Shannon Dittemore
  • Random Thoughts
  • February27th

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    Red XWhen I was doing research for the Angel Eyes trilogy, I read so many stories about human trafficking. Accounts of children being locked up, sold, abused. I read their own testimonials and I read the versions reporters put on front pages.

    The story that stayed with me the longest was about a girl, locked in a basement, with only a roll of toilet paper for comfort. When they found her, she was holding it to her chest as my own kids do their stuffed animals. Her story was only one of many.

    As I assimilated the horror, one truth made itself clear: this issue was way bigger than I had ever considered.

    Rich people take part. Poor people. People of all different races and backgrounds. There are politics involved. Money changes hands in ways I’d never thought possible. Some of it happens out in the open. Some of it we see. But a lot of it is hidden from our eyes. Because these things happen in dark places? Sometimes. But mostly I think, because we haven’t tried hard enough to see it.

    Today, you’ll see people wearing red Xs on their hands. It’s part of the END IT movement. Now, I don’t know who started this campaign. I don’t know who funded it, but from what I can tell it’s all about spreading the word and choosing to look. To look at the slavery, not only around the world, but in our own communities.

    I live in the greater Sacramento area and statistics will tell you that as of last year, our city is one of the top five cities in the US suffering from human trafficking. My city. Where my kids go to school. Where I worship. Where I shop and play. It’s a staggering thing to consider. So, most of the time, I don’t. Because it’s too real to process. Too big to wrap my arms around and that makes me feel helpless.

    But I think that’s what today’s about. February 27th. Shine a Light on Slavery Day. Attempting to be a generation that strives to END IT.

    So, I’m in. Here’s my red X and my fist, and while half the time I don’t know where to throw this thing, I’m committing to fight slavery when and where I see it.

    There are SO MANY doing amazing work in this area. I think it’s important to shine a light on them today too.

    Recently, I watched The Pink Room documentary. A friend of mine was involved in the production of it and it’s a heartrending, eye-opening film that highlights trafficking in Cambodia. Watch it. Let yourself be moved.

    Chab Dai is an organization here in Sacramento that works locally and abroad. That’s HUGE! Locally and abroad.

    The Koinonia Group Home program is also local and works with at risk youth.

    The Thrive Rescue Home is another outreach worth supporting. They have a home for rescued girls in Pattaya, Thailand and they’re opening another in India this year.

    There are many, many others and these front line workers could use your support, be it your hands and feet, your pocketbook, or your prayers. We can all make a difference. It’s important to believe that.

    When I set out to write the Angel Eyes trilogy, I wasn’t looking to convey trafficking in it’s rawest form. I was hoping to spread the truth that none of us are alone. Not you. Not me. Not the girl trapped in a basement hugging a toilet paper roll. And I think a red X on your hand today might serve a similar purpose.

    It reminds us that we’re not alone. We’ve never been alone.

    We fight together.

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  • January29th

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    Jim-DennysPresident Obama inspired me. It’s been a bit since I updated you all, and since there are just so many things going on, and since I process better as I write, I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone.

    That might mean you’re acting as my therapist today, and I apologize for that. Also, I’d like to say I’m going to be entirely transparent, but since we know that these state addresses are rarely that, I’m sure you’ll give me the freedom to stay a little veiled here.

    It’s hard to know where to start. As a writer, I know there needs to be coherent paragraphs and structure here, but I’m not feeling that these days. Everything is a jumble. Actions, emotions, faith, hope, trust (pixie dust!) and the conscious decision to choose peace. Every day.

    I’m realizing now just how ominous that sounds, but rest assured, there’s nothing life threatening going on. No major illness, nothing like that. But it’s the first time in years that we truly have no choice but to set our eyes on Christ and follow. Yes, of course, we should have been doing all along, and to an extent I know we were, but just now I am very aware of how deceptive that feeling of security can be. Life changes every single day and while it’s easy to think we have the world in our palm, we most certainly do not. And honestly, I’m glad that job belongs to someone else.

    A little explanation wouldn’t go amiss, I’m sure. Well, here it is. After a decade of stability, my husband is changing careers. It wasn’t a decision we were planning to make. It wasn’t something we were prepared for. There was no backup plan in place, but it was necessary. And while it comes with some incredible challenges, I am glad God chose to close that door. It’s time for other things. New things. And on that front, I’m very excited.

    At first there was that feeling of dread, you know? I mean, our nest egg is more like a nest idea. So, where’s that next check coming from? How do we pay our bills? What about the kids? And, oh my gosh, Obamacare! While those thoughts continue to swirl, the panicked voice inside my head has all but fallen silent.

    God did this. God brought us here. He’s not going to leave us, not going to forsake us. He knows our needs better than we do and it’s in Him I rest.

    I didn’t think I could be this person. This waiting person. I’m awful at waiting. Awful at resting. I mean, lazy? Yeah, I have that down. But waiting on God, being patient, trusting, completely dependent on Him? That’s different. That’s intentional. Letting Him lead me beside quiet waters, shutting up and listening while He speaks peace, that takes effort.

    He’s been preparing me, I think. Deep inside my soul, in the quiet places I share only with Him, God’s been molding me into a person who understands where I belong. Or rather, who I belong to.

    And I belong to Him.

    I am His. His love. His child. His responsibility. And because I can look back on the road that brought us here and see God’s fingerprints along the way, I know that in five years, when I look back on these days, I’ll see His touch once again. I know it. Deep in my soul. And so I have peace.

    Part of the molding, I think, has come as I’ve learned to be an author. And yes, that’s not something that comes naturally either. Writing might be instinctual, but the author part? That’s learned. There’s a lot of waiting there too, and patience, but most of all there’s this: when it comes to words, there is only so much I can do.

    For the record, I’m working on something very new for me. It’s moving slower than I hoped because of . . . well, because of life, but I do love it. I love the characters and the hook. I love where it’s headed, but I’m not entirely sure what the story will look like when it’s done. I have an idea and my job is to pen it. To craft it, to trim it, to do my very best. Beyond that, the story does not belong to me. It will belong to readers and they will do with it as they will.

    I’m learning that life is the same. We do our very best with what we’ve been given, but that does not guarantee things will go as planned. In fact, our very best may cause us to outgrow the very place we put down roots. A time of uprooting and replanting may be necessary. For our own good. To fulfill God’s plan, not ours. That’s where my little family finds itself these days. And while there is discomfort at times, there is no shortage of peace.

    I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but God does. I don’t know where He’ll lead, but I can’t wait to find out. I don’t know what challenges stand between us and our destination. I don’t know what we’ll have to sacrifice to get there. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.

    But I’m okay with that. I’m okay with not knowing (that was hard to type!). I really think I am. And I’m looking forward to the next leg of our journey. With Christ before us and our challenges nothing but shadows in light of Him, I pray the road ahead would be bright and that we would have the courage every day to place one foot in front of the other. That might be too much to ask of our own strength, but I’m ever aware that we don’t have to do this alone.

    It’s in our weakness that He is made strong. So with every step we take, I pray His strength would be exhibited. His love for us made known. And when all is said and done, I pray we keep our eyes on Him.

    Here’s a cover Sarah Reeves did of Hillsong’s Oceans. I’m keeping the words close to me these days. Perhaps they’ll encourage you today.

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  • April16th

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    The Champion_group

     

    If you’re here, you know me. At least well enough to know I’m the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy.  Two of the novels have been released and the third, Dark Halo, will be on shelves in August. It’s been a journey I will never, ever forget and throughout it all, there is one question I’m asked time and again.

    Why write about angels and demons?

    It’s a legitimate question, especially since the Christian marketplace is known more for their romantic novels than anything else. But I have to admit, at first I was a little taken aback by the question. You see, angels and demons have always played on the backdrop of my storytelling experience and it was the most natural thing in the world for me to speculate about.

    I grew up in a church where the creative arts were encouraged. As a teenager, I was part of a traveling team that performed mime, puppetry, dance,  dramas and the like. We were called (and I almost hate to tell you this) DMV, the Dynamic Mighty Voices, which I’ve always thought was curious since the one thing we DIDN’T do was sing.

    We started out doing puppets and such for the Sunday school classes at church and that led us to our first competition where we took home little gold medals in both puppetry and mime. After that, our fearless leader, Sherry, led us through every open door that followed. We performed at malls, a Billy Graham crusade, with Psalty. All things, you church brats will appreciate. But mostly, we toured other churches, youth groups, and schools. It was a time that shaped so much of who I am today. And it absolutely fueled my passion for storytelling.

    About a month ago, I did a Twitter chat with Inspire Writers and I promised to post a few pictures of myself during these years. See, when church kids tell stories, there is always a built in bad guy. Satan, right? And somehow, some way, I ended up playing him an awful lot. I couldn’t find as many pictures as I would have liked, but here are a few.

    And yes, I give you permission to laugh. 

    DMV

    This is the oh-so-official publicity shot for DMV.  I’m in the bottom row, far left, and that is my favorite puppet, Penelope. Please note the birds up there in the top row. They’re sitting on the shoulders of Sherry Patterson. She is to blame for much of what I am today.

    Tempest_Sylvan

    This shot was taken a bit earlier. I was in junior high here and this is a school production, The Tempest. Not sure why I’m wearing different colored tights, but here I am as Sycorax.

    Cool Girl_YWAM

    This was taken at summer camp. I’m there on the far right. We were the mean girls before mean girls were cool.

    Sleepwalking_Mall

    Performing at the mall here, a mime called Sleepwalking. I’m the second from the right. So many hilarious make-up faux pas when we were in our face paint.

    Champion_TJ

    Here we are performing Carman’s, The Champion, on the beaches of Tijuana. Now, the truth is, youth groups the world over have done this drama. Certainly not original, but I got to play Satan. Tons of fun, by the way.

    Mary_LWCC

    Of course, I’ve played Mary the mother of Jesus. I mean, who hasn’t? I can’t quite remember when this was taken. After high school some time.

    Eternity

    This was a show I did while in college called Eternity. It’s very similar to Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames. See all those angels behind me?

    And you wondered why I chose to examine the invisible. 😉

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  • January12th

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    49er locker room

    I am a huge 49er fan. Always have been. When I was a kid, the team practiced just up the road and my dad would take the three of us girls out to watch. I even have a war story (and maybe a scar or two) from the time I got Jerry Rice’s autograph.

    Needless to say, this climb back to glory the Niners have undertaken is quite exciting for me. There have been so many moving pieces and parts to track as the franchise fights their way back from nearly a decade of struggles. One of the more recent, and more colorful pieces to watch dance has been head coach, Jim Harbaugh. From his hard hitting handshakes to his vein popping tantrums on the sidelines, he is quite a character. And I like characters.

    When he came to San Francisco, he brought with him a saying from his childhood that has really become the anthem of the team and, in turn, Niner Nation. It goes a little something like this:


    The story of how that saying came to be is here, but the real genius of it is found in how Harbaugh’s used it to build a culture around his players. Early in the season (obviously) I caught an interview Bob Costas did with Vernon Davis and Alex Smith. Bob Costas asks Alex (and I’m paraphrasing here) how, through all the years, through all the criticism, was he able to maintain belief in himself. This is what Alex says:

    For me, I think, I looked around at the league, especially at the quarterback position, and you soon realize that nobody has it easy. No one had the easy way to become a starting quarterback and playing well. Everybody’s gone through things, everybody deals with things. It’s the good ones–the guys who stick around are the guys who focus on what they can control . . . The people that allow the other stuff, the negativity to creep into their head, allow it to affect them, you aren’t going to be around very long. You’ve got to be thick skinned. You can’t let those things change your work ethic, change your approach to the game.

    Wise, right? And because I think sports are a great metaphor for living, that statement has stayed with me. I assume it’s stayed with Alex as well. I hope it has. It’s all part of that culture, isn’t it? It’s a mindset that says, “NOBODY has it better than me. Everyone I am tempted to compare myself to has stuff to fight. They have things they must battle through, mountains to conquer. No one has it easy.”

    I don’t know, maybe I’m just overly excited about tonight’s game. And nervous. I’m nervous. Because we’re playing the Packers. And since every game moving forward is possibly our last I thought I’d take this opportunity to share this lesson I learned from Coach Harbaugh, Alex Smith, and the Niner Nation.

    Who’s got it better than us?

    NOBODY!

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  • September5th

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    Our last adventure of the summer was wildly successful and is now over. We arrived home last night to yellow leaves on the ground. Fall is just around the corner, people, and while my husband and I will forever be at odds here, FALL REALLY IS THE BEST.

    For our final adventure of the season, we visited family in the great Northwest, surprising Matt’s twin siblings for their birthday. Lots of fun and I somehow managed to avoid hanging streamers which, really, is just better for everyone involved.

    We stayed with Matt’s grandmother at a lovely house in Vancouver, Washington. My kids adore her. They trade video games for puzzles and toys older than they are and they’re better for it, I think. Grandma Erickson lives with Uncle Ed and Aunt Dorcas. My four year old has decided that Aunt Dorcas is her best big friend and that makes me happy.

    I had coconut waffles with the amazing Jill Williamson and coffee with Vinnie Kinsella, the first gent to take a critical look at Angel Eyes. It feeds my soul to sit down with other book people and though our times were short, I’m tucking our chats away to relive when the writing road gets lonely.

    Matt got to visit with some of his connections in the coffee industry as well. We hit Powell’s City of Books, the Kennedy School, the Portland Rose Gardens (FAVE!), and I even escaped for a delicious dinner with Jenn, one of my best friends forever. She gets me. And my book weirdness. And I’m forever grateful. And one of these days she’s going to blow the book world away with her own imagination. I’m just sure of it.

    But now we’re back, and I have work to do. I’m less than a month away from my book three deadline. Book three has a name by the way, but for now it’ll be my little secret. I’ll share it soon, friends. I promise. Until then, I’ll do my best to tie up the Angel Eyes Trilogy. Brielle and Jake are fighting hard right now, so if I’m quieter than usual, you’ll know why.

    I should have the back cover copy for Broken Wings in the next few days which means advance reader copies should be available soon. I’ll give away a few here when I have them in hand, so check back.

    That’s it from my camp for now. But tell me, how was your summer? Did you manage to squeeze in one last adventure?

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  • August10th

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    You turn four years old today and there is something I want you to know. But not just today.

    This is a truth for always.

    First, you’re the most beautiful girl in the world. You are. And, I hope every mother and father feel the same about their child.

    But your worth, baby girl, does not come from your appearance.

    It doesn’t come from how tall you are or how short. It doesn’t hide in the pockets of skinny jeans or baggy sweatshirts.

    Your importance doesn’t even come from how smart you are or how funny.

    You can’t inherit value from your dad or me. It doesn’t come from the strength of our marriage, our flaws, or the cash we have in the bank. It doesn’t come from surviving the lack in those things either.

    Your merit doesn’t swell from a pool of inner-strength or tumble down mountains of fortitude. It’s not determined by the friends you have or the ideals you cling to. It’s not even secured by the tragedies you overcome.

    You are worth more–so much more–than any ring placed on your finger. More than any guy will ever pay for your dinner.

    Worth more than your father and I could ever, would ever give you.

    Because true worth, baby girl, doesn’t come from any of these things.

    It is found only in the price already paid for your soul.

    Your value was determined long before you were born, when the Creator of the Universe sent His only Son to die in your place.

    You’ve been bought. God’s life for yours.

    You’re worth so much more than you’ll ever comprehend, Jaz, and only now, as a mother, am I even remotely aware of the cost your Heavenly Father paid.

    His child for mine.

    It’s a cost unfathomable to me.

    And yet, I’m so very glad He paid it.

    For you.

    For me.

    For boys and girls ever-confused about their worth.

    Be the light, baby. Point to Christ. To the price He paid.

    Show the world how much they’re worth.

    For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. — Romans 5:7-8

    NOTE: I first posted this last year, just before Jaz’s third birthday. I’ve made a few small changes to reflect the passing year, but the heart of my letter remains the same. There is nothing more important I could tell my baby girl as she turns four. Or five. Or thirteen. I hope she never forgets these words.

     

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  • August3rd

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    I’m an Olympic fangirl, a lover of all things red, white, and blue, and a huge fan of anyone brave enough to stick their talent out there for the entire world to scrutinize in slow motion.

    I tear up whenever a medalist takes the podium and the Star Spangled Banner starts to play, but the thing that really gets the tears rolling is when that gal who came in fourth place tells the NBC correspondent that she’s just honored to have made the team. When I can tell she actually means the words she’s spoken, my chest heaves and I ball like a baby.

    Cause I get it.

    But it’s more than the Olympics. I get that way when I watch award shows too. When that Oscar winner navigates her ginormous dress onto the stage and tells hundreds of peers and millions of viewers that she’s just lucky to have a job doing what she loves, I weep. And while others are rolling their eyes at the cliched statement, I’m trying to regain my composure.

    Because I couldn’t agree more.

    My writing career is brand spanking new and I have no idea where it will take me, but I can tell you this, I’m just happy to be a part. Happy to be penning stories alongside a generation of storytellers who are passionate about what they do. Whether my tales ever make the best seller’s lists or win me awards, it will ever be my goal to stay tenderhearted enough to appreciate the journey. To appreciate those walking the road with me. To continue to love story regardless of how hard it can be to tell.

    Because there’s something amazing about finding your place. Something life changing about realizing where you fit in the crazy machine that is the world we live in.

    And I love watching other souls find their place.

    Answer me this: have you found it? Are you doing that THING God’s placed on your heart? Maybe you have lots of passions, lots of things, or maybe you don’t know what your thing is just yet. That’s okay, entirely okay, but I hope you’re thinking about it. I hope you’re praying about it. I hope you’re watching others–not comparing, not coveting–but watching the walking, talking inspiration around you and soaking it up.

    I’ll tell you this, it’s not an easy thing, finding your place. Sometimes your THING isn’t what you thought it was and sometimes God hands you an extra large plate and shoves lots of THINGS onto it. Sometimes you have to learn how to juggle.

    Doing what you love, finding your niche, appreciating the journey: all of these things are challenging. They take practice and discipline. They take heart. The require bravery.

    Be brave.

    Be up to the challenge.

    Because I have a theory. When we can say ‘I’m just happy to be doing what I love’–the instant we can say it and really mean it–is a moment that will trump all the awards and all the accolades this world could ever heap on us.

    I like moments like that. I need them.

    And I’m guessing I’m not the only one.

     

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  • February18th

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    Today is my 33rd birthday. I’m as old as God.

    Well… not technically.

    But, Jesus was 33 when the whole crucifixion/resurrection thing happened.

    So, it kinda counts, right?

    I knew it was coming. I did. I just… well… 30 is no big deal. It’s so close to to 29 that it’s like you’re an honorary member of the twenty-somethings. And 31, well, that’s not too different. You just get another gold star on your honorary twenty-something pin.

    And then there’s 32.

    *sigh*

    32 was my denial year. And denial is a feat easily accomplished. When you’re crazy busy, it’s easy to ignore just how very in your thirties you are.

    But, now that I’m 33, there’s just no denying it. There’s no ignoring it. And really, what’s the point? Everyone else knows. God (who is infinitely older than 33) knows. It’s best if I just say it.

    *deep breath*

    I’m a thirty-something.

    So weird.

    I think it would be easier to swallow if I didn’t feel like I was stranded on the island of in-betweens. Being in my thirties is like puberty all over again except this time, I’m fighting both zits and wrinkles. (Why God, why?!!)

    But, seriously, all of a sudden I’m on this precipice–one that looks an awful lot like the playground at Sylvan Jr. High–and all around me is possibility. New friends and new lessons. My extra-curricular activities have changed. My skill-set is different. My interests are evolving and I’m not nearly so scatterbrained as I was in my twenties. I’m focused. And I understand–really understand–that God has a plan.

    See what I mean? Possibility.

    But there’s also that awkwardness. The same awkwardness I felt when I donned a peacock costume and ended up being the only kid dressed up for the 7th grade Halloween party. For the record, once you’ve sprayed your hair blue and green, a wardrobe change makes little difference. You still look like a peacock.

    But, I’m feeling my way into new territory, putting my hopes and dreams out there, praying, praying I don’t embarrass myself (hello peacock). PRAYING my new friends like me, knowing all the while that if everyone loves me, I’m probably doing something wrong. If I don’t ruffle a few feathers, I probably haven’t made a strong enough statement.

    Still, this precipice is a strange place to be.

    In a way it’s like the calm before the storm. Or before what might be, could be, a little turbulence up ahead. It’s like things are about to happen…. or not. And in a way, it’s tempting to stay here, on this precipice. It’s tempting to hold onto this moment. It’s tempting to sit down, cross my legs, and refuse to go one step further.

    But even as I type this, I know it’s not possible. I imagine myself there, on my pretend cliff, staring into the next decade of my life and I know that I didn’t make it here alone. In denial, in frustration, in love and joy, in pain and loss–surrounded by friends and family–I was carried to this place.

    To 33.

    Gosh, that’s a big number. And though I’m not guaranteed another breath,  whether it’s in this life or the next, I know it’ll be my Creator who carries me off this mountain and onto the next one.

    And so I find myself grateful.

    Grateful for the 33 years I’ve had to spend with my parents and my sisters. With my huge, wonderful, crazy family. I’m grateful for the decade I’ve had with my husband and the beautiful children we’ve made. I’m grateful for jobs and opportunity and I’m even grateful for the awkward moments I stumble into.

    Because they’re proof that I’m moving forward. That I’m hoping to make a difference in the future that sprawls before me.

    It’s shrouded and uncertain, but it’s out there–this future.

    And I’ll never, ever reach it standing here.

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  • December23rd

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    From my family to yours…

    I pray this holiday season is full of laughter and joy for you and yours.

    For some, this Christmas will be darker than those in days past, and if you find yourself there, I pray your heart would know the light of revelation. The same revelation that came to the shepherds on that holiest of nights when a host of angels emerged from the skies singing,

    “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.”

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  • December21st

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     This post was inspired by my editor, Becky Monds. She’s been looking around for some good top ten lists on the internet, and I thought, “Hey! I need me one of those!”

    So here it is….

    My Top Ten Favorite Novels of 2011

    Disclaimer: I’m not through reading for the year and I have a few books on my ‘To Read’ list that could definitely vie for spots here. Also, depending on the day, any one of these books could be my favorite of the year. The order is really irrelevant. All ten of these books are awesome sauce.

    10. The Death Cure, James Dashner

    9. Words, Ginny Yttrup

    8. Ruby Red, Kerstin Gier

    7. Wither, Lauren DeStefano

    6. The Near Witch, Victoria Schwab

    5. Dust and Decay, Jonathan Maberry

    4. Hourglass, Myra McEntire

    3. There You’ll Find Me, Jenny B. Jones

    2. Enclave, Ann Aguirre

    1. A Crimson Warning, Tasha Alexander

    1. Across The Universe, Beth Revis

    1. The Girl of Fire & Thorns, Rae Carson

    Okay, okay, okay. This is the THIRD version of this list and I know it now has 12 titles, but I’m an author. I can’t count. Forgot a MAJOR fave and the list was just incomplete without it. Then I read The Girl of Fire & Thorns and since it’s still 2011, I had to add it. HAD TO!

    So….ta-da!

    Not surprisingly, young adult books feature fairly prominently on this list. Slightly more surprising is my recent obsession with zombies. Time travel and dystopian works also wormed their way into my heart. A couple contemporaries and a historical suspense round out  my favorites for the year.

    What have I missed, folks? I still have a good ten days before this year is out. Any must reads before the ball drops?

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