Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Belated 2013 Wrap-Up

Around this time last month, as everyone was getting ready to flip their calendars from 2013 to 2014, bloggers everywhere were posting lists of their favorite reads of the year. I, meanwhile, was eating Christmas cookies. Here's the thing, cookies get stale if you leave them too long. I mean, that's what I've heard, I've never actually left a cookie uneaten long enough to find out if that's true - it's just too risky of an experiment. The Christmas cookies are long gone, the leftover New Year's bubbly has gone flat and been poured down the drain, and I am nearly out of excuses for why I have not been to the gym in several weeks. All that might mean that it is now far too late to write my 2013 wrap-up post, but I decided that as long as I get it up before January was over, I could simply say that I needed that extra time to process and take stock of such a momentous year.

To those following this blog, you obviously know that 2013 was a big year for me. Yes, it was the year that I discovered the awesomeness of the electric toothbrush. It is amazing how after using it, you have that just got home from the dentist clean feeling. I can tell you with maybe just a teensy bit of hyperbole that it is CHANGED MY LIFE. Seriously, I'll never go back to non-battery operated toothbrushes again.

Besides the amazing toothbrush breakthrough, 2013 was also the year that my debut novel ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE was published by HarperTeen. Hmm... it occurs to me that maybe that should have come before the toothbrush thing. But you guys, seriously, stop using those lousy manual toothbrushes - you are missing out! So yes, my debut year was overwhelming and wonderful and scary and amazing and well, to be honest, it will take me at least another year or two before I am able to sort out all the feelings and talk about it in any sort of coherent way.

Also, in 2013: I read some books. Many of those books were debut novels from amazing YA and MG authors who I've been fortunate enough to become friends with through the Class of 2K13 and The Lucky 13s.  

Okay, so this is the part where I am supposed to list the best books I read or favorites or something like that, but I have a really hard doing that because I love so many different books for so many reasons. Some entertain, some make me swoon, others make me think. I get different things from different books and I don't really find one of those things more valuable than any other. So instead, of ranking favorites, I am just going to talk about a few books that I especially enjoyed and why.

Okay, so one of my favorite types of books are ones that focus on survival. As a kid I loved ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS by Scott O'Dell and Jack London's stories that focused on the battle between man vs. nature. More recently I loved THE HUNGER GAMES and LIFE AS WE KNEW IT. So it should come as no surprise that two of my favorite books this year fall into the survival genre: NOT A DROP TO DRINK by Mindy McGinnis and IN THE AFTER by Demitria Lunetta. 

Both books take place in a post-apocalyptic world. The future in DRINK is scarily plausible with water shortage leading to the disintegration of society as we know it. The story itself focuses on Lynn, a girl raised to be tough and ruthless. I loved reading about the many ways she worked to survive in this harsh world, but even more I loved the journey her character took from the beginning of the book to the end. Speaking of the end, the way the resolution to this book is just so perfect. Even the best books don't always stick the landing, but DRINK nails it.

IN THE AFTER takes place in a world that's been invaded by aliens with bad eyes but amazing hearing, this means that Amy, the heroine of this story, must learn to live in silence. That makes this book so incredibly gripping, that I literally could not put it down. I even read it on the elliptical. I don't want to say too much and give anything away but the action and suspense is amazing and the relationship that develops between Amy and a little girl she rescues and calls Baby, was so true and lovely that it had me completely emotionally invested in both of the characters.

Speaking of being emotionally invested, I usually favor books that end happily or at the very least try not to break my heart. Yet, there are times when I can't resist a book that gives me a case of the sads. My two favorite books that had me fighting back tears were INFINITE SKY by CJ Flood and CHARM & STRANGE by Stephanie Kuehn (which also just won The Morris Award - Yay Stephanie!). 

INFINITE SKY has the feeling of books that I read when I actually was a young adult and that have still stuck with me years later like SAY GOODNIGHT GRACIE, SUMMER OF MY GERMAN SOLDIER, and BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA. It has the feel of a novel that is timeless and will continue to speak to readers fifty years from now.

CHARM & STRANGE, on the other hand, was unlike anything I've ever read before - in a good way. I kept turning the pages with no idea what was going to happen next. And the ending - I was braced for some terrible revelation, but when it came it was so shocking and terrible that I felt sucker-punched by it. This book literally made my heart ache and I feel fairly certain that I will never fully shake those final horrible images.

There are so many MORE books I want to talk about, just looking through my Goodreads account, I see so many books that I absolutely loved like POINTE by Brandy Colbert, THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN by Holly Black, DIRTY LITTLE SECRET by Jennifer Echols, A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT by Laura Whitcomb, ANGELFALL by Susan Ee, and so many more!!

Since I can't talk about every single book (well I could but to be honest it's a bit overwhelming) I want to focus on just one last one. Besides YA, I read a lot of romance and one book stood out and has earned a spot on my "will re-read and stalk author to see when she has more books coming out" shelf - that book was THE TYPEWRITER GIRL by Alison Atlee. This book would appeal to anyone who reads romance or woman's fiction (it probably fits a bit more into the latter category, but the HEA ending means that romance readers will be happy with it as well) or historical fiction. Honestly, I love this book so much that I was shocked to see that it had any bad reviews - it was one of those books that I loved SO MUCH that I had a hard time understanding how anyone else could not feel the same way. 

Okay, so that's about it for my belated year in review. It feels good to have last year all packed away - and now onto 2014!