Monday, December 31, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I Read in 2018

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Artsy Reader where each week they post a new top ten list and ask fellow bookish folk to share their lists on that topic.

This week we're asked to share the Best Books I Read in 2018.  I'm actually listing twelve because I couldn't keep the number any lower. 

(Click on cover for Goodreads link)

I'm a huge fan of the Kate Daniels series and was sad to say goodbye, but Magic Triumphs was the perfect ending, and I loved Conlan! Too cute. Looking forward to Julie & Derek stories? Crossing my fingers

Iron & Magic by Ilona Andrews
I never thought I'd like Hugh let alone root for this guy, but I shouldn't have doubted Ilona Andrews' ability to win me over!  I can't wait for more Iron Covenant books!

Burn Bright (Alpha & Omega #5) by Patricia Briggs
The Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega series by Patricia Briggs are just amazing!  I re-read both series' last year and they were even better the second time around.  I eagerly await every new installment.  

This Fallen Prey (Rockton #3) by Kelley Armstrong
Loving this smart, well-plotted series!  Off the grid in Alaska and managing a town full of people with each escaping some sort of sketchy past.  Each book is a separate mystery and this installment had some surprising twists with a couple of the regular characters.  Fast-paced and riveting!

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata
2018 is the year I discovered Mariana Zapata and her slow burn romances! I read four of her books and two ended up 2018 favorites. The Wall of Winnipeg & Me is my favorite! I listened to the audiobooks and I totally recommend Callie Dalton's performance.

Kulti by Mariana Zapata
Kulti came in at a close second to The Wall of Winnipeg & Me as my favorite Mariana Zapata.  Sal's nicknames for Kulti were priceless: Sauerkraut, Pumpernickel, Arnold, Bratwurst, and German Chocolate Cake were among my favorites. Kulti had a few fun nicknames for Sal too, but I think Schnecke was my lovely!

Helen Hoang's debut was impossible to put down! Refreshingly different and fan-yourself hot! Stella and Michael will go down as one of my all-time favorite couples!

I finally picked this one up after everyone proclaiming their love and found it lived up to the hype! Finished in one day, all-the-while laughing my ass off! Super sexy and Hazel was a bundle of zany fun!

Calla started off super shallow, but grew as a person when she takes off to Alaska to get to know her dad.  Amazing hate-to-love romance, and family dynamics that made me cry! Such a wonderful read!

J.R. Ward is known for her Black Dagger Brothers' series, but she nailed this contemporary romance/mystery!  The prequels are short, free, and a must before you start.

Unsub (Unsub #1) by Meg Gardiner
This first in the series was really good! Inspired by the Zodiac Killer murders the mystery was thrilling. Listened to the audio and didn't want to put it down.  I read the second and didn't like it as much, but I'm looking forward to the third book.

I didn't plan on picking up The Winter Sister 3 1/2 months before its release, but I was in the mood for a mystery and cracked it open thinking I'd read a few pages and ended up reading until 3am to finish! Glad I took a chance on this debut author!  Riveting!

So these were my Top Ten Twelve Reads for 2018.  What were some of your favorites?

Paperback Release & Giveaway: Look For Me by Lisa Gardner

I'm a huge fan of Lisa Gardner's mysteries, I've been reading her before I ever heard of Goodreads or blogging. I'm excited to share my review for Look For Me which originally released back in February,  but is now releasing in a new Paperback Edition.  Lisa Gardner has a few series', but her Dectective D.D. Warren is one of my favorites! Dutton has graciously provided a copy for giveaway in celebration of the new release, so be sure to scroll down to the rafflecopter and enter for a chance to win!

New Paperback Publication Date: December 31st 2018 by Dutton
Pages: 416
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

About the book:


"An utterly absorbing story about troubled families and twisted fates. You won't be able to put it down--and it will haunt you long after you turn the final page."--Shari Lapena

"A complex crime scene, a missing girl, a ticking clock: no one writes a more page-turning, gut-wrenching thriller."--Tess Gerritsen

In #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner's latest twisty thrill ride, Detective D. D. Warren and Find Her's Flora Dane return in a race against the clock to either save a young girl's life . . . or bring her to justice.

The home of a family of five is now a crime scene: four of them savagely murdered, one--a sixteen-year-old girl--missing. Was she lucky to have escaped? Or is her absence evidence of something sinister? Detective D. D. Warren is on the case--but so is survivor-turned-avenger Flora Dane. Seeking different types of justice, they must make sense of the clues left behind by a young woman who, whether as victim or suspect, is silently pleading, Look for me. 

My Thoughts:
Look For Me is the newest D.D. Warren mystery. D.D. is one of my favorite Lisa Gardner detectives, even though she can be kind of a bitch, I’ve had a soft spot for the woman underneath it all for years.  Also returning is Flora Dane, from the last D.D. Warren mystery, Find Me. These two form a grudging alliance to find the Roxy Baez, a sixteen-year-old girl who’s gone missing after the murder of her entire family. Was she abducted by the murderer, is she hiding out, or worse, is she the perpetrator of this chilling crime? 

Flora has lived through the worst you can think of, being held by a monster for 472 days, but she survived and has turned into a sort of victim advocate/vigilante, trying to live her life instead of just exist five years later.  I love Flora!  Her strength and courage in spite of the fear and panic she still experiences is inspiring!   Seeing her intelligence, ingenuity, and investigative skills at work made me hope that Lisa turns her into a detective or private investigator at some point.

D.D. and Flora both dig into the Baez family past, which as revealed was both heartbreaking and upsetting.   I kept guessing and thinking up theories, hoping for the best possible outcome while on the edge of my seat over some of the situations Flora got into!  She was a pretty smart cookie even if she was a bit reckless a time or two. 

One of the most disturbing things about Lisa Gardner’s mysteries is that they’re not far-fetched and could easily be a real-life situation. I will say this wasn’t near as dark and disturbing as Find Me, which I was happy about, because that story freaked me the heck out and stayed with me for some time!  I’m happy to see Flora taking her life back even if she still is haunted by what happened to her.  Helping others helps take her mind off what happened to her, and I’d love to see her embracing life more and the joys that can come with it in the future.

Look For Me grabbed me from the first page, as most Lisa Gardner’s mysteries do.  Captivating and haunting in equal measure, they’re the type of stories that stay with you long after reading.

4 Suns

About the author:

LISA GARDNER is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of seventeen previous novels, including her most recent, Crash & Burn. Her Detective D. D. Warren novels include Fear NothingCatch MeLove You More, and The Neighbor, which won the International Thriller of the Year Award. She lives with her family in New England

Connect with Lisa Gardner: Website | Facebook | Twitter

The lovely people of Dutton have generously provided a Paperback Copy of Look For Me to one reader.  The giveaway is open to US Residents only.  Good luck!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Sunday Post #11

The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated reviewer book blog, and is a post to recap my bookish and non-bookish things from the last week.

Hope everyone has been enjoying the Holiday Season!  It's a busy time of year for sure! Thank goodness for audio books, because I'm not sure I'd have got much reading done otherwise.  I completed my Goodreads Challenge (150 books) a couple of days ago, just in the nick of time!  
I'm in Northern California again. Did some wine tasting in Napa and St. Helena yesterday and I was in San Francisco today.  Walked the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time after  visiting the city many times.  Had dinner at one of my all-time favorite restaurants, Nob Hill Cafe, which is just a tiny Italian place right by Grace Cathedral Church and The Huntington Hotel.  I think my legs might come off from all the walking I did, but it was an awesome day!

(click on cover for Goodreads link)

I read five books in the last two weeks and three of them were audiobooks (or partially audio).  My favorite out of the five were Out of Time, and Josh & Hazel's Guide to Not Dating.  Loved both books soooo much!  I had to switch to traditional reading with Josh & Hazel because while the male narrator's performance Josh was good, his performance of Hazel was awful!  I don't understand why if there are a male and female narrator they don't do their character through the entire book.  The female narrator was excellent.  Out of Time finished off a three book series and ended with a romance I've been looking forward to since book one and I loved it!  The whole series was wonderful so if you're looking for a great romantic suspense read check them out. I'm giving away a copy of Out of Time HERE. I liked Twelve Slays of Christmas, My One and Only Duke, and Strawberry Hill, but I didn't love them. 

Purchased/Received/Library Lend:
(click on title for Goodreads link)

Both Alaskan Holiday and The Last Time I Lied are library lends/audio books. I've just started The Last Time I Lied and I'm really enjoying it!  Alaskan Holiday sounded like a cute and light Holiday Romance.


I'm loving New Amsterdam! I'm up to episode 5 now.  The Meg was okay.  Cheesy, campy fun, but it was no Jaws

How was your week?

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Mini Review & Giveaway: Out of Time by Monica McCarty

Publication Date: December 31st 2018 by Berkley
Pages: 384 
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

About the book:

A hunt for dangerous secrets leads to explosive chemistry in this exhilarating romantic suspense novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Off the Grid.

A team of Navy SEALs go on a mission and disappear without a trace--they are The Lost Platoon.

With his men scattered to all corners of the globe after a disastrous secret op in Russia, Lieutenant Commander Scott Taylor is trying to find out who was responsible for leaking the information that killed half his platoon. Were it not for Natalie Andersson, the woman he'd been secretly dating in the Pentagon who'd warned him of the danger, he knows they'd all be dead. Scott is devastated when he hears that the woman he loved and hoped to marry has been killed for helping him--until he learns that Natalie was the spy who betrayed them. But when his search to clear his name brings him face-to-face with a very much alive Natalie, Scott realizes that justice and vengeance might not be as clear-cut as he thought.

Natalie Andersson, or as she was born Natalya Petrova, has put the memories of her early childhood in Russia behind her. She never dreamed that she would be at the center of an elaborate "sleeper" espionage program. Even when she learns the truth, she refuses to spy for the country of her birth, until the Russians threaten the lives of the only family she's ever known. But Natalie is the worst spy in the history of spying, falling for her target. When her attempt at misdirection leads to irreversible consequences, she's forced to run for her life, with her lover hot on her tail.
My Thoughts:
I’ve loved every book in this series, and I’m thrilled that we get not only one romance, but two! I’ve been waiting for Kate and Colt’s romance since they’ve been featured in bits and pieces with every installment and I was thrilled they got equal page time with Natalie and Scott.  Both romances were amazing! Explosive chemistry and a bit of angst as they each must sort the past out, and find out the who was responsible for the attack on SEAL Team Nine. 

I do think this series is best to read the series in order, but that’s no chore because all the stories are exciting, addictive, and filled with sexual tension and sizzle! I’m wondering if this is the last book in the series? If it is, Out of Time ends The Lost Platoon series perfectly, but I’ll be sad to say goodbye to the characters!

4.5 Suns

Berkely has generously provided a Paperback Copy of Out of Time to one reader.  The giveaway is open to US Residents only.  Fill out the rafflecopter for a chance to win. Good luck!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Review & Giveaway: Strawberry Hill by Catherine Anderson

Publication Date: December 31st 2018 by Berkley
Pages: 448
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

About the book:

The New York Times bestselling author of Spring Forward returns to Mystic Creek, Oregon, where an estranged pair are given a second chance.

As a camp cook, Vickie Brown loves feeding any size crowd in the great outdoors--with one notable exception. She never would have predicted she'd join the crew led by gruff cowboy Slade Wilder, the man who broke her heart just days before their wedding.

Life has gone on since Vickie left him, but Slade can admit his attraction to the one woman he's ever loved remains stronger than ever. If he wasn't in such desperate need of an experienced cook for his paying guests, he would send Vickie packing. He knows better than to seek out the company of the woman who broke off their engagement so many years ago.

Except there's no escaping each other in the confines of the wilderness area, especially once their anger begins to soften in the shared close quarters. But after Vickie finds the courage to confront Slade, it will take a leap of faith for them to put their past behind him, even if it's the only way to recapture their once-in-a-lifetime love.

My Thoughts:
Going in to Strawberry Hill I thought this was a romance between Erin, the new Mystic Creek Deputy and Wyatt, a ranch foreman who is deaf, because there are two book descriptions out there and the one originally read was about Erin and Wyatt.  I didn’t realize this until I got to the epilogue and Erin and Wyatt hadn’t exchange as much as a kiss through the story, and I went onto Goodreads to investigate. I think I would’ve enjoyed this story more if I’d known this was Vicky and Slade’s romance going in. I wouldn’t have had expectations for Erin and Wyatt only to be disappointed.

I’ve featured the accurate book description for this story above, because this is mainly a romance between Vicky and Slade, a couple torn apart right before their wedding day some forty-years earlier.  Now, in their 60’s Vicky feels it’s time to confront Slade about the past and she intends to make him own up to responsibilities she thinks he’s knowingly ignored all these years. 

I had fun with all the characters, Vicky and Slade were very likable and hilarious at times, and I loved all of Erin and Wyatt’s interactions. Erin kind of made a fool of herself as a Deputy Sheriff when she doesn’t realize Wyatt is deaf.  They’re both very much attracted, but Wyatt is hesitant for reasons I’m not yet sure of at this point.  I was totally enamored with Wyatt and in awe of his abilities with horses and people even with his disability.  It was almost uncanny. Erin and Wyatt had a lot of page time and I kept thinking they’d transition into more.

But I think the biggest hang-up for me here was the forty-years Vicky and Slade wasted being apart, mainly Vicky’s fault, in my opinion.  Instead of hashing out an accusation, Vicky broke off their engagement and took off.  Also, Vicky seemed to think the world of Slade but still wouldn’t take his word even when never wavered about his innocence all these years later.  I was baffled by Vicky’s stubborn refusal to believe Slade when she supposedly had such a high opinion of him.  It bothers me that they could’ve been happy together all those years, especially because neither healed or moved on after the breakup.  When I finished, I just kept thinking about all that wasted time and it just made me sad.

Still, while I was reading, I wasn’t as stuck on these things, I was more in the moment, so I did enjoy the story as I was reading it.   Vicky’s lack of confidence in Slade’s word was annoying, but they just seemed so meant-to-be every time they were together.  They had an easy rapport, and their chemistry was impossible to ignore.

I really liked the little town of Mystic Creek Catherine Anderson created. It’s beautifully described, and the characters were both quirky and charming. The idea of a camp vacation with horses sounds like a lot of fun. The pine, moss, and starry nights came to life with Ms. Anderson’s writing.

While I think Vicky and Slade’s romance was bittersweet, even with the wonderful ending, I am totally looking forward to Erin and Wyatt’s romance which I hope is next!

3.5 Suns

The lovely people of Berkley have kindly provided A Paperback Copy of Strawberry Hill by Catherine Anderson to one lucky reader.  The giveaway is open to US Residents only.  Fill out the rafflecopter for a chance to win.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Sunday Post #10

The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated reviewer book blog, and is a post to recap my bookish and non-bookish things from the last week. 

I haven't got much reading done this last week since I had a home improvement project on top of work being insane, and I'm back in Northern California spending time with my daughter, her husband and our grand kids.  I never get much reading done when I'm up here because we're just all over the place.  At the park, riding bikes, cooking or going out to eat. It's pretty much non-stop and I barely have time to write up a Sunday Post, lol!  The kids, ages three and eight-months old, are way too cute, and it's a joy to spend time with them!

(click on cover for Goodreads link)

So I was able to listen to two audio books while commuting and painting at home: Cut and Run and Force of Nature.  I really enjoyed both, Force of Nature was surprisingly good since I read a lot of mixed reviews. I liked it more than the first book, The DryCut and Run was my second Mary Burton, obtained through Kindle Unlimited.  I'm going to have to grab more of her mysteries since this was quite good, even if I did have a few things figured out quickly. Not the Duke's Darling is the first in Elizabeth Hoyt's newest historical romance series.  Her historicals are clever, sexy and fun! 

Purchased/Received/Library Lend:
(click on cover for Goodreads link) 

I got three library lend audiobooks come through at once: Twelve Slays of Christmas, My One and Only Duke, and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, so I better start listening ASAP!  I LOVE Lorelei James' Need You series more than her cowboy series, and I've been waiting for Jaxson and Lucy's story, I Want You Back, for a while! I just gotta say there better be some proper groveling from Jaxson because he's been a grade A asshole to her!   Of course I had to snatch up Mariana Zapata's newest, Luna and the Lie, and bonus it's on Kindle Unlimited. 


I have to say Blade Runner 2049 was a disappointment to me. I watched Blade Runner so many years ago and I remember thinking it was cool and a little odd, but I just didn't connect with the characters, romance or story for this newest one. Not sure if it's because the movie wasn't as good or my tastes have changed from teenager to adult. Geostorm was entertaining, but nowhere near as good as other end-of-the-world type movies, like The Day After Tomorrow, IMO. 

How was your week?