Posts Tagged ‘YAY!!!’

I’ve been planning a year-end favorite books list, and that happens to be YA Highway’s Road Trip Wednesday topic this week. I’m separating my list into two sections, because I haven’t read and loved that many books that were published in 2011. I’m including favorite non-2011 books I’ve read this year too. These are in no particular order, they’re not just young adult, and I’ve probably forgotten a ton. Anyway, here we go:

Published in 2011:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor. This was a Forever Young Adult book club selection, and man am I glad they chose it! This book had exotic locales, intricate world-building, a badass heroine, and a new book boyfriend for me. I am eagerly awaiting the sequel, because she ended the book with a huge cliffhanger.

Divergent – Veronica Roth. I was so impressed by this debut novel. Most of the things I said about Daughter of Smoke and Bone apply here as well. Great characters and world-building, fast-paced, plot-driven, and just all-around fantastic.


What Happened to Goodbye – Sarah Dessen. I love Sarah Dessen’s writing, and this book did not disappoint. Her characters are always so real, and that’s refreshing in a genre full of dystopias, impossibly rich girls, supernatural beings, etc.

The Name of the Star – Maureen Johnson. Speaking of supernatural beings, Maureen Johnson’s latest is a thriller set in a present-day London gripped by copycat Jack the Ripper murders. Maureen Johnson’s books always start a little slow for me, but I’m totally hooked by the end.

New to me:

Will Grayson, Will Grayson – John Green and David Levithan. Good Lord. This book made me laugh and cry and insist that everyone I know read it. It made me go on a John Green-reading spree. It eventually made me a nerdfighter. Read. This. Book!

Jellicoe Road – Melina Marchetta. This book is super confusing at first, and as the mystery unravels, you find yourself never wanting it to end. I gobbled up a bunch of Melina Marchetta’s books after I read this. It’s a shame she isn’t more widely-known here in the US.

Little Bee – Chris Cleave. This came highly recommended by several of my friends. Chris Cleave writes in two distinct female voices here, and his prose is beautiful. A fantastic novel with numerous plot twists, this book really stuck with me long after I finished it.

Anna and the French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins. I read this while in Paris over Thanksgiving (how fitting!). I was struggling through writing my NaNo novel for adults, and this delightful book reminded me why I love the YA genre so much.

This is Where I Leave You – Jonathan Topper. Hilarious and heartbreaking. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys funny, contemporary family drama. Also, one of the best covers I’ve seen this year (which is the reason I picked this up in the first place).

The Likeness – Tana French. I enjoyed In the Woods, but this sequel seemed much stronger to me. It has been compared to another of my favorites, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, and like that novel, I wanted to inhabit French’s book.

Flowers from the Storm – Laura Kinsale. So, my mother suggested I read this, and as an equal-opportunity reader, I did. This is one of the most unconventional romance novels I’ve ever read. A couple of my friends have also read and loved it. Give it a chance… you will be surprised.

What did you love reading this year?

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Top Ten Albums of 2011

You know what December means, besides reading schmaltzy Christmas books?  It’s Top Ten time!  Without further ado…


10.  Yuck – Yuck
It’s 1993 again, you guys, except no homework!
Favorite songs: “Georgia,” “The Wall,” “Sunday”

Bobby Long

9. A Winter Tale – Bobby Long
Whatever – I’m not ashamed.
Favorite songs: “In the Frost,” “Two Years Old,” “Being a Mockingbird”

Bright Eyes

8. The People’s Key – Bright Eyes
Conor Oberst goes mainstream (with the my favorite crazy ramblings – paaaahmagranate).
Favorite Songs: “Jejune Stars,” “Shell Games,” “Triple Spiral”

Explosions in the Sky

7.  Take Care, Take Care, Take Care – Explosions in the Sky
I think this may be my favorite work of theirs so far; it feels the most warm to me.
Favorite songs: “Trembling Hands,” “Postcard from 1952,” “Last Known Surroundings”

Bon Iver

6.  Bon Iver – Bon Iver
I can even forgive the song that sounds like bad* Phil Collins, because the rest is so good.
Favorite songs: “Holocene,” “Towers,” “Calgary”

The Decemberists

5.  The King is Dead – The Decemberists
The Decemberists are back on form, and thank God.  Best ballad-writing of the year!
Favorite Songs: “January Hymn,” “Calamity Song,” “June Hymn”

Mates of State

4.  Mountaintops – Mates of State
Because everyone needs a little glee in their lives, and I’m not talking about the TV show.  Best singalong of the year!
Favorite songs: “Maracas,” “Palomino,” “Change,” “Desire”

Fleet Foxes

3.  Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes
I want to curl up in front of a fire with Robin Pecknold’s voice.  Best harmonies of the year!
Favorite songs: “Helplessness Blues,” “Battery Kinzie,” “Grown Ocean,” “Montezuma,” “Lorelai”

Gruff Rhys

2.  Hotel Shampoo – Gruff Rhys
Gruff’s most sophisticated solo album yet, and its inclusion here is hardly surprising.  Best lounge rock of the year!
Favorite Songs: “Vitamin K,” “Honey All Over,” “Christopher Columbus,” “At the Heart of Love,” “Follow the Sunflower Trail (Theme Tune for a National Strike) [bonus track]”

The Vaccines

1.  What Did You Expect from the Vaccines – The Vaccines
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!  Album of the year!
Favorite songs:  Pretty much all of them, but especially “Post Break-Up Sex,” “Wetsuit,” “If You Wanna,” “A Lack of Understanding,” “All in White”

And here is a bit more:

Best songs from albums on the cusp:
“Weekend” from Dye it Blonde by Smith Westerns
“Heart in your Heartbreak” from Belong by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
“Dig a Little Deeper” from Gimme Some by Peter Bjorn & John

Biggest disappointments:
Burst Apart – The Antlers
Kaputt – Destroyer

Embarrassingly Small List of Concerts I Attended (or, as my husband puts it, Wow, We Were Lame This Year)
(this may be the strangest list ever)
The Antlers
Bobby Long
Lil Wayne

Please feel free to share your top tens or favorites from this year in the comments.  I’d love to see what you thought of this year’s music!

*Not all Phil Collins is bad… you do know this, right?  Don’t make me break out “Take Me Home” on you.

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So, I finished.  Just barely.  I started out so strongly, but I was derailed by a few things:

1. Laziness.  Or procrastination.  Whatever you want to call it.  But yeah, that thing.
2. Violent disgusting upper respiratory infection of death.  I believe that is the actual medical term for it. Cue the steroid shot, z-pack, and hydrocodone-laced cough syrup.
3. Death in the family.  Even though it was expected, losing my grandmother was pretty awful.
4. Trip to Paris!  Straight from the funeral, still sick with the upper respiratory infection, I spent Thanksgiving in Paris!  Who wants to write when you have a lovely apartment, delicious food, wine for days, and you can curl up on the couch with your husband and watch music videos (sometimes in French!)?

So anyway, that made for a lot of last-minute typing and truly awful writing.  I’m not even calling this a first draft, because it’s really just the skeleton of a zero draft.  All bones and a little muscle but no real meat or fat.  But it’s a complete story, beginning-middle-end and everything.

I guess that’s not a bad thing, right?  That’s what NaNoWriMo is about, for me at least.  Force yourself to write.  Get words on the page.  Go back and fix later.

But I would have been a lot happier if I hadn’t waited until the last four days to write OVER HALF THE BOOK.

Some observations from my process and the finished (ha ha!) product:

I need to work on the characters.  Right now, the four main characters are somewhat loosely-defined.  They have backstories and jobs and wants and pressures, but they all. sound. exactly. the. same.  When they talk, I mean.  I need to give them their own voices, and I need their personalities to shine a bit more.  Or a lot more.

I had a hard time at first with my narrator, Bea.  I just could not get into her head at all.  It got easier as it went on, especially as she grew and changed.  The other three main characters (the love interest, the best friend, the cousin) are all new favorites of mine.  I had a lot of fun writing them.  I just need to spend more time with them, I think.

Secondary characters?  Oh, they’re all pretty one-note right now.  They need depth and nuance and I just need to sit down and think about them.  The book is set in a small town, where everyone knows everyone, so you know there are kooky characters and crazy backstories just waiting to pop out of the woodwork.  But I don’t want it to get all Gilmore Girls, right?  One can only take so many characters.

First person point of view means inner monologue.  Yeah.  I kind of forgot all about that.  And it’s one of the reasons I love some of my favorite books.  So, must fix this.

Description, description, description.  I kept forgetting to use my senses.  There are huge chunks of mostly-just-dialogue and one sentence paragraphs.  We go on an amazing hike with the characters through the Ozark National Forest, and I’m all “the mountains were beautiful.”  Really?  That’s what I came up with?  Beautiful mountains?  Break out the thesaurus!  Read some poetry!  Go on the damn hike yourself, and write down what you see!  I need to utilize the part of Scrivener where you write about settings… maybe that would help. 

I’ve written before that I’m just not very good at this sort of thing.  Must get better.

Writing a book for adults is fun (sorta!).
  Sex scenes and cursing!  And work schedules!  Wait, what?  Yeah.  While I got to let loose a little with the content, I had a host of new things to worry about.  How is Bea paying her mortgage?  Who’s watching the shop while she’s off fighting battles with her ex-fiance’s wife?  What’s Parker’s work schedule anyway – he always seems to be hanging around the bookstore, so when is he actually earning money?  Did we remember to feed the dog and let her pee?  Can a hipster farmer actually make a living with an organic vegetable stand?  Do I understand any of the legal issues I bring up in the book?

And does any of that actually matter?  How important is that type of realism to this book?

Location scouting time!
  I need to spend a weekend in the little town that my fictional town is based upon.  That will help with everything, I think.  The town is almost a character itself, and even though I come from the backwoods, I’ve been in the big city for so long that I need to revisit small town life.  It’s geographically very un-similar to Dallas, too, and I think I need to reacquaint myself with that type of topography.

It’s very close to my parents’ house, so perhaps I can sneak in a little trip over Christmas.  Otherwise, though, I think this calls for a weekend away.  A cozy, relaxing, refreshing weekend away.

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Buckle your seatbelts.

NaNoWriMoIt’s that time of year again!  The day before I panic for thirty days straight.

Yes, even though I have a bunch of editing and rewriting to do on other projects, I’m going to drop everything and start something new.  I’m actually quite excited about this new project.  It’s my first time writing a novel for adults.  I read a lot of those, but I’ve never tried writing them.

Once I was strong-armed into participating last week, I spent some time brainstorming an idea.  Once I got started, the story took shape almost magically.  Characters, settings, plot… it all just came rolling in.  Even conflict, which is my stumbling block in so many projects, came easily for this story.  Does that mean I’m a genius or is this just derivative crap that I’ll be writing?  Only time will tell.

Anyway, I’m not going to share the synopsis with you just yet.  But here are a few elements that will be included:

  • Organic farming
  • A haunted hotel
  • A creaky old bookstore
  • Poetry
  • Two hot guys that are not conventionally hot (of course)
  • Baking, quilting, and crocheting
  • A lazy corgi (pretty sure it’s a Pembroke vs. a Cardigan, but I haven’t decided for sure)
  • A nursing home
  • A vindictive stay-at-home-mom

So, this is going to be fun to write.  I’ve outlined the entire book in Scrivener already, and I’ve completed character sketches on all of the major players.  I have reimagined a small town based upon one near where I grew up in Arkansas.  Almost all of my locations and businesses have names now.  I’ve been doing a lot of research too.  Like Googling “hipster farmer.”

Hipster farmer

Not exactly what I was looking for...

So anyway, I’m very excited to get started on this.  I’m sure it’s going to be a bumpy ride!  Sorry in advance if I’m cranky and look like death the over the next month.  That’s what being a writer is all about, right?  Right???

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Since we last spoke (technically, since I last wrote and you last read):

1. I got a new job.  Still arts administrating, but for a smaller organization.

2. We sold our house.

3. We lived in a temporary house for a little while, with no TV (the horror!).

4. We bought a house and moved in.

5. I had emergency gallbladder surgery (and lived to tell the tale!).

6. I didn’t write a single word for any of my projects.

7. I did read a ton of books.

8. I bought a new computer, because my old one froze all the time, especially when I was using my writing program.

9. I had a writing epiphany.

#8 happened yesterday, and #9 happened today, literally less than an hour ago, as I was on my way home from work.  I’ve got a brand new writing tool (laptop), a brand new place to write (the third bedroom that we turned into a library/office/new favorite room ever), and a brand new idea about how to revise my first novel so that it has drama and character development and high stakes, and all those other things a good book needs.

So, yay.  I’m back.  Stay freakin’ tuned.

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