Top Ten Tuesday (December 11) – 2012 New-to-Me Authors

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! This week’s topic is easy, because nearly every single book I read in 2012 was a new-to-me author. I branched out a lot. It was splendid.

Here are the ones who stood out (and yes, some of them I only read one of their books, or they only have one book…but that one book was really good).

Also, some are on here because I did read their book in 2012, and they are new to me, but mostly because I met them and I think they’re just fabulously awesome people. If you get a chance to meet them, you should.

Disclaimer: There are a lot of Nashville/Southern authors on here. If you live near me, so do many of these ladies! Read their books! Go to their events! You’ll be glad you did!

Top Ten Favorite New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2012 (in no particular order, because that is way too hard)

Ruta Sepetys

First book I read in 2012: Between Shades of Gray

Why she’s awesome: Everyone told me to read Between Shades of Gray for MONTHS before I did, and they were totally right. Her writing is beautiful and moving, the story she told was incredible. Seriously. Everyone should read it. But aside from that, Ruta is one of the sweetest, most genuine people I’ve had the privilege to meet this year. She’s even lovelier than her writing. If such a thing is possible. Rest assured, her personal awesomeness combined with how much I loved her debut means I won’t be putting off reading any of her books in the future.

Myra McEntire

First book I read in 2012: Hourglass

Why she’s awesome: Myra was at the very first author event I went to, and I’ve been to several more of hers since then, because she is delightful. Not only are Hourglass and Timepiece amazing books, which I tend to shove into people’s hands to force them to read, and then they yell at me because I didn’t bother to tell them that the series isn’t finished and the next book isn’t out yet (P.S. Everyone loves them anyway), but Myra is hilarious and fun and is responsible for my decision to start watching Doctor Who, for which I am eternally grateful. She’ll be one of my favorites forever.

Lauren Oliver

First book I read in 2012: Delirium

Why she’s awesome: I haven’t actually met Lauren (YET), but Delirium was one of the first books I read after finishing The Hunger Games, and it made me realize there’s a whole genre of fiction out there that I want to discover. Also, her writing is gorgeous, which was also evidenced in Before I Fall, a novel that was just enough of a contemporary for me to realize maybe I wanted to read contemporary too. Requiem is one of my most anticipated reads for next year, and I hope to one day be able to tell Lauren how much I enjoy her books.

Veronica Roth

First book I read in 2012: Divergent

Why she’s awesome: Another author I haven’t met yet, which will hopefully be remedied someday. Not only are Divergent and Insurgent great fun (can’t wait for the third one!), but Veronica’s blog is one of my favorites. She chronicled her journey to publication and her life as a writer in terms I really understand. I think our brains work similarly. Which I mean as a good thing.

C.J. Redwine

First book I read in 2012: Defiance

Why she’s awesome: First off, Defiance is amazing. It’s a great mishmash of genres, full of action and adventure and romance and intrigue. I am ready for #2 ASAP. Also, I’ve had the opportunity to meet C.J. several times, and she is hilarious and my kind of people. Also, she’s the one who yelled at me to read Anna and the French Kiss, for which I am eternally grateful. I’m eternally grateful to many people for many things.

Rae Carson

First book I read in 2012: The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Why she’s awesome: I love that I discovered several new fantasy series this year, and Rae’s series is one of the best. She writes amazing characters (Hector is one of my favorites) and intricate worlds. I am on the edge of my seat for The Bitter Kingdom. Again, haven’t met her yet, but hoping to remedy this someday.

Sarah Maas

First book I read in 2012: Throne of Glass 

Why she’s awesome: I actually met Sarah before I read her book, and realized pretty quick that her epic love of all things geeky also makes her my kind of people. One thing I never realized before I started book blogging was how many authors like the same sorts of nerdy things I do. It’s fabulous. After getting to spend some time with Sarah, I read Throne of Glass, and it was incredible. I know she has big plans for the series, and I can’t wait to read all of them.

Stephanie Perkins

First book I read in 2012: Anna and the French Kiss

Why she’s awesome: I dragged my feet on reading Anna because I just don’t think of myself as a contemporary romance kinda gal. But once I finally got around to reading it, I loved it. I met Stephanie once at a multi-author event, and she is delightful. I’ve definitely got it on my agenda to read more of her books next year.

Kat Zhang

First book I read in 2012: What’s Left of Me

Why she’s awesome: What’s Left of Me is unique and thoughtful and intriguing, and I loved the fascinating world Kat created. I’ve also gotten to spend time with her on several occasions, and she is a genuinely sweet person. I always am happy when I see her at an event, and I’m really curious about how she resolves Eva and Addie’s dilemma in her books.

Sharon Cameron

First book I read in 2012: The Dark Unwinding

Why she’s awesome: Sharon is another author who I met before reading her book, and at the risk of sounding creepy, I just love her. She’s down-to-earth and funny and easy to talk to, and — yet again — my kind of people. As happened with several authors on this list, I liked her so much, I bumped her book up my list of to-be-read titles, and I loved it. Her writing is gorgeous, her story is fascinating, and I adored the way everything unfolded. I can’t wait for the next one.

Well, now that I’ve gushed (possibly too much) about my favorite author discoveries from 2012, I hope you acquaint yourself with some of these lovely ladies (or at least their writing). Who are some of your favorites?

Multi-Author Event: Tricks and Treats

Back LtR: Ruta Sepetys, Stephanie Perkins, Sonia Gensler, Victoria Schwab, Myra McEntire, Beth Revis.
Front: Tessa Gratton, Kat Zhang
Photo Credit: Sarah at Breaking the Binding

This weekend, our friendly neighborhood indie bookstore, Parnassus Books, hosted a pretty fabulous event. I actually heard about it a few months back at C.J. Redwine‘s launch party for Defiancewhere Myra McEntire was in attendance and gave me and a few other book bloggers a heads-up that something big was in the works for the end of October. So of course, I promptly Twitter-stalked* Myra until she gave me a definite date and time to mark on my calendar.

Then I realized that not only was it scheduled on the same day that we were going to be coming back from visiting friends in Arkansas, but it was also on the same day as our church’s Fall Fest, which the kids had told us in no uncertain terms that we had to attend OR ELSE.

So what’s the solution? Obviously, it’s to leave Arkansas at 7 a.m., drive six hours, make a super-speedy stop at home to grab a book for the event that had been delivered from Amazon while we were gone (and to take a gander at the über-nasty vinyl flooring in our kitchen that the owner of our townhouse decided to replace our wood floor with while we were gone — SURPRISE!), and then for me to go to the author event while my husband** took both of the kids to go jump in bouncy castles and get their faces painted and eat lots of cotton candy.

This may seem extreme, but I think the lineup of authors excuses the crazy, crazy day that was Sunday. Here’s who was there:

Tessa Gratton, author of the Blood Journals series

Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe series

Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door

Victoria Schwab, author of The Near Witch and the upcoming The Archived

Myra McEntire, author of the Hourglass series

Sonia Gensler, author of The Revenant

Pretty impressive, right? And I wasn’t the only one who thought so. The place was pretty packed, and while I probably had one of the farthest drives to get there (I don’t think anyone topped 6 hours, but then again, I didn’t poll everyone because that would be weird), I had a scant 30-minute drive home, whereas many others had to traverse state lines after it was over.

So what actually happened during the event?

Well, first they gave us candy, which is ALWAYS a good way to begin an event. Always. And this doesn’t just apply to author events. I bet everything from school board meetings to sessions of Congress would be more pleasant if they opened by passing around buckets of candy.

I will attempt to recap the highlights of the event for you, but first, a warning. I normally take copious notes at these sorts of things, but I didn’t this time because I woke up at 6:00 and drove six hours that morning and my brain wasn’t entirely present. So I’m going to recap this from memory. If When I screw up the details, feel free to let me know.

Ghost/Spooky Stories/Weird Research Happenings

Sonia: She’s pretty sure her dad’s house is haunted, and when she was little, she thinks she may have trapped a ghost in a closet, thus demonstrating her mastery over it. It didn’t bother her after that.

Myra: She went to New Orleans to research Infinityglass, and after taking pictures of Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar for inspiration, she looked at the photos and is pretty sure there are four ghosts in one of them. Of course, she didn’t bring the picture to show us, and so now I must bug her some more until she shows me.

Victoria: While living in London, she heard a story from a man who, while visiting an old house in some other country heard footsteps on the abandoned floor above him every night, like someone up there was having a party, but there was no one there. And when she got home to her house in London, she started hearing the same thing, except there was no abandoned floor above her. It was just the roof. (Others tried to convince her the footsteps were Santa, scouting the location, but she remained unconvinced).

Stephanie: Worked for a couple years in what she was pretty sure was a haunted library. She would hear bookish sounds like someone was moving books around while she was there alone, and came to find out that happened to all the librarians, with the same sounds coming from the same location, whenever they were alone in the library.

Beth: Didn’t have a ghost story, but once she took a group of students on a ghost tour of London, where the tour guide was being super-creepy and telling a story of a murderer who dismembered his victims and tied their body parts up in brown paper and string, and a student of hers broke into a hilariously inappropriate-yet-appropriate rendition of My Favorite Things.

Tessa: Also didn’t have a ghost story, but once upon a time she gave herself an impressive accidental cut with a kitchen knife, then instead of immediately bandaging it, she decided to do an impromptu experiment on whether or not vinegar really does slow coagulation. Using tupperware, because she is not crazy enough to pour vinegar onto her bleeding wound.

Where do they get inspiration?

Stephanie: Inspiration for Anna came in a dream, dramatically retold to us by her obliging husband, in which she saw Étienne St. Clair waiting for her on some steps in front of a white dome, and she knew she loved him and was in a boarding school, and he was American but with an English accent. She woke up and wrote it all down, and thus the book was born.

Beth: Wanted a murder mystery in a confined space with explosions, and her first idea of setting it on a cruise ship was hokey, so she put it in space.

Sonia: Had always been intrigued by 19th century boarding schools, and during a visit to one in Oklahoma, she got the idea for a story.

Myra: Wrote the first chapter of her book, and in asking herself why, at the end of the chapter, the man knows Emerson’s name, she eventually landed on her time travel theme after dismissing all the paranormal elements that she’d heard of before.

Victoria: In The Near Witch, she wanted to write a fairy tale where setting was as much a character as the people, and she also wanted to feature witches because she thinks they’re awesome archetypes.

Tessa: She settles on an emotional reaction she wants to elicit, then figures out what story would best accomplish that.

On the writing process:

This can really go all over the place. Some have a set process, some change it up. Some write linearly, some write scenes here and there. Some write a bit every day, some do nothing for days at a time then crank out 10,000 words in a flood of inspiration. Some crank out a first draft in a month, others take over a year. Basically, as long as the finished product is a book, there is no wrong way to write.

Also, if you want to make a career of writing, then just keep writing books. If the first one doesn’t sell, write another. And another. Beth Revis wrote 10 novels in 10 years before getting her publishing deal.

On the querying process:

Be professional, follow agents’ submission guidelines, and listen to the common querying advice that writers give on their blogs. As simple as that sounds, apparently those little things put you ahead of the pack.

On crossing genres:

None of them want to be put in a box, and several of them have other, unpublished novels in genres vastly different from what they’ve published. They just write what they’re interested in.

After the Q&A (during which local authors and event audience members Ruta Sepetys and Kat Zhang also weighed in a bit), the authors chatted, signed books, and were just generally fabulous. They also fangirled all over each other and traded copies of their own books for signing, which just drives home the point that authors are people and readers and fans too. It was fantastic to get to hang out with most of them, see some lovely blogger friends, and finally meet Sarah from Breaking the Binding (who drove 4 hours each way for the event), which was good considering she’s the one who gets subjected to the crazy randomness of my brain on a daily basis, and therefore it was about time that we actually meet.

So, once again, I leave you with the information that Nashville rocks and our authors are fabulous. And for those authors that aren’t Nashvillians (which was all of them except for Myra and Victoria), please come back, because we’re fun here.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go stare at my ugly kitchen floor some more and try to morph it into something acceptable using the powers of my mind.

*Not really. Okay, maybe a little.

** He’s the best ever.

#SYTYCD Book Pitch – Music Edition! (@MikeyWax @DANCEonFOX)

So you remember yesterday when I promised another SYTYCD-related treat today? Well this is it!

I was approached* by Kelly, the publicist for musician Mikey Wax, about doing one of my book pitches based on Mikey’s song “Counting On You.” You may know it better as the current guys’ elimination song on So You Think You Can Dance. Here, I’ll jog your memory.

So of course I agreed. I was thrilled someone actually reads my book pitches. And likes them. I tend to think they’re rather nifty, even if you don’t watch the show. I like imagining what these stories would be like. But it’s nice to know I’m writing them for more people than just me and my few loyal commenters.

Plus, you know me. Any excuse to enter “So You Think You Can Dance” into the YouTube search engine is good in my book.

Anyway, I’m happy to help out an up-and-coming artist using my tiny little corner of the Internet, because even though my music degree is sitting on a shelf gathering dust (under a pile of books, of course), I’m still a musician at heart. And even though my tastes over the years have gotten weird (and even though this has been my favorite music video for the last twelve years**), so who knows what I know, I personally really like this song.

Anyway. I’m getting distracted.

While the 50-second clip used on SYTYCD is fun, I thought you may be interested in the whole song. And if you love it, you can check out Mikey’s website, where he has options to purchase this song as well as the album it comes from, Constant Motion. And his other albums too. So here’s the full version:

And here are the lyrics:

Who knows
Crazy as life goes
We’ll write a story 
We’ll tell til were very old
So let’s live lost in the moment
Taking it all in as we go.

You know I’m counting on you not running
Stay with me let it keep on coming
You and I need to hold on through
As the world is in constant motion
You stay with me through this strange emotion
You and I, we will make it through

Lets go into the unknown
Letting our lives flow
Together we’ll lose control
I know that lately
I’ve been acting crazy
We gotta let this feeling roll

You know I’m counting on you not running
Stay with me let it keep on coming
You and I need to hold on through
As the world is in constant motion
You stay with me through this strange emotion
You and I, we will make it through

Close your eyes and dream
Feel the wind on the open highway
All I need is the breeze and your love

You know I’m counting on you not running
Stay with me let it keep on coming
You and I need to hold on through
As the world is in constant motion
You stay with me through this strange emotion
You and I, we’ll make it through

Oh you and I, we will make it through

I would like to state for the record that I listened to this song approximately eleventy billion times on repeat while writing this post, and it will now be stuck in my head for the rest of my life. Good thing I like it.

I tried to take into account the words of the song, in addition to the feel, when considering this book pitch. Here’s what I came up with:

Book Pitch: High school sweethearts Zoe and Hoban*** have the perfect fairy-tale romance, until Zoe’s dad accepts a job on the opposite side of the country. Heartbroken, Zoe tries to adjust to single life at a strange new school on the East coast, but when she meets social misfit Inara, it doesn’t take long for the girls to hatch a plan to run away to California. But while Zoe savors their new-found freedom and imagines her romantic reunion with Hoban, Inara spends their road trip looking over her shoulder, afraid someone might discover her secret.

Suggested Author: Stephanie Perkins

What do you think? Like the song? Like the pitch? Have your own idea for an awesome story inspired by this song? Let me know your thoughts!

Past Pitches:

Week 6 & 7 Book Pitches

Week 5 Book Pitch

Week 3 Book Pitch

Week 2 Book Pitch

Week 1 Book Pitch

The original SYTYCD Book Pitch post

* I was not compensated in any way for this post. It just sounded like fun.

**I just watched it again, and the girlfriend is definitely Shiri Appleby from Roswell, which just made me love it even more. I realize I probably should not be talking this much about a Bon Jovi video in a post about a Mikey Wax song, but I can’t help it.

***10 points if you get the reference.

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (@naturallysteph)

I’ll be honest. I’ve put off reading this book for a while because, much like the Young Boy in The Princess Bride, I feared it was “a kissing book.” Mostly because of the title. And while I don’t mind some kissing in my books — you know, shoved in between the explosions and the dragons — I didn’t think I was really going to be into a YA contemporary centered around kissing.

But then many, many, many people told me that I needed to read it. And I think the straw that broke the camel’s back was this Twitter conversation where C.J. Redwine bullied me into reading it. (Okay, maybe “bullied” is too harsh, since all she did was use ALL CAPS on Twitter, and I am a pushover).

So I checked it out of the library. And I tried to ignore the cover, because the cover makes me think it’s a kissing book. Also, I don’t like the Eiffel Tower.

I know.  I know.

Anyway. I am happy to report that while there most certainly is kissing in this book, it is not “a kissing book,” and it is indeed quite enjoyable.


The Plot (from Goodreads)

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris – until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he’s taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home. As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near – misses end with the French kiss Anna – and readers – have long awaited?

My Thoughts

Reasons I wasn’t sure if this book would appeal to me:

1) It sounds like a cheating book. I hate cheating books.

2) It takes place in Paris. I don’t like Paris. I know, I’m weird, but when I visited Paris, I just didn’t like it. For whatever reason. I don’t know. I just don’t like it.

3) The summary uses the phrase “swoon-worthy,” which makes me cringe. Seriously. Is this anyone’s honest reaction when they hear a British accent?

I should hope not. It is overly dramatic, and inaccurate. You know what’s swoon-worthy? Finding out you just won the Publisher’s Clearing House. Finding out that a loved one’s cancer is gone. Discovering that a loved one you thought was dead is actually alive.

Not a British accent.


None of my problems with this book turned out to actually be problems with this book. Which was a pleasant surprise.

I loved Anna. First off, Anna also kind of hates Paris, and thus I felt a kinship with her. She also is socially awkward and goes to painstaking and impractical lengths to keep from coming in contact with other humans, and I was like, YES. I can relate to this!

And then I also liked her friends. So often in books, I wind up liking the protagonist and then hating their friends, and then wondering why they’re friends in the first place. Not so in this book. They had a natural friend dynamic, where every member of the group had a distinct personality and role to play, and you could see why they would all have gravitated toward each other.

Of course, the majority of the plot circles around her relationship with Etienne St. Clair, and her struggle to determine how she feels when she knows he has a girlfriend and she has a maybe-something-or-other back in Atlanta. I was prepared for this to be extremely irritating, either because their friendship wouldn’t feel like a real friendship, or because one of them was going to cheat. And I just can’t root for cheaters. Period.

But. It wasn’t irritating. Or at least, not irritating in a way that kept me from enjoying the book. I was irritated alongside Anna. She berated herself for looking for hidden meaning in his actions, and I could completely sympathize. And while there were a few times I just wanted to throttle St. Clair (who, while not a cheater, was a monumentally crappy boyfriend on several occasions), he never crossed that point-of-no-return line where I simply would not be able to hold out hope for him and Anna anymore, because I’d be too busy thinking he was scum.

I liked that their friendship was real. They were comfortable, their personalities were complementary, and they just worked well together. One of my favorite chapters was their back-and-forth holiday email exchanges, which is normally one of my least favorite book gimmicks. But their banter seemed natural and easy, and I enjoyed it.

Anyway. I could keep talking about this book and how much fun it was and how I loved Anna’s snarky yet awkwardly endearing inner monologue and how happy it made me to read about friendships that felt real and a friendship-turned-romance that didn’t feel forced. Or I could stop talking and you could just go read it. Which you should.

Content Guide: Contains profanity, under-age drinking, implied sexual activity