12 of the Best – A Year in Review

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I have read a crap tonne of books this year.  Seriously.  It is embarrassing just how many I’ve read.

Reading is my escape, my stress relief, the place I retreat to when I’ve had too much reality.  I am a serial chain-reader.  Ebooks feed my addiction, I can read book after book without leaving my bed.

Looking back over the year, I have read some amazing books that have stayed with me and impacted the way I write.  I try to leave ratings when I find a book I really love, but I don’t always get a chance to write a review, so I thought I’d do a round-up of some of the best that I’ve read this year.

I have eclectic tastes, so they may not all appeal to you, but I have broken them down into categories to help you find one you might like.

The Best Ugly Cry Book

loveonaspringmorningLove on a Spring Morning – Zoe York

I don’t generally like books that make me cry, and especially not ones that make me sob, but I am happy to make an exception to the rule for this book.  I love The Pine Harbour Series and I love Zoe York, but this is a stand out book for me.

From the cover

Ryan Howard has zero interest in the movie being filmed in Pine Harbour or the high maintenance stars staying in the cottages at the end of his lane. He’s just barely holding on to the raw remains of his life and the fantasy world being concocted around him is, as far as he’s concerned, a complete waste of time and energy. The one bright light in his life is an intern on the set, Holly Cresinski, and their quiet conversations at the end of the day on his back porch.

Holly hates her life, too, which is entirely unfair because she’s blessed beyond measure. She’s at the top of her career–as film actress, Hope Creswell–and surrounded by people that mean well. But Ryan makes her laugh, and cry, and before she can find the words to explain her deception, he kisses her.

I loved the way Zoe wrote Ryan’s story.  A widow with three young children, his grief was palpable and struck a chord with me having lost my own daughter-in-law recently.  I found that this very delicate subject was handled with great compassion and a gentleness that really touched my heart.

Zoe has a gift for weaving a story and making you feel like the characters are close personal friends.  I love Pine Harbour and wish I could move there!  Her other series – The Wardham Series – is also wonderful and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

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Romantic Suspense

killshotKill Shot – Liliana Hart

Yes, I am a fan of Liliana Hart.  I have devoured her previous books and when I saw this one, I just had to have it.

From the cover

Grace Meredith is the CIA’s most deadly assassin. Too bad she’s gone off the grid and become a mercenary for hire. After the death of her daughter by a sniper’s bullet, Grace can no longer stomach the demands of agency life or keep herself from blaming the only man she’s ever loved. Her mind and body are fragile, and she knows she’s just a step away from breaking down completely.

Gabe Brennan hold’s the weight of the world on his shoulders. As one of the most brilliant black ops agents the CIA has ever employed, he knows it’s no one’s fault but his own that his child was gunned down in cold blood. He might not have been able to save his daughter, but he’s determined to save his wife. He only has to find her first.

Sexual tension crackles between Gabe and Grace from the moment they’re reunited, but between the man who is hunting them, a secret that’s been buried for eighty years, and a turbulent past—the odds are stacked against them.

I love strong female characters.  I love female characters that can hold their own against the men and there is just something sexy about a woman who can confidently handle a weapon.  Grace is all these things, but she is also damaged and that’s what makes this book more.

Liliana is a master storyteller, as evidenced by her body of work and Kill Shot is set to be the start of another great series that I can’t wait to read.

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Young Adult Romance

theselectionThe Selection – Kiera Cass

I have to admit, the cover on this one sucked me in.  It was just so pretty.  The synopsis was also intriguing and I was completely taken in by the story.  So much so, that I couldn’t stop telling people about it.

From the cover

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

I could not put down this book.  The world building is wonderful and the characters are beautifully three dimensional.  I devoured not only this book but the rest of the series as well.

This is a book that I would recommend to both mothers and daughters and anyone who just likes a great read.

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Fantasy

cityofstairsCity of Stairs – Robert Jackson Bennet

I found this book through a recommendation on Facebook and I am so glad I read it.  I have not always been a fan of books written in first person, present tense, but Robert Jackson Bennet does a great job in this instance and after a while I didn’t even notice it.

From the cover

The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions—until its divine protectors were killed. Now Bulikov has become just another colonial outpost of the world’s new geopolitical power, but the surreal landscape of the city itself—first shaped, now shattered, by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it—stands as a constant, haunting reminder of its former supremacy.

Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov’s oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country’s most accomplished spies, dispatched to catch a murderer. But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem—and that Bulikov’s cruel reign may not yet be over.

The world building in this book is masterful and the intrigue draws you into the story.  Conspiracies, spies, myths, a suspicious death and supposedly dead Gods are woven together to create a unique story that impacted the way I look at storytelling.

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Literary Genius

axisofaaronAxis of Aaron – Sean Platt & Johnny B Truant

This book is not going to appeal to a lot of people, but it resonated with me.  Without trying to attribute themes where the authors didn’t mean to, I identified with Ebon as I navigated my own grief this past year.

From the cover

Ebon Shale Is Desperate To Forget, But Terrified Of Being Forgotten…

Desperate to forget the sudden death and illuminated betrayal of his new wife and longtime girlfriend, Ebon Shale flees to the quiet seaside town of Aaron, a place that’s been calling him back since he was a child.

But once there, Ebon feels lost. The small town’s citizens are as odd as its energy, and seem to shift the reality before him.

Will Aaron help Ebon forget, or will it swallow him whole?

You will be forgiven for being confused a lot during this book.  The timeline is fluid and reality blends with memory leaving you unsure as to what is real and what is only imagined.

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Fantasy Romance

SignificanceSignificance – Shelly Crane

This is another Young Adult Romance, but well worth the read.  The concept is one that I hadn’t come across before and drew me in.  I loved every minute of it.

From the cover

Maggie is a seventeen year old girl who’s had a bad year. She was smart and on track but then her mom left, her dad is depressed, she’s graduating, barely, and her boyfriend of almost three years dumped her for a college football scholarship. Lately she thinks life is all about hanging on by a thread and is gripping tight with everything she has.
Then she meets Caleb.
She saves his life and instantly knows there’s something about him that’s intriguing but she is supposed to be on her way to a date with his cousin. But things change when they touch, sparks ignite. Literally.
They imprint with each other and she sees their future life together flash before her eyes. She learns that not only is she his soul mate, and can feel his heartbeat in her chest, but there is a whole other world of people with gifts and abilities that she never knew existed. She herself is experiencing supernatural changes unlike anything she’s ever felt before and she needs the touch of his skin to survive.
Now, not only has her dad come out of his depression to be a father again, and a pain as well, but Caleb’s enemies know he’s imprinted and are after Maggie to stop them both from gaining their abilities and take her from him. Can Caleb save her or will they be forced to live without each other after just finding one another?
Maggie feels insignificant but discovers she is anything but.  A coming of age story within a love story that is told beautifully.  I am absolutely sold out to the image of someone imprinting on our soul and this book brings new meaning to love at first sight.
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Sweet Romance

meetyourmatchMeet Your Match (The Complete Series) – Rachael Anderson

There are three books in this series and they tell the stories of opposites attracting.  These books are classified as Sweet Romances which means they are clean romances with no bedroom scenes and no swearing.

While I am not opposed to sex or swearing in the books I read, it was kind of refreshing to read a couple that had neither.  The romantic tension was still there and the stories were well told and written with satisfying endings.

From the cover

Prejudice Meets Pride
After years of pinching pennies and struggling to get through art school, Emma Makie’s hard work finally pays off with the offer of a dream job. But when tragedy strikes, she has no choice but to make a cross-country move to Colorado Springs to take temporary custody of her two nieces. She has no money, no job prospects, and no idea how to be a mother to two little girls, but she isn’t about to let that stop her. Nor is she about to accept the help of Kevin Grantham, her handsome neighbor, who seems to think she’s incapable of doing anything on her own.
Prejudice Meets Pride is the story of a guy who thinks he has it all figured out and a girl who isn’t afraid to show him that he doesn’t. It’s about learning what it means to trust, figuring out how to give and to take, and realizing that not everyone gets to pick the person they fall in love with. Sometimes, love picks them.

Rough Around the Edges Meets Refined
For Noah Mackie, life is finally back on track. He has a great support system, a promised promotion is on its way, and he’s finally getting the hang of this single father thing. But when the job falls through and his neighbor’s matchmaking efforts become more aggressive, Noah is in for yet another unwanted detour. With his career and two spirited daughters to worry about, he doesn’t have time for dating–especially not someone like Cassie Ellis, his girls’ beautiful and sophisticated dance instructor, who is about as open and approachable as a brick wall.
Rough around the Edges Meets Refined is about two people who think they know exactly what they want but who have no idea what they really need. It’s about learning that people aren’t always what they seem and that sometimes life’s detours take you exactly where you need to go.

Stick in the Mud Meets Spontaneity
Home for the summer, Samantha Kinsey is ready to step into her role as pseudo-nanny for her two favorite charges. But when she realizes she’ll be playing chauffeur more than playmate, her summer outlook quickly turns from fun to bleak. That is, until she meets Colten McCoy–a genuine, hard-working cowboy, who’s as set in his ways as he is handsome. Although he claims he doesn’t need any spontaneity in his life, Sam’s determined to help him find it. But she’ll soon discover that cowboys are about as easy to change as wild mustangs.
Stick in the Mud Meets Spontaneity is about an adaptable girl and a not so adaptable guy. It’s about learning to accept people for who they are and realizing that sometimes who they are is exactly who they should be.

The three stories have overlapping characters and are set several years apart.  Together they build upon one another in a lovely layered story of love, friendship and family.  A great read for all ages.

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Romantic Series

theenglishbrothersThe English Brothers Boxed Set – Katy Regnery

This is a boxed set of the first four books of Katy Regnery’s Blueberry Lane Series.  I really loved these books and the way Katy writes.  Each book is rich with character and story and the English brothers are men I would like to know in real life.

From the cover

Breaking Up with Barrett

When business partners suggest that a fiancee might soften Barrett English’s image over business dinners, he approaches the gardener’s daughter, Emily Edwards, for the “job” of fiancee. And while love wasn’t necessarily on Barrett’s radar, he begins to realize that Emily always has been. But will his take-no-prisoners boardroom tactics work on the heart of the woman he loves?

Falling for Fitz

After ten years apart, childhood sweethearts, Fitz and Daisy, are reunited when Daisy moves home to get married. Both are surprised to discover that their feelings for one another are as strong as ever, but old hurts and a new fiance stand between them. Can Fitz get Daisy to fall for him again before it’s too late?

Anyone but Alex

Alex English, a notorious playboy, reunites with his childhood friend, Jessica Winslow, after years apart. Though both attempt to embrace a friendship, their passion won’t be denied. Between disapproving brothers, scheming exes, and the biggest deal of English & Sons’ history, their budding romance is going to be put to the test. The question is…will it be strong enough for happily ever after?

Seduced by Stratton

Stratton English, the hottest, youngest, most devastatingly handsome CFO in Philadelphia, has a problem: women make him nervous. Really nervous. Quirky Valeria Campanile, a PhD candidate who studies Courtship Rituals, can’t seem to find herself courted. When Stratton helps Valeria with a financial problem, she is anxious to return the favor, and just might find herself being seduced by Stratton!

I can’t even decide who my favourite brother is and I am so hooked on the series that I have begun reading all the other books as well.

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Sporty Romances

hellerbrothersHeller Brothers Hockey – Kelly Jamieson

Ok another boxed set!  But you can’t beat the value 😍

These books are everything good about athletic men and made me, an Aussie, fall in love with the game of Ice Hockey.

From the cover

These brothers play the game…but the women know the score…

Included in this collection are:

Breakaway (Jase)
Faceoff (Tag)
One Man Advantage (Logan)
Hat Trick – The Hellers are Home for the Holidays
Offside (Matt)

I said earlier that I love strong women characters, but I also love strong male characters too.  These brothers are tough and sweet and really great book boyfriends.

I really like Kelly’s style and can’t go on with mentioning a new book of hers that I recently read called ‘Limited Time Offer’…check it out too

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Can’t Put it Down Serial

thebossThe Boss – Cari Quinn & Taryn Elliot

There is still a couple more installments yet to be released in this serial and I am practically foaming at the mouth waiting for them.  I devoured the first book, staying up well past my bedtime, to finish it and nearly cursed a blue streak when it ended on a cliffhanger…but I loved every minute of it!

From the cover

I’ve always been a good girl.
I’ve only done two really bad things in my life–secretly live in the maid’s quarters of my beloved grandmother’s foreclosed beach house, and lie to get a job as a personal assistant to billionaire Blake Carson.
My enemy, my lover, my savior.
He’s only two out of the three, if only I can figure out which two before I end up on the streets or in jail.
Or worse.

A SIX PART SERIAL with dual points of view, lots of bad words, the creative use of glass-walled rooms, and a beach house that holds a whole lot of secrets. There are all sorts of cliffs in these books, some even include actual rocks. You have been warned.

Seriously good reading.  It’s sexy and steamy and hot, but that’s not all it is.  The story is intriguing and the secrets are tantalising and just when one question is answered another two are raised.  I can’t wait for the rest of them.

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Erotic Historical Romance

harlotHarlot – Victoria Dahl

Oh My God!  This book broke my heart.  Yes it is erotic, but it is so much more than that.  I don’t read historical romance normally, but because it was Victoria Dahl, I gave it a go and I loved it.

From the cover

An erotic historical romance

HE CAME HOME TO MARRY AN ANGEL…
After two years of work in the gold fields of California, Caleb Hightower has come home to marry his childhood sweetheart, Jessica Willoughby. But when he returns, Caleb learns his refined bride-to-be is now a whore. Enraged by her betrayal, he can’t reconcile this shameless woman with the sweet innocent he once deeply loved–but Caleb knows what to do with a harlot. He’s determined to get everything from her that she’s sold to other men. And he’s prepared to pay for the pleasure of his revenge.

BUT ALL HE FOUND WAS SIN…
Left penniless after her father’s death, Jess made a deal with a devil. Now she must face her first love, whose scorn is no match for her regret. To make amends, she’ll let Caleb quench his rage with her body. Their bargain strips them down to searing passion and naked vulnerability, and Jess can still glimpse her loving Caleb buried deep inside this rough cowboy. In the end, an unbearable truth emerges that could push them toward forgiveness…or could destroy their fragile bond forever.

Note: HARLOT contains explicit sex and very graphic language.

I saw a quote recently that said, “If you consider a woman less pure after you have touched her maybe you should take a look at your own hands” (Kaija Sabbah) and it made me think of this book.  The unfairness and injustice that women faced (and still face) is never more evident when it comes to the bedroom.  The very thing that men a celebrated for is the same thing that women are vilified for.  This story is a poignant reminder of that.

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Guilty Pleasure

hatefkHate F*@k – Ainsley Booth

Ok so this is definitely not a book to share with your mother or your daughter.  This is a book that makes us all thankful for the invention of ebooks so that no one can see the cover.  But OMG! this book is hot!  I’m pretty sure I dreamed about Cole for a few nights after reading this.

From the cover

Cole:
I push her buttons. I want to push them in the good way. Dirty, up-against-the-wall, my-hand-in-her-pants kind of way.
But that’s not possible, because I’m dark and she’s light, and we both know it.
So I push her buttons in the bad way, making her hate me.

Hailey:
If a genie granted me three wishes, I’d ask for Cole Parker to never look at me again, that I’d forget the dark promise in his eyes, and that just once, before he vanished from my life completely, that he’d push me up against a wall and make me scream.
Then I’d go wash my mouth out with soap.

This is a late night guilty pleasure.  It is filthy, steamy, sexy and funny and the cover makes me drool.  That picture is exactly how I imagined Cole when I was reading.  If you like it hot, then this is the book for you.

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So that’s my list and, let me tell you, it was hard to cut it down to just twelve!  I have read so many great books this year that there is just not enough space to list them all.

Hopefully you have found one or more from this list that you will love as much as I did!


 

Girl-friday

My latest book, Girl Friday, is out now!

Noelle is having a very bad day.  With only eight weeks left until her thirtieth birthday (oh, and Christmas) she is determined to cram every last ounce of fun into her life before she has to officially become and ‘adult’.  But her pursuit of the perfect twenty-ninth year is ruined when she turns up at work to find out she no longer has a job.  She then goes home to find her boyfriend sleeping with someone else.  Now she is jobless, homeless and broke.  Things couldn’t get much worse.

Logan is also having a very bad day.  With only minutes before he is due to address his board of directors, he can’t find a thing.  His PA has abandoned him for marriage leaving him high and dry (well not really, she did arrange for a replacement, but apparently Logan is impossible to work for) so now he is stuck with no foreseeable way out.  He may be a genius, but he sucks when it comes to filing.

One drunken online ad later and Noelle walks into Logan’s life, turning it upside down and leaving him wondering how he ever survived without her.  But being a PA is just a stop gap for Noelle and she has no intention on staying permanently.

This is a sexy office romance set at Christmas time in Australia where things get hot and steamy (and I don’t just mean the weather).

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