Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Best Books of 2015!

I did a lot of reading during 2015, and about half of that reading was purposely aimed at books published this year. So, in true end-of-the-year fashion, here is a list of those books that I read and loved, narrowed down to my very very favorites. If you know me, you know how hard it is for me to pick favorites. To create this list, I avoided overthinking and just chose the two books in each category that stood out to me the most. If you haven't read these books yet, I hope you'll add them to your reading pile soon!

Picture Books

It was a great year for picture books, if you ask me. And that is only partly because of the release of WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? in June (teehee). There were so many other wonderful picture books, many of them in rhyme! Here are two of my favorites, which both happen to be fairy-tale-ish.

LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD by Tara Lazar and illustrated by Troy Cummings is simply an adorable book inside and out. I mean, just look at that cover! The illustrations are charming, the story is sweet and funny, the language is clever and fun. An all-around great picture book! 

THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT is a rhyming book patterned after the familiar rhyme "There was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly." The illustrations are colorful and fun, the rhyme is as close to perfect as it gets, and the story is clever and chuckle-inducing. Love it!

Middle Grade

I tried to catch up on some of my middle grade reading this year too, and I read several excellent books (including a few verse novels). Here are the two that stand out as the best. Both of these happen to be debuts! And they have yellow covers...not sure what the significance of that is, but I noticed it.

THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING by Kristy Van Dolzer has a fascinating premise, a voice that grabs you, and a likable, believable main character. 

RED BUTTERFLY by A.L. Sonnichsen is a verse novel that will draw you in and make you cry, and you may be thinking about this story for days or weeks afterward.

Young Adult

Young adult books, especially fantasy and speculative fiction, are one of my favorite things to read (right up there with middle grade verse novels). The books I read in 2015 did not disappoint!

FIREFIGHT by Brandon Sanderson is epic and brilliant. I read the first book in The Reckoners series,  STEELHEART when it first came out, and enjoyed it immensely (stories about average people battling super villains aren't exactly what I'm drawn to...but it's Brandon Sanderson). This book is even better than the first, and I can't wait for the next one!

It was no surprise to me that I loved WINTER, the last book in The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, as much as I did. This series is partly credited for my recently acquired appreciation for science fiction. Of course, the fact that this series is based on several different fairy tales that are woven together into an epic, romantic, adventure of awesomeness is a definite plus!

What are your favorite books from 2015?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

And the winner is...

Michelle Gantz is the winner of a signed copy of WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?!

Congratulations, Michelle. As soon as I have a mailing address, I will send you your book!

Thank you to everyone who came to help me celebrate my book's half-birthday.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? is Six Months Old! (And a GIVEAWAY)

Happy half-birthday to my very first picture book, WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?!

To celebrate, I am giving away a signed copy of the book to one very lucky winner. And just in time for Christmas!

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below for a chance to win!

Who will you give the copy to if you win? Or will you keep it for yourself? I'd love to know!

Rules are simple: U.S.A. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 07, 2015

My Family's Favorite Christmas Picture Books

We read a lot of picture books together when my kids were little (and even once they were not so little). Some of our favorites were the ones we read at Christmas time.

There is something extra special about Christmas-themed things. Music, movies, even commercials!

But the best Christmas-themed things of all, I think, are picture books. Whether you believe in the truth of the Christmas story or not, it's hard to ignore the miraculous way the birth of one little baby has affected the world, especially at Christmas time.

So, in the spirit of Christmas and miracles, here is a list of my family's very favorite Christmas picture books!

This is the Stable by Cynthia Cotten, illustrated by Delana Bettoli

Told in a step-and-repeat style, this is a simple and lovely rhyming story of the birth of Jesus. And the illustrations are stunning!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

How could any family get through the Christmas season without reading this book? Or at least watching the animated movie? It's a Christmas classic that everyone should have on their shelf.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore

We had the Little Golden Book version, but there are lots of other great versions of this classic children's poem. I especially like the one illustrated by Jan Brett. 

Good Night, Manger by Laura Sassi, illustrated by Jane Chapman

Published in the fall of 2015, this is an adorable story of a noisy stable and a mother who is trying to get her newborn baby (Jesus, of course) to sleep. The illustrations by Jane Chapman are gorgeous too!

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

A fun story of a too big Christmas tree and how it becomes a part of many families' Christmas celebrations. 

Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman

This book is part of Karma Wilson's "Bear" series of books, and this one is every bit as good as the original, Bear Snores On. One of the best non-religious Christmas books I've ever read!

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado, illustrated by Liz Bonham

Not only are the oil painting illustrations in this book completely breathtaking, but this story is very sweet too. A little crippled lamb feels useless until he has the chance to warm the baby Jesus. A story that subtly teaches that we all have a purpose. 

Olive, the Other Reindeer by J. Otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh

My kids got a big kick out of this book, and it is still (and probably always will be) in my fourteen-year-old son's stack of favorite picture books. 

What are some of your favorite Christmas picture books?

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

PiBoIdMo Wrap Up

I have never been so astonished to see a new month on the calendar.

It's December? Really? What??

Wow, what a whirlwind November turned out to be. And I wasn't even doing NaNoWriMo! I was, however, doing PiBoIdMo. The past month has been filled with brainstorming new ideas, drafting new manuscripts, revising old manuscripts, visiting schools, planning and preparing Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas shopping, Christmas decorating, and all the usual stuff that my family expects me to keep up with too. Like laundry. And grocery shopping. And feeding the bird and dogs.

November was a very productive month for me, especially as it relates to Picture Book Idea Month. I have 51 shiny new ideas in my PiBoIdMo journal! That surpasses my personal goal of 50. Yay me!

And yay to everyone else who participated in this inspiring challenge.

Also, a huge THANK YOU to Tara Lazar for putting it together once again. (If you don't own any of her books, you should go buy one. May I suggest LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD? It's adorable and fun and I love it.)

Happy December, everyone!