Tuesday, January 3, 2017

For Ellen: Top Ten Fave Reads 2016

For many of us, 2016 prolly ended up something like this...


It's much easier for me to find the lowlights from this year than the highlights. Well, except when it comes to reading. Losing myself in a book provides respite from the most horrible situations. (If you're interested, here's a post I wrote a few months ago on How Books Saved My Life.) I didn't keep track of how many books I read - probably in the neighborhood of 100 to 150 - but for sure I came across some standouts. There might be ten on this list....or maybe a few more...okay, more like 20, but...

Favorite Holiday: Glass Tidings by Amy Jo Cousins

So normally I wouldn't expect a holiday read to make a best-of list. Holiday stories are just there to be warm and fuzzy and fun, right? Glass Tidings is all that, plus it's also a damned fine bit of storytelling. The two heroes are real and complicated, and they had to work for their connection. As soon as I finished this book I turned back to page one and read it again. It's that good.

Favorite Historical: The Society of Gentlemen trilogy by KJ Charles

The link will take you to A Seditious Affair, the second book in the trilogy and arguably my favorite of the three. Along with A Gentleman's Position and A Fashionable Indulgence, these books rank as one of the best trilogies I've ever read in any genre, ever. You could probably pick out one of the novels and read it as a stand-alone, but the way the plot weaves between the books makes reading all three so worthwhile. Really brilliant, on so many levels.

Historical honorable mentions... The Soldier's Scoundrel by Cat Sebastian and Kindred Hearts by Rowan Speedwell
These two novels are both Regencies, and in both, one character has recently returned from fighting Napoleon in France. Because they covered the same ground, it was fun to compare and contrast them. The Soldier's Scoundrel is sort of the Glee version of a Regency, where Kindred Hearts is a much more serious historical novel. Both of them had me turning the pages just as fast, though. Good times!

Historical honorable mention...again. (Hey, it's my list, I can have as many as I want.) Rite of Summer by Tess Bowery.
This one is hot enough I almost bumped it to the erotic romance category. Lots of healthy young men doing what healthy young men do...despite the fact they could hang for it. The stakes were SO HIGH in this one I almost had to stop turning pages because I was too tense. Fun stuff!

Favorite contemporary: His Royal Secret and His Royal Favorite by Lilah Pace.

When I read the blurb of the first book, I wasn't sure someone could sell me on a gay member of the British royal family, and you know what? The author totally did. These books gave me an insider's look at what it's like to live in a fish bowl, with the whole world watching, and the characters' emotional arc was just as believable. Highly recommend!

Contemporary honorable mention... Between a Rock and a Hard Place (Bend or Break) by Amy Jo Cousins.
Okay, at the risk of coming across as a squeeing fangirl,  the two novellas in this duology are pretty amazing. Love Me Like a Rock and Hard Candy follow two guys who have appeared in earlier Bend or Break novels. Austin and Vincent are forced to move beyond their dysfunctional friends-with-benes relationship, and both earn their happily ever afters. I have to admit Hard Candy resonated with me a little more than the other, but they're both excellent.

Favorite thriller: Between Ghosts by Garrett Leigh.

I don't read much romantic suspense, but I thought this one nailed the reality of war when soldiers know they're fighting a losing battle. I was drawn to the main characters, Connor and Nathan, and if the ending felt a little bit too neat, the rest of the story was so good I forgave it.

Thriller honorable mention... Mr. and Mr. Smith by HellenKay Dimon.
This one is slick and twisty and fun, sorta like if James Bond were gay. Lots of action, snappy dialogue, and a solid, fast-moving plot. There's also a sequel - The Talented Mr. Rivers - that I'll definitely be adding to my (towering) TBR pile.

Favorite mystery: Spindrift and A Frost of Cares by Amy Rae Durreson.

Well-written and spookier than heck, I burned through these two and wanted more. I found the love story in Spindrift a little more compelling, but the ghost story in Frost of Cares was scarier. Either way, you can't go wrong. 

Mystery honorable mention... Transformed: San Francisco: Quirky Transgender Spy Novels by Suzanne Falter.
This was a great read, in which the gender of the transman MC is part of the story but not exploited or overly dramatized. The plot works, the mystery is intriguing, and the whole thing was a lot of fun. 

Favorite erotic romance: The Dark Collector by Vanessa North.

This book saved my life, or at least pulled me out of a really sucky place. It's a novella, and I read it in one evening, when I really needed to get my mind off whatever crap was happening. It worked so well, I read it again the next evening. The author packs a lot of characterization and emotion in a short space. It's well worth the read.

Erotic romance honorable mentions... The Back Passage by James Lear, Like a Lover by Jay Northcote, and Old School Discipline by Misha Horne.
Like a Lover isn't classified as erotic romance - it's a contemporary about college guys - but wow is it ever hot! The Back Passage is a tongue-in-cheek historical, and Old School Discipline takes on some very naughty high school boys. And yes, in all of them the sex is sexy, you know, but they're also great stories, with strong characters I came to care about.

And the sex is sexy.

Favorite paranormal: Priddy's Tale by Harper Fox

I love Harper Fox's writing style. She so completely captures the harsh and magical reality of life on the coast of Cornwall. The thing I loved most about Priddy's Tale was the gentle fantasy element, the way Priddy's weakness - an accidental overdose has fractured his reality - turns into something good.

Paranormal honorable mention... Death by Silver by Melissa Scott and Amy Griswald.
This story hits so many of my weaknesses! It's a smart mystery set in a Victorian era where magic is real. I read both this one and it's sequel, Death in the Dionysis Club, in quick succession, and then sat around feeling sorry for myself because there's not a third. 

Favorite sports romance: Reading the Signs by Kiera Andrews

I DNFed more sports romances than I actually read this year, mostly because the characters weren't believable, or the reality of their supposed sport didn't work for me. This one made me wish it was baseball season ALL YEAR LONG!

So there you have it, my top ten(ish) list of favorite books for 2016. I hope your holidays were lovely, and that 2017 exceeds all our expectations!
Happy New Year!

(See, Ellen? There are almost as many books on my list as there was yours. :) )

Since you got to the very bottom of the post, check out the rafflecopter giveaway Irene Preston and I are running for January. There's a $10 gift card at stake!

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  1. Thank you for your list, Liv! There are plenty for me to check out there... You are much more diligent than me at providing easy-click links.

    Of the ones you've listed, I've read less than a third, I think. I HEARTILY concur regarding The Society of Gentlemen, Between Ghosts and Priddy's Tale. They are all in my top ten for the year. They are all completely wonderful.

    Here's to another fabulous year of books!

    1. I can't wait. I look forward to comparing notes with you. :)