Anniversary Special: Our Favorite Books from the Past Year



Collectively, we’ve read a lot of books over the past year. Some are new releases, some are new discoveries, some are recommendations. It’s hard to pick out a list like this, because we didn’t want to limit it to new releases, and it’s so hard to pick just one. Or two. Or a few.

After the jump, we’ll share what we finally decided were our favorite reads from the past year.

A Few of Our Favorite Books by Olga Podolean




Natalie
Fifth Grave Past the Light, Charley Davidson

I selected Fifth Grave Past the Light from the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones as my great book of the year. Honestly, this series is a breath of fresh air for me. This was a series I kept passing up and overlooking because I did not think it would appeal to me. But a great friend of mine said I had to read it, so I did. I could not put these books down! Charley’s sense of humor is killer! She is a woman who is very hard not to love. In this fifth book of the series, I not only got the humor I love and a good mystery, but I saw Charley and other characters just leap off the page and their story arcs take off! I would have to say that if you are in the mood for a good laugh and romance, this is the book for you.


Kathi
Broken, Megan Hart

I was having a hard time with this because I haven’t liked anything this year as much as Outlander — quite possibly because I have not read the many other great books recommended to me because I am nowhere near done enjoying Outlander — and I was already hooked before we started blogging. So while I know I will one day love The Hollows and Charley Davidson, I would say Broken and a few other Megan Hart books were my big find this year. They were completely different from anything I’d read before, and they were perfect for a quick break between intense books. They never failed to draw me in completely, run my emotions through the wringer, and spit me out the other side refreshed. Emotionally raw, drained, and awed, too. But they definitely cleared the cobwebs from my mind and made me think a whole lot about intense situations I’d never before considered. So if I simply must choose a favorite discovery that isn’t in the Outlander series, Broken it is. And since I got Beta hooked on Outlander this year, I’ll let her tell you all about it!


Donna
Broken, Megan Hart
The Way of Shadows/Shadow’s Edge/Beyond the Shadows, Brent Weeks
The Hollows, Kim Harrison


I have a couple of Wenches to thank for a couple of my favorite books/series from the past year. Wench Merit mentioned Megan Hart’s Broken somewhere, and I picked it up. I’ve admired Merit’s taste in books for several years now, so when she recommends something, I listen. Well then. I think that book might have changed my life — or at least my outlook on life. You know how sometimes a book might pop into your head as you go about your daily life? It was like that. I’m not sure why, exactly. My life is nothing like Sadie’s. My marriage is happy and healthy. Maybe this is due to Ms. Hart’s amazing story telling. Since then, I’ve read many of her books, and I’m a fan. A lifelong fan. I’m so glad I found her. So thank you, Wench Merit. Another kindred spirit among the Wenches is Angela. Angela lives on the other side of the world, about as far away from me as possible, yet I feel like we are in sync about so many things. She said something about Brent Weeks’s Night Angel trilogy, and I was intrigued. About two chapters into The Way of Shadows, I was hooked! I can’t say enough good things about this trilogy. It is just excellent! The character development, plot lines, atmosphere, setting, protagonists, antagonists, conflicts, and resolutions — this is first-rate story telling. I couldn’t put it down. Another excellent series is Kim Harrison’s The Hollows. I’m going to let Angela fill you in on that one. I recommended that one to her, and I’m pleased so say it’s been her best read this year. So to recap, I’ve gone the gamut from erotica to fantasy to urban fantasy with my favorites this year. That’s cool! Who wants the same flavor all the time, anyway?


Beta
Outlander, Diana Gabaldon


I’ve read several books and series since we started the blog ― so many books I’ve loved so much. Most of them are already mentioned here in this post, like House Rules, which was absolutely amazing. The book series I’d like to specifically mention as one of my favorites this past year is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I knew a few of the Wenches loved those books, and I already had my eye on them, but it wasn’t until after reading one of Kathi’s Outlander posts that I was inspired to pick them up and start reading. Ms. Gabaldon manages to bring out one emotion after another, bucketloads of them, and often all at the same time. She even made me ugly cry for the first time, as I confessed earlier this year. Her story and characters are riveting. The series is full of history, humor, sex, love, violence, and a whole lot more. These books are long and do take plenty of time to read ― I have not finished them all yet ― but so far they’ve been worth every minute, with the ugly crying and all.


Merit
Biting Bad, Chloe Neill
Downside Ghosts, Stacia Kane


First, Biting Bad for the awesomeness of Merit, Ethan, and Chloe Neill, for her ability to write a new plot in her 8th book, woven flawlessly into the larger storylines of the series, and stay coherent and compelling. Second, Downside Ghosts for that special dark world and its unique, outstanding characters, so very different from the usual stories and characters.


Barb
House Rules/Biting Bad, Chloe Neill


I can't decide between House Rules and Biting Bad, because they were both SO spectacular. In House Rules there was delicious angst and the resolution of a problem we had seen coming a mile away, but what sets HR apart for me is Dominant Ethan. Something I had no idea I was dying to see, but made me sit up, slack-jawed when it happened. Then Biting Bad came along, and I was given everything I always wanted from a Chicagoland Vampires book: Methan together. Truly, firmly together, living, loving, working, and kicking ass. Together. It was a thing of beauty, a thing we had endured seven long books, and much heartache to achieve. It was sublime.

Zee
House Rules/Biting Bad, Chloe Neill
Home For the Holidays, Jeaniene Frost
Wrong Ways Down, Stacia Kane

Dirty, Megan Hart

This is a tough one. I have to say, House Rules and Biting Bad exceeded my expectations (especially House Rules). They really pushed my love for Chloe Neill and the series to a whole new level. I also adored Megan Hart’s Dirty, which was new to me. Some books just manage to make an impact on me immediately, and that was one of them. Two short stories that definitely made my list are Home For The Holidays by Jeaniene Frost and Wrong Ways Down by Stacia Kane. Home For The Holidays is honestly one of the best short stories I have ever read! I was shocked at how good it was. And Wrong Ways Down was the most beautiful window into Terrible’s beautiful, brutal mind. A book I am saving for when I have time to savor it, and I KNOW it will be worth it, is Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean At The End Of The Lane. Who knows, maybe that will be on next year’s list of favorites.


Anne
Twice Tempted, Jeaniene Frost

Why was Twice Tempted one of my (and other Wenches’) top books of the year? One word: Vlad. Once again, Jeaniene Frost scorches the page with Vlad’s epicness. I don’t think epicness is a word, but Vlad is more than worthy of needing a new word to describe him. This book had it all: mystery, angst, betrayal, ridiculously hot sex, and Vlad’s own unique brand of romance. We also have one of the greatest heroines to ever grace the page. I love everything about Leila. Her fierceness, her abilities, her strength, and most importantly, her capacity to not take any of Vlad’s closed off emotional bullshit. I cannot wait until the third book comes out. I need more Vlad and Leila in my life. Now, excuse me while I console my melancholy with a Night Huntress reread.


Amanda
Hot Head, Damon Suede


I’m going to be straight up with you right now. If you like the m/m genre, and you haven’t read this book, you are seriously missing out on something special. If you have never read m/m at all, this book is a great place to start. It’s about two straight, manly-men firefighters who have been BFFs since they were teens. Something has changed over the years, and there is an attraction that is getting harder and harder to deny. Throw in that one of them needs some extra cash, so he talks his friend into joining him in front of an online porn company’s camera. Add a little firefighter drama for good measure. Finally, mix in a healthy dose of denial. This book is one of the few books I gave five stars to this past year. Hot Head proves that a book can be sexy without being fluffy. I hope you enjoy it too!


Veronica
Touch & Geaux, Abigail Roux


For my top book, I’m going to pick Touch & Geaux. There were several I could have chosen. Iced, Magic Mansion, and Fandom at the Crossroads were contenders. But I picked Touch & Geaux because, first of all, it was gut-wrenching, and for writing to take me that place emotionally — I’ve got to give it props. And second, because for 5 or 6 books, I have been waiting for Ty and Zane to be truly honest with each other. It might have been a case of be careful what you ask for, but at least now they have said the things that needed to be said and can move forward. I like books that make me think, that fuck with me a little bit, that take me for a ride where I feel a little exhausted at the end of it all. Touch & Geaux did all those things. Even though I was really pissed off at both Ty and Zane at parts throughout the book, it was all a very cleansing experience. Shit that needed to happen, happened. Shit that needed to be said, was said. And it was ugly. And it was real. And now we can move forward.


Angela
The Way of Shadows/Shadow’s Edge/Beyond the Shadows, Brent Weeks
The Hollows, Kim Harrison


Why is The Hollows one of my top ten picks of the last year? The heroine, of course. Kim Harrison has created a great lead character in Rachel Morgan. She is magical, flawed, big hearted, and a little reckless. Okay, maybe she is more of a think-before-you-act kinda woman. But for some reason, this adds to her appeal. Add to the mix some of the best supporting characters I’ve seen in urban fantasy, and it’s one hell of a ride. Jenks, the perfect pixy backup. Ivy, the vampire trying to keep her soul. Trent, is he good or is he bad? Algaliarept, the demon searching for what he really is (I gushed about him in a Fangirl Fridays post). This clever mix of characters makes the series a worthwhile read and kept me gripped for the series.


Vale
The Passage/The Twelve, Justin Cronin


I got The Passage for my birthday, and since it was a rather fat book, I put off reading it. But once I decided to start it, I just couldn’t put it down. The post-apocalyptic world Cronin creates is dark and often seems hopeless. He gives readers hope in a girl named Amy; it’s not much but it’s enough. We see the invincible human spirit trying to do what seems impossible. He gives us a group of different people with varied problems trying to work, fight, and live together. I hated some of them, and others I loved. Some of the characters whom I loved died, and others whom I hated lived. So when the book ended, I was left sitting with the book in my lap thinking, “Where’s my laptop?? I have to see when the sequel comes out!!!”

I was so impatient to get The Twelve that I went four days in a row to my local bookstore. The guy at the information desk already knew me. After finally getting my grabby hands on my own copy, I consumed it as fast as I could, and then I read it again. It was darker than the first book. It takes readers inside the heads of the mysterious, original Twelve and we find out how the apocalypse happened. Amy’s story evolves and culminates. I had many questions answered, but got new ones to take their place. My final impression was that The Twelve wasn’t as exciting as The Passage, and a bit more confusing. But all in all, I liked it and can’t wait for the last book in the trilogy!


Care
If This is a Gift, Can I Send it Back: Surviving in the Land of the Gifted and Twice Exceptional, Jen Merrill


I read. A lot. And one of the first things to learn about me is that, while I read for entertainment, I also read to learn. Usually in roughly equal amounts — by time, anyhow. I spend a lot of time in my nonfiction books, and generally speaking, I need them to be deep, helpful, meaningful, intellectual, and most importantly, not so dry I need to put them under the sprinkler just to read them. The best book I’ve read this year has met all those standards, at least for me. While the book didn’t teach me many lessons the way a textbook would, it taught me something significantly more important: I am not alone. And more than that, with judicious application of wine and humor, I will survive raising my son to adulthood. This was a fantastic book, lighthearted, witty, smart, and so very much needed for a mama who was about to start pulling out hair she really needs to keep.


Honorable Mentions
  • Iced, Karen Marie Moning
  • Game of Thrones series, George R.R. Martin
  • Jane True series, Nicole Peeler

Comments

  1. I've got to go with Biting Bad. It's rare, in a series, for the 8th book to still keep a reader' interest and end with such a good "cliffhanger". As big of a Night Huntress fan as I am, that series, in my opinion, has passed it's zenith. As for Gabaldon's Outlander series, I started this year and am up to mid Drums of Autumn. So far it is great; although I am biased. I have a thing for all things Scottish Highlander!

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  2. Why, thank you Donna, you are very kind. I had hard time deciding between books and of course Broken was among the top of my list, but so were Charley Davidson series, The Hollows which I didn't finish yet and the Way of Shadows. Donna and Kathi, I had the same reactions and feelings you wrote about, while reading Broken, even ugly crying, I love Megan Hart's Dirty too and a few more. Okay, the end.

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  3. I have to admit that it was a difficult to make a choice. I've read quite a few pretty good books this year, Biting Bad being one of them.

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  4. What great choices. I still haven't read Megan Hart or finished the Outlander series. I need to get around to them.

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  5. I really don't know how to choose between House Rules and Biting Bad. Barb I completely agree that dominant Ethan blew my mind, but Methan being so in sync is just irresistible.

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