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.


Speaking of books ...

Self-Promotion Saturday. Today through Wednesday, my first two ebooks, No Evil Lost and Whisper of Darkness, are part of Amazon's Kindle Countdown Deals--today they are 99 cents each. Prices go up by $1.00 each day until Thursday, when they return to their regular $9.99 price. If I've done this correctly, clicking on the titles below the covers should take you to the site listings.

No Evil Lost

Whisper of Darkness

Bargains. I am all about sales. You must not, however, confuse this concept with being all about shopping. I despise shopping. Loathe it. Cannot think of words strong enough to describe how I feel about "shopping". Unless, of course, you turn me loose in either a) a bookstore; or b) Hobby Lobby. This is where I start giggling like a fiend and rub my hands together in glee.

So, shopping. When we're talking about shopping online, for books? Oh, yeah, baby. Now I'm good. Last Christmas I bought books for everyone on our gift list. Boy, was that fun. I just might have to do that again, as a matter of fact (spoiler alert for you family members out there). But I digress.


The Nightstand Revisited

I have recently discovered that through no fault of my own, I have somehow missed the entire first quarter of 2015. I guess that old expression "time flies when you're having fun" is true, although the past three months seem to have flown by in such a blur that I'm not sure whether I was having fun or not.

In glancing back over the last few posts my beleaguered brain has figured out that I neglected to recap the second half of my June Writing Challenge, thereby leaving unfulfilled the promise I made to expound on the benefits said challenge brought me. It has also figured out that there are definitely those times of the year when I function at a higher level than others.