Another satisfying year of books! I’ve listed several debut authors and new-to-me authors this time, along with some tried and true favorites.
These are in no particular order:
1. Bitter Legacy by Dal Maclean
A knockout of a debut novel, this brilliant and captivating page turner is an out of the box, thought provoking, daring, and emotionally wrenching story. Unforgettable characters involved in a perplexing crime mystery as well as mysteries of the heart. Exactly what I hope for when I pick up a book. A flat out, hold-your-breath ride to the end. More…please!
2. The Aftermath by Kay Simone
This is one of those stories that I wanted to never end. It’s completely character driven, no mystery, no high adventure, nothing supernatural, no huge drama – well OK, drama, but whose life doesn’t have that? I was glued to the pages as the relationship between the unforgettable duo of Will and Daniel was born, developed, floundered and underwent bolstering from within. Typical relationship dynamics get turned on their ear. The author’s writing style is such that while this book is 532 pages long, I can honestly say I didn’t skip over a single word, and indeed reread many of them. I have been, and am, consuming her other books ASAP.
3. The Mermaid Murders by Josh Lanyon
First book in a new mystery series from my favorite author? Yes please! This is an impressive mystery written in a tight, engaging style. Flawed, intriguing main characters who are literally on a collision course with each other round out the bill. There is plenty of build up for exploring more mysteries, and more of a relationship between Kennedy and West, in book two. Bring it on already so I can resume gleefully peeling back the layers on these guys.
4. Out of Nowhere by Roan Parrish
When I picked up this book, I expected great writing, I expected answers — what I didn’t count on was my heart getting yanked on so hard. The author needed to redeem a character that was completely loathsome in book one of this series, and she did that in spades. A very in depth, sometimes harsh, always gripping, depiction of an individual’s acceptance of his true self. I was holding my breath through much of this book. Astounding reading.
5. Throwing Stones by Robin Reardon
I read this story when it was recommended by a friend. Its focus is on a young man living in rural Oklahoma, as he handles coming out as gay with a very brave face. After making friends with a local boy from the wrong side of town – AKA a Pagan enclave – he challenges the adults in his community to examine their long held fears, prejudices, and religious beliefs. Several interpersonal relationship dynamics are explored and interwoven into the story. As a Pagan, I found the aspects pertaining to my beliefs were well depicted, and I enjoyed seeing them woven into such a well written novel. A very uplifting, unexpected gem.
*Please pay no attention to the paranormal tag and description seen with this story at buy sites. This was apparently someone’s misguided idea of labeling religious beliefs. Hello?
6. Eleventh Hour by Elin Gregory
What a treat! 1920s London. Undercover secret agents (quite literally!). Spies. Espionage. Peril. Temptation. I was in reader heaven with this highly engaging thriller, which includes a dynamite romantic pairing. I highly recommend aligning with Miles and Briers as they seek to thwart their enemies and find their own slice of happiness. High hopes for a sequel.
7. Say It Right by AM Arthur
AM Arthur is an amazingly deft hand at humanizing her characters as they soldier through dark, gritty, soul-crushing circumstances. There is a ton of reality going on in this story as characters deal with old wounds and new hurts, all without the use of any gratuitous plot devices. The writing is real, raw and beautiful every step of the way. My overall feeling when reading this was one of hope, determination, friendship and love.
8. Cold Fusion by Harper Fox
Completely intriguing, unexpected characters. Lush, vivid narrative. Surprising, quirky, heart wrenching, suspenseful plot.. Stunning, disturbing, romantic, moving – all rolled into one. Yeah hyperbole city, sorry – not sorry. I ate it with a spoon.
9. The Mystery of Nevermore (Snow & Winter #1) by CS Poe
This clever murder mystery kept me on edge. However, the achingly raw and real relationship dynamics and conflicts were my favorite part of the story. I was immediately drawn to the colorful characters in this book and look forward to the next in the series.
10. September (Pride and Joy #1) by Robert Winter
The author of this story treats his readers to a frank, warm narrative in this fresh take on a May-September romance theme. It’s not a dark story, but it is one with vulnerable, flesh and blood characters who navigate a lot of reality checks and hurdles. Surprises too! It’s a book I just could not put down.
Bonus: Rattlesnake by Kim Fielding from 2015
I didn’t read this book, but have listened to the narrated version, which in my mind is a perfect performance. This is a story in which the life and revelations of a lone, wayward man are central. His fated course with the man and town that would change his life made for one heart-aching, beautiful listen I’ll never forget. Nuanced characters, along with the exploration of the complexity of their emotions, struck a very deep chord.