Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gathering Leaves' Favorites of 2011

This is it, folks!  The LAST day of the year 2011.  When I began this year, I had no idea what was in store for me.  Little did I know, I had some BIG changes headed my way, and I was about to get busier than I have ever been before!  For once, I wasn't having another baby or moving or anything like that...  I was about to dive head first into something I love tremendously - the literary world.  

It all began when I read The Gargoyle Prophecy by Christopher C. Payne.  Chris is the president of JournalStone Publishing, and when he read my review, he asked if I'd be interested in proofreading and reviewing another JournalStone novel, Any Witch Way by Annastaysia Savage.  From there my involvement with JournalStone grew and grew - I became a regular proofreader/reviewer and was even asked over the summer to co-host the Blog Talk Radio show, JournalJabber.  

It quickly became evident that I am far too observant and soft-spoken to be a true radio personality, but I do love the radio show and make most of my contributions by running the chat room and making sure all our information is available during the show and afterward on our new website.  Ownership of the radio show is now transferred to Amy and we are no longer affiliated with JournalStone.  There will be a few small changes, but expect 2012 to be full of tons of crazy JournalJabber fun!

After I had amassed quite a few book reviews (and many that did not fit the genres JournalStone was interested in) and joined a fantastic group on Goodreads (Creative Reviews), I decided to start up my own review blog (which you are now reading!) as a way to keep my work organized and available for others.  Soon, the review requests were rolling in, and today, I have almost TWO-HUNDRED books in queue for review!!  I will never be able to empty my to-review list (because I am constantly adding to it), but it is still exciting to me when I open a new book for the first time -- what adventure awaits me next?

It's taking me even longer to get those reviews churned out now because, in addition to proofreading for JournalStone, I decided to offer my proofreading/editing services independently.  I have had a fairly steady flow of work coming in.  I've worked with several authors, including Barbara G. Tarn and T.R. Graves, and I proofread for Amy at The Eyes for Editing.  This is the BEST work for me!  I get to stay home with my family, which is perfect (although, they might say they are a little neglected these days, and my poor house is a disaster area most of the time), and I get to do what I and write!

Speaking of writing, I have enjoyed writing for most of my life.  I remember as a young girl typing up stories on an old word processor/DOS computer my aunt gave me.  My first character was Miranda, and she was a huge horse lover.  My school years found me mostly writing literary research papers and then experimental psychology research reports, full of boring definitions and statistics.  But this year, I began flexing my writing muscles again and managed to turn out a couple pretty great stories, if I say so myself.  I submitted one to JournalStone's short story contest, and although it didn't win anything (it didn't match up with what they were looking for in the anthology), I got some FANTASTIC feedback from Chris.  Then, I had the honor of publishing a separate story in the Creative Reviews Christmas anthology, Christmas Lites, alongside some amazing authors and friends.  If you haven't already bought your copy of Christmas Lites, please do so now!  All proceeds are being donated to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

I am slowly working on expanding on my JS short story and will either begin releasing everything in a series of novelettes or complete a full-length novel.  This is also taking me some time because, with three small children and an up-an-coming editing business, I barely have time to breathe, much less write anything of value!  But, that's okay!  I have plenty of time, and I want to do everything right so I give the public the best quality story as possible...  :-)

I think that's enough rambling!  I wanted to end the year with a little list of some of my favorites of 2011.  Don't be discouraged if your work didn't make it to my list.  I couldn't very well include EVERY single thing or it wouldn't be much of a favorites list...haha...  Basically every story/book I read this year was fantastic, and all the authors I had the honor of working with were simply amazing.  I cannot tell you how blessed I have been this year through the new experiences I have enjoyed and all the new friends I have made.  

Without further ado, here are some of my faves of the year:

Favorite Children’s Books:
Leon Chameleon P.I. series by Janet Hurst-Nicholson
     A brilliant little chameleon solving the crimes of the forest?  Yes, please!  This series has become one of my son's (and my!) favorite children's series ever!  Everyone buy bunches of Jan's books so she can get the next in the series published right away!
See my review of The Case of the Missing Canary Eggs HERE.
See my review of The Case of the Kidnapped Mouse HERE.

The Moon Coin by Richard Due
     This book absolutely blew me away!  It ranks right up there with Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia for me!  I cannot wait for book two to hit the shelves this year.
See my review HERE.
See Richard's guest post HERE.

The Sword of Darrow by Alex & Hal Malchow
     A fantastic fantasy written by a father-son team.  My son was an early-reader, and we absolutely adored this novel!  What makes it even better:  Alex struggles with learning differences and helped his dad write this book when he couldn't even read!
See my review HERE.
See Alex & Hal's interview HERE.

Any Witch Way by Annastaysia Savage
     I mentioned this above as one of my first endeavors with JournalStone publishing.  I had mentioned to Chris that I didn't really read horror (and if you know JournalStone, you know horror is the heart of their operation :-)) he sent along this children's/young adult fantasy for me to work on.  It is amazing, so fun, and full of many great life lessons every young girl (and boy) would benefit from.
See my review HERE.
See Anna's interview HERE.

Kiwi in Cat City by Vickie Johnstone
     I adopted Vickie during Adopt an Indie month and was thrilled to find another series of remarkable children's books.  I haven't had time to dive into the other books, but they are sitting in my favorites on my Kindle just waiting for me!  Kiwi will be a special guest on my blog in the next week or so, so be on the lookout for that!
See my review HERE.
See Vickie's interview HERE.

Noah Zarc:  Mammoth Trouble by Robert D. Pease  
     As you can imagine, Robert made lots of reference to the story of Noah's Ark, but everything is in a futuristic, science-fiction setting.  Above all, Noah is in a wheelchair, but is able to easily overcome and accomplish some amazing things!
See my review HERE.

Graphic Novels/Comics/Sci-Fi:
Aron Warner’s Pariah Series
     A world where the genetically enhanced (nerds) are hunted down.  A geeky main character that absolutely steals my heart.  A fantastic piece of work, both graphically and literally.
See my review HERE.

Die Laughing by Louis K. Lowy
     This was a bit of a deviation from my typical read.  Cheesy sci-fi films and stand-up comedians.  Louis gave me a reason to love the 50s and helped me broaden my reading horizons!
See my review HERE.
See Louis' interview HERE.

That Which Should Not Be by Brett J. Talley
     Remember what I said about not really reading horror?  Well, JournalStone slowly snuck it in on me, and this novel is the one that made me love horror again!  Brett, one of my favorite fellow Alabamians, wrote an AMAZING Lovecraft inspired novel.  There's no turning back now...
See my review HERE.
See a review of some of Brett's short stories HERE.
See Brett's interview HERE.

Jokers Club by Gregory Bastianelli
     This book involved kids and truly creeped me out.  Like, gave me bad dreams creeped out.  But, it was worth every lost minute of peaceful sleep.  Another JournalStone gem!
See my review HERE.

     Warriors was on my to-review list, and it was another indie novel that truly surprised me.  Fantastic characters, original ideas, and a fresh perspective...  Love it!
See my review HERE.

     After receiving my review of Warriors of the Cross and finding her way to my website, the author discovered by editing services and inquired about my availability for a tight deadline.  I was happy to oblige and feel unequivically honored to have been able to work with her on such an amazing novel!  Good editing is essential to the success of a book, but having a brilliant author to lay the initial foundation is absolutely priceless!
TR Graves will be my special guest tomorrow, New Year's Day, and I will be posting my official review of Guardians of the Cross.  Expect the next novel of the series, Enemies of the Cross to be on my favorites list of 2012!

Imperial Hostage by Phil Cantrill
     Ancient Greece meets Atlantis - this novel was PERFECT for me!  And Phil is a terrific guy!  I've adopted him as a 2nd dad, and I would love the opportunity to visit him in gorgeous Australia and have a good chat with him about all the great adventures he has been on!
See my review HERE.
See Phil's interview HERE.

Morgen by Stephen M. DeBock
     Steve is another amazing guy and another dadish adoptee of mine.  He is so hilarious and has such a full life to talk about!  While I loved his novel, The Pentacle Pendant, I found the creepiness and the quick turns in the plot of Morgen to be even more to my liking.
See my review HERE.

The Traiteur’s Ring by Jeffrey Wilson
     Jeff is one of the most fun guests I have enjoyed on Gathering Leaves.  The infamous "splat" will forever live on! :-)  I am full of anticipation for Jeff's son's first book which will be published this summer!!  Be on the lookout for Mr. Conner as soon as Jeff can get my ARC sent to me.
See my review HERE.
See Jeff's interview HERE.

The Demon of Renaissance Drive by Elizabeth Reuter
     So maybe life as a succubus isn't all that great...  But it sure as heck is entertaining!
See my review HERE.

End of Mae by Angela Yuriko-Smith
     Angela, a primarily nonfiction writer, wrote this to prove a naysayer wrong and ended up with a prime piece of fiction.  I'm waiting for the next Mae book, any day now! :-)
See my review HERE.

Young Adult:
Wither by Lauren DeStefano
     I think this is my absolute favorite young adult novel of the year.  I love the dystopian genre and the trials and experiences this young girl faces in her dark world.  I cannot wait for book two!
See my review HERE.

A Singular Gift by Sue Santore
     Sue is another of my Adopt an Indie adoptees.  One of my favorite things about her novel is how she writes such an amazing narrative without any teen angst or questionable themes.  Beautiful!
See my review HERE.
See Sue's interview HERE.

Before by Cambria Hebert
     You've all seen a lot of Cambria around here lately, and for good reason.  I got to read Masquerade before Before, but if you want a great teaser before you dive into the novel, check out this short story first!
See my review HERE.
See Cambria's interview HERE.

Masquerade by Cambria Hebert
     Heven and Hell are about to collide and Cambria has written up some amazing characters with some deep, dark secrets!  I don't see how this novel can be anything but a success!
See my review HERE.
See Cambria's Christmas guest post HERE.

Four Small Stones by Gary Taaffe
     This is another one that surprised me.  I thought it was a children's book until I read it, and then I was glad I read ahead of my son, because it really is for more mature young people (teens to adults, I'd say).  But, it is great!  The second is sitting on my favorites list on my Kindle right beside Kiwi waiting patiently for me.
See my review HERE.

     The younger side of JournalStone came out in this brilliant little novel by another fun guy!  I'm proofing Greg's next novel, Cemetary Club, right now, and I can already tell it is different but just as awesome as Ghosts!
See my review HERE.
See Greg's interview HERE.

Misc/Crossover (as in hard to categorizeJ):
Flidderbugs by Jonathan Gould
     This one is a crossover because it is fun enough for children while being full of metaphors and entertainment for adults.  Dive into this short read to learn just how many points are on a flidderleaf...
See my review HERE.

The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas
    This is SUCH a beautifully written novel.  Anyone who loves good literary fiction with a bit of a mysterious feel will love this one.
See my review HERE.

The Reluctant by CS Splitter
     Splitter is another great guy that I have become friends with this year.  He likes for you to think he is tough, but I think deep down, he's really a softie at heart.  We all love him!  And his books are tons of fun and adventure, all about the life of a 'real' man.
See my review HERE.
See Splitter's guest post HERE.

The Willing by CS Splitter
     I got to be a Beta reader for Splitter's second novel, although it took me forever to get my notes back to him!  My husband has enjoyed reading his work with me and giving Splitter a man's opinion of things.  The verdict is:  These are great books for the girls AND the guys!
See my review HERE.

Death on Deadline by Diane Majeske
     Late night sessions at the paper turn into an in-depth murder investigation.  Diane's writing reminds me of Charlaine Harris (in a great way) -- her main character is so quirky and funny!  Don't miss this one!
See my review HERE.
See Diane's guest post HERE.
See Diane's interview HERE.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
     I know all my fellow Potter fans are distraught that the series is really over :-(.  But, this was one of the most amazing Potter films ever!  My favorite is still Prisoner of Azkaban, but this one might come in 2nd!
See my review HERE.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
     See my review HERE.

Sherlock Holmes:  A Game of Shadows
     See my review HERE.

     Bright, colorful and tons of tail feather-shakin' music!  One of the best children's films of the year!
See my review HERE.

     See my review HERE.

There you have favorite books and movies of the year!  I want to thank each and every one of you for being part of the Gathering Leaves Family Tree!!!  I wouldn't be where I am today without you all...

May God bless 2012 with prosperity, good health, great friends, laughter, and tons and tons of great books!

<3 I love you all!! <3