About me, Obsessions, Reading

2015 review: My favorite books and music of the year (and BT Urruela!!!)

I thought about doing an introspective end-of-2015 post, but since I kind of laid my soul bare here, I’m going to skip the deep thoughts for my last post of the year. (Update on that, though: I start Judaism 101 classes on January 10th at a local synagogue. I’m excited! Went to my first Shabbat service last week and it was fascinating.)

Anyway, for my final post of the year, I’m going to talk about my favorite books and music of 2015. So, without further ado —

Continue reading “2015 review: My favorite books and music of the year (and BT Urruela!!!)”

Books, Writing

A writer’s struggle: exploring spirituality in characters without boring the reader to tears

One of my biggest struggles as a fiction writer is that I want to explore spirituality and religion with my characters, but I absolutely do not want to write Inspirational or Christian fiction.  Why? Well…

I’m a romance novel junkie.  Seriously. There is nothing I love more than reading, and writing, romance.  I love experiencing those emotions, the excitement and the pain and the fear and the lust and, ultimately, the love. Continue reading “A writer’s struggle: exploring spirituality in characters without boring the reader to tears”

Books, Writing

The epicenter

When I was a kid, my house had a library.  Okay, it was really just an unused dining room filled from floor to ceiling with bookshelves, but to an introspective, socially awkward girl like myself, it was a refuge.  There, I learned about the world through the encyclopedias that ran along the bottom shelves. I was exposed to history through the hundreds of World War II books Dad had, as well as stacks of Life magazines from the 40s and beyond.  The library was where I discovered smut and would sneak through pages of Clan of the Cave Bear when Mom and Dad weren’t home, my mind sucking up words like “throbbing” and “turgid.”  And there, in the Romance section (aka Mom’s books), I was introduced to the book that I realize now has had a huge influence on my life as a lover of the written word.  When I was 12 years old, I read Ashes in the Wind by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss for the first time.

Continue reading “The epicenter”

Books, Reading

Cookie-cutter fiction

So the thing about me is that when I find a new author I like, I read everything I can from that author.  This happened to me recently because I borrowed a book from the library (ebook version, of course) by Diana Palmer.  Because I have a thing for cowboys, I really enjoyed the book.  So then I borrowed about seven more from her.  By the time I was into the fifth one, I was pretty sure I’d read this book before.  That’s when I realized that all her books follow the same formula.  Young virginal woman + older man + tortured attraction + unrealistic characters who profess love in gorgeous prose = every Diana Palmer book. Ever.

The same can be said for Nicholas Sparks.  I know he’s wildly popular but his books wouldn’t be his books unless someone dies at the end, bringing everything full circle and leading to the main character(s) having profound realizations.

What is it with these authors?  Why do they publish the same book, over and over again?  Why does the reader never seem to mind and just keep buying them?  Is originality dead?  I mean, Colleen Hoover runs circles around Diana Palmer – yet Hoover had to self-publish at first!  As an aspiring author myself, I’m beginning to realize that there’s no rhyme or reason to getting published.  Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series is proof of that.  That series should’ve ended about ten books ago, yet it just keeps going and going and going.  Stephanie’s car blows up + Grandma Mazur is funny + Lula makes fat jokes + Stephanie can’t decide between Joe or Ranger (the answer is ALWAYS Ranger, in case you were wondering) = every book in the stupid series.

The only thing I can surmise is that readers aren’t picky and that there’s no accounting for taste (or the lack thereof).  50 Shades of Grey is proof of this!

About me, Books, Reading

When a book leaves you shattered and moved and hopeful

I just finished reading this incredible book.

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Hopeless by Colleen Hoover.

This book is written in first-person.  One of my cardinal rules of reading is “never, ever read a book written in first person!”  The reviews for Hopeless, though, were so positive and glowing and full of fangirl key-smashing (both on Goodreads and Amazon) that I threw caution to the wind and click “Buy” anyway.  For once, I am absolutely relieved that I let go of my “no first person” rule because if I had, I would’ve missed out on this treasure of a book.

It starts off innocuous at first.  We meed Sky Davis, the narrator, who has been raised by a hippy-dippy mother whose aversion to technology and public education are both so severe that Sky was practically raised Amish.  However, Sky is about to start her senior year at a real, public high school while her best friend Six, who has a less-than-stellar reputation that has rubbed off undeservedly on Sky, goes of to Italy as an exchange student.  It’s obvious to the reader from the very beginning that Sky is “damaged” somehow, but it’s not clear why until much later.  As soon as Sky starts school, she meets Dean Holder.  He’s a “bad boy” with a reputation of his own and the word “hopeless” tattooed on his forearm.  He has a temper, a wealth of secrets, a past that is both fuzzy and frightening.  He also has heart-stopping dimples and a helluva physique (that made me feel guilty for lusting after him since he’s only 18) and his very presence makes Sky react to him in a way she never has to anyone else.

I’m not going to give the plot away because then you wouldn’t need to read this book, so all I will say is that Sky and Dean’s connection causes truths to be shared, secrets to be stirred up, and hard facts to be realized.  I will say that this book is far, far more than just a simple romance story.  It’s light-years beyond just being about two teenagers falling in love.  Trust me, this is no ridiculous, teenaged angst like Twilight. (Don’t get me wrong, Dean Holder sparkles, but not in an Edward Cullen kind of way.)

This book moved me.  Inspired me.  Gutted me.  I read the entire thing, from cover to cover (well, from 1% to 99% on my Kindle, anyway), in the span of about eight hours.  And then I flailed about it on Tumblr and Twitter.  And then I gifted three copies of it so that others can read this book.  It’s the kind of story that sticks with me long after I’ve finished.  Only a book or two a year ever do that to me and this one is definitely going to stay around.  In my head.  In my heart.

Read it.  You have to read it.  Here, here’s the link to it: go buy it right now.  And if you’ve read it, please leave me a comment to tell me how very much in “live” you are with Dean Holder, too!

Books, Reading

What I just finished reading…

For the last eight days or so, I have been tearing through the ACRO series of books by Sydney Croft.  The six books – Riding the Storm, Unleashing the Storm, Seducing the Storm, Taming the Fire, Tempting the Fire, Taken by Fire – are all about characters that have super-human powers. They work for the Agency of Covert Rare Operations (ACRO) and they’re basically badass superhero spies that save the world while battling the rival, evil agency Itor.  Add to this awesomeness some seriously hot smut (this is erotic fiction, y’all) and great romance, and this series was a total winner.

Each book is about a separate couple but two couples have their stories told in tidbits over the six books.  It’s one of these couples, Creed and Annika, that was my absolute favorite of the whole series.  They’re the only couple that reduced me to tears at one point due to their serious angst.  Creed is a ghost hunter with a spirit attached to him named Kat (and he’s covered in tattoos that he was born with completely from head to toe on his right side) and Annika can electrify her body and fry crispy anything and everything that touches her. Their relationship, for me, was the heart and soul of the book and it’s a reason that if anyone tackles this series, they have to read all six books just so that they can see how Creed and Annika end up.

Seriously, though, the books are fantastic.  Full of adventure, people with super powers, and hardcore smut – read these books now!!!!  (All of the books can be found here.)

Books, Reading

One angst-whore’s dream book…

Hi, my name is Rachel, and I’m an angst-whore.

I love a good angsty romance.  Novels filled with unrequited love/star-crossed lovers/lovers kept apart by circumstance are probably among my list of very favorite things.  Thanks to one of my favorite authors tweeting about a book she loved yesterday, I discovered Within Reach by Sarah Mayberry.

Oh my God….

–I need a minute–

*grasps for composure*

Okay, this book made me bawl for more than halfway through it.  It’s about a man (Michael) trying to recover after the untimely death of his young wife, Billie, and Billie’s best friend (Angie), who is grappling with both the loss of her friend and a newfound attraction to Michael. And then “stuff” happens and it gets more and more complicated.  And then the tears start and continue for page after page and I– GAHHH!!!  I just can’t…

Seriously, if you love angst and romance and smut and happy endings, go read this book!

Books, Reading

What I’m reading right now…

Although I’m 93% done (according to my Kindle), I wanted to share what I’m reading at the moment because it’s really affecting me.

 

This story follows Babe, Grace, and Millie from the World War II years to the mid-60s, and shows how their lives and the lives of those around them were profoundly changed by the war.  A connoisseur of WWII-era fiction, this book is different than most of the ones I’ve read because it strips away the romanticism of the period and lays the struggles of those that lived it open for all to see.  It focuses on the intense grief over the men who didn’t come home and on those who did make it home, but who came back changed due to PTSD.  It tackles heavy topics like as rape, racism, and the post-war role of women, but at its heart, it’s about three women, the men they love, and how the war changed them and the world around them.  Oh, and as an added bonus for those of us who thrive on angst, it has a healthy dose of unrequited love, too.