It seems as if I read very few books in 2017 compared to the years directly prior. I’m sure there are many wonderful books waiting on my TBR. With that in mind – here are my standouts from books I did read/listen to last year.
These are in no specific order:
1. Seven Summer Nights (audio)by Harper Fox narrated by Chris Clog
You know how the ultimate book transports you to its place and time? Actually has you feeling the ocean salt breeze on your face, becoming steeped in the scent of roses, striding along verdant green earth and ominous dark tunnels? Has you experiencing the sweetest of joys, the devastation of sorrows that befall the characters? This is such a book. Harper Fox possesses a keen ability to make every phrase on a page bloom and spring to life – this book is a prime example. Set in 1946 post-war Sussex, renowned archeologist Rufus finds much more than he bargained for when sent to investigate murals at a church in Droyton Parva. The Reverend Archie Thorne becomes an unexpected complication and touchstone. I am smitten with every aspect of this story. There is mystique, uncertainty, evil, joy, action and adventure, and soul-deep romance. The story deals with reawakening and self-discovery. Of individuals. Of humanity. Of the earth. Of spirituality. Of love. Oh – the renegade vicar on a motorbike bit is a definite bonus! This is one for the ages for me and is now on my list of all-time favorite stories. I wanted it to go on forever.
2. Fair Chance (All’s Fair #3) by Josh Lanyon
It’s Elliot and Tucker. It’s Josh Lanyon. This third and final book of a favorite series brought the answers to many questions, raised new ones, and left some… to the imagination. I loved it. The crime procedure, mystery and suspense elements of this story were there in spades. Characters were allowed to be vulnerable. Surprises kept coming at every turn. Throughout the action, the author deftly explored and solidified the relationship – which previously, had been a bit tenuous- between Tucker and Elliot. And she gave them the coolest, kick-ass dog to help them out. I cheered at the specifics of Elliot’s future, as it was a future I’d been hoping for.
3. Every Breath You Take (Nights at Mata Hari #1) by Robert Winter
Robert Winter has cemented his spot on my “auto-buy” list. He’s now proven he can glue me to the pages with a suspense/mystery novel as handily as he did with his wonderful character-driven debut novel, September. But make no mistake, finely crafted characters and relationships are just as present and powerful in Every Breath You Take. Switching gears somewhat, but staying in the same universe as that debut novel, the author delivers a knockout suspense-thriller with this book. This was definitely one of those books I could not put down.
4. One Call Away by Felice Stevens
This author has a gift for exploring and presenting the human condition – and steering her characters through it all with love. This book is a prime example. Showcasing two men who have walked very different paths in life, One Call Away is a contemporary and often gritty look at what can happen when we live the life others expect us to rather than being true to one’s self. Of course the latter isn’t ever easy, which is what Noah and Oren – the two main characters – end up helping each other with on their way to falling in love. Both men are Jewish, one from a practicing Orthodox family, the other not. Felice Stevens knows of what she writes, and these religious aspects, along with the genuine atmosphere of New York City, provide an extra depth of realism to the story. The journey to new self-resolve and allowing love into their lives isn’t easy for these guys, but how they make their way there is riveting and so rewarding.
5. Back to You by Chris Scully
This was the first book I read by the author, yet certainly not the last! A refreshing twist to the “returning to his hometown” trope, I found this to be a fascinating and compelling contemporary suspense/mystery. The POV character, Alex, was someone I initially felt ambivalent about, which made the story all the more intriguing to me. But then, he felt ambivalent about himself. One of the relationship arcs was actually me falling for Alex as the story progressed. As a mystery, this is a good one. The remote British Columbia setting sets the stage for some stark, cold, examination into the hearts and souls of the characters. The setting also lends a fairly creepy vibe to the story overall, which kept me turning pages, wondering just what the heck was going on. Things aren’t shiny or easily won by any of the characters. The book has a strong theme of how people can tend to live in the past, yet, how as children we may not really comprehend what is happening all around us. As adults, it’s all too easy to let opportunity slide by, to stay in a comfort zone. This is not an in-your-face romance, but love is definitely there, hard won and satisfying.
6. The Lawrence Browne Affair (The Turner Series #2) by Cat Sebastian
Hello? Historical heaven!! Mix a reclusive genius inventor holed up in a castle on the harsh Cornwall coast with a master swindler, and Cat Sebastian serves up the tastiest dish! This story grabbed me at the get-go and never let up. The characters are vibrant, the author develops them beautifully, and the relationship between Georgie and Lawrence is flash-point combustion by the time they give in to one another. Lawrence’s arrival in London and having no f’s to give – social decorum is really not his thing – as he saves the day, was a highlight scene of the year for me.
7. Color of You by CS Poe
Aside from being written by the talented CS Poe, this contemporary had so many elements to attract me. Mature main characters. Small-town setting. Music. An apple orchard. Bow ties. Bo and Felix – and Felix’s awesome teen son Alan – were immediately super likeable to me, I could see myself sitting down in the town café with them and shooting the breeze. The author crafted every element of this story so well, the flow of them as a whole made for a smooth, cozy, satisfying read. I appreciated how both men, despite having reservations, moved forward with their relationship. How Bo was smart enough not to give up. How Felix was brave enough, especially with Bo and Alan’s support, not to give up. I appreciated how while the sexual dynamic was important to their relationship, it was presented in a nuanced and understated fashion that worked perfectly. The cast of supporting characters was top-notch and fun. The town banding (pun intended) together to rally behind the guys at the crescendo of the story was icing. My favorite by this author so far.
8. Shadow’s Edge by SC Wynne
Give me a psychic character and I’m there. The author sucked me right in with this murder mystery featuring Liam, a man who sees dead people he doesn’t particularly want to see. The elements of the mystery were well done, and the crime solving tactics were interesting and well thought out. The fact that Liam was already friends/working partner with stalwart Detective Thompson set a good backdrop to their relationship and gave plausibility to the awkwardness and tentativeness they each felt at potentially moving said friendship to another level. While the murders are gruesome, and solving them was front and center, they weren’t too graphically depicted. For me this is a plus, as I could fully understand what was happening without gratuitous details. Liam’s abilities seem to have been merely touched on in this first book – I’m really looking forward to finding out more about the depth of his clairvoyant talents, and the depth of his healing at Thompson’s side.
9. Waiting for Walker by Robin Reardon
A YA story from a truly outstanding author. Micah is dealing with the divorce of his parents, being gay (nobody knows), and the death of his brother in combat overseas. There’s a lot going on in this story. Micha’s mom is not dealing well at all with his brother’s death, and he’s had to grow up quickly and without much in the way of material things. He’s very smart and a bit of a smart aleck. When he meets Walker, who happens to be a kid from a wealthy family, and intersex, things really get complicated. Robin Reardon seamlessly weaves a story of our times through the eyes of a very relatable youth. Various issues such as sexuality, religion, ethnicity, divorce and their ensuing prejudices are explored but never preached. A very engaging and thought-provoking read.
10. The Bones of Our Fathers by Elin Gregory
Another story involving British archeologists. I sense a theme with me. LOL. This one is contemporary, set in a village near the Welsh border where goodness intersects with greed and grief. Where the past helps mold the future. It is a beautifully written encompassing of humanity – from the wonders of The Find, to the joining of old and new ways, to the families, the friends, the lovers…the individuals. Elin Gregory is a favorite author or mine – The Bones of Our Fathers is a gem among gems. She has woven a captivating story rich with human spirit, in which the colorful village characters and their proud heritage meld as naturally as the surrounding rolling fields do with the sky.
Bonus- Book Released Prior To 2017: The Sixth Sense series – Sarah Madison (okay, so it’s technically books, plural. Muah!)
This one involves a couple of FBI agents – Jerry & Flynn – who unwittingly come upon a supernatural object. Once Flynn touches a strange box and becomes, ahhh, altered, life for both men becomes surreal and very complicated. What follows is…whacky, to say the least! The two men discover a whole new level of difficulty in navigating their attraction to each other while trying to solve the mystery surrounding the object and, oh yeah, chasing a serial killer.
While there is an obvious central paranormal element to this series, it is not a series steeped in magic, wizards, AU or the like. It’s a contemporary with a paranormal layer. My draw to it is the great characterizations and how the effects of the spell from the magically charged box play into Jerry & Flynn’s relationship dynamic. There are thrilling elements, there is a lot of retrospection on the part of the characters, there are tender moments, and my favorite: a whole lotta snark! Oh, there are cats, too. Next book in the series is due – hopefully – in 2018.