Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top 20 Favorite Reads For 2014

Last year I picked out the 10 favorite reads and I had such a hard time choosing. This year I expanded to the top 20 favorites to spread the love a little more. My favorites are books that stick with me in someway--the plot, the characters, the writing--and they aren't necessarily perfect but they evoke a feeling in me, make me feel good in some way. They are books that I will go back to and reread at a later date.  Because I buy more books than I can read, a few of these are older, from author's back lists, others are newish. These are in no particular order. If it's a series I'll only post the cover of the first book and if you click on the titles it will take you to the book page in amazon so you can read the blurb and such.

I had a tough time deciding between Internment or Snow on Spirit Bridge by Freddy MacKay. Both are have a Japanese folklore/mythical characters as love interests. Whereas Internment is set after WWII, Snow on Spirit Bridge can be considered a current holiday story. They are both gems and if I start telling you everything that I loved I would end up telling you the whole story. Since she's better at that than I am, read the books. You won't regret it.

The Dragon's Hoard series by Mell Eight. There are four books in this series, and even though I loved two of the four more, the whole series is wonderful. If I had to give one word to describe it, that would be "precious".

They are available on audio if you're so inclined. That is how I read Finding the Wolf. I listen to it on a road trip and then read the others as soon as they were loaded onto my e-reader. These are all about different dragon's as well as other paranormals. I've always read about the scary dragons so this was my first hoarding dragon book. The scenery was easy to picture and some of the other dragons, O.M.G., like I said, precious--and funny.

The Bestiary collection is 4 volumes. I read a lot of anthologies because sometimes I don't have time to get wrapped up in a novel. This collection of paranormal stories was excellent. There wasn't a story that I didn't like and I was so disappointed when I read the last one because I wanted more of them. I bought them in paperback form but you can purchase individual stories.

Because I so loved The Bestiary collection, I went looking for more and found the Fairytales Slashed anthologies. There are five volumes and the first one went pretty quick for me. The stories were very short in the beginning and then later took on more meat. I didn't realize until later that the stories were all inner connected in some way.

I picked Boots for the Gentleman by Gus Li and Eon De Beaumont up at Rainbow Con and wow. It's a mixture of steampunk and fantasy all rolled into one. This is part of the Steamcraft and Sorcery series and does evolve into a menage relationship. You have your thief, your respectable librarian, and a very human-like clockwork doll. Add in a fairy noble and civil war and you have a plot driven story with great characters. It is part of a trilogy so I'll be reading the next book in the series in the coming year. I definitely need to set aside some reading time for the next book because putting this one down was hard.

No Ocean Too Deep by Leona Carnver is labeled as Sci-Fi but I thought of it more as a high fantasy read. A civil war is being fought and the seafolk form an alliance with Amirzade Sharouk against the Republic. The battle couldn't have been won without the assistance of the seafolk's leviathans but one of them takes off with a very important human. The leviathan's caretaker, Nil is paired up with a warlord and thus begins their harrowing journey. I loved every page. Carver drew such vivid pictures of the seafolk and how utterly different they were from the humans. The action was great, and I loved how the two moved from enemies to lovers--well the last is implied because there isn't any sex in the book. There's a reason for that but I'm not telling. ^_^

Texas & Tarantulas by Bailey Bradford is the second book in the Dark Nights and Headlights series. I would suggest the books be read in order for a full understanding of the mystery and the reason an assassin was sent to take out Trent and his brother. I did like the first book, but this one, I loved the inside look at Trent and his love interest. Yes, this is a paranormal story with shifters, just not shifter tarantulas. I enjoyed the hell out of it and gobbled it up in one sitting.

The Heart of the Kingdom by Sasha Miller is the 'what comes after the fairy tale ends' story. So, I quit reading the blurbs for Sasha's books because they are auto-buys. I didn't know what I was getting into when I cracked this open and loved every minute of it. I'm not telling which fairy tale because it would give stuff away. I loved the twists and turns--and there's a sequel which makes me immensely happy.

Dragon Slayer by Isabella Carter is another book I picked up at Rainbow Con. This is the first book I've read by Carter and I am clamoring for more. Prince Ingram is considered a coward and a weakling by his father because the sight of blood makes him faint and he can't wield a sword to save his life. He's a brilliant tactician but because he's not a brute his father finds Ingram a failure. His father shuttles him off to be married into a family the king suspects is plotting against the crown and wants Ingram to find the evidence against his new husband. This has an awesome intricate plot and I've been told that there is a sequel in the making. Can't. Wait.

Ashes and Echoes by Gus Li is another Rainbow Con purchase. This is a trilogy and the relationship between the three men mature across the length of the series. A knight, the powerful nephew to the king, and an impostor come together to save the kingdom. But it's never that easy. The nephew, Yarroway, is hiding a secret and is barely holding onto his sanity. Don't expect book one to have a perfect relationship ending. It's not possible with what is going on with Yarroway. This isn't a quick read and took me a couple of days because I didn't have time to get it all done in one sitting which was completely frustrating. And distracting.

It was really hard to pick a book of Megan Derr's that I enjoyed most. This year I read Black Magic, The Engineered Throne, Prisoner, A Suitable Replacement,  the Dance with the Devil series, and they were all amazing. What I am picking for my list is the Princes of the Blood series. Of Last Resort is the first book and all about the under dog, the hero that no one expects. I wanted more, and more, and more of Raffe. Plus I loved the world.

The THIRDS series by Charlie Cochet starts with Hell & High Water. An excellent urban fantasy where a virus sweets through humanity and some people become shifters. THIRDS is the organization that polices these new paranormals. Dex is hilarious and Sloan is yummy. The side characters are awesome helping to make this a well rounded and engaging read.

Last year Claimings, Tails, and Other Alien Artifacts made my top 10 favorites. When Assimilation, Love, and Other Human Oddities released I was all over this bad boy. Was not disappointed in the least. I read it twice in one sitting. If you're looking for fantastic world building, a tad bit of bondage, great characters, and some alien lovin', give this series a try. It's 10 kinds of awesome.

Dangerous Beauty by Tali Spencer is the second book in the Pride of Uttor series. These can be read as standalones. The first book is a M/F pairing so it may not be for the strict M/M readers. I still read M/F romance but I'm very picky. Dangerous Beauty was so rich, and Spencer's story telling was lush and evocative that when I finished I went back and purchased and read Captive Heart, the first book in the series. Both are fantastic and I'm told there are more to come. That makes me a very happy girl.

Loving Jay by Renae Kaye is not a book I would've picked for myself. As you can see from the pickings above, I don't read very much contemporary romance. I vetted this for a friend who wanted to read it but couldn't deal with something angsty-- and ended up absolutely loving it. The humor--freakin' loved the humor. Jay was the bomb. This is told from Liam's POV. He's struggling with lots of issues and questioning his sexuality isn't something he wants to deal with but he keeps noticing Jay. It was fun and made me laugh and feel good.

The Brimstone series by Angel Martinez begins with Hell for the Company. These novellas are perfect for reading in one sitting without needing to shirk my work to get it finished. I love Angel's books but I have a special place in my heart for Shax, the Demon Prince of Thieves. I could read a dozen of Shax's misadventures and not get tired of him. Also, if sci-fi is your thing, check out A Christmas Cactus for the General. A holiday story about an alien exiled to Earth and attempting to acclimate himself to the shocking and weird human customs.

What is this? Number 17. Making sure I'm not going over my 20 picks. Acrobat by Mary Calmes. I had no idea that I was such a sap for a mob bad boy. This one I listened to on audiobook and the narrator for Andreo, holy hell. Light my fire, it was awesome to listen to. Andreo is the bodyguard for a mob boss and his neighbor Nathan is a middle aged college professor. To be honest I don't usually read books about professors or contemporary but I've learned that I can put myself in Mary's hands and she'll take care of me. I've actually listened to this three times this year.

The Chosen by J.C. Owens has been sitting for a long time on my e-reader. Part of the reason was because of the blurb. I bought it because I love Owens but I figured I would have to be in the mood to read about a god's lover. The blurb is deceiving. This is a Fantasy/Sci-Fi. I adored Mikon, and as with Owens there is that balance between the push/pull of attraction but you can go pound sand attitude that I enjoy. Awesome book.

Side Note: There has been some hoopla over this publishing company. I bought this long before I heard the rumors but I didn't want to leave this out of my favorites because it deserves to be noticed. If you already have it, read it. If not, check with J.C. Owens.

Last year the first book in this series, Old Loyalty, New Love, made my favorites even though I was miffed with Quade's old pack. I really wanted him to tell them to go pound sand and give them the finger. And yet, I still loved it and adored the hell out of Roman. So I bought this and didn't read the blurb. (Yes, a habit.) Lord have mercy, loved it. This isn't about Quade and Roman but head of security, Armon, and frosty Linus. Freakin' loved Armon's 'I don't care' attitude and he really means it. Linus is bad ass. I can't say any more because it would give away spoilers. I have to say that Fighting Instinct (so far) is my favorite of the series.

The Prince He Loved by Michael Barnette is a great match between honored mercenary warrior and royalty on the run. This an awesome romantic sci-fi that is low on the angst with great world building and a plot driven storyline. I wanted to take Augustus home with me. *fans self*

Bonus: Caterpillar: The Exended version by Ashlyn Forge. I wanted to point out this series, Chyslis and Kings, as one to watch for. I read the free short, and really enjoyed it even though I really hated Lyndel until the very end where the story left me needing more. I found a note from the author on GoodReads and part of it says, "I don't often write characters to be liked. In fact, I have a rule that the reader must absolutely loathe each of my main characters, at least once (good guy or bad guy) because how else will you know your love is real."

The world building and the characters really hold onto you even when you want to kill one the characters. A week or so ago, Ashlyn came out with the extended version which I immediately bought and will be reading shortly. It is part of a trilogy and I'm looking forward to sinking into this world but I'm also prepared to hate the characters a little bit. ^_^

Thank you for stopping by and reading. Have a safe New Year's Eve and I hope the new year to come is freaking awesome!!

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