What I’m Reading: 2016 in books

I am very happy to annouce that I managed to read 41 of a 40 book challenge in 2016.  As usual my list included quite alot of romance, but I can assure you it wasn’t from lack of trying to find other interesting books.  There were several that I attempted that just did not peak any interest.

Justin Cronin’s, The Passage, for instance, I decided I just could not bear to finish.  That’s saying something.  If I give an author over 500 pages to conclude a plot in the first book of a trilogy and they still can not figure out where they are going with it, well, I have to start questioning the editor and publisher that picked it for public consumption.  It was an intense book and then a little over half way through it just came to a dead stop and switched gears.  The change in plot and characters was so abrupt that it felt like starting a new book. The only joy I took from discovering it was reading some of the reviews on Goodreads.  I was not alone in my opinion. But yeah.  It wasn’t all fun in literary land last year.

Without further ado here is my book list from 2016 (red highlights indicate excellent reads):

18966806 1. Smoldering Hunger, Donna Grant – paranormal romance
2. Moonlight Masquerade, Jude Deveraux – contemporary romance
3. The Eye of the World (EotW #1), Robert Jordan – epic fantasy
4. Morning Star, Pierce Brown – YA SciFi
5. The Great Hunt (EotW #2), Robert Jordan – epic fantasy
6. Ready Player One, Ernest Cline – SciFi
7. Dark Alpha’s Embrace, Donna Grant – paranormal romance
8. The Dragon Reborn (EotW #3), Robert Jordan – epic fantasy
9. Falling Into Bed With a Duke, Lorraine Heath – historical romance
10. The Midwife’s Apprentice, Karen Cushman – juvenile fiction/classic
11. Smoke & Fire, Donna Grant – paranormal romance
12. And Invitation to Sin, Suzanne Enoch – historical romance
13. Something Sinful, Suzanne Enoch – historical romance
14. Sins of a Duke, Suzanne Enoch – historical romance
15. An Affair to Remember, Karen Hawkins – historical romance
16. The New Shade Garden, Ken Druse – non-fiction, gardening
17. Nightfall, Jake Halpern – YA horror/fantasy
18. Wolf Hollow, Lauren Wolk – YA fiction
19. Strawberry Girl, Lois Lenski – juvenile fiction/classic
20. The Passage, Justin Cronin – fantasy/dystopian – DID NOT FINISH
21. Outrun the Moon, Stacey Lee – YA fiction/historical
22. Confessions of a Scoundrel, Karen Hawkins – historical romance
23. All the Right Places, Jenna Sutton – contemporary romance
24. Little Black Dress (bookshots), James Patterson – fiction
25. Cross Kill (bookshots), James Patterson – fiction
26. Chase (bookshots), James Patterson – fiction
27. ZOO, James Patterson – fiction
28. ZOO 2 (bookshots), James Patterson – fiction
29. Perfect, Judith McNaught – contemporary romance
30. Hogwarts: A Complete and Unreliable Guide (Pottermore #3), J.K. Rowling – YA fantasty
31. Ten Dollar Dinners, Melissa d’Arabian – non-fiction/cookbook
32. Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies (Pottermore #1), J.K. Rowling – YA fantasy
33. Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists (Pottermore #2), J.K. Rowling – YA fantasy
34. The Secret of the Old Clock, Carolyn Keene – juvenile mystery
35. How to Treat a Lady, Karen Hawkins – historical romance
36. Lady in Red, Karen Hawkins – historical romance
37. Just One Damn Thing After Another, Jodi Taylor – YA fiction/fantasy
38. And the Bride Wore Plaid, Karen Hawkins – historical romance
39. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver – non-fiction – DID NOT FINISH
40. Blood Lance, Jeri Westerson – historical mystery
41. Only Time Will Tell (The Clifton Chronicles #1), Jeffery Archer – fiction historical

While I didn’t make it through the entire Eye of the World series, I did manage to get to book #4 (where I’m currently stalled because epic fantasy can really become a grind sometimes).  I’ll continue my slog through it, but won’t try to hold myself to finishing the whole series in one calendar year.

Read what you love!

What I’m Reading: Wolf Hollow

26026063This book is a solid, well written coming of age story and if it’s not being considered for a Newberry Award it darn well should be.

“Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.” – Goodreads

I read this book cover to cover in one night, in one sitting.  It was easy to follow and the flow and pace were spot on.  I’ll definitely be looking more into Lauren Wolk’s other books now.  This should be on every kid’s summer reading list and every teacher’s for that matter.

The themes of bullying, shame, social injustice and racism echo so much of today’s current events that it was hard to think of this story as a work of fiction.  Not to mention Annabelle’s immediate family who are caught up in all the chaos and trying to do right by both their daughter and Toby, who is a beautiful representation of what it’s like to be misunderstood by “polite society” and what war does to a person.

The right things are always the hardest things to do like forgiving and accepting that not everyone wants to be saved.

Lauren Wolk does a wonderful job of bringing Wolf Hollow to life, making you feel all those hard emotions that we all have felt when we were Annabelle’s age.  Even as a parent I found I could relate to her father and mother in ways that I wouldn’t have if I were still a pre-teen.  Wolf Hollow offers something for everyone of every age.

If this book doesn’t leave you crying at the end then you most likely missed the deeper meaning.

What I’m Reading: The Wheel of Time

228665Along time ago…in a classroom far, far away a 7th grade girl opened a book and entered the world of Epic Fantasy. This was the original Epic.  You can’t talk about this genre without conjuring up images of Rand, Mat and Perrin, Aes Sedai lightning storms, Fades and Warders.

I think at the time I started reading Eye of the World, Robert Jordan had only written 4 of the books in what would eventually become a 14 book SAGA of an incredibly rich, wordy, and complex world.  I, along with every other reader, had no idea what we were in for when Rand Al’Thor left the Two Rivers.  Who knows what was in Jordan’s head when he started to plot out this tome of an adventure.  I do know that I had the privilege to meet him not once, but twice, while he still walked this plane.  Everyone seemed to know that this series would out live him.  It was his life’s work. And it feels bittersweet to start my reread of these books….though in truth I totally fell off the band wagon around Path of Daggers (book #8).  Everything beyond #8 will be totally new to me and that gives me heart.  That and the fact that Brandon Sanderson finished the story by writing the last 3 books with the help of Harriet, Jordan’s wife, and the expansive notes and half written passages left behind by the eccentric man himself.

The great Wheel of Time re-read begins. The orignal copy I bought in 7th grade, the same book that had the honor to meet the eccentric author himself and many years later his wife, Harriet. #fullcircle #booknerd #wheeloftime #crazy

It felt quite poignant when at the final book tour I brought my original copy of The Eye of the World and had Harriet sign it too (goosebumps and so many feels at that event).  It felt fitting for both of them to have signed the same book. A beginning and an ending. The Wheel moves ever on.

It will be a long slog.  I’m sure I will have to step off the WoT crazy train to take a deep breath and cleanse my palate before diving back in again, but I know it’ll be worth it.

“The fact that the price must be paid is proof it is worth paying.”
Robert Jordan, The Eye of the World

To the many others who’ve done this humongous reread, I salute you. You brave souls.  You who keep this Flame alive as the Ages come to pass and a new one begins.

 

What I’m Reading: 2015 in Books

Every year Goodreads sets out a challenge for how many books you want to read in a given year.  Some years I’ve been ambitious and others more moderate.  In 2015 I some how blew past my 30 book goal and read 37.  Granted, a good portion of those were Romances, but I did manage to throw in an assortment of Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult and even Sci-Fi for a change of pace.  And let’s be honest, sometimes you have to read through a bunch of ho-hum novels before you find the one that restores your faith in reading again.

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In order read (favorite books are highlighted in red and are highly recommended):

  1. The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett – Fantasy
  2. Dangerous Highlander by Donna Grant – Paranormal Romance
  3. Devil in my Bed by Celeste Bradley – Regency Romance
  4. Hot Blooded by Donna Grant – Paranormal Romance
  5. Firelight by Kristen Callahan – Paranormal Romance
  6. Scoundrel in my Dreams by Celeste Bradley – Regency Romance
  7. Wicked Highlander by Donna Grant – Paranormal Romance
  8. Forbidden Highlander by Donna Grant – Paranormal Romance
  9. Rogue in my Arms by Celeste Bradley – Regency Romance
  10. Shadow Highlander by Donna Grant – Paranormal Romance
  11. Darkest Highlander by Donna Grant – Paranormal Romance
  12. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – Young Adult
  13. Untamed Highlander by Donna Grant – Paranormal Romance
  14. Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson – Fantasy/Novella
  15. Hush by Karen Robards – Fiction/Romance Thriller
  16. One Second After by William R. Forstchen – Fiction
  17. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank – Ficiton/Classic
  18. Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson – Fantasy/Novella
  19. Night’s Blaze by Donna Grant – Paranormal Romance
  20. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin – Young Adult
  21. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – Fiction/Historical
  22. Veil of Night by Linda Howard – Fiction/Romance Thriller
  23. Burn by Linda Howard – Fiction/ Romance Thriller
  24. Sleepwalker by Karen Robards – Fiction/Romance Thriller
  25. London’s Perfect Scoundrel by Suzanne Enoch – Regency Romance
  26. All the King’s Men by Karen Robards – Fiction/Romance Thriller
  27. The Martian by Andy Weir – Sci-Fi
  28. The Brazen Bride by Stephanie Laurens – Historical Romance
  29. Soul Scorched by Donna Grant – Paranormal Romance
  30. The Boys of Fire and Ash by Meaghan Isaac – Young Adult
  31. H20 by Virginia Bergin – Young Adult
  32. Before the Scandal by Suzanne Enoch – Regency Romance
  33. After the Kiss by Suzanne Enoch – Regency Romance
  34. Dark Alpha’s Claim by Donna Grant – Paranormal Romance
  35. Red Rising by Pierce Brown – Sci-Fi/Young Adult
  36. Golden Sun by Pierce Brown – Sci-Fi/Young Adult
  37. Passion Ignites by Donna Grant – Paranormal Romance

I don’t think I could ever do a book a week since I do most of my reading/sewing after the wee Beastie goes to nap/bed and there are simply not enough hours to do all the things I want in the time that follows. Housework can’t always be put on hold.  What I mean is some days are more exhausting than others.

This year I’m aiming for 40 books in 2016.  I’ve already got 2 under my belt (yes, both Romances) but there are promising new releases coming out namely Morningstar by Pierce Brown (February) and hopefully, fingers crossed, Stormlight #3 by Brandon Sanderson at the end of this year.  If I can manage it I’ll even get around to reading the Alloy of Law also by Sanderson.

And I may attempt an entire re-read of The Wheel of Time by the late Robert Jordan.  I had a friend who completed all the books in a calendar year and it’s a daunting task on top of all my other goals for 2016, but hey, dream big!

What I’m Reading: Red Rising

Yes.  It’s all I can say about this book. So. Much. Yes.  It was the exact thing I needed to read to restore my faith in reading.  It was remarkably good and the world building was phenomenal.  It’s definitely a solid start to what is going to be a thrill ride of literary genius.

Hold on to your gravBoots, kids.  It’s going to get bloodydamn insane.

Here’s the synopsis: “The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity’s last hope.

Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it’s all a lie. That Mars has been habitable – and inhabited – for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.

Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield – and Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.”  – Goodreads

I have passed by this book before because like I’ve mentioned in previous What I’m Reading posts I’m not big on Sci-Fi and the YA genre can be filled with sketchy, formula-ridden plot lines and characters. I finally picked it up with hope in my heart and I was not disappointed.  This book was none of those.  Sure, it contains a dystopian theme (but this is set in space), super villains (who are still human), and an over arc of revenge and revolution, but it was so much more. There was savagery, the kind that gives you the mindset of, mother of God…….what just happened?!?! If you thought the Hunger Games was brutal Red Rising might just make you cringe a bit more and then some.

It’s hard to describe but the world building is what makes this first book so complete. From the Red mines to the Carvers to the High Golds everything feels plausible and richly detailed without being overbearing.  The cast of characters was fantastic as well! You might not fall in love with Darrow but you will certainly find several favorites in the supporting cast. Sevro was my favorite along with Mustang so far.  I’m also in love with the parallels to ancient Rome and modern day.  It makes the book feel very much in the present.

Do not compare this to anything.  It stands by itself, firm in its conviction of being a damn fine original story.  It’s worthy of buying (in hard back) for your book shelf.

Don’t miss out on this one and be the last to read it. Join the Rising. Become a Son of Ares.  READ. THIS. BOOK.

HIC SUNT LEONES!

p.s.

I’ve just discovered that Pierce Brown negotiated a movie deal for the first of his Red Rising trilogy sometime last year.  I can only speculate that he will make sure the story is told as it needs to be since he’ll be editing the screenplay.  There’s no release date as of yet, but keep your eyes peeled!

What I’m Reading: H2O

Ugh. This. Book.  It had such potential! It fell so hard. Even my mom, who’d read it before I did, warned me. You might have a hard time with the main character, Ruby.  Thanks, mom.

Synopsis: “It’s in the rain…and just one drop will kill you.

They don’t believe it at first. Crowded in Zach’s kitchen, Ruby and the rest of the partygoers laugh at Zach’s parents’ frenzied push to get them all inside as it starts to drizzle. But then the radio comes on with the warning, “It’s in the rain! It’s fatal, it’s contagious, and there’s no cure.”

Two weeks later, Ruby is alone. Anyone who’s been touched by rain or washed their hands with tap water is dead. The only drinkable water is quickly running out. Ruby’s only chance for survival is a treacherous hike across the country to find her father-if he’s even still alive.” – Goodreads

I felt compelled to write a review solely because of how terrible the main character was.  Nevermind the tragic nonsense logic or even the inaccurate science behind so much of this story.

– There’s no way everyone would just die on the same day or week before warnings would be issued. Really the odds would be in your favor (ha.ha.ha) it doesn’t rain everywhere at once.

– How is the moisture in the air not filled with these scary “SPACE BUGS OF DOOM”???

– I’m pretty sure the cell networks and even the internet would stay up and running so long as the power grids were operational.  Which there’s no reason why they wouldn’t be, even in this kind of scenario….because there would be way more survivors than what the author wants to you to believe.

But I digress….

I typically like these doomsday/apocalyptic survival stories, but I think we’ve been spoiled by what are now household names in this YA genre (Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.) It’s a high bar to set and then write towards, but for the LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY there is a very CLEAR reason those books were so damn good!

They each had a strong, smart, capable of growing, learning from experiences and expressing empathy lead female.

Ruby is a bitch of a brat.  There’s just no way around it.  It’s beyond stereotypical 15 yr old rubbish.  It was quite frankly almost unbelievable. How the hell does someone like her survive in this kind of scenario? Which by the way is a great concept.  I was physically and mentally willing Ruby to just freaking DIE already so we could get a character more worthy of such a token role.  I personally don’t even know of any 15 yr olds who are THAT ridiculous.  Maybe I am lucky?  She’s such a horrible example and the author either hasn’t spent much time around 15 yr olds or is just writing off of how she perceives them to be.

I would still suggest reading the book because it is pretty good, just try and skip as much of the Ruby angst and idiocy. They don’t serve any plot purpose other than to show that Ruby is still a bitchy, spoiled brat who has no redeeming qualities.  In fact, you’ll probably shorten the book by 1/3 doing this and it will be much more enjoyable.

The only reason to read the sequel, The Storm, is to find out why the animals aren’t getting sick.  That’s it.

Good luck reading this!  I’m sure the majority of us would survive killer rain because thankfully we’re not all “Rubys”.

What I’m Reading: The Husband Edition

Something shocking happened this summer, my husband started to read books.  This isn’t normal for him as it can be a challenge for him to focus long enough to get thru even one chapter.  He’d rather watch a movie or YouTube how-to videos on RC planes.  Needless to say it’s still a shock to hear him talk about a book he’s reading or just finished.

I’m also a tad proud of him.  Reading books has never been his “thing” and for him to have read three books in the last month and a half is remarkable.  It gives me the warm fuzzies.

He’s finished and loved, Ready Player One, The Martian and DUNE (yeah, i know! He did it as an audio book and read along, but still…DUNE!)

The Martian by Andy Weir is on my “too read” list and I’m hoping to get started on it soon.  He loved this book.  He raved about it. He liked that it was smart and scientific without being too stuffy, suspenseful, filled sarcastic humor, and a good old fashioned novel of survival.  It’s also coming to a big screen near you in October 2015.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a book for any gamer or geek.  The pop culture references abound with regularity.  The humor is great and the plot not too shabby.  He recommends this to anyone whose every played an online game, loves post apocalyptic stories, classifies themselves as a nerd or geek and appreciates the awkwardness of youth.

He read several scenes aloud to me and could barely get thru a few of them because he was laughing so hard.

Ernest Cline is also a fanboy at heart which makes him pretty easy to relate to on basic level.

DUNE was the book that caught me off guard.  I had no idea he would even feel inclined to read this, but he did and he kinda liked it.  I have no real desire to read DUNE myself.

SciFi isn’t my most loved genre, but I do occasionally venture over to it.  I do know enough about this book/series to have warned him that it can get “kinda complicated” and it’s fairly political, but the world and the people are pretty amazing.  I guess that was enough to spur him on.  He did try to read it online, but couldn’t concentrate on it so he switched to an audio book version and was drawn in.

I can’t say what he’s going to read next but he’s been hinting at The Hunger Games trilogy and another end of world/scifi novel, SevenEves (though from what I’ve heard this one is extremely technical and long).  It’s good to see we have different reading interests.  It just proves that I can find a likeable book in an different genre for myself.