Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 is so over, let's look forward to 2016 !!

It's that time of year. A time when everyone begins to reflect on the past year. What have we accomplished and what haven't we accomplished? I personally finished a big goal, getting my Masters degree. I don't say that to brag. It's really just a fancy piece of paper. I was never wrapped up in getting another degree. My end goal was to get a new job, and if I happened to graduate that was just extra icing on the cake. 

Now, I have lots of extra free time. Free time that I'm often not sure what to do with. I had grand visions of using that time to catch up on my reading. It didn't happen. While I was in school, I spent every weekend chained to my desk and my laptop. At work, I look at words for most of the day. When the end of the day comes and it's time to wind down, I don't always want to look at more words. That's why I read the least amount of books, than I have in four years. My initial goal for 2015 was 40 books, but I lowered that to 30. I only read 27 books, I wish I could have read more. Some days I just did not want to read. I did not want to post anything on my blog. I continued to buy more books, but have read very few of them. Some days I really feel bad for slacking on my reading. 

I think I'm getting over my reading lull. Like many book bloggers, I want to do better in 2016. I know I will do better. I'm aiming high for 2016, with a goal of reading 75 books. It's an ambitious goal. I might not make it. The number isn't that important. What's important is that I have fun doing it.

Before I get to my reading resolutions for 2016, lets look back at 2015. I don't feel I read enough to do a best and worst books list. Instead, I focused on the best books I did read and tropes/cliches I'm tired of hearing about. 
Best books of 2015
(Please note, not all of these books were published in 2015. I just happened to read them in 2015)

1. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: I love, love historical fiction. This one is set during World War II. Two sisters are put to the test. Risking not just their freedom, but their lives.

2. Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid: What if fate gave you a chance to see yourself on two completely different paths?

3. The Martian by Andy Weir: Never thought I'd like a sci-fi book, but I did. It was funny all the way to the end, and so was the movie!
4. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: This one started out slow, but I loved it by the end. I have high hopes for the movie!

5. Evergreen Springs by RaeAnne Thayne: A sweet holiday romance!

6. Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan: I did not review this on my blog. This was an office book club pick. This one mixes music and magic. It's the story of how one harmonica played a pivotal role in the lives of three children.

7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: I read the whole series (did not review on the blog). I read all three books and watched the movies in preparation for the final movie. The first book is my favorite. I feel this one set the tone for the rest of the series.

8. George by Alex Gino: Another office book club pick (did not review on the blog). A little girl desperately wants to play the lead role in the school production of Charlotte's Web. But she's afraid to tell anyone. Why? This little girl was born a boy. I highly recommend it.

Tropes/Cliches I'm tired of hearing!!

"It's just like Gone Girl" "For fans of Gillian Flynn" "For fans of Gone Girl" "For fans of.......": No, no, no, no. Why can't books just stand on their own? Why constantly compare them to blockbuster books and authors? 

Love triangles in young adult books: While I loved The Hunger Games series, I was tired of the whole Peeta or Gale business. This trope seems to be in soooooooooo many YA books. It's time to retire it.

Print vs. digital: My personal opinion, print is not dead. But digital hasn't completely taken over either. Every year there is an argument that publishers should increase their digital initiatives, along with 20 more stories that print is the better option. Enough already!

Reading resolutions for 2016!
(other than the first one, the rest are listed in no particular order)

Read more of my own books: As in I must read more of the books I made the effort to search for and purchase. I spend hundreds of dollars every year on books, but I rarely read my own books. I put review books above my own TBR pile. That stops in 2016. Fifty percent of the books I read in 2016 have to be my own. That is one resolution I have to keep. How bad have I been at reading my own books? Take a look below:

2015: 5 out 27 books (18.5%) I read were my own
2014: 3 out of 37 books (8.1%) I read were my own
2013: 3 out of 60 books (5%) I read were my own
2012: 0 out of 76 books I read were my own

I suppose the silver lining here is that each year since 2012 I've read more of my own books. But still those numbers are abysmal. I vow to change that in 2016. I will still accept review books, but reading books I purchased will take priority.

Buy less books: This is a hard one. Continuing to buy books that I don't read is just not sustainable financially. I need more money in my wallet and buying books is a BIG drain on my wallet. For Christmas I did buy more books, but only with the gift cards I received. I think that's a good policy. Only buy books on special occasions (birthdays/holidays). This is really going to hurt. :(

Read more fantasy/sci-fi books: I need to step out of my comfort zone, and this is the genre I read the least. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin is at the top of my list (just ordered it online with a gift card). I heard her speak at a book event, and she really piqued my interest in fantasy books. 

Read more period: As I stated earlier, 27 books, in my opinion, is just such a small number. I have to do better.

Less social media, more reading: I don't post a lot on social media, except on those occasions when I like to snark on red carpet fashion (the Golden Globes are calling my name). I do waste far too much time on Twitter, scrolling through nonsense posts. It's such a time suck! Time to change that.

Read more e-books: I have several hundreds books on my Kindle and have read less than 10 of them.

Listen to an audiobook: I've had my Kindle for a couple of years and have yet to take advantage of the free audiobook that comes with it. I think it would be great to get a different perspective on reading. 

Read more non-fiction: I did not read a single non-fiction book in 2015. Dead Wake by Erik Larson is at the top of the list. Of course I bought it months ago, and it's been collecting dust.

Read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: I know the exact place I bought this, Penn Books (before it closed). I bought it three years ago. This is so sad. I don't have any desire to watch the TV show, but I feel out of the reading loop with this series. 

Read the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin: Now, I'm not a regular viewer of the show outside of short clips and I'm not a die hard fan waiting for the next book. But I feel this is another series that's required reading.

Read more Harry Potter books: I don't know how long ago I bought the hardcover box set, but I was still at my old job when I did. I haven't worked at my old job in more than four years. In that time, I have only read the first book. I don't remember a lot about the first book. So I know I have to hit the reset button and start from the beginning. When it was happening, Harry Potter mania was lost on me. I was in high school when the books started coming out and I just didn't get all the hype over a book. Now that I work in children's publishing, Harry Potter is a regular topic of conversation. I can't really relate, and the only way that's going to change is if I understand the hype.

That's it for resolutions. Here's to a successful 2016 all around!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My take on: Mastered

"Go assure Evangeline's roommates that she is perfectly all right, but she won't be be coming home tonight, or any other night for that matter. Inform them that she's moving in with me and will be in contact with them in the next day or two and will explain everything to them then." Pg. 79


Maya Banks isn't afraid to let her characters be bold and in control. Her latest book, Mastered, is no exception.

So why start with that quote? Because, in my opinion, that quote is the biggest WTF moment of the book. A wide-eyed, country girl comes to the big city (New York). She works her butt off working late-night shifts at a seedy bar. All to send money home to her parents. She never takes a moment for herself, which is a big attraction to a brooding and domineering millionaire playboy. After knowing each other for less than 24 hours, this man is convinced this wide-eyed girl is his next conquest.....his next submissive. It sounds insane that a person would want to "own" and "control" a relationship with another human being. But that is the world Drake Donovan lives in, and if Evangeline wants to be part of it she has to...submit. Yes this book is full of sex and passion (and a little BDSM).

Evangeline was recently dumped by her weasel of a boyfriend. Her friends hatch a plan for revenge. Send Evangeline, dressed to the nines, to the ultra-exclusive hot club in the neighborhood and let her weasel of a boyfriend see what he's missing. It sounds like a good plan, but things go bad quickly. Drake, the club owner, sends his beefy bodyguards to rescue Evangeline before she gets in over her head. One hot scene later between Drake and Evangeline and an instant connection is formed.

If you've read my reviews in the past, I'm not a fan of insta-love or in this case insta-lust. I wanted a little more buildup. A little more tension. A little more resistance on Evangeline's part before giving into Drake. A few fleeting moments of passion, and Drake is ready to literally possess Evangeline. He will take care of all of her financial needs now and in the future, all she has to do is give him what he wants. Does that make her a prostitute? No, but what could a man like Drake get out of this relationship? How long could an arrangement like this last? Who would get bored first? Or will they fall in love? Can a relationship built on domination and submission have a future?

This book isn't all sex all the time, there are some sweet moments. Drake doesn't like things that go against his plan. He likes control. Evangeline often resists or questions that control, even little things. After a whirlwind shopping spree, all at Drake's expense, Evangeline decides to return the favor by cooking dinner for him. Sounds simple, sounds nice. But for Drake, that's an action that goes against his plan. In his mind, Evangeline is woman who deserves to wined and dined. She doesn't need to wait on him. Drake gets over his initial angst, and devours the meal she cooked. A few moments of small talk over a meal offer a small glimmer into what a "normal" relationship between these two could look like. I found it to be a sweet moment. 

As a character, Evangeline is a person you would want in your corner. Although she's very naive, she will defend her family and friends down to her last breath. Drake is a bit of an enigma. He solves a lot of his problems with money, power, and sex. What kind of life is that without some balance? Evangeline is that balance. She could be the missing link to his life and vice versa, if they both want it. This is book one in a series, and given how it ended I will have to come back for book two. Drake and Evangeline are not done after just one book.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from Sullivan and Partners in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

My take on: Evergreen Springs

I rarely read holiday-themed books. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever read a holiday book. It takes a lot to soften my cynical heart and mind.....but I think RaeAnne Thayne did that with her book Evergreen Springs.

Evergreen Springs is the third book in Thayne's Haven Point series, but I didn't know that until I finished. This can totally be read as a standalone. For my first entry into the series, I smiled. I laughed. Some moments even made me go, "Awww!" If you believe in love and second chances, this book will definitely warm your heart.

Reformed town bad boy Cole Barrett is starting over. Cole, a former sex-crazed cowboy, is honing his skills as a horse trainer in the hopes that it will bring the family ranch back to prominence. Following the recent death of his ex-wife, Sharla, Cole is thrust into single parenthood. He's now raising his know-it-all, brooding, 8-year-old daughter, Jazmyn, and 6-year-old son, Ty. Sharla moved the kids around a lot and rarely let Cole see them. How does Cole reassure two grieving children that he's not going anywhere? How does he let them know that they're safe? If Cole tells Jazmyn to sit down, she stands up. He goes left, she goes right. One moment Jazmyn wants one thing and the next she wants another. Sounds like typical child behavior. But for Jazmyn she just can't let her father win. She can't trust him just yet. But Ty is just the opposite. He's the sweetest, most agreeable child a parent could want. Cole's estranged father, Stanford, is back in the picture. But a father-son reunion is just not in the cards right now. Cole has his hands full.

To make matters worse, Cole's pregnant sister, Tricia, has come to town. She's expecting twins and fleeing from a husband whom she's says doesn't want children. The stress lands Tricia in the hospital, where she will stay until it's time to deliver her children. To top it off, Christmas is just a few weeks away. Can Cole give his children the Christmas experience their childhood has been sorely lacking?

With all of that on his plate, Cole certainly doesn't have time for love. Right? Wrong? Love finds him when he's not even looking for it.

As fate would have it, the beautiful Dr. Devin Shaw is on call when Tricia is admitted to the hospital. Tricia and Devin are old friends, and as one of the town's most-respected doctors she is compelled to help not just her patient but her patient's family. Tricia lets Devin know all about Cole's struggles as a single parent. Of course Devin lends a helping hand. Several in the town rally around Cole and his children, cooking up meals that can last for weeks. Devin chips in with babysitting. Cole can't understand it. Why is the town helping him? Why is Devin helping him? Does she have an ulterior motive? Nope. These are just two lonely people who belong together, only they don't know it.

Devin brings out the best in Cole and his children. She knows when to be patient. She knows when to push. But she doesn't know how to guard her heart. She doesn't know how not to fall in love with this family. If Devin and Cole can just learn how to let the other in, everything will fall into place.

This wasn't an insta-love connection. It was slow and steady, which I loved. I hate it when characters are immediately attracted to each other. Books like that are just not believable. I believed in these characters. I rooted for these characters. I'm sure other readers will too!

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from Little Bird Publicity in exchange for an honest review.