05/1/17

Quiz: Are you a Romance Hero?

Have you ever felt like you’re walking around in a movie? Or maybe that your life is the plot of a novel? Do obstacles pop up in a way that seems plot-driven? Do you wonder if your life is really someone else’s summer daydream?  Well, I’m here to help.

Every spring I judge a writing contest. Last year, it inspired my list of ways to tell if your hero is a jerk. This year, I’d like to perform a service for all my readers and help them figure out if they’re secretly the romantic lead in story, an always ideal creature that is usually called ‘the hero’. Consider each trait below. If they sound like you, you might just be someone’s hero.

You always have a condom, no matter how implausible sex might be.  Most of us don’t go hiking, riding on the range, kayaking, or to board meetings thinking about safe sex, but heroes always seem to have a discreet condom in their pocket.
Bonus points if you can offer a plausible explanation for the condom, like the cowboy hero who explained the condom was a integral part of his saddle bag first aid kit.

You’re such an accomplished lover you always know what to do for your partner, every time, even if it’s the first time the two of you have been together. Sure, everyone has different preferences, but the hero magically never tries something their partner doesn’t like.
Bonus points if you give your partner something they craved but have been too afraid to ask for/never even said out loud.

You are so potent, that the one time you forget protection your partner is immediately pregnant regardless of age, being on the pill, or a history of infertility.
Bonus points if those pregnancies have no negative side effects like morning sickness or exhaustion.

You always satisfy your lover first. Heroes never rush into anything, least of all their partner. The person (or people) they’re with is always satisfied at least once, usually twice, before the hero even thinks of their own pleasure.

You can go a very long time without having sex and lose none of your abilities as a lover. Even five hundred years of celibacy doesn’t make you rush or fumble.

You are never so injured, tired, or hungry that you can’t have sex. Ever. Bruised, beaten, or dealing with heavy blood loss a hero can always satisfy (see above).

You are never not completely in love with your partner. Is she moody? Does he have the flu? Doesn’t matter. You still find them sexy, or maybe adorable, but never annoying, whiny, or tiresome. Heroes never fall out of love and think their partner is always perfect.

You can always set the mood for some romance. Bad guys chasing you? Earthquake? Zombie attack? A real hero only needs a semi-dark or semi-private place to turn any situation into a sexy night to remember.

You are instantly loved by all. Colicky babies, defensive mutts, and disapproving mothers all immediately fall for you, even though they usually hate people like you. They instinctively know you’re different, without being able to put it in words.

Did you say yes to three or more of the above? If so, you might be a trope-driven romance hero. Maybe consider developing a few real life flaws to go with that tortured back-story. Or don’t: a lot of folks love romance heroes.

06/20/16

June Reads – Hard Truth by Nevada Barr

I stayed up until 1 am reading and it wasn’t until the next day that I realized this book helped fulfill my goal of reading more books with disabled characters.

Heath, a strong young woman, is confined to a wheel chair after injuring her spinal cord in an ice climbing accident. In the first pages of the novel she bitterly wheels her wheelchair through an accessible camping lot, only to fall out onto a pair of lost girls. The two girls, one twelve and one thirteen, have been lost in the wilderness for almost a month.  They’re nearly naked, horribly traumatized, and unwilling to be parted from Heath.

The book is part of the Anna Pigeon series, so Anna is the main character. Heath gets a lot of page time though, and is able to help the lost girls both because of, and in spite of, her status as a paraplegic. Her character moves from being angry and bitter almost all the time, drinking and smoking, to fighting for others, working hard, and accepting that her new status doesn’t change who she is. The book included a great passage about her wheelchair going from being “other” to being a part of her body.

There was also a very fine mystery going on. The girls turn out to be part of a religious cult/commune that practices polygamy and child marriage. Their parents are firmly against any psychological counseling. They don’t want the police or anyone else involved in their life. Questions arise about demons; did the girls see one? Is it responsible for the dead animals and strange attacks in the night?

Trigger warning: torture of animals and violence towards women (including rape). While the worst abuse takes place off stage, the story doesn’t shy away from portraying uncomfortable scenes. When I got to the end I was surprised by the depth of the villain’s depravity and unsure that all the characters would recover well. So while it kept me turning pages, this book might not be for everyone.

I was fairly sure I had the mystery figured out at least five times, only to change my mind twenty pages later. I stayed up late reading because I had to know how it all came together. I suspected all sorts of things for the characters, which include a handful of park rangers, a youth pastor, and the girls’ families. Most of what I guessed didn’t come to pass. It was nice to see a book that didn’t rely on the usual tropes.

I’m looking forward to reading more of the Anna Pigeon stories, hopefully they’ll all have characters as good as Heath.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

05/20/16

May Reads – Midnight, Texas series

Charlaine Harris writes my kind of candy: small towns filled with weird, diverse characters who have depth and appeal, with an element of the supernatural to keep things interesting. I gobbled down the Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood series on a gloriously hot Memorial day weekend. I was on vacation in St. Simon’s Island and ended up not seeing much of it.  The shorter Harper Connelly series went by in a flash. I can’t remember when I read it, only that I longed for more. Rumors still fly that it’ll be a series on HBO. I’ve got my finger crossed.

So it’s probably no surprise that her latest series is my May read. The third book came out at the beginning of the month and I’m already scouring the web hoping for rumors of the next one. The series feels like Harris is having fun, collecting left over characters from other books and plopping them down in the improbable small town of Midnight, Texas. Harper Connelly’s favorite psychic friend, Manfred lives on the corner. He’s two doors down from Sookie Stackhouse’s ex-boyfriend the weretiger, Quinn. Somehow a town of less than a dozen permanent residents contains vampires, assassins, witches, murders, angels, and few normal seeming folks who aren’t all that normal.

Each book brings the townspeople together to confront a ‘big bad’. The big bads range from the mundane to the almost unbelievable but the battles and confrontations always ring true. The very small town functions as a sort of extended family – a diverse family with people of various colors, sexualities, and ages who all want to keep to themselves. That never works, and each book shows us another towns-person having to reveal secrets or share parts of their past they hoped would never come to light.

One of the things I enjoy so much about this series is the very different ways everyone has of handling things. When a murderer is discovered in town responses range from ‘call the cops’ to ‘let me get my gun’. Each chapter is told from a different person’s point of view and I enjoy seeing each person thinking through the goings on. The only character who doesn’t enjoy a chapter of is own is the wonderfully grumpy talking house cat (who reminds me a lot of my rabbit editor).

When I ran into another Charlaine Harris fan at my local book store we enjoyed a good long talk about all the hidden references to other books. The stories do stand on their own though. I had no idea the pawnshop owner came from another book series – one Harris wrote that doesn’t have any supernatural aspects. I’d never read any of those books, but the character still felt fully developed.

The books won’t help meet my goal of reading more books about people who have disabilities as I talked about in a previous blog. Everyone is fully able bodied and even the character who endured serious abuse as a child seems completely free of mental issues. These books aren’t going to change the world, but they are fun. I hope I get to read more like them.

03/28/16

March Reads – Ellie Jordan Ghost Trapper

Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper cover

My search for books with disabled or minority characters wasn’t doing too well when I stumbled on to the Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper series by happy accident. One of the main characters, Calvin, is an ex-homicide cop who happens to use a wheelchair. Calvin is the brains behind the paranormal investigation firm. His wheelchair use is never the most important thing about him, and it never stops him from doing his job. When he drives too fast it’s because as an ex-cop he never worries about getting caught not because he isn’t using the regular gas pedal. Two things made his character great for me: first, how he came to be in a wheelchair isn’t even discussed in the first two books. We learn about him as a person, about his dog, the food he likes, and so on before we learn about his injury. Second, when we do learn about his injury the information is presented as fact, not a tear-jerking story or a reason to celebrate his accomplishments. Instead, the information comes out naturally, as part of the story.

A story I devoured like kettle corn. I’m three books into the series, and I’ve only known about it for a week. The books are filled with old-fashioned ghost stories. Bride ghosts who were wronged at the altar. Abandoned ghosts who have gone mad with loneliness. Addict ghosts who are still searching for a fix. And those none of those are the main ghost stories, they’re just fun side trips on the way to the really scary stuff.

The first novel, Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper, introduces Ellie, Calvin, and the newest recruit to their firm, a young  former beauty queen, Stacy. Stacy acts as a surrogate for the reader, asking all the questions we would want to ask. Ellie isn’t pleased with Stacy’s eager outlook but when what appears to be a simple haunting turns out to be multiple ghosts, including one with nasty ties to the occult, Stacy grows up and stands strong. In addition to the ghost story there’s some great interaction between Ellie and her client’s little girl who is terrorized by the haunting. The girl’s father is written as a jerk, a very believable misogynist sports-obsessed jerk. I give the author huge kudos for writing someone so unlikable and not torturing them. While I hoped the man who get his comeuppance, the more realistic ending was a better choice.

In the second novel, Cold Shadows, a family moves into a house where the toys play with themselves and water drips from dry ceilings.  This story repeated the best parts of the first one: Calvin giving advice, Ellie and Stacy relating to the clients with empathy, and the ghosts turning out to be bigger, darker, and scarier than they first let on. Trigger Warning/Mild Spoiler Alert – the ghosts in this story come with a history of spousal and child abuse. But this is handled well, without any apology or aggrandizing. The ghost family dynamic plays out while the ghost trappers struggle to free the live family from the haunting.

Cold Shadows over

In the third novel, The Crawling Darkness, we learn that Calvin was hurt on the job, shot by ghostly bullets that severed his spine. The ghost that created them is actually a Closet Monster, a literal boogeyman that feeds on fear. By this point in the series Ellie has opened up as a person, learning to trust her team members. She even takes Calvin’s advice to consider getting a personal life. Stacy shares more of her own background, revealing hidden strength and old scars. I was glad Calvin wasn’t magically healed through the battle with the entity. His disability didn’t get “fixed” in the end, just like Ellie didn’t get over her fear of fire.

I’m half-way through the series of six books, and I’m already sad there aren’t more. Set in historic Savannah with characters that feel like real people instead of cardboard cutouts and filled with scary ghosts, these are a fun read. They’re exactly my kind of candy.

01/20/16

What I read in 2015

In 2014 I challenged myself to take photos of every book I read. Most of them included the rabbit editor looking slightly grumpy, which is adorable but not useful for analysis. Last year, I started a Goodreads account. It made tracking my 2015 reading much easier.

I started but didn’t finish 19 novels.
Most of those DNFs (did not finish) stories included a plot development I couldn’t read past. For one romance novel set in the 1960s it was a hero who shamed the heroine for being alone a room with a man she didn’t know. There was a chance the man raped her, and as far as the hero was concerned that would be her fault. While the story spoke to me, I couldn’t forgive him being such a jerk. (I’m pretty sure the heroine did.) The big surprise among the DNFs was A Clash of Kings (the second novel in the Game of Thrones series). I love dragons, fantasy, and epic stories, but I don’t enjoy reading violence against women. I wish someone would write a more woman-friendly version.

I read 78 novels, with a total of 23,316 pages.
The bulk of those (39 of 78) were historic mysteries thanks to the 19 Phryne Fisher novels I devoured last winter.  I promised myself I’d seek out more weird west novels but only managed to find two: The Six-Gun Tarot and The Shotgun Arcana both by R.S. Belcher. I can’t wait to read the third novel in this series set in a cursed desert town. The stunning cast includes a Chinese demi-god, Christian angels, a Native American shape shifter, an assassin/witch trained by the pirate-queen, and a gay man wielding a sword from Mormon legend. It sounds crazy, but it really works. I wanted to know more about each and every character.

I’m mildly embarrassed about the amount of YA books I read – one a month this year. I already gushed about my two favorites – Scarlett Undercover and Serafina and the Black Cloak. Both are great, but it’s Scarlett,  the teenage Muslim detective, I’m most looking forward to following. I loved learning about Scarlett’s culture and enjoyed a fresh take on the noir genre.

 

Looking forward
Last year I read roughly one and a half books a week. In 2016, I’d like to push that to 2 books per week. That’s a challenging goal considering I’m writing and editing books of my own, but reading is a fundamental part of the writing process. When I don’t read I get repetitive, using the same concepts (or even the same words) over and over again. Reading stops me from getting stale.

With that in mind I want to try some new genres this year.  Some of my favorite books from the last few years have been set in another culture or place.  In 2016 I’m making a point of adding diversity to my reading list – at least one book each month by a minority author or with a minority main character. I have some great lesbian fiction in mind but I’m still on the hunt for books where the main character has a disability. About 20% of the population has a disability of some sort but I don’t see them on my bookshelf. I want to.

When I find them, or any gem of a book, I promise to come back here and blog about it. One of the best parts of reading is talking about your latest favorite. If you’ve got one I should check out let me know, I’m always happy to hear about a good book.

11/20/15

November Reads – Dragon books!

His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire, Book 1) by Naomi Novik (Author)

Some people bird-watch, others collect stuffed penguins, or love cats beyond all reason. I adore dragons. While I’m picky about it – I need four limbs and wings – my obsession is fairly boundless. When I renovated my bathroom, I commissioned an artist to etch a dragon on the shower door.  I regularly get myself hennaed with different dragon images, because I can’t choose a single dragon for a tattoo. So this month’s reads are… dragon books!

Naomi Novak’s Temeraire series
Alt-history or maybe just really good fantasy, these stories focus on Temeraire, a dragon in the service of the British Empire during the Napoleonic wars. Taken as a spoil of war, Temeraire is paired with British naval commander, Will Laurence,  instead of the usual dragonrider. Thanks to Will’s influence the books feel like Patrick O’Brian’s “Jack Aubrey novels or maybe the Sharpe books. With a fun dragon twist, of course. Temeraire is wonderfully innocent. He doesn’t understand how slavery works and won’t accept the way dragons are treated. I admit that I skimmed the battle scenes, there’s only so much ship-vs-ship and dragon-vs-dragon action I can take, but Temeraire skewing social mores never got old.

The series continues for eight books. I’ve read the first three and haven’t had a complaint yet. Thankfully only the first one made me cry (Levitas’ story is heartbreaking).

Wildfire: A Paranormal Mystery with Cowboys & Dragons by Mina Khan

I’ve talked about Mina Khan’s Wildfire before and I’m likely to talk about it again. Not only is the dragon a girl, Lynn is also mixed race and a cool ‘real’ person. Her relationships with her hero, her best friend, and her family are all complicated and messy. She’s battling depression, and Khan’s writing shows the ups and downs of that disease in wonderfully non-clinical, non-stereotypical way. Also there are cowboys. Cowboys and dragons. It’s like sea salt and chocolate – I never knew they were meant to be together, but now I can’t imagine them apart.

Lynn rushes to the aid her best friend after Jen’s home is almost lost in a fire. Soon she finds herself embroiled in a mystery. A cute cowboy (Jack) and more worldly real estate developer (Henry) compete for her affections. One of them is more than he seems, and either of them could be behind the increasingly dangerous fires. Lynn struggles to control her emotions, not to mention her dragon hormones, while trying to stop the crimes. The pacing, plot, and small town setting make this book a can’t-put-it-down dragon-shifter story. I’m still waiting hopefully for the next story about these characters.

Treasured Claim: A Mythos Legacy Novel by Jami Gold

Another great dragon-shifter is Elaina Drake, the heroine from Jami Gold’s Treasured Claim. I was lucky enough to read this story back when it was in beta form years ago. It was great fun then, and has only gotten better. Elaina’s story is a romance and her hero, Alex, turns the billionaire playboy stereotype on its head. Alex insists on doing the right thing. He defines himself as the opposite of his amoral, mostly horrible father. Elaina also has daddy issues, except in her case her father might actually kill her.

Gold does a lot of fun non-traditional dragon things. For example, Elaina doesn’t just like treasure, she needs it to survive. Elaina is the physically stronger partner in the relationship, but (this novel gets pretty close to erotica) is sexually submissive. The combination of unexpected twists and multi-faceted characters makes this one of my favorite paranormal romance dragon-shifter stories.

 

10/20/15

October Reads

October brings ghost stories to book store shelves in the same heaping drifts as the leaves on the ground. I indulged in a few this month that are worth sharing. Continuing September’s more-romance-than-horror kick, I start with Gull Harbor by Kathryn Knight. The heroine, Claire, is a psychic who can commune with ghosts. After giving up on law school, her father’s chosen path for her life, Claire desperately needs a job. When she takes on clearing a house of a dangerous poltergeist, she doesn’t expect to run into her college boyfriend, Max. Max was the one that convinced her to embrace her gift, and his father’s ghost was the first one she communicated with. Their relationship ended terribly, leaving Claire completely unwilling to take Max’s help or heed his good advice to leave the haunted house alone. The love story took the expected turns while the ghost story stayed fresh and different. Small spoiler – the ghost doesn’t speak English, so Claire’s well-meaning attempts to offer it help are useless. House fires, small injuries, the problems keep mounting until Claire catches the clue. It was refreshing to see a ghost story where the ghost wasn’t the same nationality, ethnicity, and general ‘type’ as the other characters. Because if there are ghosts, why would they all be white, English speakers? I enjoyed this story so much I immediately picked up Silver Lake another ghost story by Kathryn Knight.

In Silver Lake a group of high school friends come together to make one last effort to investigate the disappearance of Brittany, the party girl of the group. Ghostly experiences start almost at once: puddles of lake water appear inside house, doors open and close on their own, and cabinets open themselves without a sound. The four friends made for believable, fun characters, although I admit to some trouble with their timelines. Somehow they all achieved their dreams by age 25. While it’s certainly possible to be a successful teacher, a mother of twins, the owner of a well-established business, or an indispensable corporate manager in 3 years after college the story ‘clicked’ better for me when I thought of them as being 28 or 30 instead. With that adjustment I was able to lose myself in the many twists and turns of the ghost story. I guessed right only half the time, and there were definitely things that blind-sided me completely. The ending impressed me for being unique and realistic.

The last ghost story on my Kindle was The Quilter’s Ghost: An Elm Creek Quilts Story by Jennifer Chiaverini.  I’ve read all of the Elm Creek Quilt books and even made some quilts from the patterns Chiaverini supplies in each book. Most ghost stories follow a formula, introduce the ghostly happenings, find out a little about the ghost, put the hero/heroine in danger, and then end things when they discover the ghost’s origins. This short story covers only the usual two acts, neglecting most of the danger and all of the back story. I wish there had been more. It’s my own fault for not noticing before I bought that the story was only 35 (Kindle) pages.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Crimson Peak, a new movie by director Guillermo del Toro that’s being billed as a horrorifying ghost story.  In the first few minutes of the film a character says “It isn’t a ghost story, but a story with a ghost in it”. That’s how I would describe Crimson Peak – a Gothic romance with all of the usual trappings – big, decrepit house, lavish costumes, innocent, plucky heroine, brooding hero – and it also happens to have a ghost or two in it. If you like historic or Gothic romances don’t be scared off by the director or the spooky reviews.

 

09/20/15

September Reads

At the beginning of the year I fell in love with Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, and found myself reading three books a week. Like most torrid affairs it came to an end, leaving my to-be-read list nearly empty. While there’s always a stack of book I ought to read I drifted looking for something that kept me up at night, wrapped in the story. I haven’t found another series to devour, but by branching out into genres I don’t usually read landed a few gems.

crazy about youCrazy About You by Katie O’Sullivan
This story is eighty percent romance and twenty percent thriller. Two people who seemingly don’t have much in common fall in love, and the seemingly unrelated problems they’re dealing with (infectious ocean waste and a not-boyfriend who might be in the mob) come together in the end. The dead body doesn’t appear until around page 120 but once it does things escalate quickly. The small tourist town setting was fun even as threats to the heroine keep adding up. I made the mistake of picking up this book on my lunch hour, and couldn’t concentrate for the rest of the afternoon.

Whiskey Beach By Nora Roberts
I got this book because a review promised ghosts. SPOILER – there are no ghosts. Oddly I felt compelled to keep reading despite that horrible omission. The story is a little on the long side, winding its way through 496 pages with smugglers, buried treasure, a murder, a stalker, yoga, and lots of massages. Still the mystery drew me in, easing me over long passages of character development and romance. I was impressed to see character back stories that had some depth and darkness to them. So while it didn’t have any ghosts, it made for a great way to spend an afternoon.

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
I’m not usually a fan of Middle Grade fiction. The threats feel watered down or made up. One book flew across the room after it revealed the titular vampire wasn’t a vampire at all and the whole thing was a great big misunderstanding! I hate the idea that kids are too stupid to see what’s real or when they do see the truth no one believes them. Thankfully Serafina only endures that hardship for a few pages. When people don’t believe her she takes on the supernatural terror herself. This book is genuinely scary and unique. The monster wasn’t something I’ve read about a hundred times. The story even avoided my second most-hated YA trope where all adults/parents are ignorant or absent. The way the ending came together felt fresh and entirely satisfying. I know Serafina’s story ends here but I wish I could read more about what happens to her and her life.

06/15/15

What I’m reading… June 2015

Moments after turning in the final galley edits for Under a Blood Moon, I binged. I devoured not one or two, but thirteen books. I thought I could hold myself to ten. I even left the store with ten. Then I found myself at the library the next day – getting another few, just in case. When I’m writing or editing, I dangle books as reward, finish fifty pages of edits and you earn an hour of reading time. With no edits, I’m like a kid in a candy store, greedy and glad all at once.

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

Scarlett thinks like an old gumshoe from a Noir novel. She talks tough, in the kind of metaphors you don’t see in modern novels. She just happens to be a Muslim-American teenager. Her story weaves Muslim faith and folklore together, exploring mythology and asking questions about who Scarlett is and who she wants to be. It’s a young adult novel, that I’m sure was aimed at kids in the 9th grade. I’m nearly forty and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The mystery involves djinns (both good and bad), cultists, and kidnapped kids. I’d consider this a good ‘beach read’, engrossing and fun.

Fatal Flame by Lyndsay Faye

On the other side of the spectrum is Fatal Flame by Lyndsay Faye. Here the mystery was tense and gritty. In the first pages of the story a man captures a group of women, intending to rape them until they agree to become prostitutes. He’s not the bad guy. That crime isn’t even the worst one in the book. New York in the 1840s was a rough place, and Faye is willing to show you all of that. She also shows off the daily life of her character, a man in love with a rich and diverse group of friends and found family. Most of them speak Flash, a language of street slang so complex that most English speakers can’t follow it. The language, setting, and the characters in this novel made it impossible to put down. I know the author says this is the last Timothy Wilde mystery, but I’m hoping she’s lying.

Phryne Fisher Mysteries By Kerry Greenwood

Since reading a review of the first Phryne Fisher novel over at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, I have consumed fourteen books and watched 26 hours of her tv series. The early stories (start with Cocaine Blues) are short, under 200 pages, and can be read in about two hours. That’s my excuse for reading three in a weekend. Phryne is a wonderful character – a woman with no shame about her sexual appetites and no desire to play by the rules. Phryne grew up in starvation-level poverty and is now quite rich. She spends her time being a detective, more because it suits her than because she has to be. The books are set in 1920s Australia, which I knew nothing about and now want to visit. All of the mysteries are clever and filled with complex, real people.

To sum up I’m reading mysteries, lots of them and really enjoying historic settings and different cultures. While I love Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe, it’s a pleasure to be able to read more diverse stories. I’m sure I’ll be back to the writing and editing grindstone soon, but for now I’m delighted to indulge myself in good books.

12/15/14

What I Read in 2014

Ghost brideLast January I challenged myself to keep a list of all the books I read in 2014. I knew the ‘empty bookshelf’ approach, emptying a shelf and filling it with each book you finish, but suspected I wouldn’t have a shelf big enough. I was right:

65 total books read
16 books that I Did Not Finish (DNF)
33 library books
9 digital books

The best books were:

Blackwater: The Complete Caskey Family Saga by Michael McDowell
Horror. Subtle with a complex cast of well developed ‘real’ characters. Set in the south with a creative monster (human crocodile hybrid? Creature from the black lagoon? I was never sure) I didn’t want this story to end, even after six full length books.

The Revenant by Sonia Gensler
YA fantasy. A diverse (most of the characters are Cherokees), well written ghost story with a smart and resourceful heroine who steals the things she needs and refuses to let a ghost stand in the way of her plans.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
YA Fantasy. This adventure takes place in the afterlife as depicted in Eastern/Chinese culture. The plot hinges on a girl being courted by a ghost. She doesn’t love him, and fights to break free of him.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
Historic YA fantasy. This is a book about surviving horrors, but it’s also a ghost story. The heroine suffers through the flu pandemic, WWII paranoia, her father being jail, and the love of her life haunting her. Everything felt amazingly real and vivid, the smells, the sounds, the pressures she was under.

WildfireWildfire by Mina Khan
Paranormal Romance/Western. This one blew me away. The heroine is a dragon shifter, she’s also half-Japanese and struggling with depression. I check often in the hopes of another book with these characters.

My best list makes it seem like I read a lot of YA, but they added up to only about 31% of my list. The rest is mystery or historic fiction. I rarely read romances (seven) and am far too picky about my Westerns (five).

I’m not going to mention the worst books by name, but oddly most were highly recommended. It seems I don’t have a lot of tolerance for confusion. Several of the DNF books involved world building that left me completely lost. In one example characters went by different names and switched genders depending on who was narrating.

While I have plenty of editing, running, and quilting on the schedule for the next few weeks I’ll probably add another three or four books to my total. While my tracking project was fun for a year, I’m not sure I’ll keep it up in 2015. I feel slightly guilty admitting I read more than a book a week, but didn’t write any new manuscripts. Saying I spent the year editing is a poor excuse. The best stories are always the ones that haven’t been written yet.