December 30, 2014

Top 10 Books of 2014

It is my literary duty to bring the top books read of this year to the forefront and highlight my favorites. Please note that my list is purely my opinion. It is not influenced by authors, other readers, other bloggers, or publishers that may have provided free or advance copies in exchange for an honest review. Please see the Top 4 Series of 2014 to accompany this list. For your convenience, my original reviews of the Top 10 Books of 2014 are available by clicking the book title.

10. Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

9. Gray Mountain by John Grisham

8. A Wanted Woman by Eric Jerome Dickey

7. Raw by Belle Aurora

6. The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

5. The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers

4. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

3. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

2. Room by Emma Donoghue

1. We Were Liars by e. lockhart

 See you next year, bookhearts!


December 28, 2014

Top 4 Series of 2014

Series Sunday is a bookish meme hosted by Literary Marie of Precision Reviews. I encourage all of my fellow book bloggers and bookhearts to play along.
  • Read an installment of a series.
  • Share your review/recommendation below.
  • Include the title, author and series name.   
Click the title for my previously published review of the Top 4 Series of 2014.

4. Shopaholic to the Stars (Shopaholic #7) by Sophie Kinsella

3. Sempre (Forever #1) by J.M. Darhower

2. Heart of Gold (Blessings #5) by Beverly Jenkins

1. Found (Mickey Bolitar #3) by Harlan Coben


December 27, 2014

2014 Reading Challenges

I participated in five (5) reading challenges in 2014.

Click the title for my previously published review.

2014 Reading Challenge
2014 Goodreads Challenge: Read 70 books.
Challenge Met: I read 90 books this year. (129% of goal)
2014 Pages Challenge: Read 17,000+ pages.
Challenge Met: I read 27,088 pages this year and counting. (159% of goal)

My Little Pocketbooks
2014 Diversity on the Shelf: Read 7-12 books by or about a person of color.
Challenge Met: I read 23 books by or about a person of color. (192% of goal)
4. Cross My Heart by James Patterson
7. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
8. The House Girl by Tara Conklin
9. In the Beginning by Abby L. Vandiver
10. How to be Black by Baratunde
11. Heart of Gold by Beverly Jenkins
12. Unbreak My Heart by Toni Braxton
14. The Prodigal Son by Kimberla Lawson Roby
15. A Wanted Woman by Eric Jerome Dickey
16. Commander in Chic by Mikki Taylor
17. Strong Heat by Niobia Bryant
18. Postcards from Cookie by Caroline Clarke
19. A Christmas Prayer by Kimberla Lawson Roby
21. The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou
22. Merry Sexy Christmas by Beverly Jenkins, Kayla Perrin & Maureen Smith
23. Hope to Die by James Patterson

2014 TBR Challenge: Read 6 books from my TBR pile.
Challenge Met: I read 6 books from my TBR pile. (100% of goal)
1. A book that was a best seller: Room by Emma Donoghue
2. A book that is on my physical bookcase: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
3. A book I got for free: House of Cards by Michael Dobbs
4. A book recommended by a friend: This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
5. A book from a series: K is for Killer by Sue Grafton
6. A book on my Goodreads "to-read" shelf the longest: The Rise and Fall of Big Meech & BMF by Mara Shalhoup

Perpetual Kinsey Millhone Challenge: Read books in Kinsey Millhone alphabet series.
Challenge Met: I read books K-L this year. (100% of goal)


December 26, 2014

Top 14 First Lines of 2014

First Lines Friday is a bookish meme hosted by Literary Marie of Precision Reviews. I encourage all of my fellow book bloggers and bookhearts to play along. 
  • Grab your current read(s).
  • Share the first line(s).
  • Include the title and author.

Click the title for my previously published review or the Goodreads summary* of the books featured in my Top 14 First Lines of 2014.

14. "Every morning, when I open my eyes to the so-called 'new day,' I feel like closing them again, staying in bed, and not getting up. But I can't do that." ~ Adultery by Paulo Coelho  

13. "It is so appropriate to color hope yellow, like that sun we seldom saw."
~ Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews 

12. "The statutory definition of homicide is the 'unlawful killing of one human being by another.'" 
~ K is for Killer by Sue Grafton

11. "International baggage claim in the Brussels airport was large and airy, with multiple carousels circling endlessly. I scurried from one to another, desperately trying to find my black suitcase. Because it was stuffed with drug money, I was more concerned than one might normally be about lost luggage." 
~ Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

10. "I don't mean to bitch, but in the future I intend to hesitate before I do a favor for the friend of a friend." 
~ L is for Lawless by Sue Grafton

9. "What I really want to know is how the bastards did it." 
The Medea Complex by Rachel Florence Roberts

8. "Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet." Everything I Never Told You* by Celeste Ng

7. "I inspected the knife in my hand." ~ Luckiest Girl Alive* by Jessica Knoll

6. "I gaze out the window at thousands of snowflakes fluttering to the ground. I press my face against the pane, aching for freedom. But it isn't a thin layer of glass that's blocking me from the outside, it's the truth." 
~ Unravel by Calia Read

5. "Migraine is a nervous system disorder that affects approximately 15% of the global population. The seriousness of this illness can range from a mild affliction to a completely debilitating condition." 
~ The Migraine Mafia by Maia Sepp

4. "Welcome to How to be Black, a book I hope will serve as a thrust of blackness in your general direction. First, let's get the disclaimer out of the way. This book is not 'How to Become a Black Person If You Are Not Already Black.' You cannot use this book as a magic potion." 
~ How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston

3. "Today I'm five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I'm changed to five, abracadabra. Before that I was three, then two, then one, then zero. 'Was I minus numbers?'" 
~ Room by Emma Donoghue

2. "This is a story about a girl that went through a life changing experience known as Thyroid Cancer. It's not one of those dramatic 'based on a true story' cancer things, especially since Thyroid Cancer is not as bad as cancer. It's a story about me, Esther Earl, having a sickness that's pretty scary." 
~ This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Earl with Lori and Wayne Earl

1. "Gunfire. Screams. Four people dead within seconds.Dozen wounded. Dead bodyguards. Dead bank guard. Dead politician. Collateral damage.
~ A Wanted Woman* by Eric Jerome Dickey


December 24, 2014

Merry Sexy Christmas

Merry Sexy Christmas is a book of three short holiday stories by three authors.

Overtime Love by Beverly Jenkins
Drew Davis plans to buy the semipro football team that he manages. But the owner's granddaughter Tasha Bloom inherits it first. Luckily the two have a mutual passion for football...and to each other. The team and their budding romance will hopefully make it to the New Year.

Ex-mas Reunion by Kayla Perrin
Imagine being stranded at the airport during a winter snowstorm. Now imagine being stuck there with a person you had a summer fling with years ago. Hoping to make it home for Christmas, Kendra and Damien share a rental car, hotel room...and a bed. Everything happens for a reason; maybe being together is meant to be.

A Holiday Affair by Maureen Smith
Just-dumped Ava Cameron is primed for a one-night stand when she encounters a sexy stranger at a bar. The night was memorable and all Ava and Colby can think about is each other, but assume they will never see each other again. That is indeed the point of one-night stands. So imagine their surprise when the pair end up being opposing counsel on a major lawsuit. This story takes conflict of interest to a whole new level.

Snuggle up with this book of short stories and have yourself a merry sexy holiday, bookhearts!

Title: Merry Sexy Christmas
Author: Beverly Jenkins, Kayla Perrin, Maureen Smith
Published: October 2012
Pages: 320
Edition: Paperback
Rating: ♥♥♥


December 23, 2014

We Were Liars

"However, I am not immune to the feeling of being viewed as a mystery, as a Sinclair, as part of a privileged clan of special people, and as part of a magical, important narrative, just because I am part of this clan." ~ pg. 50

We all know the cliché: There are three sides to a story: yours, theirs and the truth. A group of four friends—The Liars—form a friendship on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts. Beechwood Island is where The Sinclair family lives every summer for vacation. Cadence, Johnny and Mirren are cousins; the fourth teen, Gat, is Johnny's best friend—essentially an outsider.

"He was a stranger in our family, even after all those years." ~ pg. 41

The Sinclairs are old money Democrats. Cadence, nearly eighteen years old, is the eldest grandchild, heiress to the land and fortune. But something happens in "summer fifteen" when Cadence is 15 years old. No one in the family will talk about it. Cadence has selective amnesia, developed migraines and is depressed. The doctors suggest she spend the summer after the accident (summer sixteen) away. But in summer seventeen she returns, determined to figure out what the accident was. What really happened to her in summer fifteen? She was fine until the accident.

We Were Liars is one of the best suspense novels I have ever read. Technically, I read it in one sitting. I fell asleep reading it late one night and woke up early the next morning to finish reading. I can barely form a coherent review so I'll just describe my reactions as I neared the twisted ending.

   81% done - Wait. WHAT?!

   89% done - Loop. Thrown. Let me go back a chapter.

   91% done - Shit. I wanted to know. Now I know. And now I don't.

   94% done - e. lockhart. Girl. GIRL.

   99% done - *throws NOOK across room* *hugs self* *picks NOOK back up*

   100% done - How am I supposed to go back to sleep after this ending?

Bookhearts, it is not enough to simply recommend this novel. Le sigh. As Goodreads says, "Read it. And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE." In the 11-minute video below, novelist e. lockhart talks about the characters (no spoilers), classic novels, suspense factor and twists.

Title: We Were Liars
Author: e. lockhart
Published: May 2014
Pages: 231
Edition: eBook
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥


December 21, 2014

Series Sunday: Captivated by You

(Crossfire #4)

Series Sunday is a bookish meme hosted by Literary Marie of Precision Reviews. I encourage all of my fellow book bloggers and bookhearts to play along.
  • Read an installment of a series.
  • Share your review/recommendation below.
  • Include the title, author and series name.

My Series Sunday pick is Captivated by You, the fourth book in the Crossfire series by Sylvia Day. The book begins with *surprise, surprise* an argument scene that ends with sex. Break up to make up seems to be Gideon and Eva's theme. Their secret marriage is causing lack of trust rather than bringing the two closer together. To say their relationship is complicated is an understatement.

"You two are whack jobs separately. Together, you're a goddamn nut house." ~ pg. 51

I had to enforce the 50-page rule. Given the benefit of the doubt, I read a few more than fifty pages. The Crossfire series deteriorates with every new installment. Why the author is dragging this series out to a rumored five books total is beyond me. To milk money out of readers? To keep fans reluctantly reading the up-and-down relationship of this wounded insecure couple? I am not asking for a happy ending but for the love of fiction gods, put these characters to rest before they are permanently ruined.

Title: Captivated by You
Author: Sylvia Day
Published: November 2014
Pages: 316
Edition: eBook
Rating: ♥


December 19, 2014

First Lines Friday

First Lines Friday is a bookish meme hosted by Literary Marie of Precision Reviews. I encourage all of my fellow book bloggers and bookhearts to play along.
  • Grab your current read(s).
  • Share the first line(s).
  • Include the title and author.

"Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family. No one is a criminal. No one is an addict. No one is a failure."

~ We Were Liars by E. Lockhart


"Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet."

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng


December 18, 2014

Not My Father's Son

"Memory is so subjective. We all remember in a visceral, emotional way, and so even if we agree on the facts–what was said, what happened where and when–what we take away and store from a moment, what we feel about it, can vary radically." ~ pg. 23

Memoirs are my fave genre. Very scarce on my 2014 reading list. So when I came across this particular memoir, I downloaded the eBook with the quickness. Squealing, "Alan has a memoir! Yasssss!" For those unfamiliar with Alan Cumming, he is a 49-year-old Scottish actor that currently plays Eli Gold on the CBS television show The Good Wife. He starred in a one-man staging of Macbeth on Broadway. He hosts Masterpiece Mystery on PBS. He is the master of eyebrow acting and also directs, produces, writes and sings. Watch the video clip below of Alan Cumming describing his metamorphosis into character Eli Gold.

"Finally, the scariest thing about abuse of any shape or form, is, in my opinion, not the abuse itself, but that if it continues it can begin to feel commonplace and eventually acceptable." ~ pg. 227

Alex Cumming was a complicated man. He often frightened his family, doling out violence, taking out his own personal anger on others. His son, Alan Cumming, would often bear the brunt of it. The father and son had not seen or spoken to each other in over ten years when producers of genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are? approached Alan to appear on the show. His father, Alex, had a shocking secret and his maternal grandfather's mysterious death could be explored.

"It was all very Lord of the Flies, and I was Piggy." ~ pg. 44

In the beginning of the memoir, I had to keep reminding myself to separate Alan Cumming from Eli Gold. This is not the fictional background story of a campaign manager/chief of staff. This is the real-life story of a Scottish man recalling dark memories. Once I mentally separated the two, I was all in.

"Life can be so fucking bleak, I thought." ~ pg. 202

Not My Father's Son is recommended for memoir lovers, nonfiction readers, aspiring actors, abuse victims and Alan Cumming fans. It is a sometimes humorous, sometimes dark, witty, incredibly brave true story.

Title: Not My Father's Son
Author: Alan Cumming
Published: October 2014
Pages: 231
Edition: eBook
Rating: ♥♥♥♡


December 17, 2014

One Plus One

"There's no room in my life for the whole one-plus-one thing." ~ pg. 192

Sure you think your life sucks, but there is always someone worse off. Take Jess for example. Her husband runs off leaving her struggling with two jobs and raising two children alone. Her teenage stepson is being bullied and her maths whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that she can't afford. Jess always taught her kids to do the right thing but what if doing one wrong thing will help her family?

Ed is a millionaire geek whose life is unraveling because of one stupid decision he made. He happens upon Jess, her two kids and stinky dog on the side of the road. Usually selfish and obnoxious, he acts the opposite and offers them a ride. A lot can happen in a very nice car over a three-day span. The road trip is comical, enlightening and surprising.

"That whole 'do as you would be done by' thing? Well, it only works if everyone else does it." ~ pg. 245

This is unbelievably the first novel I've read by Jojo Moyes. Her books have been on my reading radar forever. Thanks to the Chick Lit Book Club, I was finally encouraged to read one. It wasn't the traditional love story. Not predictable, often surprising. It is a bittersweet story that I enjoyed reading majority in one afternoon.

My first experience reading a Jojo Moyes novel was impressive enough to make me pick up another straightaway. (Me Before You recommended by the librarian.) Check out the brief interview below of author Jojo Moyes discussing the characters and new novel The One Plus One.

Title: One Plus One
Author: Jojo Moyes
Published: July 2014
Pages: 368
Edition: Hardcover
Rating: ♥♥♥♥


December 16, 2014

This Star Won't Go Out

This Star Won't Go Out is the life and words of Esther Grace Earl. The best summary of this nonfiction book is from its first lines. It is a collection of letters, journal entries, sketches, photographs and essays that tell the story of Esther Grace Earl, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 16 from complications due to thyroid cancer. The Introduction is by John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars, who dedicated his bestseller to Esther.

Memoirs like this are always hard to review. It is an emotional read. How do you recommend a book that is going to make readers sad, yell "Fuck cancer!" or remind them of sick relatives/friends? Le sigh. So instead I will focus on the positiveness of this memoir. Throughout all of her sickness, Esther remained positive. Sure, she had angry painful days. But for the most part, she was happy and brought joy to many. She appreciated life and the moments she graced the world with her presence. This book really is a beautiful collection that displays her life and words.


To Esther Grace Earl: High five, girl! You did it! You are a published author.

Title: This Star Won't Go Out
Author: Esther Earl with parents Lori and Wayne Earl
Published: January 2014
Pages: 431
Edition: Hardcover
Rating: ♥♥♥♥


Gray Mountain

The year is 2008. Oh, what a struggling year that was for working and retiring Americans. John Grisham's new hero, Samantha Kofer, was no exception. She is suddenly furloughed by the world's largest law firm. She is offered an unpaid internship at a legal aid clinic. She may, or may not, get her old job back after one year.

In a matter of days, Samantha goes from earning $180,000/year in base salary on Wall Street to working for $0.00 in Brady, Virginia helping "real people with real problems."

John Grisham's novels always bring out the murky side of litigation. We all know laws are broken, regulations are ignored, innocent people are blamed and grand juries decline to return an indictment. But Grisham's novels go beyond a regular mystery. In Gray Mountain, the dangerous world of coal mining is explored and Samantha prepares the first lawsuit of her career.

Grisham's legal thrillers are hit or miss for me. Most are classics, some are adapted to really good movies and others are meh. Gray Mountain was a hit. I was engrossed in the book and didn't want it to end. I also learned a lot about the coal mining industry. I hope to read another mystery featuring Samantha Kofer again soon.

Watch the book trailer below of Gray Mountain by the "master of the legal thriller." Then add this book to your shelves to read soon.

Title: Gray Mountain
Author: John Grisham
Published: October 2014
Pages: 368
Edition: eBook
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♡


December 14, 2014

Series Sunday: Burn

(Detective Michael Bennett #7)

Series Sunday is a bookish meme hosted by Literary Marie of Precision Reviews. I encourage all of my fellow book bloggers and bookhearts to play along.
  • Read an installment of a series.
  • Share your review/recommendation below.
  • Include the title, author and series name.

My Series Sunday pick is Burn, the seventh book in the Detective Michael Bennett series by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge. The detective and his family are finally coming home to New York City after being forced into Witness Protection. Instead of being rewarded for bringing down a crime lord, he is demoted to a mayoral pet project in Harlem whose mission is to help the city's most vulnerable victims. Political bullshit basically.

Meanwhile on the home front, the moment I've been dreading since book one of the series finally happens. A biological parent of one of Bennett's ten adopted children shows on the doorstep threatening to take custody. EEK! As if working NYPD isn't enough stress.

"That you were always just one knock on the door from being taken away." ~ pg. 317

The last couple books of the Detective Michael Bennett series had me literally hanging on every word, tipping my chair over in suspense. But Burn was not thrilling. Sure it had its uh-oh moments but nothing of the same danger level. The commercial for Burn is way misleading. It is NOT the hottest book. It seems books five and six were the peak of the series and it is going downhill. Please prove me wrong, Patterson and Ledwidge. Please.

Title: Burn
Authors: James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge
Published: September 2014
Pages: 401
Edition: Hardcover
Rating: ♥♥♥

December 12, 2014

First Lines Friday

First Lines Friday is a bookish meme hosted by Literary Marie of Precision Reviews. I encourage all of my fellow book bloggers and bookhearts to play along.
  • Grab your current read(s).
  • Share the first line(s).
  • Include the title and author.

"This is a story about a girl that went through a life changing experience known as Thyroid Cancer. It's not one of those dramatic 'based on a true story' cancer things, especially since Thyroid Cancer is not as bad as cancer. It's a story about me, Esther Earl, having a sickness that's pretty scary."

~ This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Earl with Lori and Wayne Earl


December 11, 2014


Reading the Simon Snow series, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, hanging out in discussion forums and dressing up like the characters is what got Cath and Wren through their mother leaving in their childhood. But when it is time to begin college, Wren flips the script. She doesn't want to be roommates and isn't interested in anything Simon Snow. Now Cath is left outside of her comfort zone with a surly roommate whose constantly smiling boyfriend is always hanging in their dorm room. It is time for Cath to be independent and live her own story.

I've gotten used to Rainbow Rowell's incomplete endings so I started reading Fangirl with the expectation that it would end on any note, damn near mid-conversation. With this in mind, I tried not to get too attached to the main characters. Welp, so much for that idea.

I immediately hearted Cath. She had similarities to me and brought back memories of my own freshman year of college: adjusting, developing new friendships and growing distant from long-term relationships. I knew Cath would be one of my fave fiction characters when she was faced with dealing with her father in a manic episode. The sensitive subject of mental illness was well written without overshadowing the main plot.

I notice small things like character names. Their parents weren't expecting twins so planned to name their baby girl Catherine. Their mother chose Cather and Wren as names for the twins. Brilliant choice on a whim!

Sharing a name and being identical is where the twins' similarities end. Cath is shy; Wren is outgoing. Cath is a homebody; Wren parties hard. Cath is a writer; Wren is a boy-chaser. The friends they choose to associate with in college run in different crowds. The way they handle college is quite different and very interesting to read. Fangirl is the perfect blend of first love in a coming-of-age story.

I'm just going to say it: Fangirl is better than Eleanor & Park. I didn't think that was possible. This novel is definitely one of the best books I've read this year. Rainbow Rowell, you have officially earned a spot in my top authors—incomplete endings and all. <3

Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published: September 2013
Pages: 433
Edition: Hardcover
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥


December 10, 2014

The Vacationers

"The Posts were masters of self-delusion, all of them." ~ pg. 71

A two-week trip to Mallorca Island is a celebration for the Post family. Franny and Jim are observing their 35th wedding anniversary and daughter Sylvia's high school graduation. Also invited to the island vacation is son Bobby and his older girlfriend, Franny's best friend, Charles, and his (yes, his) husband.

The Post family is in the midst of change and secrets spill out all over the island. True selves are revealed during the trip.

The Vacationers has been on every recommended list in magazines that I subscribe to. My library copy was finally available so I dived in immediately only to keep asking in my best Whodini voice "When we gonna get to the good part?" It never came. The story fell flat. Pure disappointment. Uber overhyped.

Title: The Vacationers
Author: Emma Straub
Published: May 2014
Pages: 292
Edition: Hardcover
Rating: ♥♥


December 9, 2014

Big Little Lies

Entertainment Weekly calls Big Little Lies "a surefire hit." It is a New York Times bestseller. It was recommended in a few magazines. So I was happy to vote for it as a Chick Lit Book Club selection. A couple group members read it before me and there were mixed reviews. But of course, I had to read it for myself.

A murder. Arguing moms. Bully kids. School scandal.

Big Little Lies was a big waste of time. The nearly 500-page novel was like a literary form of Desperate Housewives meets 90210. It was a drag to read and I fought the urge to skip to the end. Bookhearts know I love a good mystery but it is best when unpredictable clues are revealed at a steady pace. I like mysteries that keep me frantically turning the pages, on the edge of my reading chair. Big Little Lies barely engaged me. This is the second book I read by author Liane Moriarty; I've come to the conclusion that her writing just isn't for me.

Title: Big Little Lies
Author: Liane Moriarty
Published: July 2014
Pages: 460
Edition: Hardcover
Rating: ♥♥