My Fave Reads of 2014

I’m back (more on that in another post) and the first thing I want to do, before it gets too late in the month, is a quick recap of the books I read last year. I was able to complete my Goodreads Challenge of 50 books (even surpassing my goal by ONE, wow!), which, as you all should know by now, is really important to my emotional well-being. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order. Check me out on Goodreads to follow all my reviews.

  1. Night Film by Marisha Pessl – Man, I sure started the year off right with this one. Night Film was the first novel I read in 2014 and I awarded it five stars. In fact, it was so good, here is my entire review, “Beautifully eerie through and through with just a hint of a bittersweet ending. There’s nothing more I can say besides this is a 5-star read.” Guys, it was indescribably good. For real.
  2. Hammett Unwritten by Owen Fitzstephen – After trudging through Dashner’s Mazerunner series, followed by Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, I received an email from a publisher requesting that I read and review Hammett Unwritten. This novel completely pulled me out of my reading funk. Another five-star read, I had this to say about it, “This novel takes the reader through the decades following the events of the Maltese Falcon, enveloping Hammett, the main character here, in the mythical intrigue surrounding the falcon figurine. The twists at the end of this novel were mind-boggling enough, but when you get to the Afterward, you’re left reeling at the possibilities, the line between fact and fiction completely blurred.”
  3. Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith – After reading this, I had no doubts about Hollywood’s decision to bring this story to the big screen. I found it to be a solid historical thriller, and gave it four stars as such.
  4. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty – As I wrote in my review, at first I felt I had been tricked into reading a chick-lit novel, but The Husband’s Secret turned out to be an intriguing character study full of suspense.
  5. Sand by Hugh Howey – Of course my end-of-the-year reading recap wouldn’t be complete without me gushing about something written by Hugh Howey. My review of last year’s selection begins like this, “Honestly, Hugh Howey is god. He is the be all, end all for me when it comes to books.” Enough said. (And I can’t wait to read The Shell Collector later this year!)
  6. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – If Hugh Howey is god, then Gillian Flynn is goddess. I just wish she had more books available for me to devour (but at least I have the movie adaptation of Dark Places to look forward to!)
  7. The Cuckoo’s Calling by “Robert Galbraith” – If I’m being honest, I didn’t expect to enjoy this novel, which made it that much more enjoyable. I look forward to reading the next installment later this year. Keep ’em coming, JK Rowling, I mean, Mr Galbraith…
  8. Sister by Rosamund Lupton – This was one of the best books I’ve ever read, right up there with Gone Girl for me. Here’s a snippet from my review, “Written in the form of a letter to the main character’s missing/deceased sister, the format was unique and it perfectly set up the multiple plot twists at the end, which were emotionally taxing to say the least.” Dude, it was amaze-balls.
  9. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn – See above goddess comment about Gillian Flynn. Even the movie adaptation part applies. Yay!
  10. The Son by Jo Nesbo – My favorite Nesbo book yet!
  11. Bird Box by Josh Malerman – This was one of the creepiest books I’ve ever read. If M. Night Shyamalan has some free time, he should adapt this one for the big screen.
  12. After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman – Ms. Lippman is quickly reaching Gillian Flynn status. I mean, I didn’t even guess the ending, which is hard for me because, well, I’m a writer too. Here’s part of my review, “The alternating timelines took some getting used to, especially with the one set in the past being told from several different POVs, however I really enjoyed the different perspectives and the opportunity to piece together the mystery and subplots for myself.”
  13. Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh – This was such an awesome blend of noir and thriller and sci-fi. Highly recommend.
  14. The Accident by Chris Pavone – I almost didn’t read this because I found The Expats so detestable, but I’m glad I gave it a chance because I ended up giving it five stars!
  15. Before I go to Sleep by SJ Watson – The movie adaptation of this novel released late last year and I heard it was terrible. My advice is to read the book and skip the movie.
  16. The Good Girl by Mary Kubica – One of the best books I read last year with a completely unexpected outcome. A fine psychological thriller, and I know psychological thrillers. 😉

What I’m Looking Forward to Reading in 2014

I know, I know. Another list. I’m such a hypocrite.

I didn’t reach my Goodreads goal last year, but I’m determined to reach my more modest goal of 50 books this year. No, I’m not gonna list 50 specific books I plan on reading (I’m not that OCD, I promise), yet I do have several titles that have recently been bumped up on my eight-mile-long TBR list.

  • Night Film by Marisha Pessl – Okay, technically I started reading this at the tail end of 2013, but the library ruined my life (see failed Goodreads challenge above) and ended my lending period, ignoring my renewal request. Oh, and technically, I’ve already finished this novel this year (last week, to be precise). That just means I’m well on my way to completing this list!
  • Maze Runner by James Dashner – Yeah, um, technically, I’m reading this right now…and halfway done. But it’s on this list because the movie adaptation releases this year and I’m one of those annoying people who MUST read the book first so I can tell everyone who will listen, and even those that won’t, how much better the book was than the movie.
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – See above obnoxious reason for wanting to read Maze Runner because it applies here: Starz will debut its Outlander television adaptation this summer. Plus, my mother-in-law has recommended it about eleven times.
  • Cuckoo’s Calling by JK Rowling (under some dude pen name) – I didn’t read The Casual Vacancy because, though I respect JK tremendously, the genre just wasn’t my cuppa. But this crime fiction novel is right up my alley.
  • Allegiant by Veronica Roth – I started reading this during the Night Film library-thievery-fiasco of 2013. I got about 35% in before Night Film was returned to my Kindle. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember enough about the first two books to feel comfortable finishing Allegiant. (Plus, I really wanted to get back to the amazeballs Night Film.) So it looks like I’ll be reading Divergent and Insurgent all over again before I can dive back into the final installment. :-/
  • Sand (Omnibus) by Hugh Howey – If you guys don’t know by now, I developed a serious literary crush on Hugh Howey after reading Wool. He just released this bundle of 5 episodes and I downloaded it the same day. I’ve never downloaded a book on release day. Ever.
  • EVERYTHING BY HUGH HOWEY – In continuation of the fan-girl moment I’m having, I want to read everything else written by Howey. The Molly Fyde Series, Half Way Home, I, Zombie. All of it. Where can I get his high school essays? Gimme, gimme, gimme.
  • Yesterday’s Gone by Sean Platt – I’ve heard great things about this serialized post-apocalyptic novel and I wanna see what all the fuss is about. Especially since I’ve had the first season on my Kindle FOREVER.
  • The Bat et al in the Harry Hole Series by Jo Nesbo – Last year I read his standalone, Headhunters (because I hadn’t yet gotten my hands on the first Harry Hole novel) and loved it. I’m ready to jump two-feet-first into more of his writing.
  • Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight – Amazon keeps recommending this one to me. Amazon is a little scary. They’re gonna have drones soon. I’m gonna do what Amazon tells me…
  • Have You Seen Her by Rich Silvers – One of time times my own novella, Blood in the Past, did really well and jumped up the ranks of Amazon’s subcategories, specifically psychological fiction, Have You Seen Her was always one spot above me. Call this a recon read. I wanna check out the competition. 😉
  • The Shining by Stephen King – I know, this is an “oldie but goodie” in the book world. I may have read it as preteen (I started reading King when I was ten. That’s not creepy or anything, right?), but I’m sure I don’t remember enough of it to read…
  • Doctor Sleep by Stephen King – …so I’m gonna check out The Shining (again?) so I can enjoy Stephen King’s new release all proper like.
  • Identical by Scott Turow – I keep a journal of ideas for future novels and short stories. One of these said ideas was very similar to Identical…before Identical was released. Scott Turow and I aren’t bar buddies on the weekends or anything, so I’m curious to see just how similar his story is to mine and whether or not I have to rip out a page from my journal and set it on fire.
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton – This novel won the Man Booker Prize and Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award last year. As you can imagine, it received a bit of publicity, which sparked my interest. It’s supposed to be a thrilling historical novel, but it’s a bit of a long read. I should probably get on that soon…before I find myself rushing around to complete this year’s Goodreads Challenge.
  • The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty– This is another title Amazon keeps recommending. Have I mentioned I’m intimidated by them? (Amazon, if you’re reading this, I’m gonna read all your recommendations. Don’t send drones to my house unless I order something via Prime Shipping.)
  • N0S4A2 by Joe Hill – I read Horns last year. Why? Because there’s a movie coming out, of course. Anyway, I really enjoyed it. Hill has a much different writing style than his father (Stephen King), but you can tell by the crazy creepiness that he didn’t fall too far from the tree.
  • Room by Emma Donoghue – I’ve heard good things about this one, but have kept my distance because it’s written from the POV of a small child. I don’t really do kids, so you can understand my hesitation. However, I think I’m gonna suck it up and see what happens.
  • Lexicon by Maxx Barry – Hugh Howey posted a list books that changed his life on Facebook. This is one of them. It was already on my TBR list, but an endorsement from Howey shot it way up to the top. All hail Hugh Howey.
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – I’ve been curious about this Tim Burton-ish-sounding novel for a while now. And with a sequel out (and a movie adaptation on the way!), it’s about time I give it a whirl.

Wow, I just rattled off twenty books without breaking a sweat. Color me impressed with myself (I was only aiming for ten). Anyway, do you guys have any books you’re dying to read this year? New releases? Oldies but goodies? Tell me! I have thirty more spots to fill!

Jerks & Irks LVIII: I Failed My 2013 Goodreads Challenge

2012 was The Year of the Kindle. Having received a Kindle Fire for Christmas 2011, I devoured books the following year, reading over 75 altogether. I realize that number is subjective: impressive to some, a drop in the bucket to even more voracious readers than myself. But I was excited to have so many books at my fingertips.

In 2013, I set my first Goodreads Challenge for 75 books. I figured since I had done it the year before, I could do it again, right? Wrong. I failed to realize how much more I’d be writing in 2013 than the previous year (3 books and a couple of short stories), or how many hours would be spent marketing and maintaining a presence on social media. December rolled around and, with the end of the year in sight, I was forced to cheat amend my Challenge total to 60 books. I had read 59 and was reading the 60th with more than enough time to spare. I even fantasized about reading a 61st book for good measure.

Then the library–the LIBRARY of all places–took me down, guys. You see, some of the traditional publishers still insist on charging $10 or more for an e-book, which is irksome in and of itself. Therefore, if I want to read one of these books, I usually see if my local library network has a digital copy first. Thus was my process when I downloaded Night Film, by Marisha Pessl (EXCELLENT book so far, by the way).

I was 57% through it when my lending period was about to expire. I renewed it, as I had done before with other borrowed books, but THE LIBRARY took it away anyway. Just electronically snatched it off my Kindle and placed me on a waiting list (1 of 1). I was devastated. I’m not the type of person who can read multiple books at once; I have the short-term memory of a pill bug. I whined a lot, trudging through short stories and trolling Facebook instead of reading myself awake in the morning and to sleep at night.

The new year came and went and I was stuck on 59 books. I failed my Goodreads Challenge.

The library sabotaged me. CURSES! *waves fist in the air*

How about you? How did you fare with your own Goodreads Challenges?

How Are YOU Feeling About Goodreads These Days?

Every few months a publishing story goes viral and sets everyone’s underwear afire. Currently it’s the story of Lauren Pippa, an author who posted her debut novel on Goodreads to be added to readers’ shelves prior to its release, only to receive a one-star rating from some Ass-hat who obviously hadn’t read it yet. When she inquired about the rating, directly with the Goodreads member, she was met with a crap-nado of verbal bullying, as well as a campaign amongst some members to consistently rate her book poorly. This led to Ms. Pippa’s recent decision to not publish her debut at all. A sad day indeed. You can read all about it here.

As a result, throngs of readers and authors alike are coordinating a grand exodus of sorts, vacating Goodreads in droves and urging others to do the same. I won’t be one of them.

Why?

Because Goodreads is one of the few places left on the internet where there are still READERS! The market is so saturated with authors hiding in trees, very still and dormant like locusts. Then a lone reader comes strolling through, and all the authors stir at once, simultaneously flapping their wings, chirping “Buy my book!” noises, and they scare the poor chap off. And that’s why we all end up marketing to each other. It’s exhausting.

I’m not trying to be an Ass-hat like the person who started the storm of bullying. I’m just trying to keep it real. If we’re being honest with ourselves, this behavior is not typical of Goodreads. At least, not to my knowledge. Perhaps there are a handful of other people who can attest to people needlessly low-balling their ratings on books they may or may not have read, but that happens on Amazon, too. Additionally, bullying, happens all across the internet, even here on good ol’ WordPress. Sure, Goodreads doesn’t have an anti-bullying policy in place and they should and that’s why I’ve signed this petition. But, again, if we’re being truly honest, isn’t one of the cardinal rules of publishing to not respond to bad reviews? Ever? Do you think all of this would have happened to the author if she just would have seen the one-star rating on her not-yet-released-book, mumbled “Ass-hat” under her breath, chugged a glass of wine, and watched an episode of Catfish on MTV? Probably not? I hate to blame the victim, but she might have stoked the flames a little. The trolls that lurk behind the curtains of Goodreads saw an easy mark and took advantage. And now the world is missing what could have been a great talent. And putting aside all of my quite possibly unpopular reasoning and finger-pointing, a loss is still a loss.

Don’t Feel Like Blogging, so Here, Look at This:

You guys may have already seen this, either on Goodreads or someone (like me) posted it on Facebook and you were one of the twelve lucky people that Facebook actually let see it. Didn’t see it? Oh goodie! Take a gander!

goodreads

This infographic fully lets me off the hook for leaving Moby Dick out to dry like a piece of salt-cured sea jerky. What about you? Does this illustration offer any insights into your own reading history and habits?

My Global Malfunction

I’m about to share something with you guys. Something that few people know about me.

I suck at geography and I suck bad.

When I was little, I came down with the chicken pox right when my class was learning US and World Geography. It was a very mild case of the chicken pox, so my grandmother kept me home a little longer than she needed to so that I didn’t get it twice.

I missed a whole lotta geography.

Fast forward to the present. To my Hubby-pants’ teasing jokes, cock-eyed looks, and exasperated sighs. Well, all of that culminated to head a couple of weeks ago. In the space of 24 hours, I said the following stupid things:

  1. We were talking about Pablo Escobar. Me: “Columbia. That’s in Cuba, right?”
  2. We were watching Defiance on the SyFy channel. Me: “Why do the characters keep saying ‘down to Antarctica?’ Antarctica is the North Pole, isn’t it?” (Side note, this led to a rather amusing argument about how, if there wasn’t an actual land mass at the North Pole, then why did people start the rumor that Santa Claus lived there.)

I don’t remember the order in which these two gaffes occurred, but one of them made Hubby-pants order me to put on my shoes and we went out right then and there to buy a globe. We found an adorable little, 6-inch, desk globe. On sale! Isn’t it cute?

globe

Speaking of globes…Wherever you are on the globe, you can now add my upcoming novella, Blood in the Past, to your Goodreads ‘To Read’ Shelf! There’s a button right over there >>>>

Only FIVE more days until RELEASE DAY!