn't want to be her? She lets her imagination run freely in order to entertain her sisters. She speaks her mind and goes after what she wants, even if that's moving away from the family she loves to pursue a career in writing. Although her healthy temper means lots of sisterly fights, she loves her sisters more than anything.

Sara Crew, A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett
It's been a while since I've read this one, too, but the thing about Sara that stands out in my mind is her eternal optimism. When she gets word that her father's died, she loses everything. She loses the only family she has left and all the privileges that came with his position, which means she's no longer Miss Minchin's student and is now a servant. And yet, despite this, with her friends at her side, she never loses hope.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


I first read Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre when I was fourteen and found it dreadfully boring. There's a whole middle section where the characters are happy! How is that exciting? So I put it down for three years, and when I picked it up again at seventeen with a new viewpoint, I was enthralled. The love story between Jane and Rochester was fascinating in its own way, but it was Jane who captured my heart.

Jane, who loomed so large in Charlotte's eyes that the book is named after her. Jane, who grows up feeling unloved and still has tremendous amounts of love to give away. Jane, who decides to work as a governess in order to experience life outside of the one she knew for ten years. Jane, who chooses morality over love. Jane, who finds she can't compromise her ideals. Jane, who learns to love herself and finds love in the process.

She is a wonder and a treasure. To this day, she remains one of my favorite characters ever written. We all want to be more like Lizzie Bennet, who is quick-witted in the face of insult and sure of herself, but in reality, I know I'm closer to Jane. I am not outspoken and lively, but I take comfort in relating to characters who, like Jane, have a quiet strength and a determination of spirit.

Friday, February 12, 2016

FRIDAY FIVE: Romantic Movies

I'm not a particularly romantic person, but I can appreciate romance in fiction, and in honor of the upcoming holiday, here are five of my favorite romantic films.

The Young Victoria
This is one of my favorite movies of all time, not just romances. Written by Downton Abbey's Julian Fellowes, this historical drama focuses on the early life of Queen Victoria, most notably her romance with her husband, Albert. Though the relationship starts out rather rocky, it soon blossoms into something lovely.

The Decoy Bride
My sister and I used to watch a ton of rom-coms in the late '90s and early '00s. Revisiting those can be hit or miss, so when I found this gem on Netflix a couple years ago, I was utterly delighted. When writer James Arber and his actress fiancee Lara Tyler venture to the remote Scottish island of Hegg to get married away from the prying eyes of paparazzi, James winds up accidentally marrying Hegg native Katie, who longs for a more exciting life than the island can offer. It's on the quirky side of rom-coms, but definitely worth the watch.

She's the Man
Is there anything greater than modern adaptations of Shakespeare (or Jane Austen)? Probably not. This is a high-school update of Twelfth Night, in which Viola's high school cuts the girls' soccer program, so she decides to impersonate her brother at his new private school just long enough to kick her ex-boyfriend's butt in their rival soccer match. And because this is Shakespeare, complications ensue. Viola falls for her roommate, Duke, who is in love with Olivia, who is crushing on Viola-as-Sebastian. It's kooky at times, but ultimately charming.

Sweet Land
This movie is so underrated. It's the story of Olaf, a Norwegian immigrant farmer in post-WWII America whose parents send him a bride named Inge. The only problem is she's German and hardly speaks any English. When there are complications in getting a marriage certificate, tension arises in the community over Inge's background. Like its title, this is a sweet story about love overcoming barriers.

North and South
What list of romantic movies would be complete without a Victorian novel? When Margaret Hale's minister father faces a crisis of conscience, he moves the family north to the industrial town of Milton. There, Margaret meets John Thornton, a mill owner. The two clash over their different ways of life, but it's soon apparent that they bring out the best in each other. It has shades of the central conflict in Pride and Prejudice, but Elizabeth Gaskell takes time to focus on the secondary conflict between mill owners and workers, lending a larger scope to the story.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

What I'm Listening To: February '16

In the car: The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan
Goodreads Synopsis: In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded by so much death?

For fun: Confident, Demi Lovato
Favorite track: "Lionheart"

What can I say? I'm a sucker for catchy pop songs.

While writing: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, John Williams
Favorite track: "Rey's Theme"

I've loved John Williams for about as long as I've loved Star Wars, so it's always a pleasure when he releases a new score.

Friday, February 5, 2016


Writing can be a lonely business. You spend a lot of time in your own head, and sometimes it's hard to climb back out. And if you zoom in too close on your story, stepping away can help you see the entire forest again so you can find your way out. With that in mind, here are a few things I like to do when I don't seem to be making any progress and need a break from writing.

Build Something
I like model rockets a lot. I usually lose them, which is why I have to build so many, They have easy snap-together models or more time-consuming ones that require a little wood glue and patience. I've also recently discovered Metal Earth models, which are DIY steel sheet models. Everything's pre-cut, but you have to put it all together. I'm working on a steam locomotive model, and I have a TIE fighter waiting in the wings.

Take Myself on a Date
The solitude of writing isn't a problem for me. It's that I need to get out of the chair so I can let ideas percolate or just open my mind to new things. Some of my favorite places to take myself are: the local cafe, the park, the museum, or the movies. Getting out of the house is nice, but it also provides an opportunity to people watch for character traits or story ideas.

Revisit an Old Favorite
I usually watch TV while doing something else: making dinner, writing letters, knitting. So sometimes it's nice to be able to give my full attention to a movie or show I know I love. Or I take thirty minutes out of the day to reread one of my favorite books, just enough to remind myself why I love storytelling.

Go For a Long Walk
Any sort of exercise is helpful because it gets my blood and my creative juices pumping, but this is my favorite method. Not only does my dog get exercise, but it gives me an hour or two of freedom to think about the kinks in my story. Or to not think about my story at all. Sometimes the best ideaspop up when I'm focusing on something else entirely.

Find My Calm Center
Adult coloring books are all the rage now. I got a few for Christmas, and I have some "children's" coloring books, too. It really does calm me for the same reason building models does--my hands can be occupied without a ton of stress on my mind. Yoga, too, is a good way for me to de-stress, although I should practice it more often.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


I've been a fan of the Star Wars saga since I was eight years old. The Phantom Menace came out when I was 11, and I spent the next six years waiting for the rest of the trilogy and dragging my friends to midnight showings. But even though the storytelling captured my imagination, one thing was always missing: a central female Jedi.

Princess Leia is a fantastic character. She's smart and brash and loves the Republic, and she lets her anger simmer beneath the surface and drive her. She's important, but Luke is the one who saves the day. In the prequels, Padme has less of a presence than her daughter but nevertheless still plays a significant role in the creation of what would become the Rebel Alliance. I love both their characters, both trilogies are very male driven.

Although I'll be a lifelong fan of the saga and will defend the prequels with my last breath, in the weeks leading up to the new movie, I wasn't all that thrilled about The Force Awakens. I fell for the marketing trap and thought Finn would end up being a Jedi. While that would have been cool, too, in a different way, I couldn't help but feel like the message being sent was: girls can't be Jedis; girls can't be protagonists; girls can't, girls can't, girls can't. So, when I sat in that theater on December 18th and watched as a new episode unfolded before my eyes, I felt my apathy slipping away. I cared about Rey. I cared about her and wanted her to succeed and kind of wanted to be her best friend, too.

Rey is unusual for a movie heroine, but especially for one in a blockbuster, in arguably the biggest franchise of all time. She's strong, able to look after herself after living alone as a scavenger for the majority of her life. When she gets attacked in Niima outpost, she fights off her attackers with her trusty quarterstaff. But being able to take care of herself doesn't mean she has to be unemotional. She's clearly taken aback when Finn asks, multiple times, if she's all right, and she wears her emotions on her sleeve when she sees a green planet for the first time and when she says goodbye to Finn. Making Rey the central character in The Force Awakens allows her to be more than the token female character. It allows her to be complex and to inspire a generation of girls who no longer have to grow up thinking that girls can't be Jedis. There's so much I can say about Rey, but I'll stick with: I'm excited to see where her journey takes her.

Friday, January 29, 2016

FRIDAY FIVE: Non-Fiction Books In My To-Read Pile

I've been reading mostly fiction for the past three years because of grad school, but I very much enjoy my share of non-fiction, too. I'm interested in a wide array of subjects, and there's always a chance that a non-fiction topic will spark a story idea. In recognition of that, I'm going to try to read more of it in 2016, and here are some of the titles on my shelf I'm most looking forward to.

Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom, Sean B. Carroll
The great thing about being a writer is you can be into a lot of things even though your primary field is literature. I haven't read a lot of science-related books since before undergrad, but that doesn't mean I stopped being interest in science. I'm excited to dive back in.

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Zombies, Matt Mogk
This is partially because zombies are cool, especially because this book approaches them almost from an academic standpoint, and partially because it's research for the young adult zombie novel I'm working on.

The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After, Elizabeth Kantor
Anything Jane Austen related makes me happy, which is enough of a reason for me to pick this up. I actually received this as a Christmas gift a few years ago and haven't been able to read it because I was so busy with grad school. Because of that and because Valentine's Day is coming up, it seemed like a good time to jump into it.

The Physics of Superheroes, James Kakalios
Again, this is on my list because I want to read it but also because it can act as research for a story idea I have (although one I probably won't get to fleshing out for a while yet). Besides, with all the superhero movies and TV shows lately, it'll be cool to see what's plausible and what isn't.

Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates, David Cordingly
This one's because pirates are just cool. Judging by the title, though, I have a feeling my view of them might change while reading. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

FRIDAY FIVE: TV Shows Returning in 2016

After the winter television hiatus, I'm looking forward to a number of shows returning, although I have to wait a little longer for some of them.

Indian Summers

If you're prematurely mourning the end of Downton Abbey, this might be the replacement for you. Set in the summer of 1932, season one follows an Indian family and the members of a British social club as the Empire's influence wanes. It's packed full of political intrigue, family drama, and secrets people would kill to keep. This one won't be back on PBS until the fall, so there's lots of time to catch up or rewatch.


My friend told me to give this show a shot, and I'm happy I did! It's about a trio of space bounty hunters who get caught up in an interplanetary war and find themselves up against a major antagonist from Dutch's past. Plus, the relationship between Dutch, the team's hardened leader, and Johnny, her partner and best friend, isn't one often portrayed in fiction.

Orphan Black

Season three expanded the world and the mystery of the clones by introducing the Castor clones, but season four looks like it'll be back to its Leda roots, focusing on Sarah, Alison, Cosima, Helena, and Rachel while introducing at least one new clone. And, of course, I have to watch to see if Delphine is still alive and will continue her rise in badassery. 

Black Sails

What's better than pirates and explosions? Nothing, really. We left off with Eleanor under arrest and on a ship back to England; Flint and Vane teaming up to blow Charleston to smithereens; and Rackham, Anne, and Max sitting on a big old pile of Spanish gold. With the arrival of a new governor, will the privateers be able to hold on to their precious Nassau?

The 100

Things I'm looking forward to in season three: everything. More specifically: Clarke dealing with the psychological fall-out of her actions at Mount Weather, the Skaikru building a true home while learning to play nice with the Grounders, Octavia being a badass, Raven being a badass, Indra being a badass, everything about Lincoln, Lexa being a badass but also a softie, Clarke and Lexa reuniting. So . . . like I said, everything.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

FRIDAY FIVE: Books of 2015

Okay, this is a day late. Maybe I should just start calling this "Sometime During the Weekend Five." But better late than never, I suppose. And continuing with the obligatory end-of-the-year lists, here are my favorite books read in 2015 (and proof that fantasy rules my heart).

Rat Queens: Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery, Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

I've frequently lamented about how difficult it is to find adult high fantasy with female protagonists, and this one offers four. That and the recommendation of a friend were enough to get me to give this a chance. All four heroines are different and bring their own strengths to the team, and the world is interestingly fantastical so far. I already have the second volume in my TBR pile.
Beauty Queens, Libba Bray

I decided to pick this up after hearing good things about it on Tumblr, but I had reservations because I didn't love A Great and Terrible Beauty. This turned out to be quite the pleasant surprise. The story follows thirteen teenage beauty queens who crash on a seemingly deserted island while in transit to the Miss Teen Dream pageant. Like Rat Queens, Beauty Queens features a large cast of diverse female characters, all of whom have secrets and quirks and charms. This tale of friendship and bravery deserves a spot on every teenager's reading list.

Falling Kingdoms, Morgan Rhodes

I'm a sucker for high fantasy, obviously. This is the story of Mytica, a land of three divided kingdoms, and four teenagers whose lives intersect: Cleo, a princess who discovers that privilege ; Jonas, out for revenge on his brother's murderer; Lucia, whose magical powers are awakening in a land where magic is forbidden; and Magnus, who harbors a damaging secret. Although there's no real new ground broken here, it's light fare and makes for a fun, easy read. Again, I've got the second book in my TBR pile.
Days of Blood and Starlight, Laini Taylor
I adored Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and the second installment didn't disappoint. It opens up the world and delves deeper into the conflict between chimaera and angels. It also depicts the very real and awful consequences of war on those who wage it. Through it all, the relationships, especially the friendship between Karou and Zuzana, ground the story. And Taylor's lyrical writing borders on magical. The third and final book is, once again, in my TBR pile.
The Circle, Fire, and The Key, Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg

I don't even know what to say about these books because they're amazing and they were such a surprise! I got the first one in July on a whim because I had a gift card. When I finished, I immediately bought the second. Then I suffered for two months while I waited for the last one to be released. Basically, the trilogy follows six teenage girls who discover that they're witches and that their destiny is to stop the apocalypse. Only they're not even friends. How are they supposed to save the world?

The heart of this story is the girls: Minoo, Anna-Karin, Linnea, Vanessa, Rebekah, and Ida. All six girls are fully realized characters with their own hopes, fears, flaws, and strengths. Although they don't start out as friends, their relationships--both with the group as a whole and with other individuals--develop in realistic and moving ways. I want to re-read these already, and I've spent the last few months talking them up as much as possible!