My 10 fave books of 2015 and 5 I’m anxiously awaiting in 2016

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Heaven is a stack of good books! And a glass of wine!

 

Some people get excited about new handbags or shoes or guys with tattoos. I am such a book nerd. I get more excited about books. Though if you give me a hottie lumbersexual reading Garcia Marquez or some novel that I am also reading, well, I might get excited about that.

Anyway, I read a little over 50 books in 2015, so I thought I’d share with you ten of them that resonated with me.

  1. Haunted by Christina C. Jones
  2. Addicted Allison by Noelle Black
  3. Kilted for Pleasure by Melissa Blue
  4. Maldeamores by Mara White
  5. Love Is by Tia Kelly
  6. Falling Stars by Xio Axelrod
  7. Ivy’s League by Nia Forrester
  8. Coming Down by Carrie Elks
  9. Brunch at Ruby’s by D.L. White
  10. In the Nothing by Nia Forrester
young black girl excited

Yes, I am just as excited as this little cutie! Photo credit: forharriet.com

And which titles am I anxiously awaiting? You know there are more than five I can’t wait to read, but these are five that I am super excited about. 🙂

  1. Starlight by Xio Axelrod
  2. When I Was Invisible by Dorothy Koomson
  3. City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
  4. Lily in the Middle by Nina Perez
  5. Getting Schooled by Christina C. Jones

So tell me: which titles are you anxiously awaiting in 2016? And which were your favorites of 2015?

6 IR/MC love stories to read to get your heart racing for Valentine’s Day

shutterstock_152210192I’m not one of those women who usually get so worked up over Valentine’s Day. Hard to believe, right? Especially since I write romantic fiction. But I’ve never been a big fan of the commercial aspect of a day dedicated to love. It could also do with having had a high school boyfriend who’d break up with me just before Valentine’s Day and Christmas so he wouldn’t have to spend money on presents. Good thing I wised up and left him behind. But I do love reading (and writing) love stories, so I thought I’d give you some suggestions for IR/MC novels to get you in the mood for love. Are you ready?

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5: Again for the First Time by Raven St. Pierre

Again for the First Time Cover

What would you do if a stranger approached you and, instead of asking  you for directions, he asked you to marry him? That’s exactly what happens to Lissette when the very handsome Luke proposes to her on a very emotional afternoon when she’s just found out that her ex is now engaged and moving on with someone new.

What neither Lissette nor Luke expect is that she says yes. Suddenly she and Luke are embarking on a journey that has them married within two weeks of meeting.  Jumping into the unknown with nothing but blind faith and a burgeoning attraction for one another, their unconventional relationship leaves their friends and families wondering if they know what they’re doing. And the two must learn to get to know (and trust) one another–even when the odds are stacked against them.

It’s a quirky love story that–even with its improbable scenario–has you falling in love with Lissy and Luke and hoping their newfound love will stand the test of time. Raven St. Pierre does a great job of carrying the reader along the bumpy road of Lissy and Luke’s marriage. A great love story–sexy without being overly graphic, with two well-drawn characters whose flaws make you love them.

4: The Sweetest Taboo by Harper Miller

HarperMillercoverNow I am usually not very interested in BDSM novels, but Harper Miller has done something very interesting here by creating two characters who go into the relationship on equal footing–despite Rick being the dom and Micah being the sub. From the moment they meet in a New York City fetish club, it’s obvious that fate will pull strings and make sure these two will cross paths again.

Like I said, I don’t usually find BDSM novels very appealing, but Miller succeeds in creating two very intriguing characters in Rick and Micah. Also, she takes us into the heart of what has brought them into this world of submission and domination without making the reader lose sight of the fact that this is a love story–a very erotic love story, but a love story from beginning to end.

The Kiss

3: Yours by Tia Kelly

Yours CoverIf you’re more in the mood for a quick read that’s smart, sexy and unputdownable, then this is the novella for you. A chance encounter between two people in need of a second chance at love, Yours chronicles how a one-night stand leads to something more for good girl Theresa Clarke and the very sexy, brooding Spaniard, Javier Fernandez.

After spending a very passionate night together, neither expects to see the other again, but–as is always the case with a good love story–fate decides to bring them together again. There’s off-the-chart chemistry between Theresa and Javier–and even when she tries to deny it, Theresa knows she cannot ignore the feelings she has for him. The same is true for Javier–the desire he feels for Theresa pushes him to pursue her, even when she initially says they cannot see one another or when she assumes all he wants from her is a glorified booty call. Sexy and smartly written, this is one must-read novella.

2: Addicted Allison by Noelle Black

Addicted AllisonI thought I was the only black woman writing sexy stories featuring black women and Nordic men, but Noelle Black has joined me. 😉 Her novella, Addicted Allison, is set in world of luxury hotels and the heroine, Allison, blows off steam after long work days as the creative director for a hospitality design firm by meeting men online for one reason alone–sex.

Enter Mattias, a Swede with a big personality and a love of curvy black women. Mattias is enthralled with Allison and all too soon he makes it clear he doesn’t want to share her with anyone else. Her sexy encounter with him has her questioning what she really wants…and could have her going down a very different path than she initially intended.

This is a cleverly written erotic romance that’s more than a just sexy story. It also goes into the expat experience from a black woman’s perspective and gives us an open-ended but satisfying ending that leaves room to explore more of Allison’s adventures.

1: Maybe BabyMaybe Tonight by me

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Maybe Tonight Cover for WPYes, yes, I know, this smacks of blatant self-promotion but Maybe Baby and Maybe Tonight fit the bill. I’m not going to review my own books, but I will tell you that you get to read both Laney and Mad’s sides of their love story–which definitely had an unusual start seeing as they met when she looking into finding a sperm donor to be the potential father of her future children. If you haven’t read Maybe Baby and Maybe Tonight, Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse to get to know their stories and maybe even get hooked on their different sort of love story.

Happy reading!

A girl’s gotta read… my 2015 TBR list…definitely a work in progress.

Happy New YearIn a few days, the clock will strike midnight and suddenly it’ll be a new year. 2015. Eek! Actually, I am not really afraid of the coming year. Since I gave up the practice of making resolutions, my life has been so much calmer.

The only thing I’ve decided I’ll do (besides write more) is take part in the 2015 Read Harder Challenge. I figure I need to be nudged out of my usual reading comfort zone every now and again.

Now, mind you, I usually forget about these challenges about a month into them, but I am going to see if this one sticks. I did tell myself a few years ago that I should read more non-fiction and since I’ve got an idea for a historical novel, I could always say it’s part of my research. 😉

So what’s this challenge? You have to read books that fit within certain boundaries. So here’s what I *think* I’ll be reading in 2015…

A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25 – (still working on this one…)

A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65 – God Help the Child by Toni Morrison (coming April 2015)

A collection of short stories God’s Gym by John Edgar Wideman

A book published by an indie press – Gravity by Raven St. Pierre

A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQGiovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

A book by a person whose gender is different from your own  The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin (coming in October 2015)

A book that takes place in Asia Salaam, Paris by Kavita Daswani

A book by an author from Africa The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna

A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

A microhistory A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888-89 by Frederic Morton (not sure if this is a microhistory but it sounds intriguing)

A YA novel – The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

A sci-fi novelHalf Way Home by Hugh Howey

A romance novel Fat Girl by Leigh Carron 

A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade – Just Kids by Patti Smith

A book that is a retelling of a classic story – Entwined by Heather Dixon

An audiobookHome by Toni Morrison

A collection of poetry North: Poems by Seamus Heaney

A book that someone else has recommended to you – ‘Til the Well Runs Dry by Lauren Francis-Sharma (recommended by Urenna Sanders–thanks!)

A book that was originally published in another language – The History of Danish Dreams by Peter Hoeg

A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind –The Hedge Knight by George R.R. Martin, Ben Avery & Mike S. Miller

A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure – Easy Virtue by Mia Asher

A book published before 1850 Love by Stendhal

A book published this year – Chasing Moments by Tia Kelly (coming in February 2015)

A self-improvement book Revision & Self-Editing for Publication by James Scott Bell

Making my winter reading list

It’s November–which means NaNoWriMo month for me. I’ll be writing like crazy (and posting chapters on my author site), but I’ll also be getting cozy and reading. So what will I be reading? I am so glad you asked! Since we’re creeping closer and closer to the Christmas season (yes, I am well aware that it was *just* Halloween a few days–but it will soon be Thanksgiving and First Advent and you know how the days fly by), I’ve made a list of what I’ll be reading to get in the holly-jolly spirit *and* what I’ll be reading for the sheer pleasure of it. So here goes…

Holiday Reads

Secret SantaSecret Santa – Scarlett Bailey

A Christmas to Remember – Jenny Hale

The French for Christmas – Fiona Valpy

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 09.28.09Snow Angels, Secrets & Christmas Cake – Sue Watson

The Reluctant Elf – Michele Gorman

Sweet Christmas Kisses: Fourteen Sweet Christmas Romances – Beate Boeker, Donna Fasano and a host of other writers

 

On My Kindle Now

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 09.32.29Didn’t Mean to Love You – Christina C. Jones

Fear of Heights – Mara White

The Secret Place – Tana French

 

On My Preorder List

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 09.34.13Chasing Moments – Tia Kelly

It’s Not Me, It’s You – Mhairi McFarlane

Winter’s Tale – Mark Helprin

 

That’s it for today–there will probably be more books added to my Winter Reading List, so  check back often!

Happy reading! 🙂

 

 

Summer Reads – 2014 Edition

It’s summer–though you wouldn’t know it here in Stockholm with its cloudy skies and days so chilly I am still wearing a sweater. When can I expose my toes to the elements? Is it even worth investing in a pedicure when it’s not proper sandal-wearing weather? Ah well… at least I have my summer reading to look forward to, and I’ve already started with a few books I’ve had on my To Be Read List for a while.

Me-Without-You-Kelly-RimmerMe Without You  – Kelly Rimmer

I received an ARC of Me Without You from Bookouture, who’ve quickly become one of my favorite publishers. So far, every book I’ve read from their authors has packed an emotional punch or had that smart vein of humor I appreciate. Kelly Rimmer’s Me Without You is in the “packs an emotional punch” category.

Lilah & Callum are a case of opposites attracting. Lilah is an environmental lawyer whose quirkiness and love of going barefoot initially do not attract Callum, a workaholic who has put his career before his social life. But it doesn’t take long for sparks to fly and for Callum to realize that he is hopelessly in love with Lilah. Their story starts with the perfect “meet cute” and progresses into the story of the progression of their relationship, not an easy feat for two people who say they do not want or have time for commitment. But neither is prepared for just how much they will change one another. Well, I won’t give away any details. All I can say is you must read this book. And it’s true–if you loved One Day by David Nicholls, I’m pretty sure you’ll also love Me Without You.

Heres Looking At You Cover

Here’s Looking at You – Mhairi McFarlane

I absolutely loved Mhairi McFarlane’s You Had Me at Hello, so I was jump-up-and-down excited when I heard she had a new novel out. Here’s Looking at You tells the story of two former classmates, outcast Anna Alessi and the über cool James Fraser. Back in high school, Anna had a crush on James and, when he finally paid attention to her, she had no way of knowing it would lead to her being humiliated in such a way that it continues to eat away at her self-esteem. Fast forward to their high school reunion. Anna has a job she loves but her social life is a bit of a dud and she’s ready to give up on dating. And just when she thinks she can’t possibly go on another dismal online date, James Fraser walks back into her life and he appears to be a changed man. Should she trust him? You’ll have to read the book to find out. 😉

Loved that this story was told from both Anna and James’s POV. It’s a quick read that’s funny, intelligent and romantic. I give it two thumbs up!

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Love. Lies & Lemon Cake – Sue Watson

Another ARC I received from Bookouture and this one falls under the fun category. Love, Lies & Lemon Cake is a story about second chances at life and love. Faye always wanted a life of adventure but she had to set her dreams aside when she unexpectedly became pregnant while in college. She long to recapture the woman she used to be–and being in a job that leaves her unfulfilled and being unhappily married to a man who she can’t remember ever really loving isn’t helping matters. And then she meets Dan, a gorgeous Australian surfer who works at her local deli and just happens to be a great baker.

Faye decides to take a chance and live the sort of life she always wanted, even if it means leaving her husband so that she can recapture her sparkle and embark on a relationship with someone new. Love, Lies & Lemon Cake is a heartwarming story about the curveballs life can throw you and what happens when you stop doing what is expected of you and start doing what makes you happy.

Jojo Moyes One Plus One Cover

The One Plus One – Jojo Moyes

I’ve been a big fan of Jojo Moyes’s books ever since I read Me Before You (if you haven’t read it yet, do so NOW). I absolutely loved that book and I am sure Hollywood will sink its claws into it and absolutely ruin it, but it will never destroy my love of Me Before You. Now Jojo Moyes is back with The One Plus One, which I read while I was on vacation in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. This is another classic “opposites attract” tale with a twist.

You have Jess, a scrappy single mom who is struggling to make ends meet and help her children, quirky math whiz Tanzie and Goth stepson Nicky, survive the council estate where they live. Jess cleans houses when she isn’t waitressing at the local pub. One night she ends up helping Ed Nicholls–a man whose life looks perfect on the surface but a stupid mistake has put him on the brink of losing everything–and this chance encounter links them in a way neither expected. Heartbreaking, emotionally driven and full of wonderful character development, it’s a story that doesn’t let go. It’s not a beach read; this is a novel that you want to be able to read when no one will disturb you. Send your kids out to play, give your hubby endless errands to run and sink into this book.

Addicted Zane

Addicted – Zane

I don’t I’d ever read anything by Zane prior to beginning Addicted other than the blog she used to maintain. I’d always said I’d read one of her books but never really got around to it. Then I saw a trailer for the movie based on Addicted and it looked intriguing. A woman struggling with her addiction to sex and the threat giving in to her desires has on her marriage…and her life. Love it so far and I am only about a third of the way through the book.

My only beef at the moment has nothing to do with Zane’s writing and *everything* to do with the publisher trying to rebrand this book like it’s a Fifty Shades of Grey wannabe. C’mon, Atria, the red tie in focus? A total copy of the grey tie from Fifty Shades (one of the worst books I’ve ever read, by the way) and Addicted doesn’t need to be rebranded like an EL James rip-off when this book was published way before EL James even started writing erotica.

On My TBR List

The AffairThe Affair – Tia Kelly

From the blurb:

For every secret, there’s a lie.

In her novella The Affair, Tia Kelly takes the reader where married men aren’t supposed to go… into another woman’s bed.

 

Finding Forever

Finding Forever – Christina C. Jones

From the blurb:

After her latest ill-fated attempt to find a forever relationship of her own, Tori Kennedy is content with connecting the dots for others, bringing them together in pursuit of lifetime love. Fresh off of the demise of her marriage, she decides to take advantage of an opportunity to do something a little — okay, a lot — crazy, and heavily fueled by an overload of emotions.

Thinking that her impulsive decision and its disastrous results are behind her, Tori moves forward with her pursuit of a happily single existence, until her best friend contacts her with a request that places a constant reminder in her life : Avery.

Avery Anderson is the epitome of “the kind of guy your momma warned you about.” Handsome, successful, charming… and not at all interested in being roped into anything that resembles love. Tori ending up in his bed doesn’t surprise him at all — it’s just what he does— but his feelings afterwards? That’s another story. An ultimatum placed on him by his little sister puts him back in arm’s reach of the pretty matchmaker that he can’t get off of his mind, but she’s not taking the bait this time.

Tori just wants to be rid of him so that she can move on with her life, and it’s not Avery’s style to chase someone who doesn’t want to be caught. When both parties are content to let the spark flicker out, can love — or something like that— still lead the way to forever?

Redemption Key

Redemption Key – S.G. Redling

From the blurb:

Her narrow escape from blue-eyed assassin Tom Booker has made former data analyst Dani Britton question all of her choices—like trusting “good guys” who carry badges. On the run and haunted by the government-sanctioned massacre of her coworkers, Dani finally settles in remote Redemption Key, Florida, at a bar where strong drinks and shady deals are the norm.

The bar owner, a local operator with a past of his own, gives Dani a job, no questions asked, and soon Dani’s ability to “read” the sketchy characters doing business at the bar proves invaluable. The libations flow, and the Key’s laid-back vibe and warm waters start doing their therapeutic work. But as the mercury rises, a twisted deal starts to go down—threatening to take Dani with it. Like sharks smelling blood, players on both sides of the law circle for the kill. And when charming apex predator Booker joins the frenzy, he may turn out to be the only one on Dani’s side.

 

Happy reading! 🙂

Interview: Getting to know Tia Kelly

A few weeks ago, I discovered indie writer Tia Kelly via another fellow writer, Nia Forrester. I’d just finished reading Nia’s novel, Mistress, which I loved, and was waiting for her next book, Wife, to come out. Then Nia shared a post on her blog about Tia Kelly and her latest novel, Taste for Love, and it sounded like it was right up my alley–and it most definitely was.

So without further ado, let’s get to know Tia Kelly!

10364484_215119008697142_832864325_nWhen did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always loved reading and enjoyed the creative side of story telling. I guess it’s in my bloodline and I’ve always known the passion existed.

How would you describe your writing for people who’ve never read your work before? And which book would you recommend they start with?
I am a contemporary fiction writer. My novels have elements of realism and romance, but I love to explore characters lives…. one moment at a time. I would recommend The Love Sessions to become familiar with my work.

How would you describe your writing process?
That’s a hard one. The writing process for me changes with each novel. It all depends on what my characters lead me to do and I will follow wherever they want me to go. Chances are I will play with a few ideas in my head just to get the characters talking. Then I will either just start writing or jot down a very loose outline. I hate to even call it an outline. From there, anything goes.

When did you decide you wanted to self-publish your writing?
A wonderful author suggested it a few times and I was always afraid to give it a try. One day, I uploaded Love’s Rebound just to get reader’s feedback using Amazon as a pseudo-online writing class and haven’t looked back since.

What would you say are the most important lessons you’ve learned since you began publishing your writing?
Patience. I sometimes struggle with patience in my every day life, but it’s something I am getting better with thanks to writing. I had to learn that I need to give a story time to grow before it hits the pages… patience in the process of seeing it evolve while I write it… extreme patience when I get excited to write or release the next one. Learning how to give my story time to breathe… Patience would be one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned so far.

One of the aspects of your writing that I really admire is how your characters come across as real, flawed and not necessarily perfect. How do you go about creating characters? Do they come to you fully formed, or is it a long process in creating each nuance?

Thank you. I just want to write real life, especially with love. I am an unapologetic people watcher. I observe and listen to everything. I watch mannerisms, I listen to tone, I try to get all of my senses involved so when I write those elements are translated to the characters I see playing the scenes out. Usually these characters whisper softly, hinting about what they have the potential to become. Then out of the blue they show up ready to go, literally taking me by the hand and jumping into the story with me.

A lot of writers complain about finding a good balance between “real life” and writing time. How do you manage the delicate balance?

I haven’t figured that out yet, but when I do I’ll be sure to let you know. I write all the time, especially in my head. Writing rarely takes time off and pushes it’s way into my real life.

What’s next for you now that Taste for Love is live? Have you already started working on your next book? If so, could you tell us about it?
I am working on a few things right now. The one I can talk about is the next novel in the Wilkersons in Love series. Jeremy Wilkerson is content with his life and has no desire to fall in love again in Ready for Love. This novel features Alejandra, Javier Fernandez’s sister from my novella, Yours.

Tia’s Taste for Love Playlist

Philadelphia plays a big role in your latest release, Taste for Love (which pleases me as a transplanted Philly girl). Tell us why Philadelphia ended up being the setting for Taste for Love, and what is it that is so special about Philly that non-natives just don’t understand?
Philadelphia is just a great city. Perfect location for so many other things outside of the city, too. Taste for Love ended up in Philadelphia because that’s where the entire series takes place. It’s where a few of the characters play professional sports, which is perfect since Philadelphia is such a big sports town. My next novel, Ready for Love, is about Jeremy Wilkerson and he works with renewable energy. Philadelphia plays a big part in the country’s renewable energy market, too. It’s just a great city and one of my favorite places. It just felt right to use it as the setting for a few of my novels.

What advice would you give to young writers who are just starting out?
Just keep writing and never stop. And read!

Many thanks to Tia for taking the time to answer my questions! Interested in finding out more about her writing? Check out her Amazon Author Page for a list of all her available titles.