My Year in Reading 2013

This was a ridiculous year of reading … I set an initial goal of 75 books, and as I write this on December 11th, I’ve blown past that to 105. I’ll probably add another 3-4 books before New Year’s (we’re doing Christmas in Key West this year, which means plenty of sunny, poolside reading!), but spoiler alert: most of those will probably be Jill Shalvis books, because I’m addicted.

At the bottom, you’ll see a gallery of all the books I’ve read (thanks, Goodreads, for making this easy to aggregate!). I’m a major book quitter, so every book listed is one I enjoyed in some way or another, so I’d recommend pretty much everything pictured below. But before we get there …

Favorite Books of 2013

Just One Year by Gayle Forman
Gayle Forman is the very best at writing realistic and yet still swoon-worthy dudes. I like Just One Day, but Just One Year was where the duology really shined. I love reading about and rooting for Willem. And Just One Year made me go back and reread the If I Stay/Where She Went duology … which I think we all know is freaking fantastic.

Jessica Darling’s It List by Megan McCafferty
Glory hallelujah, Jessica Darling is back! Middle grade isn’t usually my bag (she says as she realizes THREE  of the books on this list are MG), but I’ll read anything staring good old JD, even a picture book. After five books and all that waiting, I was so pleased that this middle grade prequel lived up to everything I love about that series. McCafferty did an amazing job of letting us see the origin of Jessica’s snark, while also revealing her sweet middle school roots. I’m gonna go ahead and say that Jessica Darling is the most fully realized character in literature.

Doll Bones by Holly Black
This was my first Holly Black book, snagged off the shelf at my local library. Another middle grade, and this one was beautifully written. It captured everything that is great and terrible about being twelve and straddling the childhood-teenagerhood divide. There’s such a sense of childlike wonder here.

The Rainbow Rowell Collection: Attachments, Eleanor and Park, and Fangirl
Ok, this is cheating, but I read Attachments, Eleanor and Park, and Fangirl all this year, and fell completely in love with Rainbow Rowell. Her writing is so honest. I’ll admit, I think Attachments is my favorite (read it, picture Alexander Skarsgard as Lincoln, then write an email and thank me), which is why I’m really looking forward to her next book, Landline. I’ll cash in all my author mojo just to get a galley of that one.

Starstruck by Rachel Shukert
This is the book I’ve been evangelizing to everyone I know, because I think this book is criminally underrated. The writing is fabulous, and the world is so fun. Set in 1930s Hollywood and following three young starlets (and the wild band of crazies that surrounds them), this is like a period Gossip Girl but with way more class and even more intrigue. I was lucky enough to get a galley of the sequel, Love Me, and whoa … I’m all in on this trilogy. Give me third one please!

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle
The third middle grade on this list, Nate had me laughing out loud. This read like a middle grade David Sedaris, and I can’t wait for the follow-up, Five, Six, Seven, Nate! I’ll read anything Tim Federle writes, because the guy brings it with the comedy.

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey
Penguin did a bang-up job on the promo for this one, because those book trailers, excerpts, and ad campaigns made me buy this book on release day and then spend the next 24 hours devouring it. I love that even though it’s the start of a series, it feels like a complete story with a satisfying ending. But I’m still clamoring for the next one!

Someday Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham
I was going to read this one no matter what, because hello, Lorelai Gilmore wrote it! But this is not your typical celebrity novel. Lauren is a talented writer, and I could hear her voice pouring off of every page. It was hilarious and heartfelt, which is probably why she’s writing a follow-up, and also a pilot script for Ellen Degeneres’s production company! This brought back everything I loved about quality chick lit like Bridget Jones, Devil Wears Prada, and Something Borrowed.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
File this under “Why did it take me so long to read this?!” It absolutely lived up to the hype. I will say, if you’re diving in for the first time, just know that the first 75 pages or so are going to be strange, but power through. It’ll start to slowly come together, and you’ll be so glad you stayed for the show.

Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan
Another criminally underrated book, probably because the main characters are NOT nice dudes and the language is frank and honest. Which, if you’ve spent any time with teenage boys, you know is not always pleasant. But the storytelling is masterful, and I couldn’t put it down. In fact, I read part of this book while standing next to Ian Somerhalder on the Vampire Diaries set because OH MY GOD GO AWAY IAN I WANT TO KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THIS BOOK!

And now for the superlatives

Favorite Character: Roux, Going Rogue by Robin Benway
Yep, she won last year, and in the hilarious follow-up to Also Known As, Robin brings back everything I loved about Roux and more. Also, this time she gets an Irish love interest, so YUP YES PLEASE.

Swooniest Dude: tie between Willem and Adam, from the Gayle Forman books
I guess Adam shouldn’t be included, because If I Stay/Where She Went was a reread, but I can’t help it. The boy is HOT. And so is Willem, oh he of the multilingualism and the Bollywood film credits.

Biggest Book Addiction: The Lucky Harbor Series by Jill Shalvis
Holy hotness … I’m on a romance novel kick these days, and these are my crack. No shame, no apologizes.

Book that Scared the Bejeezus Out of Me: Cain’s Blood by Geoffrey Girard
Cloned serial killers who escape and go on a killing spree? Yeah, it had me double checking the locks on my doors.

Biggest OMG Moment: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
I’d tell you about it, but I’d probably be lying.

Character I Most Want to See In Another Book: Morris, The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen
Sarah’s forever bringing back former characters to make cameo appearances, and I’d love to see Morris again. In fact, if she were ever going to attempt to write from a dude’s perspective, I’d love to see a whole Morris book. Something about him was mysterious and interesting and magnetic. More please!

Book Series That Left Me Wanting More: The Disappearance of Lizzy Ross by Jessica Schein
The e-novella series definitely left me with lots of questions, so I can’t wait for the next one. Honorable mention to All Our Yesterdays, because I want to see what she plans to do next.

Best Cover: Giving it to Jennifer E. Smith again, this time for This is What Happy Looks like and The Geography of You and Me
Not to mention that what’s inside those books? AWESOME. Wait, why didn’t I include these on my best books above? Because they were awesome. Read them, now.

Most Feel-Good Read: The Mother Daughter Book Club Series by Heather Vogel Frederick
Maybe it’s that these books take place in New England (Concord, MA, to be precise), maybe it’s that they’re sweet middle grade reads, or maybe it’s just that Heather Vogel Frederick captures all the good parts of being a tween. I haven’t yet finished the series, but every time I need a sigh and a smile kind of a read, I reach for one of these. I only have 3 left, so I’ve got to save ‘em!

Best Rereads: If I Stay/Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Even knowing exactly what was coming, I bawled like a baby. Honorable mention to Sloppy Firsts, because MARCUS FLUTIE.

Books Sitting on TBR Shelf That I Can’t Wait to Read:
Also known as the WHAT AM I WAITING FOR?!?! Award, these are sitting on my shelf waiting for the perfect moment to be enjoyed, because let’s be honest, every last one of them is going to be fabulous.

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Fire With Fire by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian
Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
Never Fade by Alex Bracken
September Girls by Bennett Madison
Winger by Andrew Smith
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

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I’m such a deadbeat blogger…

No seriously, I am. But if you saw my panel at Decatur Book Festival with Leigh Bardugo and David Levithan (yeah, THAT HAPPENED!) where we talked about social media, you’ll know that I take the Ron Swanson view of all things Internet:

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So I choose to whole ass Twitter, because that’s like the unicorn of the Internet in my mind. I love chatting about books and writing and food and tv (seriously, it’s finally fall tv time, so come chat with me!) and all the other fun and not-so-fun things about my life. Seriously, go follow me on Twitter and we’ll have funtimes.

Which means I choose to really not ass blogging at all (that was a weird sentence). I do, however, keep things fun over on Tumblr, sometimes with just fun and funny posts, bits of inspiration, and sometimes short blogs. So if you don’t follow me on Tumblr, get on over and take care of that, ok??? Why would you possibly want to miss all my Gilmore Girls gifsets?!

And finally, we’re just over three months until Being Sloane Jacobs hits shelves. You can preorder it pretty much anywhere books are sold, and if you’re a blogger or reviewer, you can find it on NetGalley. Eep! Can’t believe it’s getting so close!

The Friday Five

1. As I mentioned in my previous posts, my writing life is currently getting a serious spit ‘n polish thanks to a reading of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Which brings me to my first story … my dog has serious thunder anxiety. She paces and whines and drools and claws at all the doors in our house. And if you don’t pay attention to her, it escalates into barking and more clawing. If there’s a storm in the forecast, it basically means either my husband or I is staying up all night with her (and it’s often me, because I’m not the one who has to get up and go to work in the morning). We basically have to dope her up on valium during storms, and even that doesn’t always work. But last night was one of the nights where it (sort of) did, and somewhere around 1am I found myself sitting on the couch with  a panting, drooling, very very stoned dog while a thunder storm raged outside. And my first thought wasn’t “I’m so tired!” or “Dear God, please take her hearing so we can move on from this!” Nope, it was “oh man, my main character needs an anxious dog. And then I could do this great scene during a storm in her bedroom, and then…” So yeah, don’t be surprised if a version of lil Lucy appears in my next book!

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Lucy and I enjoying better weather last weekend

2. Tomorrow, 1pm-3pm at the Macon Barnes & Noble on Riverside Drive, will be my very first author event (not counting my launch party). And I’ll be ALL BY MYSELF! I’m really excited about it, especially after stopping by the store and seeing all the awesome displays. So if you’re in the Middle Georgia area, or want to take a road trip, I definitely recommend coming to this one. And if you’re not in the Middle Georgia area, check my events page, because I might be coming to a city near you! Houston, New York, Chicago, Nashville, Chattanooga, Asheville, Atlanta … I’m coming for you all!

Macon B&N event

3. Yesterday I got to return to Mystic Falls! Yep, I’m going to be an extra on Vampire Diaries again, this time for my fourth episode! (read about my other visits here and here). I can’t tell you anything about it other than it was the season finale, I got to fake eat some french fries outside the Mystic Grill, and then something REALLY COOL happens. Since this is the season finale, I won’t have any more cool TVD stories again until probably August (when they start shooting the fall season), but hopefully then I’ll also have some cool Originals stories, since they’re likely filming the spinoff here as well! More Klauss (yes yes yes).

4. Next weekend, all your Houstonites can find me at Teen Book Con, which I’m so freaking excited about. Not only do I get to meet a ton of readers and talk about books, but some of my very favorite authors are going to be there! First of all, Barry Lyga’s sequel to I HUNT KILLERS comes out on Tuesday, so I will most certainly be devouring that book (and the constantly checking over my shoulder … ). Plus I’ll be on a panel with Amy McNamara, and I absolutely loved her YA contemp LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP.

5. And finally, big congrats to my author friend (and fellow Maryville High School alumna!) Kathryn Holmes, who got an agent for her awesome YA contemp, The Creation of Hallelujah Calhoun. I got to beta read this one, and it’s so great. Definitely keep your eye out, because I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before it’s coming to a shelf near you!

And now, for my most prolific extra work, in TVD Season 4, Episode 7: My Brother’s Keeper (aka, The Miss Mystic Falls Pageant).

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Yep, who knew I was such a competent bartender … oh, and Dave Alpay, who plays Professor Shane? Super nice guy! He follows me on Twitter now.

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Yes, I got to spend A LOT of time standing next to Klaus while filming this scene, and yes his accent is just that dashing in real life.

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I’m actually all over this episode. As a waiter, I got to walk around a lot, which mean in and out of the shots. There’s about 4 more times you’ll see me if you really look hard…

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That tray of champagne glasses was HEAVY, and I carried it for 12 hours. And yes, the glasses are glued to the tray (thank god)

On writing a new way

Since my devouring of Bird by Bird, I’ve been trying to write in a different way. Listening to my broccoli and looking through the one-inch frame and the like. And let me tell you, it works, but it’s HARD. It requires a lot of extra credit work that likely won’t ever see the light of day, and that’s something I’m not used to

When I left off with my WIP, I was at a scene where I introduced a new character, a very swoony guy who may or may not end up the love interest (I’d at least left him some room to figure that out later). But the scene was hard to write. Like, hard. Before I read Bird by Bird, I didn’t understand why. But now I realize it’s because I’ve got this guy, and I have no idea what he’s trying to say, or what he’s feeling, or what he wants. I can’t seem to crack him. The more I tried to shove words in his mouth, the more he just gave me the finger and turned around. It was infuriating, because I AM IN CHARGE HERE, BUDDY, AND YOU WILL DO AS I SAY! But he was all, “Screw you, author lady. You’re not the boss of me.”

Last night I finally gave in and spent a lot of time last night laying in the dark trying to make him talk to me, but no dice.

So now I’m doing something I’ve never done before. I’m going to treat him like he’s my main character. I’m going to write a bunch of scenes of him that won’t end up in the book, but that will ultimately introduce him to me and make him talk to me dammit!!!!!!

It feels like a bit of a revelation, letting my characters do the driving for a bit. In life and in writing, I like to drive. I’m the one in control, and when I have to sit in the passenger seat, I’m usually a little jittery (and I get carsick, to be honest with you). But this is what needs to happen, and the book will be better for it. I’ll let you know how it goes.

BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott

“Honey? Leave him lay where Jesus flang him.”

Bird by Bird is a very famous, New York Time bestselling book about writing by novelist and memoirist Anne Lamott. Pretty much every writer ever has recommended it, which is why I bought it three or four years ago. It’s also why I recommend it … even though I’ve never actually read it (oops).

Until now.

For some reason I can’t explain, I yanked it off my shelf early this afternoon, took it out on my front porch with a notebook and a pen (and plenty of sunscreen), and proceeded to read the entire thing. I underlined frequently. I made a few notes in the margin. And often I’d drop it to the porch floor, snatch up my notebook, and start jotting down notes for my own manuscript. I paused to water the plants, and for dinner. Later that evening, as the sun went down, I read the last page and finished refreshed and energized in a way I haven’t been for the last week or so. After starting a really fun manuscript, I walked away from it mid-scene and just haven’t managed to sit down again. And thanks to Bird by Bird, that stops now.

Anne encourages us to write. Just write. To complete small assignments, like thinking back to our first few years in school and writing down everything we can remember. She encourages us to write “shitty first drafts” and avoid perfectionism like the plague. She has this great image of writing what’s in “the one-inch frame” and not trying to thing of the novel as one big thing all the time. Just tackle what you can see in the one-inch frame. She talks about characters and plot and taking a novel apart and putting it back together again. She implores us to listen to our broccoli, and she references Cool Runnings (always a win in my book). And along the way, she tells stories and jokes and tells you a lot about school lunches, and in the end, all you want to do is just write.

What I’m saying is, you need to read this book. Like, yesterday.

I want to share a few of the pieces of brilliance from Bird by Bird, so that if you haven’t read it, maybe you’ll be inspired to. And if you have, maybe it’ll spark that bit of inspiration you got when you first read it.  So here ya go, a few bits of wit and wisdom from one of my new favorite ladies, Anne Lamott.

“After a few days at the desk, telling the truth in an interesting way turns out to be about as easy and pleasurable as bathing a cat.” (p. 3)

“Left to its own devices, my mind spends much of its time having conversations with people who aren’t there. I walk along defending myself to people, or exchanging repartee with them, or rationalizing my behavior, or seducing them with gossip, or pretending I’m on their TV talk show or whatever. I speed or run an aging yellow light or don’t come to a full stop, and one nanosecond later am explaining to imaginary cops exactly why I had to do what I did, or insisting that i did not in fact do it.” (p. 26) [I'm not sure if ever I've seen my inner life captured so clearly on a page...]

“How would your main character describe their current circumastances to a close friend, before and after a few drinks?”  (pg. 47)

“For the climax, there must be a killing or a healing or a domination … but whatever happens, we need to feel that it was inevitable, that even though we may be amazed, it feels absolutely right, that of course things would come to this, or course they would shake down in this way.” (pg. 61)

“Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.” (pg. 112)

“Writing is bout hypnotizing yourself into believing in yourself, getting some work done, then unhypnotizing yourself and going over the material coldly.” (pg. 114)

“Not long after, you get your early reviews, in Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, and sometimes they sound like your mother wrote them. Other times they suggest that you are a show-offy vacuous loser, and they hope you die so that they won’t have to read your work anymore. I have gotten prepub reviews that said I was a treadmark on the underpants of life. Perhaps this is not exactly what they said, but by reading between the lines, I could see that this is what they were implying. You survive that. Possibly you’re still drinking, so you have a pitcher of martinis just to take the edge off, or you’ve quit drinking, so you eat your body weight in pastries and Mexican food. Somehow you get the time to pass…” (pg. 212)

The Friday Five: I’M GOING ON TOUR!!!!

1. Yep, as the title of this post says, I’m off to visit some of my readers! I’m touring with a lot of awesome writers, including Lenore Appelhans, Lauren Oliver, and Nova Ren Suma, so definitely check out my events page to see if I’m coming to a city near you. I’d love to meet you, sign your book, and have a chat! But even if you don’t want to buy a book, I definitely encourage you to come out. And if you can’t see me on tour, but want a signed copy of Meant to Be, you can order it from Blue Willow Books (Houston, TX), Books of Wonder (NYC), or Oblong Books (Rhinebeck, NY). If you order a signed copy, I promise to doodle something cool in it and/or personalize it any way you want! But if you want it personalized, you have to order it BEFORE I get to the store, so make sure to check the schedule. Otherwise, it’ll just be a signed copy (while supplies last).

2. One of the fun things I’m doing on tour is creating an annotated, signed copy of MEANT TO BE filled with all kinds of fun, behind the scenes info and notes. I plan to read from this copy while I’m on tour, and hopefully also get my tour-mates to write some yearbook-style messages in it as well. And when I’m done? Well, I plan to give this little piece of tour history away to a very lucky reader. Will it be you? Make sure you follow me on twitter @laurenemorrill so you don’t miss the giveaway!

3. I finally started The Infernal Devices series on the recommendation of, well, the ENTIRE INTERNET, and I gotta say … thanks guys! Clockwork Angel is my current e-book read, and I’m totally digging it. I’m usually not a big fan of a) historical b) paranormal c) steampunk, and yet somehow I’m totally into this book. I can’t explain it, Cassie Clare just writes engaging stories. I’m all in.

4. I’m hard at work on two novels at the same time, because I’m a crazy person who’s easily distracted. It’s had me reading a lot about ghosts and spirits. Between that and #5, I’ve been having some really freaking weird dreams…

5. I recently fell down a Hulu rabbit hole with The Following. Have you seen this show? It’s totally warped and twisted, but I just CAN’T. STOP. WATCHING. It’s very Silence of the Lambs meets LOST (hopefully without the bullshit “they’re all dead!” ending). I warn you, it will have you checking your locks several times before you go to bed and giving the side eye to every stranger you encounter as you try to discern if they’re a cult member or not…

That time I signed a book for Stephanie Perkins

Get ready, intrepid blog readers, for I’m going to tell you a story about one of the best days of my authoring life thus far.

On Sunday, I made my way up to Little Shop of Stories in Decatur to see Maureen Johnson and Stephanie Perkins on their tour stop. Because when two of your favorite authors show up at your favorite place in the world, you get in your car and you go. I met my bookish besties and settled in for what I knew would be a fun and hilarious hour.

Stephanie and Maureen were hysterical as always, telling stories about smelly hotel rooms, dead bodies, and interpretive performances of Stephanie’s high school journals. When we got to the Q&A portion, I had to ask Maureen for an update on her crazy neighbor (seriously, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, click the link). And when I raised my hand, Stephanie asked me to stand and then told everyone who I was, and that I had written a book called Meant to Be.

AND THEN.

She said, “If you like Anna and the French Kiss, you should definitely check out Meant to Be.”

I managed to keep my brain from exploding and oozing out my eyeballs, said hi to the crowd, thanked Stephanie for being so stinkin’ awesome, and then asked Maureen about her neighbor (which illicited an hysterical response about a threshing machine). That moment right there? That would have been worth ten drives to Decatur, but that’s not even the best part.

For you see, after the event, Stephanie bought a copy of Meant to Be from Little Shop and had me sign it for her.

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Once again, I managed to keep (sort of) cool, but I think you can tell from this series of shots taken by Liz Vallish (book club buddy and BookTuber Extraordinaire), that I was trying very hard not to dissolve into a hysterical giggle fit …



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And in case you wonder what you write when one of your favorite authors asks you to autograph your book for her …

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Holy. Crap.

I say this all the time … in fact, I said it in my last post when I talked about meeting Robin Benway, but I have to say it again. The YA Community is absolutely the coolest, most fun, most supportive group on the planet, and I thank my lucky stars daily that my passion brings me in contact with all these amazing people.  And when I say YA Community, I don’t just mean authors. I’m including agents and editors and designers and bloggers and readers and tweeters and fangirls and fanboys and everyone in between.

Also, that thing in my lap in those pictures? Well, as if I don’t need another thing to take up lots of my time (you know, what with the writing and the reading and the internet-ing …), I taught myself to crochet last weekend. I’m working on a blanket, and I managed to add three rows while at Little Shop. And yes, I’ll always think of this awesome moment when I look at that blanket forever and ever.