Chick Lit Café’s Best Books of 2014!

Bust out the glitter and champagne—it’s time to ring in the new year and celebrate all the books that made us laugh, cry, swoon and yearn for adventure! Here are some highlights from last year’s mountainous reading list! I should note that not all of these books dropped in 2014, but they were new to me and therefore they made the list. It’s my blog, dammit, so I get to call the shots!

What were your memorable reads of 2014? Did any books in particular sing to your soul, make you want to change your life for the better, or transport you to another dimension through space and time? Post a comment and tell me all about it!

Best All-Around Book of 2014: Orphan Train by Kristina Baker Kline

15818107This is one of those traumatic coming-of-age stories that sucks you in and keeps you glued to the pages until the very end. The tragic characters were so real, it felt like I was right there on that train as it trudged its way to the Midwest, hungry, belittled and afraid of the unknown.  Even when I wasn’t reading, I found my mind drifting to little orphan Niahm, wondering how she was going to survive her current horrifying foster-home situation. I would also think of Molly’s unlikely friendship with a 91-year-old widow, wondering how they would eventually help each other overcome their hardships and find closure in the end. The author did a fantastic job unfolding both Molly’s and Niahm’s narratives as the chapters jumped from present day to the Great Depression. It was almost impossible setting down the book because I was dying to see their stories converge.

Memorable quote: So is it just human nature to believe that things happen for a reason – to find some shred of meaning even in the worst experiences?

 Best Wanderlust Book: Following Atticus by Tom Ryan

11100477Oh man, I don’t even know how to even begin describing how much I adore this book. I just want to climb to the top of one of Tom’s beloved mountain peaks with a bullhorn and tell the world to read Following Atticus. It’s that good, people!

This is just a beautiful story about the bond between a man and his dog, and how they both found inner peace in the enchanting New Hampshire Mountains. In defiance of what’s expected of an overweight middle-aged man and a 20-pound dog, they achieved the impossible. Not once, but twice, they conquered all 48 of the great White Mountain peaks in one winter.

I can tell you from experience that animals have a way of making us live in the present. Like standing atop a majestic mountain and looking down at nature’s splendor, seeing the world through a dog’s eyes can allow us to take in the bigger picture. All those trivial things—the office pettiness, the family melodrama, the overloaded inbox—seem so insignificant when you can truly understand the broad scheme of things. That’s why this book really hit home.

Memorable quote: In the mountains Atticus became more of what he’d always been, and I became less—less frantic, less stressed, less worried, and less harried. I felt comfortable letting him lead, and he seemed to know what I needed. He always chose the best route, if ever there was a question, and my only job was to follow.

Best Beach Read: Five Summers by Una Lamarche

16101148My happiest childhood memories took place at Camp Marston, a sleepaway camp nestled in the mountains of Julian, California. This book rekindled so many memories of the deep friendships that were forged over burnt marshmallows and capture-the-flag games. In this book, the four girls were lucky enough to stay in touch throughout the years and help each other through the trials and tribulations of young adulthood. Each girl is holding back a deep, dark secret and it all comes to a head when they reunite at their beloved Camp Nedoba. I really liked how the author used the third-person narrative to weave each of the girls’ past and present summer camp experiences in every chapter. I loved getting to know all the characters and reminiscing about my carefree summers at camp, where I only had to worry about hiding contraband candy from the counselors and getting caught on a night raid to boys hill!

Memorable quote: The way you act can sometimes be totally different from the way you actually are.

Best Inspirational Memoir: Eat and Run by Scott Jurek

13202092Confession: I bought this book for my husband without any intention of reading it myself. Just the thought of reading a memoir penned by a vegan ultra-marathoner made my eyes roll. But yet, the curiosity got the best of me when I read his inscription: “Dear Jarred, just do things.” Do things? Huh? Intrigued by this simple, yet provocative sentiment, I peeked into the first chapter and soon found myself totally enthralled by Jurek’s voyage into the unimaginable realm of ultra-marathon running. This book completely changed my perception of human limitations. At the risk of sounding trite, this incredibly gifted man shows that you can train your mind into believing –and proving—that anything’s possible. Example: the book opens with Jurek tossing his cookies on the side of the road in Death Valley with 60 more miles to go. Death freakin’ Valley! At this point any rational person would stick a fork in it and head back to the hotel. Not Scott Jurek. He not only completes the race—he wins it!  This isn’t just a book about running; it’s a story of perseverance. When the going gets tough, I’m going to keep his mantra in mind: Sometimes you just do things.

Memorable quote: I’m convinced that a lot of people run ultramarathons for the same reason they take mood-altering drugs. I don’t mean to minimize the gifts of friendship, achievement, and closeness to nature that I’ve received in my running career. But the longer and farther I ran, the more I realized that what I was often chasing was a state of mind – a place where worries that seemed monumental melted away, where the beauty and timelessness of the universe, of the present moment, came into sharp focus.

I’ve Been Nominated for a Liebster Award!

liebster-award-e1355858473421Hooray for blog awards! Thanks to the Book Girl from South Carolina, I am now the proud recipient of the Liebster Award, which means that I get to partake in a fun little Q&A about blogging, books and celebrity crushes!

Here’s how it works: Once a blogger is presented with the award, they must pay it forward to 10 bloggers, then they nominate 10 more, and so on. It’s like chain e-mail, but without the threat of a year of bad luck if you don’t play the game. It’s a fun way to connect with other bloggers, make new friends and attract more followers.

Without further ado, here are my bookish ramblings:

What made you want to start blogging?

I tear through so many books, and it’s hard to remember them all. So it made sense to keep track of all my reads in a blog. Plus, I do a lot of science writing in my day job and there’s only so much room for creativity. So this is a fun way to hone my creative writing skills without having to deal with a committee of editors. Not only do I get to be my own boss, I’m also making quality friendships with authors and fellow book bloggers. Starting up Chick Lit Café was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I’m so happy to be a part of such a wonderful book blogging community!

What book has influenced your life more than any other?

The most treasured book on my shelf is The Secret Garden. I read it back in second grade when my teacher praised my reading skills and urged me to read a book above my grade level. I doubt she even realized how those few words of encouragement inspired my passion for reading.

What author would you want to meet if you could choose anyone?

Oh that’s an easy one. Stephen King!

When you’re reading, what is your craziest bookish habit?

Well let’s see here…I have a lot of OCD reading habits. I guess if I had to pick one, I’d say that before I fall asleep at night, I roll over in bed with my Nook and read at least 10 pages.

How many hours a week do you typically spend blogging?

Ballpark, I’d say a couple hours. I wish I had more time, but I’ve got a LOT going on in my life!

What is your favorite literary series of all time?

This is tough. I’m the most faithful to Carolyn Haines’ Bones Mysteries. I love the zany characters, the atmospheric Mississippi setting, and the puzzling whodunits. Plus there’s ghosts and fuzzy, four-legged sidekicks!

What is your favorite book to movie adaptation – now or coming soon?

Well it’s not a movie per say, but I’m going to have to go with the Dexter series on Showtime. Of course, the books are better, but I’m thoroughly entertained by the complex characters, the cliffhanger endings, and the bizarre serial killers. Oh and I’m also a big fan of a shirtless Michael C. Hall!

What is your absolute favorite song right now?

Currently I’m in love with Kate Voegele’s version of Hallelujah. It’s breathtaking.

Who is your #1 Book Boyfriend and someone you would totally date in real life if you could?

Definitely Eric Northman in the Sookie Stackhouse mysteries.

What is the most frustrating thing about being a newer blogger and trying to get your site up and running?

Aside from getting people to post comments, the most frustrating thing about blogging is not having enough time to read review copies from up-and-coming authors. I hate to say no, but I can’t please everyone – and reading should never become a chore.

Now it’s my turn to spread the love! Here are my 10 nominations:

Addicted to Books

Daisy Row Diaries

My Home of Books

The Busy Bibliophile

Chick Lit Life

All Things Audrey

Dizzy C’s Little Book Blog

A Prairie Girl Reads

The Book Bag

Delilah Anne’s Book Blog

Here are my 10 questions they must answer:

1. What do you love most about blogging?

2. If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one book, which one would it be?

3. What is your favorite genre and why?

4. If you could be any literary character, which one would it be?

5. Do you prefer e-books over print books?

6. Do you have a favorite reading spot?

7. Be honest, do you sometimes buy a book based on its cover?

8. Which book would you like to see turned into a big blockbuster movie?

9. Do you have a favorite book series?

10. Do you like to listen to music when you read?

A Lovely Surprise!

one-lovely-blog-award2A big thanks goes out to Chrissy Anderson, author of The Life List, for bestowing the One Lovely Blog Award to Chick Lit Café! I just love getting these congratulatory blog hops because usually I get to talk about my favorite subject – MYSELF!

Per the rules, I must divulge seven random tidbits about the fascinating world of Jessica Sinn.

  1. My second-grade teacher sparked my love for mysteries when she introduced me to The Secret Garden.
  2. When I’m not reading and blogging, I work in public relatons at UT-Austin.
  3. I can’t resist doing the Macarena and the Electric Slide at dance clubs and office holiday parties.
  4. I met my husband in Tijuana, Mexico.
  5. I love to shoot skeet with my dad out in the boondocks.
  6. Transylvania is at the top of my “bucket list.”
  7. I’m a closet introvert.

Now it’s my turn to nominate a handful of lovely bloggers for this award:

  1. Melissa’s Mochas, Mysteries and More
  2. Books by Banister
  3. In the Hammock Book Reviews
  4. The Cozy Chicks
  5. Lovey Dovey Books
  6. Lauren Clark
  7. Chick Lit Bee

The rules:

1) Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
2) Place the One Lovely Blog Award badge on your blog.
3) Tell seven things about yourself.
4) Nominate seven to fifteen other blogs for the award. List them with links to their blogs.

I’m a Winner!

 Here ye! Here ye! Here ye! Princess Jessica, founder and CEO of Chick Lit Café, has just received the Liebster Blog Award!

A big thanks goes out to my fellow book blogger and audiobook aficionado over at Lip Gloss and Literature for humbly bestowing Chick Lit Café with this grand honor! If you’ve never heard of it,  the Liebster Award is given to encourage, highlight and congratulate small bloggers (200 followers or less) across the web.

Now on to the rules:

  1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
  2. Reveal your top five picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
  3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
  4. Cross your fingers and hope your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
  5. And most of all – brag about your award to all your friends and family members! Make sure to be extra obnoxious to those (*cough* my dad) who roll their eyes whenever you blab their ears off about your blog.

Here are my favorite – or as they say in Germany“liebster” – blogs:

Queen of Reading

Writing Strong Women

Chick Lit = The New Black

Mrs. Q Book Addict

The Eco-Chain of Dating: Life in LA

Congrats to everyone – and many thanks to Lip Gloss and Literature!