Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Best and Favorite Reads of 2015

Well, I thought I had figured out how to juggle real life and blogging... but I was obviously too optimistic LOL. Or perhaps I should say that it doesn't take much to disrupt the balance ^_^; Anyway, all to say that I was very busy and didn't manage to post anything up :( The good news though is that I wanted to!! That's a very good sign and a step up from last year, so I'll take it :) Still a lot of curling ahead in the next few weeks (months), but I think it'll be more manageable - I hope :)

All right, enough about my life and let's talk books :) Here is my list of Best and Favorite Reads for 2015:


Contemporary romance


While contemporary romance was my most read genre in 2015 with 62 books, I did not give out a single A grade ^_^;  I had to look at the B+ reads and two stood out: Sustained by Emma Chase and No One Like You by Kate Angell.

I initially didn't intend to buy Sustained in the bookstore, just wanted to check it out because Ms Chase was supposed to attend RARE 2015... However, after reading the first few pages, I was hooked and had to have it :) Sustained is about a hotshot defense attorney - confirmed bachelor - who falls in love with a woman who just got the guardianship of her six orphaned nieces and nephews ranging from 8 months old to 14 years old. The appeal for me was the 6 kids and Sustained sure delivered :) Loved the H/H and their interactions with the kids - the day-to-day life snippets were great. The male 1st POV was also very refreshing and made this book stand out. The only reason Sustained didn't get an A was because the hero got cold feet twice and I thought the second time was just unnecessary/redundant.

Kate Angell is an auto-buy for me. I love her writing style and the Barefoot William series has just been the ray of sunshine I need after a long winter :) Light, fluffy and fun, they are the perfect beach reads. No One Like You has four adorable dogs - especially the big doofus Atlas,  a nice-paced romance and likable characters. The best? Ms Angell has corrected my biggest pet peeve with her books: our H/H is the only couple and the focus of No One Like You!!

Honorable mentions - Ransom Canyon by Jodi Thomas and Dirty Thoughts by Megan Erickson


Category romance


The Spy Who Tamed Me is the last book in Ms Hunter's The Wests series and features the eldest sibling, Jared West. Jared has been undercover for two years, determined to find out the culprit who caused the mission in which his younger sister got injured to go FUBAR. Back to his life, Jared must now face the music which is being delivered by new Director of Operations, Rowan Farrington.

I'm not a fan of older woman/younger man romance, but Ms Hunter makes it work for me - probably because the age difference wasn't a huge issue. Also, Jared and Rowan had great chemistry :) The Spy Who Tamed Me was fast-paced and sucked me right in from page one. Not much happened in the story action-wise as The Spy Who Tamed Me was more about Jared's internal turmoil - making amends to his siblings for disappearing on them for two years and what is the next step in his career, but there was something about it that just worked. It was also a nice conclusion to the series :)

Honorable mentions - A Bad Boy for Christmas by Kelly Hunter


Historical romance


I haven't been much in the mood for historical romance lately. All the books I've picked up in this genre were from auto-buy authors with the exception of The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne. It's a strategy that paid off because my favorite authors all released very solid books... but no wowzer, unfortunately. The Duke and the Lady in Red by Lorraine Heath is the one that stood out the most for me. Rosalind Sharpe is a swindler - she seduces men and disappears with their money. In order to provide the best last days to her ailing brother, she goes for the biggest mark: the wicked Duke of Avendale... and she almost succeeds! Avendale is not ready to let our heroine go, especially not after she almost made a fool out of him, and so, makes a proposition - to be his mistress for a week.

The Duke and the Lady in Red started out like any other typical regency historical romance, but turned out to be more thanks to our great H/H and their circumstances. I loved Rosalind's loyalty, Avendale's generosity and their chemistry. This was a book about the journey with no nefarious villain :)

Honorable mentions - Catching a Falling Heiress by Laura Lee Guhrke, The Daring Exploits of a Runaway Heiress by Victoria Alexander and Love in the Time of Scandal by Caroline Linden


RS/Mystery/Cosy Mystery


Yes, once again, my Favorite RS read of the year is a Karen Rose book. What can I say? I simply love her writing! Also, there aren't many RS out there featuring cops or FBI agents and focusing on the investigative work nowadays :( If you know of any other, let me know!

In Alone in the Dark, Ms Rose tackles the subject of human trafficking with a cop heroine close to a burn-out and a reporter/vigilant hero whose family is still reeling from a recent tragedy. As usual, the book was fast-paced with a lot of twists and turns and cold-blooded villains. I liked the H/H, but they were not my favorite couple. It'd be nice to have some main characters with less baggage from time to time. Still, a very enjoyable read :)

One of my favorite series ever is the FBI SCU aka Bishop series by Kay Hooper. Fear the Dark is newest installment and also the beginning of the new trilogy. Bishop's FBI agents are sent to Serenity, a small mountain town in Tennessee, where five men and women have gone missing without a trace. Readers renew with Lucas and Sam which were the H/H of Hunting Fear - one of my favorite books of the series - and introduced to medium Dante Swann and telepath Robbie Hodge. Once again, Ms Hooper delivers a chilling mystery :) Also, the feel I got from Fear the Dark is a lot closer to the earlier books in the series - more investigative work and clues - which I really appreciated :)

Honorable mentions - Hunted by Karen Robards


Paranormal romance


I did not read many paranormal romance in 2015, but I don't think it would have made a difference if I'd read more LOL. Shards of Hope by Nalini Singh is one of my 4 reads which got an A-. I just loved everything about it, especially Aden and Zaira. I loved their devotion and loyalty for each other. Lots of things happening and characters interacting with each other, but it all fit. The over-arching story is also advancing well and is almost coming to a conclusion :) I also found Shards of Hope refreshing because so many paranormal and urban fantasy series/books at the moment are about the fractures between races while here, the different races are coming together. The only reason why Shards of Hope did not get an A was because the focus was on Arrows and I wished to see how less powerful Psy are adapting.

Honorable mentions - Fangs for the Memories by Molly Harper


UF/Fantasy/Sci-Fi


Hmmm, this was a tough category. Again, all my favorite authors delivered solid reads in 2015... however, none of them really wowed me. Perhaps it's because my expectations were too high or I'm just extremely picky, but I just wanted more out of them all. In my opinion, Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs lacked intensity, Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews had "transition feel" written all over and the humor has vanished in Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop, in addition of having the heroine take a step back. In the end, the surprise of the year for me was Driven by Kelley Armstrong. And I mean, it literally took me by surprise because I had forgotten all about it ^_^; However, I guess it played in its favor in earning the A- grade since I had no expectations for it :P

Elena always knew being Alpha was a tough job, but she never thought she'd have to juggle between welcoming Malcom back to the Pack and protect the Cains, a clan of werewolves known to be big, brutish and not-too-bright, from someone bent on exterminating them. I really, really enjoyed Driven. Over the years, we've witnessed the difficulties and challenges of the Pack and it was just nice to catch up with it and see how their ranks have been replenished and the new dynamics they have. Also, Malcom's return!! Talk about a twist that I have never never seen coming!! And the reference to Derek was just the perfect final touch :) I hope that Ms Armstrong will continue writing these stories and that eventually, we'll have a cross-over with Derek and the others.

Honorable mentions - Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs, Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews and Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop


Young Adult


This was another tough category because all 11 YA books I read this year were excellent. The lowest grade was a B-!

I've been meaning to read a book by Jennifer Lynn Barnes ever since RT 2010 where the panel of YA authors mentioned her debut novel, Raised by Wolves. Finally, this year, I picked up The Fixer and wowzer - my third A- read!! The Fixer is about Tess Kendrick who moves to Washington D.C. to live with her estranged older sister after their grandfather has been diagnosed with Alzheimer. Tess finds herself attending Hardwicke Academy along with the children of the rich and powerful and discovers that her sister's job is to fix their problems - any problems... and it seems everyone believes that Tess is following in those footsteps. I've always loved court intrigues in fantasy novels and this is like the modern version of it - political conspiracy. Tess is thrown in a world she doesn't know and readers learn along the way with her. The mystery is interesting and complex, but what I enjoyed the most about The Fixer it's realistic aspect. Sure, it's fiction so some of it stretches a bit, but overall, it didn't feel over the top like the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter.

I really kick myself for not picking up My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick earlier. It got quite the buzz when it came out and it was totally deserving! My Life Next Door is a sweet romance between Samantha and Jase. The two have been neighbors for years and have watched each other from afar as their home lifestyles are completely different; Sam with her single, strict Stepford-style mother and Jase with his loud and chaotic 7 siblings. When the two finally meet, sparks fly... but can their romance surpass tragedy? Everything about this book was great: the story, the characters, the romance :) I loved Sam's strength, Jase's family and I thought Jase was such a great hero. Would have been great to get his POV.

I picked out Emmy & Oliver on a whim and I'm so glad I did!! Emmy and Oliver were neighbors and best friends... until Oliver's father abducted him in the middle of a messy divorce. For the next ten years, Emmy and her friends' lives were shaped by this event. Then, one day, Oliver returns. Can Emmy and Oliver become best friends again? From the start, this book made me smiled. I loved the characters and the story, but what got me was the friendship and the honesty - it saved this book from being too dark and transformed it into a ray of sunshine :)

Honorable mentions - To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han, The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick, The Libby Garrett Intervention by Kelly Oram and The Summer Sword by Rick Riordan


New Adult


In 2014, I discovered Sarina Bowen and fell in love with her writing after reading The Understatement of the Year. They were my picks for Favorite New-to-Me Author, Favorite NA Book, Favorite Book of 2014 and Author of the Year (except I never got around to write that post). Ms Bowen does it again in 2015 with Him that she co-wrote with Elle Kennedy. Him is about two college hockey players and estranged best friends reconnecting during hockey camp where they are now instructors and falling in love. Obviously, there's more to the book... but really, all you need to know is that this book is awesome! My last and final A- read of 2015 :) I loved the characters and the romance and the story was fun and sexy :)

Honorable mentions - The Friend Zone by Kristen Callihan, The Shameless Hour by Sarina Bowen and A Shattered Moment by Tiffany King


Favorite Book of 2015


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And there you have it, my list of Best and Favorite Reads of 2015 :) If you've read all the post, thank you - you've been a trooper!! I'm really sorry for the long post, but since I've barely reviewed this year, I really wanted to share my thoughts of the books :) 

11 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed My Life Next Door and The Boy Most Likely To, Nath! I loved them both.

    And Him really was fun, wasn't it?

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  2. Love this post, Nath! Especially since I loved a lot of the books mentioned in your favorites from last year.

    Sustained was SO good and so was The Duke and the Lady in Red and Emmy & Oliver and My Life Next Door.

    You have great taste in books! :)

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  3. I'm tempted to read No One Like You purely for the great dane. I love great danes! We used to have one. He was big a moose.

    I love Kelley Armstrong. I was so excited when she brought back Malcolm. He's such a great antagonist.

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  4. Hi Nath! I like your list!!
    I'll try to get into Sarina Bowen's books this year, since she's getting so much recognition... :)
    ****

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  5. I've got two from your list and both were honorable mentions. I really, really need to read that Laura Lee Guhrke - especially since she has a new book coming out sometime this year. And I've got Ransom Canyon lying around the Bat Cave....somewhere.

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  6. Angie - Him was just great :) Really can't wait till Us, although I'm a bit scared at the same time ^_^; Does every book needs a sequel? Although I do want to read more of Wes and Jamie...

    I really enjoyed My Life Next Door and The Boy Most Likely To. I hope to read more of Ms Fitzpatrick this year. Wonder if she'll write more in that "series".

    Wena - Thanks Wena! LOL, you have great tastes too!! Sustained was just so much fun :) Emmy & Oliver was quite unexpected, but great read. I think Ms Benway does well with stand-alones.

    Samantha - LOL, Atlas was a fun character :P Although in that series, the best pet is a parrot :P

    Malcom's return was such a bold move and quite the twist! Going to be interesting in the future, see what it leads to.

    Sonia - Thanks Sonia :) Did you ever read any of Sarina Bowen's books? If not, I'd say go for The Ivy Years. I like that series better than the other. She also have a new series coming out this year, so you could just wait :P

    Wendy - Laura Lee Guhrke's book this year is quite late. August if I'm not wrong, so plenty of time for you to read it :) I hope you enjoy Ransom Canyon if you pick it up :P

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    1. Hi!
      Yes I have the first one of the Ivy Years and I got Him because it seems that good. I might start with that one! If I do like the books and writing I will get the rest of her books then.

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  7. I've not read any of the YAs you named except for the Jenny Han - off to check them out!

    Yay for the Kelly Hunters :-) I love her writing.

    And of course, HIM!

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  8. Li - LOL, I picked up the Jenny Han because of you! So thank you :)

    I love Kelly Hunter's writing as well. Wished she wrote more. Whatever happened to Sarah Mayberry by the way?

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  9. Good question - I don't think I read a Mayberry last year. I always mentally group her together with Karina Bliss - have you read Bliss's RISE? Rock star romance, I really liked it.

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  10. Just saw this, great list. I think I read 3 of the books and agree with them being top of 2015. Actually just recently finished re-reading Shards of Hope and loved it even more the second time. Sustained was made enjoyable by the kids... so much better characters than the adults. And you know Him was a fave. Us is coming out soon; can't wait!

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