What’s your favorite? It’s a common enough question but one I usually have a difficult time answering. I’m fortunate to have the privilege of reading so many great books throughout the year and I choose a diverse selection. There are books where the entire book is a favorite and there are books where a scene or even a character becomes memorable. So simply asking for a favorite often becomes an incredibly involved question but there were several stand-outs from 2017.
The Temptation series has been a favorite since Try came out in 2013. The author had once said that the series was concluded after the third book, Trust. The news of a fourth book stopped me in my tracks and then to learn there were a total of three more books planned was good news indeed. The return of Logan and Tate in Tease, while a bit of a transition book, was simply amazing, while the progression of their relationship in Tate was spectacular. The last book in this series, Trust, is scheduled to release in early January and perhaps that will show up on next year’s list.
These books are #2 and #3 in Kelling’s Arctic Absolution series (although Caged Jaye is classified as a prequel). Every single thing about these books deserves recognition. It’s an incredibly difficult story to read as what Jaye goes through is traumatic and brutal. Yet, in Kelling’s extraordinarily capable hands I was unable to look away. The exquisite writing and the visceral story stayed with me for a long time. (Read the warnings before attempting this one.)
Seriously—The Mutt was a debut book by Kasia Bacon and what an introduction to this author. Bacon’s voice captivated me with precise and edgy words where she set the scene and the atmosphere of assassin elves in The Highlands. So much was divulged in a crisp, concise, imaginative style and she simply writes dialogue the way I like to read. The Mutt also offered the most perfect last line of a book I have read in some time. I became a little more obsessed with this series with The Highlander, where the point of view character changed, and Bacon wrote complex, intriguing characters with a little bit of love and a whole lot of lust in two short stories that had perfect balance. There is some amazing stuff going on here. Check. It. Out.
Moment of Fate by Karen Stivali
This was the best book I have read by Stivali. She writes about Bryan, a guy on a self-imposed sexual hiatus, and still manages to pack a tremendous amount of sex into the book. Equally as impressive is her ability to let the reader become completely immersed in Bryan’s first person narrative and let us walk directly in his shoes. All the bonus points for Bryan’s solo scene that was not only hot, but wildly entertaining. Although this book is part of the Moments in Time series, it works fine as a stand alone (and I never say that if it’s not true). Bryan was a background character in the earlier books and he didn’t leave that much of an impression on me there. It’s true talent to then give him his own story that resonated with me throughout the year.
Circle by Garrett Leigh
Garrett Leigh made quite the impression on me this year. The first being the final chapter in Pete and Ash’s story. This book was exactly what I needed, even though it had been almost four years since we had last seen them. This book showed the evolution of Pete and Ash’s relationship while still staying completely true to their characters. Leigh keeps the somber tone of their story while also adding in moments of lightness while highlighting Pete and Ash’s trademark banter. The epilogue here was as close to perfection that I have seen in a book. While this book is not a standalone, it’s something special for those readers that have followed Pete and Ash from the beginning of the series.
Junkyard Heart by Garrett Leigh
The writing in this book was simply exquisite coupled with a truly stunning scene as Jas and Kim find their way to each other…with a little help. It had the kind of atmosphere and tone that I was easily lost in. I wouldn’t change one thing about this book, except maybe to request an expanded epilogue.
And for a scene that I didn’t even know that I needed: Brix Lusmoore saving chickens from being slaughtered in House of Cards, also by Garrett Leigh.
It’s not often that I get to read, or in this case listen to, books that are not on my review schedule. I did review the ebook of Caged: Love and Treachery on the High Seas by Bey Deckard when it was first published in 2014. The saying about a gateway drug holds true here as this debut book by Deckard had me eagerly awaiting my next fix from him. I had the opportunity to listen to the audio this year and Michael Ferraiuolo did an amazing job with the voices of this trio of characters. Set in an alternate world, the narrator managed to capture the voices I imagined for these characters all along, which was astonishing. The writing is stunningly visual and Ferraiuolo completes the cinematic experience with an array of voices and accents that still makes Caged an all-time favorite.
This was another audio that was not on my review schedule but made a considerable impression on me. The narrator, Michael Pauley, was outstanding. The story revolves around two former classmates who have history, who then become two men with lots of story to tell. I have read several of Kennedy’s books and the style here, which was a departure from the style of her long-running series, really worked for me. The story was intense, and while some readers may think it’s an all out angst-fest, the narration kept me riveted all of the way through.