Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Best Books of 2017, IWSG, and Butterfly Love

How do you give back?

One thing I occasionally grow insecure about is whether or not I'm giving enough back to the writing community. They're such generous people and I feel beyond blessed to know/associate with so many of them. That's one reason why I strive to review every novel I read. This year, I managed to review or rate 80 books, and today I'm going to share the best of the best.

As per norm, you can read any of my full reviews on Goodreads, but these are quick, one-liners on my favs:

Angel, A.J. Weatherly: (YA Paranormal) This was like angels meets a spy thriller. Some action, twists, subterfuge, and lots of hope. I LOVED it. Seriously.

Dragon Slippers, Jessica Day George: (MG Fantasy) Definitely lighter than a young adult novel, but one I'm sad older readers miss out on. I found it endearing and highly enjoyable.

Traitor's Masque, Kenley Davidson: (Adult Fiction) I'm a sucker for fairy tale retellings, and this one featured an independent protagonist who won my heart. I found a new favorite author.

At First Blush, Beth Ellyn Summer: (YA Contemporary) I might not have loved this one as much if I hadn't lived in NYC, but this was a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of the studio/marketing world. Loved it!

Just Breeze, Beverly Stowe McClure: (MG Contemporary) I LOVE this book. SUCH a cute one. Serious love. The protagonist is impossible not to adore.

Captivate, Vanessa Garden: (YA Sci-fi?) I expected this to be a mermaid book, but it was more of an Atlantis, underwater world. Seriously addicting.

Hidden Deep, Amy Patrick: (YA Fantasy) When I closed this book, I was happy. Welcome to a contemporary world that is suddenly not what it seems.

Emerge, Heather Sunseri: (YA Dystopian) The settings reminded me some of Under the Never Sky, which is definitely not a bad thing, but it was totally different. An engaging read.

Ocean of Dust, Graeme Ing: (MG Fantasy) I was reminded of the movie Shipwrecked, along with the video game Skies of Arkadia. It felt like a solid jaunt into a real world we've never had the privilege of discovering before.

Kaleidoscope, Mindy Hayes: (YA Paranormal) This is one of those addictive series.

Truth, Christina Benjamin: (MG Dystopian) This was an unconventional story that appealed to me because it was so different. In an island world where we meet a society of orphans, there is something magical and unexpected happening.

A Savage Ghost, Donna K. Weaver: (Clean Adult Romance) A FUN setting, a sweet romance, and an easy, quick read. What more could you ask for? A perfect beach read.

Cinderella and the Colonel, K.M. Shea: (Adult Fiction) Basically, if you love fairy tales, this is a lovely retelling, and one you are certain to enjoy.
Huge thanks for hosting
Alex Cavanaugh
Tyrean Martinson, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, 
Megan Morgan, Jennifer Lane, and Rachna Chhabria!
What was your favorite book of 2017?

My household is still utter insanity, but I've been aching to get back here, and there have been SO many fabulous new books releasing, including one I've been looking forward to for AGES. (Probably 6 years?) At any rate, not only do I get to enjoy it, one fabulous winner will get a copy all of their own too! Awesome, right? (And check out the pretty butterfly! Hello, butterfly!)

Uncovering hidden secrets can sometimes kill you . . . or worse, steal your soul.

Anastasia Tate has a secret. She can feel the emotions of others through their life energy auras. Not a welcome gift for a teenager. Especially when a sinister presence begins stalking her. 

Viktor Castle also has a secret. He’s tasked with protecting humanity yet cursed by an ancient evil to destroy it.

After Viktor saves Ana’s life, her abilities grow stronger. Drawn together, she senses Viktor has answers to lifelong questions. Only he shuns her at every turn, knowing he has saved her only to put her in more danger. As Ana struggles with her attraction to Viktor, he tries everything to bury his unexpected feelings for her. But they must find a middle ground. For only together can they combat the dark forces threatening both their lives . . . and their souls.

Buy your copy on Amazon.

Ready to meet the author?

As a little girl, S.A. Larsen believed her closet held secret passageways to magical worlds brimming with all sorts of creepy creatures – her favorite kind. Sheri never did find a ghoul or a goblin in her closet, only a half-eaten fluffernutter that her brother repurposed as a hockey puck. Her debut novel MOTLEY EDUCATION (Leap Books, 2016), is an international multiple award-winning, fantasy-adventure for middle grade readers; this is the first book in the series. She’s written young adult stories, community interest newspaper pieces, youth athlete magazine articles, and MARKED BEAUTY her debut YA romance novel released October 17, 2017 by Ellysian Press. She's also a @MixedUpFiles contributor, #MGLitchat co-host, and writing mentor for First Five Pages under Adventures in YA Publishing. When she’s not chasing her characters around a cemetery or antagonizing them with the wonders of young love, she can be found in the land of lobsters and snowy winters with her husband and four children (yes, they all play hockey), a playful pooch, and three kittens. 

#TheHorror Being vegan means consuming no (yup, as in zero) animal products, which includes cheese. Sooooo... S.A. now makes Parmesan cheese by using cashew peanuts. Sound weird? She thought so, too, before she tried it. Not bad...

S.A. gave me two truths and one lie to test your "lie detector" skills. If you guess the lie, right or wrong, you will be entered to win an ebook of MARKED BEAUTY. If you are the randomly selected winner and guessed correctly, you will also receive a Be The Marked Beauty You Are poster, magnet, tattoo, & signed bookmark. (Open internationally.) DON'T HAVE A BLOGGER ACCOUNT WITH AN EMAIL ON THE PROFILE? No problem. LEAVE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS IN THE COMMENTS OR EMAIL IT TO WITH YOUR SCREEN ALIAS.

You have until Tuesday, February 6th at 2 p.m. EDT to guess. Be sure to come back for the answer on February 7th, 8 a.m. EDT.

1. My nose has been broken twice.
2. I've been to Greece.
3. I've ridden on an elephant

So sleuths, which is the lie? Have you met S.A. Larsen? What was your favorite book of 2017? How do you give back in your professional field?


  1. That's a lot of books.
    She has a very straight nose so I don't think she's broken it at all.

  2. One of my resolutions for 2018 is to do a better job rating/reviewing books I read. I love that you've done that for so many offers.

    I'm going to go with #2 - never been to Greece.

    Happy New Year - Ellen

  3. Always good to see someone's book recommendations, thanks :)
    I do try to review regularly, although there's often a backlog. Happy New Year :)

  4. Yeh for reading! I tend to rate books more than review them.

    Happy 2018, Crystal!

  5. I spent my last year chasing strands of "while you're waiting for Winds of Winter..." so I read a lot of fantasy. My favorite series were the Kingkiller Chronicals and the Fifth Season series. Best of luck to SA on her book release!

  6. I'm glad you read Full Dark. I got to read it early since I formatted it. LOL

    My guess is #3. Although I have actually ridden an elephant before.

  7. S.A. Larsen is an amazing writer! I would guess the lie to be #1. You can ride elephants at the circus. Not that I've ridden one lately. LOL. Hope your life slows down a bit this year!

  8. I'm going to hope the lie is #1. Thank you for all the reviews you did, Crystal. You rock.

  9. That's a lot of books. I see one of mine too! Yay! Thanks.

    I always worry about not doing enough for others as well. Sometimes it was because of the day job, but I don't have that anymore, so maybe I'll make a point this year to devote more time to helping other writers.

  10. I'm guessing the lie is #3.

    Most of the books I read last year were non-fiction. My favorites included Anne Sebba's Les Parisiennes and Chip Walter's Last Ape Standing.

  11. I can't read 80 books in a year, much less get a round to reviewing them. That's amazing that you can do it.

    I guess the lie is #2.

  12. The books sound great! I try to review every book I enjoy as well - it's a great way to give back :)
    I'm going to guess the lie is #1

  13. Aww . . . thanks for the shout out. I love audiobooks. That's how I read 127 books in 2017. We'll see how 2018 goes. :D

  14. I plan to read [about 150] books this year, and I plan to review them all, too. (It's an outrageous goal for me; we'll see how many actually get read and reviewed.)

    Kudos to you for already doing that!!!!

    Best wishes for 2018.

  15. I'm so inspired by the number of books you read a year!! I'm working my way up. ^_^ Honestly though, I think you do so much for the community, and reviewing everything you read is already more than most people do. I've been working on that myself and doing a right terrible job.

    Cashew cheese isn't bad if it's from someone who knows how to make it. #notme
    Such a pretty book!! I'm going with #1 for the lie. :)

  16. That's a great collection of 2017 books. :)

    Marked Beauty is one I am definitely interested in reading.

  17. I translated most of the bestselling YA book in 2017 and I'm still doing it currently with all the upcoming hits, Just finished new Holly Black and then I'm off to Philip Reeve and Cassandra Claire! And I don't even read YA privately lol

  18. Nose broken twice is the lie. She has a great doctor. hehehe

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  19. Loved seeing your list of books. Glad to see you included some adult books. I'm reading more of those these days. Hope you have a fantastic New Year and that life in your household slows down a hair.

  20. Happy 2018 to all! Crystal - Impressive!! I don't know how you do all you do. I must move at sloth speed. I think the lie is #1.

  21. That's a lot of books! I'm hoping to read a lot more this year.

  22. welcome back! I'm just barely getting back, it will be easier next week when the kids go back to school. I didn't quite make 80 books this year. lie is number 1.

  23. Hi Crysal! HNY to you and yours! Hope bub is going well! Don't we all worry about giving back. I've made up my mind to post more reviews on blogger books-on Amazon Goodreads and wherever.
    Now you ask, What was your favorite book of 2017? I don't have a favorite. I read about 100+, but I discovered a new author, Louise Penny and her Inspector Gamache series set in Quebec. I'm reading all her books out of order now. I think I like best, All The Light you cannot see'... or something like that.

    See you around in 2018!

  24. That's quite a list of books. I've seen others who struggle to read 40 books. Or 20. 80? You're doing very well.

    I'll guess the lie is #2.

  25. I have no idea how you get anything done, Crystal. It's awesome how you've chosen to give back to the writing community. I feel like you do which is why I do volunteering for my local writing groups. Congrats to SA.

  26. Great book selection. Review 80 books that is awesome.
    Wishing you much joy and success and 2018.
    Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

  27. There are several books on your list I haven't heard of yet. They sound interesting, thanks for introducing me.

  28. What a great idea--a quickie review of reviews. I may have to steal that!

  29. Hi Crystal - what an amazing list of books - and so good to have the reviews ... thank you! Sheri's book has been there a-waiting for me to do something - now seems a good time. I think #3 she hasn't ridden an elephant ... cheers and all the best for 2018 - Hilary

  30. Happy New Year! I hope your household levels out soon. Congrats on your new baby. I finally read Big Little Lies and watched the show afterward which was a big deal for me as I ventured away from reading books for awhile. The story (which was a definite page-turner) made me feel uncomfortable which I recognized as familiarity since I've dealt with similar issues throughout my life. I will definitely check out some books you've reviewed and listed. Thanks! xoxo

    1. Woman! It's so good to hear from you. Thank you and I hope you're able to find many, many more books that grab you and don't let go. There are so many amazing ones out there.

  31. You've had so much going on this year—congrats on everything! And still getting 80 books in too is impressive. I'm going to go with #1 as the lie, simply because I really hope that didn't happen. Happy New Year!

  32. That's alot of books! Thanks for the reviews! Happy New Year! Congrats on everything! Big Hugs!

  33. Lovely to see and read your post!
    Goodness, that is a lot of books.

    Sending my good wishes to you and your family for 2018.

    All the best Jan

  34. More wonderful stories this year. Happy 2018!

  35. Happy New Year, Crystal! Thanks for the book recommendations! Congrats to SA! I'm hoping #1 is the lie. Ouch.

  36. S.A. Larsen had quite the imagination. My closet as a kid was filled with clean and dirty clothes all thrown in there. But it would have been a great place for monsters to dwell.

  37. Wow, reading and reviewing all those books is an awesome contribution to the writing community!

    Congrats to S.A. Larsen!

    I'll go with #3 being the lie ;)

  38. I loved A Man Called Ove!! Congrats to Sheri and her new book!!!

  39. S.A., your book sounds fascinating. I'll go with 1 for the lie.

    Crystal, good for you on the reviews. They are so important.
    Have a pleasant, productive day.

  40. Wow, you read some pretty cool books (80 in all). I read more this past year than I ever have and hope to do more this year.

    My favorite book of 2017 was, by far, Dragon of the Stars by Alex J. Cavanaugh. It just so caught me off gaurd.

    Congrats to S.A. on the new book. I think the lie is about breaking her nose.

  41. My fav books of 2017 were the fantasy series, Fitz and the Fool by Robin Hobb. Awesome read.

    May your insanity smooth out soon ;)

  42. That is a lot of reading. You are amazing.
    Thank you, thank you for your kind words about Just Breeze. She's one of my favorite characters.

  43. 80 books?! Whoa, impressive! I wasn't even able to read half that amount last year. Your faves sound amazing!

  44. The lie is breaking her nose twice. You are amazing, Crystal and you do plenty for the community while still taking care of your busy family. You are Superwoman. Hope you have a great 2018.

  45. That is a ton of books. I don't think I've finished five unless graphic novels count? Hmm, I can't imagine why you're so busy. :)

    Have a beachy week!

  46. I think you're giving back just fine. You always have.

    Have a fabulous day. ♥

  47. Love the way you give back. I read a lot but rarely review. I should. I really should. Thanks for the nudge.

  48. I'd say you sure give back by the ton. 80 is impressive big time. Number one may be the lie.

  49. You do read a lot. How great! I'm more of a painter and blogger.

  50. It's cool that you make a point of reviewing the books you read. I wish more readers did that. :) I read more than 100 books last year, but I can't really pick ONE as a favorite. I read in so many different genres, it's difficult to compare cross-genres. (But I read a LOT of good ones!)

    As for choosing the fib, I'll go with #1. Her nose is so cute, it's hard to believe it's ever been broken. Our younger son has broken his nose multiple times, and trust me, it has lots of "character." :)

  51. Wonderful to see SA Larsen here today! I have been wanting to read Marked Beauty. I think the lie is that she has been to Greece. Tricky one though!

    Love that you read so many books last year. I try to review all the books I read too. Wonderful to see some of the authors I love to blog with on your list. :) I can't wait to read Just Breeze and At First Blush.

    Thanks for sharing.

  52. You finished reading a lot of books last year! Impressive! I appreciate the recommendations!

    S.A. Larsen's books sound great! I think the lie is Greece. (I almost guessed the nose because her nose looks perfect, but I'll guess Greece.)

  53. I’ve never kept track of how many books I’ve read in a year. I lose track because I edit so many on top of the ones I read.

  54. I'm going with the broken nose as the lie.

    I need to read more books. I do review, but I read so slowly I don't get that many knocked off my list.

  55. As Kelly said above...I edit so many and then read so many so I also don't have any idea how many I've read!

    You did great!

  56. I love the cover of Sheri's new book! It looks great!

    I bet your house is total insanity. I don't know how you do it! You give back a lot to the writing community. No doubt about it.

    I don't keep track of the books I read. Mostly they are from review requests. I've probably read at least 80!

  57. Giving back is so important! Attending conventions has been my biggest career builder so far, and I remember how kind and welcoming other writers were to me when I was doing panels and signings and readings and all of that for the first time, the constructive and supportive feedback they gave me and the gift of their time talking over a meal or attending my events. I try to offer the same kind of support to those in the same position I was in now.

    @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act

  58. All of these books are beautiful. All the success to the many authors. Bravo! So much to read this year. I've never met SA Larsen, but I follow, read, and share all her blog posts.

    I'd say the lie is that you haven't broken your nose twice. All the luck in the New Year, Crystal!

  59. You read so many books in 2017, Crystal. I think I gave up on my reading goal sometime around August. I have no idea how you keep up with so much going on in your life! I'll have to check out your review for A Man Called Ove. That was one of the books that caught my attention last year…

  60. How do you have time to read so much and be an author? It's so generous of you to read and review all these indie books for the authors. You're a good one to have in the community!

  61. Eighty books reviewed or rated this year! Wow! Well done, Crystal! I thought I was doing well to read thirty-four in 2017, including five by IWSG authors. I had aimed for twenty-four books, so I'm pleased. But you are inspiring me to do better! I'm going to aim for for forty, including six by different IWSG authors.

    I like your desire to give back to the writing community. I have that same desire which is why I'm reading books by IWSG authors and why I have the first Wednesday of the month blocked off for making the rounds to visit members, especially new ones. Wishing you all the best as you tackle all you hope to accomplish this year. S. A.'s nose looks too nice to have been broken twice, so I'm guessing that's the lie!

  62. Looks like you have read some great books, writing reviews is an excellent way to give back. Sorry I'm a bit late visiting this month, I seem to be a little behind already! Best wishes, Crystal.

  63. It sounds like you've read a lot of books!

  64. Kudos for doing all those reviews! I need to get into better habits of giving back to the writing community.

  65. It's so wonderful that you wrote all those reviews. I need to do more of that. I've done a few Twitter reviews for books that completely took me by surprise.

    I think #3 is a lie.


Hit me with your cheese!