My Favorite 2013 Reads and a Reading Challenge for 2014

What a difference a year makes. Last year I struggled to reach my goal of 50 books and barely scraped past the finish line at midnight. This year, I met my goal of 50 way early and then upped it to 100. Right now I'm at 81 books and don't think I'll quite make my goal...but no regrets. I have read more than the year before, and I have read some pretty awesome books.

How do I define an awesome read? It's one that yanks me into the story and holds me hostage (okay, in all honesty, it simply makes me ignore everything else like making dinner, eating lunch, laundry etc.).  I keep reading and turning the pages until it's done. Then it resonates -- haunting me even after I have walked away from the book. It's a story with staying power.

So, without further ado, here are some stories I really, really enjoyed this year: 

I love a good fantasy story with a complex world order, an interesting female lead and magic. This one also had a fun/unreliable god stirring up all kinds of trouble, two very nice males, and loads of tension. But the reason this gets top billing is because it led me to hunt down and read Crista McHugh's other books. Always happy to discover a new favorite author! :)

The Goddess of Fried Okra is Texas women's fiction at its best - a bit quirky and a lot of heart. It's definitely going on my keeper shelf and I do plan to re-read it. It also led to a very nice email exchange with author Jean Brashear

This has to be one of my favorite epic fantasies. Complex world with intriguing politics, great characters and message, a little bit of romance and lots of adventure. Another plus point: a non-Western setting, which is kind of hard to find. And, yes, the writing is beautiful. Another one for keeper/ re-read shelf.

I didn't think I was into alien fiction, but I loved this. Then when I went to research author Jennifer Armentrout, I discovered this is her first adult offering. I'm looking forward to more. Meanwhile, because I enjoyed the story so much, I will go read her YA offerings set in the same world and focused on other aliens. Yup, she's definitely made me a fan of aliens...which goes to show a well-executed story is what matters.

Writing wisdom that I need to read and re-read. author Dani Shapiro has the uncanny ability of bringing up things I have worried about, but never mentioned to another soul (because I may be seen as more neurotic than I already am)...and for addressing those issues in a way that makes sense to me. Yes, this will also be going on my Keeper shelf. So glad I found this book.

My Personal Reading Challenge for 2014: 

I have decided to focus on female fantasy writers next year. While there are quite a few talented female authors in the field, I have woefully read too few and epic fantasy still comes across as a largely male dominated genre. So I have decided to remedy the lack in my reading and help create more awareness about female fantasy offerings.

To make it easier, I'm calling it A to Z: Female Fantasy Authors and yes, I plan to go down the alphabet between 1/1/2014 and 12/31/2014. I'll be using the blog, my Goodreads and Pinterest accounts and my FB author page. Anyone want to join me? It's always more fun to have buddies along :)

The Cop Who Stole Christmas...

Christie Craig is one of my favorite authors because she can make me belly laugh and get teary eyed in the same book (and also in a single conversation)! So, of course, I SQUEE-ED with delight when I found out she has a Christmas story out. (I LOVE holiday reads...and if they come from my favorite authors, even better!) 

Check out the cover:

                   A Dozen Things You’ll Learn from The Cop Who Stole Christmas

1.       Not all Santas are saints.

2.       The price of a gift doesn’t mean a hill of beans.  It’s the thought that went into the gift that can melt your heart.

3.       Be cautious of how you use words that have two different meanings.  Gas and uh . . .  gas.

4.       The “morning after” can still feel awkward even when the night before was more than you’d dreamed.

5.       Being orphaned sucks, even when you’re in your late twenties.

6.       Being orphaned on the same day you find your husband in bed with his work associate makes for a really bad year. 

7.       What’s worse than being accused of murder? How about having your two best friends accused instead, and told one of them may be framing you for the crime.

8.       Shaving those legs can be a royal pain in the a$$, but he might be worth it.

9.        There are different kinds of kisses, and some are really hard to walk away from.

10.   Being naughty or nice isn’t always an either/or scenario.  You can be both and still not get coal in your stockings for Christmas.

11.   The rule of never dating the girl next door can be remedied by simply moving in with her.

12.   Tripping and falling in your own kitchen is a downer, but tripping over a body can really put a damper on your evening.

Ready to check out the blurb?

It'll take a tall, hot Texan and a little holiday spirit to mend a broken heart and catch a Christmas killer...

Savanna Edwards is feeling downright Scrooge-like. Who can blame her? A truly unjolly Santa -- suit, beard and all -- just repossessed her car because of her ex's shady business dealings. She'd like to murder the no-good-lying cheat, but somebody already did that for her - and left him right in the middle of her kitchen, wrapped up with a bow.

Detective Mark Donaldson has a rule against getting involved with his neighbors. He can look - and he's studied every sweet curve of Savanna from across the street - but he can't touch. So when she lands on his doorstep in need of help, he finds himself torn between being naughty or nice, and fights every urge to unwrap her like a shiny new Christmas present.

Trouble is...even Mark can't resist a little holiday magic...and there's definitely something magical happening between him and the girl next door.

Want to know more about Christie?

Christie Craig, a New York Times Bestseller, is an Alabama native, a multi-published writer, motivational speaker, and writing teacher. She currently hangs her hat in Texas and writes humorous romantic suspense novels for Grand Central as well as publishes her own novels. 

When she’s not writing her romances, she writes the NYT and USA Today best-selling young adult paranormal romance series, Shadow Falls, published by St. Martin's Press/Griffin under her pen name C.C. Hunter. Learn more at or

GIVEAWAY: Christie has generously offered to giveaway an arc of Texas Hold'Em (coming out February 2014!) Yay! To win, just tell me which of the 12 Lessons you like best and why! I'll pick a random comment on Sunday! Comment! Comment! Comment!

NOTE: Please leave your email or twitter handle so I can contact you if you win!!!

Holly Jolly Southern Magic Book Santa!

Time for a Holly Jolly Christmas GIVEAWAY! The authors of RWA's Southern Magic Chapter are celebrating the holidays and gifting one lucky winner with 36 BOOKS in their Christmas stocking! Something for every reader! Enter today through December 16th and win the chance for packages filled with goodies to arrive at your door or your Inbox! 

Tracking a Globetrotting Book

LOVE all the pictures of Wildfire from around the world! 

It all started in West Texas. Wildfire: A Paranormal Mystery with Cowboys and Dragons is the first book I set in my adopted home/playground of  West Texas. So I was ecstatic when this showed up:

This picture is all kinds of awesome! It's in my favorite library (Stephens Central Library in Tom Green County), with the statue of award-winning Western author Elmer Kelton, librarian/reader Chelsea P. and Wildfire. LOVE it!

Even more fun is that readers have sent in pictures from Scotland, Australia and from places all around America. And I'm hoping more pictures will be coming in. The adventurous part of me can't wait to see where all the book ends up!

But the best part is that the readers are helping me with my #readingWildfire project. 

Welcome to Reading Wildfire, a social experiment about connecting through reading.  

Stories are meant to be read and shared. When my kids did the Flat Stanley/Flat Daisy project, it fired up my imagination and inspired me to create this experiment: to send one of my stories out into the world and track its adventures, and to have fun and do some good in the process. 

For every 10th picture received, I’ll make a $10 donation to The Malala Fund for the education of girls in the developing world (I’m hoping it’ll add up to a nice sum at the end of each quarter when I’ll make the donation). So if you have the book, take a picture! If you have the digital copy, put the cover on your ereader and take a picture! Then send the picture in to me at

Thank you dear readers & please keep sending pictures...they brighten my world & go towards a good cause! :)  Here's the Tracking Wildfire Pinterest board for you to check it out.

Happy Reading!