Favorite books of 2016

Well, the year is almost over, and though I didn’t achieve my Goodreads Reading Challenge (not officially, though if you add in the 30+ graphic novels I read this year, I blew it out of the park), I still managed to read and discover a number of delightful stories.

I frequently gush about my current read at work with my coworkers, but this year I thought I’d compile a list of all the books I loved this year to share with the rest of the world.

Disclaimer** I’m listing my favorite books I’ve read this year, which may not necessarily translate to books published this year. Still, I’m hoping one or two readers might find a new title or two to enjoy. If you see something you like, click the picture for the Goodreads page, or the title to buy from Amazon!

  1. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
    Best book of the year, by far. A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)There was just so much to love – the character growth, the emotion, the foreshadowing … I get goosebumps just remembering. This was one of those books where I finished and immediately wanted to read it again. What’s even more incredible? I felt pretty meh about the first book in the series. I mean, it was good, but it didn’t blow my socks off like the sequel has! Now I’m counting down the days until A Court of Wings and Ruin (goosebumps again!) releases this May. FYI – if anyone wants to send me an ARC of ACOWAR they’ll become my favorite person in the universe. Hint, hint, Madam Maas. 🙂
  2. Six of Crows (and Crooked Kingdom) by Leigh Bardugo – Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)Now, I will admit: this duology came a very close second to ACOMAF. Interestingly enough, I only picked Six of Crows up because it looked pretty. The pages are black around the edges (at least, for the hardcover they are) with gorgeous red end papers. Then I started reading it while waiting in line to get it signed … and I was thrilled to discover the story was just as incredible as it looked! I may or may not have finished the first in record time and ran straight to a store to buy the sequel … Plot twists, anti-heroes, unexpected romance, and tons of action abound in these two books, making them some of my favorites ever. Again, I had that itch to reread them as soon as I finished them. Always a good sign, in my opinion.
  3. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell –
    I don’t even remember Fangirlwhat made me pick this book up, but boy, am I glad I did! Unlike my first two choices (which are both fantasy), Fangirl is a wonderful new adult contemporary romance. Though, when I first started reading, I didn’t realize it was going to be a romance. I just liked it because the main character, Cath, is the epitome of an introvert and happens to write fanfiction as well. But the romance in this book is sooo sweet, and I love the challenges that Cath has to face regarding her family, her writing, and herself. I actually surrendered to the urge to reread this one … twice! It gets better every time. 🙂
  4. In 27 Days by Alison GervaisIn 27 Days
    I almost didn’t include this title, because it’s technically not out yet. I received an ARC of this incredible contemporary romance (with paranormal elements), and guys: you have to put this on your reading list now. Not only are there the usual comedic or swoon-worthy scenes found in YA romance, but there are some deep messages regarding depression and suicide. Even so, the book is still fun and enjoyable, and I look forward to reading it again and again!
  5. Heartless by Marissa Meyer
    HeartlessProbably the only book on this list that doesn’t have a happy ending … and no, that isn’t a spoiler, because Heartless is the origin story behind the infamous Queen of Hearts from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. I mean, we all know what she’s like in that story, so something drastic had to happen to make her the way she was, right? However, one of the aspects of Heartless that I truly admired was the way Marissa Meyer wove all of the characters from Alice into her story. You learn how the Duchess came to have a pig-child, where the White Rabbit’s housemaid came from, the unfortunate origin of the mock turtle … and why the Queen of Hearts is so obsessed with beheading. And that’s just a few of them.
  6. The Black Orchid by Celine JeanjeanThe Black Orchid (The Viper and the Urchin, #2)
    This steampunk-esque fantasy series is one of my favorites. You have interesting characters (an assassin that can’t stand the sight of blood), a touch of romance (go Rafe!), mystery (poor Longinus and his black silk), murder (bloodless, even) and so much more. The author took the solid foundation of book one and created an even more compelling and incredible sequel – and I can’t wait to read the next installment! Honestly, I love and hate the fact that I fall in love with books in a series … because waiting for the authors to write new volumes is agony.
  7. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, Brodi AshtonMy Lady JaneI’ll admit, I wasn’t very thrilled to receive this book in my first ever Owlcrate, because it didn’t seem like something I’d enjoy. Boy, was I wrong. In less than three pages, I was howling with laughter and completely hooked on the story: who wouldn’t be when you learned that this alternate history had shapeshifters in it, and Henry VIII would turn into a lion and eat people instead of beheading them? You know the saying, “Don’t kill the messenger?” In My Lady Jane, it’s “Don’t eat the messenger.” I kid you not. If that’s not good enough, wait until you get to the horse jokes. Seriously, this was one of the most enjoyable books I read this year, in that it had me in stitches throughout the whole thing. I love books that make you laugh out loud!
  8. P.S. I Like You by Kasie WestP.S. I Like You by Kasie West
    Despite the fact that I saw the plot twist coming from a mile away, P.S. I Like You is a sweet romance capturing all the drama of high school. The characters are all identifiable, make ridiculous assumptions and mistakes (just like I used to in high school), and have realistic problems and issues that they work out during the story. This book might not be life-changing, but it was adorable and refreshing and I think folks should read it anyway. 😀
  9. The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas
    The Burning Sky by Sherry ThomasThis book has everything I could possibly ask for in a fantasy. Magic, royalty, humor, romance, ridiculous attempts for the female MC to masquarade as a boy … well, I guess that last one isn’t a requirement. But it sure made for fantastic tension and great shenanigans! I also really liked the parallel universe setting – though it was a little confusing at first. After all, I knew Eton was in England – but the book starts off somewhere else. Also, the little footnotes scattered throughout the book were a little annoying … but not enough to stop me from enjoying the story and characters! Now I need to stop being lazy and go read the rest of the series …
  10. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1)Another book that had me rolling with laughter. Take a typical high school girl, have her (for some crazy reason) write love letters to the guys she’s fallen out of love with because of whatever reason (they’re taken, she’s realized they’ll never like her back, they move away, etc), ADDRESS THEM, only to put them in a box in her closet. That’s not a recipe for disaster, now is it? Needless to say, hilarity abounds in this lighthearted story.
  11. Do Not Wash Hands In Plates by Barb Taub
    Do Not Wash Hands In Plates by Barb Taub My only non-fiction title on the list, and y
    et another book that will have you laughing so hard you might wet your pants. Do Not Wash Hands In Plates is a tongue-in-cheek travel memoir depicting the real-life issues author Barb Taub encountered in India, complete with pictures. My one piece of advice? Make sure you read the prologue, because you definitely need to know about horn sonar. Well, and try not to drink anything when you read … and if you don’t like giggling like a lunatic in public, maybe make sure to read the book in the safety of your own home.
  12. Walk On Earth A Stranger by Rae Carson – After My Lady Jane, I decided to give Walk on Earth a Stranger  (The Gold Seer Trilogy, #1)historical fantasy more of a chance; Rae Carson’s novel did not disappoint. Set during the Gold Rush-era America, it follows Lee Westfall, a girl who can sense gold. When her parents are murdered, she embarks on a journey west to California. Lee’s magic is woven seamlessly into what’s basically a historical novel, complete with all the hardships and obstacles settlers moving west would have encountered. In fact, at times it felt a lot like a fantasy version of Little House On The Prairie meets the Oregon Trail … complete with dysentery.
  13. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
    Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
    Recommended by my favorite author, Sarah Maas, Truthwitch is a classic YA fantasy … and boy, does it live up to its recommendation! The action scenes are awesome, the magic system fascinating, and the characters are wonderful. I particularly liked Merik and Aeduan, though Safi and Iseult are fascinating as well. I still want to know more about Iseult’s abilities and history. I can’t wait to see where the story goes next. Even if Truthwitch ended on a heartbreaking note …
  14. Bookishly Ever After by Isabel BandeiraBookishly Ever After One of the most identifiable books I’ve ever read, with a main character eerily similar to … me. Phoebe is a book worm, the type that gets sucked into a story during lunch and is forced to socialize by her best friends. A hard core fan that has outfits designed after her favorite characters, and then wears them in public. The problem is, she’s more in love with fictional boys than real ones … Seriously, this sounds like a transcript of my life! But I honestly enjoyed the story, and the blossoming romance, and the fact that Phoebe learns that one shouldn’t always judge a book my its cover … or a boy by his resemblance to fictional characters.
  15. The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
    Another great contemporary romance, The Start of Me and You
    with a dark, serious streak running through the plot. This is another story with incredible character growth, and I particularly liked that – for the first time ever – the main character chooses the guy I rooted for!
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A week of #AugustReviews and a cry for help … sort of.

Alrighty folks, it’s been a week. Time to share my progress on my goals so far for the month!

First, the writing a page a day: not doing so hot. I did great the first two days, then procrastination reared its ugly head. Total, I’ve managed to get five pages (ish) of random dialogue, scene setting, and/or outline for the week. Better than nothing, I suppose, but I’ll try a bit harder to stay on track.

As for Amazon book reviews, I’m not doing too shabby. I did end up share posting a few that I wrote for Goodreads and forgot to copy over as some of my quota, but overall I think I  did pretty well. Here’s the list of Amazon reviews written this week, with links:

Finally, regarding my cry for help …

I’m still a total noob and beginner with Twitter. I barely know how to tweet, and my comment/reply/share skills are at the most basic level possible. Would any of my social-media-guru friends be willing to share how to create mini-links that can be used in Twitter? Specifically, I’m looking for a way to tweet reviews from Amazon as I complete them …

See you again next week with more updates!

August 2016 is Write An Amazon Review Month! By @TerryTyler4 #AugustReviews

August 2016 is Write An Amazon Review Month! By @TerryTyler4 #AugustReviews

A fun project for fellow book bloggers or readers to consider!

On Monday 25th July, book blogger Rosie Amber wrote this post encouraging readers and writers alike to post a short review on Amazon for any book they’ve read and enjoyed ~ following this up, Terry Tyler is starting an initiative along with other writer-bloggers including Rosie, Cathy from Between The Lines, Barb Taub, Shelley Wilson, Alison Williams … and yours truly!

The idea is that, starting August 1st, everyone who wants to participate uses their Amazon account to post just one review on one book that they’ve read. Since I have so many finished books I’ve left unreviewed, I’m going to post a review a day (though no one else has to get that crazy).

The book doesn’t have to be read in August: it can be any book you’ve read, any time.  Nor does the book have to have been purchased from Amazon. However, if it is you get the ‘Verified Purchase’ tag on it (which can add legitimacy to your review) – but again, it isn’t necessary. Especially since Kindle Unlimited downloads or Kindle library borrows won’t show the VP tag, either.

Remember, this isn’t the Times Literary Supplement, it’s Amazon, where ordinary people go to choose their next $1.99 Kindle book.  No one expects you to write a thousand word, in-depth critique. Just a few words saying “I loved this book, I was up reading it until 3am“, or “I loved Jim and Vivien and the dialogue was so realistic”, or whatever it was that appealed to you about the book is more than enough.

Why should you write a review?

They help book buyers make decisions.  Don’t you read the reviews on Trip Advisor before deciding on a hotel, or any site from which you might buy an item for practical use?  Book reviews are no different.

If the book is by a self-published author, or published by an independent press, the writers have to do all their promotion and marketing themselves ~ reviews from the reading public is their one free helping hand.

The amount of reviews on Amazon helps a book’s visibility (allegedly).  If you love a writer’s work and want others to do so, too, this is the best possible way of making this happen.

Consider it your one good deed for the day, one that will only take five minutes! 

A few more pointers:

If you need any help with writing your review, do click on Rosie’s post above or feel free to follow my Goodreads activity.

A review can be as short as one word.  

You don’t have to put your name to the review, as your Amazon ‘handle’ can be anything you like.

No writer expects all their reviews to be 5* and say the book is the best thing ever written. Amazon breaks down their star rating, or you can look at the star rating guide on Rosie’s post.

Would you like to tell the Twittersphere about your review?  If so, tweet the link to it with the hashtag #AugustReviews ~ and thank you! 

Lets make the world a better place for readers and authors alike!

Recharging complete.

Hello to all my friends, family, and fans out there in cyberspace: I’m baack!

I sorta disappeared off the face of the Earth there for a bit, I know. Turns out I needed a little extra recharge time after publishing and marketing Ice Blessed. The good news is, I’m now fully recharged and ready to jump back into writing/posting/reviewing, etc. Oh, and I found a fun new hobby that I hope to share with you all (without getting too spammy).

I’ve discovered Instagram! Specifically, bookstagram. Basically, staging book covers with cool props and backgrounds and whatnot. Yes – I’m a bit behind the times. But I love browsing the gorgeous book photos in my feed … I love them so much, I’ve been inspired to take a few pictures of my own! If you want to admire (or laugh) at my amateur-ish attempts, follow me @CrystinGoodwin (and I’ll try to find a way to set up a share link on WordPress.)

In addition to the discovery of Instagram, I’m going to start creating monthly goals and themes that I’ll share on the blog (and possibly Twitter and Facebook, too.) A lot of my posts and activities are shared among the different social media sites, so I apologize in advance if things start to look spammy: it’s not my intention, I promise!

Which brings me to August’s theme: book reviews! The lovely book blogger Terry Tyler decided to make August 2016 Write An Amazon Review Month. As I have a whole plethora of unreviewed books that I’ve read in the past (and I mean a plethora: just look at my Goodreads Read shelf), I’ve decided to post a book review a day for the month of August. Now, don’t panic! I’m not going to inundate your news feed with a book review every day (again, unless you follow me on Facebook and get my Goodreads activity – in which case, sorry XD ). My goal is to post a weekly recap of the books I’ve reviewed, along with links. I plan on making them fairly short and sweet: mentioning what I liked, what I didn’t like, and who I recommend the book for.

As an added bonus, I’m also going to be working on book four of my Blessings of Myrillia series this month. Since I’ve taken such a long break (though, to be fair, two months isn’t that long), I’m going to ease my way back into a routine by writing a page a day for the month of August.

So there you have it! My goals for August. Feel free to poke or message me to keep me accountable: I don’t mind. 🙂

Twenty-three days and counting.

Twenty-three days and counting.

Can you believe it’s almost May already? I certainly can’t!

That isn’t a complaint by any means. I’m incredibly thrilled that May is almost here, because that means the release of Ice Blessed is almost here too!

My wonderful newsletter subscribers should have gotten an extra special issue on April 20th with an exclusive sneak peek at the new novel. If you haven’t already, do make sure to subscribe on the right (or on my Facebook page) and I’ll be sure to send you the latest letter with the first chapter excerpt. I planned to share the first chapter here as well, then I realized: there are a few potential spoilers in that first chapter for those who haven’t read UnBlessed or Fire Blessed. Oh, you can read the entire book out of context and probably be able to follow along, but you won’t get the same punch in the gut at the epic reveals throughout the book. That’s why I’m running my sale on the first two books before the newest volume launches.

If you want to catch up on the series free of charge, be sure to check Amazon on May 2 through May 6 to get a free kindle copy of UnBlessed, and May 9 through May 13 for Fire Blessed. This is a great time to start or share the series (I mean, come on: free eBooks) and you don’t even have to own a kindle to read them. There is a free kindle app for most smartphones, tablets, and even PC. I’d love to offer free paperbacks for the traditional folks, but I haven’t found a free source of ink and paper. (That said, those traditional folks should really sign up for my newsletter … there may or may not be a special coupon code in the next issue.)

One other exciting piece of news I wanted to share … UnBlessed now has 25 reviews on Amazon! This is an amazing milestone, guys. Reviews sell books – and I’ve been incredibly fortunate in the number of positive reviews I’ve received. I’ve already done my victory dance … now to wait for 50. 😀

By the way, I can’t stress the importance of reviews enough, especially for unknown authors like myself. If you’ve read my books, do please take a moment to write a short review: even if you didn’t like it. Granted, don’t be mean! But take a second to mention what worked for you or what didn’t … and by golly, if you did enjoy my stories let other readers know! Even a simple “I liked it, easy to read and interesting.” is better than nothing. This is one situation where no news (or reviews) is bad news. 😛

I review, you review: it’s a wonderful circle of love.

I review, you review: it’s a wonderful circle of love.

Ladies and gentlemen: I have achieved another milestone in my writing career. It’s nothing big or dramatic – in fact, some might think it’s pretty insignificant. After all, it comes from a very simple two line review that I received on Amazon. Here, read it:

Love-love this series!  I normally don’t like reading, but got hooked on this book! Loved it and can’t wait for the 3rd book!

Do you see it? The line that almost made me cry, the one that I hoped and dreamed I would someday hear?

I normally don’t like reading …

Guys, my book hooked a non-reader. Not only that, but they’re looking forward to my third book, meaning they’re probably in the middle of reading my second. Do you have any idea how incredible that is?! It’s only, like, in my top three things I want to hear before I die.

*wipes away tears of happiness* Okay. Enough about me. Time to dish on the latest book I finished reading. I haven’t been reading as much lately: you know, what with NaNo around the corner and all, but I took a break last night and devoured this little treat in a couple of hours.

  • Title: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
  • Genre: Paranormal Fantasy

It’s not easy being a witch, especially when you’re raised by your human mother. Sophie Mercer knows this all too well, and it doesn’t help that every time she tries to use her magic, it goes wrong and other humans notice. Meaning she and her mom have to move … again.

Now she’s been sentenced to Hecate Hall, also known as Hex Hall, a last chance reform school for magical beings that have defied the Council. Her classmates are witches, weres, faeries … and her roommate is a vampire. 

And here Sophie thought her last high school was hell. At least there, you didn’t run the risk of literally meeting a demon.

Hex Hall is a fun, laugh-out-loud read, with plenty of action, some mystery, and a teeny bit of drama thrown in. I immediately fell in love with the main character, Sophie. She’s so sassy and real – I swear, she has some of the wittiest lines in the entire book. Who wouldn’t love a girl who screams ‘Bad dog!’ at an attacking werewolf? And that’s just one of my favorites – seriously, the entire first chapter detailing how Sophie wrecks prom is a GEM. I can’t even quote it, because I wouldn’t want to ruin the humor by pulling lines out of context, but let me tell you that it is absolutely hilarious.

I also love that I didn’t see some of the twists and turns coming in the story. I read so much that many times I can vaguely predict where the story is going – not so with Hex Hall. I adore being surprised by writers, and Rachel Hawkins did a fantastic job of adding in plenty of surprises. There were two huge plot twists I didn’t see coming … and I’m not all that sure I’m thrilled with how the romance turned out. Mostly, I’m still confused and in a little shock: much like Sophie.

I would heartily recommend this book to fans of paranormal fantasy, the young adult genre, or to anyone who likes a little snark in their heroines. Or a lot of snark, as this case my be.

I don’t have much in the way of disclaimers, except there is a vampire, so there’s some mention of blood and death.

Oh, and I’m pretty sure you can get an eBook copy for $2.99 until Halloween. Go grab one! Here are the links for kindle and nook.

Check out my new improved look!

A huge heartfelt, ‘Thank you!’ goes out to Winter Bayne for my beautiful new banner image! I also toyed with a new layout with the hope that it makes the site look a little more polished. What do you all think?

Of course, now that I have this fancy new image that features my current and upcoming novel, it’s a great time to share some news I’ve been holding onto for awhile.

Ladies and gentlemen, UnBlessed now has 10 reviews on Amazon!

Yes, yes, I know, it might seem silly to be excited about just 10 reviews, especially when the book has been out for over a year. But for a self-published author? One who has almost no author platform to speak of and frequently forgets to market herself? I think it’s not too shabby.

While I’m tempted to share all of the reviews one by one, I think that might be a tad overkill. So instead, anyone interested in seeing what others have to say about UnBlessed can go here to read the reviews directly from Amazon. Although, fair warning – any new reviews I get will probably be shared in a blog post. I mean, that’s good marketing, isn’t it?

Anyone who’d like to get a copy of UnBlessed to catch up on the story before the sequel is released can purchase it from Amazon: $11.95 for the paperback, or $2.99 for the kindle version.

You can also order the paperback from your favorite book retailer, or visit my personal estore.

Also, if you haven’t already, follow me (or become a fan) on Goodreads and keep an eye out for giveaways. I still plan on hosting one for UnBlessed to prepare for the launch of Fire Blessed – if it goes well, I might also host another giveaway for Fire Blessed! *hint, hint* 🙂

Okay. I’m done marketing now. XD