What Did I Read this Year?
According to Goodreads, I read 36 books this year (not including the picture books I read to my babies at work). That's more than usual, and I'm kind of surprised. I've become a pretty slow reader. I tend to only read for a few minutes at lunchbreak and at bedtime, or when I'm stuck in the car waiting for my daughter to come out of rehearsals. The second half of this year, a lot of my bedtime reading has gone away in favor of watching The Daily Show or election news coverage. Also, I read a couple of my own unpublished projects this year to decide what to work on next. That took some time.
My new addiction to audiobooks has definitely made a difference in my reading output. It has also helped my sanity during my long commute to and from work. I don't love every audiobook I get, but most of them are fantastic. Listening to audiobooks is also a way for me to get through more bestsellers, because I don't tend to purchase those as often as indie books or books I can get autographed.
So here we go: My favorite book of the year. This was a hard choice to make because I read a lot of great books this year. Still, I have to go with Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. It's an historical fiction told from four different points of view. Even though you know from the beginning of the book that it will end tragically, you still grow to love, laugh with, and sometimes despise these characters. They are very real, and Ruta has done another amazing job. She's sooooooooo talented. And look! I got a signed copy!
Okay, so that means Salt to the Sea can't be my answer for any other categories, even if it fits.
My favorite big publisher book I read this year: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. This story swaps the pov between two twin siblings, a boy and girl. What's tricky is that the boy's story is from when they were 11, and the girl's story is from when they were 16. It's a complicated puzzle that had me riveted and emotionally wrecked. Such brilliant writing. I feel that English/Writing teachers need to use this book in their classrooms to study how it all comes together in such a genius way. Incredible.
My favorite indie pubbed book of the year. (In my opinion indie pubbed means self-published or published with a small press). The winner here is Trail of Secrets by Laura Wolfe. Yes, this book is with my publisher Fire and Ice YA Books, but that isn't what makes me partial to it. Although, I will confess that I wouldn't have probably discovered this book if it wasn't with my publisher. I haven't read a horse book since Black Beauty in elementary school. This is a great YA mystery that is more about competitive teen girls than horses, though. I thought it was fun and kept me guessing like a good mystery should. I look forward to more books by this author.
Favorite book series I read this year. This is a toughie. I read three series this year. Libba Bray's Diviners Novels, Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles, and Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking. I also read the final book of the Raven Boys series by Maggie Steifvader. All of these books were AMAZING!!!!!! I listened to all of them on audiobook too. This is an incredibly difficult decision to make, so I'm going to judge on the quality of the writing as well as the acting of the narrators. To that end, I'm choosing the Patrick Ness books. You must read these (or better yet, listen to them).
Favorite book by a local (Nashville or SCBWI Midsouth) author (besides Ruta Sepetys). This was tough too because Sharon Cameron had a new book out (The Forgetting), and I love everything she writes. Helene Dunbar's book What Remains and Jeff Zentner's book Serpent King both broke my heart. Still, I have to give this one to Brooks Benjamin for his fun middle grade novel My Seventh Grade Life in Tights. I just adored this story about a middle school boy who wants to be a dancer instead of a football player.
The book that surprised me the most this year. It might sound self-serving, but I swear it's not. The book that I expected not to like at all and wound up enjoying immensely was Tomato Slices. Yes, this is the anthology of tomato themed stories, poems, and recipes which features my fairy tale "The Tomato Quest". It was a couple years between submitting and the book coming out, and I didn't know what to expect from it. The book's release was nearly silent, and nobody knows the book exists. I was paid in advance for my work in Tomato Slices, so it doesn't affect anything but my pride if people pick it up. That said, the stories are sweet, sentimental, fun, and in some cases adorable. The recipes look delicious, although I haven't tried any yet. If you know anyone into gardening, cooking, charming stories, or tomatoes, this would make a great gift.
What's next up for me? I'm currently reading Girl on the Brink by Christina Hoag, Fire and Ice YA Books. It's great so far. Chilling. I still need to read the other stories in Fantastic Creatures, the brand new anthology featuring my horror story "Mother's Night Out". It's FREE on Kindle, BTW. Then I need to read a book to review for Multicultural Children's Book Day. I'm leaning toward a book called Pen Pal by Francesca Forrest for that.
What books have you enjoyed this year? What books are on your to-read list? Feel free to comment below. Also, scroll through to read some other blog posts or visit the rest of my site to see if anything I've written might be a good fit for you.
A Couple Rough 18th Birthdays
My birthday is this week. I’ll be thirty years removed from the day I turned 18. It seems so long ago, and yet I still have some vivid memories of that time. My book Whisper of the Woods is also having a birthday – its first. Within its pages, my heroine Juniper Sawfeather turns 18. I can say that her birthday was extremely different than mine, but they were both a little, let’s say, challenging.
I turned 18 while living in Irvine, California.
I was a senior in high school. We’d just finished a run of the fall play called Dark of the Moon, which was about witches and curses and a lot of fun to do. I decided to host a birthday party at my house with all my drama and show choir friends. (If you want to imagine that, watch the Lin-Manuel Miranda SNL sketch “Crucible Cast Party”)
Well, a couple of my best friends thought it was hilarious that I was now about to be “legal” to have sex, and they went in together to buy me a red, lacy piece of lingerie called a ‘teddy’. They announced to everyone that my birthday was a “Teddy Party”, and other people came with innocent teddy bears as gifts. The whole thing was truly mortifying on several levels.
Needless to say, I spent the rest of my birthday party sulking. I was criticized (rightfully so) for being a spoil-sport and a party pooper. There was another great half of a senior year left for me, but if I have to pinpoint a moment when those friendships started to deteriorate, it was that night. The night I turned eighteen.
In Whisper of the Woods Juniper Sawfeather turns 18 after being 170 feet up in the branches of a tree for four days and nights in the freezing January weather of Washington State. She is being held captive by an ancient tree spirit who is causing harm to anyone trying to come up and help her down. She has survived the worst storm of the season so far, and a few other terrifying magical things I can’t mention because it will spoil the book.
Here’s a little excerpt from her birthday “party” when her family and friends are gathered to try to figure out how to get her down from the tree:
“What are you doing here?” Carter asked.
Nick raised a white paper bag. “I happened to be poking through the school records and saw that today was June’s eighteenth birthday. I brought her a cupcake to celebrate.”
“You brought her a cupcake,” Carter said. He voice was too even. I hadn’t heard him sound like that before, and it was a little scary. “Are you serious? She almost died here last night.”
“Well, then she’ll really enjoy this, won’t she?”
Bam! Carter slugged Nick right in the jaw. It happened so fast, I only saw the white bag fly out of Nick’s hand and smash against the tree. Next thing I knew Nick was on one knee, holding his jaw. Carter stood over him, his arm pulled back ready to strike again. One of the girls had screamed. I wasn’t sure if it was Haley, Regina or Tracy, but Tracy dropped to her brother’s side. My parents rushed toward the scene, and Dad pulled Carter back.
“Damn!” I heard Kyle say. “That kid’s got an arm on him.”
“So this is what I get for trying to be nice?” Nick asked, getting to his feet.
“You deserved that, Nick. There’s nothing nice about you,” Haley spat at him. “I read that column you put on the school newspaper's blog yesterday, making fun of June for climbing the tree and saying she was going to stay up there until she saw Bigfoot or something. It was rude.”
“He did that?” Carter said, struggling against my dad to get at him again. “What’s your problem, man?”
“Nothing,” Nick said, his grin wickedly wide. “I just think your girlfriend is the best show in town.” He called up to me. “Did you see anything while you were up there, Sawfeather? C’mon, tell us!”
So… I’m gonna go out on a limb (see what I did there?) and say that as rough as my 18th birthday was, Juniper’s was way worse. Although, she did have a boyfriend. A pretty awesome one, if you ask me. Also, if I have to pinpoint the moment her relationship with Carter and her best friend Haley strengthens, it was that day. The day she turned eighteen.
Do I have a point to this blog post? No, not really. Just celebrating another year of living and another year with Juniper. I’ve finished writing book three, and I kind of miss her. I’m looking forward to my editor notes to have the chance to hang out with Juniper just a little bit longer.
Just to let you know, the way my publisher, Fire and Ice Young Adult Books, is celebrating these birthdays with me is by lowering the price of my Juniper Sawfeather ebooks. Cry of the Sea is only $0.99 through Christmas, and Whisper of the Woods is at $2.99. You can find links to all the online bookstores on the pages for each book on my website, or just click on the pictures here to go to Amazon Kindle.
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Oh, and there’s more!!! I have a guest post today about the environmental themes in these books at http://www.scifiandscary.com/putting-environment-in-a-fantasy-novel/ that you might enjoy.
D. G. Driver
Award-winning author of books for teen and tween readers. Learn more about her and her writing at www.dgdriver.com
Author D. G. Driver's
Write and Rewrite Blog
“There are no bad stories, just ones that haven’t found their right words yet.”
A blog mostly about the process of revision with occasional guest posts, book reviews, and posts related to my books.