Monday, December 28, 2015

My Favorite Books of 2015

Above all when I read a book, I want to be transported to another world, where I can live vicariously through someone else's viewpoint. I'm a sucker for an awesome premise and a good one will keep me reading to find out what happens, even when the writing is so-so. But, I love when a book blows me away so that I can't stop thinking about it when I'm finished, or is so well done writer-me is jealous.

According to my Goodreads reviews, I read 59 books this past year with 14 of those garnering a 5 star review. Lest I seem too generous, not all my books  read make it on my Goodreads list. I don't usually post reviews of books I didn't like or didn't finish, plus I won't start a book if the premise doesn't appeal (the rare exception being ILLUMINAE  this year). Of the books on my 5 star list, some that topped the list:

I liked this one because I love fairy tale retellings and this one is a gritty contemporary without magic while still following the basic plot. Bonus points for a moral that hits the heart without preaching.

I admire Kate DiCamillo so much for her ability to write a touching story. Bonus points here because the idea of  comic book style illustrations seemed stupid to me at first, but I loved the whole book!
I added this to my TBR because it won so many awards and I wanted more diversity on my list, but wow, Jacqueline Woodson drew me into her life story with the beauty of her writing and the strength of her experiences.
I read this because a PitchWars mentor mentioned it in her bio and it turned out to have some eerie similarities to my current WIP. Jandy Nelson's writing oozes color and life on every page.
Did I mention I like books that take me to places I can only imagine? A beautifully told story about sisterly devotion with romance and adventure thrown in, this won the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for Young Adult in 2014.
As the fourth installment in this series, this book amazed me with how the character arcs keep growing, and I love both them and the fantasy world Sarah Maas has created.

This YA contemporary about a blind girl and the boy who betrayed her trust has voice that leaps off the page.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Top 7 Writer's Blogs of 2015

Every writer needs encouragement and advice from time to time. During this year, I've honed my craft by taking advice from various authors who have kindly shared their expertise on their blogs. Narrowing the list to the top ones is difficult, but these are seven I visit and learn from most often.

     This is a blog founded by four women and features posts several times a week on topics such as writing craft and the business side of being an author. In addition to insights by the four founders, there are frequent guest posts including fairly regular appearances by Margie Lawson, who usually offers a giveaway of one of her writing classes. 

    Michelle Hauck posts all kinds of info of interest to budding writers, from posts on writing craft to agent interviews to success stories. She also co-hosts a couple of awesome contests, including the upcoming Sun vs. Snow, where entrants can try to garner a manuscript request from agents. If you are a querying writer, you should be following this blog.

     This website, founded by Martina Boone, has a wide variety of guest posts, contests, giveaways, and helpful posts about various elements of writing. A cool feature is the monthly 1st Five Pages Workshops, where the first few entrants each month can receive feedback on their pages (and revisions!) from an agent, a published author, and each other.

     This blog has a wealth of information, some of special interest to independent authors. Her posts usually go live on Sundays, and frequently discuss issues in the world of publishing such as how to run a writer's blog, timely issues like Amazon's review policy, and  legal issues for writers, in addition to writing craft posts.

     Ava Jae is a young writer who offers periodic critiques of first pages, writes about writing craft, does book reviews, and posts about her writing journey. She also has a vlog link on her website with short weekly writing tips for those who like video format. Very fun and relevant for writers of YA genres.

     Brenda Drake is the queen of writer's contests. She is a tireless supporter of other writers, almost daily featuring other writers launching a book or sharing the story of how they got an agent or book deal (most of these are directly or indirectly related to Brenda's contests). Again, querying writers should follow her.

     If you're a writer who isn't following Janice Hardy's blog, you don't know how much you're missing. With frequent guest posts and near daily posts about a myriad of fiction craft topics, Janice has enough info on her website to justify her blog's title. Use the handy searchable list for topics regarding planning, writing, and revising novels. The blog also features posts with Janice's critiques on short excerpts of writing from her followers. If you can't afford to spend money learning how to write fiction well, this is the blog to read.

So these are among my most frequently visited blogs of 2015. Please share your favorites in the comments.