December 28, 2018

Top 10 First Lines of 2018

The first line(s) of a book is a reader's first impression. It sets the tone for the remainder of the book. Some are famous. Others are meh. The sentences below are the best first lines I've read this year. Click the title for my previously published review of the books featured in Top 10 First Lines of 2018.

10. "I saw the circle before I saw the kid in the middle. I was nine years old, the summer of 1978, and Marcy was my world." ~ Decoded by Jay-Z (Re-Read)

9. "Dear Fellow Book Lover, There are few things as satisfying and as long lasting as a beloved book. My favorite books have become the touchstones in my life; I remember where I was when they found me, why they spoke to me at that particular time, and how I'd often passionately recommended them to my friends. Many of my favorites still sit on my bookshelves as a reminder of the wonderful experiences they've brought to me. In quiet moments, I pull them from the shelves and revisit them like old friends." ~ The Great American Read by PBS (Currently Reading)

8. "Her husband's almost home. He'll catch her this time." ~ The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

7. "This is a story about Annie, and it begins at the end, with Annie falling from the sky. Because she was young, Annie never thought about endings. She never thought about heaven. But all endings are also beginnings. And heaven is always thinking about us." ~ The Next Person You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

6. "There are two kinds of people in the world, those who leave home, and those who don't." ~ An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

5. "My mother was a cup of sugar. You could borrow her anytime." ~ Gun Love by Jennifer Clement

4. "I hear the crack of his skull before the spattering of blood reaches me." ~ Verity by Colleen Hoover

3. "Someone needs to turn the heat down out there. I'm about to sweat my wig off." ~ Murder with Macaroni and Cheese by A.L. Herbert

2. "I'm afraid of heights, snakes, normalcy, mediocrity, Hollywood, the initial silence of an empty house, the enduring darkness of a poorly lit street, evil clowns, professional failure, the intellectual impact of Barbie dolls, letting my father down, being paralyzed, hospitals, doctors, the cancer that killed my mother, dying unexpectedly, dying for a stupid reason, dying painfully, and, worst of all, dying alone. But I'm not afraid of power—which is why I work in the White House." ~ The First Counsel by Brad Meltzer

1. "I did not want to write to you. I wanted to write a lie. I did not want to write honestly about black lies, black thighs, black loves, black laughs, black foods, black addictions, black stretch marks, black dollars, black words, black abuses, black blues, black belly buttons, black wins, black beens, black bends, black consent, black parents, or black children. I did not want to write about us. I wanted to write an American memoir. I wanted to write a lie." ~ Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon


December 27, 2018

Memes & Reading Challenges of 2018

2018 Goodreads Challenge: Read 88 books in 2018.
Challenge Met: Read 101 books this year. (115% of goal)
2018 Page Count Challenge: Read 28,000+ pages in 2018.
Challenge Met: Read 30,110 pages this year. (108% of goal)   

Live Read: Post comments/reactions in real time as I am reading a book. 
11.13.2018 Becoming by Michelle Obama

Keeping Up with Patterson Challenge: Read books in the Alex Cross, Women's Murder Club, and Michael Bennett series by James Patterson.
Challenge Met: Read 3 KUWP books this year. 
04.15.2018 17th Suspect (Women's Murder Club)
10.28.2018 Ambush (Michael Bennett)
12.09.2018 Target (Alex Cross)

Perpetual Kinsey Millhone Challenge: Read books in the Kinsey Millhone series by Sue Grafton.
Challenge Met: Read 3 Kinsey Millhone books this year.
04.22.2018 Q is for Quarry
11.04.2018 R is for Ricochet
11.11.2018 S is for Silence

Perpetual Jack Reacher Challenge: Read books in the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child.
Challenge Met: Read 3 Jack Reacher books this year.
06.03.2018 Die Trying 
10.21.2018 Past Tense

Lit Tidbits: Share current literary news.

US vs. UK: Compare covers of books released in US/UK.
05.28.2018 US vs. UK


December 26, 2018

Top 10 Books of 2018

There are certain books that leave an impression upon me long after I've turned the last page. 'Tis my literary duty to list the best books I've read this year. The crΓ©me de la crΓ©me; top shelf, ya know?

Please note that my list is purely my opinion. It is not influenced by authors, other readers, fellow reviewers or publishers that may have provided advance copies in exchange for my honest review. I would spend my hard-earned coin on all of the books below.

Click the title for my previously published review of books featured in my Top 10 Books of 2018

10. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn    

9. Lagging Indicators by Jennifer Anglade Dahlberg

8. Final Girls by Riley Sager

7. The President is Missing by James Patterson & Bill Clinton 

6. A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole

5. If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin      

4. Whiskey & Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith 

3. Verity by Colleen Hoover

2. The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

1. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

December 25, 2018

Top 10 Covers of 2018

Be Merry and Give Books for Christmas!

A book cover is the most important feature of a novel. I always wonder why the author or publisher chooses a particular image to represent the story within the book. Does it grab my attention from a bookshelf? Does it represent the author or characters, especially those of color? Does it really portray the plot? Is it appealing and public-friendly? Most importantly, is it true to the title? These are the factors I considered when choosing the best covers of books I've read this year. 

Click the title for my previously published review of books featured in my Top 10 Covers of 2018. 

10. Lagging Indicators by Jennifer Anglade Dahlberg 

9. You Can't Touch My Hair and Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson

8. Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles by A.L. Herbert

7. South Seas Shenanigans by Abby L. Vandiver

6. Tethered Souls by Beth Flynn

5. Whiskey & Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith

4. Harlem by Eric Jerome Dickey 

3. Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston

2. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

1. Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jayne Allen 


December 24, 2018

Top 5 Nonfiction/Memoir of 2018

Photo Cred: NY Times

This year was full of powerful, inspiring memoirs by people of color. Click the title for my previously published review of the books featured in my Top 5 Nonfiction/Memoir of 2018.

5. Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon

4. Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston

3. Mother of Black Hollywood by Jennifer Lewis

1. Becoming by Michelle Obama


December 23, 2018

Top 5 Series of 2018

Click the title for my previously published review of the books featured in my Top 5 Series of 2018.

5. Ambush by James Patterson (Mike Bennett #11) 

4. Die Trying by Lee Child (Jack Reacher #2)

3. Tethered Souls by Beth Flynn (Nine Minutes Spin-off)

2. You Won't Know I'm Gone by Kristen Orlando (Black Angel Chronicles #2)

1. Murder with Macaroni & Cheese by A.L. Herbert (Mahalia Watkins #2)


December 22, 2018

DNF of 2018

Bookhearts, you are familiar with my 50-Page Rule. If not, click here for more info. There are too many good books to read in the world to waste time struggling through a novel. So I moved more books to the DNF (Did Not Finish) pile this year.
  1. A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult ~ 4 POVs too many w/backward timeline. Format doing too much.
  2. Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles ~ Recycled plot.
  3. The Good Son by You-jeong Jeong ~ Nothing breathless about "Korea's Stephen King."
  4. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams ~ Gorgeous cover; jumpy story.
  5. The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable  ~ Did not seem credible.
  6. Marilyn in Manhattan by Elizabeth Winder ~ Is this about Milton or Marilyn? C'mon!
  7. In For a Penny by Kelsey Browning & Nancy Naigle ~ Too many Americanisms: "Outstung a hornet. Hound dog after a pile of chicken bones. Threat hanging over like a hungry black vulture. Potato chips with a paper cut. Been a coon's age since..." 
  8. Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer ~ Presentation is everything. I did not like the feel of physical book. Uneven pages. Rugged ends. Font too small. Cover weird texture. 
  9. Pride by Ibi Zoboi ~ All things aren't meant to be remixed.   
  10. Cuckoo by Sophie Draper ~ Sinister with no spark of interest.
  11. Trust Me by Hank Phillippi Ryan ~ Casey Anthony much? Story within a story.
  12. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty ~ Simply couldn't connect.
  13. People Kill People by Ellen Hopkins ~ Fade in. Fade out. Spotlight. Too much like a play.


December 21, 2018

First Lines Friday

First Lines Friday is a bookish meme hosted by Literary Marie. 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.

"Dear Fellow Book Lover, There are few things as satisfying and as long lasting as a beloved book. My favorite books have become the touchstone in my life; I remember where I was when they found me, why they spoke to me at that particular time, and how I'd often passionately recommended them to my friends. Many of my favorites still sit on my bookshelves as a reminder of the wonderful experiences they've brought to me. In quiet moments, I pull them from the shelves and revisit them like old friends."

~ The Great American Read: The Book of Books by PBS


December 20, 2018


"I was good at spewing bullshit. It's why I became a writer." ~ pg. 143

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer until she gets the job offer of a lifetime. Husband of bestselling author, Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining three books of a highly successful series. Verity is injured and unable to finish. The job offer comes at exactly the right time financially. With an eviction notice crumbled in her hands and an invite to stay at Verity's home while doing research, Lowen jumps head first into the job.

She sorts through years of notes, materials, and reads the existing books in the series. What her search uncovers is a draft of an autobiography that doesn't seem intended for the public. Lowen reads through the bone-chilling pages and discovers why Verity is really incapable of finishing her own work. Lowen hides the manuscript from Jeremy Crawford, hoping to not devastate the already grieving husband and father. But her feelings for Jeremy grow. Selfishly, Lowen thinks if Jeremy reads his wife's words, he will have no choice but to leave his injured wife and turn into her waiting arms.

It is the end of the year and I am not going to bore you with persuasive words to read Verity. I'm just going to say that it is a risk for authors to step out of their comfort zone and write in a different genre. They risk losing fans, humiliating themselves, or worse, being seen as a joke. Colleen Hoover took that risk. She did the damn thang! She was on some vintage V.C. Andrews type of shit with Verity and I loved every word of it!

Title: Verity
Author: Colleen Hoover
Published: December 2018
Pages: 236
Edition: eBook
Rating: πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€


December 19, 2018

Final Girls

"Because here's the thing about details—they can also be a distraction. Add too many and it obscures the brutal truth about a situation. They become the gaudy necklace that hides the tracheotomy scar." ~ 4%

They say our brain conveniently blocks traumatic memories. Such is the case for Quincy Carpenter. She has dissociative amnesia following a tragic massacre from ten years ago, leaving her the sole survivor. She screamed louder and ran faster than her unfortunate friends when a patient, whom escaped from the asylum, brutally stabbed them in the woods at Pine Cottage. It made national news and now Quincy is a member of the "Final Girls" club—a group of similar survivors.

Lisa lost nine sorority sisters when a college dropout killed them with a knife. Sam fought for her life when a man in a potato sack murdered people at the Nightlight Inn. Even after the media groups them together and an interview with Oprah falls through, the three girls never meet in person. Sam went into hiding. Quincy runs a popular baking blog, and Lisa—the first and most vocal of the Final Girls—wrote a book about moving on.

"Final Girl is film-geek speak for the last woman standing at the end of a horror movie." ~ 5%

Their lives are separate until Lisa is found dead in her bathtub from an apparent suicide, and Sam shows up at Quincy's door intent on reliving the past. Unsure of whether to trust Sam or not, Quincy lets her guard down. They bake together, drink together, and patrol Central Park as vigilantes. But when Lisa's death is ruled a homicide, the remaining Final Girls side-eye each other while unraveling the truth and what really happened at Pine Cottage.

'Tis the season for cute holiday romance novellas but instead I chose to read this thriller. I had intentions of reading the first lines only but the story grabbed me and didn't let go until page 343. I tweeted about it and the author, Riley Sager, made a brilliant point: the first Scream movie was released days before Christmas so I should think of it as a Final Girl tradition! I like the way he thinks...and the way he writes.

Final Girls has the right amount of suspense, well-paced chapters that alternate between the past and present, and characters full of mystery. The horror wasn't too grotesque because you all know I'm a squeamish punk. But the scenes were descriptive enough to draw my own images in mind, like it was a vivid horror film. I was invested enough into the story to carry it everywhere and read during free moments. Dare I name Final Girls as my final pick for Top 10 Books of 2018? It certainly meets the mark and stood up to all the hype.

Title: Final Girls
Author: Riley Sager
Published: July 2017
Pages: 343
Edition: eBook
Rating: πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€ πŸ–€


December 18, 2018

Life of a Migraineur: Fanotlettinme Be Mice Elf

I am overwhelmingly thankful of all the support from dear family, friends and fellows-in-chronic-pain in response to my most revealing blogmoir post: Life of a Migraineur: What's Free. I continue to receive such motivating comments since it has been read and shared on social media. A big thanks to my Chickadee, who takes the time to share my testimony and screenshot every reply since I'm not personally on FaceBook. Again, it is nice to know people empathize with my struggle to migraine relief. So as promised, I am keeping y'all updated. Grab your holiday beverage of choice (eggnog with shot of Bailey's for me) and settle in for another long post.

A mere nine hours after I published Life of a Migraineur: What's Free, claiming good health and not wanting to jinx myself, I was hit with a very bad migraine episode. I remember talking about a TV show (A Million Little Things) then feeling a stab of pain. It was quick. So I shifted in my seat away from the ceiling lights and kept up the conversation. Until someone said I was turning pale and my eyes were dull. Was I bored? No. Was I thinking about something else? No. It was symptoms of getting sick with a migraine. I immediately got up, took my meds and drove home. Willing myself to not throw up before I got there. I made it.

This migraine turned into the kind where I sleep on the cold bathroom tiled floor until the bouts of vomiting stop. Until I get enough strength to climb into bed with a cold aromatherapy compress and freezer pack. Until the Tramadol finally stays down and begins to take effect. Hours passed. Then days. I couldn't track the time of day because blackout window treatments did what they do: block all light and sound.

It started Thursday evening. I didn't come to until I heard water running in the main bathroom. Did I leave a faucet on? No, Chickadee was washing her hands. I sat up and called her name, asked what time it was: Saturday afternoon. She let herself in when I wasn't answering my phone or iMessages. I found my phone buried under the comforter. Judging from missed notifications, I was out of it for almost 40 hours. The amount of time worked weekly in a full-time job. Think about that. Time is lost in the life of a migraineur. 

Obviously the free miracle drug is not fully in my system yet. It never promised to completely eliminate my migraines. I just didn't think I would get a severe one so soon after the first dose. On the bright side, that was the only severe migraine I had since the first injection about 2 1/2 weeks ago! I got another migraine last night but it didn't last nearly as long. I was also prepared for it because of the unusual weather. It may not feel or seem like any improvement but numbers don't lie. 'Tis the season for results!
Yet I now understand why I got a burst of energy after taking the first injection. Because ever since, I have been exhausted. Oh, I'm TIRED tired. Like no energy, out of breath too easily, naps turn into full night's sleep type of exhaustion. And the minor body soreness I experienced? Well, now I feel heavy like I am 500 pounds dragging around dead weight. This leads to no longer being as active or productive. I haven't danced in my living room or gone to hustle class. I haven't started water aerobics as planned. It takes longer to read through a book that would normally be a page-turner. I'm even too tired to walk from bedroom to kitchen for a snack. Wayment—that one's a good problem to have. And I did help decorate my Christmas tree!

I don't have the energy or physical strength to do much. All of my focus goes into one task at a time. As I am typing this, the television and music are off because the noise is too distracting. I already got sidetracked into watching the candle flame flicker across the room for a good two minutes. Seriously just watching the lit three wicks. I can't sing lyrics AND type too. Following what's happening on a TV show AND writing this post at the same time just ain't possible. It's too much. I fear that my brain can no longer split into multiple tasks. Have I become simple-minded? Is this dumbing-down a side effect? What exactly is not letting me be myself?

December 16, 2018

Series Sunday: Harry Potter Special

(Harry Potter #1-7) 

Series Sunday is a bookish meme hosted by Literary Marie. 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 Harry Potter Special 20th Anniversary Edition Box Set by J.K. Rowling. Yes, I am 20 years late to the Harry Potter bandwagon. The wizardry finally got me! Thanks to Amazon's Black Friday deal, I scored the special edition box set of books #1-7 for only $35 (originally $100)!

Of course I heard of the series, but read nary a page nor seen a minute of the movies. Though I admire how fans Potterheads stan for the series a whole two decades later. Potterheads are like the literary version of the BeyHive. So I ordered the complete bestselling series on a shopping whim and cannot wait to start in the new year. It looks quite nice under my Christmas tree with its redesigned illustrations.
My plans are to buddy read with my 9-year-old niece. We will read a book followed by watching the corresponding movie in the series, then post vlog (YouTube) and blog reviews here. Stay tuned for our journey through Harry Potter fantasy land as we read over 4,000+ pages together!

Author: J.K. Rowling
Illustrator: Brian Selznick
Published: August 2018
Pages: 4,320
Edition: Box Set
Rating: TBD