Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Top Five (Six) Favorite Reads of 2014!

2014 has been an AMAZING year for mind-blowing reads! Some have been side-splitting hilarious, some have been sweet and romantic beyond belief, and others have left me breathless with their beauty. I didn't intentionally choose these top six books as my favorites. They chose me. 
These books have left such a large impact on me, my affection for them won't dissipate as soon as 2014 is over--my love for them will last a lifetime. These are books that will stick with me forever. 

And now, without further ado, My Top Five (Six...again) Favorite Reads of 2014!

My number SIX favorite read of 2014 is...

The Debt and the Doormat by Laura Barnard

I could not read The Debt and the Doormat with a straight face. Every time I would pick up the book to read, I had to immediately put it back down again because I was laughing so hard at the main character's antics. It was so knee-slapping funny, I had to include it in my top reads of 2014. 

My review:

 Poppy and Jazz have been best friends ever since they became adults. Through thick and thin, they've stuck by each other no matter what. Boy, are things about to get thick.
  Poppy was recently dumped by her long-time boyfriend, and she's kind of a doormat. Jazz spends money without thinking about it, and she is in a bit of debt...
  Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce our Debt and Doormat.
  Things are completely falling apart for our dynamic duo, and there is really only one obvious solution... They have to trade lives, apartments, and guidelines with each other. Now Poppy decides what Jazz does with her life, and Jazz gets to pick and choose what Poppy does as well.
  Nothing can go wrong, right?
  This book had me laughing so hard at times, I cried!
  Poppy is such a mess, I was shaking and slapping my head when I wasn't crying from laughing hysterically.
  The Debt and the Doormat is a decently large book, almost five hundred pages, but it was so entertaining and Poppy's misadventures were such an enjoyable train-wreck, I enjoyed every minute- AND I wanted more as soon as it was over.
  I can only compare Laura Barnard's stories to Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. That's how funny they were. Laura Barnard's The Debt and the Doormat and The Baby and the Bride are now my go-to "happy books." These are books that I will read when I need something light, fluffy, and completely entertaining.
  I cannot wait to get back to Jazz and Poppy's story, and see where these two wacky girls go next!


My number FIVE favorite read of 2014 is...

For Atancia by Wren Figueiro

Last year I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Wren 
Figueiro when she asked me to review her book, Atancia. 
Our partnership and friendship has been close ever 
since. Not only is she amazing, but her personality really shows in her books. I'm adding Atancia in addition to For Atancia to my list, because you truly cannot have one without the other, and Wren Figueiro's sequel reminded me how much I loved her writing in the first place.

My reviews:


This is the story of a young lady, Atancia, and her newly discovered ability to transfer a life force-type energy from person to person. This ability comes from being a Durand. Atancia has just learned about her ability from Ben, a beautiful specimen of a man, and she could not be more overwhelmed. But Atancia soon begins to embrace her powers and rediscover who she is...and may finally find out where her mother disappeared to so long ago.
  Just finishing the novel, I can tell you that Atancia could easily become a New York Times Bestselling book. I could see it quickly becoming a book as popular and talked about as City of Bones, The Hunger Games or Twilight.
  Wren Figueiro's writing is easy to read. It sucks you in. The characters have no irritating little tendencies like running a hand through their hair or using annoying phrases...her characters are just...normal. Atancia is your every day girl (Durand powers aside). She's awkward, she's not overly popular, she's not in the "scene" group, she's just Atancia. And that's why I love her so much.
  As the story progresses, her Durand powers strengthen and so does her relationship with Ben.
  Even though I've just finished the book, I'm already begging for more. Rumor has it that a sequel will be out soon, but I don't think I can wait that long. When I say I could see Atancia making it to the top Bestsellers list, I say it because I believe it has all of the right elements. It has all the right ingredients to make a brilliant and irresistible book: 1) A strong main character, but not strong enough to be irritating. 2) A relationship that doesn't make you want to roll your eyes. (Which is borderline impossible for most books with romance in them.) And 3) A plot that is relatable and can appeal to all audiences.
  But Atancia is different. It's a diamond in the rough, it's a treasure to behold, and I'm more than ecstatic to see where Wren Figueiro's story takes me next.

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For Atancia

  There are many different opinions when it comes to watching a sequel to a movie, or reading a sequel to a book. Many times, opinions with be split in half. Half will say that sequels don't even come close to being as good as the first (book or movie) in the series, and half will say they're better.
  When it comes to Wren Figueiro's For Atancia, I am proud to say that I am a part of the latter half.
  When I first read Wren Figueiro's Atancia, I was sucked in instantly. It was nicely written, Atancia (her main character as the title implies) was entirely normal and not even close to being irritating, and the story was fast-paced enough to keep its reader (me) intrigued the whole way through.
  I started For Atancia expecting it to have the same effect on me as the first book, and was pleasantly surprised.
  For Atancia is told in Matt's perspective, unlike Atancia, which is told in her perspective. We come to unexpectedly fall in love with Matt at the end of Atancia, when we are surprised by a shocking turn of events that leave us breathless. But I won't go into that, I'll leave that part up to your imagination. Unless you plan on reading Atancia, which I strongly suggest! You'll find many incredible tidbits in Atancia, but even more so in For Atancia.
  I loved the sequel even more than I loved the first book.
  When I started it, I was reminded of all of the wonderful feelings Atancia (the book) first gave me. The sweat that beaded on my brow when I started to panic for my favorite characters' safety only intensified when I got deeper into the story. And in addition to that, Wren Figueiro has supplied a whole new cast of characters for her readers to fall in love with.
  I hope and pray that I will be the lucky recipient of more Wren Figueiro books in the future.

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My number FOUR favorite read of 2014 is...

The Czarina of Florida by Tami Lynne

This book positively BLEW. MY. MIND. When I first read it, I had already read Tami's book, A Dreaming Moon 
 and loved it. I knew that when I would pick up her Czarina of Florida, I was bound to love it as well. I was right. This book will make your jaw drop to the floor. You will not be able to put it down.

My review:

 Ida Alice Shourds is a simple woman. She has lived a simple life, she lives in a simple town, and she wears simple (beyond simple) clothing. She is positively plain, though she does have a red-hot temper which flares up occasionally.
  Her simple life takes a turn when she decides to apply for a job caring for Mrs. Flagler, wealthy Henry Flagler's wife. Mrs. Flagler's health is failing, and she needs a nurse to dress her, take her for short walks, prepare her for dinners, and even care for Mr. Flagler when it is needed.
  Not far into the book, Mrs. Flagler's illness starts wreaking havoc with her body, and Ida starts to realize that soon it may just be her...and the enigmatic Henry Flagler.
  Talk about book hangovers! Not only did The Czarina of Florida have me rubbing my bleary eyes from an unsuccessful night's sleep, it had me waking up the next morning thinking, "What in the heck just happened in that book?!"
  And to this day, about two weeks after I finished the book, I am STILL thinking about how mind-boggling the story is. Living somewhat near where the story takes place doesn't help, either. I can't help but cringe every time I see a railroad track.
  My dear readers, this book is GOOD.
  Tami Lynne's exceptional writing has reached new heights in The Czarina of Florida. In this book, she shows off her true talent of story-telling. Her impeccable way of describing scenery, her character progression, and her plot growth are just remarkable. I don't understand why this book hasn't been read and enjoyed by more people. It was five stars in my book!
  Every time I read one of Tami Lynne's novels, I think, "Oh, no way. THIS one is my favorite!" (Which is how I'm currently feeling about The Czarina of Florida.)
  Without going into too many details, I do have to say this... There is a certain character (and plot) progression that slowly shows its head at the beginning of the book, which then rapidly slews into a downward spiral of chaos that made me shout, "OH MY GOSH."
  It was that good.
  It should be required that all Floridians read this book, and it should be a strong suggestion for all others. The Czarina of Florida is a gem.

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My number THREE favorite read of 2014 is...

Mangled Hearts by Felicia Tatum

Now, stories about romance are not typically my favorites. I will take demon-hunting, angst, violence, and scary stories over a book about a romantic relationship any day. But Mangled Hearts is unlike any other romantic book you've read. Francesca and Cade's story is unlike any other story, period. I cried out of happiness (A LOT) during my time with the two of them, and I will again if (when) I read about them again. This book is just perfection.

My review:

Soon-to-be lawyer Francesca has just been assigned her first real case. "This is it," she thinks. "Time to show everyone here what I'm capable of." Francesca is ready to kick lawyer butt. But things don't go exactly as planned when Francesca realizes who her first case involves, and who inevitably will be standing in her way...
  Cade broke Francesca's heart so many years ago, and she has not forgiven him because of it. In fact, after what he did, she thinks she never will. But fate has something unexpected in store for Francesca and Cade...something that may mend all broken ties in their relationship. A renewed romance.
  Cade is falling apart. He's careless, thoughtless, and he's drunk almost 24/7. He couldn't care less about what his family thinks, but as soon as he lays his weary eyes on Francesca again, he realizes he may in fact be able to change.
  I stayed up until 2:30am finishing this dang book. It had me so hooked, I could NOT put it down. Mangled Hearts was absolutely incredible beyond words. I fell in love with Francesca and Cade's story from the very first page.
  There were no superficial and immature emotional mind games, Francesca and Cade weren't young and childish, and the love they had for each other was 100% genuine. I would repeatedly private message Felicia on Facebook and ask, "Oh my gosh, what are you doing to me??" I started Mangled Hearts early Tuesday morning, and couldn't stop until I had reached 100%. Sleep deprivation was SO worth it.
  Mangled Hearts may in fact be one of my all-time favorite Indie books. Wait, did I say, "may?" It is absolutely is one of my favorite Indie books. Of. All. Time.
  Mangled Hearts is amazing. Buy it, buy it, buy it. I cannot wait to read on in Cade and Francesca's story. I miss them already and I've only been without them for three days.
  Absolutely beautifully told, beautifully written, and breath-takingly done.

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My number TWO favorite read of 2014 is...

Unlit Star by Lindy Zart

This book. Oh my gosh, this book. This book had me so emotional, so hooked, and so torn apart, I can't even put my feelings for it into words. (Besides the book review I wrote for it...but beyond that, NO WORDS.) Unlit Star is not one of the best review requests I read this year, it isn't one of the best review requests I've ever read, it's not one of the best books I've read this year, it's one of the best books I've ever read--period.

My review:

  Every bookworm should experience the euphoric feeling one gets when they read that book. The book that has you in the palm of its hand. The book that has you so emotionally involved/distraught/overwhelmed with its story, there's nothing you can do but sit there in awe, book laying open (if it's an actual paper book, if not, screen sitting there lit up) in your hand, as your brain works together what's currently happening.
  How could this happen? After all the author and you have been through- after experiencing these past 300 or so pages together- how could the author do this to you, their faithful reader?
  How can normal life proceed after this book is finished?
  Next comes the feeling of desperately wanting to talk to someone after you've finishedthat book, and not understanding when someone answers your frantic cries for help with an, "It's just a book."
  Every bookworm knows that it's never "just a book."
  This author has found a way into your heart through their writing and their words. They have found a way to capture your most raw emotions, drawing them out, coaxing them with their charismatic characters and utmost endearing plotlines, and then following it all up by leading your emotions down the dizzying and endless rabbit-hole known as "Falling Madly in Love with a Book."
  Out of the 700 or so books I have read over my years as an avid book lover, I have only come across 25 or so that leave me tear-streaked, sad, happy, and beyond the point of "book infatuation." I have crossed the line into "Past the Point of No Return" territory. This feeling occurs when you cannot move on to another book right away, when you just have to hold the book to your chest longer, for fear of the story disappearing altogether, leaving you with a broken heart and a nest of half-used tissues strewn around your comfy reading chair. You are so involved with this book, you don't know what to do with yourself. You sit there, crying (because even if you're not a typical crier when you read books, that one book that hits you like this will make you cry, even if you don't want to), and you want the rest of your life to be surrounded by this one story.
  Around the internet, you hear of this feeling called a "book hangover." This feeling leaves you breathless, it leaves you an emotional wreck, and you cannot, cannot imagine starting another story at the moment- still being stuck in the previous book's world. But the book I just finished is way beyond "book hangover."
  I have a "book hangover" that will last a lifetime. I have book-shaped impression on my heart.
  This book impression is in the shape of Lindy Zart's Unlit Star.
  When Lindy asked me to review her latest novel, I was of course more than happy to oblige. Every single book that I have read by Lindy Zart has been incredible in different ways, no matter the genre. From Ordinary, to Incomplete, to Take Care, Sara, I was in love with her work.
  What I didn't expect was to read something so extraordinary, that the only category I could file Unlit Star into wouldn't be "Lindy Zart's Books," it wouldn't be, "My Favorite Indie Books," it would be filed under, "My Favorite Books of All-Time/Life-Altering Books."
  I fell in love with Unlit Star as I did with Lindy Zart's other books; immediately. (With intriguing plots such as these, how could you not?) Although, Unlit Star had an extra ummph.
  I fell in love with Unlit Star as soon as our main character, Delilah, was introduced.
  We begin Unlit Star with Delilah working as the Young family house cleaner while their normal cleaner is on vacation for the summer. Delilah is well acquainted with the Young son who is her age, although they never quite meshed in school. Easy peasy; he was popular, she was definitely not.
  But after a tragic boat accident that summer, the son, Rivers, is left semi-crippled, scarred (inside and out), and almost catatonic. Delilah almost has to clean around him as he sits there and watches her.
  These two obviously don't go well together, but when a family illness lures Rivers' mother and step-father out of town, there is only one responsible person to sit and watch him to make sure he doesn't do anything reckless or stupid.
  Neither of them are too thrilled with this arrangement, but what can you do? Delilah can definitely hold her own, and she won't put up with Rivers' attitude.
  And right there is my #1 reason for falling in love with Unlit Star so quickly. Delilah.
  Of course after a few chapters, my love for Rivers followed shortly as his character progressed. By the end of the book, I was madly in love with both of them.
  This book affected me as one is affected on a roller coaster. First, your anticipation builds as you climb higher and higher on the tracks, your heart beating wildly out of your chest and your fear of having a heart-attack increasing. Next, you reach that peak where everything starts to slow, as if you're trudging through a river of molasses. You know something is wrong- you know if you stop now, there's no way you can roll back into the safety of the tracks you know. You'll head straight for the unknown track in front of you, diving head-first into a wild, hair-whipping course, so you know you're better off continuing this nail-biting journey willingly.
  And then...then you reach the fall. That weightless, heart-in-stomach feeling of the inevitable. That feeling of receiving a text stating, "We need to talk," before you actually know what you're meant to talk about.
  You're now free falling into oblivion, unaware of what awaits you, but you know that it'll be huge.
  This is what I experienced, word for word, when I read Lindy Zart's Unlit Star.
  I implore you, if you are a fan of these feelings, if you savor books that make you go, "Wow..." or even if you're in a book rut, looking for that next book to capture your every emotion, read Unlit Star.
  In all honesty, I've read one or two books recently that I've been requested to review that left me positively breathless. Unlit Star not only took my breath, it also stole my heart, my mind, and one of the spots on my "Favorite Books of 2014 List."
  Unlit Star was not just a story, it was life-changing, a work of poetry, a piece artwork, and a gorgeous, real-life story of two young adults transformed onto paper.
  Lindy Zart was born to write. A book like this that captures your soul so cannot be written by just anyone. Lindy Zart poured everything onto Unlit Star's paper that's required in order to create a masterpiece, and it shows. You know by reading this book that Lindy has put her blood, sweat, and tears into this story.
  Only a few books have affected me in this way. Only a few books in my entire lifetime, and Unlit Star is one of them. I want to continue to fully immerse myself in this story, but how is that possible once it's over?
  I need everyone to read this book. I want to spread the wealth and share the love of this story to keep it alive. I want to completely surround myself with its story again, and breathe in its riches. I miss Delilah and Rivers, desperately.
  I never say this- EVER- but I need to reread this book.

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And number ONE *favorite* read of 2014 is...



wait for it...


Lemongrass Hope by Amy Impellizzeri

This book is slam-your-kindle-and/or-paper-book-on-the-table-and-cry-in-an-outburst-of-emotion book. This book is absolutely one of the BEST books I have ever read. Lemongrass Hope is the kind of book that I will lose myself in and beg to stay in forever. Lemongrass Hope is my number one book because it is the book that made me the most desperate to be in this author's world. I love this book with every fiber of my being, and I would love nothing more than to just be immersed in this story 24/7. I still don't forgive Amy Impellizzeri for making me sob, though. (And that's not a spoiler...I didn't say whether it was from happiness or sadness, did I?)

My review:

  Kate will never forget him. That beautifully intelligent man who stole her heart, her mind, body, and soul. Ian. Ian, who had to leave Kate to do some research in Botswana to find a mysterious fruit that holds magical powers.
  They say that at the right time, in the right place, it can make you time travel.
  Kate never forgot Ian, even after she married her husband Rob and had her two boys. She never forgot him.
  Lemongrass Hope is one of the most exceptional books I have ever read. My love for it grew from, "This is a great book" to "This may be one of the best books I've been asked to review" to "Okay, this is one of the best books I've ever read."
  It is extraordinary. Mind-boggling, captivating, emotional, addicting, and positively heartrending.
  It's one of the best books I've ever, ever, ever read. Amy Impellizzeri is a beautiful writer, and her book is a treasure to behold. Ms Impellizzeri's words will captivate you and leave you breathless as you beg for more. And keep in mind I only read the uncorrected ARC (advance reader copy)... I can only imagine how breathtaking the final draft will be.
  I've written and re-written this book review a few times. Each time I begin a sentence, I have to rewrite it in fear of it not being good enough for this story. This book deserves all five star reviews, and it deserves a spot on the New York Times Bestseller list. I could easily see this book becoming every book club's "Book of the Month," soon followed by a movie deal that I just know in my heart will not do this incredible novel justice. As I write this, a few weeks after I finished Lemongrass Hope, I still have not gotten over my extreme book hangover from Amy Impellizzeri's story. As soon as I finished the book and reread the first few chapters again (which I NEVER do in books), I was yearning to reread the entire thing ten times more. Ten times, fifty times, a hundred times, it doesn't matter. It wouldn't be enough.
  Reading this masterpiece a hundred times wouldn't be enough for me.
  Lemongrass Hope is stunning, extraordinary, and a true piece of artwork. A+

Book                                ebook

Well, everyone! I hope you liked my Favorite Reads of 2014 countdown! I read some pretty extraordinary books this year, and I very much look forward to what incredible stories await me in 2015. I hope everyone has a Happy New Year! Keep in mind...if you're an author and you have a favorite book that you've written, ask me to read it! You never know, it may end up on my 2015 list! XOXO and Happy Reading!!!