It’s that time of year when I get to look back at my year in books! With having read well over 200 books this year, there was a lot to look back on. Asking about my favorite is always a challenge for me as there are favorite couples and favorite scenes and favorite characters…you get the idea. There are also those books that stay with me for a variety of reasons and this list will encompass books that made a lasting impression on me for 2018. This year, in part, was the year of the series. I encountered some great series where all of the books spoke to me in some way and they are linked together and deserve the recognition as a whole.
The Venery series by Suanne Laqueur, which includes An Exaltation of Larks, A Charm of Finches, and Tales from Cushman Row — The entire series is spectacular, and one book cannot be considered without the rest. Suanne Laqueur quickly and easily catapulted to the top of my favorite author list. Everything about these books called to me starting with the titles. This series spans decades in the lives of several special characters as their stories overlap and intertwine. Her words, and the stories of these characters, will pull you under and the writing was quite simply a revelation. And, high honors go to Javier Landes in the role of exceptional character of the year.
Enemy Within by Tal Bauer — Wow! is only one word that can be used describe this book. It’s over 400 pages of fascinating reading. It’s well researched, but reads from a place of knowledge and not as a list of facts and it plays out better than most action movies that are out there. This is the final book in the Executive Office series and the books must be read in order. While the plot line comes to a pinnacle, there is more than one relationship here that was absolutely captivating—I’m looking at you Adam and Faisal. An excellent book, and series, from start to finish.
Rough Trade by Sidney Bell is the third book in the Woodbury Boys series and Ghost’s long-awaited story. I was concerned that the anticipation couldn’t possibly live up to the story, but this book was even more than I could have imagined. Ghost had snark and wit and a dry sense of humor and his internal thoughts and banter with Rook were wildly entertaining. The author stayed true to the character and gave him a love story on his own terms.
The Seven of Spades series by Cordelia Kingsbridge, to include Kill Game, Trick Roller, Cash Plays, and One-Eyed Royals — This entire series builds off of all the books that come before it and the story is a long arc that is perfectly paced throughout each book. The relationship between Levi and Dominic is legendary and the character development is riveting, which is not at all easy to balance in midst of so much plot going on around it. And, a mystery/serial killer book where the killer still keeps you guessing after the fourth book deserves all the applause. The final book, which was originally scheduled to be released this month, has been pushed back to March 2019, but fingers crossed it shows up on next year’s list.
Twenty-One Arrow Salute by Kasia Bacon — Kasia Bacon created an amazing world with The Order series and her voice is exactly the way I like to read. This was a shorter length book focusing on a side character from the earlier books. The banter and the witty dialogue and the word choices and the play on those words all work for me. It’s elven magic in a fantastic setting with intriguing characters that I cannot wait to be immersed in again.
Skins series by Garrett Leigh, to include Dream, Whisper, Believe, and Crossroads — While the first three books here are about different couples with some crossover, I could not pick just one out of the series. Garrett Leigh has steadily risen to the top of my must-read list as she has evolved as a writer and her style completely pulls me in with each and every book. The series is set between London and a Cornish horse farm and her books are like escaping to another world as their settings are so unlike my own. Her characters have unique occupations and unique ways of seeing the world and the intimate scenes are evocative and sensual while carrying the story forward.
Love Me Whole by Nicky James was a book unlike any other I have read in the genre. The book tells the story of Oryn, who has dissociative identity disorder and shares his headspace with five distinct personalities. It was with incredible skill that the author had all of the personalities rotate through Oryn in a clear, almost effortless manner. Vaughn is the man that is able to love all of Oryn in a thought-provoking story about finding love through seemingly insurmountable odds.
True by Ella Frank was the long-awaited final book in the Temptation series. As far as favorite couples go, Logan and Tate have one of the highest spots on any list for me. These are two characters who truly could be lifted off the pages and their relationship is stunning.
These final books do not fit into what is classically defined as romance as they don’t have an HEA . But if a HEA is not required and you are looking for riveting storytelling, these are excellent choices:
Sunburnt by Joey Jameson — This book offered a tightly written narrative with a story that unfolded and weaved and relied highly on perspective. While the book wasn’t perfect for me and there was one part that felt unfinished, the main focus is where Jameson writes a story of intrigue and violence that will have you racing toward an end you do not want to see coming.
The Silver Cage and The Silver Cord by Anonymous. I hesitated to include these books as the author is anonymous. These books were not reviewed on the blog, but I was simply drawn to the story. The Silver Cage is a love story with a tragedy that sneaks up on you. It’s achingly beautiful, while being traumatically sad. The book tells of the unexpected romance between bestselling author, Caleb, who keeps himself out of the public eye, and Michael, who was sent to interview him, and both of their lives are forever changed. The writing is atmospheric and haunting, and their story will stay with you long after the last devastating word. The Silver Cord is the prequel I didn’t think I needed because I really wanted a sequel to The Silver Cage. But I needed this book. This book goes back to Caleb’s early life and his first love, Jamie, and even though you know how it ultimately ends, it does not lessen the blow. If you read The Silver Cage you too will want to also read this book. The set of books read together was truly something special, but I do still need that sequel.
One last note: This coming year, 2019, will be my fifth year with Joyfully Jay. Jay deserves a spot on every year’s best of list as she is simply the best of the bloggers to be associated with. I thank her for giving me a home here for all these years and for providing me with these spectacular books to review. To Jay, and all the readers that have supported the blog, cheers to good books!