My Top Reads of 2014

Last post of 2014! Happy New Year to all! Thanks for being a faithful reader of my stuff 🙂

I thought I’d share some of my favorite reads for 2014. I set a pretty lofty goal of 100 books to read this year, but I managed to read about 68, plus a few more that have yet to be released (books I’m currently editing). Of the books listed below, only a few are new, in that they were released this year. However, most were not new, having been released a few years–if not more–ago. I just finally got around to reading them. Let’s count down, shall we?

14. The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin

So…I’m actually not finished with this book, but so far, it’s amazing. It’s one of those books that makes you really think about your life and ask tough questions about why you’re afraid to make art and pursue your passions. I can only handle a few pages at a time, and then I take a break to process what I’ve read. Should be finished with it in a week or two. Highly recommend.

13. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith

This was a nice surprise for me. The storyline is pretty much the same as the original Pride and Prejudice (which is one of my most favorite books, by the way) except with zombies added in. If you’re into paranormal twists and satire, then this might be a fun read for you. I was laughing so hard at all the zombie encounters in between the balls, proposals, and Mrs. Bennet’s tantrums. Such a great book.

12. The Housewife Assassin’s Handbook by Josie Brown

This was an unexpected treat to read. I found this book through a Fussy Librarian recommendation. It’s a romantic comedy suspense with lots of wonderful satire. I believe it’s still free on Amazon, so if a suburban housewife assassin sounds like it’ll ring your bell, then go check it out. Gave me a good laugh, and I may read the next book in the series.  

11. Free Dive by CF Waller

Mr. Waller has easily become a new favorite author this year. And I’m not saying that with a biased opinion just because I happened to edit this wonderful book. No, I think this guy is going places. He is signed with the company I’m contracted with, Cosby Media Productions, but is still independently publishing other books. He is a true hybrid author, and I think that’s wonderful. Free Dive, which CMP released in October, is a thriller mystery about free diving in the South Pacific Ocean. The witty banter, quick pacing, and unique characters make this book excellent. It was fun to edit, but even more fun to read. Pick up a copy–you won’t be disappointed. I promise. 🙂

Free Dive Cover

10. Daily Rituals by Mason Currey

GREAT book! If you’re interested in analyzing the routines of artists, then this is the book for you. I like to see how other artists work, because it helps me to learn more about myself, my craft, and gain insight into my own routine. I read this on my flight to Spain and it kept me company. It was hard to put down. Definitely a must-read for any artist.

Daily Rituals by Mason Currey

Daily Rituals by Mason Currey

9. Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

I LOVED the movie adaption, which came out in 2013. In fact, it’s on in the background while I write this post. So, naturally, I was curious about the book. Though there were many different things in the book compared to the movie, I really enjoyed this book. R, the main character who is also a zombie, is the narrator. And he gives us A LOT of detail. I was almost surprised by the description of the gore, but it worked. I think it made this book one of the most realistic zombie books, while also giving the reader hope that things could possibly get better after a zombie apocalypse. If you’re into zombies and dark humor, get this book.

8. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

This was a book that was recommended to me by a trusted friend. It’s so different than just about anything I’ve read. It’s a fantasy book with water horses, but the characters were very real and complicated. So it made the book seem like it could actually happen: that horses could rise from the water once a year and be captured by humans in order to race them. Every part of this book was fascinating, and nothing was predictable. If you like fantasy that’s different, check this one out.

7. The Fallen: Part 1 by Robin Woods

Though this writer is a good friend of mine AND I happened to be one of the editors for this book, were I a complete stranger and not involved at all, I would still love this book. Woods surprised her readers by this followup to her Watchers trilogy. She weaves cool mythology in with modern day vampires, and all of it works. There’s a part 2 coming out in 2015 (and I’ve had the pleasure of reading a majority of it), and I can’t wait until it’s finished and available. If you can’t get enough of vampires, then grab yourself a copy.

The Fallen: Part One (Watcher, #4)

6. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Seems like a lot of people got Outlander, specifically Jamie Fraser, fever this year. Starz created an amazing TV series of this genre bending book. We’ve got SciFi with a time travel element, romance, adventure, and UK history. This is such a freaking cool (and long) book, but I finished it in about 3-4 days, as I could hardly put it down. And I think that, in conjunction with the book, the show is done well too. Whether you read the book or watch the show–or do both–there’s a little something for everyone in Outlander. (Even my dad got into the show!)

5. Invertary series by Janet Elizabeth Henderson

I just finished Ms. Henderson’s latest, Magenta Mine, last night. Thus far, this series includes Lingerie Wars, Goody Two Shoes, and Magenta Mine (a novella). Book 3 of this series is due in 2015. Hooray!

I first read Lingerie Wars this year and was absolutely delighted. Henderson knows how to do Rom Com very well, and every book she has written has had me in hysterics. Other than romance in YA, I had a rather wrong view of contemporary romance novels. I thought they were solely for “desperate housewives” who had nothing better to do but to read trashy romance. I’m glad I was wrong! Since I started reading more Rom Coms and similar genres, I can’t seem to get enough! Sure, there are some weird ones out there, but most I’ve read this year have been great. So, if you’re into Rom Coms/Contemporary Romance books, I highly suggest that you get something from Henderson. Great writing paired with wonderful humor and fun/steamy romance.

4. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

I feel like I’m always late to the game when it comes to popular fiction. Hell, it took me years just to read Harry Potter. So it’s no surprise that it took me a while to read The Hunger Games trilogy. In February, I had the sad instance of becoming very ill for 4 days. So, guess what I did? I read the entire trilogy while I was down for the count. It was pretty much the only thing I could do besides sleep and drink tea. If you haven’t read these, or if you haven’t seen the movies, you gotta put it on your priority list for 2015. Great writing, incredible world building…just…wow. I can’t say enough.

3. Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi

This year was the year of finishing series, it seemed. The third and final installment of Tahereh Mafi’s famous Shatter Me series was released early in the year. I had been waiting on pins and needles to find out what would happen. I was okay with the first book, wowed by the second, and completely blown away by the third. One of the hottest romances in YA, and some serious and amazing girl power! This is a great series that I think almost anyone would enjoy. Mafi has a unique writing style that intrigued me as well.

2. Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

Another series finisher released earlier this year. I loved this series from the very beginning. A very unique plot with tight writing and beautiful prose. There’s a post apocalyptic theme, but there’s also some great romance and fantasy/scifi elements as well. I can’t wait to see more from this author. She is just absolutely brilliant. 

1. Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas

This series is the kind of series that fantasy and YA/NA writers dream about writing. It’s the kind of series that makes readers dream about when they’re done reading it. It’s been a long while since I’ve gone back and re-read specific scenes from a book, much less multiple books in a series. And I’m not always a novella fan either, but I bought the 5 companion novellas to this series as well. I read them in 3 days. This is an epic fantasy series that apparently stemmed from the idea of Cinderella being an assassin. So, I would argue that there’s something for everyone in this series. I even recommended the series to my dad, who loves fantasy books.

The world that Maas builds is just so freaking cool. There’s magic, there’re lots of foul creatures, there’s romance, there’s heart-wrenching betrayals, and there’s lots of kick-ass-ery. I mean…I honestly didn’t have a life while I read all these books in the span of 5-6 days. I am OBSESSED and that’s saying something, as I tend to be pretty picky. Yes, I read just about anything and everything, but it takes a special book to get me lost and make me forget to eat. Can’t say enough good things about this series. You really should exit this blog right now and just buy the books on Amazon. I cannot wait for the next installment to come out in a few months. 

Two thumbs up for top reads of 2014!

Two thumbs up for top reads of 2014!

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So, that’s my list for 2014! What about you? What great reads did you discover in 2014? Stay tuned for my “to-read” list for 2015. I’ll be posting that here in a few days.

Also, if you have a Goodreads account, and we have yet to be friends, feel free to add me as a friend by clicking HERE. Happy New Year!! xx

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The Habit of People Watching

Sunrise I witnessed yesterday morning on Playa Postiguet.

Sunrise I witnessed yesterday morning on Playa Postiguet. Just some eye candy for you readers. 🙂

I can understand why the Spanish have siesta time. It’s not very hot here in Alicante, Spain, but even in the mild weather, walking for two hours has made me super tired! In fact, my roomies are all taking advantage of siesta time right now, while I’m being lame and writing this blog post. I enjoy the quiet though, so that’s why I’m up and working.

Already, there are so many things I’m learning about myself while living abroad. The biggest thing I’m trying to figure out is just how to find rhythm with all this “free time”–which, if you’re a freelancer like I am, is not really free time. I’m learning how to create a schedule that isn’t too rigid but still allows me to be productive and meet client deadlines.

I’ve been reading Daily Rituals by Mason Currey–which I highly recommend–and it’s about how many famous artists and creative types schedule or scheduled their days. Disturbing but unsurprising, many artists struggled with drug use, alcohol abuse, and self-medication. Many claimed to need the stimulation to either keep their ideas coming, or to maintain enough energy to get all those ideas out of their head and into the final product. I like alcohol and whatnot as much as the next person, but I personally don’t need a slew of amphetamines to write a novel. Nevertheless, studying other people’s habits is very fascinating to me, and I most definitely have indulged in a glass of sangria or two (or three!) while reading Daily Rituals.

Daily Rituals by Mason Currey

Daily Rituals by Mason Currey

This fascination I have in observing others comes into play while traveling. I have ever been an avid people-watcher. In fact, my first essay at 12 years old was about people-watching at Disneyland. So, part of my new routine in living abroad involves vast amounts of observing those around me in the day-to-day. There’s a cafe down the street from my apartment–Cafe Gadea–and I go there nearly every day. When it’s really nice outside, I’ll eat my lunch on the tables outside and watch people walk by, as well as try to listen in on the conversations in Spanish happening at the next table over. I notice the nuances of every interaction between the Spanish versus Americans or other cultures.

For example, in the United States, when we walk on the street, most of us avoid even touching someone else’s arm at all costs. It’s like we think everyone has the plague or something. But here, in Europe, and especially in Spain, it’s almost as if people are drawn to one another without thinking twice about it. Even when I’m walking on a sidewalk with ample room, and someone is walking towards me, he or she seems to be caught in some gravitational pull and will pass very closely to me. It doesn’t matter who it is–a man, woman, child, older person, teenager–they ALL do it. And I just accept it.

I’ve also witnessed more affection in relationships–affection that is shown in public. And it’s not just between lovers, it’s also between friends. Many people here are very affectionate towards one another. I mean, even when you first meet someone, you kiss each other’s cheeks. When I met my roommate last week, we said “hola” and gave the customary greeting of kissing each side cheek. Being half Hispanic myself, that is something I’m used to experiencing from my Latino side of the family. But for most Americans? A simple handshake will do. (Which I actually HATE, by the way. Why can’t we all just be affectionate? Ha!) As a stranger (estranjero) in a strange land, that type of affection makes me feel more connected, even without knowing anyone around me or having someone to talk to all the time.

I’d like to think that many of us creatives are people-watchers to some degree. Even the most introverted among us. For me, watching people is like reading a textbook in school and gathering information–except that the process is more interesting and organic. Life is our teacher, people are the study materials, and we test ourselves by what we produce. So really, there isn’t much opportunity for failure; there’s opportunity to learn. It’s all around us and we only fail if we refuse to learn anything.

Cool filter for a photo I took of my bedroom windows.

Cool filter for a photo I took of my bedroom windows.

But before I continue to think that I’m Socrates or something, I will reiterate that this travel thing has done me good. I’m learning so much and loving every minute–even the lonely and fear-filled ones. I am very glad that I made the decision to step way outside of my comfort zone and try something new. And, of course, I am thoroughly enjoying all the new faces and behaviors to watch. 😉