Home is where the ocean is.

“There’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.”
~Sarah Kay

How is it September already? Seriously … it is beyond my comprehension. Between having to skip our annual vacation at the shore in June and then spending the whole summer working on revisions for my book, it kind of seems like the season just slipped right on by without giving me a chance to soak it up. That’s why I was so especially grateful to have a week in Ocean City at the end of August. I’d been yearning for it like words can’t express – the feel of sunshine warming my face, the sound of the wooden boardwalk planks beneath my sneakers, the smell of the salty ocean air surrounding my soul, the sight of endless turquoise as I swam in the pool – and it felt particularly special this time. It was all the little bubbles of magic the seashore always sends fizzing up around me, but it was more than that, too. It was gratitude for the chance to be there when we thought it wouldn’t be possible at all this year. It was a celebration of sorts, a chance to breathe out, relax, and drink in the inspiration. I timed it so that my first round of edits was finished two days before we left, and though it felt incredibly strange not to be hanging out in Melina and Bradley’s world, it was also a much needed break from working so hard. Here are some of the sights that surrounded me:














Where did you go on vacation this year? Share a picture with me!

Piece by Piece.

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”
~John Wooden

It has been a week now since I started revisions on my book. I’ve gone through six chapters so far and have deleted just over three thousand words. That seems pretty good, right? Three thousand words from sixty pages is nothing to sneeze at, especially because I’ve also been adding in quite a few sections as I go along. But it’s not on par with where my deletion totals have been for the past couple novels – instead of cutting a thousand words per day, it’s usually been around half of that. It shouldn’t bother me. I know this. I know that each story is different, each creative process is different, each experience is different. That’s a good thing. It’d be awfully boring, wouldn’t it, if they were all the same? I think it’s hard not to compare, though. We’re constantly doing it, and, perhaps, constantly reminding ourselves not to do it. At least, I am.

And yet … I’ve still been eyeing my daily word count and stacking it up against previous ones. Until today. Because today, I realized something. It’s okay that there hasn’t been as much to trim from the edges of this story so far. There will be those wordy passages in the future, the scenes I can chop and the characters I can erase (yes … I am actually completely getting rid of at least one, perhaps two, and no, surprisingly this doesn’t make me nearly as sad as I thought it would, because I know it’s best for the story). With some books, I delete entire pages at once. With this one, I’m still spending hours on each chapter, but I seem to be mostly pulling from each individual sentence. I’m slimming it down piece by piece, one word at a time. I’m okay with that now – because, really, isn’t that often how our lives go? We create the foundation brick by brick. Each word written, each photo taken, each canvas painted, each application submitted … this is how we get from where we are to where we want to be. Dreams are real, and so are passions, but they’re built on hard work and the willingness to throw ourselves into the details with all the attention that we would give to the big and shiny main goal. Maybe that goal isn’t one huge thing, after all. Maybe, instead of a giant hot air balloon floating high above, it’s a hundred regular balloons with their strings dangling right in front of us. I’m content to grab them, one by one. I’d like to hold each of them in my hand for awhile before letting them soar into the limitless sky.

Piece by piece. That’s how we arrange the building blocks of our lives. That’s how everything grows. Sometimes the pieces are tiny. Sometimes they’re big. Sometimes they’re neat and symmetrical, sometimes they’re messy and uneven. But as long as each one is a part of us, I think that’s what matters most. We’re all a puzzle, right? Just like books have so many elements that come together to tell a story, we have so many elements that come together to tell our stories. It’s easy to forget that. So easy. Maybe even too easy.

So as I continue revising this book chapter by chapter, I’ll remember that. I’ll do my best to soak up every part of the journey and to give it the attention it deserves. This book will get there, and so will I … piece by piece.

Well, hello there.

“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.”

Surprise! I bet you all thought you’d never see a post from me again, right? I certainly don’t blame you. The fact that it’s been over two months since the last time I sat down to write in this space … well, honestly, it makes me sad. I’ve genuinely loved keeping up with this blog over the past six and a half years, and I’ve missed it – and you guys! – so much. It’s been such a strange year so far, both busy and trying at the same time, but I’m really hoping to get back into a regular blogging schedule now. I figured I’d begin with an update post of sorts, so …

What I’m Writing: I finished the first draft of my WIP last Tuesday, and oh my gosh, did I have such a great time with it. The ending of a novel is always my favorite part to write. There’s such a unique kind of magic about it, this sense of possibility and hope and inspiration all tied into one. Melina and Bradley’s story has been a delight to tell. I’m so proud of them for how far they’ve come and how much they’ve risked. The book may be about an election, but it’s not a candidate who ended up as the biggest winner — it’s me, for having the chance to hang out with these characters and go on their journeys with them. I’m taking a little time off right now, but I already can’t wait to dive into revisions. There are a lot to make, and I’m so very excited to jump in.

What I’m Reading: I haven’t had nearly as much time to read lately as I would’ve liked, but I did manage to squeeze in a couple great books. Katherine Center’s HAPPINESS FOR BEGINNERS and Sarah McCoy’s THE MAPMAKER’S CHILDREN top the list of my favorites so far this year. They are beautifully written, evocative and inspiring and emotional. I’m not surprised, because these two talented ladies are always on my “must read” list. Right now, I’m in the middle of Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS, which I’m very much enjoying, and next up is Sarah Pekkanen’s THINGS YOU WON’T SAY.

What I’m Listening To: Rachel Platten’s EP is on repeat lately – and it seems I’m not the only one who adores her music, because her single “Fight Song” hit #1 on the iTunes chart! I am so, so thrilled for her. It’s crazy to think that the same person I used to help sell merchandise for is now taking the world by storm – but I’m not at all surprised, because she is super talented and deserves every bit of this success. Her story is one that constantly serves as an encouragement to me. After working so hard at her dreams for thirteen years, after refusing to give up on herself and choosing to keep fighting and keep believing, those dreams are finally her reality. You’d better believe I use her story as an inspiration to keep writing my own!

What I’m Marveling At: Earlier this month, I had my ten year college reunion. I honestly can’t wrap my head around the fact that it’s been a decade. It was so nice to be back on campus again for the evening and to spend time with some of my favorite AUers — proof that, even though so many things change, so many others stay the same.

What I’m Wishing For: My heart is positively yearning to be at the shore. We always go for a week in June, but it didn’t work out this year — probably the time we needed it most, after the six months we’ve had, but hey, what can you do? My fingers are crossed that we’ll be able to make it down there for a little bit at the end of the summer, at least. I miss it fiercely and would do just about anything to feel the ocean air kissing my cheeks again.

What I’m Loving: This little guy right here. I adore my sweet jellybean. He’s my love bun and my furry best friend. Adopting him is the best thing I’ve ever done, and I am so grateful for the wonderful Luv-N-Bunns people it’s brought into my life. It’s a joy to work with them and to play even a small role in helping the bunnies.

Now tell me … what have you been up to lately?!


“Don’t look at the world with your hands in your pockets. To write about it, you have to reach out and touch it.”
~Mark Twain

The wonderful and talented Nikki tagged me in a Facebook post to share seven unknown facts about my writing. I liked the idea so much that I decided to write about mine here!

1. All of my books have at least one anecdotal experience or story woven into their pages. It usually involves one of the main characters and is just an extra little way for me to relate to them. Emily had the same college orientation activity that I did. Sofie has the same favorite musical (Wicked). Remi goes through a very similar journey with her writing. Charlotte adores the Jersey shore. Eden has a handmade blanket from her grandmom. Melina loves to read. Bradley volunteers at a rabbit rescue. Some are small details. Others are more significant. All of them make me feel closer to my characters.

2. I always like to write two chapters per week while drafting. It’s been my method for years now and seems to work really well. Sometimes it means I have to write on the weekends, if certain weekdays are dedicated to other things, but that’s okay. It’s really taught me how to be (somewhat) flexible with the writing process.

3. Each of my main characters has a theme song and each book has its own soundtrack/playlist. I can’t even begin to say how many times I listen to this music while working on the book. It helps to center me in the story.

4. Although fiction writing will always be my favorite, I genuinely enjoyed my time in journalism and also love every minute of working on the newsletter for the bunny rescue that I adopted Jasper from last year. All three kinds of writing are so different, and yet each has its own joys.

5. Every first draft I’ve ever written has been too long by thousands of words. I’ve just accepted the fact that my revisions will always involve a lot of deleting. At least the first drafts have gotten progressively less long as times goes on? That counts for something, right?

6. My love of creating writing was reignited by a General Hospital fanfiction story I wrote back in 2007 and 2008. I will always be so grateful for that experience, not only for the writing itself, but also because it brought some amazing friends into my life whom I’m still close with today.

7. If you add up all the pages I’ve written since starting the aforementioned fanfiction, the total would be over five thousand. Maybe none of those pages have been published yet, but I am (slowly) learning that there’s much to be proud of simply in the fact that they exist. My characters have become like family to me and my books like my babies, and no matter what happens, that will always make my heart sing.

Your turn! Share an unknown fact, either about your writing or something else!

Remember Me?

“Like a small boat on the ocean
Sending big waves into motion
Like how a single word can make a heart open
I might only have one match, but I can make an explosion.”
~Rachel Platten, “Fight Song”

Well, well, well … hello there. Remember me? I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. I think this just might be the longest I’ve gone without posting since I started this blog back in 2009. The universe hasn’t exactly been my friend as of late, and even though there were times when I really wanted to hang out in this space for awhile, other things took precedence. I do want to say thank you, though, to those of you who reached out — whether on here, through email, Twitter, text, etc — because your kindness was, and always is, so deeply appreciated. One of the things I adore most about writing is that it has such a cathartic quality to it, and truly, your sweet words have been like a hug for me. I’m so lucky to count you all among my friends.

Even though things have been rough lately, there have been some bright spots, too, so I thought I’d focus on those today. Because that’s what we have to do. We have to choose optimism and let our hope grow wings to lift us back up when it feels like we’re falling. One of the things keeping me afloat when everything seemed like it was going wrong? My new book. It’s been five weeks since I started drafting the story, and, one hundred pages in now, I’m so happy to say that I’m loving every minute of working on it. I’m trying out some different things this time – weaving in a mystery and writing half the story from a male’s perspective – but that’s just making it more of an adventure. Politics has been an interest of mine for a long time – I actually wanted to include political science as a major in college, but with two others, it just wasn’t feasible – and so I am having a blast incorporating that into this book, too. Experiencing that unique kind of life with Melina and Bradley, my main characters, has been eye-opening. Exciting. Enlightening. They both have very different approaches to politics, and to life in general, and that makes it such fun for me to hang out with them. It’s funny – every time I start a new novel, I feel like it will be impossible to grow as attached to the new characters as I did to all the previous ones. And then, every time, I’m proven wrong. I’m so looking forward to continuing on this journey with Melina and Bradley. They’ve already taken me by surprise quite a few times, and I can’t wait to see what other tricks they have up their sleeves.

Last weekend was also sunshine for the soul. On Saturday, I had the chance to see one of my favorite singers. Rachel Platten writes the kind of music that inspires. Encourages. Motivates. I always love her live performances, and this time was extra special. One of the songs in her setlist, Lone Ranger, is what I like to think of as Melina’s theme song in my book. The lyrics fit her so, so perfectly. And then there’s Fight Song, which Rachel wrote to get herself through a tough time. It’s her first single with Columbia Records, and I am thrilled it’s turning into a hit. The song deserves it. Rachel deserves it. Seriously, if you have a spare few minutes, go look it up and be inspired. I can’t even tell you guys how many times I’ve listened to it lately. It’s just what I’ve needed.


Then, on Sunday, I met Genie Francis. GENIE FRANCIS. Anyone who’s ever watched General Hospital will understand my excitement at meeting such a true television icon. I’ve been looking forward to her fan event since last summer, and it absolutely exceeded every one of my expectations. Genie is so, so sweet – hands down, one of the kindest and most genuine celebrities I’ve ever met. She sat with us at our table for a good ten minutes, asking our names, shaking our hands, and talking about anything and everything – and even telling me at one point that I must have read her mind! It was such a wonderful experience that I’ll always treasure.


And, of course, there’s my Jasper Jellybean. This past Thursday marks six months since I adopted him, and I am thankful every day for the joy this furry little love has brought into my world. I truly can’t imagine life without him.

Jasper Jellybean

Okay, I think that’s it for now. I’m really going to try to check in here more often again. I miss it. I miss you all, too. Tell me: what’s been going on in your lives lately? What bright spots have you gotten to celebrate?

A Confessionary Tale, Part 2.

“All art is a confession.”
~Gaston Lachaise

I confess that: I’ve been meaning to write a new blog post for weeks now, but life just kept on getting in the way. The stress of December and January doesn’t seem to want to let up now that it’s February (erm, make that almost March — how did that happen?!), but I’m hoping things will calm down soon so I can get back to writing here on a regular basis.

I confess that: I’m spending most of my free time these days with Jasper. After another stasis episode last weekend – even though everyone was so hopeful that the dental work would fix the issue – I really thought I was going to totally lose it. There doesn’t seem to be an answer for why this keeps happening, and that drives me crazy, because all I want is for my little guy to feel good always. Fingers crossed that was the last time he has to deal with GI stasis, ever.

I confess that: I was all set to start drafting my new book this week, but that it got put on hold for next week instead. Between a snowstorm and several nights of sleeping on the sofa, waking up every couple hours to check on the bun bun, I knew it wasn’t the right time to jump into a new story adventure. I want my head and heart to be fully in it, because I am so excited about this project. I’ve spent the past month planning out Melina and Bradley’s story – figured out last Friday that there’s actually a mystery involved! – and can’t wait to hang out in their world. It’s one of politics and patriotism, and I think it’s going to be so fun to explore.

I confess that: I like the snow, but I am getting supremely tired of the ridiculous cold weather we’ve had this winter. It’s so freezing that it literally hurts. The predicted wind chill this morning was -32. That is just not cool (well, actually, it’s downright frigid, but you know what I mean).

I confess that: I would love nothing more right now than to be at the shore. Even if it’s only for a day, even if all I can do is sit in a room and look outside … I am craving the thought of being seaside. Since that’s not possible, I look at pictures instead and pretend that I can hear the waves as they gently tumble against the coastline.

I confess that: I have been counting down the days until Madam Secretary returns on March 1st. It has quickly become one of my absolute favorite shows, and I’m so glad it was renewed for a second season! That show is actually part of why I decided to go with my politics book next, out of my whole list of choices, because it just makes me so excited to write about that unique atmosphere.

I confess that: I took a chance on buying nail polish at the dollar store (to say money is tight right now would be an understatement, and it was a brand I’d heard of before, so I figured it was worth a try) and really regret it. It stained my nails so badly that I had to put on two coats of another polish to cover it up, and you can still see the other color poking through in spots. Guess I’m going to have teal tinted nails for quite awhile. Lesson learned.

I confess that: I check my email way too many times throughout the day. You’d think that querying would be less anxiety-inducing after all these years, but nope. My heart still skips a beat whenever that inbox updates.

I confess that: I wish there was a switch to shut off my brain sometimes. It is constantly whirling, spinning, tumbling these days, and it’d be so nice to just zone out for a bit. I can’t wait for the weather to get warmer so I can start going for long walks again, because that’s my time to just let it be … to just let myself be.

I confess that: I’m kind of tempted to go to Rita’s Water Ice for their seasonal opening today, even though it’s currently 16 degrees out. Since I don’t want to freeze my insides, I think I’ll stay home and go for some hot cocoa instead.

Your turn! What do you confess?

Since I Last Posted …

“May your new ideas feel like sunrise.”
~Danielle LaPorte

(I imagine that title being sung to the tune of Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone.” Is her song now stuck in your head like it is in mine? You’re welcome.)

I truly didn’t intend to go two and a half weeks without posting, but somehow the days have just been whizzing by. It’s strange, because time also seems to be moving quite slowly. It’s a bizarre juxtaposition that I can’t quite figure out. Today is a snow day, though, a sort of wrinkle in time, and I’m glad for the chance to sit down and catch up. Here’s what I’ve been up to since I last posted:

* Keeping a very, very, very close eye on the bunny boy. Jasper had another stasis episode two weeks ago – thankfully the most mild of the three, and the wonderful director of the bunny rescue happened to be around the corner from my home at the time, so she dropped everything to come help out. I couldn’t possibly be more grateful for her kindness. It happened during the week this time, so I was able to take Jasper to his regular vet, who suggested dental work to trim two of his teeth. They’d gotten a bit long, and since that often contributes to stasis in rabbits, we scheduled the procedure for the following Tuesday. It was such a nerve-wracking day, sitting by the phone and waiting for them to call with an update. Jasper did great, but it took him a couple days to feel like himself again after the anesthesia. I just hated to see him so sad and out of sorts. He didn’t want to do much of anything at first, not even eat, so I ended up staying up with him almost all night and hand-feeding him hay one piece at a time. Exhausting as it was, I’d do anything for my furry little love. He’s since returned to binkying and happy-flopping – his new favorite place to do that is between my feet, which melts my heart! – and I’m praying that this is the end of the stasis problem for a long time to come.

* Starting to plan my new book! This has been interrupted on more than one occasion, mostly due to needing to keep a constant watch on the bun bun, but I’ve been having such a good time with it so far. I mostly have general ideas jotted down as of now, and I also did a full character sketch of my new MC (or possibly one of two new MCs – I’m toying around with the idea of doing another dual POV story) Melina. I’m really excited about her. She’s spunky and confident, determined and passionate about making the world a better place. There are so many hidden layers to her, though, and it’s going to be fun watching them unravel – and, hopefully, finding a way to be tie them together in a new design. I’ve wanted to incorporate political science into a story for a long time now (Melina works as a staff member for a candidate running for election), and I can’t wait to dive into writing this. I have another two weeks or so of planning first, but then it’ll be drafting time again. I’m already so eager to type, type, type!

* Revisiting WATERCOLORS. Another reason I had to put a temporary hold on the new project is that I’ve spent this week back in Eden’s world. I’ve been doing some extra research so I can add a new scene to the book. It’s been awhile since I got to hang out with Eden, and maybe this sounds corny, but in a way it really is like going home. I think that’s one of the things I love most about writing, that it allows me to carve out memories in so many different places. If I ever go to Atlanta again, it’ll remind me of Sofie, Brandon, and their kids. The Jersey shore will bring Charlotte and Nolan to mind, and Nantucket – because somehow, some way, someday, I will get to Nantucket – will make me think of Remi and Eli. Nashville is for Eden and all the people who fill her life with song. Physically, Pennsylvania is home, but how lucky am I to have a piece of my heart in so many wonderful places across the country? Writing has done that for me, and I’m so grateful.

* Learning how to put together a newsletter. I’m taking over the bi-monthly newsletter for Luv-N-Bunns, the rescue I adopted Jasper from, and am so excited about it! I met with the woman who’s been writing it for the last year and a half so she could teach me the program and show me the ropes, and as soon as I’m finished with these new revisions for WATERCOLORS, I’m going to jump in and start working on the first of the two February editions of the newsletter. I’m hoping to add a feature that highlights a bunny who’s been adopted … anyone want to guess which rabbit will be the first in the spotlight? :)

* Enjoying the snow! After the insanity of last winter, this one has been fairly calm in terms of precipitation. We didn’t get much measurable snow at all, in fact, until this past weekend. The huge storm that was supposed to hit us last night ended up switching tracks, so we only got an additional four inches or so, but it was still beautiful to watch. I even went out to take a short walk this morning while the flakes were still falling from the sky and floating around like a real-life snow globe.

How about you guys? What have you been up to lately?

Let It Out.

“Do it with passion or not at all.”

It has been a tough few weeks.

Anyone who knows me knows that I always try my best to be optimistic, to search for the ray of light in the darkness and the glimmer of positivity hidden amidst the challenges. But this past month or so … it has been one thing after another. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, then you know that one of those things has been my sweet bunny boy. GI stasis is a relatively common issue in rabbits – basically, they develop a blockage that prevents their digestive tract from functioning properly – and if not caught quickly, it can have dire consequences. So when, right before our family Hanukkah party, I noticed that Jasper was just kind of moping around and refusing to eat anything, even his favorite foods, I leapt into action. It was a Sunday, which meant his regular vet was closed, so off to the emergency vet we rushed, my poor little guy huddled in his carrier and his Ma terrified beyond belief. And when the doctor confirmed my suspicions? I nearly lost it. I did lose it when the vet tech got ready to take Jasper back to be admitted. He’d have to stay at least overnight, maybe longer, and I was a ball of nerves – fright and sadness and anxiety all rolled into one. The tech was kind enough to wait a minute so I could say goodbye to Jasper for the night, and, well … I sobbed. Huge tears. Crocodile tears. Tears that gushed down my face and inside my coat. I literally could not control it. It was so bad that the tech actually left the carrier with me on the exam table while she searched the room for tissues to give me. In the moment, I didn’t care. My only focus was on Jasper. On the drive home, though, I thought about how ridiculous I must have looked, bawling my eyes out like that in front of a stranger. But when I went back to visit Jasper the next day, the tech couldn’t have been sweeter. And I realized something: showing such deep emotion isn’t a bad thing. It isn’t something to be ashamed of or embarrassed by. It’s the opposite.

Despite me watching him practically 24/7 and doing everything in my power to take care of him, my Jaspy unfortunately had another stasis episode last weekend, and, again, I melted down while trying to get him into his carrier to go back to the vet. This time, though, I made no apologies. I was less of a mess when dropping him off, but only because I knew what to expect this time and inherently trusted that he’d get the same wonderful care. He’s home again now, thank goodness, he has been since Monday, and I’ve adjusted his diet and bought a fancy new brush called the Furminator (because that’s one of the causes of stasis, when the bunny ingests too much fur while grooming, which is what the vet thinks happened with my boy) to hopefully avoid him ever having to go through this again. Knowing he was in pain broke my heart. Having to leave him temporarily shattered me. How could I not have cried? That bunny hopped his way into my world and I never looked back. I love him more than words can say, and so, even though I felt like a fool after that first breakdown, I also understand it. We cry, we smile, we cheer, we sing and dance and clap (all of which I’ve done since Jasper has been home, because I am just so thrilled and relieved to see him back to his energetic, mischievous, binkying self) because we care. We should never censor that. Caring is a good thing. A wonderful thing.

That got me thinking: the same is true for writing. I talk so much on here about how querying is a roller-coaster ride, but in actuality, the climbs and drops begin way before that. From the very moment I crack open a fresh journal to start planning a new book, my heart is in it completely. I become invested in my characters and their stories. When they hurt, I hurt. When they make bad choices, I feel for them. And when they triumph over the odds, I swell with pride. Sometimes, when the words don’t flow easily or the plot seems to smack against a brick wall, I get so frustrated. I want to scream, or flip the lid of my laptop closed, or reach into the screen and ask the characters for help. That’s the thing about writing: it is full of highs and lows. They are tied together, a delicate balance we perhaps don’t even realize we’re weaving, and it’s probably impossible to have one without the other. But, again, I’m really coming to learn that this is actually a positive. That I feel so much because I adore these book babies. One of my favorite things about writing is watching a character grow. I love when they put their hearts on the line, when they stand up for what they believe in and fight to make their own luck. I love when their emotions flow from their souls to mine. So why shouldn’t I love it when the opposite happens?

I’m not going to be apologetic anymore for wearing my heart on my sleeve. Sometimes we all need to keep things inside, but letting it out is so cathartic. I needed to cry when my Jaspy boy was sick. I needed to get frustrated with my last book, because that pushed me to rework it, to revise it four times, and to be truly proud of the finished version. I’m starting to plan a new novel next week – more on that soon! – and, I know, I will need to get emotional over that story, just as I have with all those that came before it.

I will let my feelings show, and I’ll be okay with that. But hey, Universe? I’ll also be okay with you chilling out now. Sometimes peace and happiness are awesome emotions to feel, too.

Best Books, 2014.

“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.”
~Neil Gaiman

It’s time for one of my favorite annual posts — my “best of books” for 2014! I always look forward to compiling this list each December. There’s something special about having the chance to reflect back on all the stories that have touched my heart over the past twelve months, the characters and anecdotes that have resonated far beyond their pages. It’s proof, I think, that each book holds a world of possibility and a twinkle of magic somewhere inside its spine — and inside its words. And so, without further ado, here are some of my favorites from this year:

The Baker's DaughterMemoirs of an Imaginary FriendYou Knew Me When

Catching AirYes PleaseThe Longest Ride

The Baker’s Daughter – Sarah McCoy: I’ve written about this book before, so you already know how much I adore it. Even though I read this story back in April, I’m being completely honest when I tell you that it still runs through my mind often. Reba and Elsie, they are the kind of characters you root for. The kind of characters you care about. The kind of characters that inspire you. I have a soft spot for books that feature a dual narrative, and it was such a joy to hear not only about Reba’s and Elsie’s individual journeys – in present-day Texas and WWII era Germany, respectively – but also about the one they forged together after Reba visits Elsie’s German Bakery to interview its owner. The lessons she learns are profound, and the feelings this beautiful story evokes are the kind that positively fill you up as a reader.

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend – Matthew Dicks: I was absolutely captivated by this book. It is so special, so clever, so tender and enlightening and poignant. It’s different from the type of story I normally read, but oh my gosh, you guys, I couldn’t put it down for anything. I sped through it faster than any other book this year, because I simply had to know what happened next for sweet, creative, brave little Max and his imaginary friend Budo. Watching them both come into their own, seeing them grow and spread their wings … it’s a gift for the reader. This might be a story about a child, but when you look at the world through his eyes – and through the eyes of the imaginary friend who pushes him to have more courage than he even thought possible – I promise, you’ll learn a lot about your own world, too.

You Knew Me When – Emily Liebert: This book has been on my to-read list for a long time, and I’m so glad I finally dove into its pages this year. I truly loved every word. This is a story about life and love, but mostly it’s a story about friendship. Getting to watch as Katherine and Laney’s friendship grows – they meet when Katherine moves two doors down from Laney as an eleven-year-old – and then dissolves when a massive roadblock wedges its way into the journey of their sisterhood, it is a treat. Emily does such a lovely job of writing about both the past and present, and tying them together in meaningful ways. I was rooting for Katherine and Laney from start to finish, and I adored the presence of the neighbor who lived between them. Luella was an important part of the girls’ past, and I love that, even though she’s passed away, she gave them one final gift — a hope for their future.

Catching Air – Sarah Pekkanen: For those of you who have been reading my blog over the years, it’ll come as no surprise that Sarah’s on this list. She is every year, because her books are the kind that take us directly into her characters’ homes … hopes … hearts. This story is one of my favorites of all of hers. It’s such fun to join Kira, Peter, Alyssa, and Rand as they open a B&B in Vermont — to see them not only navigate the ups-and-downs of this new business venture, but also the ups-and-downs of their personal lives, including the possibility of adding not one, but two little heartbeats into the fold. And then there’s Dawn, the woman who seeks shelter in their bed and breakfast. These characters are so real, so true. One of my favorite things about Sarah’s books is that they invite you in and let you experience their magic. That’s exactly what happened here, and it left me feeling inspired to catch some air of my own.

Yes Please – Amy Poehler: This is, hands down, one of my favorite memoirs I’ve ever read. Amy’s book is full of humor and wit, but also grace and intelligence. I’m not exaggerating when I say I had six different passages bookmarked within the first two chapters. Hearing about Amy’s life, about her plethora of amazing experiences, was so cool, but what I loved most was her insight into the writing world and her advice on saying “yes, please” to a life full of inspiration. She is strong, she is determined, she is confident … but she’s also not afraid to admit when she’s wrong, to acknowledge that there will always be so much more to learn. I listened to her words of wisdom in the audiobook version, and if you guys like those at all, I highly recommend it. Amy narrates the book herself, and there are some special extras thrown in, too. It adds another dimension, because not only is Amy a wonderful writer, but also a fabulous storyteller.

The Longest Ride – Nicholas Sparks: Would you believe this was my first Nicholas Sparks novel? It won’t be my last, though! This is another dual perspective book, the story alternating between Ira – an elderly man who has gotten into a car accident and is relying on a lifetime of memories with his dear wife Ruth to keep him holding on – and Luke and Sophia, the couple who find his car off the side of the road. Ira’s sections, in particular, had me spellbound. What a fantastic character Nicholas created in him, and oh my gosh, what a heartwarming love story he had with Ruth. It’s the kind of bond that brings tears to your eyes. And when the two stories intertwine at the end? It’s in such a fitting, beautiful way. I’ve stayed away from Nicholas’ books in the past because I know they often have sad endings, but this one was different. There was hope woven through every page, love threaded through every word.

Okay, now it’s your turn: what are your favorite books of 2014?