2016 Book Reports (Issue #4)

This is my view, most mornings, from the kitchen table, where I like to sit with my coffee and my laptop and do this fun thing we call writing. When it's warm enough I open the windows a crack and enjoy the birdsong (and occasionally the dogbark). I have a study, but right now the place is in desperate need of some general housekeeping, i.e., there is stuff everywhere that needs to be sorted, organized, and either put or thrown away. One of these days I may get up the gumption to do just that. For now, I'm sitting at the kitchen table, enjoying the view, and posting my 2016 "A list".

TitleAuthorSeries (if applicable)
A Discovery of WitchesDeborah HarknessAll Souls Trilogy (#1)
Shadow of NightDeborah HarknessAll Souls Trilogy (#2)
Dead and BuriedLeighann DobbsBlackmoore Sisters Mysteries (#2)
Dead TideLeighann DobbsBlackmoore Sisters Mysteries (#3)
Buried SecretsLeighann DobbsBlackmoore Sisters Mysteries (#4)
Deadly IntentionsLeighann DobbsBlackmoore Sisters Mysteries (#5)
A Grave MistakeLeighann DobbsBlackmoore Sisters Mysteries (#6)
Spell FoundLeighann DobbsBlackmoore Sisters Mysteries (#7)
The Gauguin ConnectionEstelle RyanGenevieve Lenard Mysteries (#1)
The Dante ConnectionEstelle RyanGenevieve Lenard Mysteries (#2)
Lovestruck in LondonRachel SchurigLovestruck Series (#1)
Thirty-Two Going on SpinsterBecky MonsonSpinster Series (#1)
Thirty-Three Going on GirlfriendBecky MonsonSpinster Series (#2)
Thirty-Four Going on BrideBecky MonsonSpinster Series (#3)
Dragon RoseChristine PopeTales of the Latter Kingdoms (#2)
The Best Is Yet to ComeTamie DearenThe Best Girls (Novella-Prequel)
Her Best MatchTamie DearenThe Best Girls (#1)
Best Foot ForwardTamie DearenThe Best Girls (#4)
On the RocksKim LawTurtle Island Novels (#3)
An Aria of OmensPatrice GreenwoodWisteria Tearoom Mysteries (#3)
Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildJK Rowling
Reinventing MonaJennifer Coburn

I'm currently reading The Book of Life, the third and final book of the All Souls Trilogy, and loving it just as much as the first two. As you can see, I definitely loved the Blackmoore Sisters stories--as a matter of fact, I binge-read them on Kindle in something like three days. Entertaining stuff.

The Genevieve Lenard mysteries were unique and well-written, and the Spinster series was just as cute as can be. Still in my Kindle library are books #2 and #3 in the Best Girls series, a nice bunch of romances featuring a nice bunch of colorful characters.

Unlike my otherwise HP-loving offspring, I enjoyed reading The Cursed Child, not because it was Harry Potter but because it was so different and yet so much like the original series. JK Rowling is an amazing writer, no question.

Next post I'll share the four absolute best books I read last year. In the meantime, read a book. It's good for you.


2016 Book Reports (Issue #3)

Oh, so close. Or, you liked me; you really, really liked me! I was fortunate enough in 2016 to read a LOT of books that I really, really liked. Hence the A- category description. Of course, when you get into the top tier (A-, A, A+) there are so many fine-line distinctions between what makes a book "really good" and what makes it "fantastic" that sometimes it's a little difficult for me to decide which side of the line I'm falling on. I will say that the A+ books (for which you will have to be patient for only two posts longer) really did stand out for me, even as I read them, but we'll talk about that more in detail soon.

Because I had so many A- books on the 2016 list, I'm not going to expound too much today but rather list them (in alphabetical order by series), and you can look them up if you feel led to do so. Suffice it to say that I would most definitely recommend that you put at least a few of these on your TBR pile, if you haven't read them already.

Without further ado, the A- list:

TitleAuthorSeries (if applicable)
Charlotte's StoryLaura Benedicta Bliss House novel
A Touch of TNTLJ CharlesEverly Gray Adventures (#2)
To Touch a ThiefLJ CharlesEverly Gray Adventures (#2.5)
A Touch of the PastLJ CharlesEverly Gray Adventures (#3)
The Celtic DaggerJill PatersonFitzjohn Mysteries (#1)
Murder on the HillKennedy ChaseHarley Hill (#1)
Murder on the PageKennedy ChaseHarley Hill (#2)
Hot PropertySusanne O'LearyKerry Romance Series (#1)
Killer CupcakesLeighann DobbsLexy Baker Cozy Mysteries (#1)
Dying for DanishLeighann DobbsLexy Baker Cozy Mysteries (#2)
Lovers at HeartMelissa FosterLove in Bloom-The Bradens (#1)
EvensongKrista WalshMeratis Trilogy (#1)
EventideKrista WalshMeratis Trilogy (#2)
EvenlightKrista WalshMeratis Trilogy (#3)
The Baron and the BluestockingGG VandagriffSix Rogues and Their Ladies (#6)
Welcome to ParadiseRosalind JamesThe Kincaids Series
Place Your BettsKatie GraykowskiThe Marilyns (#1)
Winters HeatCristin HarberTitan Series (#1)
Don't Marry Thomas ClarkCelia Hayes
Gone GirlGillian Flynn
Saving Saffron SweetingPauline Wiles
There Are No MenCarol Maloney Scott

I will say that I'm really glad I finally read Gone Girl, after having been encouraged to do so by a great number of fellow readers. Probably won't see the movie because I'm not sure I can get my head wrapped around the whole thing as playing out in front of me in real time. But still. An excellent read. If you haven't gone there...well, go there. It's worth it.

I mentioned in the B+ post the pair of trilogies by Krista Walsh about the author who finds himself transported into his created world. The Meratis Trilogy mentioned above is the beginning of that series, and I liked it just a little bit better than its sister Cadis Trilogy simply for the premise and how Walsh so deftly handled the back-and-forth, consequences of our actions aspect. If you like inter-dimensional travel and the whole good-versus-evil fantasy kind of stuff, you might like these.

So, let's talk books. Has anyone read any of my A- listers? If so, what did you think? Are there any you've read that might land in this category that you'd recommend? You know I'm always looking for something to read.

Until next time, you know what to do. It's good for you!


2016 Book Reports (Issue #2)

The B+ ("liked it a lot") lot. When I was introduced to BookBub I was pretty sure I'd found book lovers' paradise. I could get a bazillion ebooks if I wanted them, for pennies. A bazillion is a lot of books. Most of the treasures I found last year were parts of various and sundry series. Several of these series feature on today's report, the 12 books I awarded my B+ LIKED IT A LOT grade.

I'm a big fan of fantasy, especially if it involves magic. (You do know I'm obsessed with Harry Potter, right?) One of the series I found really intrigued me because of the setting--a fantasy author found himself magically transported into his own story. Havoc ensued. It was pretty cool. The second "half" of the double trilogy by Krista Walsh--the Cadis Trilogy: #1 Bloodlore, #2 Blightlore, and #3 Bladelore--was a little less appealing due to what seemed to me like an overabundance of violence (think, holy crow could there be any more blood?), but I still liked it well enough to give it a good, solid read kind of rating. The central character of the Cadis stories was introduced in the first trilogy (which made the A- list, to be presented in a future report), and I really liked her spunk, determination, and solidly drawn human/sympathetic persona. I applauded Walsh for making Venn the protagonist of three additional stories set in the magical, fictional world of Feldall.

Another of my favorite finds was a set of three books in The Dark Citadel series by Michael Wallace (#1 The Dark Citadel, #2 The Free Kingdoms, and #3 The Golden Griffin). As it turns out, there are more books to this series, and I'm looking forward to downloading those for this year's reading challenge. There's magic, war, good versus evil, and all sorts of interesting and colorful characters, both human and creature, that appeal to my escapist needs.

Two of the books in the B+ category were standalone contemporary romances: A Negotiated Marriage (Noelle Adams) and Wicked Good (Susan Kiernan-Lewis). Very cute, enjoyable reads with unique and entertaining plots. I especially liked A Negotiated Marriage for its sexy fun, push-and-pull romance.

The remaining four books on today's report were each one of a series, with French Twist by Glynis Astie, Honeymoon for One by Lily Zante and 15 Minutes by Jill Cooper each being the first of their respective series, and Romancing Lady Stone by Delilah Marvelle being the sixth in a series of seven. French Twist and Honeymoon for One fall into the cute romance category, 15 Minutes is an interesting time-travel adventure, and Romancing Lady Stone is a historical romance, part of the School of Gallantry series by Marvelle that features ladies and gentlemen in the truest sense, 19th century style.

As you can see my list covers a fair variety of genres, so if you particularly like a specific genre, I can endorse any of the above list as recommended reading for whatever your taste. All are available on Amazon. All are enjoyable reads worth a few hours of cozy happy reading time.

Like I always say, read a book. It's good for you.


2016 Book Reports (Issue #1)

Disclaimer: A quick note about my "grading scale" (see right). I try to be as objective as possible when I read. But I am a writer, and sometimes I can't help but critique just a little bit. My grading scale is based on my own personal opinion of the book itself, including the writing, story, flow, and even presentation - I mean, really, don't we all agree that an inordinate amount of typos might possibly suggest the book could have used at least one more once-over? I also try not to up-mark a book just because I know or have met the author. I want anyone who reads my books to be honest about what they think, positive or negative. Constructive criticism is a good thing. It makes us better writers. It makes us better, period.

So, as I mentioned in my most recent post, I read 72 books in 2016. In this series of reports, I'll list the books I read and the grades I gave them. You know, in case you're interested.

At some point in keeping my spreadsheet up to date last year I completely lost track of which books I read when. I finally settled on a list that included title, author, series (if applicable), grade and notes. For the purposes of these reports, I sorted the list by grade, from A+ down to C. Today's Book Report starts at the bottom of the list.

It's rare, really, that I read a book I'm not crazy about. Two of the 72 on my 2016 list rated in the "C" category. It's not that I really didn't like them, it was just that they weren't the best books I read last year. She Sins at Midnight by Whitney Deneen earned a C+, narrowly edging out Daisy McDare and the Deadly Directorial Affair by K.M. Morgan, which I gave a solid C. Both books were fairly promising on the jacket, but didn't quite meet my expectations. Both had rather cartoonish characters and kinda clunky, cheesey plots, but one of the reasons I thought She Sins at Midnight was just a tiny bit better was that I thought it could've been salvaged with some sharper editing.

The one book I gave a B- was Ann Patchett's Commonwealth. I'd not read one of Patchett's books before, and I liked her style, but the problem I had with the story (our book club December selection) was that I read the book jacket, then read the book, then had to read the book jacket again before I got it.

The remaining 9 books on today's roster each received a B:
  • Helen Conrad's Destiny Bay Romance-Forever Yours series #1-3 (My Little Runaway, Wife for a Night, and Too Scared to Breathe)
  • Return of the Dragons (Teddy Jacobs)
  • The Housewife Assassin's Handbook (Josie Brown)
  • Elements of Chemistry Part 1: Attraction (Penny Reid)
  • The Blind Date (Delaney Diamond)
  • Reckless (Susan Kiernan-Lewis)
  • The Valentine Circle (Reinaldo DelValle)

With the exception of Commonwealth, all of these books were electronic. While I love holding an actual book in my hand, I've discovered that I actually read ebooks a little faster. Maybe it's the smaller screen, and the fact that it only takes a little swipe of my finger to move to the next page without having to worry about ripping paper or breaking the spine (I hate that, by the way). But let's not start that discussion. Has anyone else read any of the books listed in today's Report? If so, do you agree or disagree with my ratings?

Next time we'll take a look at the B+ books - of which, coincidentally, there are 12. No, I didn't plan it that way. That's just the way it turned out. Really. You should see my crazy spreadsheet.

In the meantime, read a book. It's good for you!


New Year / New Goals

Seasons of change. Since my last post in 2015, there have been a few major changes in my personal life which, in turn, affected my writing life. In June that year, the WGH made a job/career change that forced us to take a step back and re-evaluate our household budget. We addressed the possibility of leaving what we thought was going to be our forever home. I accepted the idea that I might have to return to work full-time. On the heels of that upheaval, my mother was diagnosed with stage IV adenocarcinoma of the lung and passed away less than two weeks later.

As you can imagine - and I hope understand - I shut down. For quite some time.

Fortunately, by the grace of God, things worked out so that we were able to stay in our beloved house, and I am still working part-time (and still affectionately call it "the day job"). Thanks also to a whole lot of moral support, the official labeling of my seasonal affective disorder, and a little bit of extra medication, I began to emerge from what was threatening to become a deep, dark pit. I started taking the small steps necessary to bring myself back to ... well, myself. I fell into the practice of reminding myself on a daily basis of how blessed I am and how many, many, many more people are worse off than I am. The broken record found its way back to the gramophone. I learned to take time for me, to decompress, and to let myself set goals that were more realistic.

Back to the bookshelf. After leaving the rabbit hole behind, I determined to continue my reading challenges, but I didn't want to pressure myself. Reading for me is reading for pleasure. So "a book a week" became "as many books as I can read in a year" and as a result of lifting the top off the goal, I managed to read 72 books in 2016. Yep, seventy-two. Crazy, right? I found some new authors I like and was able to read more new books by authors I've loved for years.

The next step on my journey back was that I started getting out and about, doing author things again. I went to a couple of fellow writer friends' events, had a couple of productive writing days with my sister from another mister, and even joined a local, newly-formed book club.

Aaaand ... the writing. There comes a time in every writer's life when she has to decide to sit down and work. About six months or so after my mom died, I opened up the laptop again and started picking a bit at the WIP. Bounced a few ideas off J.T., who always encourages me to just go for it and see if it works, revisited some old ideas from our former writers' group, and realized there is something salvageable in this mess I was beginning to hate.

Wiggle room. The WGH and I are officially empty-nesters now, as The Tall One and Little Bit moved from our house to their own place. Two of our five dogs went with them, leaving us with a bit more room, a bit less mess, and me with a bit more free time on my hands. I'm settling (finally) into some semblance of routine again, and taking a few minutes each day to reconnect with my inner artist. There are projects on the shelves that are going back on the new to-do list, but in the spirit of my new goal scheme I've spent a few minutes mapping out long-term and short-term goals, based upon which I'll cobble together my weekly to-do lists. The only thing that could possibly throw a bit of a monkey wrench into my plans is the impending arrival of our first grandchild in June: The Boy and his Lovely Bride surprised us with that announcement last month!

All things considered and obstacles notwithstanding, as my Sister(FAM) advises I'm going to go for it and see how it works. I hope you'll check in on my every so often and see how I'm doing.

In the meantime, read a book. It's good for you.