Recent Reads

Hey all! Just wanted to gab a bit about some of the best books I’ve read recently. I’m curious about what you’ve read as well. Recommendations are always welcome!

shadowsTHIEF OF SHADOWS by Elizabeth Hoyt

This is the forth book in Hoyt’s Maiden Lane Series, and though you can read them out of order, I suggest reading them all because–yes–the are that good. Hoyt does a beautiful job of weaving her own invented fairy tales and legends through the chapters, enhancing the themes already present in her books. Winter Makepeace, the hero of this tale, is my new favorite book boyfriend. 🙂 He runs an orphan’s home by day and rescues children by night. He fights in a mask and is, in a sense, the Batman of this world. He’s also married to his work, rejecting the possibility of a traditional family life in order to protect St. Giles. Winter is sober and blunt in his role the orphanage’s caretaker, but allows himself to be more bold in his role as the Ghost of St. Giles. Needless to say, there are awesome sword-fighting scenes and love scenes.


secret sSECRET SANTA by Kati Wilde

I have a soft spot for holdiay-themed romances and absolutely love how far Kati took the themeing of this one. This is a steamy novella with a down-on-her-luck heroine you can’t help but root for who gets absolutely everything she wants for Christmas. An orphan who was passed from one foster home to the next as a child, Emma now has a hard time trusting others. She’s also always worked hard in order to survive and never really made time for a boyfriend. She begins working for a small, family-owned company that produces hand-made furniture. Logan, a gifted carpenter and artisan who works in the shop, falls for Emma on first sight. He helps her with her clunker car, finds out she doesn’t have a Christmas tree, and well…things take off from there. 😉


tycoonTYCOON by Joanna Shupe

Shupe does a beautiful job of expressing complete, complex characters and a full plot in the short space of a novella. Her Guilded Age historicals are fabulous, and if you’d like an introduction to her world, this is a great place to start. After Clara Dawson, a perfume counter girl, witnesses a murder, she flees to the train station. She surprises a man on the platform with a kiss, pretending to be his wife so that she can evade the men chasing her. Surprised by her kiss but seeing she’s in need of help, railroad typcoon Ted Harper invites her onto his private car. He’s suspicious of her motives–thinking she’s out for his money, but as events unfold, he finds himself falling for her.


I also want to give a quick shout out to my current reads. FIRE’S REVENGE by Jeni Burns is a fun and sexy new adult paranormal that takes place in my home state of Jersey. STRANGE THE DREAMER by Laini Taylor is an incredibly inventive and vivid young adult book I’m listening to on audio. What are your current reads?


Ramblings on New Adult

engagement-1718244_1920I’ve debated about writing about the genre of new adult for a time because I have a sense that there many writers and readers with strong opinions on this topic. I am not an industry expert and feared that if I wrote about this, I’d only expose what I didn’t know. But I am, as anyone must be who devotes hours a day to something, passionate about the genre. The bossy part of me wouldn’t let me get away without blogging about it. I set out in this entry to put down my personal observations about new adult based on my experiences as a reader and a writer of new adult.

First, I suggest reading this article from Publisher’s Weekly which, though a couple of years old, does a fabulous job of outlining a generally accepted understanding of the genre as well as its potential in the marketplace: click here.

NA features characters in their late teens and early twenties who are transitioning into the adult world. Whether we are talking about college experiences, a first career job, or a first big romance, these experiences present challenges to the characters. NA can be higher in intensity and emotion than adult since the stakes are often higher. Think about how many life-altering decisions are made in that short period of time. People choose careers. They choose where they will live. They make friends and connections that may last their entire lives.

NA is not a stepping stone from YA to adult. To assume so is insulting to the audience, whose ages range wider than the characters’ ages. It’s also missing the point of the NA genre which is to define this hot spot in the continuum of a character’s life. It’s the place storytellers so often revisit because it’s exciting to imagine oneself at that point of change. It is not so much a coming-of-age story as it is an okay-I’m-of-age…now-what? kind of story. NA characters are complex. They have a deep understanding of the world based on experiences, and that understanding will be challenged. Like most good fiction, there will be sacrifice and change.

young-couple-1031642_1920NA has been breaking ground in the digital market, and I love my digital books! In print, it’s been tougher for NA authors to break through. As a consumer of fiction, if there was a clear place for NA in the bookstore aside from the occasional end cap, I’d gravitate there. But NA, for the most part, has been mixed up with YA or adult books.


Here’s a list of some NA books I’ve read and loved (in no particular order):

FRIGID by Jennifer L. Armentrout

FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell

HOPELESS by Colleen Hoover


UNTEACHABLE by Leah Raeder


JERSEY ANGEL by Beth Ann Bauman

SHE LAUGHS IN PINK by Jessica Calla


SCARLET RAIN by Kristin Cast

AT ANY PRICE by Brenna Aubrey


As always, I am adding books to my TBR list. Two NA books I’m excited to read next are THE BEAUTIFUL ASHES by Jeaniene Frost and DREAMS OF A WILD HEART by Danube Adele–both paranormal NAs.

Do you have a favorite NA book or a few? Let me know–I’d love to hear about them!

Michelle Joyce Bond



Books With Friends Challenge

Fall is almost upon us, and though it’s a stressful time of year for many, it’s important to take the time to relax and read. And what better way to do that than picking up a book friend’s favorite read??

book friend library bottle section

The ladies at Live Love Read YA have put together a reading challenge for the September and October. All you need to do to join the challenge is grab a friend, recommend books, read, and repeat. Check it out by following the link here, and remember to tweet about it with the hashtag: #BooksWithFriends!

Back? Okay. So for this challenge, I’ve asked my incredible critique partner and friend Aryn Youngless to recommend some books of awesomitude. (She once recommended READY PLAYER ONE to me, guys–so I trust her taste completely.)

This will be a cross-continental exchange of recommendations as Aryn lives on the west coast, and I’m on the east coast. We’ve had a lot of fun conversations about regional differences. And weather. Her’s is better. 🙂

Check our Aryn’s blog here.

Though our taste in books differs, there’s a lot of intersection. And since part of this challenge is about getting out of our comfort zone, we are recommending any book that just stuck with us for one reason or another.

six of crows
My first pick for Aryn is hands down the best book I’ve read this year: SIX OF CROWS. I plan on doing a review of it soon, so for now, all I’ll say is: This baby reads like an RPG!


sandman slim

Aryn’s first pick for me is SANDMAN SLIM a gritty fantasy which sounds totally dark and completely  up my alley–can’t wait to start!


lets do this reactions liz lemon its on

Will you take up the challenge?

Michelle Joyce Bond


Stick Figures

The Other Voices in the Pages

imageIn the midst of reading a book, have you ever had a sticky question that threatens to open a sizable plot hole, and a sentence later, it’s answered?  Not only that, but it’s answered neatly and maybe even humorously with a self-deprecating quip or ironic jab at the character’s situation?

When I used to read question-squashing sentences like these, I used to think Oh, look how bright the author is–anticipating the reader’s question like that!  More often now I think, Oh, guess somebody caught that hole for the author.  How neatly plugged it is! 

Critiquing text and having it critiqued by others changes the way one experiences text.  I no longer read a book as once voice but detect the underlying voices–the minds of the critique partners, beta readers, editors, and others who contributed to the final piece.

It takes me out of the text a bit at times, but it is also fun to imagine what comments incited these question-squashing sentences.  Perhaps a critique partner’s well-meaning sarcasm was used almost directly in a revision.  At times, I detect the author’s frustration in adding text they’d rather not, sure they’d answered a question somewhere else, but the reader still isn’t getting it–argh!

Shout out if you find these moments in the books you read!  Do you hear the other voices??

Michelle Joyce Bond

Romance Reviews

THE MIDNIGHT RAKE by Anabelle Bryant — Hot Jersey Author

Image from goodreads.com

My latest read in this tour of hot romance authors from New Jersey is Anabelle Bryant whose latest title, THE MIDNIGHT RAKE kept me up well past the witching hour.

Phineas, a.k.a. Viscount Fenhurst, is so adverse to marriage, he mentally recites an anti-marriage mantra whenever a female threat looms.  However, he is caught completely off guard when he collides with an unexpected houseguest, a beauty who smells of vanilla and sparks a feeling he is unable to dismiss–a passion that will soon consume him.

Penelope has come to London in order to seek out the man who left her waiting at the alter while he robbed her house and took everything of value she had left in the world.  She came under the protection of Phin’s mother, the Countess of Fenhurst, but it is Phin who agrees to help Penelope find her mystery man.  In order to do so, he will need to take her to balls and other social events–places he usually escapes at the first opportunity.  As each night passes by, he grows closer to this innocent beauty, and his carefully constructed walls begin to crumble.  Penelope does not know the trouble she’ll meet, wandering the dark halls in her gossamer night clothes.  Soon this perfect gentle man will become a perfect rake.

This is my first Bryant book but the third in her Three Regency Rogues series.  One of the things I loved best about this book is how perfect Phin and Penelope were for each other from their first encounter…and each heated encounter after that.  🙂  They compliment each other so well that when their happily ever after comes, I can imagine their story continuing well beyond the pages.  Bryant’s complex sentences and word choice enthralled the English teacher in me, and her London settings spilled like paint over the pages.

I hope you enjoy this gorgeous historical!  Here is a link to Anabelle Bryant’s website:


Michelle Joyce Bond


Read These Books–OR ELSE!

Or else…you might miss some off the best books you’ll ever read.  The following are a few notable titles I’ve read recently–both YA and adult–that I highly, highly recommend.  Enjoy!

SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak by Laurie Halse AndersonI’m absolutely blown away!  This is my third LHA book, and she’s really impressed me with her range as a writer.  The tone of this book is so much more somber and it’s subject matter so much darker than the funny, upbeat Prom, but no matter what LHA writes, her voice remains true to her characters.  A bonus–this book is full of little details that put me right back in high school.  LHA has perfected adolescent cynicism.

LIFE AFTER LIFE by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life by Kate AtkinsonI’m one of those weirdos who loves to ponder alternate realities, the multiverse, etc., and this book did a beautiful job of illustrating that concept.  Atkinson SHOWS us rather than TELLS us what an array of alternate realities would look like for a character who at times seems to be the center of it all and at others seems to be nothing more than a pebble swept up in the turbulence of change between realities.  If that isn’t enough, this novel doubles as an historical in which Atkinson paints a clear picture of Britain (and at one point, Germany) during WWI and WWII.  We follow Ursula as she dies and is reborn, her character evolving in a way that does not alienate reader but attaches us to the many versions of this girl.  We root for her as she dies again and again, both succumbing to fate and fighting against it.

ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow RowellA sweet, powerful reminder of what first love is like–especially if you were an outcast. There is 80s nostalgia all over the place, but setting the book in the past just makes the timelessness of this kind of love that much stronger.

I’VE GOT YOUR NUMBER by Sophia Kinsella

I've Got Your Number by Sophie KinsellaI actually read this a while ago, but after several Kinsella books, it’s still my favorite.  Blew away Shopaholic. Better premise than The Undomestic Goddess–and that was really good.  Kinsella’s comedic timing improves over the body of her work.  She is laugh out loud funny in a way that will make you gobble up her books in one day. I’VE GOT YOUR NUMBER has wave after wave of comedic set up and pay-off–a sexy slap-stick delight!

Stick Figures

To Skim or Not To Skim?

imageBack in the days when I spent my hard-earned, part-time dollars on paperbacks at the old B&N, I read books cover to cover always.  Now that I have less time and virtually limitless access to books both inexpensive and free (oh yeah, the library–what was I thinking?!), I find myself growing impatient with some books.  So, I occasionally succumb to what I once considered a grave insult to the soul of a book.  I skim.

I usually hit the threshold of, “Yup…gonna skim this,” for one of two reasons.  I might find there are no layered plots, new interesting characters (that add to the existing story), or instances of rising tension to carry me along.  It just draaaaags.  Or maybe the book has the opposite problem–a bunch of new characters, settings, and problems drop in seemingly out of nowhere and proceed to bump around like plastic toys in a washing machine–ruining what was a delicately woven story.

When I skim, it’s no more than 10%–I swear!.  I skim for sanity because otherwise I’d take what seemed like a very promising book and hurl it at my backyard gnomes.  My gnomes deserve more respect than that.

I can’t really blame the writers on this–only my own lack of patience.  I’m struggling toward an ending right now that makes me want to chuck my laptop out, too so that it spins end over end before landing happily in a flooded ditch.  I know how hard it can be to first envision a fitting conclusion and then get your characters there without taking a major detour through the Oh-My-God-Where-The-Heck-Is-This-Going Forest.  Still.

Do you skim?  How do you feel about skimmers?  Would you like to throw us in a ditch?

Michelle Joyce Bond

Stick Figures

What Makes a Book “Good”: Complete Opinion from an Omnivorous Reader

imageThere is a lot of wiggle room when it comes to saying what makes a book “good.”  For me, it’s not just what the story is about but how it’s told.  I’ll do my best to explain that by unraveling two very different though equally incredible books I’m reading right now.

READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline is a masterpiece of 80s and video game geek nostalgia that takes place in a dystopian future where the only escape from reality can be found via the OASIS–a massive online video game that constantly references popular video games, movies, TV shows, and bands that were important to the game’s designer–a child of the 1980s.  This world-building makes the book really fun to read, but that is not the story.

The heart of the tale is the development of our ultra-introverted main character Wade, a boy from a futuristic trailer park who’s absorbed as much 80s culture as possible in order to win a contest created by the OASIS’s designer.  Wade, unlike the evil cooperation racing against him, loves everything about the 80s and will use both his brain and his heart to win the contest.  He is the underdog, smart, and openly flawed–it’s hard not to like him.

The writing itself including tone, voice, structure, ect. hold together well, and the book has its moments of “deep-reaching” with enough existential reflections about playing a game within a game to keep me satisfied.  It’s important for all this to come together in order for me to classify the book as “good.”  Otherwise, it would just be an excuse for a string of random pop-culture references a la Family Guy.

That said…the best parts of the story in my opinion are Cline’s clever combinations of 80s culture and science fiction.  I had typed some examples here then erased them for fear of ruining the book.  Read it.

Another excellent book I’m currently reading is LANDLINE by Rainbow Rowell.  It’s my third Rowell book in a row, and it makes me feel like I could read anything she’s written and love it.  I tried explaining the plot to one of my coworkers but gave up because this book is less concept and more character–the kind of character that must be experienced.  Georgie’s marriage is thrown against the rocks right around Christmas time, but when she plugs in an old landline phone in her bedroom, she’s “magically” able to communicate with her husband before he was her husband–her Neil from the past.  Through their conversations and Georgie’s surfacing memories, we learn more and more about these characters, growing closer to them as we read.

Rowell’s power in writing is in her ability to create intimacy.  Her dialogue is so on–her descriptions of the body so perfectly imperfect–I’m at a loss for words.  I don’t want to use the cliché “She brings the characters to life” because I think that descriptor is overused.  Until you read a book like this–that is as grounding as its title–you might not know what it means for characters to be real.  And if you haven’t read a book like this in a while–if you’re only choosing books based on their concepts–you may have forgotten.

So, I am happy right now to flip back and forth between Cline, a master of concept, and Rowell, a master of character.  Both of their books are “good,” well-written and whole, but what makes me ultimately say they’re good is completely different.  That’s based on the book itself…kind of like falling in love.  It’s sort of fitting how READY PLAYER ONE is the book I’m listening to at high speeds–rushing through the world, and LANDLINE is the book waiting for me when I come home.

What makes a book “good” in your opinion?  Shout out below!

Michelle Joyce Bond

Stick Figures

Passenger Seat Boom Box Blasts Books on Disc: Yes I Am That Ghetto

imageThe shifty used car salesman who demanded cash for my “clean as a button” Civic must have know that, sooner or later, the car would try to kill me.  The Button, as I came to call it, would pull such stunts as stalling on the entrance ramp to a highway and spinning merrily in the middle of a downpour to face oncoming traffic.

I’ve spent a stupid amount of money trying to fix the broken air-conditioning in this thing (which still isn’t working–grr!), but forcing me to sweat while the idiot lights flash on the dashboard–announcing the cars own slow, oncoming death–wasn’t enough for Button.  On Monday, my CD player decided it was time to go off to that laser disc dance party in the sky–leaving me in silence.

No CD player, no CD books.

I am cheap as hell.  Almost all my physical and audio books come from ye olde library.  I could borrow audio books in an MP3 format (and listen to them with one of those snazzy tape converters in my car–high tech, I know), but I might need to wait longer for certain books to be available…and some I can only get in CD format.

So I took my old boom box, slapped some over-priced batteries inside, and voila!  Ghetto books deluxe.

As I’m rolling to work with Ready Player One blasting in the cab (windows down), I am struck by how much of a nerd I am.  Not necessarily a smart nerd–a terribly awkward nerd who’s desperate enough to hear the rest of a book that she will drive around with a boom box like an idiot and doesn’t care if the teenagers in the expensive SUV next to her are staring.  It makes me feel this…sick sense of pride.  Because screw the rest–the book is all that matters.

What desperate measures have you taken to finish a book?  Tell all below!

Michelle Joyce Bond

Stick Figures

Sudden Obsession With Writer Syndrome

imageHave you ever read a book by an author that immediately made you want to read everything he or she had ever written?  If so, who is your obsession?  Tell me about it below!

Rainbow Rowell is a literary goddess.  I must possess all that she has written, take it in through my eye sockets, and absorb it into my imperfect being.  Alright, maybe that’s a teensy bit over the top, but in all seriousness, her writing makes something inside me sing. 🙂

So far, I’ve read Fangirl and Eleanor & Park.  They were both incredibly humorous and smart with walk-off-the-page characters and quirky details that brought everything to life.  Landline is next, but I’m spacing it with other books because I’m afraid I’ll read through everything she’s written without grounding myself in other books so that I can appreciate hers properly.  Must…gain…control.

Read on, book junkies!

Michelle Joyce Bond