#YearEndReview Smartest Reads of 2017

I personally love when I come across a romance book that has real substance.  So many times in the literary world, romance authors and readers are snubbed or mocked for writing or reading smut, but these books and authors exemplify that romance not only has a place in the world of literature but that it can cause real change in the world by getting readers to examine their own ideas, to look at the world from a different point-of-view, and make changes for the betterment of society, even if it is just with the relationships we are a part of on a daily basis.

Not only do these romances make readers think, but they are impeccably written.  When I read these books, I was blown away by the syntax and diction utilized by the author, causing me to feel everything these characters felt.  Their stories and plot lines are intricate and complex, and there are so many layers to the story that is rich, vibrating with life, making each moment all the more enjoyable.


My musings…

Be prepared for the emotional ride that is Drive. This plot line is not one that generally works for me (personal taste), but Kate Stewart did  it so well that I was enthralled with these characters from the very beginning. She authentically exhibits how someone can love two people, how someone could be happy with two very different people, and how there aren’t always clear cut choices when it comes to the heart. In the romance world, readers often reject this idea and yearn for the soulmate, the clear-cut, no choice who the heroine should be with, but Kate Stewart has spoken to my heart and reached into my mind with this idea of loving two people. She does all of the characters justice, making the decision and the resulting falling action truly  heart-breaking. It is painful and it hurts, but the resolution couldn’t have been more perfect, and it couldn’t have made me love the characters any more than I already did…Full Review

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My musings…

This story is a hard one to read, especially as more and more about the past is revealed. It truly becomes hard to fault her for her choices and her beliefs. It becomes too hard not to sympathize with her, and readers find themselves at the end of the novel nodding their head in agreement with ghostwriter who completes her story.

The Ghostwriter is a fantastic break from the world of romance. Watching the a woman face her past in the only way she knows, emanating a strength she doesn’t even know she has, was fascinating, and the journey is heartbreaking and redemptive, leaving readers with so many emotions with the conclusion of the book…Full Review

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My musings…

This story is everything I wanted for Kai and Banks. It is emotional, tumultuous, sexy (you have no idea what is in store for you), suspenseful, and although it is on the darker, more unconventional side of romance, there are always these incredibly sweet and intense moments between the hero and heroine. Throughout the novel, readers get to see them struggle in the past and present to embrace and fight their feelings for each other. We see them scheming and trying to out play each other, and we see them with the whole group trying to navigate the very difficult situation with Damon, the struggle of forgiving a friend who betrayed them all so horribly with getting retribution for everything he has done. The ending will absolutely have you on the edge of your seat and will break your heart, and while the main characters get that HEA we always seem to want as readers, there are two more books left in the series, so we know there are still unresolved plot issues with the overarching plot line of the series, dealing with the four Horseman and the betrayal that has rocked them to their core. I will tell you that the little tease Penelope Douglas shared with readers at the end of the book has me already salivating for 2018 and the release of Kill SwitchFull Review

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Still-book-cover-frontMy musings…

STILL has it all! The romance between Grip and Bristol is inspiring, because it isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. They fight and let their insecurities creep in, but they also love without limits. They chase their dreams together, supporting and sacrificing for one another. They are honest and intimate, not just in the bedroom, but with their words and feelings. They are the epitome of what a relationship should be, and while this would be enough for any romance reader, Kennedy Ryan gives us more. She, through Grip and Bristol, poses ethical and moral questions to readers, making them ponder their positions on societal issues plaguing our world, the ones we see play out on social media and the news. Through her words, we get to see a better way for everyone, catapulting STILL and the whole series into a must read piece of literature. With the addition of STILL to the series, Kennedy Ryan adds a new aspect to the story, which for spoiler reasons, I will not share. But she, once again, examines ideas and choices that aren’t so clear cut, ones that live in the grey area. As always, her characters talk about all options and stand up to others for their convictions and choices, even when it threatens to break them. Like all people who are in love like Grip and Bristol, these unimaginable issue only makes them stronger, even if it seems to tear them down at first. And that ending that Kennedy Ryan gives readers encapsulates every single thing I love about this series and this couple, showing them living and loving each other fully and wholly, still willing to tackle any and all obstacles life throws their way. Their whole journey is inspiring and beautiful…Full Review

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My musings…

This story is PERFECTION!! From cover to cover, I was enthralled by Rebel’s comeback. She has been broken by those she loved and trusted, and she has been lost since it happened. This book though is about her journey back, her path to becoming a Renegade again, and every single moment is fantastic because it becomes about more than being Rebel. It is about facing her demons, fusing together Penelope and Rebel, and seeking out what makes her a Renegade. Seeing her come back together with the Renegades and Cruz and confronting her past is exhilarating, and I was so proud of her as a reader for every single hurdle she overcomes. Watching her open her heart and embrace love is so worthwhile, and readers want for it all to work out. Of course, there is the huge hurdle of their forbidden relationship and the expected conflict, but even though I knew it was coming, I was still gutted. Cruz’s actions and Penelope’s reaction broke my heart, just ripped me to shreds, but Rebecca Yarros gives them an ending they absolutely deserve. Not only do they get the ending they deserve, but all the Renegades get a life they have earned with that epilogue. I seriously couldn’t have been happier as a fan of this series for how she chose to end this epic adventure.

What is so enticing about these books is the energy that emanates from this group. These books make you want to embrace life, take on challenges, and go on adventures. They make you want a family like this group, people who will love with full hearts and endless support. These couples make you want a love that consumes you and and a partner that fights against the odds to stay together. It makes you want everything that life has to offer, and when you get it to grip it with both hands. These characters and every single journey absolutely inspired me…Full Review

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My musings…

This book moved me on a real-life level. I didn’t swoon over heroes, get overheated from the steamy scenes, or sit on the edge of my seat from angst or suspense. What this story did for me as a reader was to make me look at life as valuable. I know that seems clear, but in the hustle and bustle of life, we often forget to cherish the moments, truly live our lives, and love fiercely, even if it hurts us in the end. This story reminds you of all of that.

The other aspect of this story that made my heart soar is the idea that love isn’t a once in a lifetime thing. This idea of having multiple soulmates, of connecting with different people, and being able to find happiness amidst pain is uplifting and brings so much hope for days to get better…Full Review

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Illegal Contact (The Barons) by [Hassell, Santino]My musings…

One of the reasons I am an avid Santino Hassell fan is the voice her delivers with each story. The dialect he uses for the characters rings with realism, the integration of current trends and allusions to current events connects readers to the characters and worlds he creates, and his books bring to light real issues that plague the LGQBT community. He doesn’t shy away from the ugly or the hurtful, but his books also show incredibly strong characters with the fortitude to face the ugly for the person he/she loves. There is no truer example of this than Illegal Contact. The added celebrity of Gavin only serves to magnify the issue since the public feels the need to weigh in on his life and choices. Even with the realistic aspect of his stories, I have always found that his endings not only give the characters an HEA they deserve, but it leaves readers with a hope for the future, for a better day where we can all be supportive and accepting of each other and focus on the aspects of a person that actually matter…Full Review

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TheForbiddenMy musings…

This story is a doozy, a rollercoaster of emotions.  Jodi Ellen Malpas makes readers loves these characters and then she rips that security blanket away. While watching these two struggle with their feelings and desires, as well as their responsibilities and obligations to others, readers begin to question their own preconceived notions, showing that relationships aren’t always as black and white as they want them to be. There is also a whole lot of craziness in this story I wasn’t expecting, but it is completely necessary for the evolution of the relationship between the main characters as well as for the progression of the plot.  As a result, readers will find themselves thinking and making judgments about the characters that are similar to that of the secondary characters in the novel. The ending of the story, while hard to read about, ends on an uplifting note, making the wild ride worth it in the end…Full Review

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20170306 Dating ish 01 (2)My musings…

Just as in previous Knitting in the City books, Penny Reid not only details the romance of two engaging and complex character, but she brings so many other issues relevant to our society today. The conversation on loneliness, the use and possible abuse of robots, the need to have rules established to protect and sustain humanity, and even the discussion of what makes a good relationship are all topics addressed, but she infuses these ideas in an organic way that matches the personalities of the characters she has created. Her stories become more than a romance, but also focused solely on the romance (if that makes sense). The couple and their relationship still remains the forefront of the plot while making the readers think about the other topics brought up and discussed. Readers will be entranced by the relationship of Matt and Marie, and their quirks and honesty will win over readers, making them one of my favorite couples of the series…Full Review

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gravity-ebookMy musings…

This story is beautifully laced with hope and pain. There has been so much hurt for Graham experienced at the hands of those who shouldn’t have harmed him and for Lucille, also at the hands of those she loved. And yet the fallout for both is different, but even with the different outcomes, these two are drawn to each other. Their connection inevitable. His dark, her light combine and twist into one of the most moving and real love stories I’ve read in quite some time. This romance focuses of life, on how we hurt and heal, and how we move on to get our happily-ever-after.

As I read The Gravity of Us, I could feel each word burrow into my soul a little more. These words, this story, these people affected me, showed me how to live a life filled with love and hope, showed me how to accept things for what they are and spin it in the best way, and showed me the importance of staying. It is impactful and moving and should be read by all. It is definitely a top read of 2017…Full Review

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My musings…

This friends to lovers romance is going to go down as one of my favorites.  E.M. Abel writes their story in such a way that readers will love them from the very beginning. The friendship, the camaraderie, and loyalty between the two lays the foundation for what will become an epic romance.  A risk is taken by the author by having them date other people, but it only creates a larger desire in the reader for these two to finally realize how great they could be together.  Additionally, her skill as a writer shines through as readers witness them date others without tarnishing or maligning the main characters, keeping reader devotion where it should be, solely on Sky and Dillon.  When they do take the leap, when they walls come down, it is fantastic, and the pay off is worth every single time readers had to watch them with someone else. Her selection of plot details, conflict, character development will engross readers from the very first page, and they won’t be able to walk away.

Another E.M. Abel book is going down as another favorite book, because it is more than just a love story.  It is a story about growth and change.  It is a story about the importance of family and savoring the time we have.  It is story that exhibits real love, love that doesn’t waver and one that stays firm in the face of trials and tribulations.  With each of her books, readers can be guaranteed they  will receive a sensational romance, but they should also know that they are getting so much more…Full Review

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american-prince-amazonMy musings…

In addition to being able to exhibit how three people could all be in love and in a relationship together, she somehow intertwines this unconventional, by society’s standards, relationship with religious components.  In this series, Ash in particular, is a very religious man, and yet his devout faith does not contradict his love for his husband and wife but emboldens his actions and ideas, making their relationship more solid.  Sierra Simone has somehow intertwined two seemingly opposing viewpoints, and shows how his religious beliefs make him a better man and husband, ultimately strengthening the love between all three.  As a reader and a Catholic, I can honestly say that this aspect of her novels (particularly where Priest is concerned) had concerned me and made me wary of diving into her novels, but after reading this series, I now know that there is nothing to fear. She blends sexuality and religion so seamlessly and beautifully that it only serves to enhance the message of love that often appears in novels and as well as in religious doctrine.

Sierra Simone is one of those authors that proves that romance can have a place in the literary world.  She has taken the legend of Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot, and she has remade it in the contemporary world, bringing to light topics of sexuality and love that are relatable to everyone.  Sierra Simone has, with this series, done justice to the legend while also giving readers what they want from a romance.  Even more than all of this, though, are the beautiful words that come from her amazing mind. Each sentence is poetic, and each idea presented through the characters is profound, making readers not only enjoy a steamy, kink-filled romance but also contemplate and grapple with ideas that may or may not be outside of their comfort zone.  Her ability to do both, tell a story of a great romance and address issues that plague our own world, makes her one of the greatest romance writers out there…Full Trilogy Review

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A Thousand Letters My musings…

More than just the romance though, A Thousand Letters has so many themes that will resonate with any reader. The idea of truly living life, of dealing with death, and of forgiveness and second chances are universal, allowing readers to connect to Wade and Elliot’s story on a secondary level. The way in which Staci Hart conveys these ideas, through the use of excerpts from poems only serves to hit home the themes that she expresses with her plot and character development, plus it made my English heart flutter with the beauty of the words she selected to highlight the message of her novel.

This novel is so much more than a romance, but a commentary on life. On letting go, of living, of forgiveness, and of the importance of second chances. This story of redemption, although painful at times, ultimately leaves the reader inspired not only to live, but also to take a second chance and to forgive themselves as well as others…Full Review

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My musings…

The chemistry and the connection between these two characters is potent. They are drawn to each other and find peace and comfort in each others arms, and this is more than they ever could have hoped for. While there are some steamy scenes between these two, it is not at the forefront of this story.  Living in the dark while trying to find the light is what drives this prose, and it is absolutely enough the sustain the romance.

The pacing of this story is brilliant. Because it is a duet, readers should already be aware the author is going to leave the them with a cliff hanger, but the break in the story is at a natural pause and will only serve to leave readers dying to get their hands on the next one. The author uses book one to flush out the characters, showing the depth of their sadness and despair. She also uses book one to highlight how these characters are attempting to heal and move forward. Through her words, readers to get to witness true and unselfish love, and while it is tragic at times, there is beauty in it as well.

Aly Martinez has created something beautiful with The Darkest Sunrise. It is brilliant, filled with emotions that many experience but are unable to express, and she has given a voice not only to those who have similar experiences to the characters, but has also given them a sliver of light in the darkness.

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Happy reading,

4 Comments

  1. Yet another list that I haven’t read a single book from. A couple on on my TBR list but most I’ve never heard of.

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