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Monday
Mar112013

Must Read Monday: A YA Romance Set in 1986

Last week I was in NYC for both business and a bit of a vacation. The trip was fantastic, even though a few things went awry--like me getting strep throat and having to find a doctor in an unfamiliar city because I barely could swallow and couldn't stop getting the chills. (Btw, have I ever mentioned how miraculous antibiotics are? Ohmigod. I've never been so happy to see those big, pink pills.) Thankfully, the medicine saved the second half of my trip and I was able to enjoy the vacation.

One of the other things that went awry was the big snowstorm that wreaked havoc on my flight on Friday. We had a cancelled flight, and I ended up spending about 13 hours in airports and planes before getting home around 11pm. However, the long day wasn't as bad as it could've been because for a big part of the day I was completely absorbed in a book. I had brought my Kindle with me, which has probably about 100 unread books on it, and decided to start a new one. How to decide which one? I wanted to make sure I picked a fabulous one because I knew I'd be reading for a while at the airport. Well, I had seen Julie Cross's post about Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell  before I left, and she's my go-to girl for YA and NA recommendations. Our tastes almost always line up, so I figured it was a safe bet to pick that one up first. And boy am I glad I did. I almost forgot I was so tired and stuck in an airport.

Eleanor & Park is set in 1986 and is the story of two quirky teens who connect in the sweetest, most simple (yet poignant) way possible - on the bus. This story has humor but also some heavy family issues, so it's not a "breezy" read. But it channeled a bit of John Hughes for me. I think I saw someone on Goodreads describe it as Pretty in Pink (which came out in 1986, btw) if Andie had gone for Duckie. (And, hello, I ALWAYS wished she'd gone for Duckie instead.) So it was perfect for me. The ending was a bit open-ended, and I understand why it was that way, even though I prefer my HEAs wrapped up with a bow. But don't let that deter you. It was a fantastic book. In fact, as I'm writing this, I'm thinking I may go back and change my 4-star review to a 5-star because I'm still thinking about the book, and I'm starting to better accept the choice of ending, lol.

So anyway, here it is, go read it... :)

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Blurb:

Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we’re 16.
What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.

I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.

Anyone else read this one? Any other Duckie fans out there? And how do you feel about left-to-interpretation endings?

Tuesday
Jan012013

Most Popular Posts of 2012 and Introducing Must-Read Mondays

Putting 2012 in our rearview mirror (kidlet does this with a cape)Happy New Year!

First, before I get to today's post, I want to say thank you to everyone who helped me celebrate FALL INTO YOU's release yesterday even when you were busy doing your own holiday thing. *hugs* I hope those of you who bought it, enjoy it, and those of you who didn't--come on, get to it. Don't let those book gift certificates waste away! ;)  But seriously, I'm always indebted to each and every one of you who read my books. You rock. Thank you.

Now, on to today's post..

It's that time of the year to look back and evaluate what has gone right and wrong so we can decide how we want to move forward in the bright, shiny new year. So I thought it'd be interesting to see which posts were the most popular here on the blog in 2012. And though I knew which one would be number 1, the rest were a bit surprising. So here's what the numbers look like and what I'm going to do about it. :)

 

Top Posts of 2012

 

1.  Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Pics on Your Blog - My Story - Yeah, this wasn't a fun situation, but the post went viral and seemed to resonate with a lot of people. So, though I'd prefer not to have gone through it, I'm very glad it helped all of us learn how to do the right thing with regards to pics on our blogs.

2.  What to Read If You've Read 50 Shades of Grey and Want More BDSM Romance - Not too surprising considering the 50 phenomenon, but I was surprised that people found their way here considering the glut of info about 50 out there.

3.  BDSM Romance: What To Read If You've Never Tried It Before - This one is probably here for the same reason as number 2.

4.  Want Private Inspiration Boards? Alternatives to Pinterest - I did this post before Pinterest implemented access to 3 private boards. Clearly, it was something a lot of people were looking for (especially after my photo debacle.)

5.  What Will Make An Agent Gong Your Pages - We all want to know, don't we? :)

6.  Zang...Best American Idol Performances Ever #atozchallenge - This one surprised me. It was kind of a random post.

7.  Readers Face the Slush Pile: A Few Hard Truths - This one talked about how readers are now going to have to sift through the slush since it's hard to tell what is good and what isn't now that the indie movement is so big. (I wrote this last May and since then, have read many indie books. I've discovered that how I sift through the slush is simple--I wait for recs from friends and reviewers I trust before I buy a book. And I read samples on occasion.)

8.  Author Websites: Layering Yours With Sticky Extras - I think this one was popular because sometimes we focus so much on our blogs that we forget that readers (especially non-blog-readers) might want a little more on your author website.

9.  Kink & BDSM 101 - What It Is & Why It's So Popular In Books  - I probably have to credit 50 Shades on this one too.

10.  Because Good Smut Should Be Shared...Book Recommendations

11.  The New Adult Genre: Here To Stay This Time? - This genre is on fire right now, so I'm not surprised a lot of people stopped by.

12.  Finding Your Novel's Theme and Your Universal Theme 

 

So what was pretty interesting to me in this list is how it's changed so much from years before. Usually, my writing posts have been the big winners each year. This year, after an effort to balance my site a bit more so that I could provide content to readers and not just writers, it seems to have shifted. I was surprised at how popular the book recommendation posts were. 

Therefore, since I love doing the book rec posts, and y'all seem to appreciate them, I'm going to continue those this year in a more structured way. I'm making Mondays - Must-Read Mondays. Now, if I don't have something to recommend, I won't do a post. But generally, I'm reading enough that I always have a good book to share. And this will NOT be a place for other authors to solicit me for reviews/guest posts/etc. I'm happy to host people on occasion on other days, but I don't accept books for review. Anything I review, I picked up on my own. Plus, I want y'all to know that if I'm recommending a book, it's with no ties or strings or author-is-my-buddy bias--it's just me loving a book as a reader and wanting to pass along the word.

Now for the rest of the days on the blog, I'm still going to cover writing and social media topics when I come across something I haven't covered before. And I'll continue Fill-Me-In Fridays where I round up all the best links. However, those round up posts may be spaced out instead of every Friday because I've been too busy with writing lately to surf the web and have enough links to share each week. Also, I'm not sure if people are still loving the round up, so let me know if it's something you want me to keep around. 

I'm still working on some other features, but that's what I'm changing for now.

Now, go buy FALL INTO YOU, and enjoy your New Year's holiday! ;)

Are you making any changes to your blog this year? What posts are you most likely to stop by for here?

Wednesday
Dec192012

My Unforgettable Reads of 2012

So as it stands right now, I've read 41 books this year. Not quite there on my 50/50 Challenge, but close. And frankly, there are a few half-read or almost-finished-but-lost-interest books in the stack.

However, I thought today would be a good day to go through my read list from this year and pull out my top reads. These are the books that I can still remember when I look back at the list. Others, though I may have enjoyed them, fade and become murky. So the ones I can still remember certain characters and scenes get put on this list. Enjoy!

New Adult

So I've been on a big New Adult kick lately and I've found some winners (including one I just finished this week and loved.)

Easy by Tammara Webber

Really likeable characters you were pulling for.

 

Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

One of those you cannot stop reading. Worth it for the Facebook updates alone.

 

On Dublin Street by Samantha Young

Sexy and angsty and an Irish hero--hello.

 

Women's Fiction

More Like Her by Liza Palmer

Funny in parts, tearful in others.

(Warning - there is a school violence scene in this one)

 

The Reason Is You by Sharla Lovelace

A little romance, a little paranormal, and lots of memorable characters.

 

Erotic Romance:

An Ordinary Girl by Barbara Elsborg

Very angsty and a tragic backstory but really enjoyed it.

 

The Principal's Office by Jasmine Haynes

Super smexy. And liked that it was an older heroine.

 

Sheltered by Charlotte Stein

Ignore the weird cover. LOTS of sexy tension in this one.

 

The Theory of Attraction by Delphine Dryden

A geeky, dominant hero. Need I say more?

 

Dark Erotic:

The Angel by Tiffany Reisz

One of my favorites of the year.

 

Captive in the Dark by CJ Roberts

Very, very dark. I blogged about it here.

 

Male/Male Romance:

Hot Head by Damon Suede

Soooo much sexual tension. Gah. Loved this one.

 

Horror/Thriller:

Ten by Gretchen McNeil

Think And Then There Were None meets high school.

 

The Harrowing by Alexandra Sokoloff

College, empty dorm, ouija boards. Scary fun.

 

So those are my picks. What were some of your favorite reads of 2012? 

 

Monday
Nov052012

Books That Left Me Breathless: The Darker Side of Erotica & A Giveaway

You ever get on one of those reading streaks where somehow you manage to pick up fantastic book after fantastic book? You read something and think...I couldn't possibly find another book in my TBR pile to live up to this, then *bam* you manage to grab another winner. Well, that's happened to me over the past three weeks. 

First, I read the second book in Tiffany Reisz's Original Sinners series, The Angel. I knew this would be good because I loved The Siren and I heart Tiffany's writing. (Full disclosure, she is an agency mate, but I don't pimp books I don't adore and she didn't ask me to promote her book.) Her series is erotica not erotic romance, but there's always a romantic subplot and even if I don't get a neat HEA for the main character, Nora, I do usually get one for secondary characters. So it feeds my romance junkie heart. And the books are BRILLIANT, people. So smart and full of dark humor and sexiness. And the characters are so richly formed that you feel like you could bump into them on the street (and you would really want to bump into many of them.)

Also, I'm listing this in a "dark erotica" post because most would probably think of them as such, but I think that depends on your perspective. Tiffany handles heavy topics with a deft hand and injects such wry humor that the book doesn't feel broody. So don't be scared. ;)

Read The Siren first before you jump into The Angel. But I highly recommend the series.

~

So when I was still buzzing off the book high of Tiffany's book, I ran across this post on Smexy Books about ten erotic books on sale for 99 cents. Well, I can't resist a sale, so I went through the list and purchased a few that looked interesting and had good reviews on Goodreads from people/reviewers I trust. 

The first one I cracked open was Captive in the Dark by C. J. Roberts. Now, I usually have trouble with the really dark, dubious consent books. I have no issue with people writing them, but the few I've tried haven't been my cuppa. I usually have difficulty connecting with the characters and can't get into the story. But holy hell was this one different.

Warning, unlike Tiffany's books which I think are accessible to the mainstream reader, you need to be aware that this story isn't for everyone. These books are DARK and disturbing and will make you uncomfortable. I put in my Goodreads review that this duet of books is a complete mindf**k and I stand by that. I felt like I was developing Stockholm Syndrome as I read these. To get me to sympathize with such an anti-hero--a guy who is a kidnapper, a murderer, and so cruel at points--is a freaking triumph. The backstories are rich and tragic. The heroine is tough despite her dire circumstances. And the "hero" gives new meaning to the term "tortured." Be aware that Captive in the Dark and Seduced in the Dark need to be read together. The first ends on a cliffhanger.

But seriously, it's one of those stories that will not fade from my psyche for a long time. It left an impact. So if you're not afraid to go to those dark corners in your mind, I highly recommend picking these up.

Alright, so those are my breathless picks. What are some books that have left you breathless recently?

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Tuesday
Oct302012

Chilling Reads: A Few Books That Will Make You Leave the Lights On

Some of my teen collectionI love a scary story. I know lot of people avoid horror books and movies because they don't like being scared, but I love having a book or movie truly creep me out. After all, it's a safe thrill, right? There really is no monster in the closet. We hope. : )

And part of my love of reading is due to horror stories. Some of the earliest books I read were ghost stories, and then their was the teen horror of the 80s and 90s. Anyone else remember those R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, and Lois Duncan books? The picture above has some of my middle school collection. After I moved on from teen horror, I jumped to Stephen King. Talk about keeping me up at night. I used to have to move books out of my room at night because I couldn't sleep with them in my room. I guess I secretly worried the monsters would crawl out the book while I was sleeping. *shudder*

So I'm really excited to see horror creeping back onto the shelves. It never went away totally, but it definitely disappeared in the YA market, morphing into paranormal romance and urban fantasy where the monsters became the good guys and love interests. And though I enjoy those stories, they're just not the same thrill as horror for me. The books that are more closely aligned to that horror style are often labeled thriller or suspense now because horror seemed to become a bad word and became more associated with gore (I'm not a fan of gore.) So the seeing some of these classic horror type stories popping up makes me happy.

And I thought in honor of Halloween tomorrow (and inspired by the posts on USA Today's Happily Ever After where authors list the scariest book they've ever read), I would give some of my more recent picks and some classic picks for scary stories.

 

Creepy Books I've Read This Year:

The Harrowing by Alexandra Sokoloff | 2.99 on Kindle

Blurb from Amazon:

Baird College's Mendenhall echoes with the footsteps of the last home-bound students heading off for Thanksgiving break, and Robin Stone swears she can feel the creepy, hundred-year-old residence hall breathe a sigh of relief for its long-awaited solitude. Or perhaps it's only gathering itself for the coming weekend.

As a massive storm dumps rain on the isolated campus, four other lonely students reveal themselves: Patrick, a handsome jock; Lisa, a manipulative tease; Cain, a brooding musician; and finally Martin, a scholarly eccentric. Each has forsaken a long weekend at home for their own secret reasons.

The five unlikely companions establish a tentative rapport, but they soon become aware of a sixth presence disturbing the ominous silence that pervades the building. Are they the victims of a simple college prank taken way too far, or is the unusual energy evidence of something genuine---and intent on using the five students for its own terrifying ends? It's only Thursday afternoon, and they have three long days and dark nights before the rest of the world returns to find out what's become of them. But for now it's just the darkness keeping company with five students nobody wants and no one will miss.

Kirkus described this as "Poltergeist meets The Breakfast Club" and I think that's an apt description. This is a classic creepy ghost tale and reads like a movie. I made the mistake of reading this one while my hubs was out of town. I checked the doors a few times that night (as if that would keep out a ghost anyway.)

 

Ten by Gretchen McNeil

Blurb from Amazon:

It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives—three days on Henry Island at an exclusive house party. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their own reasons for wanting to be there, which involve their school's most eligible bachelor, T. J. Fletcher, and look forward to three glorious days of boys, bonding, and fun-filled luxury.

But what they expect is definitely not what they get, and what starts out as fun turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine.

Suddenly, people are dying, and with a storm raging outside, the teens are cut off from the rest of the world. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and a ferry that isn't scheduled to return for three days. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on each other, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?

This is like a modern version of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None (which I loved). It was taut witih creepy tension and I couldn't stop turning the pages. I also didn't figure out the killer until the reveal, so that's always a win.

 

And now some older books that never fail to give me goosebumps:

It by Stephen King

This book and movie freaked me the eff out. It's still one of my favorites of all time. But give yourself some time, it's a looooong one.

 

The Shining by Stephen King

This is another Stephen King one that I always go back to. He really is the master.

 

Nazareth Hill by Ramsey Campbell

This one is a classic haunted house type tale that definitely gave me he heeby jeebies. I didn't love the ending but the journey was worth the read.

So those are a few of my pics, what are some of yours? Do your read horror? Anyone else ever move a book out of the room because you were freaked out?