2015 – A Year in Review

fireworks

Friends. I know it’s the end of February and that means I’m oh…almost two months late in posting my 2015 Year in Review blog entry. But better late than never right? Is there ever really a time when it’s too late to share book recommendations? (Answer: There is never a bad time to share book recommendations)

SO. 2015. I completed my goal of reading 140 books. In actuality I read 182 over the course of the year.

Now for the hard part of the post: my top ten reads of 2015!

  1. Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino
  2. Bringing Home the Bad Boy by Jessica Lemmon
  3. When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare
  4. The Billionaire Takes a Bride by Jessica Clare
  5. The Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux
    •  Cut & Run
    • Sticks & Stones
    • Fish & Chips
    • Divide & Conquer
    • Armed & Dangerous
    • Stars & Stripes
    • Touch & Geaux
    • Ball & Chain
    • Crash & Burn
  6. Splintered Trilogy by A.G. Howard
    • Splintered
    • Unhinged
    • Ensnared
  7. The Tairen Soul series by C.L. Wilson
    • Lord of the Fading LAnds
    • Lady of Light and Shadow
    • King of Sword and Sky
    • Queen of Song and Souls
    • Crown of Crystal Flame
  8. Enslaved by Virginia Henley
  9. An Offer From a Gentleman by Julia Quinn
  10. The Boleyn Trilogy by Laura Andersen
    • The Boleyn King
    • The Boleyn Deceit
    • The Boleyn Reckoning

And because 10 is just not enough, here are some more of my favorite reads of 2015, in no particular order:

  • Pride, Prejudice, & Secrets by C.P. Odom
  • Bound by Flames by Jeaniene Frost
  • The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn
  • Wishing for a Highlander by Jessi Gage
  • Serving Pleasure by Alisha Rai
  • Act Like It by Lucy Parker
  • It’s Only Love by Marie Force

2015 was a romance heavy reading year for me (whatever haters, I love love.) I’m trying to diversify myself a bit more in 2016. So far, so good. What did you read in 2015? Give me some of your recommendations!

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New Year; New Challenges, Episode V

So here we are near the end of January and I’m only just now getting around to posting my annual “New Year; New Challenges” post. I received a promotion at work right around Thanksgiving and have been trying to deal with the change to my schedule. Having a job with irregular hours can sometimes throw off my schedule outside of work. I’m trying to find my balance between work, life, and blogging, and I appreciate you all sticking with the blog as I figure it out.

With all of that being said, here is my goal for 2015: 140 books. Since I successfully completed reading 100 books in 2014, 10 more books gets added to my goal. (2011 = 100 books, 2012 = 110 books, 2013 = 120 books, 2014 = 130 books, etc) As per years past, you can keep track of my reading progress and what books I’ve read here.

In no particular order, here are some of the books releasing in 2015 that I’m looking forward to reading!

  1. Fairest by Marissa Meyer
  2. Bound by Flames by Jeaniene Frost
  3. Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard
  4. And I Love Her by Marie Force
  5. The Heir by Kiera Cass
  6. Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan
  7. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (This is an exclusive collector’s edition!)
  8. The Seven  Sisters by Lucinda Riley
  9. When A Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare
  10. Murder at Beechwood by Alyssa Maxwell
  11. Dearest Rogue by Elizabeth Hoyt
  12. Tiny Little Things by Beatriz Williams
  13. One Night with a Billionaire by Jessica Clare
  14. Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen
  15. A Worthy Pursuit by Karen Witemeyer

Well readers, what are your reading goals for 2015? What titles are you excited to read?

Kim’s Guest Dueling Review of Once Upon A Billionaire (The Billionaire Boys Club #4) by Jessica Clare

ouabjcI hope you love the dueling reviews that my reading bestie Kelly (from Reading With Analysis) and I write, because we have a brand new one for you. It’s on the fourth book in Jessica Clare’s Billionaire Boys Club series, Once Upon A Billionaire.  (Here are my/our reviews of books one, two, and three.)

Once Upon A Billionaire follows Griffin, a member of the royal family of a small European country, and Maylee, the deeply southern secretary of book two’s hero Hunter.

For a direct link to our review, click here.

Kim’s Guest Review of The Wrong Billionaire’s Bed (Billionaire Boys Club #3) by Jessica Clare

twbbjcI hope y’all have been loving all the joint reviews that reading bestie Kelly (from Reading With Analysis) and I have been posting. We’ve read so many of the same books lately that we’ve joined creative forces to help put an end to all the writer’s block we’ve been having.

Our latest joint review is on The Wrong Billionaire’s Bed by Jessica Clare. It’s the third book in Clare’s Billionaire Boys Club series. Book one was Stranded With A Billionairefollowed by Beauty and the Billionaire, which Kelly and I gushed about here.

For a direct link to our review of our pros and cons about The Wrong Billionaire’s Bed, click here.

2013 – A Year In Review

fireworksIt’s totally cliché, but where the hell has this year gone? With today being the very last day of 2013 I figured I’d do a quick “Year in Review” post to talk about my progress with reading challenges and also to discuss my favorite books of the year!

Quick rundown on how I did with my reading challenges: I successfully read 120 books this year. In fact, as of the time of writing this post I am at 199 books for the year! (WOOT!) You can see all the books I’ve read with links to their reviews here. Now, a bit of bad news. I utterly failed (for the second year in a row) the audio book challenge. I didn’t listen to 1 audio book this year (read: pathetic.) I also didn’t do so great with the Book to Movie challenge either, with only 2 out of 12 read. Now, to the good news: I completed 78% of the Color Coded Challenge, or 7 out of 9 reads. I actually had a blast doing this challenge. You don’t realize how many books use colors in their titles until you do a challenge like this! Additionally, I unsurprisingly completed the Historical Fiction Challenge as well as the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary challenge with no trouble at all.

And now for the difficult part: Picking my favorite reads of 2013.

  1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  2. The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley (look for my review next week!!!)
  3. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  4. The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers/Making It Last by Ruthie Knox
  5. Beauty and the Billionaire by Jessica Clare
  6. Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson
  7. Death in the Floating City by Tasha Alexander/Easy by Tammara Webber
  8. Shades of Earth by Beth Revis
  9. Twice Tempted by Jeaniene Frost
  10. The Secret of Ella and Micha/The Forever of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen

Having read almost 200 books this year, choosing 10 (really 12) of my favorites almost killed me. So, in the effort of easing my conscience I’m giving you some of my runners-up (in no particular order)!

  1. Pride, Prejudice, and the Perfect Match by Marilyn Brant
  2. The Edelstein Trilogie by Kersin Gier (Book one, two, & three)
  3. The Westfield Wolves/Regency Vampyre Series by Lydia Dare
  4. Return to Longbourn by Shannon Winslow
  5. The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen
  6. Losing It by Cora Carmack
  7. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  8. Bittersweet by Noelle Adams

This was hands down the hardest year yet to pick my favorite books. When you read almost 200 books in a year I guess that should be expected, no?

Ok, the burden is being passed to you. What did you love reading this year?!? Please let us know below. And finally, enjoy the rest of your New Year’s Day, hopefully with a great book. See you in 2014!

Kim and Kelly’s Review of Beauty and the Billionaire (Billionaire Boys Club #2) by Jessica Clare

batbjcSeveral months ago, I read Stranded With a Billionaire by Jessica Clare (because I love billionaire romances) and was impressed with the way Clare was putting a new spin on the trope.  In most billionaire romances I’ve read, the men win over the women with their money; taking them on trips, buying lavish gifts, or giving them whatever their hearts desired. Instead, Clare wrote about a woman unimpressed by wealth. A woman who valued her independence and wanted to make her own way in the world.  When I found out that the second book in Clare’s Billionaire Boys Club series was modeled after Beauty and the Beast I knew I was in for a treat.  My reading bestie, Kelly, from Reading With Analysis, jumped on board and joined me in reading/reviewing.

From Goodreads:

Real-estate tycoon Hunter Buchanan has a dark past that’s left him scarred and living as a recluse on his family’s palatial estate. Hunter is ready to give up on love—until he spots an enigmatic red-haired beauty and comes up with an elaborate scheme to meet her.

Gretchen Petty is in need of a paycheck—and a change. So when a job opportunity in an upstate New York mansion pops up she accepts. And while she can overlook the oddities of her new job, she can’t ignore her new boss’s delectable body—or his barely leashed temper.

Hunter’s afraid his plan might be unraveling before it’s truly begun, but Gretchen is about to show him that life can be full of surprises….

Kim: My favorite fairy tale has always been Beauty and the Beast.  The feminist side of me would say it’s because women are painted in such a good light.  But the romantic side of me would say what’s more beautiful than a relationship built on inner beauty?  I’m assuming that after reading that it won’t come as a shock that I absolutely loved Beauty and the Billionaire.  Clare’s done a phenomenal job smashing the common billionaire trope with this series (you know: man has tons of money, woman opens legs for it, etc.) It’s because she writes about women that own up to their sexuality and desires, but more importantly want to be respected as women, not objects that can be bought.  They aren’t impressed by the riches their men have, they are instead impressed by the emotional lengths their men go to win them.

Kelly:  It’s no secret that I’m leery of billionaire romances (especially billionaire/ingenue pairups. Ugh!), so I was pretty dang reluctant to give this series a try, but Kim can be rather persuasive.  Also, I trust her taste in books.  Anyway, one of the things that I liked about the first book was that Brontë was uncomfortable with Logan’s wealth.  It reminded me (a little bit) of one of my favorite sequences in the 2005 movie version of Pride and Prejudice, when Mr. Gardiner chides Lizzy for being such a snob, objecting to poor Mr. Darcy for his wealth.  And, since I am predisposed to like anything that reminds me of Pride and Prejudice, I liked Stranded with a Billionaire and decided to continue reading the series.  I’m glad I did, because I liked Beauty and the Billionaire about a billion times better than the first one.

Kim: Having read the three books available so far, I can say that Beauty and the Billionaire is my favorite of the series.  And that’s mainly because of Gretchen and Hunter. Gretchen is the creme de la creme of female characters. She’s smart, sassy, witty, totally in touch with her sexuality, strong-willed, and independent (among other things.)  As Kelly said, Hunter’s wealth doesn’t make her drop on a bed and open her legs to keep him.  She’s instead wooed by all the small things he offers her.  Each day Hunter sends her roses from the greenhouse he tends to with a note asking her to join him for dinner.

It’s probably a good idea to give a small bit of background on Hunter. Hunter is a mangle of scars that occurred after he was kidnapped as a child. Since then he’s lived as a loner in his huge mansion. When I say loner, I mean it. Hunter is a virgin (and all the more adorably awkward because of it.)

Kelly:  Hunter lives his life in almost complete isolation, so he’s more than a little socially awkward at the beginning of the book.  There are quite a few parallels to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast in this story, particularly in the early scenes.  All of Hunter’s initial attempts to befriend Gretchen are epic fails because Hunter has such a difficult time navigating social waters and managing his own insecurities.  Let’s face it: Hunter has a lot to be insecure about.  His face, chest, and hands are scarred, and he’s missing a finger; he’s not pretty.  Hunter spent most of his childhood in seclusion, homeschooled until he was sent to college ostensibly to learn and network but really to be ogled and ostracized.  “Socially awkward” doesn’t quite communicate the extent of Hunter’s struggles.  His experience of society was decidedly negative, and he doesn’t believe that anyone can look past the scars to appreciate the man underneath. Further, he views himself (his visage) as a menace to society.  So his isolation is the best thing, a kindness, for all parties.  I enjoyed watching his journey and loved that Clare paired this reclusive and insecure man with vivacious, confident, and accepting Gretchen.  She really is one of the best heroines I’ve ever come across.

Kim: And I believe Hunter is one of the best heroes as well. To view himself as the menace to society? His soul is beautiful but the way he views himself (not just the way he sees himself externally) is heart-breaking. He keeps mirrors in his office so that he “never forgets” his appearance or why he lives in his mansion alone. He is also so generous. He pays his staff excellent wages and keeps his crotchety, old, and rude housekeeper on simply because the man has been there forever.

I fully approve of the way he “uses” his wealth. Unlike other billionaire novels I’ve read, Hunter tries to use his money to give, not gain. Even when he sets up the fake book project for Gretchen, he does it with the intent that he hopes he gains her as a friend. A friend.

Kelly:  It could have been totally skeezy, right?  Reclusive billionaire creates a live-in project in order to lure a young woman into his home… You’d expect that kind of premise to be the lead-in to Criminal Minds, but because Hunter is so well-crafted, the reader always knows that he’s not a creeper.  It also helps that every increase in intimacy between Hunter and Gretchen is initiated by Gretchen (sometimes by accident.)  With so much agency in the story, Gretchen never seems like the unwitting victim of some billionaire mastermind.

Kim: YES. Their first interaction with each other is when she unwittingly sees him after he gets out of the shower. She has never seen him or his scars before and is at first mesmerized by his hot bod.

At the end of the hallway, not a hundred feet from where she was standing, a door was opening. A man emerged, rubbing his head with a fluffy white towel to dry his hair, humming to himself. HIs face was hidden from her but…nothing else was.

And oh, mercy, he was gorgeous.

He was utterly naked, his skin gleaming with with drops from his shower. His legs were tanned and shadowed from the wet hair clinging to them, and his legs were thick with cords of muscle. Nice, wet chords of glorious muscle..

He was hung, too. Gretchen didn’t mind noticing.

He of course freaks that she sees him and tries to hide his scars from her.

Kelly:  But Gretchen is more aware of having been caught ogling his manparts than anything else.  I mean, she notices his scars, but she saw his penis first, so — quite accidentally — her impression of Hunter is sexualized before she even has a chance to feel pity for him.  Of course, Hunter doesn’t really get that (from his perspective, he’s a recluse who has arranged for Gretchen to *maybe* become his friend, and then he goes and flashes her? Oy.)  Hijinks ensue, including my favorite bit of dialogue in the book:

“Are you drunk?” he asked abruptly.

“No,” she said, drawing out that one syllable. Okay, so the pajamas weren’t making the best first–um, second–impression. “I’m friendly. I saw you out here and wanted to talk.”

“I have nothing to say to you.”

So this wasn’t going well. When he began to stalk away at a pace more rapid than she could sustain in her oversized boots, she panicked. “Your penis!” she called out. “I saw it!”

Kim: Yup, that’s Gretchen. Just telling it like it is. She goes on to flash Hunter so that they’re “even” and then begins her attack on him. I don’t say attack in a bad way, just that she knows Hunter’s sensitivity and reluctance to push himself on her because of his inexperience.  And this is why Gretchen is awesome. Knowing everything she does about him, knowing that he’s scarred both inside and out, she still sees something deep inside of him that speaks to her.  And what can she do but go after it?

One thing I wanted to mention here. There isn’t much of a “plot” so to speak. The majority of the book is spent with Gretchen in his mansion working on the book project he’s set up for her. However the lengths of character development and growth that exist in this book is astounding. To me, THAT is what makes a book good/author amazing. When one can develop characters without crazy plots of kidnappings, rapes, and dark abusive pasts, and just develops the characters in the here and now, THAT is writing. And damn good writing at that.

Kelly: Amen to that.

Kelly’s Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Kim’s Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Beauty and the Billionaire by Jessica Clare
Berkley Publishing (2013)
eBook: 261 pages
ISBN: 9781101621240

What Are You Reading This July?

It’s July!  That means vacation time, BBQ time, beach time, or what I like to call “reading time!”  July has a lot of book releases I’m excited about, so instead of telling you what I’m currently reading, I’m sharing what new releases I’ll be planning on reading.  What’s the book I’m looking forward to reading most?  Beauty and the Billionaire by Jessica Clare.  It is the second book in Clare’s Billionaire Boys Club series and it’s a Beauty and the Beast type story (I’m a HUGE lover of BatB tales. LOVE.)  My review on book one in the series, Stranded with a Billionaire, can be found here (Look for my review on book two sometime in the next two weeks.)  I’m also excited about the fourth book in Jennifer Probst’s Married to a Billionaire series, The Marriage Merger, set for release July 23rd (can you tell I have a thing for the billionaire romance trope?)  Also releasing on the 23rd is the next book in Marie Force’s Gansett Island series, Time for Love.  The conclusion to Tiffany Reisz’s Original Sinners series, The Mistress, is slated to be released on July 30 and wow, it packs a punch.  I was fortunate enough to read an advanced copy and hot damn, it was so good.  I’m duel reviewing the book with reading bestie Kelly towards the end of the month.

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Ok readers – your turn.  Share what you’re reading and what you’re excited to read this month in the comments section below!

Kim’s Review of Stranded With A Billionaire (Billionaire Boys Club #1) by Jessica Clare

swabjcRecently, I’ve read contemporary romance novels that follow this pattern: boy wants girl, boy is rich and knows he can have what he wants, girl allows boy to treat her however he wants because he is “dark” and “brooding” and she is going to change him, etc.  You know the pattern.  Knowing this, I was hesitant to start reading a new contemporary romance series that follows a group of men known as the Billionaire Boys Club.  Once I read the plot of Stranded with a Billionaire (book one), I was interested enough to give Jessica Clare a chance to show me that she didn’t follow the same played-out formula.

Logan Hawkings is a member of one of the most exclusive clubs in the world: the Billionaire Boys Club.  Its six members obviously have a massive amount of money, but they also are very success driven and will do whatever it takes to protect their wealth.  Unfortunately for Logan, however, the rest of his life isn’t falling into place so well, with the recent death of his father and betrayal by his fiancée casting a shadow over his life.  He therefore decides to get his head back together with a trip to one of his new business ventures, a private island in the Bahamas.  After settling in, a freak hurricane and broken elevator bring a woman named Brontë Dawson into his life.  Brontë is just a waitress on vacation, but now she finds herself with the hotel manager to whom she is very attracted.  Fast forward a few days and Brontë finds herself in a full-blown relationship with Logan, but she suddenly discovers that he is much more than just the manager of the hotel.  Will this revelation threaten to tear their new relationship apart or can Brontë stay and help rebuild Logan’s life?

The first thought I had while reading this book was about how likable the characters were.  Brontë and Logan hooked me from page one.  Brontë is really funny; she’s full of snark, intelligence, and a burgeoning self-confidence.  She’s also got a philosophical saying for everything, which became a running joke for the whole book.  What I loved about her the most though was her sense of independence.  Logan’s money means nothing to her.  It doesn’t make her want to be with him.  She wants Logan the man, not Logan the billionaire.  Logan on the other hand is this strong, sexy man who oozes confidence and tranquility.  He knows he has the power and means to get what he wants.  What money can’t buy, he wins with his personality and genuine effort .  I know that bundled together, these traits make him seem arrogant.  At times he was, but it wasn’t an arrogance that turned me off.  I’ve read other contemporary romance novels where the leading men are just disgustingly arrogant, expecting their female counterparts to accept their demeaning behavior.  The amount of arrogant leading men in contemporary romance novels has skyrocketed in my opinion, and made me a bit hesitant to try new authors.  I’m happy that I gave Clare the chance to wow me with Logan, and I will definitely read about the other five men in her Billionaire Boys Club series.  If Clare’s witty and sexy writing in Stranded by a Billionaire is any indication of her talent, I’m going to enjoy each and every one of them.

4 out of 5 Stars

Stranded With A Billionaire by Jessica Clare
Penguin Group (2013)
eBook: 260 pages
ISBN: 9781101621233

Special thanks to Penguin Group for my review copy via Netgalley!

The April Roundup!

I can’t believe it!  At the end of April I had 70 books under my belt; this is the fastest reading pace I’ve done yet!  That’s 30 books ahead of schedule!  You can see a list of all the books I’ve read so far here.  With all of the reading I’ve done recently, you’d think I didn’t have enough time for anything else.  Well, that was not the case.  We had a month packed with all sorts of family/friend events that kept me running around!

Beautiful RuinsTo start the month off right, Todd, Jess, and I attended a book signing by Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins.  What an amazing author!  Jess was full of energy and a great all around guy.  I was fortunate enough to get my book signed by him and chat with him afterwards.  Overall, it was yet another wonderful event put on by R.J. Julia.  If you haven’t been there yet, get to it!  The following weekend, we attended a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society in our town put on by the local Knights of Columbus.  It is a huge beer and food festival, with tons of local and regional breweries on hand with plenty of samples and a ton of food too.  Delicious!

Next, it was on to watch the Quinnipiac Men’s Ice Hockey team as they played in the national championship games!  We originally went to New Haven to get together with fellow alums to watch Quinnipiac take on St. Cloud in the Frozen Four semifinal game.  After winning that game, the Bobcats stayed in Pittsburgh to play Yale in the national championship.  We attended a game watch at a local bar and cheered on the Bobcats, but sadly they lost.  There’s always next year though!

IMG_20130509_085129Finally, I have to end this roundup on a slightly sad note.  Recently we had been noting that Sebastian (one of our two cats) had been coughing a lot.  Todd was able to take a day off of work and took him to the vet, where he had an x-ray (he had to be sedated as he can be slightly grumpy at times).  It turns out that he may have slight asthma, and the pills we got are doing the trick, so he is feeling much better!  Look at this cute face!

So on the reading front, the 27 books I read in April were primarily all new adult books.  This is seriously my new favorite genre.  I’ve already posted reviews on two of my favorites: Easy by Tammara Webber and Losing It by Cora Carmack.  AHH this genre is the bomb. I have many more recommendations for this genre, so keep an eye on my upcoming reviews.

Speaking of reviews, here is what’s on the schedule for the rest of May.  Sam’s going to be reviewing a new YA novel entitled The Rose Throne by Mette Ivie Harrison.  Todd’s working on Resurrection Express by Stephen Romano and A Year in Beer and Food by Emily Baime and Darin Michaels.  Christine will be reviewing Over the Rainbow by Paul Pickering and I’m working on Eyes Wide Open by Raine Miller, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, Stranded with a Billionaire by Jessica Clare, and The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden by Jessica Sorensen among others.  It promises to be a full month as always.

I hope your April was as fun-filled and bookish as ours was!

Until next time, happy reading!