Monday, February 23, 2015

In Which I Read Some Great Books In 2014

I read a crap ton of books in 2014 - 140 or so. But a fair amount of those were picture books and graphic novels. Still, though, that's a lot of books.

I always like to pick the top 5 books I read in a year. It's extra hard this time, though, just because there were so many. But I think I've got it paired down to the ones that really just struck a chord with me.

There were plenty of runner ups, books I would easily recommend to others because they're fantastic. But I can only pick five.

Pretty much the only rules I used were, no PBs or Graphic Novels, just because of reasons and I wouldn't be able to limit it to 5 if I did include them, and no books I had read before. I mean, I LOVED reading HATCHET, HOLES and THE OUTSIDERS this year, but I've read all of those books before so they didn't count.

Also, these aren't necessarily books that came out in 2014, just that I read them in 2014

All right, here are the books I loved the most in 2014, in no particular order:


Gerald Faust knows exactly when he started feeling angry: the day his mother invited a reality television crew into his five-year-old life. Twelve years later, he’s still haunted by his rage-filled youth—which the entire world got to watch from every imaginable angle—and his anger issues have resulted in violent outbursts, zero friends, and clueless adults dumping him in the special education room at school.
In this fearless portrayal of a boy on the edge, highly acclaimed Printz Honor author A.S. King explores the desperate reality of a former child “star” who finally breaks free of his anger by creating possibilities he never knew he deserved

I really like A.S. King's books. I actually just got her newest one this week for my birthday and I can't wait to read it. But out of all of her books, REALITY BOY is my favorite.

I think I have to give props to Matt MacNish for this one. I believe he rec'd it to me or I saw it on his blog or something. Either way, I loved it. My sister and my mom both enjoyed it and I wrote 2, yes 2, critical essays on it for my MFA (one on a passive main character and another on POV)

THE REAL BOY - Anne Ursu

On an island on the edge of an immense sea there is a city, a forest, and a boy. The city is called Asteri, a perfect city that was saved by the magic woven into its walls from a devastating plague that swept through the world over a hundred years before. The forest is called the Barrow, a vast wood of ancient trees that encircles the city and feeds the earth with magic. And the boy is called Oscar, a shop boy for the most powerful magician in the Barrow. Oscar spends his days in a small room in the dark cellar of his master's shop, grinding herbs and dreaming of the wizards who once lived on the island generations ago. Oscar's world is small, but he likes it that way. The real world is vast, strange, and unpredictable. And Oscar does not quite fit in it.
But it's been a long time since anyone who could call himself a wizard walked the world, and now that world is changing. Children in the city are falling ill, and something sinister lurks in the forest. Oscar has long been content to stay in his small room in the cellar, comforted in the knowledge that the magic that flows from the trees will keep his island safe. Now, even magic may not be enough to save it.

Full disclosure, Anne Ursu was my first semester advisor. But I read THE REAL BOY before we did any work together. THE REAL BOY kind of changed my life. Most of the middle grade I read is fun and funny and lighthearted. And THE REAL BOY showed me that MG doesn't have to be only that. That MG can be darker and sad and serious but lovely and wonderful.

Seriously, guys, I cannot recommend this book enough. I love it so so much. The themes and the mysteries are so wonderful and some of them caught me off guard, which is difficult to do because I typically do figure out the mysteries before the big reveal.

MAGGOT MOON - Sally Gardner

What if the football hadn’t gone over the wall. On the other side of the wall there is a dark secret. And the devil. And the Moon Man. And the Motherland doesn’t want anyone to know. But Standish Treadwell — who has different-colored eyes, who can’t read, can’t write, Standish Treadwell isn’t bright — sees things differently than the rest of the "train-track thinkers." So when Standish and his only friend and neighbor, Hector, make their way to the other side of the wall, they see what the Motherland has been hiding. And it’s big...

I probably would have never picked up MAGGOT MOON on my own, but my above mentioned advisor Anne Ursu, asked  me to read it (and I ended up using it in the same POV paper as REALITY BOY). This book is so full of mystery and strange things going on and at first I was trying to figure things out. But somewhere along the way I realized I didn't actually care about the mystery, I just cared about what was going to happen to the main characters, and desperately hoping that things would turn out okay.

Every time I see this book in a bookstore now, I kind of gasp and remember how much I loved it.

THE SCORPIO RACES - Maggie Stiefvater

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

Another rec from an advisor, this one Laura Ruby, who, when we were discussing the horses in my manuscript, asked "have you read THE SCORPIO RACES? It has horses that eat people." And I knew right then and there that it was the book for me.

And it was. Holy crap I loved this book. And I gave it to twin because I knew she would, too, and she did. It's very much in the same vein as THE BLACK STALLION or KING OF THE WIND except, you know, the horses are monsters.
And I love monsters. Especially monsters that you try to tame but it really only works some of the time.


Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the story of how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.
To make matters worse, Austin's hormones are totally oblivious; they don't care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He's stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it's up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition

I mean, if you've read this book, you know. I like Andrew Smith's books quite a bit, though some more than others. GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE read very Stephen King-esque to me. (And from the bits I've heard of THE ALEX CROW I think that book will sound similar).
So it's a book about the end of the world with giant praying mantises, which, as I said, I love monsters.
But it's also a book about so much more.

And when you get to the last chapter, the last page, actually, it's so utterly satisfying for reasons that I can't quite put my finger on, though I suspect it has to do with a running thread/theme (the bison, for anyone who's read it). I cannot wait to see the movie.

Monday, February 16, 2015

In Which I Share Some Updates For My Book

It's been awhile since I've done any book updates. Mostly just because there hasn't been much to share.

A round of revisions here, another one there, a third one to round it out. A lot of changes in the manuscript and a lot of ways to make it better, stronger. Faster? (we have the technology)

But now I do have some updates!

The first is a title change. The new title is:


I've been updating my profiles and other places with the new title, like my Pinterest Board (which includes great inspiration photos like this:

The second is release date update. The new release season is Winter 2016, which means it's going to be here super fast and I'm super excited!

Things are moving forward and soon there will be things like copy edits and cover reveals and arcs. ARCS, guys. Like a real book. A REAL BOOK, guys.

Clearly, it still doesn't fee real sometimes.

I also had my author photos taken a few weeks ago and turned in the photo to be used on the book (eeee!). At some point I might update the blog pic, too, but we'll see. I might just save it for when I make my website (soon, hopefully).

Anyway, how are things with you?

Monday, February 9, 2015

In Which I Had My MFA Residency

January is full of fun things, the most fun of which is my MFA residency. That's when all the students gather on campus for ten filled days of workshopping, lectures, intensives, presentations, readings from faculty and students, banquets and a graduation.

It is so much fun. I love so many of the people in the program, and my class (we call ourselves The Front Row, because that's where we sit) are just the most awesome people. We're really close as a class which makes it even more fun because we all get along so great.

AND, of course, they are awesome, awesome writers. I don't think I convey how great they are, but I seriously have no doubts that they will all be publishing sooner rather than later. And, like, winning awards and stuff.

The Front Row Peeps (missing one who was traveling)

Residency is when we part ways with our semester advisor, too, and get a new advisor. It's always a bit bittersweet, because you don't really want to leave your current advisor (for me it was Laura Ruby I'd be saying goodbye to. She was so awesome and I loved working with her (also, she has a new book coming out next month--BONE GAP. Buy it, guys. It's going to so amazing. SO AMAZING) but you're also excited to see who you get for your new advisor (you get to submit a list of faculty you're interested in working with and then the powers that be pair you up with one of them).

This semester I'll be working with the wonderful Phyllis Root! I had her as one of my workshop faculty this residency and she was great and I'm so excited to work with her. She's already making me write a Picture Book, which I'm excited for (and maybe already wrote the draft for).

I'm officially half way done with my MFA, which is exciting, yes, but also pretty sad. It's so much fun and I love it so much that I don't want it to ever end.

Friday, February 6, 2015

In Which It's My Birthday


Tomorrow's my birthday, pals, which means no blogging (or working) today. I'm off to have some fun and I hope you have a good weekend.

I need quite a few more candles than that

See you on Monday!


Thursday, February 5, 2015

In Which I Guest Post On The NaNoWriMo Blog

Hey all!

I know I normally don't post on Thursdays, but I'm just popping in to say I have a guest post up on the NaNoWriMo blog.

I'm talking about revisions so please stop on by!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Insecure Writer's Support Group

First Wednesday of the month means it's time for IWSG!

co-hosts for IWSG this month are Gwen Gardner, Dolorah, Sarah Foster, and M. Pax!

So yeah, as usual I'm feeling pretty good. I think the beginning of the month must generally be a pretty good time for me because I feel like a lot of these posts are me shrugging my shoulders saying "yeah. Things are good right now."

Which is not to say I don't have insecurities. I totally do. But things get resolved, or I address what's making me feel anxious and then let it go.

I'm mildly worried about writing my critical thesis for my MFA. My first draft is due to my advisor by the end of February. Which is plenty of time. But I'm in the middle of another round of edits, so that has to take priority. But those will be done in another week or so, so then it's back to the paper. And I know what I'm writing about and I have my primary sources. It's just getting it all together into something that makes sense which is just bluuurgh.

But, I know once I do it, the biggest hurdle is crossed. Get that draft out and then I can spend next month fixing it.

But then of course there are other hurdles. Writing book 2. Writing my MG fantasy. So, pretty much, a lot of writing. But, of course, that's the good kind of work.

How are things for you?

Monday, February 2, 2015

In Which I Make New Yearly Goals

Last week I wrote about my goals I accomplished. Which means it's time for some new 2015 goals!

Yes, we're in to February already, and probably I should have made goals before this point.

But HAHA!! I DID make goals before this point! I just didn't have a chance to write them up, yet. Until today that is.


1. Write not one, but TWO novels! *GASP*. Yes, this is a pretty big goal to reach for. BUT, I think it's doable. One, because I have to write book 2 for HarperTeen in the next few months here. And 2, because I'm going to be working on a MG fantasy for school. The kicker is whether I'll be able to actually write all of that MG fantasy, but I guess that's what we'll find out.

2. Read 100 books. Yes I read 140 books last year, but I also had my MFA reading list I was completing and a lot of those books were picture books and graphic novels or shorter kidlit. Now that I'm done with the reading list, will I be able to still hit 100? (I can tell you that the year has started out slowly, anyway)

3. Buy a standing desk. You know, the kind that you can transform into standing or sitting. I've been thinking about one for awhile, and then a few months ago I was like "what am I waiting for?" I sit too much during the day, so hopefully this will help. Also I can take my current desk, which is very nice and sturdy, and give it to twin so we can throw out her computer desk (which is the old rickety desk that also used to be mine) But the standing desks are not cheap. And it's not easy to switch out furniture in our office

4. At least partially re-do the upstairs bathroom. Our medicine cabinet has the lights for the bathroom and room for four bulbs. But it's old, and every time a bulb burns out, we're either unable to get the bulb out, get a new bulb in, or if we do, it no longer works. Of the 4 original lights that work, we are done to one. As soon as that bulb burns out, well, it's time to get a new medicine cabinet and light fixture. And if we're going to do that we might as well get a new vanity to match, etc. We should also reeeeeally do a new, updated floor, but that's a bigger commitment that involves tile and I dunno if it's something we really want to commit to at this point.

5. Try really hard to teach a query writing workshop for my MFA. This is a bit of a cheap goal because it's kind of out of my hands since I'm not in charge of scheduling. All I can do is keep expressing my interest to the powers that be and hope they put me on. (On the plus side, it seems likely it'll happen at some point, but we'll see. You never know how scheduling can go)

And that's pretty much it.

How about you? What are some of your goals for 2015?
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