Saturday, 31 January 2015

It's Not Me It's You by Mhairi McFarlane

It's Not Me It's You (2014) (Avon)
Mhairi McFarlane
Grade: B-
Genre: chick lit
Source: NetGalley
General RBC 2015: A book with more than 500 pages 

When Delia Moss proposes to her boyfriend of ten years, the last thing she expects is to discover the existence of The Other Woman. When she’s asked to gently put a stop to a serial commenter from leaving mildly insulting and insinuating comments on the council’s website, she doesn’t expect to resign from her job at the Council over it. Given the slightly tumultuous path that her life has taken, Delia decides that a move to London to stay with her best friend Emma, is her last chance to start over. Accepting a job working for the charismatic Kurt in his start-up PR company, Delia believes she can really make a difference … until she meets investigate reporter Adam West who Kurt warns her to steer clear from, with the fate of her job hanging in the balance. This is a story of dodgy jobs, crazy bosses, bad-boy reporters, loyal old (and new) friends, rediscovering her passion for The Fox (a lot more innocent that it sounds) and one woman’s chance to find her place in life …

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway

Audrey, Wait! (2007) (Hodder Children's Books)
Robin Benway
Grade: B
Genre: young adult
Source: own
General RBC 2015: A book on your TBR pile 

When Audrey Cuttler breaks up with her boyfriend Evan, lead singer of the Do-Gooders, the last thing she expects is for her – and him – to become overnight celebrities. Evan, in a fit of rare and truly inspired genius, writes a song about their break-up and it goes viral. ‘Audrey, Wait!’ is catchy and an unsuspected success, getting the Do-Gooders airtime on every local radio station. Of course, everyone wants to hear Audrey’s side of the story and before she can blink, reporters and their cameras are following her every move, she’s forced to take all her classes in the school office just so the other kids stop staring, and her job at the Scooper Dooper becomes a peep show. Audrey can’t wait for all the attention to die down … in her dreams …

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Sweethearts (2008) (Little, Brown)
Sara Zarr
Grade: A-
Genre: young adult
Source: own
General RBC 2015: A classic YA novel 

Once upon a time, Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were best friends. Social outcasts at school, they came to depend on each other in a way that only they understood. When one day Cameron doesn’t turn up for school and Jennifer is told that he’s dead, her world is turned upside down. Now in high school, Jennifer Harris is no more. ‘Jenna’ has a happy family after her mum remarried, a close-knit group of friends and a doting boyfriend of three months. When Cameron returns out of the blue, Jenna’s life is thrown out-of-sync – again. As their relationship clicks back into place as if picking up where they left off, they are both forced to remember their shared history and Jenna’s new life suddenly hangs in the balance …

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Reading Bingo Challenges for 2015

I might not have completed my trio of reading bingo challenges in 2014, but before the year was out, I'd already started planning a new set for 2015. Since that day browsing on Pinterest, these have been a true revelation that have really made my reading like a game - as if reading wasn't fun enough already.

I've undergone a much-needed down-size for 2015; while there are still three challenges, these are all 5x5 grids with 25 challenges a piece. Coupled with my overarching goal to read 100 books this year, I'm hoping this will be a slightly more achievable year, reading-wise.

The Challenges:

1. Romance RBC 2015
This one has seen the most radical transformation: reduced from 48 challenges to a mere 25. Included are all of the 12 challenges that I didn't complete in 2014, as well as a random mix of AAR Top 100 challenges, romance sub-genres, books by decade of publication and romance tropes - perfectly eclectic. I have a tendency to read a lot of historicals with a sprinkling of a few romantic suspenses on the side, but hopefully this will help me open up genre-wise. Fingers crossed that this will be a little more straightforward than 2014 with a lot less complaining about trying to fit everything in ...

Monday, 19 January 2015

One Touch of Scandal by Liz Carlyle

One Touch of Scandal (2010) (Avon)
Liz Carlyle
Grade: B-
Genre: historical romance
Sex scenes: mild
Source: own
Fraternitas Aureae Crucis: (1) One Touch of Scandal
Romance RBC 2014: A book with a number in the title 

After her father died and Grace Gauthier came to England to make a new life for herself, all she wanted was security. Forced to take up a position as a governess, Grace’s life seems to be taking a turn for the better until she finds her employer dead in his own home. Suddenly, Grace is the prime suspect and she has no one else to turn to but the mysterious and dangerous Lord Ruthveyn. He’s a secretive man, burdened by gifts that reveal terrible omens about the people around him. He’s determined to exonerate Grace and track down the real killer at the risk of revealing his secrets to the world …

Friday, 16 January 2015

Romance Reading Bingo Challenge 2014

Three of three. I was inspired to create my own romance-themed reading bingo challenge after finding and committing to the young adult challenge and fiction challenge that I talked about about in my previous round-up posts of last week. While the two challenges were interesting and exciting, I knew that there was a good chance that I would get bored easily, simply because there was another genre that is the love of my life and that takes up the bulk of my reading: romance. And there my third and most ambitious reading challenge was born.

Given that this was my own curated RBC challenge, I wanted something that I could own. The categories in the YA and fiction RBC lists are fairly random, but I sat down and came up with a list of challenges of certain 'types', as explained in my original post. You had the challenges defined by character (A book with a writer heroine, A book with a cop/PI hero), challenges by genre (A new-adult book, A non-Regency historical), by trope (A book with a 'marriage of convenience', A cabin/road romance), as well as by characteristics of the physical book (A book with more than 500 pages, A book with a green cover) to name just a few. It made for what I knew would be varied and entertaining reading, though as the year came to a close, it started becoming very frustrating when trying to fill in the last of the gaps.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Here's Looking at You by Mhairi McFarlane

Here's Looking at You (2013) (Avon)
Mhairi McFarlane
Grade: C+
Genre: chick lit
Source: own
Romance RBC 2014: A chick lit book 

Aureliana ‘Anna’ Alessi is pretty content with the way her life turned out. A thirty-something history expert and lecturer, she’s looking for Mr Right via online dating, which has yielded some interesting but non-contending results. A somewhat chubby kid at school, Anna was the source of the popular kids’ teasing and bullying – a depressing period of her life which she’s glad to have moved on from and mostly forgotten.

When Anna is asked to help put together an exhibition at the British Museum, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. That is, until, she discovers that also working on the project is James Fraser, architect of her greatest humiliation at school. Thankfully, James shows no inkling of recognising Anna from their schooldays and she’s happy to keep it that way. As they get closer both personally and professionally, Anna starts to find her opinion of James changing … People can change – Anna herself is a testament to that – so why does she feel like she’s making a mistake in trusting him?

Monday, 12 January 2015

Fiction Reading Bingo Challenge 2014

Following up on my previous post about my experiences with the Young Adult Reading Bingo Challenge I undertook in 2014, the second of my reading challenges was a general fiction one, the original board which can be seen on the left.

This was by far the hardest of the three, principally because I don't read a lot of fiction. As a result, besides fiction, this category became a catch-all for basically anything else that couldn't fit into either the romance or young adult categories, hence the inclusion of titles like Panic (young adult) and The Corinthian (romance). Despite being used as a surplus category, the fiction challenge managed to yield a number of surprisingly good reads. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend any of the titles below to different readers who are searching for different sources of reading inspiration - which is more than can be said for the other two categories. To evidence this fact, three titles from this RBC challenge made it onto my Best Of 2014 list (A Dark and Twisted Tide, The Girl Who Saved ... and Emma) with another (The Fortune Hunter) rounding off the list as an honourable mention. Given that only 11 titles made the list, this is a lot more as a proportion of total number of books read, than any of the other lists.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

The Flame and the Flower (1972) (Avon Books)
Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
Grade: B-
Genre: historical romance
Sex scenes: mild
Source: own
Birmingham Family Saga: (1) The Flame and the Flower
Romance RBC 2014: A book published in the 1970s 

Overworked and mistreated at the hands of her cruel aunt, young and innocent Heather Simmons has no one else to turn to. When she’s given the chance at a new life at a finishing school in London, Heather jumps at the chance. Arranged by her Uncle William, what she doesn’t immediately realise is what William is asking for in return. Fearing for her life, Heather commits a shocking act in a moment of desperation, fleeing from the scene of the crime with absolutely no idea what she’ll do next … straight into the arms of a handsome and dangerous stranger …

Captain Brandon Birmingham wants Heather from the moment he sets eyes on her. Abducting Heather from the docks, he takes his initially unwilling prisoner away from her dismal life in England for a new life in America. A wealthy plantation owner besides a successful sea captain, Brandon is set on seeing Heather become part of his life for good – regardless of what his family thinks.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Young Adult Reading Bingo Challenge 2014

This is the first of three posts about the Reading Bingo Challenges I undertook in 2014. It started when I came across the grid on the left on Pinterest, along with a general fiction version (Fiction Reading Bingo Challenge 2014 roundup post to come). I couldn't help myself and wanted to mix things up by coming up with my own, romance version. (See the original post here).

This is the first time I've done something like this; I never liked reading lists at school, mostly because I like freedom in my reading choices and hate being told what I should be reading. This isn't quite the same thing. I could still read what I liked, but the RBCs made my reading like a game, trying to fit my finished reads into slots on a gameboard. It was never an easy task, but the young adult challenge, of the three, was probably the most successful.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

The Lion's Lady by Julie Garwood

The Lion's Lady (1988) (Pocket Books)
Julie Garwood
Grade: C+
Genre: historical romance
Sex scenes: mild
Source: own
Crown's Spies: (1) The Lion's Lady
Romance RBC 2014: An AAR Top 100 Romance 1994 

No one quite knows where Christina Bennett has mysteriously appeared from, but her beauty, lilting accent and the intrigue that surrounds her takes society by storm. Brought up by the Dakota tribe in the Black Hills of America, it has always been Christina’s destiny to return to England and find her father. Adapting to rigid English customs isn’t easy given her upbringing and more than anything, Christina wishes she were back with her adopted family. 

Lyon, the Marquis of Lyonwood is not fooled or easily side lined by Christina’s charming evasions as his peers are. He knows that something isn’t quite right with Christina’s story and is determined to get to the bottom of her past. When they share a passionate kiss at a society function, Lyon gets a taste of the fiery lioness behind her cool exterior and becomes determined to lure this side of Christina to the surface …

Friday, 2 January 2015

My Best of 2014

2014: what a bumper year for reading. I had set a fairly modest target of 100 books for the year, given that once I had finished off my degree in the first half of the year, I would have a good six months or more to complete the target. Then, in early February, I stumbled across some intriguing reading challenges on Pinterest that I was compelled to undertake. I've been tracking my progress throughout the year in the column to the right and regular readers of this blog will know that as the year has drawn to a close, it has become ever-harder to 'fit' my reads into the categories that I've had left. I wasn't able to complete all three of my reading bingo challenges, but that's for another post.

I did manage, however, to complete my original target of 100 books - exactly. According to my Shelfari profile, my 100 reads can be broken down in genres roughly as follows:

Romance - 47
Steampunk - 7
Children's - 4
New adult - 2
Young adult - 16
Anthology/serial -7
Non-fiction - 5
Chick lit - 2
Urban fantasy - 2
Fiction - 4
Fantasy - 3
Crime - 1

Romance clearly takes up the bulk of my reads, but I've used the heading to encompass the sub-genres of contemporary, historical, medieval and erotica, amongst others. About 12 were re-reads and what re-reads they were. 2014 will be memorable not only for discovering new authors and titles, but re-discovering ones that I've loved in the past.

This is now my third 'Best of the year' post since I started this blog in February 2012. It's always hard to narrow down my favourite reads, and this year was no different. I came across my first favourite of the year very early on, and they didn't stop coming. By the end of the year, I had around 20 'favourites' that have been further (painfully) slimmed down, as follows below (in order of review):

1. Deeper by Robin York, a pseudonym for Ruthie Knox (2014) (reviewed 10-03-2014, Grade A+) (YA reading bingo challenge: A book that made you cry)
Ruthie Knox was my favourite new-to-me author of 2013 and this year, she didn't disappoint. 2014 saw Ruthie Knox tryng her hand at new adult, proving that she's just as adept at this hot new genre as she is at contemporary romance. Deeper and its sequel Harder follows college student Caroline Piasecki when she becomes a victim of revenge porn at the hands of her ex-boyfriend. Bad boy West Leavitt is the last person anyone expects to come to Caroline's aid, but he teaches her how to ignore the haters and accept herself and find joy again in her life. A gritty story that will make you cry - in the best way.