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2018 Lists > Nan's 2018 Reads

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments With a goal to read 140 books in 2018, this is a listing of the books I have read during the year.

1. Spartan Heart by Jennifer Estep
Jeepers, Creepers, there are more Reapers

A spinoff series of the Mythos Academy features Rory Forseti, a cousin of Gwen Frost of the original series. She is an outcast, trying to prove she isn't a Reaper like her parents were.
It is a new school year, and suddenly she is fighting monsters and Reapers. What is going on? She thought the threat was over after Loki was defeated, but there is a new threat at the Colorado school and she becomes involved along with new warrior-students.
As exciting as the original series, yet with a difference that makes the reader want to race through the pages. Will Rory follow in her parents' footsteps or will she find the courage and determination to be the Spartan she wants to be?
Per usual, there is humor and Easter eggs to find as Estep sprinkles her novels with both. Of course, there are green-eyed characters (Babs the sword for one) and lots of smirks, smirking through out. Getting to be another What-the-tuck trend.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 2. The Magic Cup by Andrew Greeley
The debut novel of this prolific writer, this story is the grail legend told from an Irish point of view.

Cormac McDermot is to be king after his father, the ailing doddering man who is bewitched by the evil Finnabair. But first he must find the grail cup, the magic cup, with only his wits, his faithful dog, Podragic, and his bondwoman (slave) Brigid, who has made an enemy of the queen-witch.

Adventures abound, and magic is afoot as Cormac, the High King, fights to find the magic princess and the magic cup. Will he survive to find the cup, or will Finnabair destroy the kingdom of Ireland?
Who is the magic princess?

A love story with a twist.

A couple of quotes worth remembering:
"Waiting is praying." (found throughout the novel, mostly uttered by Brigid)
"Mercy is harder than hatred." (p. 232)

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 3. The Hero Two Doors Down by Sharon Robinson
Despite being written for children by the daughter of Jackie Robinson, this is a book our library book group has chosen to read. The story, based on a true story, is that of a friendship between a young boy and his hero, Jackie Robinson, who moves into their neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Yes, this is an adult reading group, but one of our members suggested it, and now I know why.
It is a heartfelt story in which a boy gets instruction on life skills from a baseball legend who broke all kinds of barriers. Yet, this man had struggles of his own, dealing with prejudice and racism, and having to prove his worth over and over again. So, too, did the boy.

It is particularly worthy of being read especially during these days when racism and bigotry has gotten worse again. Racial epitaphs and slurs and hate groups seemed to increased recently, and frankly I don't understand the intolerance by hate groups. But enough politicking...

Told through the eyes of Steve, Jackie's and his friendship and his own struggles to control his temper, begins and ends with Steve's father's death as he recalls one very important year, the year that his hero moved into the neighborhood. Both learn from each other, and it is particularly educational/emotional during the Christmas/Hanukkah section of the novel.

Yet, it is also the story of a father-and-son relationship. Their interactions, their lessons, and their love.

The story is a bit of tearjerker.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 4. The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg
4.5 stars actually--This story of an unconventional family is just about perfect; it's uplifting without being maudlin.

Notable quote: 'What is it that makes a family? Certainly no document does, no legal pronouncement or accident of birth. No, real families come from choices we make about who we want to be bound to, and the ties to such families live in our hearts.' (p. 262 in the large print edition)

Arthur Moses has spent the last six months visiting his wife Nola's grave...every day at that, talking to her and her neighbors in the cemetery. That and tending his rose garden and his cat, Gordon.

When he meets a young disenfranchised and bullied teen, Maddy, his life improves for the better, is transformed. She often comes to the cemetery, too, during her lunch periods away from school. They strike up a conversation that leads to friendship that eventually becomes family. She calls him "Truluv" because of his devotion to his beloved wife.

Add in his neighbor, Lucille, who is as lonely as the other two, and there is even more of a family. Their lives together are the making of a family independent of blood, but as hopeful as any ever seen. Through hardship and heartache, they all become more, become the people they wish to be.

Tender and poignant, this allows the reader to think of the possibility that happiness can be achieved at any age.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 5. Pirate Heiress by Chloe Flowers
Mixing pirates, intrigue, treasure, and swashbuckling with romance, Flowers presents a historical romance between a 'pirate' Stevie Sauvage and Conal O'Brien, the captain of his ship, the Seeker.

The family Sauvage, of whom Stevie is just one member, hijacks Conal's boat and demands (at the point of a gun) he help them sail it to Jamaica in order to save the twins, younger siblings of Stevie, from the pirate Drago, who has a vendetta against Conal's extended family.

This fourth book in the Pirates and Petticoats series can be read without having read the first three, but this reader wouldn't suggest it. This reader has previously read the first one (Hart's Desire) so had an inkling of some of the past events, but there were still events that must have occurred in novels two and three that were unfamiliar to this reader and made for a few 'what-is-going-on moments' and 'okay-now-I-get-it moments.' (Ironically, this reader actually has purchased the e-book bundle 1-3 to read prior to reading this one, but then decided (after reading the synopsis) it was possible to figure it out as it seemed unrelated to the others, sort of...and would read Hart's Passion and Hart's Reward some time in the future, but I digress.)

Following the lead of letters written by the pirate Anne Bonny, the family sets out to find the treasure they believe she left for her heirs to find (each chapter is prefaced with a letter Anne has written to her father).

Think Pirates of the Caribbean in book form...there is humor and betrayals, kidnappings and mayhem, but a pretty clean romance as it isn't too graphic...basically lots going on, yet it concludes the series well (and even with a tease for another series).

4.5 stars actually as there are quite a few typos and formatting errors. Could use another look or two during proofing, but not so egregious as to ruin the story. (and oh yeah, the ubiquitous green-eyed character)

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 6. Zero Day by David Baldacci
4.5 stars actually--A brutal set of murders in a backwater community in West Virginia has John Puller, CID, investigating the crime along with the Sam Cole, police sergeant in the sleepy little town of Drake.

But nothing is as it seems, and the ramifications could be deadly for Puller, Cole, the town of Drake, and the five state region.

Another new protagonist for Baldacci in Puller (who has plenty of baggage, but great instincts), and as compelling (and scary) of a tale as ever.

It's been some time since the last Baldacci I read, and I have to say I prefer reading to audio-books of his novels

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 7. The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
A sleepy English village, four pre-adolescent boys and one girl, and secrets...lots of secrets and unintended consequences. Especially what happened to a teen-aged girl.

Told from the perspective of thirty years earlier and now, Eddie/Ed tells of the unsolved murder of a young woman. What began as a secret code turns deadly in the summer of the chalk men, and the story is slowly unraveled in this suspenseful read.

A bit freaky at times, totally mesmerizing, a true page turner. What did happen to the girl's head, and why was she killed?

A few quotes (of cynical philosophy):
Principles are nice things. If you can afford them. Principles do not pay the mortgage, or clear our debts. Principles are actually pretty useless currency in the daily grind of life. A principled man s generally a man who has everything he wants, or absolutely nothing to lose. (p. 118 LP edition)

I guess, in real life, there are no happy endings, just messy complicated ones. (p. 300 LP edition)

For who are we if not the sum of our experiences, the things that we gather and collect in life? (in regards to loss of memories through Alzheimer's) (P. 324 LP edition)

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 8. The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin
Two icons of Hollywood, two friends, and the lives they lived during the early days of Hollywood is the basis of this historical novel.

Mary Pickford, silent movie star, and Frances Marion, screenwriter, were powerful women in Hollywood. Their story is told in the alternating viewpoints of the two women from the point in time of the early 1910s to the late 1960s.

As their friendship grew, so do their collaboration as scenarist and actress into iconic roles. Mary Pickford, eventually known as the Queen of Hollywood, is thrust into the role of breadwinner for her family at the age of five, and being on the stage, going from town to town, is how she starts in the movie business. It is Frances who helps her develop the role of playing a young girl, giving her the childhood she never got to experience for herself.

The story is littered with the greats of early Hollywood: Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Louis B. Mayer, Cecil B. DeMille, and more. The changes in the industry are shown from flickers, to (silent) movies, to 'talkies.'

A great friendship, two great loves, heartbreak, and pain...the story could be any blockbuster, and is well worth the read. Not a biography, but the story behind the two women, who made such an impact.

Considering the inequities in pay, the sexual harassment issues (known as #metoo movement) even now, it is a timely novel.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 9. Between Me and You by Allison Winn Scotch
4.5 stars actually--A morning star, an evening star...one rising, the other descending...describes this relationship between Tatum and Ben.

The story is told from the perspective of the two main characters, the actress Tatum and the screenwriter, but with a twist. Tatum tells the story from the point of the past to the present; Ben tells the story from the present back to the past. It's a bit confusing, but with a chapter or two, it gets easier to understand.

As their lives shift and change, will the secrets both keep from the other do them in? On the brink of signing divorce papers, it is possible for them to find their way back to each other? Considering the background of Hollywood, will this be a tragedy or a rom-com?

As a grammar geek, the title, which is grammatically incorrect, bothered me, but when finally explained, makes perfect sense.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 10. The Connector by Aubrey Parker
A spicy romance of a young college woman, Alex, and the powerful man, Nathan, who is attempting to form a boys' club of equally powerful billionaires.

Playing with the big boys may get Alex burned (and certainly screwed), but gutsy Alex goes toe to toe with Nathan trying to broker a deal that will give her an internship or job.

Who will triumph in this battle of wills? Who will give in and admit that it is more than just power and sex? That maybe love connects them after all.

A bit more graphic and crude than many contemporary romances, and in this era of #metoo, there are some moments that seem a bit like sexual harassment or sexual predation.

11. On a Cold, Cold Day by Douglas Richardson
a poetry chapbook of 31 poems about different events especially with an Escalade. Also a nod to the name of the press, Weak Creature, in one of the poems.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 12. Panic Kit by Laura A. Lionello
Poems of angst; poems of raw emotion; poems of dark subjects...this is poetry of Laura Lionello.

She tackles the toughest subjects...death, loss, and more...with language that is both beautiful and ugly. Read over several weeks, a poem or two a day, as some of the poems are disturbingly dark, but for those who love gritty, emotional poems will love this little volume.

Between each section are photos of tattoos, one of which, a lion, is particularly interesting. 2.5 stars actually

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 13. Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heberlin
This is a psychological thriller that doesn't quit until the very last page. Although the story started out a bit slow to begin with, the tale becomes more intense as it continues, making the reader race through the pages toward a rather twisty conclusion. Told through the perspective of now and then (1995), Tessa Cartwright tells her story of being nearly buried alive alongside the bones of several other young girls in a field of black-eyed Susans. Labelled the "lucky" Susan, her testimony put away the man who is on Death Row and about to be executed.

But did he do it? Now a mother of a teen, Tessa is having conversations with the other "Susans" and her best friend has gone missing. Working with the lawyer and a forensics scientist studying the DNA of the bones of the girls, she thinks the monster who abducted her is still out there since she has had too many odd things, related to the crime, happen to her.

Spending time with a psychologist may unlock the secret of the past. Especially when there are too many things that don't add up, and time is ticking down toward execution.
4.5 stars actually

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 14. Poems for Loners by Douglas Richardson
There are almost four, maybe five, distinct continuing stories within this slim volume of poetry. They are intertwined with each other from the loner poems to the Notes from the Graveyard Shift poems to the Barney Murdoch poems to the others.

Some are sad, some are ironic, and some are uplifting. Frankly, they are all over the place, going left, right, up, down, and sideways, yet they are connected. Most are rather short, just one or two lines, yet like haiku, they can say so much.

One particular line in poem 91 (yes, the poems ARE all numbered.) struck me.
"Being good is more rebellious than being bad because it disobeys instinct." (page 70)

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 15. Getting Rid of Bradley by Jennifer Crusie
a lighthearted suspense romance with newly divorced Lucy and Zack, a cop chasing down Bradley. How is the Bradley he is after related to the Bradley she's divorcing? And why do both of them talk to dogs?

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 16. Darker by E.L. James
The original trilogy was all basically from the perspective of Anastasia Steele, but this is the same book from Christian's point of view.

This book begins as the previous one leaves off. Ana has called their relationship quits, and Grey is bereft. He is willing to do anything to get back with her as he has realized that their relationship is something more than Dom-sub; that it may be love. He's even willing to have a 'vanilla' relationship IF she will only give him another chance.

Two observations: 1) Time (and perhaps an editor) has enhanced the writing skill of the author, and 2) seeing the romance blossom through Grey's eyes is enlightening, and (dare I say it?) better. As a result, this is a much better book in my opinion.

Grey, the protagonist, is such a tortured soul; his wounds of the past certainly color all of his current relationships. With his friends (the few he really has), his family, his business associates, and of course, Ana.

Through his thoughts and actions, the character of Grey really shines through in his telling.

While the sexual encounters are as graphic as in the original, the impressions and emotions are purely male, and that is one of the most refreshing things about this re-telling of the story of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. (Better than the original)

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 17. Starring You and Me by Susan Coventry
4.5 stars actually, set, in Michigan, a contemporary romance starring Nicole (Nikki) and Nate, who meet when he makes a movie in her home town

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 18. What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum
Two very different people, David and Kit, form a friendship that neither would have ever thought possible.

When Kit sits at David's table at lunch, their lives are transformed. For 622 days, David has sat alone at his table, and one day, popular Kit Lowell sits there. David is considered odd, and he has been his whole life, but high school is particularly difficult for him as he tries to make sense of his world and those around him.

For Kit has recently lost her father in a car accident and is floundering and frankly wants to be left alone and doesn't want to talk to anybody, especially her best friends Annie and Violet. Who better to sit with than David, who rarely talks to anyone, but notes everything.

Their friendship slowly blossoms into something more, until it is irrevocably harmed by David's forthrightness and honesty and his inability to connect with empathy in regards to Kit. But is there a way for David to prove that he is truly sorry?

David has a form of Asperger's and it colors his world. His sister Miney (his name for her) helps where she can, but life can be difficult and notebooks filled with ways to live can only help so much.
Or as the book says, "If you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism."

A YA novel with heart and soul...loved David, even though he believes he was named wrongly, and Kit, also known as 139-Z8S. What an uplifting story with more than a few emotional moments. Plus more than a few nuggets of information about prime numbers.

19. In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
Ambassador Dodd and his family in Berlin, Germany during Hitler's rise to power circa 1933-35. Very insightful read.

20. Ghosts of Time and Space by Douglas Richardson
a poetry book written from the perspective of various spectral beings about their lives, their deaths,

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 21. Bad Deeds by Lisa Renee Jones
the third in the Dirty Money series continues the story begun in Hard Rules and Damage Control. The power struggle to control and legitimize Brandon Industries by Shane Brandon and Emily Stevens. Their love story continues as well. Read the previous two first as this novel won't make much sense without it. The cliffhanger of an ending will be settled, hopefully, in End Game. The chess metaphor is perfect for all the machinations going on.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 22. Nightingale by Jennifer Estep
How do you not love the Bigtime series? With superheroes and ubervillians galore, and this one is no different with typical over-the-top fun, humor, and Easter eggs to find (of references to her other series).

Event planner Abby feels invisible as she micromanages every event she plans for the rich patrons of Bigtime, New York. Whether planning a birthday party, a wedding, or a funeral, she handles every crisis that comes her way with her handy-dandy vest with pockets filled with everything from lipstick to tissues to designer drugs to condoms. No superpowers for her except for perfectionism, anal-retentiveness, and the ability to yell to get things accomplished...and oh yeah, because of an accident, she has super-senses (hearing, sight, smell, touch) that drive her to distraction with migraines.

After one such event, she saves a superhero, Talon, but in the process he is both shot and temporarily blinded. Snowed in, she fixes his wounds, and then she and he get to know each other...but neither really knows who the other one truly is. She calls herself Wren (a boring, brown bird); he calls her Nightingale (for her singing voice), and he is protected by his mask.

She figures out his true identity, but hides herself away so that she won't be hurt. Can the two work it out? Could there be love between the two, or will hearts be broken?

All the favorites superheroes from the previous novels (the Fearless Five, etc.) make cameo appearances, but it is ultimately Abby and Talon taking on some bad guys and finding love.

Always fun reads...with a few laughs, a few tears, and lots of Fiona Fine dresses.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 23. Fandemic by Jennifer Estep
This is just fun reading. It is camp; it is humorous; and it is classic Estep with Easter eggs from her other series (if you know her other series like Black Blade, Elemental Assassin, and Mythos Academy, this will make sense, and if you don't, consider finding out by reading them).

In the final book of the Bigtime series, major fan girl Piper Perez is still bummed by two things: she has no super powers (in the city where superheroes and uber-villians can be found on nearly every corner) and she is still in love with Kyle Quicke despite the fact that he broke up with her a year ago.

Being the biggest fan girl (she calls it a Fandemic), she collects all the collectibles of the various superheroes/uber-villians, knows all their backstories, and knows the real life counterparts to the secret identities. But can she save her love when he is in trouble? Can she battle one of the biggest, baddest uber-villian? And if she can, is there hope for a happily-ever-after? 4.5 stars

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 24. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
4.5 stars--Wow! I'm not sure I have ever read a Gothic tale...or if I have, this tale is unlike any book I have ever read. It has a ghost, twins Emmeline and Adeline, a decrepit house, madness, love, abandoned children, a governess, and more.

It is a tale within a tale, told by one character to another, who tells both stories, sorta simultaneously. It is also a mystery. Biographer Margaret Lea is summoned to the home of a famous novelist, Vida Winter, who wishes to tell her story of her birth and beyond. The whole truth, not the one(s) she has manufactured for her legion of fans over the years, and this is her story. But it is also Margaret's story as well for she has secrets in her past that haunt her.

Lots of references to other books like "Jane Eyre" and "Wuthering Heights" (to name a few).

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 25. The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley
A suspense thriller with just enough twists and turns to keep a reader guessing until the very end.

Debut author D.M. Pulley won the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel with this gem of a gripping tale of a mysterious bank closing overnight in 1978. Now twenty years later, a structural engineer, Iris, is tasked with getting all the architectural information about this building when it is sold. Spending days working on the project, she discovers more than this; she discovers a mystery of what happened back in 1978.

Told from the perspective of a young woman, Beatrice, who works at the bank in 1978, the story of what is going on is teasingly exposed. Interspersed with the events of 1978 is Iris's perspective twenty years later. Flipping back and forth between the events of 1978 and 1998, Iris discovers Beatrice's twisted path of what is going on, but by looking, will she be digging up old ghosts, ghosts that are better off left alone?

Each woman faces perils in their own search for the truth. What happened to this bank in 1978? Why did it close so suddenly? Why has it now become reopened? Will either of these women discover the truth? And if so, will either survive?
4.5 stars

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 26. Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks turns his attention to a series (17 in all) of short stories. Lots of variety in this collection. 4.5 stars

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 27. Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn
3.5 stars...a modern retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear with Henry Dunbar playing the title character. Dunbar is the head of a global media company, the Dunbar Trust, until his scheming older daughters commit him to a sanitarium. Escaping, he begins a process that will end tragically for many of the characters.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 28. Card of Fate: Poems of Gambling Addiction by Duke of Quails
A losing proposition...

This poetry from start to finish is about losing it all to a gambling habit. From cards to the ponies to slot machines and more, the poet addresses the loss of money, family, and self-esteem all for that ultimate win.

The poetry is repetitive and at times preachy, but there are some good thoughts contained in many of them. Would a gambler learn from the lessons presented? The reader can only hope.

Some of the best poems in this collection are the ones written from the perspective of a loved one being hurt by the gambling addict. I can't imagine the pain of watching someone you love destroy himself/herself, not to mention destroying the family through poverty of just one more "this time it will be different."

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 29. End Game by Lisa Renee Jones
the fourth and final novel in the Dirty Money series finds Shane and Emily dealing with all the issues coming to a head over the previous three novels. Between the cliffhanger ending of Emily's and Derek's kidnapping and shooting, Emily's escape from her brother and the Geminis, Shane's parents, and the drug cartel who wants to do business with Shane's family company, all will be resolved before the couple can have their happily after ever...if it is possible in this spicy, sexy romance series.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 29.5 Halloween Frost by Jennifer Estep
a short story featuring Gwen and her friends battling a mythical monster on Halloween...so much for just treats, it is a trick that includes smashing pumpkins.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 30. A Karma Girl Christmas by Jennifer Estep
an e-novella that stars Karma Girl as a superhero who is guarding toys on Christmas Eve from some bad, bad ubervillains who play Scrooge.

31. Just Toying Around by Rhonda Nelson
What do sex toys, a near-virgin, and a hot man have in common? The answer: each other.

Meg Sugarbaker, AKA Desiree Moon, moonlights as a sex toy critic in order to raise money for tuition for a prestigious culinary school in Paris. In a week-long conference connected with her online persona, she meets Nick.

Unfortunately, Nick has an agenda that is related to his brother Ron's, failing sex toy business. Failing because of poor reviews written by Desiree, or so Ron believes. Ron further believes she's a fraud and he wants Nick to prove it.

When Nick and Desiree meet, there is chemistry. There are uncomfortable feelings, and there are spicy, sexy scenes in this romance. Will Nick's job override his feelings for Desiree? Will Desiree/Meg learn to trust? Will there be a happily ever after or two broken hearts?

From the outset, the whole plot seems cheesy, but it is a romance with heart (and yes, sex toys).

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 32. Playing with Temptation by Erika Wilde
Spicy romance between a woman who owns an adult boutique and the man who is guarding her after a stalker is after her.

A chance meeting at the Players Club, an exclusive adult sex club, sets the stage for the two, but it isn't until he is named her protection that the romance really heats up.

Raina has been burned before and has real trust issues, but Logan has also been hurt in the past and wants only casual sex, thus his membership to the club. Each has control issues, but which one will prevail?

Racy sexual situations, some graphic language, and more than a few WTT trends including smirking, green-eyed characters, and a tucking incident, but still at its core, a romance.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 33. Amethyst by Lauren Royal
A historical romance set during the reign of Charles II and the London fire tells the tale of the unlikely couple, Amethyst (Amy) Goldsmith and Lord Greystone (Colin Chase).

Unlikely because she is of the merchant class (a jewelry designer and shopkeeper), and he, of the landed gentry class with a title to boot (and ordinarily don't mix).

Both are to wed others...he is betrothed to a lady; she has been promised since a child to the family apprentice...but circumstances and chemistry push the pair together. And neither is in love with his/her intended.

Still can either put aside societal expectations? Is it possible to make a love match when two people are of different classes? Will this cause conflict that can't be overcome?

A fun historical romance as there is humor, intrigue, historicity, pranks, romantic moments, and two likeable main characters. Ancillary characters such as the Chase siblings as well as the orphan Mary make the scenarios believable. Yes, there are plenty of WTT particularly all the green-eyed characters as well as at least one hair-tucking incident, but not so blatant as to ruin the flow of the story.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 34. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman
"All myths are true," as it was said by one college instructor of mine. So, too, must be fairy tales as it is demonstrated in this delightful and heartfelt novel by Backman.

Elsa is seven-year-old girl; she is 'different' (as all superheroes must be), and she is loved unconditionally by her Granny.

Granny is seventy-seven years old and crazy; she is Elsa's superhero, best-and only-friend, (and primary caregiver, in a sense), telling her fairy tales from the Land-of-Almost-Awake where Miamas and the other kingdoms from the dream clouds.

When Granny dies of cancer and goes to Miamas, Elsa is devastated and angry. Her grandmother has left her a treasure hunt, though, and in so doing, Elsa will discover a fairy tale of a great adventure for real as she delivers letters of apology to the various occupants in the house she lives in with her mother, stepfather, and her unborn sibling she calls Halfie.

All in all, a tenderhearted story with characters that the reader will grow to love for their quirkiness and vulnerabilities. Lots of humor as well as a few moments of tears throughout.

Friends (Cindy C., Elyse, Barbara, etc.) who have read Backman and recommended his novels were right: he is worth reading. This reader will be checking out his other stories in the near future.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 35. The Keys to My Diary~Fern by Ann Omasta
2.5 stars actually--A contemporary romance between a 42-year-old woman, Fern Burns, and Brody MacDonald (Mac), a hot, handsome, rich hunk...all told from the perspective of Fern through her diary entries over the course of a year.

From the good to the bad, to the mundane to the humorous, Fern tells it all. Set in sunny Florida, in the Keys, she and Mac have some incredible adventures. Fern is a bit juvenile with all of her repeated lol, ugh, and ick!

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 36. In All My Wishes by Ciara Knight
a contemporary romance of second chances featuring Liam and Anna. Back home in town, Anna tries to avoid her first love, but Liam has never gotten over her and her abrupt departure years earlier. Can they figure out what happened years before, and make their wishes come true?

37. Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser
a page-turner story of missed chances, missed connections, and misconceptions that lead to lies and a kidnapping

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 38. True Colors by Kristin Hannah
A story of family, sisters, love, forgiveness, and redemption.

Sisters Winona, Aurora, and Vivi Ann are there for each other until they splinter over lies, omissions, and lack of forgiveness. Oldest sister Winona is only looking for her father's approval and the love of Luke; middle sister Aurora is the peacemaker hiding her own pain; youngest sister Vivi Ann is the golden girl of the group until she causes scandal for the Grey family. In this small community in which they live, prejudices surface when a new person, Dallas Raintree, hired by Winona, sets off a chain of events that will disrupt the family for years.

Each of their lives is marred by tragedy, but can they come together and find happiness?

Vivi Ann's son Noah writes journal entries, which are poignant, angsty, heartbreaking, and joyful...some of the best parts of the story.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 39. Friends with Partial Benefits by Luke Young
An erotic romance novel written from a male point of view. Brian wants a relationship and thinks he has found his perfect woman in Natalie, a young woman who is extremely flexible. But she plays coy with him.

When his roommate and best friend, Rob, invites him home for spring break, Brian meets Jillian, a MILF, and her (very sexually liberated) friend, Victoria. Leaving Brian to his own devices, Rob reconnects with his girlfriend.

As for Brian, he connects through tennis to Jillian. Over the course of a week, the pair becomes close...real close, becoming Friends with Partial Benefits. What that means is nebulous, but basically no sex, no kissing, and no touching erogenous zones, and no talking about F.W.P.B. The problem: each wants the other, but Rob and Natalie are issues. No one wants to cross boundaries, but can the two move beyond this? Especially when the attraction is so strong?

As college graduation nears, who will Brian end up with? Natalie? Jillian? Neither? Or maybe Victoria, who has made overtures, too?

While a romance, it is a romance that features all the male fantasies of what women want. It is in turns sweet, hilarious, raunchy, and spicy. Oh, forgot to mention, Jillian is a successful romance author, who hasn't had sex in months and writer's block. Will Brian help cure her writer's block? The third person narratives of the various characters' fantasies are a treat.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 40. The Good Liar by Catherine McKenzie
Wow! In this latest novel by Catherine McKenzie, it is all about lies--the lies we tell ourselves; the lies we tell others; lies of omission and commission.

On October 10th at 10AM, a Chicago building blows up killing 513 people. Is it a terrorist plot or just a gas leak?

Three women become linked through this tragedy named Ten Ten: Cecily, the woman who wasn't in the building, but should have been; Kaitlin (Kate), who miraculously survived the blast, but runs away from her family; and Franny Maycombe, who appears and claims to be Kaitlin's daughter.

Lies, lies, and more lies are told, particularly as the anniversary of the event approaches. The truth unfolds in the aftermath of this suspenseful read in which no one will be left unscathed.

This might be her best novel to date. Complex, psychological...

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 41. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
Just when I thought I had heard of all the atrocities, that Hitler and the Nazi regime had perpetuated against all the people labelled as sub-human, along comes a historical novel that brings another atrocity to light.

Based on several real life people (Carolyn Ferriday and Herta Oberhauser), this historical novel brings to life the all-female concentration camp, Ravensbruck, and the insidious treatment of the prisoners under the physicians and guards.

Told through the perspective of three women (Carolyn, Herta, and Kasia) and their individual stories, it all comes together through the concentration camp.

Carolyn works for the French consulate and is involved with a French actor; Herta is a physician who works at the hospital at the camp; and Kasia is a member of the Polish underground when she is caught and sent to the camp.

The story is compelling, mesmerizing, horrifying, and ultimately satisfying for the women known as the "Rabbits."

Lest we forget....

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 42. In the Arms of a Pirate by Michelle Beattie
Pirates, families, and revenge all come together in this pirate-themed romance (the second in the series, but that in no way really affected the understanding of the present events and much of the previous events could be ascertained through the reading).

Revenge is the only thing in Aiden Bradley's mind when he kidnaps Sarah Santiago for leverage against her father Roche. Aiden, known as the pirate Sam Steele, a title passed down through various family members, plans on killing the bloodthirsty pirate.

Sarah, though, doesn't know that her father is a pirate...one who has plundered, raped, and killed members of Aiden's family. Nor does she believe it when told. She only knows that Aiden plans on killing him.

Yet, despite the issues between them, they find themselves attracted to each other. More than attracted, but how can they love if Aiden kills her father? Or if her father kills him? What will be the outcome for the pair? Will they have a happily ever after?

No green-eyed characters, but the word 'ensured' was overused.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 43. Adam (Riding Hard #1) by Jennifer Ashley
In this contemporary second chance romance, Adam Campbell has returned home to Riverbend, Texas after a horrendous accident that nearly killed him, leaving him scarred (inside and out) and killing his best friend, Dawson. Now, this Hollywood stuntman is undergoing physical therapy to recover strength and functionality, but what about the internal scars...the PTSD?

Home brings him back into the orbit of Bailey, the young woman who once meant so much to him. She, previously returned to Riverbend, still healing from a devastating divorce. By working for Adam's family as a horse trainer and stunt rider, she has slowly healed.

When the two meet again, will sparks once again ignite? Will they find a love that will heal them both? Or will Adam return to Hollywood once he is physically and emotionally healed, leaving Bailey behind?

A spicy, emotionally charged, sexy (but not overly graphic) romance...the first in a series that features the men of the Campbell family, their rivals, the Malory men, and Bailey and her sister Christina.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 44. The Innocent by David Baldacci
The introduction to Will Robie, an assassin who is sanctioned by the US government, finds him and a young teen, Julie Getty, fighting for their lives. Along with the help of a FBI agent, Nicole Vance, they are trying to figure out who killed Julie's parents as well as some of their friends. They deeper they dig, the more dangerous it becomes.

For Will, he thinks it is all about him...but is it? Will his past collide with his present? And if it does, will he be able to protect Julie? And Nicole?

Lots of action, lots of killing, lots of twists and turns, and plenty of patented Baldacci surprises...a few of which, for once, that this reader (along with my husband) figured out as we listened to the audio-book edition (as well as personally reading the book as well). 4.5 stars

45. The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly
Jack McEvoy, journalist, and Rachel Walling, FBI agent, team up together to take down a wily serial killer. Audiobook version

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 46. Redeeming the Pirate by Chloe Flowers
Drago Gamponetti is a pirate...okay, a privateer, as he frequently mentions. A privateer who steals for the French, this will be his last mission, or so he believes.

Enter Eva, a scarred and vulnerable thief who is a noviatiate nun-healer. Summoned to heal a sick young girl, Jacqueline, Eva meets the pirate.

Clashes between the two lead to love, but is it possible to change a blackguard? To redeem a man whose soul is irredeemable? Can Eva learn to trust him? Is he trustworthy?

Set during the time of Battle of New Orleans, this romance has intrigue, humor, and swashbuckling moments.

Only real complaint is the over abundance of typos, missing words, wrong words, etc. An extra set of eyes during proofreading might have prevented many of them. It is hoped that the print version has been corrected as the story is otherwise decent and a great addition to the other Pirates and Petticoats series novels.

The cover isn't quite what the reader finds within the pages. Eva never wears a ball gown; most times she is wearing her nun's habit.

An extended review will be posted at www.pedometergeek.wordpress.com before the first of June.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 47. Yield: Emily & Damon by Lilia Moon
Take one buttoned-down wedding planner, add in one hunky, controlling Dom (is that redundant?), add in some spicy elements and a wedding in a BDSM club, and voila...a romance in which both of the partners are way out of their comfort zone.

Emily is a wedding planner, who plans everything to the nth degree to make sure every wedding goes down perfectly, but a wedding in a sex club may be her undoing especially with only a two-week time-frame to get it all done.

So, too, for Damon, who is Seattle's premiere Dom and owner of Fettered. One of his couples wants to get married in the place they fell in love...his club. Not only that, but when the pair meets to discuss this wedding in the venue, sparks fly, meltdowns occur, and a 24 hour contract between Dom/sub will leave them both reeling.

Told from both his and her perspectives, the sexual elements of their relationship are surprisingly tame and tasteful, yet erotic. Who will yield? Who will submit? Can two very different people bridge this gap between their lives?

WTT: only one tucking incident, no green-eyed characters that this reader recalls! Impressive lack of what-the-tuck trends.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 48. The Firefly Dance by Sarah Addison Allen et al
Four coming-of-age novellas written by four different authors including the above. All very different; my favorite might have been Resurrection. Also had an excerpt of a novel that looks interesting and will be added to Mt. TBR list.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 49. Finding Gobi by Dion Leonard
The true story of a long-distance runner (Dion himself) and the bond he formed with a dog (Gobi) while on an ultra-marathon of 155 miles in the Gobi desert of China. When he goes missing after the multi-day race is over, Dion does everything he can (with the help of a worldwide community of well-wishers and philanthropists (people who contributed to the GoFundMe site)) to find the dog and bring him home to Edinburgh, Scotland.

Gobi was an incredible dog, keeping up and running alongside Leonard for miles through the mountains and desert in the scorching heat.

The author's running history, the event itself, and all the hoops it was necessary to jump through to adopt the dog and get him to Scotland are detailed. All in all, it took a village.

For those not versed in ultra-marathons and the stresses of long-distance running, this is a wonderful primer for it. Lots of explanations about the author's preparations, both mental and physical, for this race as well as some of his other races.

Throughout the book, the author seemed a bit of a jerk...alternately whiny and overly competitive, constantly going between euphoria and depression, but ultimately, his heart was in the right place and he and Gobi were reunited and managed to make it to Scotland (and hey, I can't imagine running like that.)

The photos were a great addition to the book.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 50. Exposure: A Love Story by Tracy Ewens
In this romance, there are exposure galore. From the photo exposures to the exposure of the couple to paparazzi -fueled craziness of an actor to the tender exposure of revealing feelings, Megara's (love that 'creative ' name) and West's love story is one that brings laughter and tears, hope and heartbreak, and redemption and forgiveness.

Each of the pair is struggling to find a new normal when they are thrust together, but neither can imagine if a life and love is possible in their individual circumstances.

Just a fantastic romance...not really racy, but definitely romantic especially the heart collage.

5 stars despite a few What-the-tuck trends seen. Looking forward to reading others in this series, but it can be read as a standalone.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 51. Come Sundown by Nora Roberts
Drama and suspense go hand in hand with this story of two "prodigal locals" who return home from being away for some time.

The first is Alice Bodine, a young woman. On her way home, ready to be reunited with her family. she is kidnapped by a man who uses and abuses her over a period of years, forcing her into a "marriage" to bear him sons.

The second is Callan Skinner, a horseman who has wrangled horses in Hollywood for years. Returning home, he is hired by the Bodine Longbow to help with the family resort and ranch. Dealing with old grudges, accusations of killing young women, and finding a love all play into his story.

Flipping between the past and present, the intertwining stories come to a head when Alice escapes her captor and finds her way back to civilization and her family. Her twenty-five years of abuse are slowly revealed, pealing back the layers of her brainwashing.

Can she recover the years of abuse? Will her past haunt not only her, but the present generations?

With a large cast of characters, the novel is complex, compelling, and suspenseful. It also has enough romance between several characters to keep anyone who loves to read romantic suspense happy, yet the romantic scenes are not particularly graphic.

Keeping the characters straight might require notes as the Bodine family line is multi-generational (or at least it was for this reader), but don't let this deter anyone.

Overall, 4.5 stars. What the tuck trends: multiple green-eyed characters and lots of smirking to name a few.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 52. Caraval by Stephanie Garber
a YA fantasy of two sisters involved in a game that could turn deadly. On the island a band of performers led by the mysterious, magical Legend are instrumental in this game.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 53. Ladies' Night by Mary Kay Andrews

A cute chick-lit novel about the recovery from a nasty divorce situation, often one that is manipulated by the opposite spouse. Like the parent punishing the child who is caught throwing the second punch, the characters of this book are mandated to go through six sessions of "divorce recovery" for their actions.

The way these women and one man took their lives back through the divorce recovery group...and actually at their Ladies' Nights meetings after their meetings...was absolutely uplifting and fun.

Grace Davenport was truly grace under pressure after her husband Ben royally screwed her out of her business, home, and money--not to mention screwing her assistant, J'aimee. Her one outburst (driving his car into their pool) is really an anomaly, but it lands her in trouble with the judge, and into the divorce recovery group .

In fact, it is all about betrayal as each of these marriages broke down because of cheating spouses (infidelities). Working together, these women and the one lone man work together to rebuild their lives....and figure out what is happening to their "therapist."

Just a fun read, and even provides a happy ending for Grace as she takes back her life and her lifestyle blog, adopts a dog, and finds a new man to love. Truly a win-win for Grace (and a positive lesson for anyone who might find his/herself in a similar situation).

Sipping margaritas with the perfect summer read and humming along to the song of the same name.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 54. The Beauty Bride by Claire Delacroix
Set in Wales and Scotland in the 1400s, this historical romance is written in the language of the times, making the dialogue seem authentic, at least to this reader's eyes and ears. Many times in romances of this particular genre, it is seen otherwise. Words are either made up or the language is too 21st century. This one had this reader going to the dictionary time and again, expanding my vocabulary along the way.

For Madeline, the female lead of the novel, the romance between her and Rhys FitzHenry has an auspicious beginning. Her older brother, Alexander, now the laird of the manor, sets up an auction for her hand in marriage. Her love James has been reported killed in a battle in France, and she has no desire to wed at all.

The auction is a total surprise to her and her younger sisters, but it is only Madeline who is put up for auction. Everyone of any import have been invited to this sale, bidding for the beauty's hand; many of them have already been spurned in their attempts to court her in the past. As the bidding continues, a stranger to the rest of the guests makes the final, winning bid.

Despite protests, Rhys wins the right to wed Madeline. Determined not to wed the man, she tries to run away with the help of another man. Fortunately, Rhys chases her down, killing the man who has his own nefarious plans for Madeline.

Linked together, the pair travels together to an abbey where they wed. While neither expects love from the other, they form a quick sensual bond and, over time, individually come to love the other. But can they ever admit to this? And when James is found to still be alive, will Madeline choose him over Rhys?

Loved the book, and looking forward to reading the other two in the trilogy (of course, WTT), but the title was only so-so. Could have had a better title in this reader's opinion.

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Nancy Brady (minesayn) | 1323 comments 54. The Lucky Ones by Tiffany Reisz
Allison gets an unusual package from her adopted brother Roland just about the time she is set adrift from her lover.

Returning to the home she left at age twelve, she reconnects with her adopted brothers and sister...and her dad. She's scared because she left after an attempt on her life and a warning she was still at risk.

Discovering secrets and lies may be the death of her in this part Gothic tale, part love story.
4.5 stars

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