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Monday, December 19, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things (about the holidays)

There are so many things I love about the holiday season, but today I’m taking my cue from Julie Andrews and talking about just a few of my favorite things. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Men in sweaters
Call me strange, but I love a man in a sweater. Then take a really manly man like Daniel Craig, and put him in a cardigan? Or a Henley with a scarf? Swoon! And only a precious few can rock the turtleneck. (Oh yes, Michael Fassbender, you are one.)

2.  A Muppet Christmas Carol
Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is one of my favorite Christmas tales, but the Muppets’ version of it is almost perfect in every way. I love that: a) Gonzo plays Charles Dickens; b) Statler and Waldorf play the Marley Brothers; c) Michael Caine seems born to play Scrooge; d) the screenplay uses some of the actual Dickens text; e) the movie is genuinely creepy at times, but it always keeps the classic Muppet sense of humor intact. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without this movie.

3. The smell of snow
My southern-born husband doesn’t believe me when I say I can smell snow, but the air gets this sharp chemical tang a few hours before a snowstorm, and every year I look forward to my first moment of snow detection. Call me Smilla.

4. Eggnog with nutmeg
Many people hate the stuff, but I readily admit to loving eggnog, especially spiked with a little rum and dusted with nutmeg. Try leaving that out for Santa this year!

5. Christmas wrapping
My husband and I have a tradition that makes wrapping the Christmas presents something to look forward to. We make ourselves a delicious holiday beverage (see above), crank up the Christmas tunes, and have our own personal wrap party. We spread out all the supplies on the dining room table and wrap and ribbon curl and Christmas label until not one naked present remains. Then we arrange all the gifts under our tree, turn down the lights, and admire our work.

6. The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping”
There are other Christmas songs I’d sooner classify as my favorites—Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” and pretty much any version of “Oh, Holy Night.” But nothing is more fun than hearing “Christmas Wrapping” while I’m driving to work, turning it up real loud, and rocking out like a Christmas fool. For your listening pleasure:
What are your favorite random joys of the season?

Here’s wishing you all a warm and wondrous holiday and a happy new year! See you in 2012!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Interview & Giveaway for A BREATH OF EYRE!

For her Debut December feature over at Word for Teens, Nicole is featuring some exciting 2012 debuts and hosting authors for interviews, guest posts, and giveaways! Check out my interview in which I discuss the perks and pitfalls of debut novels, inspiration for my book, my love for Rochester and Samoa Girl Scout cookies, and a teaser excerpt. A copy of A BREATH OF EYRE is up for grabs, too. Please stop by, say hi, and enter to win!

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Top 5 YA Books of 2011

This is a Top 5 list I did for The Nightstand blog, but seeing as it’s almost the end of the year, I thought I’d repost it here. This was an exciting year for YA, full of controversy, innovation, and reinvention. Angels and mermaids charged into the paranormal fray, contemporaries made their mark in the wake of Stephanie Perkins's delightful Anna and Lola, and dystopians of all shapes and sizes took the literary world by storm. Here are my stand-out choices for 2011:

What a wonderful end to a wonderful trilogy. It took me a while to warm up to Belly and her agonizing love triangle, but by the third book, I was completely caught up in the angst, the dizzying romance, and the pitch-perfect voice of this entire series. I was sad to see summer end.

4. Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins

Oh, Sophie, you make me laugh, and your potential suitors make me swoon. Hawkins manipulated my emotions so masterfully that I’m completely torn between Archer and Cal—the true sign of a well-executed love triangle. The storyline is so engaging and the dialogue so sparkling that I defy you to read it in more than one sitting. Pure fun from beginning to end.

3. Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Unearthly really threw me. I was growing tired of paranormals with their impossibly beautiful love interests, and then came Unearthly with a completely new angel mythology wrapped up in an engaging contemporary package. Clara seemed so real to me, flawed and lovable, and the Wyoming setting was so original and grounded that the paranormal elements never stretched credibility. And then there's Tucker. Where have all the cowboys gone? Wyoming, apparently. An excellent start to a new series.

2. Divergent by Veronica Roth

This book was probably THE phenomenon of 2011. And it totally lived up to the hype. Compulsively readable, complex, and full of wicked twists and turns, this was a dystopian with bite. I loved that Tris was no Mary Sue; she’s feisty, proud, and stubborn with a pretty big chip on her shoulder. But she's also brave and selfless. And Four—what to say about Four? Strong, sexy, and brooding, he makes Tris earn his respect. Possibly my favorite love interest of 2011.

1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Beautifully written, haunting, and original, Daughter of Smoke and Bone blew me away. While the higher fantasy of the last section lost me a little, for most of the book, I was completely swept up in Taylor’s prose and in the world she created. The lush descriptions of Prague had me itching to wander medieval streets and linger in dark cafes. The Marrakesh scenes are so vivid I could practically taste the dust in my mouth. And the forbidden romance between Karou and Akiva is full of such crackling tension and aching sweetness you don't want the book to end. Simply gorgeous writing and brilliant storytelling.

What was your favorite read of 2011?