Thursday, January 21, 2016

Review: Renegade by Lisa Bingham

All right, first review of 2016! Let's do it!!


Renegade by Lisa Bingham
published by Berkley in January 2016
The rugged and wild Taggart brothers know how to tame a restless beast, but a restless heart is a different matter...

When tragedy struck, Jace Taggart stepped in to run the family business and care for his brothers, sacrificing his own happiness to ensure their well-being. But after the beautiful Bronte Cupacek moves to town, Jace realizes he can’t ignore the hunger inside him much longer.

However, the last thing Bronte needs is another man in her life. After the end of a painful marriage, she just wants to focus on her daughters. They need her now more than ever. Yet no matter how hard Bronte tries to stand on her own two feet, it’s hard to resist the handsome cowboy who keeps coming to her aid.

Soon secrets from the past threaten everything dear to them. Only through embracing their undeniable connection can Jace and Bronte build a future together that no one can tear apart...
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Taggart Brothers, Book #2

The Story: I find the blurb to be a bit over-dramatic, but it does have the gist of the story.

Bronte Cupacek drove hundred of miles, leaving Boston and her husband, to Bliss, Utah, in the hope to find refuge at her grandmother's for her two daughters and herself... only to learn from the handsome neighbor that her grandmother had a nasty fall and is in the ICU.

Jace Taggart has a lot on his plate already without adding a distressed, pretty neighbor. Six years ago, Jace lost his parents and younger sister in a car accident. His youngest brother, Barry, survived but will always remain 10 years old. At the time, Jace's older brother, Elam, was in a bad head place and his other brother, Bodey, was too young. Therefore, Jace had to step in to take over the ranch and take care of Barry. Except that Jace's heart has never been into the ranch... and years later, Jace is feeling unsettled, itching to travel and reconnect with his art.

Each has their own worries, neither is looking for romance - but the attraction is undeniable.

My Opinion: Desperado, Ms Bingham's debut novel, is one of the few books I picked up at RWA and have actually read. I ended up really liking Ms Bingham's writing and was looking forward to Renegade because Jace was such a great character :)

I wish I could say Renegade didn't disappoint, but that would be lying. However, my disappointment doesn't stem from the usual reasons. I still enjoyed Ms Bingham's writing a lot, liked the Taggart brothers' dynamics and the romance was okay. Also, Jace was indeed a great hero - loyal, caring and understanding. I simply loved his dedication to Barry and the interactions between the two brothers were my favorite part of the book. Barry's innocence and happiness were contagious and they were possible because he had a great older brother taking care of him. So why am I unhappy? Because I can't help but think that Ms Bingham had the perfect hero material in Jace and would have written a wowzer... if only she had focused the story on him ^_^; It's true that in most romance novels, readers want some balance - they want to know about both H/H, enjoy having both POVs. However, there are instances where one steals the spotlight and it should have been the case with Jace in Renegade. I really wish Ms Bingham had focused the book on Jace, fleshed out his character and developed his journey more. For example, it's only 1/3 in that we find out that Jace is an artist, that back in days - prior to the accident - he actually disappeared and traveled throughout Europe, studying/admiring arts. He chafes under all the ranch duties and itches to take a vacation... All the information about Jace was slow-coming and never fleshed out enough for me. Also, at the end, while he does start making art again, he's put aside his itch because of his responsibility to Barry and his relationship with Bronte... To me, it felt like he resigned himself instead of finding his HEA ending.

I feel the reason why Ms Bingham couldn't focus on Jace was because she introduced a heroine with a lot of baggage. Bronte wasn't a bad character, but honestly, I didn't care about her and her story because I wanted more of Jace. I just felt her baggage overshadowed Jace too much. Bronte's ex-husband had a drug problem. She tried being a good wife and stayed with him till the situation almost endangered her daughters. Now, in Bliss, she's trying to focus on being a good mother - especially to her youngest who seemed very troubled. The only fault I find in Bronte is that she tried to shield her daughters too much - to the point where they were not aware of the divorce! That's taking it a bit too far in my opinion. Yes, you want to protect your children, but you should also be honest with them. I think if she had spoken up about the divorce, a lot of issues could have been avoided. Anyway, I just wished the heroine for Jace would have less baggage, so they could really have a passionate romance instead of tip-toeing around each other for the sake of others. Also, it would have been a nice change to have a heroine that was "normal." Sometimes, less is better! I know it's hard to develop a character that doesn't have issues, but authors should try it sometimes instead of over-burdening their characters...

I have a few other minor issues with Renegade: where was Bronte's family when she needed them (she mentions a sister, are the parents alive?), the timeline of Jace's disappearance to Europe and the title explanation was forced... but overall, I think it's mainly me being too picky and over-thinking it ^_^;

My Grade: C. My review seems quite negative, but that's mainly because I envisioned a different story for Jace. I do maintain that Renegade would have been a better book had the focus been more on Jace... but as it is , it was still enjoyable.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Best and Favorite Reads of 2015

Well, I thought I had figured out how to juggle real life and blogging... but I was obviously too optimistic LOL. Or perhaps I should say that it doesn't take much to disrupt the balance ^_^; Anyway, all to say that I was very busy and didn't manage to post anything up :( The good news though is that I wanted to!! That's a very good sign and a step up from last year, so I'll take it :) Still a lot of curling ahead in the next few weeks (months), but I think it'll be more manageable - I hope :)

All right, enough about my life and let's talk books :) Here is my list of Best and Favorite Reads for 2015:


Contemporary romance


While contemporary romance was my most read genre in 2015 with 62 books, I did not give out a single A grade ^_^;  I had to look at the B+ reads and two stood out: Sustained by Emma Chase and No One Like You by Kate Angell.

I initially didn't intend to buy Sustained in the bookstore, just wanted to check it out because Ms Chase was supposed to attend RARE 2015... However, after reading the first few pages, I was hooked and had to have it :) Sustained is about a hotshot defense attorney - confirmed bachelor - who falls in love with a woman who just got the guardianship of her six orphaned nieces and nephews ranging from 8 months old to 14 years old. The appeal for me was the 6 kids and Sustained sure delivered :) Loved the H/H and their interactions with the kids - the day-to-day life snippets were great. The male 1st POV was also very refreshing and made this book stand out. The only reason Sustained didn't get an A was because the hero got cold feet twice and I thought the second time was just unnecessary/redundant.

Kate Angell is an auto-buy for me. I love her writing style and the Barefoot William series has just been the ray of sunshine I need after a long winter :) Light, fluffy and fun, they are the perfect beach reads. No One Like You has four adorable dogs - especially the big doofus Atlas,  a nice-paced romance and likable characters. The best? Ms Angell has corrected my biggest pet peeve with her books: our H/H is the only couple and the focus of No One Like You!!

Honorable mentions - Ransom Canyon by Jodi Thomas and Dirty Thoughts by Megan Erickson


Category romance


The Spy Who Tamed Me is the last book in Ms Hunter's The Wests series and features the eldest sibling, Jared West. Jared has been undercover for two years, determined to find out the culprit who caused the mission in which his younger sister got injured to go FUBAR. Back to his life, Jared must now face the music which is being delivered by new Director of Operations, Rowan Farrington.

I'm not a fan of older woman/younger man romance, but Ms Hunter makes it work for me - probably because the age difference wasn't a huge issue. Also, Jared and Rowan had great chemistry :) The Spy Who Tamed Me was fast-paced and sucked me right in from page one. Not much happened in the story action-wise as The Spy Who Tamed Me was more about Jared's internal turmoil - making amends to his siblings for disappearing on them for two years and what is the next step in his career, but there was something about it that just worked. It was also a nice conclusion to the series :)

Honorable mentions - A Bad Boy for Christmas by Kelly Hunter


Historical romance


I haven't been much in the mood for historical romance lately. All the books I've picked up in this genre were from auto-buy authors with the exception of The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne. It's a strategy that paid off because my favorite authors all released very solid books... but no wowzer, unfortunately. The Duke and the Lady in Red by Lorraine Heath is the one that stood out the most for me. Rosalind Sharpe is a swindler - she seduces men and disappears with their money. In order to provide the best last days to her ailing brother, she goes for the biggest mark: the wicked Duke of Avendale... and she almost succeeds! Avendale is not ready to let our heroine go, especially not after she almost made a fool out of him, and so, makes a proposition - to be his mistress for a week.

The Duke and the Lady in Red started out like any other typical regency historical romance, but turned out to be more thanks to our great H/H and their circumstances. I loved Rosalind's loyalty, Avendale's generosity and their chemistry. This was a book about the journey with no nefarious villain :)

Honorable mentions - Catching a Falling Heiress by Laura Lee Guhrke, The Daring Exploits of a Runaway Heiress by Victoria Alexander and Love in the Time of Scandal by Caroline Linden


RS/Mystery/Cosy Mystery


Yes, once again, my Favorite RS read of the year is a Karen Rose book. What can I say? I simply love her writing! Also, there aren't many RS out there featuring cops or FBI agents and focusing on the investigative work nowadays :( If you know of any other, let me know!

In Alone in the Dark, Ms Rose tackles the subject of human trafficking with a cop heroine close to a burn-out and a reporter/vigilant hero whose family is still reeling from a recent tragedy. As usual, the book was fast-paced with a lot of twists and turns and cold-blooded villains. I liked the H/H, but they were not my favorite couple. It'd be nice to have some main characters with less baggage from time to time. Still, a very enjoyable read :)

One of my favorite series ever is the FBI SCU aka Bishop series by Kay Hooper. Fear the Dark is newest installment and also the beginning of the new trilogy. Bishop's FBI agents are sent to Serenity, a small mountain town in Tennessee, where five men and women have gone missing without a trace. Readers renew with Lucas and Sam which were the H/H of Hunting Fear - one of my favorite books of the series - and introduced to medium Dante Swann and telepath Robbie Hodge. Once again, Ms Hooper delivers a chilling mystery :) Also, the feel I got from Fear the Dark is a lot closer to the earlier books in the series - more investigative work and clues - which I really appreciated :)

Honorable mentions - Hunted by Karen Robards


Paranormal romance


I did not read many paranormal romance in 2015, but I don't think it would have made a difference if I'd read more LOL. Shards of Hope by Nalini Singh is one of my 4 reads which got an A-. I just loved everything about it, especially Aden and Zaira. I loved their devotion and loyalty for each other. Lots of things happening and characters interacting with each other, but it all fit. The over-arching story is also advancing well and is almost coming to a conclusion :) I also found Shards of Hope refreshing because so many paranormal and urban fantasy series/books at the moment are about the fractures between races while here, the different races are coming together. The only reason why Shards of Hope did not get an A was because the focus was on Arrows and I wished to see how less powerful Psy are adapting.

Honorable mentions - Fangs for the Memories by Molly Harper


UF/Fantasy/Sci-Fi


Hmmm, this was a tough category. Again, all my favorite authors delivered solid reads in 2015... however, none of them really wowed me. Perhaps it's because my expectations were too high or I'm just extremely picky, but I just wanted more out of them all. In my opinion, Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs lacked intensity, Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews had "transition feel" written all over and the humor has vanished in Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop, in addition of having the heroine take a step back. In the end, the surprise of the year for me was Driven by Kelley Armstrong. And I mean, it literally took me by surprise because I had forgotten all about it ^_^; However, I guess it played in its favor in earning the A- grade since I had no expectations for it :P

Elena always knew being Alpha was a tough job, but she never thought she'd have to juggle between welcoming Malcom back to the Pack and protect the Cains, a clan of werewolves known to be big, brutish and not-too-bright, from someone bent on exterminating them. I really, really enjoyed Driven. Over the years, we've witnessed the difficulties and challenges of the Pack and it was just nice to catch up with it and see how their ranks have been replenished and the new dynamics they have. Also, Malcom's return!! Talk about a twist that I have never never seen coming!! And the reference to Derek was just the perfect final touch :) I hope that Ms Armstrong will continue writing these stories and that eventually, we'll have a cross-over with Derek and the others.

Honorable mentions - Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs, Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews and Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop


Young Adult


This was another tough category because all 11 YA books I read this year were excellent. The lowest grade was a B-!

I've been meaning to read a book by Jennifer Lynn Barnes ever since RT 2010 where the panel of YA authors mentioned her debut novel, Raised by Wolves. Finally, this year, I picked up The Fixer and wowzer - my third A- read!! The Fixer is about Tess Kendrick who moves to Washington D.C. to live with her estranged older sister after their grandfather has been diagnosed with Alzheimer. Tess finds herself attending Hardwicke Academy along with the children of the rich and powerful and discovers that her sister's job is to fix their problems - any problems... and it seems everyone believes that Tess is following in those footsteps. I've always loved court intrigues in fantasy novels and this is like the modern version of it - political conspiracy. Tess is thrown in a world she doesn't know and readers learn along the way with her. The mystery is interesting and complex, but what I enjoyed the most about The Fixer it's realistic aspect. Sure, it's fiction so some of it stretches a bit, but overall, it didn't feel over the top like the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter.

I really kick myself for not picking up My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick earlier. It got quite the buzz when it came out and it was totally deserving! My Life Next Door is a sweet romance between Samantha and Jase. The two have been neighbors for years and have watched each other from afar as their home lifestyles are completely different; Sam with her single, strict Stepford-style mother and Jase with his loud and chaotic 7 siblings. When the two finally meet, sparks fly... but can their romance surpass tragedy? Everything about this book was great: the story, the characters, the romance :) I loved Sam's strength, Jase's family and I thought Jase was such a great hero. Would have been great to get his POV.

I picked out Emmy & Oliver on a whim and I'm so glad I did!! Emmy and Oliver were neighbors and best friends... until Oliver's father abducted him in the middle of a messy divorce. For the next ten years, Emmy and her friends' lives were shaped by this event. Then, one day, Oliver returns. Can Emmy and Oliver become best friends again? From the start, this book made me smiled. I loved the characters and the story, but what got me was the friendship and the honesty - it saved this book from being too dark and transformed it into a ray of sunshine :)

Honorable mentions - To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han, The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick, The Libby Garrett Intervention by Kelly Oram and The Summer Sword by Rick Riordan


New Adult


In 2014, I discovered Sarina Bowen and fell in love with her writing after reading The Understatement of the Year. They were my picks for Favorite New-to-Me Author, Favorite NA Book, Favorite Book of 2014 and Author of the Year (except I never got around to write that post). Ms Bowen does it again in 2015 with Him that she co-wrote with Elle Kennedy. Him is about two college hockey players and estranged best friends reconnecting during hockey camp where they are now instructors and falling in love. Obviously, there's more to the book... but really, all you need to know is that this book is awesome! My last and final A- read of 2015 :) I loved the characters and the romance and the story was fun and sexy :)

Honorable mentions - The Friend Zone by Kristen Callihan, The Shameless Hour by Sarina Bowen and A Shattered Moment by Tiffany King


Favorite Book of 2015


***

And there you have it, my list of Best and Favorite Reads of 2015 :) If you've read all the post, thank you - you've been a trooper!! I'm really sorry for the long post, but since I've barely reviewed this year, I really wanted to share my thoughts of the books :) 

Thursday, January 07, 2016

2015 in numbers...

Well... I don't know why I thought writing this number post was going to be such a big endeavor, but obviously, it wasn't ^_^; Yep, my spreadsheet was blank, but it didn't take that long to complete it... Guess there's a positive to reading less in 2015 LOL. Of course, taking out a whole section of the breakdown - the one that requires the most numbers crunching - didn't hurt either :P

Big thanks to Li and Wendy for inspiring me with their own number posts :)



Number of books read

153

My reading goal for 2015 was 180 books, 1 more than what I read in 2014 (179). I thought I had the whole juggling between curling and reading down to pat and therefore, 180 was achievable... but 2015 turned out to be a lot busier than 2014 since I traveled a bit and played hostess/tour guide for guests :) Also, I had no way to predict I'd renew my passion for Chinese tv series with Nirvana In Fire!

Another big hurdle in 2015 was the eternal "what to read next" question which led to many mini-reading slumps :( Aside from the auto-buys, I just didn't know what to pick up! In many instances, I turned to "safer" bets - authors I knew, story tropes I liked; nothing too out of my comfort zone... Except I think I'm tired of my comfort zone ^_^; And so, many of those "safer" bets didn't really engage me :( Hopefully, with me getting back in touch with blogland, this hurdle won't be an issue anymore (or at least, not be as big) in 2016. Gotta say, I'm optimist though! I've already got quite the list of recommendations based on everyone's 2015 recaps and 2016 anticipated lists :)

Since 2016 is going to be as busy - if not more ^_^; - than 2015, I'm aiming for 160 books. I have a good start so far, so hoping it'll continue! :)


Number of books bought

This section of the post has always been the hardest for me to keep track... perhaps because deep down, I don't really want to know LOL. This year was even harder - what with the blank spreadsheet, RWA and RARE. I did manage to scrounge up some numbers though, so let's take a look :)

  • Bought print online: 25
  • Bought print in-store: 26*
  • Bought e-books: 10
  • RWA print books: 127
  • RWA e-books:  35
  • RARE print books: 13

For a grand total of...

191 print books* + 45 e-books

Okie dokie. That is a lot of books ^_^; Especially, considering that the number of print books should be higher as I'm pretty sure I bought more in-store than what's indicated (hence the asterisk). Not much more though - perhaps 10?

Overall, I'm actually quite happy with myself.. even a bit proud! If we don't look at the books I got at RWA and RARE, I purchased only 61-71 books. Okay, so I held off buying books because I knew I would get many of them  at RWA... but still! I took a look at my numbers in 2011, the other time I attended RWA, and that year, without counting my RWA haul, I bought 157 books! So I did exert some self-control this year! :) More evidence of that self-control: most of my book purchases in-store were done after RWA!

Out of those 61 books that I bought, I have read 43 which means 70.5% . That's an increase over last year, but still a bit low in comparison to 2012 and 2013. Of course, this percentage takes a drastic plunge if we consider my RWA haul ^_^; In my RWA post, I said I had read 15 books prior to RWA... and since then, have only add 9 reads from the haul. Oups. So if you take in account books from RWA and RARE, I have perhaps read approximately 76 books total from all those new books - 32.2%. Not too bad, but I think I can do better ^_^; At least, I know where to turn to for the TBR 2016 challenge that Wendy is hosting and I'm participating in lurker-mode :P Now that I think about it... one of my goals this year should be to keep reading from the RWA haul, hmmmm.

Since I didn't do a great job at keeping track of my book purchases in 2015, I really have no idea of how much money I saved. I always try to avoid paying full price for a book and would say I succeeded 90% of the time. I did try to limit my spending at RARE... and in any case, I'd say that my haul at RWA - even factoring the registration fee - more than made up for it. So all I can is in 2015, I saved a lot LOL.

For 2016, I predict some changes in my book buying habits - not from my free will, but due to circumstances. First, Chapters/Indigo as well as Amazon have changed their discount policies - at almost the same time. (Seriously, how do they expect the regular consumer to believe there's no collusion/price fixing among them?!) It used to be 10% off on books over 10$, 24% off on books over 15$ and 34% off on books over 25$... but those everyday online discounts are gone :( I'm not sure what is their current policy as I see 8% and 11% on some books, but do not know how it is decided. Second, it really doesn't help that the Canadian dollar is soooo low :( Suddenly, book prices are increasing - print and e-format - and Book Depository or shopping in the States aren't as attractive either. So yeah, I'll be stalking Chapters/Indigo website, waiting for sales and promotions and hoping that books I really want to buy make it to the best-seller list ^_^; On the positive side, it'll probably mean I'll buy less books which given the state of my room and TBR pile is not a bad thing... However, it'll also mean I'm going to stick more with auto-buys and will less likely be inclined to pick up new authors on impulse. Oh, and my days of pre-ordering are most likely over as well :(


What did I read

Contemporary romance: 62
Urban Fantasy: 14
New Adult (Contemporary): 14
Historical romance: 12 (Regency: 11, Western: 1)
Romantic Suspense: 11
Young Adult: 11 (Contemporary: 9, Mystery: 1, Fantasy: 1)
Category romance (Contemporary): 10
Paranormal romance: 7
Mystery/Thriller/Cosy Mystery: 4
m/m romance (NA, Contemporary): 3
Fantasy: 3
Sci-Fi: 1
Fiction: 1

Well, no big surprise about what I read. Contemporary romance is again the big winner in 2015. I've always had a preference for it and considered it my go-to genre. Remember how I mentioned earlier that I went for "safer" bets in 2015? Yep, those "safer" bets would be contemporary romance. That, combined with the renewed and continued popularity of sport and small-town romances respectively as well as the current "billionaire" trend, probably explains why my number for contemporary romances has increased so much. The past few years, I was pretty constant with about 40 reads... but sharp increase this year: +22. As for the rest, well the numbers are down for almost every other genres. The math is pretty simple: total books read down and contemporary romance up ^_^;

For 2016, I don't really have any expectations. Sure, I'd like to bulk up my UF and Fantasy reads a bit, but Contemporary romance is still very popular. Considering I'm a pretty current reader, I feel my reading actually reflects not only my reading tastes, but what's being published as well... so it's not totally all in my hands :P



Who published them

1. Penguin (Berkley, NAL, ROC, Putnam, etc.): 40
2. Self-published: 25
3. Harlequin (HQN Books, Mira, SuperRomance, KISS, Mills & Boon, Carina Press, etc.): 19
4. Harpercollins Publisher (Avon, Avon Impulse, etc.): 15
5. Simon & Schuster: 14
6. Macmillan (St. Martin's Press, etc.): 12
6. Hachette (Grand Central Publishing, Little Brown Books, Headline, Orbit, etc.): 12
8. E-Publishers (Samhain, Entangled, Montlake, Tule): 6
9. Kensington: 3
10 .DAW: 2
10. Sourcebooks: 2
12. Bloomsbury: 1
12. Hyperion: 1
12. Subterranean Press: 1

I've always maintained that I'm a mainstream publishers reader and I still believe it's true. A few years ago, if you have told me that self-published books would be #2 on my list, I would not have believed you... however, there is no denying the changes in the publishing industry. And do I want to go against it? No, not if it means I'd miss out on so many good books. I'm still quite picky though on self-published and e-publisher books. Most of the time, I need to be already familiar with the authors or it comes as a recommendation for me to pick up the book. All those freebies on Amazon? Not for me. Also, as Li pointed out, authors who non-traditionally published books tend to have more releases per year which explains in part the jump of self-published books to #2 :)

Otherwise, I'm pretty predictable when it comes to the traditional publishers. My big three remains Penguin, Harlequin and Harpercollins. The big surprise for me: the total absence of Random House Publishing in my reading. That is crazy!


When were they published

2015: 131 (85.6%)
2014: 11
2013: 6
2012: 4

Well, I did say I was a current reader! Still, even that's a huge number for me ^_^; And seriously, nothing published before 2012?! That's  a first for me ^_^; Obviously, I didn't fall in love with any new authors with extensive back-lists LOL.

Anyway, I'm kind of torn... do I want to read more older books? I don't know.





How much did I enjoy the book

A: 4 (4 A-)
B: 86 (16 B+, 39 B, 31 B-)
C: 63 (19 C+, 35C, 9C-)

I know I have a reputation for being a tough grader, but this is getting ridiculous! 4 As only?! Actually, not even A, but A-... Looking back though, the last A I have given was back in 2012.  Still, only 4 A reads is a new low for me. Obviously, I need to loosen up a bit ^_^; Then again, most of the time, I grade on feeling/impression and that's how I felt. Perhaps I'm expecting too much? Or am I becoming even tougher with age?

I was also surprised that I had nothing lower than C-... But after reflection, it actually  makes sense. As I mentioned, I had the dreaded "what to pick up next" syndrome this year. I started a lot of books, but did not read them all... See, a book must hold my attention for me to finish it. When it fails to keep me engaged, I just put it aside with the intention of coming back to it - one day. However, they don't go in the DNF category... they just stay in limbo LOL. That's probably why I don't have anything lower than C-.


Random numbers

  • I wrote a total of 16 posts last year, 3 of them were reviews. Embarrassing!! I thought 2014 was bad, but seriously, I can't go lower than this!
  • New-to-me Authors: 38 - I didn't think this number would be this high, but lo and behold! It's also staying consistent with previous years, so can't complain. The most popular new-to-me author this year must be Karen Robards! LOL.
  • Part of a series: 137 - Series are fun... but I do think I need to cut a few of them out of my autobuys ^_^; And part of me really wish more more stand-alones!

***

There you got it, my numbers for 2015 :) Next will be a recap of my Favorite Reads, so stay tuned!

Monday, January 04, 2016

How do you keep track?

Yay, already another post! Even better, it's book-related! LOL. Maybe I've already found a groove or mojo?

Okay, so I lied in my last post when I said there'd be no number post for 2015 from me. I saw Li's post this morning and it made me itch to write one :P So that's what I'm doing! However, I wasn't kidding when I said I haven't kept my spreadsheet up-to-date... I opened it yesterday to input some books purchases (was cleaning my desk and there was a bunch of receipts from Indigo...) and the "Books Read" tab was EMPTY!!! Talk about dropping the ball! ^_^; It's really sad. And without the spreadsheet, it's pretty much impossible to write the number post... So guess what I'm doing today at work? Yep, spreadsheet... Lucky for me, I've been keeping track of it on Goodreads. However, in Li's post, she was mentioning she was logging her books read onto Goodreads now... and it got me curious. So discussion post!!


The topic of this post says it all: How do you keep track? And for consummated readers like us, there's so much to keep track of: new releases, books read, books purchased, etc. So how do you do it? I'm pretty sure that it's been discussed before, somewhere... but with new apps and stuff, perhaps your habits have changed?

Here's what I do...

Books read: The past couple of years, I've used Goodreads predominantly. After reading a book, it's the first stop I make to add the grade, the date and my comments in the personal notes section, so I have something to go on when/if I write a review. Later on, I transfer most of the information into my spreadsheet (title, authors, genre, publisher, etc.) - which I haven't done at all in 2015 ^_^;

New releases: When it comes to new releases, then I'm pretty old-school; it all goes into a notebook. Each page is a month, the first half of the page is for the autobuys and the second half, for the maybes. Sometimes, it'll spill over and I'll use the back of the page :P I rarely update my Goodreads shelf for new releases... Only when I explore their "popular lists" to look for upcoming books, I'll tag a few as "to buy" and "on the radar"... but really, the notebook is what I go back to. Also recently, Ames and I have started a calendar to see what new releases we're both looking for and what we have in common... but it's not complete either or should I say, there's a lack of updates ^_^; Jotting down the new releases in my notebook is just faster :P

Books purchased: That goes in the spreadsheet, usually when I'm emptying my wallet or cleaning my desk or room :P Then, I'll do an effort and look at my emails for the books I've ordered online.

Books I own: I actually don't have a complete list for that. I do have a spreadsheet for the ebooks... But for the print? Well the notion of building one from almost scratch is just mind-boggling LOL. And well for books I've purchased since 2009, there are the spreadsheets. Of course, those spreadsheets don't have the RWA books or the ones I've received for free... and they don't take in account the ones I've given away either. When I finally got a smartphone, I did download the barcode scanner app to scan the books... but I got lazy ^_^;

Any other list I should have? What about you, how do you keep track of books?

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Happy New Year 2016!!


Happy New Year!!
May 2016 bring you good health, prosperity 
and 
many, many good books!

So... it's been a while everyone! I thought I'd start 2016 on the right foot by popping up with a post and catch with everyone :) At least, let you all know that I'm alive and doing okay :)

I don't really have any excuses for the long radio silence except for the usual - real life has been busy. Most of the time, it's been a good sort of busy - curling, guests, friends and reading. Also, the past few months, I've added TV to the mix and well, you know ^_^;

For the moment, I can't promise that 2016 will be better blogging-wise. I really wish so and honestly, it shouldn't be very hard as I've had a paltry 16 posts in 2015 ^_^; However, I already know that 2016 will be extremely busy - 3 weddings that all involve traveling as well as the curling season still being in full swing for the next 4 months and 2 week-end trips in the near future... but really, the biggest problem is my reviewing muse still missing :( But I want to try!! If not book reviews, I'll at least try to post something book-related... or not :) One thing I know for certain is that this blog is not going anywhere. I'm not taking it down any time soon...

One thing that I think will help my blogging is spending less time playing Candy Crush and Farm Heroes. Actually, that should help every aspect of my life because those games are so time-consuming!! ^_^; So that one of my resolutions this year... along with, trying to take it easy and stress less. I don't know what's been happening to me in the past few years, but I feel like I've been making a mountain out of molehill for almost everything... which means more running around, more stress... and I don't need that. Will see how that goes :)

So this is it for now. Unfortunately, there'll probably be no numbers post for 2015... First because I didn't keep my spreadsheet up-to-date ^_^; and also because all the books I brought back from RWA kind of screw up the numbers a little :P But I'll see what I can come up with to make it up :)

What about you? How were your holidays? Any resolutions for 2016?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cousins' week-end, reading slump and current obsession

Hi everyone!!

Sorry for the long silence :( I had a crazy week a couple weeks ago and well, it just snowballed from there. So, wassup with everyone? :P

Me? Well I managed to finish the pictures slideshow in time for the 25th anniversary thingie at work. It was a close call and well, not sure it was appreciated... but oh well. It's done and hopefully, by the time the 30th anniversary rolls in, I won't be there anymore. Then, my sister and I met up with some cousins in Maryland... somewhere in the suburbs of Washington D.C. :P Remember I attended a wedding in Annapolis two years ago? Well, this time, we celebrated their 2nd wedding anniversary :) Ever since the wedding, the 6 of us have been trying to stay in touch and have decided to meet once a year. Last year, it was in Boston for their grandfather's birthday, This year, we decided to meet up in Maryland :P Once again, we ate way too much LOL. We also went raspberry and apple picking, walked a trail and just hung out :)








We had a great time that week-end. The weather was gorgeous and the company, excellent :) It was just nice to be together. It was also quite novel not to have any parents, herding us around LOL. Next year, we're hoping to meet up in Germany for my another cousin's wedding :) Also, one of the girls just got engaged after the week-end, so perhaps another wedding :P

I meant to blog when I came home, but well, had to get back into a routine... and then, got into a reading slump :( I just didn't know what to pick up... and I think I burned out a bit on contemporary romance. I wanted to read urban fantasy, but just didn't know what book to pick up. This month, I won`t get double-digits of reads. Oh well :( Luckily for me, yesterday was release day... I'm eyeing the new Jim Butcher's book, The Aeronaut's Windlass. I also got an ARC for Ms Bowen's latest Ivy Years book, The Fifteenth Minute! Also, next week, Ms Hooper has a new FBI SCU book coming out, Fear the Dark, and it seems one of my favorite couple will be back!! Yay!! So I think I'm about to be rid of this reading slump :)

I think one thing that has contributed to my reading slump is I got hooked in this Chinese TV series, Nirvana in Fire.

This TV series is a novel adaptation. It's basically a court intrigue/political tv series. It was filmed in 2013 and was supposed to air in 2014, but got pushed back. Finally, it's on right now!! It started on September 19 and the release schedule is 2 episodes a day, every day!! It's 54 episodes... Let just say that I'm in heaven! The tv series sounded good from the trailer, but actually watching it? The production quality is top-notch, the story is excellent and the actors? Amazing!! So yep, that's my current obsession :)

And there you have it, what I've been up to :P I hope that October will be a better reading and blogging month. Or at least, I'll manage to put up one review!

Later!


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Romance Author & Reader Event aka RARE 2015

Hi everyone!!

Told ya that having to do that picture slideshow would be beneficial to my blogging! Yep, I am procrastinating... I still haven't started it ^_^; The last few days have exhausted me, so I took it easy today by watching all the sporting events I could - baseball, curling, showjumping and now tennis. It just sucks that all the persons/teams I was rooting for lost :( Well except for tennis... I don't really care for either Federer or Djokovic, so may the better player win - which at this point, seems to be Djokovic.


Amy & Teri, our lovely hosts 
So yesterday was the Romance Author & Reader Event, RARE :) I've really been excited for the event and to sum it up, had a blast! First, my kudos go to Amy Jennings, Adriane Leigh and Teri Maxwell... because I can't imagine that organizing such an event is easy. The amount of work, patience and stress must be tremendous and I hope they found it was worth it all!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I didn't know many of the authors attending... and in the month that I had to rectify things, only added one author to my "authors read" list - Emma Chase ^_^;  The good news is that I loved Sustained (going to try to review it soon, I promise!) and the not-so good news is Ms Chase couldn't make it in the end due to family emergency :( All this meant that my list of authors I wanted to see what quite short: Sarina Bowen, Daisy Prescott, Laura Kaye and Jennifer Probst. As such and because I was a local, I decided to volunteer for the event and offered to help at the registration. The signing was split into two blocks: 10am-11.30am and 12.30pm-4.30pm. The first block was strictly reserved for people who had purchased VIP tickets and the second block was for both VIP and General Admission ticket holders. I initially only had a GA ticket because by the time I found out about the signing, the VIP tickets were sold-out... but since I volunteered, I was allowed in along with the VIPs :)

Elle Kennedy, me, Sarina Bowen
My first stop was of course Ms Bowen as she was the reason I attended RARE :) I think I was the first person at her table and since there was nobody else after me, was able to spend some time and chat with her. I of course gushed about how much I loved The Understatement of the Year and Him and we talked about covers and some of her upcoming projects. Already, that made my day... but while I was talking to her, Elle Kennedy showed up!! Ms Kennedy has social anxiety, so she wasn't officially participating to the signing, was only there to keep Ms Bowen company... but still, I got to meet Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy!! (I don't really know how many people at the signing realized that Ms Kennedy was present) And as a bonus, I got signed copies of The Deal and The Mistake!! That was definitively the highlight of the signing for me :)

Then, I went to see Daisy Prescott, Laura Kaye and Jennifer Probst - completing my list :) The big difference between RARE and the other signings I've been is that RARE had a lot more self-published authors. That's a good thing for everyone... However, getting their print books is a challenge. That's why most self-published authors had pre-order forms and brought books themselves. Attendees were warned that authors would have very little extra books... That made it easier for me to restrict myself :) Still, I did break down and visited a few extra authors: Alice Clayton, Leddy Harper and Tillie Cole.




Alice Clayton
All in all though, it was a good thing I was helping out at the registration, because otherwise I'd really be broke LOL. Seriously, I spent money every time I stepped into the room.

So yeah, RARE 2015 was fun :) You can get a feel of what the atmosphere was from this video interview with Adriane Leigh, A lot more relax and chill than RWA or RT LOL. I also enjoyed doing the registration because I got to see how excited everyone was. There aren't many signings in Canada and surely not this big and in Montreal, so it was awesome to be part of it :)

Now, here's my loot!

 


Gotta say, I love those badges!! They are great keepsakes! and the swag I got was from visiting seven authors... Can't imagine how much I would have brought back if I've been to all of them!